Doing better in search: 'quality content'

Clients often ask us about “SEO” — search engine optimization — for their websites. It’s a hard question, because rarely is there a magic solution (if somebody is promising you a magic solution, ask a lot of questions because there are some untoward approaches to SEO that can end up getting you in trouble in the long run).

Like most things, the answer is often: keep working at it and be patient. It’s like going to the doctor and hoping there’s just a handy pill to make you feel better, but your doctor says: Eat better and start exercising and maybe in six months you’ll be feeling better. You probably know that, but it just wasn’t what you wanted to hear.

As far as SEO goes, the phrase of the moment is “high-quality content.” Simply put, that means if your site is full of stuff that a human being might find useful, interesting, funny, or otherwise engaging, you’ll start doing better in search.

How do search engines know if something is “high quality”? We don’t know exactly what’s in Google’s algorithms, but here are some things likely being measured:

  • How often is your content linked to from other (quality) websites? It’s not necessarily helpful to have lame directory sites link to you, but if there is a link to your site from The New York Times (or even your local newspaper), that will be helpful.
  • How much is your content shared and engaged with on social media?
  • When your site is presented to someone in search results, do they click through to your page, or pass over it?
  • When people do go to the page in question, how long do they stay? If they click away immediately, that’s a sign it might be less than “high quality” content. If they stick around for 5 or 10 minutes, chances are they found something good.

As you can see, a lot of this has to do with the behavior of other people — not stuff you can influence directly. And that would seem to be the point. When people come to Google to find something, it’s in Google’s best interest to direct them to — guess what? “Quality content!”

No amount of stuffing “keywords” all over your site will do you much good if there isn’t anything a person would want to read or watch or look at.

That’s not to say “keywords” are unimportant. If your website has a page that sells hammers, the page title and the headline on the page should include the word “hammer.” Of course, that’s just communicating clearly and efficiently. One thing you do not want to do is try to fool or deceive Google. You’re likely to end up getting penalized (yes, Google may penalize sites that appear to be trying to game the system).

All that said, there are many details (technically, in how the site is built, how fast it loads, etc.) to pay attention to when trying to improve SEO. We’ll get into those in future posts. But the foundation is simple:

Create a website that is helpful and useful to your visitors. Add “quality content.” Keep doing that. And eat your kale, too, while you’re at it. In a while, you will be doing better.

Bob Passaro

Bob specializes in web design and development and copywriting. Before joining Figoli Quinn, he was a freelance web developer, a copywriter at the Eugene marketing agency Cawood, and back in the distant past he was a newspaper editor and reporter. In another life, Bob might have been a bicycle courier – but he settles for occasionally hopping on his bike to deliver boxes of brochures or other items from the printer to a client. He serves on the board of Better Eugene Springfield Transportation (aka BEST) and the Events Committee of GreenLane Sustainable Business Network.

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