[lead]”SEO is like Acupuncture and Homeopathy: it works even if you don’t know how or why.” — Tad Chef[/lead]
The Content Marketing Landscape
Thanks to the evolution of search engine algorithms and the mystery that shrouds the next big update, search engine optimization isn’t necessarily an exact science. We SEO professionals know what works and what doesn’t, typically after we, or someone we know was stung by the latest update.
Google, which is credited with over 2/3rd of U.S. search traffic gives us teases for what might be important in an upcoming algorithm update, but we’ve yet to see a checklist of sorts. The good folks at Search Engine Land, Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Journal among others are pretty good at getting a beat on the areas of impact a recent update has had, but with little admission or details confirmed by the search giant (Google) itself.
For better or for worse, this isn’t an activity where one can cheat and get ahead for the long haul, it’s a steady investment of time, energy, and resources but will reward in the end. Quick fixes such as bursts of link building and dumping a bunch of volume-priced content on your site at once are like advertising: their value often runs out once the budget dries up. What has continually performed well is good content marketing.
How Content Loses Relevance
Let’s be clear: Search engine operators are not altruistic but are in the business of making money, mostly through advertising. Their concern is the contentment of users, rewarding indexed sites with links based upon the originality, quality, and relevancy of the content they present. With that in mind, here are some “don’ts” you should pay attention to.
Duplicate content is a common culprit for low-ranking sites. In fact, more often than not, the content itself is of reasonably good quality, however is reused on multiple pages across the site. It’s confusing to search engines, and to your readers as well.
Most often it takes the form of boilerplate paragraphs speaking in generalities about a broad topic, but planted on landing pages for sub-topics, often out-weighing the original content blurb in keyword density, length, and priority on the page. Best remedy is to shorten it up to a couple sentences and link off to a page on your site dedicated to that topic to concentrate the equity as much as possible.
While it’s not a bad decision to pick up syndicated content from time to time or as “filler” or to bolster your credibility with your existing audience, just know you won’t be credited for it in search results. Generally the first domain to post the content (or first picked up/acknowledged by search indexer) will receive the most equity for the post, with dramatically diminishing returns afterward.
I’ve worked on a number of high-traffic content marketing Websites, all of which included some level of syndicated content. Only once have I seen a piece of syndicated content rise into the top 50 (organic search) landing pages for the site, and that was an extremely niche topic which our domain maintained authority status on.
Shotgun Blast Of Topics
It’s alright to use a variety of keywords, but keep it on topic. If your content marketing site jumps from horticulture to Zumba to comic books without building authority or sub-brands around each, your rankings will reflect your flighty nature. Pick a topic or suite of complimentary topics and stick to them.
How To Create Content That Ranks
What’s left is the hard work: creating quality original content. Creating compelling content can be overwhelming, but here are a few surefire steps to help you take the first few steps.
Research Your Keywords
Great, you’ve selected your topics, now how do I know what to write about to get ranked? Some great tools I’ve used in the past are Google Keyword Planner and SEMRush. Google’s tool is free, however requires a bit of set up in an Adwords account to get it right, while SEMRush is a powerful subscription-based service that does the same and much, much more.
Write To An Audience
The idea is to get ranked, right? Well, keyword stuffing is no longer a valid strategy, as search engines have wised up to the practice. Sites are rewarded for putting the customer first. Ensuring good, readable content with an appropriate content-to-code ratio to remain relevant to your target audience. Pages load faster, are happier, share your content more…all things search indexers like to see.
Format Your Content
I’ve run across a number of beautiful-looking blogs where the artistic author has chosen headlines based upon visual cues on the page rather than hierarchy or topical relevance. Remember, your screen [most likely] won’t match up with over 90% of your readers’ screens, so do them and yourself a favor and use heading tags appropriately.
Notice in this blog I use H1-H4 tags and order them hierarchically, which gives both the reader and search engines an understanding of importance and relevance from section to section.
If you’ve read this and your head is still swimming, I’m happy to help. I’ve worked with numerous clients on developing, executing, and measuring good content strategies, leading to new growth and more importantly, new revenue. I’m currently taking on new clients. If you’re looking to grow your long-term organic search traffic, please contact me by phone at (630) 635-6015 or fill out my contact form to begin the discussion and take a step toward real online growth.