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Content marketing and SEO go hand in hand. Great content attracts links and can rank highly, while good SEO means the content you produce brings searchers to your site.
SEO should be a major part of your content strategy, and the best way to rank well and to survive algorithm changes, is to produce unique and valuable content.
In this post I'll look at how we approach content and SEO at Econsultancy...
Content marketing and SEO
These are two disciplines which should work closely together, as one feeds off another.
Getting the SEO basics right improves the performance of your content, while one of the best ways to improve search rankings is by producing unique content.
Indeed, as our State of Search Marketing Report 2013 found, organisations are more likely to integrate content marketing with their SEO strategy than they are with any other digital marketing discipline.
Nearly half (45%) of all companies say this area is ‘highly integrated’ with their SEO efforts, compared to just 24% for paid search marketing and 16% for mobile marketing.
Q: To what degree are your search engine optimisation efforts integrated with the following digital marketing disciplines?
Quality before quantity
This is all important. While thin content created to provide fodder to Google's crawlers may have worked (in a fashion) years ago, it just doesn't cut the mustard now.
Besides, weak content churned out to make up the numbers will not work from a content marketing perspective. No-one wants to read that.
Though we have expectations of our writers in terms of volume of output, this is far less important than the quality of the articles they produce.
Indeed, one well-written article which is useful for our readers can achieve much more than a dozen quick posts.
We do look to cross-promote our services on the blog, but the main focus is on writing articles for are interesting and valuable for us and our readers.
Original and engaging content helps to set you apart from competitors and gives people a compelling reason to read and share your content.
Google is looking for fresh and unique content, so give it what it wants.
Before you create a piece of content, think about what you are trying to achieve with it. What do you want to rank/be known for? Are you aiming for traffic and awareness or leads from specific visitors?
We look to rank for terms which are related to our paid research, events and training, so a little research before you write and publish goes a long way.
Make the most of the tools available. These include:
- Google Trends is useful for deciding on the best wording for your posts. E.g. should I say delivery or shipping? Basket or cart? and so on.
Analytics will tell you what has worked before for whatever goals you want to achieve. Keyword data is almost useless for us now. thanks to (not provided) but we can still see which posts are popular, which have engaged readers, and which ones have been most valuable in terms of leads or conversions.
- Keyword tools are very useful for generating ideas. This post shows five content tools which are worth checking out, especially the novel use of Google's keyword planner.
I place a lot of importance on measuring the results from the content you create, and I look at various factors.
- Traffic. Pageviews and visits aren't everything for a business like ours, but they do give you an idea of what your audience is interested in. Also, as a writer, you like to know that someone is reading the fruits of your labour.
- Conversions. Though we're more likely to generate awareness and leads, we like to show the rest of the business that we can make a few sales too. I have various custom segments and reports which can show transactions which followed on from from visits to the blog.
- Engagement. We want people who arrive on the blog to stay a while and browse the site. To achieve this we look to link to related and relevant content, paid and free. To measure, we can look at metrics like bounce rates, time on page, while I have some useful custom reports that look at visitors who viewed multiple pages.
- Search referrals. Again, Google's attitude to referral data makes tracking exact keywords very difficult, but we can look at the volume of visits from search, while data on site search provides some useful clues.
- Tracking rankings and keyword performance. We like to experiment with SEO and see where this takes us, so we track the search performance of selected keywords. You can do this manually, but I find that tools such as Moz Analytics save a lot of time and help to track and improve rankings over time.
Headlines are massively important. They should be descriptive and alluring, without overdoing it.
So, 'Five valuable Google Analytics reports to improve conversions' is descriptive and gives people a reason to click, while 'Five Google Analytics reports that will save your life and make you millions' is promising a little too much.
While there's a backlash from some against lists and numbers, thanks to the likes of Buzzfeed and those awful promoted articles on 'weird tricks to lose weight' the plan fact is that they work well.
Headlines must be written for the web, something some traditional offline publishers have yet to adapt to.
Take this recent example from the New York Times. I've noticed a lot of criticism of it on Twitter, and I can see why.
The story is actually pretty sensational, but the headline is dull and undescriptive. Don't waste your writer's efforts by failing to sell the article as well as you can.
Of course, you need to think about which keywords and phrases to use in your headlines. How will people find your articles? What do you want to rank for?
Then there's headline length. We have a 65 character rule, which is applied to most posts.
This is because Google truncates long titles in search results. Given that headlines often become the title tag for a page, you want the full headline to be visible in the search results.
The creation of internal links is an important SEO tactic. Unlike external linking the site owner has complete control over internal links, so it's important to make the most of it.
There are a number of compelling reasons for good internal linking, some are SEO tactics, others are just about improving the user experience by making it easier for visitors to find what they want.
I've explained internal linking in more detail previously, but here are a few compelling reasons:
- It helps to distribute link equity. Some pages on your site may have more link equity than others, but internal links allow you to pass some of that onto pages you'd like to improve rankings for.
- You can improve rankings for target keywords. Relevant anchor text helps search engines to index your pages, though anchor text should be varied to avoid sending any suspicious signals to the search engines.
- Links help Google to crawl your site. Here's Matt Cutts on the subject. Among other things, he advises that descriptive anchor text helps Google to better understand your content. It's also useful for readers.
They send traffic to older posts. A good proportion of our blog traffic is generated by archive posts, and links help us to keep them alive.
This is the best long term SEO and content marketing strategy, and it's what we aim to do on this blog.
Evergreen content is that which is still interesting and relevant weeks, months or even years after its initial publish date. It doesn’t date like news, and the value is that it can deliver traffic, leads, social shares and can occupy valuable search positions for a prolonged period of time.
For example. this post on Google Analytics custom dashboards was publish 12 months ago, but is still delivering traffic to the blog to this date.
Having achieved just over 15,000 pageviews in the first week after publishing, it has amassed more than 130,000 views over the last 12 months.
An article like this, which is a useful resource over time, will attract the kinds of links and engagement metrics that Google is looking for, and can perform well in the search engines over a longer period of time.
It’s a virtuous circle too, as higher rankings means more visits, which leads to more links, and so on.
For more, see our recent best practice guide, 100+ Practical Content Marketing Tips: A how-to guide for editors, writers and content creators which presents the lessons we've learned from ten years of writing for this blog.