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How Google’s Recent Changes Affect the Online Content World

There’s been a sea change in the world of search-engine optimization in the past year, thanks to Google.

In February 2011, Google changed its “Panda” search algorithm to penalize sites that focused on low-quality, poorly researched content. “Content farms” that pump out hundreds of articles each day saw a huge drop in search traffic. Mega-sites like About.com, Demand Studios’ network, and Yahoo’s Associated Content were all hugely affected.

More recently, Google launched its social network, Google+, which displays search results that friends have “liked” above organic results.

Elements such as duplicate content on multiple pages, empty content page, articles that repeat the same information, a high ad ratio, and auto-generated content are all subject to Panda penalties, according to SEOMoz. Chances are, such content won’t get a “+1” from Google+ users, either.

Both these changes mean that sites with well-researched, high quality content—such as that provided by professional content writers—are likely to gain more traction in search results. Does it also mean the end of SEO as we know it?

Not necessarily, says Rich Brooks, owner of the web marketing agency flyte new media in Portland, Maine. “While Google+ and personalized search results are part of the mix on a search engine results page, they only flavor what’s already there, and only on specific searches,” says Brooks. “For now, you still need to focus on good SEO if you want to be found on the web.”

Social media is important as well. Brooks recommends that writers should focus on building up their own social media platforms by attracting followers on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, and their personal blogs in order to become more attractive to online publishers.

“Most writers will tweet or otherwise share their stories with their audience, and even ask for comments and feedback,” he says. “That will definitely drive more traffic, and improve the social/search algorithm publishers need.”

In terms of the types of content that will rank well in today’s Google searches, there’s space for both news-driven blog posts and original long-form reporting.

“Companies like Mashable (multiple, news-worthy, short shelf-life posts) and Social Media Examiner (one longer, researched, “evergreenier” post a day) are both successful in their own right,” says Brooks.

What’s most important is creating compelling content that will attract links from authoritative, highly ranking sites. A focus on high quality work—with some attention paid to SEO keywords and social media outreach—will help your content climb to the top of the search results.

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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