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Google's Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines SEO guide

Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines: Here’s What They Say About SEO & Content

Originally published December, 2015 and completely updated October, 2018.

Google is anything but transparent. As such, its algorithm inner workings have never been easy to interpret.

In fact, SEOs dedicate themselves to a sort of “algorithm watch.” They spend eons of time poring over search metrics. They write novel-length blog posts analyzing the changes they can only guess happened, and how these changes may or may not affect search rankings.

So, when Google threw everyone a bone, the SEO community latched on. Back in October of 2015, The SEM Post got a leaked copy of Google’s Search Quality Guidelines, and their interpreted version went viral.

In response, Google broke the internet by releasing the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines in their entirety.

Since then, Google has released multiple updates of these guidelines. The most recent hit the internet on July 20, 2018, and we’ve updated this post to reflect all the major changes

While Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines don’t lay out exactly what we need to know to rocket to the top of the rankings, they do provide some valuable information:

  • What kind of pages are viewed as high quality
  • Which factors influence high- and low-quality ratings (SUPER important, as these factors may be similar to how Google measures page quality for SERP rankings)

We’ve taken an inside look and studied the document as they relate to your SEO and on-page site content, including those fresh updates. 🔍

Without further ado, here’s a rundown of key points in this major SEO document for your online content writing and publishing.

Google's Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines guide

Still not clear on how Google ranks pages? Here's everything you need to know, dissected by @JuliaEMcCoy from Google's 200+ page Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines. #EAT #YMYL #Google #SEO Click To Tweet

What Are Google’s Search Guidelines All About?

google's search thinks like a human

Screenshot from page 4 of the Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines

Google’s search guidelines document is over 160 pages long and broken into an overview, three separate parts, and an appendix.

The major parts are as follows:

  • General Guidelines Overview
  • Part 1: Page Quality Rating Guideline
  • Part 2: Understanding Mobile User Needs
  • Part 3: Needs Met Rating Guideline
  • Appendix: Using the Evaluation Platform

In addition to focusing heavily on mobile search, Google’s search guidelines also focus on the importance of building trust and a good reputation for websites and/or content creators.

This isn’t hugely surprising – it’s simply a variation on what Google has been saying for years: The best websites are ones that deliver relevant, trustworthy, quality information to users.

We all know Google focuses heavily on experimentation and adjusting their algorithms to improve web quality. These guidelines provide specific instructions on what the Google engineers want people to do to improve individual site quality.

Needless to say, the Google search guidelines are dense. They cover everything from important definitions to duplicate landing pages and all the places in between.

For those of you who want to read through the guidelines on your own, you can find the link here. For everyone else, here’s the breakdown of key points we’ve found within them.

12 Key SEO Content Factors in the Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines

For SEOs who have dedicated themselves to keeping up with Google’s ever-changing algorithms, this document will serve mainly to reaffirm what you already know, with a few goodies thrown in here and there.

For SEO newbies, though, this document offers an expansive guide to Google’s preferences and the future of SEO. The guidelines lay out specifics about Google’s algorithms and how, exactly, SEOs can better predict changes to it in the future.

1. Beneficial Purpose

One of the newer additions to the guidelines is the concept of “beneficial purpose.” This term defines websites with pages created, first and foremost, for the user’s benefit.

On the other hand, many pages are created solely for the purpose of ranking on Google or are created with no intention of helping users. In Google’s eyes, these pages have zero beneficial purpose.

According to the guidelines (part one, section 3), raters are supposed to give these pages the lowest rating:

content must have beneficial purpose to rank well

“Websites or pages without any beneficial purpose, including pages that are created with no attempt to help users, or pages that potentially spread hate, cause harm, or misinform or deceive users, should receive the Lowest rating.”

In stark contrast, pages with beneficial purpose are the very definition of high-quality:

“High-quality pages exist for almost any beneficial purpose, from giving information to making people laugh to expressing oneself artistically to purchasing products or services online.” – Part one, section 4.1

According to Google, high-quality pages not only have a beneficial purpose; they also achieve that purpose.

In other words, if you’re not writing to help your audience in some way, your page will have little overall value to the search engine. Thus, “beneficial purpose” is the ground-floor factor that affects your page quality.

High-quality pages not only have a beneficial purpose; they also achieve that purpose. This and more takeaways on @JuliaEMcCoy's post on Google's Search Quality Guidelines #googlerankings #serpsranking #googlesearch Click To Tweet

2. Page Quality (E-A-T)

Page quality has always been a bit of a mystery. Google uses hundreds of ranking factors and it’s often unclear how they all relate to one another.

We’ve always known unique, relevant, well-written content helps produce a high-quality page, but the guidelines have some additional insights to offer on this topic.

According to the guidelines, it’s not just high-quality main content (MC) that matters. In fact, Google has created a name for what every high-quality page needs: E-A-T.

EAT YMYL Google's Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines

E-A-T stands for “Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness,” and it may be one of the major factors Google is using to rank pages.

screenshot showing google's guidelines on eat content

Screenshot via Google’s Guidelines, section 3.2

Pages that are expert, authoritative, and trustworthy will be viewed as higher-quality than those that aren’t.

But what does that mean, exactly?

A. High-Quality Pages

Google’s guidelines state that the search algorithm ranks websites on a scale of lowest, low, medium, high, and highest.

screenshot of quality ratings scale google uses

Via section 3.0

According to Section 4.1 of Part 1, high-quality pages possess the following characteristics:

  • A “satisfying amount” of high-quality MC, including a title that’s appropriately descriptive/helpful
  • “Satisfying website information” or information about the website’s owner/creator (shopping or transactional pages need satisfying customer service information, conversely)
  • The page and its associated website have a high amount of E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness)
  • The website (or the MC creator) has a good reputation

It’s worth noting that Google doesn’t specify how much content a page needs to be considered “satisfying,” only that it depends on “the purpose of the page.”

Google provides this page as an example of high-quality content (partial screenshot):

google describes what quality content looks like

According to Google, this page has high-quality, humorous MC. Plus, the website has a positive reputation and displays expertise in farcical humor.

B. Low-Quality Pages

According to the Google search guidelines (part one, section 6.0), low-quality pages feature the following:

  • Poor, low-quality MC
  • An inadequate amount of E-A-T
  • Unsatisfying amounts of MC for the purpose of the page (a dense topic with little information, for example)
  • A page title that is essentially clickbait (“exaggerated or shocking”)
  • An author that doesn’t have the level of expertise needed to write about the topic
  • A website or content creator with a “mildly negative” or mixed reputation
  • Unsatisfying information about who created the content/who’s behind the website
  • Page content that distracts from the MC, like intrusive ads/interstitials

Google goes on to say that you can land yourself in low-quality content land by making things up, not editing material enough, buying papers, using obvious facts (“A German Shepherd is a dog”) or over-complicating simple facts.

Here’s an example Google provides of a low-quality page (partial screenshot):

website example of google's definition of low-quality content

According to Google, this page has low-quality MC, is lacking in E-A-T, and has a misleading page title.

Google also says that pages will be considered low-quality if they’re created “without adequate time, effort, expertise, or talent/skill.” This is a broad statement, but it’s safe to say that it encompasses everything from poorly designed and scraped content to content that’s written by unskilled or unknowledgeable writers.

The Google search guidelines close by saying that low-quality content is reason enough for a quality rater to grant you a low page rating.

The takeaway: Make sure you’re always creating content with a high level of E-A-T. If your site doesn’t have the E-A-T that raters are looking for, you need to dedicate some time and effort to increase it.

C. How Can You Increase E-A-T on Your Pages?

One of the main ways E-A-T standards have been tweaked with the recent update to the guidelines: A bigger emphasis is on the author/creator.

According to Larry Alton for ProBlogger, you can make sure your content meets current E-A-T standards in a few ways:

  • Enlist high-authority content contributors
  • Include author credentials alongside content (A.K.A. author bylines)
  • Update author bios and “About me” pages
  • Create publicly visible profile pages

All of these actions help establish your expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (and your contributors’, if you have them).

No matter what you choose to do, ensuring your E-A-T level is high is one of the best ways to earn high page rankings.

3. YMYL Content

YMYL Google's Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines

Leaked copies of the guidelines have been making the rounds on the web since as early as 2007. The concept of YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) pages was first introduced during one of these leaks.

According to the full guidelines, these pages are the ones that Google pays the most attention to because they’re the ones that can most profoundly impact a person’s life.

how google defines your money or your life (ymyl) pagefs

Screenshot via Google’s 2018 Guidelines, section 2.3

Google says YMYL pages are the ones that can “impact the future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety of users.” These pages include:

  • Shopping or financial transaction pages
  • Medical information pages
  • Legal information pages
  • Financial information pages
  • News articles and/or public/official pages important for informing citizens
  • Any other topics that can deeply affect users’ lives, i.e. child adoption or car safety information

Because of their importance, these pages have high, high page quality standards.

They must be authoritative, factual, and written by experts.

4. Expert Reputation, Credentials and/or Experience

The guidelines make it clear that any content needs to be created in an authoritative and expert manner. While there are “expert” websites in all niches, including food, industry, fashion, law, and medicine, Google makes no bones about it: When “expert” content is needed, true experts need to write it.

This means the following:

  • Any high-quality medical advice that gets published needs to be written by individuals and communities with appropriate levels of medical accreditation.
  • Complex financial advice, tax advice, or legal advice needs to come from highly qualified, expert sources and must be updated and maintained on a regular basis to accommodate changing information, laws, and statutes.
  • Medical advice must be written in a professional fashion and, once published, must be edited, reviewed, maintained, and updated regularly in order to keep up with changing medical consensus and beliefs.
  • Pages that address topics that can cost consumers thousands of dollars (investment platforms, for example) or that can affect the health of a family or individual (parenting sites, mental health sites, etc.) must be written by expert/experienced sources that readers can trust.
  • Pages with scientific information must be written by people/organizations with relevant scientific expertise. For topics where scientific consensus exists, producers should represent that consensus accurately.
  • News articles need to be written with journalistic professionalism and contain factually accurate information.
  • Pages on specific hobbies, like horseback riding or hockey, must also be written by people who are knowledgeable about the topic and can provide sound advice.
  • Recent updates to the guidelines also stipulate that the content creator must have a positive reputation and adequate experience in relation to the topic about which they’re writing. In short, page authors/creators must also have a high level of E-A-T. (According to Stone Temple, two pages with basically the same information might be ranked differently based on the reputation and authority level of their authors.)
Google pays special attention to the fact that YMYL pages are authoritative, factual, and written by experts. This and more on @JuliaEMcCoy's blog post discussing Google's Search Quality Guidelines #googlesearch #searchmarketing #seo Click To Tweet

A. What Does It Take to Be an Expert Content Creator?

Now, upon reading all that, it’s likely you’ll wonder what constitutes an “expert.”

No, an expert doesn’t always have to be a credentialed, highly trained person (the exceptions: when they’re writing about medicine, law, finances, taxes, or other YMYL topics).

First-Person Experience

Google makes it clear that, in some cases, first-person experience can be a form of expertise, especially in settings where you don’t necessarily need formal training to have an extensive knowledge base, such as on hobby pages.

In fact, Google states that “for some unusual hobbies, the most expert advice may exist on blogs, forums, and other user-generated content websites.”

In these instances, what Google is looking for is a display of expertise.

  • Example 1: Say you have lived with diabetes for 22 years. You may be qualified to offer tips about coping with the disease (YMYL content) because you have extensive first-hand experience. However, at the same time, you would not be qualified to write a high-quality medical blog about the symptoms and onset of diabetes.
  • Example 2: On the hobby site The Spruce Crafts, expert crafters teach all kinds of techniques in informative blog posts. These are highly ranked because each writer has plenty of personal experience that qualifies them as experts. Take this post on “How to Knit the Garter Stitch”:

how to knit the garter stitch blog post

The author is an expert because of her years of personal experience. Her bio reflects this perfectly:

screenshot of expert author's biography

The Reputation of the Website/Creator

Finally, reputation plays a role in expertise, too.

There’s a whole section dedicated to this facet of expertise in the guidelines (under part one, section 2.6):

screenshot of google's guidelines on the reputation of a content creator

This information is not about how creators or websites describe their own credentials and expertise. It’s how the wider web (“reputable external sources”) views these things.

According to Google, these external sources that provide independent reputation information about a website or MC creator may include:

  • News articles
  • Wikipedia articles
  • Magazine articles
  • Blog posts
  • Ratings from independent organizations
  • Forum discussions
  • Customer reviews (for these, content matters as much as the number of reviews available – one negative review or one positive review are not good sources unless you have a number of other reviews to compare it to)

B. Why Is Google So Stringent About Expertise?

The search engine wants to ensure deep, broad, important topics get the necessary treatment so searchers can find accurate, useful information about them.

If the search results served up low-quality, untrustworthy content constantly, we would quickly begin to distrust and stop using Google to fulfill our information needs.

  • Example 3: Most kids in the U.S. learn about World War II in school. However, it would be absurd to believe this type of broad knowledge qualifies anyone to write an informative page about what it was like to live through it.

In the end, it’s important to think about what constitutes an expert for different topics:

How much expertise do you need to possess to write about a subject in a way that’s useful and valuable to others?

How much expertise do you need about a topic so you don’t lead readers astray or negatively impact their lives?

5. Supplementary Content

The importance of supplementary content (such as sidebar tips) is one of the most interesting features of the Google search guidelines. This content is supportive because it provides additional information to users alongside the MC.

Supplementary content can also include links to similar articles or anything else that can help the reader understand your page’s information. Pages with high-quality, useful supplementary content may be generally ranked higher than those without.

Allrecipes has good examples of pages with supplementary content (SC). On their recipe pages, you get the ingredients and instructions (the MC) as well as photos, recommended recipes, user comments, reviews, and serving information (the SC).

screenshot detailing where supplement content can be found on a website

6. Lowest-Quality Pages

Some pages receive the “lowest” rating from search quality evaluators on principle. These types of pages are created with the intent to misinform or deceive users or may potentially harm them or spread hate.

Here’s the full list of types of pages that automatically get rated as the lowest quality possible:

  • Pages that promote hate or violence towards other people (like a specific group)
  • Pages that encourage harming oneself or others
  • Malicious pages (scams, phishing, malware, etc.), or pages with a malicious/extremely negative reputation attached to the creator/website
  • Pages that could spread misinformation, including content that’s obviously inaccurate, YMYL content that contradicts the consensus of experts, and content that propagates debunked/unsubstantiated conspiracy theories
  • Pages meant to deceive users, including deceptive page design (ads that look like MC)
  • “Lack of purpose pages” that have no MC, MC that is “gibberish,” or content with no apparent purpose
  • “Pages that fail to achieve their purpose”
    • These have the lowest possible E-A-T
    • May include copied or auto-generated content
    • May have content that’s inaccessible or obstructed
    • May have unsatisfying information about the website/MC creator
    • May have unmaintained pages, hacked pages, defaced pages, or spam

Google’s example of a page with lowest-quality is this deceptive site designed to imitate the ABC News homepage:

example of a page google ranks as lowest-quality

A. Copied Content

Google also specifies what they mean by “copied content” in this subsection (part one, section 7.2.4). Naturally, any content that is not original will get the lowest quality rating from a search evaluator.

What many people don’t know, however, is that Google doesn’t consider rewritten content original if it relies too heavily on its source. Google puts it like this in the guidelines:

screenshot of rating awarded to copied content

“The Lowest rating is appropriate if all or almost all of the MC on the page is copied with little or no time, effort, expertise, manual curation, or added value for users. Such pages should be rated Lowest, even if the page assigns credit for the content to another source.”

Content creators who like to “spin” content should thus tread carefully here.

7. Mobile Optimization

One of the first things SEOs who consult the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines notice is no less than ¼ of this huge document is dedicated to mobile search.

Check out this chart from “Part 2: Understanding Mobile User Needs”:

image showing the needs of a mobile user

The chart underscores just how much people turn to their mobile phones for different tasks.

These tasks vary from simple to complex. As such, the Google guidelines are careful to lay out information about how algorithms understand and interpret mobile queries.

This focus on clarifying search queries is indicative of Google’s leaning toward voice search, which is becoming a search optimization priority. (According to Gartner, by 2020, 30% of all searches will be voice searches.)

Mobile search is one of the most important trends in digital marketing right now. Every page on a website needs to be optimized for mobile platforms to do well in search (but you already knew that, right?).

8. User Experience: “Needs Met” Ratings

In the user experience portion of the Google search guidelines (Part 3: Needs Met Rating Guideline), we circle back to mobile platforms. In this section, Google asks raters to evaluate the results of various search queries.

For example, the guidelines ask raters to consider mobile user needs and how helpful the result is for those mobile users. This chart in the guidelines illustrates the rating scale, from “Fully Meets” all the way down to “Fails to Meet”:

google's needs-met ratings explained in a chart

These ratings help Google understand how search queries are related to user intent, and how their search results are measuring up. For example, if a lot of low-quality pages that “fail to meet” user needs are showing up for a certain query, Google obviously needs to work on delivering better, more relevant and useful results for that query.

9. E-A-T Versus Needs Met

The guidelines make a clear distinction between “needs met” ratings and page quality ratings. The difference is important to understand.

“Needs met” ratings are based on both the search query and the result, while page quality (E-A-T) ratings are only based upon the result and whether it achieves its purpose. This means that useless results for a particular query are always rated “fails to meet” – even if they have outstanding page quality ratings.

Think of it this way: A high-quality page with fantastic information about sea lions is useless to you if you actually want information about otters. If you searched for “otters” but got search results featuring pages about sea lions, your search needs would be unfulfilled.

What are Google's E-A-T and needs-met ratings? @JuliaEMcCoy discusses Google's Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines in this blog post #searchmarketing #searchrankingfactors #googlesearch Click To Tweet

Conversely, when considering page ratings, the search query is unimportant. This means that high E-A-T pages can still have low “meet” scores if they are deemed unhelpful for a query or do not fulfill a user’s search needs.

quality content that fails to meet your specific search needs fails the needs-met rating

According to Google’s guidelines, this page about sea lions would receive a high page quality rating, but may not necessarily receive a high “needs met” rating – that depends on the page’s relevance to the search query.

The guidelines also state that when a user is searching for very recent information (like breaking news, for instance) a site can earn a “fails to meet” rating if the content is stale or useless for the user’s particular query. This means pages appearing in search results for time-sensitive queries featuring content about past events, old products, or outdated information will be marked useless and given a “fails to meet” rating.

While fresh content is important, older content can have a high E-A-T rating without sacrificing usefulness. This is true for evergreen content and “timeless” information.

For example, users who search for information about Ronald Regan will find biographical information useful, even if it was written many years ago. This is not true, however, for unmaintained or abandoned websites that feature infrequently updated or inaccurate content.

10. “Fails to Meet” Pages

“Fails to meet” content is a boat you don’t want to be in.

According to the guidelines, “fails to meet” content is helpful and satisfying to virtually nobody. The content results are unrelated to the query, filled with incorrect facts, or in dire need of additional supporting information. Because of these things, this content doesn’t meet a user’s search intent or need.

The guidelines go on to state that content may also be marked “fails to meet” when it is low-quality, stale, outdated, or impossible to use on a mobile device. The guidelines also specify that it is possible for sites to earn in-between ratings.

Here are a few examples of “fails to meet” content results for different queries:

examples of content that fails to meet user expectations

As you can see, in the second example (for the query “American beauty”), the result is actually directly related/relevant to the topic of the search. However, because the result has unsatisfying content, it gets the lowest possible “needs met” rating.

11. Clickbait

In the updated guidelines, Google makes plenty of references to clickbait. Specifically, they don’t want to see it. Ever.

That’s because clickbait builds up a user’s expectations and then fails them spectacularly. This leaves the user dissatisfied, confused, and frustrated/annoyed, all things Google does not want to be associated with its search results.

In the section on “Low-Quality Main Content” (part one, section 6.3), the guidelines specifically mention that raters should pay attention to a page’s title, as it “should describe the content.” If the title doesn’t properly do that or creates unrealistic expectations of the MC, Google says the page should be rated “Low.”

Here is Google’s example of a clickbait title that helps the page in question earn a low “needs met” rating:

example of content with clickbait headline

“Planet Nibiru has appeared in the sky and DOOMSDAY is on the way” – clickbait much?

12. Medium-Quality Pages

In the guidelines, we have seen that raters may rank page quality anywhere from highest to lowest.

Google defines each rating and which characteristics exemplify that rating. One of the most interesting is the definition of “medium” quality pages (part one, section 8).

Google states that there are two types of medium pages:

  • Nothing is wrong with the page, but then again, there’s nothing special about it, either.
  • The page has high-quality characteristics mixed with some low-quality characteristics.

The first type of medium-quality page goes straight to the heart of what it takes to stand out in content. You can do everything right SEO-wise, but if there is nothing unique or special about your page/your content, you can’t expect to rank well.

From Google, here is an example of a medium-quality page. The website is a trusted source, but the content is merely “okay”:

example of content that gets a medium-quality rating from google

3 Major Takeaways from the Updated Google Search Guidelines

Two of the biggest takeaways from the guidelines is the importance of mobile optimization and producing and publishing content written by an expert.

1. The Need for Expert Content Is HUGE

As Google made clear with their discussions on both E-A-T and YMYL, the need for expert content is huge.

Google values pages with high levels of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. Websites and content creators that champion these things by hiring and staffing expert writers will be rewarded for their efforts. This is especially true for YMYL pages.

Because YMYL pages are so important and have big potential to positively or negatively affect a reader’s life, Google puts them under heavy scrutiny. That means websites that specialize in these pages absolutely need to hire expert writers and content creators. The price of not doing this is too high for both websites and readers alike.

Fortunately, when websites hire expert writers to improve their page’s E-A-T and to write important YMYL pages, more than likely, they will enjoy both higher rankings in Google’s index and a position as an industry leader.

2. Reputation Matters

The recent updates to Google’s Search Evaluator Guidelines underline the importance of website/MC creator reputation when determining page quality.

Google exhaustively goes over the different ways reputation can affect a page’s quality and stipulates the best ways to research this vital factor. For example, the guidelines recommended using third-party websites and sources to do research about websites and content creators/authors.

A few they particularly mention include Wikipedia, the Better Business Bureau, Yelp, Amazon reviews, and Google Shopping.

Here’s the section mentioning the power of Wikipedia. Google calls it a “good source,” and throughout the doc, mentions the linking of Wikipedia to other sites as a quality factor:

screenshot of google's guideline on website reputation

Google respects these sites’ opinions of other sites and will consider content low or high-quality based on BBB ratings, Wikipedia links and claims, and outside reviews/evaluations.

3. You Must Be Mobile-Friendly

Sites that aren’t mobile-friendly have a 0% chance of ranking well. Obviously, Google cares more now than ever about mobile-friendly pages – after all, nearly a quarter of their search evaluator guidelines are dedicated to mobile user needs.

How are pages rated? How much value does Google put on the mobile-friendliness of a website? @JuliaEMcCoy discusses Google's Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines in this post #googlesearchguidelines #searchmarketing #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

image showing website content on a smartphone's screen

Image via Google Search Guides

Great content isn’t enough, so be sure that your entire website is optimized for mobile users.

4. You Must Create Content That Benefits Users

Imagine the new inclusion of the concept of “beneficial purpose” in these guidelines as a huge flag waving in your SEO landscape.

It’s clear that Google is looking at it as the main determiner of a page’s quality. If a page has no apparent beneficial purpose for users, it automatically gets a low rating from search evaluators. That tells us a lot about Google’s user-first mentality, and also how we should be treating each and every piece of content we create.

Plus, the concept is reflected across Google’s other guidelines, including the brief but pointed Quality Guidelines in Search Console Help:

screenshot of basic principles to follow when creating content

Take this as a sign that you should be asking yourself, “What’s the beneficial purpose of this page?” for each content piece you create.

To Be SEO-Savvy, Don’t Stop at Reading This Blog Post

My favorite SEO and content marketing resources include Backlinko (Brian Dean), BuzzSumo, Moz, and Content Marketing Institute. You can also subscribe to our Write Blog for the latest in content marketing, SEO and content writing.

Look up industry content marketing and SEO authors, too, for some must-read books. For a few solid marketing reads, I recommend anything by Ryan Holiday, Jonah Berger, Ann Handley, Joe Pulizzi, Mark Schaefer.

I’ve also written two books on content marketing and copywriting, and a course on content strategy as well as SEO writing that you might find useful.

Dr. Seuss said it best:

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss

content for seo

#ContentWritingChat Recap: Curating Consistent Content for SEO with Danielle Tate

As online content creators, there’s no denying that SEO is essential. It’s not enough to just write amazing content for your blog, but you have to optimize it as well if you want search engines (and potential readers) to discover it. To help you step up your skills and create content for SEO, you’ll want to dive into the recap of our latest #ContentWritingChat where we talked all about it!

#ContentWritingChat Recap: Curating Consistent Content for SEO

Our guest host for this week’s chat was Danielle Tate of Elegant Entrepreneur. Danielle is a CEO, best-selling author, and a speaker.

Q1: When it comes to publishing content consistently, where do you find inspiration to write?

There’s no denying that sometimes it can be hard to come up with fresh ideas for your content. In order to keep those creative juices flowing, you need to seek a little inspiration. We asked our chat participants where they find inspiration for their writing and here’s what some of them had to say:

For Danielle, she likes to look for news hooks that correlate to the topics she wants to write about. She also turns to customer questions, as they can make great blog content. This is a good reason to pay close attention to feedback your audience gives you and make note of any commonly asked questions.

It looks like Danielle isn’t the only one turning to customers to find content ideas. The team over at Netvantage Marketing uses this strategy as well.

Kristi does the same. She finds out what questions customers are asking and what they’re talking about. This will lead you in the right direction when it comes to potential topic ideas.

Brittany knows it’s a great idea to look at the trends in her industry. This gives you an idea of what’s hot at the moment and provides you with an opportunity to write about it. She suggests looking at trends and listening for challenges others are facing and then having a good brainstorming session.

For Tony, he enjoys reading different articles for inspiration. There’s always something new to read, whether it’s something within your industry or not. You can always draw inspiration from what others are saying.

Cheval gets inspiration from Twitter chats. Chats are very informative and they provide you with the opportunity to connect with others and hear their questions. It can be a great place to find your next blog post idea.

Jeremy finds writing inspiration from a variety of sources. He gets ideas from things he hears others talking about, what he sees in nature while he’s out on a run, and from great photos and videos.

Q2: What advice do you have for writers maintaining a blog long-term?

One thing that many on the outside looking in don’t realize is that blogging is actually hard work. You take on many roles as a blogger and it can sometimes feel overwhelming. So, how do you manage all of those tasks for the long haul? Check out this advice:

Danielle says you shouldn’t be afraid to wide your scope of topic when it comes to the content you cover. If your audience would be interested and it’s still relevant overall, there’s no reason you can’t experiment with something new.

No matter what you choose to write about, it should be something that you genuinely enjoy. If you aren’t passionate about your chosen topic, writing will quickly become a chore.

Make sure you’re running tests to see what’s working for you and what’s not. This allows you to see what you should do more of and what needs to change.

As Jeff said, you need to keep it consistent. If you’re going to start blogging, you need to develop a schedule and stick to it.

To make sure you’re staying consistent, develop a content strategy and keep an editorial calendar. This will keep you on track when it comes to publishing.

Brittany agrees that a plan and an editorial calendar are two essential elements of your blogging success.

Varun says there should be consistency in the quality of the content you produce, you should allow formats to evolve, and you need to keep an eye on trends in your niche. He also suggests focusing on community building. This will help you build a relationship with your audience.

Gabriela’s advice is to define your blog’s purpose and align it with your passions. Having that passion for what you’re doing will ensure you’re consistent and committed to your blog.

Q3: Do you have a specific formula for creating posts on your blog?

Writing a blog post requires quite a bit of work, as there are many stages of content creation. Developing a formula to follow will help make the process easier. Check out the formulas our chat participants follow:

For Danielle, she follows this formula: catchy title, captivating image, five paragraphs with two links, a GIF, and a call to action.

Simple, but effective! For Sarah, she comes up with an idea, jots down notes or an outline, then performs any necessary research. Once that’s done, she begins to write, proofread, and ultimately publish her content.

Don’t be afraid to write that ugly first draft! Brittany follows Ann Handley’s method by getting a first draft out, letting it rest for a while, then coming back to rewrite and optimize.

An outline can pave the way to a fantastic piece of content.

Great advice from Gabriela! She suggests creating based on a balance of what is proven to be of interest versus what she feels should be addressed.

Tony likes to be ahead of schedule when it comes to content creation. He has an editorial calendar that allows him to plan and then create content in advance.

For Leah, she likes to keep seasonality in mind. This ensures you’re timely with the content you share and you can be sure it’ll appeal to your audience in that moment. Figure out what people are searching online and add those topics to your editorial calendar.

The number one formula we should all remember? Provide value to your readers.

Q4: What does SEO mean to you as a content writer?

To switch gears into the SEO focus of this week’s chat, we asked our participants to share what it means to them as content writers. Here’s what they had to say about SEO:

For Danielle, SEO mentions intentionally weaving keywords her audience is searching for into her content. She knows this is essential if she wants the right people to discover the content she creates.

There’s no denying that SEO is important, but it’s equally as important to give your audience what they want to read.

Creating content for SEO means you need to write in a way that appeals to your human readers and search engines like Google.

Lex says SEO clarifies who the audience is, what they need, and how to talk to them.

This is a great answer from Jeff!

For Sara, SEO gives her focus as a creator.

Great way to look at it! SEO is something you have to deal with in order to let your content shine.

Q5: How do you determine the keywords you use within your posts?

When creating content for SEO, you need to determine the right keywords to use for the content you create. How do you go about that? Here are some helpful tips:

Danielle starts by analyzing which keywords are performing the best and then framing her titles and topics to include them.

Create a list of potential keywords you can analyze, but make sure you go with something that your ideal audience will actually be searching for. Think about how they talk and how they would word their searches.

Choose a topic, then research keywords people are searching for that relate back to your topic. Once you have that ideal keyword, use it naturally throughout your copy.

Elizabeth starts by choosing a topic, conducting keyword research, and then writing while naturally sprinkling in her keyword. She says to pick keywords that have high volume so you know people are searching for what you’re writing about.

Jeremy’s go-to strategy includes using Google Analytics, watching trending words and topics on platforms, and ultimately creating cross-platform appeal with his content.

Great answer from Jeff that we should all keep in mind when creating content for SEO.

Q6: What are your favorite lesser-known SEO tips you can share?

By now, we all know the basics of SEO. However, there’s always something else we can learn, so we asked everyone to share their favorite SEO tips that most people don’t seem to know about. Here’s what they had to say:

Danielle says to include links to previous posts you wrote on a topic. This will boost your keyword relevance and ranking. This technique is called siloing. If you aren’t already doing this, it’s time to get started. You can go through the blog posts in your archives and begin interlinking related posts right now.

Utilize the strategy of link building. You can guest post on other websites and include links back to posts you’ve written and published on your own blog. This helps to build quality backlinks to your blog and sends more traffic your way.

Don’t forget to add alt tags to the images in your blog posts. This tells search engines what your images are of and it’ll help them show up in search results.

That’s a winning formula right there!

Q7: How does SEO impact your content marketing strategy overall?

Wondering what role SEO plays in a content marketing strategy? Check out these responses straight from Tuesday’s chat:

For Danielle, SEO is the framework that decides what topics, articles, and social media posts are prioritized in a content schedule.

As Ray said, SEO and content marketing combined provides you with feedback for where to steer your content ship.

Sarah says it requires her to focus on the larger picture. There’s no reason to post for the sake of posting. Everything should serve a purpose and be strategic.

As Louise mentioned, content is useless without a measurable goal. You need to know what you want to accomplish and track the results you receive.

Zala said it helps you understand the focus for your content. It also shows you how to make it valuable, relevant, serachable, and useful.

Plan ahead and be aware of trends and changes in SEO algorithms. You need to be on top of those changes to ensure you’re doing the right things when it comes to creating content for SEO.

Q8: What are your favorite tools and resources for SEO? Tag them!

The great thing is, there are plenty of tools and resources that will help you create content for SEO these days. Here are just some suggestions that will help you out:

Danielle’s go-to tools include SEMrush, Market Samurai, and Meet Edgar.

Jeff relies on the following: Moz, Google Analytics, our #ContentWritingChat, and Content Marketing Institute. All great sources of information!

Leah relies on Pinterest and Yoast.

BuzzSumo is definitely a fantastic tool for creating content for SEO.

Lex uses Google and Moz for research, Yoast for the technical side of things, and Trello for organizing her content.

This is great list! You’ll want to check these out if you haven’t already.

Join us every Tuesday at 10 AM CST for #ContentWritingChat! Follow @ExpWriters and @writingchat to stay updated on topics and guests.

#Contentwritingchat

how to write content for seo

How to Write Content for SEO: 7 Steps to Great SEO Writing

Writing content for SEO (search engine optimization) is a necessary, vital skill for online marketers.

Just look at some of these stats around search…

While the purpose of content is to be helpful and useful for readers, it also needs to appear in search engines — otherwise, you’re losing out on the potential your content could have.

Like all types of online writing, however, learning how to write content for SEO is a skill that you must learn.

With this in mind, let’s dive into how to write content for SEO, and what proactive steps you can take to make your online content visible, relevant, and interesting.

how to write content for SEO

How to Write Content for SEO: 7 Steps 

Here’s a sneak peek at the 7 steps we’re going to cover in today’s blog.

1. Outline and ideate the content in your head before you write it.

2. Structure your content for easy readability & long-tail keywords.

3. Format all of your content into short chunks.

4. Make your headings descriptive.

5. Nail the transition.

6. Have other people proofread your posts.

7. Have other people proofread your posts.

8. Make sure your articles are long enough to provide ample main content.

🚨 70.6% of ALL web traffic comes from Google 🚨 -- a reason why SEO is critical for every business's content marketing. No idea what SEO is? Don't worry. @JuliaEMcCoy guides you through the basics on how you can write for SEO! 💁🏼 Click To Tweet

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. By making online content easy for the crawlers of search engines like Google to understand, good SEO principals help written material rank more efficiently. They can even make it easier for readers to find your written material online!

There are two different segments of SEO: technical SEO and on-page SEO. While technical SEO refers to the links, structure, and code of a website, on-page SEO is the keyword inclusion, length, outbound links, images, and style of a post – all of which help Google “read” it and rank it accordingly.

Both technical and on-page SEO are methods of optimizing content and getting it to rank in a favorable manner. Common SEO tactics involve keyword research and inclusion, image optimization, link building, and content formatting.

Need step-by-step guidance on how to write SEO content? After earning 20,000+ keyword rankings in Google across 8 years, I’m now teaching SEO writing! Download for FREE: The SEO Content Writer’s Cheat Sheet.

How to Create Content That Supports Good SEO: 7 Formatting & Structure Tips

Today, good SEO and good content go hand-in-hand. If your content is poorly formatted, improperly structured, or carelessly thrown together, it’s going to be difficult to shape it into something that supports effective SEO. With that in mind, here are some tips to help you correctly develop all of your blog posts, starting now:

1. Outline and ideate the content in your head before you write it.

While nobody is saying you need to sit down and create a “brain map” of your various ideas, content that supports good SEO is the opposite of an impressionist painting. Instead of being random and sudden, it is methodical and categorical. Because of this, brainstorming content is a powerful way to ensure that you’re including all of your main points and topics, and that you can use the content to input links, keywords, and other important SEO elements.

To this end, think about all of your content, with these questions, before you write it:

  • Who are you trying to reach?
  • Which keywords will you include?
  • What’s the overall point of your material?
  • What do you want the content to communicate?
  • By thinking through the course and structure of your content clearly, it’s easier to publish great content that lends itself nicely to SEO.

2. Structure your content for easy readability & long-tail keywords.

Great blog posts rely on great structure, and good SEO does, too. With this in mind, consider mapping or outlining your blog posts before you write them. In addition to giving you a structure to abide by, this simple task will also help you lay out your introduction, body, and conclusion, and ensure that your content is easy to read, which, in turn, makes it more reader- and search engine-friendly.

Long-tail keywords are your best friends in terms of optimizing for keywords that won’t break the bank (take too long or too much $). Read my guide here for more on how to go after long-tail keywords, including which tools to use.

3. Format all of your content into short chunks.

A large brick of text is intimidating to readers, and it will push people away. With this in mind, be sure to divide all of your content into readable chunks of text, with a beginning, middle, and end.

As a general rule, paragraphs should be only 3-4 sentences in length, and you should do your best to insert subheaders at intervals of every 300 or so words. This makes your content easier for readers to approach and helps keep it from feeling intimidating on the page. It also has the potential to improve your click-through rate, which can boost your overall SEO scores.

Look through some posts here to see examples of readable content:

4. Make your headings descriptive.

Beyond just using headings, you need to know how to make them descriptive and useful. Headlines are meant to guide readers through your blog post, and headlines that are highly descriptive and include target keywords will do the best job of this. They’ll also work as a sort of advertisement on Google’s search engine results page and, if they’re written well enough, will draw more people to your content.

5. Nail the transition.

Transition words are important to your writing, and they can go a long way toward making it smoother and easier to understand for readers. While this sounds simple, it’s important to remember that good content is the foundation of good SEO, and content your customers can’t read doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance of ranking well.

With this in mind, don’t hesitate to use transition words and phrases like “However,” “Secondly,” etc. These help your readers keep pace and will work wonders to streamline your writing.

6. Have other people proofread your posts.

While you may be an effective writer and editor, having other people read your posts will cut down on errors and improve your writing. With this in mind, hire an editor or another writer to help you look over your post before you publish them. Don’t ever make a habit out of publishing something you’ve not adequately proofread since this is a recipe for mistakes and sloppiness, both of which can damage your rankings.

7. Make sure your articles are long enough to provide ample main content.

According to Yoast, every article you post should have at least 300 words. The reason for that is that content shorter than that doesn’t provide enough of what Google, in its updated Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, calls “main content.”

While it’s true that longer articles tend to perform better in the world of SEO, the main priority you have as a writer is simply to ensure that your articles provide enough main content to be useful to search engines and people.

ℹ️ 7 SEO structure tips: 📝 outline your ideas, 💬 use long-tail keywords, 👀 make your content readable, 🔖 make headings descriptive, ▶️ use transition words, and ☑️ get your content proofread by someone else. ℹ️ Click To Tweet

How to Write Content for SEO: 6 Critical Tips for all of Your Content

Once you’ve learned what it takes to develop content with a favorable SEO structure, let’s talk about what it takes to actually write content for SEO.

While some bloggers overlook SEO, you simply cannot afford to take this approach, especially in light of the fact that many of the things mentioned in this article, like page load time and ample amounts of quality main page content, are things that Google has been prioritizing with recent algorithm updates.

Designed to help you rank well in search engines and enjoy a wider audience, writing content for SEO is a critical part of becoming a well-known blogger in your given field.

1. Optimize your content to load quickly.

While it’s not an element of on-page SEO necessarily, page load time is a huge factor in the world of SEO, and there are certain steps you can take during the writing process to streamline load times. According to Neil Patel, 40% of people abandon web page when they take more than 3 seconds to load, so it’s essential to keep load time in mind as you craft your pages.

To determine how your site does in terms of load time, use a tool like the Pingdom website speed tool. It’s super easy to use. Just plug in your URL and location.

pingdom

If the results aren’t quite what you had hoped for, there are a few things you can do to alter your on-page SEO and speed load times accordingly:

  • Optimize your images. Images are an important part of a good blog, and they’re critical for SEO, as well. When they’re too long, though, they can easily harm a page’s load times. With this in mind, optimize your images to load more rapidly. This involves adjusting your image sizes so that they’re not excessively large, uploading speed-friendly image formats (JPEGS are the best options), and inputting image src codes to prevent the browser from surveying the page directory in an attempt to “read” the image.
  • Keep redirects at bay. Redirects can destroy your page load time, so it’s important to keep them to the bare minimum. As much as you can, avoid citing URLs in your content that redirect to other URLs. This will help enhance your load time and create a better user experience.

2. Make your headlines powerful and attention-grabbing.

The headline is a huge asset when writing content for SEO. In addition to the fact that the headline is the first thing people see, it’s also one of the primary things that Google evaluates when ranking your sites. To ensure that your headlines are performing well and drawing readers, be sure to do the following:

  • Include relevant keywords. For best results, input your keyword phrase at the beginning of your headline to make it as prominent as possible.
  • Keep them the correct length. Current stats say 65 characters or fewer.
  • Use action words. Action words make readers want to act. When your headline asks someone to click, share, or download, they’re more likely to do just that.
  • Address the reader directly. Addressing the reader directly makes your headlines more personal, and can grab a reader’s attention from the depths of the SERPs.

3. Write a fresh meta description and title.

Meta descriptions are the small snippets of descriptive text that show up in Google’s SERPs. If you want SEO juice, you CANNOT ignore this part.

For example, check out the meta description that appears for Express Writers in the SERPS.

how to write content for SEO

While they’re easy to overlook, they’re critical for the health and wellbeing of your content’s SEO. To get the most from each meta description you write, include relevant keywords, direct your content to the reader personally, and keep it the right length (fewer than 160 characters) so that it doesn’t get truncated by Google.

While these may seem like simple steps, they’re essential to keep your meta descriptions on point and helpful to your readers.

4. Include keywords (in the right places).

Keywords used to be all the rage in the world of SEO. Today, the buzz has quieted a bit, but they’re still an important piece of on-page SEO. With this in mind, you’ll want to include relevant keywords in all of the writing you do, but take pains to not go too far with them and “stuff” your content like a Thanksgiving turkey.

As a general rule, your keyword or keyword phrase should be included in your title, subheaders, and throughout the body copy. While keyword density is only one of Google’s more than 200 ranking factors, it’s still an important thing to pay attention to and optimize for when you set out to write content for SEO.

My guide to SEO keyword optimization can help. Download it here.

seo cheat sheet

5. Use high-quality internal and external links.

Links are a powerful tool to help improve your SEO. While internal links (links that point back to your own content) can help direct users to your other material, external links (to high DA sources with a score of 50 or above) will help communicate to Google and other search engines that your website is authoritative and relevant, and that you value quality connections to other online content.

To use links correctly, attach them to relevant, non-stuffy anchor text and ensure that you’re using only the most relevant sites for your particular information.

6. Use the right tools and resources.

While it’s true that writing content for SEO can be tough, there are dozens of great tools and resources at your disposal. Consider using apps like the following to improve your content’s SEO and help it rank more effectively.

  • Yoast SEO. A simple WordPress plugin that helps optimize WordPress posts for SEO.
  • Hemingway. A simple app that helps writers simplify and clarify their content for enhanced readability.
  • The AMI Headline Analyzer. A tool that analyzes headlines and determines how emotive and impactful they are.
  • BuzzSumo. A powerful tool designed to help bloggers mine topics, track keywords, and located trending topics.
ℹ️ 6 tips on how to write content for SEO: 🌲 optimize your copy and images, 🕸️ use catchy headlines, ✍️ make sure to write meta data, 🗝️ use keywords, 🔗 use high-quality links, and ⚒️ use the right tools. ℹ️ Click To Tweet

Conclusion: How to Write Content for SEO, Made Simple

While it’s true that writing content for SEO can be tough, these simple tips can give you the roadmap you need to make the process easier and more streamlined than ever before.

With good SEO content comes good rankings, more readers, and increased online visibility – which is great for your content and your company.

Need SEO writers to help create your content? Register for free as a client today.

How Social Engagement Really Ties Into SEO Rankings

If you run a business, there’s no doubt you’ve been told you need to be busy on social media channels.

But, essentially you need to know that your efforts on those platforms are driving traffic to your website and making it quicker for customers to find you online. In short, you need to know you’re getting a return on investment.

The question is this: do social signals actually influence your SEO?

Social & SEO rankings

Social Engagement and SEO: The Answer Is Indirectly

Last year, Matt Cutts announced that social signals won’t directly affect SEO.

Sounds pretty cut and dry, right? Wrong.

The keyword in that sentence is “directly.”

Social media allows you the chance to impact your business’s SEO in an array of indirect ways.

How to Measure That Indirect Impact

Just because you can’t tie the indirect impact of SEO and social signs doesn’t mean it’s time to pack up shop and shut down all your social profiles. While there may not be a very specific formula for directly connecting SEO and social, it definitely doesn’t mean your social effort are futile.

Let’s say you have a ton of followers on Twitter. That doesn’t really guarantee that you’re going to enjoy higher ranks on Google and the other search engines. However, it also doesn’t mean that won’t change tomorrow.

For instance, in 2013 Google said that they did include social signals. A year later in 2014, they said they did not.

According to Justin Kirby, CaveSocial Co-Founder, if a business’s content tends to be drawing people from various social networks to your URL constantly, SERPS are going to view your content as respected and eventually your rankings will increase.

Social Is Much More than SEO Rankings

Increasing your business’s website rankings in search engines really shouldn’t be your only goal when it comes to social signals.

Just look at these other benefits:

  1. Link building
  2. Increased website traffic
  3. Social profile growth
  4. Content visibility

Each of these can, and will, contribute to increased rankings.

Gone are the days of SEO just being about using keywords and link building. That’s exactly why Google’s algorithm continues to evolve.

Now, SEO revolves around honest experiences and trustworthy brands which means your rankings get better as you provide quality content, delivered consistently from a variety of sources.

When you create a marriage between your social and content, you’ll see how your ranking and website traffic will improve.

Let’s not forget about social reputation and brand awareness, either.

As stated in Searchmetrics’ 2016 Rebooting Ranking Factors White Paper:

“The correlation between social signals and ranking position is extremely high, and the number of social signals per landing page has remained constant when compared to with the values from last year’s whitepaper. … The top-ranked websites in Google’s rankings displays vastly more social signals than all other pages…. This is primarily due to the overlap between brand websites performing strongly in social networks and being allocated top positions by Google.”

Essentially, the more ways people are able to find you in search engines, the more you’re able to control your brands’ images. Simply open the first few pages of Google on a search of your product or brand. Be consistent in your efforts and you’ll be able to “own” some topics online with your killer content and, ultimately, your services and products.

So Many Reasons to Be Active on Social Media

While there may not be a clear recipe of what you should be doing on social for your efforts to affect SEO, that doesn’t mean social signals won’t affect SEO whatsoever.

There are plenty of reasons to be active on social, like engaging one-on-one with customers and growing your community. All the growth and social activity to see on your networks will lead to increase website traffic, increased interest in your offerings and more content views.

SEO Is Becoming More Dependent on Engagement

Human marketing, that is, having an online presence and engaging with your community, is good for all sorts of reasons. It’s especially good for your bottom line.

Search engines are hard at work building algorithms that are way more in tune with human thinking since at the end of the day, humans are the ones using the search engines. So the closer they get to being human, the better the results will be.

But don’t just take my word for it. Searchmetrics created a list of correlating factors between social signals and search engine positions.

What you can see here is that 8 out of 10 highest correlations between search engine positions and rankings are tied to social engagement factors. That means that those factors that tie in best with the search engine positioning is related to how people react to content on social media.

Human beings’ reactions on social media don’t happen because of numbers or because you’ve created a perfect site (from a technical viewpoint). It does happen because your content appeals to your audience; it resonates with them; they can relate. They’re human!

We could get into a whole heated debate about a link between causality and correlation. But there’s really one main thing we need to know: content that is likely to entice engagement has a better chance of higher rankings and content that ranks well will help your bottom line.

Matt Cutt’s Viewpoint

So, just how far is Google from using social media signals as factors for ranking? Can the SERPS use follower and engagement metrics from the likes of Facebook and Twitter to evaluate an individual’s authority?

The answers to those questions were certainly buried in the headlines in Matt Cutt’s video.

Supporting what Matt had to say, Google’s John Mueller has categorically stated Google doesn’t use social signals in its search ranking factors.

Okay, so let’s go in depth into Matt Cutt’s comments to try to understand why Google doesn’t do so.

Do Twitter and Facebooks Signals Play a Part in Google’s Ranking Algorithms?

That’s what Matt Cutts answered in the video. Let’s break it down.

1. Twitter and Facebook posts are treated like other web pages

Every individual tweet on Twitter, for example, is a standalone website in Google’s eyes. On Facebook, a re-share, a status update and even a link share are all “pages” on their own to Google.

What we need to understand here is unspoken implication. While a lot of people assume Google tries to index every single page on the World Wide Web, this isn’t true.

While the search engine’s resources are certainly vast, there are limits. What’s more, with the rate at which web pages increase, Google recognizes that not every page is equally valuable, if at all. So the search engine builds its own crawling bots algorithms in order to be selective in what to crawl.

2. Google is limited in how much social web it crawls

Matt has made it clear that Google can’t always crawl all the pages on social sites.

However, while Google can see every tweet posted in real time, for example, doesn’t mean they do actually index every tweet. In a study conducted in June 2015, it was found that Google still indexes less than 4% of all tweets.

3. Social signal correlations that have higher rankings for sites don’t equal causation of those rankings

Matt has made something very clear that caused a bit of a stir: several sites, particularly Moz and SearchMetrics, have published correlation studies depicting social signals like Google+1s and Facebook Likes as arguably one of the highest correlating factors for those sites that rank highly on Google. This has led many people to jump to the conclusion that social signals are the cause of higher rankings.

Then there’s the level-headed Cyrus Shepard from Moz who tried to explain that an associating factor doesn’t necessarily need to be a causal factor. The more likely explanation is that sites that seem to get higher social engagement tend to be sites that attract a lot of other signals that do contribute to their search ranking power.

What’s important to keep in mind is that social media exposure tends to increase the opportunities that sites will indeed link to your content.

4. Be active on social media to build your brand and drive traffic

According to Matt, there are some really valid reasons for being active on social platforms, whether or not social has an impact on rankings.

Marry up good network building and an active social presence and you’ll soon notice a growing brand reputation, the development of authority and trust, better customer service and increased traffic to your sites via the conversations you have and the links you post.

5. It all needs to be a long-term project

This is really important.

During the three year experiment of Google Authorship (which may just be coming back), one of the hot topics in the world of SEO was “author rank” – that is, the idea that Google could use the author’s individual authority for given topics as a factor in search ranking.

But Matt Cutts has made it clear in the video why using individuals’ authority as a ranking is a long-term goal for Google. Establishing a person’s identify and verifying it is hard.

Social Engagement and SEO – It’s All a Bit Like a Fine Wine

Google is incredibly careful in their search results. There is absolutely no incentive for them to rush an unreliable or incomplete signal into their ranking factors. In fact, there are enough disincentives to put them off.

Precisely evaluating and measuring the complex signals that could indicate how authoritative an organization or individual is on social media, particularly with regards to certain topic areas, is massively complex and made even more difficult when major areas where these signals exist are difficult for Google to get to.

This doesn’t mean that Google doesn’t value these signals. Every single indication we have had from Google spokespeople, has been that certain areas of social signals as well as authors as subject authorities continue to be areas of intense interest for the search engine.

In fact, during his 2013 Pubcon keynote speech in Las Vegas, Matt mentioned that social signals shouldn’t be looked at for short term benefits like direct ranking, but rather as long term efforts. In other words, over time the search engines will start watching who consistently gets great social signals over and over again as an indication of who is a trustworthy authority figure.

Just like a reputable wine maker wouldn’t serve a fine wine before its time, the search engines aren’t going to serve ranking factor before its time. While social signals are definitely important, and active use of social media has become essential, you need to be investing in them for the long-term.

You need to know that if you build real value that people will value, overtime, that is going to become valuable to the search engines as well.

Social Media Channels Are Search Engines

We think that social engagement already ties into SEO rankings.

People these days don’t just head over to a search engine to look something up, they use social media channels. Check out this article on why social is the new SEO.

So let’s say you’re active on Twitter. Then it is possible that people will find your business’s new content after searching for market-related tweets with Twitter’s search function. Likewise, brands that make use of stunning visual content can benefit from making that content visible on Instagram and Pinterest by categorizing their pins and using hashtags.

What’s more, if someone wants to look up your company, they’re more likely to open up Facebook and Twitter to do a quick search and check out your presence on each platform.

If Not Now, Definitely Soon

Ultimately, the World Wide Web is all about relationship building, expressing your identity, fostering audiences and sharing ideas. It’s intrinsically social and there is absolutely no reason why SEO best practices would chose to go against the grain – particularly since the rules governing SEO are supposed to make the web a more useful and enjoyable place.

Does social engagement really tie into SEO rankings? We sure think so – but right now, there’s no clear way to measure it.

What’s your take on it? Let us know in the comments!

content for SEO

Why You Shouldn't Be Doing Content for SEO Only  

Wait just a second – isn’t content for SEO purposes? What does my odd title mean? Well, yes, content is great for SEO, and SEO is just one of several reasons why you should be using content. Goodness knows we’ve talked about the importance of content for SEO multiple times. However, it isn’t the only reason. You need to craft content that reaches your audience both on and offline, and it needs to be high quality and engaging.

That said, how do you craft content that doesn’t primarily focus on SEO, while still putting out content that’s excellent enough for Google to #1 it? This blog is going to take a look at this, as well as help you craft excellent, engaging copy for your website and social media sites. Following these suggestions could help turn several of those clicks into excellent leads and long-term customers.

SEO is Just One of Many Reasons for Content

It might seem like the only reason most companies utilize content is for SEO, so why can’t you? It does look like it works, especially at the beginning. However, when you focus your content solely on SEO purposes, you can eventually lose your readership. There is nothing quite as boring as reading a piece written only to trigger the search engines and bring people to the site.

Yes, SEO is a great reason for a content campaign, but it is not the only one on the market. There are several other reasons that combine to create an incredible formula of success. Take a quick look at my blogs; I write them for you specifically without focusing too much on SEO. I do take it into consideration. I like ranking in Google searches (who doesn’t?). However, I also want you to find something of immense value and that is the true goal of content.

What Happens if You Only Focus on Content for SEO?

The main thing that can happen is you can lose your readership. This is something discussed in several blogs about SEO. “Don’t keyword stuff because readers won’t appreciate it,” “don’t write for the bots because of readers.” Your readership is vital to the success of your business. Another important reason is if you only focus on the SEO aspect of your content, you can eventually be penalized by Google. Do you see now why it is vital to your business to only use content for SEO as one reason?

How Else Can You Use Content?

Now that you’ve seen just how important it is to not focus solely on SEO, you might be wondering how else you can use your content. Let me look at two important ways to use content for your business:

  1. To Reach Your Followers Online. One of the reasons for writing web content is that it gives the ability to reach your followers easily through the Internet. The online world gives all companies the unique ability to meet customers where they are. This could be if the customer is on a train commuting to work, at Disney Land, or as they marathon House, M.D. on Netflix. No matter where you customer is, you can use your web content to reach them quickly. When you only focus on SEO, you still might reach them, but you won’t be able to retain them, which can be detrimental.
  1. Use it to Grow Your Business Both On and Offline. When using web content, not only can you reach people online, but you can grow your business offline. How can online web content grow your business off of the World Wide Web? Simple – word of mouth marketing. Word of mouth marketing gets your business to other people who may never have known about it at all.

What will happen is one customer likes a product or service, and they will tell their friends and family members who will then tell their friends or family members. The cycle continues until it grows into a great client base. This can also happen on social media, and, as the Forbes article I linked to says, it is one of the most important elements in your social media marketing campaign.

Tips on Creating Excellent Content That isn’t Just for SEO

Just how can you create killer content your audience will enjoy without solely focusing on SEO? Let’s take a quick refresher course on a few ways to help your company both on and offline.

  1. Know Your Audience. One of the most vital parts of creating content that doesn’t just focus on SEO is knowing who your audience is and what they want to read. This will take some researching, but it can be done. This will help you craft excellent content that will be shared on social media, helping with one aspect of word of mouth marketing. If you truly know your audience, they will feel comfortable with your company and will be willing to tell others about it. A few ways to research your audience are:
  • Create specific questions to help you truly learn about them.
  • Sending out customer surveys for your audience to fill out.
  • Meeting with clients and hosting a sort of online town hall to get a feel for what they want.
  • Research your audience on social media and what they are saying about you.
  1. Write for Your Readers. When you focus your content solely on SEO purposes, you miss the biggest mark for successful content – writing for your readers. You can write your content with SEO in mind, but readers are going to notice if you are trying to rank. The best way to write for them is to follow point one and research them, but to also write naturally. “Talk” to your audience by using pronouns and create a relationship. Write on topics they find interesting and give them valuable information that they don’t feel they can get elsewhere. A great way to write for your readers is to use their language or “voice” in your content. This will establish a great connection with them, but also make the content easier for them to read.
  1. Write on Interesting Topics. Your content provides you with a chance to write on relevant and interesting topics. It helps keep your website up-to-date and fresh, which is something your readership will greatly appreciate. Creating fresh content might sound a bit difficult to do, especially since you’re incredibly busy with other business tasks. However, it is possible. A few ways to ensure you are writing quality, fresh content for your readers are:
  • Researching your audience as in point one.
  • Writing on topics that you are passionate about. Writing from the heart is a great way to connect with your client base.
  • Take inspiration from other great writers. This can be classic authors like Mary Shelley or modern authors like Neil Gaiman. You can also garner inspiration from films, television shows, and following trendy people online such as George Takei.
  • Write news content pieces for your blogs.
  1. Write Content that is Engaging. A great way to write excellent content that doesn’t just focus on SEO is to write engaging pieces. Engaging content is a great way to attract more readers and convert visitors to leads. A few ways to write engaging content are to:
  • Write strong headlines for your pieces to get clicks.
  • Create unique pieces to retain the visitors you receive.
  • Give people answers to their questions.
  • Always source your material and do proper research before writing your content and hitting publish.
  • Add other forms of content such as images, videos, and infographics. This can help break up all of your text while giving people something easy to share.
  • Continually update your website and blog to keep people engaged. If your website stays the same for a long time, it will grow stale. If you don’t update your blog regularly, it too will go stale. You need to make sure to keep your content fresh.
  1. Create Content You Want to Promote. You can easily tell your content is excellent if you want to promote it, according to AuthorityLabs.com. If you are writing content you don’t enjoy, and that you don’t have the desire to show others, then it is obviously not a quality piece. When crafting content, make sure you are creating something you want to share and always make sure it is something you would find interesting if you happened across it on the web. This goes for your web content, as well as social media content. Make something interesting that will grab your followers’ attention!

As you can see, it is vital to create excellent content and not use it just for SEO purposes. You want to convert those clicks that come from your basic SEO practices into leads and the best way to do that is have great content. Take this into mind as you start creating your content campaign and make sure that you focus on your readers along with SEO as you start crafting future pieces. You will be quite pleased with the results!

Photo credit: zakokor / iStock

 

 

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PubCon Vegas 2014 Speaker Talks about SEO as Content Marketing

PubCon is the top social media and optimization conference: it’s supported by the top businesses, speakers, exhibitors, and sponsors involved in social media, Internet marketing, search engines, and digital advertising agencies. (Yes, one day I’ll make it to one.) This awesome event always offers an in depth look at the future of technology, as envisioned by the top-speakers, in cutting edge sessions. Moreover, at PubCon Vegas 2014, a noteworthy speaker made it widely known that content marketing and SEO are irrevocably joined at the hip.

At the recent PubCon in Las Vegas, Carolyn Shelby spoke about how content marketing and SEO are inextricably linked. Shelby is the Director of SEO and SEM for Tribune Publishing. She also works for six Tribune newspapers, plus the LA Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has been in the industry since 1994, and she has been professionally designing and developing websites for nonprofits and a diverse variety of businesses since 1995. She consults, she speaks, and she isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty with hard online work. Her specialty is rehabbing underperforming and outdated websites. In addition, her appearance at PubCon sheds some new light on SEO as content marketing.

What are SEO and Content Marketing?

As you know, SEO is the acronym for search engine optimization. SEO is the process of affecting the visibility of a specific website or web page in a SERP’s “natural” or un-paid (“organic”) search results. Lee Odden, an industry expert from the Content Marketing Institute, recently described SEO as “a customer focused content marketing program.” He went on to say that it’s like a “sandwich” in which “SEO is the mayonnaise.” Although the mayo touches just about everything and enhances the sandwich’s flavor, it’s not exactly appetizing on its own.

Content marketing is marketing that involves the creation and sharing of media content in order to draw in and retain customers. You might liken it to the bread of Odden’s sandwich. Good quality bread can really make a sandwich and complement its contents. While the bread may be scrumptious all on its own, it’s usually the contents of the sandwich that lead us to eating it.

Why You Need SEO in Content Marketing

If SEO is like mayo and content marketing is like bread, then obviously both are important. In her segment at PubCon, Carolyn Shelby listed the following reasons for why you need SEO in your content marketing:

  • It helps identify the goals for your marketing, and it creates a performance benchmark
  • It helps you select your themes and topics through good old-fashioned keyword research
  • It assists you in writing that unbelievably amazing, on topic content
  • It allows you to decide where to distribute and promote your content for the best visibility to your target audience
  • It gives you the capability to run reports that show your ROI

However, these aren’t the only reasons you need SEO and content marketing as a combo. Regardless of what people say, SEO and content marketing aren’t duking it out to see which species survives to the next step of cyber evolution. We’re not looking at survival of the fittest or a corporate takeover. We’re staring at a merger.

The people who go around pushing “Content Marketing vs. SEO” are chomping at the bit to pit them against each other like a couple of prizefighters. Not only do they want you to pick a side, but they also need you to do so. Do I have your attention?

SEO versus Content Marketing

The apparent implication comes across that, in order to be wise with your digital marketing budget, you have no choice but to choose between hiring only one type of specialist over the other. In this case, it’s the SEO guru over the content marketing king. Maybe you have a $3,000 budget dedicated to marketing to allocate as seen best fit per month. The dilemma then becomes, do you put your eggs into the content marketing or SEO basket?

The only way this makes any kind of sense is if the intended SEO in question is of the black-hat variety. Black-hat SEOs were indeed a booming, albeit questionable, business practice for years. Today, their methods are entirely unethical, ineffective, and downright dangerous to your SEO strategies. Search engines don’t take too kindly to websites caught running a black-hat SEO tactic and they penalize those found guilty of doing so accordingly. It can be disastrous.

The truth is white-hat SEO practices are tried and true methods of increasing visibility and ultimately readership, thus leading to conversion. One of the most talked about white-hat SEO methods is creating and publishing high quality content. Guess what? We just stepped into the domain of a seasoned content marketer. There is no choice between SEO and content marketing. They work together. In fact, awesome content is quickly turning into the ultimate SEO tool!

SEO as Content Marketing: Two Sides of a New Coin

Savvy online marketing professionals should come to the conclusion that content marketing and SEO are the two key contributors in an enterprise-focused marketing strategy. If your website is lacking in one or both of these areas, it has to be brought up to par.

SEO experts shouldn’t be living in fear of the extinction of the craft they’ve worked so hard to build. Their roles will continue to be vital for a brand’s marketing strategy because they know better than anyone that effective, ethical SEO can’t happen without the necessary content to optimize. And where the content gurus know the ins and outs of epic content—like citations and internal linking going SEO viral—the SEOs know how to get search engines to see that content.

We all strive to create high quality content with the intention of supporting our marketing objectives. If done properly, an integral part of our execution strategies will be focused on creating optimizations that will increase the probability of our content being discovered on search engine result pages.

As it stands, claiming that SEO and content marketing are two separate marketing tactics with no interaction is akin to saying that headlines and copy are mortal enemies. However, as Google continues to perfect the search users’ experience, content is taking on new meaning. One might even go as far as saying, as Shelby did at PubCon, that SEO is becoming the new content marketing. Content marketing is huge!

Baskets Be Gone

Remember how we talked about the content marketing and SEO baskets? One of the greatest struggles is that of a majority of people attempting to distinguish between various tactics by putting them into separate baskets. In truth, as SEO becomes the new content marketing, we are effectively merging the two baskets to create one—a better one. Ideally, instead of seeing each one as an individual entity, they should be seen as an aspect of one strategic, overarching process.

Our SEO can literally hand us vital information about our target audience. The performance of our SEO can indicate which content is working and which is not. Shelby pointed out that the Tribune Content Agency actually leverages their SEO as an influencer and informer on behalf of their overall content strategy. That strategy encompasses everything from topic selection to the actual content creation and its placement.

Content is King…

…but it needs SEO to reign supreme. The fundamental element in marketing is and always has been content. As we move forward, content should continue to serve as the basic foundation of your online marketing strategy. Google wants high quality content, and their every algorithm update supports that desire. But it’s not just the wishes of the almighty SEO setter. It’s the wants of audiences around the globe. They want relevancy, but they want awesome content, too.

Content is king, but it should be populated with vital information expertly tailored to speak the language of your intended audience. At the same time, it must adequately and accurately address the problems and desires that are at the forefront of your audience’s mind. It must offer value; otherwise, it is worthless. Content must be able to answer whatever questions your audience has, alleviate their fears, and encourage them to action.

Here’s the thing: the accomplishment of your content marketing goals, according to Shelby, hinges on your SEO. You can’t have one without the other. Regardless of whether your content marketing goal is to build brand awareness, beef up your site’s content inventory, generate that fuzzy feeling, or offer up some link bait, it’s all for not without at least some SEO.

So, before you go separating your 2015 budgets and contemplating which is more important, stop! SEO becoming the new content marketing is happening. To choose one over the other is to choose a disadvantage. Regardless of whether you’re taking the plunge to outsourcing your content creation and/or SEO or not, you have a mission. Be sure to make room for both content marketing and SEO. It’s the only way you can have your cake and eat it too!

Photo credit: zakokor / iStock

 

content for SEO

8 Reasons Why Content is the Most Crucial Element of SEO Today

If you are in the SEO business or in case you are thinking about it, there is one major rule you will have to keep in mind: the search engines don’t care about companies; they only rank content. It doesn’t matter how great your company is if you can’t offer the readers high quality content.

The main purpose of search engines (including Google) is to offer their users the best experience possible. When a user searches the answer to a question, the more details the answer has, the more useful it is for the user. As a result relevant and high quality content will have a better ranking in the search results.

All this determines your goal in content creation: publishing marketable, useful and relevant information. This will boost your ratings and it will ensure that your SEO strategy will have long-term effects.

So here is why content is the key element of SEO:

1. People Are Interested in What You Have to Say

According to Brafton.com 52% of people made purchase decisions based on what they read on blogs and 57% of the marketers gained new customers because of their content. 42% of people look for articles and blogs about the products that they wish to purchase and 60% of the marketers claim that content helps them make better decisions. 61% of the customers say that they are likely to purchase the products of a company that offers custom content. All this should show you how important your content really is.

Brafton's Infographic: Why Content for SEO?
Now that you know your content makes all the difference, what could you do to improve it for higher SEO ranks and more traffic?

2. Give the Consumers What They Need

First of all, you have to know what your target audience is. Secondly, you need to know what they want and what information is relevant to them. If you don’t, you will waste time and energy offering solutions to problems that don’t exist. Once you know what the target audience wants, make sure that the content you offer is really helpful.

Think of the most common questions and offer answers. This way you will become the source of knowledge to the readers. While the other people will be too busy with self-marketing, you will give people exactly what they need which is the best self-marketing strategy ever.

3. Just Give Yourself

Regardless of the kind of content you are thinking about, you can be sure that there are hundreds of people who thought of it before you woke up this morning. This is why you will have to find ways to make your content stand out; find ways to present your content in a way that has never been used before.

If your content is similar to the others’, you will just need to add value to it. There are many different ways to make your content stand out, such as adding videos, infographics, images, or anything else that would make it unique.

4. Boredom Is the Death of SEO

You may be working in a field that is boring or dry, but you can be sure that they are always ways to add a fun and creative spin to it, even if you are in the field of toilet seats.

One of the most important aspects that you will have to be thinking about is branding, according to Seth Godin.  Based on information from brafton.com, half of the users are more likely to visit a page if it appears several times among the search engine results. For this you will need a diversified content strategy. It means that you should have blogs, webpages, images, videos, whitepapers, social snippets, infographics, and anything else you could think of.

All this will result in people being engaged with your brand. You will be able to fill the content gaps and you will maximize the benefits of all your content.

5. Content Reduced to Keywords

When you’re searching for something with the help of search engines, you have to type in keywords. These are the same keywords that the users type in to find your content. Since you know what your target group wants, you should have a pretty good idea of what keywords they might use to reach the desired content. All these keywords must be a part of your pages. This way in the moment the user hits enter, your content will be first on the list of results.

6. Can Keywords Reduce Your Ranking?

In order to have high ranks on the search engine results, there is need for your content to contain keywords. So, why wouldn’t you include all the keywords that you can think about? The truth is this is a very bad strategy. Keyword stuffing isn’t the solution to your problem. If you have too many keywords, the content will lose its purpose and it won’t be useful to the readers. This is why there is a keyword density accepted by common sense. If your web content keyword density is higher, it will hurt your ranking. On the other hand, if you don’t have keywords, it will become very difficult to attract traffic to your content.

7. Is Your Content Engaging?

If you have high quality content, you will be able to engage the readers and this is something that the search engines also measure. The more time readers spend on your site, the better the rankings will be. If you don’t have high quality content, the readers will simply bounce back to the search results and, again, this will hurt your ranking.

8. Be “Socially” Involved

You can see social media everywhere you look. If you get shares, likes, tweets, or any other kind of social feedback, it means that you have high quality content and this is something that the search engines will appreciate as well.

All in all, no matter what kind of feedback you’re striving for, it all comes back to your content and whether or not your readers like it. Regardless of what you’re writing about, always consider what the readers want; the search engines want the same thing as your readers: high quality, informational, engaging content.