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What Content Authority Means in SEO and Why it is Important

January 2, 2021

What Does Content Authority Mean?

Content authority means a website that Google considers an encyclopedic reference to a particular field or topic. Any practitioner in a highly competitive market should have this Wikipedia like presence if they can afford it.

Mark the word, “If.” A website like this is expensive and costs must be compared beforehand against other choices like ad buys. The goal, of course, is for a post or page to eventually appear on page one of Google search results without buying ads to do so.

Making a website attractive to search engines is what’s called search engine optimization or SEO.

What makes up this encyclopedic reference? Dozens, scores, perhaps hundreds of pages and posts full of content.  Content for non-media companies gets primarily expressed through the written word in posts and pages. For now.

Videos get placed higher in search results than written content on the same subject. This will continue and video production will increase substantially in the next few years.

Still, written content remains and will remain the basis of searchable pages and posts; anything written now can be the script of any video produced later on.

Posts, pages, or video, everything comes back to the written word.

How Does Developing a Content Authority Website go in Practice?

Identifying Topics

Let’s assume a criminal defense attorney who handles DUI/DWI. Clients will of course ask the question, “What happens when I get arrested for being under the influence?” The practitioner knows that question only hints at a broader subject. There’s pre-arrest, arrest, and post-arrest questions. So be it.

Rather than writing completely original pages from scratch for the client’s website, a team looks at his or her competitor’s sites to see how they cover arrest and then they model pages after those. That can be done manually, simply by looking at websites, or a web company might use ahrefs (external link, non-sponsored) is to make a topic list. Identifying existing topics is only a start because Google especially favors original page and post topics, not just the subjects every attorney covers.

Any page modeled must be rewritten to pass Copyscape (external link, non-sponsored) which is a plagiarism detection website. It searches the net for duplicate content and it can also compare an original text to what has been rewritten. Educators use it for identifying plagiarism in school reports and it is the gold standard for alerting on stolen content on the web.

Passing Copyscape means modeled pages are sufficiently different from the original to satisfy Google as new content. Failing Copyscape means content gets ranked as duplicate  and is penalized because of it. Any content creation company gives their writers access to a Copyscape account so they can check their work before submitting it .

Getting Pages Written

Assignments are handed out after the SEO lead determines which keywords the writer should include on the page or post. As well as whatever else the SEO lead decides. SEO is a dark art. There are more than just keywords to consider on the written page. Truly successful SEO techniques developed independently through extensive research and testing are rarely shared outside a company

To be clear, this ‘on page SEO’ is different than what is done in the background or off page with work like link building.

Keywords and techniques are often derived through analyzing statistics, a costly and overwhelming website for the uninitiated. ahrefs is like studying telemetry from Mars. “Great. We have all this information about ourselves and the competition. Now, what does it mean?” Editors needn’t be expert with ahrefs but familiarity is essential.

Back to writing. And time.

It’s all about time when considering the cost of a content authority website.

My experience over the last five and a half years with Philippine freelancer writers is that they can turn in a 500 to 750 word page or post in three to ten hours, three being exceptional. Figure five as average.

This assumes a writer has been given at least two or three pages to model along with any other resources an assignment editor thinks will help. The writer must fact check and research anything submitted. New writers should provide links to the web sites they used. That is time consuming for them but it saves the more highly paid editor time to fact check the writer. Writing completely original pages of course takes more time and the writer will need more help.

After submitting their work, some back and forth goes on between the writer and the editor and the person requesting the page. I found  it took twenty minutes on average to revise and edit a writer’s work. Sometimes I sent back work if the writing was badly off but I usually handled most things myself. Writers who can’t supply clean, accurate copy cost more than a job search for someone else.

Some companies promise rewriting by machine by programs called article spinners or word spinners, some powered, supposedly, by artificial intelligence. Right.

I’ve tried at least five of them to get production up with terrible results. A word spinner isn’t meant to fact check or do research; it assumes the original content is accurate and up to date which one can never do. Forgiving that time consuming point, the word spinners I tried were just electronic thesauruses. I spent more time editing their copy than it would have taken me to rewrite from scratch. None of them possessed A/I any more than peanut butter. And despite my repeated requests, none of these companies ever showed me a law office page done primarily by spin writing.

NB: January 3, 2021. I have an update on A/I and spinners at the end of this post.)

Editing and Revising Pages

To state the obvious, it is essential that an editor has a background in the field his or her writers are writing about. Foreign writers without a legal background and focused on a narrow assignment often fail to see the bigger picture. For example, the difference between misdemeanors and felonies, viewing them only by the amount of time served. Less emphatic writing results when just the opposite should occur. A misdemeanor means county jail where home and help are probably close by, a felony means a distant state prison with the possibility of being shipped out of state. And the invocation of larger laws like Three Strikes, loss of voting rights, a ban against possessing firearms once released, and so on. An editor should know these things before editing any law firm’s website.

In my case, I was a freelance legal assistant long ago in the Sacramento, California area for a number of criminal defense and general practice lawyers. As well as a poverty law firm.I assisted with trial prep, wrote points and authorities, legal briefs, interrogs, and conducted an enormous amount of research into finding case and statutory law that was on point for whatever case I had been assigned. Nearly all of this was hardcopy research, although I did get to use one of the first dedicated Lexis/Nexis terminals which was at that poverty law firm.

More recently, I was a content management specialist for Infocus Web Marketing. InFocus deals only with law office websites. (external link)

to be continued. . . 

Would you like to know more about writing and editing? I am for hire!

I get the job done without asking or handholding. I won’t bluff my way through if I’m not sure but I take initiative when I am. SEO isn’t my strength — writing and editing is. My old boss is John at inFocus and he will recommend me. (e-mail link)


Some of my writing related to this page (all internal links)

More on Writing for Machines (More on business writing for bots and algorithms)

Do I Need to Repeat Myself? (Business writing must incorporate SEO techniques)

Deeper into SEO (A Berkeley Writing for Social Media course fails)

Who/m are We Writing For? (The end reader today may not be human)

— Non-sponsored video links

SEO Fundamentals. No SEO lead can fully work without ahrefs.

Video and SEO and Rankings.  Interesting but overly optimistic view.

January 3, 2021 update on A/I and spinners

I tried Rytr this morning with poor results despite positive reviews from people I now think are Rytr affiliate members who make money from signups. I asked customer support to show me any website primarily built with Rytr and that I was especially interested in the legal field.

They responded that Rytr shouldn’t be used for “Legal writings” [sic]. Much later they said in broken English, “Rest, we don’t keep a track of where our content is getting used.” In other words, they have no references. Any person or company who is proud of their work or product has references. They don’t.

It remains that I have not seen any website of any kind primarily made with a spin writer. Let’s call these allegedly A/I powered writing programs dead for building web pages and move on. Vaporware.