Everyone knows about Search Engine Optimization. When creating content, a company repeats several keywords related to their brand or product, so that when people enter those words into Google, their site will be listed higher in the search results. The more keywords used, the higher the site’s ranking.
So what’s to stop, say, some nefarious air conditioning website from simply writing “Air Conditioning Repair” over and over again for pages, a la The Shining? Google’s search algorithms stop them. These algorithms are designed to guard against unscrupulous purveyors of SEO, and penalize sites for what Google calls “over-optimization,” by bumping them down on the list of search results.
How these algorithms work is complicated and often difficult to understand. Google never makes it entirely public how their algorithms work, and it is constantly changing and improving them to prevent people from trying to game the system. This makes it difficult for an ordinary content creator to stay on top of what to do and what not to do, to avoid angering the search engine gods. However, there are two simple rules of thumb to keep in mind when trying to optimize a site:
- Regular updates. When people search for a topic, they want the most recent information available on the subject. So, understandably, Google wants to put that information up front on their search pages. A website that’s been updated within the last week is far more likely to receive a higher search ranking than one that’s not been touched for two years. This is one of the reasons why blogs have become so popular, even for companies and products that don’t seem like they’d have a lot to blog about. Regular blog posts show Google that a site is fresh and current, and that their information will thus be more useful to searchers.
- Unique content. Some websites try to up their optimization by posting articles and info from other websites on their own site. Others will do five or six blog posts on exactly the same topic, with almost exactly the same wording in each. Google prefers to promote content that’s unique. Pages that are saying exactly the same thing as several other pages are less likely to get to the top of the search results. Therefore, it’s important for a brand to provide a fresh perspective in their content and avoid using the same adjectives or the same rhetoric too much. Finding new things to say, or new ways of saying things that have already been said, is the best way to keep a blog current and relevant, both to the Google search algorithms and to the site’s target audience.