Does anyone remember the days before Google when search engines would crawl links between websites?
In those days, linking from one website to another was the only way to get anywhere!
But luckily, things started to change and keywords eventually came into play, and search engines were able to attach keywords and phrases to specific links on the Internet.
SEO started to evolve, and as humans started learning how to game the system, bots were brought in to combat the practice of keyword stuffing.
Over the years, SEO continued to change to combat spammy behaviors or gray/black-hat SEO so that the search engines would be able to continue showing relevant and quality results to users.
The search engine algorithms of today have long since surpassed that primitive ranking system where so many keywords were stuffed into content, rendering it virtually unreadable.
These days, content creators and publishers need to focus more on quality, rather than quantity if they want high rankings.
Search Engines Are Getting Smarter by the Day
The leading search engines right now really are smarter than you could ever imagine.
It’s quite scary just how smart they are!
Search engines nowadays are programmed differently and Google, without a doubt remains in the lead, as the search giant continues to develop smarter and smarter algorithms.
Search engines are now programmed to be more interested in a website’s personality, as opposed to its looks. In simple words, they now dig deeper, to the content’s core in order to ensure that it meets users’ expectations.
These days Google ranks websites based on content quality, thanks to their new algorithms that place well-written content above content that exhibits the following:
- Lack of concise, clear writing
- Lack of proper sentence, paragraph structure, etc.
- No proper headers breaking up content
- Links that aren’t connected correctly
- Lack of a complete site map
You could have the best keyword usage on the planet, but without including these basic elements, nothing you do will be enough to help your rankings.
Today’s Search Engines Are Designed to Focus on End-Users
The end-users’ satisfaction is the primary goal when it comes to search engine development.
This is a sort of self-preservation rule whereby in order to offer a sustainable online information market, websites that are displayed to users need to be not only of high-quality but also of use to the searchers.
So how can you, as a blogger or online marketer, tell the content you produce is useful to your potential readers?
You can do so by following these rules:
- Make sure your content answers specific questions.
- Make sure your content is informative and that the reader will learn something new.
- Make sure you answer questions in a simple way, and that your readers are able to easily digest the information.
- Make sure all the keywords in your content appear naturally.
If you can do this, then you’re well on your way to ensuring that all the content you produce has the end user in mind. When you can do this right, your rankings in Google are assured.
The Relationship between User Experience and Rankings
If you’ve been keeping track of Google’s never-ending algorithm updates, you’ve noticed the steady shift towards focusing on improved user experience as well as changes in search intent.
With regards to user experience, Google made it clear last year that you had to improve user experience if you wanted to rank higher.
Such improvements include:
- Page Speed
- User Interface
- Quality Content
However, it’s important to note that search intent is still quite a strong signal for ranking, which means that you may still rank high for slow-loading page if it contains quality, relevant content.
In today’s world, SEO and UX are no longer separate battles. Instead, they are two important digital marketing elements that work together to offer the best organic results.
With the constant competition between search engines for advertisers and users, displaying a website to a user that is deemed to be keyword-rich but ultimately lacking in useful information reflects badly on the search engine that brought the user there, and that creates a potential defector.
That’s why search engines need to adapt from focusing on sheer SERPs volume and rather offer a more tailored experience for their users.
Focus on Quality in SEO
One thing you already know as content creators is that quality can be exhausting, but ultimately it’s worth it.
And now that you understand how quality, useful content is the future of SEO, it’s time to focus on what your responsibilities are going forward.
The simple fact is that creating a quality website filled with excellent content can be extremely time consuming. It’s a lot easier to push out content of questionable quality, jampacked with keywords in much the same way people use to do it before.
However, doing it this way just won’t help you get the rankings you desire.
Things have changed and today’s process of optimizing content for search has everything to do with avoiding low-quality back-links and doing your best to get high-quality ones.
But always remember: quality over quantity.
At this point, we really should define exactly what quality is in terms of SEO.
Quality is about focusing on what users want and leaving out all the fluff, filler, and random amounts of semi-relevant/general knowledge information.
You simply cannot write an entire blog post in response to a user’s question, then proceed to fill the post with useless information.
What you need to do instead is to research what users want – what they’re trying to learn, and then offer it to them in depth. Put everything they need to learn on that page so they don’t have a reason to search anywhere else for the answers.
According to Google’s SEO Practices Beginner’s Guide, you should:
- Organize your content properly
- Avoid spelling and grammar mistakes
- Eliminate duplicate content from your site
- Avoid stuffing keywords into your title tags unnecessarily
- Create accurate, unique snippets and page titles
- Include structured data markup
- Organize your website hierarchy (navigation is essential for search engines)
Doing this will greatly increase your page views, and this translates to more search engine traffic.
Make Your Content Unique
No matter how many keywords are in your article, you won’t get good rankings if that content is copied from someone else.
While it’s alright to get your ideas from another site, make sure you write them in your own words when creating your content because publishing carbon copy material on your website is the best way of getting search engines to ignore you.
There are free tools online that you can use to check that none of your content is plagiarized, such as Copyscape, Grammarly, and various others. Use these to ensure that all your content is totally unique.
All search engines want their results pages to be unique in order to provide their users with different perspectives of the searched topic. The last thing they want is to offer dozens of results that all say the same thing.
This is why you sometimes see this at the bottom of Google’s search pages:
‘We’ve removed some pieces of content that are duplicates.’
This is in reference to carbon copies of the content on the same and other websites. When it comes to resolving issues of duplicate content, Google simply takes the one with the best site quality overall and shows that in the search results, and hides the others.
So while imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, when it comes to search engine ranking for original articles, that’s the last thing you should do.
If you want to create unique content, here is what you should do:
- Research your topic, find other websites with similar content, then make sure that you cover that same topic from a different angle. This is a great way of ensuring that Google and other search engines prefer your content over others.
- Come up with a list of at least five questions that your content should answer.
- Create a list made up of concepts that are closely related to the topic you’re writing about. Include these within your article as supporting text. This makes it more likely that users will want to keep reading because they’ll see that you actually know what you are talking about.
- Create more long-form content. This is an effective method to let your readers know that your website is a resource that they can rely on.
As an online marketer, you count on your service’s usefulness to attract customers as opposed to the large companies that aren’t able to custom tailor their services in the way that smaller businesses can.
So while their success may come from popularity, the success of small business owners comes from focusing on content usefulness, uniqueness, and being able to answer customers questions directly.
Keyword Relevance Is Vital
Keep in mind that search engines have a goal of providing users with super relevant information to the query they searched.
The major role when it comes to keyword optimization involves only using keywords within your content that directly relates to the topic at hand.
To help you remember this easily, simply think of keywords or phrases as tags. If you wouldn’t add a semi-related tag on your article, don’t do it to your optimization either!
For instance, say you write an article on the subject of ‘content marketing’.
You’re not going to start tagging that article with ‘social media marketing’, ‘branding’, or ‘email marketing’ simply because all of them are processes related to content marketing which are mentioned in your article a couple of times.
In such a case, you have to make sure that you don’t overuse keywords that reference those topics, because you will throw off your content’s core, stretching it in different directions to such an extent that search engines will no longer find the content relevant to any one of the many topics you optimized it for, including the main topic, content marketing.
You need to make sure that your article is about content creation in every aspect, including keyword usage.
Quantity of Keywords Doesn’t Equal Quality
Always keep in mind the fact that search engines these days view high keyword quantities as spam. Also, that decade-old way of ranking content is not how things work today.
In the past, people had to use keywords in massive amounts in order to get the search engines to understand their content.
However, the issue with this was that many of those keywords used were crafted in the way people naturally search and that lacked the use of correct structure.
If you want to know how tall Beyoncé is, you’re not likely to spend time typing the full sentence ‘How tall is Beyoncé?’ A more likely scenario is that you’ll probably just type ‘Height Beyonce’.
Search engines today will return the right answer regardless of the way you write it.
However, content creators who use a keyword like ‘height Beyonce’ will get flagged since this isn’t proper grammar, and therefore not what quality content looks like.
No reader wants to go to a website and read a piece of content where every other phrase reads like a search query.
Vary Your Keyword Placement
Most keywords aren’t reader-friendly and you should use them sparingly and only in places where they make sense.
For instance, say you’re writing about a ‘6 x 8 black kitchen floor mat’. It’s okay for you to use this exact phrase as your keyword, as long as you don’t overdo it…
‘I bought a 6 x 8 black kitchen floor mat. The 6 x 8 black kitchen floor mat looks great on my kitchen floor. I’m thinking of getting another 6 x 8 black kitchen floor mat as a gift for my mom.’
Don’t do that.
Overusing keywords in such a severe way is NOT the way to go because people don’t naturally speak in that way. Using the keyword above just once in that paragraph would’ve been enough, but three times?
That’s exactly what Google and other search engines do not want to see.
Another great way of optimizing your content is by placing your keyword in these areas:
- Image Alt Text
- Image Descriptions
As you can see, everything is changing in search engine optimization, and you need to be able to tailor your content to the new search algorithms if you want to rank high.
Applying this concept doesn’t have to be hard.
As long as you’re writing quality content, reducing keyword quantity, optimizing your URL, and anchoring your keywords based on relevance, you’re likely giving readers exactly what they want and higher rankings will happen naturally.
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Updated: Originally published July 4th 2019