Any rumors you may have heard about the death of SEO have been vastly overstated. What is true, however, is that the focus has shifted from provider to audience. That means instead of producing product pages, sales one-sheets, and other company-centric content, you need to pivot and create great content that's focused squarely on your target personas.
We’ve combed our archives and wracked our collective brains to come up with our top tips on how to create great content for SEO. There’s a combination of suggestions directly related to the content itself, along with some that may seem tangential, but when taken together all of these items will help boost your reputation with readers and search engines alike. And that’s the best way to improve your SEO juice in 2019.
So where to begin?
1. Do your research
Great content starts with great research. And great SEO does too. There are three primary areas you need to be researching before each and every piece of content is written: audience, topic, and keywords.
In order to direct your content at individuals within your target audience, you need to first understand that target audience. Study your marketing demographics and the personas you’re using for all of your content. Then go deeper. Where are they spending time online? Go there and do some social monitoring. See what they’re talking about, and if they mention you, is it good news? You need your presence on these same platforms to be engaging and to be engaging you need to know these folks better than they know themselves.
Of course, you need to be researching your topics as well. But notice that this is only one of three areas we’re talking about here. It is just as important to know your topic as it is to know your audience. You don’t need to become a recognized expert on your subject matter, but it does help create a sense of trust and authority if you’re at least conversationally fluent. Demonstrate that you fully grasp the topics by interacting in the comments. Answering questions on the fly is a great way to show mastery of a topic.
And lastly, the old SEO standby, keywords. Take the questions your audience is asking online and use them as the basis for your keyword work. Gone are the days when you could just stuff a page with individual ranking keywords and see a spike in visits (That’s called keyword stuffing and it’s a big no-no. Doing this will actually tank your SEO these days). Semantic searches, via text entry and voice command, are taking over the world of search so you need to be sure your pages contain answers to the questions being asked. Use this research time to find the questions. Then, formulate the answers to include long-tail keyword phrases and work them into your pieces.
2. Go deep
Google and the other search engines have been tweaking their search algorithms, and longer form pieces now rank much higher than they used to. In fact, to stand a chance of making it to page 1 in the results, you need to be regularly posting in the 1,500-2,000 word range. These pieces should have a single topic focus, answer a pressing question, or otherwise be based strongly on your keyword research from above.
As you accumulate several pieces on related topics, it’s time to think about a Topic Cluster. This is when you have several pages, all linked to each other, on one topic. Then, put up what’s called a pillar page to link to all of the related pages, and link from them back to the pillar page. This builds what Google calls “authority,” and is a fantastic way to up your SEO pull.
3. Be readable
Readability when talking about SEO means several things. Writing clearly and concisely is part one, of course. But you also need to be taking into account the physical readability of the page itself. Is there enough white space? Are your images spaced appropriately? How's the load time of the page? How's your mobile optimization? Here are some aspects of readability to be sure you take into account:
- White space matters. Like, a lot. Surrounding your words with clean, open space is the best way to keep your readers focused on the words.
- Break up the monotony. Using images that are on point and relate to your topic, and mixing up the paragraph size are both simple ways to disrupt the page without disrupting the reader's flow.
- Subheads are critical. Use plenty of them so even your skimmers can follow the flow of the piece and stay interested all the way to the bottom. Subheads are also given higher weight than regular text, so use them to highlight your short-tail keywords to bring more punch to the SEO side of the article.
4. Mix it up
This is another point that has multiple aspects. Vary the length of pieces, the topics, the depth, and the medium to keep readers coming back. Return visits are a key piece of your sites overall SEO, so this variety is a great way to keep people interested in what you’re going to post next.
- Try some shorter pieces in the 750-1,500 word range. Keep the focus on a single question you found in your keyword research.
- Also do some definitive, “ultimate guide” style pieces that go into greater depth. These should be in the 3,000-3,500 word range.
- Mix up your content types while you’re at it. People want to see videos, images, infographics, and more. Thought about a podcast? Now’s the time.
The definition of SEO is expanding along with everything else in the online world. It now includes everywhere people search, not just on-page at Google, Yahoo, etc. That means if you put up a podcast, you need to be sure you rank on iTunes, Stitcher, and everywhere that podcast can be downloaded. And if you’re doing video content, you need to rank at YouTube, Vimeo, and wherever else you host that content.
5. Demonstrate your authority
Want that coveted “snippet” slot at the top of the SERP? You need to remember a few key points, as that spot is reserved for sites with authority.
- Pay attention to your formatting. Bulleted and numbered lists help, as does definitively asking and answering a question from your keyword research.
- Include statistics and numbers. And be sure to cite your sources; these links to other authoritative sites raise your own ranking.
- Reputation is calculated using a combination of information from your site (about page, author bio) as well as guest post author bios and what’s being said about you elsewhere on the web. Spend some time on social monitoring yourself to see what people are saying, and respond where appropriate.
That was a lot of information to take in at once, we know. So here’s a quick rundown of the high points:
Research, research, research.
Do solid research on your audience, topic, and keywords, the rest will fall into place as time goes by. Use your energy creating content that answers your audience's questions, and watch your reputation and authority spike along with your readership numbers!