The Truth Behind Google’s Secret Content Sauce

13 Sep The Truth Behind Google’s Secret Content Sauce

Like hunting for the Colonel’s secret recipe (hint: it includes black pepper), marketers have long sought to identify the algorithms that Google uses to determine its rankings. For years, search engine marketing experts have followed the ever-changing guidelines, rules, and updates that Google has issued in the hopes of getting their content listed on page 1.

But it’s really not that difficult. Google is pretty upfront about what they’re looking for. And by spotting certain trends, you can gain a pretty good idea of the type of content that tends to do well on Google.

Here are four big content trends that Google appears to be favoring right now.

Pages with more than 1,900 words

It’s no secret that Google likes a lot of written text. Keywords drive searches and serve as the basis for web copy. That copy gives Google’s “spiders” something to crawl and analyze; the more text there is to crawl, the better a page tends to do.

Check out this chart from

As you can see, pages with more than 1,800 words tend to rank higher. Indeed, the sweet spot appears to be around 1,900 – 2,000 words. As such, for better SEO rankings, the lesson remains the same as the one I wrote about back in June: longer content is where it’s at.

Interesting and useful content that includes variations of search terms

It’s not just about volume, however; quality is just as important, if not more so. Per Google, “Organic or word of mouth buzz helps build your site’s reputation with both users and Google, and it rarely comes without quality content.” The idea is the better your content, the greater the chance that other sites will link back to your pages. Google places a high premium on the number of “quality backlinks” (i.e., links that appear on sites that Google deems to be reliable purveyors of high quality content) that direct users from other websites back to yours.

Marketers should take care to write their interesting and useful website content in different ways to attract a variety of visitors. It’s helpful to anticipate differences in users’ search patterns and behaviors by using a variety of search terms that essentially mean the same thing. For example, someone searching for “FIFA” and “football” might be looking for the same type of results, but are using different terms to get there. Use a good mix of phrases and keywords that your potential readers might use to find your content.

Well organized and easy to read content

No one wants to read something that’s difficult to follow or understand, and Google tends to look askance at sites with sloppy writing. Just like with the blog posts or articles you write, your topics should be organized clearly. You may want to consider using subheads (preferably with keyword terms) to delineate different ideas or concepts, which can make it easier for readers to follow your train of thought. Obviously, grammar mistakes should be avoided.

To that last point, some marketers used to intentionally misspell words on their pages in the hopes of attracting visitors who may mistakenly misspell those same words in their Google searches. Don’t do it. Aside from looking unprofessional, Google caught onto this tactic a long time ago, and took to penalizing sites that tried to get away with it. Just focus on making sure your copy is as clean and well organized as possible.

Content written for readers — not Google

Despite all of this advice, perhaps the best tip for getting your site noticed on Google is to pretend you’re not writing for Google at all. Write for your customers, your employees, your partners — basically, write for people. Yes, keep your site visible to Google and other search engines by adding a site map, a logical hierarchy, and URLs that contain keywords. But if you focus on simply writing good content that resonates with human beings, there’s a very good chance your site will do well on Google.

Of course, there are certain things you should never do to try and get a better ranking on Google. No hidden text, for example, or duplicate text across different pages of your site. Those “black hat” tactics do not add value to readers, and could even get your site banned from Google results pages.

For the most part, though, Google’s content guidelines are fairly straightforward, and doing well on the site isn’t rocket science. Heck, it’s not even trying to figure out what’s really inside a can of Coca Cola. It’s just good marketing — and good writing.



photo credit: Majiscup Paper Cup Museum 紙コップ淡々記録 <a href=”″>Kentucky Fried Chicken Japan Coca Cola</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>(license)</a>

Pete Larmey
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