Dec 16, 2016 | Payel Mukherjee
Google-friendly content is the most overused word in the industry today. As a content marketer, its one of the phrases I probably use every day – sometimes to push my team of writers to create better stuff, sometimes to the editors to make them understand what the client wants, sometimes to the client who want rankings on Google but does not want to invest in a good blog. And, then there is the client who just wants quality content, no matter what.
So what is this Google-friendly, quality content? Is there any standard definition for it? Who decides what content we should use?
The answer to all these questions, at least in the world of search engines, lies with Google.
Quality content is important, says Google. And so good quality content is important. That’s it.
What Google wants
And to do that Google started introducing major changes to its algorithms, starting 2002.
Although there have been more than 500 algorithm changes till date, the major ones like Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird and the Pigeon, have changed the way search engine marketing works.
The intent of every algorithm change is to improve search results and make search more relevant. This also means that Google is watching over its content and making sure that only relevant and quality content gets ranked for every query that is made.
What does this mean to content marketers and writers?
Taken together, this means that shoddily written content churned out by content farms and SEO companies for manipulating rankings results will no longer work.
Google wants you to write what will make sense to the user. It does not want you to create content by obsessing over keywords but rather write it to answer a particular question and create value. The meaning and intent of an article hence becomes more important than just keywords.
An advanced research project recently undertaken by engineers and leaders at MOZ and SEMrush point to just this. Over 203,900 data points were analyzed to see what type of content really mattered to Google.
The research showed that the quality of content was the most decisive factor in helping it rank.
So what are the quality guidelines according to Google?
This is what I am arriving at. Google values good content and rewards you with traffic if you create high quality. That is no secret. In fact, Google has even written a complete section on creating valuable content.
Google’s mission has always been to help each search user to get the exact information they are looking for in the quickest amount of time. As Larry Page states in this video, Google wants to organize the world’s information and give people the exact thing that they are looking for.
Based on Google's own quality guidelines, we have created a list of 13 content mistakes that Google wants you to avoid. Avoid these and you can pretty much be assured that you will land in Google's good books. So here we go.
1. Don't use auto-generated content
Creating a tonne of quality content takes a lot of hard work and time. But there really is no easy shortcut. At times, we may be tempted to use programmatic help to generate content quickly but cast the thought aside as soon as you have it. Google's algorithm has grown smarter by the day. It can now not only catch lazy and copied writing but also penalize you badly for it. Here's what to look out for -
Don't literally translate text
When translating text from another language, see to it that the final output actually makes sense and is not a literal word-to-word translation. A literal translation often jumbles up the grammar and brings down the quality of the output.
Avoid synonymizing or obfuscation techniques
Synonymized plagiarism is one of the emerging threats in the content sector. While plagiarism checkers check for direct copy pastes, replacing the text with words of similar meaning can cloak it to pass on as an original piece of content. Google has fortunately seen through this and set up a penalty for it.
Stitching content from different web pages without adding sufficient value
There are two aspects to the above statement – the first being that you are already doing non-original content by taking it from other web pages and the second being that you aren't adding “value” to it.
This is a common problem seen with “listicle” articles that tend to quickly make a top-10 list without adding sufficient reasoning for the ratings. If you want to do this, make sure there is enough original content on the page to anchor the article.
2. Be careful about your redirects
Setting up redirects is a common practice and is often done for genuine reasons. We often consolidate content from different pages into one page and then redirect the old urls. We also set up redirects when we are moving our site to a new address.
Sadly, some online touts have used redirects to create a veil of cloaked content, which takes users and search engines to different pages. Search engines like Google prioritize user experience as a key ingredient in their ranking. This makes such cloaking activities an offence punishable with a huge penalty that could take a lot of time to recover from.
3. Opt only for genuine links
Links have been used and abused consistently to sometimes gain ranks and other times game the search engine into believing that your website had authority. Fortunately, Google shut down link farms and black hat practices to a good extent.
Even then, if you get your hands on some old reading material for building links, you may be tempted to try these spurious practices.
Stay away from-
4. Don't hide under a cloak
The issue with cloaking came to light when some genuine Websites that were using flash tried to show different versions of the page to users and search engines.
5. Don't hide text or links
If there are ways to hide text, it has been tried and thrashed out by Google. People have used white text on white background, zero font size, CSS to place the text off the page or hiding behind an image and all of these have been caught and punished.
To ensure you aren't inadvertently punished, here are 3 important factors to follow
6. Avoid doorway pages
Some common practices around using doorway pages are when your site is present in multiple languages and you want to create an entry point for the user to choose language and then enter the site.
As long as these pages are legit and don't hamper user experience, Google may forgive you. Unfortunately, these pages have been abused by black hat practitioners to create similar keyword pages for higher ranking.
If you do create a doorway page, make sure you state the purpose clearly and don't overlap it with keywords used elsewhere on the site.
7. Don't just scrape content
Scraping content was a technique discovered in early in the game as it was believed that the more content your site had, the better it was. The only problem being that people missed the word 'original' in that statement.
Scraping content involves taking content from other popular sites and using it as is or with slight substitution. The problem went out of hand when people with scraped content started ranking higher than the sites with the original content. Eventually, Google realised this and solved this problem for several websites.realised this and solved this problem for several websites.
Duplicate content invites huge penalties and it is best to stay away from this practice. Watch this popular video by Matt Cutt, a software engineer who has previously worked on the search quality and webspam team at Google.
8. Be careful when using affiliates
Affiliate partners often tend to use the same or similar content as the main site. With little or no originality, this becomes a duplicate content problem for Google causing you more trouble than you think. Not only will you and your affiliates both be penalized in search rankings, it might affect your relationship with them as loss of rank translates to lower opportunity to sell your products and make money.
To ensure good and genuine affiliates don't get affected by this problem, take the following steps:
9. Irrelevant keywords
Kim Kardashian is one of the most Googled celebrities. Ranking for a keyword like her name can mean tons of traffic for a site. Earlier blackhat practitioners would stuff their website with such high traffic keywords but have totally different information. You'll hardly find sites like that ranking anymore on Google.
The other end of the keyword stuffing comes from over optimization.
For example: This hotel in London is one of the best hotels in London if you are looking for a hotel in London.
10. Doing evil with malicious pages
Google's fundamental principle of 'Don't be evil' applies to all levels of the website. Trying to manipulate user behaviour without their consent, and stuffing their downloads with unnecessary files or even changing their browser preferences without their consent can be considered a malpractice. Installing trojans or viruses makes you an evil website and person! Don't go anywhere near such practices.
If you want to know more about the 10 things that Google believes in, you can read it here.
11. Monitor your site for user-generated spam
Just like websites, not all users are made equal either. Some intentionally want to harm your site. It is important to monitor user activities on your site, especially if you give them the provision to create their profile and add information that is visible in search results. If it is difficult for you to actively monitor this, it is best to not let search engines index these pages.
12. Don't let comment spammers through
If you have a blog, it is quite likely that you have received a vague comment like “Who else thinks this is cool” with an irrelevant link. Such comments come from spammers and nogoodniks who often use spam comments to generate backlinks.
To avoid trouble with this, make sure you use anti-spam tools like CAPTCHAs when someone is entering a comment. Even if a manual spam comment gets through, don't let it appear on the site without moderation.
While this one is a bummer to those who engage with your blog, try making the comments a nofollow so that people post replies knowing that the link juice will not flow.
13. Call out the bad guys
Most spammers continue with business as usual until they are caught and flagged off. It is similar to garbage making the whole street dirty. It won't get off the pavement unless you call the garbage truck to haul it away. Google has easy ways for you to report spam, paid links and malwares. But you'll have to join them in their fight to make the web a better place.
Well that was it. If you are following these rules, then I can safely say that you should be seeing your traffic rise. Its time we all understand and write quality content.
The bottom line is: write not just for the sake of rankings, write to create value and Google will definitely notice.
What is your definition of good quality content? We would love to know your opinion in the comment section below. If you have any questions about creating better content, you can always write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you liked this blog and want to know more about SEO, you might find these articles interesting.
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