Compelling, thought-provoking content was first set aside when creators of the late 90’s and 2000’s discovered just how valuable keywords had come to be. Crafting truly helpful, useful material suddenly took a back seat to suffocating content with keyword after keyword. The immediate gratification of keyword stuffing was too tempting to do otherwise. Enter the flood of insincere, robotic and, to put it plainly, bad online content.
Perhaps keyword stuffers saw the results they desired from this practice at one point. But now, this writing style has achieved something other than improving rank: alienating and repelling human readers—and in recent years, even search engines themselves.
Now that Google is fighting harder than ever to keep keyword stuffing at bay with updated evaluation guidelines and ranking algorithms, content creators can no longer afford to be lazy with their SEO strategy.
The bottom line: keyword stuffing, as opposed to publishing well-written content, is an ineffective method for improving your ranking and driving traffic to your content. Let’s end the keyword stuffing and get back to the basics—because meaningful, quality content is something that search engines and human audiences can agree on.
Here’s how you do it.
Stay Current on Evaluation Guidelines
Haphazardly tossing keywords into your content is a bad idea. If you won’t take it from me, take it from the horse’s mouth: here is Google’s official definition of keyword stuffing:
“‘Keyword stuffing’ refers to the practice of loading a webpage with keywords or numbers in an attempt to manipulate a site's ranking in Google search results. Often these keywords appear in a list or group, or out of context (not as natural prose). Filling pages with keywords or numbers results in a negative user experience, and can harm your site's ranking. Focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and in context.”
Once again for the people in the back: “Focus on creating useful, information-rich content.”
Google doesn’t want your keyword-stuffed mumbo jumbo, and knows that readers don’t want it either. Their prioritization of genuinely good content is further evidenced by their Medic update in 2018, when Google quality evaluators started cracking down on websites that were not communicating E-A-T, or expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. Google has since confirmed the importance of E-A-T in a whitepaper released February 2019. Focusing on being a reliable source themselves, they were no longer going to give sketchy, clumsily written websites a free shot at top rankings.
The E-A-T framework was created as a guideline for quality evaluators, the human rating team assembled as a kind of check and balance for the search engine’s ranking algorithms. Here’s a quick breakdown of E-A-T’s three tenets—and the measures you can take to look credible in the eyes of Google’s team.
Demonstrate Your Expertise
Being an expert in your industry ultimately comes down to meeting the needs of your target audience. Expert content gives the people want they want, in terms of the content itself and how well it delivers that information.
Think about the keywords you plan to utilize for your next blog and the people that will discover it by using these search terms. Do you understand what their intent is by plugging these phrases into Google? Writing expert content means that the information you impart matches what you believe the searchers will be looking for.
- Building your expertise starts with keyword research.
- Dive into searcher intent. Is your target looking to buy something? Find more information? Looking for a tutorial?
- So you’ve got someone to read your blog. Now what? Think about what they might be looking for next and make it easy for them to get there.
Showcase Your Authority
Quality evaluators also look to see if others in your industry hold your word in high regard. To put your authoritativeness on full display, see if other industry pros have given your content the thumbs up. This could be evidenced by backlinks, mentions, social sharing, or any other way that proves other experts are willing to make their support of your content public.
- Do your due diligence with link-building, a.k.a. the process of finding other websites where it would be appropriate to link to your content. Quality backlinks can be hard to come by and difficult to attain, but can do a lot for your authoritativeness.
- Even if you can’t find valuable backlinks, mentions are another valuable option. Find out who’s dropping your name and see if you can incorporate them into your content.
- Boost engagement with your content by sharing it on social media.
Anyone can post anything on the internet. This is old news of course; we were taught early on about internet hoaxes, like the 1998 tree octopus hoax commonly used in internet literacy courses. Not trusting everything your read online in this day and age is common sense.
Needless to say, it’s important that your content separates itself from the tree octopuses of the internet and proves itself trustworthy to searchers.
- Cite reliable sources and support your claims with relevant data.
- Showcase positive reviews and handle negative feedback with grace.
- Be transparent, whether that means giving readers a behind-the-scenes look into your business or sharing information about your processes.
Move The Focus Back Towards Your Target Audience
Now that we’ve walked through what Google is looking for, let’s throw it into reverse.
At the root of many keyword-stuffed articles is a copywriter that has forgotten to consider another vital part of copywriting: their target audience! While one major purpose of online content is to drive eyeballs to your website, it needs to do more than just that, especially considering recent shifts in the way that Google serves up search results.
Regardless, what does it matter if you’re driving traffic to an article that does nothing for the reader besides shoving buzzwords in their face? Boosting traffic is one thing; driving conversions is another.
That being said—and that you understand the value Google attributes to quality content—it’s important that your copy provides genuine value to your target demographic. And with the recent roll-out of its BERT update, Google is focusing more than ever on content written for people, not machines. When you’re reviewing your writing, ask yourself if your content is...
Informative. Does your content answer a question that you’d expect your target audience to have? Does it provide instruction on how to accomplish a certain task or skill? Does it share updates on latest industry news or technological developments?
This blog from Later is a perfect example of a purely informative piece of content.
Their aptly named article “How to Choose the Perfect Instagram Username” walks readers through the considerations they should take before choosing a handle for the photo-sharing platform. As a program for planning, scheduling, and analyzing the success of social media posts, Later chose a relevant topic for their piece. Their target demographic are those concerned with optimizing all aspects of their social presence and, with this article, Later has done a fantastic job of positioning themselves as a reliable information source for social media beginners.
Interesting. Does your content address an inherently attention-grabbing subject? Does it frame a certain topic in a new or unique way? Does it challenge a common-held belief or misconception?
The Hustle, a popular tech and business news source, hit a goldmine of interesting content when they released their piece titled “The restaurant owner who asked for 1-star Yelp reviews.”
As the headline indicates, this article documented the subversive marketing strategy utilized by a pizzeria owner in the San Francisco Bay Area. Reporter Zachary Crockett tells the tale of Botto Bistro, its owner Davide Cerretini, and his decision to offer a 25% discount in exchange for the lowest Yelp rating possible. The topic is unexpected, chronicling a series of events that counters Yelp’s position as the end-all, be-all of restaurant rankings—a fascinating piece for The Hustle’s entrepreneurial, business-minded readership.
Influential. Does your content inspire someone to a certain action? Does it invite readers to contact your team, download an eBook, make a donation, or buy a product?
Consider this article from a private school located in Southern New Hampshire: “Kindergarten Already? 5 Tips to Consider When Selecting A School.”
In the blog, World Academy suggests key steps that readers should take before sending their children to kindergarten. Much like the Later blog, it is informative and seeks to educate. But with their very last suggestion, the school attempts to incite action as well as teach. As they advise parents to find time to visit schools before making a decision, World Academy invites them to schedule a tour of their facility. They’re influencing readers to not just research schools for their children, but to come see the contenders firsthand, encouraging website visitors to convert to real-life visitors!
Whatever it is you choose to share, it’s in your best interest to benefit your users. Focusing on the people that will absorb your content is something that not just your readers—and Google—will take notice of.
Let’s Get Back To Writing Content That Matters
We hate standing by and watching content creators kill their own search ranking with meaningless, keyword-stuffed content. I hope this foundation of takeaways will help make writing quality content easier, but know that you don’t have to go it alone.
At Altos, we’ll have your back. If you need help getting back on the right foot with your content marketing and SEO strategy, all you have to do is ask.
- Megan O'Keefe
- Social Media & Content Specalist