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Longform articles and information overload

     
12:01 pm on Sep 29, 2017 (gmt 0)

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System: The following 4 messages were cut out of thread at: https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4866125.htm [webmasterworld.com] by robert_charlton - 11:42 am on Sep 29, 2017 (PDT -8)

Mod's note: split off from "Sept 2017 Updates and SERP Changes" thread, as this is an important topic by itself.

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Maximum44 wrote...
There is such a thing as over-optimizing.


@Maximum44 - completely agree.

Plus, another problem that some content strategists and site owners face is that their definition of high quality content means lengthier and more information-packed articles on the subject matter. This is a misconception.

Let me tell you from personal experience of operating a site with millions of monthly visitors that lengthier and more information packed content could back fire.

There's what's called information overload for users. Readers are in a rush and have a short attention span. If we're boring them with long fluff content, that translates into poor user experience which eventually translates into Google measuring that.

It's all about providing quality content that's presented properly for the target audience.

We've had pieces which ranked well, but after a major overhaul of that article to where we thought we provided much more information for the user, we dropped in ranking for that particular KW.

Analyzing and looking back, it was just info stuffed beyond belief, it even bored me.

When the time comes to rewrite or update a piece, I am reluctant at first until we have a structural, presentational strategy in place first.

It's all about catering and accommodating to the reader which results in good user experience, translating in Brownie points with googles algo.

The goal is NOT to provide thin and weak content but not information overload either.


[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 7:52 pm (utc) on Sep 29, 2017]
[edit reason] tidying up new thread [/edit]

4:15 pm on Sept 29, 2017 (gmt 0)

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We've done very well with long form content and design it in such a way that we bring value to both types of users - those that want a quick answer and those that want in depth analysis, background, and tangential information. My writers take between 2 and 7 days to produce a single piece of content. Graphic designers also contribute. Sometimes we even require ad hoc tech work and even some consultation with UX. This means that a single piece of content costs a minimum of $1,000 to produce. The lengthier pieces, and those that require advanced graphics or tech work cost much more.

Spending up to 5 whole hours or even all days just isn't going to compete. And it isn't. In my vertical, which is extremely competitive, high quality content is the only way to compete. Everyone else is gone from page one and even page two. They'll never be back.I see more and more competitors that are beginning to wake up and smell the coffee. That's making things tougher for us. But our traffic and earnings keep rising year after year.

If you think you're going to compete by spending a few hours on individual pieces of content, you are not going to succeed. It's time to rethink your strategy and start investing in quality content. And if you think you're a great writer, but you keep writing and no one comes to read it, perhaps you're not as good a writer as you think you are.
5:21 pm on Sept 29, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@ Atomic

We find ourselves writing long form content, because that is the nature of the beast. Our products are technical in nature and require longer pieces because of the amount of components involved with each product. We make sure to always write in a way that is easy to understand, to cater to everyone. Mostly because the people who are coming in to read about it are the general public. No one else is getting this in depth with their reviews/comparisons etc. Daily we receive thanks and comments about our content being more in depth than anything they have found and that they appreciate it. I feel like this has to be a good thing, but always wonder if the content is too long. You just never know.

My question to you, you said that you cater to both types of users. People who want a quick answer and those who want something more in depth. Any suggestions for this? I find that breaking up the content, with headers and trying not to block too much content helps. We have a standard format we follow which helps for users that have viewed more than one page. We add table of contents to really long posts, but I have found that most people skip past them and prefer to scan. I am keeping an eye on them with hotjar, recording users interactions with our content. Would love any suggestions you have to help with user experience, which ultimately will help in the SERPS.
6:04 pm on Sept 29, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Any suggestions for this?


We give a short, succinct, simple answer (when possible) at the beginning of the content. Then we elaborate on it. A lot of our content can be complex and it's not always easy to manage a simple answer. But it usually is. Sometimes the answer is as simple as "yes" or "no" before we go on another 2,000 words or so explaining why. We considered using anchor text tables of contents, too. We also found that users like to scan. So, we do our best to make the content as scannable as possible. We also use hotjar to help us find what users are most interested in, where they bail, and where they convert.

We also obsess over readability scores, grade level, excessive passive sentences, interlinking, and load times. And lots more.

We also spend time redoing content, or at least improving it, when analytics hints that it could be lucrative. This gets pretty expensive, especially after spending so much effort to produce the first version. But selecting content that does pretty well and improving it based on input from hotjar, analytics, etc. can make it awesome. We don't always get it right, but spending quality time on our highest intent content almost always pays off.
9:17 pm on Sept 29, 2017 (gmt 0)

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My writers take between 2 and 7 days to produce a single piece of content

It usually takes me at least a month to write an article, if you count the time spent on research.

Most of my articles are betwen 1000 words and 2500 words. I've noticed that the longer articles tend to rank higher and get more traffic. But you shouldn't intentionally try for a certain length -- let that be determined naturally depending on the subject and the depth of treatment.
9:52 pm on Sept 29, 2017 (gmt 0)

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We also obsess over readability scores, grade level, excessive passive sentences, interlinking, and load times. And lots more.


Interesting, thank you for the tips. Loving the readability scores...haven't done anything with that.

As far as interlinking is concerned. Do you have a max number of links per 2000 words? Will you ever cap it or just let it flow naturally if other content is relevant and should be linked to?
10:36 pm on Sept 29, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I write as much or as little as the topic requires.

Hypothetical examples (not our subject area):

If I were describing how to make simple chocolate brownies without icing, the article would be fairly short.

If I were describing how to make a Dobostorte (a complicated cake with seven layers of sponge cake, filled with chocolate buttercream and topped with a layer of caramel), the article would be long. It might look like "information overload" to the casual reader, but it wouldn't be intended for casual readers.
6:21 am on Sept 30, 2017 (gmt 0)

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The article has to mean something FIRST. If 2+2=4 is the subject, don't belabor it. KISS. If it is astrophysics as applied to to your group sourced Rocket To Mars then a few more words might be involved.... but for the web, KISS. Content is key. Presentation moreso. Readability scores are important AS REGARDS the target audience.

It is the target audience which reigns large and in charge. If rocket scientists (proverbial above) are the market then College grqd gibberish is required. For all others 8th grade (middle school) is desired. And know the CASUAL user has the attention span of a gnat.

Tech writing is not the same as News. Entertainment is not the same as fiction (but close). politics is just a mess no matter what. Ecommerce is another category and most of that is cut and paste from mfgs. Long form, however, introduces another aspect of writing/creating: is it compelling? Can the reader freely engage with the content presented?

DOES IT HAVE A VOICE?

All the marks above mean nothing if the content, no matter how accurate, is a dreary thud for the reader. There's a reason why test group/early preview presentations are important. Know your niche, know your audience, test test test, spend on that side, not the creation side, to find what THEY liked and ultimately that will pay off in the serps (and your bottom line). Long content, in and of itself, means nothing if it has no intrinsic value FOR THE USER.

And thus your BRAND and AUTHORITY.
4:15 pm on Sept 30, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@SnowMan68

We have no target for links per #words. Our policy is to link were it feels appropriate, especially if a claim is made that requires citation internally or externally.

We also don't have much of a content requirement. That said, we have very few pages with fewer than 1,000 words. But we probably have a couple hundred that are close to 1,000 words. More than that would be inappropriate for certain types of content. For example, there are certain parts of the site that are intended to be consumed primarily by mobile users. Even so, we know that mobile users often spend a lot of time on 3,000 or so word articles. But, ff every one of our articles was 3,000 words, or even 2,000, we would not be successful. There are subjects there isn't much to say about. Our subject matter, however, is often complex and requires both explanation and examples.

And what Tangor said is absolutely correct, readability and almost everything else depends on the intended audience. If they're lawyers, the grade level can be 12th grade or even higher. Our audience is the general public, so we need to reach as wide an audience as possible.

He's also right about making sure the content is compelling. And we've found that not every writer is up to that challenge. When we look at how
each writer's content performs, patterns emerge. It becomes obvious that some writers stand out. These are the ones that get more work. We've been using contractors a long time and it's astonishing how few do good work.
6:43 pm on Sept 30, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Atomic -- Sounds to me like your site is a content farm.
7:06 pm on Sept 30, 2017 (gmt 0)

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How so? Our site has extremely high quality content. I recommend not judging what you have not seen.
7:42 pm on Sept 30, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Well from your description you appear to be using the same strategy and the same methods as a content farm.
7:47 pm on Sept 30, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Not running a content farm, I wouldn't know. From where I'm standing, I see myself as running a great website. How does my description fit the definition of "content farm"? Is it because we hired a couple contractors expert in a specific field to write less than 1% of our content? I guess I left out that most of our writing is done in-house.

Or it something else?
9:03 pm on Sept 30, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Well it appears that you're continually adding new content, hoping that it will bring in additional traffic. On my sites, once I've covered the subject to my satisfaction I stop writing new articles and begin planning my next site.
9:15 pm on Sept 30, 2017 (gmt 0)

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The topic of our website is both broad and specific. There is plenty to write about. More than we will ever be able to cover. There are so many pain points! Our content creation is actually quite thoughtful. This year we've only published approximately 20 pieces of content. Not because we ran out of subject matter, but because a few priorities changed. Next year, who knows?
10:43 pm on Sept 30, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I personally bounce off a long article I prefer the answer to be like code, short to the point and without the waffle.
11:08 pm on Sept 30, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I personally bounce off a long article I prefer the answer to be like code, short to the point and without the waffle

Lucky for us most of our visitors don't share your view. Also, some topics require a lot of information.
2:29 am on Oct 1, 2017 (gmt 0)

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We'd rather supply too much information than too little. (There are plenty of skimpy, shallow sites in our sector, so holding the reader's hand with step-by-step details can give us a competitive edge.)

Also, in-depth information isn't necessarily conveyed by text alone. Photos, drawings, and maps can mean the difference between "shallow" and "in depth," depending on the topic and the purpose of the page.
10:49 am on Oct 1, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@EditorialGuy

I noticed that you break your content up. So you have multiple pages for a guide. Is that something you have always done?