The days of keyword stuffing as a legitimate SEO tactic were short-lived and are long gone. In an effort to improve the quality of search results, Google and other search engines started cracking down on thin, keyword-heavy content, starting with Google’s Panda update in 2011 and continuing up through Fred in 2017 and its unnamed 2018 updates.

Instead of giving high rankings to the sites that can use the most keywords, search engines are now rewarding things like quality content, user reviews and social media engagement. In this article, we’ll take a look at what this means for your small business web site, and why savvy marketers are putting quality content marketing at the top of their SEO game plan.

Today’s SEO: What Search Engines Want

Since Google doesn’t publicly release the details of its search algorithm, figuring out the exact formula for SEO success can often be more art than science. However, there are several main elements that continue to help web sites improve their search results page rankings:

  • Relevance – Above all, Google aims to provide the most relevant results based on a user’s search terms. The content on your web site needs to demonstrate that it can successfully answer the reader’s questions.
  • Trust from other sources – Links from quality sources have always been a way for search engines to know if a website is likely to be a good quality site. The reasoning is that if a lot of people are linking to you from their own web site or social media accounts, your site is likely to have good information and provide useful solutions.
  • Mobile – With smartphone and tablet usage rapidly overtaking desktop machines, a web site’s mobile-friendly status is quickly becoming a key ranking factor.
  • User data – Search engines have more data about users now than ever before, and are starting to base search results on user-specific factors, like their location, interests and search history. Google is also now taking into consideration user reviews on third-party sites like Yelp and Citysearch.

Why Quality Content Matters

Quality content has always been important for making sure that visitors stay on your site once they find it through a search engine. After all, if your site turns off your potential customers, a high ranking in the search engines doesn’t do you much good. In the last several years, Google has started to penalize sites that have a high bounce rate (the rate at which visitors leave your site without spending much time on it).

Plus, some other benefits of content marketing include making it easier for people to understand what your products can do, so that they’ll consider buying. Videos, articles, and social media posts are going to be perfect tools to allow glimpses into your business operations. Not only that, but there’s no faster way to build trust than by creating good content that offers verifiable and helpful information.

Good content is also a key ingredient for gaining quality links from other trusted sources. You’re much more likely to build a solid link network when you provide content that’s worth linking to. As you consider content topics and ideas, think about what’s likely to appeal to other businesses and publications related to your top keywords, and what might interest readers enough to share it on their social media accounts.

What Good Content Marketing Looks Like

If you want to make sure your content makes the biggest impact on both your readers and your search engine rankings, build a content marketing plan that includes:

  • Fresh, original content that explores interesting ideas.
  • Attention-grabbing headlines (that aren’t too spammy or click-baity).
  • Solutions your readers can use, with informative content and action steps they can take.
  • Frequent updates, so your content stays fresh and gives readers a reason to keep coming back.

SEO definitely needs you to keep your guard up, it’s a fast-changing field. You can try keeping up with SEO reports and analytics to help you understand what you can do to improve your site.

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