SEO and Content Marketing – It’s for the user
Search engine optimisation (SEO) and content marketing are like warm weather and cold beer, they just go together! Utilising both strategically can build your website’s authority and drive valuable traffic from search engines.
This partnership often comes in the form of blogs, but it can also be in the form of targeted landing pages and in-depth guides. Over recent years, content writers have slowly shifted their techniques and focus from just writing content, to writing content with the purpose of generating search traffic. However, the SEO industry has moved even faster than the content writers have, meaning many content writers struggle to get results from their work. Here are five common mistakes which content marketers make when creating and promoting their content:
Optimising too much for keywords
Back in early 2000’s, SEO was very easy. To get a good ranking for a keyword you simply created a landing page, added your keyword a few times and pointed links to it, but this is one of the ways in which SEO got its bad reputation. These day’s SEO is almost completely focused on creating a good experience for your target user.
Google’s algorithms are far more advanced and capable than simply counting the number of keywords on a page and matching it with a search term. Google’s software understands real meaning behind a search term instead of the keywords or synonyms involved in the search. Furthermore, Google’s RankBrain algorithm update has now ushered in the age of artificial intelligence. Google now uses user behaviour data to understand which search results are best for each type of query.
The algorithm at Google is now so complicated that it is almost impossible to understand it, trying to ‘game’ the system is simply a waste of time. A far better use of your time, when writing content, is to just write for the user and Google will match the most appropriate user search with your content. Worrying about individual keyword targeting is now about as much use as trying to solve algebra by chewing bubble gum.
Very Little Internal Linking
There has always been a lot of focus in the industry on obtaining external links (links pointing to your website), but a lot of people forget about internal link building (linking from one page of your website to another page of your website). When search engines crawl your website, they create a map of your pages and how each page links to the other, from this they establish which pages are the most important on your website. If you have a product or service page which is really important to your business and you really want to drive traffic to, but you’re only linking to it from one location, then Google is going to presume this page is unimportant. Linking your important pages will not only help search engines build a clear idea of what is important, but will also help your users navigate through your website too.
Not Looking At The Data
How can we be expected to know what people want to read about? Wouldn’t life be great if we knew what everyone wanted to read about, then we could just write content to fit their needs. Well actually we can know this, there are some excellent tools which give us insight into what users are searching for and which articles are being shared the most on social media. Here are just a few of my favourites:
Having said this, there are of course articles which people don’t know they want to read until they’ve read them. This original content will always be important, but make use of the user data as part of your content creation process so you can understand current trends and brainstorm from there. Also, it’s important to be sure that your topic hasn’t been written about too much, so do some research before you get started.
Obsessing Over Content Length
2012 – you need to write 5x300 word articles per month
2015 – you need to write 2x800 word articles per month
2018 – who knows!
To put this simply: you must just write for the user, if that means writing 1 x 3000 word article every 3 months then so be it. We’ve all read articles which drag on and on and on, those which would be better if they were cut shorter. Long-form content is great and search engines love it, but if it is at the sacrifice of quality and will not engage users, then it will not help your website.
As I mentioned above, with Google’s algorithms becoming so complicated, it’s important that you don’t spend time worrying about the ‘perfect length’. Fundamental to Google’s algorithms are user behaviour indicators, if your article is not fit for purpose then everyone will bounce from the page. In fact, with so much content on the internet, a lot of users actually prefer shorter content. Research published in 2016 indicated that the average time spent on an article is actually as low as 37 seconds.
If you’re accepting guest posts, perhaps it’s time you started implementing a maximum length to encourage quality, rather than a minimum length.
Not Utilising Google Analytics
If by now you haven’t got the idea that you need to write content for the user, then you need to start reading this article again. A focus on user behaviour is a winning strategy in 2018, but how can you know what your users are doing on your website? Google Analytics is the key. It is little coincidence that Google wants you to focus on user behaviour actions and they give you free access to a platform which gives you incredible insight into what your users are doing on your website. The more time you spend getting to know Google Analytics, the more insight you can gain from it. Using this data to refine the approach for your website is an almost guaranteed approach to winning the SEO battle.
OK, I’m going to keep this simple. In 2018 you need to write for the user. Focusing on what they want and refining your approach using data is what Google (and other search engines) are looking for. However, you must also ensure that you’re ticking all the boxes with the technical side, just one key example being internal linking, which is critical for content writers.
This article was written by Sam Taylor from Red 3 Digital, specialising in SEO and PPC for small and medium sized businesses. Visit www.red3.digital for more information.