Years ago, we could dump keywords into the right places, load up the footer with a bunch of nonsensical garbage, join a link ring, buy some additional links and then call it a day. Not anymore.
Welcome to the new age of Google.
In the world according to Google, SEO now hinges on quality content. But what is “quality” content, you might ask? Essentially, it is content that is authoritative, presents information in an organized fashion, and clearly delivers what all the signs indicate that it will deliver.
Here are 25 things to consider regarding content. Wait. I suppose I should actually say, “Here are 25 things that Google considers about content.”
When building or restructuring a site for Google, you must consider the roadmaps that Google and your users are going to follow. There are two ways to think about this: Google follows the code, but users follow the design. Build the code to lead GoogleBot through the site by the nose, and build the design to lead the user.
Where & How to Use Keywords
Think of your website, including your URL structure, as a giant marketing funnel. When you start at the top, the mouth of the funnel is really broad. Then it narrows until you reach the bottom. If you consider your site structure and keyword usage a 3-stage funnel, build it out as follows:
- Use broad keywords in your root folder and pages
- Use slightly longer tail keywords in your next level URI and headlines/content
- Use detailed long tail keywords within content, and link to that content internally and externally using those keywords.
Make Sure the Content Is Original
Don’t recreate your own ideas in a new way. Research and find new ways to explore your services, products and offerings in a different way. Talk about ideas that you have, try to use your products in new and unique ways.
Don’t Cheap Out
Good content is not easy. You cannot scrape content and create some auto-content generating robot. Sure, GoogleBot might be fooled in the short term, but as their semantic algorithms start to read your site it will penalize you. And not in the nice way.
Headlines: Keywords Are…Key
Strong headlines are what you need. You’ll notice something about this blog post: I use headline tags a lot. Each headline tag is related to the content within that section, but it is also related to my main headline about generating quality content. All of them include content related keywords, such as “keywords.” “Site structure” and “URL” are also good keywords when discussing content, so I’ve used them. A lot.
Give the Reader Something to Do
If you don’t include a call to action or something for the reader to do then you’ve lost before you’ve even begun. Readers love to be told what to do. They’ll never admit it, but just look at the engagement rates on a Facebook post that reminds people to like and share compared to those that don’t.
A Catchy Headline
Did you notice that I gave you “25 secrets?” Well, creating curiosity, avoiding embarrassment, or providing the feeling of exclusivity are all ways to get people to click. You’d better deliver on your promise though, because people will feel like they were cheated if your conclusions are ambivalent or you don’t actually give them what you promised with your headline.
Get ready to be asked questions – many of which can be avoided by providing sources for any statistics you reference, such as the fact that 70% of stats are made up on the spot. Readers like me get really frustrated when they cannot cite something in a PowerPoint or client presentation at a later time. Inevitably, the client wants to know where you found out that 87% of statistics are made up on the spot and will want to verify that fact.
The content doesn’t always have to be incredible, but it’s easier to get more readers and rank more in search if you are giving people something to read.
If you prove that you cannot be trusted by reposting other people’s content and claiming it as your own, or by simply making things up you will definitely lose readers. Also, Google knows. Even though for a short time this year, Barack Obama became known as the “King of the United States” on Google because of how their news algorithm works, that didn’t make it true. Google will learn over time and you will regret being dishonest.
One-Up Someone Else’s Work
Just because you cannot copy their work doesn’t mean you cannot do it better. If someone posts a list of 5 things that make life better, post a list of 10. If you see “15 secrets” post your “20 mistakes to never make.” If a post provides better value, Google will see it as being more authoritative.
Speaking of Authority
Are you the authoritative voice on a topic? Google knows. If you have a business selling red widgets but your blog is always about green and blue widgets, you won’t be seen as authoritative as you would if you would be writing about red widgets.
Don’t Duplicate Your Own Content
Rewriting or even just changing a few keywords of your own content and posting a new article is a real no-no. People want original thought every time, and so does Google. It factors into the “duplicate content” metric.
Post Original Content
If you rewrite some of your own articles and pretty much post about the same topic as you have before, Google will know, but more importantly your readers will know. See what I did there?
Readers love actionable content, as I stated earlier. But they also want detail – it’s the reason you are reading this now. I’m providing 25 specific things that you can check off of your list later when writing your own content.
Would You Bookmark the Article?
If you wouldn’t bookmark an article to come back and reference it later, then it stands to reason that readers won’t either. Your article should be compelling enough to prompt a reader to want to revisit the information, and part of that is making it detailed and actionable information.
If you aren’t proofing, chances are that at some point you are going to make a grievous spelling or grammatical error and some crazed reader is going to jump up and down on you in the comments. If you don’t enable comments, or you are writing copy for a print ad and a customer spots that error, you’ve just downgraded yourself in their eyes as someone who is either unintelligent, or careless.
We wrote a great article about proofreading not that long ago.
Ask a Question, Provide an Answer
Because Google search results are becoming more and more semantically optimized, it will benefit you to write in such a way that you are answering a question that someone is asking. Even better, ask the question as a headline, and then answer it in detail within the first line of that paragraph. Then expand in detail.
Should You Use Images In Your Posts?
Yes, you should use images and possibly even video in your posts. Motion draws the eye, and you can communicate very effectively with infographics and short videos. Don’t miss the opportunity.
Keep it Short
Unless you are writing a long post like this one where readers will know they are in for a long ride up front, keep your content short. Don’t be a windbag. Make your point and be done. Use short sentences.
Tell Both Sides of the Story
If you are comparing services, products, or in some way reviewing multiple services you had better be prepared to tell both sides of the story. Why? Because fanboys come out of the woodwork when you trash their favorite widget. If you don’t do both subjects justice or treat them both fairly, you run the risk of being flamed or worse: being told that you didn’t do a complete job.
Did Your Headline Mislead Readers?
I hope not. In the context of the previous point, if you compare two products or services be sure to pick a winner. I have become unbelievably irate with bloggers who cannot make up their mind or don’t seem to be willing to anger one crowd because one product is simply superior. Just be prepared to back it up with your research and findings.
Is the Content Common Sense?
Or does it inspire thought and deeper insight? Some content lists are hilariously poor in quality. I’ve seen lists like, “10 Secrets to SEO,” where someone literally included “submit your site to Google” as one of the steps. Really?
Basically, come through with your content and inspire some thought. Approach your content from multiple perspectives and make sure you didn’t assume any knowledge.
People love information that they can relate to, which is why all the greatest morality tales are told in the form of stories. Think about Aesop’s Fables. Someone might tell you about “the golden rule”, but it will stick better if you tell it in the form of a story. You’ll see this technique in another upcoming blog about local SEO, when I become “an awesome plumber” for the sake of the article.
Make it Shareable
If people can’t share what you write, or they have to go through extra steps to do so, it’s possible that many people will never read it. While this doesn’t deal directly with content, Google sees social shares as actions and takes note. Content that gets shared a lot also gets attention in SERPs.
Come Through On Your Promises
Yes, this is technically a 26th item, but since I duplicated one earlier to make a point I wanted to make sure that I legitimately shared 25 secrets to good content. Make promises in your headlines and keep them in your content. Small offers and promises that are fulfilled lead to lucrative relationships.
Final Tip: Hire Someone
This tip is a shameless plug for one of the services that we offer at Synapse. We write good content, with a focus on making the content authoritative, useful, and actionable. We know how to do this, so if you aren’t a creative writer and you need some help with a blog or even just content for your website, start a conversation with Synapse today.