Sunday, October 25, 2009

Content For Websites

I have always approached writing content for websites in the same manner that I approach my creative writing: I aim for perfection. Writing articles and blog posts is somewhat different, but the writer in me just won't settle for anything less than the very best I can do...but I'm beginning to realize that the quality that I routinely provide exceeds what is truly necessary.

To bid for contracts competitively, I have to try to go as low as possible knowing that there are many others out there who are still going to be bidding lower. So, I win a very small percentage of the contracts I have been bidding on. But I know for sure that the value that I would provide via the quality of my work would exceeds the value that these potential clients are getting for their money when they give the work to someone else.

When you are writing content for websites you are creating the voice of the company on the Internet. There is a huge element of marketing savvy involved, and search engine optimization is a large part of it as well. This is going to be your identity on the web, the place where your customers can find you and learn about your offerings. Your on-page content needs to be sparkling, compelling, impeccable, and convincing.

You can't look at the prices that people are paying for bulk articles that are largely for SEO purposes and expect top notch, professionally written website content for the same amount. And if you settle for less to save a few bucks, I can guarantee you that the shoddy content will cost you infinitely more money in business lost than the amount of money you "saved" by contracting an inferior content provider.

Here at Internet Content Providers we deliver content for multiple purposes, including blog posts, article marketing pieces, eBooks, and of course on-page content for websites. We place an emphasis on quality, and if you really want your web presence to be effective, you should too. Give us a call at 706-354-0781 or simply drop us an email and we will work with you to make sure that you get the content you need at a price that is fair to us, and fair to you as well.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Written Content vs. Other Media

I recognize the reality that there is such a thing as audio and video that some people consider to be "content," but to me, this is another attempt to sidestep the necessity for education and integrity while trying to squeeze a buck from the Internet.

Let me tell you straight off: I'm a musician. I love music of all kinds, and I listen to music all day while I'm working, and I play music when I'm done. Nobody respects the audio medium more than me. But I don't go to websites to hear music (except the occasional MySpace or YouTube), and I certainly don't want to hear audio when I'm searching the web for a product or service. I don't want to see video either, because it will be accompanied by audio, and I don't want my music interrupted. I can read quite well, thank you.

I respect a social media site like YouTube that allows the sharing of so much music. But that has nothing to do with website content. If you take their code and drop it into your blog to amplify some point, that's totally cool. But if you do that for someone else's site, you really can't call yourself a "content provider."

If you are a professional videographer and you create videos that become useful web content, then yes, you are playing the role of content provider, and the people in this field do amazing work. But very few videographers would describe themselves as "web content providers." My point is that the field of web content is almost exclusively the domain of the written word. There is valid content, like some podcasts and videos, that is not written, but the primary use of the Internet for commerce revolves around the written word.

The word "commerce" is operative here. The net contains mad quantities of audio and video that could be described as entertainment or art. But when I get home from the emergency room after having my leg broken in an auto accident, I'm looking for the phone number of a good lawyer in writing, not a movie or podcast of a lawyer talking. When I need a plumber because my pipe is broken, I don't want to watch a 13 minute short film about the history of copper pipes. I want to know how to get in touch with a local plumber, now, in writing.

One of the reasons I like reading things on the Internet is because it enables me to multitask. I killed my TV a long time ago, but if you are so inclined you can listen to music, watch a game on television with the volume down, and devour unlimited written information on the web all at the same time.

Try as they might, the dumb-us-down crowd is never going to get rid of the written word, and from my perspective, if you are not a professional writer, you are not a content provider.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Case Studies: Compelling Content?

Case studies have emerged as a content staple, and why not? What could be a better endorsement for a company than a narrative testimony of their success in providing a viable solution to a particular client? It's like, hey, if they were able to do that for Joe's Widgets, they can certainly do the same for me, right?

Okay, so I just opened this piece with three, count 'em three, consecutive questions. What's up with that? Do'h! There goes another one, what's going on here? Oh no!

I digress. Let me get to the point about case studies. I have a friend in the industry who was contracted by a client to write the content for their website. They wanted a case study on the site, and it so happens that a content person who had previously worked for them in-house composed a case study some time ago that never appeared. It was passed along to my friend, who says it was in fact very well written. But when she evaluated it as an SEO/SEM person who runs SEO tools in her browser, she could immediately tell that it was nothing but blatant shilling...in other words, pure bullshit.

This client of hers is a web design firm that offers SEO/SEM services. So the case study was intended to prove that their design and subsequent optimization and marketing provided value to their client. The fact is, however, that the website of the company around which the case study revolved was not doing well at all. The site had an Alexa rank of 13 million, and it was registering zero traffic according to Compete.com. Plus, when she read the case study, the "successes" therein were very vague, like "they are now placing in the top three positions of page one for several of their targeted terms." Really? Which ones? How about a screen shot? And how much traffic do these terms get?

The bottom line is that case studies are very easy to manipulate. Everyone has a friend who will publicly toot their buddy's horn (hey--don't go there) in return for a favor. If you are going to use case studies, you have to be very diligent and make sure that you are communicating verifiable information. You also need to highlight a genuinely successful case. If you are like this client that my friend had, and the best you can do is keep your fingers crossed hoping that nobody actually puts the subject of your case study under the microscope, you're better off not using case studies at all.

But, if you really do provide positive ROI, case studies are golden. If you successfully partner with your clients and deliver solutions that make (or save) them money, it will be plainly evident, and your case studies will be numerous and compelling. But if you are just jumping on the bandwagon expecting your content provider to make a silk case out of a sow's study, you are selling snake oil, baby. And you don't want to do that, do you?

(D'oh, there I go with the damned questions again!)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Nofollow Links

I am always trying to learn more about SEO as a content provider, and I think that things are always changing, so you need to be open minded and willing to absorb new knowledge if you are going to be successful. With this in mind, I'm going to share some thoughts on nofollow links and why building them is necessary for SEO.

Nobody knows Google's algorithms in totality, but it is commonly accepted that Page Rank is derived from quantity and quality of backlinks. The bots can only measure links that they can follow, so when the "nofollow" attribute is added to a hyperlink, it's not going to "count" toward Page Rank. And of course, people assume that Page Rank is what dictates where your page will rank for your targeted terms. So, many people automatically assume that nofollow links are worthless for SEO.

Since I don't work for Google, I have no way of knowing for sure, but I disagree with the notion that nofollow links have no value. One thing I do know about Google is that they have a lot of employees, and they have the resources to hire smart people to implement their objectives. Their objective in this case is to identify valid "authorities" on any given subject that is being searched for and rank them accordingly. It seems to me that everyday users don't care about nofollows--they just link to pages that they find to be relevant. Presumably, SEOs wouldn't try to accrue nofollow links, so they appear to be totally legitimate "votes" to the search engines. I think that Google is smart enough to recognize this, and I think that a site's "trust ranking" is impacted by nofollow links pointing toward it.

If you think that Page Rand determines SERPs, end of story, then you won't agree with this nofollow assessment. I don't think that Page Rank matters in most cases, and if I'm right, there is no reason not to try to accumulate nofollow links.