August 5, 2015
For many novices who are trying to make a name for themselves in online markets, the SEO universe appears to be dark, scary and unwelcoming.
For some, understanding and applying effective search engine optimization tactics that could return the desirable results is a questionable project almost as farfetched and complicated as a human mission to Mars.
Why is the SEO world so annoyingly complex? The answer is simple: when it comes to successful optimization, search engines have all the right answers, but they aren’t willing to reveal the rules of the game.
The SEO World Is Reshaping Itself at a Fast Pace
As Eric Enge from Stone Temple Consulting says, search engine algorithms rely on approximately 200 factors to rank pages. While Google holds the key to higher rankings, it lets people wander in the dark and make their own predictions and assumptions regarding new SEO tactics that might really work in 2015. To make things even more difficult, search engines are constantly rolling out new rules and guidelines that end up dissolving and contradicting the previous ones.
The techniques that brought you fame and money in 2007 could get you in real trouble in 2015. Remember the times when you could publish thin content and get away with it?
Or that time when you saw those shady link buying techniques as a quick fix designed to help you rank higher in search engine results and consolidate your position in the market?
At this point, you can bury these old, rusty weapons, simply because you could cut yourself badly while trying to reuse them. The ugly, unpleasant truth is that the SEO world is changing at a fast pace. You can either adapt to the new SEO realities or sink in the quicksand of outdated optimization practices.
SEO and Content Marketing are Parts of the Same Whole
In 2015, good SEO depends in large measure on great content. As a matter of fact, these elements are conjoined identities that you shouldn’t try to separate. What’s the deal with SEO and content marketing?
SEO represents a narrower, more technical niche, while content marketing constitutes a holistic, broader segment. Aside from these differences, SEO and content marketing work awesomely well together. You can’t boost the visibility of your landing pages without conducting proper keyword analysis and optimizing your copy based on the results of your research. On the other hand, content marketing gives you the support you need to place and use these keywords in an ideal manner, to satisfy the requirements of both human readers and search engines. While SEO makes you focus on technical factors, such as strategic sitemaps, proper tags and metadata, content marketing revolves around the quality of the user experience that you manage to achieve through in-depth, regular technical optimization. As Kissmetrics points out, SEO and content marketing oftentimes overlap and you can’t and shouldn’t try to have one without the other.
Good Content Is No Longer What It Used to Be
A decade ago, your only responsibility was to churn out fresh pieces of content on a daily basis to stay active and visible in your industry. You didn’t really care much about the originality and freshness of your content and in certain situations, you even dared to peek into your neighbors’ front porch to copy some of their optimization strategies. Maybe you opted for unorthodox link building strategies, used duplicate content or didn’t put enough time and energy into a proper, personalized SEO plan. In 2015, these mistakes are no longer tolerable. The new SEO content is not “SEO content” that is keyword stuffed. Today’s “good” SEO content is geared towards the reader, the research you put into it, proper citations, as well as a clearer, deeper focus on what the audience needs and wants from you.
Good Copywriting Remains the Fundamental of Content Marketing and SEO
Now that you understand the solid connection between SEO and content marketing, you should probably take a closer look at the main pillar that supports these two processes: quality copywriting.
A case study that we have recently published indicates that a solid strategy involving SEO and guest blogging has allowed us to outrank 95% of our competitors.
We craft 2000-word content pieces on a weekly basis and 4 to 6 other posts for some of the most potent players in this industry, including Content Marketing Institute, SEM Rush and Search Engine Journal. Google keywords alone bring us up to 700 visitors every single day. Taking into consideration the way in which consistent, strategic content creation has supported our growth so far, it’s virtually impossible to ignore the fact that content marketing working hand in hand with SEO is the main factor that keeps us in business.
4 Errors That Might Prove You Have Been Doing SEO Wrong This Whole Time
At the end of the day, the SEO world won’t stop reinventing itself and the other companies in your niche won’t stop evolving and improving their content just because you are dragging your feet. In this context, it is mandatory to realize that even in the SEO world your last mistake is your best teacher. Let’s take a closer look at the most common, outdated, ineffective and potentially dangerous SEO tactics that you should have stopped using.
1. Manipulative Guest Blogging
For a number of years, guest blogging has been used as a viable method to create long-lasting relationships with industry leaders and influencers, expand an existing audience, tackle adjacent markets and improve rankings and online visibility. However, you know what they say: everything’s good until it goes bad. Encouraged by the fact that writing guest posts is a pretty straightforward assignment, many companies have started to focus less on the quality of their writing and more on a multitude of link building tactics promising a rapid traffic increase. Unfortunately, this approach exposes them to major search engine penalties. Here are a few guest blogging-related negative elements that you should avoid, simply because they could threaten your relationship with search engines:
- Optimized anchors
- Low-quality content
- Links coming from sources that are irrelevant to the theme of your website and the content that you’re publishing
- Thin content that doesn’t add value to the overall user experience
2. Keyword Stuffed Content
Nobody likes keyword stuffed content for a very simple reason: it’s unnecessary. This type of writing has very little or no value whatsoever and fails to entertain, inform or educate your audience. Imagine you are trying to have a nice chat with your mother and she asks you to describe your day in a few words.
If you were to repeat words like “school”, “school assignment”, “school in San Francisco”, “school in San Francisco, California” over and over again for five minutes or so, she would probably be inclined to call the doctor. Keyword stuffed content is just as bizarre as the monologue that we’ve imagined: it doesn’t provide any real answers to your readers’ questions; nor does it introduce a new perspective on high-interest topics, stimulate an engaging conversation with members of your audience or encourage feedback. Simply put, keyword stuffed copy is a type of robotized speech that you should avoid at all costs, mostly because it will never do you any favors. Instead of obsessing over the ideal keyword density that you should try to achieve, rethink and rewrite your material and make sure it reads well and flows naturally.
3. Optimized Anchors
In 2015, using optimized anchors is like begging search engines for a slap in the face. An optimized anchor is anchor text incorporating the keyword that you’re trying to rank for. The optimized anchor text trend actually worked great, until Google listed this tactic as a clear violation of their guidelines. So if overly optimized anchor texts are a problem, which anchors should you actually consider beneficial?
As Neil Patel from Quicksprout points out, there are three risk-free categories of anchors that do not put your SEO efforts on the line: branded links, naked links and long phrases. Basically, you should try to incorporate safe, natural anchors, rather than opting for the ones that are stuffed with keywords.
4. Adding a Plethora of Low-Quality Links
Less is more when it comes to Google-approved link building tactics. As it turns out, even though buying links may still be seen by risk-takers as a cheap and easy way to achieve your short-term SEO goals, the truth is that this technique can bury your website six feet under, especially if you’re linking to a website with a low DA or you collect a large number of questionable links over a short period of time.
5 Ways to Win at SEO and Content Marketing
After inventorying all the risky SEO tactics that you may or may not have used in the past, you are probably wondering: how do I close Pandora’s box and how can I clean up my SEO? If you’re determined to do this, start by following the easy methods listed below.
1. Focus on Proper Content and Keyword Research. Maybe you’re no stranger to the benefits of free keyword tools that are only a few clicks away. Perhaps you already count on the services of a SEO agency that hands you a set of relevant keywords on a silver platter. What you may not know is that content research is just as important as the keyword analysis that you are already performing. Proper content research begins with a better understanding of your audience. What do your people actually want to hear from you? What kind of problem-solving content should you churn out to become truly helpful and relevant in your field? Take all the time you need to explore and select high-interest topics that reflect your passion and knowledge and make sense to both your brand and your public.
2. Rely on Content Freshness and Consistency to Stay on Top of Your SEO Game. In a previous blog post, we’ve reminded you just how important it is to count on a generous supply of evergreen topics. You know, at some point, when most of your staff members are on vacation and literally nothing new and exciting is going on in your industry, you still have to fuel your dialogue with your readers. In today’s content marketing world, you simply can’t afford to stay silent; this is why evergreen content is a real gift from above.
However, it would be terribly wrong to make your content strategy revolve only around evergreen subjects. Instead, try to see fresh content as the pillar of your content marketing/SEO plan. Use online tools to discover and anticipate new market trends, turn client testimonials into high-impact posts, and dig though local news to find accurate, diverse, absorbing information that may raise the interest of your readers.
3. Create Content that Performs Extremely Well in Vertical Search/Direct Answers. Google is also running vertical search engines that target one particular segment/subject, rather than focusing on a wide array of topics and interests. This vertical section is featuring mostly videos, local news and images.
As Search Engine Land reveals in a recent article, by creating and promoting content that is visible in vertical search engines you could boost your odds of success even when your onsite content is not doing so well. Also, according to the same source, you could count on a similar level of support from search engines by creating content that can appear in Google’s Direct Answer section. After all, websites that are being used as direct answer resources get credit in the form of backlinks. This simple action could boost your website traffic, consolidate your reputation and enhance your online visibility.
4. Instead of Obsessing Over the Latest SEO Tricks, Produce Authoritative Content. Let’s get one thing straight: no crystal ball can help you guess and understand the mechanism of existing algorithms or predict the formulas of new updates that may shake the SEO world. This is precisely why you should waste less time testing new SEO tactics and produce more quality, authoritative content.
Forget about yesterday’s set of rules, which are no longer valid and applicable today, and craft impactful content that triggers instant feedback from your audience. Be helpful, be clever, be unique and be engaging. At the same time, go to great lengths to distribute your content pieces through a greater variety of online platforms. An article published by Entrepreneur reflects an old truth that you may have been ignoring for too long: search engines use social signals to validate your authority; this is one of the main reasons why you should settle for no less than shareable content that could capture the attention of industry influencers and media outlets and boost your level of exposure.
5. Invest in Rich Multimedia Content. Visually appealing content is a strong asset that can help you reaffirm yourself as a successful, Internet savvy thought leader. Blogging doesn’t and shouldn’t limit your efforts to writing a few paragraphs and posting them on your website daily. Today’s users are much more interested in a well-balanced mix of different forms of content, including podcasts, videos, infographics, slideshows, eBooks, whitepapers and so on. The same goes for search engines. Google loves rich multimedia content. As Benchmark suggests in a recent article, search engines value interactive, diverse content much more than basic written materials. Moreover, additional elements (infographics, videos and images) can enhance the appeal of your content, stimulating readers to share it. Here’s one other aspect that you should consider: the media that you add can back your optimization plan. For example, by including keywords into the names of your videos and images you could reinforce your own SEO efforts.
Great Content Equals Effective SEO
How can you keep up with the never-ending string of changes implemented by search engines and offer your visitors an unforgettable user experience? Start by improving your content. Brainstorm with your people to find new interesting topics, deliver servings of freshly squeezed, quality information, shift from plain writing to a great mix of interactive, multimedia content and use every tool in the Google-approved SEO toolbox to take your blog posts, product descriptions and articles to a whole new level.
If, for some reason or another, you feel that the road to content creation is bumpy and overly complicated, consider hiring a team of professional writers who can help you achieve the perfect combination of SEO and content marketing and put it to good use to maximize your online presence and revenues.
Julia Spence-McCoy is the CEO of Express Writers, an online copywriting agency that began in 2011 with thousands of web content pages written to date and more than 50 talented writers on the team. Her passion is copywriting and all that pertains, including the ever-changing game of Google algorithm updates.