With the “May Day” update in 2010, Google targeted websites that used long-tail keywords and content that did not offer real value. No more, could webmasters and marketers could pump keyword stuffed content frequently in order to rank better.
Soon enough, everyone started throwing around the phrase “content is king”, which by now, has probably become the most overused phrase in the digital marketing landscape. While content undeniably plays a crucial part in achieving digital success, the phrase “content the is king” is vague and can easily be misinterpreted.
One common misinterpretation, usually among lazy webmasters, is that more content equals better ranking. In fact, an optimal publishing frequency had become a hot topic in the recent past. However, Google’s John Mueller pointed out through a Tweet in March, “a site isn’t a machine that pumps out content at a fixed rate” and thus, it was established that publishing frequency is not a ranking signal for Google algorithms.
Many in the digital marketing landscape have realized this, and others will have to eventually come to terms with the fact the quality and relevance of content matters.
What is quality content?
Yet another vague term, “quality content” can mean several things. However, Google’s objective is to improve user experience by offering results that answer queries their users may have. Keeping that objective in mind, the following factors carry considerable weight:
- Relevance: Targeted content that serves a specific set of users is highly likely to answer queries directly and efficiently.
- Long-form Content: According to this research, the average Google first page result contains 1890 words. Having more words on your webpage improves the chances of answering a user’s query better, with in-depth information and hence, long-form content ranks better.
- Value: Great content will add some sort of value to the lives of the readers, be it in terms of entertainment, or in terms of actionable information.
- Exclusivity: With over 2 billion websites competing for a better SERP position with their content, unique and original content isn’t just valued by Google, it is also valued by brands that want to stand out from the noise.
In simpler words, relevant content that communicates authority and provides users with unique, actionable information is considered “quality” content. Not to forget, there are other factors that make your content great such as decent grammar, voice, readability and emotional appeal.
The trick to creating truly valuable content is to know your audiences well. Once you know exactly who you are targeting (buyer personas) and what they are looking for on the web, you can use this knowledge to produce relevant high-quality content.
However, simply creating and publishing “quality” content is not going to be enough if you are looking to achieve digital excellence.
Keeping On-page SEO in Check
Great content will have no effect if it does not get indexed by Google. Search engine optimization, or any other digital marketing tactic for that matter, start with optimizing your website. On-page optimization doesn’t just stop at keyword research and submission of XML sitemaps. Achieving better rankings on Google SERPs is all about improving the user experience on your website. For this reason, factors such as mobile-friendliness play a critical role in determining rankings.
Backlinks- The Underdog of a Successful Digital Strategy
Among the many ranking factors that determine a website’s position in the SERPs, backlinks correlate with better rankings more than any other single factor. Backlinks are links from other websites (in your niche) that point to your website and building a strong backlink profile is as important as it is difficult.
At the same time, it is impossible to achieve SEO success without having quality links pointing to your website. Even here, “content is king”. The basic concept behind backlinking is similar to the voting concept. If each link is a “vote”, the website with the most number of links will rank higher. However, the reason backlinks are not called votes is that there are a couple of other things that play a crucial role in determining your position in the SERPs:
Authority of linking domain
In order to better judge websites in terms of credibility and authority, the authority of the linking website is considered. In simpler words, one link from an immensely popular blog in your niche will have more value than 5 backlinks from an average blog with average content. (Hint: the average blog is average because it does not have links from high authority websites) And there are many ways to increase your domain authority.
When webmasters and website owners discovered the importance of backlinks, thousands of websites started selling them. Simply pay the website owner and have a link pointing to your website. In order to level the field for all, Google emphasizes the importance of natural links. In simplest words, natural links are those that a website owner adds to their website because they think the information (quality content) on your website will be valuable to their audience. Even if you have been using guest posting as a way of obtaining backlinks (such links are not natural backlinks), without relevant, high-quality content, no guest posting strategy is sustainable. While ensuring all the backlinks you have are natural is next to impossible, it is important to remember their importance.
So how does one go about obtaining natural links from high authority websites? “Content is king” comes to mind. If you create and publish truly valuable content, other website owners will treat it as a resource and your content will turn into a “linkable asset” that drives backlinks and search engine performance automatically. However, simply creating an informative and entertaining “linkable asset” or piece of content is no good unless people know about it.
Making Content Visible
So you have created a great piece of content that will “break the internet”. Let’s assume your content is extremely useful and unique, it is still no good if nobody comes across it. Moreover, unless a high-authority website owner learns about your content, they will never know how amazing it is and will never be able to link to it. If that doesn’t happen, even with your on-page SEO in place, your content will be confined to some dark corner of the second or third page of the SERPs. For this reason, as important as it is to create awesome content, you cannot expect it to contribute to your success without supporting it with a comprehensive promotional strategy. Only when your content becomes visible, will Google crawlers and other authority websites realize that it offers genuine value and will start ranking or sharing it.
Search engine optimization is a long-term and complex strategy that cannot simply be powered with one thing, even if the one thing is awe-inspiring content. Content is the fuel of the SEO engine but it still requires a number of other screws and bolts to perform to its maximum potential. Consistent publishing does help you in staying on your audience’s radar but it’s not the only way to optimize for search engines; you need to focus on quality, uniqueness and thought leadership. It is time we understood and accepted the complexity of the process in order to reap the benefits that content has to offer.