Of all the key factors that Google and the other search engines take into account when they’re ranking search results, your content and its relevance is first on their checklist.
If you just post bluff and bluster content in order to be posting frequently, you aren’t doing yourself or your search rankings any favours; you will get penalised for this practice.
The recent Google core algorithm update impacted a few content strategies that had become popular of late. Content strategies such as:
- Sites that split their sites into multiple sites, and then re-launched them.
- Long form lists i.e. 101 Ways to Leave Your Lover.
- Sites packed full of high quantity, low quality content.
The critical takeaway here is: whilst your content has to be viewed as useful by the search engine bots, more importantly, it has to be useful to your audience.
Because it’s not the bots that ultimately purchase from you or use your services, it’s the people reading your content. So if you solely post stuff and nonsense, that’s how the search engines and your audience will view you.
What is great content?
So, let’s start with what the search engines deem ‘great content’.
- Great content has to meet the needs of the user.
- Great content has to be linkable.
- Great content has to provide the answer to the question being asked.
It isn’t tough.
Content is one of the most important factors of on-page SEO.
In order to make sure that search engines get eyes on this awesomely relevant content you’re producing, is where all the other on-page SEO* factors come into play:
* On-Page SEO covers ALL the things that you, the publisher, can do to YOUR website and its pages, to help you rank higher in the search engines’ results.
- Keywords – use them wisely and often and make sure they’re included as early in the text as possible, both headlines, subheadings and main body of the article.
- Keyword density – keywords are important, but Google doesn’t rate them as highly as they once did, so don’t spam the article with them.
- LSI keywords – liberally sprinkle synonyms of your keywords throughout the article.
- Internal links – include at least 2-3 internal links to encourage users to stay on your website.
- Outbound links – link to other relevant pages to aid Google’s understanding of what your page is about.
- Page titles – wrap them up in a H1 tag so search spiders know for sure it’s the title.
- Body tags – wrap all subsequent headings in appropriate H2-4 tags and include keywords.
- Meta-descriptions – succinctly describe what each page is about, and don’t forget to include keywords.
- Meta tags – for each of your pages you can set the keywords in the form of meta tags.
- URL descriptions – keep them short and sweet and aim to start each one with a keyword. Include modifiers such as ‘2019’, ‘best’ etc to rank for long-tail versions of your keyword.
- Boost your site speed – Google has categorically stated they use site loading speeds in their ranking criteria.
- Optimise your images and always assign images Alt Text – don’t forget to include your keyword in the title.
Now, whilst all of these elements make up the component parts of the ranking algorithm, they aren’t the reason that users will stay on your website, they are merely the signposts helping to guide users to you.
It’s what you give your audience next that will be the deciding factor between them staying or going.
Content truly is king. Which begs the question:
What makes great content?
Proof terms and relevancy
This is why keywords are so important. Users want to get a warm fuzzy feeling that they’ve come to the right place, that you’re the oracle with the answers they seek.
Your choice of keywords are essentially your proof that you are relevant. Box clever and use synonyms too, and long tail keywords. Just don’t make your article spammy with their inclusion. Liberally sprinkling them throughout your article will suffice, enough to make you sound relevant to both the search spiders AND the readers.
Example: if your page is about climate change, then your keywords would be climate change; and potential synonyms could be environmental impact, warmer temperatures, meteorologist, jet streams, weather patterns. You get the idea – use your articles to demonstrate your relevancy in the field and include proof terms to back it up.
Keywords show the readers that they’ve come to the right place, however, remember that Google puts more weight on the relevancy of your article and its use to the reader, than how many keywords you’ve managed to jam in.
Focus on providing depth to the information you’re sharing, not on repeating the keyword or phrase that you want to be ranked for – you’ll only get penalised.
When we say ‘liberally sprinkle keywords throughout the article’ there are places they should naturally go:
- The article title
- The meta-description
- Meta tags
- Body tags
- Image Alt text
- URL descriptions
As Google says, it wants natural articles, so there is no ideal nor exact percentage of keyword density for good or bad rankings. However, a good rule of thumb that generally works is between 1-3% keyword density, including a mixture of synonyms and LSI keywords.
If you still aren’t sure, just write text that flows and incorporate the keywords as naturally as you can, and you won’t go too far wrong.
When it comes to how long your content should be, Google has confirmed that content length is strength when it comes to ranking.
Of course there’s no set word count per page for any website, it all comes down to your judgement and what your audience expect and want. So play it safe and stick to the old adage: quality over quantity.
However, saying that, generally, 1,000 words rank better than 500 words which rank better than 200 words. Google has a thing for high quality information, and you can’t typically whittle that type of insight down to 200 words without losing a lot of the quality.
As for what content to include in your actual content, keep it unique, keep it original, keep it relevant and remember your audience.
If you’re writing about SEO for example, then the odds are you’re going to have numerous pages and a lot of in depth articles. After all SEO is a weighty subject after all. If however you run Pete’s Pet Grooming Parlour, chances are your readers aren’t going to want to spend hours learning the ins and outs of the various clipper settings that you use, just so you can mention ‘pet grooming’ one hundred times on one page.
Use your common sense and more than likely, Google will approve of what you’re doing.
Whilst we are on what your audience expects, let’s have a quick look at readability. If your topic is long and complex and that is what your readers expect, not to worry.
If however you’re discussing the ‘top ten restaurants’ in your local town and you’re using language that would baffle a linguistics professor and writing sentences the length of paragraphs, you’re in trouble.
Why is readability important?
Because if your audience can’t read what you’ve written, they aren’t sticking around to see what else you’ve got to say. They will bounce.
The Flesch Readability Test is the easiest way to determine the readability score of your text. It provides a score based on the average sentence length and number of syllables per word. The higher the score, the more readable your text. Scores are marked out of 100 but anything over 60 is considered OK.
Just remember though, if you’re writing about rocket science and you have a high readability score, your audience might consider your text beneath them. It’s a catch-22.