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A Publisher’s Magic Ingredient: Content That Adds Value

Ryan Rakover, August 17, 2021


Whether you’re launching a new website or looking for ways to optimize an existing one, think of yourself as a chef because that analogy will serve you well. Your website is the plate, and each piece of content is an item of food placed on the plate.

Chefs understand that experience is everything for a customer, and judgments begin as soon as someone steps into a restaurant. People eat with their eyes first, so plates need to look appealing. Then, as diners take bite after bite, all the ingredients need to meld together and dance on the palette. A website is the same. Visitors start to assess the site as soon as they land on the page, taking in visual information and content.

While many publishers start out like chefs, crafting their content with great care, they often get bogged down and derailed by monetization opportunities, ad stacks that don’t perform, outdated roadmaps, and more. Don’t get us wrong – you’re running a business, and that business needs to make money. But without high-performing content that attracts loyal readers, all of those efforts are about as valuable as an overcooked piece of Kobe beef. It’s time to rethink the fundamental pillars of content so you can whip up articles that readers want to consume.

In this post, we’ll explore all of the elements that you need to mix together to produce irresistible content that builds trust with your audience and establishes you as a reliable, go-to source in an era of fake news and misinformation.

The Perfect Content Recipe

You have one chance to make a first impression, so executing on both design and user experience is paramount. That means you need to pay special attention to the look and feel of your content and the user journey.

Users will either arrive at your site directly because they’re familiar with your brand or because they were sent there from a search result or ad. The first audience already trusts you but expects you to consistently deliver a great experience. The second group is more fragile and needs to determine how trustworthy you are. What makes both of these groups stick around? The same things.

The Appetizers: URLs, Dates, and Authors

Choosing the right URL is critical. While a ‘.com’ is still king, you may not find one that matches your publication name. In that case, look for other top-level domains (such as ‘.co’ or ‘.biz’), industry-specific options (‘.realestate’ or ‘.travel’), or geolocation (‘.uk’ or ‘.eu’). You can also look at some less common endings that can be built into your brand name, as Visual.ly did.

Like food, fresh or recent dates on blog posts is always preferable. A Shout Me Loud case study showed that blog posts with dates enhanced the user experience but older dates negatively impacted keyword ranking and traffic when displayed in Google’s SERP. Satisfy user needs and improve search results by showing dates on posts but hiding them from search engines. If you produce evergreen content, make sure to continually refresh pages with new content and add a ‘last updated’ date.

Authenticity and authority are important indicators for your readers and Google’s algorithm to determine your content’s value. Including the author’s name at the beginning of an article helps establish credibility immediately. Chefs use this technique to attract visitors to new restaurants all the time – a reservation at Bobby Flay Steak, anyone?

The Main Course: Headers, Content, and Sources

People have short attention spans, so content needs to be easy to scan for those looking for a quick info fix and well organized for those who want to savor the article. Make sure you use a clean, easy-to-read font and have accessibility options. Use headers to divide content sections and keep paragraphs short.

The content should be well written, error-free, and laid out in an attractive design; otherwise, you’ll reduce your respectability. If ad content disrupts the user experience, it’ll be another strike against you. Above all, make sure the ‘meat’ of your content matches the title. Nothing makes a user bounce or become more frustrated than a user feeling like they’ve landed on clickbait that didn’t deliver the information promised.

Articles should include clear and accessible links to reputable sources, especially when quoting statistics or referencing research. High authority links improve SEO, show readers you’re well-versed and aligned with industry leaders, and gives them the option to explore topics in more depth, which they will appreciate. If you have related content pieces already published on your site, include links to those pieces as well.

The Dessert: Author Bios, Related Content

Naming the author at the beginning of the post is a must, but you should also include a more in-depth author bio box after the article. This allows the author to demonstrate their expertise and background, providing your audience with additional insights into who’s sharing information, further boosting trust.

If a user reaches the end of an article, you’ve already captured their attention, and it’s the perfect time to suggest related content. Recommend other stories they might be interested in to increase their engagement or mix it up with ad content from other sites to increase your monetization efforts.

The Doggie Bag: A Final Thought

In a world where everyone approaches the ‘new’ with a high level of skepticism, you need to win over first-time users and turn them into brand loyalists. Do that by giving them amazing content and an excellent user experience.

Routinely revisit your site with fresh eyes and take an objective look at how your site feels to a new user. Consider how easily a visitor could navigate the site. Think about whether the content is relevant to your audience and provides the answers they are seeking.

If all of those elements are on track, then you’ve prioritized your readers, and it’s time to dig into your monetization efforts. Evaluate your ad placements and see if they are disruptive or cause content to shift, disturbing visitors. Finally, think about whether you could be using different ad formats or monetization partners and platforms to maximize your revenue. Follow all these steps, and you’ll set yourself up for a five-star review.

Publisher Takeaways 

  1. Original engaging content should be a top priority. Providing value-added content and information is the number one way to organically increase your traffic, build your brand reputation and solidify trust levels in the face of the fake news era.
  2. The user-first experience is second only to content and should take precedent over monetization. If you offer a poor user experience, not only will you be penalized by Google’s newest algorithm update but you’ll also lose the ability to attract and retain readers.
  3.  Monetize properly and appropriately. Once you are producing the right content and have optimized the user experience, then focus on monetization efforts and ensure you are using the best placements, formats, ad stacks, and partners.

Ryan Rakover is the head of our Trust and Safety efforts at Total Media. One of the things Ryan enjoys the most in his role as a Publisher’s strategic partner is the challenge of bringing policy from a place of rules and standards to delivering solutions to clients to improve their client’s bottom line. Find Ryan on LinkedIn or reach him by email at ryan(at)totalmediasolutions(dot)com.