Content marketing has seen a surge in popularity in recent years. This often prompts the tired old claim that SEO is dead of course. It isn’t, but it has had to adapt and evolve to suit the modern web just as other disciplines – such as web design – have had to. Now, good SEO is not just about link building, keywords and technical SEO, it’s about social, content and building relationships too.
Often, businesses make a choice between paying for SEO and paying for content. It shouldn’t be a choice as both content and SEO should work together, in harmony. Some people have said that good SEO these days is all about content creation and to some extent that’s true. But content without any consideration towards keywords and strategy will never be as successful as that which is.
So whilst there are key differences between SEO and content marketing, they are closely linked and for online marketing success, should be used in tandem. The two are different insomuch as SEO is a more technical discipline with a fairly narrow focus. Content marketing is a more holistic approach that’s broader. The two, when used together, can benefit each other and ensure that both are successful.
Content is King
Or perhaps Emperor these days. If you create content for your site then it’s essential that it contains these characteristics:
- Excellent spelling and grammar
- Relevance to your industry niche
- Ability to be shared easily
Good content with great SEO should also contain keywords and phrases, scattered (not stuffed) throughout, with the focus keyword in the title, one subheader and the first paragraph. Rather than use the same keyword over and over again and look for density, you should use contextual phrases and synonyms in order to give search engines a good idea what the piece is about.
Poor Quality and Thin Content
Google’s algorithms have become increasingly sophisticated in recent years and can spot content that’s poorly constructed. With this in mind, when considering how your content is going to affect SEO make sure that you employ a good writer or choose a staff member with a talent for turning a phrase. Your readers will thank you for it too. Whilst many site owners still create short blogs posts that are promotional in nature, these are not overly interesting to your visitors.
Consider if it’s really worthwhile creating company news posts that talk about your products and achievements – ask your visitors for feedback via a short survey and study your analytics.
You’ll probably find that there is very little attention paid to your blog.
Nobody likes to read ‘me, me, me’ all the time, it’s boring and it won’t encourage repeat visits.
Think too about using team members for creating content that are already familiar with SEO. This will make your job easier, as you won’t have to train them in keyword research and other important aspects. If you don’t have any team members with the relevant knowledge, then consider hiring a writer who has a good understanding of SEO and can perform the research, etc.
It’s important too that your content remains highly relevant to your industry niche in order for search engines to contextualise the site. It also works to showcase your industry knowledge and increase trust as well as build thought leadership.
Formatting is extremely important when it comes to the written word on the web. Not only must there be plenty of white space and short sentences and paragraphs, but it should be readable across every device. This is even more the case since Google introduced its Mobile Friendly algorithm. You should test your blog pages on a mixture of real world devices to see if they remain readable. Make sure that the reader doesn’t have to go in for a lot of pinching and scrolling in order to read the post.
If you create high quality content that is useful to your audience, you’ll encourage repeat visits in the future. In order for your content to be truly useful, it should address a problem that the reader has and provide a solution. For example, if you own a florists, then you could create blog posts on floral arrangements, providing expert tips to extend the life of the flowers and how to place them.
This kind of guide should prove useful to your audience, who will come back to see if you’ve published further tips. Content like this can also be described as ‘evergreen’, as it isn’t time sensitive and can be accessed and enjoyed by readers for years with little need for updates.
It still amazes me how many blogs I come across which have no social sharing buttons, even when they post regularly. In order to get your content out there, social media is a must and putting sharing buttons on each post is vital to giving your audience a quick and easy means to share content with friends.
Content Marketing and Keywords
When it comes to your content, there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t carry out keyword research in order to ensure that your content gets discovered organically. To get started, you can use a tool such as Ahref’s Content Explorer, which allows you to search for and discover popular content and see the keywords that are used.
Using the tool you can see how often the popular content has been shared on social media, as well as the date is was published, how many backlinks it has attracted and much more. You can use this in conjunction with your favourite keyword research tools to come up with keywords that can be used in your content.
It’s wise – no matter what industry you’re in – to stay away from using a lot of technical terms that perhaps might not be understood by a lot of people. Some sites love a lot of jargon but for the reader, it can be highly off-putting. It’s also very unlikely that someone will type jargon in as a search term.
If you’re a regular Xen reader then you’ll be aware that I often state that great content will naturally attract backlinks. And of course, backlinks are great for SEO. With this in mind, you should get your content out there on as many social platforms as you have time to manage. You should also consider contacting other blogs within your niche to see if they would be interested in the content – some sites post a snippet with a link back to your site.
Evergreen content is especially useful for attracting backlinks as it doesn’t have a limited shelf life. With that in mind, consider how you can work evergreen into your strategy and aim to create at least one post a week.
Infographics are also very useful for backlinks. You should always post an embed code with the infographic whenever you create one and add it to the site. If you’re not familiar with HTML, then you can use an embed code generator, there are plenty around.
Talking of Links
You should also aim to work internal links into your content. Not only is it great for directing the user to other, related content, it also helps search engines to crawl the site better. To do this, you should keep a spreadsheet with all of your content titles on it and the keywords and phrases used in the post. This will help you to plan out what content can be linked to when writing up the post.
Do ensure that you don’t just stick links into the content without any strategy. Consider what terms you want to rank for in each post and link accordingly. As well as improve indexing, this will help you to rank for the search terms that you want.
Social has become increasingly important to SEO and should make up a part of your overall content marketing and SEO strategy. Without social media, it’s hard to get your content seen, especially in the first instance as you work to develop it. Studies have found that there is some correlation between higher ranking and social engagement.
You should use all of the social platforms that you have time to manage. There are plenty of tools available to help you to slash the time it takes to schedule posts and carry out general admin.
However, it’s important to remember that social media does require some personal interaction and as such, you should set aside some time each day or week to carry this out. It is time consuming, but the level of engagement that you can gain by actually conversing with people is worth the extra commitment.
Remember to keep your social media titles relatively short and catchy, and use relevant keywords in both the title and the hashtags. The headline is what is going to make people click through, so make it punchy but above all, ensure that it tells the reader what the content is about. Clever, long-blown headlines are great for those sites that are well-established enough to get away with them, but could put your followers off.
You should work on social media every day, adding people to your accounts and engaging with people. How much time you spend on it will depend on the time you have available, but you should remember that social can make a huge difference when it comes to whether your content marketing efforts will be successful or not.
Content, SEO and UX
User experience (UX) has risen in popularity as a discipline in recent years for a very good reason. Mobile has forced us to think about how our sites and content will appear to users on smaller screens. Google Mobile Friendly algorithm was introduced to penalise sites that don’t have good mobile UX.
For SEO, good UX is desirable as it indicates that a site has been set up well on a technical level. Technical SEO is a part of the job that many professionals have neglected in recent years. A site with good structure, which is easy to find the way around, with internal linking, meta information and great performance is something of a rare beast. To some extent, this has been caused by the proliferation of templates for WordPress, Wix, Joomla and other CMSs which don’t require a huge amount of skill from the designer.
Designers Should Optimise
It’s also the case that many designers don’t consider adding the appropriate meta tagging or to some extent, work on performance as they believe it to be the job of the SEO. This is an argument for another day, but if a client commissions a site and doesn’t understand SEO, then they won’t ask for the site to be optimised and the designer won’t then carry it out. In my humble opinion, optimising a site is the job of the designer in the first instance. Meta tagging isn’t difficult to carry out, but is important to being found in search.
Further to this, many SEOs won’t possess the technical ability to work on performance related issues such as Gzip compression, minifying HTML and CSS and optimising images – or for a responsive site, using media queries. Designers should have that ability however and as such, they should make performance a priority given that it’s become very important to how a site performs in the SERPs.
Whether a designer should work on keyword research is debatable. Ideally, site would employ an SEO copywriter who knows how to use keywords and craft copy so that it’s optimised for search.
Google Loves Fresh Content
Finally, a very good reason to consider content marketing an overall part of SEO is that search engines love fresh content to crawl. This means that if you regularly update site content, then search algorithms learn that it’s going to be found there and as such, crawl your site more often.
If you consistently create fresh, relevant content, then it’s very likely that you will see higher rankings in the SERPs.
The days of paying SEO agencies to do nothing more than chase links all day are now over. Good SEO is about so much more than links and without content, what feeds your social media? Content marketing and SEO overlap because content is an integral part of SEO. Without it, search engines would have nothing to crawl and social media would be just endless personal opinions or product links.
The more content you can create, the better it will be for your site’s SEO.