3 Communications Must-Dos to Weather Google’s Latest Shift
Google has long been the lead in search; however, professional communications consultants continue to be bewildered by it. Planning content that is “on message” that also performs well in search can be an exercise in frustration—especially when search results seem to be stuffed with repurposed or repetitive content. In late May, Google took new steps to address this problem, rolling out what could be considered the most significant update to its algorithm to date. Known as Panda 4.0, the update is intended to reward sites that have highly original, highly relevant content that is structured well, while penalizing “lower-quailty” sites that aggregate and duplicate content across pages. An obvious plus, right? But this Panda can also bite: dropping visibility for sites that simply have not focused on addressing user needs and have not distinguished themselves from other sources.
According to Business Insider, sites like BuzzFeed.com, known for producing many consumer-friendly stories not duplicated from other sources, were boosted by the algorithm change. Conversely, large sites where pages appear to serve no other purpose than to point users in other directions – minimal content, lots of off-site links, large numbers of internal cross-links to other duplicated or content-“lite” pages – are at serious risk for being penalized by Google.
We all want to constantly provide useful, original content, but with so many things to consider it can be hard to know what steps to take to stay ahead of or at least in step with search engines. Here are a few best practices to keep in mind that can improve your online visibility—instead of losing it—as a result of this update:
Invest in originality.
It can be tough to know where to focus your energy, especially with so many communications options available. If you consider your site to be your primary online presence, focus energy there and work outward. Invest in generating quality content over quantity, Populate your pages with your own content, rather than borrowing from or linking to a high number of external sources.
Content that speaks to your organization’s audiences (whether patients, physicians, researchers or policymakers) and properly tailored for the medium (whether on your site or across your social platforms) is worth the investment. In addition to boosting your organization’s presence in search engine results, original, tailored content demonstrates your organization’s value to the key stakeholders you’re trying to reach.
Curate the experience.
Rather than repeating information in multiple sections, understand your user’s experience and what you want them to see and learn about you and your mission. Sites that succeed in user experience tend to avoid repetition, because they understand that visitors need to find the right information quickly, without confusion about what’s the most important or the most recent item. Google is now penalizing sites with poor structure and seemingly-irrelevant content and cross-linking, so it’s more important than ever to look closely at your content.
Whether you’re re-launching your site or expanding the pages on your existing site, it’s crucial to understand your audience’s behavior patterns—how they interact with or ignore areas of your site; how and where they intersect with your messages; and how they interact with each other—and then create a logical structure that enables quick access to essentials but also encourages them to stay, browse and share. If you’re not sure where to start, consider talking with a web development consultant, who can help you identify brand and user experience disconnects and also hidden opportunities to engage that may be overlooked.
Serve it hot.
Unlike revenge, content is not a dish best served cold. Your content will perform better if you make a priority of serving your audience fresh perspectives better and more quickly than others working in your space. To paraphrase Business Insider, why deliver 31,000 recipes for pancakes, when five—or just one—would do? Don’t tread ground that’s been covered many times over; instead, think about how your site can address needs that aren’t being met by another source.
Remember – Google’s algorithms are designed to reward sites with high quality content, but it’s our job as communications consultants to help our clients find new ways to add value to the conversation. In the end, you’ll find that creating original, well-organized content doesn’t just help your online presence gain visibility within search—it ensures your messages reach the audiences that matter the most.