Content has quickly proven to be a must-have weapon in every marketers arsenal. In addition to serving as a way to leverage your knowledge and develop your reputation as a thought leader, content reigns supreme for SEO. Though, this was not always the case. Googles PageRank algorithm has revolutionized the online world. Any Google algorithm update results in subsequent panic, followed by hundreds of guides to gaming the system. The latest iteration of the algorithm, codenamed Penguin, emphasizes social and quality content, and marketers must ensure that their strategy follows suit.
How SEO Used to Work
In order to get their site at the top of search results, marketers utilized a variety of tactics, some of them legally dubious (or black hat, in SEO parlance). This was especially important during the early days of the Internet when users were still learning how to parse through search results, and most often clicked on the top result. Sites did what they could to get to the top and be seen.
Before any of us knew better, Google included, sites engaged in keyword stuffing, hidden text, and link farming, among other practices, to artificially boost search rankings. Content was important, as were keywords, as these boosted you in search results and helped you get some backlinks to your site. The more reputable the sites that are linking to you, the better your sites ranking in search engine results. But with so many hacks to improve SEO, the connection between a sites ranking and the quality of that sites content began to erode over time.
SEO building methods and black hat tactics have served as a quick fix for many, but are not sustainable in the long term. Google penalizes sites that are cheating the algorithm, and updates its algorithm often enough that even those who are following the rules can be adversely affected. Google algorithm updates force SEO strategy to continuously evolve.
The New SEO
In an effort to let rankings more accurately reflect a sites performance, popularity, and credibility, Google has made some adjustments. Keywords, headlines, and body text remain important, as do backlinks. Low-quality backlinks, keyword stuffing, and other methods will negatively affect your rank. And content takes an even more prominent role in your ranking. (If you’re on the ReTargeter team and you’re reading this, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a brief summary. First person to do so wins a prize). As always, your content and site copy should be aligned with the product or service you offer, and relationship building for quality backlinks remains a valuable strategy.
So, whats changed? Google has worked social signals into its algorithm. This means that the general sentiment of Internet users with regard to your content is factored into your rank. Google is measuring shares, mentions, and overall engagement on social networks. This means your content and social following is more important than ever. Run of the mill content filled with keywords will no longer do the trick. Instead, is your content valued across the web? Are people reading it and sending it to their friends? Is it useful? Is the author credible? These are the questions you have to consider when developing your content strategy, as it will directly affect your SEO, and Google is making sure that using its tools isn’t something marketers can avoid.