3 Ways to Tell if Your Content Sucks

How to tell if your content sucks

Poor content hurts your website

There are a few surefire ways to know if your content sucks.

Excuse the frank expression; really, I don’t know any other way to put it. Sucky content isn’t limited by geography, company or industry. It truly is a phenomenon that cuts across all verticals, all types of companies, from big to small, all industries.

But you can’t fix something if you don’t first recognize the problem. And with Google Penguin 2.0 making content even more important in search, you’d better be able to tell pretty quickly if bad content makes your rankings plummet.

Sure, you often know if the content is sucky deep down in your gut. Sometimes it’s your content. But often, it’s a client’s content that needs fixing and you are the one hired to fix it. Here are three quick ways to tell if the content sucks:

1. You read it once and you don’t know what the hell it’s saying. This is the biggest clue. If I read your website and I can’t tell what you do or sell, then Houston, we’ve got a problem. I can’t tell you how many websites have text that looks good but I have no idea what they’re saying. They might as well have left the Lorem Ipsum text up there. Bottom line: If I have to read your website multiple times to figure out what you do, then you’re not communicating the right way.

It’s absolutely true: You can say a whole lot without saying anything at all. Your content must answer the central question: What do you do? You don’t need a whole lot of puffery mumbo jumbo. That only distracts from what you do. Keep it plain, direct and simple.

2. It’s written with no target audience in mind. Target audience? What’s that? Write with your audience in mind. Many websites that fail on this premise often have a lot of jargon. Jargon can *sometimes* be a good thing depending upon the audience, but not on a website that’s not aimed at that particular audience. Everyone won’t know your jargon. This is really a difficult point, because many times, content creators use the jargon to reflect their education and experience. It’s fine to use a little jargon, but within reason. Make it plain.

Always consider your website’s audience: Will your audience know what you’re saying? The problem, however, usually becomes that too much jargon is used on a website for the general public, not a specific audience.

The other problem is that a website begins to look a lot like alphabet soup — acronyms that no one knows what they mean, thrown all about willy-nilly, with crap that your average person just doesn’t understand. Don’t make reading your website harder than it has to be. Write it and then go through it with a jargon check, weeding out unnecessary jargon and lingo. If you can’t do it, ask someone else to do it for you.

3. There is no content strategy. Ah, content strategy. What a whole lot of folks try to implement AFTER the website is up, not before. It’s like building a house with no architectural renderings. Sure,  you’ll get a “house” but I’m not so sure if you’ll want to live in it.

Mention the words content strategy and you usually get this response: “Huh?” A website with no content strategy involved usually results in a site that is a mish mash of several departments; it’s what happens when IT, marketing, and business teams hash out a website. And you know, you can instantly tell, because the site is usually all over the place, with no clear messaging; it’s disorganized.

Now, all of those departments I just mentioned usually have different goals in mind. A content strategist’s sweet spot is building a site that reflects as many goals as possible AND making it understandable and a good user experience. Sometimes, that can butt heads with business, because all they know is the site has to get up, yesterday. And they really don’t care about content strategy anyway, as long as it’s up.

And that usually leads to a rush job, multiple iterations that follow, and all sorts of craziness ensues. Most websites start with a simple premise: to communicate online. But as we’ve all become more web savvy, there are pages that aren’t maintained, haven’t been updated in years, aren’t relevant anymore, and just need to go.

What started out as a “simple” website project in 1995 quickly morphs into a content beast with dormant pages that haven’t been updated in years. It’s easy to see how it all gets out of hand. But you’ve got to manage that content and have a strategy in place for it.

Just as you wouldn’t build a house without architectural renderings, don’t put up your website without content strategy. Pretty please?

4 Content Strategy Questions To Ask

Content strategy can make the difference between success and failure. Before you manage implementation, ask a few basic questions, realizing that your answers may change over time.

  • Who is your audience?
  • What type of content do they want to see?
  • What type of content is effective and resonates with your audience?
  • How will the site be built out?

Be honest with your answers.

Believe me when I tell you that there are websites with content that hasn’t been updated since 1995. And you can tell. If your client has had multiple iterations, migrations and failed website relaunches, you’re failing before you start if you don’t have content strategy. Even if all or none of that is true, you still need content strategy.

How do you tell if a client’s website sucks?

Tenisha Mercer is an SEO writer in Atlanta with content on page #1 of Google, Yahoo and Bing. She is a digital marketing expert, an Atlanta web content writer and SEO copywriter and social media expert in Atlanta who specializes in powerful, high-impact copywriting that clicks with customers.

Tenisha Mercer has led digital marketing, content strategy and produced and managed content for clients in health care, retail and technology, including the CDC, The Home Depot, Sears, GMAC, NCR, General Motors, 1-800-Flowers and small businesses around the country.

Contact her at info@MercerMediaGroup.com.


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