Zombies. Blood. Skin falling off. Desperate survivors. You can’t turn it off, though. Is it magic? No, it’s just AMC’s The Walking Dead.
Unless you’ve been holed up trying to escape walkers, or are busy prepping for the zombie apocalypse, you probably already know that it’s simply a major hit. When AMC’s The Walking Dead returned from its mid-season hiatus in February 2015, it came back to 15.6 million viewers, according to the New York Daily News. It’s blowing television away. The most-watched TV show on cable this year, it has been consistently drawing crowds since it first launched back in 2010.
Fan demand has caused the show to grow from 6 episodes in the first season to 16 in the most recent ones. What you may have missed, however, is that their screenwriters aren’t the only talented wordsmiths on their team. AMC has some skilled copywriters working on The Walking Dead website as well.
12 Elements That Quality Content Should Have: Let’s See How The Walking Dead Measures Up
For this piece, let’s actually take a look at the 12 elements that Forbes Magazine says high-quality content should have, and then see how The Walking Dead’s website measures up.
- Appropriate Content Length. The first thing that Forbes mentions is having content that’s the right length for the audience. It’s doubtful that people are trying to research and read about The Walking Dead using a mobile device, so they should be targeting 1500-2000 words for the sake of their readers and to rank well in Google. Using an online tool to verify word count, their “About the Show” page hits the spot at 1662 words. If, for instance, you decided to examine the “Daryl Dixon” page, purely for research purposes, of course, you’d find 1819 words. It seems their content writers did their homework and are delivering pieces of ideal length.
- Use of Supplementary Media. The second thing Forbes mentions is the importance of including photos, images, video graphics and other supplementary media, because they increase how often a piece is shared and improve reader response. If you’re still on Daryl’s page (it’s ok, we won’t tell anyone), you already know that the copywriters have included plenty of photos and videos. In fact, the website is loaded with media on every page, including the blog. If you can tear yourself away from Daryl, you’ll see that the copywriters have nailed this aspect across the site, too.
- Coherent Content and Grammar Check. Forbes also mentions the importance of not only having factually-correct information, but also in having error-free content that has been organized in a sensible way. Analysis of the “About the Show” and “Daryl Dixon” pages, plus one of the longer blog entries, returned zero spelling and grammatical errors. The website also utilizes a mixture of headings, subheadings, and bullet points to break up text, which makes it very easy to follow.
- Proper Formatting of Page and Text. The next concern, per Forbes, is whether the content is easy to skim, as well as aesthetically pleasing. Considering that the website liberally uses images, reading the pages is almost unnecessary for navigation. However, corresponding text is certainly there and all content flows naturally.
- Attaining an Appropriate Readability Score. Forbes points out that readability is especially important when those checking out the content are children or non-native English speakers. Several pages of The Walking Dead were run through a Gunning-Fog Index tool, and they all came back with ratings between 4 and 5. An easy read on the Gunning-Fog Index is 6, while text that is more difficult to read can rise as high as a 20, though that might only be seen on a high-level academic paper. Although the median age for a Walking Dead viewer is 33.2, it’s actually the most popular show for people ages 12-34. Considering that the age span for the show’s viewership is pretty massive, and the youngest viewers are roughly in grade 6 or 7, the readability for the website’s content is dead-on.
- Hire Writers who are Experts in the Field. Although Forbes says having expert writers is more important on pages that involve finances, medical advice, or life-changing information, all content should come from an authoritative source. Sadly, the only true walker experts are characters on the show, but the Walking Dead website is managed by an entire team of experts who cover AMC shows. If a group of real-life heroes can’t be rounded up, industry experts are probably the best that one can hope for.
- Be Sure the Authors Have a Positive Reputation. Seemingly, reputation and expert knowledge would go hand-in-hand, but Forbes split them up for some reason. Based on a little bit of sleuthing, it seems that the noted contributors were plucked from relative obscurity to assist with numerous AMC blogs. None of them appear to have had work printed in any major publications, but being chosen by a huge company like AMC strongly speaks of their reputation.
- Has the Content Been Shared? Forbes reports that Google does not officially look at social media shares to help determine ranking, though they often correlate. In any case, when an article is shared frequently, it’s generally an indication that it was written by a skilled copywriter. Speaking only of the blogs on the Walking Dead website, the overall pattern seems to be that longer articles have more comments and social media shares. One recent post had 8k shares on Facebook, but some of the shorter posts had none. Even though social sharing is not consistent from piece to piece, the copywriters did well overall.
- Quality Internal and External Links. According to the Forbes article, high-quality outbound links help make a site more trustworthy, while internal ones are to be used carefully. Interestingly, the Walking Dead website relies heavily on internal links. It seems that every time a character or episode is mentioned, the text links to the corresponding area on the website. While the “About the Show” page includes only one internal link, there are blog pages with several. However, some blogs also include outbound links to reputable sites that have cast and crew interviews, so it seems to be a perfect balance.
- Attached to a High-Quality Domain. The quality of the domain name can have an impact on the rank that a page receives in Google, per Forbes. If the main website is top-notch, articles posted on it are typically rated higher. Equally, even a high-quality piece can have difficulty achieving a decent rank in search engines if it’s published on a less-than-reputable site. In this case, The Walking Dead is part of AMC’s website, which presently has an Alexa Rank of 1,067 in the United States and 4,320 globally. In all fairness, about one-third of people who head to AMC’s website are looking for The Walking Dead, but it was a reputable website before the show came to fruition. AMC was wise to maintain the show as part of their website, rather than giving it its own spin-off with a unique domain.
- Quality of Comments. The number of comments, the quality of comments, and even whether comments are enabled, say a lot about the content of a website. Although base pages don’t have a place for comments, the Walking Dead’s blog does allow for them. As with the shares mentioned earlier, the number of comments and the quality of them, varies greatly from blog to blog, though longer blogs tend to have more comments. Some posts have 80 or more. It’s also worth noting that the website has a forum, so it’s possible readers head there to interact after reading a piece, rather than directly posting to a page. Their forum is incredibly active, with new comments springing up continually. You can actually watch it scroll through as new comments are made while on various static pages throughout the main website.
- Valuable Content. As a final note, the Forbes article speaks directly of the content itself. The article suggests that content must answer a question, solve a problem, provide entertainment, make people laugh, or offer unique, expert insight. Although the website isn’t designed for humor, it certainly does all the other things on the list. People can look up information on characters, find out when the show airs, learn background or insider info, and even watch clips or full episodes of the show.
The Verdict Is In: The Walking Dead Website Kills It with Content
Overall, the Walking Dead website meets every single guideline that the Forbes expert content article lays out. Before anyone tries to argue that it’s only because there are pictures of Daryl on it, the actor who plays the character has his own personal website, and it’s got an Alexa Ranking of 626,283 in the United States right now. That’s a full 625,216 behind AMC, which could easily be explained by the fact that Norman Reedus’ personal website contains little more than a landing page and some links. His production studio, Big Bald Head, ranks a little better, at 417,254 in the United States. Clearly, there’s more happening on The Walking Dead’s website that just star power. AMC hired a knowledgeable group of content writers who have built upon the corporate brand to further establish the company as a reputable site, with content that is engaging, useful, and relevant to fans. Looks like this show is here to stay awhile.
Photo credit: Collider.com