The changing face of bad content: 12 traps to avoid

Google's focus on quality has driven up editorial standards in recent years. But, post-Panda, bad content lingers on – from flimsy blog posts to automated social media. Are you guilty of any of these content traps?

 The changing face of bad content: 12 traps to avoid

Google’s focus on content quality has driven up the web’s editorial standards in recent years. But, post-Hummingbird, bad content lingers on –disguised within bumbling blog posts and inane social media comments. Here’s a checklist of some content nasties to unmask and avoid…

We all know that today’s content-led marketing world is placing an ever-greater emphasis on quality. Google is looking more and more to reward content that is original, informative, accurate, relevant, authoritative and engaging – to give searchers more of what they want and in effect drive up the editorial standards of the internet as a whole.

This means, of course, that when it comes to good content the bar has been significantly raised. But it also means that our perception of what makes for ‘bad content’ needs to be revised, too.

Not so long ago, it was obvious what bad content was. It was full of typos, it came as a great impenetrable slab of text, and likely as not it was stuffed with irrelevant keywords. It was the sort of content that didn’t so much ignore the reader as defy them to derive any use from it at all.  

No self-respecting content owner can get away with that sort of stuff any more, but that’s not to say bad content has gone away. It’s simply dressed itself up a bit, found ways to present itself as useful or superficially informative or entertaining. But when the user looks beyond that plausible exterior, they quickly see there’s nothing there for them.

Have you genuinely upgraded the quality of your content? Or are you guilty of creating or publishing examples of the new bad content? Here are 12 types to avoid…

1. The rehash

Content that simply repurposes someone else’s information, without adding any extra editorial value (and sometimes without even understanding the original information).

2. The vanity project

Content that dresses itself up as useful or informative, but on closer inspection turns out just to be a glorified guide to your products and services.

3. The tenuous hook

Halloween is here – but have you protected your home against the ghoulish prospect of subsidence? Believe it or not, not every national holiday is a content opportunity for your business.

4. The idea stretched to breaking point

You’ve got an interesting thought – enough for a decent tweet or a single blog post. But you’re feeling the pressure to feed the Google beast, so you pad it out into a 50-page e-book or a 12-post series.

5. The me-too approach

A rival has done something clever with their content – an infographic or tool perhaps. So you basically do the same thing – only slightly cheaper, slightly more rushed… and rather more pointless.

6. The print repurpose

You’ve got a load of print material. Someone has suggested it would be useful to post it online. So you do – just as it is, all gloriously unscannable, unusuable, non-findable 27 pages of it.

7. The triumph of platform over substance

The boss wants a YouTube channel. Or a Pinterest page. Or an infographic. You haven’t really got the time or resource to think this through properly, but never mind you can create some dedicated content by bodging something together instead…

8. The mindless mash-up

Let’s say everything we’ve got to say – everywhere! You end up with duplicate content on social channels without good reason – eg auto-posted fragments to Twitter from Facebook, or vice versa – with no sense of what the channel’s for, how it maps to your goals, or who might be reading what where.

9. The 800lb gorilla content project

Secretly, no one really understands why anyone could possibly want to read the ceo’s weekly thought-leadership sermon. But do you want to be the one to break the news?

10. The tonal showboat

Ok, so our customer-service FAQs / email newsletters / About us section don’t really make any sense. But check out the tone of voice, baby!

11. Low-quality sponsored links

When advertisers pay to link from your content, they’ll often be offering up their own articles. But are they any good? Links to articles entitled ‘An old trick for losing weight’ or ‘Abs in 5 minutes flat’ will take the shine off even your most brilliant content efforts.

12. The love-in post

Someone posts to their blog about something great you’ve done – so you post something gushing about them right back. And er, that’s it.