Jacquelyn Giardina

There have been a lot of changes to Google search in the past few weeks, and businesses can use these insights to think about how to improve SEO.

Of course, content marketing for search optimization should be focused on the user above all. Brafton has a separate blog post exploring how content for users is key to succeeding in the post-Panda and post-Penguin Google search zoo.

But it’s worthwhile to take a look at other updates as a reminder of how Google is working to provide quality results to users. The changes should inspire reflection on your content marketing to make sure you’re working toward the same goal – a positive experience for prospects!

Here are some of the biggest updates Google announced in March and April, plus insights on what they can tell us about quality content marketing.

Smoother ranking changes for fresh results, with a focus on quality:

There were a series of updates in April that focus on helping users find the freshest results. As Brafton reported, Google also made clear that it was working to prevent low-quality content from receiving any boost due to freshness.

What does this tell us?

This search tweak builds on Google’s longstanding fresh factor algorithm and indicates that Google correlates recency with relevancy – and your online prospects likely do as well. In the past, Google Fellow Amit Singhal has said that “search results, like warm cookies right out of the oven… are best when they’re fresh. Even if you don’t specify it in your search you probably want results that are relevant and recent.”

“Search results, like warm cookies right out of the oven… are best when they’re fresh. Even if you don’t specify it in your search you probably want results that are relevant and recent.” – Google Fellow Amit Singhal

This should be a reminder to resource your content marketing campaign appropriately so you can add to your blog, news feed, article pool, infographic center, etc on a regular basis. However, the quality parameters Google outlined make clear that your content writers also have to be ready to write engaging and compelling copy – updated content that offers no interest or value won’t help your site.

Improvements in date detection for blog pages:

In March, Google updated its system to better identify the dates for blog landing pages.

What does this tell us?

Date and time stamping your content on the homepage, blog or news hub pages and individual post pages is extremely important to the freshness factor. Google is interested in how frequently you are updating your news and blog. Make it easy for Google to see how frequently you are updating your site – and in doing so, you’ll also make it easy for users to understand when content was updated. This makes your site more credible, and, as Brafton has reported, 92 percent of businesses who gain customers through their company blogs update multiple times per day.

Improvements to freshness in video universal:

Google improved the freshness of video results in its March updates.

What does this tell us?

Like the other freshness updates, this tells us the value of updated content is here to stay. It also indicates that video is a growing form of content. Just like infographics, video has the potential to go viral. Do you have videos on your site? Consider adding them to your content marketing mix. As Brafton has reported, some of the top videos on YouTube are how-to style clips that brands can adopt to explain their own products or services in-depth.

Better interpretation and use of anchor text:

This update, from March, improved the systems Google uses to interpret and use anchor text. This will help Google determine how relevant and valuable the anchor text is to a specific query.

What does this tell us?

Incorporating diverse anchor text throughout your entire site is extremely important. Make sure the anchor text you use for internal linking is relevant, unique and succinct to the specific target page – and don’t always use the same keywords as text for your links. Also, make sure you don’t have too many spammy links pointing to your site with the same anchor text (this is part of the webspam targeted by Penguin). Search Engine Land has a great post about how you can ask thin sites to remove unwanted or spammy inbound links.

More comprehensive predictions for local queries:

In April, Google announced it has improved its autocomplete functions for local queries. It’s also working harder to serve users nearby results for searches with location terms and results from their countries for all searches.

What does this tell us?

Google is getting smarter about when users want local information, and you should consider if locally targeted content might address issues that matter to your online prospects. Start thinking about how you can include local issues that are relevant to your audiences. Also, make sure you’ve covered your local SEO basics so Google will know when your site is relevant to local searchers. (Claim your Google Places listings and put your contact information on the footer of every content page.)

More spell corrections:

Google is working to improve its understanding of queries that have spelling mistakes, evidenced in its April updates. The company is working to make corrections for longtail queries longer than 10 words and aims to prevent its engine from giving bad spell suggestions (ie: Did you mean [totally not what the searcher meant]…).

What does this tell us?

For one, if you’re building content around common misspellings to catch longtail queries, stop. Google is now less likely to show your exact match but incorrectly spelled result. Plus, searchers will probably catch their own error, and they won’t think highly of a brand that spells a word wrong multiple times.

Moreover, it’s clear that Google is working to correct typing errors as a means of providing the best information to users – and so should you. It’s increasingly important to make sure you’re producing content that is edited by knowledgeable content writers. The occasional typo is bound to sneak by; that’s natural when you’re working with human writers. But you should have a system in place that helps ensure your content marketing is edited for minimal mistakes if you want to make a good impression on prospects.

Google’s search updates aren’t magic bullets to target in order to win top search rankings. But they offer insights on what characteristics Google considers quality in results, and providing quality information is the new No.1 way to achieve SEO.