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Google’s New Algorithm: 4 Tips To Improve Your Writing and Avoid Penalties

By Colin Ryan

Industry News

During a recent a panel at SXSW, Matt Cutts of Google announced that in the coming weeks, the search giant will deliver a tweak to its algorithm meant to penalize sites that are “over-optimized.” While the updates probably won’t have a significant impact on your ranking, they’re a reminder of what’s most important in your content marketing strategy: the content, of course. Here are four tips that will not only keep you on Google’s good side, but also strengthen the quality of your content.

Keep it natural, keep it fresh. One of the practices Google’s new algorithm is designed to combat is “keyword stuffing,” saturating every element of your posts with the keywords you’re targeting in order to bump you up to the top of the list. The truth is this practice has never been very effective, as Google has been correcting for stuffing for quite some time. Moreover, the updates can’t do much more harm to your ranking than stuffing itself does to your content. After all, when the phrase “Chicago real estate” appears in the title, URL, headings and subheadings, plus several times in both your article body and your tags, you end up with a post that’s not only mind-numbingly repetitive, but also sounds like it was written by a robot. Sure, your keywords should appear a few times, but don’t let that stifle your creativity. Instead, focus on providing titles, headings, and ideas that are lively and memorable. Trust me, the keywords will come.

Be cool. We know you’re working hard to get noticed. But like so many other attention-seeking endeavors, content marketing benefits from understatement. That is, the people who get the most and the best kinds of attention don’t act like they need it. By crowding your 500-word posts and sidebars with dozens of links that all contain the same keywords, you’re not only making your content difficult to read and absorb: you’re also telling your visitors that you’re desperate—and desperation doesn’t exactly inspire clicks or repeat visits. Let your passion and expertise about your subject matter show people how much you care about spreading your message, and you’ll get much more respect.

Maintain a little mystery. I’m not saying you should keep information from your visitors—after all, they’re coming to you because you have something useful to offer them. (For more on how to provide useful content, check out our guide: Creating Killer Content for Real Estate.) But when every other line of your post contains a parenthetical like the one before this sentence that promotes your other relevant content, you’re flooding your site with links that are unambiguously sales-oriented, which will turn off both Google and plenty of your visitors. Instead, integrate some of these links into the existing language of your posts. Your piece will be infinitely more readable, and you’ll pique readers’ curiosity instead of telling them what to do.

Fill in the blanks. Google’s algorithm may be super advanced, but its primary concern is providing users with content that’s relevant, rather than exciting or intriguing. The good news, however, is that with most content management platforms (i.e. WordPress), you can use metadata to control how Google teases your content to users who find it. By providing Google with a search engine title and meta description, you can make sure that the first snippet searchers see about your post paints it in the most exciting light possible. Though this metadata should still be informative, it need not necessarily match the actual title or first line. Instead, you can feel free to pose questions and highlight details that will inspire people to read on, just as you would in the post itself.

The bottom line is that for all its godlike appeal, and despite all the SEO techniques out there, Google isn’t going to buy what you’re selling. It’s the people who use Google that you’re after, so focus on making them happy.

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