SEO and content work together – or, at least, they should. When SEO and content efforts operate in conjunction with one another, marketers are able to generate better results, ensure digital efforts are aligned, and even become more efficient.
Without content, SEO efforts will remain stagnant, and vice versa.
Imagine building out an editorial calendar without having done keyword research first. There would be a lack of understanding around the key queries being searched for, themes/topics being discussed in the industry, and questions being asked by existing or potential customers.
Another example of this would be to do extensive keyword research, but not using the research to guide content development.
It all seems simple, right? Not so much. Many marketers still struggle to align these imperative areas of online marketing.
There are a handful of reasons why this is so challenging: the ever-changing landscape, lack of integration across SEO and content teams (or completely separate teams), search algorithm updates, etc.
In my opinion, one of the most significant obstacles is that search is constantly evolving. Let’s start there…
How Search Is Evolving
You know you are entangled in SEO when you hear Penguin, and you think of link building schemes instead of this little guy.
As a search marketer, there is always some element of uncertainty due to changes that are completely out of our control.
Google updates its search algorithm hundreds of times each year. A lot of these instances are minor, but every so often search marketers are faced with a major algorithm update. And, they can be a real game changer.
In addition to Penguin, some other noteworthy updates include Panda, Rankbrain, Hummingbird, Pigeon, Mobile, Possum, and (the most recent) Medic.
It’s absolutely essential that SEOs and content marketers are aware of these updates, react appropriately, and leverage insights from them to improve tactics moving forward.
- Increased expectations around content quality
- Fewer high quality pages is better than many low quality pages
- Increased Google features like snippets, new ad placement, voice search, etc.
- Continued focus on the overall user experience
- More sophisticated methods of discounting links
Optimizing Your Approach to SEO Content
Now that we’ve looked at some of the ways search has changed over recent years, how does this impact our strategies? Here are some of the ways that SEO content must evolve with these shifts in the landscape.
Deliver Quality Over Quantity
The more content the better, right? Wrong. Successful SEO content focuses on offering valuable information that an audience is looking for, and providing it in a way that is easily digestible and engaging.
This should be the absolute top priority – above keyword usage, publishing frequency, and other factors. Of course, this goes hand-in-hand with having an exceptional understanding of your audiences’ behaviors, challenges, questions, goals, etc.
Casie Gillette recommends, when creating a piece of content, think about what you want to get out of it. If it’s search traffic, you need to understand the search results, the type of content being shown, and the quality of the content that is ranking. This will help determine the length and type of content to create.
Be Natural & Authentic
This is really two-fold, as it’s important that SEO content uses natural language and is promoted in a natural manner.
Google has got a lot smarter when it comes to understanding what a page is truly about. From both a search and user experience perspective, there’s no benefit in stuffing keywords into content. The use of natural language in page tagging and throughout content will be essential for search engine optimization.
In turn, this type of quality content will naturally generate links back to your site. It’s important to be aware that Google has become more sophisticated with recognizing and discounting spammy/toxic links. This should certainly be considered when thinking about link building tactics.
Watch Search Results Closely
Search results are constantly changing. New and increased features are popping up on Google like snippets, different ad placements, reviews, image packs, knowledge panels, and more. It might go without saying that these features will impact site traffic and visibility on Google, which is why it’s vital that search marketers monitor these types of changes very closely.
My advice? If you can’t beat them, join them. We can’t control what Google is displaying for our priority keywords, but we can take advantage of the SERP features appearing. If Google is showing an Answer Box for one of your top terms, think about how you can tailor content to align with that.
As we know, the online marketing landscape is constantly changing. This is why it’s so important that search marketers are flexible and proactive – so that strategies can be adjusted before it’s too late. Sometimes, this simply comes down to having the right judgment and knowing when it’s time to abandon an unsuccessful tactic or pivot your strategy.
There are many considerations when it comes to evolving your SEO content strategy, and I’m sure I did not cover all of them. Please share your thoughts in the comments below, or reach out to me directly via Twitter!