For years, Matt Cutts of Google has been stressing that one of the keys to being successful in the search engine’s algorithm is producing “great content.”  But what is great content? That’s the million-dollar question.  Usually, Google’s perception of great content is based on the concept of providing “real value” to people browsing your site.

“Real value” might seem like a fairly subjective term (probably because it is), so it might be difficult to know if the content you’re producing really is great content.  The next time you’re trying to decide if what you want to post really is useful, ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • Have I utilized different types of media? You don’t need to have eight pictures, four videos, and ten links in every post, but the more variety you can inject into your stuff, the better.  Switching up the media by which information is delivered keeps the reader entertained longer and therefore listening for a greater period of time.  Just be sure that you’re not putting in so much extra media that it distracts from your main point by ruining the flow of your message.  Usually, my rule of thumb is to bring in a picture with an interesting caption or some kind of relevant link if I go two or three paragraphs without any comic relief or seriously provocative insights.
  • Am I really offering new insights or am I simply parroting or rephrasing common knowledge?  Speaking of insights, I’d say that answering this question in the affirmative is the greatest step that a business can take toward producing great content.  Your writing can be ultra-witty and adorned from head to toe in a highly complex mixture of media, but, if the reader isn’t learning anything new, there’s not a lot of value there.  Do a quick Google search about what others in your field have to say about the topic and try to take a different approach if possible.  If your content is unique, then you’ll be more likely to intrigue the reader and therefore retain his or her attention for longer.
  • Is there anything personal and/or relatable in the content? When I was growing up, my teachers always taught me to take myself out of the essay.  Ever the narcissist, even today I tend to ignore that rule.  If you’re writing a piece of content for your business-especially if it’s in the form of a blog and not just purely technical and educational- it’s okay to bring your own or your business’ experiences into the conversation.  People relate to other people (not impersonal institutions), and mentioning successes or failures that you’ve had individually with whatever your topic is will make you more relatable to your readers/viewers.  Case studies are an effective way to do this when you want more focus on your company and its results rather than personal procedures that you’ve explored.
  • Is this funny at all? Right about now you’re probably saying to yourself, “Just be funny? Easier said than done.”  You’re right, of course, and humor is so subjective that it’s tough to tell if your content really will make people laugh.  You can’t really know how well your punch lines are going to land, but here are a few tips to help: First, try your material on your colleagues.  They can help you reword or scrap content that just isn’t working.  Second, actually take some time in the revision process to come up with tweaks or better ideas.  The longer you spend on your content, the better it gets (usually). And last, don’t act like you’re trying to be funny, even if you are.  Humor loses its appeal when the audience suspects you care too much about the reaction.
  • Are there any bold claims or stats that should be cited? This might take you back to your high school and college days when your professors would ask where you came across those suspicious statistics that just so happen to coincide perfectly with the point that you’re making.  Even today, that lesson should still apply, though you’d be surprised at the hundreds of articles I’ve read that introduce ambitious stats with absolutely no hint at where they’ve gotten the information.  If you’re going to make an argument based on numbers, make sure people know where you’re getting the numbers from.  Anything to boost credibility makes your point hit home that much harder.

Now get out there and post some of your own engaging- nay, mind-blowing- content before you waste any more of your precious day reading mine.


James on Google+