The world wide web is still dominated by content on websites though audio and video content have come to stay. There is no sign of textual content and its importance dissipating in the eyes of search engines in the future.
There is a crying need for unique quality content nowadays. Copywriters are in demand and I have come across cases where journalists in leading dailies and magazines have kicked their full time jobs and taken to writing content for the web. But the uniqueness of the content has come under the scrutiny of the major search engines.
What exactly is unique content?
In one of his Whiteboard Fridays, Rand talks about uniqueness of content and the way content can be categorised into 3 major types. He cites the example of a search in the travel industry which throws up very similar results on the top results in the SERPs.
Most of the content is from the same source of User Generated Content (UGC). From the user experience perspective, the content on the sites are almost the same leading to a stalemate. This is where fresh updated unique content can surcharge the user’s energies and rev up her interest in the product or service she is looking for.
By unique content, it is not just laying out content in correct grammatical form in a unique style to escape the content duplication filter of major search engines. It is the inherent value of the content itself and the ideas portrayed therein that makes the content unique.
If you are an expert in a certain industry and you have worked in the trenches and have a lot of knowledge of the inner workings of the industry, then the ideas expressed and the tone and quality of your content will show that you are indeed a domain expert.
This is most importantly recognised by other users who can clearly decipher you are indeed an expert. This is reflected by a spike in the visitors to your blog to read your posts and the increase in subscribers to your blog feed.
If you state clearly in your article or post that the content is free to be circulated provided there is a credit at the bottom through a link back to your site, the merit of your content will ensure that it gets circulated well and truly over the cybersphere.
It is common to find, especially in the field of affiliate marketing, site owners who have no clue of the specific niche the product is in, getting content creation outsourced to create an ebook or articles with its variations which in turn are used for promotion to gain inbound links and ultimately sales. The lower the costs of outsourcing, the more fluff that gets dished around the web.
Search engine algorithms today are superior in analysing the uniqueness of a given piece of content. They look at the navbar, the sidebar and footer links and the content itself to analyse its uniqueness. Gone are the days when a customised introduction and conclusion to an article made it unique. It is a lot harder now.
You can create all the content that you want but it is the search engines that determine its uniqueness and include it in their main index or banish it for lack of quality and the poor amount of inbound links it garners to have a low Pagerank threshold that prevents it from getting retained in the main index.
What kind of content should you adopt for your site?
When you have an idea for a website, that is when you have to determine the type of content that will suit your site. You cannot change horses midstream. Rand talks about the three widely prevalent types of content on the web today.
1) Editorial Content:
This refers to the content that is built by a human with a clear idea as the basis, then logic and reasoning that is initiated by a good introduction and great body copy that expresses the idea in lucid fashion and a healthy conclusion. The style and expression is unique to each writer. Good examples are a site owner blogging on her site coming up with unique content on a regular basis that keeps readers engaged and also garners great inbound editorial links from her industry peers and the linkerati in general. This type of content is ideal for smaller sites.
2) Machine Built Content:
If you have a burning ambition to domionate your niche or industry, then machine built content can be handy in satiating your desire. This involves collecting data from reliable sources and pushing them into a fixed well formatted content structure by way of an xml file and stored in databases. Content pages are generated on the fly in response to user clicks on the site.
The biggest problem here is the pattern that is obviously common to most machine built content sites. The on page factors like page titles and h# tags are unique on each page. But the content follows a fixed pattern with subtle changes in data as in case of statistical information. Most major travel sites employ this technique.
It is a scalable and saves time and money. But it does not make the cut when it comes to the search engines analysing it for its , you guessed it right, uniqueness. A content duplication filter can definitely prevent such a page from getting indexed.
From an SEO perspective, if the domain on which such content resides is a trusted mature domain with good standing, then it would not be a major issue. For newer sites (typically less than a year old) trying to establish themselves rapidly, it could be a major stumbling block.
3) User Generated Content (UGC):
This is the most valuable type of content any site owner could have on her site. But it does not come easy. It takes a lot of time and effort to build a bustling community and incentivize the contributors to make the content creation happen. Some of the popular examples are Wikipedia, Reddit and Digg.
This is a powerful and scalable technique but it is not easy to get a network of dedicated users scaling it up to the higher levels of content creation.
You can consider using content from each of the above mentioned categories or a nice blend of them to create unique content that can satisfy visitors to your site and keep them engrossed longer on your site pages. The amount of time spent by users on your site is certainly a factor the search engines could consider to determine the quality of your site content.
Most times, I hear site owners clamouring for links and/or aspiring for higher positions on the SERPs. One of the major factors that can propel a site to the top of the search engine summit is unique quality content. This arises from personal experiences of the blogger and the successful practice and implementation of the actual content that is being preached by her in her day to day blogging activities.
Once justice has been done to this crucial part, then it is only a matter of time before users identify the good quality advice offered on your site and the twittering and digging of your posts akin to the Web’s word of mouth propels your site into the limelight which is top rankings on the SERPs.
The number of inbound links from a variety of domains of different hues (domain diversity ) and the naturally worded anchor text in the inbound links to your site are proof enough of the confirmation aspect of your post’s nature from unbiased external sources in the most natural form erasing any doubt about the duplication of content in the eyes of the search engines.
Ravi Venkatesan is a senior SEO consultant at Netconcepts, an Auckland seo consultancy  offering both organic seo and paid search marketing  services to their clients in both New Zealand and Australia.