What is Content Marketing?
Gone are the days when small businesses simply required a modest website landing page with only their name, logo and contact information. As Google continues to develop its search algorithm they are placing greater emphasis on user experience and site value. In other words, websites that are viewed as a trusted resource of information will ultimately rank better in the search engines for relevant queries. For business owners, this necessitates establishing a strategy for providing unique content about their product, service, or industry on their business website. The latest buzzword in Search Marketing is “content marketing.” Essentially, this is a fancy term for, providing content that doesn’t suck. This is the backbone for developing a successful website that ranks well in the search results.
Understanding What Google Wants
Before you can develop your website for Google you need to understand their goals. Simply put, they view anyone performing a search as their customer. To provide the best search results, Google needs to understand the kind of pages their customers consider to be high quality. Google assembled a panel of researchers to review websites and asked them a series of questions. Based on their answers, they developed a proprietary scoring system allowing them to distinguish high-quality websites from lesser quality sites. This scoring system was introduced into their search algorithm early this year causing lesser quality websites to fall in the search rankings and moving those with a better user experience higher. This is the future of Google. Great quality sites will show up first in the listings and lower quality sites will die and be buried. (not necessarily in that order).
Though their scoring factors remain a mystery, Google did provide the list of survey questions to the public so we can develop better quality websites. Of course only SEO consultants knew where to find this information. It wasn’t much help to the average small business owner, who in many cases, is also the content writer for their website. So here’s the list, with a few clarifications provided by me.
How Google Ranks the Quality of a Website
- Would you trust the information presented in this article?
- Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
- Simply put, does the author sound like they know what they are talking about? Could they be judged as an authority on the subject?
- Some sites duplicate content from other sources instead of providing new, helpful information. These sites are looking to profit without bothering to do the work. Google will rank sites with unique content better higher than sites that copy from others.
- This is a loaded question as people rank trust differently. At the most basic level, your site should look polished and professional. It can help to add code validation badges, include any professional affiliations you may have, and remove advertisements, which can make visitors question your legitimacy.
- Remember, this question is about trust, not whether you actually take credit card information. If you DO process credit cards on your site it is critical that you create the perception of trust in addition to providing a secure shopping experience.
- Your website content should be grammatically correct and in clear English. If English is not your first language or simply not your strong suite, employ the help of a content writer or at least a proof-reader. Your site doesn’t have to be Shakespeare, but it does have to be well written.
- Quoting from other sites is not a problem. Neither is writing your own spin on someone else’s content. I have heard from other SEO experts that a page should have at least 30% original content. I honestly don’t know exactly how much is too much copied text (according to Google). My advice is to use quotes to support your writing. Don’t write to support the quote.
- A no-brainer. Better content ranks higher.
- I’m not sure how Google Bots would determine this. My guess is they are weeding out pages that sound like an infomercial. Lots of pitchy text turns off readers who are looking for information.
- Popularity counts for something.
- Word-count does matter. To avoid content that may be considered too light, provide content of at least 800 words.
- This is an easy metric for any business owner to test. Add a share button (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email, etc.) to your pages and come back later to see if people are sharing it.
- Google is weighing the ad to content ratio. There should be more content than ad blocks. Remember, your opt-in email form may count as an ad block.
- What is the real purpose of the page? Does the page provide anything useful or is just a place to stuff advertisements or collect personal information?
- Think about all the things you hate when searching for sites. Avoid pop-ups, too many advertisements, slopping writing, blurry photos, navigation that isn’t intuitive, slow page loading, and outdated information.
The Basics of Content Marketing
Google wants you to provide high-quality, unique, well-written information. Beyond that, they want you to update that information with some regularity. Blogs are probably the best way to provide this information because they consolidate articles in a centralized location and can be regularly updated and indexed. With Google’s new quality ranking factors, you can’t count on gaming the system. Black-hat SEO techniques may offer short term results but they won’t help your site or your business in the long run. Before you agonize over keywords or backlinks, think about user experience. Develop a content strategy that includes a plan for your static pages and for growing your site in the future.