Could SEO Be Killing Your Content? How to Turn Both Readers and Google into Raving Fans
When you craft content for your company’s website, blog, and social media sites, you want to accomplish two things: catch Google’s attention and compel readers to engage with your brand. If you skip either step, your audience might be lost — and your content might never be found.
The problem is, when content marketing first started gaining traction, companies focused on search engine optimization (SEO) to the point that quality content took a backseat. Sure, they grabbed Google’s attention and may have generated some clicks. The problem is that readers clicked away pretty quickly once they discovered that the content was subpar. Publishing content that’s search engine optimized doesn’t guarantee you’re going to offer content that people want to read. In fact, the opposite is often true. Truly powerful content is timely, responsive, interactive, and original. SEO might draw readers to your site, but it takes more than that to engage them, build brand loyalty, and turn your website and social media pages into online destinations.
Ready to learn how to break out of SEO obsession without dooming your content to oblivion? Here are four strategies that will help.
1. Concentrate on relevance rather than on keyword stuffing
Google is smarter than we are. They figured out pretty quickly that people were just stuffing industry jargon into every corner of their content — which is why that tactic doesn’t work anymore. And that’s a good thing. Would you want to read something like this: “Julia’s cheap Chicago restaurant is the best pizza in Chicago. It’s cheap Chicago pizza, if you want cheap pizza in Chicago”?
Google doesn’t, either. That’s why they’re constantly tweaking their algorithms to help the public find useful information. The question that should guide you in writing for online audiences is this: How useful is my content?
For example, if you’re a hotel, is your website simply a place to book a room, or is it a destination for learning about events, attractions, restaurants, and people in your unique region? A well-crafted blog with tips on all things local leads to Google hits and a trusted regional brand.
Or, if you’re a cosmetics company, does your content help your readers experience your products and brand before they buy? Blog posts on the latest trends in lipstick colors or what to wear with metallic eyeshadow are much more useful — and will get much better results — than posts that keep repeating words like “makeup,” “foundation,” and “beauty.”
2. Create compelling headlines
Creating compelling headlines is both an art and a science. Tracking analytics have provided hard data about what works and what doesn’t. For example, we know that:
- the ideal length is around six words.
- readers scan headlines, too. So, for longer headlines, put the most important words near the beginning and near the end.
- numbered lists perform well. So do questions.
That’s the science part. You can go further, like finding out which specific numbers in a headline perform the best. But, if you take it too far, you run the same risk as keyword stuffing: Readers will quickly catch on to what you’re doing. Moreover, your audience wants to know what to expect when they click onto your page. Over-the-top headlines might get you clicks, but readers will feel like you tricked them into it. So be clever, but not overly dramatic. The most effective headlines are descriptive and informative, while giving your readers an accurate preview of what they’re about to read. Take these two headlines for a wine brand:
- “A Tasty Trick that Can Extend Your Life for Decades”
- “3 Ways Red Wine with Dinner Can Extend Your Life”
Regardless of your target audience, all readers want to feel like they’re “in the know.” (And who doesn’t want a good reason to drink wine?) Effective headlines always makes it clear what the payoff for clicking is going to be.
3. Offer original perspectives
Original, quality content — the kind that Google rewards with high search engine rankings — goes beyond posting newsworthy stories. To elevate your brand and establish yourself as a thought leader, you’ll want your digital content to offer fresh perspectives and insights that can only be discovered by visiting your online platform.
For example, that latest study about diabetes might be relevant to your wellness brand, but your readers might have already seen the study shared ad nauseum on social media. Instead, you might create a list of unique and surprising ways that diabetes can be managed, mentioning the diabetes study in the context of a piece that builds your brand’s unique identity.
4. Write frequently
Google — and readers — prefer content that’s frequently updated. After all, Google doesn’t want to get caught sending traffic to a site that’s out of business. A regularly updated site suggests the presence of a strong, organized brand behind it. In 2015, companies that blogged 16 or more times per month got almost 3.5 more traffic than companies than only published between 0 and 4 times. Whether you’re talking about Google or your human audience, if your most recent post is six months old, you’re giving the impression that you can’t be bothered or that you’re no longer relevant.
Fortunately, there’s always plenty to write about. The secret lies in identifying what will be most relevant to your audience. What keeps them up at night? Are they worrying about how industry developments are going to affect their business? Or are they staying up late to find out everything they can about that new product everybody has been buzzing about? Or maybe two major players in their industry just merged, and everyone is trying to figure out what that means.
But there’s more to quality content than just posting the latest news. What gives you an edge over your competitors is when you include your brand’s take on the topic. You can’t just create more chatter; you have to highlight your expertise by sharing your own insights into why it matters. That’s essential to staying relevant and growing your brand.
In the age of digital marketing, a successful content marketing strategy means using all of these strategies efficiently and originally — without sacrificing quality. That can feel like a tall order, especially if you don’t have content writers on staff. If you’d like some help, get started by signing up for a free account with Prose Media. We can take care of everything from generating topics to writing quality content that will be loved by both search engines and readers.