Friday, June 6, 2008

Raising the Bar for Web Content

By Anita Campbell

Everyone seems to be creating content on the Web these days. As a small business, you are competing with established media companies for eyeballs -- so you better raise the quality.

Back in the dinosaur days of the Web, it used to be that you could write an article, get a few of your friends to link to it, and voila -- you could “own” a topic. You could become the authoritative source for that subject, at least for awhile.

In reality, maybe it was neverthat simple.  But even so, back in the day when we had less content, it was a whole lot easier for your content to stand out on the Web.

Somewhere along the line, things changed.  It crept up on us.  I’m not exactly sure when I noticed it -- maybe a year ago, maybe longer? But now we seem to have a glut of content.

And with that glut of content, it is becoming harder to new create content that attracts the links, get visitors, and gets in the search engine rankings using the same old approaches.

Content has become easier to create

Blogs, podcasts, photos, and online video are now within the grasp of millions.  It’s gotten a whole lot easier for individuals and small businesses to create content.

Michael Arrington of TechCrunch speaks about the explosion of content:

“Back in 2000 it was fairly hard to do things like write a blog, publish photos (don’t even think about videos back then), or share bookmarks. Today, all that stuff is easy….”

To top it off, media outlets increasingly put their material on the Web and make it available for free.  So you may not only be competing against other bloggers, but against newspapers, the Associated Press, cable TV networks, magazines, and other media. Add it all up and that’s a lot of content!

As content becomes commoditized

Scott Karp of Publishing 2.0 also writes about the glut of content in The Declining Value of Redundant News Content on the Web.  He uses the example of Microsoft’s withdrawal of its bid to acquire Yahoo, noting that Google at one point was tracking over 2000 stories on the topic.

He says it is a zero sum game for attention. There is finite demand for content on a particular topic.  For every time one version of content gets read, it means another version is not getting read.

The end result, he contends, is that the more content there is, the less value that individual content has -- it becomes commoditized.

He is talking about news and media outlets. But you could say the same concept applies to a small business with a blog or podcast.

Just look around at some of the blog content you see.  For example, top 10 lists abound.  Do a search in Google for “top 10” and you get over 261 million results.

There’s the top 10 spammers, the top 10 strategic technologies for 2008, the top 10 cyber security menaces…. Time magazine even put together a compilation of 50 of the top 10 lists. Just how many top 10 articles do we need?  Better question:  just how many top 10 articles will people read?

Don’t get discouraged -- get creative

If you are a blogger or a small business owner trying to stand out on the Web inexpensively using original content, right about now you may be feeling discouraged.

Don’t be.

My point is not to make you get all depressed and chuck it all.  Rather, I simply suggest you allocate a portion of your writing time to strategizing to create content that is original enough to stand out today.  Before you put pen to paper (er, fingers to keyboard), think about how to be original, so that you can meet the higher bar today.  The bar has gotten higher for quality Web content, but it’s not impossibly high.    

As Rex Hammock writes, that there’s always demand for quality and originality:

“If you help me get to the information and insight I need to live a fuller life or conduct business in a more flexible and productive way, your blogging … does not burden me. Useless, redundant, meaningless, re-shuffled drivel is the burden. It can be delivered via print or on a weblog or a mobile device. Crap is a burden no matter what the medium used to deliver it.”

These days you may have to give your blog posts a little more thought in order to be creative and come up with something new and different that stands out -- and that is not “useless, redundant, meaningless, re-shuffled drivel” to use Rex’s words.

How to stand out

The way to stand out with your content today is to be original.  Be different. Easier said than done, right?  Not really. I offer three ways to do that:

   1. Focus on topic niches, rather than general topics.  Before you write that “top 10 list of marketing ideas” do a search in Google and see if there are already articles on that topic.  If so, consider how to make your article different. One good way is to go narrow and deep – because a lot of the broad and general topics have been done to death.  Narrow the topic.  Make it “top 10 marketing ideas for under $5” or “top 10 marketing ideas for home-based landscaping businesses.”
   2. Write about your own experiences.  The one thing that I guarantee has not been written about ad nauseum are YOUR experiences.  Instead of writing on broad topics, write from the perspective of what you have experienced, done, learned, etc.  Only you can write that.  Want an example?  Here is an article I wrote about a true story that happened to me -- it got tons and tons of readers and links:  Hacked: It Could Never Happen to My Site (Famous Last Words).
   3. Add value to the news, don’t repeat it.  Even when writing about current news articles, add value to the basic story, don’t simply regurgitate it.

Jody Ordioni

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F/ 800.304.4891

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