You will know from your own experience of using the web that most online content is very poor. As a user this is frustrating; as an online publisher this is a great opportunity.
Fortunately, the search engines are getting much better at sorting the wheat from the chaff. Google uses over 200 different criteria to select the pages that they list in their search results. But this shift towards quality sets the bar higher for all online publishers. To be heard in this noisy and crowded world you must stand out and the only way to do that is through the quality of your site content.
So here are a few guidelines to help you think about and plan your content.
The '5 W's and an H' - In the first week of journalism school students learn the '5 W's and an H' rule. They are repeatedly told that they should ask themselves these six questions every time they write a story
And I would also add one more:
- So what?
Asking these questions has stood the test of time, so you won't go far wrong if you make them the cornerstone of your writing.
In addition to these basic questions you must also ensure whatever you write is:
- Targeted at your audience - Some good advice: write what your audience want to know, not necessarily what they need to know. Think about that
- Highly relevant - It may sound obvious, but it is amazing how many specialist content sites go off subject. Create a list of questions which you can use to judge every potential article you write, for example:
- Will it help my readers make money?
- Will help my readers save money?
- Will it make their lives easier?
- Will it help them do xxx better?
- Exclusive and unique - content that is not available elsewhere is very valuable. This can be from insider sources, your own opinion on your subject, an interview, etc.
- Frequently updated - New content should be added at least weekly, but preferably daily. You don't need to add feature length articles every day. Blog style, single paragraph posts are OK to keep the site fresh. If you are going on holiday prepare stuff to go up whilst you're away
- Current - Make sure the content is always bang up-to-date. Being able to publish in real time is one of the huge advantages the Internet has over print
- To the point and factual - You don't need to pad out articles like many print publications do to fill a given space (or to satisfy advertising clients). Get straight to the point . . . and stay there!
- Easy to read and digest - Simple words; short sentences; short paragraphs; avoid jargon; clean layout; lots of sub-headings. Break up long articles into several smaller ones. Remember people don't like to read long articles on a screen
- Offers variety! - Keep trying new things and keep an eye on the web stats to gauge your members' interest. You may be surprised at what works (and what doesn't)
- Involves your readers - Give your members their 15 minutes of fame. Mention them; include their quotes, opinions and thoughts. Allow them to contribute to your site. Remember the importance of building a relationship with your readers
- Includes an easy way to print - Many people prefer to read content offline so you should ensure that every page on your site is easy to print and formats well on paper
I've left the most important point until last.
You must add your own personality and passion to your content.
Passion is hard to fake - "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time".
It is your passion and personality that will keep your site unique and exclusive, and it is what will build loyalty amongst your audience.
Follow these simple tips and you will quickly reap the rewards. Google loves passionate people who frequently create remarkable content.