Bloggers have a love/hate relationship with Google – love the traffic but always want better rankings.
Let’s face it though, without Google we wouldn’t really have much of a business.
And while I often talk about not relying on Google too much, you also should be doing everything you can to make sure you’re getting as much traffic as possible from the search giant.
In this post I’m going to talk about a few things Google really wants to see on your blog. Hopefully this will help you get more traffic by thinking about SEO a little bit differently.
SEO has changed… sort of
The art of search engine optimization has changed a lot since I first started blogging. Every year Google is getting better at assessing which site is worthy of front page positions.
But it’s also important to note that Google has also changed the type of content it wants to see on the front page.
For example, five years ago the top results were often dominated by old websites that had a lot of authority – some of the articles were 10+ years old. These days, however, you’re more likely to see some super fresh content from a few minutes ago up the top.
Take a look at this screenshot where things get even more confusing! Here you can see the search results for some coffee thing I was looking up where you have Wikipedia as the fresh result and then an aged article back from 1999! You can also see the other result where Google “borrows” a snippet from a blog and tries to answer the question on the search page itself.
Now let’s look at a search result where one of Google’s customers (people searching) might want to see one of many things. You’ve got the authoritative Wiki, the fresh Tweets, the Schema Markup showing ratings, the long form reviews and then a bunch of “at a glance” content.
All of this is proof that SEO has changed.
Google is not looking for just one thing anymore – they’re looking for a variety of content that will suit myriad different people.
What does Google want to see on your blog?
In order to perform as well as possible in this new search environment we need to take certain steps to ensure that the content we produce is aligned with what Google wants to see. Here are some important things we can try to do:
1. Solid branding based in content
This seems like quite an “airy” thing to mention in a post about SEO but it really has become something that Google is looking for since the deadly Panda update. And in all the recent tweaks to this algorithm we saw a big shift towards established brands and websites.
What this indicates is that Google is really looking to send their customers to trusted sites only. Obviously they don’t want to send people to sketchy blogs with poor content, no visible author or company information, a free setup and loads of duplicate content!
The main thrust of the Panda update back in 2011 (and the subsequent tweaks) is that Google only wants websites with the highest quality content to make it to the top of the search results, even if all the other signals (like back links) are awesome.
This sets the scene for the following points I’m going to discuss.
2. Problem solving
The next update that I want to mention is the Hummingbird changes because it plays a huge role in how bloggers should think about their keywords and targeting.
This particular update changed the way Google looked at searches so they no longer emphasize keywords but instead look at the intention behind the search. For example, people searching for “acid reflux” might really be looking for “why do I have acid reflux?“, “what drugs treat acid reflux?“, etc.
We need to keep these variations in mind when crafting content.
The main crux of this point is that Google wants to direct people to websites that solve problems.
The more comprehensively you can solve that problem the better your website is going to rank. For example, if you take a look at the website ranking at the top for “how to choose a credit card” you’ll see the result has a huge amount of content, but also this nifty feature where you can select two cards and compare them side to side.
You simply check the boxes of the cards you’re interested in, click the compare button, and then you get a nice pop up showing you all the details. This website would be making millions from this ranking and it probably has a lot to do with this simple tool that cost them a few hundred or thousand to build and then maintain.
This is a very unique way to solve a problem for people looking at finance and, similarly, we need to figure out new ways to solve problems with the context of our own blogs.
3. Mobile-friendly designs and features
Earlier this year Google launched the mobile-friendly update. This was a bit of a weird one because they actually announced it beforehand and gave everyone enough time to get on board with the proposed changes.
The ideas is simple: if your blog isn’t mobile-friendly then there is less chance it will appear in search when people are using their mobile devices. And fair enough. Browsing a non-friendly website on your mobile can be a really fumbling and slow experience.
The best thing you can do here is ensure that you have a self-hosted blog with a responsive theme that automatically adjusts the size of your blog’s layout when it detects a tablet or mobile design. This is easy to do with WordPress and most themes these days are built to be responsive out of the box. You can test yours here.
That being said, there is so much more you need to think about than just a responsive theme. Carson Ward lays out some really interesting ideas in this post which I highly recommend you read.
4. A mix of back links
If you’re a blogger that is trying to grow a business online you’ve probably been thinking about back links for a while now. This is a little more “back end” than the other tips but I still want to mention it.
A good website will attract links from a variety of sources. For example, you might get mentioned on other blogs, new sites, YouTube videos, Twitter, and so forth. These mentions all create a picture of a very healthy, organic website in Google’s eyes.
This also goes one step further – the anchor text that is used is very important. In the old days you’d just build back links with the anchor text “blogging tips” if you wanted to rank for that particular keyword. Nowadays that’s a bit of a warning signal to Google because it looks like you’re intentionally trying to game the system.
When you do guest posts, forum posts, etc. make sure you always link to your blog in an organic and authentic way and don’t go overboard with the anchor text. Ensure that your links come from relevant websites, but also try to make sure it’s a wide variety of sources.
5. Multiple media formats that emphasize visual
If you do a quick search of the front page for almost any keyword you’ll notice that the top ranking posts generally have one thing in common: visual content. Sites like BuzzFeed are almost exclusively videos, gifs and memes with only a little bit of explaining text.
There’s a reason for this. As more and more people get mobiles and more and more mobiles get 4G and 5G cheap data, we’re seeing huge increases in the viewing of content that was previously slow to load. People love and they share it a lot. More shares usually equates to better rankings over time.
One of my favorite fitness sites, Strong Lifts, ranks number one on Google for almost every basic (and high traffic!) keyword to do with bodybuilding. In this article on how to deadlift you’ll see how much of it is images, videos and little comparison charts on correct and incorrect techniques.
The Australian ABC News regularly comes up with excellent visual content that performs really well. Have a look at this wonderful quiz that they did a while ago about Tony Abbott’s election promises. On a side note, I’m currently building something that will enable this type of quiz for WordPress blogs. 😉
6. Geographically targeted elements
When Google launched its Pigeon Update it signaled a big change towards more local results. The search giant wanted to use the GPS in your phone and WiFi location at home to help you get more locally relevant results when you look for services.
As the example above shows, searching for “pizza” in New York will get you totally different results then searching for “pizza” when you and your phone are in Los Angeles or New Jersey.
So what do we do?
Well, if your blog is intended to attract customers in a certain area you need to make sure you are really decked out to suit that area. Add your address to the website, have company information, be active on Google Maps by claiming your listing, and make sure you start replying to reviews on Yelp and other review services. You can even use Google Webmaster Tools to nominate a location for your blog or business.
7. I forgot this one…
I actually forgot to include my seventh point when I first published this post. Ironically, only one person seemed to notice! As punishment for this terrible blogging indiscretion I have decided to not add the seventh point but actually leave this little embarrassing note to remind me not to do it again.
How does your blog measure up?
How many of these items does your average blog post include? Do you think you’re faring well. More importantly, do you think I’ve missed anything in this post that might be really important for people who are looking at getting better Google rankings and traffic in 2015 and beyond?
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