Content, Content, Content!

Content, Content, Content

A client told me that in her area of business, a newcomer was blowing away all the established sites in their business niche, and she asked me how this was happening and what we should do about it. What I learned from my study of this site is revealing. It speaks to the differences in how search engines rank sites today from how they did it in the past.

And it provides an important lesson for all of us who want our Web sites to attract the sort of traffic that we seek.

The Site

I studied the site, and had trouble understanding how it was dominating the search engines. This site was not doing many of the things that I recommend! It had a moderate number of incoming links, not enough to dominate. The meta tags were stuffed with keywords. The title tags, though, were well done, reflecting the organization of the site in a systematic way. But that was not enough for this new site to dominate its niche.

The heading of each page had a lot of keyword stuffing, and then I checked and found that it was all an image! So even this very risky practice couldn’t help–hurt!–because of a beginner’s mistake.

Then I saw it–the site has 164 pages, compared to fewer than ten pages for most of the competitive sites! And those pages are long, each of them as long as several pages on competitive sites. Where did all that content come from? 88 offsite domains contain duplicate content, so we can just imagine how all these pages came to be written in a short time by a newcomer.

Google shows just pagerank 3 for this site, so it’s not burning up pagerank, perhaps because of the large amount of duplicate content. However, it’s doing a grand job of getting high ranking in search engine results. Clearly, Google is overlooking the obvious duplication and giving high position in results primarily because of this huge quantity of content.

Strategy

What’s the strategy for competing with this site for search engine rankings? Sun Tzu tells us not to take the obvious approach and attack the enemy’s strength by creating pages upon pages of content. Instead, we should attack our opponent’s weaknesses, by doing all the things he isn’t doing well. Stay away from keyword stuffing. Build meta tags that are unique to each page and thoughtfully reflect the content of each page. And build the content of each page around important keywords, with appropriate keyword density.

A serious linking campaign, at first seeking relevant links that may be low in rank and high-ranking links that may be less relevant, is critical, because it’s possible to have a near-term win in this area.

Thorough log analysis to understand visitor behavior and identify important keywords will allow us to respond dynamically to the marketplace while our competition employs a static approach.

We will have to engage our competitor with content, and we will be expanding our content. But our content will be original, not just material copied from others. With quality content, and everything else done right, we should be able to compete effectively.

The Bottom Line

If your Web site just gives the basics about your message, and does it compactly in a handful of pages, don’t expect good search engine position. Think about pages of 300 or more words, and think about telling your story more completely, in 20 to 50 pages. Note that the pages on your own site don’t have to be completely unique–no visitor ever reads the whole site, so every fact needs to be present in several places on the site.

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