10/06/21 // Written by Dan McCartney

Content’s Role in SEO

You have most probably heard the phrase “content is king” used from time to time and, in particular, in the last few years.  

Content truly is king for many reasons, but the main one I’m going to cover is its role in SEO. Specifically, how it can increase your ranking positions and deliver high-converting traffic to your website.  

Why is content important in SEO? 

Content is important for your SEO because it allows you to better target desirable terms that your customers are entering into a search engine. This increases your website’s likelihood of appearing higher up in the search results and, therefore, brings more valuable business to you.  

In days gone by, it simply used to be a case of ‘stuffing’ as many keywords into a page as possible. But today, content writers must work extremely hard to prove to search engines that content is worthy. Which takes me on to my next point… 

Algorithm updates changed the way to write content 

The organic search results are an ever-changing landscape. Every six months, Google will release what is called a core algorithm update. This is essentially a change to the fundamental criteria that the search engine uses when deciding what websites to rank for certain search queries.  

As an SEO agency, we have to adapt and change our strategies based on these. Fortunately, we’re data-driven and used to reacting in this way so it’s never too difficult for us.

Over the last decade, many of these core updates have specifically impacted content practices, with the below being the ones that caused major shifts:

Panda (2011) 

This update was launched in February 2011 and targeted sites with low-quality content (i.e. low word count, low-quality information, duplicate content). This was a milestone for Google, commonly viewed as the start of their shift to prioritising content for the user experience.  

Hummingbird (2013) 

This update focused on semantic search and was designed to help Google better understand intent and context behind searches. So, for example, if you Googled “weather” it would know you probably don’t want to know what the dictionary definition of “weather” is but that you’re probably interested in knowing what the weather is like in your area. 

This was another major shift in creating content for user experience. Brands were now encouraged to use long-tail keywords and expand research to create and optimise content that audiences want rather than just a dry, to-the-point product page.  

Medic (2018) 

This is known as the official roll-out of EAT content as we know it. EAT stands for expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness and is an integral part of the Google Quality Guidelines.  

In a nutshell, the EAT content guidelines require you to go the extra mile to ensure the content you write can be validated with a reputable source. Ultimately, EAT content looks after the user and ensures what they are reading can be trusted. As well as this, you should try to demonstrate your own credibility to the user. This can usually be done using case studies, testimonials, writing in more detail, or using quotes from internal experts.  

Also, if you operate within the YMYL (Your Money, Your Life) industries such as medical, legal, financial advice or websites that can have a significant impact on your future, you’ll be held to a much stronger level of scrutiny. This is due to the gravity of any negative consequences you may inflict on the user.  

If you did not adhere to EAT practices, you were heavily penalised until you started following the criteria more closely. This was not to be taken lightly – it sometimes took months to start seeing progress. 

What are some things to avoid with content? 

As discussed above, the criteria for SEO content over the years has changed dramatically and it’s only getting stricter as time goes on. Below are some basic things to avoid when writing content for SEO: 

  • Keyword stuffing: Repeating the same phrase or keyword in an unnatural way throughout your content. This is picked up by Google’s algorithm and devalued due to its spammy nature. You’ll achieve much more by developing a solid keyword strategy and writing in a natural format. 
  • Thin content: Word count is important, but circumstantial depending on the type of content. You don’t want to go overboard when writing a snippet of copy for the top of a product page. Equally, you don’t want to be too scarce when it comes to writing a landing page in the YMYL space. It’s not uncommon to exceed 2,000 words when writing in the legal space! 
  • Providing false information: This is exactly what the EAT update looks to diminish. If you present any facts or figures, you must cite your sources from a reputable publication or search engines (and people!) will not trust you and your rankings will struggle to improve.  

Content in data 

Taking a data-driven approach to content means strategic decisions are made with a solid justification behind them and are designed to improve performance. One way that we use data for content is by using our custom Content Quality Score metric.  

The Content Quality Score metric is an objective measure of how good a piece of content is based on all of the ranking factors that Google uses. It scores between 1 and 100, with the higher score being better. We can then use this metric and benchmark you against other websites and, using our dedicated content team together with our technical SEO and outreach teams to get your rankings climbing to new heights.  

If you want to find out more about the way we work and how we can use content to improve your SEO performance, get in touch with our team today.