In 2011, I’ve finally embraced the rule that less is more. Unfortunately, that’s a bit of a challenge for my day job.
As a doctoral student, it’s natural to be verbose when your 80,000 word target seems a long way off. Now that this pressure has relaxed, I’ve realised the pleasure in shedding words.
For a trip to Geneva in October, I compressed a 25,000 word into a 5,000 word conference paper. The extract here on Upon Appleton House represented a 40% trim on the original and read much better for it. I’ve learnt to edit – and not before time.
I want my own page to represent a benchmark for thoughtful writing. If it takes a week or a month to make the right statement, then so be it.
Among the polarising forces is my current day job, a large part of which is to churn out SEO news content.
It’s not all lost hope. Since replacing a mass-content agency, Adfero, I’ve made some key changes.
Some are rudimentary, such as adding integrated calls-to-action. That was a shocking omission that needed rectifying.
Some are more ideological, such as making material more relevant and less mercantile. It’s important to appeal to consumer behaviour. Cold hard links are not going to sell credit cards.
Everyone who applies for a card on our site, I imagine, is thinking in the back of their heads:
Why am I not doing this on Moneysupermarket/Meerkat/GoCompare, etc? Popularity equals authority equals trust.
There are too many established competitors now to make inroads without expertise, personality, and credentials. Bulk agency content isn’t geared towards that.
Quality news writing is surprisingly difficult. We’re told that ‘practice makes perfect’, but if you practise being crap at something, you might well become expertly crap at it. Writing falls into this category.
Recently, I was tasked with sorting out the site text on certain high-profile landing pages. My first move was to trim 1,100 words down to 400 and turn a rather tacky gimmick into an FAQ and a Glossary.
‘Much better’, thinks I. ‘Not so’, thinks the boss. He’s more concerned about SEO losses that may result from less deadweight text. I’m now having to build it all back up again.
Looking at competitors, Moneysupermarket’s equivalent page has 350 words, while a site of equivalent market share to ours (but better Google rankings) has about 1,200 words. It’s painful reading and not pretty, but it does a job.
I see why you would want to emulate close rivals, but word count alone is clearly inconclusive. It’s a crying shame that we’ve come to believe in excess just for the sheer hell of it.
I’m just not giving up on the quality principle. I’m better than a hack, as I chip away at less than half the daily rate I’ve worked at before for smaller sites. But it’s an ongoing challenge. SEO is currently an ugly sport, especially in the heavily competitive market for financial products. And isn’t it always messy, getting to the top?
The sites that really earn their keep – excluding those with an endless budget for Google – are those with content masters and excellent whitewash, hiding all the signs