Less Writing, Higher Quality

Value Blogging is In

Brian Clark recently highlighted that while valuable blogs continue to gain traction, the bloggers who were only popular because they were early are seeing diminished traffic and are fading in relevancy.
It makes sense that many of the original bloggers would fade because blogging about oneself is narcissistic and highly irrelevant to most readers, while blogging about technology and the web is quite easy, and there are thousands of people doing it.

What Makes Content Valuable?

The difference between value and non-value content is how unique the content and thoughts are, and how actionable the content is. If everyone else reads the same channels you and I do then us posting about their information has little value. In an ironic twist, that is one likely reason this is a low value post.

The Importance of Formatting & Framing

Almost all content ideas are recycled. The key is to target your message to an audience and format your message in a way that gives you credit as being the thought leader who came up with it. Jakob Nielson continued his (well structured) rants against blogging with Write Articles, Not Blog Postings. He didn't have to call thin low value information blog posts, but he did to help target his message at bloggers and have them spread his message.

Information Pollution

From Jakob's article

Even if you're the world's top expert, your worst posting will be below average, which will negatively impact on your brand equity. If you do start a blog despite my advice, at least screen your postings: wait an hour or two, then reread your comments and avoid uploading any that are average or poor. (Even average content undermines your brand. Don't contribute to information pollution by posting material that isn't above the average of other people's writings.)

The best channels, the ones worth paying attention to, filter. They are valuable as much for what they DON'T publish as they are for what they do publish. If you have an ad supported business model then information pollution is an effective means to increase profit margins, but if you sell consulting and/or content a different approach is required:

Elite, expertise-driven sites are the exception to the rule. For these sites, you don't care about 90% of users, because they want a lower level of quality than you provide and they'll never pay for your services. People looking for the quick hit and free advice are not your customers. Let them eat cake; let them read Wikipedia.

The reason TropicalSEO is so good is that Andy only publishes every once in a while. If you publish everyday eventually you run out of stuff to say. Blogging is just like writing songs or books. Each writer only has so much in them before they have to take a break to gather their thoughts and find more material to write about.

Jakob also mentioned that by writing longer articles that you create content which is not only of greater value, but hard to duplicate. It is why my book is read more frequently than my best blog posts, and part of what makes writing 20 page articles fun and worthwhile .

Are New Bloggers Experts?

I think we are all experts at things we have experienced, but any field worth being in takes a while to become an expert. To become a publicly recognized expert you have to

  • garner attention and keep it

  • develop many social and business relationships
  • build a personal brand
  • have thick skin

The hard part about writing in depth stuff when you are new to a market is that if you are still learning there is little upside to trying to write beyond your knowledge level. When I did that people took time out of their day to email me reminding me of what a horrible human being I am. I still get some of that.

A better approach to getting traction for a new blog is to add an element of social interaction to it, leveraging the brand and reach of others. Awards, interviews, and contests work great. After you get a bit of attention make sure to follow that up with some higher value content to turn one time readers into subscribers. It is hard to imagine a blog market more saturated than SEO, and yet in 3 weeks Patrick Altoft built 10,000 links.

How to Lose Relevancy

One can talk about the current hot memes, like Squidoo spam is right now, but ultimately nobody cares to read 31,843 people blogging about Terry Semel stepping down. The only way to build a brand talking up memes is to be the person who started the meme, or have such influence that you can re-frame the meme and gain ownership of it.

Deleting Garbage

As content quality improves short me too posts end up costing more than what they are worth. I have known of people who deleted a year and a half of archives because it wasn't worth the link equity the content was wasting, when it could be spread across higher value content.

The threshold for usefulness will continue to increase as more content is available online in richer and more interactive formats.

When Garbage Content is an Effective Monetization Strategy

Internet marketing advice is rarely universally useful. Here are 3 cases where low value information pollution is an effective strategy:

  • If you are in a market full of garbage it is not hard to beat it by being slightly different and then bolting a bit of linkbait onto it. In many consumer finance markets just rewriting the affiliate feed is all you need to start getting traction.

  • If you have an older authoritative site and are not effectively monetizing it you can add a related offer sections.
  • If you are a blog or a media website that regularly publishes news you can backdate commercially oriented posts or publish special advertisement sections without adding noise to your main channel (blog, newsletter, RSS feed, homepage, etc).
Published: July 10, 2007

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Comments

Paul Montwill
July 10, 2007 - 12:54pm

You realize very quickly after starting a blog how difficult it is to offer a good value content, especially if you want to attract attention of serious readers. In the beginning you compare your posts with the ones you find on the authoritative blogs and then you ask yourself "Shall I still do it?". Thanks for your advices, Aaron. They are useful in improving.

Running a 'serious' blog is not for kids, you know...

Vinny
July 10, 2007 - 3:45pm

Aaron, although this post of yours was yet another one of many similar posts I really took a lot away from what you provided here. I have found that it is very difficult to provide breaking news or interesting spins on news and information and that it is completely possible to regurgitate what hundreds of people already write about as long as the writing is good. I have found that really good writing actually makes a huge difference as opposed to just being the first to rephrase what someone else has already stated.

Always looking for ways to improve, so thank you...

Khalid Hajsaleh
July 10, 2007 - 5:07pm

I think that is what makes blogging more challanging nowadays. I read about 50 different blogs on daily basis. After doing this for the last year or so, I come to accept that it is rare to read any new information. The only new thing would either relate to some news story or some data analysis. And while everyone talks about content, it is very difficult to come up with unique content. And assuming that you are able to come up with that unique content, you sill face chllanges of marketing it if you have not built a brand name for yourself.

Aaron
July 10, 2007 - 6:57pm

Thanks for the solid post. I almost always think less is more. Write your article as cleanly as possible and then edit it and remove unnecessary content.

BTW, isn't ironic that your post about writing less is actually kind of long.

Blake K
July 10, 2007 - 7:14pm

I am really agonizing over whether to separate out a 'real' blog when your entire (commercial) site is on a blog platform. A separate blog seems easier to get links to, get conversations on, etc., not to mention the problem of getting a blog-only RSS feed to your readers.

A few of the downsides are splitting your valuable content across two domains, plus, the commercial site would have all kinds of monetizing programming and advertising relationships the separate blog would lack. Anyone deal with this/ lean either way?

SEO Practices
July 10, 2007 - 7:20pm

Aaron, I think it has to do with the moment and purpose of the Blog. I'm an SEO Beginner and also English isn't my first language. I have a Blog about SEO and the main purpose of it is to learn SEO and practice English, but at the same time I found I could share all the good resources I'm finding with other SEO newbies.

adam libman
July 10, 2007 - 7:34pm

less writing, higher quality....does that explain why the last post was on July 7. I hope you continue to write daily as I get a lot of valuable information. I know others do!

Paris Roussos
July 10, 2007 - 8:32pm

Good post Aaron. What is really needed is a collaborative platform that makes sense and where one can read expert input with less duplication and more direction and purpose to the flow of questions and how each new insight effects it all. I'm working on a framework behind this but it isn't easy. For example, we have such a divide between left and right, but no useful platform that facilitates a constructive flow and resolve. The web of value that will sit over the sea of ideas is something that will have to deal beyond algorithms and semantics to a real understanding structure. Its great to read separate blogs, but I think a better model is going to emerge. I haven't got my mind around it yet, but perhaps someone will.

Hamlet Batista
July 10, 2007 - 10:59pm

Aaron,

The main problem right now is that most bloggers look at other blogs for inspiration. It is hard to come up with new ideas if we all go to the same source.

I've been blogging for almost two months about SEO and many of my readers say they have found a thing or two that they didn't know about.

The key is to listen to the problems of the people around you. Share your experiences. Everyone's experience is unique and different.

I personally have a page full of titles of topics to explore in future posts. Every comment, every question, every book, every post I read is an idea I can use to build on.

Jason Kemp
July 12, 2007 - 5:29am

A timely post - less is always more.

Malcolm Gladwell has a theory about it taking 10,000 hours to get to mastery in a subject. I think it also takes extra time to be able to add valkue to that in a directed conversation that is engaging and advances the debate.

I wrote about this at

http://www.dialogcrm.com/blog/2007/07/03/the-10000-hours-rule/

massa
July 14, 2007 - 5:21pm

Small words spoken in truth can sway the minds of nations.

but I don't care who you are, keep talking long enough and you'll say something really stupid. It takes some more time than others.

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