Gavin Hirst - Thursday 24th January 2013

Why content is the key to successful SEO

I am often asked when running training sessions about the ‘hints’ and ‘tips’ to ensure that a website or specific pages rank well within search engine results pages (SERPs). I always have the same answer for them; the first thing that you have to do is to make sure you get the content right.

Of course there are lots of things you can do with your content to help search engine spiders to pick out the key things that you want them to take into consideration; keywords, proximity, modifiers, links, metadata etc, however at the end of the day, all of these things will be futile if the content is not something that people want to share and engage with.

Give them content they want to actually read

In days gone by (5 years ago), Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) was all about writing content that would rank well in SERPs. It was once possible to write content stuffed full of keywords which really made little or no sense to the end user but which would rank well in Google (or other search engines). Today and moving forward, successful SEO is going to rely on providing content that people want to actually read and more importantly that they want to share.

5 important rules of SEO content marketing

Rand Fishkin, CEO of SEOMoz recently outlines five best practices for content marketers:

1. Create content that people have an incentive to share.

2. Do keyword research, so you don’t waste effort writing about things people don’t care about.

3. Put all your content on the same domain/subdomain.

4. Stand for something and write about it. People don’t buy what you do, they buy what you do with it.

5. Don’t separate your brand from your content. Make sure what you write about ties in with the objectives and aims of the business.

I would add to this a couple more points:

6. When you are writing new content, write for your target audience(s), not for the people in your office. Although the content you write may be interesting to your colleagues, is it something your target audience is likely to share?

7. Write about the benefits of whatever you are selling, not the features. People don’t want to know what a product/service does, they want to know what it does for them and more importantly, they will share it with people if they think it can also do something for them.

8. A final often overlooked point when building your content structure is how your target audience will describe your content. Though keeping your brand presence is important, long tail descriptions, especially surrounding your brand or key search terms can increase the value of the content significantly all the while adding re-enforcing context. In short, it’s a win, win situation.

Copywriting or content marketing?

You may be thinking that everything above is actually all about good copywriting, not content marketing and to some extent you would be right. Content marketing and copywriting are intrinsically linked – one would struggle to survive without the other.

Good copywriting relies on having good content to write about, otherwise you are just packaging something nicely which will ultimately lead to customers switching off.

Good content marketing relies on excellent copywriting, otherwise you are just wasting great content. There are many excellent blogs out there which don’t generate any traffic. This could be down to a number of reasons, but poor copywriting could be a big influencing factor including things like the headline, benefits for readers etc

Content marketing is here to stay so it is important to jump on board and start giving people what they want – excellent content.

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