A Double Layered Approach to Optimizing Your Content for Search Engines

by September 20, 2018 0 comments

Authored by: Rohan Ayyar, Regional Marketing Manager India, SEMrush 

‘Content marketing’ is a term that grew, evolved and became central to digital marketing on the back of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Now, you might think that is a tall claim because brands have used content for ages – in print, websites, blogs and even ad copy. However, with the all-pervasiveness of search engines – 90% of customer journeys on the internet begin with a search and search influences 75% of all purchases – it’s imperative for brands to find what works to increase their visibility on this channel and do more of it.

Google has repeatedly said that having great content that helps users is fundamental to succeeding in your SEO efforts.

Replace Keyword Research with Intent Research

Most companies still create content for the sake of content. Very often, the culprits are the SEO agency they hire or even their in-house marketing leads. For some reason, they refuse to expand their brand messaging beyond trying to sell their product. The first step towards putting in place a long-term content strategy is to accept the fact that customers do not want to be sold to. They go to Google to search for information – NOT to be told how great your company is!

This means not scattering keywords all across your page titles, headlines, subheadings, blog posts or product descriptions. That sort of stuff worked 10 or 15 years ago, but “experienced” SEOs are still stuck with the mindset that there is a “formula” to get your content right.

Google, however, has evolved from matching “queries” to matching “intent”. If you want to do the same with your content, you need to go from keyword research to intent research. Traditionally, SEO fed industry terms with purchase intent – such as “buy shoes” or “cheap flights Ahmedabad-Mumbai” – into their keyword tools and pulled up a list with close variants. They then stuffed these keywords into their landing pages and tried to build links to them. Recipe for disaster!

A simple example of how intent differs from just keywords can be given by terms like “apple” – if someone googles “apple”, how do you know if they’re looking for a fruit or a mobile phone? For this, you need to conduct research into the conversations your customers are having, the platforms your competitors are active on, the news and updates that industry publications are writing about, and so on.

You don’t need an army of market researchers here; a tool like SEMrush’s Topic Research will help you find terms related to your primary keyword, including what people are googling, semantic terms of articles on the subject, headlines that are capturing attention, etc. and present them in the form of topical cards or mind maps to help you decide what areas you’ll focus on next.

Get the Format Right

When users click through from Google search to your site, it implies you probably match their intent and have succeeded in piquing their interest. However, once you bring visitors in, you need to figure out how to hold their attention. Think about what will make them read your content, rouse their opinions, induce them to comment, or share on their networks.

How do you know for sure whether your content indeed matches the user’s intent? By the amount of engagement and interaction it gets! In order to maximize engagement, your content has to

  • Make your expertise on the subject clear in order to elicit trust
  • Be easy-to-understand and structured in simple language
  • Educate readers or viewers on a topic
  • Entertain them to a certain extent
  • Point to actionable next steps

All this cannot always be achieved simply by writing long blocks of text. Visuals play a crucial role in how content is consumed these days. Blog posts, graphics, pop up boxes, on-page elements like CTAs, all need to be structured and spaced optimally in an aesthetic layout in order to maximize interactions, reactions and conversions from your audience.

Depending on the platform where you’re publishing and promoting your content, it could be structured as an article, a short update, a slide show, an infographic, a list or a video. Or it could be a mix of one or more of these. For example, a blog post might be ideal for providing a checklist for doing on-site SEO, a social media post is ideal for announcing a seasonal contest, whereas a video is essential for demonstrating a set of exercises that help you build six-pack abs.

Google displays a mix of web pages with content in all these formats in its search results, in an effort to give searcher’s choice in the type of content they’d like to consume, and improve their user experience in the process.

Over to You

If you want to make every piece of content that you put out there count, you need to begin at the ideation stage. Think about the purpose of your content, the problem that it will solve. Make it speak to your audience, not to your peers (or the search bots, for that matter).

Google is constantly optimizing its search results for users’ wants and likes, so there’s no need for you to go overboard in optimizing for Google. Chase your users’ needs and preferences instead, and the search engines are sure to join you in the hunt!

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