Chapter 2: Content & Search Engine Success Factors
Content is king. You’ll hear that phrase over and over again when it comes SEO success. Indeed, that’s why the Periodic Table Of SEO Success Factors begins with the content “elements,” with the very first element being about content quality.
Get your content right, and you’ve created a solid foundation to support all of your other SEO efforts.
More than anything else, are you producing quality content? If you’re selling something, do you go beyond being a simple brochure with the same information that can be found on hundreds of other sites?
Do you provide a reason for people to spend more than a few seconds reading your pages?
Do you offer real value, something of substance to visitors, that is unique, different, useful and that they won’t find elsewhere?
These are just some of the questions to ask yourself in assessing whether you’re providing quality content. This is not the place to skimp since it is the cornerstone upon which nearly all other factors depend.
Read the Search Engine Land articles below on content quality to get you thinking in the right direction.
- Living Content: It’s What People Want
- User Generated Content Offers Significant SEO Benefits
- 6 Content Tips: How To Write When You Have Nothing To Write About
- Why Quality Is The Only Sustainable SEO Strategy
- From Garbage To Gourmet: Fixing SEO Content Strategies
- Impacted By Google’s Panda Update? Google Asks You To Consider This…
Cr: Content Research / Keyword Research
Perhaps the most important SEO factor after creating good content is good keyword research. There are a variety of tools that allow you to discover the specific ways that people may be searching for your content.
You want to create content using those keywords, the actual search terms people are using, so you can produce content that effectively “answers” that query.
For example, a page about “Avoiding Melanoma” might use technical jargon to describe ways to prevent skin cancer. But a search engine might skip or not rank that page highly if people are instead searching for “skin cancer prevention tips”. Your content needs to be written in the right ‘language’ – the language your customer or user is using when searching.
Our guide below points you to a variety of tools that will help:
Here are some articles from Search Engine Land that explore the topic of keyword research in more depth:
- The Giant List Of Keyword Tools
- You Say Law Firm, I Say Lawyer
- Of SEO And Spaghetti Sauce
- Priceless Keyword Research Data You Already Have – But Never Use
- How Mobile Searchers Are Changing Keyword Research
- Using Social Awareness Streams To Learn What People Care About
Having done your keyword research (you did that, right?), have you actually used those words in your content? Or if you’ve already created some quality content before doing research, perhaps it’s time to revisit that material and do some editing.
Bottom line, if you want your pages to be found for particular words, it’s a good idea to actually use those words in your copy.
How often? Repeat each word you want to be found for at least five times or seek out a keyword density of 2.45%, for best results.
No no no, that was a joke! There’s no precise number of times. Even if “keyword density” sounds scientific, even if you hit some vaunted “ideal” percentage, that would guarantee absolutely nothing.
Just use common sense. Think about the words you want a page to be found for, the words you feel are relevant from your keyword research. Then use them naturally on the page. If you commonly shift to pronouns on a second and further references, maybe use the actual noun again here and there, rather than a pronoun.
For more advice, see some of our articles below:
- Ten Copywriting Tips for SEO
- Useless SEO Terms: Linkbait & SEO Copywriting
- Simple Tips For Writing An SEO Style Guide
- Better SEO Through Jargon
- Google Provides “Reading Level” Filter & Statistics
Quality content should produce meaningful interactions with users. Search engines may try to measure this interaction – engagement – in a variety of ways.
For example, how long do users stay on your page? Did they search, clickthrough to your listing but then immediately “bounce” back to the results to try something else? That “pogosticking” behavior can be measured by search engines and could be a sign that your content isn’t engaging.
Conversely, are people sending a relatively long time reviewing your content, in relation to similar content on other sites? That “time on site” metric or “long click” is another type of engagement that search engines can measure and use to assess the relative value of content.
Social gestures such as comments, shares and “likes” represent another way that engagement might be measured. We’ll cover these in greater detail in the Social section of this guide.
Search engines are typically cagey about the use of engagement metrics, much less the specifics of those metrics. However, we do believe engagement is measured and used to inform search results.
Below are articles from Search Engine Land on the importance of engagement:
- B2B Engagement Matters: Seven Ways to Keep ‘Em Coming Back for More
- The Farmer/Panda Update: New Information From Google
- Your Site’s Traffic Has Plummeted Since Google’s Farmer/Panda Update. Now What?
Cf: Content Freshness
So you can’t update your pages (or the publish date) every day thinking that will make them ‘fresh’ and more likely to rank. Nor can you just add new pages constantly, just for the sake of having new pages, and think that gives you a freshness boost.
However, Google does have something it calls “Query Deserved Freshness (QDF)”. If there’s a search that is suddenly very popular versus its normal activity, Google will apply QDF to that term and look to see if there’s any fresh content on that topic. If there is, that new or fresh content is given a boost in search results.
The best way to think about this is a term like ‘hurricane’. If there’s no active hurricane, then the search results will likely contain listings to government and reference sites. But if there’s an active hurricane, results will change and may reflect stories, news and information about the active hurricane.
If you’ve got the right content, on the right topic when QDF hits, you may enjoy being in the top results for days or weeks. Just be aware that after that, your page might be shuffled back in search results. It’s not that you’ve done anything wrong. It’s just that the freshness boost has worn off.
Sites can take advantage of this freshness boost by producing relevant content that matches the real-time pulse of their industry.