Fresh Content Impacts Search Engine Rankings
Your Content & SEO in 2014
Ironically, the most frustrating online search you could perform may very well be a query like: “How do I improve my site’s search engine ranking?” It’s not that there’s a shortage of content on this topic – quite the opposite!
In Bernie Borges’ recent article explaining the impact of your site’s speed and performance on search engine rankings, in this and future follow-up articles, we will endeavor to not just pile on information or throw in our opinions but to help you focus on what’s really important. To create an effective SEO strategy for 2014, we can narrow your focus down to four key areas:
- Site speed/performance
- Fresh content
- Inbound links
- Social sharing
Having already examined site speed/performance, let’s look at how fresh content affects your SEO.
Content is Critical to SEO Results
Marketers have chased, struggled with, and pontificated about the elusive Google search algorithm for years. Nevertheless, it seems Google has hidden the key right in plain sight all along. As Google’s go-to answer guy, Matt Cutts’ answer to almost every question is the same: quality content. All the SEO tips, tactics, and tricks (especially the tricks) are useless without high quality content as the foundation of your strategy.
Changes in Search: Hummingbird
While Google has encouraged reliance on high quality content, smart marketers took these hints as more than suggestions but as warnings. Numerous updates over the last two years have taken out any SEO tricks or short cuts tried by lazy marketers in the past. This slew of updates culminated in the Hummingbird announcement in September. The effects of Hummingbird were largely unfelt by marketers already on board with a quality content strategy at heart of their SEO efforts. Hummingbird has served to change the way we think about search and should encourage you as a marketer to stay the course and keep up the good work!
Use Your Content to Get Ranked
As we approach a new year, it is apparent that we must put increased emphasis on our content strategy. In 2014, content cannot be planned or executed in a vacuum. Your content will be central to an effective SEO strategy as well as your social media marketing. So let’s get started.
- Keywords still matter.
Hummingbird turned much of what we think about keywords on its head and Google’s decision to no longer provide keyword data in Google Analytics may be forcing marketers to rely more on customer engagement (those who were not already). However, quality content is not random or accomplished by chance. It is critical that we take time to know our audiences, identify buyer personas, and tailor content to targeted needs, interests, and pain points of customers.
- Personas drive your content.
Let me encourage you to think about who you would like to reach in 2014, what they need and want to find in your content, and the best channels or tools to provide the content they are looking for. If you do not already have target personas identified, simply describe your ideal customer. Developing these personas may take testing and reevaluation over time. But, knowing your company and your product, a little strategic planning up front will establish a great starting point and provide a framework for your content. In the most recent episode of the Social Business Engine Digital TV show, we learned how AmeriFirst Home Mortgage targets appropriate, useful content to their various audience personas.
Google has taken great pains to remove the tricks and schemes used in the past to “win” the SEO game but we are still working with technology. While the search engines are getting better at deciphering user intent, we don’t want to make them work too hard to find our intent as content producers.
- Authorship & Schema.org
Google relies upon Schema.org and authorship markup to identify the topics of your content and even the extent of your thought leadership within your industry. You could be the top thought leader in your field but, without providing the authorship information clearly in a way that the technology will recognize, your content could go unnoticed.
- Semantic Markup & Open Graph
- Architecture Problems
Avoid architecture or canonical issues that can hold back your content. When you’ve put the time and planning into creating fresh, quality content, don’t let problems behind the scenes keep it from finding its audience.
Now it’s time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys), put all your plans and strategy time to work, and create content that the search engines AND your audience will love.
- Quality Content
While there is no magic word count or secret formula to a good blog article, don’t be afraid to give and give. Your customers and prospects are looking for information so let them know you know your stuff! Sometimes you really only need a few words to convey your message or idea. In that case, don’t belabor the point. But readers and search engines can handle meaty content as well. If you need a general rule to follow, aim your content for 400-800 words most of the time. You need to give the search engines enough to go on when they’re searching your content for the topic and hints as to its quality.
- Natural Content
Whether the content is long or short, keep all your words natural and conversational. Break any old habit you might still have of trying to stuff important words in where they might not belong. That just makes content awkward for readers and will ultimately backfire. The same goes for your linking strategy. Links you provide within the content must be natural and appropriate to what you’re trying to convey. Do not provide links for the link’s sake but, rather, for the reader’s sake. Will seeing that additional content really help them understand what you’re saying?
- Fresh Content
Hummingbird is said to have been named for the tiny little bird because it aims to be fast and precise. I might add that, like the hummingbird, the search engines are drawn to the freshness of your content. Hummingbirds are drawn to fresh, appealing flowers, not to dead, lifeless, or bitter plants. Your readers and the search engines will not be drawn to stale, boring, outdated, or poorly presented content either.
An effective content strategy does require planning, strategy, and effort. But this is time and energy well spent as it is foundational to much of your overall digital strategy (SEO, social media, events, even advertising campaigns).