How not to write content for SEO

by Tim Hill (aka Doodled)

March 22nd 2017
Write less, write it better and your SEO will benefit more
Write less, write it better and your SEO will benefit more

It wasn't that long ago that you could get dozens of articles written for less than the price of a meal out. Software like Traffic Paymaster would spin and spin your words at the click of a mouse.

But what is created by machines can be spotted by machines and Google successfully bought the practice to an end.

Into its place jumped 'human written' article writing services that cost a bit more but offered a safer route to keep under Google's radar. But does it actually make any SEO sense?

What content is for?

Often forgotten by people while they are being hammered left, right and center about the need for it! When it comes to SEO content is either for your own site where you hope others will link to it and so improve your rankings or content to be placed on other people's sites with that all valuable contextual link back to yours.

Now if this content is mediocre you'll have two outcomes:

  1. The content on your own site won't earn any links so you'll just have wasted your time.
  2. The content posted on someone else's site won't earn any links and so will always remain, at best, a weak signal in Google's eyes that it isn't worth anything at all.

Content for $100

Where computer spun content might have cost you $5 or less there is now a flourishing industry in human written content for around the $100 mark from companies such as FatJoe and Gotch SEO. So what do you get for your money?

I'm going to look at two such articles to show you what you get and how they could burn your wallet and land you in hot water. The consistent themes of these articles are:

  • Not adding anything new in terms of knowledge
  • Not comprehensive in their subject area
  • Strong padding by stating the obvious

Her Culture tells us how to avoid car accidents

Saved here for prosperity (and here in reality) and coming in at 547 words it is the typical length you would expect to get for $100. The overall gist of the article is that you can avoid car accidents if you stay alert, own a better car and don't drink or take drugs before you get behind the wheel.

So first off it is obvious that the article adds no value. There is nothing here that makes you say "Well, hey, I didn't know that. I've gotta tell someone".

Secondly it is incomplete. What about regular eyesight or health checks if you are getting on in years? What about basic car maintenance such as checking tyre pressures? Not really room to be comprehensive within 500 words or $100.

Now comes the padding where, in order to reach the 500 words, statements are made along with very obvious statements about the statements like these:

  • Car accidents "can be harmful to both you and any passengers" - did you know that?
  • "When you had your first ever driving lesson, you were taught to keep your eyes on the road." - no, I was taught to concentrate on tuning the radio
  • "If your eyes are on the road, you can see what's unfolding in front of you" - I'd never really thought of it that way
  • "you can't go around forcing everyone to be alert and aware when driving" - I didn't know
  • "If you're alert, then you can see things happen before it's too late" - really?
  • "parking cameras are standard issue in new cars. This camera helps you see behind you when parking, to help avoid any crashes from reversing" - so if I can see something I won't crash into it. Revelation!
  • "Anyone with a family and children should think about buying a safe family car" - anyone else should just chance it.
  • "Drinking while driving is a criminal offence, so you can serve prison time for it" - criminal acts can land you in jail ... I wonder if people know this?

There is a whole lot more blindingly obvious stuff in the article which you can enjoy at your own leisure but the art of waffling is alive and well here, following the two steps of:

  1. State the obvious: "Drinking while driving is a criminal offence"
  2. State the obvious about the obvious: "you can serve prison time for it"

Nick Throlson tells us about IT in business

I wouldn't for one second believe Nick Throlson actually wrote this garbage (not that I know him but he strikes me as someone who could string a sentence together). I suspect this article was written by an agency and he got a few bucks to post it.

Again its around 500 words (saved copy here) and covers very little for such a massive topic.

Let's look closer:

  • "It should be encouraging you to reduce your paper amounts." - not even English.
  • "Completely making your business foolproof in the IT stakes is something you need to think about. That doesn't just mean getting a good internet >connection" - wow there is more to IT than in internet connection.
  • "the ability to recover documents easier than when your hardware breaks down" - struggling with the English again.
  • "Anti-Virus Software ... a must have" - did anyone not know that?
  • "Gone are the days of paper filing" - I hadn't noticed.

Again much more in the article itself for you to wince at but it is slightly better quality than the She Culture waffle. I know some people don't use Google Analytics and cloud storage is something not everyone thinks about.

However it is such a cursory article it holds no value in itself. You might go and look into cloud storage specifically and find a comprehensive discussion on it elsewhere ... and that is what you will link to/share/bookmark.

This is also not the comprehensive IT checklist that others would want to be seen recommending because you won't get a comprehensive IT checklist for $100.

If it works, where is the harm?

Short waffle with your link wedged in and dumped on other people's websites because they're willing to host if for a spot of cash is a short term strategy with long term risks.

I've just shown you some easy to spot themes between the two blog posts above. Google is undoubtedly working on something far more comprehensive and there is no point acting the victim later when, if you had stopped to think about it for one moment, you would plead guilty to taking part in dubious practices.

Google has to do this because it cannot allow its top ranking positions to be dominated with content that is only there thanks to 500 word articles of nothingness linking to them. That makes trouble ahead inevitable.

When the preverbial starts hitting the fan you can also bet the likes of Her Culture and Nick Throlson will start trashing their content faster than the Caymen Island's most powerful paper shredder and your $100 links will evaporate in the night.

So how to create content for SEO?

My mantra is this: Don't write an article about a subject, write the article. That means hours of research drawing together everything there is to know about that subject and then putting it all together.

This doesn't just mean text. Infographics, diagrams, 3D models, images and more are all needed to make the article, not an article.

And that all means time, resource and cost. What you end up with, however, is an asset that has the capability to earn links from highly respected sites and to earn those links now, tomorrow, next month and next year.

Getting your content out there

If it really is that good, but you don't have the traffic coming into your website that will lead to links then turn to legitimate marketing - Google Adwords, Outbrain, Facebook, Instagram, etc., etc.

You can spend $4,000 and get yourself 20 pieces of waffle dotted around the web with uncertain shelf lives and potential Google penalties. Or spend $4,000 creating and marketing a great piece of valuable content which will then work all by itself as a link generator.

Think about it.

UPDATE: Nice little slideshow I found from SMX way back in 2014 - https://www.slideshare.net/SearchMarketingExpo/earning-authority-how-to-createcontentpeopleactuallywanttoreadandlinkto - little has changed in the message