Stop Writing for Google’s Approval. It Will Make Your Blog Stronger.
“Write like Google isn’t watching, because most of the time… it isn’t.”
Writing for Google's approval is like feeding a slot machine.
Instead of adding tokens, you publish “helpful” content. In time, your posts will inch up the search rankings, until one day, you hit the top-spot jackpot.
This is the conventional advice bloggers receive from SEO agencies.
Behold the outcome...
Google’s first page is saturated with shallow information. Top results for any long-tail keyword are slight variations of single ideas. Listicles… how to’s… “ultimate guides.”
Clearly, page one of Google is not the free-flowing, information highway we imagined in 1999. More like an arial shot of the FDR Drive at 4pm in 2019.
Clogged. Redundant. Uninspiring.
Fortunately, even as Google’s primacy in search grows, you can reduce your blog’s dependence on them. Google is not a slot machine or a benevolent king.
It’s time to stop thinking of them as such.
Google for Content Selection
A popular method for generating blog post ideas is to run a keyword search in Google. If the keyword returns sufficient inquiries, voila, you’re on to something.
The next step, according to best practice, is to compare the top results for that keyword. Find out what they have in common.
Look for an information gap that you could fill. The goal is to redirect a portion of the search traffic to your blog. Issue a content brief.
This method works well for some blogs. News and entertainment, for example. Or blogs that require heavy traffic to drive ad revenue.
But for blogs that support intricate products and services, this method is disruptive.
Using it swaps good content ideas (formed from deep expertise) for the same ol’ same ol’.
Look, Google’s priorities are not yours. They want everyone using their search engine to find… well, everything.
If a search takes one, two, or thirteen tries, so be it. As long as the visitor stays with Google, they win.
You, however, want specific people visiting your blog. People who might become clients and customers, even employees.
These people aren’t the undifferentiated masses. They’re better. More selective. Focused, not distracted. They read and listen to voices like yours. Heck, they actually might your FAQ page!
So, it only makes sense that you, not Google bots, decide what to publish on your blog.
The posts that directly or tangentially lead to sales communicate your expertise, your qualifications, your accomplishments. framed, of course, from the customer’s vantage point.
If you need further convincing, here are three reasons to ignore Google’s role in your blog’s success:
#1 Writing for Google's top ranking is $$$ expensive.
It used to be that if you made it to the first page of Google, you had won the search lottery. That was a long, long time ago. Nowadays, you need to be in the top three, four, or five results to get major clicks.
This was probably inevitable. Search inquires on Google generate thousands, millions, and even billions of results.
Above-the-fold space is reserved for ads. Google’s near-endless scrolling means that more results show up on each page. Studies consistently show a steep drop off in clicks after the top three searches.
The bottom-half of Google’s page one is what page three was in 2006.
Making it to the top of Google is expensive. You have to do the technical work (meta tags, title). You have to add the rich snippets (pictures, reviews, pricing). You have to generate the inbound links, which means extensive outreach.
Then you have to… wait. Search is a long game—it takes months to move up the rankings. But time is still money.
Sometimes a blog post will make it to the top rank by fluke. Even still, this feat doesn’t always contribute to profits.
I saw this with a client who sold kid’s slime. Their DIY article was published years before slime mania. They had preempted all the copycat articles that would follow, holding the top ranking till recently.
But conversions from the article were less than .1% of traffic. Why? Slime was not representative of their product catalog.
It was a gag gift among pricey laboratory equipment.
#2 Google intervenes in search.
Google, today, is not a neutral platform. Maybe it never was.
It favors those it likes and downgrades, deindexes those it doesn’t.
This fact shouldn't make you nervous. It is what it is.
Google’s meddling is also selective. It targets popular blogs. If few people visit your blog, it’s probably safe.
Of course, an unpopular blog doesn’t sound like a viable long-term strategy. But a successful blog only need be popular with the right people.
Quality, not quantity, of traffic is the mark of every profitable blog.
As the kid’s slime example shows, ranking high on Google because of poor-fit visitors blurs reality. It’s fool’s gold.
The flood of traffic will keep you from narrowing the focus. You're better off building a deep, penetrating blog with few topics that may repel the masses, but attract real, potential customers.
Eventually, as a steady flow of quality visitors keep returning to your blog, posts will rise in the search rankings.
This is when Google might intervene if they don’t like your viewpoint. What’s great, though, is that if you’re building a real audience as a go-to expert, nobody—not even Google—can shut you down.
Your readers will find you, even if it takes more effort to do it.
Which leads to the third point.
#3 Google cannot advocate for you
A blog, and its many posts, lives by promotion. Growing a blog depends entirely on what you do after pressing “publish.”
Beyond search, Google cannot—will not--provide any advantage to you.
That leaves the job of getting publicity for the blog in your hands. It's why building an email list is crucial. The people on your list will be the ones who read your posts.
The same is true for building a phone list. Text messaging can be an effective way to notify readers about new posts.
Other, non-Google, ways to publicize your posts include pushing them aggregation sites, social sites, newswires, and paid advertising.
You can also use blog posts offline. They’re great anchors for hardcopy newsletters, fundraising letters, annual reports, and advertorials.
Interestingly, if you own a business, Google’s probably sent you coupons for PPC advertising in the mail—postal mail.
If old fashioned mail is important to Google, it’s worth considering how it might fit into promoting your blog.
Writing for Google's Approval Keeps Your Blog Fragile
Building a stronger and more profitable blog is not about chasing content trends. Rather, it’s about focusing on your best customers.
Do that and, like magic, the pool of potential customers grows. Google should not be setting the terms for blog’s content.
To satisfy Google’s technical demands, you can use a simple optimization tool before publishing.
The content creation template popularized by SEO agencies is deeply flawed. For most business blogs, a Google keyword search should supplement, not dominate, the content creation process.
To satisfy the giant’s technical demands, you only need a simple optimization tool, nothing more.
It’s always better to better to cover fewer topics, deeply, than to provide a shallow treatment of lots of topics. Slice the onion thin, as they used to say in journalism.
This is what allows you to explore topics from every vantage point. When posts work together and overlap, your blog becomes a one-stop shop for prized information. Google will notice and reward you with high ranking.
Unless, as mentioned above, you offend their sensibilities.
Also contrary to SEO agencies, you probably don’t need to keep breathless tabs on what your competitors are publishing. In fact, buy zigging when they’re zagging, you become more authoritative.
Everyone wants authority. That’s the essence of thought leadership, one of the top reasons businesses maintain blogs. But too often, “leadership” posts are conjured up quickly, by agencies and individuals taking their cues from whatever’s ranking high on Google.
It’s surprising how many experts restrict themselves to done-to-death topics because they're writing for Google's approval.
You can do better. Your blog can go deeper into the subjects that matter to your customers.
Write like Google isn’t watching. Because most of the time, they’re not.