What is great content and how do I create it?

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Content-Rich & Ethical SEO Starts with Great Content

The phrases 'produce great content' and 'content is king' will be familiar to anyone who has done some research into SEO, but as advice goes, "produce great content" is so open ended it's almost useless. It's like telling pop singers they need to "sing great songs", true, but not really helpful. What the singer needs to know is how to write and sing a great song. With the great content question further complications are added by the sheer number of things that are included under the label of content. Videos, articles, and songs are all examples of content - as indeed would any piece of information be.

There are two reasons you want great content on your site, (well three, but pride doesn't make you money). The first is so that people will find your site interesting and trustworthy, so that they do what you set up your site to do. (If it's a humour site they will laugh, if it's a banking site they will set up an account and so on). The second is so that these people will post links to your website, boosting your position in the search rankings and bringing yet more people to your website.

So what is great content?

Well, frustratingly the answer is 'it depends'. From an SEO perspective it is content that the audience engages with. Is a photograph of a cat in a funny pose with a misspelled caption great content? Probably not for banking websites, but it has proved lucrative for Icanhazcheesburger.com. I'll admit that a lot of people will deny that lolcats are great content, but the problem for them is that I'm not talking about great art. (Whether lolcats count as great art I'll leave to someone considerably braver than me to tackle.) The point here is that if I go to a banking site then I want content on finance, savings and so on. If I go to a fashion website I want to know about the latest trends or what the celebrities are wearing.

So great content is information that serves a website's readership?

Well that's certainly part of it. If your content isn't relevant then it's just going to disappoint people. If you post your funny cat video on your banking website then at best it will be ignored at worst it will confuse people. But it isn't going to be enough. Most webmasters do a fairly good job of keeping their sites on topic, and while articles on insurance might be relevant to your banking site, they are unlikely to appeal to enough people to count as truly great content.

Content is king in SEO

So what more do I need?

Well here is where it all gets a bit tricky. If we take those insurance articles I mentioned earlier then there are several things you can do with them that will make them more appealing:

  • Don't write them 'because you need content' rather write them because you think that they will be genuinely useful for your readers. A great example of this is the SEOmoz blog.
  • Make content easy to read on a screen (and a mobile device or tablet) by including lots of white space and clear segmentation allowing readers to scan the content.
  • Spellcheck and proof read everything!
  • Produce original content, i.e. don't just rehash several other people blog posts, instead try to put your own spin on it.
  • Write in your natural voice. If you are overly formal or dry your articles won't be very appealing. A conversational tone not only makes them easier to read, but also to write.

Of course many of these guidelines only apply to written content but here is the essential problem. Whether content is great or not will always be a bit hit and miss. If you produce good content, regularly then you will start to get a feel for what makes great content for your site.

So how do I know if I've got great content?

How does your audience react to it? Do you get a lot of people commenting, sharing and linking to it? If you do then it is probably great content. But more than that; look at who reacts to it. I'm sure that your friends and family are all impeccable judges, but it might just be possible that they are little biased when asked to assess your work. The reaction of your customers and critics is likely to be both more reliable and painful. See what they are saying about you on Twitter and in the comments section.

So I'd say don't worry about producing great content. Produce relevant, interesting and original information and see if people think it is great. Listen to your critics, and never stop trying.