August 10, 2013

How to get SEO benefits from content

If you want to maximise the benefits from your SEO efforts, generating content is a must. As important as what you do is how you do it, in this case…

Content generation

By now, you’ve heard it all too often – “Content is king”. What’s often missed out 2 important keywords – “unique” and “quality”. And, I’m probably using the word “unique” here differently to how you think..

If you are hoping to improve your rankings with the help of content, there are 2 things to keep in mind :

1)  Don’t publish content for it’s own sake

As important as it is to regularly publish content on your website, it’s (almost) equally important for your content to be unique.  When I say unique, I’m not talking about taking an existing piece of content that already exists, spinning (rephrasing) it and then running it by copyscape.com to make sure it’s unique.

What I’m talking about is thinking about new ideas and topics for your articles, something that does not already exist in some way and then writing the content for it from scratch.

Up until 2 years ago, I followed the very method that I described initially (spinning content). And that works too. However, since I have changed my SEO strategy when it comes to creating content and forcing myself to come up with unique ideas, whether that’s for our own site or that of a client, I have found the effects to be significantly better, advantages far outweighing the cost.

Another significant advantage of this approach is that there’s a decent chance that your content will appear within the first page, probably within the top half of the search results which has the potential to bring a lot of long-tail traffic to your website.

So how do you go about generating unique content?

If you’re carrying out SEO for your own website, this is easy. Once you begin the process, you’ll usually find that a lot more ideas come to your mind when you begin writing your first piece. Make a note of these which will serve as a ready list for your content ideas (remember to hyperlink them within the articles for additional benefits).

If you’re optimising a client website, this is initially a little more time-consuming but gets much easier later on.

To start with, you could ask your client for ideas. Chances are, they’ll have a long list ready but they just didn’t know it. Giving them a few examples usually helps.  Or, it’s possible they have subscribed to some industry newsletters – ask them to forward those to you.  I have been doing this for some time now and find it an instant way to help me think of ideas.

Another way to think of unique topics for your client is to draw inspiration from industry specific news.

2) Quality is important

For a long time, I believed in quantity over quality when it came to generating content. And I think the reason simply is that it worked.

However, ever since my focus changed to quality, limiting the number of pieces I wrote (for our own site) or our copywriters wrote (for client sites) and trying to make the content ‘authoritative’, the results have been amazing.

So how do you improve your content quality?

Here are some of the guidelines I keep in mind:

  • Minimum word count of 500 words
  • Use h and bold tags
  • Using images where possible (alt-tag them)
  • Citing references where possible
  • Hyperlinks within text to related content
  • Not ‘afraid’ to link to external sites

Once you achieve a certain level of quality, the level Google wants, you’ll regularly find your content achieving decent rankings which over time can significantly improve traffic numbers to your website

3) Making your content “rich”

Take a closer look at the pages appearing within the top 5-7 results for a competitive search terms and what do you see?  There’s a pretty good chance that the webpages you’re finding don’t have “thin” content. You’re noticing a lot of text, hyperlinks within the text, images and perhaps some external links as well?

I studied this extensively during our first few super-competitive SEO projects and do this occasionally even now and have found this to be the case almost always, especially when it comes to law, insurance and health sectors. You may have already noticed this in articles published on Search Engine Land or SEOmoz.

Adding content like this helps improve the authority of your article which will ultimately help your rankings. I have already mentioned the list for this above (the points under ‘…guidelines I keep in mind’).

4) Update old content

When was the last time you updated old content on your website? If you are like most people, including me until not so long ago, the answer is probably never.

Until now, I have talked about content generating ideas and the structure of your content. This is the easy one.

Whilst getting yourself generating content in a way that benefits your SEO may take some time, one place where you can immediately start “practicing” is with the existing content on your website. The guidelines in terms of how to increase content quality and richness remain the same. However, even adding more content without any of the elements to increase quality can help your rankings.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to add a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). This is easy to think of and not only can it help your rankings but also has the additional benefit of helping your website visitors take an informed decision and improving conversion rates.

Over the last 6 months, I have been updating the existing content on our client sites, some of which is over 2 years old and have noticed some good improvements to the rankings of these individual pages. A positive side-effect is that it helps the rankings of other pages closely linked to the one being updated and usually the home page as well.

That’s it for now and I hope this helps. On a sidenote, you may find the services of a professional copywriter useful in helping your SEO efforts.  Usually, it’s not lack of ideas but time which keeps us from publishing content and a professional SEO copywriter can help.

It may not be easy finding one with in-depth knowledge of generating content for proper SEO benefits, like the ones mentioned above so start by sharing an example with them.

Learn more about generating SEO-effective content.

I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have. Send me an email shirish@flow20.com