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The Death of Fluff Content: Content Strategy for Businesses
Written by Anthony Verre
Thursday, 03 March 2011 00:00

With the news of the confirmed Farmer Update, this week is sure to be filled with opinion posts about how it will solve the issues or how it's too short-sided to solve the issues, or even those, rightfully so, taking umbrage against Google's declaration of what's "low-quality" and what's "high quality", as that has problematic cross-overs into information variety, politics, etc.

The Death of Fluff Content

Instead of fearing the algorithmic change, and the more-or-less [sub]objective view point of quality the algorithm will be applying, or expecting Google to rollback the change, which to my knowledge they've never done, it's time to put your site's destiny in your own hands. It's time to ensure your site is building great, unique, original content every time out of the gate. It's time to start employing content strategy.

There's Nothing Worse Than Fluff

It's time that it be said: fluff-content sucks. There's nothing worse, from a searcher's perspective, conducting a search, finding a promising result, and having the content be nothing but fluff, not even the least bit helpful. And, from an SEOs perspective, there's nothing worse than fluff content either; it's darn hard to make that content useful to users and rank well.

And, while searchers will quickly admit it, most SEOs might not, your brand just got downgraded. For me, personally, there's nothing worse than letting garbage content survive and exist on your site. It speaks to laziness, un-imaginativeness, and creating content for content's sake.

 

Destroying The Content for Content's Sake Mentality

Content for content's sake is just that: a page(s) on a site that are there purely because they need to have some type of content revolving around it. Sometimes, it was a great idea that's been forgotten about or completely neglected, or it's simply someone who read something somewhere that said that more content is always better, or it's skeletal-content around core/periphery products and services that data indicated should be targeted and was flung up there just to have it there.

Nonetheless, it seems the majority of clients/site-owners have read the "more content is better" play book. The problem is they're not wrong. More content is better. What's missing from that statement are an entire slew clarifications and qualifiers as to what constitutes content. Qualifiers like:

  • useful and topical
  • well-thought out
  • well structured
  • benefit-driven and/or highly informative

A URL and some words on the page about something may be the bare-bones and loose-fitting definition of what content is in terms of a fruition of the noun, but it ain't content folks. In plain terms, it's a waste of your time and mine. Don't take my word for it, here's what Google has to say about content. By nature, as an SEO/SEM, exploiting content to serve more than user usefulness is what I do. However, in recent years, I found myself having to set myself in a user-mindset first, then an SEO mindset.

I'm not sure when I missed the memo, but a product/service title and an image does really constitute unique, helpful, and user-beneficial content. And, yet a healthy cross-section of sites seem to think that's sufficient; a veritable "Field of Dreams" mentality.

 

Beat the Fluff: How to Build a Content Strategy

A Proper Website Architecture

I go back to this early and often, and I sometimes I feel like I'm a record that won't stop skipping, but it starts with your site architecture. If you architect with scalability and category-siloing in mind, you'll be able to see areas where additional content, either more explanatory or value-add, can be added. If you haven't built with those principles in mind, it makes finding add-on or weak sections in your content more difficult to see and fit in organizationally within your site. (more on content strategy)

The last thing you want to do is frankenstein your site with all sorts of loose pages hanging off the root, or tack that content into section where it doesn't fit. It also goes a long way for me, though I haven't see Bill or Dave talk about a patent that discusses it, to have like-minded content with topical variation close to one another in site structure. Lending itself to providing the main landing page with relevance and authority, in my opinion.

Creating a Content Calendar

Scheduling content frequency is an absolute must. Left to its own devices content chooses to rot and crust. Left to their own devices people always assume someone else will pick up the slack, that or next time they'll twice as much and twice as good :-) . A content calendar is a really great way to establish not only accountability but frequency of content. Content Calendar Example

There is No Box

Like the line from the Matrix, "There is no spoon" to explain reality, the same is true of content. The only box content possibilities have is the one you create for it. If you can find a way to make a comparison between hermit crabs and a B2B product or service, and make it interesting, then do it. If that inspires you, tremendous. I mean it. If that scares you, don't worry, people love creating compartmental boxes to encapsulate things.

It won't be long until there's a box you're begging to break out of. In an age where social content can be your biggest ally, it pays to manufactureStop Boxing in Your Content content that begs for people to share it and passes on great information at the same time. And that's just what you could possibly stand on as a "brand equity" component, not to mention the SEO value of tons of unique domains linking back to your site, hopefully with a nice smattering of anchor text to accompany it.

Guidelines

Ok, so all that stuff above is rah-rah stuff. Ideology just to get you motivated to avoiding fluff content. What you're really asking for is guidelines; guidelines to avoid creating fluff.
  1. If you can't write two to three well thought out sentences about a particular product or service, then you're creating fluff
  2. If there is nothing but a bulleted list of "advantages" or "benefits" without explanation as to why they are such above/below that list, then you're creating fluff
  3. If there is nothing but a table(s) of specifications and prices to serve as content, then you're creating fluff
  4. If you wrote about a particular topic but didn't really say anything important and tie back to anything on your site, then you're creating fluff
  5. If you find yourself stretching content (i.e. writing a couple more paragraphs) just to fit in a few more instances of an exact match and variation, then you may be creating fluff (it's a judgement call here)

If you found that you can check one or more of these on a page on your site, then chances are you're looking at a fluff piece. If you do need that page because it's lynch-pin product or service, then you need to spend some time with that content and really think about what makes it special and why a consumer would want to choose it over the competition's product.

A safe rule is that it is better to write more than you need and cut it down than to start with nothing. If you can't remedy a content situation with help from inside the company, a great SEO copy writing service, or just search marketing firm you hired, then you need to bury that page. Not only does it do your users no good to see barren page, it's not good look for your company's brand and front-facing image, and it lowers the authoritative value of the site as whole.

Why have only a handful of authoritative content pages, when you can all of them? Don't make it easy on Google to cast your pages to the nether regions of the SERPs. Make the algorithm work every time to decide that someone else's content edged yours out.

Anthony Verre -

Anthony Verre is the founder and CEO of Silver Arc Search Marketing. Known at-large as "The Milwaukee SEO" . He has worked in search engine optimization and search marketing for over 5 years. He also writes a blog on search marketing, search engine optimization, and social media marketing news and opinion called The Milwaukee SEO.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 03 March 2011 13:19
 

Comments  

 
+1 #1 MMiglin 2011-03-03 14:54
Although I do understand what you are saying, this argument sounds very similar to "one person's trash is another's treasure". How does Google (on behalf of its users) decide whats trash and whats treasure - to me Google cannot do this.

Google can rank sites by popularity which by default should also be the majorities "treasure". To say that a site with 1000pages of what I would call trash be swamped to the dark depths of the SERPs is wrong. This exact same content could be a goldmine for someone else.
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0 #2 Anthony Verre 2011-03-03 20:17
MMiglin,

I'm not sure that's the argument I'm making here: "one man's trash is another's treasure". For me, at least the way I wrote it, was more along the vein of: "stop creating garbage/fluff content and expect good things from it". :-)

Whether or not you think Google can do this, the fact remains they have done this. Algorithmically , at a document-level, they're examining the content. "Scraper Update" [http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/01/google-search-and-search-engine-spam.html] began the job that, it appears to me, "Farmer Update" [http://searchnewscentr al.com/20110225142/Latest/more-google-algorithm-changes-the-farmer-update.html] will finish, being acutely more aggressive.

If a site has 1000 pages, with let's call it 25-30% trash, that's 250-300 pages that exist with no value for the site or the user. So why should it rank except for the most obscure long-tail query? Beyond that, that's 300 pages that lower the overall value of pages with great content, and, in my opinion, lower the authority of the site as a whole.

I'm not entirely sure what goldmine can be had from fluff content, but I'd be curious to know. Again, just me here, but there's only two ways to go with fluff: 1) make it better from information/usefulness standpoint, or 2) Bury it until you can do those things.

Thanks for the great comment!
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