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How to Meet Google’s Newest Quality Standards for Content

The cute, cuddly Panda bear has struck again. In the midst of Google’s latest algorithm change, many marketers are in a tizzy over how their search engine presence — and ranking — will be impacted. The SEO game keeps changing, and as a content marketer it’s important to understand what the changes are and how to use them to stay competitive.

The latest change is actually designed to reward, not punish content writers (or at least the ones who are doing their jobs well). In a recent press release, Google states, “Search results, like warm cookies right out of the oven… are best when they’re fresh.” This time around, the algorithm change is designed to place relevance on the quantity of new content a site contains (remember, the focus of the Panda update earlier this year penalized low-quality content, and content farms). It’s been projected that these latest changes will impact 35 percent of all search queries.

For marketers who are constantly updating their blog, social media sites or website content, this is great news. For those marketers who know they should have consistent content but have been unable to produce enough, this change may seem daunting.

To help alleviate some concerns you may have, here are some ideas on how to meet the quality and quantity requirements Google has made mandatory for online marketers:

1. Organize your inspiration

High search engine ranking is driven by having content that’s current and relevant. This means you need to be equipped at all times to blog, tweet, post, and join discussions related to your products, services, and industry. Here are a few ways to stay organized and up-to-date so your content pieces can be as well.

  • Sign up to receive Google News Alerts. I receive daily emails from Google containing the latest updates from the topics that interest me: Content marketing, online communities, search engine marketing, and social media marketing. From that email, I skim the article listings for something interesting and add it to an “articles” folder I set up in my inbox.
  • Keep an inventory. I keep track of articles that I find interesting whether from Google Alerts, Twitter, Facebook, or other means as a potential blog post or social media discussion topic. To keep my inspiration organized, I keep a running list of relevant links and ideas in my “Marketing Planner” excel workbook (the “Ideas” tab). On a regular basis, and especially when I’m in need of inspiration, I go back to that tab, pull a link, and just start writing my thoughts, reactions, or ideas. This tab is also a great resource to help me organize ideas around white papers or other major projects I have planned because I know what the hot topics of the moment are.

SEO Tip: Whenever you reference an article, post, Tweet, or blog, you give the author a shout-out. This will build your following,  get your content shared more frequently, and add SEO value.

2. Add spontaneity to your strategy

Having an editorial calendar is one of the best ways for you to stay on track with weekly writing responsibilities. However, don’t let the plan get in the way of having a little fun! Since search engines love fresh, unique, and interesting content, let your inspirations get the best of you.

If you feel the desire to write a blog post off-schedule, or update your website with a breaking research report, go right ahead. Want to tweet a cool infographic you just saw, or write an article about a webinar you attended on a whim? Do it. Though calendars are amazingly useful tools, any project manager knows this familiar mantra: “Don’t let the plan prohibit progress.” Sometimes (OK, a lot of times) we can’t foresee when a great idea will strike us. It will only benefit your SEO if you take an idea and run with it before it (and your website) gets too stale.

3. Make your content meaningful, likeable, and link-able

Since you’re likely writing on a number of online channels (an online community, social media sites, company website, etc.), be sure your pieces follow three simple rules:

  • Tie your messages together
  • Use proper linking tactics
  • Keep a consistent style and tone (powered by your keywords).

Here are some ways to do this:

Create, distribute and follow a message matrix. Decide early on within your organization what your main messages will be, and use them as a starting-point for all your content. A message matrix is a document that breaks down your target audiences and includes:

  • 5-6 key themes you want to communicate to each group.
  • Words that should (and should not) be used in communications
  • A list of your keywords to ensure that you’re optimizing the SEO of each and every content piece.

The message matrix helps your style remain consistent because no matter who is writing content or when  they will all be following the same guidelines. Consistency will help you establish credibility with your readers, and the more credible your content the more likely it will be shared and rewarded on search engines with a high ranking.

A sample message matrix

Link less, post often. You want to include links to your content in all your pieces; however, make your linking meaningful. By cluttering your article with hyperlinks, you will only distract your readers and decrease the piece’s relevance. Let your original thoughts shine through, and gently direct readers to other stories that are related perhaps 2-3 at the most (fewer if they are brief blog posts). Since you will be posting content more frequently from now on, you will have plenty of opportunities to give link-love to your other assets on a regular basis.

Again, don’t forget to share the love. Not every link has to direct a reader back to your content; the more you link to another writer’s content, the more compelled they will be to return the favor in the future.

4. Use (but don’t abuse) your keywords

Any SEO-focused writer knows that keywords help you get ranked on search engines and are a great way to get your content in the hands of your target audience. However, keyword usage, like linking, requires a balance if it’s going to be reader and search engine-friendly. Readers may be deterred from reading your content if it’s blatantly riddled with keywords — an annoying distraction that devalues the credibility of your work.

SEO Tip: Do a quick search of your articles to see how many times a certain keyword or phrase appears. How balanced is it in comparison with the length of the piece? If it feels crammed back off a bit. Every content piece you write is part of a bigger marketing strategy, so be sure to look at how the piece fits in the bigger picture and supports that strategy. You may also want to read Jay Baer’s post on the ways SEO optimization tools can help with this process.

5) Proofread

Before you post any content piece, check your links, spelling and grammar. These things matter when your piece is being “graded” on its SEO friendliness. Even better, hire a professional proofreader to review all of your content (here are five reasons you need this).

There are many rules for making your content SEO-friendly, and this entry touches on just a few.  David Reich also has a recent post on when and why your keywords really matter for content marketing and SEO. What are some SEO-factors you feel are most important? Which do you struggle with the most? Post your questions and ideas in the comments section below.