Over the last 10 years or so, the world of SEO has undergone a massive shift away from predominantly ‘black hat’ techniques that were all about ‘tricking’ people into visiting your website (regardless of how good it was). Now it’s all about making your website genuinely awesome and at the same time highly ‘findable’ to people who would value the content on there.
Google’s continuing position as the number 1 search engine, is no doubt, due in some part, to their success in ensuring that the top search results are normally highly relevant to what you are searching for. They have a massive team of experts working every day on improving the ‘relevancy’ of search results still further. The result of their hard work is that unless your website contains genuinely awesome* content, any SEO ‘trickery’ to promote it will only bring temporary results, Google’s algorithms (‘agorithms’ are the formulas used to decide who ranks on page 1 etc) are too clever to allow an unhelpful website rank highly for very long. *Awesome can mean ‘helpful’ or ‘entertaining’ or ‘beautiful’ or anything highly valuable to the web user, depending on the nature of your site…
Consequently, we thought the first post in this ‘Tips and Advice’ series should relate to content creation for SEO…
What does great content look like?
- Great content is highly relevant to your target customers. Who are you creating the content for? What do they want? Keep that in mind throughout, and you can’t go too far wrong. Speak to your customers, or target customers, or speak to your customer service team and sales team, to find out what kind of things your potential customers are asking, and write content that answers these questions and meets their needs.
- Great content is unique. Google’s search engine has a keen eye for spotting new and fresh information that hasn’t been posted onto the web before, it doesn’t have to be a totally new subject, but you must introduce something new, a fresh viewpoint on an old topic, or an additional clarification not offered before. How people interact with your information will be picked up by Google’s machine-learning, so unless you can get folks to stay on the page a while, move around and interact with the website, share the content, etc, Google will realise it’s not too engaging and rank it accordingly. Also if you copy and paste chunks of text from other websites and use that in your content, this will be picked up almost immediately as ‘duplicate content’ and if you exceed 30% duplicate content, your rankings will suffer (Google seems happy with a small amount of duplicate content which makes sense, as there’s nothing wrong in quoting experts in your field, but over 30% and it starts to become questionable whether you’re adding anything fresh…).
- Great content is highly informative, i.e. it doesn’t just sell what you’re offering, but also helps people. For example one of my clients up until mid-2017 had their main page selling a product ranking in position 3 or 4 on page 1 pretty consistently for over a year, then suddenly from around August 2017 an old blog post offering helpful around that product jumped to the #1 position on page 1, ahead of the main product page which stayed at position 3 or 4. This seems to be a very new trend on Google searches – pages or blog posts offering information are increasingly appearing in the number 1 spot, ahead of pages or blog posts that promote a product or service… This probably somewhat relates to the fact that around 50-80-percent* of searches are looking for information – doing research, whereas 10-percent are navigational (looking for a company), and another 10-percent are transactional – looking to buy a product or service. *80% according to Search Engine Land – Moz draws on more info sources and puts the informational percent at between 50-80%. No harm in suggesting that folks can get in touch with you at some point within your ‘informational’ content, but most of the time, keep it discreet and optional – a blend of 90% ‘help’ and 10% ‘sell’ should work well, after all, when you’re offering help you’re going a long way towards selling – you’re building trust which is the first step of any sales process…
- Great content is engaging or entertaining. It doesn’t have to have loads of pictures (although relevant pictures are always a great help), but the more you can grab your website visitor’s attention and then keep their attention the better. Writing style should be natural not overly formal – there is nothing wrong with formal writing in the right setting, but where long words or technical jargon is used for the pure purpose of trying to impress, this will never result in engaging content. Speak the language of your desired audience, but at the same time be yourself and allow your personality to shine through – after all, if you’re in the right business, your personality should gel well with your target audience anyhow. Bear in mind that research shows that there are 4 main personality types and 16 variations of these – try to include a variety of content to appeal to as many personality types as possible, e.g.: Ensure that your main message can be quickly grasped by just reading your titles and headers on the page – for the fast and decisive types, then ensure that you have loads of detailed small text tucked away lower down the page or on separate supporting pages for the detailed types who don’t feel comfortable unless they have loads of information to backup your claims, have a light-hearted video or 2 for those who like to be entertained rather than taught, and have some personal/human touches for those caring/feeling types who like to connect on an emotional basis with anything that they see.
- Great content attracts high quality links. If you get all of the above right, then highly relevant websites will want to link to your content, often without you needing to do anything. Good quality content will rank highly and therefore be found by someone looking for information to back up their own content. More on link building later…
How to get started… 🙂
- Choose the right day. Some days you will never be in the mood for writing content, if you spend more than 20 minutes and just can’t get inspired, it’s usually best to drop it and come back to it later when you’re ‘in the mood’.
- Choose the right time of day. Everyone has different times of the day when they have more energy available for creative thinking (writing good content requires a lot of this!). Find your time of day, whether it be early morning, last thing at night, or somewhere in-between. On a technical note, writing content requires a lot of brain ‘juice’ including heavy usage of the ‘Pre-Frontal Quartex‘. This is an area of the brain involved in planning and focusing – and the Pre-Frontal Quartex is known to run out of ‘juice’ very quickly, so if you have just been using this part of your brain for other tasks like planning your day, then it will be partly or fully drained and you will find it difficult to concentrate. The good news is that you can re-charge this part of the brain quite quickly by switching to activities that don’t require focus, even just taking a break to make yourself a cup of tea may be sufficient, also studies show that both caffeine and glucose (from sugar) help to stimulate this part of the brain – obviously in healthy amounts please :-).
- Just make a start! Everyone has a natural tendency to procrastinate, especially when a task appears long or complex or something they’re not accustomed to doing. Sometimes you just have to force yourself to make that first move, then after 10 or 20 minutes, you find yourself getting into the flow of it. Once you reach flow mode, keep going – remember that the next day you might not feel so inspired, so make the most of it while the going is good!
- Find a quiet room. With sufficient concentration and zero distractions, your content writing will go many times faster.
Review and refine old content
There are many advantages to coming back and ‘refreshing’ great content. Old content that still attracts high levels of visitors is valued higher in Google’s eyes than brand new content that hasn’t proved itself to be a long-term hit. So occasionally going back and updating old content is a better strategy than always just writing new content – updates and revisions are something Google loves too, if they can see you are keeping your article up to date with small additions and changes they’ll give you a slight boost, as long as the changes are ‘on topic’. Make sure you do a ‘before and after’ check using Google Analytics, to check the search engine rankings and traffic levels etc before and after the changes, to be sure that your changes have actually had a positive impact.
Once you have an authoritative content piece, ranking high on the SERPs, and with high levels of traffic, why introduce competition in in the form of new and potentially inferior pieces of content that could confuse Google – essentially your new content is competing for the top spot against your old content piece if they are both on the same subject. The exception is where you are writing a similar supporting article, in this instance it is potentially best kept separate to avoid diluting the main article, yet with clear and relevant links between the 2 articles to inform Google of the relationship between them. With intelligent linking like this, using correct anchor text, the 2 articles can support each other without conflicting.