Content Writing Mistakes That Make You Look Dumb
Creating 99.9% Similar Content From Page To Page — Or: We Created a Local SEO Campaign That Is Not Going To Do Well In Organic Too
We have all been there. We do a site search, land on a local page, and find that when we browse the various pages on-site that the content has been changed but only with one paragraph. The problem is that this type of content is not valuable. Does it answer your query? No. Does it provide enough information for you to contact the establishment so you can make your decision about what to do next? Usually, sites in this category tend to only do well in local rankings, and will not necessarily do well in organic search.
The goal of any local campaign is to make sure that it does well in organic too. In order to ensure that this happens, it is necessary to target a dual purpose: write content for local just as if you were doing so for organic. Why? Because, by doing this, you will get both the local focus and organic focus. This will help in several ways: by driving local traffic, organic traffic, and increasing your conversions as the result of super targeted SEO. There is clearly a superior benefit to doing content in this way because you get the additional super charge to your traffic by targeting both approaches.
When you create duplicate content from page to page, you harm your organic efforts as well as your local SEO. Focus on making sure each page is unique and valuable, and you will be rewarded both organically and locally.
Taking Content From Another Site But Not Changing It Enough
Shame on you! You should not be taking content from another site anyway unless it’s research or you are quoting it and providing attribution for the quote below your article. But, since I am here to teach you about content writing mistakes, and not to be your mom or the police, if you take content from another site and don’t change it enough you run the risk of activating Google’s content spam filter. It is important to distinguish this from a penalty.
The spam filter filters out duplicate content that is not valuable. This means that the content is not valuable enough to be included in Google search results regardless of length, depth, or other high quality content attributes Google looks at. They will demote or otherwise remove sites that they believe are not of sufficient enough quality to be included highly in those search results.
A Panda penalty, however, will hit if the site presents duplicate content at a large enough scale and it’s so egregiously bad that it becomes a serious problem. This is why it is important to avoid the local SEO trap of writing exceptionally similar content from page to page but only changing location and/or company-specific information. Performing this activity will inadvertently cause your site to be hit by a Panda penalty, or worse if it is done bad enough.
How To Avoid The Local SEO / Organic SEO Duplicate Content Trap
Make sure that your content is 100% unique from page to page. Don’t use elements from other pages, don’t write similar content from page to page and change it only in the local information sense, don’t write pages that have over optimized content. Generally, follow this rule: make sure every piece of content you write is 100% unique and of high quality, and you will do well.
Creating Similar Title Tags
Believe it or not, creating similar title tags is a problem. When you create similar content, you create situations where you will create similar title tags. Google looks at the uniqueness and quality of the titles as well as the uniqueness and quality of the text content on the page. When you write a title, make sure it is 100% unique from the other pages on the site, and do your best to ensure that it is a well-crafted title that’s going to engage users. That is the key to increased conversions: making sure that your content is interesting enough so that readers will visit your site and stay there long enough to make a purchase. Or read your article. Or whatever it is you want them to do.
Creating The Exact Same Title Tag From Page To Page
The deeper end of this is also true: you don’t want to create the exact same title tags from page to page. Doing so reduces topical focus and site quality. Concentrate on making sure that your title tags are optimized for 60-65 characters, are all unique from page to page, a paraphrase of the page article, and that they include at least one instance of the targeted keyword phrase.
When you create the exact same title, you run the risk of Google thinking that that page is not valuable enough to appear in the search results. Plus, you don’t get a chance to target different keyword phrases, you don’t get to reinforce topical uniqueness, and you also are unable to create that value that Google craves.
Creating Similar Meta Description Tags
The same is true for the meta description tags. When similar meta descriptions are created from page to page, they dilute the unique SEO value that the pages have and serve to confuse users who find your site in the SERPs. Always make sure that your meta descriptions are 100% unique from page to page, and you will always be able to squeeze out that all-important SEO value. Pay attention to creating 160-165 character descriptions, making sure the keyword phrase is at least as close to the front of the meta description as is possible (where it makes sense), and making sure that every description on your site is 100% unique.
By doing this, you can avoid the serious issues that plague most ineffectively-SEO’d websites.
Creating The Exact Same Meta Keywords Tag From Page To Page
Believe it or not, the meta keywords tag, while it is deprecated from SEO use, it does have some negative value. This is especially true if you use the same Meta keywords tag from page to page. Think about it: who would use something like the exact same meta keywords tag from page to page? A spammer. Or, a lazy marketer if you want to be nice about it. Either way can lead to sub-par results in the search engines.
When you use different meta keywords tags from page to page, you can create even more value by adding more points of relevance. Now, this is key: search engines don’t use the meta keywords tag for ranking. They say they don’t. But then, they will turn around and use that tag to catch spammers who will likely still use it ineffectively, giving away their keyword strategy to their competitors. Don’t use the meta keywords tag with an expectation that those optimizations will help you increase your rankings, because they won’t. The value comes from not using the exact same meta keywords tag over and over and over again. In that sense, it is used, but it is a very minor use of that tag.
In other words, don’t be stupid!
Using Content Stolen From Other Sites, But Only Changing The Title
You shouldn’t be using content from other sites anyway in any manner other than a legit one (syndication, people). But, some SEOs still want to think like spammers and steal content all day long, without much regard for the other site. What happens is that in quite a few cases unintended results will occur. For example, if the spammer is crafty enough, they could fool Google into mistaking the new site for the old site, and ranking the new one above the old one in which this content was sourced. In this situation, only the spammers win.
It is a good idea to always use rel=author. While Google has discontinued the use of this tag, they have stated that rel=author may be coming back and to continue using it, so don’t make any rash decisions to remove rel=author from your website. While this will not defend against stolen content now, it may come back in the future.
Not Using The Canonical Tag When Syndicating Content
Syndicating content is one of the legit ways that you can use existing content on other sites, provided you have a syndication deal with the publisher. When syndicating content, always make sure to use rel=canonical to point back to the original piece of content as the original version of content. This will tell Google that your content should be treated as the most original, and the most valuable above all other syndicated versions of that content in your space.
When syndicating content, and using the rel=canonical properly, you can make sure that Google is never confused about which piece of content is rightfully yours.
Not Writing Enough Content
This is a mistake made time and time again by most website owners. They want to be the authority in their niche, but they are forgetting one thing: their competition and how much content they write. When the competition is writing content on your similar topic, you need to know, at least within the top ten results on Google, what people are writing. Are they writing about your topic? How many word articles are they writing? How valuable is their content? All of these questions and more should be asked when you first embark on that piece of content. The reason why is that the lengthier content you produce, the easier and more efficient your SEO will be, and the less effort you have to put into other off-site factors to get higher rankings.
Let’s take a look at an example. Say the average word count of the top 10 results for a search query shows that, on average, people are writing 500-650 word articles per every couple days. If you want to beat them, you will want to target your articles to be around double that amount (say 1300), and start posting every day. Now, you could go even further than that, and write triple that amount. This will take less effort to get to #1 than the shorter content piece, which will likely require some manual link building as a result.
It’s important to tailor your efforts towards your specific industry, market, and audience. If your industry is hearing aids, your market is those who make regular hearing aid purchases, and your audience includes seniors, then you will want to write shorter content that is easier to read and appeals to them better. If you are targeting industry tech nerds who have an insatiable thirst about a specific topic, then you will want to target those individuals who are likely to read articles with thousands of words that goes super in-depth into a technical topic.
The trick is to strike a balance between longer articles that will resonate with your audience and get rankings vs. articles that will turn off your audience. Make sure that you have that opportunity right at the start, and you will be halfway to optimizing the perfect article.
Writing Boring Content That Does Not Engage On-Site
While in the process of building your website you are optimizing for the search engines, you are also writing for people who will read your content. It is important to make sure that your content satisfies both the search engines and people. This trick to writing takes much practice to get right. But, once you do have it right you will be able to write content consistently that appeals to both search engines and people. This is when you will see better success from your content.
No one wants to sit through and waste their time on boring content. Boring content just sits there. It doesn’t engage the reader or otherwise make them emotionally attached to the content enough to want to take an action that you want them to. Since, at the end of the day, that’s what we want: we want our audience to have a reaction to that content enough to take action on whatever it is you want to persuade them to do. That’s what truly effective content accomplishes.
Writing Content That Is So Boring, People Won’t Share It
From engagement we arrive at sharing. Great content is shareable and ignites a feeling of fire in your audience. Whether this is done through the content topic or through the content itself, you must write your content in such a way that does this from the outset. Boring content doesn’t do this. Boring content just sits there.
When you create boring content on your websites, you make content that people just will not share. This is because they don’t want to share content that’s just like everything else they have ever seen. People will share content that resonates to them, that provides value, and that they believe their friends will also find valuable.
In the words of Bill & Ted: Be valuable to each other!
Not Diving Deep Enough Into Your Content
Content should be given a deep enough dive that readers feel that the content has tackled everything about a given topic. Sometimes, some content logically will not have that deep dive. And that’s ok. Just as long as you dive deep enough that people understand that content, and provide resources they can use to find out more information. Just having a 250 word content post on a topic is no longer enough. Now, you must dive deep into that content’s topic in order to create more robust, quality content, and be useful to readers searching for that query.
Google’s main objective is to provide the best possible content that helps people accomplish their goals through their query. In order to do that, content must prove useful to that query. Don’t just write longer content to get to the top of Google. That won’t help anyone. Get that content to a high enough quality, usefulness, and better than your competition, and you will be halfway there.
Not Including Images In Your Content
Images are worth a thousand words. Or so they say. Content is bland and boring without images to enhance what the words are attempting to convey. Boring, effortless content has this problem. Very rarely will you find the appropriate effort put into boring content that images are effectively enhancing that content. When you add the right images, you add the right feel and optimizations that make your content stand out from the crowd. Adding the right alt text as well will help drive that optimization home and get you ranking in Google’s image search, driving more traffic opportunities.
Make sure that your images are optimized appropriately for your target audience’s download time. Use images where it contextually makes sense and helps break up long instances of text on the page. The reader will love you for it because this helps to make reading that longer content less fatiguing. The better you use your images, the more people will enjoy reading your content.
Not Including Keyword Phrases In Your Content
You do remember the keyword research you performed earlier right? The research that made you want to write that blog post. This is where you must perform the right optimizations by including the keyword phrases you gleaned from that research. Lazy content spammers don’t want to spend the time optimizing their content. They want to copy/paste, copy/paste, copy/paste, copy/paste until the cows come home. Careful consideration must be made where you place those keywords, as well as how many that you add. Don’t just add keyword phrases at every other word. This will make your writing look haphazard at best, and read clumsily at worst.
Include keyword phrases naturally in your content. Remember, since the 2003 Florida update, Google has a penalty in place that devalues websites that engage in spammy keyword use and eliminates the need to ever rely on “keyword density” again. This keyword use will turn readers off your site because these keywords are repeatedly used and sound robotic. No one wants to read that. You can never go wrong by using keyword phrases naturally.
And, and this is a big and: it is important to consider that the technique of targeting keyword phrases has been done in SEO since the dawn of time. It is a backbone of SEO, so much so, that if you don’t do that one thing, you can run the risk of never obtaining the traffic that you desire. This is simply because you never targeted those users who are searching for you in the first place.
Not Including A Call To Action In Your Content
Not all content is going to have a call to action. Some content, like informational content, will not necessarily always have that call to action element. Some categories of sites will likely not have calls to action at all, because they are purely informational. But, in the cases of content where calls to action must be created, it should be a no-brainer to include that kind of call to action so that your reader is persuaded to perform that one thing you want them to perform.
Whether it’s subscribing to your newsletter, to submitting an email address, to adding themselves to your list, to making a purchase, you want your reader to eventually take action based on what you have attempted to persuade them to do. Assuming you have a site that warrants a call to action.
Not Being Mindful Of Your Typos, Spelling Errors, Or Grammatical Errors
Yes, even on the internet, typos and other silly mistakes like spelling errors or grammatical errors matter. They can make or break your credibility. Think about it. You read a piece of content, and the first word has a typo. What do you think about that author? Does that content now annoy you, at least enough that you stop reading? I don’t know about you, but that is generally the reaction I have when this happens. So, make sure to proofread your content. If proofreading at regular size does not help, and you are still discovering errors in your content after it’s published, then you may want to consider zooming in 150% or 200% and proofreading afterwards. This trick allows your mind to see your content differently, and thus it will be easier for you to catch possible errors.
Believe it or not, omission of facts in a non-fiction piece can call into question your credibility as an author too. Say you’re writing a piece on evolution, but in order to reinforce your religious viewpoint you omit some crucial facts about it, or add wrong facts in order to strengthen support. This can actually backfire, and can cause people to show disdain for your writing. Any writer worth their salt will tell you that omission of facts is a deterrent to great, high quality writing. Before you publish, make sure that your arguments are all accurate and that you don’t miss anything crucial (and accurate) to back up your claims.
Facts That Are Not Omitted, But Are Actually Wrong
Even wrong facts will destroy your credibility as an author. You may include initially correct facts, but details added later make those facts wrong. Or, the study is performed again with different results. Or, or…or… You can keep yourself abreast of facts and information about your topic area by keeping tabs on a Google Alert. Google Alerts are a great tool that will allow you to keep up to date on the latest information in your target niche. Use this tool to keep up to date with case studies, new knowledge, and new ways of doing things.
Not Tailoring Your Content To Your Audience
This is a pretty big deal. Your content should have your voice, but your voice should also be speaking to a part of your audience. You know how certain writing sounds when it doesn’t know it is writing for somebody: automatic, droll, and lifeless. Don’t inject lifelessness into your writing. Make sure your writing is tailored to your audience and provides the right amount of information, tone, and insight that your audience expects. In other words, before you ever start writing, be sure you do your research!
Not Including Accurate Contact Information Where Applicable
You would be surprised how many people get this one wrong. While this shouldn’t be in content writing, but more in a “Website maintenance keeping-the-lights-on type of deal,” it is an important part of making sure your content promotes your site in the way you want it to. Adding accurate contact information is something that should be done without question, but many webmasters get wrong. Including your accurate contact information can potentially open up doors for you that you never knew existed.
Over-Optimizing Your Content
When you over-optimize your content, you are stringing multiple instances of keyword phrases everywhere. Your content will read like that created by a robot. This can be a hindrance to allowing human emotion and creativity to flourish throughout your writing. Other examples of over-optimization include creating spammy meta keywords tags (with thousands of variations of your keyword thrown in for good measure), super long meta description tags (same), and even including 25 keyword phrases within a paragraph of the high quality content you post.
Don’t be that guy that over-optimizes and under-writes content. Be the guy that creates amazing, exceptional content.
Using Past, Present, And Future Tense All At Once
When beginning a creative work, it is important to not only establish a sense of voice, but also a sense of time. For example, when you transition between each sentence by using past tense in the first sentence, present tense in the next sentence, and then talking about the future in the third sentence, you kind of look clumsy and stupid. It’s important to create a sense of time and place by using a unified sense of time throughout your writing. Whether it’s the here and now, or the then and there, it gives your writing a sense of credibility and style when you do this. You make the reader feel that you have a grasp of the all-important reality of the piece.
Switching Between Voices Every Other Sentence Throughout Your Content
Organized writing has one voice. Haphazard, low-quality writing switches between different persons with different voices all at once. When this happens, it gives your writing the appearance of writing while drunk. You will not impress anyone. When beginning an article for the first time, it is a good idea to examine the purpose of your article and decide right from the start what voice you want to use. Typically, first-person voice (me, myself, & I) discusses the self. Second person voice (you, you’re, your) discusses the reader personally. And finally, third person voices (he, she, they, them, etc.) discusses people from a distance point of view.
Side note: I do realize that image file names are not fully optimized, and how much of an idiot that makes *me* look. You can go ahead and complain about that in the comments below if you wish. *wink*
By working on these mechanics and integrating them into your writing, you can ensure that your writing will maintain a professional sense of credibility consistently. Without that credibility as an authority on your subject, you might as well hang it up and pursue another line of work. Because that’s what writing is, right? Writing is used to proactively expand the spread of information through effective emotional connections.