High end restaurants usually serve amazing food. Some middle-of-the-road restaurants (e.g., chain steakhouses) may also serve some pretty amazing food. So why the difference in pricing? It’s called ambiance and presentation.
And so it goes with content. Some content is presented in such unique and/or entertaining ways that it goes viral. Other content, even though it may hold amazing information, is only found by a few, seldom shared, or totally ignored. It is just too boring or contains such long walls of text that no one wants to take the time to read it.
When content falls into this latter category, it is doubtful it will be picked up by search engines. They want to index and rank popular stuff that gets lots of traffic.
SEO Has Changed
When Google searches were young and new, content writers realized that all they had to do was stuff enough keywords into their pieces to get noticed. The result was that a lot of bad content ranked well and irritated the searchers.
Fortunately, technology evolved, and Google began to develop far more sophisticated methods of indexing content. With the launch of Hummingbird in 2013, content writers began to see a shift away from single keywords and a focus on longer-tail phrases, because that is how searchers were operating. At the same time, keyword stuffing practices were punished.
In 2015, Google launched RankBrain, signaling the use of AI and machine learning. Its bots could search content based upon an analysis of popular search terms and index content more “scientifically.”
Another key factor in SEO rankings is a tracking of the amount of traffic to a site or post and the length of time visitors/viewers stay on those pages. A longer stay means greater value to search engines.
These focus shifts, as well as newer changes, should signal to content writers that their focuses should change as well. It’s becoming all about rich content, but about presentation too – presentation that will be so engaging, readers/viewers will stick with it and point their communities in the same direction.
So how do you create that content? Here are some tips and strategies that you may want to think about.
#1 Analyze Your Content Against the Popular Content of Your Competitors
How is your competitors’ content doing? Are they getting higher rankings than you? If so, it’s time to analyze what that content looks like and how it is different from yours.
- How is their content structured?
- What newer strategies are they using to engage their audiences?
- How can you incorporate some of their tactics into your content?
Check specifically for catchy headlines/titles. You may be missing engagement because you are too focused on getting a keyword in that title.
Check for physical layout to ensure that you have short amounts of text broken up by subheadings and visuals. Readers today have short attention spans and just want to scan through content looking for something that may catch their attention. If your content is laid out in snackable short sections, the chances of capturing an eye are much better.
What new technologies are you using that allow interactivity and audience participation?
Are you making good use of video? Mobile users especially appreciate content delivered in this manner.
Are you incorporating the language and the humor that your audience demographic will appreciate? Humor is especially contagious in terms of sharing.
The goal here is to figure out what your competitors are doing that engage readers/viewers – especially things that get them involved in your content in some way.
#2 Keywords are Certainly Not Dead
Searchers still search by keywords. It’s just different now. They are using much longer phrases and getting far more specific. But becoming a “slave” to keywords, focusing on all of the latest research and getting that natural placement really takes the focus off of the purpose of the content. The purpose of content is to provide information, entertainment or inspiration to people first and to satisfy search engines second.
None the less, doing precise keyword research and analysis is still a solid activity that will prove to be beneficial for indexing. There are some great tools to use to identify those long-tail keywords and give content writers insights into the terms that searchers are using. It will continue to be an important activity indefinitely.
The key to keywords today is to use them moderately, to focus on phrases rather than single terms, and to place them very naturally within any content.
Consider Clustering: One of the newer concepts that relates to keyword usage is that of clustering. And content marketers are just beginning to latch onto this new way of structuring their pieces and keywords. They are establishing what is known as a “pillar” piece which covers a general topic area and include just a few keyword phrases.
They then use that pillar piece to link out to related pieces of sub-topics. These sub-topic pieces have their own unique keyword phrases. The effect is that search engines begin to see that pillar piece as a source of great content (through those internal links).
And a recent study by Hubspot demonstrated that this strategy results in better SEO results, as well as increased traffic to those sub-topic pages.
#3 Keep Track of Current Trends Within Your Audience Demographic
Do you serve a younger demographic? What excites them? Perhaps it is Game of Thrones or Star Wars. Maybe it’s the “Adult Swim” series Rick and Morty.
During 2017 and into 2018, these three trends have been big. Your job is to get creative and see how you can use these popular trends in the content you are producing.
Are there either macro or micro influencers that your young demographic follows? What are the topics that are most popular? If you have not heard of Smosh, PewDiePie, the Fine Brothers or Ryan Higa, you have some research to do. Their content is funny and certain irreverent, but emulating some of that humor and irreverence may give you content a huge boost.
For a millennial audience, check out the content that is published by companies such as Dollar Shave Club. Not only does it have a hilarious explainer video, but its blog and social media platforms all use humor and language that millennials appreciate.
#4 Don’t Avoid Being a Bit Weird and Funny
Content consumers want to be entertained. Creating content that simply instructs and provides rather dry information is no fun – it’s boring. Content that goes viral and that is shared is not boring it strikes a chord with your audience, and they want to share it. If you focus on the funny and weird, and that content gets a wide reach, your brand gets out there. And the SEO will follow organically.
Phillips Razor Company wanted to boost promotion of an electric razor which it knew was not a big priority with young men. It created a video about a young man who had gone out the night before and couldn’t remember what happened. The audience could then click on a “shave style” and a different scenario of the night before would be given. This went quite viral, and sales did increase.
#5 You Can Be Inspirational Too
When Nathan Chan decided to launch a web-based magazine called Foundr, he fully understood his purpose – to provide amazing content to entrepreneurs as they struggled with their launches and early years. What he had to develop was a marketing plan that would engage his audience. He decided on a theme of inspiration on Instagram. Several times a day, he posted amazing photographs with inspirational quotes overlaid on those photos.
The response was quite amazing. Within two weeks, he had 10,000 followers – people who were drawn to his posts and who continued to share them with others. Of course, he provided incentives for followers to share his posts, asked questions of his audience, etc. The subscriptions obviously followed.
#6 Interactivity – Content That Invites the Audience to Participate
There’s a reason why Facebook quizzes are so popular. People love to interact with the content they access. And given the new technologies now available, content can engage audiences in new and engaging ways.
Web-based clothing retailers are using virtual reality technology to let consumers “try on” clothing before they make a purchase.
Eyeglass companies allow customers to try on frames from their devices before going in for their exams and picking out their glasses.
Consumers can “visit” kitchens of restaurants and take virtual tours. The same goes for resorts and spas.
Using these technologies spreads your reach and helps to ensure that your content will be shared.
According to the best SEO books, backlinks still play a role in SEO. Getting them from reputable sources will alert search engines that your content is valuable and popular, and that contributes to indexing and rankings.
To get those valuable backlinks, be sure to continue to do the following:
- Develop relationships with influencers. While this is more of a long-term strategy, it will pay off, if you can gain reciprocal arrangements to promote each other’s content with backlinks.
- Try to establish relationships with businesses that area related to your niche too. Search engines are happy to see these connections. So long as the businesses are related.
- Consider using blogger outreach services that will get you natural backlinks and brand mentions through genuine outreach
When All is Said and Done
Content marketers do themselves and their businesses a dis-service if their total focus is on optimizing content for search engines. Instead, they need to be focusing on what their audience wants and appreciates. When they do this, they are no longer boring. They can incorporate humor, entertainment, inspiration, and all of the latest technologies that will grab and keep attention. Remember, your goal is increased traffic, no matter how it comes to you.
Focus on that, and the SERP’s will follow.
About the author: Jessica Fender, professional writer, independent blogger and chief content officer at OnlineWritersRating.com. She is passionate about wise team management and self-development as a leader. Featured on Freelancer.com and Addicted2Success.