Google – it’s all about the Content

By | February 24, 2016

We’re all familiar with the Google dance; regular changes that Google makes to its algorithm which impact the search engine results.  During recent months some of these updates have changed what we see on the results pages; both in relation to the display layout of the ads and also regarding the ranking of the natural results.  Based upon Google’s updates during the past few years, any ongoing changes and adjustments are likely to be focused on better understanding customers’ needs and identifying high-quality content to meet their requirements.

Google has published guidelines on the site content it expects to serve and, from a non-technical point of view, it is very much centred around quality content which is useful, relevant and engaging for customers.  Most of this isn’t new but it has been spelled out and the Webmaster Guidelines can be found in full online.

Google can identify if content is badly written from a spelling and grammar point of view, whether it is ‘keyword stuffed’ with an excessive number of targeted keywords, if it contains too many ads or duplicate content and low quality or broken links.  By applying such filters, Google is able to better identify sites which produce low-quality or thin content and ensure that they don’t rank as highly as sites which are produced with more consideration for users.

  • As a general rule, keeping your site fresh is integral to its success.  This includes ensuring that both the main and supplementary content is useful, topical and up-to-date.  The site will be crawled more often if new content is added regularly and is therefore likely to attain better visibility on the results pages.
  • If the links in the content are credible, informative and contextual, and enhance the user experience, they will bring greater authority to the page.
  • We all know that duplicate content can be penalised and the search engines can easily identify when content has been copied, so new and original content should be given priority.
  •  Those sites which demonstrate mobile-friendliness will rank better in the search engine results and Google sees this as a sign of quality.  Their mobile-friendly update in 2015 forced sites to improve their mobile presence or risk losing ranking to sites that contained high-quality content and were also mobile-friendly.

In late 2015 Google released the Search Quality Rater’s Guidelines.  This has been likened to taking a peek into Google’s ranking algorithm and offers some great insights into what Google views as quality and the types of pages they want to see at the top of their search results.  There’s a really interesting blog post from Moz summarising the Search Quality Rater’s Guidelines and highlighting more than 30 interesting takeaways from the document.

To select an interesting topic: Expertise/Authoritativeness/Trustworthiness — shortened to E-A-T — refers to what many think of as a website’s overall value. Does the site demonstrate expertise?  Is the site authoritative? Is it trustworthy? These are all things that users will consider when it comes to the overall quality of a site or web page.

This ties in with the concept of quality content. “When a searcher lands on your page and they can easily tell that it’s created by a company with high E-A-T, this not only tells the searcher that this is great authoritative content, but they’re also that much more likely to recommend or share it with others. It gives them the confidence that they’re sharing trustworthy and accurate information in their social circles.”

In summary, Google expects sites to provide a high-quality content experience and their regular algorithm updates will explore and evaluate this experience. Users should be able to find the information they are looking for quickly and easily and content should be aligned to meet users’ needs.