The internet provides opportunities in abundance.
- Normal people becoming celebrities.
- Blogs are the go-to ‘news’ resource.
- Websites as educational tools.
There’s no denying it’s an exciting time to be producing content, no matter what it is.
The rise of citizen journalism means anyone can have their voice, story or opinion heard. And while the internet serves as an incredible platform, it needs to be treated ethically. From social media posts and videos to blog articles and website content, anything you put out into the ‘world’ should be conscientiously produced.
We see it all too often. Websites with incorrect information and facts, or hyped videos that are just there to cause a stir. And while we’re all for a fun, mindless cat video, we’re talking more about providing accurate, information-rich content where people believe it to be true.
Like your website and articles, for example.
We live in an information age.
If you’re a content creator, you have power.
Alright, not some kind of superhero power, but influential, nonetheless. You’re able to change people’s perceptions and this is an extremely powerful thing. No matter what you’re creating for your audience, it’s your responsibility to publish high-quality content that’s truthful, accurate and digestible.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case with a lot of what you see online. But you can change this, by following timeless journalistic principles. Write as though you’re a journalist and your editor will scrutinise your work – asking for sources for all your facts and figures. Maybe, in this case, your editor is Google.
Write poorly, without validating information or sourcing it, and you’ll be penalised (through SEO). Journalism’s “essence is the discipline of verification”. Their job is to find and use outside sources, correctly.
Let’s say you’re writing an article about GMO food for your health blog. You find another website that has an interesting fact that you want to include, that you’re not 100% sure is correct. A journalist, committed to accuracy, would pick up the phone or write an email to the company. They’d find out where it was sourced from, instead of just regurgitating the information, in the hope that it’s correct.
While you don’t have the same obligations as a journalist in a newsroom, accuracy and originality is still important. Source and attribute direct quotations, conduct interviews, and craft your piece as ethically as you can. Always remember, truth and credibility go a long way online. You don’t need to resort to hypey content, just to get eyeballs on your piece.
The cool thing about investing time in checking facts and providing real (not reused) information is that Google loves it, too. And if Google likes you, your website jumps right up the ranks on, or closer to, page one.
So, what does Google want to see?
Sure, Google wants to see all the mandatories – keywords, engaging headlines, a clear introduction, and links to reputable resources. This is where your research comes in.
Google wants to see you solve the reader’s problem. Just like a journalistic piece has an arc to it, so does a blog. Oh, and a strong conclusion, of course!
While the way we consume information has changed, our expectations of what we’re reading haven’t – that all-important guiding principle of truth.
So, do your research, engage the reader from the start, talk to people, leaders, and always have your audience’s best interests at heart.