Content and SEO

If you read enough SEO guides from years past you’ll find a bunch of statements like “content is king” and other clever quips. We already know that content plays a vital role in SEO but in this section we’ll understand why and how it does.

Google has shifted the way that its search engine works. You can now type a query such as:

“movie with guy living in the walls”

and Google will be able to figure out that you are talking about the movie “Housebound” and not a literal search.

To make things really simple, there are really only two main aspects of content that you need to consider in SEO: quantity and quality. From a quality perspective, all content should be well written, well researched, structured appropriately and well-styled. Website visitors are very smart, and they can smell bad content from a mile away.

In terms of quantity, its not just about how much content you have on a given website it is also about how frequently your website is updated as well. If you are trying to build a loyal following on your website, there is no better way to do that then to keep your content regularly updated.

How often should you add content? In 2015 this is really quite a loaded question. Some large scale websites are updated dozens of times per day, even more. Other small-business websites are updated much less frequently. Then there are static websites that are almost never updated.

Most professional SEO’s believe that Google has a freshness factor built into their algorithm. Google has filed a number of patents that have confirmed this, and there are numerous published case studies confirming this as well. Assuming this is true, lets talk a little bit more about how frequently your content should be updated. Different industries and search terms also differ in terms of how Google might rank content. Let’s think about these search queries:

  • “Temperature in Miami”
  • “Jets vs Falcons score”
  • “Facebook walkout”

Most of these searches will most likely produce search results from content that has been updated very recently. In this case, Google is looking for websites that have been updated very frequently, and ones that are also trusted.

Now let’s look at a totally different type of query:

  • “how to change your name”
  • “theory of relativity”
  • “why do bees make honey”

These searchers are most likely not looking for the “freshest” content, but rather the most accurate and the most trusted content.

Learning the difference between these types of queries and these types of content is an important part of being an SEO and something you should continue to study as time goes on.

Google Panda

How could we mention content and SEO without mentioning Google Panda. Google Panda is a major Google algorithm adjustment released a few years back that targets websites with low-quality website content. Modern day Panda updates have changed since this update was originally released focusing much more on content quality than ever:

  • Google Panda targets websites with “thin” content
  • Google Panda also goes low-quality or sometimes “spun” content

One of the biggest things you should know about Google Panda is that as of this last update, Google will no longer be announcing that these updates or adjustments are happening. It is up to us as SEO’s to figure out when they hit. If you want to stay in the good graces of Google Panda, just remember a few tips:

  • Quality always over quantity – do a content audit on your website to make sure there is no low-quality pages
  • Stay away from spun content, irrelevant content or duplicate content
  • Keep an eye on low click-through-rates, high bounce rates, and low time on sites
  • Don’t over-optimize your website or stuff it with keywords

Follow this advice and you will live a long and prosperous life in the lovely land of Google. Failure to heed this advice and you will be crushed by the long arm of Google justice.

Content Formats

Content doesn’t just have to be a 500-1000 word article. There are many other formats of content for your blog. Popular options include:

  • Lists or “Listicles”
  • How-To Style Posts
  • Reviews or Testimonials
  • Images or Infographics
  • Statistic Style Posts
  • Joke / Memes
  • Videos
  • Guides
  • Rants
  • Podcasts

Google tends to love websites with lots of different types of content. But don’t just make a (video, podcast, etc) because it is “good for SEO.” Only create a rich piece of content if it is well polished. Example: if you don’t have a nice camera setup with some basic studio equipment ($99 on Amazon minimum) I wouldn’t even attempt it. Same with podcasts: if you have a good speaking voice, a solid script and a good idea I’d go for it. But don’t do it just to do it. We’ve seen way too many people fail for having too many irons in the fire.

Most of all – make sure your content makese sense! Garry Illyes of Google has gone on record with this nugget of info:

In short, make sure your content “reads well” as you are writing it.

Content Length

Back when we first started doing SEO, it was practically mandatory that all documents be at least 500 words in length. Since then, a lot has changed. While we don’t make any official recommendation on content length, we have seen a pattern that Google generally has favored pages with longer contextual content than a page with shorter content. Again there are many exceptions to this rule and many factors that come into play, but it’s something that is definitely worth considering with every page that you optimize.

But let’s not get it twisted, we don’t necessarily think that more content is better for SEO, but we do think if you have the opportunity to use more content it will probably increase your chances of ranking in Google.

Let’s say we have two websites, both of them are selling the exact same red bicycle:

  • Site A – has 1000 words of content, but its hard to read the website is slow and difficult to navigate
  • Site B – has 300 words but it loads fast and is super user-friendly

Even though site A has much more content, Google is most likely going to prefer site B because it is far more optimized for users. This is a touchy subject and definitely open to interpretation, but is definitely something to think about when planning your on-page strategy.

SerpIQ ran a really interesting study where they tested top rankings and how much content they had. On average you can see the top results tested have at least 2000 words in length topping out at 2500 words in length. If you

In 2013 we ran an in-house case study that tested Google’s in-depth article results. Our own findings showed that 2000 words was the minimum length of most in-depth articles topping out with some results that were 5000 words and even higher.

Again, more content is not always better for SEO but it has definitely been shown to be a contributing factor in many cases.

Duplicate content

I hope it goes without saying, avoid duplicate content at all costs on your website. But with every rule there are exceptions to those rules. There is a big difference between a website copying an entire services page from their competitor, and copying a news release from a news source. Some content is viewed as syndicated content, others are considered straight up duplicate content. As you learn more about SEO you will start to be able to recognize which one is which.

While Google might not be handing out penalties for duplicate content, that doesn’t mean they prefer you use it. One of the main issues with duplicate content is that Googlebot can’t figure out which version is the “real” or original version. You generally don’t want to leave that decision up to Googlebot, and should make the proper adjustments to ensure your website isn’t displaying duplicate content.

Contrary to popular belief, Google actually does not recommend blocking or noindexing duplicate content on their website. Instead they recommend adding the rel=canonical tag to the content to indicate which is the preferred version of the content.

Google’s biggest issue isn’t with duplicate content in and of itself, it is the spammy stuff that they really hate. Matt Cutt’s former head of webspam at Google has even gone on record saying “don’t stress” too much about it. But like many aspects of SEO, just because it doesn’t hurt you, doesn’t mean it is helping you.

Improperly configured URLs

There are some times when your website framework will produce duplicate content without you knowing it. For instance the content found on our website on:

is very similar to, often times identical to:

But why is this? Is Elite Strategies attempting to fool Google with duplicate content? Absolutely not. What happened here is we assigned our blog posts different categories, so each category will display the same post. This can happen on a lot of other website frameworks such as eCommerce and blogging frameworks.

There are a number of ways to fix this such as:

  • canonicalized URLs (rel=canonical)
  • 301 redirecting

There are also a few other ways to handle duplicate content when you have an improperly configured URL.

Evergreen Content

Ever heard the term “evergreen content” within the SEO world and want to know what is evergreen content?

To put it simply: evergreen content is content that is always relevant, and doesn’t expire or in some way become something that is not of interest.

Examples of evergreen content:

  • What is the war of 1812
  • How to make a meatloaf
  • Tips for grooming your cat
  • How to open a checking account

Examples of content that is not evergreen:

  • Donald Trump’s Top Advisory Picks – this is a hot topic for a short period of time
  • 2015 New Years Eve Parties – this is really only relevant to people in 2015
  • Skinny Jeans vs Straight Cut – these are fads that could go out of style in a year or less

Evergreen content is a “win” for SEO because there are topics that people always search for. For example, people will pretty much always search for “how to open a checking account.” A good website will have a solid base of evergreen content, sprinkled in with trending posts and topics.

Content Cleanup Yields Increased Traffic

In early 2017 we developed a new strategy that enables established blogs to leverage their true SEO potential. Our study spanned several months, and included the following strategy:

  • Make a list of all pages on your website
  • Make lists based on that list: good pages (keep), bad pages (delete), so-so pages (merge, add upon, improve etc)
  • Follow through: delete the really bad pages that get no traffic, and merge / improve upon the ones that need it
  • Finally, take the time to redo all of your permalinks / URL structures, titles and descriptions

I can’t stress enough how important a content cruft cleanup is, for sites with blogs or at least 10,000 words I’d recommend doing it once per year. For sites with over 10,000 pages it might be worth doing quarterly.

In our case, we managed to increase our overall organic traffic by about 10-20%. In addition to yielding more organic traffic from Google / SEO, we also were able to reduce a lot of the shoddy visits we were getting to pages we no longer maintained, and completely change the landscape of our top earning pages.

As you can see it was a huge win for our blog. A lot of people are reluctant to “delete content” but here is our general rule of thumb: if its been weeks, months, or more and you aren’t getting traffic to those pages, its time to make a decision: delete it, merge it into another article, or improve upon it!

On-Page SEO Guide Table of Contents