Everyone with a website is concerned with their search engine rankings, and Google keeps changing the rules. Many SEO techniques that worked fine 10 years ago would get your site de-indexed today. Even SEO strategies from a year or two ago are suspect, as Google has recently released its new Hummingbird update.
Are there any reliable methods that we can count on, not only for today, but in anticipation of Google’s future updates? There is at least one – creating fresh content for your website on a regular basis. In this article, I will discuss the importance of fresh content and why it is the most surefire secret for ranking in the search engines.
SEO Methods That No Longer Work
If we look at Google’s actions over the last 5 or so years, we can see a pattern. The emphasis has been on cracking down on sites it deems low quality. Some of the SEO tactics that are now likely to cause you problems include:
Low quality backlinks
Sites lacking in unique content
Articles that are overstuffed with keywords
Sites with auto-generated content
Sites with mainly ads or other promotional content
These are some of the red flags that Google and other search engines now look for when analyzing sites. Other factors come into play as well, such as how quickly a website loads. Overall, however, the crackdown has been focused on sites that are created primarily to game the search engines.
While a lot can be said about what no longer works with SEO, another approach would be to ask, “With so many techniques no longer effective, what is left?” The big answer is fresh or unique content.
Why Fresh Content Matters So Much
Many online marketers and website owners have gotten so caught up in finding the latest SEO tricks – whether the latest software, plugin or method of getting backlinks – that they neglect the most important feature of any website – content.
Search engines are mainly interested in providing their users with the best possible experience. This means when people search for a certain term, they should be led to websites with relevant content rather than low quality sites such as link farms or auto-blogs.
Fresh content always means that the site is regularly updated. Information quickly becomes outdated on the web. So if you only publish new content on your site every month or less, you are likely to get outranked by someone who is more diligent in their efforts.
An Example of How Fresh Content Helps a Site Rank
I was recently hired to help a local business improve their rankings. This business happened to be a chiropractic office. They already had a website, but it was on something like page 5 of Google’s listings for the terms it wanted to rank for, such as “Chiropractor + city.” For a local term, that is as good as being invisible, as people aren’t going to scroll 5 pages to find a local business.
When I looked at their website, I could see what the problem was. The chiropractor had previously attempted to do his own SEO, and gotten some low priced articles and links. There were pages that were full of keywords, repeated so often that the text barely made sense.
I told him that the site needed real content if it was going to improve its rankings. This preferably meant both good content on the site itself and external links pointing to it.
So we arranged to publish a series of relevant blog posts on the site. These posts were not simply stuffed with keywords, but were genuine articles catering to his target office. For example, there were articles about preventing back pain, the right way to exercise and how to select a good chiropractor.
Over a period of about two months, the site gradually rose in the rankings. The last time I checked, it had made it to the first page of Google for a couple of relevant search terms! Of course, we did a variety of things to help bring this about. The chiropractor also made some videos on YouTube. These were also published on his own site. Videos, too, count as quality content as long as they are relevant to the audience.
Evidence That Fresh Content is Effective
It’s not hard to prove the theory that fresh content is important for ranking well in the search engines. For example, consider any term that is very popular, such as “how can I lose weight?” Incidentally, one feature of Google’s Hummingbird update is that the search engine will be increasingly tailored to answer questions posed in a natural, conversational way rather than the old method of looking for keywords.
When I type in “How can I lose weight” into Google, the top of the page contains a few relevant ads. These are paid ads and have nothing to do with SEO, so we can ignore these. Below the ads is a large box, in which Google has placed passages from three leading website.
These three sites are Webmd.com, Medicinenet.com and nih.gov. While these are not paid ads, they are high ranking authority sites that the average website cannot hope to compete with. This is a fairly new feature Google has begun implementing, giving people a fast answer to their question without them having to even click any links. It’s not great news for SEO, but there’s nothing that can be done about it.
Below this box, we see the regular search results. The first three selections here are from Reader’s Digest, Webmd.com and ABC News. Below that we see selections from other news sites, as well as Wiki.com and a site called Health.com. None of this is really surprising, but if you click on any of these links you will find one thing in common – lots of fresh content!
It’s interesting to note that all of these high ranking sites are commercial (with the exception of the nih.gov site, which was above the regular listings). In other words, these sites manage to dominate the rankings even though they are full of ads and often pop-ups as well. The fact that they are authority sites full of useful content enables them to rank at the top of Page 1.
Of course, the average website is not even attempting to rank for a super-competitive term like “how can I lose weight”. The same principles, however, apply to far less competitive terms, such as those used for local businesses.
You can verify this by doing your own searches for any terms that you want. The sites that dominate are almost always the ones that contain the most real content.
How to Make Use of Fresh Content
There are a few important criteria for what the search engines consider valuable content.
- At least 500 words – preferably longer.
- Content relevant to the site’s main topic.
- Recently published – older content can certainly rank as well, but there should always be newer material as well.
- Written naturally – i.e. no keyword stuffing.
There are many ways to publish fresh content on your website. The main challenge for most website owners is to be consistent about it. If the search engines see that you are frequently updating your blog or website, they are more likely to give you a higher ranking. Let’s look at a few strategies you can use to do this.
Create your own content
This can mean writing articles or blog posts, creating videos or other content such as infographics.
Outsource content creation
Hire people (writers and web designers) to create content for your site.
Republish quality content from other sites.
The last one, curation, is a little confusing to some people because it involves using content that isn’t original. Doesn’t that violate one of Google’s main rules? The reason why it doesn’t is that it involves using high quality, relevant content from authority sites. This is a tactic used by many leading sites, such as Huffington Post, Feedly and Pulse.
Successful curation sites publish lots of fresh content that their visitors value. This content is often extremely recent as well as relevant. This is helpful because it brings quality incoming links to the curation site. This is also the type of content that tends to get shared on social sites, which is another way that these sites get traffic and link juice.
You can incorporate curation into your website even if it’s not your main focus. For example, you can use curated material to supplement your original articles, videos and other content. You can also give curated content an original spin by adding your own opinions.
Fresh content, then can be either original or curated and it can be self-created or outsourced. The important thing is that it’s high quality, relevant content that is also timely.
Fresh content is not the only way to improve your search engine rankings, but it’s one of the most important ways that you can control. It’s even more powerful if you combine it with other techniques, such as social media marketing, guest blogging and forum marketing. No other strategy, however, will help you if your own site doesn’t contain what the search engines consider to be high quality content.
One of the best reasons to make fresh content the basis of your SEO strategy is that it’s a “Googleproof” way to make your site more valuable. That’s because content is what your visitors are looking for, so there is no reason why the search engines will ever stop considering it valuable. Many other SEO techniques are based on loopholes and tricks that can become self-defeating when Google comes out with its next update.
It’s not always easy to publish a constant stream of fresh content on your site. It requires a sustained effort, whether you create your own content or outsource it. It’s worth the effort, however, as it’s the most reliable way to ensure that your site is favored by the search engines!