We often get asked about how a business can improve their search engine ranking. But search engine optimisation is not an exact science.
There are a number of measures that contribute to an improvement in ranking, as we pointed out in our How to Strengthen Your Domain Authority article, but ticking these boxes doesn’t guarantee that you will appear on the first page of Google results.
The likelihood is your competitors are already doing such things and more, especially those of a more technical nature. Which is why they’re top of the Google results and you’re nowhere to be found.
Whilst there’s a lot of jargon thrown around when it comes to SEO, the once murky world of search engine optimisation is becoming ever more simplified.
One of the most important things to come out of this simplification is Google’s decision to use ‘quality content’ as the key metric when determining a website’s ranking.
By creating quality content, you will give your site the best chance of achieving a respectable rank on search engines.
So how does the world’s largest search engine decide what quantifies quality content?
A recent study by Searchmetrics has shed light on this. From the research I’ve picked out six points that all content creators need to know before they pen their next piece. Click here to view the full study.
- Ensure readability
The good news is that an article doesn’t need to read like an academic essay or a Chaucer novel. According to the study, the more legible content is the better and that means keeping it simple.
How does Google determine readability? Using the Flesch Readibility measure. This determines the complexity of a text and how easy to read it is. The higher the Flesch score the simpler the text and Searchmetrics found that top ten results generally have a readability above 76/100.
- Key? Words
By focusing on readibility, Google is also ensuring that you no longer have to worry about medieval practices such as keyword stuffing. The study concludes that:
“the percentage of websites with the keywords in the body is much lower than for the following rankings.”
I don’t bother evaluating my keyword density in the content’s body. Why? Because right now I’m writing an article on Google and search engine optimisation, that’s pretty obvious if you’ve read this far- I don’t need to repeat those words in every sentence. Every article you write should focus on the enjoyment of the reader, which is the true mark of quality.
- Keep it relevant
Google doesn’t make money when you pay SEO companies, it makes money through advertising. Advertisers use Google because it’s the most frequented search engine and that’s because it consistently affords the most relevant and informative results to users.
When you search on Google, you want your question answered in the first result. Thus Google strives to ensure that webpages with the ‘most relevant content for a search query occupy the top positions.’
- Bigger is better
In 2014 the average word count of webpages in the top 30 ranks was 902, in 2015 this number has risen to 1140 following a Google update. The top 10 webpages record an average word count of 1285.
Google’s thinking is that, the longer an article is the more depth and expertise on a subject it will offer.
This doesn’t mean you can’t produce articles under 1000 words. In fact I would advise you to mix it up. With people’s attention spans growing ever shorter, snappy and sharp articles still have their place and a blend of long and short articles should be used. After all the end-game is pleasing your readership, not Google; but it helps if you do both.
- Think User Experience
CEO and marketing guru Pam Moore wrote an insightful piece regarding why she doesn’t retweet content. Point 2 focused on user experience, from the font being too small and buttons not working to the blog being too hard to read or too saturated with ads.
Why does Pam take this stance? Because she’s sharing it with her audience, who trust her and evaluate her on each piece of content she posts whether it’s her own or not.
Google is judged by the user in much the same way, if you find the first result for your query is an ugly blog that is barely legible, difficult to navigate and impossible to read on a mobile device, the chances are that you will be annoyed.
Unsurprisingly, 30% of the top 30 webpages use responsive design- which allows users to view webpages on mobile devices.
Other factors contribute to Google’s evaluation of a webpage’s user experience too. Your page’s bounce rate (the percentage of visitors who enter the site and then leave -“bounce”- rather than continuing on to view other pages within the same site) and the time a user spends on your page are two incredibly important metrics.
The lower the bounce rate and the longer the time spent on a page the better, as this suggests quality to Google.
So do everything in your power to make people feel at home from the moment they land on your page. Otherwise they’re going elsewhere and Google is too.
- Social Signals
We’re still unsure how much content that is shared across social media contributes to your ranking. Google consistently denies that it uses social signals as a ranking factor. But this is rather hard to believe.
Surely it is difficult for Google to ignore likes, comments and shares as indicators of quality? After all, It stands to reason that the more social shares a piece of content has accrued = the higher the quality of the piece.
Anyone who values their online presence will share their content across social media channels for exposure regardless of the effect it might have on their ranking.
Still, the Searchmetrics study found an undeniable correlation between the number of social shares enjoyed by brands and their ranking.
Searchmetrics summarise the importance of social signals more effectively than I ever could:
“Social signals definitely play a role in direct traffic, brand awareness, and the overall online performance of a domain. In general, good content performs better on social networks – and search engines want to recognize and display good, relevant and up-to-date content”
Many businesses suggest they don’t have the time to create their own content, let alone quality content and the research required, even if you are an expert, can be time consuming. That said, the benefits of creating great content cannot be understated. From great brand exposure, to positioning your business as an authority within your field, to driving more visitors to your websites and creating a soft-sales funnel, creating great content delivers results.
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