Why I Hate Your Website: A Guide to Good Web Content

April 10th, 2014 by Shaye Anderson

Hopefully you’ve read some of our other great blogs on sharable content and you’re sending out all those valuable signals that lead people back to your website. These leads are great and all, but what good are great signals and roadmaps if they lead you to something… disappointing?

Imagine your favorite childhood adventure movie: A six-pack set of friends, perhaps accompanied by a talking animal of some sort, follow the strange, convoluted clues of an ancient map they found in someone’s grandfather’s attic. What if these young adventurers followed this map to the very end only to find a great big chest full of nothing?

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That would be the worst movie ever.

So, just to clarify, your website is that chest, and you’ll want to make sure that there’s some treasure up in there. How? Treasure = good content.

Sidenote: I recently heard an interview on NPR with Pixar Animation Studio’s president Ed Catmull that relates to this topic. The interview was introduced with “content is king” so, you know I was tuned in. In the interview, Catmull downplayed the importance of technology in Pixar’s movies. “It’s not about the technology,” he says.  “We use the technology, we develop it, we love it, [but] it’s about the story.” So, if Pixar believes in content, you should too!

So, what makes good web content?

From a broad perspective, here are four characteristics that can guide you to good content.

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Useful

Your viewers have jumped down the rabbit hole in search for something. It’s your job to know what that something is. Have they arrived at this page looking for contact information? For pricing? To make a purchase? — Make sure you know why the viewer has made it to this point. Then, and only then, can you provide the solution.

Be as detailed as possible, but also be concise. My number 1 rule: no fluff. Aaron Wall of SEOBook puts it perfectly, “Good writing does not add extra words for the sake of word count. Each word carries purpose and meaning.”

Clear

Make it easy for your visitors to find what it is they are looking for. Your site should not be iSpy, Contact Info Edition. Organization of your content is paramount. The longer your visitors have to search for information, the more likely they are to jump to another site. Make the information easy to skim.

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A major issue I see is vanity capitalization. If the intent is to highlight important information, the tactic has the opposite effect. With so many Capitalized words throughout the Content, it becomes Unclear why You are Capitalizing anything at all? See how difficult it was to read that one sentence? Capitalize words within your subheadings, headings, navigation bars, etc. all you like, but don’t go cap-crazy within your content. Sending too many signals to your reader that THIS or THIS or THIS or THIS and THAT are important throughout your page can become confusing. If everything is important, nothing is important.

Pro Tip: Subheadings are a great way to point your site visitor in the right direction. But don’t go overboard.

Unique

Duplicate content is something I see a lot of. It’s not just a personal pet peeve; it’s bad for SEO. So, don’t fill out multiple pages with the same content just for the sake of having multiple pages. Not only is this confusing for your site visitors, but it is confusing for search engine crawlers as well. So, you’d think if it’s bad for your viewers and it’s bad for your ranking, people wouldn’t do it. However, you’d be surprised how many sites I see with duplicate content on top of duplicate content. Make sure each page has content unique to that section. If the two pages are too similar, find a way to combine them. Otherwise, reword things to show the unique purpose and perspective of that specific page.

Accurate

Make sure your hours of operation, your address, your pricing, promotional deals – any information that may fluctuate – is up-to-date. The more active you are on updating your site’s information, the more accurate your site will be. This is not only good for your visitors, but good for search engines. Being up-to-date on information makes you a more reliable source.

I can’t count how many times I’ve wondered if a site was open on a particular day—whether it was due to an obscure holiday (Hey, it’s New Orleans, places close their doors for seemingly no reason whatsoever), or due to conflicting information—and their site was anything but helpful. Letting your site visitors know what’s what ultimately gives them the information they need to be customers. And that’s the point, isn’t it?

Whether you’re adjusting old content or starting from scratch, think from the perspective of your site visitors. It’s also good practice to examine the sites you visit frequently. What are some frustrating aspects of navigating the site? What is some information you wish they displayed? The key aspects of good content are all around you, take note of them! Observing the successful (and less successful) aspects of other sites, whether they are related to your industry or not, can help you navigate your own site’s content.

So, how about it? What are some examples of good content that you see on a regular basis?

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