As a Search Engine Optimizer (SEO), the unpopular task of reminding clients why they need to produce content often falls to me. At client meetings I sometimes feel like the dad who shuts down the party early, flicking the light switch and reminding everybody that they have homework due in the morning. Deep down we all know good content is vital, but why does it have to be so hard?
Maybe it’s because we all got a little lazy. Businesses and SEOs alike need to adjust their expectations. We used to think that if we inserted a few of the right keywords here, hooked up some backlinks from that hot trade website there, and made sure our pages loaded fast enough then we were all set. We thought we could check a few boxes and then sit back and watch our page ranks soar through the Google roof.
Not anymore, folks! Search engines and people alike crave real content produced by real people who care about what they have to say.
And good content takes time. There…I said it. You are busy. I am busy…and this content stuff takes time. Phew…it feels good just to get that out there.
Customers can sniff out generic content a mile away, and, like a hunk of crunchy eggshell in your otherwise soft, delicious frittata, it’s not something you’re happy to come across. Already search engines are developing a similar aversion to poor or generic content and a capability to separate the “shell” from the “frittata”. Google created quite the uproar in the SEO community in February 2011, when it released Panda. Panda changed the way Google’s search algorithm ranked its results. Now websites and pages with poor or sparse content are given less consideration and lower ranking then their fresher, more relevant competitors.
We have to respect the searcher’s intelligence, whether it be human or machine, and recognize that there is an investment to be made here. One that pays dividends for the business that is willing to develop a strategy to engage, to shout something other than their slogan and to share their knowledge.
In other words, by being a contributor to the web, you can be more than just found online. You can be embraced by your audience.
With the implementation of Google Panda and the rollout of Google AuthorRank, search engines and humans are both hungrier than ever for content – real human content. They are also more likely than ever to spit out the gristle. So creating that slick website and optimizing it is just the first step. If we really want to be relevant on the web, then sooner or later we have to buckle down and start creating useful content for our clients and potential clients to chew on. Work with an SEO, or digital marketing team that will help you create a content strategy that works for your business. Neglecting to do this is like setting the dinner table, but never actually cooking the meal. Everything may look nice, but you’ll starve the guests. And a starved guest seldom returns.
So what is Google AuthorRank anyway, and why should I scoop a big portion of this new concern on my already overcrowded plate?
AuthorRank, at its core, is a rating given to a content creator that helps a searcher validate an author’s reputation and the potential quality of the content. AuthorRank started grabbing the attention of many SEOs in February 2012, but as an idea it goes back at least to 2005…back when the folks at Google were trying to figure out a way to encourage and deliver higher quality content to searchers and discourage spammers and anonymous or “spun” content, aka Crap. People tend to place greater faith in content created by an actual human being, and let’s face it – anonymous content tends to be soulless dribble.
Therefore, it’s Google’s belief that if you’re willing to put your name on it, then you are also more likely to try harder to produce better content. It’s important to note that this rating given to content creators does not take the place of PageRank, but instead provides another signal for Google to factor in that allows it to return higher quality search results. And, we are already seeing content creators with a strong AuthorRank get priority over those who have none.
SEOs will want to start claiming their content and building their AuthorRank to stay ahead of the curve, but what about businesses? Why should they invest the time and effort into AuthorRank and churning up some good, old fashioned content that engages the user?
- Because as service providers and folks who have good products to sell it’s what we should be doing anyway – caring for our customers by engaging and educating them
- It sets you apart from your competitors and shows customers that you care enough to engage, while establishing you as an authority in your industry
- An Author Rich Snippet garners you more real estate in the search results, a higher CTR, and more quality within your analytics.
- It will increase your revenue, traffic, newsletter signups and goal conversions.
So, if you like the sound of any or all of the items listed above, then it’s time to get the “shell out of your frittata”. But, where do you start?
- Start Making Great Content – Content That Will Be Read and Shared
I know, I know. Easier said than done, right? Perhaps we should strive for great, but just start with authentic.
- Create and Optimize a Google+ Account
- Tell Google that You’re an Author
Add the URLs of the websites you are a contributor for in your Google+ profile settings. Mike Arnesen has a great overview on Author Rich Snippets and how to set them up.
- Develop a Content Strategy that Syncs with Your Business
It helps to realize that you are not alone here. Delegate. Everyone around you at your company is a potential, albeit reluctant, contributor. The trick is to realize their area of expertise as well as your own. It can be overwhelming to simply burden yourself or others with the task of making great content. Instead, try matching each contributor’s efforts with their respective area of expertise. It also doesn’t hurt to provide an incentive. Find out what motivates your new batch of contributors and reward them for making your company better.
- Engage via Social Media
Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest – whatever medium makes sense for your company – start developing your voice in these arenas as well.
- Engage with People Offline
Speak at conferences, share your expertise and answer questions. Go to where your customers are and be relevant.
Yes, be relevant. It’s a lot like when ET told Elliott to “Be good”. It’s simultaneously the most obvious and difficult thing to be. However, if we view a content strategy more simply as a means of starting the conversation with our guests, especially if there was none there before, then we are well on our way to being more relevant…and that is good.
The content you choose to produce is your company’s voice. Your audience is listening. Do you have something to say?