Content marketing and search engine optimization are interdependent. When planned and executed properly, content can greatly improve your natural search performance. Follow these 10 rules to successfully blend SEO needs with content creation.
Research What Customers Care About
Marketers are quick to embrace market research to discover their customers’ needs. SEO keyword research provides another fast and free method of amassing content ideas that real people really care about. Seek to answer the questions people ask the search engines as well as the big topics that drive a large amount of demand.
Don’t forget to interview your customer support personnel for ideas, as well. They are on the front lines answering questions that oftentimes mirror the information that searchers are looking for. In addition to providing a wealth of content ideas, ranking well on these topics can help reduce call center loads.
Choose Content Types Wisely
Don’t default to writing only articles. Certainly long-form article content is good for SEO, when written about a topic that searchers seek in large numbers and when written using the language that real people use when they search. However, sometimes addressing frequently asked questions or publishing a step-by-step guide or video (with transcript) will convey the topic most clearly and be most likely to rank well. The best content type depends on what will benefit your shoppers most, as well as what will rank well.
However, sometimes addressing frequently-asked questions or publishing a step-by-step guide or video … will convey the topic most clearly…
How do you determine which content type is the best? Try Googling it. Search for the phrases you want to rank well for and pay special attention to the types of content that rank well already.
Include Descriptive Text
Search engines evolve their capabilities continually, but they still need descriptive text to help them understand the content and context of video and images. Always include transcripts for videos and describe the images and infographics that contain key points you need to make.
Even if the content is understandable to shoppers visually, search engines need that descriptive text. Without it, search engines won’t understand the relevance of the content and won’t be able to rank it, and that means no traffic and sales from natural search.
Remember What You Need to Sell
Stick with content ideas that coincide with the products and services you offer. If that sounds like an obvious point, you’ll be surprised how frequently it’s ignored. Searchers are interested in an endless number of products, information, and concepts. Google reported that 15 percent of the search queries it receives each day are queries that they’ve never seen before. But only a fraction of those are relevant to your business. Be selective.
You won’t win natural search traffic or drive sales or leads if you try to generate content outside of the information related to your product base. If you sell nuts and bolts, it’s highly unlikely that even the most passionate content about baseball will drive traffic and sales for your site.
Write for Your Audience, Not Management
Unless your audience uses the same words that you do in your business, ditch the jargon and create content using plain, descriptive language. Better yet, refer to that keyword research you did earlier in deciding what to create content about. It will also tell you how shoppers think and speak about those products and services.
Don’t Forget to Sell, Gently
Ecommerce merchants presumably want to sell. We want shoppers to land on our site when they search and be enticed by the great content we create. But sometimes it’s the content that ranks instead of the ecommerce category and product pages. That means that your content also needs to sell.
You don’t have to be obvious and pushy about selling. Information seekers can be scared off by heavy-handed promotions. But once you’ve demonstrated how to use something or how to care for something, visitors may be open to purchasing the products required to do so. There’s no harm in a gentle call to action, such as a link in the text to a related category or to a picture and link of a product described.
Remember that the goal is to attract searchers, among other shoppers, and searchers may be new to your brand and product assortment. Helping them find their way easily to a very relevant product after providing useful, non-pushy content makes sense for both of you.
Link Content and Ecommerce
Linking provides pathways for shoppers to access and digest content, and also for search engines to understand the context and relative importance of various areas of the site. Use your header and footer navigation to link to content and information so that shoppers, search engines, and searchers can all get where they need to go for products and information.
Don’t be stingy about linking from ecommerce pages to relevant informational content. If the content you’re creating is truly relevant and useful, like guides on how to buy or how to use a product, that content should help sales instead of detracting. If you’re concerned that content might distract shoppers, test the impact.
Linking provides pathways for shoppers to access … content, and also for search engines to understand the context…
Host Content on Your Site
If you want to rank for something, put the content on your own site — the same site from which you sell your products — not a microsite. Microsite content won’t benefit your natural search performance. Yes, you’ll link from that microsite back to your ecommerce site, but it doesn’t add value as an external link from a different site because the search engines can usually detect that it’s a self-owned site. In addition, you’ll lose the benefit of the interlinking opportunities that come with hosting the content on your ecommerce site.
Consider Syndicating Content
Sometimes content on your own site won’t attract the right audience. You need to seek eyeballs where they’re already at. In this case, syndicating content — i.e., offering content to other sites for their use — can outweigh the need to host content on your own site.
To maintain SEO benefit from content you’re syndicating out to other sites, host it on your own site and contractually require that the hosting sites use canonical tags to refer to your site’s content as the definitive source. This ensures that you retain the SEO benefit of creating the content, while also removing any duplicate content concerns.
Be Wary of Publishing Syndicated Content
If you don’t have the resources to create content in-house, publishing content from another source might seem like an attractive solution. For SEO, however, it is not.
When you host another site’s content on your own site, you’re helping someone else rank. If they’re smart, they’ll require a canonical tag that refers any ownership and authority that the content might generate back to their own site. Even if they don’t require the canonical tag, when the same content is posted in multiple locations, as duplicate content it loses value for SEO in all of those locations.