Site quality is factored heavily in search ranking, and one of the most important aspects used by Google to determine site quality is content. After the Panda update, a large number of websites with low-quality content (e.g., content farms), duplicate content and otherwise bounce-worthy material (e.g., keyword-stuffed content) took a huge hit.
Over the years, there has been a big shift in the amount of quality content on the Internet, especially in tech where every provider has a blog, whitepapers and other material for lead-generation efforts or in fashion, where every retailer has lists, videos and creative uses of user-generated content (UGC). Content farms are fewer and many websites are focusing on user experience (rather than just ranking) when creating content.
This means that competition for top spots on SERPs (search engine results pages) has stiffened. The quality of content has improved across the board, raising the standards for website owners even higher. Ranking well has definitely become more difficult but it is not impossible. You just need to find ways to make your content stand out. Here are just a few ways to do so.
1. Know UX Trumps All
If there is one thing that Google's algorithm updates have instilled into site owners, it is that user experience (UX) should come first. When you are creating content, do not do it for the search engines. It is time to forget about things like placing the keyword in the first paragraph or at the end or wherever else. We are going to discuss this in more detail shortly.
What search engines want to see nowadays is quality content written with the user in mind. Such content tends to automatically stand out in terms of its quality and value. When creating content, be it images, articles or videos, make sure to ask yourself several questions. Is it relevant to my site visitors? Is it easily understandable? Is it engaging? Does the visitor attain some form of value (knowledge, motivation, etc.) from it?
Get obsessed with user satisfaction. Put yourself in the minds of your visitors and determine whether your content offers REAL value to them.
2. Be the Expert on a Topic, not a Keyword
Before Google's Panda update, creating SEO-friendly content was all about keyword use and placement. You would hear advice like, "you must use the keyword in the first paragraph or you must achieve an eight percent keyword density." Today, if you place the same keyword in your copy seven times, it is going to drag down your site ranking.
Keywords are still important and they can still make a difference when used appropriately. What has changed is that keywords are no longer the priority. Quality content today revolves around themes. A certain theme will contain the primary keyword and dozens of other related keywords that arise naturally as you write for the reader. If for example you are advising your visitors on the best air conditioners to buy, you are definitely going to mention things like ducts, cooling, heating and energy.
As Google's algorithms become more sophisticated, they are relying less and less on keywords to tell them what your website is all about. Instead, they analyze different words and phrases to make their own conclusion. The semantic search update, where algorithms look for the meaning behind words and phrases, that came with Hummingbird in 2013 has further driven down their reliance on keywords. Where keywords are still helpful includes headlines, page titles and alt text.
3. Evaluate Your Headlines
There was a time when headlines were simple, short and straightforward. Then along came Buzzfeed and a bunch of other click-bait entertainment websites. Headlines evolved into long-winded click baits that often oversold the story.
Google and users alike are now being turned off by such headlines. So, what kind of headline should you write? Remember that most people determine whether to read or watch by looking at the title. So it is very important that you get it right.
A good headline, which hooks the user without setting them up for disappointment, should contain the following aspects.
- Keyword. You can use the exact keyword or a synonym. Using the keyword is good for SEO. It also sets the theme of what's to come.
- Trigger. You need to get your visitors interested in the article or video below. This is where you use the trigger. It can be a question, an offer or a revelation.
Compare these two headlines:
1. AC Buying Guide
2. AC technology is getting better. What features should you look for when buying?
The second headline clearly captures one's attention, triggering an immediate interest in the content.
- Emotion. Click bait headlines apply shock emotions, which can become a turn off for your readers, especially if the content does not live up to the sensational title. For example, do not write a headline like the following: "A little known trick to cut your insurance premium in half. You will be shocked."
A better way to put it is: "Homeowners are enjoying cheaper home insurance premiums. Here is how you can cut yours in half."
This example properly combines the keyword (home insurance), with emotions (enjoying) and trigger (the question at the end). The same is true for the previous AC headline.
4. Use additional media
Another way to create value for your users while also upping your search engine ranking is to make use of a variety of media forms. If you are writing an article, mix it up with images, videos and infographics. An infographic for instance can be really helpful in conveying a lot of complex information, especially if it contains data and statistics. Another type of media that has gotten popular is interactive media. This includes things like clickable maps, polls, and trivia. This helps to increase user engagement, drive more traffic and boost SEO.
Content marketing is still the foundation of online marketing but Google is getting ever stricter on the quality of content it ranks on its search engine, all for the benefit of the user. While content marketing is still highly effective, it has gotten tougher and more demanding. You have to be better to stand out. And it all starts by focusing on user experience.
Over to You
What changes are you implementing in your content strategy to stand out?
I am fiercely competitive and passionate about SEO, which means working with myself and the Stellar SEO team will put you on the winning side. Nothing about SEO is guaranteed, but we make a habit of helping brands dominate, even in the most competitive of industries. Since 2012, my company, Stellar SEO, has become one of the most highly regarded names in Search Engine Optimization. Taking the unconventional route, my journey to becoming an SEO industry expert began after reading a magazine article with a "Best Business to Start" headline. Starting with no funding or prior business experience, I began researching everything I could about entrepreneurship and SEO. In the process, I personally tested every theory, piece of sales advice, and "proven" method to deliver effective link-building campaigns. I found that there is no one-size-fits-all method or magic guru tricks to link building.