5 SEO Lessons for the Modern Content Creator

seo lessonsWe get it, SEO may not be in your job description. But in our digital era, every modern content marketer must understand the basics of search engine optimization. As businesses look to scale their business growth through online channels, SEO skills will become more attractive and valuable to employers over time. Just consider these statistics:

  • SEO/SEM marketing is the eighth most in-demand hard skill wanted by companies in 2018, according to a LinkedIn study (source).
  • 61% of marketers say their top inbound marketing priority is to improve SEO and grow their organic presence (source).
  • Borrell Associates estimates brands and agencies in the United States will spend $79 billion on SEO services by 2020 (source).

Whether you’re looking for a primer on SEO or just want to learn a few new digital content tricks, you’ve come to the right place.

The Importance of SEO for Digital Content Creation

The goal of most search engines is to provide users with the most relevant and useful information for each search query. To do so, these search engines operate using complicated algorithms that rely on a specific set of ranking indicators to assess the content relevance and quality.

SEO gives modern content creators the opportunity to take control of search results and puts your content in the spotlight. For this reason, we’ve compiled five SEO skills to add to your content marketing toolbox. Keep reading.

1.     Focus on quality.

Although SEO does incorporate some technical ranking factors, content quality is by far the most important ranking factor. As users engage with your content online, it sends a signal to Google: This content is useful to users and should rank higher.

That said, crafting quality content takes substantial time and effort, particularly in an age with so much information readily available online. To produce high-quality content, creators must consider several factors. Here’s what we recommend:

Provide practical advice to solve a particular problem:

One tried-and-true way to engage a target audience is simple: Craft content that answers top questions related to your product and industry. Keep in mind, one distinction that separates quality content from low-quality content is how complete your answers are.

Before hitting publish, ask a co-worker, friend, or editor to read the content. Does it answer the question in full? Do they have any questions after reading it? Use this feedback to revise and bulk up content as needed.

Be unique:

One search in Google can lead to thousands—even millions—of results. Brands must be sure their content stands out from the crowd to earn a coveted page one ranking. For this reason, always ask this important question: Does my content provide something of value other sites are missing?

Keep in mind—duplicate content can actually harm your website’s search rankings. So, be sure to run your content through a plagiarism checker and make every piece of content unique.

Prioritize evergreen content:

While trends and news can create some major buzz initially, evergreen content continues to provide value far beyond the publish date. Therefore, find content topics that will continue to stay relevant. Also, consider running a content audit to get more value out of high ranking pages over time.

Focus on user experience:

Let’s face it—even if your blog provides the best advice in the world, it’ll be a wasted effort if it’s not easy to read and navigate. The structure of a piece of content can make the difference between a visitor engaging with your content or bouncing from your pages.

Break up content with headers, lists, bullet points, subheadings, and spaces. Build an internal linking structure to encourage users to read other blog posts and information on your website.

The bottom line: B2B marketers practiced in crafting valuable content for their audience will win over search engines and readers alike.

2.     Understand the basic principles of link building.

Both external and internal links indicate to Google that your webpage is a quality resource. In simple terms, link building is the practice of generating external links to your website.

A word of caution here: Manipulative, or black hat link building tactics can get your website banned from search results faster than you can say SEO. The key to successful link building is to earn natural links from high-quality websites. But, how? The art of natural link building starts with a simple concept: Crafting link-worthy content. Get started with six handy tips:

Write list posts:

Research shows list posts generate more backlinks than other content formats (source). It’s not surprising—numbered lists make content easy to digest and scan online.

Create content longer than 1,000 words:

An analysis of 1,000 articles shows content with more than 1,000 words consistently receives a higher number of shares and links than shorter-form content (source). Use this opportunity to stand out with in-depth, long-form content.

Produce original data:

Original research. Surveys. Industry reports. Data sources are a link magnet. The reason is, anytime someone mentions a statistic from the research on their site, it earns you a link. 

Create visual content:

Images are a goldmine for link building. The reason is simple: Visual content is easy to share. Someone can easily grab your infographic to use on their blog, then link back to your site. For this reason, produce infographics, charts, and other handy visual resources to earn natural links.

Earn links from partners:

Partnerships provide a unique opportunity to earn links from trusted resources in your industry. Swap content with high-quality publications, blogs, or websites specific to your niche to earn more backlinks from relevant sites.

Make content easy to share:

Include sharing buttons on your webpage to make it easy for users to share via email or social media.

3.     Do your research.

To successfully create content that ranks well, you need to use keywords strategically. Keyword research may sound intimidating at first, but fear not! We’ve compiled a few simple strategies to help you understand which keywords will drive the most traffic back to your website:

Brainstorm keywords:

Get the marketing and sales teams together, then brainstorm which phrases and terms customers search for during the buying journey.

Find related keywords online:

Customers’ social media posts and blog comments provide a wealth of information about their wants and needs. Review this content regularly to identify new keywords. In addition, many Wikipedia pages contain a section with related terms– a handy place to find top keywords in the industry.

Identify long-tail keywords:

Once you have a batch of keywords, the next step is to identify long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are more specific and tend to have a lower search volume, but less competition. Although one or two long-tail keywords might not impact traffic drastically, they tend to add up. Considering 50% of search queries are four words or longer (source), leveraging long-tail keywords can help you rank higher in these highly targeted searches.

Not sure where to start? Here’s a simple trick: Enter a term into Google, scroll to the bottom of the search results, then look at the searches related to the term. Use this method to generate a list of long-tail keyword ideas to craft content around.

Complete competitive analysis:

Play the detective, take out your magnifying glass, and take a look at the keywords your competitors rank for. You’ll come away with a list of new keywords to target.

Remember, keyword research is an ongoing process. Continue to conduct research at regular intervals to identify new industry keywords. Then, craft targeted content around these keywords.

4.     Learn the basics of HTML.

Let us be clear here, content creators do not need to be web programmers to be successful with SEO. Yet, it helps to have a basic understanding of HTML. The reason is, being able to jump into the page source code to make a quick adjustment helps you send important information to search engines and readers alike. With that in mind, which HTML elements should you know for SEO? Let’s review the essentials:

HTML title tag:

The HTML title tag shows up as the page title within the search results. Here’s why it matters for SEO: It tells Google and your readership what the content of the page is all about. When crafting a title tag, think about the user journey: What keywords do you want the page to be found for? Then, write a unique, descriptive title, naturally working in the important keywords.  Keep in mind, the optimal length of a title tag is between 50 to 60 characters long.

Meta description tag:

A meta description is the snippet of text right below the headline in Google search results. This HTML element is like the back of a book: It’s the perfect place to create an eye-catching description. For this reason, it’s important to work in target keywords and a strong call-to-action to encourage more users to click on the page.

Header tags:

You already know headers and subheaders break up page content into sections, making it easier to read and navigate. Well, these headlines play an important role in SEO as well: Search engines use header tags as signals to understand what a webpage is all about. Therefore, use descriptive header tags for each section to help users and search engines to easily understand the page content. Here are some basic guidelines for using H tags in your digital content:

Only use one H1 tag per page.

Use different variations of your keywords within your H tags, but be careful not to be spammy.

Don’t skip levels—use H1, H2, H3 tags accordingly, don’t use an H3 without first using an H1 and an H2.

Image alt text:

Image alt text tags tell search engines about the contents of an image. Descriptive alt text helps an image rank higher in image search. When writing alt text, be clear about what the image shows for maximum impact.

5.     An understanding of search engines.

Search engine algorithms are subject to change at a moment’s notice. The reality is, content creators who keep a close watch on the latest search engine updates will always be one step ahead.

To stay in the know about search engines, simply set aside time each week to read about the latest SEO updates and best practices. Save time by sending SEO-related content straight to your inbox or social media feed. Subscribe to email newsletters, join online communities, read publications, and follow thought leaders. That said, don’t forget to go directly to the source: The search engines.

The Google Webmaster Blog, for example, often posts big announcements to all things Google search. Another handy tool is Google Alerts. It only takes a minute to set up, and you’ll get the latest news about specific SEO keywords sent to the top of your inbox.

Final Thoughts: SEO Lessons for Copywriters

And there you have it—five SEO lessons every modern content creator must master. While SEO may not be your primary focus at work, knowing these important SEO lessons can help you expand the reach of your content, ultimately driving more traffic, leads, and revenue.

For additional SEO lessons, check out the following blog posts:

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