If you were to step back in time into a marketing conference from a decade or so ago, content marketing SEO would be the buzzword you’d hear on everyone’s lips.
But back then, content was only a vehicle for injecting keywords into blog posts and other website content. Lots of them. Because, you know, SEO. And if you didn’t stuff your content full of them, the divine bots wouldn’t grace your posts and web pages with the number one position in the search results.
Back then, the more keywords and the weirder you’d arrange them, the higher your site would rank. You know, stuff like “best software NYC” used just so. If you dared insert an “in” or a “for” to make it read less awkwardly, you’d get a nastygram from your SEO team.
As a result, it’s downright embarrassing to read awkwardly worded blog posts from that era that content teams haven’t taken the time to update. As an aside, that alone makes a great argument for doing content audits – and doing them often.
But thankfully, things have undergone a sea change since then. Although content marketing isn’t the new SEO, top-quality content is becoming the definitive factor in optimizing your site to rank high in Google searches.
And it’s not so much the keywords these days. It’s more about how you use them and related words in an article that’s so helpful to your target market that they share it with their friends and colleagues.
Search engine optimization (SEO) goes well beyond keywords these days. While several back-end factors help you rank better, such as page loading speed and mobile optimization, content has taken on new importance in an effective SEO strategy.
To rank at the top of search results, your content must be of such high authority that it attracts the attention of respected industry professionals. So much so that they link to it in their own content.
Links are the currency of today’s search engines, and only the most informative content earns enough links to catapult it to the top of search results for your chosen keywords.
Including structured data in your content, too, can land your site even above paid search, at “position zero.” Structured data – data organized in a manner that both computers and humans can recognize and access easily – has risen in importance for SEO.
Including images, lists, and other enhancements that answer user queries is an effective strategy, as is answering common questions people ask about your topic on voice searches. Include keyword-rich meta descriptions for your content and tags on your visuals.
Let’s dive a little deeper into what goes into producing content that gets Google’s attention while bringing value to your target customers. It all starts with a principle called E-A-T – expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
Without getting into the weeds of Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, most of these guidelines boil down to those simple principles.
Showcasing your expertise with content doesn’t mean braggadocio. Quite the opposite.
People buy your products and services because they provide them with a benefit. The more expertise you have in your field, the better products you’ll make.
Like your high school English teacher always told you, “Show, don’t tell.” Demonstrate your broad knowledge of your industry with thought-provoking content that helps your target customers solve problems, become better informed, or learn to do something new.
Approach your content like an effective teacher. Explain concepts in the simplest language possible.
You might think that highly technical jargon will make you sound like an expert, but it doesn’t. Breaking down complex topics into easily understandable chunks is the sign of a true expert.
When you do mention your products, position them as the tools that will help your customers solve a problem they face. Don’t play the hero with either your products or your expertise. Let the customer be the conquering hero.
Providing new information, helpful tips, and instructional material also does something else. It makes your content more shareable, more link-worthy, doubling down on your content’s SEO value.
Authoritativeness gauges your reputation in your industry. When you become the definitive source that people turn to for reliable information about topics you have expertise in, you have authority in your field.
Google looks at reputation from both a user’s and industry influencers’ perspectives. If other prominent names in your industry cite your articles in their content, it places you in a position of authority. Similarly, if you provide helpful information to users, your authority will rise.
So, you’ll want to create thought leadership content that others in your industry or related industries will find valuable. At the same time, publish content that users can turn to for valuable advice.
The more content you produce that hits these targets, the more Google – and your target audience – will consider you an authority in your industry.
Trustworthiness is connected to the accuracy, transparency, and legitimacy of your content. First of all, the more contact information you have on your website as a whole, the better. Here’s why.
If someone has questions about your business or the content itself, they need to be able to contact you through the method most convenient to them. For instance, if you only have an email address, it would be a hassle for someone on a mobile phone to click away from your website to their email provider. Having a clickable phone number available makes it easier to get in touch while they are still on your site.
Your content must also be accurate and related to your website’s purpose. Make sure your content covers these bases:
Digital audiences have always depended on the honor system to ensure that the information they consume is factually accurate. With Google’s new “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) standards, content on the websites of news outlets, legal services providers, financial services companies, healthcare companies, and similar sites must undergo rigorous scrutiny to rank high in people’s searches.
Like the ancient physician Hippocrates advised, do no harm. Citing more than one expert helps to earn Google’s nod for content on these websites, as does referencing academic papers or other rigorous studies.
If you publish content that, if incorrect, could cause someone to lose money, their freedom, or their health, you have a problem. It pays to check, double-check, and triple-check. Not just for your content ranking’s sake, but for your users. Focus on providing your users with the highest value, and your content should pass muster with Google.
Google – and other search engines – try to put themselves in the shoes of someone searching for information about specific topics. Organizing your content into various categories helps searchers and search engines alike to find what they need quickly, as SEMRush’s Ashley Segura points out.
If you click on over to my “Blog” page, you’ll find four headlines: Content Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Event Marketing, and Employee Activation. Someone looking for information about holding an event to market their product can click on the “Event Marketing“ headline and find relevant information without having to shuffle through our entire collection of blog posts.
Instead of the “keeping up with the Joneses” routine of matching your competitors’ content move for move, see what you can do to make your content unique in your audience’s minds. Not only will this strategy offer your audience a different angle on your key topics, but it will also position you better in Google searches, provided you get specific.
The secret sauce that gives you the edge is finding your niche. Let’s say that you sell software-as-a-service (SaaS). Your competitors focus on providing businesses with software geared to their needs, but you notice a lot of schools and other educational institutions among your blog post readers and customer base.
Focus the lion’s share of content on how teachers and other school personnel can use your software solutions to streamline their workflow and make it easier for their students to learn. Use keyword strings, such as “software that ignites learning” as opposed to “software for organizations.”
Then, create content that educators can use to solve their problems, and you’ll soon find yourself ranking at the top of the heap in educators’ searches. Specificity and uniqueness are the keys to success in integrating SEO with your content strategy.
It’s not only outdated posts that turn up in your content audits. It’s those evergreen posts with lasting power that could use a fresh coat of paint as well.
Search engines gobble fresh content like your fat uncle on Thanksgiving Day. So, it pays to go back into your content inventory and re-write, re-record, or re-film pieces that you haven’t touched in a while.
New content, too, helps. But we’re a big believer in recycling older content to get more mileage out of all that research your team put into it. You’ll rank higher in searches and give your audience fresh insights – which is one of the main reasons they frequent your site.
If you are ready to get more traffic to your site with fresh, top-quality content that attracts both search engines and your target customers, check out our Content Builder Service.
Set up a quick consultation, and I’ll send you a free PDF version of my books. Get started today–and generate more traffic and leads for your business.