Your website – indeed your whole media presence, including social media – depends upon “content”. This will include articles, blog posts, images, videos, podcasts, infographics, slideshows and polls, to name just a few.
If you write a blog post just once a week, your words will be amongst the 15m blog posts written every seven days. If you add a YouTube video lasting three minutes, once a month, it will be 0.00000000003% of the video material added to the web in those four weeks. And if you create some content to share on Instagram each day, good luck, because your image will need to compete with the 100m or more pictures that people are sharing every 24 hours.
Face facts: whatever content you produce online it is insignificant. It is a tiny droplet in the ocean.
This has come into stark reality this week for many corporates as they digest the news of a study into content production at big firms. It turns out that most companies admit that half their content is never looked at. Furthermore, 43% of businesses in the study said that 75% of their content got no attention whatsoever.
In other words, these businesses are paying to produce content that is never used. It is effectively locked away in a cupboard. It is the equivalent of typing an article, printing it out and then putting the paper in your office drawer, never to see the light of day. Why would you do that? Well, it seems that this is what businesses are doing. They are producing tonnes of content that will never be seen. Most of those hours of YouTube videos competing with your three minutes will never be watched. Millions upon millions of pictures uploaded to Instagram will only be seen by the person who posted them. And so on.
There are two issues here. Firstly, how can your content be seen, if there is so much competition? And, if people are aware of it, why are they not looking at your content?
Much web content could be seen. After all, it will be indexed by Google and will appear on search results. Furthermore, many businesses will have subscribers who – supposedly – want to see their regular content. Yet it seems that even allowing for such possibilities, much of the content produced for the web is ignored.
The reason is pretty straightforward of course: no-one is interested. Vast swathes of the Internet are full of boring tosh. With my examiner’s head on I would be commenting that it is just “vacuous prose” – loads of words with no meaning. We need to be honest with ourselves here, don’t we? We need to realise that the vast majority of the Internet is “vacuous prose” – billions of web pages crammed full of nothingness. Why does that happen? Because the people producing it have no real idea what will interest their audience.
How to stop your content being ignored
The first step in making sure your content is not ignored is to make it interesting. That means understanding your audience. You can ask people what they want to know; you can survey them. When people talk about online surveys, they often say “set up something on Survey Monkey” as though that were the default system. It is just one of dozens of survey programs, of course; there may be others of more use to you such as QuestionPro, SoGo Survey, or Zoho Survey.
Surveys are not the only way you can find out what interests your audience. You can speak with them in the real world at meetings and events, for instance. Also, drill down into your website analytics to discover what most people like on your site. Then produce more of that.
Remember, the web is a PUBLISHING medium; you, therefore, need to think and act like a publisher. Publishers succeed because they understand their audience – intimately and deeply. One of the reasons why so much web content is ignored is because the people “publishing” it, are producing material that they think people might like. They are basing their content strategy on assumption. Not a good starting place.
Of course, even if you do produce the right content for your audience, they have to be aware of it amidst the cacophony of noise from that vast amount of material being uploaded. And this is where we all need to pay attention to another piece of news that came our way recently.
Google is changing its algorithm – again. This time it is called “Project Owl“. The main aim of this change is to ensure that “fake news” doesn’t rise to the surface. Plus the project intends removing some of the negative aspects of predictive search. To make sure that this happens, Google is prioritising some sites over others. These are websites it calls “authority” sites. It is known that there are over 200 different factors that contribute to a website having “authority”. But central to those factors is good content that is linked well around the Internet.
In other words, if you want to avoid any negative impact due to the new Google algorithm update it is essential that your website has authority. That means having high-quality content. And what is high-quality content? Well, that’s the material that people like so much they share it on social media or link to it from their own website. In other words, they find it really interesting.
Goodness me..! We’ve come full-circle. The best way to make sure your content gets readers and viewers is to provide them with something they find interesting. And by doing that, Google will also like you and push you up the search engine rankings.
As they say everywhere except NASA, this isn’t rocket science. Yet, for many of those corporates who have produced content that is ignored that’s precisely what they have tried to do. They have over-complicated the whole notion of content, looking for strange signals from eye-tracking data, or complex measures of “intent”. It’s all very nice and pseudo-scientific. But by making content production, so complex many firms are missing the obvious. Write something that your readers are interested in reading. Simple. Job done.
Of course, if you do not know what really interests them – then it’s time to find out. Otherwise, you risk your content being invisible or penalised by Google’s latest changes.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+