Recently, a story has been all over the Internet about a new update to Google’s search ranking algorithm that will try to knock back the rankings on what people are calling “content farms.” And whenever there is a backlash by search engines like Google against any online practice, I find it interesting to look at how it happened in the first place because that usually holds some keys to understanding what’s going on behind the scenes.
Trend #1: Long tail keywords
It’s no secret that users are evolving in the way they use search engines and this means typing in more and more specific phrases to find what they need. So what started as searches for things like “used cars” has evolved into “used 2003 Toyota Camrys for sale in New Orleans, LA”. Users understand that the more specific they are with their searches, the better chance they have of finding what they need.
Enter the marketers. Armed with data showing that the longer phrases produce more qualified traffic, the race began to create as much content geared around these specific phrases in hopes of ranking well. And generally speaking the search engines rewarded this practice by showing pages like these highly in their results. The end result: more and more long tail content being created.
Trend #2: The 350 word page
The second argument in favor of shorter pages was that Internet users don’t really like to read as much as they prefer to scan. So the shorter pages with bullet lists and lots of headings would be more digestible to a user which is ultimately what search engines want – to give you the content you want to read.
Trend #3: The race to become a “resource site”
Another generally accepted principle in the digital marketing world has been that more content equals higher credibility and “resource” status with search engines. For instance, if you are a personal injury attorney and you have lots of law-related articles on your site then it must be a good site worthy of being shown highly in search results, right? So marketers took this concept of long tail keyword interest and applied the “light and fluffy” 350 word page game plan to creating resource sites.
What should we learn from this and what you can do going forward
The logical reaction is to produce more focused and in-depth content which probably means you do it a little less frequently. The real question with more in-depth content is whether or not people will actually want or take the time to read it. But these concerns are somewhat secondary since the first step is to actually get your content found by searchers. And if Google says it wants more in-depth pages, then longer pages it will get. I’m sure it will take time to figure out what the best practices are going forward, but it’s obvious that the trend is headed in this direction.
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