5 Questions to Ask When Writing Content

The web was dominated for a decade by two key elements. Search engines and content.5 Questions to Ask When Writing Content

If you wanted  information you asked Google. It was simple.

This led to the rise of a new industry called “search engine optimization” or if you love acronyms “SEO”. Experts good, bad and scammy emerged from the web mist to offer your website the holy grail of being ranked number one on a Google search result page. This was important because that gave you 40% of all clicks. Ranking number one could mean the success or failure of your online business.

This led to dubious practices and activities and content farms that just replicated content popped up. Unique and interesting information was being buried and overwhelmed by poor duplicate content.

Google decided to change the game as their search results were becoming more irrelevant and of lower quality.

They decided to work out ways to identify great content through social signals (hence the launch of Google+) and other technologies that rewards the content creators and not the content copiers.

Google got smarter. The web became more human.

Content on purpose

Content creation on a smarter and social web requires you to ask some questions. So before we start writing our next piece of copy we better stop and ask ourselves what its purpose is when published on the Internet.

  • Is it fresh and unique, or are we just adding to the duplicates, risking to get penalized?
  • Is it readable and persuasive, or it pushes our readers away?
  • Does it answer the questions the readers ask, or are we wasting their time?

Writing a high quality copy requires thorough research on the subject, taking you to all sorts of blogs and articles people from all around the globe have shared, but sadly, this pile of content often consists of far too many articles that fail to comply with the three goals we mentioned above. Not that these three goals of a quality copy are all we should meet, but if you want to truly grab the interest of your target audience, you should give them a second thought before you or your marketing team decide to publish the next post.

Since Google Panda was launched  you should be aware of duplicate content on your website, so writing the unique and quality content is extremely important, with free duplicate content checker PlagSpotter you can find out who steals your works without citing you.

Google is changing copywriting

It is true that Google’s algorithmic updates have caused many transformations in SEO copywriting. We all need to align the way we write with these constant changes. But, instead of us trying to stay one step ahead of the search engine equations, we can create our content with our human audience in mind, and meet them at the finish line.

Google will always have good user experience as their primary goal, and each update they make will be in the direction of better understanding of the content from a human perspective. If you guide your copywriting to provide what your readers look for, not only that you’ll get more loyal audience that loves to come to your website and read what’s new, but Google will also award your actions with a higher ranking in their search result pages.

So how should you write?

Here’s what you should ask yourself before you publish your writing on the Internet:

#1. Would my friends or colleagues walk away if I read this to them?

Read your copy out loud to better understand the flow for each sentence and paragraph and to see if the content is interesting enough to capture the interest of an audience. This will also allow you to clean up your typos, punctuation errors and unnecessary words.

#2. Do the headlines in the copy explain enough about its content?

If somebody reads only the headers of your article, will they understand what the article is about and what is its main idea? Ideally, the headlines should, provide transition and a description for each of the paragraphs.

#3. Are the keywords repeating too often?

When writing content for the Internet there must be some focus on the important keywords, but the density should always float somewhere in between 1% and 3% if we don’t want the writing to sound forced or spammy.

#4. Are my intentions being honest as a writer?

Why are you writing this copy? What is your purpose with it? Is it a complete plagiarism, or an effective idea sharing? Provide your readers with links to other websites, articles, pictures or videos related to your content to be able to achieve better SEO.

#5. Does the copy offer anything new to the readers?

This question builds off the previous point – will those who read your writing learn something new? Your content should match your goal of satisfying the curiosity your audience has on the particular subject. Only new, fresh and organic content is the way to more quality visits and better rankings.

What about you?

Do you write for search engines or is it for humans? Google’s equations are getting better at picking the difference.

Has your writing on the web changed in the last 12 months. Are you creating unique content?

Look forward to your feedback in the comments below.

Guest author: Sandra Miller is a frelance writer and you can connect with her on Google+

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  • Sebastien Ross

    I write for humans, for liking them and please them, but I have this ghost called Googlebot in mi mind every moment when I write !!

  • http://www.facebook.com/scottwayres Scott Ayres

    Great post Jeff. I have always just written the way I want to read a post and never really take Google into mind. Sure it’s important to worry about getting found in search and etc. But ultimately if your content sucks it won’t matter.

  • http://www.socialbakers.com/ Michal Smetana

    What I consider the most important point is especially #5 and #2. Does the blog post/article/copy bring anything new to the readers? This is the questing every copywriter should ask himself – we have to be innovative and original as much as possible. And the #2 is important especially in today’s hectic times when working people don’t have much time and they tend to read just the headlines of the text and decide, whether it’s worth reading or not. But these are all really good tips, thanks Sandra.

  • http://twitter.com/sks_success75 Sherman Smith

    Hey Jeff, this is definitely an important topic for all bloggers. I see a lot of people who write specifically for Google and not to people. This may be great for google to see but as you have explained it’s better to write your blog to people and not to just get a good ranking. The more views and comments you have on your blog the better your blog will rank anyways…

  • http://twitter.com/CaseyFahey Casey Fahey

    More GREAT stuff Jeff, thanks!

  • erover

    Love your ideas, and enjoy your blog often. On tip #5, I think it’s key that they learn more than a new thing or two–almost everything should be new or packaged really well. In the case of this blog, how much of the Google/SEO backstory do we really need? Why bury the good stuff after that? Just a thought. Keep up the interesting posts!

  • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

    The ShuttleRock software allows both cross domain and unique content. The choice is yours!

  • Cat Fyson (Koozai)

    Hi Jeff

    A great post that really sums up why good quality content is so important. #4 is a key point – providing your readers with valuable resources and tools is a must to avoid creating duplicate and dull content.

    Plagspotter looks interesting. I usually use Copyscape myself but I’ll certainly have a go on Plagspotter to see how it compares.

  • http://www.nishasalim.com/ Nisha Salim

    The thing is, duplicate content that can be identified by plagiarism detection software is not the only bad content that you need to worry about. It’s easy enough to fool the machine by rewriting the entire thing, but even if it escapes detection, it still remains duplicate content.

  • http://www.stephendwalker.com Stephen Walker

    I need to rethink my writing from the ground up. I have spent years trying to produce copy that is both readable and keyword rich. Your explanation suggests I should forget the keywords and refine my copy writing skills.

    • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

      The key is not to forget them but don’t do keyword “stuffing”

      • http://www.stephendwalker.com Stephen Walker

        Yes, A fine balance is required between keyword inclusion and content quality. The main point I take from your article is to write for your audience.

  • http://seo-contentwriter.com/ Bikash Prusty

    Hi Jeff,

    It’s a great post. I am completely agreed with you. While a
    writer starts writing something he/she should ask themselves what is he actually
    writing and who are their audience? To produce quality content is not an easy
    task all together. You should have too much depth of knowledge of English and
    also the marketing knowledge. Let me say what I understand about this article.
    Well, when a writer writing content, he should know, he is going to write user
    friendly content, because post-Panda updates content writing has changed
    dramatically. Google has given more propriety for user friendly content. I
    personally love this article. Thanks for sharing.

  • Matt Press

    Nice post. I judge content (both mine and stuff I read) on originality, authenticity, relevance, usefulness and its ability to engage. It’s a cluttered world out there, but if you make an effort, you can get heard.

  • Lindsay Pevny

    Jeff, what’s your way of finding new, fresh ideas to write about?

    • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

      Read a lot! Blogs and books