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Darrell Cuthbert
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Why Great Online Content is Like a Cow Pat

16 August 2012, 14:21

Flies are irresistibly drawn to a cow pat – especially if it is fresh, warm and steaming. No sooner has Clarabelle taken a few steps away from the chunk of bovine waste material when the first recon parasites make their appearance. Within minutes they are followed by squadrons of other flies that descend on the site and buzz and crawl industriously all over the place.

Why do flies have this obsession with poop? Because they are programmed to do so that’s why. Their sense of smell is fine tuned to recognize what we would regard as a very unpleasant odor and instinct drives them towards the source of the smell.

Search engines work in much the same way with content. They are built and programmed to seek out content and then gravitate towards it.

A step further

Let’s take the cow pat analogy a bit further. Imagine if I placed a picture of a cow pat in a field. It would not attract much attention at all irrespective of whether it is an amateurish hand-drawn sketch or a 256 color professionally created work of art. The flies won’t care about the quality of the image, how hard someone worked to create it or how much it cost to commission. Ultimately the flies are looking for a cow pat and, even though they are not the most intelligent of creatures, they know the difference between a real, live 3D cow pat with some substance and a representation that tries to pretend it is one.

Not quite the real deal

Next imagine I have somebody make me up a glass-fiber replica of a cow pat and stick that in the field. Maybe the odd passer-fly might buzz down to have a look but he won’t stick around long once he realizes he’s been duped and it is not the real deal. If I then go and bait the fake cow pat by placing a little bit of real cow dung inside it will get some attention from the flies for a short while until they figure that although this cow pat smells and even looks a lot like the real thing they can’t get to the important stuff and drift off to find a pat that lives up to its promises.

No substitute for something useful

Authentic content draws search engines to a website the same way that flies are drawn to a cow pat. (If any of the good folks at Google are reading this then let me say I’m not having a dig at the Big G – I personally am a big Google fan and believe they have revolutionized the way we create, distribute and find information.) In the same way that flies are not interested in the picture or fooled for long by the glass-fiber replica, search engines care very little about the flashy graphics and gimmicks on your site and quickly get wise to tricks like keyword stuffing, PLR content or dollar-a-piece lousy content written by someone in a content mill that knows nothing about writing principles, communication or business in general and is often not even properly fluent in English.      

Users are not stupid


Web users too are like the flies with the picture and the glass-fiber model. Great layout and fancy graphics may get them to look at your site but they are unlikely to stay if that is all it consists of. Even if there is a little content (like the real poop inside the replica cow pat) but it is not easily accessible or usable they will not stay long but instead will browse away to a site that does offer the content they are looking for.

Substance overrules the superficial

Use graphics and other tools to pretty up your site within reason by all means, but never forget the internet was created as a way to create and share content and is still primarily driven by this purpose.

Fill your site with great, original content and over time you will continue to attract the type of visitor that you set out to engage with in the first place. If you don’t have the skills or inclination to write your own content, then hire someone that does.

© D Cuthbert 2012

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