October 13, 2015
There is currently a wealth of articles suggesting that content marketing is now a fundamental part of SEO.
I wrote one such article myself: SEO is Dead, What is Dead May Never Die. Suggesting that while SEO is not dead, it has simply evolved — a trend that will continue as Google refines its algorithms.
I took my inspiration from Dr. Peter Myers’ suggestion that “SEO tactics die, but SEO never will.” For this article, I nearly wrote about how crucial content marketing is to SEO, but it wouldn’t do much good; the likelihood is you already know.
Content has always been a factor in SEO. With link-building ensuring that sickeningly keyword-heavy articles were placed, in quantity, at every corner of the Internet.
But that position has now changed, it’s quality not quantity that you want as Google rewards the informative and displaces the multitude of terrible content dirtying its searches.
This is common knowledge and, within articles, like mine, there is little to suggest how content creators should go about creating the ‘quality content’ that is so crucial to improve your rank.
At the time I didn’t consider its inclusion necessary, but in hindsight it’s difficult to know exactly what Google is looking for when it won’t tell us.
Take social signals as an example, it would stand to reason that shares, likes and comments earmark a certain level of quality and, thus, would be key ranking factors.
Indeed there is a correlation between sites that enjoy top engagement and top ranks. But there is only speculation, even if it is educated, to back this theory up.
So we’re unsure what Google perceives as quality. Despite this, whether it’s exquisitely crafted copy or the simplistic, yet highly informative content that dominates, we each have our own perception of quality and Google does to.
Searchmetrics on Content
This was made readily apparent by Searchmetrics recent study that looked into Google’s definition of quality content.
The study highlighted many key areas that relate Google’s perception of quality, from your content’s composition to how you market it. From readability, content length, relevance and key words to your blog’s user experience and social signals, there is plenty to think about when crafting your articles.
The Key Lessons
Readability and relevance are rather obvious points, while I think the idea that ‘bigger is better’ when it comes to word count can be misleading.
Google measures readability using the Flesch Readability Score. The higher the score, the simpler the text and Searchmetrics found that top 10 search results often have a readability above 76/100.
Don’t take this as gospel, but be aware that if your article is wordier than a Chaucer novel you may need to tone it down.
That said, take all of these points with a pinch of salt. Cater to your audience above all else and you should be fine. If your audience comes to you for your literary prowess or are looking for a vocabulary that would make Shakespeare smile, then simplifying your work will probably prove counterproductive.
The same could be said of content length. Supposedly: “In 2014 the average word count of webpages in the top 30 ranks was 902, in 2015 this number has risen to 1,140 following a Google update. The top 10 webpages record an average word count of 1,285.” Still, if you don’t have the time to produce lengthy articles, fear not. As long as you provide value, irrespective of whether the article is 500 or 2,000 words, people will likely read it and share it. But it’s worth noting that ‘bigger is better.’
Your content should always be relevant too. Why is this article appearing on Site Pro News? Because it relates to SEO and blogging — two things this site’s audience are interested in.
It’s all about catering to your audience and at the end of the day it’s the user Google cares about. This brings us on to user experience. You may have written a stellar article, but if your blog is difficult to navigate or aesthetically poor, nobody will read, share it or stick around for long.
According to Searchmetrics, your bounce rate is another key metric that determines your ranking. The lower it is and the longer the user stays on your website the better. So start thinking about your design for good user experience.
It’s also worth ensuring that your design is responsive. Especially when you consider that 30 percent of the top ranked webpages use responsive design; it’s no coincidence, Google has already warned us of this update.
Searchmetric’s research is invaluable to content creators, but there is a danger that by sticking rigidly to such findings we may lose a bit of originality with articles conforming to certain lengths and simplistic styles.
Be More Original- Live in the real world
Here’s the current problem: too few blogs deliver anything remotely original. Too many blogs re-hash the same old content. It’s brilliant if you can put a unique twist, add an opinion to or elongate an existing list, but all too often businesses simply repeat what influencers have said hundreds of times before.
The virtual world doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Instead of re-hashing other people’s old content, how can you create original content?
You need to invest in real world experiences.
Whether you interview experts, write opinion pieces regarding a networking event you recently visited or provide the occasional influencer contribution, if you want to stand out, you need to realize that offline and online activities are symbiotic in many ways.
Diversification ensures your blog is diverse and original. You’re formulating your own opinion on things that are exclusive or at least relatively exclusive to your business.
With the suggestion that content marketing is crucial to SEO, many businesses probably dusted off the blog and started to produce content again.
But blogging isn’t the only thing you can do to raise your ranking. It’s time to diversify your strategy.
Ever thought of utilizing video? If you have then you’re in good company — 70 percent of brands believe video to be the most effective form of content marketing and they’re not wrong with video responsible for 70 percent of Google’s top results.
When you consider stats like this it’s easier to understand the fact that by 2017 video will account for 69 percent of consumer traffic.
So don’t get stuck creating the same old content. Keep an eye on Google’s progress.
The fact is, and this contradicts the idea that ‘bigger is better,’ people’s attention spans are at an all-time low. There’s always something to distract the user and making content more manageable and accessible by using video and keeping articles relevant and informative, might just see you prosper.
Henry McIntosh is a copywriter at the British digital marketing and Web design firm Ri Web. Ri Web runs online advertising campaigns, creates content and helps brands create websites that are truly evocative of everything their business aspires to be.