This article was originally published on PR Daily in October 2014.
According to the annual Ranking Factors Study from Searchmetrics, Google has made some big changes in how its algorithm evaluates content. Many of these updates play right into the hands of PR pros, content marketers, and anyone else responsible for creating and publishing digital content.
The study reveals that the search giant is continuing to emphasize the quality of the content as well as the user actions (e.g. clicks on links in the content and social shares) digital messages generate. Here’s the key paragraph:
High quality, relevant content is increasingly the focus of search. This type of content ranks better on average, and is identifiable by properties such as a higher word-count and semantically comprehensive wording, as well as often being enriched by other media, such as images or video.
Many of the top signals Google takes into account are derived from the actions an audience takes upon reading or watching digital content, such as the number of times they follow links served up in an article, or the number of times they share the piece with their social networks. Google interprets user actions as important indicators of content quality, working on the assumption that people won’t like, share, post, or click on content they don’t consider useful or interesting.
Communicators can improve visibility of their messages and effectiveness of their campaigns by constructing content with these key search rank factors in mind:
- Encourage click-throughs by embedding a clear and prominent call to action in your content. While this is old hat for marketers, many PR pros don’t think about embedding calls-to-action in the press releases they issue. They should, because when they distribute a press release online, that message will appears on hundreds if not thousands of third party web sites, exposing it to public audiences. Embedding a call to action in the form of a link toward the top of the page (right after the first or second paragraph) effectively creates a distributed portal directly back to the web site the release is promoting.
- Include images: Multiple visuals capture more attention for the message and increase the potential for additional message amplification when people share individual visual elements socially (thus creating pathways back to the core message).
- Write naturally, using a mix of keywords, key phrases and related acronyms. Don’t repeat the same word or phrase over and over. Mixing it up serves the dual purpose of making the content a lot more readable for the audience and giving Google more information regarding what the content is about.
- Go long. Google places a premium on long-form content, giving brands permission (and incentive) to explore and expand upon ideas in depth. One important note: Just because a piece of content is longer doesn’t automatically mean that it’s going to generate more visibility. Length means nothing if the content isn’t robust.
Quality content can produce the signals that help will drive the website to the top of the search results page and, along the way, generate earned media, influence buyer journeys and drive the sort of social sharing and user actions that amplify messages and drive brand stories deep into new audiences. The result? Lasting visibility for the message and better return on the PR and marketing investment for the brand. â
For more details and additional tactics, see the post, “Content Quality Drives Search Rank & Visibility .” Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of strategic communications & content, and is the author of the new white paper, “New Agency Benchmarks for Demonstrating Value to Clients,” and the ebook Driving Content Discovery . Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik .