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Content Marketing for Business Owners

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

  1. Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  2. 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?
  3. Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
    • 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.
  4. Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
    • 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.
  5. Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
    • 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.
  6. Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
  7. Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
    • 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.
  8. Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
    • A no-brainer. Better content ranks higher.
  9. How much quality control is done on content?
  10. Does the article describe both sides of a story?
    • 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.
  11. Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
  12. Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
  13. Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  14. For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
  15. Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
    •   Popularity counts for something.
  16. Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
    • Word-count does matter. To avoid content that may be considered too light, provide content of at least 800 words.
  17. Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  18. Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
    •  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.
  19. Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
    • 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.
  20. Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
  21. Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
    • 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?
  22. Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
  23. Would users complain when they see pages from this site?
    • 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.

Content Marketing Strategy

Prioritize for Content Marketing

 

 

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