Now that we?ve established the importance of on-site SEO, it?s time to take a more detailed look at content.
Six years ago, Google started rolling out something called the ?Panda? update, which was designed to evaluate the quality of content found on people?s websites. The idea was that websites with useful, informative and unique content would receive a ranking boost, while the websites littered with ?low value? content (read thin, low-effort or thin copy-pasted content) would receive a demotion in the SERPs.
According to Google, the presence of good content was one of the most important factors when evaluating how interesting a web user would find a site. And this does make plenty of sense if you stop to think about it:
Unless we?re purchasing an item that we?ve already decided to buy, we do tend to head online to read information, reviews, opinion pieces or general content that focuses on explaining the need for different products or services.
If you plan on buying a new watch, you?d probably start out reading a piece about the different types of watches, or the different manufacturers, before clicking any embedded links, and navigating towards specific products.
Statistically, you?ll spend far more time on the content, and much less time on the landing page. You?re probably more likely to revisit the content too; bookmarking it to read later, or going back to double-check some of the information so that you can make an informed purchase.
And from Google?s point of view, this means that the most engaging websites are the ones offering this sort of ?op-ed? content. Sure, an eCommerce store might get lots of hits, but all of the time people are spending on those big articles makes them the best choice for a prominent place in the SERPs, particularly if your primary business models rely on keeping people engaged.
Unfortunately, a lot of websites were very unprepared for the rollout of the Panda update, and the consequences were fairly dire. A lot of eCommerce sites vanished from the rankings altogether, and even some of the bigger brands suffered from Google?s sudden shift in focus, particularly if they were relying on manufacturer?s content to fill out their site, or just listing lots of products/services without any focus on value-oriented content.
Semrush have actually published a really interesting study that focuses on the way that Panda affected RetailMeNot.com; one of the internet’s largest voucher sites.
Over time, web marketers and small business owners realized there was only one way to regain their rankings: Publishing ?good? content.
Which is to say content that?s:
And if you?re interested to see how successful these tactics were, you might be interested in taking a look at this case study for a Panda recovery project, particularly the sections about building pages with greater topical relevance and signposting ?deeper? content.
Do we still have to worry about Panda?
Technically, Google has now stopped rolling out Panda updates, but the core idea has been brought across to their main search algorithm, and it?s important to understand that the search giant does still see the presence of good content as a very strong indicator of a websites value
It?s also important to understand that the updates made by Panda do work in tandem with the updates made by Google Hummingbird, which focuses on the use of natural language, and a move away from keyword-specific optimization.
What does this mean for your site?
To rank well now, your site does need to have a decent amount of high-value content. Determining what this actually means can be a challenge, but we think that it?s fair to say you?ll need to be posting some detailed articles, blog posts or guides at least twice a month, and that you should try to make sure that your content is actually focused on topics that will interest potential customers.
If you are selling a product, this means peripheral content that establishes a need for your chosen items, that answers common user queries, or that focuses on providing valuable information to your target demographic
So someone running the hypothetical watch business mentioned above could post articles about maintaining a high-value watch, or articles about recent advances in horological science, or even a guide to the top 10 watches to purchase in 2018.
As long as it’s interesting, captivating and relevant, Google will see its value, and you should start to see a slight increase in exposure.
It?s also important to ensure that your landing pages, category pages, and articles are all providing plenty of in-depth content – explaining the items listed on the page for Google, and your customers.
We tend to steer away from prescribing set keyword limits, as we think it?s all but impossible to set a ?standard? for diverse businesses, with equally diverse needs. You can?t type 500 words about storage shelves, but you probably can?t get away with typing 100 words for a category page about horse tack, unless you want Google to assume that you are offering a generic and uninteresting product.
That said, it?s always best to put yourself in the reader?s shoes, and ask yourself if you could find everything you need to know right here, on the page. When it comes to blog posts, this means going into plenty of detail without resorting to keyword stuffing, or writing lots of ?filler content? that?ll have your audience’s? eyes glazing over
And when it comes to writing landing page copy, it means showcasing all of the important details, features, and specifications so that your customer has enough information to make an informed decision.
The idea of writing (or rewriting) all of this content might seem daunting, but we promise that it?s well worth the effort. In later articles we?re going to touch on off-site SEO, link-building and a host of other tactics that are all much, much more beneficial if you have some good content on your own site. It?s also important to note that diving in and updating content can bring about some good ranking increases in and of itself.
In fact, it?s probably one of the most beneficial things you can do for your site, and it?s definitely worth getting started now!
If you can. We?d also recommend blogging regularly. Even if it is only twice a month. This showcases your desire to provide useful information and helps you to build up authority with readers and search engines.
If you have any questions about producing content or want some good tips on getting started, we?d be more than happy to help you out. We?re always keen to spread information about good marketing practices and we?re passionate about helping people to establish a good web presence so just drop us any questions via the contact form on our site.
Alternatively, we?ll be publishing an article about off-site SEO next week, so stay tuned for that!