Ye have heard that it was said,
Thou shalt use keywords 3-5 times in thy text, and
Thou shalt create Metadata that are acceptable to the Search Engine
But Google says unto you,
Unless ye write blogs with quality, ye do it in vain.
Consider Jinx, an honest and unassuming resident of Raleigh, NC. Her father, John, had been stationed with the US Army in China at the end of World War Two. The simple Kentucky boy learned enough Chinese to befriend a shop owner on Jade Street in Beijing. Every so often his pal would call him to come inspect a new piece that had come into the shop. John would go down there to have a look and pay the man a hundred bucks for a little green bowl, a pitcher, or a knickknack and send them home. Jinx inherited the collection years later.
James Callahan, the appraiser on the PBS show Antiques Roadshow, assured Jinx that most of the time, people bring in jades like hers that are actually worthless, poor quality knockoffs, cheap imitations. Plastic made to look like the real thing are the usual fare for most who hope to strike it rich with their "jade" item.
Turns out the jade collection on the appraisal table was of the kind of quality that sends appraisers ballistic. Honestly, before watching the appraisal, we thought it looked like a bunch of cheap green plastic tchotchkes. Not so. Jinx was treated to one of the highest values to date on the Roadshow - over a million dollars (and she had more pieces at home!)
Quality is the new gold standard of blogging. Gone are the days of packing your blog with keywords in an attempt to rank higher in search returns.
So, what is "Quality," exactly?
One might guess at the basic idea. Quality blogging includes AVOIDING corner-cutting such as:
- Buying backinks
- Surreptitious redirects
- Camouflaged text and links
- Pages with little or repetitive content
- Scraped content (cut and pasted from another page)
But defining quality blogging positively is the slippery part. Google doesn't disclose any details about their actual criteria, but a close study of search returns by people who appraise such things can give us some clues. Here are some of the things they have learned:
- Appropriate use of keywords. Not too many, not too few. Just make sure your article reads smoothly. Basic writing skills 101 remind us that any words repeated too many times in a piece can erode readability.
- Fulfills the promise made by the title - Google wants to return the BEST, most informative, interesting and relevant material to every searcher, so ensure your text is on target with the title and deep on the subject.
- Freshness - frequent updates and evergreen content that has a bit longer shelf life than a week or two. Proofread for grammatical spelling and punctuation errors. Yes, Google is a stickler for that stuff.
- Readability - Can your blog be understood by your audience? This really depends on who your audience is, but generally, speaking blogs rank highest when they score around 74 on the the Flesch readability scale.
- Shared - Content that finds its way to other websites and is liked or tweeted on social media gains credibility because it means people are reading it and liking it enough to share it.
- Engagement - Google knows everything about your site, including the length of time each visitor spends on each page. Quick bounces are bad, of course, meaning that someone took a quick look and found your piece lacking and moved on. Staying for 7 minutes as opposed to 7 seconds means people are reading your quality blog!
Google and many other SEO experts increasingly agree that if once you get your page-level metadata sorted, just write an informed, engaging blog on a topic you want your leads to see.
PANDA appeared in 2011 as an additional filter to Google's algorithm. One relevant feature of the new algorithm is that Google updates it ALL the time, meaning that there is serious learning going on about what quality is and how to find it.
Panda finds and examines your site for any shortcuts you might have taken, including duplicate content within your site and plagiarized from other sites, fluff-content that doesn't add anything new to the topic (What we used to call BS on high school book reports), too many keywords that decrease readability, and so on.
"Panda starts off with human quality raters who look at hundreds of websites. Computers, using machine learning, are then brought in to mimic the human raters. When the algorithm becomes accurate enough at predicting what the humans scored, it’s then unleashed across millions of sites across the Internet."
Think about it - Google employs actual humans to review and analyze sites for quality, and includes their findings into the search algorithm. Did you catch that? Google is so concerned about ranking based on quality that they have actual people reading your stuff in order to teach their search robots the difference between the good and the bad.
On the Antiques Roadshow, the Appraisers Know Things and can easily tell a fake from a treasure. Google is not far behind when it comes to your content.
The Quality Rater Guidelines used by human raters to tease out the good from the bad outlines features of good and poor quality content, including:
- Keep your writing at an Expert level.
- Establish rapport with other relevant source material. Make sure you have citations and links for anything you use outside of your own head.
- Size matters, but not as much as quality. According to Many SEO specialists, Google seems to favor posts that come in at about 2000 words. That can seem like a lot - we know. There's debate on blog length, but no debate on quality.
- Keep things fresh. Google likes it when content is updated and freshened up regularly. For blogs, you should publish once per week, but research shows that more often might be better.
So Google is obsessed with Quality now. They have a training unit in their Webmaster Tools that focuses on "Valuable Content."
Our advice to you: Quality blogging is in your future, so get up in that skull-attic of yours and start looking for treasure to share with the world. If you're not blogging at all now, consider publishing once a month to start, and slowly up it to once a week. Experiment with length and frequency by checking your page metrics to find the sweet spot. Read a lot of other industry blogs or articles to prime the pump. Combine your brilliance with good metadata practices and you should see your web traffic and leads increase over time.
You might end up like Jinx, who, when presented (at 3:10) with the final dollar figure for her jades simply said, "Damn."
Thanks to PBS's Antiques Roadshow
United WebWorks is a Savannah-based internet marketing company that offers premier blogging services for clients across the country.