What is the key metric to measuring content success?
According to most thought leaders and marketers, organic traffic is the key determinant of success when it comes to content strategy. The challenge then is creating content that is both informative and well written but does its job from a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) perspective.
Getting ahead of the game and adding your SEO process at the content strategy stage will not only ensure your content hits the mark for your customers but puts you on the right track for when you begin to write.
This article will walk you through some simple steps to creating SEO-friendly content that will bring more value to your audience.
1. Start with Keyword Research
2. Determine Search Intent and Identify the right formula
3. Structure Your Content and Make it Readable
4. Add Visual Content
5. Make Your URL Readable
6. Adjust Interlinking
First things first – What do we mean by ‘content’?
Content is often an overused phrase in the digital age but, simply put, it refers to any online material used to promote and stimulate a brand, product or service.
Content can be anything from a written blog post, an e-guide, infographic or video. The key to successful content is then optimising it for SEO purposes.
By optimising your content, you:
- Create truly valuable content – you answer questions your audience really asks
- Attract new audiences – people who have found the answer to their question in your article can become a loyal audience and even ambassadors of your brand
What is SEO-friendly content?
SEO-friendly content is content written in such a way that it helps search engines understand what it is about, what user queries it is responding to, and what people will learn from it.
Too often, whilst content is well written and addresses key points, it misses valuable SEO aspects that render it almost useless from an SEO perspective. If you are investing time into creating great content then you should ensure you get as much value from it as possible.
1. Start with Keyword Research
Keyword research is the foundation of successful organic (naturally ranking) content distribution. Keywords are the terms people enter into search engines, such as Google, to find information on a topic.
The purpose of the search engine is to deliver the most relevant results to the user based on the search query they enter.
Search engines adopt criteria to enable them to quickly provide the most relevant and up-to-date results to the user – which is what SEO experts use to ensure their ‘content’ hits the top of pile when it comes to the SERP (search engine results pages).
It’s no coincidence we are called Serpass Digital.
Contrary to popular belief, keywords are not just about SEO, they also help you to find answers to the following questions:
- What is your audience looking for? This will help you to uncover your audience’s interests and choose a topic to write about.
- What do they ask online? You’ll learn specific questions on this topic to answer in your content.
You need to start your research with the right keyword. Google recommends that you ‘think about the words that a user might search for to find a piece of your content’. For one article, you’d need to select one primary keyword and up to 5-10 additional keywords.
How to pick a primary keyword
When writing an article, it’s tempting to take as many keywords as possible and optimise the text for all of them. However, best practice SEO is about balancing good use of keywords and engaging content – and a keyword-heavy piece of text will simply not produce good content for the reader.
So, pick one primary keyword and then dig deeper. Your primary keyword should be the main focus of the entire article.
How to pick additional keywords
Additional keywords should be closely related to your primary keyword so that inserting them doesn’t change the focus of the article, but rather reinforces the main keyword’s focus.
Google questions and other similar tools provide a great starting place to see what words are frequently searched based on your subject area.From here you can dig deeper into similar terms and relevant articles
2. Determine Search Intent and Identify the Right Formula
Search intent is what users are trying to achieve, and what they expect to see when typing or voicing a query. Google devotes a lot of time and effort to teaching algorithms to evaluate user intent accurately – and encourages content creators to answer the requests with relevant material.The content format you choose, the message you convey and the call to action you leave should depend on the search intent for a keyword. Search intent can be broken down into four distinct types:
- Informational – the searcher is looking for specific information on a topic.
- Navigational – the searcher is looking for a specific web page or site.
- Commercial – the searcher is considering a purchase and wants to investigate their options.
- Transactional – the searcher wants to purchase something.
So, how do you determine which types of keywords you’re looking at or how to find them? It’s very simple – there are clue words:
- Informational: ‘guide’, ‘tutorial’, question words, such as ‘what’, ‘how’, or lists with ‘top’, ‘best’, ‘checklist’ in the title (e.g. ‘best music festivals 2021’).
- Navigational: the name of a brand, product, or service (e.g. ‘ultra music festival’).
- Commercial: product modifiers like ‘cheapest’, ‘review’, ‘comparison’ (e.g. ‘ultra music festival reviews’).
- Transactional: ‘buy’, ‘price’, ‘coupon’, etc. (e.g. ‘ultra music festival tickets’).
You may also want to type your keyword into the Google search bar to check for any SERP features that can help with identifying the keyword type:
- Featured snippets may indicate informational intent
- People Also Ask may also indicate informational intent
- Site links may indicate navigational intent
- Google Ads may indicate commercial or transactional intent
- Google Shopping ads may indicate commercial or transactional intent
Taking the search intent and keyword type into consideration, you can now identify the best format for your article.
This is where manual search can help you – look at competitors’ pages that are already ranking in the top 10 for your keywords. Are they step-by-step guides, or maybe a list of different options? What do the articles call for? What are their titles, i.e. how do they describe their article for search results?
To name a few, how-to guides are more successful for informational queries, while comparison posts may work for commercial queries, product pages for transactional ones, and category pages can rank for navigational keywords.
3. Structure Your Content and Make it Readable
Imagine you open one of the Google results and there’s one continuous piece of text. How likely would you be to continue reading? You’ll probably try to use the Ctrl+F shortcut, or just leave to find a better-structured article. If you leave, the site’s dwell time will decrease and the bounce rate will increase, and this is no good for your website ranking.
Good structure is an essential element of high-quality content. Subheadings make your content scannable and therefore easier to read. According to a study, 36% of articles with H2+H3 tags have higher performance in terms of traffic, shares and backlinks.
In Google’s words: “Users enjoy content that is well written and easy to follow. Avoid dumping large amounts of text on varying topics onto a page without paragraph, subheading, or layout separation.”
Here are some recommendations on how to make content readable:
- Make your text long if it’s necessary: Longreads of 3000+ words get 3x more traffic, 4x more shares, and 3.5x more backlinks than articles of average length (901-1200 words). But this doesn’t mean a short article is bound to rank poorly – it depends on what users need. It is more likely that longer articles provide more information on a topic, and thus perform better.
- Consider adding a table of contents: If the article is long, add a table of contents at the beginning of the article to let visitors quickly go to the desired section.
- Use H2 + H3: Well-structured articles with both H2 and H3 tags are more likely to be high performing. Structure the article to make it easier for the user to understand the content, but don’t overdo it by making the structure too complex with multiple subheadings.
- One paragraph = one idea: Divide the content into logical, digestible segments to keep readers engaged.
- Answer user questions: Attract users’ attention by including in subheadings their questions that you’ve found out in your keyword research.
- Highlight important ideas: You can use bold font or change the font size. This helps to place emphasis, makes the text easier to follow, and helps cement the main ideas in users’ minds.
- Divide long sentences: Just like breaking your content up into paragraphs, divide long sentences into shorter ones.
- Use bullets and numbered lists: Using them, you can convey large amounts of information in a concise form. Bullet points also increase your chances of getting a Featured Snippet.
We specifically write blog and SEO posts and as standard include the following:
- Check your overall optimisation status: Ensure your text is perfectly structured for a target keyword and written in an SEO-friendly style.
- Adjust your text length and optimise reading time: Check if your text matches the average word count for your top 10 competitors.
- Add recommended keywords: The tool will suggest adding some related keywords to your text to increase the article’s SEO potential.
- Make your tone of voice consistent: Make sure your content piece complies with your overall brand voice — casual, neutral, or formal — and detect sentences that stand out.
- Ensure your text is unique: Avoid plagiarism by finding out the total percentage of copied words in your text and seeing the original sources of content from across the internet.
4. Add Visual Content
When you remember that 65% of people are visual learners, it makes sense that visuals are an essential core component of a successful blog post.
The saturation of digital content and ever-increasing mobile internet access means attention spans are shorter than ever.
It’s widely agreed that people remember only 10% of information they read – but splitting up a body of text with compelling and relevant images means they are far more inclined to finish reading what you’ve written, digest the information and share it.
According to Twitter, tweets with photos receive an average 35% boost in retweets while figures show that articles containing relevant, good-quality images get 94% more views.
As well as images, use infographics, checklists, templates, and other types of visual content to deliver value to your audience faster and in a more catchy way.
The more useful, interesting, and relevant the content is, the more backlinks you are likely to get. Backlinks from authoritative websites make your content trustworthy for Google and thus, the search engine ranks it higher.
The other benefit of images and videos to any blog post or copy is that they can be ranked in the Images and Video sections of Google and even get into Featured Snippets, leading to additional traffic.
You can optimise your visual content by:
- Reducing the file size
Images are often the largest contributor to overall page size, and can make pages slow and expensive to load. If you resize images to their maximum display dimensions, your site will load faster, improving your user experience and increasing SEO benefits.
- Creating descriptive image names
Change generic filenames to something much clearer to give Google clues about the subject matter of the image. Using ‘music-festival-crowds.jpg’ is a much clearer way to describe an image than ‘IMG-20200926-WA0001.jpg’, for example.
- Adding alt tags
Alt tags provide a text alternative to an image for search engines and those using screen readers to access a web page. A good tag describes the image, while including keywords – and there’s some best practice guidelines you should follow to optimise them. These include:
– Describing the contents of an image in as much detail as possible. This will help it rank on Google Image Search and give context as to how it relates to your page’s content.
– Making Alt tags absolutely relevant to the topic of the page
– Being sure to write unique alt texts that describe the specific contents of the image rather than repeating the page’s main target keyword or other image alt tags
5. Make Your URL Readable
URLs are only a minor ranking factor search engines use when determining a page’s relevance to a search query, but writing a quality URL that describes the page’s content will help people know what’s inside.
A site’s URL structure should be as simple as possible, constructed logically in a way that’s easiest for people to understand. It’s based on these few words that could decide whether a user clicks on the link or not.
If you’re searching for information about aviation, for example, a URL like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aviation is much more appealing than http://www.example.com/index.php?id_sezione=360&sid=3a5ebc944f41daa6f849f730f1?
Other elements that can help make your URL readable include:
- Using punctuation in your URLs, and using hyphens (-) instead of underscores (_) between words
- Making your URL descriptive and matching the page’s primary keyword
- Using lowercase rather than mixing in capital letters
- Making it as short as possible, while still describing the contents of the page
6. Adjust Interlinking
Internal links connect pages and posts on your own website while external links connect your pages to other sites.
Internal links are helpful to users by navigating them through your site to find the content they want.
Search engines also use them as a guide to your most important pages – and the value of the content on them. The more links a page receives, the more important it will seem to search engines. Which is why good internal links are crucial to your SEO.
Google follows links to discover website content and rank it in search results. If a post or page has authoritative external links pointing to it, this is a signal that it’s an important or high-value article – which ultimately may improve rankings.
It’s crucial for your site’s SEO that you regularly evaluate and improve your internal linking strategy. By adding the right internal links you make sure Google understands:
- the relevance of pages
- the relationship between pages
- and the value of pages
Optimise internal linking by finding relevant content and adding links that point to new articles that users may be interested in or moving them to the next stage of the funnel. Awareness content should link to Consideration articles, and Consideration articles should link to Decision content – never the other way round.
Build your internal linking strategy by making a list of hub pages that will allow you to understand your site structure better. Hub pages will often drive the most valuable traffic to your site and generally target your main keywords with the best content. You can then use internal links to create topic clusters of supporting pages that will add depth to the topic.
Whilst we appreciate there is plenty to think about here, by getting into the habit of starting any content piece in this way you can quickly adopt a style that will deliver results – after all that’s what we all strive for!
The key bits to remember:
- Do your keyword research first and let the data guide your content.
- Structure your content and make it readable
- Amend your content type based on user and search intent – test what works best for your audience
- Internal linking is a great way to boost your SEO
- Outreach your content and get backlinks to turbo boost your SEO efforts