Please, no more Content Vomit

By Geoff Muskett

Over the past five years, maybe more, we’ve seen an explosion of stuff appearing online. To say the least. Every minute of every day 100 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube, 28,000 or so new posts are published on Tumblr, I could go on and on with staggering figures. And yes, this post adds to the noise. But…

 If you have something to say, thats fine, awesome in fact, say it.

Done properly, the blogosphere is a magical place and I encourage everyone to have a blog surrounding something they are passionate about. I also have no issue with people posting stuff online for fun, thats all great and adds to the brilliance of the web. What annoys me is marketers simply posting because the system dictates that we need to produce huge quantities of stuff in order to rise to the top of search engines.

Argh, PR

I was recently involved with a [nameless] PR agency that suggested, rightly, that content marketing is the key to gaining traffic. One of the means to achieve this content avalanche they championed was, effectively, regurgitating content from other blogs. I think they proposed asking the content producers for permission, which is good, however to my mind this kind of content is still pointless.

If it’s already out there, don’t repost it with a few ‘keywords’ changed here and there; respond to it properly with a thoughtful followup article of your own. Or just link to it in a Tweet.

According to an article on CNN, by reading this you are releasing 100milligrams of CO2 into the atmosphere, a massive amount when you consider the number of people online at any one time. Couple that with something as simple as sending an email causing 4g of CO2 emissions, and basically we’re screwed. So as you can see, we don’t need any more Content Vomit.

What classes as Content Vomit

  • – Regurgitated blog posts
  • – To an extent, roundup blog posts can be spammy
  • – Unsolicited email spam
  • – Low quality guest blogs
  • –  Most blog posts published solely because of “SEO”

 

I’m sure there’s a load more we could add to this list. The fact is that blogging well is hard and takes time. Most companies don’t have much time and will look for quick solutions for their rigorous new content calendar, which dictates that they must post every day. The result is often Content Vomit.

The cause of the problem

Google. Companies will do what it takes to hit that coveted first page, Google’s algorithms reward fresh content. They are also designed to reward quality too, however this is so difficult for a robot to ascertain. How can a robot give priority to a page containing a small nugget of genius when there is a whole website dedicated to that subject, the content of which may well be junk? The answer is, it can’t.

The way that Google work around this is with the number of good quality links coming into the page, basically votes, but that relies on it being found in the first place.

I don’t blame Google, and I’m sure they are looking at ways to sink Content Vomit. And I for one will be behind them, but people will always try and exploit the system.

Some examples of folk that do it well

Paul Boag. Paul is a prolific content producer, with podcasts, blogs, audio boos, guest blog posts etc. But he does it extremely thoughtfully and everything he publishes online has value. His genuine love for the web comes across.

Brad Frost. Trent Walton. Chris Coyier. Austin Kleon.Marc Johns. Treehouse. In fact, lots of people from the web and creative community.

Internet Psychologist Graham Jones is another person who publishes quality. He is in fact the person that inspired me to write this post. I subscribe to his excellent weekly newsletter, which is always full of thoughtful analysis of where human behaviour meets internet marketing. Consistently interesting stuff.

Graham is coming at his subject from the perspective of companies making more profit, I don’t have a problem with that at all, and I’m absolutely sure he is an advocate of quality content.

However, it was this paragraph that stuck with me “…work out when and how you are going to produce your content. It means you need a production plan, an editorial plan and an ideas production planning system. Content production needs to be part of your everyday activity and needs to be central to all your marketing. In other words, you need a content strategy. Just doing odd bits of blogging and so on every now and then when the mood takes is simply inefficient and ineffective; you may as well not bother.”

For me, I think you need to look at the goals of your website before committing to creating a content hurricane that blows that little bit faster than your competitors. Because if it’s going to be tough to keep up with such a schedule, then I fear it’s Content Vomit o’clock.

My website that you’re reading now, for example, I didn’t start with the objective of gaining huge traffic. I felt that at some point I would need to demonstrate to someone that I know what I’m doing, so that was the main goal. I didn’t know when this would be, but recently it all came together; I’m delighted to say that from mid January 2014 I will be working at Sea, a really great design agency in Penryn, Cornwall. Of course my blog wasn’t the only reason I was employed, but I have no doubt that it helped, and therefor achieved the goal for which it was conceived.

So,

Having worked with marketing and PR agencies I’m sceptical of so much online content, if you hadn’t gathered that already. The majority of it seems fake, and done just to try and rank a little higher, or get people to click a like button.

The thing is, most companies that are succeeding were set up because someone is passionate about something. That passion should be harnessed and injected into online content. This is the only way to produce worthy, genuine, work that deserves high rankings.

From a personal point of view, I only started blogging in April 2013, and don’t post as often as I ‘d like. Even so, I’d rather spend more time crafting better quality posts monthly, than spewing out daily garbage that our online culture says in necessary for success.

And, by the way, I get 200% more traffic as a by product.

 

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