Expand Your Online Presence by Writing Good Content
If you are not in the world of online marketing, you may not have noticed (then again you may have) that Google continues to target what it considers “low quality” content. For a while now, Google has targeted what it calls ‘black-hat’ optimization tactics – tactics such as ‘keyword stuffing‘, ‘content spinning‘, and ‘spammy web practices’ (‘linkspam‘). I won’t sidetrack you with what all of those terms mean, but the short story is that Google’s web is becoming more and more about what they view as quality content. As a lawyer or legal marketer, you shouldn’t have intentionally affected by Google’s EAT, EEAT, or Quality Guidelines for content, but the continued pressure from Google places an emphasis and competition on what you should have been doing all along – creating and distributing good content that is on-topic, unique, and of a certain length.
The truth is that Google’s emphasis on what it calls ‘quality content’ started last years ago with the first round of Panda updates. You can read more about the science below, but as of that update (which Google itself nicknamed “Panda”), its algorithms shifted to place an emphasis on providing “quality content” and a negative weight to less-trusted web content optimized by ‘web-spam’ means. The writing has been on the wall since then, and last week the sky seems to have fallen for online marketers who were working the system without content to back them up.
How Your Law Firm Can Write Content that Google Likes
Identify a Need and Intent
This technique, is step one in how you get your content marketing to be recognized as “quality” within Google’s algorithm and is one of the easiest and most important steps in the process. Targeted content can be thought of as content that people are searching for. Google is helpful in the sense that it lets you know exactly what search terms are being looked for both globally and locally. This is because Google sells advertising for every search term imaginable. In order to charge a market rate for each individual term, it assigns each word an index based on the total number of monthly searches for the term and the frequency with which that term appears across the internet. The goal when writing is to select terms that you can work into articles which are unsaturated (meaning that the term doesn’t appear often on the internet), but have a high quantity (volume) of monthly searches (meaning people are Googling the term). This means that people will be searching for the terms that occur within your article and will be able to find your article because your search terms aren’t saturated with competition.
There should an identified need and popularity to the subject that you are going to become known as an expert in. Pick a topic that people are searching for. There is a tool that Google provides to identify historical trend data for search terms. Go to Google Trends and type in the item you are thinking about naming yourself an expert of. You might be surprised how many people are or aren’t searching for that area. You can also check websites to see what topics are trending across many websites including Reddit, Wikipedia and Twitter. The smaller the niche of topic, the easier it will be to become to obtain expert status.
Within your expert topic, there will undoubtedly be popular trends and developments. If you can focus your writing to those topics, it will make being found and writing popular content much easier. Go back to Google Trends and check to see the most popular web topics for that day or for yesterday.
Beyond what is popular that day or week, find nuances within your expert topic that may be non-obvious or counter-intuitive. Try and remember what aspects of the topic seemed most confusing and elusive to you when you first started down the path educating yourself on the topic. Reddit is an excellent source to find non-apparent questions and topics that people are talking about. Reddit is one of the most popular online communities where users can post content, ask, and answer questions in communities called ‘Sub-Reddits’. Every industry has a Sub-Reddit. You can check /r/legaladvice for people asking legal questions, or check an industry specific community – there’s /r/askscience for science, /r/medicine for medicine, and /r/technology for technology. Try searching, but be careful where you end up and who’s in the room when you’re searching… nothing is filtered or off-limits on Reddit.
Learn What Other Firms are Saying and Not Saying on the Topic
Perform some Google searches on variations of the topic that you are going to write about. Read through the content that will be competing with your piece. It’s not a bad idea to set up a Google Alert to search for news about your industry. Paying attention to news articles about the topic can be useful in tracking developments, knowing who is writing about the topic, and reaching out to those writers to offer yourself as a resource.
Your piece of content should be at least 1,000 words long, be unique in that it does not match other content on the web within 5%, and be organized by headings.
Don’t give away the farm
You want to include enough facts to make an article interesting and convey that you know what you’re talking about, but you also want to leave enough out so that the reader is compelled to contact or hire you. Broadly cover topics and leave out strategies that aren’t common knowledge or found elsewhere on the internet. A good tip is to also to throw in some ‘scare statistics.’
Write as Often as Possible
If your marketing professional is good, they are consistently hounding you for content. You should be able to hear them saying “give me anything you have” in your sleep. You may not know the reasons why, but they do have your best interests in mind. Simply, Google likes consistency because it helps them quickly provide current and helpful information to their users. The more recent the quality content that is delivered to the Google user increases the quality of their experience. Google can identify suppliers of useful content and crawl those sites more often (if you are not publishing your site index yourself); helping them present current and useful content in the top of their search results in near-real time. They are able to do this because their spiders (content finders) focus their resources on grabbing content from sites with a history of providing quality content rather than wasting those resources on searching all sites equally. Frequently publishing content is how you attract Google’s spiders to crawl your site more often.
Think of two websites on each end of the spectrum – one is the New York Times and the other is someone’s personal blog. The NYT is publishing articles every few minutes that are being shared and read by people on websites all over the world. The personal blog contains editorial content that is published once a week. Because people are viewing and sharing many NYT articles in quick sequence, you could naturally think that articles which are hosted on the NYT website are inherently more useful to people than content that is hosted by the blog. Before last week, if the writer of the blog was SEO savvy, they could have had their content listed above NYT’s for certain search terms. Google’s algorithm is now set up so that it devotes its content finding resources to crawling sites that publish often (like the NYT) every couple seconds and sites like personal blogs once a week or every few days, depending on the popularity. Google calls these often-shared, often-read, often-crawled sites “authorities”.
Disclaimer: These are extreme examples provided for the purpose of illustrating my point. There are millions of websites that fall in a publishing frequency between the NYT and someone’s personal blog; many of which are very popular and well-traveled. There are also a couple ways around this, and it’s hotly debated whether it is more useful to drip content out or publish it all at once. If you are publishing content yourself and don’t know about ways around having Google crawl your site on its own, it’s best to publish content often rather than all at once.
“Authority” can be thought of as a multiplier that is attached to your content within Google’s algorithm. Publishing often helps add credibility to your domain within Google’s algorithm and strengthens your “authority status” in its eyes (in addition to other factors such as site age, and how many people are talking about it). Using the above example, the New York Times would have a high “authority” rank while the blog’s rank would be nonexistent. The resulting “authority” multiplier would lessen the time it takes for content published by NYT to be available on Google’s front page.
Be aware of the fact that the two multipliers, “quality” and “authority”, seem to be somewhat independent of each other and not equally valued. Although the exact balance is a secret, Google claims to place more of an emphasis on quality content than on the frequency of publication. This means that if Google’s algorithm decides an article is of especially low “quality” it will not be highly ranked in the results, if at all, regardless of whether it’s from an “authority” source. The reverse may also be slightly less true. The goal is to write content that adds to your “quality” score.
An easy way to add frequency is by breaking up long articles into two or three smaller articles or publishing them as a part of a series (which I clearly haven’t done in this article).
Search engine optimization doesn’t happen overnight. Starting from scratch and using best practices, it can often take Google months rank you highly. Once it does rank you, it is good to have a cache of information ready to help keep you there. Conversely, as hard as it is to get to the front page of Google, unless you keep publishing content that it likes, you will not be there long. As time goes on, each subsequent “quality” article that Google finds should add to the weight applied to every article on your website as a whole. This makes it exponentially easier for each article you publish which meets Google’s criteria to reach its front page. Write and publish articles before and after you are listed on Google.
There is No Exact Science
Although the balance of criteria the algorithms value is constantly changing, it’s clear that the best web optimization strategies place and emphasis on quality of content. Tweak your strategy to your practice and find what works. Refine your distribution networks; be proactive; always be searching for the next hot topic to make the subject of an article. Remember – to stay on Google’s front page, your strategy needs to adapt as quickly as its algorithms do.