Ever have a salesperson talk your ear off, but never quite answer your questions? Don’t you hate that? So does Google. And that’s exactly why last week the search giant introduced a new algorithm update aiming to marginalize websites containing low-quality written content that fails to satisfy their targeted search terms.
The “Farmer/Panda” update has impacted about 12% of all search inquiries, slashing visibility by as much as 94% for overstuffed content-generating sites like AssociatedContent.com, Suite101.com and EZineArticles.com.
Now, unless you’ve been running a massive “content farm” operation, it’s not likely that your keyword ranking will take a big hit from the algorithm update. But this recent tweak is just one move in a long succession of controls imposed by Google throughout the last decade – and this initiative points us to one of the most crucial factors in pleasing the search gods: A website that clearly communicates with the visitor’s needs.
Call it what you like – usability, scannability, onsite SEO – the goal of effective, search-friendly web content is always to answer your customer’s questions in clear, direct language. Here are a few examples of where good communication equals good search engine optimization:
Speak their language. Good communication requires us to adapt to our listeners’ terminology. A question about “cars” should not yield an answer about “motor vehicles” or “trains.” In the case of web content, this means developing copy around the customers’ targeted keywords, and not some homegrown lingo.
Get to the point. Feature those targeted terms logically and prominently in heads, subheads and body copy. Since web readers are notorious for their gnat-like attention span, you should always keep the words of interest (targeted keywords) front and center.
Keep the conversation going. Where appropriate, provide text links within your body copy to other relevant pages within your site.
All of the above communication strategies are also known to help boost your search ranking. But of course, as in all communication, it never helps to over-use any one strategy. Oversaturating your content with keywords or internal links will alienate your readers and make Google suspicious about your site. So be reasonable. Be friendly.
As a web writer, I have always been amazed at how frequently the requirements of SEO and the requirements of web readability tend to overlap. Google wants to provide search results that match their queries with clear, focused answers. And that’s exactly what your customers want from their user experience: Clear, focused answers. When your website provides the right answers in the right terms, everybody wins. Google wins, your customers win and you win.