If we can agree that the ultimate purpose of marketing is to attract attention and generate interest, then combining SEO and content marketing is a no-brainer for smart brands and marketers.
SEO is all about creating brand visibility – it ensures that customers can find your website. Engaging content is what will make them click and stay on your website.
SEO and content marketing, when combined effectively and intelligently, become an unbeatable one-two punch that defines the experience – and success – of your brand.
Today’s digital world is insanely competitive; it’s always shifting and evolving. More than a billion websites are competing for the attention of today’s consumers. Millions of new pieces of content are generated every minute of every day – blog posts, whitepapers, infographics, videos, GIFs, social media updates, and much, much more.
All of this is done in the hopes of influencing people when they are in the market to buy a product or a service. Customers are seeking out solutions on their own terms. They find brands using any number different devices, channels, and platforms. In fact, 66 percent of customers use more than one channel during the entire purchase decision journey.
To meet and convert customer demand, it’s up to brands to be visible, be persuasive, and wow consumers at every possible micro-moment with amazing experiences. Content is the key to building these relationships. It should encourage readers to think deeply and it should invoke emotions.
As much as people like to think their choices are based on logic or concrete facts, emotions and psychology are important parts of making decisions. People remember experiences, not text. That’s why stories resonate. Creating content and stories that resonate with an audience is key to content engagement.
Content and SEO: One in the same?
Because so much of the buyer’s journey happens via digital, brands must have content that is optimized, engaging, and reaching customers wherever they are. And to do this, marketers must optimize for intent.
The types of searches users conduct can help marketers learn a lot about their intent. Searches typically fall into one of three types:
- Navigational: The user knows a brand and uses Google or another search engines to find that specific website (e.g., “Microsoft”).
- Informational: The user wants to learn something about a company, product, or service (e.g., “how much does Microsoft Word cost”).
- Transactional: The user enters a highly commercial query, signalling that he or she is ready (or nearly ready) to buy a product or service and (e.g., “buy Microsoft Office 2016”).
By combining SEO and content marketing efforts into one function, marketers can influence consumers whether they are in the discovery phase or purchase stage.
According to new research from BrightEdge (my company) over 97% of digital marketers now believe that SEO and Content Marketing have become one and the same.
SEO is vital to content discovery. Discovery tends to start via the organic search channel. Did you know that organic search:
- Drives 51 percent of all visits to B2B and B2C websites
- Has no direct media cost and extremely high returns
- Impacts all digital marketing channels and offline sales
- Builds brand awareness
- Helps increase revenue?
So it’s critical to identify keywords that demonstrate commercial intent. With this data, marketers can better understand the intent of customers and create and optimize intelligent content that is more likely to convert.
Combining SEO and content isn’t just good in theory. Cross-channel marketing is helping marketers achieve a higher ROI. Integration results in higher conversion rates, engagement, customer retention, and brand advocacy.
It’s critical to understand what will resonate with customers and help influence them during the decision-making journey. But to create the intelligent content that engages and converts, marketers need intelligent data. You need to know who your target audience is – their ages, demographics, locations, interests, habits, and preferences.
How do you market with intent by combining SEO and content marketing into one function?
Developing a powerful content optimization program takes time and careful planning, but there are five things marketers can do to establish a strong foundation.
1. Know your audience
Everything a brand does must revolve around the customer – the products, experience, and marketing strategy. Defining an audience allows marketers to create content on interesting and relevant topics that will grow loyal audiences and achieve business objectives.
Yet, a surprising number of brands – 80 percent – say they don’t know their customers,
Brands that intimately understand the motivations, pain points, and processes of their audience are best set up to deliver better and more impactful content that helps drive revenue, growth, and long-term sustainability.
Here are three keys to marketing with intent to your audience:
- See how people engage. Examine how customers consume and engage with your content. Identify what generates interest and results in people taking action. Adjust and optimize content as needed.
- Think about the customer journey. Consider how customers engage with different types of content across channels and devices, at different stages, and in different states of mind. Understand conversion and buying behavior as customers move between devices (smartphones, tablets, and desktops).
- Do ongoing customer analysis. What customers are interested in or desire today can quickly change. Performing regular analysis of customer-brand interactions. Listen and gather insights to keep up with the trends and continue delivering the right experiences.
2. Have a purpose
Just as a brand needs a mission statement – a stated aspirational or inspirational purpose for existing – content also must have a purpose. Every piece of content you create should have a reason for existing. Generally, the purpose of content is to inform, educate, persuade, entertain, or inspire.
Keep purpose top of mind when developing a content strategy by incorporating the following:
- The goal of creating and publishing content is to become a valuable resource and tell memorable stories. Incorporate customer pain points and interests into the content strategy and creation process. Also, remember these three Es:
- Experiment: Try different content types.
- Experience: Make your audience feel.
- Engage: Keep them coming back for more.
- Consistency: A brand’s voice should mimic the way its customers speak, whether it’s conversational, edgy, or professional. This voice should be consistent across all content, regardless of who creates it or where it’s published.
- Goals: Set realistic and concrete goals for your content, whether it’s to drive awareness, organic search traffic and rankings, social engagement, conversions, or revenue.
3. Create & optimize content
After nailing down a target audience and a purpose, the next step is creating and optimizing content for maximum visibility. Failing to optimize content is a suicide mission. People who can’t find content, no matter how great it may be, can’t engage with that content – or the brand that created it.
Every piece of content can always be improved through optimization, whether that content is for your website, social media, or email campaigns. Some tips:
- Choose relevant topics: Content should be customer-centric, not brand- or business-centric. Topics should appeal based on demographics, behaviors, and interests.
- Use the right keywords: Ditch the corporate jargon. Use words people actually use when searching for your products or services.
- Map content to specific personas and purchase funnels: Customer journey mapping helps set up content for success from the start.
- Mobile optimization: This is especially critical for mobile. Brands that fail to optimize for mobile get 68 percent less traffic.
4. Combine quality & quantity
Many marketers believe consumers are simply overwhelmed by all the content we’re creating. After all, U.S. adults consume an astounding 10 hours and 39 minutes of media every single day. According to Smart Insights, every minute 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube; nearly 150,000 emails are sent; nearly 1,500 new WordPress posts are published; 3.3 million new Facebook posts are published; and 448,000 new tweets appear on Twitter.
This had led many marketers to one conclusion: focus on quality, not quantity. It makes sense in theory. After all, more content doesn’t usually mean better content.
Yes, there is an enormous amount of content on the web in aggregate. Global Internet traffic is forecast to hit an unfathomable 2.3 zettabytes by 2020, according to Cisco.
However, the average person has no desire to consume every piece of content that exists on the web. They want to consume intelligent content that is personalized, relevant, and helpful to them.
- Does quality matter? Absolutely! Poorly crafted content is ineffective, won’t help you attain your goals, and can turn off potential customers.
- Does quantity matter? Yes! Consistently telling stories and starting conversations with customers through memorable and compelling content helps keep brands top of mind.
5. Measure results & iterate
That which isn’t measured can’t be improved. Luckily, marketers have access to a wealth of real-time data to gain content performance insights and track metrics to determine ROI.
Brands can learn from every content campaign, whether it failed or achieved its goals.
- Content failures: Compare underperforming content to previously successful content (both your own and that of third parties). See where it falls short. Pay close attention to traffic, conversions, and revenue attributed to or influenced by content.
- Content wins: Figure out what made your best content stand out. Try to replicate the success and turn anomalies into more regular occurrences.
Below is a great framework on how best to approach SEO and content in your organization:
Optimization is critical to maximize the value of content. The right audience must be able to find the content. And the content must drive business results. Ensuring your content is search engine-friendly and optimized across the buyer’s journey is critical to the success of a combined content and SEO team.
Good content is important, but it also needs to rank high on SERPs if you want to reach a wider audience with it. Here’s how to create search engine-friendly content.
Quality is always important when producing new content, but it’s the SEO that can boost your efforts of reaching a target audience.
SEO-friendly content doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming, provided that you understand how on-page SEO can work alongside your content.
Here’s how to create content that both your audience and search engines will enjoy.
Create original content
There’s no point in creating new content if it’s not authentic enough to stand out. Even if you come up with an idea from a different source, it’s still up to you to offer your unique perspective that will add value to the particular topic.
Copyscape is a plagiarism checker that can help you test your site’s content for its originality. Duplicate content, by and large, is not appreciated by search engines and it won’t help you rank higher in SERPs.
If you find it difficult to come up with new content ideas, here are 21 quick ways to find inspiration for your next topic.
Optimize the title
Your headline is among the first things that users will come across when carrying out a search. This makes them important, and it’s useful to brainstorm as many variations as you can until you land on the best candidate.
Using your focus keyword in the headline can also be a good idea, but don’t try too hard to include it. Use power words and avoid redundancy to create a clear and appealing result. Aim for a headline of 55-60 characters, as this is what Google will display on the SERP.
Also, make sure that your URL is relevant to the title, rather than a sequence of numbers that only makes it more complicated.
Focus on structure
It’s not just the content, but also its structure, that helps search engines decide on the results they’ll display first. Thus, a clear structure with headings and paragraphs that facilitate reading are preferred both from a user perspective and also from a search perspective.
Headings also help search engines get a quick overview of your content, which is why it can be beneficial to feature your focus keyword at least once.
Whether you follow the structure of H1 to H6, or simply add H2 and H3 headings at relevant points throughout the text, consistent structure in your pieces of content is appreciated.
Keywords are less often used nowadays as the first signal to indicate what your post is about, but they are still helpful to offer an overview of the topic you’re focusing on.
Keyword research is still useful when trying to decide on the most interesting topics for your audience. Keywords can still be part of your content, provided that they are added in context and at the right balance. There’s no need to sacrifice the quality of your content to include more keywords, as keyword stuffing can lead to the opposite of the result you want.
Moz Keyword Explorer
Aim for readability
The readability of your content has to do with the simplicity of its language, the lack of grammatical or syntactical errors, and the sentence structure.
Online readability tests allow you to learn the “reading age” someone needs to understand your content, and they depend on:
- sentence length
- number of syllables per words
- frequency of passive voice
Despite the different readability formulas, you can still gain valuable insights on your writing that become even more useful if you want to target a wide audience.
Is your content suitable for the audience you want to target?
Include internal and external links
Internal links can help you prove your authority in a particular field by creating a logical sequence from one post to the other. This may lead to a series of posts that offer additional value, making it easier for search engines to understand your key topics.
External, or outbound, links indicate that you are well aware of the topics you’re writing about, to the extent that you’re ready to use further sources to support your content. It’s more useful to link to reputable sources, as these links have bigger credibility.
Beware, excessive linking, either internal or external can lead to the exact opposite results. Make sure that every link serves its own purpose in your content.
The optimization of your images provides an additional opportunity to show up in search results, this time in image search.
As visual content becomes more and more prominent, it cannot be left out of SEO. Luckily it’s not time-consuming to optimise your images. All you have to do is keep in mind a few simple tips:
- Always keep the file name relevant
- Be careful with the file sizes, as they affect the page speed
- Don’t forget to add alt text, or else a title for your image
- Think like a user when naming your images
- Focus on quality images and avoid generic ones
Focus on the user
Every piece of content should have the user in mind. This also applies to SEO. You can’t create your next piece of content, or carry out keyword research, without knowing your audience.
What does your audience expect from you?
How can you enhance the user experience?
Does your site sabotage your content?
All the questions above can be answered by paying closer attention to your site, your content, and your target audience. Google rewards pages that focus on user experience, so never underestimate the power of the user.
If you want to create SEO-friendly content, here’s what you need to remember:
- Focus on user intent
- Be authentic
- Come up with the best headlines for your content
- Pay attention to the content’s structure
- Use keywords wisely
- Edit, proofread and aim for readability
- Use both internal and external links to add further value
- Optimize all your images to gain new opportunities for search ranking.
Creating and launching a fully-fledged website is not enough to get your brand noticed by itself.
In order to improve your online visibility, you will need to carry out SEO (search engine optimization) practices.
If you want to achieve a higher ranking on Google and other search engines, you’ll need to get serious about search engine optimization. Luckily, if you use WordPress as your Content Management System (CMS), there are a number of in-built features that make optimizing your content for search significantly easier.
So what is it that makes WordPress such a strong platform for SEO? Let’s take a look.
1. Permalink Structure
Permalinks are the permanent URLs for your web pages, posts, categories and tag archives. It is the web address used to link to your individual blog post and web page. By default, permalinks look something like this:
This structure makes it difficult for search engine crawlers to read and index your web pages and posts. That means you will need to make it more accessible for both search engines and we visitors.
Fortunately, WordPress allows you to customize your URL permalinks for each of your posts and pages, adding a clear description of your page’s content as well as any relevant keywords – this makes your URL structure search-engine friendly.
To change your default permalink URLs, you will need to go to Settings → Permalink. You can change it either using /post-name/, or /category/post-name. You can also set it using date and name, but I would prefer you to use “Post Name” to optimize your permalink structure for search engines. The custom permalink URL structure will look something like this:
Tip: After creating a custom permalink structure, make sure you save all the changes.
2. Easy to create SEO-friendly titles
The “title tags”, or the title of a blog post, is one of the crucial aspects when it comes to getting a better ranking on search engine result pages. The title tags not only tell search engines what your web page is all about, but also leave the first impression on the people who see your post title in the search results.
Since search engines focus more on the initial words of the titles, make sure you add your keywords at the start of your title tag – this will help you rank better. So, WordPress allows you to optimize your title tags for SEO using the All-in-One-SEO-Pack plugin:
After installing this plugin, you will need to access your WordPress admin panel → go to Settings → All in One SEO Pack and add the following:
- Post Title: %post_title%
- Page Title: %page_title%
This will help you create unique, engaging, relevant, and search engine friendly title tags for your site, which in turn increase your CTR as well as page views.
3. Creating unique Meta Descriptions for SEO
A meta description is a snippet of content that you can see under the page link within a Google search result page. It gives a brief summary of your blog post or a web page to both the search engine bots as well as web audiences. This will help you get better ranking on SERPs.
It means that creating unique, engaging and search engine friendly meta descriptions for all your posts and pages can improve your visibility across search engines, and can also help you get a higher click-through rate.
The default WordPress settings makes it easy for you to optimize your meta descriptions for Google and other search engines. Better yet, you can use the Yoast SEO plugin or All in One SEO Pack to automatically create SEO-friendly meta descriptions for your WordPress site.
4. It’s easy to generate an XML Sitemap in WordPress
WordPress allows you to create and submit an XML sitemap easily to search engine webmaster tools. An XML sitemap allows you to tell Google and other search engine bots about all your web pages and posts exist on your site. It simply allows search engine crawlers to read and index your site quickly and easily.
Luckily, WordPress offers a ton of plugins that can help you generate an XML sitemap for all your pages, posts, custom post types, categories, and tags. You can use Yoast SEO, or Google XML sitemap plugins to let search engines better index your WordPress site.
For an example: We are using Yoast SEO plugin to generate an XML sitemap for your WordPress site. After installing and activating the plugin, you will need to enable the XML Sitemaps. To do that, go to the SEO → XML Sitemaps and click on the checkbox to enable this functionality.
Make sure you configure it and save the settings. This will generate the sitemap for your WordPress site.
5. Use of categories and tags
The main purpose of categories and tags are to help web visitors navigate your blogs quickly and easily, which in turn, help you get a better search ranking (if used properly). In a nutshell, categories are the table of contents for your blog, while tags are the index that helps a search engine to interpret your blog’s subject matter with ease.
Both the categories and tags help you create a better structure and allow Google to notice it while indexing the blog posts of your WordPress. So, make sure you have all the subcategories, and have a well-structured post to make it as easy as possible for search engine crawlers to “read” your content.
To add categories, you will need to go to the Posts → Categories and Tickets → Labels.
Ensure that you use the best tricks to optimize the categories and tags in WordPress for SEO.
6. Simple and clean code
The code behind WordPress is simple and clean, allowing search engine bots to index your site with ease. Since it is an open source platform, you will see constant modifications in terms of security, performance, and functionalities to let Google and other search engines to position your site higher up the SERP.
Although WordPress already performs well in this particular area, making sure that you install well-coded themes and plugins to ensure the high quality of your WordPress site.
7. Optimization of Images for SEO
If you want to drive more web traffic towards your site, then you can’t overlook image optimization. It is one of the crucial aspects of good SEO.
Image optimization is all about creating engaging, relevant image titles and alt text so that you will get better visibility on Google and other image search engines. WordPress makes it easy to add titles and alt text to your images when you upload them to its CMS, so that image optimization is simply a matter of filling in the right fields.
8. Linking to related posts
Allow search engines to crawl your older posts quickly and easily using the related posts plugin. It is a great WordPress plugin that can help you add a link to related posts within your new content, thereby increasing your SEO capabilities with ease.
The plugin makes it incredibly simple to add related posts to your blog posts and pages, re-ordering related posts via drag and drop functionality, without generating a single piece of code.
Other key points on WordPress SEO:
(a) Since Google loves fast-loading websites, WordPress makes it easy for you to optimize the speed of your site by:
- Compressing the CSS and JS files
- Minimizing HTTP requires
- Optimizing image file sizes
- Using Caching
- Use of CDN services
- Upgrading the core WordPress, installed themes and plugins on a regular basis.
(b) WordPress enables you to create a new page with fresh, updated and improved content to help you get better ranking on SERPs.
(c) In case you forget to optimize the permalink of an existing/older blog post, then you can tweak the slug to a more relevant and search engine-friendly URL.
If you want to avoid a 404 error, then make sure you add a 301 permanent redirect to the older version of your post. This will redirect your web visitors and search engines to the new URL, which in turn will boost your pageviews.
If you use WordPress as your Content Management System (CMS), these tips should hopefully help to you use it in the most effective way to boost your search ranking.
All you need to do is understand the out-of-the-box WordPress SEO functionalities and how get the most out from them, and you can drive quality traffic towards your website.
In part one a few weeks ago, we discussed what brand TLDs (top level domains) are, which brands have applied for them, and why they might be important.
Today, we’ll take an in-depth look at the potential benefits for brands, and explore the challenges brand TLDs could help solve.
Content produced in association with Neustar.
Recap: what brands are doing
Tech powerhouse Google has brought together content from more than 19 existing blogs under one roof at www.blog.google, and this site is now Google’s corporate blog. It has also rolled out www.environment.google, which hosts information about the company’s environmental and sustainability work, as well as its future goals.
Financial services brands have followed suit, with the homepage of UK bank Barclays, for example, now found at www.home.barclays instead of the historically used barclays.com URL. Statistically, more than half of all brand TLDs fall into either financial or technology verticals.
Other recognizable brands including Canon have also made the transition. Perhaps seeking to further separate its global and regional brand propositions, Canon has shifted its global homepage canon.com/global to global.canon.
Brand TLDs are generally popular among large multinational companies – more than 40% of brand TLDs have been applied for by Fortune 500 companies, including BMW, which now displays its vision for the next 100 years at www.next100.bmw. Other companies using TLDs include Dell, Deloitte, Nike, NFL, Chanel, Microsoft, Audi and many more.
.brand: the benefits
When generic TLDs (gTLDs) like .guru, and .ninja were authorised by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Name and Numbers (ICANN), there was much debate over the potential SEO benefits. One notable and much-publicized example was www.coffee.club, which ranked on page one of US SERPs for ‘Coffee Club’ just a week after launching.
However, Google was quick to quash speculation of gTLD favouritism in its rankings. In July 2015, webmaster trends analyst John Mueller published a post to Google’s Webmaster Central Blog entitled ‘Google’s handling of new top level domains’, to clear up misconceptions surrounding gTLDs. He did so in two short sentences: “Our systems treat new gTLDs like other gTLDs (like .com & .org). Keywords in a TLD do not give any advantage or disadvantage in search.”
In other words, second-guessing Google’s search algorithms has become a fool’s errand. So why have so many major brands got on board? Well, a .brand TLD has several other benefits that make it an attractive prospect.
1. Web usability
Shorter, simpler URLs are more memorable and easier to understand. Removing the .com means the new URL contains more salient information in a smaller space, and front loads the URL with the most important information first.
This makes the link’s destination clearer, requiring the reader to expend less effort to understand it. For example, when navigating to the Microsoft website, a user is likely to already know which brand or product they’re after.
So the most important piece information is the part of the website you’re on. The new URL www.surface.microsoft delivers this information more efficiently and more intuitively than, say, www.microsoft.com/surface.
This may seem trivial, but when it comes to web usability, these tiny differences are crucial. Google itself has weighed in with its number one piece of advice for URL structure: keep it as simple as possible.
Semantically meaningful URLs are just as important as simple ones – both make URLs more user-friendly. Having a short, meaningful URL can improve click-through rates from link sharing. By comparison, complicated, meaningless URLs are off-putting to users as they don’t clearly indicate their destination.
Another benefit of .brand URLs is simply reducing the length of the URL. Greater creativity ‘before the dot’ means less detail is required with multiple slashes and long paths following the Top-Level Domain. Shorter URLs often go hand in hand with higher rankings, although there are other factors at play. Rand Fishkin, head of SEO website Moz, explains URL structure best practice in this Quora answer:
“We’ve done a bunch of analysis on this and shorter URLs are certainly more correlated with higher rankings. In our rank modeling, it appears to be a small input, but things like dynamic strings (the use of the ‘?’ character) appear to be surprisingly negative. My advice would be to worry less about length and more about making them static, using keywords intelligently (but not in a spammy fashion) and ensuring that they’re also usable and sharable.”
2. Brand differentiation
Brands are always looking for ways to stand out from their competitors. Generic TLDs like .info and .cafe achieve this to some extent, but a .brand TLD allows a company to really own its web presence, and helps to create a unique experience for customers using their brand each and every time.
What’s more, the limited availability of .brand TLDs will temporarily help brands differentiate themselves from those that failed to acquire them. With only around 600 brands signed up and a second application round not expected for another few years, owning a .brand TLD has become something of a badge of honour and a potential competitive advantage.
Finally, .brand TLDs are perfect for creating microsites for individual products, services or events. Compartmentalizing in this way gives brands greater scope to optimize and personalize the experience of users landing on the site.
A speculative example would be the next iPhone launch, which will likely have its own dedicated microsite. This resource allows Apple to tightly control how they roll out their product online, and gives them a unique, information-heavy, and shareable URL – which could be something like www.iphone8.apple. Those taking care of Apple’s intellectual property and domain names will be relieved not having to worry about the availability of domains in the future or keeping product names silent for fear of losing out or expensive buy backs.
4. Safety and security
For large brands, copycat websites are a serious concern. A negative experience on a fake version of a brand’s website can damage the original’s reputation, despite the brand having no hand in creating it.
A .brand URL safeguards that brand’s supply chain by offering a guarantee to customers that they’re on an authentic website. As the brand manages all second-level domains, only the brand itself can use their TLD. This is good news for brands that rely heavily on consumer trust, such as those in the financial services and technology industries. It’s no surprise, then, that more than half of all brand TLDs fall into these verticals – .sony, .google and .dell are just a few examples.
The road is long for .brand TLDs, but there certainly seems to be significant benefits for brands and consumers.
To learn more, join our webinar hosted by ClickZ Intelligence, Neustar and featuring other industry experts from Major League Baseball and VaynerMedia on February 28 at 2pm EST / 11am PT. We’ll cover everything you need to know about branded TLDs, exploring their history, benefits, limitations, implications and everything in between. Click here to register your interest.
This content has been produced in association with Neustar. Click here to read our collaborative content guidelines. Views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of ClickZ.
Mozilla Firefox recently made some news by announcing that it was ending its decade long relationship with Google as its default search engine. Instead, Mozilla will embark on a five-year partnership with Yahoo. Of course those who prefer Google can still switch back since a pre-installed search option will be included. Overall, however, this is exciting news for Yahoo – and more importantly, Bing. For those uninitialized, Yahoo’s search engine is powered by the Microsoft product. And now that it has become the default search engine for Firefox, maybe it’s time to begin taking Bing a bit more seriously. Why Bing […]
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