To experienced marketers, the title of this post is a self-evident truth. To others, it might do with a little explanation. It’s relatively common knowledge that, following Google’s guidelines, you can run a blog and increase your business traffic and profits over time. It’s not instant, but very little in business ever is. How about we take this title step by step and examine what it all means.
Google, here, means Google as the search engine, not Google as in the global company with fingers in every digital pie. Google is the leading search engine for the English-speaking world and much of the rest besides.
That said, any time someone talks about SEO and getting on Google’s good side, it’s almost definitely true that the other search engines – Bing, Yahoo, Ask – are affected in a similar way. The only Google-specific SEO tweaks are things like using the now-dead Authorship.
So, when we say that Google rewards a site, what do we mean? How does Google reward a site for playing by the rules? The answer is, of course, the only way it can; through search results.
A site that plays within the rules is going to have a higher ranking in the search results than a site that doesn’t, all other things being equal. Of course, not everything is otherwise equal. Content varies in quality. Sites vary in speed, reliability and usability. Topics vary in utility. The audience for a given niche varies in size. The scale of the reward differs from industry to industry, niche to niche and site to site.
There’s also the minor point about what constitutes a site. A few years ago this wouldn’t even be an issue; a site is clearly a page on the Internet with a URL. Now, however, with the profusion of smartphones and apps, the line has begun to blur. Google doesn’t have much link between SEO and apps, beyond app sites being subject to the same rules as other sites. Apps themselves are more segregated to the Google Play store and regulated in other ways.
Now, what do we mean when we talk about regular posting? Google does like people posting on a consistent schedule, but its indexing is anything but consistent. You might see the Googlebot come through three times in a day, and then not see it for a week. If Google doesn’t use your schedule to schedule its own bots, why does it care?
• Google likes fresh, new content. The newer your content is, the more likely it is that the information is correct, up to date and viable. This means it’s as potent as possible the moment it goes up. The older the content is, the more likely it is to have lost some value as the world changes around it.
• Google likes a constant flow of content. If you create a site, throw 200 blog posts on it and leave, that site isn’t valuable to a user. Sure, the information might be, for a time, but other sites may have the same or better information, but with an active community and people who care behind the scenes.
• Google likes accountability. If you’re posting content regularly, you’re more likely to keep posting, and thus Google can feel better about promoting your site as a good intellectual investment. Of course, that’s not entirely true; Google doesn’t make such emotional judgments, for one thing. Either way, when you’re working to build your site over time, Google is more likely to trust you.
So that covers why Google loves regular posting, but how regular should you be? How often should you post? The answer varies greatly.
• Small businesses can get away with one or two weekly posts, if they want.
• Small and medium businesses are more likely to benefit from 3-5 posts per week.
• Any size business can pull off once daily (7 per week) posts, as long as the content is varied and maintains a high quality.
• Only the largest sites with large audiences should consider more frequent posting. Gawker Media, Moz, or some of the other large entities with multiple contributors can push a steady stream of content all day.
Frequent content is unlikely to harm you, if your quality is high. After all, a financial blog that has to keep up with developments throughout the day can’t be penalized for providing immediate value.
All that’s left is the nebulous factor of content quality. What makes content great? What puts some content above other content? How can you work to make your content as high quality as possible?
• Originality. Content that can’t be found anywhere else is a huge benefit. This is why it’s a good idea to report on current events and perform your own case studies; you’re not pulling your data from anywhere else. No one else has done it before, so you pull in the benefits.
• Readability. A lot goes into readability. Using bullet points and bold formatting. Keeping paragraphs short. Using easily understood language. Keeping your content free of typos and grammatical errors. It all contributes to how easily a reader can progress through your content.
• Utility. What does the user get out of reading your content? What is the takeaway? Did they learn something new? Do they have a plan of action they can put into motion? Your content needs something actionable.
• Sourcing. Your content is not in a vacuum. Either you harvested data yourself – in which case you have documents you can cite as a source – or you’re pulling data from elsewhere. Citing your sources makes you part of a larger community and benefits you in a number of ways.
• Engagement. Are you lecturing your readers or are you engaging them? Are you giving them a way to respond, on your site or through social media? Are you responding to them, when they comment? Writing content users want to reply to helps you build a discourse.
• Visual elements. The web is a great and varied medium for information, which means your blog posts can be more than just text. Images, videos and podcasts are all viable additions to blog posts and help increase value.
• Shareability. Is your content something users want to share? Is it something they can take to a friend and say hey, check this out, it’s really good? Is it something they can forward to their boss as a reference? Give your users a reason to share.
• Memorability. If you were to ask your readers tomorrow what they learned from posts today, what would they say? Would they have anything to say, or would they have forgotten your posts entirely? Make it memorable so it’s worth remembering.
So there you have it. Google truly does love sites that regularly post great content.