Google changes its SEO algorithms thousands of times per year— which breaks down to more than once a day. And while most of these changes are small enough to have no significant bearing on search results, some can have game-changing implications. 

Content marketing teams that write for algorithms rather than readers are doomed to practice in futility. Techniques that are fruitful one day may be completely irrelevant the next, wasting time and money in the process. 

The only verified way to consistently stay in Google’s good graces? Create high-quality, user-oriented content that provides value and information. 

It’s important to keep in mind that search engine algorithms are, first and foremost, designed to connect readers with useful, high-quality content. The contest was never to find out who could cram the silliest phrases into a 1,000-word article.

Modern SEO practices tend to take a “shotgun” approach, indiscriminately seeking attention wherever it can be had. Unfortunately, this approach can be alienating and disinteresting for readers with a sincere interest in the topics being covered.

By focusing on the reader, you’ll not only improve your content, but you can reduce your bounce rate, build links, improve your sharability, and possibly even create recurring revenue by attracting the right kind of readers.

Consider What the Search Engines Want

Those in search of proof that quality wins the day need only to look to the search engines themselves. In particular, Google has not been shy in its recommendation to value quality above all else in content creation

Back in 2015, Google published a sizable guide indicating what their algorithms look for in content. Among other things, this guide reports that Google is looking for purpose, authority, and validation—measured in part by link accumulation. 

Not every search engine is so transparent as to publish a 168-page guide detailing their expectations, but one can trust that the standards are more or less the same across the board. 

While algorithms can occasionally be duped by keyword stuffing and similar practices, their ever-changing formulas evolve continually, always with the intention of spotlighting the best content. 

Validation Through Link Building

Search engine algorithms interpret links as a form of validation. The more pages that cite your content as a source of authority, the more the algorithm is able to trust the legitimacy of your writing. 

Naturally, the surest and most legitimate way to accumulate links is to create information-driven content that exudes demonstrative authority on the topic you wish to discuss. When this is the case, other content marketers are far more likely to read what you’ve written and then use it to back-up their own claims.  

Of course, it’s only fair to say there are many ways to accumulate links, not all of which necessitate high-quality reader-based writing. But while the practice of paying for links is likely to continue for the indefinite future, it seems far more sustainable—and certainly more affordable—to simply create quality content that other websites feel compelled to link to. 

As per recent guidelines on platforms like Google and others, you can be penalized or even banned for trying to accumulate links using methodologies that are less than above board. However, even without the threat of punitive consequence, the effort of falsifying backlinks may well be for naught by the time the next algorithm update is rolled out. 

Get Your Content Marketing Efforts Shared

Writing high-quality content also increases the chances of having your work shared through social media, email, etc., further satisfying the search engines’ desire to promote authoritative materials. Of course, there’s no denying that poorly written content sometimes finds its way onto the first page.

It’s very likely you’ve had the experience of immediately exiting an article due to peculiar wording or grammatical errors. However, while this content performs well in theory, it clearly isn’t resonating with readers. The average person probably won’t read much further than the introduction (if that), and they certainly won’t be sharing it with their friends.

Keep in mind social media now outperforms newspapers and other traditional information outlets as a news source. If your content can make a splash on social media, it can substantially improve engagement with your content. In short, you can feed two birds with one seed. You can validate your work in the eyes of the search engine while simultaneously benefitting from significant, free publicity. 

Reduce Your Bounce Rate

Also important is the number of people who read one of your articles and then continue on to another. Not only does page bounce rate factor for search engines—with algorithms assuming that content not leading to engagement may not be relevant—but it’s also a straightforward testament to the overall effectiveness of your content and website. After all, the goal is to keep people engaged and moving deeper into your sales funnel.

No matter what you do, a certain and probably significant number of people will read one article and then move on with their lives. Nevertheless, well-written content that can retain reader attention is more likely to result in sales, revenue, and future web traffic down the line. 

By prioritizing quality and readability, you can significantly reduce your bounce rate and increase your qualified leads.

SEO Best Practices Still Matter

None of this is to say that SEO is completely worthless. Without implementing several practices commonly associated with search engine optimization, even the best content will have a hard time ranking on the first page. 

But you can “write for people” while still making moderate efforts to appease the algorithms. For example:

  • Use keywords (sensibly): Engines still look for search terms within titles, meta descriptions, and the content itself to make sure content reflects what the reader is looking for. Naturally, inserting these keywords—and the occasional variant—several times throughout your content does still pay off, so make sure you perform adequate keyword research
  • Cite your sources: Just like your professors in college, search engines want to see you substantiate your claims. Outbound links to other authority sites validate the content and demonstrate you’ve put the time into your work. And, of course, your readers are likely to feel the same way.
  • Use a byline: Anonymous content, though not a dealbreaker, doesn’t always sit well with readers or search engines. On the human level, you can reasonably assume readers will be interested in the credentials that make you an authority on the topics you cover. Meanwhile, algorithms interpret your byline as another sign of credibility.
  • Edit thoroughly: Typographical errors are a big red flag for search engines. Perhaps more importantly, though, readers are sure to question the veracity of work that is riddled with errors. 

What do these “SEO” standards have in common? With rare exceptions, most of them align well with the expectations any reader will have for their content. 

Quality Content Counts

Google—the most successful website of all time—is an engine that handles trillions of searches each year, and it won’t be fooled in the long term by content that uses the right words but fails to resonate on a human level. As in most areas of importance, quality is what has staying power. 

Remember, search engines work for the reader, and therefore, so do you. Content that’s well-written won’t just rank well, but it will also be read to completion, shared, and linked to. Rather than relying on clicks that occur by little more than happenstance, your website can become a relied-upon resource for people coming to you with the expectation of finding good content. 

Search engines make their revenue from engagement. Therefore, it’s in their best interest to promote high-quality content, and it’s in your best interest to create it.

Author Bio

Daniella is the Content Marketing Lead at Fusebill and a former journalist with a specialized background in business and finance topics. Fusebill is a cloud-based automated subscription billing platform that gives companies the freedom to grow by reducing revenue leakage, speeding up collections, simplifying revenue recognition, and offering the flexibility to capitalize on new pricing and product opportunities and the agility to maintain a competitive edge.