In 2012, Google released two major updates to its search algorithm — Panda and Penguin. Together, these updates rewrote the rules of search engine optimization and sent the experts scrambling to adjust.
Before then, a page’s ranking was heavily affected by its overall number of inbound and outbound links. This resulted in the environment we saw in the late 90s and early 2000s, in which high-ranking pages were often thin on content and heavy with unnecessary hyperlinks.
SEO Content is King!
With Panda and Penguin, Google shifted a lot of the weight away from those links and into the hands of content. And ever since, we’ve all been slowly tortured by that ubiquitous phrase —“Content is King!”
Although we’re all probably sick of hearing it, the catchphrase has persisted for a reason. Five years after Penguin, quality content is still the most effective means for organizations to stand out both on and off the web.
So, we know that quality content matters to SEO, but how exactly does one define “quality”. Google is notoriously secretive about its algorithm, but we can gain general insights into how rankings are calculated by looking at the analytics.
One major factor that seems to emerge is visitor engagement. Engagement roughly equates to how long a user spends on a given site, and how thoroughly they interact with the site. If a user clicks on your link in a search result, then navigates away from your page in just a few seconds, Google will interpret that to mean your page isn’t offering quality content. And your site will slide down the rankings.
That means that your content must be engaging and relevant to the visitor’s search query. The latter part of that equation brings up the issue of keywords. Keywords help ensure the right content is connected to the right search queries. But glutting your content with a million keywords and hoping for the best won’t fly. Google actively penalizes those tactics, so you must ensure that the keywords you use work naturally and organically in your content.
Search engine visibility also depends upon content freshness. If your blog hasn’t been updated in months, it is likely to sink in the rankings behind more active websites. Freshness also means originality. Wholesale copying of content, duplicate content on different pages, and automatically-generated content are all SEO poison…and for good reason.
Ultimately, the kind of content that powers SEO is the kind of content that you would want to read. That means engaging, informative, relevant, and unique. It is precisely those qualities that will also inspire your readers to share and link to your content on their sites and social media platforms…which in turn will improve your site’s ranking.
Create Quality Content
With each new algorithm update, Google makes it increasingly difficult to “game” their rankings. Their newest development, RankBrain, is an AI system that helps process, interpret, and learn from novel search queries. It also codifies and reinforces the content quality guidelines that Google first introduced with Penguin and Panda. It should come as no surprise, then, that the bottom line for all websites, both today and into the future, is this — create quality content.
No matter how fantastic your business may be, it can’t gain traction if it’s hidden beneath the competition. 70% of users will click on one of the first three links populated in a search, and 90% of them will find what they’re looking for on that first click. So it is imperative that your organization stands out with consistent, quality content.
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