Phantom Update: Is your Content Strong Enough?

Recently, Webmasters and site owners were hit by what looks like a“phantom” algorithm update by Google.

This undisclosed algorithm update seems to have set its eyes on miniblogs, as many websites that publish “how-to” content were hit. HubPages, for example, saw a 22% drop in Google search traffic from one week to another, as of May 3.

In a report, Google confirmed this update, but provided no further details. The search company told Search Engine Land that while no spam-related update was rolled out, a few changes were made to Google’s core ranking algorithm, particularly on how it processes quality signals.

Technically, it was not an update to Panda or Penguin, but a significant “update” nonetheless. The changes seen in the wake of this rollout is not related to the two aforementioned algorithms, but it does look like it is targeting “thin” content similar to the ones Panda targets.

The Drive for Quality

This just shows that as Google continues with its mission to improve the search landscape for user experience, content is becoming a bigger part of any marketing campaign.

Globo-Blog_Image_x2Not many marketers understand, however, that writing a blog for the sake of publishing something is different from writing one that actually engages the target audience — and this is what this post will cover.

While there are no defined metrics or tools that determine whether your blog is good or not, there are a few guides that can steer and keep you on the right track when it comes to content creation.

1) Your Audience’s Needs

If there’s something we can learn from the Phantom and mobile-friendly updates (both from Google and from Bing), it’s that everything should be geared towards the audience. Publishing blogs, guest posts, and other articles are an effective way to promote a client’s brand, but remember that you still need to address the needs of the readers. It should be able to inform the target audience and prompt them to take some kind of action or to become customers.

There’s nothing wrong with a blog that’s a bit sales-y, but make sure it provides value to you and your client’s niche. Talk to your clients and ask about the biggest problems their target audience encounters. Posts that address these problems with step-by-step solutions will always be good content.

2) Original Ideas

Google sees quality and originality as inseparable things. A quality blog is great, but good quality and original content has greater success in search results. The tricky part here is probably the fact that almost all search marketers give the same information to address a common problem of the audience. This is probably one of the reasons driving the phantom update — too much content talking about the same thing.

Stand out from the rest by making sure your posts have insightful information that goes beyond the obvious. The goal is not to become just another one of the million copies on SERPs.

3) Grammar and Spelling

The devil is in the details — and when it comes to blogs and other articles online, one grammar or spelling mistake can cause quite a backlash. One minor typo can make readers turn away from your copy and give your client’s brand a bad name.

Before publishing anything, do a spell, grammar, and fact check. Do a complete audit of your written piece just to be sure you didn’t miss anything. A well-written, error-free article is always going to make good with Google and the readers.

4) The Expertise

Content is all about trust. It’s not just a matter of sharing knowledge, but expertise as well. It’s about knowing what to say and knowing how to present it in a way that makes the article a reliable, authoritative source.

Users will almost always trust the word of an unbiased expert over a businessperson when it comes to content online. Even Google uses expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness as factors in their quality rating guidelines.

To give your articles authority, you need to have a complete grasp of your client’s niche, which includes knowing the latest industry trends and being able to make a clear, firm, and unbiased stand on topics. Do not exaggerate or make things up — the key to building and maintaining trust with your blog or website is simply by being honest and factual.

The Science and Art of Writing

cvIf you write blogs without even giving a thought to the guidelines above, your posts will likely not get the traction you want it to get, be it from your client’s target audience or from Google’s different content-centered algorithms.

Writing good quality content is part science and part art, and it takes a more-than-average mastery of skills to deliver the content your clients need for their target audience. Follow these guidelines and you have higher chances of being on Google’s good side, at least when it concerns Panda and ‘Phantom’.