There’s no denying SEO is a complex beast. There are over 200 ranking factors Google uses to decide where it’ll place a website. These are constantly evolving. One thing we know for certain is that content is, and will always be, the most crucial part of your SEO strategy. If you’re not creating ongoing content for your site, you are weak. Your bloodline is weak. And you won’t survive the winter. Well, that. Or you’ll never get the organic traffic your website needs for your business to grow.
Google has always been clear about the importance of content in any SEO strategy. Straight from the beginning, they mention it in their SEO Starter Guide: “Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other [SEO] factors discussed here.” But just what do they mean by content? How much do you need to post? What happens after you post it? So many questions!
Content in 2019 comes in many forms. The standard blog post still has a place in any good SEO plan. Blogs are a great way to keep your website fresh and current and help create pages for Google to crawl. However, there are other exciting ways to regularly update your site with information. Google encourages you to get the creative juices flowing, rather than simply creating a 500-word article to publish each month. Other examples of great content include;
Examples of types of content in 2019
- Long-form Articles – Google LOVES long-form content of 2500 words or more. Why? Creating this high-authority copy makes you look like an expert in your niche. It improves the chances of people engaging and sharing your stuff. It gives plenty of opportunities to answer the questions your audience wants to know.
- Lists – Lists are becoming more and more popular. They are easy to create and even easier to read for the user. Examples include “These Top Ten Hints Will Help You Create Better Content” or “Your 7 Steps Away From Higher Keyword Rankings”
- Guides – Guides are longer pieces of content, similar to a long-form article that show steps on how to do something. You can post a full guide on your website, or you can post a summary that requires visitors to fill out a registration form to access the full guide. This can be a good way to generate leads, but keep in mind doing it this way will likely reduce the amount of SEO traffic you drive to the guide.
- Videos –Google loves videos for SEO. According to Cisco, video content will represent a whopping 80% of online traffic by 2021. Videos are a powerful way to reach and engage with your audience. The best thing? You no longer need to spend money or hire fancy equipment. Most smartphones are so sophisticated we can shoot high-quality videos from anywhere, anytime from our phones.
- Product Pages – These are necessary for any retail e-commerce site. However, a good product page can serve as both SEO content and a PPC landing page.
- Infographics – Are large-format images that contain a lot of data (often in the form of graphs or charts). Infographics have long been considered the holy grail for SEO as they can generate a heap of backlinks quickly and easily.
- Glossaries – If you work in a specialised industry, a glossary can be a good way to gain some search traffic. Think beauty terms, dentist terms, fashion terms etc.
- Directories – A directory is a useful glossary of links to sites or resources around a given topic. For example, a makeup blog might produce a directory of places to buy the best makeup brands, from major department stores to independent shops around Australia
Plus more. Not all content types are going to work for all businesses. The competitiveness of your industry may require you to create more and more pieces to have any chance of ranking between older, more established sites. Or you could have an unusual niche where you can get results in a quicker time. We know there isn’t a perfect formula that’ll guarantee traffic and rankings. There’s no “one blog post a week plus one monthly video equals higher rankings.” And if the content you create isn’t of the highest standard Google now expects, it’s pointless creating it at all.
We know only one piece of content can rank first for each search query. The devil works hard, but search engines work harder to make sure the first result is the best content for that keyword. Google especially is constantly refining and improving its processes that automatically “ranks,” pages based on content quality. You only have to look at how much the Panda and Penguin algorithms enforce quality content as the most important deciding factor for ranking well.
So, how do you create the quality content Google wants?
Google’s quality guidelines clearly state;
- Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.
- Don’t deceive your users.
- Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings.
- Think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging. Make your website stand out from others in your field.
The content you produce should be useful and informative. It should be credible and highly engaging. It should be better than your competitors. Think about the content you read. What entertains you? What answers the questions you have in a way you understand? What makes you trust the writer of the content? What inspires you to share it with your network, whether on social media or word of mouth? Think about what works for you, and use this to create your own.
Aim for longer well-researched posts. Cite and link to your resources. Break down your content with sub-headings, images, videos and GIFs when possible to make it more digestible for your reader. Promote it through all your social media and any other marketing channels you use like email marketing. Use your Google Analytics, other software and social media engagement and shares to assess the success of your content.
What are the other top-ranking factors?
Just like I’m always changing my mind about the definite ranking of the best pizza toppings, (let’s face it, they’re all good) Google is always changing its mind on what are the most important ranking factors. However, it’s safe to assume that content will always be in the top two, with backlinks being the other major component. Backlinks are important for SEO because search engines, especially Google, trust websites that have a good number of quality backlinks, and consider those websites more relevant than others in their results.
But there are hundreds of other ranking factors out there. From domain history to keyword density, to URL length and more, Google takes into account a multitude of different things. What complicates the situation is that a number of these elements need to be working in conjunction with each other for optimal results.
You could have the “unicorn” content of Google’s dreams, however, if your websites a mess and their bots can’t read your site; They can’t crawl and index it. How are they going to rank you? Or if you’ve created a video likely to rival Grumpy cat’s legacy, but your site’s not secure and taking ages to load. Your user will get bored and leave. Like I get bored in any situation where there is no dog or no possibility of a dog joining us. I don’t have time for that sort of negativity in my life.
Most businesses will not have the resources, time or budgets to keep up with hundreds of changing factors. However, Google time and time again tells us that focusing on a content strategy for your site is the best and quickest way to make traction in your SEO strategy.
According to Optin Monster these are the other most important ranking factors.
A secure and accessible website
Google confirmed that websites with an SSL certificate (https://) would have a higher chance of ranking highly in search engine results pages (SERPs). A website that has an SSL certificate ensures all website traffic between your web server and user’s browser is secure and cannot be read. #safetyfirst
PageSpeed (Including mobile PageSpeed)
Page speed has been cited as one of the main SEO ranking factors for years. SEO has long been tailored towards the user’s experience. A slow-loading page frustrates the user, causing them to bounce off and find another site that doesn’t make them wait. Google also announced a search engine algorithm update focused on mobile page speed effective from July 2018. If your site doesn’t have a speedy response to mobile devices, then it could be setting you up for failure.
Mobile-friendliness is another major SEO ranking factor. Google will consider mobile-friendly websites first when deciding how to rank content. If your site has a mobile version or responsive design, Google will rank you based on your mobile version, not your desktop version.
This is a tricky one often out of your hands. But Domain Age can affect rankings. This is great news if you’re domain has been around a couple of years though, as 60% of sites that come up in the top ten SERPs are older than three years old.
User Experience (RankBrain)
Google’s been using artificial intelligence to better rank web pages for a while now and this is called Rank Brain. The three main factors Rank Brain considers is the click-through rate, bounce rate and dwell time. In other news, I’m not saying that Google is creating intelligent artificial life in the form of robots that’ll soon be taking over the world, but I’m not, “not” saying it either.
Google’s official word is that social shares are not a direct ranking factor. However, Google’s official word on the robots above is they are not producing them either, so let’s take it all with a grain of salt. What we do know is that Google likes content that is shared on social media because it means it is liked, engaged with and linked to, and that’s exactly what Google wants out of the content you create.
Real business information
Real business information means having the correct business information on your website including your name, address and phone number. You should also have a Google My Business page and a Facebook page and have reviews on sites like Yelp or Tripadvisor. These are all crucial elements to rank for local SEO.
If you don’t have the time to look into all the 200 ranking factors, then ensuring your website is optimised for these ranking factors listed above, is the best way to put your site in the healthiest position to rank highly. That is of course, after creating some compelling and wicked content, targeted at your audience that engages them, and answers their questions, first.
In 2019, SEO was wild from start to finish!
As we come to the end of 2019, like every year, Google kept things interesting by leading us into a false sense of security thinking we were doing everything right, then bam. It would change everything. Because stability is the worst, am I right? Even if you weren’t doing anything outside the Google Webmaster Guides, they created pesky little things called Core Updates that caused fluctuations to millions of websites. There were three core updates this year already, with the September Core Update being the most recent.
The most important take away from these changes is that sites aren’t penalised as such, and never are from these particular updates. It is Google improving their own processes. However, many sites will still see drops in both organic traffic and rankings. A lot of these fluctuations will likely even out after a few weeks and most sites will recover their rankings. However, some may not rank as well as going forward. Honestly. I’m triggered.
This is what Google has to say;
“As explained, pages that drop after a core update don’t have anything wrong to fix. This said we understand those who do less well after a core update change may still feel they need to do something. We suggest focusing on ensuring you’re offering the best content you can. That’s what our algorithms seek to reward.” Once again, we are reminded by Google itself to focus on creating compelling content as a priority.
What happens if you’ve been penalised by an algorithm?
If you are receiving significant drops in rankings and traffic and you haven’t found anything to suggest there has been a core update. It is possible there is an algorithm affecting your site. We mentioned algorithms that targeted quality content above, but there are several different other types that could be causing havoc with your online visibility.
Google uses a combination of algorithms and ranking signals to deliver the best results in SERPS. No webmaster or SEO specialist can accurately predict what a future update will look like. Most Google staff won’t even be in the know. They are probably not in the know about the robots either, but that’s a different story.
Google is geared towards its users and their experience. People are always changing, so Google needs to also change to keep up. In its early years, Google only made a handful of updates to its algorithms. These days Google makes thousands of changes every year. This probably has a lot to do with the fact, Google handles over 2 trillion searches per year (that’s about 40,000 every second). Alright, calm down Google.
If you think you’ve been hit by a penalty, explore your Google Analytics. A steep drop in traffic will indicate something’s wrong. There is a difference between a sharp decline in traffic versus a slow decline that recovers. If you’ve been penalised, your traffic is likely to go down and stay that way. You could have been penalised because of simple mistakes. Or you’ve purposely gone out of your way to perform techniques to try and cheat the system. Your Search Console will likely guide you on what’s happened and what you need to do to fix it. If you haven’t been TOO naughty, that is.
Webmasters often try performing black-hat techniques in order to manipulate search engines into ranking them highly and quickly. These days it’s a pointless exercise. Google and other search engine bots are sophisticated and advanced. It’ll only be a matter of time before you are caught doing the wrong thing and sent to Google prison. Depending on how bad you stuffed things up, your website may never recover.
So why would people be sooooo stupid? Well because we humans are fickle creatures, and if there is a quicker, easier way to do something, of course, we’re going to try. And to be real, these tactics used to work. Years ago before the Google bots became so smart that they are probably taking over the world, black-hatted techniques would work be the norm. According to our friends at Unamo these are some of the worst black-hat offending;
By definition, keyword stuffing involves overusing the same keywords throughout a page to generate visibility and organic traffic. Content stuffed with keywords doesn’t look natural and because of this, it’s not user-friendly. Some would even try using invisible text like implementing white text on a white background.
We know backlinking is important. But Google is very clear that these should be natural links created organically. Paying for these links is against Google’s Guidelines and highly frowned upon.
Spam comments used to be all the rage of creating free backlinks. The problem is links gained in this way are 100% ‘nofollow’, meaning its total waste of time.
Is creating a heap of content and copying and pasting it across several domains. All content should be high-quality and unique. Duplicated content is a solid no from Google.
“Cloaking” is a search engine technique that shows completely different content or URL to the user than to the search engine spider. It is outright deceptive, and obviously against Google’s Guidelines.
If you are caught doing any of these things, or other techniques against Google’s Guidelines you are likely to receive a penalty. In most cases your site might be able to recover by following Google’s directions, disavowing any bad links and fixing any issues it’s picked up. In some scenarios, though, it’s better to abandon your site rather than try and fight the penalty: if your domain has been completely tarnished, you’re better off to start again.
What does this have to do with creating content?
SEO will always evolve, just like people we are always evolving. It may seem there is an overwhelming amount of information available advising as what we should and shouldn’t be doing for a successful SEO strategy. And there is. However, Google is extremely clear that creating consistent high-quality content will have the biggest impact and put you in the best position to rank highly in SERPS. You could be doing everything else right, but if you aren’t focusing on a content strategy, you’ll be left behind your competitors.
There are no short-cuts or quick wins. SEO takes time, effort and resources. If you are just beginning your SEO strategy or reviewing and refining your current one. Then focus on a plan involving creating content first, and the other ranking elements, second. Google always tell us no matter, create content. Just starting SEO? Create content. Affected by a Core Update? Create content! Need backlinks? Create content sites will link to. Want to know the meaning of life? Create content! Content is and will always be, the most important part of your SEO strategy.
Are you ready to drive your SEO strategy further? Dux Digital has an excellent team of SEO specialists including SEO specific copywriters. Get in touch with our friendly team and see how we can drive your business further.