The Complete SEO Guide for Beginners-SEO Content Optimization (Part-4)
What is SEO Content?
To understand what SEO content means, it’s useful to look at the phrase in two parts:
The first part – “SEO” (search engine optimization) – is the process of optimizing your website and content so that it shows up higher in search engine results pages for specific search terms.
The second part – “content” – is any information that you publish online that can be indexed by search engines. This includes website content, blog posts, images, graphics, and videos.
So, taken as a whole, SEO content is any content that is created to increase search engine rankings and therefore traffic to your website.
Search engines display their organic search results according to the relevance and authority of a web page. Relevance is determined by how often you use specific keywords and phrases within the content of a web page, and authority is determined by the number of trustworthy backlinks that point to that page.
To make your content more SEO-friendly, your content should be organized logically, contain relevant keywords, and be written with your audience in mind.
But here’s a super-quick refresher on what you’ll need to do in order to SEO your web content:
- Keyword Research: If you want to generate traffic through search, it’s best to do keyword research before you start writing. This way, you can focus on keywords for which a certain amount of search volume already exists – in other words, write toward topics (or find keyword niches!) that people are already searching for information about.
- Keyword Optimization: Know where and how to use keywords in your content for maximum searchability. (SEOMoz offers a great guide to on-page optimization.)
- Content Organization: The content on your site should be organized in a logical way. This is not only good for SEO, it also helps visitors on your site find other related content easily. (The longer they stay on your site, the better.)
- Content Promotion: Increase visibility to new content you create by sharing it on social networks and building links to your content (both internally and from external sites).
A Quick Word on Intentions
It’s important to keep in mind that if search engine traffic is your only goal, your results will probably suffer. In order to please both the search engines (who will reward you with high rankings over time) and potential customers and return visitors, you need to offer value above and beyond search engine optimization. In other words, don’t produce “thin” content that ranks and get clicks, but doesn’t provide any additional value to the search engine user. Sites that promote “thin,” low-value content run the risk of being penalized by Google; they also tend to have high bounce rates and low conversion rates.
Types of SEO Content
SEO content can include any of the following:
- Product Pages – These are the bread and butter of any retail e-commerce site. A good product page can serve as both SEO content and a PPC landing page.
- Blog Posts – A blog is one of the easiest ways to create a regular stream of effective SEO content. In general, blog posts are more engaging and more likely to attract links than product pages, so they can be a great way to build some authority for your site. (Keep in mind that blogs are very flexible, and you can use them to host any of the below types of content in this list.)
- Articles – Think news article, interview, or feature piece. This is the main kind of content you’ll find on most newspaper- or magazine-style websites.
- Lists – A list is really just a kind of article, but framing it as a list (such as “10 Ways to Lower Your Energy Bill” or “101 Things I Hate About Google”) makes it easier to scan. These types of titles also seem to be more clickable when found in search results or in social media feeds.
- Guides – A guide is a longer piece of content that explains in detail how to do something. (Guides are often broken up onto multiple web pages, though it’s a best practice to allow users to view long content as a single page if they wish.) You can post a full guide on your website, or you can post a summary or excerpt, requiring visitors to fill out a registration form to read the full guide. This can be a good way to generate leads, but keep in mind that putting up a registration wall will likely reduce the amount of SEO traffic you can drive to that guide.
- Videos – In general there are fewer videos on the web than pages of text; consequently, it can be easier to rank on the first page for a competitive keyword by creating a video instead of an article. Depending on what type of site or business you run, videos can be a great way to attract and reach an audience. Consider creating video tutorials of how to use your products. Or illustrate a process that is related to your business – for example, a plumber could make a video showing how to unclog a sink. (A note on SEO: You might consider including a text transcript of your video. Here are some additional tips for optimizing videos.)
- Infographics – Infographics, or large-format images that contain a lot of data (often in the form of graphs or charts) on a single subject, can rack up a lot of page views and links. However, because so much of the content is embedded in the image and therefore not readable as text by search engines, it’s important to carefully optimize the rest of the page. You can use one of these five free infographic templates to get started.
- Slideshows – A slideshow is a way to display a series of related images. Sometimes pictures are more important than text – say you’re trying to show what all the stars wore to the Oscars. Here again, SEO of your title, captions, image file names and so on is important because there is less for the search engines to “read.”
- Glossaries – I swear more people use Google to look up terms than they use a dictionary. (Do you even know where your dictionary is?) If you work in a specialized industry, a well built-out glossary can be a good way to capture some search traffic. Think cooking terms, medical terms, fashion terms, architectural terms …
- Directories – A directory is a useful taxonomy of links to sites or resources around a given topic. For example, a perfume blog might create a directory of places to buy perfume, from major department stores to independent shops around the country.
These are just some of the basic types of SEO content, but don’t let this list limit you – the possibilities are virtually endless.
On-Page Content Optimization
Good content and SEO work hand in hand. Without one, you won’t have much success with the other – if you don’t have the high-quality content that search engines want, your SEO rankings and readership are likely to be low. At the same time, even the best content doesn’t do you much good if your target shoppers aren’t able to find it when they’re searching.
That’s why it’s important to be able to consistently write SEO-friendly content that people enjoy reading. With that in mind, here are a few tips and best practices to get great content and SEO.
Focus on Keywords– But Not Too Much
Keywords still have a place in your SEO strategy, just be sure to use them thoughtfully and organically in your content while trying to use keyword phrases in addition to individual keywords. Using a keyword phrase in your title might not make for the most exciting or witty headline, but it will make your article more likely to be viewed by your target audience.
Use Headings Properly
Headings are an essential but often overlooked aspect of good SEO. Header tags are the HTML tags that range from H1 to H6 and are used to create an outline and add structure to an article or blog post. Using headings wisely can help Google parse the main topic of longer articles.
Optimize the Length of Your Posts
Google tends to prefer longer articles. One study shows that the average length of a first-page search result on Google is 2000 words.
While it’s not necessary to churn out a post of that length each time you update your blog, you’ll probably have better luck if you tend to create longer posts in general. Breaking up your lengthy posts into manageable chunks for your readers (using bullet points, subheadings, and lists) can help prevent the dreaded “wall of text.”
Use Location-Specific Phrases
When people perform online searches, they’re frequently looking for local businesses. This is especially true when they’re searching on their mobile devices.
If you have a local company, make sure to include geo-specific terms in your keyword phrases to ensure that your content shows up prominently in those searches. Use these location-specific keyword phrases in your titles and within your H1 tags, and you’ll see your local SEO improve rapidly
Quality links are one of the most important ingredients of a healthy SEO strategy. They help Google, and other search engines measure the relevance of websites and return better results to searchers. If you want to improve your search engine rankings, you need quality links.
But developing a strong link profile is not all that simple; first, you need to understand what makes a good link, what makes a bad link, and what you can do to optimize your website for better results.
Link Building-The Basics
The PageRank algorithm was developed by Google to rank websites in their search engine results pages.
Essentially, it works by measuring the importance of a website by counting the number and quality of links to its pages. Any link from one page to another passes some of its PageRank (or link juice) to the page it’s linking to, giving that page a PageRank boost.
But with inbound links, outbound links, internal links, and more, the connection between links and SEO can get very confusing. To help, we’ve broken down the process into eight steps for effective internal linking and the complete guide to link building.
The Different Link Types
Every web page should have internal links (pointing to the same page or another page on the same domain) and outbound links (pointing to external web domains). They help users navigate a site and find useful information, and help search engines understand and index a site. But they are all formed differently.
- Anchor texts. These are often highlighted, clickable links that can help increase search rankings for specific keywords. However, Google punishes repetitive anchor texts, so use a mixture of non-repetitive branded and keyword-rich phrases.
- Naked URLs. This is when the full URL is displayed in the link. Generally, they’re not as powerful as anchor texts for SEO.
- Brand citations. Instead of showing the full URL of a company website, the link is merely the name of the company.An image link can be an excellent navigational tool, but only when it’s a link. (The alt attribute tag for the image acts like anchor text.)
- Reciprocal links. These happen when two webmasters agree to provide a hyperlink to each other’s website. If they both share the same target market or offer complimentary services or products, the link can be seen as relevant. If not, reciprocal links can harm PageRank.
There are also variations in the way each link operates:
Do follow links are standard links that search engines can follow and count toward PageRank.
No follow links have extra markup in the code that tells Google crawlers to ignore the link, so it doesn’t count toward PageRank.
Google advises using the no follow tag for paid links or for links to websites you don’t trust. Many sites use the no follow tag for the comments section to avoid spam links.
How to Analyze Links
What makes one link more valuable than another? There are a few factors you need to consider.
You can measure website authority in a variety of ways. There’s the Google PageRank toolbar (not available on some browsers) that displays the PageRank of a website, but it’s not updated that often so the information can be misleading.
Then there’s the SEO toolbar from Moz, including MozRank and other metrics. The Alexa toolbar is another respected SEO tool that is more focused on web traffic. If you can get links from sites with more authority, you have the potential to outrank your competitors in search engine results pages (SERPs).
Relevant links are more valuable. It’s better to get a link from a website that is related to your industry or field of expertise. Outbound links should also be relevant to the context of your content. Internal links will have more value if they help users and search engines navigate your site more easily.
There are no guarantees when it comes to how Google and other search engines rank links based on their location within a page. However, most SEO experts agree that links within content are more valuable than navigational links or links in the page footer.
These factors, taken together with the link type, all contribute to link value. Considering all these details, we can summarize what makes some links better than others.
Good links include:
- Backlinks from websites with more authority.
- Backlinks from relevant websites
- Backlinks from websites that already rank high in SERPs for certain keywords.
- Anchor text links that are relevant to the content they are a part of and link to.
Bad links include:
- Links to websites or link directories with little useful content.
- Links to websites that are not related to the content of your website.
- Links to poor-quality websites.
- Broken links.
- Repetitive keywords or exact-match keyword phrases in internal links.
- Purchased links without the no follow tag.
How to Develop an SEO Content Strategy
If you’ve been producing content in a haphazard manner, hoping and praying that some of it eventually ranks, it’s time to buckle down and commit to a more methodical SEO content strategy for the web.
Here are four steps to defining and refining your SEO content strategy:
Define your goals
First, determine your goals as a website or business. Are you looking to drive sales through your website? Do you monetize your site via ads and therefore just want to increase traffic and return readership? Your goals will determine what types of content you should focus on.
If you’re primarily trying to drive product sales, your primary focus should be attractive, informative product pages that are optimized for both search and conversions. Your secondary focus could be helpful blog content that illustrates when and how to use your products, linking to those pages where relevant (it’s best if your blog is not entirely self-promotional, though).
If your site operates on an advertising model and the goal is to attract new readers through search, you’ll want to focus on rich content (such as long-form articles or video resources that are informative, entertaining or both) with “stickiness” (“sticky” content keeps visitors on your site longer or encourages them to return).
Consider your audience
Know your audience – surveys and your analytics software can help you get a better picture of your typical visitor or client. Consider developing marketing personas, or characters that represent your ideal site visitors and customers. Then think about what kinds of content those personas would be looking for.
For example, if you operate a B2B website that targets C-level executives, you might want to create high-level white papers that can be downloaded and saved to read later.
If your business targets teens and tweens, you might want to focus on frequent updates with less text and more images and video. You’ll also want to be sure your site is optimized for mobile usage.
Create an editorial calendar
Once you have an idea of who you are targeting and why, you can start to build out an editorial calendar. An editorial calendar is a schedule that dictates when you will publish new content and what type of content it will be. This will help you stick to a regular schedule (it’s especially important to create new content on a regular basis if you have a blog), as well as prevent you from scrambling to come up with a topic for new content at the last minute.
A few tips for creating and adhering to an editorial calendar:
- Use Outlook (or Google Calendar) – Share the editorial calendar with your whole marketing team. Set up reminders for authors so they get a notification when a deadline is coming up.
- Consider creating ongoing features – For example, a food blog might do a meatless recipe every Monday. Many blogs do link roundups once per week (including this one). Create a category page for each ongoing feature, so visitors can find all of your Meatless Monday recipes or link roundups in one place.
- Give yourself plenty of lead time when producing more complicated types of content, such as videos and infographics. These often need multiple rounds of edits to perfect and can be more complicated to optimize for search.
- Don’t plan too far out in advance – Calendars often get derailed after a month or two, due to changes in marketing goals, budgets, or staff, so don’t try to plan out a schedule for the next year and risk wasting a lot of time and effort.
Analyze and re-assess
Finally, stay on top of your site’s analytics. Regularly analyze your SEO content to see what’s working and what isn’t. Good measures of success and engagement include page views, links, comments (on blog posts and some other types of content), social shares (Facebook likes, tweets, etc.), and conversion rates. Your analysis should have two goals:
- Study your successes so you can repeat those strategies – Look for patterns. Does your audience love videos? Then make more videos! Adjust your editorial calendar going forward so you can focus more time and effort on the content types that really resonate.
- Carve out time for updating and improving older SEO content – If you tried to optimize an article for a certain keyword, but it’s getting more traffic for a different variation of that keyword, then go back in and re-optimize it for the new keyword.