The discipline of SEO may be ever-evolving, but one industry constant in recent years has been the call at online marketing conferences to embrace content as the linchpin of our campaigns.
Personally, I’m tired of hearing content is king, a term that’s become meaningless in its ubiquity.
But, being able to develop great content for our sites has never been so needed. In an industry where everyone knows they should produce content, but with often little clarity on why or how, it’s easy for efforts to become lost in the mounting, sub-standard crowd.
As SEOs we’re in a perfect position to take advantage of Google’s moves toward rewarding helpful and meaningful content experiences, both to improve relevancy and for building links and brands.
We’re already doing much of the work, and utilise many of the skills.
The missing part is tackling the challenge of how we blend content into our work. The Panda filter, Phantom updates, growth of the Knowledge Graph and semantic markup and understanding have changed what we must deliver.
We’ve eagerly adopted content marketing for link building or email. Additionally, we can now develop product pages like never before, there’s more reward in supplementary content and we’ve shifted from keywords to keyword topics.
So, with this exciting new opportunity we find ourselves in, it’s time to take on the challenge of fully using content, and face up to the difficult questions.
Have you got the team? You need to work with, or have access to, a skilled but technically sound creative team. Designers, developers and copywriters, but also those who excel at research and opportunity analysis, digging up or producing sources of data to create fresh ideas and angles.
Do you have all the tools they need? Knowing where to start with content can be an issue. We’re used to SEO campaign software giving advice on content improvements, but they tend to rely on usage of a specific term in meta data or copy.
Most also can’t match Google’s understanding of semantic relationships between words, and also rely on you to input keyword data to score. We need to think with more sophistication, and potentially add yet more to our toolkit.
Can you satisfy your audience? Content for modern SEO is more than just adding keywords to existing copy, it’s about creating a better answer than the competition (and then building attention). We need to understand user intent, and help, delight or educate each time.
Audience research in this depth is new to many of us, with personas, tone of voice guidelines and working within a disciplined governance framework (content strategy) all considerations. We’ve also got to become au fait with user experience, as the boundaries between intelligent SEO and UX blur, just as they have with PR. Picking apart what we’ve created through user and A/B testing should become part of the discipline.
Do you know what you’ve got? Content inventories were a popular topic in the past 12 months, and without them and an understanding of all the assets and knowledge in a business, we can’t fully realise the potential for optimisation.
Will you get buy in from clients or the product team? Being able to tweak a title tag is one thing; being given free reign over core content is another, and our working relationships and remit will often change.
We all know what it’s like to be told not to worry about what’s on the page and just optimise it. Can we change this dynamic, or do we want to work with such clients long-term? The industry is already starting to see diversification as agencies specialise in parts of the increasing SEO canon – client needs will likely follow, with requests for content-specific help growing as businesses realise this opportunity.
How do we keep our roots? As fantastic as the results can be, we can’t jump on content in isolation. We must not forget the principles of soundly auditing a site, reviewing for where the search opportunity can be found.
Technical SEO, ensuring a search engine can crawl, understand and index will always be a foundation, as will a strategy to build brand awareness and citations; and not all SEO work needs content. If a search engine can’t read your subject and no-one cares, the finest crafted masterpiece won’t make you money.
We come to BrightonSEO to learn and be inspired, and everyone here has the opportunity to contribute to websites that deliver a better experience and have that rewarded.
It’s time to acknowledge that content development in all its formats is a huge part of our industry, and to evolve our talk from do content into creative processes we can all learn from, just as we have for technical and off page SEO.