Creating content that is ‘SEO-friendly’ is something that almost every marketer should be striving for in 2020, but there needs to be a delicate balance between optimising for search engines and catering to an audience’s wants and needs. Fortunately, the line between the two is blurring.
SEO-friendly content is simply content that is crafted in a way that helps it to perform better in search engine rankings.
Why is this important? 76% of marketers say that organic traffic is the number one metric for determining the success of campaigns and that being more visible in search listings is arguably the best way of achieving this.
Google notes: “Organic or word-of-mouth buzz is what helps build your site’s reputation with both users and Google, and it rarely comes without quality content.”
However, running tangent to this is the fact that 52% also believe that creating content that generates traffic is their single biggest challenge.
The solution to this common conundrum is to adopt an SEO-based mindset during the planning phase that continues through to creation and then publication. By considering SEO at the very beginning, you can optimise accordingly and create valuable content that attracts new audiences, generates leads and drives traffic consistently.
Where’s the best place to start?
If you have just partnered with a content agency and are unsure about what format to use, you can start your SEO journey by first determining the search intent of the people you want to target. This will then help you to identify whether, for example, a blog, video or infographic would work best.
Search intent is a relatively new concept, but it can be broken down into four common patterns of behaviour or intent:
- When a searcher wants specific information, this is ‘informational’, and queries include words such as ‘best’, ‘tutorial’, ‘guide’ and ‘how’.
- When a searcher wants to visit a specific site, this is ‘navigational’, and queries include brand, product and service names.
- When a searcher is considering a purchase, this is ‘commercial’, and queries include words such as ‘comparison’ and ‘cheapest’.
- When a searcher wants to buy something, this is ‘transactional’, and queries include words such as ‘buy’ and ‘coupon’.
You probably already have a few topics in mind for your content campaign, so you just need to find out how people on the internet are searching for these topics on Google. Taking a look at what your competitors are doing via a manual search is a useful way to conduct research. Is there an abundance of how-tos or tutorials?
If you think that searchers will make informational queries to find your content, then you may want to craft a compelling guide in the form of a blog. On the other hand, a navigational query may be best suited to new copy on a product page.
While this is not advanced SEO, search intent is a big part of search success, so just taking the time to consider keywords, topics and how they align with intent can really improve your SEO from the get-go.
Optimise for on-page SEO
Now that you have matched the main body of your content with search intent, you can move on to some of the more technical factors that will make your pages more SEO-friendly. These factors include things such as the URL, image optimisation and header tags.
Visual content is one area that can be overlooked when there is a focus on the quality of written content. Even if you have an excellent article or blog, you need to intersperse blocks of text with an image or two. This is also true on social media. Twitter found that posts with images drive a 35% uptick in retweets.
Whether you decide to insert stock photos or really go the extra mile by adding a first-party infographic, visual content needs to be optimised for search. You can do this by resizing images, creating descriptive image names and adding relevant alt tags.
Reducing file sizes is an easy fix that can be implemented by using even the most basic video editors and upload tools. Just a simple resizing can reduce the ‘weight’ of your pages, which will boost load times and improve the overall user experience. Both of these factors will soon be important signals for search rankings.
Using alt tags is also important as this text will relay the appearance and function of an image to Google. This context helps its search engine crawlers to index images properly. Alt text should be relatively short at around 125 characters, include relevant keywords, and be truly descriptive of what the image represents.
Don’t forget about the URL and interlinking
While the URL doesn’t have a major impact on ranking in search, you should make it relevant and readable so that people know what content lies within. An optimised URL can also be viewed as more trustworthy, especially if it includes a site’s hierarchy within it.
Google recommends using lowercase letters, being concise and descriptive, and adding punctuation in the form of hyphens rather than underscores.
Finally, you can round off your SEO-centric strategy by adjusting your internal links. Google notes: “Some pages are known because Google has already crawled them before. Other pages are discovered when Google follows a link from a known page to a new page.”
Linking to relevant pages on your site within blogs and other forms of content helps to build a site structure that is of great value to both search engines and the people trying to navigate your website. More than half of marketers say that using related links is best as these can flesh out a subject or answer more specific queries.
Let your agency do the rest
Working with an agency is an effective shortcut for SEO-friendly campaigns as a professional third party will be able to create and optimise titles, meta descriptions, subheadings and the main body of the content specifically for search.
All you need to do is align search intent before you start and then get a webmaster to optimise technical factors after the creative phase to publish content that will be valuable to your audience and attract that all-important organic traffic to your website.