If you’ve been paying attention to changes in search at all, you’ll know that SEO and Content Marketing are married. They’ve had a relationship for a very long time, but now, it’s time to get serious! Great content is more important that it’s been since I’ve been in this business, and that’s since 2003.
So, let’s talk about what makes content readable.
First and foremost, it must be well-written. No bad grammar. No spelling errors, and an understanding of proper punctuation. Yes, punctuation. Don’t cringe. It’s not that hard.
Here are some things I’ve seen in content around the Web and it drives me insane:
- Capitalizing prepositions in titles
Such as, “Google Continues To Fight Over Paid Links ,” from SearchNewz of October 29th. “To” is a preposition, and should never be capitalized, unless it begins a sentence such as this one. The proper title would be “Google Continues to Fight Over Paid Links.” You’re perhaps wondering about “Over,” which is also a preposition. Well, if it’s longer than four letters, capitalization is OK.
- Capitalizing articles in titles
Again Search Newz of October 29th, we have: “Google Updates The Page Layout Algorithm!” The is an article and shouldn’t be capitalized, unless it starts a sentence.
- Not knowing when to create a new paragraph
I’m guessing you have seen this a lot, but Facebook, which makes it a puzzle to add a hard break (You have to shift + enter, thank you Harris Fellman), often has paragraphs that run on for days. They’re very hard to read! But I’ve seen this in lots of articles on the Web, too.
When you start a new topic, start a new paragraph. For the Web, paragraphs should be short, too, so that people aren’t straining their eyes. Remember, white space (where nothing is typed) looks much easier to read, too; so, the chance of your material being read at all goes up exponentially.
- Improper use of homonyms
Where was the last time you saw “there” used when it should have been “their”? Or “patients” when it should have been “patience”? Makes me crazy. But here’s the really big one — its and it’s. Its means “belonging to it,” while it’s is a contraction for “it is.”
- Improper use of “affect” and “effect”
Affect means to influence. You use it as a verb. Effect is a noun, and means a result. It’s easy to confuse.
- Person shifting
I review and edit a lot of written material in my business, and another thing that’s very common is switching from first person (I) to second person (you), to third person (he, she it). Be consistent with who you’re talking to.
For the Internet, “you,” or second person familiar is usually best, especially when it comes to copywriting, and let’s face it… Isn’t everything you write for the Web copy?
- Confusing number
Because of our politically correct society, using the pronoun “he” has been replaced by “he or she,” which really sucks for readability. Instead of writing to one person, write as though you’re writing for a crowd. If you have to write, “He or she wondered how they’d ever remember this stuff,” writing, “They wondered how they would ever remember this stuff,” is better. It’s cleaner, but if you do that, remain consistent throughout your article.
Sorry, old writing teacher here. (I taught for the Institute of Children’s Literature for five years, so yes, I’m anal but Google is getting that way, too.) When I see these things online, I cringe, but proper grammar has finally become important, which makes me happy. The Internet has been awash with so much really bad writing up until Panda came along, that I worried the language was deteriorating because of it. I love words. Love to read good writing, and well…
It’s become more important for you than ever to write well. (Not good. It’s an adverb. Well is proper.) So, bone up on your English or whatever other language you may be writing in and believe it or not, you will d better in search because of it. I think that’s good news, don’t you?