Content Marketing Lives On!
SEO is dead. Let me clarify - the era when you could write thin content around really strange long tail key phrases like "best cheapest digital marketing agency in Nashville" and hit the first page of Google is over. Major search engines are becoming more like your college English professor and less like a strategy game.
Why? It's because as Gary Vaynerchuk would say, marketers ruin everything. Though the internet has become the leading tool for product research and purchase decisions, you no longer get an automatic A+ for delivering content. Your work needs to be good enough that people finish reading, click around on your company web page and share via Twitter.
What's a small business owner to do, anyway? The truth of the matter is, there are still tricks you can employ to make your reader-friendly content appeal to search engines. What works today might not work tomorrow, and the mark of an SEO master is someone who's always willing to experiment and adapt to the latest search algorithm updates. We'll start off with some tricks that just aren't going to jive well with the latest changes to Google:
Blogging for SEO Before you hit publish, think for a minute about why you're blogging. Are you hoping to gain some Google traction for that magical long tail keyword, or are you providing value to your readers? Ensure you're delivering something that offers value to readers and reflects well on your brand.
Don't Use Weird Keywords Even though someone will likely search a misspelling of one of your products and services, don't try to write content around a phrase that's erroneous or won't make sense in any context.
Forget Keyword Density I dare you to try and find a single well-regarded SEO expert who will tell you what an optimal keyword density is. Chances are, you can't - Rand Fishkin or Matt Cutts have never given a solid number in any recent communications, because there isn't one. To paraphrase Cutts, the number of times you should include a keyword is below the amount where your blog starts to sound like it was written by a robot.
Don't Use Jargon Unless you're working for an incredibly specialized B2B company, don't assume that your readers understand every industry-specific acronym or term. Write like a normal person and take the time to explain things. We're not saying you should ever talk down to your readers, but it's always wisest to ensure your content is friendly enough to appeal to first-time visitors to your website.
Enough with the don'ts. Here's how to get started writing content that rocks:
1) Write for YOUR Audience
In the world of modern marketing content is king. The only thing that matters more than delivering helpful blog posts and social media updates is whether you're getting the content right. Who is your target audience, anyway? If you're trying to sell software to CPAs, your carefully-crafted memes and sassy Tweets might not fly. If your average client is a little more fun-loving, you could find that really technical case studies make their eyes glaze over and your bounce rate soar.
Your content could be brilliant, but if it's not appealing to your customers, you're just not going to see any ROI. At the end of the day, it's not really about you, it's not about SEO, it's about BPO - buyer persona optimization. Address your personas' real-life needs and problems with content marketing, and your inbound links, social shares and bottom line will thrive.
2) Research Key Phrases
Even though your reader's interests come first, conducting keyword research should still be a component of planning your content calendar. Your small business probably isn't going to get very far writing about a highly competitive keyword like "books," and really obscure phrases aren't going to get you much traffic. We use the HubSpot Keyword grader, but Google's Keyword Tool is another alternative. Look at the search volume and competition of each term to determine how your audience is likely to land on the page through search.
3) Create a Content Calendar and Stick to It!
Publishing frequently will help your search engine rankings, but if you decide to take a week off, it could both hurt your dedicated readership and rankings. Search engines use software packages to visit websites, commonly known to marketers as robots, spiders or search engine crawlers. These programs are assigned a list of URLs to visit. If they find new content, these pages are forwarded to the search engine for indexing. The more often you publish, the more consistently these bots will visit your pages and rank updates. Develop a content calendar with a consistent publishing schedule. If you can only find the time to publish twice a week, that's fine - just ensure you pick consistent times and stick to it. Even more importantly, develop a few pieces of content for "insurance" - if you need to take a few days off, these posts will come in handy.
4.) Write Well
Whether your buyer personas prefer light, humorous writing or technical guides, copy editing should always play a role in your editorial process. There's no question that consistent misspellings and missed commas will hurt your search engine ranking. All of us make occasional mistakes, and failing to catch these can leave a bad impression on potential customers. If you have a significant number of contributors to your company blog, it could be worth your while to write out a style guide for formatting policies and editorial policies. No time to review your content before publication? HubSpot recommends bringing a detail-oriented intern on board to help with this crucial task.
Google has already made 20 major updates to their search engine algorithm in 2012. There's a really good chance quite a few more are coming. Truth is, I'm not a bit worried about the future of content marketing. There's no future for an inbound marketing strategy focused on keyword stuffing and buying links. However, consumers will always need answers to their FAQ, and marketers who are clever enough to target buyer personas and quickly adapt to search engine changes will never have a shortage of leads.
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