Years ago, you could find a keyword that people were searching for, make sure you used it on a page of your website and use a few other tricks watch the traffic roll into your site. Unfortunately, some unsavory web owners figured out these tricks and put up pages that contained things like all keywords, a ton of ads or content that simply wasn’t on topic.
Like most things, a few people doing the wrong thing with this information ruined a simple solution to search engine optimization for everyone. You’ve likely already heard about the algorithm changes Google has implemented with Panda and other updates. One thing the search engine also looks at these days when choosing how to rank your site is many different aspects of your content, including whether or not it is on topic.
In a video by Matt Cutts, teaching website owners how to rank better on Google, he indicates that as of 2012, there were over 200 factors that Google looks at to see if a site’s content is a good match for a user’s search term.
“You want to find reputable documents that are also about what the user typed in. And that’s kind of the secret sauce, trying to figure out a way to combine those 200 different ranking signals in order to find the most relevant document. So at any given time, hundreds of millions of times a day, someone comes to Google. We try to find the closest data center to them.”
Why Quality Counts?
One thing that webmasters have noted since Google Panda came stomping onto the scene is that quality content gets you a gold star. However, there is quite a debate about what exactly quality content entails. Since Google isn’t realizing all 200 plus points it looks at to determine this, we have to make a best guessed based on work ranking Google pages, what webmaster’s have noticed, and some information that has been leaked here and there by former employees or during interviews with current employees.
Matt Cutts, the head of the webspam team at Google, often shares thoughts on how webmasters can improve their sites. On the official Google blog in January 2011, Cutts wrote:
“As we’ve increased both our size and freshness in recent months, we’ve naturally indexed a lot of good content and some spam as well. To respond to that challenge, we recently launched a redesigned document-level classifier that makes it harder for spammy on-page content to rank highly.”
It is actually beneficial for serious webmasters that Google is dealing with the spammy sites and low-quality content. However, knowing what to do to fix the content on your own site and improve your SEO can be quite a challenge.
3 Ways To Improve Your On-Topic Content Instantly
Writing on-topic content sounds simple, doesn't it? Choose some keywords, make sure the article is about those keywords. Easy peasy! Not so fast! Remember that Google looks at hundreds of different points to decide how your website should be ranked. Writing great on-topic content that will rank well in the search engines is about so much more than just writing on a particular topic.
1. Unique Content
Your on-topic content also must be unique content. Gone are the days where you can publish an article across several sites for the exposure, because those sites will take a hit in rankings for what Google will tag as “canned” content.
Making sure the content on your site is completely unique can be a real challenge. While Google won’t rank you down for using a quote here and there (as long as you source it properly), they will catch it if you grab articles from content mills and those articles are on several different sites.
If others are writing for you, you need to be sure the content is unique. Unfortunately, some inexperienced writers do not understand the difference between copying entire pages and passing it off as their own work and creating writing of their own. Make sure any content published on your site is unique by running it through a quick and free online plagiarism checker, such as Dustball.com or TurnItIn.com.
2. A Fresh Angle
If you’re writing an article about duck decoys, try to come up with an angle that hasn’t been covered before. Start by doing a Google search on the topic. What comes up first in the search engine? Are there five articles about how to buy the correct decoy for different hunting situations? Good, now consider how you can cover the topic in a different way.
Could you interview a duck decoy creator or a duck hunter and include some advice from an expert to give your article a new twist that isn’t already out there? Maybe instead of writing about how to buy the perfect duck decoy, you could write about how to restore an old decoy to like-new condition.
Come up with a fresh angle and follow other excellent SEO principles and you’ll see your rankings rise over time.
3. Indicate Duplicates Within Your Tags
There are some instances where content will be repeated across your site, such as when you have a readable version and a printable version. Google can easily recognize the difference between this and copied or nonsensical material.
One thing you can do is to create one of the pages with a noindex meta tag. However, if you do not include the tag or you forget that you need one with duplicate content, Google will still recognize that the files contain the same material, albeit for different reasons and will index only one of the pages. Unfortunately, if you forget the tag, Google will choose which page to index.
If you are running a WordPress site, then you can automate this process with plugins such as the All in One SEO plugin. Otherwise, you may want to write a simple code such as this:
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex, follow”>
<meta name=”robots” content=”index, nofollow”>
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex, nofollow”>
Quality Tips from Google
Even though Google doesn’t release the secrets to its algorithm, we can get a glimpse of what they are looking for in on-topic content by reading the blog, listening to the instructional videos and paying attention to what information Google does release.
On their website, Google states:
“In general, Google News aims to promote original journalism, as well as to expose users to diverse perspectives. There are no human editors selecting stories or deciding which ones deserve top placement. Ranking in Google News is determined based on a number of factor.”
The factors that Google has stated it looks at are:
- How fresh the content is
- Is the content diverse? Do you cover all aspects?
- Is the text high quality and on-topic?
- Is it original?
It's About the Quality
Although some topics are better suited to a longer article, Google does not count words when choosing a ranking status. A shorter piece can rank just as high as a long piece, if you follow the tips above and make sure your content is unique, on-topic and has a fresh perspective. Edit for grammar errors and put the absolute best product out you can for your readers and the Google ranking gods will reward you.
* Image credit: Infographic by Martin Missfeldt.