Writing content for the web has changed significantly in recent years thanks to several updates (Panda and Penguin) to Google’s algorithm. What was once a relatively easy part of creating a website with good traffic is now a very detailed process. That is if you want to be successful.
The common catchphrase today is “write content for your readers, not the search engines.” Content production for the internet used to be more about numbers than actual words. It was about inserting specific keywords again and again so that Google would value a page’s importance based on the number of times the keyword appeared on it.
Google now measures value based on quality versus quantity. If we write a page with our readers in mind, that means we’re creating content that is engaging, complete, and informative. It’s written to provide the best page a reader can find on the topic, not for the sole purpose of rankings and gaining traffic.
However writing content for the readers doesn’t mean there isn’t a strategy still in place for making sure your content is viewed. It just means the strategy has changed. Keywords are still very important and play a vital role in whether your page is found in searches, but keyword density is no longer a strong focal point for quality content production in Google’s eyes.
Your main keyword for a page, which should also be your headline (see the strategy there), should be incorporated every so often throughout your content as long as it occurs naturally. The quality of your sentences shouldn’t be affected by trying to use a particular keyword or phrase. But this is just the start of creating quality content and there are many rules that should be followed now.
Rule Number 1: Be Original
Today’s biggest rule of all is writing unique and original content. Content that is copied or closely resembles another website’s content will be mark as “duplicated” by Google. Committing this mistake won’t just keep people from finding your content, but it will also hurt your website as a whole. Google penalizes sites that publish duplicate content and such sites often fall in the rankings.
What’s the best way to avoid publishing duplicate content? Write it yourself. Hired “content farms” often fail to write under the strict Google standards that are now in place. If you’re going to hire freelance writers or allow guest posts, make sure you’re strict with your submission guidelines. It’s best to check their content in Copyscape to see how similar it is to other content on the internet.
Google isn’t asking us to do the impossible and produce content that has never been presented. They’re simply asking us to be creative and responsible. Copying someone else’s work and receiving credit for it doesn’t work in school and Google applies that same concept to their search engine.
If you’re going to use someone else’s content to make a point make sure to add value to it. State an opinion or present a new theory so that you’re adding your own original content. One example is using a quote that is published on multiple websites. You’ll need to surround the quote with unique content, otherwise Google may flag the page and it will affect your ranking.
Google even penalizes websites for publishing content that already exists on their own site. If you’re trying to rank for multiple keywords on the same subject, then the content you present on each of those pages should be different.
If your website is about cycling, don’t create pages titled “Bicycles,” “Bikes,” “Cycles,” and “Two Wheelers” unless you’re able to make these pages completely different from each other. Even then it’s risky. Because you’re the only one who knows all the pages that exist on your website, it’s safest to write your own content when possible.
Other Rules to Follow
Another rule to follow is write content that is comprehensive. There is no need to go on and on about a topic just to generate a longer page, but not fully answering a question or explaining a topic too briefly is not quality content. Google labels this type of content as “thin” or “lacking information.” Consider setting a 400 word minimum for all the pages on your site to avoid thin content.
It’s also important to make sure your readers know what the page is about within the first couple paragraphs of the page. Avoid giving long introductions or teasers to introduce a topic. Do your best to let readers know what the page is about as soon as they land on it. This lets Google know the page is on topic right from the start. It will also keep your visitors on your site longer and reduce your “bounce rate.” The bounce rate is measured by the percentage of visitors who land on your website and leave it without navigating other pages.
Another way to reduce your bounce rate is to write a “landing” or “funnel” page. These pages are written to let your visitors know what you have to offer and where they can find it. Place links within the content so visitors can access other pages on your site. The content should be short and written to entice them to keep reading more.
Producing fresh content is another focus that should be added to your to do list. Whether it’s done through discussing current news or hot topics in your industry, make an effort to post new content on a consistent basis. Daily is best, but weekly is a great place to start. Creating a blog is an effective way to keep fresh content being posted on your site.
Adding pictures, videos and infographics is another great way to produce original content. It helps the presentation of your website and Google sees it as adding value to the page in a unique way. Companies like iStock Photo and Shutterstock have thousands of images you can use for a fee. The use of Flickr photos requires giving credit to the owner of the image.
If your website has ads on it, do everything you can to limit their use. It’s tempting to have multiple ads on your pages because you want to make more money, but it can be flagged as spam if there is too much. Google battles itself with this because they offer Google Adsense as a way to make money with advertising, yet they say too much can hurt your website. Use your best judgment when utilizing advertising methods. No one likes to land on a site full of ads so keep that in mind when creating your own.
Last but not least, always publish content that is edited and free from grammar mistakes. Accuracy is equally important. It seems like an elementary rule, but far too many websites produce content that is full of mistakes and inaccuracies. Google’s algorithm can recognize content that has misspelled words and such mistakes will cause your site to get flagged.
Satisfying Google’s content standards takes time and effort, but doing so can go a long way is making sure your website stands out against the rest.