Does Google Want You to Choose a Niche?
So, Google has made things very interesting for content creators — and it makes establishing yourself as an expert in a niche more tempting than ever.
I’ll explain, but first, here's a little background …
Let me introduce you to Google's Quality Rater Guidelines. This 164-page, action-packed guide (OK, not really — but it is interesting in a geeky kind of way) deep-dives into what defines high- and low-quality pages. For instance, pages with "demonstrably inaccurate content" are considered "lowest" quality pages.
As it should be.
Before, the Quality Rater Guidelines focused on your site as a whole. For instance:
- Does the site have a good reputation?
- Is the content accurate, and is there a "satisfying" amount of content?
- Does the site demonstrate E-A-T (expertise, authority and trustworthiness)?
Here's where things get interesting …
Last year, Google added "creator reputation" to their guidelines.
What that means is Google is taking an interest in who wrote the article and whether or not they have the knowledge and expertise to be an authority.
This is especially important for what Google calls "your money or your life" (YMYL) sites where accurate information is crucial — specifically, financial, medical and legal. In fact, Google has told its Quality Raters to rate a page as "lowest quality" if there's no information about the content creator.
The "lowest quality" rating also kicks in if the content creator has a "negative reputation." (Yes, Google is watching you!)
Now, what does all this mean to you as a web writer? Three things:
First, consider specializing in one or two industries, so you build your authority.
You don't have to specialize in one niche forever. (I think I've had seven "specializations" over the years.) However, being the go-to authority on a given topic allows you the freedom to write for more high-quality publications — and even get paid for it.
If you've been on the fence about focusing on one or two topics, now is the time to make the leap and do it. Heck, you could leverage your hobby blog (yes, that would be considered a specialization) into paying gigs and Google authority — how cool is that?
Second, publishers are now incentivized to give you longer, better bios.
Have you ever had to fight over getting a byline or having a tiny bit of author information included in your article? Yeah, me too. Now, with Google's new "creator reputation" guideline, publishers will want to promote their writers' expertise front and center. This means linking to your social media profiles, your site, and possibly past articles you've written on the topic.
As a warning …
Some publishers may not know about Google's new change. You may have to tell them Google is looking for author information now, so including your bio is a smart idea. Expect some transition time … just forward them this article, if you get any kickback.
And third, if you create crap — and you're known for crap content — people won't want you to write for them.
Why? Because your negative reputation will stink up their site.
Don't get a "negative" reputation on Google, m'kay? Easy. Write good stuff. You'll be fine.
Want to learn more? Here's a great write-up of the topic from Search Engine Journal.
I have to close with one caveat …
When it comes to how you run your business, you've got to do you.
If you love taking on work from wildly diverse clients, and you think a niche would tie you down — don't niche. You won't be penalized for not having a niche.
And, it's okay to hold off on a niche, if you just started your web-writing career and you have no idea what you like to write about. This stuff takes time. Enjoy experimenting. You don't have to marry the first niche you date.
Or, if you need cash in the door, and you need profits over being picky, then — by all means, take what comes your way. You can focus on a niche later.
BUT … if a niche makes sense to you … and, if you have the freedom to make it happen … why not give it a go? If not now, then when?
What do you think?
Are you excited to niche? Or still on the fence? Are you thinking it's about time Google looked at creator reputation? (Yeah, me too.) Leave a comment and let me know what's on your mind.
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