Chapter 2: Content & search engine success factors
Download your copy of the Search Engine Land Guide To SEO.
Note: By submitting this form, you agree to Third Door Media’s terms.
Content is king. You’ll hear that phrase over and over again when it comes to 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.
Cq: Content quality
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 and useful 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 on which nearly all other factors depend.
You can find more information in Search Engine Land’s SEO: Content and Writing category.
Cr: Content research/keyword research
Perhaps the most important SEO factor after creating good content is good keyword research. 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.
For more advice, see our Search Marketing: Search Term Research category.
Cw: Content words/use of keywords
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 percent, 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 second and further references, maybe use the actual noun again here and there, rather than a pronoun.
For more, see our SEO: Content and Writing category.
Cf: Content freshness
Search engines love new content. That’s usually what we mean when we say “fresh.”
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 in regard to 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.
Cv: Vertical search
The other factors on this table cover success for web page content in search engines. But alongside these web page listings are also often “vertical” results. These come from “vertical” search engines devoted to things like images, news, local and video. If you have content in these areas, it might be more likely to show up within special sections of the search results page.
Not familiar with “vertical search” versus “horizontal search?” Let’s take Google as an example. Its regular search engine gathers content from across the web, in hopes of matching many general queries across a broad range of subjects. This is horizontal search, because the focus is across wide range of topics.
Google also runs specialized search engines that focus on images or news or local content. These are called vertical search engines because rather than covering a broad range of interests, they’re focused on one segment, a vertical slice of the overall interest spectrum.
When you search on Google, you’ll get web listings. But you’ll also often get special sections in the results that may show vertical results as deemed relevant.
Having content that performs well in vertical search can help you succeed when your web page content doesn’t. It can also help you succeed in addition to having a web page make the top results. So, make sure you’re producing content in key vertical areas relevant to you. For more information, see some of our related categories:
- Google: Maps & Local
- Google: Images
- Google: News
- Google: Shopping
- Google: YouTube & Video
- SEO: Image Search
- SEO: Local
- SEO: Video Search
Ca: Direct answers
Search engines are increasing trying to show direct answers within their search results. Questions like “why is the sky blue” or “how old is the president” might give you the answer without your needing to click to a web page.
Where do search engines get these answers? Sometimes they license them, such as with menus or music lyrics. Other times, they draw them directly off web pages, providing a link back in the form of a credit.
There’s some debate over whether having your content being used as a direct answer is a success or not. After all, if someone gets the answer they need, they might not click, and what’s the success in that?
We currently consider sites being used as direct answer sources to be a success for two main reasons. First, it’s a sign of trust, which can help a site for other types of queries. Second, while there’s concern, there’s also some evidence that being a direct answer can indeed send traffic.
For more about direct answers, see our related categories: