As many of you already know, back last fall, Google announced their newest major update called Hummingbird but unlike the major updates prior to this announcement ( Panda / Penguin etc ) this one received next to no fan fare and very little coverage or ” new product launches ” by the guru’s guaranteed to make you rich by manipulating Hummingbirds new algorithm. The truly interesting element of this was that Google themselves said this was the largest update in their history and it was going to essentially change the web forever.
So why didn’t anyone notice ?
Well truth be told – all the established niche developers did take notice and have seen very strong results – but because there was no massive penalties and de-indexing of sites taking place – most just ignored the subtle changes that were taking place. When Google’s search chief Amit Singhal announced the update – it barely made the front page of the tech blogs – but in Google’s own words – Penguin and Panda were only updates to the search engine’s existing algorithm – while Hummingbird is a complete replacement.
Designed to be more precise and provide faster query results, the algorithm is based on semantic search, focusing on user intent versus individual search terms.
This is straight from Google HQ – and the key focus for every article and site you build from this moment on should be on INTENT rather than keyword tactics. The key to successful organic traffic from Google in 2014 is going to be user engagement which can only happen through great content. Google has long put importance on the bounce rate of any given page as well as the measurement of how long a person stays on a page – and if the article / content on that page is crap – then the reader is obviously going to quickly move on.
On a side note – I find it truly fascinating that such a major change can take place in the world’s most important search engine and 95% of the people dependent upon traffic from their search results have paid so little attention to this massive change.
But more importantly, how does this effect us as niche site developers ?
What we’re seeing in the way SERPS are starting to adjust is that sites with strong content are out ranking sites with strong page and authority ranks – and that Page Rank is no longer part of the equation ( actually it hasn’t been for some time now ) For those of us building sites with unique, strong content, this is great news as it finally puts the balance of power into the hands of people creating great websites instead of the content and value of the site being a distant second place to search engine optimization. For the past decade, the focus has been on link building and keyword emphasis – and the quality of the content as farmed out to off shore digital sweat shops or spun PLR content – both of which thank God have been banished from the digital world.
So What is Great Content ?
As a professional niche site developer for a growing list of clients – I no longer have the ability to hand write every article myself for my sites and have had to hire writers to help carry the load. I can usually tell in one to two articles if the writer has what it takes to write for me – and only about 1 in 15 who apply actually get hired on.
Here are the biggest problems I find with badly written content that has no engagement factor.
1) No Value
The content is common sense and offers no additional value to the reader. For example, an article on feeding an adult cat should offer the reader something of value not just look like a 9th grade essay assignment simply trying to show you read the text book. The real acid test is that the reader should be more informed than they were before reading the content. If they skim through the 500 words contained in the article and have not learned anything – then the article has failed the most important test it can be judged on.
2) Block Flow
Often from amateur writers I see is what I call block content which is where each paragraph of the article is a separate subject and there is no flow from one paragraph to the next. This is usually the result of a writer having several pages of research open and then adding in to the article a paragraph from each page rewritten as a unique article.
3) Opening with a Question
My biggest pet peeve – and the sign of an amateur writer with little potential. This type of writing has bugged me since the first minisite sales copy writer came up with the famous line ” who else wants to be rich / beautiful / charming like me “. Never – ever open an article with a question as it turns of the reader.
4) Closing Summary Paragraph
Another sign of a writer with no real talent or knowledge of successful content creation is the summary paragraph. This is usually 2 or 3 sentences of simply summarizing what the article said and has no value except for padding the word count.
5) Writing Doesn’t Fit the Theme of the Site
I recently had a writer for a pet food analysis site send me an article that referred to cats as ” kitties ” and ” your furry pal “. Talk about not understanding the audience of the site – here the reader is expecting scientific information on pet food and the writer is talking about kitties like it’s a Barney episode.
For a writer like myself – it’s a great time to be in niche sites thanks to Hummingbird and the focus on content over page metrics and it is essential that for your niche sites to be successful that you embrace the value of engaging content. Forget about writing for keywords – start writing now for what the searcher is actually looking for when performing the search. Although the moving target of how Google truly ranks sites is never an exact science – the evidence is over whelming that content has replaced backlinks, exact match domains, keyword percentages and any type of tags or headings.
If you have any advice on writing great content – or just as importantly – how to avoid writing terrible content – feel free to add your comments below.