Of course, the whole goal of the search engines’ ranking schemes is precisely to deliver good, relevant content to users. The mechanism for how search engines select and reward good, relevant content is essentially just a technical issue, though admittedly an extremely important technical issue.
But even in purely technical, mechanistic, terms, web content affects search engine rankings three ways:
1. inbound links
2. website mass
3. keyword optimization
1. Web Content and Inbound Links
Inbound links are the number-one factor in getting search engine rankings. They also yield plenty of traffic on their own. The importance of links is what has led many people to say that content is no longer important. But those people forget that content really does play a big role in getting links in the first place:
* At the very least, good content will make potential link partners more comfortable with linking to your site. No one wants to link to a link farm, splog, junk site, or even just an unprofessional-looking site.
* Lots of good content gives other webmasters (and particularly bloggers) a reason to link to your site spontaneously without being asked.
* You can allow other websites to post your content in exchange for a link back to your site.
2. Web Content Mass
More web pages of content = more search engine traffic
1. Adding pages to your site is like putting out extra nets to catch surfers.
2. Search engines see bigger websites as more prestigious and reliable.
3. The more content you have, the more reasons you give other webmasters, particularly bloggers, to link to your site spontaneously, without being asked.
3. Web Content Keyword Optimization
Keyword optimization used to be the most important step in SEO. Now it matters little in ranking for highly competitive keywords.
Still, keyword optimization can really help you get traffic from searches not on competitive keywords. While you may never rank number 1 for “finance,” you may still show up tops for a search on “household finance rent federal tax deductions” if you have that phrase somewhere in your content. Such non-competitive searches make up a very large proportion of total web searches.
Web Content Keyword Optimization Checklist:
There are four legs to keyword optimization:
Keyword Research and Selection
You need to identify keywords searched on by your target audience. Use tools such as those offered by WordTracker and Yahoo Search Marketing (formerly Overture).
There are two big pitfalls to avoid:
* “Negative keywords” that look relevant but are not really searched on by your target market. For instance, “website copy” is a synonym for “website content,” but most people searching on “website copy” are looking for software that copies an entire website to the hard drive for offline browsing.
* Impossibly competitive keywords that you have no realistic chance of ranking high for them. How do you know if a keyword is impossibly competitive? One rough measure is to look at the PageRank of the webpages currently ranking in the top three for that keyword. If the PageRank of those pages is much higher than the PageRank your site will likely have in the future, you will probably never outrank those pages.
A pay-per-click campaign with Google Adwords of Yahoo! Search Marketing will help you to find which keywords really are searched on by your target audience.
Keywords appear in the content the right number of times for search engines to recognize the page as relevant, but not so often that it looks like keyword stuffing. The longer the content, the more times the keyword should appear.
Keywords appear in just the right positions within your web pages for search engines to recognize them as relevant. The page title, headings, and first lines of the page are often considered the most prominent positions.
Keyword Stemming/Keyword Variation
* Using variations of the keyword will help ensure web pages appear relevant to the next generation of more sophisticated search engine algorithms.
* In the meantime, variations of popular keywords helps your site appear for the “non-standard” searches on variations of the keyword.
There are three main types of keyword variations:
* Word-stem variations. A stem of a word is its base. For instance, “optimize” is the stem of “optimized.” Other stem variations of “optimize” include “optimizing,” “optimizer,” and “optimization.” You can also shuffle the component words of multiple-word keywords. Variations of “website content” would be “web site content,” “web content,” “content for websites,” and “site content”).
* Synonyms (such as “web page content,” “internet content,” or “writing for the web” for “website content”).
* Related terms (such as “internet,” “SEO” or “web page”).
For many people, the SEO side of content feels like a moot point. You need content for your visitors even if no search engine spider ever notices. But every website budget, both of money and time, is finite. If you’re ever choosing whether to invest in another link to please search engines or another page of content to please your visitors, don’t forget: search engines still like content, too.