You must have seen a whole lot of search engine updates in the past few years. We have seen Google Panda, Google Penguin, and now the Google Hummingbird update. Moreover, every now and then a minor algorithm update or new ranking factors come into play.
Because search engines are constantly evolving into something bigger. And they are not very far away from providing genuinely useful and contextual search results. It seems like we are almost there.
As search engines are getting smarter and more intelligent, their focus is also shifting significantly from mere keywords. Don’t get me wrong. Keyword optimization is still very important. However, at the same time, the value your readers get from your content is finding more attention and importance.
This is why “content accessibility” is something that most bloggers, business owners, and digital marketers should pay more attention to. In this post, I am going to discuss more about it.
For now, let’s start with the basics …
What Do We Mean by Content Accessibility?
We focus a lot on creating great and compelling content, but that’s only one part of the spectrum.
The real question should be, “Do your readers find that content useful, valuable and easy-to-understand?”
Whether you want to believe it or not, this is fast becoming a very important search engine ranking factor. Unfortunately, not many bloggers or digital marketers are paying enough attention to it.
The term “content accessibility” means that you should be creating content that pleases your readers. Furthermore, that content should be interesting, compelling, attention-grabbing, and very easy-to-understand.
If you fulfill these requirements, you are only going to rank higher and higher as search engines become smarter.
This, I believe, is going to be a very important aspect of future search engine optimization (SEO).
The Approach & The Consequences
Your approach should be simple.
Create content that your readers find valuable.
When users search something on Google, they are mostly looking for a solution. If they find your content unsatisfying, they are not going to like it. Google will take notice of this behavior, and if too many search engine users interact the same way with your content, Google is eventually going to demote your website in the search engine rankings.
On the other hand, if they find your content as per their expectations and requirements, Google will notice that, too. As a result, Google will promote your website higher in the search engine rankings, so more and more users can find the solution you’re providing for a specific query.
It is as simple as that.
However, there are a few more complicated concepts that you need to understand and to make your content more accessible and satisfying for search engine users.
The ‘Pogo Sticking’ Concept
Are you aware of the pogo sticking concept in search engine optimization?
You may or may not have heard about it, but be sure that it is going to have a lot more impact on search engine rankings in the near future.
Google has been mostly tight-lipped about this search engine ranking factor, but we believe it all comes down to user engagement. And this is why the “pogo sticking” concept is so important.
If you don’t know what ‘pogo sticking’ is, here is a simple explanation.
“When a search engine user clicks on a link, instantly quits the page, clicks on another link, quits it, too, and keeps jumping in and out of search engine results because she can’t find the information and answers she’s looking for, this phenomenon is known as ‘pogo sticking’.”
Here is an image that describes it further.
The idea is to make sure that your website and its contents are not involved in pogo sticking. In this way, you can increase the accessibility, readability, and search engine rankings of your website.
In other words, when you get visitors from search engines, it should be your goal that they don’t jump off it right away.
Here are a few tips that will help you create contents that reduce the chances of pogo sticking.
As you must know, those 300-word blog posts don’t work anymore.
Search engines, as well as human readers, want more in-depth and comprehensive blog posts with all the information in one place. However, when you write 3000-word blog posts, they can be a bit hard for users to navigate and read.
If your long-form posts become too intimidating and overwhelming, users may quit it. This will send Google a bad signal, and you don’t want that.
One solution is to create a table of content at the start of your blog post, so users can easily navigate it. Moreover, having a table of content also allows the visitors to find the exact information they need.
Wikipedia always has a table of content (TOC) for their articles. This is what it usually looks like.
On the other hand, you can even customize the table of contents to make them look more attractive, e.g., like the following image-based TOC.
The design depends on your creativity, vision, and overall website design. However, its purpose remains the same, i.e., to provide better navigation and accessibility and to reduce the bounce rate.
If you are using WordPress as your content management system (CMS), try the following plugin for creating great tables of content.
A research indicates that the average readers only show 20-28% of the total content. Most online users just prefer skimming.
This is why it is important to make your content more skimmable to appeal to those groups of your target audience.
One great tip to make your content more skimmable and user-friendly is to create descriptive sub-headings. If the sub-headings clearly indicate what the following paragraphs explain, search users would skim the rest of the content and jump to that particular sub-heading to find exactly what they want.
Another tip is to properly use the H2 and H3 heading tags. These tags not only differentiate the content for readers, but they also do it for the search engines — making your content more SEO-friendly.
A search engine, such as Google, pulls out the top 10 web pages for its search engine results page. It is then up to the user to click on one or some of them.
How do you think a search engine user selects one link and ignore another?
There are two major aspects that affect the selection:
The title/heading of the post
The meta description
This is what I’m talking about.
Ideally, the title and meta description of your blog post should be very compelling, interesting and highly targeted for your audience.
More importantly, if there is a clear promise in the title and meta description, there is a higher chance that the reader will read all the information and not quit the page midway.
When making your content more accessible, it is important not to be too late in offering the most important piece of information to your readers.
If you wait for too long, your readers may jump off the page. On the other hand, if you give it too soon, the results will be the same. You have to find the right balance.
For this purpose, a great tip is to use a heatmap service that allows you to see how the search engine visitors are interacting with your content.
You can use the following two services:
Also, try to minimize the distractions as much as possible. If the content isn’t exactly readable with too many distractions, it may lead to pogo sticking, which is never good.
It is a common misconception that valuable content only means adding lots of information, images, interactive elements, and pretty fonts.
While all that does help, the ultimate value is determined only by the readers of that content. First of all, make sure the information you put in is of extremely high value to your target audience. It should provide actionable tips and solutions for their problems.
Apart from that, use the tips I mentioned above in this post to make sure that the search engine visitors find your content accessible, valuable, informative, and easy-to-read.