How to deliver content that Google (and your prospects) love
Newsflash: Writing great content is NOT enough in the world of search engine optimization (SEO).
Wait. Pump the brakes!
Have we not been told forever to raise our right hands and proudly swear to produce great content and the rest would follow?
In the good ol’ days, marketers could develop a thoughtful editorial calendar, produce topical blogs and promote an e-book that solved prospects’ pain points and consider it a job well done. Case closed.
But SEO has changed the content marketing landscape. If you want the right people to find your content at the right time, implementing SEO best practices is a must.
What do internet marketers need to know about SEO?
Rand Fishkin, founder and former CEO at Moz, claims the advice to produce great content alone is not enough.
I think that is meaningless, useless, non-actionable and incorrect advice. Lots of people can go out and create what they consider — or what many people would consider — great content, and no one will see it and no one will amplify it and it won’t rank in search engines. And [then] their boss will tell them, ‘You know what? This content marketing thing is a pile of crap. Give up.’”
In the world of SEO, your content must work harder to garner high search results. Search engines are the ultimate gatekeepers. If you want your target audience to see the fabulous content your company is churning out, you have to optimize for SEO. This includes utilizing SEO tools.
Read on for tips you can incorporate ASAP to increase your content’s SEO-savviness.
Helpful, educational content is still key
Fishkin may disagree, but optimizing for SEO still requires content that is helpful and addresses specific pain points for your audience. There are plenty of fish in the sea — a lot of content to muddle through.
How does your content educate your audience and help them solve problems and overcome their challenges?
“Great content” is still imperative. And it’s a factor for SEO, too.
While your business’ endgame is to provide (and promote) complex services to clients, it’s not Google’s. Google is in the business of providing the best content to its customer—the user. Google doesn’t care if you spent all night crafting a blog post designed to teach your customers why your service is best. It cares about providing your target audience with the right content when these searchers are asking for it.
If you aren’t using SEO best practices, Google will never know your content is worthy of not only its time, but your prospects’.
To appease Google — and therefore reach your audience — you have to talk the talk. Understand how your audience is using search engines to look for information, and then craft your content accordingly.
Talk the talk by using keywords that speak to your audience
No matter the nature of your business, you have to understand your industry and the keywords your audience is using.
Specifically, you need to know what keywords/ phrases people use when they are trying to solve a problem that you have the solution for.
For example, when writing this post, I used Google AdWords to discover how people are searching for content marketing and SEO. The top results were:
[source: Google AdWords]
These were not phrases I would have organically thought to use. But, SEO isn’t a gut feeling. Knowing that people interested in content marketing and SEO are using these terms allowed me to (hopefully) bring my content to them by using keywords that they would use to search.
I’m talking the talk.
However (and luckily) search is smart. Google’s Hummingbird update can recognize synonyms, giving it a better understanding into what searchers are looking for. This gives marketers more flexibility, but knowing the actual words your prospects are using helps target your content and better answer specific pain points.
For example, recently the Reputation Ink team discovered that, if a client changed a single word on a landing page, they would be five times more likely to reach target prospects.
Think of the traffic your website attracts. Now imagine the possibility of increasing traffic by 500 percent with the change of a single word. Impressive, huh?
3 questions to answer to optimize your content for search
Be mindful of how and why customers are searching for you as you develop content. Google will appreciate the effort and reward you accordingly. Seek to answer the questions below and modify your approach—and content.
What language is your audience using to search for information? With B2B businesses, the language can quickly become jargon-y and complex. Do your clients use technical or layman’s terms? Use whatever terms your audience is.
When do they search for your business and services? Do your target customers need you more during specific times of the year? Do they search for specific solutions seasonally? Optimize your editorial calendar based on these upticks.
What means are they using to search for this information? Are your customers on the move and accessing you from mobile? Desktop? Remember that Mobilegeddon is real. No need to panic or stock up on emergency pinot noir. It’s not the end of your content as you know it. Mobilegeddon sends mobile-responsive content higher up on search because it knows that’s how people are increasingly accessing sites. Ensure you use subheads and lists within posts to make your content easy to read on mobile, as well.
3 SEO don’ts
All of this may seem like a lot of pressure, but you can produce content that gets to the right people at the right time. Just be strategic, and SEO will ensure you’re showing your content to your audience when they search for you. Keep the below in mind, too:
Don’t skimp on the headline. The English language has more than a million words alone. Think about the internet. How can yours stick out? Spend just as much drafting a headline as developing the content itself. Yeah — it’s that important. It is the first impression that will encourage searchers to click and stick around — or just keep scrolling.
Don’t bait your audience. Don’t promise searchers, “5 Ways to Make More Money Today” and then dive into your sales pitch. *groan* Searchers will quickly realize that your content is not what they originally thought it was, and they will bounce. Literally. Google calls this “pogo-sticking” — when searchers jump onto your page and then quickly jump off because your content doesn’t pertain to them. When this happens, it hurts how your content performs on search engines. Google’s a good friend; it doesn’t like it when it thinks your content is trying to be sneaky and dishonest. No clickbait.
Don’t forget about quality. Google sends spiders out into the inter-webs (get it?) as its judging panel for content. Spiders are little spies that visit sites to determine what deserves to be come up first on a search page based on what the searcher is trying to find. When spiders determine that content is trustworthy and applicable to searches, it will bring your piece to the top. If not, you are doomed to third-page results … or worse.
Focus on the behind-the-scenes with code, tagging
Ensure you commit to SEO best practices with every element of your content, including the parts your audience can’t see.
Meta tags won’t be found on the page where your content lives, but are written into the HTML code and (spoiler alert!) begin with “meta.” Write your meta tags as short passages filled relevant keywords. These tags let search engines know what a web page is about, and label your post when it is shared on social.
You can optimize older content today — right now! — by going back and adding meta tags.
Because meta tags work behind the scenes, sometimes they are an afterthought. But, in the world of SEO optimization, no step is insignificant in giving your content the attention it deserves.
You can also optimize content for SEO by focusing on URLs, image alt tags and topic tags. Check out this comprehensive blog post from HubSpot to learn more about how to optimize the backend of your content for SEO.
Be S-M-A-R-T with your content by focusing on S-E-O
Stephanie Chang, Etsy’s Acquisition Marketing Manager, agrees with Fishkin. “Writing great content isn’t enough. You have to make sure it’s optimized for search engines.”
SEO is smart. It aims to provide its customers— searchers — with the information they are trying to find. This means, as marketers, we also have to be be smart with our content.
Consider the elements SEO prioritizes and prioritize them in your own content so your customers can find ya when they need ya.
How do you optimize your content for search? I wanna know! Comment below to humblebrag on your SEO-savviness.