In a previous blog post, I started with a well-worn phrase in marketing – Content is King.
It is a neat little saying. But what does it actually mean? In that article, I used the importance of well-written content to justify my argument that it was very much worth hiring a professional to get it right. I did not, however, go into the whys and wherefores of the importance of high quality, professionally written content for your business website. So I thought it was about time I set the record straight.
The short explanation goes something like this:
If you launch a new website, you want it to look great and have slick, intuitive navigation, right? So you would hire a professional web developer and designer. Of if you want an advertising campaign launching, you want something which grabs attention, sticks in the memory and drives conversion into sales, so you invest in a professional advertising agency.
The same logic should apply to your static web page copy, technical blog posts, white papers or ebooks your company produces, and any press releases and articles you issue as part of a PR or inbound marketing campaign.
Quality Content in Marketing
The longer explanation takes us back to that phrase Content is King. It is a catchphrase for what we now call Content Marketing, a relative newcomer to the marketing discipline which defines an approach to online marketing.
Christopher Ratcliffe defines content marketing as an amalgamation of editorial, marketing, PR, SEO and social media activities which work in unison towards the goal of producing engaging, attention-grabbing, high-quality online content. That content could be anything from videos to blog posts, live stream Q & As to in-depth industry white papers, but the point is – it has to be good.
According to content marketing theory, quality content matters for the following reasons:
- It cuts through the sheer volume of stuff available on the internet to attract attention.
- It engages people because it is relevant and interesting.
- It is more likely to be shared on social media.
Achieve this with your online content, say the content marketers, and you will improve brand awareness, brand perception, grow your audience, and — ultimately — generate new leads.
SEO Copywriting is Changing
There is also another important reason why quality now matters in maintaining or improving online visibility: SEO.
Once upon a time, the rules of SEO meant quantity was everything in online marketing and PR. If you wanted to rank highly in search, you had to get as much stuff out there as possible. You had to fill articles to the brim with inbound links and keywords. The more the better.
However, Google and the other search engines eventually cottoned on. Realising that high volume repetition and prioritising keywords over interest or readability was not doing any favours to the integrity of the internet, they decided to take a stand. Algorithms were rewritten to prioritise relevance, depth, and presentation of information. Wholesale repetition and clickbaiting were penalised.
Digital content can come in all sorts of forms. But while it might sound sexier and more exciting to talk about high-quality photography and aesthetic video production values, the prosaic truth is this: the written word still accounts for the overwhelming majority of online content.
So if we are going to talk about quality content on the internet, we have to pay humble text its due.
5 Rules of Quality Content
What defines quality writing on the web? As with any discussion of quality, there is obviously a subjective element to this, and there are plenty of slightly dubious theories about sentence length and vocabulary out there.
But we’ve been doing this professionally for quite some time, and here is what we believe makes for quality writing:
- Good Grammar and Spelling. So grammar and spelling don’t sound very sexy – except, well, they are, apparently. According to a study into dating sites by Kibin, 43 per cent of respondents said poor grammar on a profile was a turn-off, while 35 per cent said good grammar was attractive. Apply those figures to audiences reading your latest blog post or guest article on an influential site, and you can see the value of getting grammar and spelling right.
- Grab Attention Early. Did you know that, on average, just over a quarter of the words on a web page will be read? That doesn’t give you much room to make an impression and persuade visitors it is worth their time reading more.
- The headline and first paragraph of any piece of writing are absolutely crucial. In journalism, a reporter will hardly ever write their own straplines, and will routinely have their opening paragraphs rewritten by an editor or senior colleague. Achieving that early impact is a real skill.
- Relevance and Tone. These both boil down to the same thing: knowing your audience. Knowing what sort of topics will engage your readers most is essential, because if they aren’t interested, they aren’t going to come back for more, and neither will they share.
- Aside from topics, there are all sorts of decisions you have to make about the style of the content; will your readers be most interested in advice and how to articles; are they looking for quick, snappy news updates; do they want serious, in depth analysis and thought leadership?
- Following on from this, tone can be crucial. There is a wide spectrum between conversational and formal, playful and serious, and pitching the tone of your writing in the right place is all part of the brand identity you create.
- Put Enough Meat On The Bones. There is a whole school of thought about writing for digital platforms which prioritises brevity. People are reading on a screen, so they want to be able to quickly scan short sentences in short paragraphs. It sounds logical, but we believe this is a red herring.
- Ask yourself this. Who are you writing for? For a business blog or website, it is usually to advise, inform or explain. In that case, there is an expectation from the reader that you will answer the questions they may have, or teach them something they did not previously know or understand. That requires depth.
- It is very difficult to explain, advise or inform in a blog of just a couple of hundred words. And the algorithms agree with us, too – current SEO advice suggests that Google bots prioritise articles of 1,000 words upwards.
- Research and reference. Whatever you are writing about, coming across as an authority on your subject can only help build readers’ trust and reflect well on the brand you represent. It is important to do your research and check your facts, even if you think you are an expert – get it wrong and you risk your credibility.
- A good habit to get into is to reference sources from other websites. Not only does this demonstrate that you are prepared to do your homework to produce quality content, it is also good practice for acknowledging copyright.
If Content is King, the written word remains the crown prince. From making you stand out above your peers and command attention, to boosting your search rankings, the quality of the written word on your website matters.
Image credits: Stop Abuse’s of Apostrophe’s by Martha Soukup under a CC-BY-2.0 license. Frustrated man on computer by Perzon SEO under a CC-BY-2.0 license. Woman on computer by kaboompics under a CC0 license. Google screenshot licensed under Fair Use.