As a writer, I have been plagued with friends and family who say things like “Oh, you write…I could do that.” I’ve observed on a few occasions that people don’t say this kind of thing to doctors or engineers, but as a writer I am regularly told that what I do isn’t special. That anyone can write. Except that I have read the email messages, letters, and notes from these very same friends and family members, and I can assure you that most of them cannot write professionally. It is a skill set, and just like learning to read the signs of illness in a patient, it takes time to develop these skills to a professional level. Anyone can learn, but not everyone has put the time and effort into honing these skills.
It seems that there is some discussion in the world of website writing and online marketing over the quality of writing and whether it matters to Google now or will matter in the near future. This week, Chris Silver Smith wrote an article called “Google Penalty for Low-Quality Writing?” about just this issue. Chris has been writing about Google’s tools, including their usability testing and page speed diagnostics, and their ranking factors, including page speed and “shifting some ranking factor weighting from keyword relevancy to quality criteria”. It’s no surprise that he is interested in the quality of web writing and how that can affect rankings.
There are ways to cheap out on web writing. In this industry, we all know about those ways. Many of them are primarily relegated to spammers, who often steal content and insert random keywords into text. If you’ve stumbled upon a site that sounds like pure nonsense, likely it falls into this category. However, some business owners want fast, cheap labour and are either not willing to pay for quality writing or just do not see the value in it. Chris Silver Smith points out that some of these companies “resort to copy writing companies that outsource article assignments to third-world countries. Poorly-educated writers result in terrible grammar and bad spelling. And, foreign companies sometimes hire bad translators to convert their pages for English readers.” It’s clear that there is an abundance of poor writing on the web.
However, we still wonder whether or not Google is ranking or will rank based on the quality of website writing. At the moment, we just don’t know, but considering the ongoing development of Google’s ranking strategy, it isn’t a big leap to see writing quality becoming a ranking criteria in the near future.
Beyond ranking factors, I’ve written before about how certain factors can alienate prospective clients from your site: including writing for the wrong audience, having broken links, and utilizing a poor search solution. The harder it is to get your message across, the harder it is to keep your clients on your site. Good writing will engage your clients, impress them, and get them the information they need quickly. Good writing makes good business sense.