While guides and blogs about search engine optimisation (SEO) will rightly say that you should ensure all of your work is targeted at human users, and not to search engines, the reality of digital marketing is that you’re still reliant on search engines ranking your content highly enough for it to drive relevant traffic to your site. Given Google’s dominant market share, you need to have them in mind when creating content.
Numerous SEO agencies, consultants, and long-term industry experts have tried, and failed, to unlock the secrets of Google’s ranking algorithm. By carefully analysing search and traffic trends alongside any digital marketing projects undertaken, as well as looking out for Matt Cutts’ famous video blog answers, many have been able to get an idea of the type of things Google is looking for.
In terms of content creation, Google have actually been telling webmasters what they love almost ever since they first launched the Panda algorithm in February 2011. In May 2011, they posted this blog at Google Webmaster Central featuring 23 bullet points that assist in the creation of high quality content.
Many people get sucked into the whole “how long should my content be” conundrum. There are various misconceptions around, such as that Google don’t look at anything under 300 words long and that there’s a better chance of earning a high-ranking if you write content on your site longer than 1,000 words in length.
Notice that there is no explicit mention of the length of posts in Google’s Webmaster Central blog. There is a reason for this, and it isn’t anything to do with Google not wanting to give too much away. Google are more interested in whether something delivers “substantial and authoritative information.” Some subject areas don’t lend themselves to long form. How many people reading a fashion blog to discover what to wear this weekend would want to find something 1,000 words plus? The truth is such a blog could deliver what it needed to using 150 – 200 words and a collection of images and/or videos.
The lesson here is that there is no such thing as “one size fits all.” Content should be as long as it needs to be, but no longer. Better a high-quality 200 words than 1,000 words of filler. Remember, too, that much depends on your competition in digital marketing. If you’re in an industry where your competitors’ blogs are typically 1,000+ words, then you will probably need to be producing the same sort of volume.
Despite Matt Cutts claiming that Google does not use social signals as part of their search algorithm, this is likely to be one of his legendary red herrings. If something is shared across social media thousands of times, this is a clear indicator that readers have deemed it high-quality, or “share worthy.” There is no way Google wouldn’t use these indicators to help them give search engine users, their customers, what they want, and place this content near the top of search rankings for its relevant keywords.
It is important to note the difference between social signals and what Google mean. Although they and Cutts talk about social signals as one big thing, there’s a difference between content shared directly from your site and content that you post on social media being shared. Content shares through your own website are the ones you should be looking for. Encourage content shares with a call to action at the beginning or at the end of posts, and help Google identify the great content on your website easier!
Not only will such an approach empower you to create content Google will love through seeing how engaged your audience are, social exposure diversifies your traffic sources and makes your online presence more sustainable.
Once you have understood how to utilise Google’s 23 bullet points, you should use something like this excellent content marketing checklist from Siege Media to focus your content objectives. If you use this alongside Google’s guidance, there’s nothing to stop you building a strong body of content for your website.
At the same time, we understand that content marketers’ biggest barrier is the time they have to do the job, particularly in house when they’ll often have a wide range of other marketing duties to undertake alongside content.
If this describes your situation, we’d still recommend using the resources we’ve suggested in this post, but here is a more concise collection of tips that will help you get your content ranked highly in Google and in front of the audience you’re looking to reach.
Create high quality, authoritative content that is original and adds value to your niche.If you’re publishing content similar to what is already out there, try to take a different approach and provide a fresh outlook.
Ensure your keywords are well targeted but aren’t overkill throughout your content.
Publish content regularly and around times your audience is more likely to engage, so you can instantly see traffic.Plan your social media strategy around this approach, too.
Make it your objective to become one of the leading authoritative resources in your niche.Having this vision in mind every time you create content will help you challenge yourself and push yourself harder in terms of increasing the quality.
Forget about pursuing SEO, content marketing, or social media as exclusive, standalone strategies. Those who are successful online will be invested in true integrated digital marketing. Creating content Google will love will feed every other part of your strategy, and is a ‘must do’ within the modern digital marketing landscape.