In an ever-evolving search landscape, dominated by Google, SEO success rests on pursuing a content-centric approach. Sure, most will agree that non-content approaches/bad links still work, but for how long? Is it right to pursue a strategy that is unlikely to deliver future success or, even worse, have a negative impact on the good work you have done? Kirsty Hulse, Head of SEO at Found believes that bad links will not yield long-term results and earning authority naturally through creating better content must be embraced.
Primarily, content is the avenue in which you can guarantee your websites are responding to user’s queries and ensuring that search engines know which keywords and phrases your website should rank for. However, relevant content is only half of the story, it’s also the essential mechanism for being authoritative. For years we’ve been talking about content marketing and link earning; the idea that through creating exciting and engaging content, links will be earned, naturally, through an audience’s natural propensity to share. This is incredibly difficult; it’s expensive, resource-heavy and inconsistent. More often than not we invest in content; be it a large scale video campaign or a couple of blog posts, and are left thinking “I’ve built the content. Why haven’t I got any links?”
The fact of the matter is, if we’re trying to earn links, we need to do more than just create content. Creating the content is the last piece of the puzzle. In advance of making an investment into content we need to mitigate the risk of it failing. Essentially, we need to create content that truly reaches and engages all target audiences as much as it ticks the Google box of good content.
Top tips for gaining Google love
Write for people, not for search engines
This cannot be said enough. Write for your audience, for those who will want to read the content, and not simply for the search engine that will crawl it.
Know your audiences
Understanding who your audiences are will inevitably mean you can create content specifically tailored to them. Who are they? What do they like? How do they behave online?
Finding audience demographics is easy. Google Analytics Demographic & Interest reports gives age, gender, location and the top-level interests of the people using your site. Free tools like Similar Web are also great for providing a high level of understanding of the demographics of your online audience.
Humanise your audience
Just knowing the age and location of your audience isn’t enough to create content that is really meaningful for them, what we really need to try and understand is who they are as people. There are tools available that comprehensively collect audience data; for example TGI, Forrester and ComScore are all enterprise tools that can provide hugely valuable insight into your audiences’ motivations, emotions and consumer behaviour.
It’s crucial to recognise that demographics and online personas are often different things. For example, the demographic of a B2B telecoms company might be affluent business professionals who have an interest in low cost business broadband. However, they may also play golf at the weekend, share photos of their children in fancy dress and have a keen interest in vegan baking.
The best way to really tap into the core of your audiences’ online behaviour and understand how they portray themselves online is to understand how they engage on social platforms. Facebook Graph Search* can be hugely powerful for this; it allows you to understand what influences those who have liked your page, what other pages they’ve liked and to identify differences between yours and competitor audiences. Understanding the most popular TV shows, celebrities, events, locations, music etc. of your social audiences gives us a data set that allows us to build audience personas and create content they your audiences are much more likely to like.
*Top Tip: You can access Graph Search from the UK despite it not being rolled out here yet. Simply change your Facebook language to ‘US’.
Mix it up
People absorb information in different ways. They listen, they watch, they read, they view. Aim to appeal broadly by mixing up your content. Step away from basic blog posts and look to create diverse content such as testimonials, white papers, videos, widgets, quizzes, calculators and infographics. Web-based services such as Piktochart allow you to create simple, free infographics to give your content more character.
Sometimes simply improving the content that already exists on your website is all that is needed to improve visibility and performance. Ensure that content on your website is up-to-date by frequently adding copy, rich media, images and undertaking general optimisation.
Make sure your content can be shared seamlessly
The ability to share content easily is extremely important. Social sharing buttons and embed codes need to be prominent and well optimised with the correct text and imagery, as they can act as the core catalyst for content going viral and earning those valuable links. Social plugins from AddThis enable share button icons to move with the content as someone reads it.
Make your content accessible
Get your navigation right so that readers can easily find the key sections of your website, and present your content in a way that will provide real value to the user. User experience is a key consideration for SEO; the easier the journey, the less likely the visitor will bounce straight back to Google or to a competitor’s website.
Promotion and seeding
Sometimes content, no matter how great, needs a little push to get noticed. Depending on the audience, Reddit Sponsorship and paid Stumbles can be a hugely effective way to get people to see your content. If you’re operating in the B2B space LinkedIn ads are an excellent way of connecting with a huge audience of professionals and content discovery platforms like Outbrain or Taboolah can give your content exposure on some huge publications with massive readership.
Use appropriate keywords in the right way
Content should read naturally but do make sure you mention your keywords. Use the phrases that your audiences would use but don’t over-use them. This helps Google know what terms the website should rank for whilst ensuring that you are still positioning your content to the right audiences in a manner in which they will want to absorb and share it.
Check how Google views your site
Mistakes to avoid when you’re creating content to ensure maximum value for SEO
Not knowing your content KPIs
Understanding what metrics the content will be measured on before it is created is paramount to its organic search success. This is because knowing whether the metrics will be links, visits, social shares, engagement, email sign ups or conversions will play a key role in the planning and post-live activity.
Not understanding your website’s limits
Titles that don’t match the text
It is imperative that your title doesn’t simply drag people in and then throw them back out again. The content on the page needs to be completely relevant to the title because, if not, this can result in a high bounce rate.
Duplicate content can have a detrimental effect on a website’s SEO potential. A quick fix is to use a canonical tag to point the duplicated pages to the corresponding main pages. Domain to domain canonicals can also be implemented if there is duplicated content across multiple owned websites.
Slow load times
Google announced in 2010 that page loading times were included in their algorithm and this hasn’t changed. Make sure all content, images, videos etc. are optimised and compressed appropriately.
Content Marketing and SEO are increasingly becoming merged disciplines and having a data-driven approach to content creation is the best way to ensure long-term SEO success.
By Kirsty Hulse
Head of SEO