Top Rank: The Importance of Content for Google

Top Rank: The Importance of Content for Google

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times: content is king. The importance of content for Google SERP rankings has been touted as pivotal in SEO for years now and one of the latest updates from the search engine giant only came to confirm what most professionals in the field already knew: if you want your website to rank highly, you need good content. The troubles start when you attempt to define the notion of ‘good content’; depending on whom you ask, there can be countless ways to define this concept. Another issue stems from the still pervasive disregard that business owners still harbor toward online (content) marketing.

Today we try to tackle both issues, in order to shed some light on them. We look at Google’s own definition for good content. We go on to provide some suggestions as to how you can optimize your content for quality (which becomes a goal unto itself in Google’s vision) and then briefly outline the provisions of the Google Hummingbird update, its most content oriented update yet.

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What Google means by ‘good content’

Though many SEO pros and webmasters have taken issue against Google’s relative lack of transparency, when it comes to algorithm updates and revisions made to its Webmaster Guidelines, the truth is that they spell out their standards in plain English – at least when it comes to written content. If you’re too busy to check out those standards yourself, here, let us spell them out for you. In order to create a “Google-friendly website”, you need the following ingredients:

#1 A good homepage

According to Google, it all starts at home, i.e. on the homepage of your website. The key is to make it as rich in information as possible – and, of course, to lay out that information in a clear, comprehensive way. This, in turn, they argue, will determine other webmasters to link to your site. The philosophy here is simple enough: if you provide unique information, simply and clearly presented, and also make efforts to keep that info updated, you’re on your way toward creating good content.

#2 Understanding the audience

This should probably be the main point, but we’re listing it second, because it ties in with the above paragraph. How does one go about creating an ‘information rich’ page or site? By understanding what the people want, of course. The trick is to figure out what Google’s users would search for, in order to land on your site. What are the precise words that would bring them to you? If you have those figured out, bounce rates and click-through rates will no longer be a problem.

#3 Help build natural links

The focus here is on ‘natural’. If the information you contribute to this great, big Internet is relevant for others and presented in an accessible way, Google says others will link to it. In Google’s view, links remain one of the most important differentiators between a page that’s relevant and valuable (i.e. worth indexing and ranking highly) and one that, well… simply isn’t. And before you think of purchasing links or participating in any other artificial link building scheme—don’t. It’s all been done before and, yes, by this point, Google’s algorithm is intelligent enough to tell a natural link apart from one that’s been bought.

Content just got more important, or all about Google Hummingbird

The Google Hummingbird update, which hit in late 2013, was Google’s latest sign to the world of SEO and content generation that content is the main ranking factor. In a nutshell, the search engine algorithm update makes semantic searches carry more weight than keyword searches. Err, say what?

Before Hummingbird, Google would run search queries based on the meaning of the individual words making up the search phrase string. Now, it looks at the meaning of the whole phrase, in order to identify relevant contexts for it. This, of course, has the potential to make search results far more relevant and Google searches, in general, far more accurate. The update also came with the ability to carry out conversational searches on Google. In other words, if you formulate a search as a question, Google will try to find the answer for it, instead of just showing you pages on which the words that make up your question are listed.

What this update does for SEO and online content marketing is take the focus away from keywords (and stuffing the website copy with keywords) and gear it toward relevant topics and an effort to answer the audience’s questions. Taking this one step further, it means that SEO marketing plans will need to be based on an even deeper understanding of audience needs and interests. What questions does your audience have? What kind of content should you be writing, in order to answer those questions? That’s what your online content should focus on.

Best practice standards for good content in Google’s view

All right, so now you know what Google wants from you – but how do you go about fulfilling those needs? Here are our tested-and-true techniques and strategies, in list form:

1.      Be unique

If the audience you’re speaking to can find the exact same information in a gazillion other websites, why would they stop at yours? Tell them something they don’t already know. Connect existing bits of information in exciting new ways.

2.      Be accessible

Always remember that your goal is to reach actual people, with little to no expertise in your field, but with a need to learn more about it. Speak their language – if you own and manage a website on expert skincare techniques, don’t list their names and expect visitors to flock to your site. Instead, rephrase the information so that people understand what you’re all about: cutting-edge, professional, great quality skincare.

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3.      Claim your writing

Both the existing Google Webmaster Guidelines and the Hummingbird update make it more important than ever to claim your writing via Google+, which essentially validates authorship. The point here is to establish yourself as an expert in a given field, no matter what it is – and there’s no better way to do this than by linking your content with you G+ profile.