Once upon a time in the beginning of SEO, content production was a matter of generating copy that contained enough keywords to satisfy search engine spiders that your content was relevant to the query used. It was a time when on-page content was all about keyword density, keyword proximity and meta-tag optimisation. Sound familiar? If a little too familiar then it’s possible you are still relying on some out of date SEO practices when it comes to producing good online content.
Original SEO Techniques
Back then the formula, once learned, was seemingly rather successful to make work to your advantage. It was like playing that game that Sales Agents play on the phones to pass the time; counting how many times they could naturally get a buzzword into a conversation for points. Content writing was easier then and although it required the skills to optimise the content whilst ensuring it remained compelling and natural to the user, the link between mastering the formula and getting good results was less laborious than it is now.
Unfortunately, the ability to master SEO this way opened up opportunities for spam sites to manipulate the system by writing programmes that would recreate the formula with no effort and see their sites literally bouncing up the SERPs to top spots simply by over-optimising content and Meta tags and bagging as many backlinks they could get, regardless of quality. This hugely impacted the user experience of the search engine and led to Google seriously cleaning up their algorithms.
Content is King
These days, in a post Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird world, Google has a more definitive approach to what it deems to be good content. To be in with a chance of ranking well in the SERPs, sites need to spend the time creating compelling content that has serious value to the user.
Whilst some of the old techniques are still important, for example optimisation of page title in order to understand page relevance, there are number of practices that are now considered essential, to even give you a fighting chance of ranking well. Granted, what ranks top is undoubtedly down to strength of brand and site popularity in the online space, however there are number of essential practices that will undoubtedly make the climb up the SERPs an easier fight, as demonstrated in our Top 7 tips below:
1. Write for the human
Forget trying to understand the sophisticated algorithms of the search engine. Too much time trying to decipher how to play the game is less time spent creating content for the user. When you write, have the user in mind. Think about how much primary relevant information you can provide to the user and in which mediums to keep them most engaged. Thereafter think about the secondary content that could be offered up and how this can be reached.
2. Don’t over optimise
The content you should write should flow effortlessly for the reader. It should make reference to your chosen keyword from your keyword strategy, but contain descriptive text that naturally contains synonyms of that keyword. Those that opt for keyword stuffing are only likely to get ”Panda Slapped” by Google.
Just remember…anything that looks like it was created by a robot will be flagged as suspicious by the search engine’s spiders. This includes short, snappy text or phrases that look like they could be a data pull from somewhere.
3. Establish quality links
Google Penguin regulates all things link-related and after several updates and refreshes, is now extremely adept at picking sites that are part of link farms or poor quality link networks. When link building, always go for quality over quantity. Domain authority score on Open Site Explorer is testament to the fact that sites can have a better domain authority score than a competitor, despite having less backlinks.
A little help can be given by growing links by hand, but the most fruitful way of achieving this is to provide opportunities for the user to share your content out to others, creating natural backlinks.
4. Include rich media
The more diverse your content is, the more engaging it is to the user. The result – increased shares, increased time on page and increased pages per session. It may also boost return visits. All of these factors are perceived to be contributing factors in what Google defines as a popular site.
Rich media sources include image galleries, video, ads and user interaction. All have the opportunity to go viral, increasing back links and online popularity.
5. User generated content
UGC has two major advantages. Firstly, it provides the opportunity for site owners to increase the level of content without having to produce it themselves. Secondly, it allows for third parties to express their opinions on a brand, which can be shared across the net, thus increasing brand awareness and popularity.
6. Responsive design
More and more sites are using responsive design in order to provide a better user experience on mobile and tablet. A major advantage of this is reduction of bounce rate, which some believe is an important factor for Google. Bounce rate is caused by many different factors, but one is certainly ease of use on different devices. If the bounce rate can be minimised by having a more flexible design, it may help to give you a leg-up in the rankings.
7. Being active online
It’s all very well having an optimised site that’s popular and adheres to content best practise, however for a brand to truly stand out in the online world, digital marketing peeps need to be prepared to get their hands dirty online and get social. Whether this be in the form of engagement on-site, or through social media marketing, it’s important for companies to protect online brand reputation and show willing involvement in this medium. Of course having a Google + account always helps. No prizes for guesing why.
The Last Word
There are of course many other factors that contribute to a site’s rankings. This is reinforced by the fact Google’s algorithm updates and data refreshes are becoming more and more frequent, to increase their sophistication and keep out the gamers. It’s a complex playing field that now requires SEO copywriting to utilise an array of technical, PR, marketing and creative skills to tick Google’s plethora of boxes. But if you have the time, the patience, the skills and the drive to win, engaging in these best practices could substantially grow your online audience.