By Chris Abraham
I met my buddy Adam Viener for breakfast the other week at the Reston, Virginia, Silver Diner. This is something we do seasonally. Adam’s an affiliate and an AdWords guru, par excellence, by profession; however, he also stays on top of organic search religiously just as part of creating content sublime enough to compel all the folks who click through from sponsored search, contextual ads, and display ads.
I asked him what he thought of Hummingbird, Google’s latest search algorithm, and he said:
“Aside from just making sure you have all of the share and +1 buttons sorted out on your sites and committing to Google Authorship, the only thing that’s left is simple: creating content that gives value to Google.”
Give Value to Google
The reason why so many companies, brands, and sites need to spend so much time and money on advertising and SEO consultants is because they’re also spending too much money on minimalist web designers who chop, cut, deforest, raze, and hilltop-remove “wordy” first and second generation website content down to simple, minimal, stock-photograph-splashed slideshow emblazoned front pages that have become so light on copy and textual content in service of being modern and of high design, that there’s nothing there for Google.
Google Needs Copy and Content More than Inbound Links
Yes, Google does care about Google Authorship; inbound links and keyword terms; the proper use of headline, bold, emphasis, italics, and bullet points to describe content; meta tags and alt tags to help describe the foundational architectural metadata of the site; share me buttons, especially Google +1; and Google Analytic script embeds. All that is mechanics, is back room, is what goes on in the boiler and utility rooms and not in the front office, the lobby, the reading room.
No matter how well lit, well appointed, well heated, and inviting your library is, it’s really not a library unless there are books to read, content to consume and comprehend, be it multimedia, textual, spoken word, visual, etc.
Google Still Believes that Books Make the Library
Google needs the content of your library much more than it ever needed your library building; unfortunately, we all spend more of our time choosing the perfect platform (WordPress, Drupal, Squarespace?), the perfect template (Responsive, HTML5, swipeable?), and the perfect plugins (AddThis, W3 Total Cache, Yoast‘s WordPress SEO?) than we do writing all the copy, storytelling, background, insight, history, biographies, case studies, origin story, and educational content that actually gives Google everything it needs to most accurately predict whether it’s your content, your site, your page on that site, that shows up first on Google for any given keyword phrase.
Form Has Smothered Function with a Pillow on Most Modern Sites
Websites have been influenced heavily by the minimalist ease-of-use offered by smartphones and tablets. While these beautiful sites shape change and reconfigure based on how you view them, they don’t help Google very much. They’re only made for the user experience: The sighted human user experience. And not optimized in any way for the robots, bots, and spiders that actually make your site more of a constant home than any human you could hope to woo.
Google Makes Passes at Girls Who Wear Glasses
Google is the consummate nerd. Google prefers brains over beauty; Google demands character above charm. While your site may well be on the bleeding edge of the user experience and work like a charm on all versions of Chrome, IE, Opera, Firefox, Android, and Apple iOS, Google doesn’t care.
Humans Care About Aesthetic Form, Google Cares About Informational Function
What Google wants to know is how the site is architected. How the series of pages under your domain name are stitched together through textual hyperlinking. How quickly your site responds and loads and what sort of traffic your server and bandwidth can bear. And after that, Google’s all about slurping down your entire site into an index on a server in a data center somewhere.
When and How Often Does Your Site Serve Hot Doughnuts?
At this point, all Google cares about is what literal keyword strings those slurped balls of text have within them and how often those balls of text need to be updated based on how often, historically, there have been changes to those pages and that copy on those pages under your domain that make up your site. The more you update your pages, the more often Google will be trained to spider your site and slurp down your latest and greatest. Google will love you even more if you “ping” Google every time you update your content using some of Google’s Webmaster tools, including Google sitemap.
Bottom Line: Add Value to Google by Adding Value to Your Site
Stop wasting all of your best words on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Twitter. Get the best of those words, language, story, happenings, culture, copy, information, hours, addresses, bios, wins, memories, origin story, hopes, dreams, aspirations, experiences, client lists, and all of the good stuff that you’re giving away to Mark Zuckerberg every day as you write all this great stuff that you’re putting onto a site you don’t own or control.
Feed your own site first, before Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and even Google+, and not just the blog you have tacked on to your proper site, but start beefing up your entire site with the sorts of things that Google finds valuable. Don’t worry, all of this stuff can be built in behind your landing page so you can have the minimalist theatrical experience when people come directly to your site from your card or your signature file.
However, Most People Will Find Your Site Through Deep Search
I know, I know, you generally want your clients to come through your front door and have the entire formal welcome experience; however, Google doesn’t think like that. Potentially, Google will pop people anywhere into your site, but always in the right place to find what they’re looking for. What’s more, if you make things easy enough for Google to truly grok, you may very well allow Siri and Google Now to interpret the content on your behalf without the visitors ever needing to actually get to your site.
Always make sure you offer contact info, address information, hours of operation, discrete pages for each and every staff member, fully-descriptive, user readable and robot readable URLs, titles, and descriptions. Write your phone numbers, contact info, and emails in a machine readable format that Google can read and understand. If you embed your address into the graphical banner at the top of your site, it’ll be invisible to Google, even if you embed that address into the alt tag.
Google Is Painfully Literate Because It Doesn’t Have Time to Think
Spell it out for Google in every way. Be sure to be clear, to label things clearly and if you’re up to the task, you might even want to explore semantic markup in the form of microdata, structured data, geotagging, and hCard microformats. These are methods, similar to RSS and Sitemaps, to create structured data that Google can better understand explicitly and not through making assumptions or looking for sometimes confusing series of alphanumeric symbols that sometimes look like names, dates, phone numbers, dates, or addresses.
Don’t Get Mired Down with High Geekiness, Just Start Adding Value to Google Today
It’s pretty simple. Don’t mess up your very expensive, cutting edge, beautifully designed entrance-way. Maybe even wrap your sofa in clear plastic if you must. However, make sure you’ve got a romper room and a library full of objects and content that Google can understand. Google’s a toddler in your home and you need to do as good a job as possible to make sure you feed Google every day. Over time, Google will grow attached and you’ll become a team. You create an educational and enriching environment, a happy home, and Google will bring home prospects, contacts, relationships, investors, supporters, donators, contributes, customers, fans, and even friends.
Value for value. That’s all Google demands.