One of the core principles of SEO has, and always will be, content. Content marketing is a phrase that’s been banded around for years, but recently the term has become far more widespread. Content marketing essentially refers to the creation of new content relevant to your target market or industry sector, and is most commonly implemented through the use of a blog.
The rise of Google+ and rich snippets has meant that blog posts now provide an even bigger opportunity to drive traffic to your site because of their increased visibility in the SERPs. Despite this, and the recent surge of algorithm updates in recent weeks, the fundamentals of getting your content found in the search results for your target keywords have remained pretty consistent.
Start with a topic you really want to rank well for – in our case, it might be “digital marketing”. Then, put yourself in the shoes of your prospective customers, and consider what they might search for to find the products and/or services you offer. For example, what questions or challenges related to your industry do they have that you can help address? Remember, it doesn’t always have to be about selling to your target customers, being seen as a thought leader in your industry can prove just as important in the longer term.
People are increasingly using longer phrases to find the content they need. With the sheer amount of informational content online, a simple search for a topical phrase is no longer going to get searchers the results they were hoping for. Thus, searches have had to become much more specific to filter through the masses of content available for each and every subject.
Presumably as a result of these more complex searches, Google has changed its algorithm to better fit conversational questions from searchers. This is especially good news for blogs, which are specifically designed to be educational, answer questions, and provide detailed information. It’s perhaps even better news when you realise that identifying these questions via keyword research could present you with a hit list of potential blog post ideas that could drive a wider variety of traffic to your site.
Headlines and URLs
Once you have identified a list of potential blog posts, you’ll need to ensure that you’ve optimized the headlines. Keywords are most effectively targeted when they’re at the start of the headline. For example, if you’re trying to rank your posts to appear for searches about fashion advice: “Fashion Advice: What to wear this winter“ will rank better than “Everything You Need to Know about shoes -fashion advice.”
Regardless of keywords, you’ll also want to write the sort of headline that is likely to regularly receive clicks and easily be shared. The frequency with which a piece of content gets shared can positively impact its ranking in the search engine results pages. In fact, in recent years, social elements have been increasingly important to search, which I’ll go on to explain in the Social Search section towards the end of this post.
You shouldn’t always try and force your content to fit a common practice (10 reasons to buy…). Instead, try out different headline structures. You may well find that adding humor to posts works best for generating clicks and increasing shares on social media.
In addition to the post title, search engines often use the words in a posts URL to determine if it’s relevant to the search query. So if you are able to edit the structure of your URLs, it’s imperative to make sure that you’re including the target keywords of each post there too.
SEO-Friendly Anchor Text
When search engines crawl your blog, they don’t read every word. They will often just scan the headline, subheadings, images (ALT text), and the anchor text of any links in your post. Anchor text is the word or phrase you highlight when you insert a hyperlink into a page or post. These words are often overlooked, but choosing the right words to hyperlink can really add SEO value to your posts.
In addition to choosing the right words to use as anchor text, you’ll need to consider the placement of those words in the post. If you link to the same internal page multiple times in a single blog post, be sure to optimise the first occurrence of that link. Search analytics company Moz provide a detailed overview that explains how search engines value the first occurrence of a link in a post. The important point to note here is when using your blog to link to other content on your site, always make sure that the first link to this content includes your target keyword.
Proper use of Tags
One of the most common issues I encounter when reviewing blogs is the overuse of tags. Note that a tag in and of itself does not improve the SEO of a post. The only way it improves your SEO is by relating one piece of content to another, and, groups of posts to each other.
Because each tag creates a separate category page, many SEO’s have found that having too many similar tags on your content can come across to search engines as duplicate content and may well end up getting you penalised.
Bearing this in mind, you’ll need to be smarter when choosing tags for your blog. Don’t create a tag for something you don’t need to rank for and don’t introduce similar tags for the same content.
As I’ve already mentioned, social search is an evolving term for the way in which search engines factor a users (and authors) social network into how results are displayed after a particular search query.
Content that is shared more on social media has been proven to perform better in relation to search rankings because it naturally increases the number of inbound links and traffic to your pages. With this in mind, social sharing icons are imperative, and have become standard on most blogs. Social icons make it easy for a reader to quickly share your content across their network.
Furthermore, if you have author bios for the blogger/s on your site, encourage them to link up their individual social media accounts in their bio. Most importantly, they’ll need to link their Google+ accounts to the blog posts they produce, which will improve how your posts look on search engine results pages.
By linking the content you are publishing on your blog to your Google+ profile you are able to verify that you are the author of your content. When Google Authorship is implemented correctly, a rich snippet including your author picture will display in the search results alongside your blog content.
Claiming your Google Authorship can help to establish your online identity within various communities and build trust in your brand. Search results containing rich snippets, such as the picture of the content author, have been proven to significantly improve click through rate and drive increased numbers of organic traffic to your site.
Google Authorship already has a number of well-documented benefits for blog posts:
- Frequently seeing your photo associated with topics they search reinforces your personal brand with customers, potential customers, and others who should matter to you in your field.
- A number of studies have shown that a face photo next to a search result can significantly increase the click-through rate (CTR) over what the result would normally get in that position on the search page.
- Anyone can add you to their Google+ circles (or just learn more about you) by clicking your byline in the search result, which takes them straight to your Google+ profile.
- The “More by…” link in an Authorship result opens a custom Google Search page with just that author’s content.
- If someone clicks one of your authorship results and stays on the content for at least a couple of minutes, when they return to the search page they will see an expanded result showing three more links to your content.
Furthermore, since Google+ profiles now provide a way for authors to easily identify themselves to Google and connect Google with their content across the web, it looks like all the pieces are now in place for Google to move towards using data about those authors and their content as a ranking factor.
I suspect that Google will implement a similar system to rank posts and even entire sites based on the influence the authors on those sites are perceived to have in that particular industry, so you should certainly consider using Google+ for your blog posts.
Content Marketing Services from Hallam
By now, you’ll have realised the impact that implementing a content marketing strategy could have on your organic search traffic. However, it does require a lot of time, resource and knowledge to get it right. If you’re interested in finding out more about our content marketing services here at Hallam, do get in touch via our contact page or give us a call.