Over the last several years, search engine optimization (SEO) has matured quite a bit. Now, it’s no longer the practice of stuffing web pages with as many carefully-placed keywords as possible and hoping that Google notices. These days, it takes a much more sophisticated and refined approach built on fresh, original content that will provide value to visitors, while also attracting search engines and helping sites to move up the natural search rankings.
Quality is Key
Creating content for SEO today means going beyond traditional SEO practices like on-page keyword optimization or link building. Although both of these still play an important role in a business’s SEO success, they can no longer be relied on as the best ways to drive search traffic to a website.
As time goes on and technology gets more sophisticated, Google continues to push for a quality over quantity approach. Sites that offer visitors valuable content are going to be looked upon more favorably by the search engine, and will – therefore – appear higher in the search rankings. In Google’s digital eyes, this means providing high-quality, relevant content on a regular basis.
Obviously, what defines “high quality” content is up to the person reading or watching it, but that hasn’t stopped Google from trying to filter the stuff it finds to be the most beneficial to the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs). Some of the things that Google looks for to determine quality are longer content, images, videos, correct spelling, proper grammar, proper text formatting and, of course, links – including both outbound links to other high quality sites and inbound links (and social shares) from high quality sources.
It’s also important to remember that content must be relevant to the website publishing it and the people who are most likely to read it. This means staying around the general topic of the website (as in, only publishing content about tech gadgets on a technology review site, rather than – say – automobile parts). This way, the search engines will see a common, consistent theme across all of a site’s content when they come to crawl it. Relevance is important to Google, because it means that visitors that end up at a website looking for information about a specific topic will be able to find it quickly once they get there and poke around.
Kinds of Content (And How They Help)
Admittedly, “content” is a vague term that can be applied to pretty much anything on the Web, in one way or another. But there are certain types of content that fit into Google’s loose criteria for “high quality” that can also help businesses move up the search rankings. The most obvious (and the easiest to produce) are blog posts.
It seems that every business has a blog these days (or, at least, they should have one) that allows them to consistently publish new long-form content related to their specific industries. With blogs, companies can satisfy both Google (and other search engines) and their target audiences by publishing original posts that provide readers with some kind of informative or actionable value. They also allow bloggers to stay on top of timely or topical news items – another thing that search engines like.
But really, the most obvious way that blog posts help improve a site’s search rankings is that they give writers more opportunities to insert relevant keywords into their sites in a natural, readable way that will attract the search engines and cause them register the site as being relevant to those specific terms. This benefit only grows and become more powerful as a site publishes more blog posts.
Blogs also provide businesses with a way to garner more backlinks from other high quality sites or blogs. This gives the business owner more authority with Google, makes the site more visible to its target audience and helps spread its content around the Web.
In addition, blog posts give companies content that they can push on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google +, in turn, giving their fans and followers a reason to visit their websites. Plus, when they like, share or retweet a company’s posts, it provides social signals that act as inbound links, which adds credibility to a website and results in another SEO benefit.
However, not everyone likes to read, so it’s worth keeping in mind that blog posts aren’t going to entice everyone in your target audience. That is why many businesses have started turning to infographics – large-format images that can be used to organize multiple data points on a single subject or topic. Many users like these because they can quickly read and understand a significant amount of information in a way that’s visually stimulating, making it easier to remember later.
Businesses like infographics because they represent a great way to increase traffic and to gain authority needed to help them move up the SERPs. Because of their visual nature, infographics (or well-designed infographics, at least) are far more likely than blog posts to go “viral,” meaning that they tend to receive more reposts and shares on social networks and other websites than standard blog posts. This results in more links, more traffic, a wider audience reach and, ultimately, more credibility with the search engines.
Content Optimization is the New SEO
Back when Internet technology and search engine algorithms where still in their infancy, web professionals tried to find crafty ways to artificially generate signals that would convince Google and other search engines of their credibility. This included tactics like keyword stuffing and low quality link building that were only concerned with manipulating the search engines into prioritizing a site in the SERPs. Nowadays, search engines take a much more sophisticated approach to the way they determine which sites should be given authority in their niches.
These days, search engines require relevant, high quality and fresh content that is published on a regular basis. This can be done in the form of blog posts or infographics, as well as other types of “viral” content, such as videos, slideshows and more. Search engines want to be able to provide their users with valuable information in the same way that businesses want to offer their target audiences something relevant to their interests. An abundance of quality content is the answer for both parties.