This is the final in a three part series that looks at the evolution of written content for online marketing. Links to Parts 1 and 2 are at the bottom of this article.
The ‘black hat’ and ‘grey hat’ SEO practices of the past managed to artificially inflate search rankings for some websites, many of which contained poorly written content. Duplicate copies of websites and automated synonymised content filled search results pages, to the frustration of online users. Trust in Google search results began to decline and ‘SEO’ became a dirty acronym: it was equated to spamming, and in some cases it still is.
Google’s penalties for black hat SEO
Google, however, responded to black hat SEO’s manipulative tricks by modifying its search algorithm – its top secret and constantly changing formula changing for ranking websites. It is said to contain over 200 elements.
Panda update: First launched in February 2011, Google’s Panda update was a major change aimed primarily at content farms and websites with thin content and excessive ads. According to moz.com, this algorithm update affected approximately 12% of search results, sending a loud message to websites with poor quality issues.
Penguin update: Also known as the “Webspam Update”, Penguin was aimed at eliminating web pages that practised keyword stuffing and link schemes that attempted to boost the search rankings through the use of poor quality content. In announcing the Penguin modification, Google reiterated its goal of helping users find what they need by delivering web pages with useful content and which provided a satisfying user experience. This update was said to affect some 3.1% of English search queries.
Hummingbird update: Launched in August 2013, Hummingbird changed the way Google views words in a search query. It looks at each word in a query and its relationship to other words in order to arrive at the meaning of the entire query before serving search results that match the concept rather than one or two keywords in a query. While not a totally new development, since Google had previously launched its conversational search feature, Hummingbird has highlighted the importance of creating original high quality content that answers the questions of its users, and which contains the semantics of a topic, rather than just having a keyword-focus.
Importance to SEO of writing
Search algorithms are being continually updated, and in Google’s case, they’ve announced over a hundred tweaks in an effort to maintain its standing in the field of web search – they aren’t all given cute names. So what does this mean for website owners, webmasters and Internet marketers? Well, we’ve come full circle – getting top search results requires an investment in an effective content strategy that is consistent with Google’s SEO guidelines.
Focusing on content
Start with a concept: Your website content must involve phrases that are aligned with how your target audience thinks and searches. This requires some brainstorming, research and testing using complete titles rather than broken phrases.
Create outstanding content: Choose a single idea and develop content around it as a topic. While not all business concepts carry the same appeal across audiences, it is still possible to create compelling content even in so-called “boring” niches. This requires creativity, diligence, and time to yield effective and lasting results.
Implement a strong content strategy: Focusing on your readers means creating content that they are most likely to search or use. Every business website, therefore, must provide written content dealing with:
- Product or service sales
- Customer support
- Company information
- Education, information and resources
Of greater value to a website are original, informative, educational and useful written content which not only satisfy Google and other search engine algorithms but are also evergreen or long-lasting. This type of content can distinguish your business from others in your niche or industry sector, and , if unique and will withstand future algorithm changes.
In addition to creating a steady stream of content for your readers, your content strategy should also include cultivating links from premium social media platforms and authority websites. For several of my clients I have designed a very simple strategy to get the most out of the original content my team and I write for them – and their websites are being rewarded with social media love with the minimum of effort.
So that’s the end of my three part series on content creation – the first two parts can be found at: