One of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to search optimization is that it takes mass amounts of content in order for a website to rank favorably. To this very day, I still see businesses taking the quantity over quality approach…even though they’re getting poor results and very little customer engagement. So maybe your content marketing plan for 2017 should be a little bit different.
As I’ve said at least a hundred times a month to my clients, “Content is King.” It always was and it always will be…it is the #1 ranking factor on any website for a reason. Because when people perform a Google search, they’re looking for very specific answers; either your content answers their questions or it doesn’t.
And when your content fails, then the user is off to find a different website that can help them. You’d better believe that the search engines notice as well, and that’s why customer engagement is the #2 ranking factor. Google ultimately doesn’t decide which website’s content is the best- you and I do through our actions when searching.
Why Does Quality Content Always Win?
Let’s say you go to a farmer’s market and one particular stand is selling apples for three dollars each. These aren’t just any apples, mind you; they are beautiful, flawless pieces of fruit that are fit to be served at a royal engagement. Their sweet nectar and crispness are like nothing you’ve ever tasted before, and they’re easily the best apples you’ve ever eaten in your life.
Naturally, there are dozens of people crowded around that vendor’s fruit stand because he has the best fruit at the whole market.
As you approach to make your purchase though, you notice a young boy standing in an alleyway with a huge basket. He’s holding a sign that says, “Special! 25 Apples for a Dollar!” and you have to admit, they look pretty darn tasty from afar. But once you approach the boy, you see that many of the apples are rotten and darkened with age, plus there are several worms and other insects crawling through the mass of apples.
Focusing on Content that Really Matters
So as a website owner, would you rather have one piece of golden fruit that everyone seems to want? Or do you want a large variety of unappealing fruits that can be found almost anywhere?
Well, let me let you in on a little secret…Google wants those perfect apples.
Each time you post new content to your website, the search engines study it for hundreds of specific metrics. Everything from word complexity to formatting to customer engagement is studied under a microscope to find the perfect blend, and there is absolutely no way to “cheat the process” in 2017. Either your blog posts are interesting to people or they’re not…there’s really not a middle ground.
The Basis of a Winning Content Marketing Plan
So when we start to create a content plan for your website in 2017, the LAST THING that I want you to focus on is the number of articles you’re going to post. Instead, you need to focus your energy on finding out what your website’s visitors really want to learn about when they search for a brand like you. Those are the things you should be writing about…both in your blogs and on your core website pages…because that’s what will ultimately turn visitors into customers.
Take this website for example- look at the main navigation up top. If you click on any of my main links, I give you a quick snapshot of the services I offer and how they can help you. But you’ll also notice that every single page has a link to “learn more” or “find additional information”, because I never want someone to not be able to find a specific answer.
Most of my blog posts are further extensions of the services that I offer to my clients, but I’m not posting this to try to sell you anything. Instead, I’m showing you that I really do know what I’m talking about and that I don’t mind helping you out some, for free. And in a nutshell, that’s how you build trust on the internet. You show that you’re an expert and a helpful person, and then your phone starts ringing from new clients.
Cleaning Up Core Content
What does that mean for your website?
For starters, your homepage needs to touch on every product/service your company offers…or at least mention the broad category. Because if folks can’t figure out whether or not you’re qualified to handle something for them within their first few seconds of visiting, then it’s already game over. So nail down that homepage with great quality content…even if it’s just a few sentences per section.
Next, I want you to have your webmaster take a look at your website and see where the vast majority of your visitors leave. Try to identify the worst performing 5-10 pages in Google Analytics, and make these a top priority for revamping in 2017. But before you can do that, you need to figure out what was wrong with those pages to begin with…why did the customers leave?
Here are a few things to look at-
- No direct answers to the customer’s most common questions
- Vague product and/or service descriptions
- Poor formatting on the page…it’s all one big mess
- Too much content…it just seems to go on forever
- Too many ads on the page (huge turnoff)
- Far too many hyperlinks and other distractions
- A lack of relevant photographs and video
If you can’t identify the problems of your worst pages by using the list above, then here’s a very easy test to figure out the issue. You know that jerk friend that you hang out with sometimes that you don’t really like but associate with anyway? Call up him/her and ask them why people don’t like that page. They’ll be happy to tell you all the problems they see.
Or you can call me, I’ll be happy to tell you as well. In fact, that may be easier and a lot less embarrassing.
Anyway, you want to proceed through your entire website and beef up the content where you’re currently doing poorly…that’s priority #1. Don’t even think about a paid ad campaign or more blogs until your core site is set up to convert.
When to Start Blogging
Blogs are a great tool because they allow you to rank for your site’s relevant keywords, plus they allow readers to see a little more about what your company stands for. So when you make a content plan for blog posts, you want the focus to be solely on your customers…what will they actually want to read?
And before we go any further, let me give you some ideas-
- How-to tips, guides, and walkthroughs
- RELEVANT company news and events
- A deeper analysis of what you do for clients
- Case studies showing your successes
- Local charities, community events, etc.
- OCCASIONAL information on sales and promotions
Notice that I went all caps with two words there- relevant and occasional. It’s nice to post a blog about winning an award, opening a new store or doing something nice for the community, but people will be quick to stop listening if all you do is brag about yourself. The same goes for sales promotions- they only belong on your blog when it’s truly newsworthy.
After all, if you’re spamming some type of sale every single day…then there’s no reason to pay attention. That means everything always on sale and the urgency to buy is 100% gone.
Learn to Write Authority Articles
As I’m typing this sentence, I’m quickly approaching the 1,300 word mark. And so far, everything here has been actionable information that applies directly to your website, which is exactly how a great blog is supposed to be written. It’s what you’d call an authority article, and it will likely rank on the first page of search for various terms.
If you perform a Google search for “creating a content plan”, most of the examples out there are things like, “Five Tips for Creating a Great Content Plan” or “Write Better Content in 2017.” But the problem is, they all give the exact same generic advice-
- Deliver great content
- Post consistently
- Use images and video
- Share on social media
- Create email alerts
And once you get into the “meat” of the content on those sites, there’s really nothing of value that the bullet points didn’t summarize. That’s a common article that anyone could write whether they have knowledge on the subject or not…and stuff like that rarely ranks well for long. Because as soon as someone posts an updated version and gets a few hundred page views, their article becomes more popular than yours and Google promotes it.
So if you’re going to talk about something on your blog, then you need to go all-in and give your readers in-depth advice that applies directly to their specific situation. A good example would be a blog I posted in November about online marketing for restaurants. It’s about 1,000 words total and it’s the only time I ever mention the word “restaurant” on my entire site, yet it ranks #1 for every variation of the key-phrase “Restaurant Marketing Spartanburg.”
So just off an hour of writing, I gained awesome visibility for a complete industry within my market…and I’ve done the same thing for dentists, car dealers and many other segments. There’s no reason why you can’t do the exact same thing with the right strategy.
Drafting your Actual Content Marketing Plan for 2017
Let’s recap real fast.
Your first goal in 2017 is to update all of your website’s main content on any pages that aren’t converting well. Your new layout will give brief answers on the main pages and in-depth analysis on each sub-page.
Next, you’re going to start writing blogs that address specific things that your ideal customers are wondering about. These posts should be industry specific whenever possible and laser-focused on who you’re trying to target. And figuring out the number of articles you need for each topic is easy- you keep writing super-high quality content until you take the #1 slot for your area.
Also, your most important key-phrases should have much longer articles that go really in-depth about the subject matter. Just Google these phrases before starting to see what’s already ranking well on Google- your article has to be better than those already out there. If you’re not willing to put in that level of effort, then don’t write it in the first place…focus on something else that’s easier to rank for instead.
Finally, you are going to mix in a few blog articles that show your company culture. For example, I occasionally write about NFL football, family vacations and/or community events, because these are the things that matter to me. And by opening up and showing who I am as a professional, my clients get a much better sense of who I am as a person.
Parting Words of Wisdom
The only other piece of advice I can give at this point is exactly what I started with- always focus on superior quality writing that actually helps your customers. You’d be far better off writing one awesome blog post per week over writing 10 so-so pieces, so try to remember the analogy I gave about the apple vendor. You only want to serve content that’s fit for a king, yet written well enough for the masses to easily digest.
If you need any additional help drafting a content plan for 2017 or you need the services of a nifty creative writer, please do not hesitate to reach out to me through the contact form or by giving me a call. I’m always happy to give free consultations and help you find the best path forward BEFORE you’re actually on my client list.