Digital Marketing Megatrends 2017
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This is the 11th step in the 12 part series on SEO. In this article I’m looking at the crucial role of content marketing and providing easy-to-implement tips on how you can use it to support your SEO program.
There are several ways in which content can support SEO by boosting search presence:
1. Content drives search presence
It's simple, to be found by searchers and search engines, you have got to have something for them to find. But to compete it needs to be outstanding content. Moving into 2013, content is still king as it helps you build webpages & other content assets (e.g. videos) that can be indexed. This applies to database driven product pages for e-commerce as well as CMS driven content pages like Buying Guides and Articles.
2. Content variety can increase SERPs penetration
Search results pages contain multiple content formats: webpages, videos, images, products, social content etc.
Intelligent content marketing programs build multiple content formats around keyword targets to increase the number of possible listings in SERPs.
3. Fresh content is good
New and updated webpages send signals to search engines that say your content is “of this moment”.
Online searchers respond to ‘new’ content that provides something they didn’t have before.
Regular updates and additions to XML sitemaps encourage search engines to crawl your site more frequently.
4. Unique content has value
Unique, relevant content has been a quality signal for search engines for a long time. However, since 2011 the likes of Google have increased the value they place of ‘high quality’ content. The Panda/Farmer update is worth learning more about.
Duplicate content isn’t valued by search engines and makes it harder for them to decide which piece of content is the original and best to display. If you cram SERPs with repetitive content (e.g. repurposed content you took from somewhere else), it’s unlikely searchers will perceive the value in what you are offering.
This also means understanding how to avoid content duplication on your website. For example, you might have an HTML content page for which you also create a pdf version. This could produce 2 URLs:
Both have identical content. It’s good practice to tell search engines which is the primary version, as this helps them display the most relevant version to searchers.
I recommend reading Tess Neale’s article on duplicate content and canonicalization for a more thorough explanation.
After the Panda (content) & Penguin (link neighbourhood) updates, some domains experienced significant fluctuations in rankings, with previously high-ranking webpages effectively disappearing overnight. You can’t guarantee that what you do won’t ever get slapped by Google-monster but by understanding the likely causes of a penalty, you can manage this risk and increase the likelihood that search engines will consider your content to be good quality.
Try to focus on quality, not quantity.
The latter comes with time, the former should drive your content marketing program. Below is a list of “turn offs” that can lead to search engines devaluing your content and searchers switching off.
Don’t worry, this doesn’t need to be over-complicated. If you’re new to SEO and content marketing, then your best bet is to focus on one area of your product set and build a program from there. The learning you will get from this will help you roll-out across other areas of your product set.
I find it easiest to think in terms of customer objections and use the following thought process:
If you run through these questions, you’ll soon have a rough plan for what content assets you need to help you satisfy customer demand. You can then produce the content for the end-user and optimise it based on a keyphrase target list (see below).
Remember – always start with the end-user needs. Don’t produce keyword optimised content and then try and make it work on your site. What’s the use of having webpages on page 1 in Google if none of your target customers want to read them?
You should always produce content that stands the best chance of being used & shared. Then you optimise this to ensure it ticks the boxes for search engines.
I’m basing this on a fictitious retail website that sells men’s designer denim. The web owner wants to use content marketing to support the SEO for a specific brand they stock: Dries Van Noten (that is real!). And as Google accounts for approximately 89% of the UK search market, I’m using this as the example search engine.
Keyword research is carried using the Google Keyword Tool and Google Insights, as well as the retailer’s own web analytics tools, to determine:
From this research the web owner builds a hitlist of three keyword queries (keyphrases):
The content marketing is centred around promoting:
The product pages are reviewed to ensure the target keywords are included (but not mentioned an unnatural amount of times) in:
Also, the web owner checks that all of these pages are included in the XML sitemap and have been submitted to Google.
As the product catalogue has a data field for “Brand”, the web owners adds “Dries Van Noten” to this field to ensure this text is displayed on relevant product pages beneath the product name.
The web owner wants to build a story around the brand, to provide content that will be of interest to shoppers and encourage people to share with their friends to increase the viral impact. To achieve this they storyboard a creative concept that walks through likely conversion paths and the content that would help increase conversion for each of these. This is translated into a list of content requirements:
Guiding people on how to choose the right denim style for them. This is advertorial style with links to relevant products. The guide is built in HTML and added to the website. It can be found via site search and also through the global navigation features, like the mega drop down menu. It is optimised for the keyword query “mens designer denim”.
The Buying Guide URL is submitted via Webmaster Tools to help it get indexed quicker.
The web owner has a WordPress blog running on a sub-directory of the main site. This has 250 subscribers. A series of blog posts are scheduled focussing on the Dries Van Noten brand history and recent PR activity. These are outsourced to a freelancer writer who delivers one per week for a 6 week cycle. The articles are optimised for the keywords “designer denim for men” and “dries van noten denim”.
The blog URLs are submitted via Webmaster Tools to help them get indexed quicker.
To support the blogging, a more lengthy article is written in which the designer Dries Van Noten is interviewed and explains the history of the brand and the vision of the current designs. This article is added to the site in the same way as the buying guide. It is optimised for the keyword query “dries van noten denim”.
The article URL is submitted via Webmaster Tools to help it get indexed quicker.
The marketing team at Dries Van Noten provide some PR videos that can be added to the web owner’s YouTube channel and included on the site, on their own landing pages + on relevant product pages. The video landing pages are optimised for the keyword query “dries van noten denim” and product specific videos for product specific terms.
The on-site video URLs are submitted via Webmaster Tools to help them get indexed quicker.
Each time a content asset is produced, the URL link is added across all social networks managed by the business (Twitter, Facebook & Pinterest).
The web owner also taps into key influencers with whom a relationship has been built via social media. They are encouraged to share this content and rewarded with an exclusive offer (discount, free item etc).
The web owner looks at other ways to promote the content and give search engines a signal that it is relevant and valuable.
Above is a simple example for how content marketing can be used to increase the number of content assets you have that are optimised for a keyword target and available for search engines to index, and how you can use that content to influence your audiences to interact with it, helping send strong advocacy signals to search engines.
Each time you create a content asset, think about the following:
For further reading I’d recommend Dave Chaffey’s excellent SEO Guide in which you can find more detailed information.
Is that enough info to digest for today? Content marketing is an essential component of SEO. The shape and style of your content marketing will depend heavily on the markets you operate in and the demographics of your target customers.
The key take-away is this – if you want to search engines to see you, you need to provide something to be seen. This means looking at the wider potential for content within SEO, not just obsessing over on-page optimisation.
Your challenge is to determine how best to increase the impact and reach of your content, and then dig into the available reporting suites to ensure you are measuring impact and using the learning from the analysis to inform your on going content marketing plan.
Please drop by and share your thoughts and if you feel the urge, share this with your friends/colleagues to encourage further debate.
If you have followed the first 10 steps in this SEO series, you have either cured your insomnia or found the path to enlightenment. Either way – I hope they’ve helped you review or improve your approach.
By James Gurd
James is an Ecommerce consultant and owner of Digital Juggler, an E-commerce and Digital Marketing consultancy helping retailers develop, execute and evolve E-commerce strategies and optimise their digital channel. With a background as a Head of E-commerce and also agency side as Head of Client Development, he has experienced life on both sides of the fence. He has helped companies like A&N Media, Sweaty Betty and Smythson to manage RFP/ITT proposals. and been lead consultant on high profile projects for Econsultancy, Salmon and Greenwich Consulting. He is a guest blogger for Econsultancy, for whom he also writes best practice guides, regularly contributes to industry events and co-hosts #ecomchat, a weekly Twitter chat for e-commerce knowledge sharing. For e-commerce advice and support, connect with James on LinkedIn and Twitter.
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