Quality web content has been somewhat overlooked in the past. However, after Google’s Panda and Penguin updates, it’s more important than ever. With these algorithmic overhauls, the search engine is much more adept at spotting poor-quality, spammy, or duplicate content – and is all too ready to dish out hefty penalties to pages that don’t meet its standards. Here, ClickThrough copywriter Jack Adams looks at web content marketing in the year ahead, and why poor-quality content farms just aren’t a viable option any more.

When Google employed a Panda and a Penguin to police web content, some may have scoffed.

But these animal-monikered algorithm updates soon showed how tough they could be, by heavily penalising websites with low-quality content.

Post-Panda and Penguin, the way we use web content has changed forever. But old habits die hard – there are still plenty of websites that ‘boast’ spammy, duplicate, or just plain irrelevant content.

In the past many businesses have simply outsourced their content to any old freelancer they’ve seen listed on the Internet. They’ve not had to pay that much for the privilege, and the content’s not usually been that great – evidenced by badly disguised instances of keyword stuffing, poor grammar and a general lack of spark – but it’s served a purpose and their site has gone on to rank decently in Google.

Great, right?

Well maybe then, but certainly not now.

Unless you’ve been living in a news-proof bubble for the past 18 months, you’ll be well aware of Panda’s hatred of content that has been poorly produced, and lacks any real relevance to a site – and the severe dislike shown by Penguin towards web content that’s blatantly keyword stuffed to within an inch of its very existence.

Due to the huge impact these algorithm updates have had, the need for good quality on-page content is going to be bigger than ever in 2013 – if you have any ambitions of achieving a high rank within Google, that is.

Though we’re not suggesting that all freelancers produce shoddy on-page web content, it does pay to exercise caution.

If you publish poor-quality content you’ll be doing your site more harm than good. Not only will the ranking of the page featuring the content suffer, your whole site might also find its ranking severely docked – limiting its visibility in what is essentially the world’s most popular online business directory.

And worst of all, you’ll be paying for it.

Although it might seem like an economical option to outsource to a freelancer, as opposed to an agency or company specialising in content marketing, there’s real potential for things to go completely wrong.

If you’re outsourcing your on-page content to any old freelancer advertising themselves on the Internet, you’re probably not going to have the opportunity to meet them or even see a portfolio of their previous work. You’ll most likely communicate via sporadic emails, leaving you to have to rely on their word – which, unless you’re completely naïve, doesn’t necessarily mean all that much on the web.

This lack of human interaction might not seem all that important, but it is. You’ll essentially have to rely on the quality of your brief to get the ideas of what you envisage your shiny, brand spanking new content to be. This is easier said than done.

How can you be sure that they’ll understand the nuances of your business or its industry? Or, for that matter, even care that much? How do you know that they’re not going to create your content using spinning software, leaving you with a spammy collection of words, put together to make absolutely no sense?

There’s also a chance that your content could in fact have simply been copied and pasted from some other low-quality site – and remember, Panda despises duplicated content.

You have very little, if any control over this process. You’re essentially holding your breath and hoping for the best, and your site is deserving of so much more.

Poor content certainly isn’t going to do your site’s search engine rankings any good, but it’s also not going to do all that much to encourage conversions – i.e. purchases or sales leads.

However, if you outsource to a reputable agency with an in-house content team, you’ll be able to get a first-hand look at the kind of work they’re capable of producing before the content creation process even begins, which will ultimately put your mind at rest.

You’ll also have the opportunity to get your all of your ideas across in real detail – allowing your content to be tailored, as opposed to haphazardly thrown together without any real care or attention.

For years, being visible on the first few pages of Google has been an invaluable boon for any online business. This year, though, it’s absolutely vital for you to get your content up to a good standard – otherwise you might see those rankings slip away.

Content that reads well and is perceptively optimised can drive traffic and increase conversions. Whilst you might save yourself a bit of cash by outsourcing to a content farm with low standards, you could potentially miss out on many conversions and interactions.

Your website is essentially your online shop window – one that the world could peer into with just one click. You wouldn’t pick a person at random to layout and decorate your shop, so why would you take the same action with your web content, considering the vital role it is set to play this year?

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About the author:

Jack Adams is a copywriter at ClickThrough Marketing, and is a qualified journalist. Jack also has a degree in Journalism, with a specialist focus on citizen journalism, which includes blogs, web content and social media.