Great content marketing doesn’t happen by accident. Companies that continue to rank at the top of Google search for keyword after keyword for your industry, do so because they understand that there is a strategy involved. They have spent time developing a process for writing content for their website that appeals to their audience and search engines. In this post we will talk about what makes great content, how to properly format your content for search engines and how to develop a plan for great content marketing time after time.
What Makes Great Content Marketing
Well developed content meets the following requirements; it is unique, it is well written, it contains media files (such as images or videos), it is implemented with the proper markup and metadata, and it contains the desired keywords and phrases.
Appeal to the Genuine Interests of Your Audience With Unique Content
First and foremost your content must be interesting and worth reading. There are a probably a lot of people producing content in your field, so you must think of creative ways to approach your topic to generate real interest and provide true value.
When choosing a topic to write about, consider how your audience might try to find this content. What words would people search? Have any competitors approached this topic, and if so, how? Look for inconsistencies where there is a high number of searches and a low number of results and begin there. You can use tools like Google Keyword Planner or Google Search Console to see what keywords people are currently searching and use this research to validate your topic and plan a keyword strategy.
Create an Outline to Organize Your Content
Organizing your content and establishing a hierarchy of information is of crucial importance, both for ease of comprehension by readers and ease of indexing by search engines. Outlining your content into key points and information objectives ensures that there is emphasis on what the key takeaways are for the article.
Each point should be introduced, explained, and validated. Breaking these objectives down into sections and subsections will make the content easier to write, ensures you stay on topic, and is easily digestible for readers. Formatting your content also allows you to easily create an accurate overview of the article that can be used as a preview, for meta descriptions, and for sharing on social media.
Determining The Right Length For Your Article
Determining the right amount of content doesn’t need to be difficult. There are many suggestions out there on the internet about the most effective word counts, people’s attention span, SEO requirements, etc. The truth is you should write exactly how many words it takes to get your point across effectively and efficiently. You don’t need the fluff, but if your words are providing value there is no reason to try to cut them down. The only real requirement is to make sure there is enough content for search engines to properly crawl your page; about 500 words.
Include Relevant Media
Including digital media, such as videos and images, in your post will engage users and can help promote your content in search results. According to recent studies by the end of 2017, video content will represent 74% of all internet traffic (source). Videos can increase consumption of your content, as four times as many consumers would prefer to watch a video about a product than to read about it (source). Not only will video enrich your content and engage your users, but Google and other search engines are beginning to favor media content over text.
We know that media can generate more interest and increase the page views, but articles accompanied by media are also proven to have a high sharing rate on social media platforms. It has been found that infographics are liked and shared on social media three times more than any other type of content (source). Images have such an impact on the users overall experience and ability to comprehend the content more quickly and easily, that when relevant images are provided, readers will spend more time looking at the images than reading text (source).
Properly Formatting Your Content For Search Engines
Understanding that there are two audiences, man and machine, is the first hurdle in gaining SEO rankings. The content’s outline will come into play again here, as each page of content has to be outlined to fulfill specific technical criteria as well. Writing amazing content is a great start, but if search engines can’t find it, readers won’t be able to either.
How to Use Keywords & Phrases Effectively
Keywords and phrases are widely understood on their surface level. However, Using them in the most effective places is the real trick. Make sure your keywords are in the URL, the page title, the main content, and in your Google search meta description. Get creative about finding ways to include the keywords in other ways as well. Its helpful to use images that include the keyword in the file name and “alt” tag. You can also add links to pages that contain the same keywords.
Use your keywords responsibly. Don’t keyword stuff your content, as that could potentially hurt more than it helps. Keywords are for search engines, but the rest of the content is for your audience. Remember that being found is only half the battle. Providing value and retaining the reader’s interest takes genuine content. People can easily spot phony content that overuses keywords, and they will bounce as soon as they arrive. Be smart about your keyword usage; sometimes less is more.
Writing For Man & Machine; Using Proper Markup and Formatting
Whether you are hand-coding your site or using a CMS, it is important for you to understand that the way you format your content has an effect on your site’s performance and accessibility. The way you use formatting elements like lists, h1-h6, bold, italic and links all have an effect on the way your content is read and prioritized by search engines. It’s more than just about the way the content looks on the screen. For an in-depth understanding of how syntax affects the readability of your content, check out the article Semantic Markup for Creating Meaningful Webpages. For this article, we’ll focus more on the outline we’ve created and establishing a properly formatted content hierarchy.
For example, we can look at the headline tags for this article, which are used to denote the title, subtitle, sections and subsections. To the search engines, the title of the article holds the most authority over the content as a whole. Therefore, it should receive the highest weighted headline tag <h1>. The subtitle also applies to the whole of the article, but is descriptive text to help the user, so it receives a lower weighted tag, <h2>. Each section title only applies to the content in that section and receive <h3> tags. Subsequent subsection titles receive <h4> tags.
More often than not, “h” tags are used for design instead of hierarchy. Including keywords in “h” tags and nesting them properly will help improve for your content SEO. Use your content outline to determine your title, subtitle, sections, and subsections, and try to include your keywords in meaningful ways.
Take Time The To Write Meta Descriptions
Now that your content is written using proper keywords and formatting, it’s time to set up the meta descriptions and search engine preview content. The meta description is a 160 character summary of your page or post. This is the first impression that readers will have of your content if they are finding you through a search engine. Look back to your outline for inspiration on constructing this description, and remember to include your keyword(s) within this element to improve the page’s overall SEO ranking.
Developing a Plan
Creating a content development plan can vary based on the goals of your organization and its digital marketing strategy. However, the very process of developing a plan and adhering to it will ensure a level of consistency and predictability when creating content for marketing. Your plan my be added to or adjusted as you track the success of your efforts.
Document your Plan with a Strategy Checklist
Once you pinpoint the key elements and requirements of your plan, create a checklist of all the information you would need to write effective content for your site. Each page of content on your site should have a strategy checklist. This includes things like topic, audience, keywords, objective, metrics for measuring the objective, and a goal for those metrics. This checklist can be as detailed as your organization deems necessary.