This guest post is by Helen Hoefele of Figmentations.com.
Is the goal of your blogging efforts is to make money, to raise money, to sell or promote a product or service, or simply to get your message out?
Regardless, the one thing that every blogger needs to pay attention to, whether you’re excited about it or not, is the importance of creating high quality content to keep both your readers and the search engines happy.
We all know that Google has been favoring sites with high quality content over sites with low quality content. Sites consisting of low quality or duplicate content and/or employing manipulative SEO practices in order to unfairly influence site rankings have lost ground in their search engine ranking results.
What many people may not realize is that “not creating low quality content” does not necessarily mean you are creating high quality content.
So let’s take a closer look at what high quality content, and ultimately high value content, can mean. In particular, let’s consider where opinion-editorial (op-ed) writing falls on the quality scale.
At face value, because op-eds are generally subjective rather than objective in nature, it may not be clear whether or not they count as high quality content for blog SEO purposes.
For SEO-quality-related questions like this, I would recommend asking yourself this question, as per SearchEngineLand.com, about the writing you want to publish: “Do you offer real value, something of substance to visitors, anything unique, different, useful and that they won’t find elsewhere?” If your material meets those criteria, and of course you avoid any questionable SEO practices intended to manipulate rankings, it should be clear that you do not have low quality content.
As most industry observers state, if you write for readers and not for search engines, you should be fine. So, yes, opinions can be considered high quality content for SEO purposes.
However, we shouldn’t stop there; there are more questions to ask. When deciding whether or not to express your opinions in your writing, the better question to ask is: Is there value in expressing opinions beyond just SEO value? A simple answer of “yes” does not suffice here. For that, let’s take a closer look at value.
In any given blog post, if a reader disagrees with your opinion, especially if it’s unexpected to you, there is value for you to delve into understanding why.
More likely, though, any discussion starting from a place of vehement disagreement is more than likely to devolve into an endless circular debate resulting in anger or frustration on both sides with no common understanding or resolution ever achieved. There is not much value in alienating readers, unless your goal is to filter out unwelcome readers from your audience or perhaps, if skillfully done, evolve your tribe from becoming too much of an echo chamber.
Even if you could write an opinion piece with a catchy title that ends up ranking high and gets a lot of social mentions, that doesn’t automatically mean you have created high quality content. And even if that piece were to go viral, that does not guarantee conversion, as is being shown time and time again.
Anything that attracts attention but results in a high bounce rate and low time-on-site numbers is nothing more than wasted opportunity to provide true value to potentially interested readers.
At the same time, high quality opinion pieces that do not rank high due to poor writing, poor search engine optimization, and/or poor after-publication social sharing will miss the mark, too. Good ideas, as with useful opinions, absolutely need to be paired with good SEO practices and effective social sharing in order to get the exposure they rightly deserve.
On the other hand, you could ask: if your reader readily agrees with your expressed opinion, is anything of value accomplished in still stating that opinion?
Social media was used heavily in the recent U.S. Presidential election. Yet, it likely did little to actually sway any already-committed points of view. All that such social media outreach achieved was: reinforce the base; exert peer pressure; or generate social proof among friends, family, or acquaintances. While that did have a considerable impact on the get-out-to-vote initiatives, it did nothing to change anything about the world—it did not improve the electoral process, or unify the country, or solve any of the country’s much-debated problems.
In the end, getting good exposure for a specific opinion aimed at a targeted audience is not the only game in town. A quote from Chris Brogan and Julien Smith’s book (which has largely inspired this post), The Impact Equation, sums it up nicely:
“Your opinions may be helpful and interesting, but unless they are specifically useful to your audience, you are not building something of significant or lasting value.”
Opinions about another person’s ideas become especially valuable when they help evolve and spread that idea to others who will keep it alive and do something with it.
In the end, while Google might not be able to distinguish between these different value levels (yet), your readers can. Remember, you are writing for your readers and not for the search engines.
Each person’s blog and reason for blogging is different. What works for you and your audience may or may not work for someone else’s. Many times you won’t even know what will or won’t work until you test it out. Always experiment. Don’t fear making any potential minor miss-steps, as you will find that most audiences are quite forgiving.
Why not test each of these value theories out with your own blog over the next few weeks? Try these tests:
- Write a rant: After sleeping on it and making sure it isn’t unnecessarily offensive or regretful, consider posting it to see how your readers react in comments, shares, and subscription levels. Do they engage or do they leave?
- Write something generic about a trending topic found on SocialMention. Take some time to formulate a catchy title. Share on social sites as you normally would. Then check your stats to compare your bounce rates and time-on-site metrics for that post with a popular but more thought-provoking post from your site.
- Choose a popular blog post, either yours or someone else’s. Promote it on your favorite social sharing sites but experiment with different social media messages accompanying that link, with some messages well written and others less well written. Observe the importance of effective messaging as seen in the number of shares and re-tweets.
- Write an opinion piece that you know everyone will agree with, then ask for comments and feedback. Compare the quality and emotion level generated by the generic opinion post versus an original thought-provoking opinion post or even comments against the rant piece mentioned in the first point above.
- Take some time and formulate a useful opinion piece or blog comment—not something that’s an off-the-cuff reaction, but a unique, thoughtful response, perhaps taking into account comments or opinions that others already left on that post or topic. Assess the quality of feedback you receive.
Expressing unique opinions has value and should easily count as high quality content for SEO purposes. Never forget that opinion writing can provide a lot more than just SEO value, too.
In the end, writing a useful and thought-provoking post is not only more interesting for your readers to read, but more interesting for you to write as well. Why not put the power of the keyboard to work for you?
In her spare time, Helen Hoefele shares her thoughts and opinions via her personal blog at Figmentations.com. By day, she is a productive member on the Inbound Marketing team at a NJ-based SEO services company.