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do not's of seo: sej recap

The 7 Do Not’s of SEO in 2019 and Beyond (Search Engine Journal Webinar Recap)

SEO to content is like paleo chocolate frosting to a paleo chocolate cake.

(Ever had one of those? They’re decadent, AND good for you. 🤤)

It seriously is that important–and impactful–in content marketing.

SEO-focused content marketing has powered our own organic marketing at Express Writers for years.

Without good SEO practices, your content will miss out on the possibilities of earning traffic and leads through organic user searches.

The opposite, bad SEO, will make readers and Google look a little like Steve Carrell in this scene in the 2014 movie, Alexander and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day:

Not good.

That’s why, this April, I presented a webinar for Search Engine Journal on the top seven bad SEO tactics to abandon forever – ones that are dragging down your search rankings, confusing users (see above photo), and leaving your content in the dust.

We had an amazing turnout for this webinar. Over 300 people tuned in live!

Here are the slides from my webinar, and here’s the YouTube replay.

For those who missed it, or those who want the highlights, keep reading – I’m recapping the major points, here, too. ✔

Before we get into the bad SEO tactics and practices people are still using, we need to answer one question…

Get your own content marketing all geared up for the ROI you've been waiting for with the help of good SEO. Watch @JuliaEMcCoy's @sejournal webinar about the 7 Do Not's of #SEO in 2019 Click To Tweet

sej webinar recap julia mccoy

Why Does SEO and Google Matter?

Two reasons:

1. Most Internet Users Rely on Google

About half of the world’s population uses the internet. That’s no joke. Of those internet-users, about 60% begin their browsing with a Google search.

Over 3.5 billion Google searches happen in a day. Plus, Google dominates the market. Almost 60% of all web traffic begins with a Google search, according to the data from SparkToro and Jumpshot.

do not's of seo: forgetting Google

Image: Backlinko

2. Google is All About the User

Most web traffic comes from Google, and Google is all about that end-user. From their Search Engine Evaluator Guidelines to their Webmaster Central Blog, the user experience takes center stage. When your SEO and website experience tick off human users, you tick off Google, simultaneously.

Therefore, good SEO practices are all about keeping users and Google happy. The better you do, the more highly you will be ranked in search (and loved by users!).

With that out of the way, let’s get into the bad SEO tactics that will make your two most important audience members (humans and Google) confused, annoyed, and fed-up.

SEO-focused content marketing has powered our own organic marketing at Express Writers for years. Know why SEO matters with @JuliaEMcCoy's @sejournal webinar about the 7 Do Not's of #SEO in 2019 Click To Tweet

7 Just-Plain-BAD SEO Tactics You Shouldn’t Be Using Anymore

1. Using Your Target Keyword the Wrong Way

An outdated SEO practice we need to do away with is targeting one keyword per page – especially similar or semantically related keywords.

Instead, it’s better to target both focus keywords and secondary, related keywords in the same piece of content. This will align your SEO strategy with modern semantic search, which is what Google is focusing on moving into the future.

Semantic search looks at a page’s overarching topic vs. individual keywords to determine whether it’s relevant to a user’s search query.

do not's of seo: bad keyword usage

On the right side of this diagram, each keyword is targeted individually. A better SEO practice is to target related terms like these within the same piece (left).

Using a focus keyword + variations, related terms, and synonyms all within the same high-quality content piece signals to Google AND users that the page is topically relevant to the search query.

2. Developing Thin Content That Doesn’t Go the Distance

Short, thin content pieces are not SEO-worthy. If you want a page to rank, you need longer, in-depth content.

How do we know? Look at the data: From BuzzSumo’s analysis of over 100 million articles, long-form content (over 3,000 words) was most-shared. A Backlinko study came to the same conclusion – long-form content = higher search rankings.

To write longer content, focus on answering the user’s question(s) thoroughly and deep-dive into your topic.

3. Posting Content Whenever You Feel Like It

You can’t post content erratically if you want to rank higher in search. Many studies have shown that consistently publishing high-quality content leads to more ranking opportunities.

For one example, a HubSpot benchmark study found that companies that posted over 16x/month earned the most traffic and leads.

do not's of seo: posting inconsistently

That doesn’t mean you need to start blogging like a madman (or madperson), though. If you push out tons of posts but your quality sucks, you still won’t get anywhere. That leads us to bad SEO tactic #4…

4. Focusing on Quantity Vs. Quality

Pushing out blog posts just to get them on the web is never a good idea for SEO. Quality matters more than quantity for rankings and readership.

If you can’t feasibly publish fantastic blog posts on a consistent basis (say, 2-3x/week), cut back. One amazing post per week or month is better than 3 mediocre or crappy ones.

Tip: Check out the top 5 search results for your focus keyword in Google. Try to create a post that’s better than anything in that top 5.

5. Publishing Duplicate Content

According to SEMrush, a study of over 100,000 articles showed the most common SEO error is something we can all easily avoid: duplicate content. Nearly 66% of the articles in the study suffered from this problem.

It happens when multiple pages appear very similar or match 100%. Usually, this is unintentional, but some people do plagiarize content. Either way, you will be penalized.

Luckily, this mistake is easy to avoid. Do it by running all of your content through Copyscape before publishing. Rewrite any pages that have a percentage match.

6. Using Shady Tactics like Link Buying

If you really want to get on the wrong side of Google, link schemes and link buying are the way to do it.

Google specifically states in their quality guidelines that “Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.”

do not's of seo: link buying

If you violate those guidelines, bet on getting de-ranked faster than you can say “blackhat SEO”.

Instead of trying to sneak your way onto the SERPs, make every piece of content you publish link-worthy. Then, amplify that content using every resource in your power (social media, email marketing, networking, and connections).

Make every piece of content you publish link-worthy. @JuliaEMcCoy #SEO Click To Tweet

7. Not Paying Attention to Customer Reviews (or Posting Fake Reviews)

70% of online consumers read reviews of a product or company before buying. If you’re forgetting or ignoring the customer review portion of SEO – why?!

Some marketers go in the opposite direction and resort to posting fake reviews to boost their reputation. (Did you know The Washington Post discovered 61% of electronics reviews on Amazon are fake? Yikes.) It’s not like this works, though. Review platforms are becoming more advanced at sniffing out and deleting fake reviews.

Fake reviews aren’t necessary if you know how to earn glowing ones from customers. A few tips:

  • Ask happy customers to review you on the platform that contributes most to building your reputation (social media, Google review, Yelp review, etc.).
  • Seek customer reviews when they’re super happy with your business. Say you exceeded their expectations or delivered a quality product early – those are prime moments to ask.
  • Offer free samples to influencers and ask them for an honest review in return. This works especially well if you have a feature-worthy product.

Online reviews are a big part of building your reputation and authority. Seek them out from happy customers instead of resorting to fakery.

Turn to the Light: Good SEO Practices Are Worth It

Outdated, blackhat, or downright lazy SEO practices will make human users and Google shun your site like it has the plague.

GIF: Tenor

What you really want is a site and content that shine like a beacon, beckoning and welcoming users with the warm glow of usefulness, quality, depth, and insight.

Look at what we’ve achieved at Express Writers, for example. 99% of our leads and revenue have come to us through our SEO content.

That’s what good SEO helps you achieve. Avoid the bad stuff and focus on the good for best results. Come back into the light!

express writers cta

seo trends for 2019

5 Essential SEO Trends for 2019 You Can Put into Practice Immediately

As the final months of 2018 loom ahead, it’s time to start thinking about our strategies for next year.

It’s that time of year to already start asking our marketing selves…

How can we begin 2019 with a pop, sizzle, or a bang?

Better yet, what can we do right now to ensure we get nothing but positively sparkling results (like the fizz in champagne) as we think about a new calendar year? Achieve the ROI we’ve been looking for? Make sure our online content hits the mark?

How about finally earn more killer organic Top Three spots in Google we’ve been hankering for, for months?

Today, I’m sharing with you five key SEO trends for 2019 that I think will be big.

In fact, I think they’ll play a major role in content ranking success (or failure). Follow along and let’s see what tactics, strategies, and more will help you have a banner year, including SEO tips from today that are still relevant.

1. Be Mobile-Ready for Mobile-First Indexing 2. Featured Snippets Rankings Will Go Up in Value ...these & 3 other top #SEO #trends for 2019 by @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

seo trends for 2019

5 Must-Do SEO Trends for 2019 to Follow Today

Unsurprisingly, SEO trends in 2019 are all about keeping up with technology, staying on top of Google’s latest developments, and reinforcing your commitment to content. Let’s get right to it.

1. Be Mobile-Ready for Mobile-First Indexing

Our first trend is one that’s continuing from recent SEO trends in 2018.

Back on March 26, 2018, Google announced they were rolling out mobile-first indexing on their Webmaster Central Blog.

Previously, Google web crawlers looked at the desktop version of your pages and content to populate the SERPs. However, with the switch to mobile-first, this means that Google will be looking at the mobile version of your pages for indexing and ranking.

So, what if you don’t have a mobile version of your website? (Oh, the horror.)

What happens?

Google will still look at your desktop site version to rank your pages.

HOWEVER:

Your pages probably won’t display properly for users on mobile devices (or they’ll be difficult to navigate, read, and use).

THUS:

Your page rankings will most likely suffer (if they haven’t already).

In other words, why haven’t you updated your website for mobile browsing yet?

Top #SEO trends for 2019? @JuliaEMcCoy got you covered in this information-packed, ROI-focused blog. #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

To be as mobile-friendly as possible for all shapes, sizes, and types of devices, Google first and foremost recommends using responsive design.

image showing a website with responsive design

However, if you have two versions of your website (a desktop version and a mobile version), the search engine has some best practices you can follow for good results (via the Google Developers guide):

best practices for dynamic serving and separate urls

These best practices include:

  • Making sure your mobile and desktop sites have exactly the same primary content
  • Including metadata like titles and descriptions on both site versions
  • Including structured data for both site versions

For best results, ensure you have all of the above items checked for your site. What worked for technical SEO in 2018 will roll over to 2019.

Lastly, consider updating your site design so it’s responsive – it’s a better practice for the overall mobile user experience (UX).

2. Featured Snippets Rankings Will Go Up in Value

Overwhelmingly, featured snippets are taking over the top spot in Google rankings for lots of keywords.

screenshot of a featured snippet for a Google query

This is a big deal – users see these results at the top of the page, where the #1 ranked piece of content used to appear. In other words, that prime real estate is no longer guaranteed. Many marketers are thus calling this highly desirable snippet spot “position zero.”

Naturally, you should want key pieces of your content to shoot to top placements in featured snippets – but how?

A. Create Content that Ranks on Page 1

Before you can even think about getting your content in featured snippets, first, you need it to rank on its own.

According to Ahrefs, most featured snippets come from content that ranks in the top 10 results, or on the first page.

graph showing the Google ranking of featured snippets

In particular, the majority (90.1% of featured snippets) tend to get pulled from content pieces that rank in the top 5 positions.

It’s all about choosing the right keywords, writing great content for your audience, and providing value. (See trend #4).

B. Focus on Answers to Questions

According to a SEMrush/Ghergich & Co. study of 6.9 million featured snippets and 80 million keywords, only around 7% of generic keywords include featured snippets in the results.

In comparison, 41.59% of keywords with questions include featured snippets in the results – a 480% increase!

graph showing that questions can yield a 480% increase in the percentage of keywords with featured snippets

In particular, question keywords almost always include paragraph featured snippets. These types of snippets include a chunk of text that answers the question the user searched for (according to the study, these average out to about 46-84 words in length with a maximum of 370 characters).

imaging showing the paragraph length of featured snippets for question keywords

You can thus earn your ranking content a featured snippet by framing short, succinct paragraphs of text as authoritative answers.

For example, when I type the question/keyword “how many counties are in Iowa” into Google, the results show this featured snippet that directly answers that question AND provides supporting details:

featured snippet featuring the user's question and providing an answer

Question/keyword: How many counties are in Iowa?

Answer/featured snippet: “There are 99 counties in the U.S. state of Iowa.”

C. Use Numbered and Bulleted Lists, Especially for Subheaders

To get your content in list-style featured snippets, always make sure you use properly formatted subheaders (H2s and H3s) to break up and organize your text.

Google often uses subheader information to populate list-style snippets, like this result for “what countries are the Disney princesses from”:

imaging showing a list-style featured snippet

image showing the subheaders used to populate featured snippet lists3. Create the Highest-Quality Content

In August 2018, Google confirmed a major core algorithmic update that took a full week to roll out.

According to SEOers like Barry Schwartz and Glen Gabe, this update was all about quality. It particularly affected sites that had low E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness).

Barry Schwartz studied over 300 affected sites and found that 41.5% of those belonged in the health, medical, wellness, and fitness industries. He nicknamed it the “medic” update as a result.

image showing the medic update pie chart

Why were these sites hit hard?

Most health pages belong in the YMYL category – pages that Google says can affect the health, income, happiness, or financial stability of users. Low-quality content on these pages can directly impact people’s lives.

With this update, Google underlined their commitment to serving users the highest-quality content. If you’re not creating the best of the best, you will miss the mark and end up on page 3, 4, 5… or worse.

Featured snippets will dominate #SEO in 2019. @JuliaEMcCoy explains how content gets to star in Google's featured snippets in this information-packed blog post. #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

4. Keep Voice Search on Your Radar

Another SEO tactic for 2018 that we need to keep on our radar for 2019 is voice search optimization.

As voice search technology improves and becomes more accessible, it will become even more common.

According to Stone Temple’s most recent voice usage trends survey, more people than ever are comfortable using voice commands and voice search on their mobile devices.

image showing the results of voice usage trends survey

And, a study Google commissioned found that 55% of teens and 41% of adults use voice search multiple times a day, every day.

mobile voice study results

It’s pretty safe to assume these numbers will continue to go up as time goes on, too.

To stay ahead of the game, optimize your content for voice search where it makes sense.

A. Optimize for Local Search

Most voice searches are local. According to Bright Local’s Voice Search for Local Business Study, 46% of those who search via voice are looking for local businesses on a daily basis.

voice search and local businesses

If it makes sense for your brand, use geo-targeted keywords, build up your positive customer reviews, and make sure your NAP (name, address, phone number) are consistent across all of your online business listings.

B. Use FAQ Pages

To rank for questions as well as answers, create high-quality FAQ pages to compile the most common ones you encounter regularly.

C. Make Sure You’re Mobile-Friendly

Finally, to rank for voice search queries, you have to make sure your pages are mobile-friendly. Google will not pull voice search answers from sites lacking in this area!

5. Improve Your UX (and Understand RankBrain) – a MAJOR SEO Trend for 2019

One of the major SEO trends for 2019 is the emphasis on RankBrain. This is the part of Google’s core algorithm that uses machine-learning to serve users better search results based on their search intent.

(Back in 2015, in an interview with Bloomberg, Google revealed that RankBrain is their third most important ranking signal.)

According to Danny Sullivan for Search Engine Land, it works like this:

screen capture of an explanation of what rankbrain is

RankBrain helps the algorithm interpret complex, long-tail search queries and the intent behind them. It can “see patterns between seemingly unconnected complex searches to understand how they’re actually similar to each other.” Additionally, it can “understand future complex searches and whether they’re related to particular topics.”

In other words, it’s smart, and the more data it collects, the smarter it gets about user search intent.

Specifically, RankBrain looks at the context of user searches.

  • What are synonyms/related terms for the original search query, and which pages containing these synonyms have relevant information for the user’s search intent?

To figure out if the algorithm returns good search results, it looks at how users respond to them:

  • Which user actions indicate the search results satisfy them?
    • Low bounce rates (users are staying on the page after clicking the link in the SERP)
    • Longer dwell times (users are staying to read more than the first few paragraphs)
    • Higher click-through rates (more users are clicking on results in the SERP)
  • Which actions indicate the search is unsatisfying or the results are not what the user had in mind?
    • High bounce rates (users are bouncing back to the SERP after clicking on results)
    • Low dwell times (users aren’t staying on pages to read past the headline or introduction)
    • Low click-through rates (users aren’t clicking on results)

To simplify it further, let’s borrow a good comparison from Backlinko’s detailed RankBrain guide.

Before RankBrain, Google looked at instances of keywords on a page with zero context. It guessed at whether the results it returned were in the realm of what you meant:

google search results before and after rankbrain

After RankBrain, Google knows what you mean when you enter search queries that could have more than one meaning. It gets your intent behind the search:

image showing that google now understands the intent behind the search

Understanding RankBrain is one thing. Using that knowledge to your advantage is another. The savviest content marketers will be on top of this for their SEO strategy for 2019.

A. Optimize Your Metas and Headline to Be More Enticing

Since RankBrain looks at the actions and context surrounding a search, use that to help boost your rankings.

For example, what can you do to increase click-throughs on your search engine listings? Pay attention to your meta titles (your H1/main headers) and your meta descriptions for each page. If they’re descriptive and enticing, you may pull in more clicks, which can equal votes for your content in the SERPs.

Understanding RankBrain is one thing. Using that knowledge to your advantage is another. This and more #SEO insights as @JuliaEMcCoy talks about the top 5 SEO trends for 2019. #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

B. Pay Attention to Page Usability

Once users click on your result in a search, you want them to stay on the page. One way to do that is to improve your page usability. In other words, make it as easy to use as possible.

To learn more about usability, user experience, and how to make it better, the resource Usability.gov is a great starting point.

screenshot image of the site usability.gov

Guide Your SEO from 2018 to 2019 – and Beyond

SEO trends are constantly changing, so it’s important to stay updated – and stay relevant.

In 2019, some SEO trends will roll-over from 2018, but others are based on the future of technology and Google’s recent updates.

Keep ahead of the curve and update your 2018 SEO strategies so you’re ready to face 2019 with a bang! 🎉

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

SEO content creation

SEO Content Creation: Your Actionable Guide to Writing For the Rankings

Today and in the future, our audiences are changing the way they consume information and discovering new ways of accessing answers to the questions that drive them.

(Bob Dylan was right — the times, they are a-changing!)

bob dylan

And their evolving questions are the ones you — or your company — want to provide an answer to.

So, how do you let people know you’ve got the answers they seek?

Through recognizing the importance of SEO in content creation and negotiating the ever-changing landscape of the content economy.

Here’s the thing…

SEO has always led the way in driving traffic to websites.

Yet, like other online phenomena, SEO content creation is evolving to meet the needs of a new generation of online consumers.

SEO content creation is evolving to meet the needs of a new generation of online consumers. Learn how to create future-proof SEO content in this guide from @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

This change is, in part, pushed by trending technology like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home and a literal explosion of tablet and mobile device usage.

So, how is the modern online user changing the landscape of SEO?

Let’s jump right in with the two most impactful trends in the industry, and then we’ll go into a super actionable, nitty-gritty guide on how to create SEO content this year in a way that boosts your traffic and end profits. Ready?

SEO content creation guide

The Top 2 Trends in SEO Content Creation Today 

1. Voice Search

Now that people no longer have to key in search terms at a computer, the way they are searching is changing.

For example, if I want to know what’s playing at my local movie theater and I’m on my phone, I might key in “Movies Cinemark,” because I know Google will use the closest theater to me named “Cinemark.”

However, if I’m using Alexa, Amazon’s assistant, I’d ask using more natural language, like I’m talking to a person, “Alexa, what movies are playing at the Cinemark in Austin, TX?”

quote for SEO Content Creation

This is voice search, and it’s one of the leading trends in content marketing this year.

To optimize SEO writing in the past, we used to take out all the “filler” words from a search query.

So,

“Where can I find the best coffee beans in Texas”

Became:

“best coffee beans Texas”

Targeted, yes.

Easy to fit into a smooth-flowing piece of SEO content? Definitely not.

Fortunately, the new, natural-language search terms are making SEO copywriting easier and more compelling — a winning combination.

But, it’s more than search itself that is changing.

People are also changing the way they consume content.

2. Video Content

According to Wyzowl, video marketing has surged, with 81% of companies using it to market their audience.

And there are many reasons to include video in your online content creation campaign, including:

  • Allowing customers to form an emotional — and trust-building — bond with you and your product through voice cues, facial expressions, and dynamic content.
  • Providing content versatility through a range of possible video content — quick demos, longer courses, hands-on tutorials, and more.
  • Encouraging engagement with touch-of-a-button sharing and embedding engagement options.
  • Keeping up with current technology — such as tablets and mobile devices — and the changing ways people are devouring content.

This isn’t the first time that marketers pivoted when video brought consumers a more engaging form of content.

The Buggles wrote “Video Killed the Radio Star” back in 1979 in response to MTV’s popularity with the music-consuming crowd who was turning from songs on the radio to videos of songs on television.

We all know how that turned out.

Despite all the fear, there was no apocalypse, no sudden loss of musical talent. The savvy merely repositioned themselves and moved on.

So, if you’re a creating SEO content for your website — get ready to pivot.

Video content is growing as mobile usage takes the lead over desktop for the first time in 2017.

desktop-v-mobile

And what better example of a website using video content to drive SEO than SEOmoz?

What started out as a simple whiteboard video became so popular that they were renamed Whiteboard Fridays and offered on a regular basis.

Here’s a great example of how they produce engaging SEO content from their list of topics of advanced SEO techniques — Using the Flowchart Method for Diagnosing Ranking Drops.

This screen capture, below, shows you just how fresh and personable this low-tech the video is while appealing to high-tech on-the-go users.

Moz-whiteboard-fridays

Neil Patel notes that one Whiteboard Friday video drew 402 links and more than one thousand social shares.

Of those links and shares, over 37 different domains participated in spreading love for the SEOmoz blog — proof that good video content encourages engagement.

3 Keyword Research Strategies That Deliver

Let’s be careful not to get ahead of ourselves.

Building great, truly compelling content is only possible after proper keyword research. As Backlinko so aptly puts it:

“Without keywords, there’s no SEO.”

Content is not something you should attempt willy-nilly. You need a strong plan of action in place before you spend time — and money — on SEO content creation.

quote quote for SEO Content Creation

That plan of action is keyword research.

The good news is, there are lots of brand-new strategies out there to help make your SEO content strategy even more on-target. All you have to do is engage them.

Let’s start with the basics.

1. Focus on Niche Topics

If you want to know how to write SEO content that points directly to your audience’s pain points, their natural curiosity, their need for spot-on information, you’ve got to put in the research.

Your first order of the day should be to determine your niche topic — your product or service’s unique standing in your industry and the things related to your product that your customers are interested in.

Understanding how to turn your customers’ interests into content will help you narrow keywords with laser-focused efficiency.

This, in turn, will contribute to the creation of compelling SEO content that tugs are your customers’ heartstrings — and wallets.

So, let’s say I’m running a business that sells coffee, because, you know — who doesn’t dream of an unending supply of java?

You can probably come up with some niche topics right off the bat. How about:

  • Coffee mugs
  • Coffee roasting guide
  • How to grind coffee at home
  • Best coffee beans for roasting
  • Espresso machine basics

There are probably over a million choices of niches, so concentrate on those that are important to your audience.

And there’s no better way to do that than to pin down exactly who your audience is, in the form of a persona.

How to Find Niche Topics

Learn how to find hot niche topics for better results with your SEO and online content, using @BuzzSumo's updated Content Analyzer tool (via @JuliaEMcCoy) Click To Tweet

Susan Moeller, Business Development Manager at BuzzSumo, gave me a few inside tips on how to run a content analysis that will help you discover how much traction a topic is getting inside BuzzSumo.

When we ran a few “coffee” topic ideas into the BuzzSumo Analyzer, it was a clear choice – How To Grind Coffee is a hot topic!

coffee-mugs__buzzsumoHere’s how to get to this section of BuzzSumo:

After you’re logged in, click on the Content Research tab at the top, and then on top of the search bar, switch the tab from “Search” to “Analysis.”

Under Analysis, you’ll find the new content analyzer tool.  When BuzzSumo added the comparison tool, they changed up the configuration a bit. (See the product announcement here.)

buzzsumo content analyzer

I love BuzzSumo and use it on a regular basis for content insights. The Analysis feature is a great way to get your hands on some trending niche topics.

2. Focus on Your Audience Persona

A persona is a representation of your target audience’s likes, dislikes, pain points, and more all rolled into one “Everyperson” whose opinions you can use to help focus your content.

Creating a persona is a necessary part of developing content for your website that really packs a punch.

Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, underscores the need for laser-focused personas in order to create actionable, effective marketing when he says:

“If your content marketing is for everybody, it’s for nobody.”

So how do you create a persona?

You go through a series of questions that delve ever deeper into your fictional Everyperson’s goals, responsibilities, lifestyle, and more to uncover what really makes them tick.

You can find online persona creators that will walk you through the basics, but don’t stop there.

You need to interview some of your prime audience members in-the-flesh and incorporate their feedback into your targeted Everyperson.

Just like Pinocchio became a real boy through Gepetto’s love and attention, your persona will become more real — and more useful — the deeper you can go with your research.

Here’s a screenshot of a persona example featured on Alexa.com.

I chose this one because coffee is the lifeblood of most successful geniuses.

quote quote for SEO Content Creation

If you don’t believe me, check out this article in Entrepreneur.

Click To Tweet

alexa-persona

Look at the detail in this mini-biography. You’ve got her habits, her fears, what motivates her, and what can help her achieve what she wants in life.

That’s information that gives you a perfect way to produce SEO content that’s laser-focused to suit her needs and attract her — and others like her — to your website.

3. Find Long Tail Keywords

Creating content around long-tail keywords is the shortest way to a big payout. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

quote quote for SEO Content Creation

Let me explain with the following analogy:

Do you wait until there’s a huge jackpot before buying a lottery ticket?

It’s not the smartest move since with everyone opting in, there’s even less chance that you’ll be going to Disney after the winning numbers are chosen.

Yet, many marketers treat writing SEO content in much the same way. They reach for those top three search terms that bag 60% of the organic traffic.

You know – the ones everyone is targeting.

But what they’re missing is this — the remaining 40% of traffic is prime real estate for savvy content creators.

The trick is to use long-tail keywords to divert that traffic to your site.

For beginners, you can start with the Google Keyword Planner. (I don’t recommend this tool for advanced SEO content marketers because if you can afford a tool, you’ll get better results – Google can actually skew their results and hide truth about search volume on keywords, to influence you on on buying Ad spots.)

I typed in “content creation” to get this list:

Content-Creation-Keyword-1

I took a high-ranking term from this list (social media content creation) and re-entered it.

That gave me these:

Social-Media-Content-Creation-2

Now, I have a more in-depth group of long tail keywords from which to choose.

And the more specific you can get with what your persona wants and needs, the more traffic you’ll drive to your site.

This screenshot from Trafficmasters.net says it all:

longtail-keyword-graph

Look at that keyword grow — from “shoes” to “men’s shoes” to the one that holds the key to customer interaction — “red Nike mens running shoes.”

quote quote for SEO Content Creation

So, don’t waste your marketing dollar on keywords that everyone is using. Expand your reach with in-depth, long-tail keywords. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

Long Tail Keywords Just Got Longer: The Debut of the Long Tail Keyword Phrase

If you’ve been creating effective SEO content, you already know about long-tail keywords.

But did you know that in 2018, just like the Grinch’s heart, these keywords grew two sizes? Enter the world of long-tail keyword phrases, brought to you by the changing face of search.

Powered by devices such as Alexa, Google Home, and smartphone assistants, voice search is becoming increasingly familiar.

In fact, ComScore indicated that voice will account for 50% of searches by the year 2020, so optimizing your keywords for this phenomenon now is critical.

So, what’s the difference between search input through a console and voice search?

Simple. Voice search adds back in what fast, to-the-point typing leaves out.

For example, if I want to learn about optimizing my content, I might type

“effective content creation”

on my keyboard if I’m at my computer.

But, if I’m talking to Siri, Alexa, or another virtual assistant, I’d speak as I would to another person, saying, perhaps,

“Alexa, how can I optimize my online content?”

or

“Alexa, what kind of content creation is effective for coffee sales?”

Cool, right? Now, how can you take advantage of this trend?

One executable tip is to meet your customers where they live — online and in person.

Simple ways to get in touch with the pulse of your customer’s queries include:

  • Conversations – face-to-face or through email
  • Forums – check out Reddit, comment threads, and other chat spaces relevant to your product or service
  • Social media ­– LinkedIn, hashtags, product pages on Facebook, your competitor’s social media
  • FAQs ­– frequently asked questions pages on competitor’s websites or sites related to your audience or industry.

For most of these, just type in the group and add your keyword. For example, forum + coffee gives me these results:

Forum-results

I can click on to any of those sites to find out what’s got my customers talking right now.

Now, if I want to delve into social media chatter, my search might look like:

#coffee

This gives me:

coffee

Not only can these results help super-focus your keywords, but they can supply ideas that may not have come up in a standard search.

For example, see that hashtag on the second result above? #ethicallysourced? Those words represent a perfect idea for a page built around the niche topic of ethically-sourced coffee.

You could also expand this into a long-tail phrase such as:

where to find ethically sourced coffees

Basically, anywhere you can get a feel for the way people are asking questions about your product or service is the golden ticket to long-tail keyword phrases that convert.

Leverage New Search Trends to Build Powerful SEO Content

Remember those natural-language search terms we talked about earlier?

Here’s your chance to incorporate them into your keyword strategy to build powerful, on-target content.

Don’t let this new way of doing things throw a wrench in your SEO strategy — have some fun with it! There are some pretty neat tools out there to help you generate ideas.

For example, click over to Answer the Public for some awesome visual (or data-oriented, if you’re so inclined) cues for long-tail keywords that will set your SEO writing on fire.

Check out this screenshot of the “answers” I got when I typed in the phrase “content creation.”

For those of you who prefer simple data, the same information is available like this:

ask-questions-data

And Answer the Public’s riffs on your content go deep.

Here’s a screenshot of yet another way they generate responses, the “Comparisons” chart.

The even give suggestions by alphabet, one list for each letter. That’s 26 lists of ideas to get your content idea mill churning!

Now, if Ask didn’t generate what you need, you can move over to Soovle, another sweet content idea generator that lists top autocomplete terms for major online platforms — Google, YouTube, Amazon, Wikipedia, and Answers.com.

Here’s Soovle’s contribution to our “content creation” idea list.

Soovle

While Soovle’s lists aren’t as extensive as Ask the Public’s, they are more focused.

Because Soovle’s response pulls directly from the most-searched terms closest to your input word or phrase, it can help you narrow down the key phrases that may be most likely to draw attention.

So, now that you’ve found your niche, your persona, and done your keyword research, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and start SEO copywriting your little heart out!

Creating Strong Search-Optimized Content: 3 Killer SEO Copywriting Tips

SEO content creation is not just about optimization — it’s about writing, too. So, let’s start there, with the writing.

You may have a fantastic SEO content strategy ready to roll, but you’re not quite sure how to arrange your topic so that it makes sense and is readable.

Don’t reinvent the wheel.

Here’s a quick trick that I learned from nonfiction authors I know who check out bestsellers in their genre and use the table of contents to help them organize their own thoughts on a subject.

Great SEO copywriting examples are everywhere — if you know where to look. Backlinko recommends, and I concur, that you check out Udemy for inspiration.

You’d type in whatever your audience interests were, but I continued to riff on coffee for my example. When I typed “Java” into the search bar, it gave me the following results:

udemy-java

Look at that top class — over 50,000 people thought this was the mother lode of knowledge, and they shelled out money to prove it.

Now, click on that top course and scroll to “Curriculum.” There it is — what my author friends would call the “Table of Contents.”

Let’s look.

java-curriculum

This snippet gives you the perfect outline for an article, blog post, or content series that you already know resonates with your audience.

Plagiarism is a no-no, as I’m sure you understand, but you can use this strategy to fire your creativity in a way you know will resonate with your persona.

1. Use Latent Semantic Indexing in Your SEO Writing

If you want to rank higher, you’ll need to give search engines a little boost. That’s where latent semantic indexing (LSI) comes into play.

Also known as semantic keywords, LSI helps Google and other search engines understand what your content is really all about. You’ll need to sprinkle these throughout your article to be effective.

But how do you find them?

There are two ways I like. One is through Google itself. Simply type in your keyword (I used “ethically sourced coffee”) and you’ll get a series of snippets for results.

Here’s mine:

LSI-ethically-sourced

Notice those bolded words in the snippet — ethical sourcing and coffee sourcing? Those are your LSI words. You can comb through all your snippets until you get a nice handful to add to your content.

The second way is to use a free online tool, like lsigraph.com. I typed in my search term, and got this:

While some of the results generated here can be off-topic, you can see there’s a rich variety of material to be used as an SEO content strategy template.

2. Get Social with It

It’s not just enough to learn how to write SEO-friendly content — you have to share it, too. Every article should have a call-to-action (CTA).

Why?

Because you’re always selling something — your website.

Each article should, at the very least, have a CTA that encourages readers to share — through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media sites where your target audience hangs out.

Brian Dean of Backlinko did this with one of his posts, which got 2900 tweets by adding a Click-to-Tweet button as a CTA at the end of the post.

It’s free at Click-to-Tweet.com. Just sign in with your Twitter account, post your message and generate a clickable link for the end of your content, like so:

And many readers will share without even reading the article.

Why? One reason is that sharing takes less time than reading and it still garners interaction from friends and the online community.

But what attracts those readers to share an article they haven’t read? The headline.

3. Create SEO Headlines that Increase Engagement

The headline is the most critical part of your SEO copywriting template. It’s the thing that draws the reader even when they don’t read the article.

As influencer Jayson DeMers says in an article for Forbes:

“The body copy of your content is still important, but these days, 

headlines are the true kings of content.”

SEOMoz breaks this down nicely into five actionable steps:

  • Determine your audience and your goals.
  • Optimize your headline for the channel that’s most demanding.
  • Write a simple, no-frills headline.
  • Now write one that’s optimized for clickability.
  • Now combine Steps 3 and 4 and include appropriate keywords.

Now, I’m going to throw in a little extra for all of you looking for a hard-and-fast SEO copywriting template — a couple of great little headline analyzers to help you nail that shareable title.

First, the Advanced Marketing Institute’s Headline Analyzer. Select your category — I’m still all about the beans, so I’ll choose Food & Dining.

Now, input your proposed headline, like so:

And get your results.

The best headlines have intellectual, empathetic, and spiritual elements, but that, of course, varies according to your audience.

The next tool is Coschedule’s Headline Analyzer. Input your headline and click “Analyze Now.”

And get your results.

Looks like my headline could use a bit of work, and Coschedule’s told me exactly where I can improve. Here’s one that fared better, even without the emotional twist.

But watch what happens when we add a dollop of emotion — kablam!

Now that’s a clickable headline that can drive traffic to your site and garner shares and engagement — just what you’re looking for when creating unique SEO content.

6 Tips for Writing Down the Line: How Authentic Content Wins Readers

Finally, one of the most tried-and-true SEO content writing tips is to write with passion and with the aim to share something valuable with your reader.

Authenticity and relatability are important, and valuable content drives traffic.

Adweek notes that more than 80% of consumers research before they buy, and your site can offer the information they need.

Or, you can offer a platform for engagement, which draws social sharing readers to you.

Suttida Yang, CEO of Fastmarkit, distills the formula into easy, bite-sized pieces.

1. Create a content calendar.

An SEO content strategy always involves a calendar to help your team coordinate toward a singular content goal. A calendar gives guidance for deadlines and helps with advance planning of strategic releases of pivotal content.

2. Know your audience and segment them into reachable groups.

We already talked about the importance of knowing your audience. If you have more than one persona that typically buys your product or services, then you’ll need to divide your content production efforts among each persona.

3. Make sure your content is evergreen — meaning always useful.

Once you’ve got solid cornerstone content going on, break it up into different pages for each segment of your audience. This can be separate landing pages or by categories in your header or blog.

4. Spread your content around by diversifying.

Use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and other platforms to share with your audience. The more diverse your content, the more likely it will be seen — and shared.

5. Consistency is key.

Make a style guide and ensure that your team sticks with it. Have one “voice” across all content — whether that’s witty, fun, professional, serious, intellectual, or whatever resonates with your audience.

6. Check and analyze your data.

This will allow you to see what content is working — and what’s not. If something’s not engaging your audience, pivot and try something else.

And finally, because it bears repeating — be authentic with your audience. Give them value and transparency in your content and you’ll win not just readers — but fans.

The SEO Content Creation Roundup

You can’t live in Austin, Texas without throwing the word “roundup” in an article every now and then. It’s authentic — and it just fits.

If you’re looking for a quick recap of all the bright, actionable ideas inside this article, you’ve come to the right place.

We’ve explored the basics of SEO copywriting and content creation:

  • Developing a niche target
  • Creating a persona
  • Getting a keyword strategy that performs

Building on that, we looked at great new ways of creating SEO keywords that can grab some of that organic traffic for your website:

  • Long-tail keywords
  • Keyword Phrases
  • Semantic (LSI) keywords
  • Getting keywords from online forums where your audience chats

We’ve looked at new trends in search that are driving changes in SEO content:

  • Voice search
  • Semantic keywords

There’s no denying the importance of content in SEO. We’ve discovered new ways of producing content that wins audiences and encourages sharing:

  • Video content
  • Click-to-Tweet and social media sharing links

And we’ve outlined a few of the most important — and critical — elements of an SEO content creation strategy that should help you drive traffic more effectively once you implement them.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the down-low on this year’s most interesting changes in the SEO content creation environment — I know I’ve enjoyed pulling them all together for you.

More importantly, I want you to take what you’ve learned and use it.

SEO copywriting tips aren’t meant to just be shared and forgotten.

They’re meant to take your website — and your SEO content — to a whole, new shareable level.

Need great content? Our team can help. Over 16,500 content projects completed to date, with a 99% client happiness rate. View our pricing here.

seo content trends 2018

5 Major SEO Content Trends to Expect in 2018

Search engine optimization is going to look waaaay different in 2018.

It’s true.

We’re forging into the future, and that means search has to change to keep up with technology and user habits/needs.

But what do “they” (the Big G) want? And, where is technology going – and how does that tie in to the search algorithm?

For starters, more people want to ask their virtual, voice-enabled home assistants questions – and get good answers. In addition, more people want to use the internet on their smartphone versus a desktop.

Just look at the market share for mobile vs. desktop five years ago, and then compare it to today.

In 2013, mobile was barely making a blip:

StatCounter-comparison-ww-monthly-201301-201312

But look at where those numbers fell in 2017:

StatCounter-comparison-ww-monthly-201612-201712

Mobile is now edging out desktop, and it’s not stopping anytime soon.

That means big things for SEO.

So, what’s going to (really) happen?

Let’s dive into the biggest SEO trends for this year.

We’ll conjure up a good idea of what it all means for your online presence.

seo content trends in 2018

5 Impactful Content & SEO Trends to Watch for in 2018

1. Mobile-First Indexing Is Happening

In 2016, mobile surpassed desktop browsing as the most popular method.

More and more people are turning to mobile for their browsing needs, whether they’re on-the-go or at home.

Plus, 80% of people who use the internet also own smartphones.

Google is working to accommodate this shift and will soon roll out their mobile-first index.

This means that the search engine will prioritize mobile content in its rankings.

“Soon” is a relative term, however. According to a Search Engine Land report, right now that means sometime in 2018, but it could get pushed back.

Google has also promised not to spring the roll-out of mobile-first on unsuspecting site owners. Instead, they have pledged to be “proactive” about talking to webmasters as it happens. Gary Illyes even told people not to “freak out” at the SMX Advanced conference in June 2017.

Bottom line: If you’re sitting pretty with a website that has a responsive design, you have no worries. If you still only have a desktop-friendly site, now is the time to make some upgrades.

Here’s what that looks like across devices, via W3Schools:

w3schools_responsive-design

2. Context Will Matter More Than Ever for Content

If your content isn’t contextually relevant to the topic you’re writing about, forget it.

Forget about ranking, let alone ranking well in 2018.

As Google gets smarter, repeating keywords in your content matters less and less for SEO.

Google is no longer a toddler in terms of tech. It’s now a wise-ass teenager who knows way more than you think.

Hence, SEO for content going forward is all about context. It’s about relevance. It’s about diving deep into a topic and leading your readers far beneath the surface information.

According to experts who contributed to SEMrush’s #semrushchat, content may be THE most important ranking factor today.

Not just any content, though – “relevant, well-structured content”:

semrush_content-ranks

Of course, this is nothing new.

However, you can expect to see this continue to grow in importance in the months ahead.

The need for high-quality content for outstanding SEO is going nowhere.

3. Voice Search Optimization Will (Continue to Be) a Big Deal

Voice search technology is getting better all the time.

And, as it gets better and easier to use, more people are flocking to nab their own virtual assistants like Alexa on Amazon devices, Siri on Apple devices, or Cortana on Microsoft devices.

According to a recent study from eMarketer, the number of Americans using voice search jumped up by 128.9% from 2016 to 2017.

By 2019, 39.3 million millennials are expected to adopt this technology and use voice search, according to the same study.

It’s easy to see why voice search optimization will continue to grow in importance for SEO. It’s gotta keep up with the lightning-fast speed at which users are glomming onto voice-enabled technology.

4. Sites Will Be Jostling for Spots in Featured Snippets

According to The Next Web, snippets are the new #1 position on Google.

These snippets appear at the top of search results and give searchers instant answers.

For instance, what if I need to know how far away the moon is from earth? Observe:

Before I can even scroll to the number one search result from NASA, Google hands me the answer in the featured snippet.

Needless to say, it’s prime real estate. Sites that manage to get featured don’t even have to rank #1 to be on top.

Instead, Google pulls text from your content to provide the answer and links to your page – above the number one search result.

Awesome, right?

Plus, voice search results are mainly pulled from featured snippets. If you can get your content featured here, you could really go places.

Because voice search is getting bigger, expect featured snippet spots to get pretty competitive, too.

5. Lazy Guest-Blogging = Not Cool with Google

If you’re guest-blogging with no other intention than link-building, you’re doing it wrong – and Google will punish you.

Google recently pointed out that this behavior is basically in violation of their guidelines. Specifically, it falls under the shady link schemes umbrella.

google_guest-posting

Search Engine Land has speculated that this announcement signals a warning for webmasters. They say it’s likely that an algorithm update may be coming that targets “manipulative guest posting.”

To avoid a hit on your rankings in 2018, review guest blogging mistakes to avoid and make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons: to provide value to users, and to help you grow your list with quality leads.

The Main 2018 SEO Trend? Search Engines Are Getting Smarter

I think you’ll see one overarching trend for 2018 and SEO: Search is getting smarter, better, and more intuitive.

Of course, we can never stay static for long. We can’t get too comfortable. If we don’t change along with the changing times, we’ll get left behind.

Look forward to these trends this year, and be prepared. Your rankings and site visibility will be better off, and, quite frankly, you’ll sleep better at night.

Win, win.

And if you need great SEO writers, remember, your friendly team at EW is always here for you. Contact us today to talk about your content needs.

keyword search volume

Why Keyword Search Volume Doesn’t Matter When You Choose Your Keywords (& What Does Matter)

If I asked for a show of hands to see who researches their keywords by highest search volume, I’d see a pretty unanimous answer.

If you’re a true nerd / geek / SEO’er, you might have even had dreams of climbing the search results to #1 by optimizing for those keywords.

(Kind of like a new pop artist who hopes to crack the Billboard Top 100 with their first single.)

When you pick a keyword, what do you go by?

Are you using the best metrics?

Every business wants to show up at the top of the SERPs (search engine result pages).

But knowing how… that’s a skill that involves, at the core fundamental, knowing how to pick out a great keyword. And not everyone has that skill.

Keep reading for an in-depth guide on what matters most when you’re choosing best opportunity, high-ROI keywords. (The answer, surprisingly, is decidedly not keyword search volume.)

what matters with keyword search volume

Keyword Search Volume: The Skinny

Everyone wants that coveted top organic #1, #2, or #3 hit in Google.

However, what you may not realize is top brands have already cornered those keywords. This includes multi-million-dollar corporations. These are brands you are not going to be able to compete with, especially if you’re a small business.

What do those top-ranking keywords look like?

Nine times out of 10, they’re broad keywords – short phrases that aren’t specific. For example: “cake,” “baking,” and “baking cakes.”

If you’re a small-town baker and you try to rank for these terms, you’ll be out of luck. Instead, you may find yourself competing with the likes of Cooking Light, Food Network, and Epicurious.

results_broad

Let’s face it – you’re never going to win, here.

So, what can you do, instead? What’s the smarter strategy?

For good results for your particular business, you don’t need high traffic from high search volume keywords. Instead, you need the right traffic.

right keyword

Forget Search Volume – Get the Right Traffic with High-Converting Keywords

Throw search volume out the window for now. Yes, it was once the be-all, end-all of keywords, but nothing in this world is static, right?

I’m not saying search volume is completely irrelevant. But, I am urging you to look at other avenues for driving people to your site.

Let’s start by defining what we mean when we talk about the “right” traffic.

You’ll have an easier time converting customers if they’re in an ideal state of the buying process. This is the “right” traffic – the people who are looking for you, but don’t yet realize you exist. If they knew you existed, they would be ready to jump on board and fish for their wallets.

Broad keywords do not drive this kind of traffic to your site.

What will?

Long tail keywords!

Long tail Keywords: Specificity and Relevancy for Search

Long tail keywords are just that: longer, more specific, and relevant to the customer’s needs.

For instance, a person who needs a specific type of cake will not search for “cake.” Instead, they might search for “wedding cake chocolate swirl Rhode Island.” Or, “birthday cake yellow with sprinkles.” A search string that is becoming even more common might look like this: “Where can I get a yellow birthday cake with chocolate frosting in Rhode Island?”

All of these have a few things in common, though they vary in subject matter. The people searching know what type of cake they want and where they want to get it. If you’re a baker and you optimize your site for long tail keywords like this, you’ll strike gold.

Why? Because long tail keywords have less competition than their broad counterparts. You have a far better chance of ranking for “wedding cake chocolate swirl Rhode Island” than “cake.”

Plus, customers use long tail keywords like this when they have a higher buying intent. They know what they’re looking for, what they need, or what they want. If you have it, there’s a very good chance you’ll close the deal.

Basically, these keywords fall right into your sweet spot for driving traffic.

Sweet Spot - Keywords

Take a look at the brands who have successfully ranked for the above long tail keyword example. There’s only one multi-million-dollar corporation on this list (Ben & Jerry’s). The rest are small bakeries or boutique shops. That’s the power of the long tail keyword in action.

results_longtail

How Do You Choose the Right Long Tail Keywords?

According to Search Engine Journal (SEJ), one of the keys to driving conversions from search results is to engage people at the perfect time. It’s a two-way street. Their intent needs to match up with the keyword, and the keyword needs to be relative to their intent.

This is that sweet spot we mentioned earlier. Hit it, and you’ll see ROI.

Here are some other keys for choosing the best long tail keywords for you. They have to do with relevancy and uniqueness.

1. Relevancy, Relevancy, Relevancy

When a keyword is relevant to you, it ties back to your particular brand. This includes what you do, who you are, where you’re located, or what you sell.

The relevance of your keywords is the brunt of what makes long tail types work. If you’re not using relevant long tails, you won’t be taking advantage of their conversion power.

2. Use What Makes You Stand Out (Your Differentiation Factor)

A highly unique keyword could net you a buyer every time someone searches for it. Wow! That’s a BIG deal.

At the same time, that particular keyword could have next to no search volume because of its uniqueness.

Fact: this is common for keywords with good opportunities.

In other words, it’s not a problem because the conversion value is so high. The more unique your keyword, the more you’re targeting a specific buyer – the one looking to pull the trigger and make the purchase!

These types of keywords don’t work well for everyone – but they work great for you. The opportunity is personal, and that’s a big bonus.

Why Broad, Short Tail Keywords Are on the Way Out

Short tail keywords do have their uses. They haven’t gone the way of VCRs and rotary phones – they aren’t relics quite yet.

They’re good for optimizing basic pages on your site. Your “about us” page is a fine example. Over time, your long tail keyword content can help improve your rankings for those general terms. Your content will build authority, and that can give your general pages a boost.

Time, however, is the clincher here. For keywords with tough competition, it may take years for you to crack the top 100, let alone the top 50.

Ranking shouldn’t be your main concern, anyway.

Ranking for broad terms may drive traffic, but it won’t drive traffic that converts.

Instead, you’ll get a mix of people at all different stages of the buying cycle. Some, if not most, will not need what you’re offering. Neil Patel has an excellent chart that shows the difference:

neilpatel_visitor intention
As the chart shows, people who are looking to browse will use the broadest keywords of all: “Las Vegas,” “spyware,” and “television.”

Meanwhile, the people looking to buy tend to use the most specific terms possible: “Panasonic 43’ Plasma TV HVD3002 best price.” That’s one hefty long tail. You can tell this buyer is locked and loaded.

Draw the Locked and Loaded Buyer – Not the “Just Browsing” Variety

According to Forbes, a few years ago, most businesses online attempted to target small numbers of “sort-of” relevant keywords. These were traffic-drivers alone, and it worked well enough.

Now things have changed. There are millions more people online, and close to a billion websites. The competition to rank for broad keywords is more cut-throat than ever. In fact, it’s nearly impossible unless you’re a huge corporation or you pay.

You can rank well, and organically, for long tail keywords. These aren’t searched as often, but the people who do are far more likely to buy from you.

Who would you rather guide to your site – the casual browser, or that buyer who’s locked, loaded, and ready to whip out their credit card, because you’ve got what they need?

So, when it comes to keywords, redirect your focus.

Switch your tactics – shake things up.

The times, they are a-changin’, as Bob Dylan so eloquently put it. Pretty soon, short tail keywords may be thrown out with the bathwater.

The long tail is the future of keywords.

Are you ready?

 

To start building your path towards more high rankings with long tail keyword-optimized content, Express Writers can help. Take a peek at our custom blog plans or content planning to see what we can do.

art of writing cta

What Attracts Readers to Your Content? 7 Facts You Need to Know About the Intent Behind User Search

How do we rank at the top of search engines?

And then, when we do that, how do we get people to actually read our content and share it with the world?

And then, after we’ve achieved all that, how do we get the people that love our content to actually convert?

Whew.

Loaded questions… to say the least.

Entire books have been written that attempt to answer these questions. Yet still, there are no universal answers about how to check all the boxes.

But, at the end of the day, every part of the process, from ranking in search engines to converting users, comes down to focusing on people first.

And fortunately for us, people are predictable.

Their intent when they search follows a familiar path that, when understood, can be used to inspire our future content. Let’s discuss!

user search intent guide

7 Facts You Need to Know Right Now About the Intent Behind People Searching for Your Content

Let’s dive in and take a look at a few facts about user intent when utilizing search engines.

1. Users Follow Similar Principles When They Interact With Search Engines

Understanding how the majority of people interact with search engines is absolutely vital to your success in content marketing.

Moz outlines this perfectly in their detailed beginner’s guide to SEO.

interacting with search engines

Creating great content that gets results can seem like an insurmountable challenge.

As Moz shows, most people follow similar principles when they use a search engine.

First and foremost, they’re there to find an answer, solution, or piece of information. They then formulate that need into a string of words (keywords) and type it into the search engine.

Knowing these principles alone should serve as a guideline for every piece of content that you create.

If your content isn’t answering a question, offering a solution, or providing useful information, it serves very little purpose to users.

But you can’t just provide bland and unsubstantiated answers, solutions, and information.

As you can see with the 7th principle, users will return to the search results if they’re unsatisfied with their initial results.

Knowing this, your focus should be on identifying why users are finding your content and ensuring that you satisfy their needs when they get there.

2. How Users Search is Based on Their Stage of Awareness

We’ve already identified that, when a user performs a search, they’re generally attempting to find an answer, solution, or piece of information.

The one they search for is almost always determined by their current stage of awareness.

For this reason, when you’re writing content, it’s always a good idea to think like a copywriter.

You want to focus your efforts on determining the user’s current stage of awareness and use your content to walk them through to the next stage.

Legendary copywriter Eugene Schwartz laid out the five levels of awareness like this:

Eugene Schwartz five levels of awareness

Let’s use the example of a 40-year-old man who lacks motivation.

He understands that this is affecting his life and is currently in the problem aware stage.

He decides to go to Google and find a solution, so he types in how to get motivated.

The results look like this:

getting motivated

He sees a few solid options, but the article about How to Get Motivated When You Don’t Feel Like It sticks out. He clicks on it and sees this:

James Clear

As he reads through the article, he begins to see that he isn’t alone in his lack of motivation and that there are solutions to his problem.

So he’s now in the solution aware stage.

The author understands this and, once the reader has finished the article, offers up an email opt-in that promises to help the unmotivated user even more.

motivation email capture

The man enters his email, receives the ebooks, and is now in the product aware stage as he knows that the author has also published books that he can purchase to help him even further.

Since the initial content, and the ebooks, provided the solution he was looking for, he doesn’t return to Google to check out other potential solutions.

The author begins sending content through emails that slowly works him into the most aware stage where he is ready to make a purchase.

This example shows the power of understanding how users interact with search engines based on their stage of awareness.

Use it to your advantage and optimize your content to work users to the most aware stage.

3. Your Users Want Landing Pages

We know that users search based on their stage of awareness.

But, if this is the case, why isn’t all of the content we create based on walking visitors through to the next stage of awareness?

This is a great question, and one that many content marketers can’t answer.

To solve this problem, Search Engine Land puts it in the most simple terms possible: businesses need to look at every page as a landing page.

They advise that you ask yourself three questions when creating content. These are:

3 questions seo

As you answer these questions, you arm yourself with the necessary information to create content that gets visitors to say, “This is exactly what I need right now!”

By doing this, your content doubles as a landing page and can directly contribute to conversions for your business.

And isn’t the goal of content marketing to serve as an avenue to generate revenue?

[clickToTweet tweet=”Wondering what attracts readers to your content? @ExpWriters is sharing seven facts on user intent you should know!” quote=”Wondering what attracts readers to your content? @ExpWriters is sharing seven facts on user intent you should know!”]

4. Long-Tail Keywords are Used in Searches More Often

The data shows that about 70% of search traffic is through long-tail keywords.

long tail keywords

And, if you’ve been following along so far, this makes sense.

After all, if a user is typically looking for an answer, solution, or information when they use a search engine, they’re generally not going to find what they’re looking for by using a single word.

Let’s go back to the example of the unmotivated 40-year-old man. His search was “how to get motivated.”

Had he just typed in “motivation,” he would have seen this:

motivation results

 

I’m guessing he already has a pretty firm grasp of the definition of motivation.

And, because this isn’t what he was looking for, the principles of user search interaction tell us that his next step would be to go back and reframe his search to something more specific.

But not only is the utilization of long-tail keywords important because of how users search, they also make a huge difference when it comes to search rankings and conversion.

long tail seo

 

As you can see, attempting to rank for a one-word phrase comes with a whole lot of competition and high costs. Not to mention the low probability of conversion.

Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, are low cost, have little competition, and have a much higher probability of conversion because the user is almost always in the problem aware stage when they’re searching for them.

If your goal is to satisfy the needs of your users (which it should be), then utilizing long-tail keywords is clearly the way to go.

5. User Search Queries Are Becoming More Conversational

Another important reason that long tail keywords work so well with user search intent is because searches are becoming more conversational.

In mid 2016, Google CEO Sundar Pichai mentioned that voice searches now account for about 20% of all mobile searches.

Think about what you say when you use voice search. If you own an iPhone and want to find out how to cook boiled eggs, you’d likely say, “Siri, how do I boil eggs?”

You see the digital assistant as someone you can have a conversation with, and therefore ask them the same way you would ask an expert on the topic.

And with the continued improvement of digital assistants like Siri, Cortana, Google Voice, Amazon Alexa, and others, the number of people using digital assistants is expected to continue to rise.

statista chart

The shift to conversational search queries is also causing a change in how people are creating content.

Content creators are beginning to avoid the journalistic approach and are instead using their content as a way to have a conversation with readers.

Think about mega influencers like Neil Patel and Seth Godin.

They emphasize the need to speak directly to their readers within their blogs. And, judging by their success, their readers appreciate and trust them for it.

6. Users Make the Decision to Click Based on the Headline

You know that headlines are important. You probably also know that 8 out of 10 people will read your headline, but only 2 out of 10 will move on from there.

But just how important are they when a user is performing a search?

According to UpWorthy co-founder Peter Koechley, “The difference between a good headline and a bad headline can be just massive…When we test headlines, we see a 20%, 50%, or even 500% difference.”

500% difference?!? That’s huge.

Let’s take a look at an example of the impact of intriguing headlines.

If you were to search for “how to make money blogging,” your search results would look like this:

Headline Example

As you look at these four results, How to Make Money Blogging: How This Blog Makes $100K per Month clearly sticks out.

Why? Well, for one, because it’s specific. The user is searching for how to make money blogging, so they obviously want to generate income.

Smart Blogger’s headline is telling the user that, if they click on the link, they’ll learn how to make $100K per month. The other three headlines, on the other hand, fail to be specific enough to intrigue users.

While this is a simple example, it shows that taking the time to create great headlines is absolutely crucial if you want to stand out.

7. Users Process Visuals Faster

By now, you’ve probably read and heard plenty about how important it is to include visuals in your content.

But as search engines are getting more sophisticated, images are providing a way for websites to stand out there as well.

The reason for this is simple; people process visuals 60,000x faster than text.

The-Importance-of-Visuals

Because of this, having an image alongside your headline, URL, and meta description sets you up to be the first thing a user sees when they browse search results.

Take a look at this example when we search for “how to boil eggs”:

Visuals example

If you’re like most people, your eyes were immediately guided to the two pictures of the boiled eggs.

And, because of this, you’ve become more likely to click on one of those links.

Now unfortunately, Google doesn’t actually let you upload an image directly into search results.

Instead, you have to first put yourself in a position to have your image picked up by Google’s images index.

Here’s how you can do that:

adding an image to google

While it’s a bit annoying that this is a “wait and hope” scenario, the power of having an image featured makes the process well worth it.

Using These Facts to Inspire Better Content

Armed with these facts, you now have the ammunition you need to start creating content that is made for users.

Focus on your audience, understand what stage of awareness they are in, and hone in on long-tail keywords.

And, if you want to skyrocket your conversion rates from search results, optimize that headline.

Do these things and you’ll be well on your way to creating content that ranks at the top of search engines and generates clicks from intrigued users.

If you’d like some assistance creating user-focused content for your website, our team of experts would be more than happy to help. Get in touch with us today!

express writers

topical trust flow

How Topical Trust Flow & Alexa Ranking Has Replaced Page Rank

While PageRank was a huge thing in SEO for years, it’s recently been laid to rest.

This happened in March of 2016, when Google killed off its Toolbar PageRank feature.

While PageRank didn’t have a huge user base before it was axed, there were a small handful of marketers and SEOs still using it, and those people will now need to find something to fill its place. The good news is that the death of PageRank is just another indicator of Google’s ongoing commitment to a “quality over quantity” model, wherein amazing content is rewarded.

The other piece of great news is that the post-PageRank world is anything but a desolate wasteland. Quite the opposite, in fact!

While PageRank had its devotees, most experts agree that it was an outdated and inefficient tool that wasn’t keeping up with the trajectory of online content and user experience. As such, it’s actually a good thing that it’s fallen by the wayside and made room for newer, more intuitive tools to take its place.

Alexa Ranking and Topical Trust Flow are two modern quality gauges that are the perfect candidates to restore reliable trust metrics and help both marketers and consumers interact with more reliable content.

We’re here today to talk about both. Ready?

trust flow and alexa

The Slow Death of PageRank

If you’re sad to hear about PageRank heading out, you’re not the only one. Google had been slowly killing the tool for years, though.

Here’s a brief history:

PageRank was developed by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the Founders of Google, at Stanford University in 1996. Originally, the tool was part of a larger research product relating to search and how it could be improved. At the time of its development, PageRank was revolutionary and heralded a whole new era, when web pages would be judged by the quality of their content rather than the concentration of their keywords.

The service eventually launched, with Google as its only user. Over time, though, other search engines saw that PageRank was improving accuracy and authority, and they started adopting the system into their algorithms. The program was short-lived, though, and soon started to come under fire.

Search Engine Roundtable reports that, in 2007, Google asked its webmasters to provide some feedback about the idea of axing PageRank. In 2009, Google stopped showing data from PageRank in its Webmaster Tools section.

In 2013, Matt Cutts officially alluded to the death of PR:

matt cutts on pagerank

Credit MySiteAuditor

By 2016, PageRank was on its way out, and SEOs and marketers everywhere were turning to the next reliable quality metric. Although some were sad about the end of PageRank, most people realized that, as good as PageRank had been, it had its drawbacks.

Namely: quality could be faked, and even spammy web pages and websites could have PageRank if they knew how to game the system.

These shortcomings set the stage perfectly for the next big thing, lurking just over the horizon.

Topical Trust Flow: What You Need to Know

The thing that first stepped up to take PageRank’s place is known as Topical Trust Flow, a tool created by Majestic SEO.  Essentially, Topical Trust Flow determines how trustworthy and authoritative a URL or domain is within its niche while also determining what the topic of the content is all about. It does this by determining a site’s topical relevance based on the links it enjoys with other relevant sites.

Unlike PageRank, the quality metrics within Trust Flow are difficult to fake, since it’s actually the content that links to a page that determines its Topical Trust Flow.

Topical Trust Flow came at just the right time: with more than fifty million content shares every day, and 58% of consumers reporting they trust editorial content, (according to Nielsen), the web was in dire need of a more reliable trust metric than PageRank.

How Does Trust Flow Work?

Trust Flow is one of Majestic’s most useful tools for SEO practitioners. Flow is calculated using a set of authoritative seed websites as a base. The further away your domain lies from those seed sites, the lower the Trust Flow is.

The set of authority sites measured link out to other great sites, which link out to yet more sites. The whole system works like an underground root system, relying on a complex network of connections and inbound messages to determine stability and reliability.  Here’s a diagram from seoworx.net.au to demonstrate how it works:

If you’re still struggling to understand Trust Flow, think of it like this:

  • Topical Trust Flow measures the quality of inbound links based on the quality of the links pointing to the site your links come from.
  • If every one of your inbound links come from sites that already have high Trust Flow, your domain is also going to have a high Trust Flow.

This is because the sites your links come from are seen as reputable and reliable, thanks to the inbound links they’ve received.

Trust Flow can be a tough metric to manipulate, making it almost impossible to fake or inflate. As such, it’s a much more reliable trust metric than PageRank, which relied on data that could easily be faked.

3 Facts to Know About Topical Trust Flow

Here are three key truths about Trust Flow and how it operates in the complex online world:

1. Trust Flow Relies on Relevance

A topically-matched trust flow that is high means the sites your links are coming from also have links that are topically relevant.

2. Trust Flow Rewards Trustworthy Links

A high trust flow means your inbound links come from sites that have trustworthy links.

3. Trust Flow Looks for Topical Similarities

A domain’s ability to rank increases when it has topically matched links that come from websites that have topically matched links, too.

To help you further understand how these truths play out in the Trust Flow algorithm, here’s a diagram from Majestic SEO:

majestic trust flow

How Trust Flow Supports 5 Crucial Foundations of SEO

While it might be easy to write Trust Flow off as just another reliability metric, it’s actually a tool that takes into account the changing climate of the online world.

When Trust Flow was developed, Google’s evaluation process for websites was shifting away from simple variables, like keyword inclusion, and toward more complex metrics, like quality, relevance, and user-experience.

The Trust Flow metric understands this (since it was born alongside it) and allows site rankings based on value, which is, after all, the most important metric of the modern world.  What’s more, Trust Flow supports the five main SEO trends of today. These are:

1. Inbound Links

For years, search engines have been shifting toward prioritizing sites that earn lots of high-quality inbound links. Not only is this is a sign of relevance, but it’s also an indicator that a site is high-quality, especially if the sites linking to it are high-quality. Trust Flow is built on this, and it will continue to reward sites that earn inbound links in the coming years.

2. User Experience

While the old PageRank model didn’t think much about a user’s experience on a given page, Trust Flow takes user behavior and mobile optimization into account, rewarding sites that are easy to navigate and mobile-friendly.

3. Valuable Content

The very name “Trust Flow” indicates that valuable, relevant, trustworthy content is what search engines now want to rank. Create more of this, and the Trust Flow gods will smile on you.

4. Social Media

As social media becomes an ever-more influential ranking metric, companies are starting to see that the human signals produced on sites like Facebook are having large impacts on their content strategies.

5. Increased Importance of Earned Links

There will always be people who take the shortest route possible and buy links. It’s getting harder and harder to rank with that approach, though, especially since algorithms like Trust Flow reward links that are earned rather than purchased. This means things like guest blogging, referrals, and organic mentions are the most valuable forms of links out there.

5 Valuable Ways to Start Capitalizing on Trust Flow Today

While the introduction of Trust Flow shook up the SEO world, most professionals have found that the system actually provides many more benefits than PageRank. With that in mind, here are 5 smart ways SEOs can start capitalizing on the Trust Flow system today:

1. Use Trust Flow to Locate Top Influencers

Social signals from platforms like Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and Facebook are starting to play an increased role in search results, according to a Search Metrics Ranking Factor. This is making it easier to track down and connect with authority figures and top brands in your industry.

2. Use Trust Flow to Increase Conversions on Social Ads

If you’ve been having a tough time boosting the conversion rates on your social ads, you’ll love Trust Flow. Google’s display network handles more than 1 trillion impressions each month, and managed placements will now allow you to hand-select the sites where you want to display ads.

3. Optimize Your Content for Inbound Links

Remember that Trust Flow places priority on trustworthy, topically-related links. With this in mind, focus on optimizing your content. For what it’s worth, content with more than 3,000 words earns twice as many shares as shorter content!

4. Play on the Strength of Backlinks

Backlinks play a major role in Trust Flow, so make sure you’re making the most of your  networking and connections to earn as many backlinks as possible to your site.

5. Use Trust Flow as Inspiration to Become an Authority in Your Niche

Trust Flow places massive importance on topical relevance, so use expert writing to showcase your knowledge in your industry. The more authoritative and relevant your content is, the more likely your pages will be to earn a high Trust Flow ranking.

Diving Into Alexa Ranking: A 101

alexa ranking

At the risk of sounding a little overwhelming, Trust Flow isn’t the only player in this game. There’s also Alexa Rank – a relatively new trust metric, my team here at Express Writers started using Alexa in place of the MozBar to learn about a page’s authority.

Unfortunately, the MozBar, like PageRank, had a few issues. It almost never worked, froze up constantly, plus there were rumors about inaccuracy in the actual numbers – inflation by spammy sites.

While Moz has made a very public effort to address the issues with the MozBar, we’ve found Alexa Ranking to be a much more reliable and valuable trust metric.

Here’s some background:

  • Alexa is an Amazon subsidiary founded in 1996. Thought of as a pioneer in analytical insight, Alexa combines information from the browsing behavior of people in the Alexa global data panel to offer information about traffic estimates and PageRank. To put it simply, Alexa serves as a representation of all the people using the web. It’s basically a census for the online world!
  • Daily updates. Unlike some other trust metric tools, Alexa’s Traffic Ranks look back at data collected over the prior three-month period, and are updated daily.

This makes them highly comprehensive and, even better, incredibly accurate. Alexa does have a funny quirk, though: it’s the complete opposite of Google’s PageRank.

In Alexa, the lower a site’s score, the better it’s doing in terms of traffic and authority.

How Alexa Ranks Sites

Alexa uses a combination of pageviews and unique visitor numbers to rank a site.

“Unique Visitors” is the number of Alexa users who navigate to a site on any given day and “pageviews” indicates how many Alexa users put in URL requests for a given site. The ranking from there on out is pretty simple: the site with the most visitors and pageviews is ranked #1 on a worldwide and country-specific basis.

While Alexa provides intensely accurate rankings, it does only rank domains, which means you won’t find rankings for sub-domains or pages on a site.

How to Locate Your Alexa Rank

Know what else I love about Alexa?

It’s dead simple.

The easiest way to use it is to head to the ranking site, which you can find at http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo.  Once you get to the site’s homepage, you can enter the URL you’d like to evaluate.

For example, here’s what Express Writers looks like (not too shabby as of March, 2017):

alexa ranking express writers

As another example of a site climbing close to the 1 (best ever) ranking, here’s Inc.com:

alexa ranking inc

From there, Alexa will give you information on the site’s popularity in a given country and, if you pay for the premium version, insights about daily and monthly site visits and more.

Another Tool to Find Alexa: Use SEOquake

seoquake

If you prefer not to visit the Alexa ranking site every time you need to evaluate a URL, download SEOquake.

SEOquake is a free tool that downloads right into your web browser and sets up in a matter of seconds.

When you Google URLs, SEOquake will give you their Alexa rank, as well as other valuable authority metrics. While SEOquake can look a bit intimidating at first, it’s a simple tool to use and can integrate with other tools, like SEMrush to provide even deeper trust metrics.

Establishing Site Authority: The Methods Have Changed but the Practice Remains Critical

While many people wonder why it’s so important to gauge a page’s quality before linking to it, content that draws on valuable, relevant content is deemed by both users and search engines as more valuable. While PageRank laid the foundation for this type of evaluation, it’s since fallen out of vogue.

Fortunately, newer and more advanced tools have stepped up to take its place.

Trust Flow has helped the web shift toward a “quality over quantity” model and made it more difficult for sites to fake quality.

Alexa Ranking, on the other hand, has provided a unique and up-to-date way for marketers, writers, and SEOs to immediately gauge a page’s relevance with the web as a whole.

These tools, along with the shifting attitude toward quality content, have made it easier than ever before to create reputable material that links into the wealth of helpful, relevant, trustworthy content on the web.

When writers and SEOs rely on quality content, the entire online atmosphere as a whole benefits from it.

Looking for help managing and improving your online content? Browse our Content Shop today to find the perfect package for your company!

A Holistic Approach: How SEO and Content Marketing Work Hand-in-Hand Today

Have you ever assembled a puzzle?

Most of us have. There’s a deep sense of satisfaction watching the image slowly come together through tedious effort and clever tactics.

But for some, putting the puzzle can be frustrating. There might be one piece, just ONE piece, that’s missing from a section, and it can drive you mad looking for it.

Here’s the thing — content marketing can be a lot like a puzzle, with many pieces coming together to make something amazing.

Unfortunately, content marketers often get fixated on a single piece, leaving the rest of the puzzle unassembled. That piece is, very often, “Search Engine Optimization (SEO).”

SEO and content marketing are becoming two pieces to a puzzle in today’s friendly online marketing era. Yet, SEO as a separate piece has still earned more than its fair share of attention.

Frankly, it’s not hard to understand why.

Getting to the front page of a search engine like Google can seem like the make-or-break gauge of success for a piece of content.

But there’s a lot more to what makes a fantastic SEO and content marketing strategy, where you win with both Google and readers; and ignoring it will simply leave you with an incomplete puzzle.

A holistic approach to it all is what you need today in order to win.

seo is part of the puzzle

A Holistic Approach: How SEO and Content Marketing Fit Together

Thankfully, there are definitive steps you can take to ensure a holistic approach to your SEO and content marketing strategy.

Here’s how:

1. Learn the Difference Between Advertising and Marketing

One major mistake marketers tend to make with their content is making it overly advertorial or salesy.

Sure, potential customers might stumble across your blog through a referral, or a backlink, or a search engine.

But if they’re looking for helpful information or a solution to their problem and all they find is an advertisement for your latest product or service, they’ll feel alienated right off the bat.

In fact, 28% of Americans actively seek to avoid advertisements online, according to Hubspot. And advertisers are the second most hated group online, only falling behind criminals and hackers. Yup.

If your content becomes perceived as a sneaky advertisement, you might quickly find your brand being seen in a light you never intended.

It doesn’t matter how great your SEO is if you’re creating content that is entirely self-serving. Truly great content will help to inform and assist the reader, rather than cajole them into a conversion.

The positive impression a reader engaging with your content will have a far greater impact than merely a sales pitch alone.

Customers who feel serviced and satisfied will willfully engage with more of your content, explore your brand in greater depth, and even recommend you to others.

And here’s the best part — all these efforts to ensure your content benefits a potential customer will pay dividends in SEO.

It’s Not Just About Keywords Anymore

It’s not just about keywords anymore. There’s a lot more to building a comprehensive SEO strategy.

Among the most effective methods to increase search engine visibility is generating quality backlinks from other sites.

And, simply put, no one is going to link back to an advertisement.

People link back to valuable, easy-to-understand, hyper-relevant content. If you break out of the mindset of needing to convert every reader with a sales pitch tucked in every piece of content, you’ll find your SEO improving in tandem with your conversions.

2. Write Exceptional, Meaty, Evergreen Content for Your SEO and Content Marketing Campaigns

seo part of the puzzleHow long does it take to put together a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle?

No matter how good you are, it’s a time consuming process — and effective content creation is no different.

Anyone can whip up a stubby blog a couple hundred words long stuffed with the requisite keywords.

As a matter of fact, many are already doing it. It’s a super bad habit, and a perfect example of a strategy focused purely on SEO and not on content.

There’s evidence to back this up, too. Neil Patel of Quicksprout found that posts he made over 1500 words received 68% more tweets and 22% more Facebook likes than shorter posts. That’s a massive boost for a more thorough article.

Even if you have good intentions about informing your audience, if it’s not well-researched and relevant, it won’t appeal to readers. In content marketing, it’s not the thought that counts — it’s the product.

With that said, it’s important to dig deep into your subject matter to create content that’s so thorough, readers will frequently return to you for their information.

Speaking of information, that’s the other thing you’re going to have to consider.

What kind of information do you intend to share? It can seem daunting to break new ground, especially in fields that are written about with extreme frequency (here’s looking at you, content marketing.)

Thus, it can be a bit tempting to jump on current events and tie your content to that. Trending hashtag? Next blog post. Viral challenge? Gotta upload a branded video.

There’s just one problem — this type of content has a short shelf-life and won’t have the long-term impact it could.

That’s why you need to build a foundation of “evergreen” content for your marketing strategy.

Evergreen content involves creating pieces that are relevant for as long as possible (ideally forever, but things do change and need to be updated.)

When you develop a marketing strategy, consider developing content that won’t become outdated anytime soon. This means it can continue to draw views, shares and backlinks well after its publication, giving you a long-term SEO boost as a consequence.

In the long run, your dedication to creating long-lasting and meaningful content will result in a wealth of engaging and relevant material that will drive readership years after it is written.

This doesn’t mean you have to completely ignore current events — quite the opposite. Making your content relevant to the experiences of your viewers is essential.

It’s just important to remember that this can’t be the keystone of your strategy. With a careful application of topical material on a foundation of evergreen content, you’ll remain relevant now and far down the line.

3. Engage With Your Community

Have you ever tried putting together a whole puzzle on your own? Like many activities, it is one that’s faster, easier and more fun with friends.

With all your energy focused on attracting readers to your website, you may forget that good content marketing is more than a one-way conversation.

Sure, you have an amazing product that you know everyone will love if they would only give you the time of day, but with so many companies out there competing for customer attention, your message could easily be drowned out by all the noise.

Waiting for Google to rank your content well may be one way to get people to come to your site and share your message, but actually encouraging your community to engage with your brand adds the personal touch that keeps them coming back.

The best way to determine if you’re striking a chord among your audience is to talk to them yourself. You can do this by leveraging social media to gather their feedback on a new product or idea.

Even more important than seeking validation from Google by chasing high page ranks, is the confirmation from your customers that your content is fulfilling their needs.

By listening to and engaging with your readers, not only will you demonstrate that you truly care about their opinions, but their feedback could also help you continually improve your product.

Your community can also be used for cross-promoting great content. It is a common practice for content writers to reach out to other writers to help promote their material.

Proactively reaching out to others allows you to share content to people who may not have viewed it otherwise. Even better, if they like what you’ve written, they will often add it as a link on their website — driving even more traffic to your content (and benefiting that ever important SEO.)

You can return the favor by linking to others’ content that is relevant to your readers. Your readers will thank you for introducing them to helpful information.

Even in the digital age, it is still important to foster an authentic connection with your community.

This way, not only will readers come to your website, they’ll also stay.

4. Words Are Good, Rich Media is Even Better

There’s another part of the content marketing puzzle you may have not considered — especially if you’ve been extremely focused on SEO.

Rich media like images, slideshares, videos and infographics all have amazing potential to engage and inform your audience.

Check out the SlideShare I recently did for my book, So You Think You Can Write:

Pretty cool, eh?

But what does this SlideShare have to do with “SEO?”

Again, think holistic…

Remember why you create content in the first place.

It’s about more than a series of tricks and gimmicks to get you to rank well on Google, it actually exists to provide a service — or at the very least entertainment.

With media-rich content like videos and infographics, your audience will be able to have a diverse, multi-sense engagement with your brand, elevating their experience beyond just reading another blog.

Here’s some fast facts about user engagement with videos, courtesy of Hubspot:

  • After watching a video, 64% of viewers are more likely to buy a product online
  • 92% of mobile video viewers share videos they’ve seen with others
  • Video in an email leads to a 200-300% increase in click through rate

And because of this, over 87% of companies are including video in their content strategy. It’s clearly striking a chord.

“But what about the SEO?!” a frazzled marketer might reply. “Great visual content is all well and good, but what use is it if no one sees it?”

A valid question, and here’s the answer — media rich content is the most shared, receives the best backlinks and is the easiest to promote. That means it’s great for SEO, just without all the hassle.

Are you beginning to see a trend here?

Great Content Means Great SEO

If you’ve made it to this point, you’ve probably begun to realize the point I’m getting at.

Content and SEO go hand in hand.

The puzzle you’re trying to put together is one that attempts to drive engagement with your online brand. SEO is an important piece of that.

But when it’s conceptualized as something other than just a piece and becomes the main focus of content marketers, it becomes less effective. Because great content, by its very nature, means great SEO.

It’s tough breaking out of the old mindset, one which placed an enormous importance on keywords (which no longer have nearly the impact they used to.)

How best to rank on search engines is a dynamic and ever-changing process, and to keep up, you have to be able to adapt.

There’s this idea that you have to futz around with code, and tags, and text with every piece of content you create in order for it to rank.

While that certainly won’t hurt, simply creating content your audience wants to engage with will work much more effectively.

Conclusion: Content is Powerful

Content has the amazing potential to build a trusting, engaged audience.

By being informative without being advertorial, by making deep, well-researched content, and incorporating media-rich content into your strategy you’ll be putting together a far more comprehensive puzzle than just focusing on SEO alone.

And in today’s search-engine climate, that’s what works.

Hire your best content writers from our team at Express Writers.

Has Google Reinvented Meta Content? New Meta Title & Description Length

If you’re a writer, online publisher, or marketer, it’s likely that you know a thing or two about meta descriptions and titles.

Used to improve SEO and help web pages earn more prominent Google rankings, meta titles and descriptions are short blurbs that help readers and search engines decide what content is about. While meta content may not be as exciting as Google algorithm updates or copywriting secrets, there’s been some big news in the world of meta content recently.

Earlier this month, Google announced some major changes to their meta title and description standards, and these changes will influence how SEOs everywhere regard meta content.

Read on to learn more.

meta content

Google’s Changes to Meta Content Standards

Google seldom releases news like this through loudspeakers and blow horns, so it’s not surprising that change was spotted on Twitter by a guy named Ross Hudgens. We heard about it through The SEM Post and Search Engine Journal, who reported on it later.

As it stands right now, Google’s character limits for title tags had increased by about ten characters: from 50-60 characters to 70-71 characters, which allows for longer and more in-depth descriptions and the inclusion of additional keywords.

What’s more, meta descriptions have increased to 100 characters per line and now allow for three lines in a description. Keep in mind, however, that this change is on a per-line basis and Google is still cutting off anything that runs over 160 characters, so it’s smart to stick to that limit for now.

Title Tag Changes

Currently, Google is allowing title tag lengths to be 70 characters. While it’s possible to push that limit to 71 characters by using small letters like “i,” Google generally truncates anything that runs over the limit. The new 70-character cap represents an increase of between 10-15 characters, which is huge news for savvy SEOs everywhere since the extra space can be used to include additional keywords or make a title tag more longer or more descriptive. While the specific length of this increase will vary depending upon the words used, many SEOs are managing to include 2-4 extra words in their title tags.

While the desktop changes are big news, the mobile title tag increase is what’s causing most SEOs to do a happy dance. As you probably know, mobile search is exploding right now, and it’s clear that the mobile character limit increase is Google’s effort to make mobile search more relevant and detailed than ever.

According to The SEM Post, Google bumped its mobile tag lengths up to 78 characters, which is a whopping 8 characters more than even the desktop limit. This longer mobile tag allows marketers to input additional keywords and reap the click-through benefits that the extended tag has to offer. What’s more, longer title tags on both mobile and desktop allow a search engine result to take up a larger space in the all-important SERPs, which makes it more visible and attractive to Google users.

Meta Description Changes

While many SEOs are jumping up and down at the prospect of longer descriptions (about 16-20 characters longer, to be exact, to a cap of 100 characters per line), it’s wise to remember that Google is still truncating descriptions after about two lines or 160 characters.

Because of this, it’s wise to ensure that you’re sticking to the 16- character limit, at least until it becomes clear that these changes are here to stay.

Should You Get Excited?

Yes! This is big news for SEOs, copywriters, and marketers. Meta content has always been important, but it’s also always been tough to create. While we still aren’t entirely sure whether these changes are A/B testing that Google will reverse in the near-future or long-lasting improvements that are here to stay, the prospect of larger meta content character limits is exciting in a few different ways.

Here are some of the main reasons we’re excited about the character limit increase:

  • Meta content will be easier to write. Brevity is hard. Anyone who has ever tried to craft a super-insightful tweet knows that getting the point across in just over 100 characters is tough. While the character limit increases aren’t massive, they offer just enough room to provide additional value and meaning in meta content.
  • Additional keyword inclusion. Right now, most SEOs are managing to add 2-4 words to title tags. This increase allows for additional keyword inclusion and more SEO-focused content. Just remember, never stuff your keywords in; a natural meta description is far better than a stuffed one, since you need a conversational, well-written meta in order to get more click-throughs on your piece from Google results.
  • Increased visibility. Longer meta content means more targeted results and increased visibility for all online material. This is good for marketers, search engines, and Google users.

What To Do Now

Since nobody is quite sure whether or not the character limit is here to stay, SEO experts are recommending that marketers measure their click-through-rates (CTRs) beginning before May 4th (the day that the change to the meta lengths took place). While it’s risky to alter your SEO efforts to fit the increased character limits before we know that they’re permanent, searching for any recent positive or negative changes will give you an idea of how and if your site has been affected.

In addition to monitoring your CTRs, you should also optimize your mobile and desktop title tags separately in order to ensure that they’re both adhering to their respective character limits. This helps ensure that your readers are getting the value they need from your content and that you’re getting the real estate you deserve in the SERPs.

The Future of the New Meta Title & Description Length

While there’s no telling whether or not Google will reverse the character limit increase, there’s also no doubt that this new change has the potential to help SEOs create more detailed and exciting meta content for readers and search engines alike. Because of this, the character limit increase has the potential to be a great revelation for the SEO community, and one that positively alters the way we think about meta content forever.

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