*UPDATE March 2019*
While Google has updated its algorithm countless times over the years, content is still a cornerstone element in it’s ranking factors. More specifically, quality content. The way users search, what they search for, the devices they search from, these are all factors that will and have changed over the years. What stays consistent is the performance of well-written, informative content with the users best interest in mind.
Of course, a web page should have the proper ‘on-page’ optimizations in place as well (i.e. title, header tags, meta-description, etc.) But providing clear, detailed, informative content with the users best interest in mind remains the most rewarding strategy when it comes to the type of content to produce. Recent studies have shown that articles with over 1,000 words perform significantly well in search engine results. According to the blogging platform, Medium, the ideal length for blog posts is 1,600 words (which averages to be about seven minutes of reading). This is certainly a notable increase from the previously recommended 300-word target.
Bottom-line: Don’t create content for the sake of just creating content. Whether it’s written, audio or video, the intention should be to create something truly valuable to the user. Mix those good intentions with a well thought-out content strategy and proper on-page optimizations and you’ll have a much higher chance of search engine success.
While content may still be king, it is simply not enough to follow the “standard” SEO conventions of using targeted terms in a particular density, in the correct order with the proper semantic structure. Search engines (and humans) are looking for more. They want to read a narrative that means something. They want to know more about your business or product. They want ways to connect.
This change does not mean standards and best practices are out the window. It just means that simply doing “traditional SEO” is no longer enough – you have to broaden your scope. Having a website with a solid permalink structure, strong titles, the proper use of semantic markup and data organization is still very important but isn’t enough to ensure your rankings.
The overall experience of the website, whether the site appears trustworthy, the quality of design, the ability of a visitor to navigate the site effectively, how long a visitor stays on your site – all of these metrics (and more) are now taken into account when your site is analyzed. Sites without any social media presence are more likely to appear as “spam”, and sites with unique, well-written content can be penalized if it appears to be written solely for the purposes of SEO.