You can’t get more than two steps into the SEO world without being told you have to create valuable content for your website—the more the better. But most SEO companies and resources spend little time explaining what exactly makes content valuable or how to create it. Nate Dame recently pointed out that even Google and Bing’s content guidelines are painfully vague, and set out to list 20 specific factors that make content valuable.
Nate’s list is a great one, and we wanted to call out a few of his points that are particularly important (as well as a couple we don’t completely agree with). Let’s start with the gems.
3 Factors That Always Help Content
#1 Help the Reader Do Something
This is the very first item Nate lists and that’s no accident. Offering to teach readers to do something is the surest way to pull in traffic, and living up to your promise is the surest way to become a trusted resource. The more specific you can be in your steps the better, and linking out to helpful resources makes your post even more valuable. Obviously, not every web article has to be a how to, but you’ll seldom go wrong by writing one.
#2 A Strong Title
There’s no single factor that influences how many clicks an article will get as strongly as its title. Since Google measures value in part by clicks, this is a double bump: it means more readers today and a better search position tomorrow.
A good headline won’t make up for a bad article, but a great headline can be the difference between a few clicks and likes and a viral sensation. As Nate points out, the best headlines (in terms of drawing clicks) can’t be too subtle, and need to accurately reflect what the article will do for the reader. Not sure how to write a great title? Here’s a how to.
#3 It Has to Either Inspire, Educate or Entertain
All valuable content falls into one of these three categories—we dare you to find an exception. (Like Nate says, the best content does two or all three.) The reason why should be pretty clear: all three of these types of articles leave the reader with something more than they started with, which is the definition of value. Not every blogger can be funny, and not all businesses should be funny, but any business blog can aim to educate or entertain.
Of course, these are only three highlights from an overall outstanding list. But there were a couple items that didn’t strike us as that essential to making content matter—and even as potentially counter-productive.
#1 Keyword-Themed Subsections
Nate points out that Google isn’t too fond of people stuffing a keyword all over an article, and will penalize content that does so. But his solution sounds almost as risky. He suggests that you find related keywords and use them as themes for different subsections, creating the appearance of non-repetitive but related content. That’s not all that different from just keyword stuffing.
This is a tough call. Undoubtedly, real valuable content will consist of sections that all relate back to a main idea (or keyword). But that seems like the sort of pattern that should come organically as a byproduct of a well organized article. Viewing it as a factor to strive for, and specifically writing subsections around related keywords, puts keyword placement ahead of user interest which is exactly what Google wants to stamp out. It may work today but a penalty is only an algorithm update away.
At most, keep related keywords in mind as a touchstone when drafting your article but don’t get too formulaic in building each subsection around one.
#2 Ask Yourself If You Would Share It
Nate’s point here sounds simple and intuitive: would you click “share” on your article, if you came across it on the web? If so then it must be valuable; if not then it needs work.
The trouble is, the owner of a business almost never has the same needs as the main target market of that business. By definition your business already has the knowledge, strategies and resources that your ideal customer is looking for. That means that your own judgment on whether the article is worth sharing is not a reliable indicator of what readers will think. In fact, writing a blog post by your own tastes and preferences is one of the biggest hurdles to producing winning content. Every writer needs objective outside feedback.
It’s okay to use your own tastes as an outside limit: if something is so bad that even you wouldn’t share it, then definitely seek a rewrite. But even if you like something, identify a staff member with a strong editorial sense and pass your drafts across their desk.
Writing valuable content takes time, practice and talent—and can become a full time job in itself. EverSpark Interactive offers content that communicates your ideas and pulls readers in. Contact us for a free content evaluation today.