For quite some time now, conventional SEO has been a thing of the past. With regular search engine algorithm updates from search engine giant, Google, sticking to strict guidelines has become more important than ever – rendering better and more accurate results to everyone. SEO content is now one of the most important search elements to factor into your planning.
Due to many agencies and ‘experts’ adopting the industry frowned-upon practices of black-hat SEO, search engines have had to compile a wide range of highly focused algorithm updates. These updates target very specific elements of search and include updates such as Pigeon, Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird and RankBrain. There are many other minor updates that deal with other aspects of search, but these are the most dominant.
What impact did of all the SEO algorithm updates have on the industry?
Many experts and agencies around the world got a rude awakening when Google started releasing all their algorithm updates. The results of these updates? Thousands of websites being handed down severe penalties and even getting de-indexed from Google rankings. For the end-user, this was a great move as results have become more accurate and Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) are of a much higher quality.
One of the biggest shifts in search came in the form of seo content. From conventional SEO that saw keyword stuffing and link building as the dominating SEO activity, modern day search engine optimisation places emphasis on creating high quality, unique and appropriate content that contributes in building online trust and authority. This might sound simple, but there are certain key elements within SEO content that need to be prioritised to maximise its impact.
What is the main aim of high quality content?
People go to search engines to look for specific information relating to a specific search phrase. Content has been prioritised to produce results that are useful to searchers as well as encourage readers to share it on to their networks and peers. This ability to produce content that promotes sharing and interaction creates trust and authority. When combined, sharability, trust and authority create seo content that shows up high in SERPs and provide readers with the information they are looking for.
What constitutes good SEO optimised content? Here are 5 key focus areas
You obviously know your target audience pretty well if you are selling a specific product, or delivering a certain product. But, are you providing them with high quality and valuable content that they can use for education and decision-making? If you are not 100% sure, then take a look at how you can structure your content to deliver a better reading experience. Not only with this structure provide a pleasurable reading experience, it will also please search engines by adhering to their principles when delivering seo content.
Content on your website’s pages and blogs
In 2015 Google launched an algorithm update that shook the SEO world and it was dubbed RankBrain. This update from Google changed the face of search from a complex algorithm based approach into what has become an interpretive model. This have given Google the ability to interpret content by looking at the page holistically. Google no longer look at links, word count, metadata or titles in isolation, but rather looks at every element of your page and the pages you are linking to. This gives them the ability to interpret the true meaning behind your page to provide the search user with the most accurate information.
Bill Slawski, a patent expert, was quoted on a MOZ article related to RankBrain saying that: “To an equestrian a horse is a large 4 legged animal, to a carpenter, a horse has 4 legs, but it doesn’t live in fields or chew hay, to a gymnast a horse is something I believe you do vaults upon; with RankBrain context matters, and making sure you capture that context is possibly a key to optimising for this machine learning approach.”
This is a clear indication that creating high quality, descriptive and relevant content is key to getting your information listed high on SERPs. To compliment your authoritative content there are also other elements that you need to be including, which are listed below.
Using keywords in your seo content
The perception has always been that keywords are synonymous with search engine optimisation. This is very true of conventional SEO and partially true for modern day practices. Keyword usage has always been a hotly debated topic, but recently there has been some consensus that there have been positive changes with regards to keywords.
Single keyword usage is a thing of the past
Using 1 keyword over and over all around your page and website is no longer acceptable and will more than likely get you penalised. Keyword usage has evolved to make use of long-tail keywords and variations of your keywords. This is where keyword research comes in and why it is so important to work with an SEO agency to help you through this.
Here is an example. If you are in the beauty industry you would traditionally try rank for “lipstick”. With modern day seo, it is best-practice to be more specific to include options such as “lipstick for toddlers” or “bright pink lipstick”. You would also try use as many variations as you realistically can.
It is also advisable to use keywords/key phrases in your headers, sub-headers and titles and use variations here too.
Stuffing your keyword everywhere in your content
If you want your site to go from hero to zero, or from zero to never becoming a hero, then start keyword stuffing your content. This practice was previously a common seo tactic which will now see your site being handed down heavy penalties.
However, there is still a place for keywords, but their place has changed somewhat. Keywords now need to be placed strategically in a way that is natural to the reader (does not look forced into the content) and in a way that it complements the headers, title and content. You need to include key phrases and also make sure you use variations of your keywords.
Length of content on your website
There are 3 main categories of content on your website that have different content requirements namely website page content, blog articles and short articles (portfolio items, customer testimonial, etc.). The bare minimum of words a page can have is 300 words, but we prefer to not publish seo content that is less than 500 words as that, from our experience, seems to be the sweet spot in terms of minimum requirements.
As with everything you do on your website – consider your users first. Make sure you have a variety of shorter, longer and very long content to reach out to ‘skimmers’, visitors who want to get answers and those that want to know ALL the facts. We wouldn’t recommend one over the other.
Success Works posted some great research from some industry giants that may be useful in this article. Let’s take a deeper look into specific page content requirements.
Website page content
The website pages are what make up the core of your website’s structure and meaning. Blogs, articles and shorter pieces are there to support and provide context to your main website pages, so treat these with the respect they deserve. The trick with your page content is to make sure you don’t overdo it and provide too much content and also not provide too little. Remember to always think about your readers and what they are coming to your website to do.
We have found the website page content should be no less than 500 words, but also not be too lengthy and go over 1 000 words. Somewhere in the middle (600 – 700 words) is where you will be satisfying all kinds of readers. This is why linking is still important. You should link out to additional and related information should your readers want to find out more. It is also why page structure is so important as you also need to cater to ‘skimmers’ who want to read specific information which will be broken down by headers.
Blog’s and articles
With this kind of content, the sky is almost the limit. Article content to can go into as much detail as you please as readers generally read information that was suggested by peers, shared by other in their networks, or found to solve a specific search query. To make lengthy content palatable (2 000+ words) is it critical to provide very clear and description headers and sub-headers. This allows your readers to filter through the content to find something specific they might be looking for, or just generally prepare them for what will be covered as they read along. The important thing with lengthy content is to contextualise it with a combination of links to resources on your own website and supporting information outside of your website. When embarking on research to compile a lengthy article, be sure to cover question that your target audience may be searching for and make sure you answer those questions clearly.
It is important to understand and accept that some visitors come to your website to find very specific information or answers and do not want to be filtering through thousands of words. It is very important to share content that is clear, concise and down-to-the-point and you can satisfy all kinds of readers.
Content that falls into this category generally ranges from 500 – 600 words that include headers and sub-headers. It is true that these pieces may not rank as high as longer, more descriptive ones, but once again you need to keep your visitors in mind and optimise for users then search engines.
The ideal kind of stories to be covered in this category include very specific questions and answers that can be linked out to more elaborate information; customer references and testimonials to provide credibility; product or service portfolios; as well as company related updates and announcements. All of these, of course, can be extended into lengthy pieces, but they are ideal candidates for short, punchy pieces.
Titles, heading and sub headings
Having masses of words floating around the pages on your website mean nothing if they are not structured in such a way that it makes sense to your readers and provides them with a logical flow of information. Your page or article title is the single most important piece of the puzzle. This is the piece of information that ultimately tells the reader what the information they are about to read is about. Your title should also contain your keywords/key phrases as well as variations thereof to provide headline support for the subsequent content.
Following on from your title is your headings. These are used to create a content hierarchy relevant to the page title and all these elements should be complimenting each other. Quite often this is where most people make the mistake and repeat the same keywords in multiple headings. It is important to use keywords variations in headings to provide context for your readers and search engines. With reference to on-page seo your heading tags should be a combination of H1 and H2 headers.
Sub-headings are an important aspect of breaking larger sections of content up in to digestible pieces. Your sub-headers should directly relate to the heading of that section to provide further support and context to what was covered under the main heading. As with headings, sub-headings are a great place to use your main keywords and variations thereof. Just make sure you are not stuffing your keywords into unnatural places. Keep your readers in mind and make sure that what they are reading is logical. Typically, sub-headings are compiled using H3-H6 header tags.
Making use of page links to enhance the readers’ experience
Linking is one of those terms in SEO that can very quickly get many hairs standing up on your neck. This is probably the most abused part of traditional seo and one of the biggest drivers of change in the modern SEO landscape. It is also a fundamental part of the web and one of the quickest and easiest ways for readers to be passed onto relevant, related and valuable content.
In the past, the amount of inbound links you had was a determining factor in how your site ranked. Many practiced ‘black-hat seo’ and started to buy links in mass and did everything in their power to legally, or illegally, build up massive linking networks. Today, many of those sites don’t exist, have experienced enormous drops in visitors, or have had to make monumental changes.
Today, links still play a fundamental part of SEO, but their role has changed dramatically. In modern seo links are considered to be ‘connectors’ in that they connect pages to other related pages and articles to create a network of valuable and related information. For links to have their desired effect it is important to use a combination of internal (on your website) and external (other websites) links that provide the reader with additional information.
Remember, as with everything in modern day seo, consider the user experience the most important thing. If you are linking for the sake of linking then search engines will pick it up and penalise you. If you are linking naturally and in a way that provides the reader with high quality information that compliments your content then you will be rewarded. Also remember that social signals are strong ‘connectors’ and provide your readers with links to information that is specifically targeted to them. Make sure you include social media into your digital strategy so that you cover all your bases.
In conclusion to creating search optimised content
The single most important thing to realise is that search has had a complete facelift and will continue to change. What worked in the past will more than likely get you penalised now, so make sure you have all your ducks in a row and you are partnering with someone that understands the landscape and has your best interests at heart.
What we covered in the topics above only relate to 1 aspect of search, namely content. You will no doubt repetitively hear and see that “Content is King” and that is no understatement. Content IS king. Make sure you always put your readers first and optimise for user experience before search engines. This way you will always provide logical and valuable information.
If you have any other content-related topics you would like to add, or just want to let us know your thoughts then please add a comment below.