In previous years, content marketers have held to the standard that “less is more.” As a result, we’ve kept web pages short, blog posts concise, and gotten a lot of practice condensing huge topics into 300 to 600 word shots. If you’ve struggled with this practice, you’re in for a treat as the trend to web content ranking makes a hard right turn.
Google Hummingbird Sets the Standard for New Web Content
In 2013, we weathered more changes in search engine optimization than any other year in the history of SEO. Since 2011, Google was dropping hints via Panda and Penguin updates; that search and ranking models and algorithms would change. Hummingbird marked the new SEO focus: quality web content containing substance.
For those of us manning the SEO trenches, we’ve seen innumerable marketing hypes come and go. However, Google’s algorithm updates have resulted in more than just hype; an entirely new trend and best practice has emerged: content-driven search engine optimization for higher web content ranking.
The Meaning of ‘Content-Driven’
What does ‘content-driven’ mean when it comes to SEO? It means your SERP (search engine results page) ranking will be directly related to your content quality. Google is listening to what consumers want, and they want to be educated buyers. As a result, it is imperative that your content contain well-written and relevant material in relation to your business, brand, product, or service.
Content-driven optimization is happening as soon as a web page is created. As we create the web content, we inherently make our target audience the focus. As Eddie Choi says in his ClickZ article about content-driven SEO, “the semantic logic then follows naturally to hyperlink the texts, pictures, videos, and external and internal citations.” As a result, we connect ourselves with similar or associated social profiles. Google’s algorithms then “read” all of this information and increase your ranking accordingly.
In essence, optimization is happening when the content is written. It’s not an afterthought or second process built in later.
The New Secret Ingredient: Longer Content = Higher Rankings
As we said at the outset of this article, the standard of “less is more” is dead. We used to cram keywords and keyword phrases into a short piece of web content to push search engine rankings. Those days are in the past, never to be repeated—at least as far as we can tell from Google’s rapid push to arrive at 100 percent of search keyword data returning with “(not provided).” What does this mean in terms of word count?
Word count is about to go up. Google has indicated that content containing about 2,000 words versus 300 to 600 will rank higher. Skeptical? So were we. So, we tested the waters:
At Express Writers, we took it upon ourselves to test whether or not long content really does matter. So, we switched over to 2000 word blogs approximately mid-November, 2013. These were posted daily with 1 to 2 stock images per blog, SEO optimized, and socially shared (as we did with all of our previous 300-600 word blogs). Mid-December, our rankings took a huge increase. We had about 7 keywords in the top 3 rankings on Google, and mid-December after we switched to 2000-word blogs, we achieved no less than 35 top keywords in the top 3 rankings. Folks, the cat’s out of the bag. IT WORKS!
2014 Web Content: What to Keep & Toss
The new trend in web content is all about giving the audience what they want: a one-stop shopping experience. Your audience wants all the pertinent information from you, not 2 to 3 other websites that all drop breadcrumbs about the same topic. This means your readers want all the best info in ONE lengthy article. The best way to prepare such an article is to understand exactly what SEO is today:
Notice, “keywords” is not included in this list. The surest way to kill your search engine optimization efforts in the New Year is to riddle your content with keywords and phrases over and over. Google’s algorithms are acutely attuned to synonyms. Flooding content with the same keyword or phrase is no longer necessary; variations are completely acceptable and absolutely encouraged!
Keep in mind that your audience is composed of intelligent individuals. They might even understand more than you think, especially when it comes to technical information. Avoid talking down to them or reusing the same keywords over and over. Such methods are outdated and will quickly turn potential customers—and Google rankings—away, swiftly killing your New Year’s marketing.
The Secret to Making a Difference
The new frontier of search engine optimization focuses heavily on:
- Quality content
- Relevant content
- Longer content
- Social media presence
- Customer reviews
Your web content plan should therefore focus on at least four primary areas:
- Product or service sales
- Company information
- Customer support
- Education, information, and resources
Keep in mind that today’s content marketing is not a “one-size-fits-all” plan. You might have a fifth or even sixth, content area that fits your business and fleshes out your plan even further. However, you will need to include these four primary areas at minimum to ensure the building blocks for SEO are present.
One of the most groundbreaking changes to the SEO frontier is Google’s move away from static. Neither Google nor your market is static. This means it’s time to rethink your strategy for ranking placement:
- You’ll need a local, national, and international plan so that searchers from any location will find you. Mobile searches are hot and heavy for the New Year, which is why marketing in each category equates to survival.
- Local search terms are vital. Anyone searching by mobile in your locale will find you, if you have local search terms built into your content.
- Customer reviews are about to be huge. This means what customers are saying about you means higher or lower search engine rankings. Customer support, education, information, and resources are key to survival.
On top of rethinking your SEO strategy, you’ll also need to measure the effectiveness of your web content by potential, not performance, because this is what Google will see. Consider:
- Your audience. They must be the focal point of every piece of content you create. Know who they are and what they’re looking for. Be ready to educate them regarding how your company’s product or service will meet—even exceed—their needs. Focus less on increasing traffic and revenue, more on what your audience wants to see. If you do this, traffic and revenue will follow as your SERP ranking climbs.
- Keywords. Like we said, Google’s synonym technology has blossomed, and your audience knows there is more than one way to refer to something. Variety in keywords is key. Instead of pushing for a specific keyword density, allow the keyword(s) to be built in as needed during the writing process. It’s far more important to create engaging, fresh web content versus a storm of keywords.
- Your competition. They’re going to be working hard to raise their SERPs and hold their positions. You need to know who your competition is and find creative ways to present fresher content and get your social communities chattering.
Choosing Your Words
Your web content for the New Year is all about words, but they need to be more than just words. Unrelated, irrelevant, and confusing word use just to meet a word count will kill your rankings overnight. We used to think of word counts as almighty in SEO. We focused more on a set word count and keyword density than the content itself. As a result, we often produced short, fluff-filled content that landed readers on our website, but gave them little—if anything—to actually read. Holding to this practice will KILL your SEO from here forward. What can you do to reprogram yourself?
- Intimately understand your target audience. Before you even start to create content, know your target audience inside and out. You have to intimately understand their needs, wants, and motivations. What drives them to make a purchase? What benefits do they want? What issues are presently relevant to them? What content will they want to read? Successful web content will revolve 100 percent around your audience and their needs. Your ability to build content for your audience will directly relate to your marketing success. Conversion to sales will directly relate to your ability to educate and meet their needs through your content, as it relates to your business.
- Seek quality, relevant content versus an overly strict word count and keyword density percent. The day of a 2 percent keyword density within a 500-word, word count has been put to rest. Trying to rigidly stick with this concept at the cost of well-written web content will spell disaster. You can make a marked difference in your optimization results by ensuring every piece of content you release is relevant, packed full of quality writing, and approaches the topic from a fresh perspective. Let the content choose its own word count based on context and quality, and let your keywords be woven in 1 to 2 times as the content allows.
- Focus on page content versus burst content. Traditionally, we’ve made our landing and sales pages short and to the point. They usually cover who we are, what we offer, and how to purchase. All too often, we failed to educate the customer about why. Why choose my business over the other guy’s? Why buy my product or service versus this cheaper or more expensive one? Customers care less about price and more about value. They want quality and the opportunity to build a trusting relationship, which is why your page content needs to be revised. Present your audience with quality, relevant, and educational web content. Don’t be afraid to change your sales page from a 500-word blurb to a 2,000 word informative page, arming the potential customer with every piece of information they’ll need to choose your business over every other. Use your web pages to impart a treasure trove of content to your audience.
- Look for opportunities to link up. Linking has become a SEO phenomenon in the past few years, and it couldn’t be easier to link yourself up to similar organizations and communities. For example, thanks to the free MozBar, you can easily discover which websites and communities offer the best linking potential to expand your presence. The links you’ve seen throughout this article all house articles that expand on a specific subtopic introduced in this post. The trick is to still write compelling, engaging, and educational content—the kind that’s kept you reading this far—while giving your smart audience (that’s you) the tools to dive deeper into the nitty-gritty details at their own leisure. If you can deliver this type of quality content, you’ll build a loyal community in no time.
- At all costs, do not underestimate social media. Social media is about people engaging in meaningful conversations. Google is tapping into these conversations like never before. If you don’t have a social media presence because you didn’t see the importance, it’s time to drop the skepticism and get crackin’! Here’s the truth about social media: the more active yours is, the greater contribution to your SERPs. The more customers talk positively about you, the higher your ranking. Miss out on this facet of ranking, and you could slip far down the listings.
As you can see, the world of SEO has changed forever. New practices are going into effect, and if you expect to keep your website and content optimized, it’s time to catch up and keep up with the Jones’ (Google, in this case). Rankings are no longer statistical; they are 100 percent content-driven. You can make a huge difference in your chances of “staying on top” by turning your attention to awesome, quality web content—the kind that speaks personally to your audience and makes them say, “Wow! This company really has character.”