Google Ranking: Does Content Still Count?

2013 is long gone, with 2 major Google updates, refreshes or reboots (name depends on who you listen to in the SEO industry).

From forum profiles to blog comments to Youtube videos, we have used many methods to try and improve rankings. One recurring factor that SEOs have noticed is the clamour for quality content.

The question is, is content really still king when it comes to high Google ranking?

This is a controversial debate in the SEO industry. From content farms to niche marketers to SEO agencies to large companies, everyone has their opinion on this. The truth is that Google rankings are complicated and can seem quite fickle. Many believe that when it comes down to the nitty gritty, content is still the most important factor.

What does Google say?

Lets start this by hearing Googles’ opinion. Very quietly, Google recently updated its rankings article in the Google Webmaster Help section. While they had previously stated that improved website rankings could be achieved by “increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages”, they have changed this to “creating high quality sites that users will want to use and share”.

At a quick glance, the former seems to emphasise link building whilst the latter hints towards the importance of quality content. However, on closer inspection, did you notice that the word “share” was snuck cleverly in there? How do you share content? Well by posting links of course!

The importance of link building.

Links from other sites directing traffic to your site as well as outbound links, all lend your website important credibility and relevancy in the eyes of Google. However, that’s not all. The websites that you build links to, have to be quality ones in Googles’ eyes. They also take note of the site age and how often their content is updated.

In the past, webmasters have gone crazy building links left, right and centre for the sole purpose of increasing rankings. Google has picked up on this trick and now chooses to ignore links, and sometimes whole sites, that are deemed to build links like this. This makes the link building practice, a really fragile one. Whilst you need links to show up in the search engines, Google wants you to get these links naturally.

The importance of content.

We agree that links are an extremely important algorithmic signal for Google ranking, but what kind of links does Google consider as being credible? It starts with content. Google stresses that content needs to offer end-users something of value, something that will motivate them to share the content because they believe that it will benefit the rest of the online community. Besides this, there are other factors related to content that benefit Google ranking. Let’s consider keywords. Sensible use of keywords will greatly increase Google ranking whilst keyword and header tag stuffing can decrease your ranking.

New kids on the block.

In the ever changing world of SEO, social network signals are becoming really important. Google+, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn signals have an impact on site rankings. While there is some debate about which carries the most impact, the premise boils down to your content being share-able. There is also talk that having a well-managed Google+ profile is beneficial. As Google has little influence on data from other social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Naturally they would favour their own product too! Added to this, is Author Authority, which Google says is to help in identifying experts in various fields, with the use of the “rel=author” tag on sites.

Effective web optimisation will never be reached by a single factor but by forming an integrated strategy. Ultimately, an ethical combination of link building and quality content is the trick to high Google rankings.

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