Great content is anything that you are happy to read from beginning to end without thinking “I know where this is going” or “I don’t want to know where this is going”.
This principle can be applied to any medium. If you’re watching a film, you want to suspend your disbelief, get dragged into the storyline and escape reality for a couple of hours. When you read a book, you want to be grabbed within the first chapter and should find it difficult to put down.
The same is true of content online.
So if you’re reading a blog post, you don’t want easy answers that simply reaffirm what you already know; you want something interesting, new and engaging. When you read a product description on an ecommerce site, it should convince you to part with your cash in an immediate frenzy. That’s truly great content.
Content for content’s sake stands out like a sore thumb. It’s there to fill a gap. It doesn’t demand an emotional response; instead it sits there like a flaccid obligation.
Now you’re never going to be able to create the ‘perfect’ piece of content. What works for one person could well alienate another, that’s just the nature of language. However, as a producer of written or visual content, you should be seeking to appeal to the broadest section of your target audience.
Perfection may be unattainable, but greatness certainly is not. Great content will naturally attract views, comments and links. There isn’t a specific blueprint to follow though. Whilst we can speak in generalities, suggesting that content needs to be innovative, memorable, inspiring, gripping or emotive, this doesn’t do much to describe the process behind it.
Firstly, any great piece of content will be free from errors. Clumsiness has a way of irreparably undermining any piece. If you’re watching an intense film and the boom microphone comes into shot, all that tension and concentration is lost. It’s a small error that has a big impact on audience perception. The same is true of typos in written copy.
Great content should also inspire the intended response. So if I write some link bait, it only succeeds if I actually get links at the end of it. Likewise, when writing for websites, you want to see your conversion rate soaring. Whilst the copy may not be at fault per se, it is there to do a job and as such it should have an impact.
For most businesses and a good number of bloggers, content is a commodity that offers numerous opportunities. It provides context for the search engines, enabling your site to rank for those vital terms. It is the basis for reassuring first time visitors and helping turn them into repeat customers. It ensures profitability, through sales or advertising.
Therefore, producing great content is the basis for success with many online businesses. Just like a Hollywood studio relies on consistently producing films that find an audience and return a profit, websites and blogs need to make the same investment in their copy.
Great content cannot be defined, certainly not in any all-encompassing context. There is no single rule that covers all variations, intentions or applications. It simply happens as a result of applying knowledge and skill in a style that will appeal to your intended audience. The return you get on it will be largely based on luck, but it will certainly improve your chances of success.
So when you next hear someone talking about how search engines are looking for great content, ask them how they define it. You can either write content for search engines or people. Google can’t accurately decipher what is great and what is average, but your visitors can. Fulfil their expectations and the rankings should follow, along with links and social awareness. That’s good practice and perfect SEO.