Search engines and Google particularly want us to create great content. But what is great content? What makes content great?
I am sure many content professionals would be curious to know it for sure. But there is no answer to that. It depends. And if Google knew the answer, it wouldn’t need to update its algorithm.
In this article, I want to reflect on my relationship with the content and how my understanding of what makes it great evolved over time.
My first journalism experience, 2000
My first content creation experience was back at school. Our Russian language teacher was an editor of the school’s newspaper and I was one of the journalists, who delivered content.
At that time I considered any content that manages into the newspaper to be good content. And as the paper was printed and distributed great content would be the one our readers were actually talking about.
Building websites, 2007
As I have chosen higher education in informatics, for a long time I lost any touchpoints to content creation. However, as other students started taking jobs on building websites, content came back to my life. It was 2007, when ‚building website‘ included the set of skills from HTML to SEO. Literally everything. Today building a website is not a job. It is lots of jobs. But back then it was all one job.
SEO techniques, monitoring tools and rank tracker from the past
I remember to be taught how to stuff a webpage with a keyword. It was a search engine optimization technique at the time.
There were no monitoring tools, so we simply typed the keyword into a search engine and clicked through result pages to find ‚our‘ website. Not on the first page? Click next page. And next. And next.
We used excel sheets to track keywords and how their ranking evolved over time. That was a manual rank tracker tool. It could take a week to fill out an excel sheet if a client wanted to track many keywords.
I hated keywords stuffing but it was a state-of-art. Content that appeared on the first page was considered great content. And to make content great keyword stuffing was required. I felt ‚building websites‘ was not a job for me.
Starting online business, 2013
Starting an online platform for vacation search I did not expect to start a media business. However, very soon I realised we can’t pay for the advertisement. Thus we needed to use social media channels to reach our audience. And here we are. Hello again, content creation.
This time I actually panicked. The content needed to be created in German and my language skills were limited. I was so focused on creating grammatically correct content, that I chose the safe way of very short posts. Unfortunately, short also meant meaningless. And even though the content was grammatically correct it was emotionally and informationally poor.
Cats and Co.
In order to produce great content, I checked what content performed best. That is how I end up integrating cats into vacation search content.
Honestly, I feel terrified as I tell you that. I mean, how do you even do it? But yes, I did it. I thought great content is the one with the highest reach and interactions. I didn’t realise those ‚reached‘ users who ‚interacted‘ with cats-content never visited my website.
I started following all the competitors and potential clients and other relevant accounts on different channels. Frankly, going through the newsfeed felt like torture for me. I saw lots of good content and immediately imagined how I could beat it. But knowing there were neither budget nor personnel resources available I just could not. As I scrolled down I got more and more upset, slowly dying inside.
Studying Content Strategy, 2017
My Content Strategy Master study brought clarity to many questions. But it also made other things blurred.
Not great content & great content
I still don’t know what great content is. But I know what great content is definitely NOT. It is not:
- stuffed with keywords
- grammatically incorrect
- full of cats and other cute animals (unless you are a pet shop)
As I understand it ‚greatness‘ is very much depending on the content purpose. Does content help solve a (technical) problem? Does it teach, entertain or make you think? Does it make you feel good or motivates for an action?
Great content is great at serving its purpose.
Great checklist, 2019
So if you are a micropreneur and has no one to help you create and sort out content, here is my current checklist to create great content:
- Make sure your content serves business goal (yes, you’ll need to define those first)
- Make sure your content serves user needs (you will need to create persona upfront)
- Make sure your content is unique and aligns with your brand values (you might need a message architecture. For small businesses it is helpful but not necessary)
- Make sure there are no grammar issues.