In this article for Bristol Online Superb Digital’s Content Director, Joe Cox, explains the increasingly blurred line between content marketing and SEO and how businesses need to adapt their thinking to accommodate this trend.
If you own a small business then it’s likely that you also have a website. For so many businesses though, this is simply a box-ticking exercise and when the site is up very little changes. But websites are assets that can win you a lot of business and with such a saturated online market, simply publishing the odd blog post is unlikely to get you very far.
Recent studies have shown that 51% of all website traffic coming from organic search, so if you want to stand out from the crowd then need a good search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy.
SEO is the process of getting your site to the top of the search engine results pages for the kind of search terms you want to be ranking for. A recent trend in SEO over the last ten years has been a blurring of the line between SEO and content marketing.
Many people regard SEO and content marketing as separate and distinct entities but nowadays they go hand in hand. Indeed, content marketing is the key to successful SEO.
Content is still King
When you post content online, search engine algorithms crawl your site and use your content to assess your ranking potential. In particular, search engines will look for unique keywords that relate to your content and influence your positioning in relation to your competitors.
You could be forgiven for assuming that the more content you churn out, the better it will be for your SEO ranking. But, this isn’t the case. In times gone by, you may have got away with flooding your site with keyword stuffed poor quality content, to artificially raise your ranking profile. Today, search engine algorithms are far more sophisticated and will punish sites that follow this outdated strategy.
The white hat approach to content strategy then is to always favour quality over quantity. You should focus on producing high quality, relevant topics that your audiences will find useful or will help to solve their specific problems. Avoid spammy or overtly sales-oriented content if you want to rank highly and never duplicate content from other sites. Try to put a fresh spin on an old topic to make it unique.
You can also take popular content you have published before and rehash it in a different format. Repurposing content has been shown to be a very effective strategy and increase the efficacy of your existing body of work. It’s important to state that this isn’t the same as duplicating content, which definitely isn’t advisable.
In addition, focusing on quality content is crucial if you want to rank in featured snippets, which can enhance your SEO profile. 12.29% of SERPS now display featured snippets and 20% of searches include knowledge graphs so make sure your page titles and meta description tags are also optimised in order to get the clicks you desire.
Keyword strategy is one of the most misunderstood areas of SEO and that’s because it straddles the line between the art of writing and researching great content and the science of on-page optimisation. It is all too common for content to become slavishly tied to keyword usage. Whilst it’s important to understand the keywords you want your content to rank for, you shouldn’t force it. Writing natural sounding and engaging content is far more important than trying to hit a certain keyword density (in fact keyword density is and never has been a ranking signal).
Researching keywords that you want your homepage and service/product pages to rank for is also a very different exercise to researching and putting together an editorial plan for your blog. Blog content, by its nature, will tend to rank for more long-tail keywords, rather than the shorter header keywords that you want your service/product pages to rank for. As such, you should be thinking less about keyword usage and more about topic coverage. If the topic you’re covering is pertinent to any of the keywords your site is trying to rank for then that’s enough. The important thing should then be producing a readable long-form content that properly covers the topic.
Understanding Audience Intention
To create effective content that soars to the top of search listings, you need to understand your audience and their intentions when searching for specific keyword terms. As I’ve already discussed, good keyword research is an essential element of this, but so too is a broad understanding of your audience and what they’re interested in and what their problems are.
Take a look at your Google analytic reports to understand more about who visits your site. Is this the data you’d expect to see? What kind of devices are visitors using and what are your most popular blog pages? Think about user intent and cater your content to address this. When it comes to service pages, this might be including informative copy in addition to the branded sales copy. If a customer can understand exactly how their boiler works and why they might need it serviced, as well as the fact that you’re the best plumbers for the job, you will have created a more useful and substantial webpage, which will rank better. In addition, if you can impress customers at this stage, you are likely to improve CTR and enquiry rate.
If you want to maximise the effectiveness of your SEO content, you need to publish it on authoritative sites. If you’re a new business still trying to make a name for yourself, consider guest blogging on respected relevant industry related blogs and magazine sites in order to build links back to your own pages. This will help to build the credibility and authority of your own site, both to target audiences and search engines.
In addition to posting on your site, make sure that you have a presence on relevant social media sites. Adding social buttons to your content allows others to like or share your content, further increasing its reach to wider audiences.
If you want your content to deliver against your SEO objectives, think about what format it should take. Blogs or FAQ postings are the most obvious, but if your products are highly visual, consider publishing your content as images or videos. Alternatively, complex or in-depth information can be digested with greater ease when you use infographics. Search engines like to see variations in content output, so avoid churning out the same old format.
By understanding what makes great content, you have the opportunity to rank higher in search engine listings and drive a significant amount of relevant traffic to your site. This won’t just increase enquiries but will help promote brand awareness, attracting more ‘brand related search’ as well as social media followers and shares. With SEO and content marketing so closely connected, businesses can no longer treat website optimisation as a one-off box-ticking exercise. Without regular, fresh and engaging content, your SEO will always fall flat.