A once popular technique of the web design trade was to pad out websites with content. The worth and quality of content was relatively unimportant and webmasters could instead focus on using specific keywords to enjoy boosted search rankings.
However, in February 2011, Google’s Panda algorithm changed everything. Google was specifically targeting thin sites that were devoid of content and bloated with advertising. The change affected nearly 12 percent of search results, and many webmasters and businesses saw their websites plummet in the rankings. Google still continues to refine its search algorithms in an effort to return high quality content to the top of search rankings.
In April 2012, Google’s latest update, Penguin, targeted websites that used methods like keyword stuffing, duplicate content and link schemes to boost their search presence. Effective and worthy content is now more important than ever, and webmasters and businesses have been forced to realize the intrinsic nature of content and web design.
1. Focus On Users, Not Search Engines
One of Google’s own tips for creating a high quality website is to make pages for users and not for search engines. The content strategy and design of a website should always follow this simple principle. Information should be rich, interesting and relevant, and users should be able easily read pages as well as intuitively navigate the website to find more content. Many businesses and web developers are still focusing on designing websites for Google trawlers, rather than actual users.
A well-designed website that is rich in substantial and relevant content is more likely to be shared, linked to and regularly visited (and, ultimately, become higher in the search rankings) than a website that is still putting search engines first.
2. Update Content Regularly With A CMS
Maintaining content is vital for a successful and effective content strategy. Not only does all content have to be accurate, but it needs to be regularly updated to encourage return visits and spark interest. Using a content management system is an effective and efficient way to regularly update the content of a website. With a CMS, employees can update the website even if they don’t know how to code in HTML or CSS. CMSs have simple to use interfaces that make updating content as easy as typing in word processor software. With such a small learning curve requiring little technical knowledge, writers and contributors do not need to pass every piece of content onto their webmaster for them to publish it. Most importantly, each update will complement the design of the rest of the website. All posts or articles will be published in the same template and formatting, so all content is consistent with design.
3. Don’t Let Social Media Dominate The Design
Social media has increasingly become entwined with successful content strategy. Sharing articles or posts via Facebook pages and Twitter accounts can be an excellent way to encourage users to subscribe to a website’s updates. They can boost web traffic without having to rely on user’s repeat visits. However, while it can be tempting to have a page for every social network, many websites forget that it can be a huge undertaking. Not only does each social network page need regularly updating and maintaining, but they can also threaten to dominate and undermine the design of the website.
Social sharing icons on every webpage that prompt users to share across a whole range of different networks can lead to an ugly and cluttered interface. It can completely overwhelm users, and detract from the content. Also, some social networks are completely inappropriate for some businesses. LinkedIn and Google+ can be suitable for a professional consultancy agency, for example, but such a business would not need a Pinterest or Tumblr account. Having too many social networks can seem unprofessional and make it seem like a business cannot identify and communicate with their intended audience.
Social networks can be an effective part of content strategy and design, but they need be seamlessly integrated into websites without devaluing the importance, and effectiveness, of the design and content.
Andrea lives and works in London. She designed websites for over 5 years and now works for Webeden’s free website builder service teaching users how to build their own website, be it for a school project or their business.