Why you need content
You have a website, it has a blog, and you’ve been advised to keep updating the blog with high quality content.
If you’re wondering why, I can tell you that regularly publishing content has a number of significant benefits.
For example, it:
- Drives more visitors to your website
- Helps you reach more potential customers
- Demonstrates your expertise and authority
- Builds trust and confidence in your business
- Helps improve or maintain your website’s ranking in the search engines.
If the content you’ve created so far hasn’t had the response, or made the difference, you were hoping for, you may be able to improve it — or create better content going forward.
And that’s what this post is about.
What is Google looking for?
First, let’s be clear about something: Your content should be created for your audience and not for Google.
And this is actually what Google is looking for too. Its algorithms rate high-value content that satisfies its human audience by answering their questions and providing them with the information they’re searching for.
As a guide, Google likes content that:
- Is original, with no duplication
- Contains original information, reporting and research
- Is substantial, comprehensive and complete
- Provides valuable insight
- Offers better value than the other pages in the search results
- Serves its human audience and is not just written for search engines.
12 Tips for better content
Now we know what Google is looking for, we can look at some ways to improve your content based on these criteria.
1. Create for your audience
You need to understand what your audience is looking for, then create the kind of content that will bring them to you.
Your customers are online right now, looking for:
- Answers to their questions
- Information and statistics
- Hacks, tips and advice
- Inspiration and ideas
- Checklists and templates
- How-to guides and instructions
- Solutions to their problems.
This is all content you can create that will be useful to them and draw them to your website.
To find out what questions they’re asking and what, specifically, they’re looking for, you need to do some research. This might involve:
- Searching question sites like Quora and Answer the Public
- Looking at relevant online forums, groups and communities
- Assessing what’s already out there and what’s still needed
- Asking questions on social media
- Checking social media hashtags.
When you’ve worked out what it is they want, you can create and promote it in all the right places.
2. Pay attention to the keywords
When you’re researching what your customers are looking for, pay attention to the words and phrasing they’re using to search. For example:
- “How many people own a smartphone?”
- “Examples of grey living rooms.”
- “Wedding hair ideas.”
- “How to change a ukulele string.”
- “Website SEO checklist.”
Including the same phrases in your content will make it searchable, so your customers have the best chance of finding it when they search on Google.
You can use one key phrase as your title, then related key phrases for your other headings as you answer further questions and provide more information on the subject.
3. Do your own research
Google rates original research, so why not conduct your own?
Ask your community
If you have access to a customer database or an online community, you could run your own research survey and publish the results.
Research like this could help you:
- Test a hypothesis or widely held belief
- Gain some better insight into your target market
- Show patterns in preferences and behaviours
- Gather perspectives and opinions on industry topics.
When you have the results, you can add your own analysis.
Ask the experts
If you have access to experts in your field, you could ask a small number to take part in a more in-depth interview.
For example, they could give their expert opinion on current industry issues, or use their knowledge and insight to predict future developments.
Test a product
If you’re selling products, you could put one to the test in the name of research.
For example, you could conduct a test, comparison test or series of challenges to research, document and demonstrate its:
- Cost/energy savings
- Time savings.
You could write up your findings as a blog, including images, or make a video.
If you’re making a video, remember to include a transcript. This will help Google understand what your content is about and will also help potential customers who prefer to read rather than watch and listen.
4. Use real-life experience
Google rates original content, so aim to make yours as original and unique as you can.
One way to do this is to include your own real-life experiences — or those of someone you know.
For example, you could:
- Tell a true story
- Publish a customer case study*
- Give a behind the scenes look at your operation
- Show how you’re dealing with a current challenge or issue
- Talk about an an experience you’ve had within your industry.
*If you’re using a customer as a case study, make sure you get their permission first.
5. Show numerous examples
Google rates content that’s comprehensive and complete, so make sure you look at your subject from all the relevant angles.
Be thorough and use lots of examples to help you cover all bases and conclusively illustrate the points you’re making.
6. Collate statistics and facts
Google rates valuable content, so it pays to add as much value as you can.
When researching a piece of content, use and cite multiple sources of information — not just the same ones everyone else has.
Bringing together information from lots of different sources will make your piece more comprehensive and credible.
Remember to vet your sources carefully to make sure they’re valid and the most current available. If you’re not sure how, you’ll find advice on this and more in my article: How to conduct online research like a pro.
7. Ensure your content is proportionate
There’s lots of advice out there on the optimum length for a blog article, with people citing articles of 1500 to 2000 words as having most success.
But, before you go stuffing your articles with extra content, you need to understand how it really works, because it’s not quite that simple.
The length of any post should be proportionate with the subject.
If a post is too short to cover the subject matter in sufficient detail, Google will think it’s not valuable enough. Likewise if the post is too long — in this case, Google might reasonably expect that it’s low on substance and full of waffle.
For example a 500-word article entitled ‘The complete history of the steam locomotive’ wouldn’t be long enough, but a 500-word article on how Apple’s Siri works might be.
In my experience, shorter posts can still have value — especially if they answer the questions clearly, specifically and with enough detail.
8. Be smart with your formatting
Reading on a screen isn’t always easy. For example, if your content is a huge wall of text with no breaks in it, you could be discouraging your visitors from reading it.
One improvement you can make is to break up your content into sections and introduce each section with a relevant heading.
Break each section into shorter paragraphs that are easier to read and digest. And break the paragraphs into sentences — a mixture of short and longer sentences is best, but avoid sentences that are too long.
You can check if a sentence is too long by reading it aloud. If you need to draw a breath before the end, you should probably find a way to break it up.
Split long lists into bullet points, which are also easier to read.
Taking these steps makes your content less daunting and enables your visitors to skim read and find the information they’re looking for quickly and easily.
The headings also help Google, by outlining the content of your post.
9. Use your insight and analysis
Even if you’re presenting statistics, facts and arguments from other sources, you can add your own commentary, using your own insights and experiences.
- How does the data you’re presenting correspond to your own experience?
- Would you interpret the data differently?
- What conclusions would you draw?
- Do you agree or disagree with what your sources say?
10. Go compare
When you’ve written your content, it’s a good time to check out the competition.
Do a Google search to see what other articles have been published on the same topics and look at the articles on the first page. These are the articles you’ll be competing with.
- How do they compare to yours?
- Does your article have more or less information?
- Is your article as comprehensive and detailed?
- Does your article make the same conclusions?
Based on what you’ve seen, can you:
- Improve your own article, while maintaining your originality?
- Add something new to the conversation?
- Introduce a fresh perspective or different way of thinking?
- See a different angle that hasn’t been covered yet?
Anything you can do to make your content more original, more complete and more worthy of attention will improve your chances of ranking.
11. Check the quality
Google rewards quality content, so before you publish, make sure you:
- Proofread, edit and spellcheck your work
- Verify your links are working and your sources are correct
- Check the hierarchy of your headings*
- Add your images, categories, tags, excerpts and meta tags
- Include alt text for your images to describe what they show in words
- Give visitors somewhere else to go when they get to the end — for example a link to your home page or your contact details if they want more information
- Preview your post to make sure it’s displaying correctly.
*The heading hierarchy works like this:
H1: Blog title
There should only be one H1 per blog post.
H2: Main headings
After the title, all your main headings should be H2s.
Use subheadings for sections that belong under a main heading, but need a heading of their own.
Use sub-subheadings when your subheadings need subheadings!
Confused? Let’s look at an example.
H1: 10 Ways to lose a customer
H2: What your customers need
>H3: <Need 1>
>H3: <Need 2>
>H3: <Need 3>
This is our introduction. Here, we use the H2 for the main heading, then H3s to head up each need we want to talk about.
When the introduction section is complete, we start the next section with a new H2.
H2: 10 Ways you’re losing customers
>H3: <Way 1>
>>H4: <Point 1>
>>H4: <Point 2>
>>H4: <Point 3>
The first way you’re losing customers has three points associated with it. We can introduce each of these points with an H4.
>>H3: <Way 2>
>>H3: <Way 3>
>>H3: <Way 4>
Then we’re back to H3s to continue the main list.
12. Keep it fresh
There are basically three types of blog content:
- Evergreen content that’s always fresh and never dates
- Updatable content that needs periodically updating
- Short shelf-life content that can’t be updated.
You should aim to have a mixture of all three.
Evergreen content doesn’t contain statistics or changeable information, so it should stay fresh for a long time. But, as you grow, it pays to check on it every once in a while to make sure it still represents your best work.
The themes of updatable content will stay relevant for some time, but the statistics and information will date. So, periodically, you’ll need to return to these posts to refresh them with the most current data and republish them. If there are changes, make sure you update your commentary on them too.
Short shelf-life content
Some content has a much shorter shelf-life. It might talk about passing trends or make specific predictions about what might happen within a given period of time.
Having content like this is a good thing because it shows you’re forward thinking and have your finger on the pulse. But the nature of this content means you’ll probably be left deleting, rather than updating or repurposing, it.
Repurposing older content
If old content can’t be refreshed, you may be able to repurpose it instead. For example, you could take parts from older blogs to use in new ones. Or use the content you originally created to inspire something new and more current.
Do you need help with your content?
I’m Jenny Lucas, a freelance copywriter and content specialist based in Leicester, UK.
I offer premium content writing services that your human audience and Google will love with equal measure.
If you’d like to find out more, take a look at my content writing page.
Or get in touch for an informal chat about your needs.