In 2001, I trained for and ran my very first marathon.
I had just moved to Chicago from Kansas City and didn’t know a soul.
The people I worked with were great colleagues, but I didn’t have a lot in common with them outside of the office.
I needed to make friends and I thought the best way to do that was to take up a sport that would require me to spend a lot of time with groups of people.
I joined Chicago Area Runners Association and, every Saturday during our long runs, I made some really good friends.
I trained with them for my second and third marathons (and all of the shorter races in between) and even convinced some to switch to cycling with me (I really hated running).
When I switched to cycling, I went from running marathons to riding centuries (100 mile bike rides) and doing many other kinds of races, such as criterions, time trials, and even racing on the velodrome track.
The training for long races is the same, no matter which sport you compete in. I ride every single day—between 20 and 40 miles—and those rides lead up to one or two long weekend rides (75-100 miles or more) and a few races each month. In season, I can easily ride 300 miles in a week. It’s A LOT of time on the bike, but it prepares me to not just race, but do really well in it.
But here’s the thing: You can’t go out and run a marathon or ride a century without training.
I know some people think they can, but it’s humanly impossible.
There has to be some sort of training that builds your body up to be able to withstand the abuse it will take during long-distance races.
Search engine optimization works the very same way.
If you want to always be safe from changes Google makes to their algorithms, the only way to do it is through really good content.
You have to have a marathon mentality.
What Constitutes High-Quality Content?
If you’re having trouble creating high-quality content, there are questions you can ask yourself to help.
These questions will serve as your guide during the rough days….during your long runs or rides, so to speak.
As you work through the list, ask yourself one very important question: Why is it that we all hate spam, self-serving newsletters, and the “me, me, me” found on most websites—but when we get to work and sit at our desks, we create the exact stuff that drives us crazy personally?
Maybe it’s because our bosses want it that way or, if you are the boss, you don’t know of any other way to do it.
After all, people do it, so it must work, right?
No! It doesn’t work. And Google will not love you if you continue this practice.
As you’re creating your content—blog posts, articles, website copy, eBooks, white papers, newsletters, podcasts, videos, brochures, case studies—ask yourself the following questions, suggested by Google guidelines:
- If you received the information presented in the article, blog post, or email, would you trust it?
- Is this something you would bookmark and share with your friends, peers, and colleagues?
- Is the content written by an expert inside your organization, or is it written by someone without any experience or expertise?
- Do you respect the author’s opinion—even if you disagree with it?
- Does your site have content that is similar? If so, is the new content so similar that Google won’t be able to tell the difference?
- Has the content been edited? Is it free of typos and spelling and grammatical errors? Is it factually correct?
- Is the topic interesting to your customers and prospects? Does it help them better understand how to use your product? Are you giving them something to help them in their jobs? Are you making their lives easier?
- Does the content provide original thinking? Even if you are using something in the news to tie back to what you do, does it have your own opinion included?
- Have you done a search for your topic or keywords? Does your content provide substantial value when compared with the content that comes up in search results?
- Is your site recognized as an authority on the topic?
- Is the content solely yours?
- Does the content provide a complete description of the topic?
- Does the content provide insight, analysis, or other interesting information that is different than what others are producing?
- Would you expect to see this content in an encyclopedia, magazine, or book?
- Is it easy to read, with subheads, bullet points, or lists to help people easily scan?
A good rule of thumb is: If you don’t want to bookmark it and share it, no one else will, either.
The biggest challenge with ethical and valuable content creation is simple ignorance: Many of us don’t know how to do it, so it’s easy to slip into just getting it “done” and off your task list. While this wouldn’t have hurt you in the past, it will now.
Yes, it is harder to produce interesting and valuable content. But, much like a marathon and the training involved, it pays off in the end.
Sure, you may hit the proverbial wall, but if you push through it and your competitor does not, you’ll win every time.
Set your timer for 30 minutes and pull out your editorial calendar.
If you don’t have one, jot down five topics you’re going to cover in the next month.
Now go through each of the five topics and answer the questions above.
If you answer no to any of the questions, you’re going to need to revise your topic.
You may even have to debate with colleagues (or, worse, a boss) about how to change the content to get a yes to all of the questions.
Once you have a yes to every question for five topics, you’re ready for Monday’s assignment.
Set your timer and go!
The Scavenger Hunt
If you are participating in the Spin Sucks scavenger hunt, today you will visit Martin Waxman’s blog.
We chose him for today because it is his birthday.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARTIN!!
(Lots of February birthdays around these parts.)
The secret word is in his blog post, “Why Do So Many People Suck at Communications?”
Just write down the secret word in Martin’s box on your scavenger hunt card (if you don’t have a card, download it here).
We have eight more days—through March 3—so keep playing along.
And don’t forget…if you buy a copy of Spin Sucks between now and March 8, we’ll send you a fun package full of goodies to use in your office.
Just email the receipt to [email protected]. Please include your mailing address so we know where to send the package.
Now get to work! Thirty minutes. Go!
image: This is the last medal I received from running marathons.