A few days ago, I wrote up a few test pages for a new client. All of the writing was a little more on the technical side of things, and one page in particular I struggled with because I was trying to create content that would support a number of keywords I wanted to target. When the client took a look at the samples, that page in particular was singled out by the client as feeling... off.
They were absolutely right. It had no center or specific intent, and thus, no value. I trashed it. And I wrote something better.
The mistake I made was this: I started with the keywords I was focused on, and tried to build a topic around it. Big mistake. That’s like laying a foundation without knowing what you’re going to build on top of it. GOOD WRITING DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY. But it’s easy to get so goal-oriented that you get tunnel vision and forget the absolute bedrock basics.
Readers who are paying any attention whatsoever can tell when you’re just spewing out content for the sake of generating content. It’s better to hit 90% of the keywords you want with 100% of your heart.
Really, that’s the point of the new SEO rules that Google has been rolling out over the past few months, much to the dismay and horror of those who were ill-prepared. Google is essentially trying to teach their engine to detect personality and conviction in content that is posted on the Internet. Finding the ghost in the machine. That’s a herculean task, to be sure. But if Google and other search engines who follow their lead succeed at that task, it will make the Internet a fundamentally better place. A more interesting place.
Let’s put this a different way. Poor content is the equivalent of calling a business and having one of those robot phone operators on the other end. You take a breath and are just about to introduce yourself and launch into whatever it is you wanted to talk about: “Hi! My name is…”–only to be cut off by a mechanical voice spitting out a series of options for you. It’s not a pleasurable experience. To shamelessly misquote the author Douglas Adams, “It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on earth has ever produced the expression, ‘As charming as a robot phone operator.'”
Nobody wants to talk to a robot. In a face to face discussion with a customer, would you vacate your seat and put a robot in your place? Hopefully not. Not if you didn’t want your customer to take their business elsewhere.
Good content, content with intent, is the equivalent of hearing a warm human voice on the other end of a phone line. Even if the topic of discussion is dry or technical, or you are clearly trying to make a sale, your audience is so much more receptive to what you have to say. They’re going to listen because you’re alive. Because you are interested in what you are talking about.
If you care about your content, then other people will as well.