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How Content Has Changed The SEO Game Forever

Developing content has become the now method of getting readers from the Internet to your web pages. In the 90’s, traffic was driven through keywords and although these could lead to some horribly inorganic pages, it got the job done and got traffic to your site.

Content production has since literally taken over and in the last five years we have seen a gradual shift away from traditional SEO rules and a new look at content from the lens of SEO.

Two Key Ways You Can Do SEO the RIGHT Way With Content

When the Google search algorithm changed what they were looking for in websites, it hurt a lot of sites because of their methodology. Stuffing unneeded keywords into a site made Google rank their pages higher, but provided little useful information to the users.

Eventually, users started shying away from using search engines. If all you got was junk websites then what use were the engines anyway. Google’s game changer made use of the understanding that human beings read differently from machines. As a result, they developed a system by which they could determine if the site was “organic” or artificially generated. With every iteration of Google’s algorithm, the original SEO algorithm scammers have tried to change their tactics to stay ahead of the game, but Google seems to have weeded out the majority of them.

  1. Writing For The Audience. The changes in Google’s algorithm led to a change in the attitude of the entire Internet (and e-commerce in general). Before, traffic was a means of getting users to click on a link, end up on your site and be bombarded by advertising in the hopes that they would click something and you’d get paid. This new paradigm calls for a different approach to the reader: treating him/her like a human being.
  2. Content Builds A Community. One of the more important uses of content in the modern world is the building of a community. Blogs and websites help to create and foster a community of interaction and sharing that reaches far beyond the boundaries of the wired world. By creating content that people want to discuss, you give them a platform for further interaction and this builds reader loyalty. By integrating proper SEO techniques within your content you expose it to a much wider audience than you would normally. The result is of course more traffic, but traffic that is liable to return. The SEO invites them and the content keeps them there.

Case Study: Express Writers

Our own company of Express Writers was one of the early adopters of the idea that a high-content website would attract users a lot more than simple SEO by itself. In a brave move in November 2013, we ceased the use of traditional SEO tactics and moved towards using content alone to drive out business. We did away with the buying of social fans and the building and maintenance of keyword list. We went in for the long haul.

The Results

Today, we are among the top three links from Google for the term “copywriting agency” and have huge placement in the search results that have fluctuated little over the past year. This is wholly through organic content, not by any SEO methodology or plan. We outrank suppliers of copywriting services such as Scripted and Elance and for a company that doesn’t bankroll an advertising fund, we have done very well for ourselves.

We maintain our current situation via a series of blog posts (more than 3 per day on every platform we manage), and by launching our new website in January of 2015. We guest blog in order to increase our reach and our post there for December, “10 Ways to Beat the Panda and Penguin in Your Content Strategy” was the top read for that entire month. We presented ourselves as experts and cultivated this persona, and we were able to deliver based on our content production, a testament to our performance as the following graphs show.

The User Experience: How Has It Changed?

In the past, at the turn of the 2000’s, SEO was about getting users to your site using whatever means was necessary. As we got up to 2010, the game changed and it was about getting users to your site by craftily inserting keywords throughout your content. Now, in a post-2010 world, it’s all about the user experience. Through a series of clever updates, Google has managed to force the hand of website owners and operators to start considering users as more than just throwaway currency and see them as the force that drives their business. It has turned out to be a good move for the average consumer as it nets them more value than the previous methods of SEO.

  1. Mobile Content. Content production dedicated to mobile users has already proved to be a major source of incoming traffic. By optimizing a site for mobile usage you get access to a whole new set of users that can benefit from your pages. Content production geared towards mobile users has quite a lot more marketability now and will continue to see popularity as the years go by. Approximately 17.4% of total Internet users are using their mobile devices for access. As these devices get cheaper and more accessible, we should see even more users adopt it as a means of browsing the Internet.
  2. Social Media and Content. Social media has been a major game-changer for a lot of companies as regards their content production and promotion. Content promotion through social media has a very wide-ranging audience and because of that it can mean a lot more traffic to a site than regular SEO. It is estimated that over 2 billion people use social networking in one form of another and as long as you can direct your advertising at the correct sector of users you have a ready market for your content.
  3. Quality before Quantity. Even though social media will get users to visit your site, it won’t get them to stay all by itself. In addition to having clever social media marketing savvy, you need to have high quality content. Again, this follows from what Google has been seeking to do with its implementation of the Panda and Penguin algorithm updates. Social media is a much harsher critic than Google, however. Google may occasionally rank a site that isn’t up to usual par with their search algorithms. If you share a site with bad content on social media, eventually the users you’re trying to attract will start actively avoiding your efforts, and that’s a lot worse than having a bad page rank.

SEO & Content: A Changing Paradigm

SEO isn’t about tricks and tips any more, it’s all about the content. It’s about attracting the user and keeping them interested with what you have to say and offer to them. You’re not writing for the search engine bots any more, this time you’re writing for the reader. The change in the paradigm of SEO has come suddenly but has brought a lot of changes to the industry; changes that have made many Internet marketer reconsider their profession. It has made unscrupulous use of keyword stuffing infeasible and has ushered in a new age of information-based, user-centric Internet.

How this Affects Us: Because of the search engine’s interest in topic-matching instead of exact keyword matching (which was where the search engines were leaning previously) we now have to work harder to get our users. The days of lazy Internet marketing are well and truly over. There is a lot of difference between the traditional approach towards keyword-driven SEO and the modern version of topic-driven SEO.

Traditional Keyword-Driven SEO Is Dead?

The thought behind traditional keyword-driven SEO lies with trying to rank well for a particular keyword because that keyword drives a lot of high quality traffic to your site. The downfall of this method is that it doesn’t incorporate thinking for other channels: it’s solely for search engines. This means that we ignore things like social media, content marketing and other forms of outreach marketing both offline and online. Developing this type of SEO limits out outreach and doesn’t fully incorporate all the possible marketing channels we can have. Although it’s a really good idea if you were in the early 00’s or late 90’s, it’s not so good a strategy to adopt now.

The Problems Behind Traditional Keyword-Driven SEO

One of the most annoying things about doing keyword-driven SEO is creating redundant landing pages for the purpose of testing and retesting keyword performance. It’s a lot of work that overlaps and sucks up time that can be spent doing other things. It’s also useful to remember that each page only ranks for a specific keyword or phrase. That means that even though your ranking for one keyword or keyphrase may rank well, you are going to have others ranking poorly and the traffic will probably be of a lower quality. The feedback mechanism for testing the success of a keyword has also changed since Google no longer provides a metric for keyword referral data. All in all, traditional keyword-driven SEO is more or less ineffective at what it seeks to do.

The Modern Model of SEO

Today’s SEO isn’t about keywords and rankings, it’s about the broad performance of traffic based on searches by topic across a website. Based on the referral from search engines, companies can decide that a certain sector of their content is performing better for them and would want to put more money into improving its SEO capabilities. The common link it has with the traditional model is that you still need your keywords: they are what your users are searching for after all. The difference here is that your keywords are grouped into sections based on what content best serves them. This is a marked difference from simply fitting in your keywords to a certain density and hoping for a few search engine hits.

How the Modern Model trumps the Traditional Model: The modern model is better than the traditional model in two distinct ways. Firstly, because you don’t need to expend your effort over a wider range of pages, your page quality is usually higher. Instead of having landing pages for each keyword, you can have one landing page for a particular keyword grouping, allowing you to spend more time on that single page and make it a much higher quality. The second thing that the modern model beats the traditional model at is scope and amplification. Using the modern model you can incorporate social media and even email marketing into your mix and open up new channels for traffic that were largely ignored by the original methodology.

The Shifting Sands of SEO Marketing

As we have seen throughout the years, SEO changes at the drop of a hat. But the thing that makes content-based SEO so important is its penchant for longevity. Content ranked searches have the potential to make your pages rank well as soon as they first go up because of your previous success in the topic area. Developing a content strategy is a good way to go about getting started on the road to content-based SEO. Generating high-quality content that is posted regularly is of the utmost important in getting yourself noticed as an expert in the field. However, it is going to be a long process that requires dedication and determination in order to see success. There aren’t going to be a lot of stories about overnight success from content-based SEO, that’s for sure.

Long Term Benefits

Going back to our own case study, it is clear that we do get a lot of traffic thanks to our content production and promotion techniques. Guest blogs on high-quality sites drive a lot of traffic for us, and provide a platform where user can experience firsthand the quality and extent of knowledge which we represent. These are what content-based SEO is about: providing the user with an experience that keeps them coming back for more. A well-planned content marketing strategy combined with content auditing (to ensure that you maintain high standards for your existing content) and in-depth keyword research (to get relevant groupings for specific pages) sets you up for a future based around the interest value of your content and the user experience of your pages. Together, these serve as a powerful booster for your traffic, both from search engines as well as any other marketing channel you invest in.

Photo credit: sdecoret / iStock