Why Weak Content is a Missed Opportunity for Business – And How You Can Strengthen Yours Strategically
As a writer, it’s frustrating to land on a webpage with weak content. Even worse is landing on a page where a content marketer obviously didn’t care. (Close behind that, we’d rank sites and articles that say things like “most unique.” Please, just… no.) Content is the bread and butter of SEO and digital marketing. It’s how you package keywords, it’s how you frame products and services. It’s what gets attention, but it’s also how you draw attention to what you have to offer. Weak or outright bad content is a missed opportunity, one that businesses can’t afford to miss out on in an increasingly competitive digital space. Which brings us to the question: how does your content stack up? If you find yourself falling short, it’s probably time to take a step back and reassess what’s going wrong, so you can figure out how to make things right. But first…
What is “Bad” Content?
We’ll answer this question with a question of my own: what is Google Search? “A search engine,” is the obvious answer. “An information delivery system that matches users with high-quality info to address their needs, based on their query,” is essentially the same answer, but cuts closer to an actual definition. With that in mind, then, bad content is content that doesn’t adequately address a user’s needs. Bad content simply repackages what’s already available elsewhere without adding further detail or value. In fact, there’s plenty of info out there on what makes content bad and how to avoid it. There are a number of reasons for weak content, whether it’s time constraints, poor planning, or lack of insight. Sometimes, things just don’t fall into place the way you want them to! Regardless of their cause, these complaints speak to a larger issue with content: People treat content as a disposable afterthought—and that’s a serious mistake. Content is not an afterthought! You wouldn’t throw together a mediocre business plan, project, or marketing initiative, so why would you leave content planning until the very last minute?
The Most Common Complaints About Bad Content
There’s plenty to complain about when it comes to weak content:
- No value to the reader
- Overly self-promotional
- Obsolete, irrelevant, or inaccurate info
- Slow to start
- All lists, all the time
- Misleading titles
- Too short – 500 words or less!
- Too long – 5,000 words that go nowhere!
- Obviously just used for keywords
- Dull images and design
- Did we mention repetitive?
- Begging for social shares
(But, if we’re being honest, all content marketers have been guilty of some of these crimes at some point!)
The number one problem facing most content creators out there is a lack of strategic planning. Why is this the case? For starters, content creation without a plan is labour-intensive, ineffectual, and often operates under the faulty assumption that you must keep going, otherwise you’ll lose all traction. Consider this, though: without a plan, you’re just spinning your tires. Creating content for the sake of creating content is doomed to fail. Developing a strategy starts with assessing your potential audience and asking a few key questions.
Five Ws (and One H)
When you were in high school, and even in elementary school, every time your class had to study a book, you were asked some basic reading comprehension questions to help get into the story a little more and look a little deeper. Years later, these same questions became guiding principles: the Five Ws (and One H). With a few minor tweaks, these questions are just as applicable to your content marketing efforts. These six questions can help you zero in on your target market by forcing you to think about individual aspects of your content strategy and just how effective (or ineffective) they are:
WHO is your audience?
Who are you trying to reach? This can be a tough one. Using Google Analytics, however, you can drill down on your user base and determine who, exactly, is landing on your site. With a bit of careful research, it’s easy to provide some reliable demographic outlines that can be turned into buyer personas you want to target through content tailored to their needs. This also gives you a rubric to compare old content to; how does it stack up? Are there opportunities for evergreen content?
WHAT do you want them to do?
What actions do you want your users to take? Assuming you have a digital storefront, the likely answer is “Make a purchase.” However, there’s a bit more to this than that. Perhaps you’re frustrated seeing the competition outsell you in a particularly lucrative SKU that you happen to carry as well. If customers don’t know you carry it, that’s a problem, but one content marketing can help you solve. Of course, maybe your CTAs aren’t working because your content lacks authenticity or authority. In this case, expanding on thin or weak content can help drive click-thru-rates.
WHERE are you trying to reach them?
Content isn’t just on your site. It includes outreach, social media marketing, and more. Maybe you’ve actually got pretty good content, but people just aren’t seeing it. Remember, if good content is going to outrank the competition, it’s got to be at least 10 times better for real organic search change. Some careful social sharing and paid social promotion, putting a budget behind your content, can get you serious traction and give it an extra little boost that’ll get it the attention it needs.
WHEN should you reach them? (or, WHEN should you post?)
There are countless blogs out there that discuss, in-depth, the best time to post a blog. While there are peak times and peak days for traffic, engagement, and backlinking (Monday at 11 AM, Saturday morning, and Monday or Tuesday evening around 7 PM, respectively), what we’re really asking here is, “When are you reaching your audience in the buyer’s journey?” If you’re only targeting the awareness stage, then you’ve likely got a ton of content geared towards customers still determining what they need. Help them find a solution with informative content. Likewise, don’t ignore the consideration stage; you’ve got the attention of these customers, now offer them meaningful solutions. Finally, the decision stage—stick the landing with compelling content that helps these users choose your business.
WHY are you trying to reach this audience?
The obvious answer is to drive business, but this question should get you thinking about opportunities to reinforce your organization’s values and mission. Remember, strong brand identity goes a long way, and by engaging your audience with meaningful content that doesn’t just meet their needs, but also reflects their values, there’s potential to create lifelong, loyal customers who serve as brand ambassadors. Why are you targeting these customers and not another demographic? What values do you share? What passions? Start thinking about what you have in common and how you can tell your story, or better yet, how you can help customers tell their own.
HOW will you do it?
This is the big one. How are you going to put it all together? Assess your business goals and Sit down and assess business goals, how your marketing efforts need to support them, and look at how your content can fit into those efforts. Where do you need traffic? What is your audience looking for? Start drafting up a plan and pulling the pieces together. Plan out how you want to use your content. That’s a lot to take in all in one go, but the good news is that developing answers to these questions will help you start to think about how your content marketing strategy will work. The good news is that you can pause your existing content strategy while you reassess. If you’re frustrated with your current content offerings, take the time to rethink what you’re doing. You don’t want your blog on indefinite hiatus, but simultaneously, weak content isn’t doing much for you other than demonstrating you have a pulse. We mentioned earlier that weak content is a missed opportunity, one businesses shouldn’t overlook. Well, here’s why:
Understanding the Value of Content Marketing
Your content doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and if you want it to work for you, you shouldn’t treat it like it does. Understanding how your content works in the grander scheme of things can help you develop a truly fantastic, strategic approach that supports ongoing SEO and marketing plans. Not convinced? Let’s look at how, exactly, Google considers site content. Google Search maintains an index of web pages that records how these pages look, operate, and interact with each other. Google’s crawlers, automated programs that look for and scan websites, create and update the index regularly, following one link to another. These crawlers check everything from keyword usage to site freshness and update the index accordingly. This index is the basis for search results. When you enter a search query, Google immediately analyzes the terms you’ve used to try to figure out what you’re looking for. This starts with basic query matches but goes so far as to consider the context of your search, incorporating past searches and location data, if you’ve made it available. The search results you see are based on your query and whatever contextual info Google can draw from it and you. These results are Google’s best attempt to provide users with information that meets their needs. Google’s crawlers regularly check out sites in the index, but by providing updates (through blogs, updates to your pages, and so on), you’re basically giving Google a little nudge that says, “Hey, this has changed, maybe you should check it out.” Depending on the quality of your changes, you might see your ranking increase as Google re-indexes your pages. As such, Google even employs human search quality raters to provide valuable feedback on Google’s search algorithms to help ensure they’re returning high-quality results that address user needs.
Putting Content into Play Strategically
Now we know what makes bad content bad, what Google’s looking for, and how to start thinking about content marketing strategy. The next step is putting it into action. Here at SEO TWIST, we often start by addressing pain points for both a client and their audience. What does a business want to achieve? What are their customers looking for? By answering these questions, we can then tailor a content strategy around a company’s goals (for example, a music store looking to sell more guitars) and help develop buyer personas around customer pain points. Sticking with our example, a potential buyer persona could be a non-musical parent looking to support their child’s interests but struggling to figure out what sort of instrument to get. (Obviously, this parent should buy their child a decent entry level instrument that they won’t grow out of after six months of lessons, but we digress.) At this point, your content team would conduct some research around search terms and traffic for “best entry-level guitar” or “best guitar for beginners.” Google’s pretty handy at providing related search terms and answers to common questions, which can help you further identify the specific things users are actually searching for. Let me say that again: Google tells you what people are searching for. This is a great way to rapidly outline content that actually provides value! From there, you can build detailed FAQ pages that link out to products, blog articles that support your site’s authority by providing users valuable information and updating on-page content to help capture search traffic. From here, it’s a matter of creating a plan moving forwards, monitoring your results, and adapting as needed.
There’s Always Room for Improvement
If you’ve checked out other articles on our blog, you’ve likely read some variation on this before: your content marketing efforts aren’t fire-and-forget. You’re not working in a vacuum, and your content plans aren’t always going to work out. It’s important to keep at it until you find something that sticks, then reverse-engineer what made it work so you can try it out again. A content marketing strategy gives you a structure to work within and can help you avoid some of those most common complaints, but the real trick to creating good, valuable content is effort. One of my favourite authors did a Reddit AMA and was asked what his trick was to overcoming writing challenges and blocks. His solution? Work through it. “Quitting kills. Write!” Keep at it and keep improving. Your content will be all the better as a result, and your customers will be thanking you for it. But whatever you do, don’t stop putting in the effort! You’ve got this – and we’re here to help!