7 August 2015 By Northern Lights
Yes, it’s a bold headline and I suspect I’m now going to be bombarded by SEO specialists who will, quite rightly, condemn me for such a sweeping statement. However, content marketing – or writing quality and regular articles for online platforms – is becoming increasingly important to the success of a business.
Even the most ardent technophobes can’t have failed to hear bizarre phrases about a Panda destroying hundreds of websites, the terrifying “mobilegeddon” or mutterings about mysterious algorithm updates. All of these bizarre phrases bouncing around the internet refer to the way the Google search engine giant ranks and rates your website and other online content.
Panda is the current incarnation of their secretive search formula and it has recently been updated again, causing panic-stricken speculation about how it will affect businesses and how they appear in Google searches.
Updates to Google’s search algorithms aren’t new. The search engine giant is locked in a constant battle with those trying to dupe the system and there have been multiple updates this year alone.
When Panda first arrived on the scene, it had a big impact on the way a number of major websites appeared in Google searches and the latest series of updates is once again causing many to worry about how they will fare as it is slowly rolled out across the world.
Unsurprisingly, Google is notoriously secretive about their updates, but current evidence suggests that the latest changes are good news for those who have invested in content marketing strategies.
Content marketing is all about creating blogs, articles, videos, social media updates, etc that are found by Google when people search key terms. By creating fresh material that is shared, commented on, discussed and linked to, you start to rank more highly, generate more traffic to your website and, critically, win more customers.
The good news is that Google loves content and this latest update is focussed entirely on singling out the top quality content. Here I’ve shared a few tips on how you can learn to love the Panda.
As I’ve said, Google is hunting for quality content. Around 1.2 billion people use Google a month and the search engine giant wants to make sure they get exactly what they want. The way people use Google has evolved and most now type out full questions – “long-tail searches” – rather than single words as this delivers a far more focussed result.
As a result of this, Google’s search algorithm is looking for content that not only best answers this question, but that also appears to be highly useful resource. Any content you produce has to not only answer the question, but must also be well-written, well-researched and backed up with key examples and links to other content.
Great online content or blogs share your insights and experiences and engage the reader from the very beginning. If people are clicking on your content, spending time reading it and checking out the other links before then sharing it through other channels, Google will spot that it’s a quality piece.
It’s all about the quality of writing – just concentrate on giving the reader a great experience.
Looking back just a few months and I’d have still suggested that blogs and other online content should be between 600-800 words. All that is now changing and the general thinking is that blogs should be around 1,200 words. I’ve also seen research that suggests blogs of more than 2,000 words are performing well.
Obviously longer blogs will most likely have more references to the original search term and feature more keywords, but they are also seen as being much more comprehensive and are more likely to provide a complete and balanced answer to that original question.
By writing longer, you can provide more evidence to back up your opinions, share more experiences and demonstrate that your content is accurate and well-researched.
The update has gone a long way to stopping people writing poor content, but cramming it with keywords to ensure they are found by Google.
Under the latest developments, you will be penalised if you repeatedly use the same word or phrase and now aims to reward good old-fashioned writing practices.
Inevitably, if you’re writing about a niche subject you will keep referring to the same thing. However, if you refer to it in the first sentence or paragraph, use a variation in the next. The new updates recognises these synonyms as a sign of a quality author and will reward them with higher rankings.
If your website isn’t optimised for viewing on a mobile phone, you will be penalised. The good news is that this update is being rolled out slowly so businesses have time to act.
What’s also important about this update is that you also need to make sure that your content has mobile-friendly in mind. Key things to consider are keeping headlines short, making sure your important content is visible at the top so people don’t have to scroll to find it and also including a call to action in the copy, rather than expecting people to scroll all the way to the bottom to act.
Visual content such as videos, photos and infographics are a massively important part of the content marketing mix. They are the most clicked on pieces of content in social media and now form more than half of all Google search results.
Customers are instantly drawn to visual content and it is a hugely powerful medium for drawing people in to your website or call to action.
The critical element of any visual content is the caption or title. This must include the keywords or phrase to make sure it is found by Google. In the case of YouTube, make sure you get it into your 100-character title and, ideally, at the front end.
So, back to the original inflammatory statement. Every Google update has been about making sure the end user gets the most relevant and helpful result. Yes, SEO is still hugely important and those keywords will be critical for getting found but, if you aren’t creating quality content that will inspire and engage a reader, Google will find you out and no amount of keywords will help.
Don’t obsess about keywords and backlinks, focus on creating a great piece of content. We’ve been saying to our clients for years that they need to think what questions their customers are asking and then provide the answers – content should help solve problems, be comprehensive and be accurate and well-informed.
By giving customers exactly what they need, you’ll build trust and loyalty and you’ll see your rankings soar.
Note: this makes the blog exactly 1,200 words long…