Why you should ensure the quality of your content

Introduction

Any self-respecting online business dreams of getting that number one position on Google for their chosen keywords. However with complicated and sometimes contradictory advice coming from all sides it’s hard to know where to begin and what to do. But take a close look at those pages that sit at the top of search engines as they have one thing in common: good writing. In this article we will stop thinking about the usual search engine optimisation techniques and concentrate on writing well.

We shall discuss the importance of writing well and some simple methods for ensuring your content is well-written and then move on to ways clever content-management systems can make your life easier.

Search engines’ good writing filters

Those pages that sit at the top of search engines have one thing in common: good writing.

Everybody knows that content is king. The more words, sentences, and pages on your site the more lovely content search engines attribute to you. And in the rush to fill your site with content your quality control may not be as thorough as it should. It might seem acceptable to miss a few spelling mistakes here and break a grammar rule there as long as you’re building your site up but there’s some bad news: search engines are checking pages for ‘good writing’.

Joel Walsh, head-writer at UpMarket Content, recently wrote an article entitled Google’s good writing content filter in which he writes how he was struck by the fact that the top-ranking web pages on Google are consistently much better written than the vast majority of what one reads on the web. After some experiments he concluded that Google is now giving more weight to those pages that are well written. If you want your site to climb to the top of search results your copy-writer needs to concentrate on writing well.

Ensuring your content is well-written

In his article, Walsh recommends having a professional writer — or at the very least someone who can tell good writing from bad — proof-read your copy. In Content brief, writer D. Keith Robinson recommends writing a formal content plan to define your roles and audience, schedule delivery, and give an overview of what’s expected. In a similar vein editor Amy Gahran has written a series of essays on using a content strategy (that is, what you intend to say and when and how to say it). Here, we will concentrate on the simple things: spelling and grammar.

Here, we will concentrate on the simple things: spelling and grammar.

Get into the habit of having someone check the spelling of any content you add to your site. Get into the habit of having someone check the grammar of any content you add to your site. These two rules are easy to follow and yet it’s clear from reading on the web that not everybody does.

The easiest way to follow these rules is to write your content first in Microsoft Word (or your favourite word processor); that way you can have your spelling and grammar checked automatically — although remember this is no replacement for having someone proof-read it. But wouldn’t it be much nicer if you could type into your web-based content-management system and have that spell-check everything for you? And offer suggestions for misspelled words? Welcome to the wonderful world of AJAX.

Asynchronous what now?

If you want to sound cool next time you’re chatting to some web developers (you want to sound cool in front of web developers, don’t you?), casually drop the acronym ‘AJAX‘ into conversation. Asynchronous Javascript and XML — AJAX for short — is the latest web buzz-word and is causing a great deal of excitement. It’s not an entirely new concept but during the last year some exciting applications have been created using AJAX: Google Maps, Google Suggest, Flickr, and script.aculo.us are among many. And what is it that’s causing so much attention? To quote Jesse James Garrett from AJAX: a new approach to web applications:

Desktop applications have a richness and responsiveness that has seemed out of reach on the Web. The same simplicity that enabled the Web’s rapid proliferation also creates a gap between the experiences we can provide and the experiences users can get from a desktop application.

That gap is closing. Take a look at Google Suggest. Watch the way the suggested terms update as you type, almost instantly. Now look at Google Maps. Zoom in. Use your cursor to grab the map and scroll around a bit. Again, everything happens almost instantly, with no waiting for pages to reload.

AJAX is a method which allows a browser to communicate with a server without having to reload an entire page. When you want to look farther north on a map from Google Maps, rather than clicking a ‘move north’ link that reloads the entire page (logo, navigation, images, copyright notice, and all) it simply sends a small request for the new sections of the map and pops them into the page. And where Google uses AJAX to draw maps dynamically we can use it to spell-check your content.

Making spell-checking your content easier

Here’s what happens: you sit looking at your browser, typing merrily away into your site’s web-based content-management system. Every time you finish typing a word a little bit of Javascript asks the browser to send the word to the server. The server checks the spelling of the word and sends a small message back to the browser to say whether the word is correctly spelled or not. Thanks to a little more Javascript your browser will tell you the word is misspelled (wavy underline anyone?). You can then click on the word to see a menu of possible correct spellings of the word. The menu of words is once again created by requesting suggestions from the server with a little Javascript.

Spell-checking in Gmail

Google’s Gmail includes on-the-fly spell-checking for email messages.

All these technical details should of course be transparent to you the content writer: if you’ve used Google’s Gmail you’ll have seen their spell-checker; this uses AJAX (yes, Google seems to be really into this AJAX stuff), albeit implemented slightly differently from the method above. Other implementations can be found in Emil A. Eklund’s Rich Text Spell Checker and Broken Notebook’s spell checker, while we at Mercurytide are busy adding a spell-checker into our own content-management system. And keep your eyes peeled for the first AJAX-based grammar checker.

Summary

In this paper we have seen that improvements in search engines’ indexing techniques mean good writing is more important than ever. We have discussed methods for assuring the quality of your site’s content ranging from simple spelling- and grammar-checking up to formal content plans. Finally we mentioned a new methodology in web design under the moniker ‘AJAX‘, and discussed how content-management systems can use it to offer a better service.

References

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Mercurytide is a forward thinking, dynamic, and innovative Internet applications development company. We are well-established with a proven track-record within the industry of attracting blue chip clients from around the world. We produce regular white papers on a variety of technology-orientated topics. For more details see the Mercurytide website.

 


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