Sometimes, figuring out the right way to get your high-quality content onto Google search results pages feels like a game in which the rules keep changing. You work hard on your content and want it to be Google-friendly, to get in front of new viewers’ eyes and bring in leads to your site that you can convert. But knowing how to optimize your content, what Google likes, and how Google indexes content can seem technical and confusing.
Having high-quality content that ranks well with Google all comes down to creating an effective content strategy to market your work. Having a real strategy in place takes that well-written content and puts it into action in a decisive way, so you can quickly understand why something is ranking well or what needs to be changed to help a less popular page or article. Broken down into smaller steps, it doesn’t have to be overwhelmingly technical or complex.
Make it Easy for Google to Find Your Content
If Google can’t find your content, it doesn’t matter how well you write it. The best way to help Google find your content is through creating a sitemap, a practice which the search giant itself recommends to webmasters.
With a submitted sitemap, Google is able to understand what is on your site, including any new or changed pages, videos, and files, and how they all connect. Here’s how to build and submit a sitemap, according to Google.
Tell Google Which Pages Not to Index
You’ve told Google what content you want it to find. Now, you should tell it what to avoid.
Whether it’s internal information, internal search pages, or other content that isn’t relevant to your viewers, you can use a robots.txt file to tell the search engine to ignore those areas. Here’s how to do it.
Help Google Understand Your Content
There are certain areas of your site that you need to name properly and structure as part of your content strategy.
Page Titles — Page titles should be unique for each page on your site. They are best when they provide an accurate, succinct description of the page’s topic. The page title will show up on the Google search results page, so this is an important aspect of optimizing content.
Meta Description - The description meta tag of your page lets Google know what the page is about. This is key to having it indexed properly. Make it a few sentences, accurately summing up the content on the page without being too generic.
Headers - Use headers to emphasize the parts of your content that are important. Segment content into smaller pieces. Keep it short, accurate, and descriptive.
Structured Data - Structured data markup also helps Google know what your content is and how to index it. This is code that describes your content to search engines like Google. It helps get your content into the right places, such as listings of recipes, events listings, or business listings.
Use an Easy to Understand Site Structure
A navigable site structure is important both for search engines to find what you deem most important and for users who want to get to where they need to go without confusion.
Start with your homepage, which is where most users will end up unless they are specifically searching for a topic that is addressed elsewhere in your content. Even if they come for an article, they may end up on the home page, so this is the main attraction.
Use breadcrumbs to make navigation from the home page easy. You want to bring things together based on similarity of topics. Show these breadcrumbs, or links, as a way for people to get to those subsections.
For example, you might have something like Home Page > Services > Marketing. The hierarchy should be logical, flowing from general to specific.
Create a sitemap page so that search engines can access all of the content on your site. For users, a navigational page fulfills a similar purpose, but you may not need to include every single page on your site if you have a lot. Stick to what is popular and useful for the human side of things. Be sure to be comprehensive with your sitemap.
Finally, stick with simple URLs that describe the content. Some sites and blogs default to a numbered URL system that gives people no context for each page. Rename URLs in plain language to avoid confusion, without creating URLs that are overloaded with keywords.
Optimize Your Content
Here’s the fun part! Now that your site is in order to be properly indexed for Google search results pages, you can fill it in with the high-quality content that draws in visitors.
Make your content interesting, first and foremost. Writing content just for the sake of having it there is not going to bring in any viewers. People want to read compelling, engaging work, and will share that high-quality content with others. To do this, you have to find out what your readers want and deliver it. You can do this through keyword research and looking at your site metrics to find out what topics your existing users are coming to your site to find.
Create trust with visitors by being transparent about your company and its site. Tell them who is creating the content, who publishes the site, and what you are offering to visitors. If you are selling products, make sure to tell your visitors how you protect financial data and what users can expect if they run into an issue. Think about what information would make your clients feel comfortable, and provide it as much as possible.
Use your expertise and authoritativeness to drive trust. You are creating content based on what you know, and it should be accurate and reflective of your experience and skills. Fact check content, ensure that any expert sources are legitimate, and stick with content where your expertise lies.
Provide enough content to cover the subject. If you leave out information, your content is likely to appear as though it were thrown together, which erodes that previously mentioned trust and authoritativeness.
Give all the relevant details users will want, so they don’t have to keep digging for more, which often gives visitors the impetus to leave your site and visit a competitor.
Avoid distractions — don’t overload your page with ads, poor-quality images, or irrelevant links. If your content is of high quality, it should be able to stand on its own.
Make use of internal linking. If your content lends itself well to a link leading users to more information or similar topics, work those internal links in. It helps boost your page rankings with Google, while giving people the content they want, all on your own site.
When you are linking externally, be sure to link to trustworthy third-party sources. Linking between high-quality sites with good reputations can be beneficial for both, but if you link to a sub-par site, your own trustworthiness and reputation can sink. If you have to link to a poor quality site for a good reason, tag your links with the ‘nofollow’ attribute.
Optimize Your Images
Written content isn’t the only thing that needs to be high in quality. Images help with search results and should be a part of your content strategy. Here’s what you need:
Alt Attribute — The ‘alt’ attribute will show alternative text where an image cannot be displayed. It’s helpful for viewers using assistive technology. It gives helpful context if an image happens to be broken or malfunctioning.
File Names — File names are indexed by Google so using a descriptive file name is a great way to add in some extra keywords while making your own image files easier to organize.
Image Sitemap — An image sitemap works similarly to the sitemaps discussed above. They share details about the images on your site with Google, so the search engine knows what you have and what it can return to searchers.
A Few More Content Optimization Tips
Make Content Fast and Mobile Friendly - In today’s world, businesses have to make their sites mobile-friendly if they want to succeed. Responsive web design ensures that whatever someone uses to access your site, it is optimized for that browser and device. Use the mobile friendly test to double check your site.
Promote Your Content - Use social media, advertising, and email newsletters and network with people and companies willing to share what you’re doing with their own visitors. While some might stumble on your content naturally, promotion keeps it moving to more people.
Make Revisions - Use the search performance report to further optimize your content. Depending on what you see, you might consider changing things like title tags, meta tags, or even your promotion strategy. Or, you might find that you’re on the right track, so you can re-use those content strategies going forward.
High-quality content takes work, from setting up your site to continually creating and promoting relevant, trustworthy, and unique work. That hard work should pay off, however, when you find your business high up in Google’s search engine results pages, showcasing your work to many people searching for the products or services you offer.