Fifteen years ago, websites topped searches by cramming keywords into useless paragraphs in nonsensical landing pages. Five years ago, every business and business’s mothers started a blog to improve their site’s content and draw in customers. The rule was “write fast, write often.” The idea was that several 400 word posts several times a week would improve your search engine rank.
Defining Rank-Tuned Content
Rank-tuned content simply means you develop valuable information for consumption by your readers, yet play by the search engine rules that give you prime search spots. There are no hard and fast rules for what content dominates, because today the rules to raise rank have become somewhat convoluted.
Why? Google’s Penguin Updates typically set the trend for how other search engines, like Yahoo and Bing, implement their own search measures. Over time Google’s Penguin Algorithm has begun penalizing sites that stuff their content with keywords. More informative sites get a boost.
Now throw mobile sites, responsive design, and demographics into the mix. Search engines are continuously evolving, as are web design practices. Your content needs to be what your readers want, but it also has to conform to those changes. Content that goes unseen goes unread.
Conforming for Search Engines
Defining common SEO tactics and the vital Penguin rules are beyond the scope of this article. After all, Google updates its algorithms more than 600 times annually. The question is, does your content deliver? How do you know if it does? First things first: focus on how to tell if there is a problem.
You can draw conclusions on your content and design quality with Google Analytics. Among other information, Analytics provides bounce rate and retention time. Do people see your text and immediately jump ship? Is the text engaging?
You could have the most informative blog in the world written with the hilarity and precision of Mark Twain. Yet if people leave your sites in droves, something is turning them off. Is it due to poor site design? Low retention and high bounce rates usually signify strong use of SEO but weak content. High reader retention but low engine rank is a sign that your keywords, titles, and descriptions probably need to be improved.
Information bundled in well-constructed articles and blog posts typically needs more than 400 words to communicate. The result is that longer posts, which cover more ground, have begun to dominate. Posts can be too long. Remember, reader retention is vital.
SerpIQ did a survey of post length versus Google rank. They found, on average, the top 10 Google search results followed a pattern where longer posts got the highest spots:
Even between spots 1 and 2 and spot 10, there is more than a 400 word difference. Google will also penalize you for updating infrequently. At least once every 7-10 days, as long as the quality is maintained, is enough to stabilize or improve your rank. The researchers also discovered older, more established websites tend to have longer posts.
The absolute best posting frequency is at least every business day. The big question then becomes: Can you sustain introducing new ideas and relevant content that often?
Reaching the Right Crowd
Sometimes, there is nothing wrong with your content. Instead, you are simply marketing yourself to the wrong demographic. Analytics also provides data on keywords favored by different demographics. Is your bounce rate lower for a demographic marginalized by your title and keyword choice? Can you adjust any keywords to bring more traffic to your site?
Does My Content Need to be Overhaul?
Judging the quality of your own writing can be challenging. The best method is to move down a checklist and ask yourself important questions while remaining as objective as possible. The Panda algorithm, Google’s pet project that focuses exclusively content quality, demolishes the website rank of pages that offer poor content. While Penguin looks at SEO-related issues, Panda attempts to find duplicate content, stolen content, and grammar problems.
Ask yourself the following questions. If you find yourself answering “yes” to more than a couple, it might be time to rewrite some old content:
- Does the depth of information match your credentials? A medical blog from the perspective of a physician should be more technical than, say, the sufferer of a chronic disease.
- Does any information appear multiple times on your website? Paragraphs should not be copied and pasted from page to page. If information needs to be repeated, it should be rewritten. Blogs that feature content on the same topic without providing different information is heavily penalized.
- Are there any spelling or grammatical errors? Heaven help your site if you fail the fundamentals.
- What kind of original content are you providing? There is a vast difference between providing original research, fresh information, or even new perspectives. Is this something people would value? Is too much information copied from another website?
- Is the information one-sided? Opinion articles that explore another viewpoint is favored more highly than rants riddled with straw men and snowball arguments.
- Is the article edited favorably? It is easy to tell when a post was organized haphazardly or written too quickly. If your ideas do not flow easily from one topic to the next, consider improving your cohesion and flow.
Do you provide images? This is a stylistic choice, but images improve reader retention and draw traffic. Articles that include images get 94% more traffic. 60% of consumers are more likely to interact with a business’s website when an image is included in search results. Do you provide images? Are they relevant to the content? Do they effectively break up longer posts to give readers a little breathing room?