The New Google

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Forbes has a short but useful article for small business owners on the most recent changes to Google, and what it means to a website owner. To me the most important point is #4: Content is key. Whether Google ends up using the authorship tag to move your website higher in the search results or not, having good content that people want to read (or look at in the case of visually-oriented websites) has always been the key to getting fans and getting found.

Back in the early days of the web some of the most popular websites had webcams showing the contents of a fridge — it’s not that we were so easily amused, it’s that it was new and different in that time, so it got a lot of views. New still works…but useful always draws better. Whether you’re posting a how-to piece on your blog, an easy-to-follow video tutorial, or sharing your grandmother’s recipe, those useful pages and posts are what customers, friends, and co-workers hunt for and read.

Content creation is the new hot button service in web design studios, but unfortunately a huge portion of the “content” a smaller business gets is regurgitated slop — much of it can’t pass Copyscape as being original, and a lot of it is badly written and lacks any real meat. Part of the reason for that is the price range — when you’re paying someone $.01 a word to create something you hope will bring you business you’re lucky they take the time to turn on spell check. You’re definitely not going to get a well researched, well-edited piece that’s unique and creative. Expecting someone with technical writing experience, a degree in advertising, or a long magazine writing career to spend 10 hours researching your market in order to write a piece you’re only paying $20 for just isn’t realistic, nor is expecting them to provide unique illustrations and photos to accompany the piece. If you’re lucky you’ll get re-written Wikipedia paragraphs, and if you’re unlucky a Google search of one of the sentences from the content will show your direct competitor in first place results with a near-identical article.

Even if you don’t have the budget of a large company, think about setting aside $100-$500 per quarter for a single quality piece of content to add to your website — more if you’re in a highly competitive market or want original imagery to go along with the piece, or want more frequent pieces. If that content raises your position in the search engine, helps bring in new customers, and positions your company as an expert then it’s as important to your brand as the rest of your marketing pieces. Think of it like commissioning a magazine article for your blog, and find a writer (and possibly an illustrator or photographer) who can create something worthy of a spread in a well-respected magazine. That’s the level of quality content that people want to read, and that Google wants to position high in the results.