Relevance: the coming content crisis

It’s a funny thing how a problem designed to deal with too much information has a solution that encourages people to create even more information.

I can’t even find things in my own e-mail box without search any more. There is so much to read and so much to hold on to that attempts to file things and create order are becoming futile. Search has become most people’s solution to this problem.

But it creates its own problems. Search engines want people to look at sponsored/promoted/paid content, so that they can make money. You become the search engine of choice by having relevant results. Search engines determine relevance in complicated algorithms that are patented, which means that people can look at/deconstruct them if they want. (For information straight from someone who does this for a living, check out Bill Slawski’s SEO by the Sea)

So what makes a site rank in search? First, it is not annoying technically. It loads fast, the links all work, it has a clear sense of hierarchy, etc. It has gravitas. It’s been around for a while and other people find it valuable. And it’s not old news – information is updated regularly. This is a pretty grand oversimplification, but it works for now.

So if you want to sell massages, or widgets or cupcakes, and you want people to find YOUR massages or widgets or cupcakes when they search, you have to play by those rules. Or you can buy advertising, but that’s a different post.

The gravitas and freshness come from creating new, relevant content regularly, and then using other marketing paths like social media and e-mail marketing to get people to look at and hopefully share that content. So we find more demand for content to be produced to succeed in being found, but a diluted demand for content by the readers. What’s a writer to do? Remember to put relevance first.

People look at and share what’s relevant.

Here’s some things to get you started.

@ScentTrail new piece on content that resonates beyond your immediate network. Tip 2 is especially good.

Writing Commons piece on expectations of different kinds of audiences. A very nice breakdown of how different kinds of readers assess a text.


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