In its most basic definition, content is simply the text and visuals that are consumed online. But defining a thing as broad as content is actually more difficult than you might think. In fact, you’re probably thinking of a very different definition of content than I am.
Fortunately, content is something that can be described in many ways. For some, content means information. For others, content means experience. For the rest of us, content means nothing at all. But for content creators, content is fundamentally something that exists to fill space with, whether it’s video, photo, text or some conglomeration of all of these. In that regard, content is something - anything - that fills the space with meaning, so that it can be read, watched and digested by an audience in an actionable way.
In content writing specifically, this meaning almost always takes the form of writing that is informative, engaging and relevant to the audience at hand. The last of these is especially relevant to businesses employing content writers. Having a piece of content that is informative and engaging, but not relevant, will be much like seeing a funny commercial where you can’t actually remember the product. It might entertain you, but it won’t prompt you to actually buy anything.
This is why meaningful content, although more difficult to generate than clickbait articles or keyword rich website copy, will ultimately rise to the top of the pack. From a quality perspective, this is not only inevitable but also desirable. In fact, Google’s recent Penguin 4.0 update is meant to partially address concerns about quality of content writing. According to Search Engine Land, this update “… will push the SEO industry as a whole toward real [marketing] strategies, and away from manipulation.” In other words, content writing that is created solely to climb the ranks of Google without providing meaning to the audience of the website or publication where it appears will actually harm your rankings, especially if it’s a piece that links back to your website.
From a writing perspective, meaningful content also gives us a lot more to do. For better or worse, just about anyone with a keyboard can write the type of keyword rich content that has permeated the Internet since the dawn of search engine marketing. But instead of trying to compete with this volume of SEO-bait, businesses and websites can now start to focus on creating linkable assets that add tangible value to the conversations surrounding their industries
This doesn’t only have to come in the form of infographics or studies, but can also come in the form of quality and well-researched articles that explain, engage and inform a business’s audience. Using the principles of content marketing, these articles should not be about specific product and service offerings but should give away valuable information with the ultimate goal of building a person’s trust. This will lead them to buy something related down the line.
As Bill Gates famously put it in 1996, “content is king.” But in the modern age of search engine marketing, quality content matters more than actually having content at all. Otherwise, you’re just filling up space on a web page that has no meaning.