Despite its forays into advertising, email and social media, Google’s tremendous success is predicated largely on its effectiveness as a search tool. When you type a term into the Google search bar, you get hundreds, thousands or even millions of relevant results in an instant. To deliver those results, the search engine giant relies on powerful algorithms that rank sites for quality, authority and relevance to the search string.
In the early days, SEO specialists had success gaming the system and fooling Google into boosting keyword-stuffed or heavily back-linked sites, but the rules of the SEO game are constantly changing. It’s no longer possible to pack unrelated keywords into content and hope for a good result. If anything, these old black-hat tactics will drive a site into the oblivion of Google’s back pages. Businesses that try to save money on content by hiring cut-rate writers to spin thin content into multiple low-value, keyword-laden articles now pay the price in other ways, losing business to companies that follow Google’s new SEO rules.
Google and SEO
Although Google isn’t the only search engine, it’s the largest by a generous margin. While Bing and Yahoo have loyal audiences too, Google remains the big kid on the block with about 80 percent of the searches performed daily going to it. What’s made Google so prevalent that it’s become not only a household word, but a verb – people routinely refer to searches as “Googling” information – is the big search engine’s attention to algorithm updates. As you’ve read in previous posts, big updates such as Penguin and Panda have changed the face of the Internet, bringing relevant information and rich content to the fore while suppressing spam and junk sites.
Google can no longer be gamed, but search engine optimization’s a vital tool. Understanding how to make the most of Google’s constantly shifting expectations separates outstanding SEO from the same old tricks. Here’s what Google prizes – and what it punishes:
- Authority: If you literally wrote the book on a specific subject, Google sees you as an authoritative source. Government and educational institutions – sites with .gov and .edu extensions, respectively – typically rise to the top based on their assumed subject matter authority, especially in STEM fields. When your site generates authoritative content through feature articles, blog posts and case studies, Google takes more notice of you.
- Value: The usefulness of a site is somewhat of a judgment call, an area in which the human brain far outpaces computers. You know at a glance whether a page is worth reading, but Google has to make educated guesses about its value. Keywords are still important tools to tell the search engine what the page is about, but words and phrases must connect to other concepts in the content naturally. That’s where keyword-stuffed strings of unrelated content fail, and Google has gotten good at spotting the spam.
- Freshness: New content is SEO-friendly content. Google’s engineering team knows that readers want news, so the engine looks for frequent updates, particularly for blogs and social media channels. With every content-rich blog post or article you publish, you give Google a new reason to like you.
- Originality: Duplicate content has negative value in Google’s estimation. Copied content lifted from one page and published on another without permission could even result in a take-down notice. Duplication isn’t just borrowing articles and blog posts from elsewhere, though; it also refers to product descriptions repeated on multiple pages, printer-friendly versions and certain URL parameters can cause content to appear as a duplication.
- Usability: Good site structure, proper grammar, mobile-friendly pages and functional links throughout your pages tell Google that your site is ready for the spotlight. A well-written, well-structured site is a functional site, and that’s what Google wants to showcase.
Realize the ultimate aim of Google, and you discover the key to effective SEO. Google wants users to have fast, relevant, content-rich returns on their search string queries, so giving the search engine the tools it needs to find and value your content is critical to your SEO strategy.
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