When it comes to writing SEO content for the search engines, Google and the other search providers have spoken loud and clear on the subject for over a decade now. Forget about the keywords. Stop aiming for certain word counts. Just deliver high-quality content and you will be rewarded with better rankings.
So that brings us to the big question- what is high quality content in the eyes of the search engines?
Learn to Quickly Grab People’s Attention
If you follow by blog regularly, then you know that I was on vacation in Panama City Beach last week. On our last night there, I was sitting on a beach chair just a few feet from the Gulf of Mexico, watching the tide roll in and thinking how much the eight hour drive home was going to stink the following morning. But then out of nowhere, I hear this blood-curdling scream coming from the upper floors of the resort, and I think I was on my feet and sprinting across the deep sand before my mind even processed what was happening.
Did that grab your attention and make you want to know what happened?
Of course it did; that’s what great content does for our readers. Blogging and SEO content are not about the words on the page at all or the lesson you’re trying to teach; it’s about giving your readers something to cling onto and enjoy. That’s why I start almost every single one of my blog posts with a personal story- that lets you get to know me a little bit and understand how I see the world around me.
So I suppose you want to know what happened at the beach the other night- don’t worry, I wasn’t going to leave you hanging. A guy jumped off of the top floor of the resort I was staying at and literally nose-dived straight towards the beach beneath him. And all I can think of is that he’s definitely dead (or about to be), but maybe I can run fast enough to catch him if I ran harder than I ever had before in my entire life.
But then the craziest thing happened. A small hang gliding parachute opened up and this lunatic glided down to the sand and landed about 30 yards away. It turned out that he was a base jumper and did stuff like that almost every night the winds were minimal, and a group of us stood around him like we were talking to Steven Tyler or Dwayne Johnson. I must have told the guy a half-dozen times that he was certifiably crazy, and he just smiled as he packed up his chute and asked all of us to watch out for security guards.
Make your Web Content Authoritative
In case you haven’t heard yet, Google launched another core algorithm update on June 17th that appears to highly favor news sites that frequently post fresh content on trending topics. And since a lot of my readers tend to come here to learn about the latest happenings with the search engines, I didn’t write an entire blog post about it because I couldn’t say anything that is not already posted on other websites.
Why does that matter?
Think about it for a moment. Let’s say you do a search for “How to Base Jump from the Top of a Hotel?” You’ll see a few awesome videos there and then several news reports that discuss people cheating death, but there’s nothing anywhere to be found about how these world-class thrill junkies actually prepare for base jumping or manage to walk away unscathed. And the reason why is simple- it’s against the law, so the people doing this on a regular basis are not about to talk about it online.
Here’s one of a group base-jumping off the Freedom Tower in New York City-
So as we work our way through the search results, every article is exactly the same-
- It opens with the core facts/details
- It shows a few photos or video
- It mentions that these people are insane
- It says that this is a highly illegal activity
What you don’t see, however, is an answer to our questions- how do these guys do it? How often do they jump? What goes into the planning for such an incredible act? And to be a true authority, these types of questions have to be answered for your readers. If you’re only willing to give enough time to deliver what everybody else out there is writing though, then you get a search result like the one above- lots of content but nothing that really stands out to the search engines.
That means the site with the #1 ranking today for that search could be at #37 tomorrow, while someone unranked could jump to #3. It’s a pure guessing game when there’s no authoritive content to seize the top spot. So when you write for your audience, always make sure that you’re giving them more than the average blogger out there. That’s what makes you stand out.
Forget About Keywords and SEO
You’ve probably heard me say fairly often that I am the top SEO expert in the Carolinas, yet I tell each of my clients that 80-90% of all modern SEO comes from delivering great content. That may sound a little confusing at first, but it means that things like keywords, meta descriptions and backlinks are nowhere near as important as they were in the past.
Instead, Google is going to look at your content and search for the “people factors”, which are things like how many visitors you have each day, how many pages they visit, which links they click on and how long your visitors manage to stick around. So as long as you get your keyword in the title and once or twice within the blog itself, then you are literally a SEO rock star in 2015 if the content is getting attention from people.
And since your job is to impress people, your blogs should also be packed with people-friendly things like bullet points, topic-related photos, video elements and other things to make your content just a little bit more interesting.
The reason why is that most of your visitors are looking for something very specific in their searches, and they’re only going to dedicate an average of 3-5 seconds per website to determine if they’ve found some good info or not. So when they see that a page is nicely formatted with lots of visual elements, they are much more likely to keep reading. That’s all you really need to know about modern SEO.
Focus on Relationships, Not Sales
One final point on writing great SEO content is to keep the focus away from sales the vast majority of the time. That’s because when the search engines see a bunch of internal links that point to pages with very little content (like your contact us or sales pages), it gives the search provider an additional measurement on the quality of your content. After all, if you insert the same link on every single blog post yet very few people seem to click it, then it’s telling Google that you’re not linking to important pages.
So only try to sell in your blogs when there is a clear reason for the consumer to buy…or at least take a closer look.
The same can be said about affiliate ads, but for a completely different reason. Nothing frustrates your readers more than seeing a page packed with ads, and many people will hit that backspace button almost instantly since they associate lots of ads with bad content. That means even if your writing is superb, you can still end up with fairly high bounce rates.
With that said, you will notice that I have one AdSense banner just below the categories to the right of this page. It is likely showing you a re-targeting ad from another site that you’ve visited recently, and Google pays me just over two dollars per click to have it there. Since this site receives between 5,000 and 10,000 visitors per month, it may seem smart to have it everywhere on my site…but that’s simply bad business no matter how you look at it.
Even if I had an awesome month and cleared $500 from that single ad, that pales in comparison to what I could gain with one big corporate client reaching out to me. So I’m not going to risk offending anyone by trying to over-monetize a very minor part of my income, and I could probably do a lot better with a lead capture or a giveaway in place of where that ad sits now. So be sure to make your content about building actual relationships and let your products sell themselves by the increased visibility.