“Compelling content.” “Written with the search engines in mind.” “Unique.” “Google loves quality content.”
These phrases are bandied around by all and sundry when it comes to the qualities of content writing, and such well-meaning but often-oblique instructions can actually serve to confuse many new writers.
What you really need is something altogether simpler. A single instruction, one thing to keep in mind that will ensure your writing comes out well every time.
And I think I have just the thing:
The Imaginary Google ‘Value’ Search Filter
What if there was a little box that you could tick when making a search in Google which said: ‘Click here to show only pages which actually provide value to the reader’.
How many people would click it? Somehow I don’t think I would be the only one.
Just think how much that would shake up the SEO industry!
Suddenly everyone would be talking about the value of good writing rather than links, keywords, density, or whatever else is the flavor of the month as dictated by Google’s latest algorithm shake up.
But even without the magic ‘value’ filter, the fact is that if you focus on providing value in every piece of content that you produce, you’ll not only write better content, but you also write better SEO content.
I’m no SEO expert, but I do know that Google is always trying to provide the most relevant content to its users, and no matter what changes it decides to make in the future, you never need to be one algorithm adjustment from catastrophe if you focus on content that provides genuine value.
I’m not saying that keywords are not important. Many of my clients come to me with keywords to incorporate into their content. But they are always secondary. Focus on providing value as well as keyword-optimized content, and you’re onto a winner.
Everything else is secondary.
Value & Quality are Two Different Things
One important issue is that some writers confuse ‘value’ with ‘quality writing’.
Let’s not dismiss the importance of quality. Quality is important, but at the end of the day it is far down the ranks when compared with value. Delivering work to your clients which is littered with spelling and grammatical mistakes is not going to win you any friends, but this does not necessarily mean that it provides value.
I’ve read many articles which had perfect grammar, commas in all the right places, faultless spelling, etc, but which I stopped reading a third of the way through because they lacked any value.
So just what is value, exactly?
There’s More than One Way to Provide Value
Value means writing content which the reader ‘can get something out of.’
That could be information, but although providing the reader with useful information is one way to provide value, it is not the only way.
Three other excellent ways to provide value in your writing include:
When someone sends me a funny video on YouTube which makes me laugh, I consider that to be good value. It may not teach me anything, it may not answer any of my pressing problems. But it’s exactly the sort of thing I will immediately email to my friends because I know that it will make them laugh as well.
Humor is so underrated in content writing. Some people will even tell you to avoid it completely. But if you can make people laugh, you are giving them a reason to read your content, and you can’t do better than that.
Don’t confuse controversy with being offensive, but do set out to question the established norms, and don’t be afraid to do so.
Put your own view forward and go for a different take on a well-established theme, and you are bound to get more attention because you are making people think.
When people have something to think about, they remember it. They may think, “Hey, I want to see what my friend/boss/wife thinks about this,” and share it with them.
If you write for clients then check with them just how controversial you can be (you don’t want them making any enemies). But if you are given leeway to push the boundaries a little, do so.
Interesting facts are a fantastic way to add value to content. By doing your research and digging out some relatively unknown facts, you can brighten up your writing and give the reader something to think about, something memorable to take away with them.
People read so many articles each day online, but a well-placed fact is something that they will remember because they can use it themselves in conversation. Everyone likes to be the first to reveal an interesting fact.
I’ve spent longer looking up cool facts that I have spent on writing the articles sometimes, and for me that is a good investment in time.
The “I didn’t know that” response is one of the simplest and most effective ways to provide value. Just make sure your facts really are facts and always quote your sources.
Win Over Your Readers (And Google)
Value is the only thing you really need to think about when writing content, and it couldn’t be easier than that. Before you write, as you write, and after you complete your content, keep asking yourself exactly what value you are providing for the reader.
Keep things interesting by mixing up the type of value you are providing. If you usually provide tips articles, try to find a more humorous or controversial angle next time.
The overall benefit is that not only are you providing what your reader wants, but you’re also providing what Google wants. After all, valuable content attracts more links, meaning you won’t have any more algorithm nightmares keeping you awake at night.
To find out more about writing valuable content and living the freelance lifestyle, visit Greg Walker at http://prowebwriting.com. You can also pick up a free report at the website about using your writing skills to earn money in ways which don’t involve working for clients, which is an ideal way to diversify your income streams.
Photo credit: Flickr.com_Travellin’ Librarian