Why is SEO content so important for Google rankings?
SEO content that’s optimised with the strategic use of keywords and phrases means that your website pages or blog posts will have higher chances of being picked up by search engines.
SEO content is a tactical tool that we deploy across a range of digital comms as a way of attracting a defined target audience, pulling them into the topics, products and solutions they’re looking for.
And, as digital audiences become ever more demanding in their search queries, the rapid evolution of SEO keywords is one that we watch closely. SEO will determine a whole new way of intuitively searching the web for seamless links through to learning and shopping opportunities.
Right now we’re working with clients who need keyword-rich content to create organic traffic that leads to click-through sales conversions. They also want quality-driven blogs which increase opportunities for their content to be amplified through sharing. So to do this, the key challenge is to understand, through keywords, the intent behind a query. Why, for instance, are they searching for walking boots, solar panels, or fire-resistant paints?
I learnt my craft as a journalist, and then as an advertising copywriter, in the years way before the global communication interface that is the internet came to be the intrinsic part of our daily lives.
Back then, the core tactics you needed to deploy were:
- A well-constructed argument
- A unique angle for a story
- Fact-checked knowledge of what you’re writing about.
These guidelines are as important today as they ever were, but with the additional dimension of the internet, the relevance of online content isn’t just down to the quality of its composition - it now has to be attractive to a wide range of search engines, from Google and Bing to YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and many more.
As the web approaches its first 30 years, content is king - more than ever. But to get yourself noticed your content has to be easily found. This is why the basis for all successful websites and blog posts is keywords. These are not just used in the main body content but in headlines and subheadlines.
Why keywords are the foundation of quality SEO content
Before we start creating content, our first task is to identify the keywords and topics that are common to our clients' market sector, and the typical words or phrases target readers will use when doing their internet searches.
So, for instance, if you’re a company selling walking boots and outdoor clothing we’ll undertake keyword searches around all permutations of these product clusters to identify the most commonly used keyword triggers.
To do this we use research tools that crawl your site and those in your market sector, to determine the words and phrases that have the highest level of traction. In this example, this will reveal a hierarchy of terms such as hiking boots, mountain boots, trail boots, leather walking boots, GoreTex boots, men's walking boots, women's walking boots, outdoor clothing, wet weather gear, and so on.
The popularity and frequency of these terms will then help us shape your content so that it weaves in as many of the most search engine-attractive keywords as possible.
“Keywords are the building blocks of your content. The next challenge is to make the content interesting.”
The next element is creating content that is useful and engaging. This is where the old-school craft of journalism comes into play - crafting incisive pieces that not only answer your reader’s questions but provide interesting insights into your subject matter.
You also want to amplify your expertise, so creating the kind of content that is “Liked, Shared and Recommended” is the best compliment a content writer can get. Not only does it show that it’s getting noticed, but it’s valued as a piece of quality information. And importantly, this is what Google’s algorithms start to notice.
“Social validation of your content means it reaches a wider audience.”
Why is long-form content good for SEO?
Google values long-form content. But don’t just create volume for the sake of it. What readers want is thorough, informative content that covers a subject matter in enough depth for them to feel well-informed, with links to further sources for them to explore further. This might even include links to other blogs on your website. So, going back to the example of walking boots, the article may link through to SEO-optimised blogs of walking boots worn on a Lake District hike.
Research from Hubspot reveals that the average user reads between 20-28% of content when browsing a website page, with 43% admitting to just skim-reading content. Nevertheless, if your content is being shared, it’s being seen and used by different people in different ways. Incidentally, research by search engine specialists Backlinko, who analysed 11.8m Google search results, found that the optimum length for a long-form piece to be around 1,800 words.
Long-form content is good for SEO for the following reasons:
- You have a higher chance of social sharing
- Increased chance of getting backlinks
- You generate rankings for a variation of those all-important keywords
- It encourages users to spend longer on your site
- Generally it gives your web domain high authority as a worthy site.
Variety is the spice of life with imaginative, varied content
Content is so much more than words and pictures. To attract Google’s attention, think about content in its widest form apart from just website copy. Think about blogs, videos, images, podcasts, webinars, case studies, presentations, lists, reviews, white papers, policy documents, photos, infographics.
Why is it important to ask questions?
In this section on content, we could have started the opening title with the simple statement “The importance of asking questions in SEO content”. But phrasing it actually as a question makes it more attractive to Google’s algorithms. Even this Applied blog post starts with a question. You’ll also see that it continues with a short answer - designed to generate a Google snippet.
Returning to our walking boots example, a question like “What are the best walking boots for older people?” immediately starts to create content that (a) might answer a highly popular search query and (b) provides an instant answer, before expanding into a larger piece.
The growth in usage of Google snippets is driving both short and long-term content. This is where the search engine pulls an easy answer section from your website or a blog in response to a query that taps into a popular keyword or phrase. So, a random query on “What are the best walking boots for older people?” may come back with a two-sentence answer from your site that not only gives the reader the information they need, but encourages them to “click through” to a product or a blog.
“If you’re looking to improve the click through rates on your site, creating answers that attract Google to generate a snippet is the way to go.”
In summary, the current top 5 rules of good content are:
- Do your keyword and topic research first
- Create content that uses a mix of keywords and phrases
- Make your content useful, information, engaging - and shareable
- Provide answers to typical questions, especially in snippet format
- Think about quality as well as volume.
What does the future hold for SEO content?
All of the above advice is based very heavily on text-based search tactics. But looking ahead we need to search outside the confines of the text box and use a range of multi-dimensional tools such as maps, images and even the voice.
Google’s development teams are now rolling out a whole new stream of web search tools that move way beyond text-based queries by offering more intuitive ways to find the information we want. Its new Multisearch tool completely redefines what we know as text-based content by using your camera lens to ask questions about what we see, such as the print pattern on a piece of clothing or a wallpaper design that we come across in a coffee shop.
Furthermore, Google’s new Multitask Unified Model, (MUM for short) is deploying the power of AI to bring greater nuance to search queries. So, by pointing your lens at a patterned shirt you’ll be able to ask questions about different products with a similar design, or directing it at, say the crankset on a bike, will give you instructions on how to repair or replace it with a similar product.
MUM is also enabling Google to provide even greater insights into the trends around search queries by identifying the most frequently used questions. Photos and images of possible answers to your search query can be broadened or narrowed. So, for instance, a visual search on acrylic paintings will not just show you examples of the style or technique but could direct you to local art classes, paint products, and famous painters in this genre.
So, as we move forward to the next iteration of content creation, SEO will take on a whole new dimension in terms of how we code and label both the text and visual assets we deploy to attract our audiences.
And finally, the other big trend arising from all these developments is Google’s drive to make shopping through content that we see more accessible and effortless. Intuitively understanding what people want, helping them find it, and enabling a seamless purchase transaction is now the ultimate expression of SEO efficiency.
Want more advice on the content of your website? Or want help with your blogs?
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for an informal chat.