Getting the Most From Your Content Marketing in Search
Every piece of marketing collateral must pull its weight. This includes content marketing pieces. Content marketing is great for attracting readers to your site and building brand authority, but how do you get the most from it in search? It’s a trickier question than it first appears.
We all remember the days when people wrote web pages just to get the attention of search engines. Getting that top rank on Google was the goal of the day. That’s still a worthy goal, but now content pieces have to be appealing to both searchers and to search engines. Search engines also take into account user behavior when ranking pages. The top spot isn’t just a technical challenge. It’s a social one.
Content marketing pieces have to appeal on three levels:
- The reader
- The search engine
- The reader’s social network
Here’s what needs to be done to get the most from your content marketing in a search in these domains.
1. The Reader: Identify the Questions
The goal of most content marketing pieces is to educate or entertain the reader enough for them to trust your brand. That trust leads to conversions, which leads to profits. Search engines do not buy from you. People do.
Thus, a smarter approach to building content marketing pieces isn’t to target specific keywords. Instead, they should target specific pain points and questions that your audience has.
Google has taken this approach on its search engine pages. You may have seen little question blocks beneath search engine results with related questions to a query. These are called featured snippets. Clicking on those brings up small segments of other websites with what Google thinks is the answer to the question. These blocks can sometimes shoot even higher than the top position in Google.
You can start using the same approach on your blog posts. Find out a question that your customers ask a lot and write a post about it that answers the question. You may also want to read this article from Moz to learn more about featured snippets.
2. The Search Engine: Don’t Forget The Basics
SEO still isn’t dead yet, but it’s certainly changed. Search engines still have to crawl websites to get the information they need to rank a page or a domain. Therefore, you have to make sure your SEO is up to the task.
Search engine optimization specialists are well aware that these days SEO is not about keyword stuffing (thank goodness). Instead, it’s about providing as much clear information to the search crawlers as you can about your brand and your site. Every person creating content marketing pieces should be familiar with Google’s recommended SEO guidelines. You would be amazed if you knew how many websites forget these basics. But overdoing the guidelines is not a way to go either, sometimes what people do is, make sure the content is perfectly clear to Google crawlers but doesn’t make much sense to your website visitors. In this case your website will have a poor UX, that will also in its turn hurt your site. So when following the guidelines, always have your visitors and the google bots in mind at the same time, it’s all about finding the perfect balance.
Let’s take a look at just one part of these recommendations, the part about formatting images for SEO. Proper alt tags for your images let people who can’t view your images know what was meant to be displayed there. These alt tags are also used by search engines to classify pictures. Alt text can even be considered anchor text if your image is hyperlinked. Alt tags and image file names should be short and descriptive. You can also include an image sitemap file which will aid Google in classifying your images correctly.
The recommended SEO guidelines are a short read but it’s packed with information. Only a few websites follow all of the recommendations in the guide, so it’s worth your time.
3. The Reader’s Social Network: Sharing
You do not need to be on every single social network pushing your content out for social media success. This is actually a bad tactic. The true metric that counts from a business perspective is conversions. It does not matter how many likes/shares/retweets/whatever your content gets if the consumers of that content only stay on the social media site. The viewers need to transition from the social media site to your site so they can convert.
The best way that we have found to do this is to make it as easy as possible for other people to share content from your webpage to different social media networks. This is usually done through a set of sharing buttons attached to each content marketing piece in an obvious location. The sharing buttons you use should match which types of content are consumed on the site.
For instance, sharing article titles on Twitter isn’t always the best tactic. It can be hard to squeeze in enough interest from the headline alone. A better tactic is to put in retweetable boxes that send out a key point in the article that will grab attention. These boxes will automatically put in a link back to your article into the tweet.
If your articles lack pictures, then Facebook isn’t the best place to go. Facebook uses photos (and increasingly video) to mark spaces between posts. If you do plan on putting up a sharing button for Facebook, then the photo, the headline, and the first paragraph need to be in accord so that when someone clicks the button it looks good on the other end.
We’re not saying that you should ditch all of your social media channel pages and rely just on shares from your website. But too many companies use their channel pages as billboards rather than as places to communicate with the audience. Your channel pages are where the real social connections between your brand and your audience can be built. Each comment and post is a tiny piece of specialized content marketing all of its own. Indeed, a single post can make or break public perception of your brand. Look at Arby’s for a positive example, and Applebee’s for a negative one.
If you take these three domains into account when measuring content marketing performance, you’ll be sure to see which pieces perform well and which ones don’t. This will help you create content marketing pieces that maximize ROI and bring conversions.