Your B2B Site Doesn’t Need More Freakin’ Words
Hi. My name is Heather, and I’m pissed off (“Hi, Heather!”)
Last week, an SEO agency called me. They represented a B2B company that was in need of content – OK, that’s fine.
And then, the prospect started talking about the gig…
“The client needs three blog posts a week, all an average of 500 words. That’s what Google wants, you know”
“The pages should have a keyphrase density of 6.7 percent.”
“We don’t want to spend much for this content – our budget is around $30/article.”
That was strike one, strike two, and strike three for me.
The client pointed me to an example page, and here’s what I found:
– The content was filled with grammatical errors
– There was no call-to-action anywhere. So, it was a content “dead-end” page that wasn’t helping with conversion rates.
– The post didn’t dovetail with anything that the client offered.
– The post drifted off and stopped making sense at about the 300 word mark. Obviously, the writer tried to “fluff it up” and added an additional 200 words because they were “supposed to.”
And who only knows how much the agency charged the B2B end client. I’m willing to bet that the $30 content “investment” turned into a $250-$300 content charge to the client.
I had a little fun with the agency person and started asking hard questions like, “So, tell me how X post is converting for the client? What’s the call to action here? Is this the right voice that works with the target audience?”
Sure, I was letting my inner bitch come out and play – but I asked nicely. And they were highly valid questions.
The agency person didn’t know what to say. He stammered and hemmed and hawed and finally said…and I bet you can say it with me…
“Well, the content is good for Google – so that’s all we care about.”
Here’s the deal: Google doesn’t give a shit about your word count. Nor does it care how many blog posts you upload a week. And it really doesn’t care about keyword density.
What your site needs are the right freakin’ words. Not necessarily MORE words – the right ones. The ones that connect with your prospects, build trust and encourages a conversion.
Sadly, this attitude is extremely common with SEOs and agencies (not all of them – there are “good guys” out there. But the crappy ones outweigh the good ones.) They may talk a good game and say that “content is king.” And then they turn around and order cheap content that has nothing to do with the site’s conversion goals and pass it off as SEO gold.
What’s worse – the poor B2B client doesn’t know. They think that the SEO is looking after their best interests.
So, here are a few reality checks:
– If your SEO/agency is recommending daily blog posts (or any other kind of content,) ask them how that content ties into your conversion goals. If they say the content is “for Google,” – and that’s the only benefit – don’t do it. The world doesn’t need more crappy content.
– If your first concern is the content price – you’re having the wrong conversation. Good content makes you money, period. It’s like paying a higher salary to a sizzling-hot salesperson who closes big deals. That doesn’t mean that you have to pay $500 a page every time. But it means that you have to weigh the cost of the content against return on investment. The best writing firm (or writer) isn’t the cheapest writer. The best writer is the person who will make you more money.
– If your SEO/agency is pushing “more content” when your sales copy sucks, run away. You need to pay attention to where your money comes from – and that means taking a hard look at your sales and lead generation pages. I’m sure that your CEO didn’t wake up one morning and say, “Our new mission statement is to have our content +1’ed all over the place.” The name of the game is to make more freakin’ money. Shore up your sales pages first. Make sure that they are connecting with your customers and converting like crazy. THEN look at your other marketing collateral.
Sheesh…rant over. :)
Great article. I’ve only just got into the world of SEO content writing, having done most of my prior copy for physical consumption (or where the audience was already established). I’m always interested in writing copy that is enjoyable and worthwhile to read, and I like the idea that spammy content articles based on word counts instead of word value aren’t effective marketing.
You’re so right – it’s time to move away from word count and focus on word VALUE. That’s what clients are really after (and need.)
Thanks for your comment, Phil! :)
I love the honesty, Heather!
So many clients and SEOs think they have the secret formula to writing great content and it’s usually wrong.
Valuable, unique, quality content that helps support that client’s business goals (in the end, when is it not profit anyway?) is a sure winner and it doesn’t have a target keyword density or word count.
This is like when my PPC clients “need” to be in first position for a loss leader keyword that offers little to no branding or direct response benefit.
On a different note, what kind of coffee did you have this morning? :-) I’d love to send some as gifts to some of the tire kickers I’ve met along the way. Hello! :)
I’m a firm believer in a strong almond-milk Starbucks latte first thing in the morning. I’ve “run” on Starbucks for over 15 years. Heck, my husband is a project manager for Starbucks. Let’s just say that I have a lot of loyalty for the brand… ;)
Glad that you enjoyed the honesty. I’m just tired of companies being told “you should do X” when X has nothing to do with their business goals. I’ve probably made some SEO companies cranky with me, but that’s OK. Maybe they’ll see the light eventually. After all, if they advise their clients to do the right thing around the content (and focus on value rather than Google), everyone wins… :)
Love this Heather! Now we just need to get this out to the world for the right people to see. Considered it Tweeted … and posted to my LinkedIn feed … and posted on Facebook!
When I first started freelancing, I came across many low-paying gigs that not only wanted garbage articles for Google, but also they wanted to “hide” the articles from clients and have them accessible through a small link buried in the footer navigation so they could be indexed, but so the client who paid for them wouldn’t see them because they were horrible. I also worked at an agency who had me edit the $5 (if that) articles that they got from non-native English speakers because they were so poorly written, they made no sense. Ugh!
Rant away! Clients need to know that there are (unfortunately) still SEO snake oil salesmen out there.
Amy, I had totally forgotten about the “small footer link” strategy. Wow. Thanks for that (somewhat painful) flashback!
I can only imagine how some of those $5 articles read. Ow. But you do bring up a good point. If companies need the writing edited in house because the content is that bad, well, it’s time to find another writing source. :)
Thanks for your comment (and the flashback!)
Excellent post as usual. I’m really getting fed up of prospective clients saying ‘it is just for Google’ and expecting 10 articles for £50.
Fantastic article and great points. I love when people rant when writing, I think it really brings out the persons knowledge on the subject. I think one important thing left out of your article, is placing the well written content where it will have the most impact for the customer. PR is important with the new Panda update and it doesn’t make smart business sense to pay top dollar for quality written content, to then be placed on a blog or site that has a poor PR. Thoughts?
Hey Aaron, thanks for your great question!
Did you mean PR=page rank?
You’re right – I didn’t discuss how/where the content would be distributed. In many cases, companies need to focus on their sales pages first before doing anything else – if their conversions aren’t clicking, that’s something to definitely fix. All the blog posts in the world won’t help you if your sales pages suck.
But if you’re talking guest posting – the key thing to ask is “does the target readership “hang out” there? Will this drive qualified traffic?” If that answer is no, then it’s probably not worth it. You may get a link…but links don’t pay the bills. Customers do. :)
Love the post and agree wholeheartedly. I think the main problem is that clients expect much and SEO’s are under pressure to produce results in an ever changing online marketing environment. If Google makes changes that target bad links and favor (dynamic) content you can bet that marketers are going to start producing more content. The problem with more people producing content is the content takes a hit, for the bad. It would be like the NFL adding 10 new teams. The quality of football would suffer as the need for more football players increased and the real talent is spread too thin.
Speaking of content taking a hit for the bad, the quality of content is somewhat relative right? Someone’s good is another person’s bad. A college football team might be great (Go Ducks!) but put them against an NFL team and what do they look like? Who’s the judge of good content? The client? Google? There is OBVIOUS bad, I understand that, but someone with a journalism, or similar degree around language, will probably write more compelling content than someone without. But should
500 words, keyword density, etc is not something SEO’s pull out of thin air. There is a ton of research out there that’s evaluated what works in the search engines and and what doesn’t. I don’t pay attention to keyword density, or word count, I just write. Having said that I do make sure that my posts aren’t 100 words long (or short).
Lastly, is possible to write quality content (relative), with appropriate call to action, and not have the content lead directly to new money? I’d love to hear how you measure the effectiveness of content in terms of money is sales it produces.
Again, great post! Thanks for ranting!
Great points and questions – thank you!
You raise a good point about content quality. Certainly, an experienced copywriter/journalist can pick apart the writing strategy. For instance, “good” copywriting contains a clear call to action. It focuses on benefits rather than features. The tone and feel resonates with the target audience. It’s true that clients may not know how to evaluate the content – and many (most) SEOs probably couldn’t either (unless they employed copywriters/direct marketers.)
Analytics can help with this, certainly. They don’t tell the whole picture (such as what could be improved,) but it gives us some clues. From there, we can test and refine.
You’re right- 500 words/keyword density stuff wasn’t pulled out of thin air – it’s stuff that worked when I first started in the biz 14+ years ago (although I admit that I’m probably the one who started the whole “word count” thing, only because I was trying to encourage folks to write more content.) You needed a 5.5 percent keyphrase density for AltaVista back in 1997 or so. :) However, what started out as general guidelines (or what worked once upon a time) turned into “this is how you do it.” Things have changed a lot – but some people refuse to change their strategies (or don’t know to change.)
Yup, you can write content that doesn’t lead to mo’ money. Maybe you want someone to download a white paper. Or you want to educate the reader about X. Or you want to entertain the reader. That’s all cool. You just need to know why you’re writing the content before you start writing. :)
and there it is, the entire article and all the comments summed up in the very last sentence.
“You just need to know why you’re writing the content before you start writing.”
Did you say Starbucks has an almond-milk latte? Whoa! This whole time I’ve been adding soy.
I am learning so much from you! This ranks right up there with the free birthday ice creams from Baskin Robbins when I was a kid. :-)
Made my day. Thank you!
Thanks Heather… great rant.
My personal pet peeve is with clients who demand a certain keyword density without any call to action or strategic purpose for the content.
Here’s Matt Cutts on keyword density:
As the article says: Don’t annoy readers. (that tends to hurt sales)
When writing SEO content your best bet is to actually not think about the search engines at all. Think about what your target audience wants to read. Write for them and the content will get shared naturally, which will improve rank and generate traffic.
Dead on! I am actually forwarding your article to my new client right now. The one who insisted that I provide them with three 500 word blog posts per week. Seriously? Quality over quantity people.
@Shelly – Love it and forward away! Let me know what the client says…here’s hoping that he/she realizes that quality DOES matter over quantity!
Great rant Heather… my business partner Jason commented above and we’ve been ranting ever since. In fact he just wrote a blog expanding our thoughts, which I’ve linked to here:
Thanks again for the great post!
VERY cool! I’m glad that my post inspired you to create your own rant-flled post I’ll definitely check it out. :)
Bloody awesome post, Heather – thank you!
We need more “fresh air” like this. As a fellow writer-marketer, I salute your call to action. We’ve got too many people out there trying to push ninja mind-bending / blackhat or just downright stupid stuff.
Common sense tells us that this word count content by the ton strategy is silly. Who the hell reads that stuff? And Google isn’t stupid; people can only game the system for so long.
And priorities rule, as you say: if the offer is crap, it needs to be fixed [copy can only do so much]. Bad positioning? Needs to be fixed. Bad sales copy? Ditto. Good on ya for pulling back the curtain on this game. Encore!
Thank you, my friend. I’m glad that you enjoyed the post. It was incredibly fun to write. :)