In the first post in this series, we talked about understanding that Google is a business, not a service product and why the technical health of your website is essential. If you missed that post, pop over here to read it, so you have a strong foundational understanding. In today’s installment of, “How Does Google Work?" we’re going to delve into the content on your site and why it’s critical to your ranking.
Quality Content is one of the most significant factors in Google’s ranking algorithm. As we talked about earlier, like you, Google is a business that’s trying to keep their customers happy. And their customers want information. Google wants to provide excellent information, so they keep coming back. And that’s where you come in. When your website is an authority on a subject because you have good content, Google will take note, and in time, your efforts will be rewarded with higher search rankings.
High-quality content is content that helps a consumer. It’s something they find useful and answers their questions. Some try to provide just a tiny bit of information and a call-to-action, hoping to force the prospective customer to call them on the phone but the reality is customers will leave your site and go get their answer somewhere else. And Google will take note.
If you want to build your authority and ultimately, rank higher on Google, you must provide great content for your audience. Make sure your content answers your customers’ most common questions. If you have a customer service team, ask them what the customers call about on a regular basis and answer those questions. The more in-depth information you share, the better. If you sell a product that needs to be assembled and it’s tricky, consider adding a video that walks through the assembly process. If pictures would help tell the story better, take pictures and include them on your website. In fact, people following directions with text and illustrations do 323% better than those with directions without illustrations. Provide helpful content for your audience. Visual content tells a better story than text, and it can increase engagement significantly.
Content Marketers need to think like publishers. When you subscribe to your favorite magazine, you know that you’re going to receive it at a set cadence and it’s going to have specific items each month. As a content publisher, your audience should be able to expect the same consistency from you. If you're not using a content calendar yet, you need to start now.
So, what cadence is right for you? That depends on your business. Most companies who blog aim for 2-3 posts per week. And that’s hard to do over time. However, it can be worth it. If you're not sure why blogging matters for your business, take a minute to read this post. If you blog consistently, you can build an engaged audience, and you’re continually adding great content to your site. You’re also increasing your authority for terms that are relevant to your brand. And the more overall authority you build, the easier it will be to rank for those crucial high traffic keywords in the future. Google isn’t going to list an unknown site in position #1. They’re going to rank a website that has high authority and a lot of traffic and is known for the subject matter. You achieve this by being a great content resource for your customers.
Adding great content to your site repeatedly is another important ranking factor for Google. Creating great content once isn’t enough. You must continually create great content to win the ranking game. Publish great content and publish it frequently.
So, what is QDF? In our acronym happy industry, QDF stands for Query Deserves Freshness which is Google’s way of saying, provide relevant and up-to-date information. When Google’s customer searches for a term, they want to know that the information they receive is still relevant. A search result page from 5+ years ago may be so outdated that it’s not helpful today.
QDF is especially important for time-sensitive information. There are some situations where the information is evergreen, and that’s OK too. You don’t need to refresh everything on your site on a regular basis, just the items that make sense.
Some of your more involved or in-depth content pieces may be evergreen content. If you create an eBook on a core product offering, you’d probably like to get more than a few months or a year out of the content, right? When it’s designed to be evergreen, that can happen. However, if you’re introducing a new product or service that’s going to be available for a short period, you want to write with that in mind.
So, you may be wondering how much content can be evergreen vs. what needs to be new and how often should you publish? If you’re blogging and it’s tied to your website, you’re continually releasing original content, and that’s great.
As for your standard copy or website pages, I recommend clients take inventory, audit, and adjust based on the competitive landscape on an annual basis unless they feel a refresh is due earlier. Sometimes if a new competitor enters the marketplace or you get lots of customer feedback, you may need to do an update sooner than expected.
During a refresh, review your Title Tags and Meta Descriptions and on-page copy. See if there are opportunities to target new keywords. Determine if there are pages that should be broken apart, so you have a better chance to rank for the terms in Google. Add the images, videos, and photos that we talked about earlier. Find out if any of your Title Tags or Meta Descriptions are truncating. Did you know that Google changed their font size in 2014? They did, and it changed the number of characters you could have in your optimization elements. Many websites had Meta Descriptions and Title Tags that truncated because of this change. Sadly, I still see a lot of these issues today, three years later. (2018 update: Google changed the length of the Meta Description they show in the search results. It's not been verified by Google, but the new recommended length is 250-300 characters. Read this post for more about the changes to the Meta Description length.
It’s up to you to stay on top of what’s happening with Google. The Title Tag and Meta Description are what entice people to visit your website. And Google knows what your click-through rate is. If you have truncation issues or titles and tags that aren’t well optimized, you could be hurting yourself. It’s important to keep your site informative and up-to-date. A content refresh can help with your keyword rank. I’ve seen clients jump 20+ spaces for reasonably competitive terms by adding in better-targeted Title Tags and Meta Descriptions or refreshing the on-site content.
I keep track of which pages we’ve added to each site and when they were added so that it’s easy to review and refresh as necessary. I find it’s best for me to tackle one section at a time if I’m working on a large website. If it’s a smaller site, it may be OK to do it all at once. And if your business is seasonal, you want to work on those ahead of each new season. I recommend working a quarter in advance, if possible, due to the delay SEO and Content results can have to show. The work you do today might take three to six months to show in the results. It’s a long-term gain process.
SEO pro tips for your on-site content…. Learn the tips and tricks white hat SEOs use to help increase keyword rank for their clients.
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