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7 Key Pieces of Advice about Web Content Strategy from Matt Cutts


Google Webspam leader Matt Cutts is one of the most influential SEO advice sources. Before he took a voluntary temporary leave last July, he spent over 10 years giving detailed, precise, and sometimes lengthy explanations to many questions that businesses were asking. He recorded more than 500 videos to share his answers. So how can you sift through all that great counsel and find the ones valuable to you?

Click Consult created, developing a brief summary of each video (sometimes just one word) and categorizing all of the videos, which makes it easy to search for topics. Over 50 videos fall under the website-content category and more than 30 address related aspects, so I decided to do that sifting for you and choose seven of the best to help as you plan your website content strategy.

How important is content in the body of a page? answer: Very important.

My takeaway: Pay attention to the head and the body of the actual document. While many people focus on SEO aspects like the headings or titles, the body of an article is also important for ranking.

Should I focus on clarity or jargon when writing content? answer: Clarity, but also include jargon.

My takeaway: The clarity of your content is critical. If you can’t break down the subject sufficiently to make it clear to your readers, you may not really understand it yourself. Explaining and making your content understandable is the skill of a good content writer, and Google knows that. It’s OK to include some of the scientific language or jargon of your field, but consider your audience.

In short, online content is written for more than just experts in your industry. Try to be as natural sounding as possible and consider reading it aloud to ensure its readability. While clarity may not be as important for SEO, you still should consider which words will be typed into the query box by people who will find your content helpful. In general, these words are not scientific or technical terms.

What should I be aware of if I am considering guest blogging? answer: Do not use the same sites over and over, and always write unique content, not spun.

My takeaway: Many people are skeptical about guest blogging because of the volume of low-quality sites and writers. It can be hard to know whether a piece of content is going to be used appropriately and actually help with links and ranking based on legitimate merit.

Don’t make guest blogging your only way of generating links and traffic. And certainly do not use the same article on two sites. It’s also risky to take one article and spin it to look like your own. Google is on top of the abuse in the guest-blogging space and wants to make sure that its users are getting the best content in their search results. This article shares more about penalizations in relation to link-building.

How can a legitimate business compete online? answer: Focus your content and improve your site.

My takeaway: Many business owners think company sites designed for creating traffic have a rankings advantage over start-up or smaller businesses that focus their efforts on real customers. Big businesses can have bad websites; this is a surprisingly common occurrence.

Cutts’ advice to smaller businesses? No. 1: Have a good site that works well for mobile users. Make sure your site is usable and easy to navigate. No. 2: Think about ways to engage with your customers. Sponsor events and plan your website engagement strategy.

Google looks for the best content – it doesn’t necessarily always come from larger sites.

Should I spend more time fighting scrapers or improving content? answer: Improving content.

My takeaway: Scrapers (websites that scrape content from other websites) sometimes outrank the original site, but ultimately it is more important to focus on your site’s content. Otherwise, Google may think your site is not collectively providing as much high-quality content as the scraper site. Work on your site’s content quality and you’ll start to outrank the spammers who will probably get caught eventually.

How much content should be on a homepage? answer: Do what is right for the site, but a little more content is better for Google bots.

My takeaway: There is such a thing as “too much” content on a homepage, especially as it affects download time. Generally though, more content means more content for Google bot to find. Five to 10 blog posts on the main page is recommended. A little more content also is a good front display for your website.

How can I make sure that Google knows my content is original? answer: Tweet it. Use pubsubhubbub to get it crawled. Do a DMCA request if you are ripped off.

My takeaway: Google tries to crawl appropriately (based on page rank, etc.). Twitter is a great way for Google to notice your content. The open-protocol code pubsubhubbub, which provides real-time notifications of content changes, is also used by Google. If your content is stolen and republished, you can issue a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notice so the website must remove your content from its site.

Moving forward

These seven Cutts’ videos are just the surface of his exploration of content development and engagement. These tips, while improving the site as a whole and the user experience, also help to boost your SEO rankings.

My colleague Jason Hawkins summed up Cutts’ advice:

One of the most important aspects to highlight from these videos is that producing good content is ultimately one of the most important things that you can do. Regardless how large or small your business is, good website and blog content will help you out in several ways, but will particularly help with engagement. Even when looking at other issues such as scrapers, originality, and guest blogging, it all ultimately comes down to creating better content.

Google’s priority is to rank sites, which will engage users, and provide them with the best results possible. This should be your goal for engagement as well.

Do you have a favorite Cutts’ tip on content engagement? Or perhaps thoughts of your own? Let us know in the comment section below.

Want more advice on how to improve SEO and your website content? Check out the fantastic CMW 2014 sessions that are available through our Video on Demand portal and register today for CMW 2015.

Cover image courtesy of Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute