***After I wrote this blog post, I got super busy with a couple client requests and didn’t have time to proofread. So please no comments about poor grammar or spelling.
Google’s recent Panda updates have been getting more and more sites penalized in the search engines for short, thin, or duplicated content. Other sites, who are producing good and useful content, are seeing an increase in their rankings. Sometimes, search engine algorithms can be confusing so in this article, I want to share a few tricks I’ve learned from my own personal experimentation with the search engine optimization, web design, and writing content for the web to help you stay ahead of some of these Google changes.
Tip #1 – Put a blog on your website and update it regularly
I’ve been experimenting with posting frequency on a number of different websites after reading about the “Google Fresh” update which is supposed to take into account the recentness of content as a ranking factor. Sites that are producing real news are seeing the biggest benefit from this update, while stale sites with tons of backlinks and optimized content are suffering.
I am working on one site right now that hasn’t been updated in over a year, but it’s a really old domain with lots of optimized content. I’m finding that improving it’s rankings is becoming increasingly challenging without combining my seo efforts with updating the content on the site.
Alternatively, I have another site that is less than a year old (by the way, the reason I mention site age is because brand new sites are typically at risk of being perceived as spam sites if they pursue an aggressive backlinking campaign in the first 6 months) and it’s moving up quite quickly for some really competitive keyword phrases because the content is being regularly updated.
What’s the lesson here? Update your content regularly because it helps your search engine rankings. The reason I recommend a blog is because it gives you a platform for writing long or short articles, and on the content management system like WordPress (like this site is one), banging out an article every week or two is a piece of cake. The other benefit of putting a blog on a content management system is that it allows to you organize everything, creating a nice link structure which Google likes.
Tip #2 – Try to write articles longer than 450 words if possible
This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but writing longer articles seems to help me rank for competitive keyword phrases. I’m not 100% sure why, but my theory is that when someone searches Google and finds your content, Google collects data that tells them how long that person actually stays on your page before clicking the “back” button. If Google discovers that people consistently only view a page for a few seconds before clicking the “back button” then it serves as an indicator of poor quality.
I can’t say this to be 100% true because I don’t work at Google, but in my personal testing and seo work for hundreds of pages of content, I have found that ranking for competitive keyword phrases is easier with more content. I’ve been able to rank pages with less than 100 words of content for low/no competition keyword phrases … but it’s usually of little consequence since the keywords don’t send any traffic.
Tip #3 – Get your business on Facebook and Twitter
Google continues to publicly state that they are looking at social media sites as indicators of search relevance. It stands to reason that if something is being talked about by real people on Facebook and Twitter, then the site that be traced as the origin of the topic would rank better in the search engines. Another interesting development related to this is the introduction of a new metric on Facebook that shows how many people are actually talking about your Facebook page. You won’t see this metric on your personal Facebook page, you’ll need a business page (or a fanpage) to see it.
It’s hard to tell if Google is sophisticated enough to figure out if these conversations happening on social media sites are occurring between real people, or thousands of spam profiles held by clever marketers, but it’s quickly becoming apparent that social media matters in SEO.
I’m currently running some tests on Twitter and Facebook trying to better grasp the impact of “conversations” on these sites. For example, one of the tests I’m running seeks to understand the power of the “re-tweet” on Twitter. Also, how long does this internet chatter keep your rankings at the top of the search engines. Similarly, I’m trying to figure out the impact of “likes” and “comments” on Facebook wall posts.
If it turns out that these factors have an impact on search engine rankings, I’ll probably be talking to my clients about implementing the Facebook open graph on their websites, and integrating their blogs with Facebook comments.