There’s an inherent mystery around the art and science of optimizing a web site for search. The optimization process changes nearly every week as Google works behind the scene, changing the rules to make their engine’s results more search friendly and relevance-centric. For SEO specialists, it’s like playing a soccer game where the goalposts keep moving every 15 minutes.
It’s rumored that some SEO gurus burn incense and go into a trance when they do their magic. Add to this that no one really sees the results of their optimization efforts for months as Google bots scan the entire content of the internet.
In the old days (4-5 years ago), you could load your web site text with searched keywords and Google would help people find you. Now, Google is going beyond the keywords and is “reading what you’ve written” to determine the meaning and relevancy of your content using more than just keywords.
This leads us to the 4 golden rules of SEO (which might change by the time you read this):
- Content drives SEO and content must be relevant. Making content relevant requires you to know WHO you are writing for and WHAT they want to know. You can’t just wing-it like you did with half your essays in high school. Google does semantic* searches now and they want content that has a take-away – a pay-off for the reader that addresses what he/she/they is searching for.Some research firms have discovered that Google likes comprehensive and thorough long form content more than short form. At the same time, content must be layered. Give readers a taste and lead them, using links, to more comprehensive and detailed content at the levels below. By the way, the essence of “comprehensive content” can mean adding videos, white papers, slide shows, etc., not more text. Bottom line, your content must be relevant and RESONATE with the target reader. The best content is meaningful and always meets the needs of the target reader.
- Back links are critical. Get back links to your site from AUTHORITATIVE domains. Getting other industry authorities to link to your mouth-watering, high value content can make a difference. It’s other websites with cred giving your website cred. Create great content and then promote it using social media.
- Think Mobile. Google indexes mobile-friendly sites first. If your site works well on smart phones and other mobile/pad devices, Google will give you extra brownie points. RESPONSIVE content that works well on any device is a must.
- Technical Factors
• Encrypt your web site using HTTPS encryption. It prevents Google from labeling your site “unsafe” which can hurt your ranking.
• H1 and H2 headings. These are in your site code and your technical specialist or SEO guru can help improve them.
• Avoid pop ups and interstitials. Exceptions are log in dialogs, small banners which can be dismissed, and legally required interstitials. Most of these are annoying anyway
Much of the above advice may be too technical for some readers and that’s why enlisting a SEO specialist may be in order. But remember, you need to have a helicopter view of the SEO process in order fully understand what the specialists do.
Plus, much of the burden lies in the creation of content. So put whoever is creating content in the same room with the SEO specialists. They should be working shoulder-to-shoulder.
Want to dive deeper into SEO and how Content is a critical element? Download our eGuide: The Batman and Robin of Modern Marketing: Search Engine Optimization & Content
*Semantics: the branch of linguistics and logic concerned with meaning.
In the classic Spanish novel The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, a nobleman becomes so enamored with stories of brave knights and ladies fair that his perception of reality becomes warped. At one point, he attacks windmills, convinced that he must bravely vanquish these “ferocious giants.”
All too often, content marketers act like Don Quixote, mistaking content volume for content quality. We churn out copious volumes of “me-too” content, and then wonder why it gets ignored by most of the people we want to influence. We assume we know what our customers’ challenges, needs and aspirations are, but we miss them by a mile. Still, we charge forward like Don Quixote, convinced of the nobility of our quest.
Are you tilting at windmills with your content?
Let’s try an exercise. Open your company’s blog in a browser tab, and those of your competitors in other tabs. Now imagine the company logos and color schemes were scrubbed from each of these web pages. Would you be able to tell them apart?
In most industries, the answer is a resounding NO!
If your company is like most B2B firms, you’re producing blog posts, newsletters and other content that looks and reads remarkably like what your competitors are publishing. But if you can’t tell your content apart from that of your competitors, then neither can your target audience. That’s a big problem!
How to differentiate your content
If you’re frustrated by the state of your content marketing efforts, it may be time for you to “tilt” your perspective so that you are able to tell a unique story – one that cuts through the clutter and that is uniquely focused on the needs of your target audience. One way to do that is to ask smarter, more creative questions:
- What assumptions are you making about your target audience that could be skewing your perceptions of their needs?
- Imagine you have no prior knowledge of your target audience. How would you accurately learn about their needs? In other words, return to a state of “beginner’s mind,” free of any preconceived notions about them and their needs.
What other perspectives should you consider?
- How can you change the conversation in a way that’s so compelling that it will command the attention of your target audience?
Most companies go very broad when defining their target audience; that usually means they have a lot of competition. Instead, think narrow: Is there a sub-niche within your main audience that you ought to learn more about and target with your content? Your goal is to become the recognized expert within that sub-niche.
- Should you create a new product category? It should give you greater visibility than introducing another “me-too product” in an existing category. Bonus: In the short term, your brand will come to be identified with this new product category, which increases your odds of success.
- Take the advice of Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal: “Figure out something that nobody else is doing and look to create a monopoly in some area that’s been underdeveloped. Find a problem nobody else is solving.” That’s often where opportunity hides.
- Which issues and topics are none of your competitors covering in your market niche? What is everyone missing? What do customers and your competitors take for granted? Can you take a stand on one of these issues? Just make sure you’ve got your customers’ best interests in mind when you do so.
- What “jobs to be done” are your customers faced with? What’s inadequate about the existing solutions they’re using? Look for opportunities to educate them about a more effective alternative that will elegantly meet their needs.
Armed with the answers to these questions, you should be able to identify a compelling content tilt that you can use to deliver real value to your target audience and build productive relationships with them. Unlike Don Quixote, you will no longer be tilting at windmills. You’ll be winning the minds and hearts of real customers like never before.