I am supposed to branch off into other topics yet I have not found time and motivation to write those articles yet. I am still bookmarking web content and search articles that explain the critical value in creating content for a small site and I feel an obligation to continue to post these links with some comments.
First, I would like to reference the comments of Jason Calacanis from Episode 56 of the Stack Overflow podcast. Jason explains (noted at 1:04:39 of the transcription) his guide to search engine optimization, which is look at the top 10 pages that return for a search time and create content that is better than those pages and you should start appearing in the top 10 at least.
Now there will be some different reactions to this: I can’t do that, I don’t know how to do that, or I already have a better page but I don’t rank. Those that say they can’t, that they don’t have the resources or talent to compete are lost if they are not willing to try. If they are willing to take on faith that many others, some with writing talent, others with none, are competing in their markets already then with some time and effort invested they will be able to see the results.
For those that say they don’t know how to create a page with better content, they only need to look at what is missing from their competitors. First, focus on creating something totally different from what exists rather than trying to copy the best parts from the top 10. Then, as an expert on your subject and with a critical eye towards your competitors as a typical client, define what content people want to find on your site. Once you have an outline of what content is needed, it can be structured and developed to create your site.
For those that claim they already are better than the top 10 results, evaluate your page from a client’s eyes. Do you have information on topics they will search for? Is your content well organized and referenced? If all of these are true, then do you have the incoming links to deserve your rank? Are you competing in a market where there are many large, high page-rank competitors? While it is possible to compete is these markets long-term, it is easier to break into small, niche or regional markets first, especially ones which are not being served by anyone real well. Then it comes down to the content that matches the terms people search for.
To help developing content, individuals and small teams can benefit from developing content standards for pages. A recent A List Apart article introduces content templates to do this. Instead of staring at a blank page when trying to start to write some new content, use the template questions to develop the page. This provides an easy, quick way to get started while providing a consistent organization to each page.
The Bing webmaster blog has two articles, one on links and another on content architecture, that I wanted to mention. Both articles have some good, brief points on links and content that non-technical people can understand to help them know what they should be asking for when they get help with their websites.
Finally, the Google Webmaster Central Channel on YouTube has a number of quick (2 minutes or less) answers to common webmaster questions and publish more each week. These video responses (many by Matt Cutts) are easy to understand and provide helpful advice on where to focus your attention in managing a website. All of this information is available to the biggest and smallest websites which is what provides the level playing field on the web.