Much is being made today about the characteristics of engaging content and its value as a marketing tool. The interest is driven mainly by the fact that the biggest search engine of them all, our dear friends, Google, do themselves place a lot of importance on the subject. Of course, when it comes down to search engine report page ranking, the ears of anyone who owns a website suddenly prick up.
The Influence of Google
No one, apart from the boys and girls at Google, really know exactly how the algorithms that are used to search out and index websites are constructed, or precisely what they contain. There is of course much speculation; but there are certain things that are known.
Some of these are technical in nature, such as the code used in website construction, the ease of navigation from page to page, and the number of quality external inks to other websites. The other thing that is a known is that Google monitor the quality of a website’s content. The better the quality, the higher that site’s ranking will be when Google goes about doing its searching, and indexing.
Focusing on the Reader
The problem is that the majority of websites, being aware of the fact that Google are assessing their content for indexing and ranking purposes, then try to satisfy Google’s criteria. The reason that this is a problem is simply the fact that it is the wrong thing to do. Yes, by all means take Google’s various criteria into account. But a content writer’s main focus, should, in the first place, be zeroing in on the target of satisfying the reader, not the search engine. To be fair to Google, they have picked up on this, and it has now given rise to the new “Hummingbird” algorithm update.
The Significance of Hummingbird
What Google appear to have done by introducing Hummingbird is to take the focus away from the use of bare keywords. That doesn’t mean to say that keywords are no longer important – they are. But it’s the way that the keywords should be used, and in what context, that has changed.
The Changing Role of the Keyword
We already know that Google don’t like the overuse of keywords in an article. So-called “keyword stuffing” is actually penalised by the big G. But now, they’ve gone one step further. They’re trying to promote the minimal use of keywords in exchange for related text.
This has been driven by the phraseology that people now use when they enter search criteria into their browser’s search window. People are being more exacting in specifying their search criteria, and Google are attempting to respond by honing in on that extra detail. The end result is that they’re trying to encourage writers, (through the deployment and publicity of Hummingbird), to change how they write about keywords.
The Nature of Engaging Content
The fact still remains however, that the first port of call for any writer should always be to produce “engaging” content; content that engages the interest of the reader and that encourages them to delve deeper, and absorb what has been written. So let’s now take a look at the nature of engaging content; at what characterises it, and what makes it attractive to the reader in the first place.
The Different Types of Content
When we talk about content, this can refer to the content contained on a webpage, content contained in a blog, or the content contained within an article, bearing in mind that in this context we’re talking about, “off-site articles”, i.e. not published on the website to which they relate.
Articles and the Attention Grabbing Headline
In the case of an “off-site” article, the first important prerequisite for engaging content, is that the article needs to have an attention grabbing headline. Bearing in mind that articles float around in cyberspace amongst thousands of other articles, all on similar subjects, each article needs something that will grab the reader’s attention; and that something is the title of the article.
If the title is formatted like an interesting newspaper headline, it’s far more likely to attract attention. Remember that it doesn’t matter how engaging the actual content itself might be, if nobody reads it in the first place, it’s not only a waste of the writer’s time, but it will serve no purpose either.
Webpage Content and the Meta Description
When it comes down to webpage content, the scenario changes somewhat; headlines are no longer so important. When a reader is perusing the content on a webpage, the fact of the matter is that he or she has already found his or her way to website. So, an attention grabbing headline isn’t necessary. What is more important is the content of the Meta description, and that’s because the Meta description sort of replaces the headline. It’s what searchers see in the search engine report pages that come back to them after they’ve initiated a search. Depending on the brief that the writer has been given, if that writer is anyone other than the web or blog-site owner, he or she may or may not have the responsibility for constructing a Meta description.
Informative or Entertaining?
Having got past the exercise of navigating the reader to the actual content itself, we can now look at the actual aspects of what determines what is, and what isn’t, engaging content.
To be engaging, the actual content of the company must be one of two things. When the reader is searching for some form of data, the content needs to be informative. However, when the reader is searching for recreational purposes, the content needs to be entertaining.
The Need for Accuracy
In terms of informative content, the critical factor is that the information or data that is contained within the copy must be 100% accurate. It doesn’t necessarily have to drill down into fine detail, because this can be made accessible to the reader by the insertion of a hyperlink back to the actual source of the data itself. But whatever is shown must be correct. You can’t afford to engage, and then misinform the reader!
The Need to be “On Message”
If the content has been produced for entertainment purposes, then it needs to be “on message”. In other words, if the reader wants to have a little light relief by reading through a sci-fi piece, he or she will be disappointed if the content turns out to be about model railways or stamp collecting.
The Quality of the Writing
Finally, whatever the purpose of the content, it must be well written. The writer needs to have more than just the ability to string a few words together. The copy needs to flow, and be easy to read. To be engaging it should be informal and have a conversational tone. Where keywords or keyword phrases have been inserted, this needs to be done both seamlessly and naturally. It must of course be grammatically correct too.
Worth its Weight in Gold
When done correctly, engaging content attracts followers, promotes brand loyalty, and sells products and services. It’s worth its weight in gold.