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Google said that ‘content’ is among its top three ranking factors, but what makes content ‘good’ from an SEO perspective? Columnist Nate Dame outlines what makes high-quality SEO Content.
Content marketing is a vehicle for the effective modern SEO. Content without an SEO strategy can’t keep up in a digital marketplace; just a wheel without an engine leaves you pedalling. And similarly just like an engine with no wheels, SEO without its content is a shiny machine that goes nowhere.
Google has said content needs SEO to stand out in the din of mediocre blog posts clogging up the internet these days and that one of the top three ranking factors for arganic search is ‘content.’
But what does that mean? Not any content surely, but unfortunately search engines are not handing out checklists for ‘high-quality content,’ and then probably never will. Google Analytics that means it’s up to those of us who geek out on this kind of things to study search results, and create massive spreadsheets that we presented to be bored by but secretly love all to bring you a comprehensive guide to creating “high-quality” SEO content.
Step 1: Content Strategy by your SEO
Too many marketers are still waiting until the end of content creation to bring in SEO as a promotional tool which can try to figure out what they’ve just created, so they can plug in a few keywords and links. Effective content marketing strategy should start with keyword and use intent research. You can design a content strategy that answers their specific questions and helps move them through the funnel once you know what queries your audience is using and the kind of content they are looking for.
- Using your audience language, and provide the information they’re actually looking for which is based on an understanding of your audience, as well as keyword and user intent research.
- Long content 1000+ words tends to rank better in organic results, in part because it is thorough. It helps the reader complete one specific task which stay on task and don’t let the content lose focus.
- When you know your readers and their buyer journeys, your content can point them to more of what they want when features an enticing call to action or a clear next step.
Step 2: Design good content
Good SEO is good UX, when users are engaged they consume more content, interact with it and share it. Designing good content from the overarching structure to the details of the layout are making sure that there are plenty of philosophies about which characteristics make content ‘good’- or ‘sticky’ or ‘thought leadership.’ They are all worthy considerations, and every piece of content should cover at least a few:
- Novel/Unique (in value, not just in content)
And as you continue to design content, keep your audience in mind: you are writing for people, so search engines can also understand — not vice versa.
- It is written to its audience, not your peers so make sure the language is neither too simple nor full of industry jargon.
- Content is shareable which take a step back and ask yourself if you would share it and if so you could not i.e., are social sharing buttons readily available.
- To be scanned quickly use short paragraphs, callouts, bold text, bullet points, numbered lists, quotes and so on to make the text easy on the eyes and easy to digest quickly.
- Uses of strong titles and H1s create enticing, actionable titles that use keywords strategically and naturally. CoSchedule has a nice headliner analyzer tool if you need help.
- Anticipate the audience hopes fears and concerns feature idea results, common objections and or time frames in subheaders.
- It is better than current SERP winners to spy out the competition. Review the pages that are currently ranking well for target keywords and ask yourself if the content is better, it is also to make sure that it is better.
Step 3: Create correct content
What do you think is there anything as unsettling as a typo in an otherwise great piece of content? No, there isn’t while there is no evidence, at this time, that grammar is a ranking signal it’s a UX/credibility concern. SEO additionally citing sources and linking to other authorities is good technique but it’s also good those outbound links demonstrate to search engines that you know your stuff, and that you’re associating with the right crowd.
- It is free of spelling and grammatical errors proofread and then have someone else. (No joke, my mother sent me a screen shot of a grammatical error in a Propecta Facebook post recently. Those are the people you need in your life.)
- Google, no matter what your high school social studies teacher said links to good, reputable sources. Wikipedia counts as a good source to it.
- Has been fact-checked is just because everyone else quotes that statistic, it doesn’t mean you should unless you can find the source.
Step 4: Check your Keyword usage
You can start with Keywords and user intent research, of course so this is not about figuring out which keywords apply to the piece of content in question. It is about examining how that keyword is being used in said content.
Thanks to Google that its true keyword stuffing is very, very out which was never cool in the first place, but now it’s also ineffective if not dangerous. It’s also true that Google is very savvy about Keywords. None of that however means that keywords are ‘dead’; it means SEO needs to use them better.
(It is also worth noting that users look for keywords. Google is smart enough to recognize common synonyms, but when a user types in a keyword, he/she is looking for that bolded keyword on the SERP.)
- It is not stuffed full of the primary keyword and there’s no real math for this. A good way to visualize is to use the “Find” feature in your document and search the Keyword. If it looks oversaturated, start plugging in some synonyms.
- Google is getting better and better at understanding related terms. Don’t be afraid of the organizes thematic subsections by primary related keywords.
- Makes natural use of Keywords and variants in content. Don’t overthink it and use synonyms, abbreviations, plurals and so on like a normal human being.
- Makes natural use of Keywords in image text, image titles, alt text and captions which are strategic places for descriptive language. Don’t force keywords but do use them as applicable.
- Makes natural use of Keywords in titles for the people first, but if you can keep that target keyword toward the front of your title and/or H1, do so.
- Makes natural use of keywords in the URL which shouldn’t be too hard if you’ve used it in the title.
- Makes natural use of Keywords and variants in the first 100 words which don’t be awkward but do as much as possible lay all your cards on the table as quickly as possible.
Bonus round: Some technical SEO Content issues
Technical SEO is, mostly an entirely different conversation. Most technical SEO factors are sitewide issues that need to be audited, and the important ones cleaned up, before you start trying to optimize content. However there are a few technical considerations relating specifically to individual content and I would be remiss to ignore them:
- Content loads quickly. Three seconds or less is what you’re working with, and make sure the images and other media files aren’t slowing down the content’s performance.
- Page is included on the Site’s XML sitemap which help Google find and understand the content.
- Internal links point to the content. Make sure they are relevant and they use Keyword-based anchor text as possible/appropriate.
- URLs are short. Top ranking pages have shorter URLs with the position 1 URLs average 59 characters long.
Go forth and create ‘high-quality content’
Beauty is in the eye of the target audience as interpreted by a machine learning program at Google. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but they have never tried to rank content in organic search, the truth is for our purposes.
Fortunately, RankBrain although still fairly vague and nebulous, is at least pretty consistent. It means we can Google thousands of terms, study tens of thousands of results, A/B test our own hypotheses, and come up with a list of characteristics that are very likely beautiful to Google- 77 characteristics to be exact.
SEO start up the content journey by bringing the two together from the beginning. If you are working with content marketing strategy than you did not start with SEO research, to start again. When the wheels and the engine start together you can set out on a much smoother ride.
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