In the early days of search engine optimization (SEO), it was a lot easier to accomplish. All you needed to do was create a landing page, add a few keywords to it, and then build a few links. That was enough to give your website high rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs). That is no longer true.
These days, SEO is a lot more difficult and complex. It is no longer enough to focus on keywords and links. This may be why people now treat SEO as a set of secret tricks that can only be performed by the best in the field. The truth is that you can still successfully launch an effective SEO campaign even if you’re not privy to the deepest and darkest secrets of Google. You simply need to take a different approach.
Content for SEO
Content is king. How many times have you heard that statement? More times than you can count, I’m sure. There is good reason why people in the industry keep repeating it. The way search engines work these days, getting your content right is a sure way to build a solid foundation for all of your SEO efforts. And the main focus for your content, of course, should be QUALITY.
How do you know if the quality of your content is good enough to get you the kind of SERP rankings you want? Start by asking yourself these questions:
- Does your content go beyond basic information found on many other sites offering the same or similar products and/or services?
- Does your content provide people with at least one good reason to spend more than a few seconds on your website?
- Does your content offer the kind of value and substance people aren’t likely to find elsewhere?
If you can confidently answer YES to all three questions, then you are indeed offering high-quality content. Remember that quality is the first thing you need to ensure when it comes to content because it serves as the foundation on which all other factors depend.
Attributes of Quality Content
Now you understand that the key to making content work for SEO is quality. And you know there are plenty of ways to improve the quality of your content. As a general rule, though, there are four content factors that have been found to lead to higher rankings. Needless to say, these are the factors you should focus on.
1. Semantic Comprehension
According to the results of the 2014 Ranking Factors Study conducted by SearchMetrics, content optimization has become more of a holistic discipline. This means your content should not be relevant to just one topic, but also to a few other related subjects. You should strive to create content that ranks for more than one keyword.It has also been observed that Google and other search engines have grown a lot better at understanding context and semantic meaning behind searches. For example, when you do an online search with the word “bumper” in it, search engines are now able to recognize that the search involves information on cars. When you create content, therefore, it’s a good idea to bear context in mind.
2. Long Form
The same SearchMetrics study found that websites that publish online content with more words generally rank higher than sites with pages displaying fewer words. This particular study finding is consistent with the findings of BuzzSumo, when they analyzed more than a million articles. They found a significantly positive correlation between social shares and long-form content. This means longer content are more often shared on the five most influential social networking sites.When you create content, therefore, it may be a good idea to go beyond 1000 words. Keep in mind, though, that going long-form doesn’t mean you should pad each piece of content with unimportant details. Regardless of how long your content is, substance and value should still be your main focus. You should continue to ensure that each piece of content you put out is relevant, interesting, useful, and up-to-date.
3. Media Enrichment
Going back to the SearchMetrics study, one of the findings is that photos and videos make a piece of content more attractive not only to the online audience, but also to Google and other search engines. When you insert a few images or video clips into your content, therefore, you have a better chance of ranking high on SERPs. Again, this particular SearchMetrics finding is consistent with that of BuzzSumo, which found that content that incorporated images got twice the number of social shares received by pure text content.
It is therefore an excellent idea for you to include photos and video clips in each piece of content you publish. Of course, you have to make sure the photo and/or video you include in a particular content is directly related to the content topic. Otherwise, it will only do more harm than good.
Another important finding of the SearchMetrics study is that the content found on high-ranking URLs is generally easy to read. This finding points to a correlation between readability and SERP rankings. Although we may not be able to conclusively say that readability leads to higher SERP rankings, the study finding does suggest that it wouldn’t hurt for you to ensure that every single piece of content you publish is easy for your target audience to read and digest.
The Role of Social Media
The articles on Google’s top SERP positions were found to have a huge number of social signals (shares, Likes, tweets, etc.). And though Google says these signals aren’t being used as bases for rankings, and it is never advisable to confuse correlations with causal relationships (strong social signals do not necessarily lead to high rankings), the study results definitely make it a good idea for you to work on a solid social media strategy as well.
When you map out your SEO campaign, do not forget to make social media a part of it. Identify your social media goals, get to know your target audience, choose your social media channels, start connecting with influencers, and map out a social media posting schedule. If nothing else, your social activity can improve brand awareness, and the more people know about your brand, the better your chances are of getting high SERP rankings, right
Improving Your Content
There are several areas you need to look into if you want to improve your content and ensure its quality. First, you’ll have to refine your system for keyword research. As mentioned earlier, it has become important to create content that ranks for more than one keyword. The good news is that there are now a variety of tools available that make it easy for you to determine the words and phrases people may be using in searching for the kind of content you provide.
Second, you need to make sure your content encourages meaningful interaction with your target audience. It should be relevant enough for users to want to read beyond the opening statement. It should be interesting enough for readers to want to keep reading to the end of the post. It should be useful enough for readers to want to keep coming back to your site for more. It should provide enough value for readers to want to share it with others. Note that there are several ways in which search engines can measure audience interaction.
Third, you have to make sure each piece of content you publish is fresh. Freshness doesn’t just mean posting new content on a regular basis; it also means the content has to be up-to-date. Even if you post new content each week, if you’re covering the same topic over and over, people are likely to grow tired of your posts and seek information elsewhere. You need to cover related, but different topics with each post, or at least a different aspect of the same subject.
Be sure to apply these tips not only to the content you post on your official website, but also to your blog posts as well as the posts you share on your social media accounts. Publishing high-quality content all around is the key to establishing your brand’s reputation as an industry leader, thereby improving your chance for getting high SERP rankings as well.
Other Factors to Consider
Although high-quality content is indeed very important for achieving your SEO goals, it isn’t the only factor you need to focus on. You should also work on the following:
- On-page SEO – Work on your title tags, URLs, image alt text, and other on-page ranking factors.
- Technical factors – Meta tags, headers, titles, descriptions, internal links, and loading times are also important factors that need to be taken into consideration.
- Back links – Link building may have changed a lot in recent years, but it is still very important for SEO. Make sure all your back links are of high quality.
- Wikipedia inclusion – Wikipedia has grown more and more popular in recent years, and inclusion in the site is a significant factor for ranking high on SERPs.
Indeed, SEO may have become more complex, but it doesn’t have to be something only a few people can succeed at. As long as you constantly publish high-quality content and take the other important factors into consideration, it should be easy enough to achieve your SEO goals.