Content requirements for SEO purposes have evolved just as the search algorithms have evolved. Not surprisingly, if you don’t keep up with the times, your website ranking will suffer as a result. So what has changed?

For one thing, keyword stuffing is a thing of the past and could now earn you a penalty from Google. That is not to say the keywords are no longer important. On the contrary. Each search still begins when someone enters a keyword phrase into the search box. What has changed is the way Google determines what content to return as the best match for that query. You no longer have to repeat the “exact” phrase multiple times in the content to tell Google what the page is about. But keywords alone are not enough to help your ranking. Google has gotten smarter.

For example, Google has begun to understand what searchers actually mean, or the intent of their search query, with the help of its Hummingbird algorithm update. Google is now able to understand and recognize synonyms and close variants of words and phrases. In fact, the company’s own research indicates that synonyms affect 70% of searches.

In his recent post on Moz.com, Cyrus Shepard looks at on-page optimization and offers the following example of how synonyms work. The query “dog pics”, can mean the same thing as:

  • Dog photos
  • Pictures of dogs
  • Dog pictures
  • Canine photos
  • Dog photographs

However, the query “dog motion picture” means something else entirely and it is important for the search engines to know the difference.

What this means is we can now write more natural content that is suited for human consumption. This creates a much better user experience and allows companies to create more meaningful content.

Shepard goes on to offer several tips for better on-page optimization and SEO. He suggests that when you are planning and writing your content, you want to think about what the user is asking and then try and answer as many questions as you can. To gain a top ranking for any search query requires that search engine believes your content answers the question best. “As you structure your content around topics and themes, make sure you deserve the top ranking by answering the questions and offering a user experience better than the competition,” Shepard said.