Most of you already know that high-quality content is one of the major keys to drawing people to your website, but you may not be aware just how important the “high-quality” part of that statement is, especially in 2016.

We have all groaned at the internet hacks; writing poorly written drivel with click-bait headlines such as “X did a thing and what happened next will astonish you”. 

However, the days for this kind of writing may be numbered. Google Panda’s algorithms are now able to spot badly produced content and smack them with a massive SEO penalty, affecting their rankings negatively when it comes to search page results.

As Google integrates Panda into its core algorithm, low-quality content will likely soon have no place to hide. Therefore it is more critical than ever to make sure that your website is only publishing content of the highest quality. Not only will this improve your chances of retaining your readership, it will also aid you in climbing up to those coveted first two pages of the search results.

Unfortunately it can be somewhat difficult to deduce exactly what Google wants when it comes to SEO-friendly content these days. With so many factors to consider, it’s easy to get lost in the endless reel of considerations. Here is where you may want to start… 

Putting the user first

Google used to carry out its searches by simply looking for exact keywords in content that match the words the user entered as a search query. However, now algorithms have evolved to such a level that they are far better at calculating what the intent of the user was when they entered their search.

More and more people are using apps like Siri, Cortana and Google to ask the internet direct questions, and Google has found ways of converting these questions into meaningful search results. 

What this means is that Google now places an emphasis on providing the highest quality and most relevant pages housed within its database. Therefore it is not enough to simply throw as many keywords at the wall as you can in order to game the system; you must instead focus on what needs you are satisfying with your content and ensure that you are providing the best material for those needs.

Google has developed a Knowledge Graph – a way for it to view search terms as more than just a collection of words, but rather a whole phrase with meaning and context. Language can be ambiguous and the Knowledge Graph is Google’s way of overcoming this ambiguity in order to provide rich and meaningful search results. Therefore it is important to ensure that your content is the wheat to the rest of the internet’s chaff, to give your content the best possible chance of being up there

Google likes pages that put the information front and centre without the distraction of adverts or calls to action. Whilst you may find that this causes your conversion rates to take a hit in the short term, Google will rank them higher and bring more people to your page over time.

In short – know your audience and put their satisfaction first and foremost. Satisfaction needs to strike a balance with conversion rates if you are looking to win the Google game in 2016.

RIP keywords?

That said, keywords and keyword research are still used to communicate with the people who visit your site. 
The difference is that we used to view keywords as a sort of formula and that by combining certain high-ranking keywords, we were able to give our page a good chance of being found by as many searchers as possible. However, now you need to find which keywords are going to be the most relevant for as many searches on the topic as possible.
Quality keywords are now more important than the quantity of them.

Unique, informative and in-depth 

All content will eventually reach a state of entropy. The world is a fast evolving place and you cannot expect everything that you write to remain relevant forever. 

However, there are steps you can take in order to ensure that you delay this entropic state for as long as is humanly possible, and as a result ensure that Google remains interested in you.

If you are producing in-depth evergreen content (and you should be – at least some of the time) then you need to be keeping it updated. Content stagnates and becomes less relevant as time progresses. Links die, techniques change and algorithms evolve, therefore it is important to make sure that your content and guides are bang up to date with the most recent and relevant information.

You really want to be looking at updating your evergreen content every six months, at the very least. However, if time allows and you can update it more often than this, then do so. Make sure that all of the information is still relevant and that all of your links are still active (Google hates bad links). You may even want to make sure that any references to pop-culture and the like are still relevant.

Evergreen content will typically be longer than your average blog post (at least twice as long in most cases), but you should always try and make your writing as concise as possible. When updating your content, see if there is any fat that can be trimmed from the body of text. Google is getting better at spotting waffle.

You should also be careful about duplicating content. Google has gotten excellent and detecting copy and paste jobs and applies a hefty SEO penalty for those engaging in the practice. If you feel that you are producing an article that is somewhat similar to something that you have already written, try to find a new way of saying the same thing. Look for a new angle to attack the subject from, or, if the topics are too similar, scrap it and write something on a completely different subject. Your SEO will thank you for it.

Spelling and grammar?

A few years ago spelling and grammar were omitted from the quality signals that Google used to rank page, but there is interest from Panda.

Some of the points stated in Panda’s guidelines include:

  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic or factual errors?
  • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail?
  • Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopaedia or book? 

If you think about the emphasis that Google now puts on user satisfaction when deciding search rankings, it is easy to see how spelling and grammar would factor in – even if not as a direct source. 

The most  reputable content writers are likely to be able to write clearly and well, with good spelling and grammar. Well-written articles with accurate spelling and grammar are easier to read and appear more professional, knowledgeable and trustworthy. This is likely to result in higher levels of user satisfaction, which as we have already discussed is a big part of what Google is looking for these days.

Also don’t forget that bad spelling is going to wreak havoc on your keyword optimisation. If the spelling in your article or in your keywords doesn’t match up with what people are searching for, you may be in trouble. Google will suggest spelling correction for user searches but tends to be less forgiving when it comes to the other way around. 

In summary

So, we have laid out some of the ways to make sure your content is optimised for Google in 2016, but there is more. You need to be going through your content with a fine toothcomb and making sure that you are producing material of only the highest quality.

You need to be fixing grammar and spelling mistakes, using synonyms and reducing the amount of duplicate text. Produce plenty of in-depth evergreen content that you are able to update on a regular basis as often as you can. Make sure that bad or dead links are pruned and replaced on a regular basis, as well as outdated content. 

Most importantly, and there is a reason that we keep coming back to it – you need to be 100% focused on the overall experience that the end user has with your content. This must take precedence over your short-term business concerns, such as advertising or calls to action, as embracing Google’s focus on satisfaction will pay dividends in the long term.
Avoid fluff and focus on high-quality, satisfying content, and you and Google’s cuddly Asian bear should get along swimmingly.

Please let us know if you have had any bad experiences with Panda and whether you were able to resolve them satisfactorily. Also leave a comment if you have any other great SEO-related content tips for us.