I was recently struck by fact that top-ranking web pages on Google are consistently much better written than vast majority of what one reads on web.
Of course, that shouldn't be a surprise, considering how often officials at Google proclaim importance of good content. Yet traditional SEO wisdom has little to say about good writing.
Does Google, world's wealthiest media company, really ignore traditional standards of quality in publishing world? Does Google, like so many website owners, really get so caught up in process of algorithm that it misses whole point?
Most Common On-the-Page Website Content Success Features
Whatever technical mechanism, Google is doing a pretty good job of identifying websites with good content and rewarding them with high rankings.
I looked at Google's top five pages for five most searched-on keywords, as identified by WordTracker on June 27, 2005. Typically, top five pages receive an overwhelming majority of traffic delivered by Google.
The web pages that contained written content (a small but significant portion were image galleries) all shared following features:
* Updating: frequent updating of content, at least once every few weeks, and more often, once a week or more.
* Spelling and grammar: few or no errors. No page had more than three misspelled words or four grammatical errors. Note: spelling and grammar errors were identified by using Microsoft Word's check feature, and then ruling out words marked as misspellings that are either proper names or new words that are simply not in dictionary. Does Google use SpellCheck? I can already hear scoffing on other side of this computer screen. Before you dismiss idea completely, keep in mind that no one really does know what 100 factors in Google's algorithm are. But whether mechanism is SpellCheck or a better shot at link popularity thanks to great credibility, or something else entirely, results remain same.
* Paragraphs: primarily brief (1-4 sentences). Few or no long blocks of text.
* Lists: both bulleted and numbered, form a large part of text.
* Sentence length: mostly brief (10 words or fewer). Medium-length and long sentences are sprinkled throughout text rather than clumped together.
* Contextual relevance: text contains numerous terms related to keyword, as well as stem variations of keyword.
SEO Bugbears and Sacred Cows
A hard look at results shows that, practically speaking, a number of SEO bugbears and sacred cows may matter less to ranking than good content.
* PageRank. The median PageRank was 4. One page had a PageRank of 0. Of course, this might simply be yet another demonstration that little PageRank number you get in your browser window is not what Google's algo is using. But if you're one of those people who attaches an overriding value to that little number, this is food for thought.