Why Quality Counts: Don’t Overthink the Search Engines

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Producing content that appeals to and engages readers is more effective than focusing an effort solely on search crawlers.

It’s been happening for a while. We’ve become hung up on trying to second guess the search engines in the pursuit of quality content. Google puts out a new update, and we scramble to decode its significance. Think of the Cold War practice of Kremlinology just transposed on Silicon Valley. We pore over every small comment and detail for a glimpse behind the curtain of what the algorithmic secret sauce to SEO might be.

Why avoid long-winded content? Because a quick goodbye is only a click away.

But our approach is wrong-headed. Search engines are not the ultimate arbiters of quality, nor do they claim to be. Readers are. Sometimes, we in the industry forget this simple truth. Even Google, to be fair, suggests we give it a break. Write for your reader not for the crawlers, its chief evangelists say.

It’s not exactly rocket science. Why devise engaging headlines? Because a well-crafted headline naturally catches a reader’s eye. Why make your openings sharp and appealing? To engage your reader and encourage him or her to read more. Why avoid long-windedness? Because a quick goodbye is only a click away.

With “the cesspool” of content online … it’s no surprise that Google would eventually identify the risk to its revenue stream, seeking to improve the user experience through Panda and Penguin.

Long-time Google executive Eric Schmidt was right when he referred several years back to “the cesspool” of content online. Using search engines can be a peculiarly random and dispiriting exercise. That’s why people have increasingly flocked to social media sites for a more edited and personalized web. It’s no surprise that Google would eventually identify the risk to its revenue stream, seeking to improve the user experience through its Panda and Penguin updates.

Google and the other search engines will continue to refine their algorithms in an attempt to better identify the kind of things we want to see. Yet, in spite of the digital revolutions of recent decades, the measure of editorial quality has hardly changed. Keep your copy clear and reader-friendly. That’s good editorial practice for any age. Make your writing targeted and engaging. Scroll back across the centuries and that was always the case. Do your research. Don’t cut corners. And don’t overthink the search engines. Otherwise they’ll overthink you.

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Richard Pattinson is Brafton's CEO. He has worked in the digital content space over the past 15 years, building and managing a variety of teams during that time.
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  • Humphries

    To me this merely underscores the importance of having a small army of brandvocates at a company’s disposal. But this also doesn’t just happen overnight, and needs to be cultivated. But in the long run for a company, it’s the only solution to a problem that will always having you at the mercy of SEO specialists, and Google.

    • Richard Pattinson

      Thanks for your comment. I agree brand advocacy is key. One of the best ways to build reputation and promote brand is through a relentless emphasis on quality of product and excellence of service.

  • http://www.facebook.com/petar.tchavdarov Petar Tchavdarov

    I agree with you Richard but in certain cases like with our business at http://www.thesocks.com it is not possible only to rely on great content. It is not a blog so that you hope people will come in order to read something valuable. What I mean is that an ecommerce site for example has no choice but to target most of its pages at SEO. By no means should that SEO be just concentration of keywords but in the end it is not only the consumer you think about. Do you agree?