By Jordan Kasteler, Senior SEO Manager at Red Door Interactive
Anyone who has been involved with SEO, even for a few short years, has likely seen a lot of change.
While an emphasis on creating, publishing and promoting "high-quality" content has remained consistent, marketers are increasingly responsible for ensuring their content performs well in the broader digital landscape. Here are 11 SEO-focused tips to get you started:
The days of researching keywords and integrating them multiple times into titles, headlines, copy and descriptions are gone. Instead, it's more about grouping keywords into buckets of "intent" to understand what the user is trying to do. Do the researched keywords have navigational, transactional or informational intent? What questions are people asking and does the preferred landing page answer those questions? Who is ranking for those keywords and why?
If the content is not fulfilling the searcher's needs, engagement will suffer. And if engagement suffers, the results will too. It's important to optimize for results like bounce rate, interaction time and more. Conversions will likely increase from such efforts, which will satisfy bosses and clients.
While intent is the main focus, keywords still play an important role in titles, headlines and descriptions. More importantly, keywords should drive action. Action-oriented copy will ensure searchers understand the benefits and ultimately convert. Ranking in search results is only the first step; getting people to click is the second (and they both work together).
A content item's purpose needs to be identified and aligned with goals from the onset.
Is the content branded or editorial? Is it informational or transactional? Mapping where planned content falls in a consumer journey is important in making sure the content is aligned with goals and speaks to the right audience at the right time. Speaking of audience, ensuring the content matches the needs of a cohort segment or buyer persona is part of the process as well.
Those that have read Google's Quality Ratings Guidelines, a manual for the human vetting of search results, may recall the acronym EAT (Expertise, Authority and Trust). It's crucial to confirm that a brand, site and content are always abiding by these important factors. Other areas include variables related to quality, quantity, online reputation, design and technical site issues. These are the elements that must be considered when judging the quality of a site and assigning qualitative scoring. Make sure your website (and its content) is in compliance with Website Magazine's "Quick Guide to Content Quality" at wsm.co/qgcontent.
Continuing on the path of Google's guidelines, marketers must consider the role of design and layout. People judge the credibility, expertise and authority of content and a site's appearance as much as they do the quality and experience of it. Having a solid presentation increases engagement, links and social shares, in addition to establishing a baseline of trust.
SEOs should pay attention to fonts, headlines, spacing, colors, consistency, and borders and boxes. Most importantly, however, they must ask themselves how that content is perceived and viewed on different devices. Ensuring content is portable is a key step.
Almost nobody prefers to read digital content in a solid essay format. Micro-content is "digestible" information placed throughout an article, such as pull quotes or small infographics, which helps readers visualize the main points. Content and images that are grouped in such a way are highly shareable and appealing to those readers that may only want to share certain segments.
Those creating content should consider using statistics or quotes to reinforce the message, remember to convey emotion and use a variety of visual elements, including slideshows and infographics.
Learn more about Cohort Analysis and other ways to match content with audience needs at wsm.co/cohort15 7. Copy & Depth
There is an indirect correlation with how long copy is and how well it ranks. The longer the copy (e.g. up to 2,000-3,000 words), the more likely people are going to appreciate its comprehensiveness and the hard work that went into it. In turn, people are more likely to share or link to it. However, this is not a hard, fast rule. For example, news commentary or celebrity gossip is more likely to be "short and sweet" while tech-related conceptual pieces have a tendency to be more in-depth.
Regardless of length, writers should divide their content into shorter sections to essentially trick readers' brains into thinking content is easy to read. Since most readers won't make it to the end of the page, leveraging the inverted pyramid approach - where the most important information is at the top and the least important at the bottom - proves very useful for today's Web writers (and has long been used by traditional journalists).
Creating a content masterpiece is only half the job. Getting eyeballs on the content is the next step. Researching and then reaching out to influencers who will appreciate the content is a key step to getting links and social shares. With organic visibility becoming rarer on social media, paid social is a viable option of digital promotion. Blurring the lines by using paid social to get earned media (by getting in front of the right influencers) is a powerful strategy.
With all the emphasis on social media these days, it is important that brands don't forget about paid search. If brands work hard to promote content on social media, they need to make sure they are capturing those users long-term by leveraging remarketing to bring them back to sign up for their newsletter or subscribe to a social channel. However, this depends greatly on the marketing funnel. It may make more sense for ad creative to try to move the user to the next stage.
Understanding how content is actually working is a key method of getting executive buy-in, budget and more. While achieving a high number of page views, social shares and links are all leading indicators of success, it's important to determine if the content is contributing to brand lift, conversions, audience engagement, longevity, reader return and visitor loyalty.
Discovered that the content was a success? Don't stop there. SEOs should repurpose the content in various formats to reach even more audiences. For instance, slideshows, podcasts, infographics, video, webinars and white papers are all good options to make a text-based article even more impactful and pervasive. This can certainly be part of the content development stage if the resources are available.
There's no silver bullet and no perfect formula for content development. Every brand, site and audience is different. It's important to emphasize research, make a long-term plan and test everything for optimal success.