4 Bad habits to avoid when writing web content.

web content bad habitsSince the arrival of Google’s Panda update in February of last year content writers have been working hard to do the right thing, and either avoid being mauled by the Panda, or the mend the damage already done.

However, to be sure you doing things right, you not only have to follow best content practices, but also need to avoid some of the bad habits it’s so easy to slip into.

Here are four of those habits.

Bad Habit #1: Making it just good enough

As web content writers we are often under pressure to get more work done, faster. This means we often end up writing just enough text for a page, with a quality that is just good enough.

This shouldn’t be so surprising, because the math of content creation is pretty simple. A 1,000 word page will take about twice as long to write as a 500 word page. One way or another, the longer page will also cost twice as much.

The trouble is, Panda has pretty much put the last nail in the coffin of the “quantity wins” strategy.

Too many low-quality pages will not only mean those pages will rarely make it to page one of the Google page results, but they will also drag down the listings of any high-quality pages you might write.

In other words, the winning strategy today is to write fewer pages of high quality.

If you are writing for your own business, you can make this decision yourself.

If you are writing for a boss, you’ll have to hope that he or she also understands that in the post-Panda world, just good enough is no longer good enough.

Bad Habit #2: Writing just for the search engines

Old habits die hard. For over a decade we have been writing online content with a view to attracting organic traffic from Google, Bing and Yahoo! This has meant identifying keywords with reasonable demand and limited supply, and then creating pages which are highly optimized for those keywords.

This is still something we should be doing. But we now have to be a lot more careful about how we do it.

First off, simply optimizing a page for organic search alone is not enough. The page also has to be original, engaging and useful.

Second, social signals are playing more and more of a role in search engine algorithms. The stronger the social signals, the bigger the lift in the search results.

This means that you not only have to write content that is optimized, but you also have to write it so it will be shared as widely as possible through social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and more.

Creating shareable content will come naturally if you are focused on writing truly high quality content for your readers. But that isn’t the case if you are focused primarily on simply optimizing pages for various keywords.

In other words, you have to adjust your approach to optimizing your pages. To get high listings in the search results, you not only have to optimize for your chosen keyword, but you also have to optimize for social media.

winning with contentBad Habit #3: Just remixing what’s already out there

This habit is a close cousin to creating content that is “just good enough”.

Sometimes we will come up with a page topic, do some competitive research, find out what others have written, and then remix what we find into a new page.

In a sense, there is nothing much wrong with this. After all, it is very rare to find a page topic about which nobody has written about before. Also, if a subject is topical, people want to read to more about it.

The key here is to understand the difference between a low value remix and a high value remix.

A low-value remix is when you find yourself just rewriting what others have already written. You take what they wrote, and just rewrite it in your own words.

A high-value remix is when you see what others have written, and then write a new page which adds more information and/or more value. This might mean digging up some new information. Or interviewing someone on the subject. Or inserting your own, personal take on the topic. Or adding a video, or images, or a slide show.

One way or another, when you remix, be sure you are creating quality, adding more value and delivering something that is original and unique.

Bad Habit #4: Creating all your pages with just text

Again, this habit overlaps with the “just good enough” habit.

It is easier, faster and cheaper to create text-only pages. Writing a page of content can be done in an hour or less.

But once again, you are under-delivering. Wouldn’t that page be better is it included a multi-media element – like a photo, a video, an infographic or a slide show?

Sure, it takes longer to create a page that way. It will probably cost more too. But the outcome is a quality page that will stand head and shoulders above other sites’ text-only pages.

As a result, your page will likely rise higher in the search results, and will be shared more widely and enthusiastically across social media.

Summing it all up.

There’s lazy content and there’s quality content.

Until quite recently, one could get away with lazy content. That’s why content farms did so well. They published thousands of “just good enough” pages and made money hand over fist.

But in a post-Panda world, you can’t get away with that any more.

Now, if you want to win, you not only have to follow best content practices, but you also have to recognize and discard your bad content habits.

[Note: This article was first published as a guest post for WebMarketingToday.com]

About the author: Nick Usborne is an online writer, copywriter, author and coach.

5 thoughts on “4 Bad habits to avoid when writing web content.”

  1. Nick,

    I have taken several of your courses over the years and your advice has always been sound. The money-making website that I built following your AWAI course, has held up well to both Panda and Penguin updates. Actually, it gained ground in the search engines following both algorithm changes. Now, the only limitation is the time I have to create content and monetize!

    Thank you…

  2. Goodie…I found a place on your site to make a comment. I just received and used the tips you gave about writing content. And mapping out what I want to cover before writing was helpful to me. And I discovered something else.

    That is all you need to do is map it out and the content takes care of itself.

    Prior to your article I had been reading so many tips involving tools like mindmapping, clustering and other techniques. But I realized when I read your article that my mind process is too straightforward for some of these techniques. I’m not sure why.

    But in any case I linearly or vertically made an outline without all the doodads like circles. I just organized line by line and used indentations.

    And I tell you: my writing of some content just flowed. I also thought it was nice how I could just glance at the outline and then use it to form summary introductory pages and to figure out if I had covered everything I wanted to.

    I found I didn’t use everything I outlined but at least the basic outline gave me focus as I adjusted some sentences to fit the concept.

    I just wanted to thank you for this. I had read about a similar method in Rudolf Flesch’s book but had tucked that book away. And then when I received your article, I just decided to follow it just as you explained.

    I added one thing however. I thought you’d might be interested. Before doing your technique I had been reading an article in a Zen related magazine. The author was talking about Dharma and the arts(which includes writing as well as other arts) The takeaway from the article was that before you do anything to get “calm” and make sure there is no anxiety. The art will flow from the calmness; just relax when you find yourself getting antsy.

    The calm I found, after meditating(others may have others ways to access relaxing) combined with your approach enabled me to write in one sitting. I’ve set the writing down and after my next calm period I’ll begin editing.

    Thank you so much for sharing your method. I needed it today.


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