Google’s exact search algorithm is perhaps the biggest and best-kept secret in the SEO world. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have an idea of what Google looks for when it comes to content.
Over the past decade, we’ve seen Google update its search algorithm multiple times to give users the best and most relevant results for their search queries.
Generally, the better and more relevant your content is to a user’s search, the higher it will rank for those search terms.
But how does Google measure the ‘quality’ and ‘relevance’ of your content?
Well, we don’t know exactly. (No one outside Google’s search engine team really does.) What we do know is that Google considers a variety of factors when evaluating and ranking your content.
Based on our research and experience, here’s how to make your content stay on Google’s good side so that it’s more likely to rank well for your targeted search terms.
1. Match user intent
Structure your content and use keywords that match the intent behind the search terms you’re targeting.
Intent answers ‘why’ someone is searching for that keyword – it’s the reason behind a user search.
Are they searching for an answer to a question? Are they looking for more information on a topic? Do they want to purchase something online? Do they need instructions for something?
Understanding the intent behind the search terms you’re targeting will help you create content that matches what users are looking for.
To better see how intent matters, let’s take the search term ‘buy a house’ as an example.
When you search ‘buy a house’ on Google, you might get the following result:
The top two positions will give you resources for finding a house to buy. Here, Google thinks you’re looking to buy a house, so it gives you websites that let you do that.
But when you search for ‘buying a house’, the results are different.
Here, Google understands your query as a search on how to buy a house, so it gives you websites that provide guides on how to do it.
2. Content With Purpose
Every piece of content you make should have a purpose – and you need to make sure it serves that purpose well.
Is your content there to educate? Do you want them to buy something on your website? Do you want to appear as an authority on a subject?
Whatever the purpose of your content may be, make sure that it does exactly what it was meant to do.
If it’s meant to educate, then provide plenty of details and information on the topic. For purchases and transactions, it should have clear transactional tools and call-to-actions. If you’re going for credibility and authority on a subject matter, then provide credible sources and good research.
The more your content serves its purpose, the more Google will see it as a benefit to the user – which will translate to better rankings.
3. Add sub-topics
In the old days, Google used to read and evaluate content as:
“Is ‘x’ keyword mentioned? Then let’s rank it.”
These days, Google largely determines the quality of content based on topics and sub-topics.
If you have a piece of content that you want to rank for a target topic, then it’s also important to discuss its associated sub-topics.
So in our example of targeting the search term “buying a house”, you would have:
- Buying a house
- Costs and fees involved
- Loan options
- Loan calculator
- Bad credit/history checks
- Tips and advice
Keep in mind that this isn’t an excuse to stuff your content with random sub-topics. Instead, aim to include sub-topics that would come up naturally as you discuss the main topic.
A good way to try this when creating content is to ask yourself, “What would I want to find out more on this topic if I were a reader?” Then see if they’re worth adding.
4. Answer questions
Google loves it when your content answers a question. (After all, there are few things more relevant to a search query than a clear and direct answer.)
Like sub-topics, answering questions provides additional useful details and information to the user – but it’s more targeted and specific.
You can incorporate this strategy into your content by including an FAQ section on the content you’re making or even creating separate content pieces that answer each question separately.
If you’re not sure what questions users typically ask in your field or topic, we recommend:
- Researching it yourself – Are there questions about your topic that you yourself don’t know the answers to?
- Do a Google search – What questions are people asking about your topic?
- Check competitors – Are they answering questions you aren’t?
- Use online tools – You’ll find a variety of online tools that provide commonly asked questions about different topics. (AnswerThePublic is our current favourite.)
5. Keep trends and seasons in mind
No, we’re not telling you to get on the bandwagon and write about every little new fad or trend that comes up.
Instead, just keep trends and seasons in mind when creating content and see whether it fits them.
Some keywords and search terms perform better when they’re targeted seasonally and during certain times of the year. Christmas-themed content, for example, often rank better during the Christmas holidays and the weeks leading up to it.
The more timely your piece of content is, the more relevant it will be in Google’s eyes.
More User Benefit = Higher Rankings
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that Google’s search algorithm is ultimately designed to benefit the user.
By making sure your content provides the value and benefit your target users want, your content is more likely to get higher rankings.
Of course, content is just one of the many factors that Google considers in its search algorithm. But it is a big piece of the puzzle that can do wonders in increasing your rankings.
Know any other great tips for creating content that will rank well in Google? Send us your thoughts and ideas. We’d love to hear it!