1. Get to know your users
Understand what your users want and you’ll have a great starting point for generating content.
Google rewards content people like – it clocks when a user selects your page from search results, and that strengthens your page’s association to the term they searched for.
That means that you need to research your audience, understand what they want and craft pages to answer their needs.
Try making a list of everything your customer wants from your site – be it a product, specialist advice, etc – and tailor your site to each one.
2. Create your own content
Google is on the lookout for sites using lazy content generation techniques, like ‘scraping’ (harvesting information from the web via software), plagiarism or simple duplication of other people’s work. All 3 are bywords for generally shoddy content.
Make sure you put strict quality control processes in place, too – typos can indicate badly-produced content and hurt your page rankings.
3. Measure what people are searching
Free tools like Google AdWords let you see what people are searching for.
Search terms can tell you a surprising amount – about who your users really are, where they are and the language they use. AdWords will also give you the wider picture; which of the terms you use are the most competitive, for example.
It’s good practice to optimise one page per key phrase. This gives you the added benefit of being able to weave the phrase in naturally, through subheadings and links.
That brings us to...
4. Forget over-using keywords
Keyword stuffing means using lots of repetitive search terms, and it’s now one of Google’s biggest bugbears.
Not only is it bad for usability, you could end up ‘cannibalising’ your own content – using a range of search terms so frequently that they cancel each other out.
What’s more, stuffed pages are hard to read as they leave little room for anything other than key phrases.
Nowadays Google and other search engines actively weed out keyword-stuffed pages, so stuffing will have a negative effect on your rankings.
5. Make your content shareable
At the end of last year, we found out that Facebook shares were the biggest factor in US rankings during 2012.
If that’s not incentive enough to start producing the kind of content real people want to show each other, we don’t know what is.
Naturally, Google’s preferred social site is Google+ – so getting your content +1’d will have by far the most powerful effect on ranking – but Facebook still holds the lion’s share of the social media market.
Creating great content is the best way to get shared on any platform. So what makes a page shareable?
Getting your point across quickly won’t hurt. Nor will a descriptive headline – steer clear of puns, they’re confusing – and a short, scannable introduction (standfirst). This is the copy that will be shown on Facebook when users post your link to a friend’s wall, so it needs to sell the rest of the page and work as a self-contained snippet.