Just a few years ago, search engines could be fooled into believing your site was useful as long as you regularly published keyword-rich content.
Now, more sophisticated algorithms and the rise of social media mean the web is a far more demanding place.
Here are 10 ways your rehashed, boring content is failing your website.
1. High Bounce Rate
However well your site performs in search engine results, at some point it needs to sell your product or service to a real person. With bounce rate looking to become an increasingly important algorithm factor in Google, there’s even less excuse now to pack your pages with average content.
Think about how your site will look if, when they arrive, it’s crammed with keywords but light on actual information.
Good quality content isn’t only keyword-rich – it also needs to convince your visitors to part with their money.
Investing in original, engaging content written with marketing in mind can drive your conversion rate higher, even without improving your search ranking.
2. No Social Signals
Recent studies are now starting to show a clear correlation between rankings and social signals.
If your content has no social media buzz or coverage, then it’s less likely to be naturally good content and as a result it’s less likely to rank.
3. Google Says So
The fact is, if you want to do well in search, it's a good idea to do as Google says.
Check the Google Webmaster Tools guidelines on what constitutes little or no original content.
If the majority of your pages match the descriptions of scraped, auto-generated, doorway, or “thin” content, you may already be penalized in the search results, without even realizing it.
4. Nobody Will Link To You
If you have nothing original to say, there's no reason for people to read your pages. Sure, you might rank higher thanks to your keyword cramming, but you won't generate inbound links.
Search engine algorithms look for incoming links as a way of deciding how important a page is, in the wider context of the web.
Provide informative, interesting, and educational content, and people will be more likely to share it on social networks and link to it on their own websites – helping to improve the prestige level of your site and boost it up the search engine results pages in turn.
5. Nobody Will Comment
Similar to the problem of not generating backlinks, comments are a way of engaging with your readers.
They can turn the one-way process of somebody reading your page into a two-way dialogue, and can help to create a loyal readership out of people who find you by chance among their search results.
However, encouraging people to comment is a fine balancing act of creating interesting content with just enough controversy to spark a debate – but which doesn’t go too far and could drive away potential customers permanently.
6. It Might Not Fit
Imagine the text content of your new page is a new suit. Which is more likely to fit: a tailored two-piece made to measure, or a second-hand suit you've had adjusted?
With web copy, commissioning content when you know the layout of your page is a custom service, and you can expect a higher standard of product as a result.
A good copywriter can work with your site's layout to make every word count, without producing so much content that nobody will ever read to the end.
7. You Call the Shots
It's not about making people read for the sake of it. Control where the calls to action are placed.
Hyperlink the keyword-rich anchor text you need to suit your SEO strategy, but don’t ruin the grammar of a sentence in order to do it.
Use headings with the keywords you choose, surrounded by the heading HTML tags that make the search engine robots sit up and take notice.
Match your content to the rest of your on-page SEO, such as image captions, and duplicate target keywords in your URL, page title, and meta tags for a truly optimal outcome.
8. Duplicated Content Filtering
Sometimes when you run a search on Google, you see a link at the bottom of your results that says something along the lines of: "In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to those already displayed."
If your website content is scraped from elsewhere, over-heavy with quotations, or is only slightly different to a page published on another website, you risk having your pages filtered out as duplicated content.
Google works hard to identify the most legitimate website for any given section of text, so if you aren't the primary source, you could be in trouble.
9. The Panda Might Get You
Google's Panda update was a tweak to the search engine's algorithm that punished websites with content duplicated from elsewhere online and so-called “content farms.” Google has made several more algorithm changes as part of its Panda program since then.
If you duplicate content from elsewhere online word for word, you risk falling foul of copyright laws or duplicated content filtering for that single page. Additionally, your entire website could vanish from Google's results as the algorithm now looks at overall site quality far more closely.
10. It's Unethical
Your personal code of ethics might allow you to scrape content from other sites, but you need to prioritize your customers' interests.
Many people are increasingly aware of corporations' commitments on environmental issues and social responsibility – and may be equally willing to condemn your company if they suspect that your website is compiled from other organizations' efforts.
Truly original content shows a level of commitment to ethical procedures that can support any other efforts you make on social or ecological grounds.
The arguments in favor of original, well-written content are compelling and remain convincing as the years go by.
Successive search engine algorithm updates only prioritize good-quality copy; invest in your text up-front and you gain a natural advantage over the competition.
Image credit: sincerelyhiten
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!