The Myth of Great Content

Have you heard?

Content is king.

Just write great content.

If you write it, they will come.

But what do these mean?

What’s the best word? What’s the best sentence? Paragraph? Book?

There’s little doubt that one-hundred people will have one-hundred different opinions. And this is really true for any content. Including, of course, web content.

In fact, it seems that the most we can say about content is whether it achieves the purpose for which it was created. Of course, the purposes for content creation are numerous.

Some content is created because, “A writer’s gotta write.”

There is content created to communicate a very specific idea.

There is content for explaining a technical system or process.

Some to elicit an emotional response from readers.

Some content is created solely for the creator, not to be viewed by others.

And all of these purposes exist in all of the media in which content is created.

Books, television, paint and steel, to name a few. And yes, also on the internet.

But when we talk about “great content” online, it’s often thought of in terms of the content’s effectiveness to attract readers, subscribers, comments, likes, shares, links, etc.

Of course, there are a lot of content creators, even online, who couldn’t care less about who sees what they create and how others respond to it.

But in terms of creating great web content as it is commonly understood, “greatness” is better described as ability to achieve an intended result.

And at least one purpose of content creation, for some people, is to earn meaningful attention for their business.

Effective Online Business Content

Even within the very narrow sub-universe of online business content, there are seemingly limitless purposes, goals and objectives for content creation.

While most business content is ultimately created to earn more business, it can serve many other important functions before earning new clients.

For example, one very popular purpose for content creation is to earn attention that increases visibility in search results. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of content created for that purpose fails to meet its intended goal. And that’s largely due to two main reasons:

1. People think that they can “trick” search engines into deeming their content great.
2. People have little to no understanding of how search engines work, and more importantly, what they’re trying to achieve.

So, let’s talk about what search engines mean by “great content.” Well, at least what one search engine means:

One key element of creating a successful site is not to worry about Google’s ranking algorithms or signals, but to concentrate on delivering the best possible experience for your user by creating content that other sites will link to naturally—just because it’s great.

When you’re writing a post or article, think about:

Would you trust the information in this article?

Is the article useful and informative, with content beyond the merely obvious? Does it provide original information, reporting, research, or analysis?

Does it provide more substantial value than other pages in search results?

Would you expect to see this in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?

Is your site a recognized authority on the subject?

And there’s little doubt that the more useful, informative, valuable, etc, that a piece of content is, the more likely people will be to read, subscribe, share, link to, etc.

But there’s an important assumption built-in there:

That the content resonates with its audience in a way that motivates them to take action.

Let me put it a different way, you can show Shakespeare to a 7th grader, but most won’t be motivated to read it, like it, share it, etc.

On the other hand, you can show them a video of Psy, and they’re likely, not only to share it, but to re-create their own versions and dress up as him for Halloween.

Get it?