Companies are adding content to their websites at a faster rate than ever.
Someone told them it was a good thing to do.
The pitch probably started something like this:
"The more web content pages you publish, the more organic traffic you will get from the search engines. If you add hundreds, and then thousands of new pages, you can optimize each page for a specific, long tail keyword and make out like a bandit."
Then someone at the company did the math, and realized that adding thousands of new pages would cost a fortune and take forever. Talented writers don’t come cheap, and they always complain if you ask them to write faster.
It is at this point that the lure of low quality content raises its ugly head.
Some smart soul at the company says, "Never mind paying our writers. How about if we outsource content writing to India or the Philippines? I bet we can get new pages written for about a dollar each. Or less."
Someone else says, “Or we could hire one of those content mills, and buy content in bulk.”
And the third stooge says, “Or we could invite our readers to contribute, and then automate the aggregation of all their submissions into new pages of content!”
Before you know it, the company’s website has a thousand new pages. And sure enough, they start getting a flood of new traffic through the search engines.
All is well, it seems. Never mind the quality – just focus on the quantity.
But over time, three significant problems with this approach arise.
1) Google is no longer fooled by low quality content.
One of the pillars on which low quality content stands is the fact that the Googlebot does a great job of determining the subject of a page, but is deaf, dumb and blind when it comes to the quality of the content.
In other words, Google can tell what a page is all about, but it can’t automatically determine whether the page is useful to its readers. For that, it depends on looking at the links pointing to the website. Numerous links to a site from authoritative sources give Google a good insight into the quality of that site.
This has always been a weakness, and many marketers have been quick to take advantage. First they create a body of high quality content which attracts plenty of inbound links. Then they add boat loads of lower-quality content. Google knows the site is a good one, and by default assumes that all the new content added to the site is also good.
What’s the problem then? The problem is that Google knows the games marketers play. And their latest update, the Mayday update, directly addresses the issue of bulk, low-quality, long tail content pages.
In the words of Googler Matt Cutts, ”This is an algorithmic change in Google, looking for higher quality sites to surface for long tail queries. It went through vigorous testing and isn’t going to be rolled back.”
In other words, it seems that Google is no longer going to be relying just on inbound links as a way to judge the quality of page content.
So if you have hundreds of cookie-cutter content pages, optimized for long tail keywords, don’t be surprised if they start dropping from page one to page twenty of the Google search results.
2) Low quality content doesn’t get shared.
Unless you have been living in a cave for the last couple of years, you know that content can get massive distribution through social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Digg, Reddit, Sphinn, StumbleUpon and others.
But if you want to have your content distributed far and wide through these sites and services, you had better create content worth sharing.
One thing you can be sure of is that those low quality content pages you had written for a dollar a page are not going to get on page one of Digg, nor are they going to be retweeted on Twitter.
Social media may seem to be chaotic, and often generates some fairly frivolous content of its own. But here’s one thing you need to understand: Every person using social media is an editor. They will read your content and then decide whether or not it is worth sharing.
This means you have to pay attention to the quality and value of your content. To get shared, content has to be engaging, entertaining, interesting or useful.
3) Low quality content damages your brand.
Your brand is not about your tagline or your logo. It is about people’s ongoing experience of your company and its website.
Great content adds value to that experience and builds your brand.
Low quality content disappoints your readers and undermines your brand.
Put another way, why create hundreds of pages of long tail content, attract thousands of visitors to your site, and then leave them feeling disappointed? That’s just a fast way to shoot yourself in the foot.
The answer lies in an ongoing investment in quality content.
There is no 'easy-button' when it comes to creating a quality website. Some people and some companies will tell you they can magically create zillions of new pages for you at an incredibly low price.
But if you take that route, you will ultimately do yourself and your company a great deal of harm.
Instead, focus on creating quality content that attracts links, is ripe for sharing, and makes you or your company look good.
As for coming up with new ideas for quality content, that is the focus on my own website, WebContentCafe.com
I post a new web content idea each morning, five days a week. That means you have a starting point for creating at least one new page of quality content every day.
About Nick Usborne
Nick Usborne is a leading authority on the subject of writing for the web, and has been since 1995. As a speaker, trainer and consultant he has worked with dozens of companies and organizations, including Yahoo!, J Paul Getty Trust, Intuit, Walt Disney Attractions, Merck & Co, the National Cancer Institute and many more.
In addition to writing and copywriting work for his clients, he is the author of numerous articles, programs and books. He also coaches freelancers who want to build a bigger and better business. You can learn more about his work on writing for the web, and freelancing, at nickusborne.com