When I embark on a content development project for a new website, first I ask a lot of questions about the type of business, what they do for their clients, the type of tone they would like to use to portray themselves, what their brand identity is, and what sort of materials they may have already to include. Then it’s on to discussions about choosing pages, what should be included on the home page and how our client would like the editing process to work.
To me, these are the most important components for building a beautiful and functional website, and I always try to emphasize that content development shouldn’t stop once the website is live. A steady supply of fresh, original content is critical to online marketing success, and a big part of your web design strategy for your business. Content is a huge part of SEO, as Google prioritizes websites that offer timely, relevant information connected to the user’s search query. It’s also one of the best ways to attract people to your website, and good content is also easy to share through social media, email marketing and of course your blog. Creating content allows you to share your expertise, and build on the expertise of others as you create something new.
Everyone wants to top the charts for SEO. Folks are web-savvy these days, and good content is often synonymous with meta data, meta descriptions and keywords. Due to Google algorithm changes, though, and thankfully for us writers, over the last several years “meta” and “keywords” have both taken a backseat to good writing and diligent website maintenance.
What is Meta Data? And what About Keywords?
Very simply put, meta data is just a description of, well, data, but in this case it’s always in the background, mainly unseen unless you know where to look for it. Hence, “meta.” When creating web pages, many CMS programs will ask for fields for a “meta” descriptions to be filled out. That information gets placed into the source code of the page using metatags, and meta descriptions can be used by Google to discern what is on the page. A strong meta description should provide a good overview of the page contents, should be under 170 characters and is often displayed underneath links in the search results.
Meta descriptions have plenty of value, but most search engines more or less largely ignore keywords now. Keywords used to be extremely important, but ceased to be so in 2011 with the Google Panda 2.0 update. Searching works the same way – we think of common terms used to describe what we’re looking for and then plunk those into our favourite search engine. If the results don’t turn up what we want, we modify our search, and carry on. Each set of search terms you enter used to then be qualified as “keywords” or “keyword phrases,” something that all the SEO people out there wanted to know about. Before 2011, though, knowing the most searched phrases meant big money. Plus, if site owners knew how to load them into the meta data of a website, they were also a way to increase chances of ending up high in search results.
Website writers then spent a lot of time trying to manipulate content to feature key words … to the detriment of the overall quality.
Thankfully, with yet another Google algorithm update (the Penguin 3.0), now it’s all about ethical SEO. Google frowns on keyword-stuffing, and is finding better and more accurate ways for its algorithm to track desirable site characteristics, such as excellent content that is updated regularly and a lack of black-hat marketing techniques with the sole use of “tricking” search engines.
Another great development over the last couple years is that Google is also much better at geo-targeting. It used to be that content developers had to make sure that the business’s location was mentioned in places it didn’t really need to be. For example, if you were looking for good pizza in Calgary, you’d visit Google and search “best Calgary pizza,” and maybe include a city area to lock in on a specific location, and the results would only reflect those sites that had those specific words built in. Again, this was detrimental for the overall quality of site content, because a sentence that reads “The best Calgary pizza can be found at xxxxxxx,” sounds contrived, and doesn’t represent the product as well as it could. Google is now better able to determine physical locations by using cues like addresses, contact information and natural language, so the days of trying to sneak in place names as much as possible are over.
More Website Lingo
We have developed an A to Z guide of need-to-know website lingo if you are looking to become a site owner. Letters A to L cover terms like accessibility, back end, CSS and CMS, and M to Z goes over words like navigation, resolution, RSS and URL.
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