Since the arrival of Google's Panda update in February 2012, content writers have been working hard to do the right thing, and either avoid being mauled by the Panda or mend the damage already done on their websites.
To be sure you doing things right, you not only have to follow best content practices, but also need to avoid some of the bad habits which are so easy to slip into.
Here are four of those habits and how to avoid the pitfalls of bad written website content.
Bad Habit #1: Making it just good enough
As web content writers we are often under pressure to get more work done, faster. This means we often end up writing just enough text for a page, with a quality that is just good enough.
This shouldn't be so surprising, because the math of content creation is pretty simple. A 1,000 word page will take about twice as long to write as a 500 word page. One way or another, the longer page will also cost twice as much.
The trouble is, Panda has pretty much put the last nail in the coffin of the "quantity wins" strategy.
Too many low-quality pages will not only mean those pages will rarely make it to page one of the Google page results. They will also drag down the listings of any high-quality pages you might write.
In other words, the winning strategy today is to write all your pages in high quality content.
Bad Habit #2: Writing just for the search engines
Old habits die hard. For over a decade we have been writing online content with a view to attracting organic traffic from Google, Bing, and Yahoo! This has meant identifying keywords with reasonable demand and limited supply, and then creating pages which are highly optimized for those keywords.
This is still something we should be doing. But we now have to be a lot more careful about how we do it.
First off, simply optimizing a page for organic search alone is not enough. The page also has to be original, engaging, and useful.
Second, social signals are playing more and more of a role in search engine algorithms. The stronger the social signals, the bigger the lift in the search results.
This means that you not only have to write content that is optimized, but you also have to write it so it will be shared as widely as possible through social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and more.
Creating shareable content will come naturally if you are focused on writing truly high quality content for your readers. But that isn't the case if you are focused primarily on simply optimizing pages for various keywords.
In other words, you have to adjust your approach to optimizing your pages. To get high listings in the search results, you not only have to optimize for your chosen keyword, but you also have to optimize for social media.
Bad Habit #3: Just remixing what's already out there
This habit is a close cousin to creating content that is "just good enough."
Sometimes we will come up with a page topic, do some competitive research, find out what others have written, and then remix what we find into a new page.
In a sense, there is nothing much wrong with this. After all, it is very rare to find a page topic about which nobody has written about before. Also, if a subject is topical, people want to read to more about it.
The key here is to understand the difference between a low value remix and a high value remix.
A low-value remix is when you find yourself just rewriting what others have already written. You take what they wrote, and just rewrite it in your own words.
A high-value remix is when you see what others have written, and then write a new page which adds more information and/or more value. This might mean digging up some new information. Or interviewing someone on the subject and inserting your own, personal take on the topic, adding a video, or images, or a slide show.
One way or another, when you remix, be sure you are creating quality, adding more value and delivering something that is original and unique.
Bad Habit #4: Creating all your pages with just text
Again, this habit overlaps with the "just good enough" habit.
It is easier, faster and cheaper to create text-only pages. Writing a page of content can be done in an hour or less.
But once again, you are under-delivering. Wouldn't that page be better is it included a multi-media element – like a photo, a video, an infographic, or a slide show?
Sure, it takes longer to create a page that way. It will probably cost more too. But the outcome is a quality page that will stand head and shoulders above other sites' text-only pages.
As a result, your page will likely rise higher in the search results, and will be shared more widely and enthusiastically across social media.
Summing it all up
There's lazy content and there's quality content.
Until quite recently, one could get away with lazy content. That's why content farms did so well. They published thousands of "just good enough" pages and made money hand over fist.
But in a post-Panda world, you can't get away with that any more.
Now, if you want to win, you not only have to follow best content practices, but you also have to recognize and discard your bad content habits.