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

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

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: Here’s What They Say About SEO & Content

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: Your Actionable Guide to Writing For the Rankings

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.

5 Major SEO Content Trends to Expect in 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.