A couple of years ago, Scott Stratten of "Unmarketing" book fame (a great read) was asked his best SEO tip.
His answer: write "awesome frickin' content"!
Since then Panda iterations have had SEO practitioners reinforcing similar "content is king" mantras, and have had SEO doomsayers laughing maniacally at how SEO is dead (once again!).
While Google's Panda updates did help define "better content" through a user-focused lens, with Panda's future as part of Google's primary algorithm, it seems an opportune time to help redefine exactly what is "awesome frickin' content."
Awesome Frickin' Content (AFC):
1. Is Optimized to Get SERP Clicks
Core optimization, like a descriptive title tag, included meta description, crawlable content and a crawlable site architecture are the first steps to creating AFC. If your content can't be found, read, recognized, categorized, indexed and the search result display isn't inspiring clicks in the first place, its potential awesomeness is severely limited.
Would you click on this?
2. Answers a User's Intent
AFC answers a question, which answers a need. To create content that connects with intent you need to understand what, where, and how users are looking for what, and then create the AFC that aligns with expectations and satisfies the users' intent. (Intent to content)
Example: Type in "best book ever written" and the first result is the Guardian's "The 100 greatest novels of all time: The list."
Published in 2003 and still perfect for another 10 years, at least.
3. Engages Users
Search engines seek to rank the most relevant results and monitor "search success" through a variety of ways; dwell time, page metrics, signals and many others. In a patent filed by Yahoo a few years back, (and excellently uncovered and covered by Bill Slawski) signals for success include site engagement metrics and a recognition of user interaction as a key metric to measuring satisfaction.
Engagement isn't only theoretical though. Creating AFC that people measurably engage with, measurably talk about, and measurably share, are all points of engagement that search engines leverage to measure the level of "awesomeness."
4. Is Produced by an Authority
In a world of billions of content elements floating around the Internet, search engines seek to discover, identify and validate topic authorities with visibility and trust. Beyond just authorship of an author, any entity that can engender trust around specific topics can be recognized as an authority.
Rel=author and rel=publisher tags are probably (IMHO) the first in a series of standardized "tags of authority association", but beyond these webmaster defined signals are a wealth of corroborating signals of expertise and trust in an entity's specific subject matter expertise.
A key consideration of AFC is it doesn't have to be mainstream. It merely has to be the most awesome of content on its particular topic.
Who knew there was an authority on dog ownership?
5. Is (more) Speedily Disseminated
Eric Enge wrote a great piece on Author Rank (a hypothetical – at least right now – ranking of author authority), in which he talks about article velocity, an "awesome quotient" I agree with and something akin to a measure of article virility (how quickly does the article spread via likes, shares, tweets, links or other connections that search engines can quantify).
AFC tends to have a higher velocity, even if the volume might be different (i.e., a niche topic article vs. a celebrity-driven photo), but there will (most times) be relative benchmarks of similar topics that serve as a measure of success.
If your content is spread quicker than average you're demonstrating to search engines a little more awesomeness!
Charlie Sheen was searching for an intern back in 2011. Our intern client at the time drew over 250,000 site visitors in the course of a few hours. That's AFC (however crude) at work!
6. Has a Time...
You've probably heard of QDF or "Query Deserves Freshness" as a signal Google looks at for certain queries. Matt Cutts admitted it on video back in 2009, and my colleague Caragh McKenna spoke about it at SES London.
AFC doesn't always qualify as a candidate for QDF, but time factors can define awesome, especially for rich media content, such as trending video or photos. In fact, QDF can amplify AFC to enhance its visibility and by extension its longevity. Fresh = awesome!
7. ... and Has a Place
Google is the web's most discerning user – Matt Cutts, March 2013: "What Google wants is what users want" and Bing is very close behind (if not in a slight lead thanks to Duane Forrester).
When you look at SEO through a user lens certain components of the search engine's algorithms just seem obvious. Page layout is one of them. Back in early 2012, Google introduced the page layout update, which was refreshed in late 2012 and covered with aplomb by Miranda Miller here on SEW.
Content is less awesome when it doesn't appear at or near the top of the page... especially if the above the fold content is strewn with ads.
Eyes top! Awesomeness is in the eye of the beholder... not below the fold!
8. Is Unique
You hear a lot about duplicate content when SEO folks demand "unique," but search engines go way beyond merely checking for plagiarism, they're also looking at timestamps and other signals to understand who the original author / publisher or connected entity is, and seeing if the content augments their topic expertise.
AFC isn't generally a "me too" endeavor. Content must be unique and more importantly original, and user signals should reinforce the difference.
Unique = original, and original = awesome.
I still laugh at this 6-year-old commercial from John West. Awesome Frickin' Content at its finest.
9. Is Worthy of a Share
There has always been word of mouth marketing. In today's connected world WOM has been augmented but other opportunities to share, +1, like, promote, author, tweet and amplify through real-time channels.
But only AFC is worth the share. AFC entertains, educates, enlightens, and/or inspires, and because of that it demands to be shared.
Isn't this article worthy? Don't be shy. They even put buttons at the top and bottom of the article to help you share.:-)
10. Has Vibes (Sentiment)
AFC is not only worthy of a share, it should also generate lots of opinion. Generally the best of the best sees positive opinions, the best of the worst sees negative opinions.
A recently awarded Google patent talks about a "sentiment score" as a consideration of rankability. "A method, a system and a computer program product for ranking reviewable entities based on sentiment expressed about the entities."
My friend Erika Napoletano talks about "The Power of Unpopular", saying if you aren't polarizing opinion with your content, you need to rethink your position. Google appears to agree.
AFC can be "good" or "bad", but never ignored!
11. Inspires Connections
Matt Cutts said it best in March of this year; "... come up with a really great idea, make a fantastic user experience and content and great linking will follow."
AFC is based on great ideas as content, and does inspire links, citations, co-citations, mentions, associations and affiliations; connections between brands, topics and authority. AFC is worthy of discussing, writing about, talking about and publishing. The essence of AFC is what it isn't, it isn't ordinary and doesn't fade into the background. It stands out from the crowd, and inspires discussion.
Awesome Frickin' Content: The Bottom Line
Stratten isn't alone in talking about the concept of AFC, though he certainly deserves the kudos for his choice of words. Seth Godin used "Purple Cow", Gary Vaynerchuk used "Crushing it", and many other folks talk about creating great content as being integral to attracting more and/or better traffic.
And isn't that what great SEO and Awesome Frickin' Content is all about?