Tag Archives: content and SEO

How to plan and create evergreen content for SEO

Understanding evergreen content is important for search engine marketers and jobbing professional writers alike.

In a previous piece for Search Engine Watch, my colleague Graham Charlton covered the power of evergreen content for SEO with some comprehensive Google Analytics stats to back up his claims. This post, however, seeks to explore evergreen articles from the content creation perspective.

  • How can I ensure this piece I am writing is evergreen?
  • And how can I ensure it will help with SEO?

Nailing down your evergreen subject

Deciding on what your new piece of evergreen content is going to be about is not an exact science.

In simple terms, such articles (of course, other types of content are also available) are expected to have enduring appeal on into the future. You want your subject to be relevant in the weeks, months, and potentially years to come.

With that in mind, I think it’s important not to view evergreen content as separate from things like pure news. Rather, it’s better to view how potentially evergreen a piece of content is on a scale – with things like news releases at one end, and informative pieces about the most universally enduring subjects at the other.

How-to guides and beginner’s guides

How-to guides and beginner’s guides are great examples of evergreen content. These are valuable educational resources, providing authority and giving the reader information to assist them in a task.

They are evergreen because people are always coming online to search for such resources – whether they are beginners, intermediates, or professionals.

Certain how-to or beginner’s pieces will have more evergreen potential than others as the need for people to have different types of skills come and go.

For example, baking bread is a very enduring skill, especially in comparison to something like using Microsoft Excel 2016 – but a how-to or beginner’s guide about Excel 2016 would certainly still be towards the evergreen end of the scale.

Other subjects have evergreen potential too

Even if the subject might appear time sensitive, a piece can still be written in such a way that it will have value down the line.

Trends pieces might on the surface seem quite short-term, but can have evergreen potential if they are looking at data over a long period of time, or if updates to the data are not expected soon. Case studies and more in-depth reflections on news events can be approached in the same way.

Curatorial pieces (such as examples of good or bad practice) might reflect on timely moments but can be given more longevity if written in regards to the wider historical context. They may also be easy to add-to down the line. The same can be said for listicles – despite their throwaway nature.

Even seasonal pieces can come back around.

Like I said, it’s not an exact science. Just because a piece of content discusses news doesn’t mean it isn’t evergreen. And just because something is a how-to guide doesn’t mean it definitely is.

Audience comes first, even when writing evergreen content for SEO

To quote Graham Charlton:

‘If done properly, content that works for your audience can also be the content that works for search engines.’

Titles and introductions should be descriptive, rather than clickbait-y and/or stuffed with keywords.

They should be true to the content that follows.

It is typical for evergreen articles to be more in-depth and informative to your audience than things at the other end of the scale such as quick news stories or press releases which provide little more than the bottom line.

Remember, if presenting a reader with a longer piece, make use of plenty of whitespace and sub-headings to break up large pieces of text.

Evergreen pieces may take more time to write. But in the long run they are likely to give more value to a wider audience and will provide more returns to your site.

So is it SEO-friendly?

Of course, evergreen content is great for appealing to future readers, but also good for building authority on search engines.

Best practice with title tags, URLs and image alt text should all reflect your keywords.

Internal links to other relevant pages on the same domain also point search engines to other bits of content relating to your piece – giving weight to the page you are linking out to, but also showing your piece to be part of the conversation. Of course, readers appreciate further reading too.

As we touched upon earlier, some of the best examples of enduring subjects to write about have no doubt been of interest to readers for a long time and will likely to continue to be.

Baking bread is a good example – but of course, an article titled simply: ‘How to bake bread’ is not likely to do your website any favours with search engines. The competition for that topic would be immense.

More visibility is possible, though. Exploring a niche aspect of a bigger subject is a good option for a new piece of evergreen content. For example, ‘How to bake bread without an oven’ has just as much evergreen potential as ‘How to bake bread’ and although it has a smaller potential audience, it would be far easier to rank for in the SERPs.

Exploring alternative approaches to the way a question might be posed is another way to potentially stand out on Google.

For example, ‘A beginner’s guide to mixing flour, kneading dough, and making great bread’ might be a worthwhile alternative to ‘A beginner’s guide to baking bread.’ This type of headline, though wordy, will potentially appear for a greater range of search queries such as ‘How to knead dough’ and ‘How to make great bread’.

A checklist for creating evergreen content

In the interest of ensuring that the points raised in this piece are actionable, I thought I’d sum up with a checklist:

  1. Does the subject have evergreen potential?
  2. Does it seek to answer a question and establish authority?
  3. If it relates to news or trends, can it be written in a more evergreen way?
  4. Is the title and introduction descriptive and informative for the audience?
  5. If the piece is long, is it separated with white space, sub-headings, bullets and pictures?
  6. Are keywords reflected in title tags, URLs, alt. text etc.?
  7. Are there internal links to other articles on the same domain and do articles from the domain link back?
  8. Should the piece explore a niche or does it need alternative wording in the title to stand out?

Evergreen content can require more effort than other types of content, but will ultimately pay off in the long run. The key is to take time in choosing your subject, planning your angle and potentially spending a little longer writing or creating it.

The resulting piece will not necessarily produce immediate traffic spikes and quick authority, but will be invaluable for your readers and your SEO visibility over time. Understanding how to produce evergreen content is a great additional tool in your search and content marketing kit.

How to master copywriting for SEO

In 2018, you need to understand copywriting and SEO – and a whole lot more – to write content that will rank well and return a great ROI.

If you have a head for marketing, UX and research, too, you’ll be in a commanding position. As our discipline evolves in response to a changing search engine landscape, demarcation lines become blurred, and it’s been difficult not to venture into featured snippets, schema and other on-page aspects of SEO.

Instead, with proper focus, you’ll need to know about your audience and how they’ll read your content, what they will be looking for, the continuing role of high quality, in-depth content, where offline historic copywriting skills still live on today, why you should still be using key phrases, and why structure is important.

How will your audience read your content in 2018?

Google’s recent announcement of the first set of sites being migrated to mobile-first indexing reflects the fact that the majority of searches worldwide are carried out on mobile devices. My direct experience is that the move to mobile is very much in the B2C space; less so in B2B, where people are still at their desks with their laptops or desktops.

And then, we see the start of an explosion in voice search and devices – our smartphones and home devices from Google, Amazon and Apple – reading content to us.

Of course, we’re still seeing how voice pans out, and its implications for SEO copywriting, but I’d say if you stick to simple language and shorter sentences within a well-structured piece (think about making the main points right up front in case the listener’s attention wanders).

High-quality, in-depth content

However your audience interacts with your work, it needs to be excellent. Make your content unique, high quality and written to professional standards. Google will reward you. Buying 300-500 spun monstrosities, while never being a great thing, had better not even pass through your mind today. They’ll kill your SEO and content marketing ambitions stone dead.

While we’re thinking about copy lengths, one popular strategy recently has been to write a longer piece than those above you in the rankings. Theirs is 2,000 words? Then leapfrog them by writing 2,500!

Of course, it’s not as simple as that. Take a look at the webpages above you in the SERPs. How good are they? Are they well-written? Do they answer the questions customers are asking? Do they understand searcher intent and how to respond to it?

If the 2,000-worder in your sights fails on any or all of these factors, you may be able to kick the ball out of the park with a shorter, tighter, laser-targeted 1,500-worder.

Writing shorter pieces for mobile’s smaller screens may be tempting. Don’t, though. You’ll lose out to those more extensive pieces, written without such an artificial restriction. Instead, leave it to your UX people, designers and developers to get the presentation right.

Write for people

Now that Google can understand the words on a page, you have to raise your writing game. Get your grammar and stylistic chops up with the best and Google should reward you for it. But don’t forget your audience. Deliver them precisely what they’re looking for.

Before you start writing, ask yourself:

  • Who is your audience?
  • Where is their pain?

Put yourself in their mind; imagine how they will react to your content.

You may want to go the whole hog and spend time developing Personas. Personally, I’m happy to use them if there’s the budget and someone else to do most of the donkey work. Otherwise, I find I can usually visualize the target group more easily than the series of sometimes-unconvincing individuals that can come out of the Persona-building exercise.

Bridging the offline past with the online present

Let’s see how the long-established rules of copywriting work in today’s SEO copywriting environment.

  • Do your research: Advertising industry king, David Ogilvy, stressed the fundamental importance of research in producing great copy some 50 years ago – decades before the age of keyword research or the internet. Don’t you forget the keyword research, though – more on that later .
  • Write an attention-grabbing headline based on related key phrases from your research.
  • Involve the reader further with subheads – don’t skimp on them, either.
  • Make it easy for the reader: In addition to inserting subheads, write in short paragraphs and short sentences. And ensure you put spaces between paragraphs.
  • Calls to action: No matter how good your copy, you’ll need a CTA to see the full return on your investment, through sign-ups, purchases or other goal fulfilments.
  • Treat editing as separate from writing: Get some time between the two processes and see your work with new eyes. If you’re writing more than a couple of screens of copy, consider printing out your work. You’ll see it entirely differently.
  • Get someone else to read your work: They’ll notice your mistakes and pick out where you’re unclear.

The key phrase is alive and well and living in the best copy

Don’t listen to people who say ‘Key phrases are dead’. They are very much alive. And they will remain so all the time we use the paradigm of typing or speaking language into a search engine. But their use in digital marketing today has changed.

While you’re doing your research, think audience and marketing. How big is the online audience (market)? Where are they? What can we find out about their demographics? What should my content be about?

If you’ve got it right, and have used the right tools (at the core of my toolset are SEMrush and Keywordtool.io), you should have the most important answers you need to write the copy.

With my main key phrases selected, I look for questions and semantically related key phrases to flavour and shape what I’m writing. I find Answer the Public invaluable here.

  • Talk to your client and/or customers: Find out about problems, solutions, products and services
  • Build a list of seed key phrases
  • Do your research
  • Select your key phrases: Be sure why they’re relevant to your audience
  • Assemble your questions and semantically connected key phrases
  • Write for your audience

You can’t sidestep key phrase research. It’s still at the core of copywriting for SEO and the framework for everything you write.

Don’t let key phrase density hang on

Back in the day, before Google understood semantics and had AI, copywriting for SEO was many times more difficult than it is today. The trick was to use the key phrases precisely as they appear in the research (give or take a stop word or two), the requisite number of times or density to help the search engine understand your content. And it all somehow had to read as if a human had written it for another human!

But why am I talking about key phrase density in 2018? It’s nothing to do with my greying beard and pathological need to relate stories about the past (honest). It’s about WordPress.

The WordPress CMS powers more than 28% of the sites on the Internet. And its most popular SEO plugin, Yoast SEO is getting millions of content producers, both site owners and professional writers to adjust their key phrase densities via Yoast’s traffic light system.

If you’re making this mistake, for everyone’s sake turn off the traffic lights and write according to the rules and advice here. You should start seeing better results.

Structure and <h> tags

Another area that people say has passed into history. I say otherwise. We’re recognizing the growing importance of UX (user experience). As a writer, UX isn’t something you can ignore, thinking it’s the domain of designers and developers. An enjoyable, involving read will be a better experience than a dry academic paper in a learned journal.

If natural, professional writing is a prerequisite for success, so is having a page that’s easy to read and understand. Think about the reader again. A big headline is the most important (use h1 tags), and a hierarchy from next biggest down to smallest (h2 to h6). So use them to make content’s structure clear and easy to navigate.

I’ve got through this entire piece without saying ‘Content is King’. To be honest, I’m not sure it is.

SEO is a much more wide-ranging game in 2018 than it was even a year or two ago. Just writing copy is unlikely to bring all the results you’re looking for. So you must consider SEO copywriting as a part of your digital marketing armory. A fundamental part, of course, but remember the lines are increasingly blurred.

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5 steps to making your content smarter

The convergence of SEO and content has been a driving force in marketing for the past few years.

A recent survey conducted by my company, BrightEdge, found that 97% of marketers view these two areas as converged disciplines.

Given that 51 percent of the traffic arriving on your website is likely from organic search, I believe that the growing understanding of the integration between these two formerly separate silos is an essential transition.

Despite this rise in understanding, however, a prominent problem remains: many marketers still struggle to get their content consumed by their target audience. BrightEdge found that a full 71 percent of marketers report that less than half of their content has been used by their target audience.

This problem not only causes tremendous frustration for brands, it also results in countless wasted work hours as well as unnecessary spending. It is time for marketers to take a more intelligent, smart approach to content marketing.

Smart content is:

  1. Discoverable: Easily found
  2. Optimized: From point of creation
  3. Profitable: Measurable

To improve content performance, brands need to stop producing content for content’s sake and instead produce smart content: content that is better suited to what users want to read, and is prepared for the SERP so those targeted users can find and engage with the material.

Smart content improves the effectiveness and ROI of the material produced by making itself more discoverable and consumable.

The data marketers gather from search can provide invaluable information about what target audiences search for and what they want to read. Through looking at this data, marketers can identify trends as well as consistently popular topics that their target audience will want to engage with in posts and articles. Data provides key insights on consumer intent and the topics marketers need to produce content that serves this audience.

When content is optimized for SEO before it goes live on the web, it will be prepared for searchers and rank higher on the SERP from the moment of publication.

This improves its overall performance and therefore the worth provided for the brand. During the content creation process, data provides insights into the customer discovery process and what different types of content are most likely to be consumed.

Smart content in context

Smart content is about taking the financial investment that companies make in their content development and channeling it towards a more effective and data-driven strategy. It is different to the content that brands already produce, because it builds off of brands’ improved awareness of customer intent signals and how site visitors interact with the content that organizations produce.

Over the past few years, the technology and capabilities involved in marketing have increased tremendously. Even on the SERP itself, we can see an impressive improvement in the ability to understand the types of content that users likely want to see, from videos to Quick Answers to images.

The better brands can similarly interpret these intent signals, the easier it becomes to produce the content that will rank highly and drive the ROI that marketers want to see.

Smart content allows marketers to publish material that is ready for the search engines right from the moment it hits the web, and propelling more traffic, engagement, and profitability. Marketers who learn how to integrate this strategy into their content creation process will have an improved understanding of what the customer wants to read, integrating their efforts across all facets of marketing.

The content will also be optimized from the moment of its creation, and therefore, the content will perform. Brands will be able to engage their readers across devices and channels, driving revenue and building the organizations.

5 steps to making your content smarter

5 steps to smarter content

1. Understand who

Make sure you know exactly who you will target with your content. Smart content revolves around creating precisely the right content for the right audience at the right time.

To tap into the immense wealth found in the consumer and market data that will allow you to accomplish this goal, you must first know exactly whom you want to target so that you can identify and develop the topics and ideas that will interest them.

2. Know what

Know what they want to read. Once you have identified your target audience, you next need to accurately gauge what they want to read. Look at what the search data tells you about topics of interest and rising trends.

3. Bake in optimization

Develop SEO-enabled content from creation that is ready to deliver across all devices.

With SEO and content converged into a single portion of the digital marketing process, all content produced should be optimized right from production so that no content needs to be re-optimized later, empowering it to rank as highly as possible from the first time it is crawled. This will increase the effectiveness and impact of the material created.

4. Measure

Measure everything about your content, aligning KPIs with your business goals and see how customers interact with your material. Data and measurement remains a key capability for successful smart content creation. Know the goal you want to accomplish with your content, such as visitor rates, rankings, or conversions, and define KPIs that will allow you to measure impact.

5. Adapt and repeat

Focus on the content that drives performance, adjusting strategies to better align with your predetermined goals as the metrics are measured. Smart content means improving effectiveness and efficiency.

Content and topics that consistently do not drive value should be reduced in the content plan while the content that does perform well is rewarded with expansion. Use the metrics to better understand how your individual customers react to the content and use those insights to drive content strategies.

Following these five steps will help you produce the right amount of content that delivers the right results.

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Share17 Chicago: The key themes and trends

Digital marketers gathered in Chicago last week for Share17, an event hosted by SEO and content marketing platform BrightEdge.

Share17 provided a welcome opportunity to take stock of where the industry stands, discuss common challenges marketers are facing, and consider the upcoming trends we should all aim to capitalize on.

The agenda for the day reflected this, through a combination of guest speakers, customer panels, and plenty of revelations about search marketing trends. The below is a recap of the key themes and SEO tips we took away from the event.

The convergence of SEO and content marketing

The key theme for the day was the convergence of SEO and content marketing, although there were also discussions on how SEO impacts all areas of modern businesses.

97% of BrightEdge customers state that SEO and content marketing are either merging or have already done so. As a result, the focus shifts to the more pragmatic matters of how this plays out at companies both large and small. At a conceptual level, there is widespread understanding of the interplay between the disciplines, but at a practical level there is still some work to do.

Although content marketing has grown to become a $75 billion industry, each piece of content needs a lot of help if it is to cut through in such a crowded market. In fact, research from BrightEdge revealed:

  • 50% of B2B content draws some engagement from its intended audience. The other 50% receives no visits or shares.
  • The picture is bleaker still for B2C content, with only 20% engaging consumers. The vast majority of B2C content is simply never seen.

SEO can help here, of course, but it is clear that something is amiss at a broader scale. The content marketing industry has not aligned demand with supply if so much of its output fails to resonate with even a small audience.

Scott Mowery from Cleveland Clinic had some tips to help ensure that content is created with conviction. Without that dedication of attention and resources, it is highly likely that the audience will not engage when so many other options are available.

Scott used the acronym C.O.P.E. (Create Once, Promote Everywhere) to distil his team’s philosophy, and it is one that is reaping dividends so far.

The core idea here is to make sure that there is a clear purpose behind every piece of content created and that it is of the highest possible quality. Then it can be repurposed for different media formats and delivered to an audience through a focused amplification plan. With a projected 110 million visits in 2017, this plan seems to be working for Cleveland Clinic.

SEO is very closely aligned to business strategy

Throughout the day, there were nods to the prominent position SEO has assumed within businesses due to its ties with content marketing. This is due to the fact that content sits at the center of marketing plans, while marketing channels are ways of promoting this message and directing traffic towards content.

SEO is a fusion of medium and message, as it is simply impossible to rank in competitive industries without creating something of value that appeals to an audience.

Working in SEO in 2017 therefore requires a broad range of skill sets, from the technical through to the strategic and the interpersonal. Frankly, SEO fails if it exists in a vacuum and it requires input from across departments to reach its full potential.

Guest speaker John Hall had an interesting take on what this means for the career prospects of SEOs. He said that he sees more SEO professionals take up senior leadership positions than ever before, based on their ability to view business problems from a range of angles.

The changing nature of SEO has made it hard to pin down with concrete definitions, but that fluidity also creates marketers that are adept at managing the complexities of the modern business landscape.

SEO professionals need to have influence, both internally and externally, to get this message across.

John Hall shared some fascinating insights into the psychology of influencing people, whether within a company or when communicating with customers. His presentation revealed the importance of making a genuine emotional connection with people to stay top of mind in the long term. That brings with it a certain vulnerability, but it is imperative if we are to gain the trust of our audience.

Share17 Chicago: The key themes and trends

Some of this may feel very intuitive, so it is therefore worth asking why we fail to make these connections more frequently. A narrow focus on gaining short-term ROI restricts the potential for brands to make emotional connections over time, but the most profitable brands achieve exactly this aim.

Such campaigns have typically been the domain of brand marketers but as media spend continues to move online, there should be a seat at the table for SEO too.

Consumers are in control

In the age of cord-cutters and ad blockers, the message for brands is clear: consumers are in control. 28% of US Internet users used ad blockers this year, as the digital advertising industry struggles to balance monetization with user experience.

This dynamic is playing out with particular significance on mobile devices, where consumer expectations continue to heighten. BrightEdge research found that 79% of results for the same query differ across mobile and desktop devices.

Concurrently, the growth in queries containing the phrase ‘near me’ is slowing. This is driven by implicit intent; users are coming to expect that Google knows where they are and will tailor the results accordingly without direction.

From Google’s perspective, the core focus now is on speed. To keep consumers in the Google search ecosystem on mobile, it is essential to provide an app-like experience via search results pages.

We have seen this recently with developments like AMP and app indexation, but there is still a sense that marketers need to place more emphasis on providing a faster digital experience. 82% of smartphone users consult their phones while in a store deciding what to buy, so every second of extra load time can be costly.

In fact, as Eugene Feygin from Quill.com discussed, Amazon has calculated that an extra second of load time across their site would result in $1.6 billion in lost revenue per annum.

Share17 Chicago: The key themes and trends

This creates a multitude of moments of need or want throughout each day, with the average user now spending 2 hours per day on a mobile device. The approach of applying broad demographic groups or personas is no longer fit for purpose if we want to put consumers first.

A more accurate and profitable approach understands the importance of being in the right place when people need information. That consumer journey will differ by brand and by industry; the companies that prosper over the next few years will comprehend this and plan their content marketing accordingly.

Share17 Chicago: The key themes and trendsThis provides a robust structure to an SEO campaign, driven by genuine consumer demand. That structure needs to be populated with content that connects, however, and this is where we should recall the lessons learned from John Hall’s presentation. It is only by investing ourselves in our content that we will provide something of value that stands out in such a competitive landscape.

Throughout the day, there was a sense of this being an exciting moment for the SEO industry, but also one that requires a strategic mindset to comprehend and capitalize on so many diverse areas of activity.

Scott Mowery from Cleveland Clinic shared a helpful mantra that his team goes by to keep efforts focused in what is an increasingly complex market. If an initiative is not digital, mobile and measurable, don’t do it.

This seems an apt summary of the core themes from Share17 in Chicago, and sage advice for all search marketers.