Promoting a modern business revolves around inbound marketing, content and search engine optimisation being its two most important elements. Every marketer knows that having a high degree of visibility in the search engines is of utmost importance, even in the case of local businesses, which have traditionally been slow to adopt digital marketing.
Since the search engines function by crawling and indexing content, the more content you have, the better. After all, content is the ‘meat’ of any website and, without it, the search engine crawlers have nothing to categorise and index. There’s no doubt that, the more content you have on your website, the more visibility, at least in theory, it will receive in the search engines. However, there’s much more to building an effective marketing strategy than simply publishing as much content as you can.
Quality vs. Quantity
There are still impatient marketers out there who will pay next to nothing for vast quantities of content, often stuff that’s written by someone with a less than adequate command of the English language. Although there’s no doubting the fact that, the more content you have, the better, it would perhaps be better to refer to quality content instead. Spam will get you nowhere, and will likely end up with your website being deindexed altogether.
Google is getting better and better at determining the quality of content, and that’s exactly why search engine optimisation should no longer revolve around keywords alone. A few years back, marketers used to commission content, such as blog posts, that targeted specific keywords and phrases. Entire websites would be built around a specific set of key phrases, and all content written for them would be written with the main goal of ranking highly in the search engines when someone searched for the phrase concerned. The human audience was often of secondary importance.
Content mills, such as online e-zines, article directories and guest-blogging networks, are a perfect example of the prioritisation of quantity over quality. Every day, they would churn out countless thousands of words written for practically no other reason than to give yet more fodder for the search engines to rank and display in the results. However, Google’s Panda algorithm, first launched in 2011, spelled the death of these websites, and they’ve virtually since disappeared from the search results. What can marketers learn from this? Quantity means nothing without quality.
Defining Quality Content – Long-Form vs. Short-Form
Quality content may be defined as that which offers genuine value to human readers through originality and good research skills. However, one of the most debated topics among content marketers is whether long- or short-form content is better. In other words, it’s not just about how much content you have, but also about how long each piece of content is. Although there’s no clear definition of where short-form content ends and long-form content begins, the latter may be broadly defined as more in-depth content formats, such as guides and whitepapers and blog posts in excess of 1,000 words. Short-form content, on the other hand, typically refers to the everyday social media fodder, such as 400- to 500-word blog posts.
You may have heard of the so-called ‘golden rule’ that around 500 words is the optimal length for typical Web content, such as your average blog post. However, studies have consistently shown that even the average blog post should be around 800-1,000 words in length, since it will generally enjoy greater exposure in the search results. The case for longer pieces of content makes sense from a reader’s perspective – it’s difficult to say much of value in as little as 400 to 500 words, although it does, of course, depend on the topic. On the other hand, content that’s too long can end up boring readers with its superfluity.
So what is the perfect length for a piece of content? It depends. The optimal length for any given blog post or any other written content format is however many words it takes to explain the subject, without deviating and without including a lot of so-called ‘fluff’. As such, is generally better to aim for slightly longer pieces, but avoid putting any strict limits on word counts. By using only as many words as you need to convey your message, you’ll end up with content of various lengths, which ultimately means you’ll be in a better position to accommodate all of your readers.
To Promote or Not to Promote – Sales Copy vs. Genuine Value
There’s a fine line between content marketing and native advertising (also known as sponsored content). Content marketing is, of course, promotional at its core, but it’s also intended to offer real value to readers, whereas sponsored content is nothing more than a lengthy written advertisement disguised as genuinely useful content. In other words, one can be relatively open and honest, while the other is deliberately devious and misleading. That being said, the ultimate goal of your content marketing is also to increase sales.
To cite a horribly overused cliché, it’s wise to follow the 80/20 rule here, whereby sales copy is no more than 20 percent promotional in nature. The rest of the content, however, should not be based around the hope or expectation that the reader is going to become a customer. In other words, it should offer something genuinely useful and interesting to the reader, rather than being pure advertising. This kind of value-adding content is also what tends to do well in the search engines, whereas sponsored clickbait content tends not to even get a look in beyond the spammy native advertising networks. Finally, you should not try to hide the fact that you are advertising something, lest you fall into the mire that is clickbait spam.
In conclusion, the belief that you can never have too much content to market your business only represents half the answer. The deciding factor, however, is undoubtedly quality over quantity whereby you focus on building value before focussing purely on sales. If you can give your readers content that will be genuinely interesting or helpful to them, they’ll be thankful for it, and your reputation will grow.