The Creators of the Content Kingdom
Writers, expert writers especially, are hard to come by. Expertise comes at a certain cost: whether through education, life experience, or both. For years, everyone with a website wants to rank well in Google results, especially when users type in certain keywords or phrases related to their business.
The practice of getting there, known by several names over time, comes down to Search Engine Optimization, or showing Google what it wants to see about your site, so it will place it higher in the rankings. As Google has gotten more sophisticated about how it establishes those rankings, businesses have tried to figure out how the system works, but Google never really revealed the formula.
Business and SEO specialists have known that keywords, anchor text, good content, and backlink building have all been critical elements to getting more site visits and increasing trustworthiness, therefore rising in the ranks. But thanks to a leaked document, and a blog post from Google in November, we know more about how websites are evaluated.
Google is not only looking at the content itself, they are looking at who created it. In other words, you need writers who are experts creating excellent content. Here’s what that means.
The Science Behind Google (and other search engines)
A brief tutorial, in case you don’t know. When you type a search into Google or any other search engine, software does not leave your keyboard and go out to scour the web. Instead, it searches Google’s index of the internet, housed on their servers, a much faster process.
As Google “crawls” over these pages, it is looking for certain things, and over the years, those things have changed. What it finds determines how your page ranks for certain searches. The results when you search for a specific phrase is known as a SERP or Search Engine Results Page.
Until recently, it has been hard to tell exactly what Google is looking for. Marketers and SEO Specialists have reverse engineered the process to try to figure out some things that seem to influence rankings. We know that keywords in anchor text affect outcomes, but that keyword stuffing a page actually results in Google penalizing that page, and if excessive may even drop it from the SERPS altogether. This is because of updates Google has done in an attempt to cut down on the spam that makes it on to the front page. After all, Google is intent on one thing: providing users the most useful search results that hopefully contain exactly what they are looking for.
There are many articles and guesses about how exactly this all works, and SEO tool Moz has a great blog that talks in depth about them, and taking note of Whiteboard Fridays by Rand Fishkin is a great way to keep up with the constantly changing “rules.”
In November, a document designed to help Google evaluators do their jobs and evaluate websites was released in this blog post after SEM Post got a leaked copy and posted their own evaluation of it. One of the main takeaways, at least for content creators, is not that Google likes original, well written, in-depth content, but that Google is also looking at who is writing the blog post as well.
It’s called E.A.T., which stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness. While this may seem a little vague, the guidelines state for a page to meet these qualities, it must feature “expert” content written by an “expert.”
Pages without this expertise, or with little information or low-quality content will be rated (and therefore ranked) lower by Google. To rank well, content must also be updated regularly.
What makes an expert? Is it true, as Malcolm Gladwell says in his book Outliers: The Story of Success, that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in anything? And how do we show those hours to Google?
Also, the expertise needed depends on the page. Review sites can be written by almost anyone who has tried a product while sites about business should be written by business experts, financial advice sites by financial experts, and investment sites by investment professionals.
An article talking in depth about cancer treatment should be written by an M.D. An article written about surviving cancer would better be written by a cancer survivor. Expertise is entirely dependent on the subject being written about.
A website must also have authority. Authority can either come from the author, such as the M.D. mentioned above, or from the author borrowing authority by using quotes from experts, and linking to external, authoritative sources.
This is known as “link neighborhood.” Authoritative links not only add authority to the article but your site as well.
While Domain Authority (a metric devised and measured by Moz, who also indexes the web) is just one of many metrics, but it does offer a rough idea of how authoritative Google believes your site to be. Majestic, another SEO tool, rates sites by Trust Flow and Citation Flow, a different but similar metric based on sites linking to yours, and their authority.
What the information in the guidelines makes clear is that although links play a big role in your sites perceived authority, the content on your page and who wrote it also play a key role.
More than just a number like the Majestic Trust Flow mentioned previously, your site’s trustworthiness is also determined by content and the author of that content. So what makes the content trustworthy?
- Is the content original, or copied from another source?
- Is the content written by an expert?
- Does the content cite reliable, authoritative sources?
- Does the page contain spammy links?
- Is the content high quality? (Edited)
Note how much Trustworthiness ties into Expertise and Authority. The three form a triangle Google bases its evaluations of websites on.
Content is the Kingdom
How do you get customers attention as early as possible in the marketing funnel when you are working online? Content. When they are searching, or even before they are searching for services you offer, customers find you by your web content, and they join your kingdom and become your subjects by entering the funnel.
Whatever entry to the funnel looks like for you, the way to improve your conversion rate is by having good, compelling content that drives your average web visitor from the top of the funnel all the way down. Content is the foundation, the pavement in the road from looker to buyer.
Poor content can be anything from a boulder blocking the road to cracks in the concrete that cause a customer to stumble. Stellar content is essential at every stage of your marketing process.
Since content is so vital, here are a few important things to keep in mind.
- Link building is not dead. Targeted link building is still relevant in 2016. Building a solid link profile is one way to influence your rankings in Google for certain key phrases for the better, provided the link building is done in an ethical manner, and uses a consistent, repeatable, and replicable process, whether you hire this out or have your own SEO staff.
- Great content will cost you. At a minimum, good content will cost you time: time to create, time to edit, and time to vet guest posts. Ideally, hiring expert writers in your field, whether by simply paying for guest posts, having your own copywriting staff, or paying your employees to write content will yield the best results.
- Your content should be edited. Whether this is also done internally, or you hire out your editing, every post should be looked at by a number of eyes before it is posted. Posts can always be edited, but you never know who or how many customers may have been alienated by the time you have a chance to correct any errors. A typo can be range from the cracked pavement mentioned above to an embarrassing roadblock.
It has been well known for some time that Google likes high quality, original content. Now that we know even more rules of the game, it is our job as webmasters, content creators, and marketers to pay attention to content and who it is being created by.
Content is the kingdom. It is the foundation, the pathway to conversion, and the call to action. Writers are the builders of that kingdom. Without expert writing, the kingdom falls. Don’t take a writer’s word for it. Google has spoken.
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