Yes, that’s right. You’re actually better off to have no content whatsoever on your blog than to put up bad, or even mediocre, content. That’s because bad content will drive people away forever.
Jake Athey’s recent post on The Next Web, Bad content is worse than no content: How to create stuff that doesn’t stink argues that customers will judge you and your website based on the content they find.
As Kyle Lacy and I said in Branding Yourself, you’re better off not being on a social network than only being on it sporadically, because it shows you’re not committed. A complete absence, while not desirable, is understandable.
Visiting a website with filler content is a lot like walking into a living room and finding a coffee table book like “Extraordinary Chickens” or “United States Coinage: A Study By Type.” As a visitor, you’re under no obligation to read either book, but you have to question the judgment of the person who chose them.
So how much worse is it that your bad content, even regularly-posted content, is worse than not being on there at all, or even on it sporadically? How bad does it have to be that “no content” is preferable?
In his post, Athey offers three tips to creating good content:
- Set a measurable goal.
- Give your visitors what they want.
- What can we offer that nobody else can?
The underlying idea of Athey’s article is that everything needs to be well-written or well-produced. As he said, “anyone can produce Web copy, infographics, videos, slideshows, white papers, blog posts, cartoons and interactive gizmos – but not everyone can do it well.”
Doing it well is going to give visitors a reason to show up. Being “good enough” is no longer good enough. Good enough gets you the bronze. Winners do it well.
Content First, Design Second
Remember, content is not filler. It’s not the stuff you drop in once you’ve got your beautiful design all finished. Content is the whole reason people come to your website. They want to read, see, and hear what you have to say about your product or service. They’re not there to see your color scheme, font choice, or layout.
If you put content first, and design second, everything will fall into place.
Your content has to:
- Be well-written. This above all else: to thine own words be true. You can’t just write like a high school student. Don’t use too many words, or needlessly big words. Use proper spelling and grammar. Writing is not one of those “good enough” activities. Your content needs to be awesome. Don’t trust your content creation to someone who doesn’t have a passion for words. You may even want to hire a professional, because mediocre content can actually lose you money. (Consider it an investment.)
- Be interesting. I can take the most boring, tedious idea and write it perfectly, but it will still be boring. Boring content is usually overloaded with stats, overly technical, or uses enough qualifiers and jargon to make a scientist squeal like a 12-year-old girl meeting Justin Bieber. Unless you’re writing an academic paper or journal article where that kind of writing is actively encouraged, focus on writing to a general audience. Make your writing accessible.
- Use stories. You’ve heard it over and over in content marketing articles, but it bears repeating. Stories make points better than stats and concepts. As the holidays are coming up, pay attention to the nonprofit fundraising letters that come to your house. Every single piece will tell a story about a single adult/child/organization that needs your help. The story is the hook that gets you interested. Convey your information with stories first.
(Yes, I realize I’ve completely left out the infographic designers and video and audio producers from this list. I’m a writer, I do words. If you want something on infographics, videos, or podcasts, read back through the list and anywhere you see “writing,” put in your favorite medium.)
The Internet is so saturated that we’re at the point where bad content is toxic, and mediocre content is enough to drive people away. That means stop worrying about publishing every day, because you’re not giving us great or new ideas, you’re recycling the old ones. Publish when you have something interesting to say instead, and people will stick around to see what bit of awesomeness you’re sharing.
Focus on creating only the best content you can be proud of, something that you’d be willing to share if someone else had written it. If you can’t be proud of it, don’t publish it.
Photo credit: Urban Artefakte (Flickr, Creative Commons)