Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the keys to online success. In fact, nearly 50% of shoppers today begin their research with a search engine — so ranking on the first page of search engine results pages (SERPs) can offer serious opportunities to reach your ideal customers.
In recent years, social media marketing, including video marketing, has sought to overtake search engines as a means of connecting brands with consumers. Then there’s Amazon, which captures 60% of all traffic when consumers begin their product searches online.
That said, brands should embrace both social media and a solid SEO strategy to make the most of their content marketing campaigns.
SEO Recommendations for Content Marketers
The misconception that you can forsake SEO recommendations in favor of social media marketing is just one of the many myths surrounding SEO. The perceived cost and complexity may also keep brands from embracing it.
Some people think SEO is an elusive “unicorn,” available only to the marketing elite. But digital marketing experts disagree.
“SEO is not a unicorn. It’s really a cash cow,” said Jared Degnan, director of digital strategy at Kellen Communications during Communication Week’s webinar “Unicorns, SEO, and Other Myths.”
If you want to turn SEO into your personal cash cow, you need quality content – plus you’ll need to follow some SEO recommendations to set your site apart from competitors.
Find the Sweet Spot Between Content and Context
Google and other search engines reward original content. But your content must also be useful and relevant to your audience’s needs — in a language your readers understand.
That said, you must find that happy medium between content and context.
“There’s a difference between the way we as communicators speak and the way our audience speaks,” Degnan said. This is especially true in today’s era of voice search.
His SEO recommendations included avoiding jargon, explaining concepts in a straightforward way, and keeping sentences and paragraphs short and scannable. You can also use bullet points to avoid walls of text.
How Featured Snippets Help Readers and Your Rankings
When you come across a word or phrase that needs some explanation, that’s an excellent opportunity to land your blog post in Google’s featured snippets section.
Featured snippets appear on page one of Google and often describe a difficult or technical concept in a simplistic way. A featured snippet may also answer a common question that many people search for answers to.
To take advantage of featured snippets, our SEO recommendations include adding an FAQ (frequently asked questions) section to the end of your article based on some of the most popular questions on Google related to your topic. Placing a question in the subhead and offering the answer in the body of the blog post can also help a piece of content rank.
In an effort to create unique content, RAQs (rarely asked questions) has become a growing trend, too. They refer to questions that aren’t necessarily on the first page of Google (yet) but provide a deeper dive into a topic to set your content apart from competitors.
Use Google Search Console to Your Advantage
Google Search Console offers insights into your website’s overall performance — from the keywords it’s ranking for to how to fix issues with performance to how it stacks up against competitors.
It’s especially handy for SEO recommendations related to your site’s Core Web Vitals, a report that uses field data — or data from real-world users — to gauge the performance of various URLs on your site.
The report has a lot to do with site speed and page speed, or how fast a page loads. According to Google, when a site meets the Core Web Vitals threshold, users are 24% less likely to abandon the site before it loads. Following SEO recommendations to achieve better Core Web Vitals can also lead to:
- Increased page views per session
- Longer sessions per visit
- Lower bounce rates
By creating a faster website, you offer a better user experience. Combine a fast site with useful content, and you can improve consumer sentiments surrounding your brand, keep visitors on your website longer, and, ultimately, boost sales or conversions.
Target the Right Keywords
Using the right keywords represents a crucial ranking factor. In addition to pointing out areas for page speed improvement, Google Search Console can help you target the right keywords for your audience.
Use the Search Analytics tool within Google Search Console for keyword research, providing SEO recommendations for popular search terms. You can also find the search queries people are using when they look for your site, along with words people may use to find your competitors.
The Importance of Long Tail Keywords
As you create your keyword strategy, keep long tail keywords in mind — which are typically more specific, more targeted, and longer than other keywords.
They help indicate search intent — in other words, the reasons for a search query, not just the “what” of the keywords. For instance, let’s say you’re a used car dealer in New Jersey. “Used cars” is a short-tail keyword people might use if they are looking for trending data. On the other hand, someone ready to buy a used car may search in a more specific way: “2019 Toyota Highlander near Montclair.”It’s no wonder recent research shows that longer keywords may have higher click-through rates.
After analyzing more than four million Google searches, it was shown that long keywords receive 1.76x more clicks in the organic SERPs, compared to keywords with one to two words.
Put Keywords in the Right Places
Choosing the right keywords based on SEO recommendations from Google Search Console is only the first step in the process. Your primary keyword and semantically related keywords — or keywords found in pieces of content that also rank for your primary keyword — should fit naturally into your article in specific places.
Make sure to use your primary keyword in the:
- Title of the article, as close to the front as possible
- First paragraph, near the beginning
- Last sentence of your article
- Meta description
You can also add keywords and semantically related keywords to subheads. Rather than feeling constrained by them, think of them as a way to ensure your writing is well-organized and on-topic.
Embrace Structured Data and Schema Markups
Schema markup, a form of structured data, is a language used to explain the information on a webpage. Your words, including keywords in strategic locations, help human readers understand the purpose of your article, blog post, or other content.
Schema helps search engines crawl your website. Schema.org, where you can find a list of coding terms that can help your SEO, was founded in 2011 by Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo to provide a common language that leads to better and more consistent search results.
People often forget useful SEO recommendations like using Schema markups. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to use structured data to help your website get found by search engines.
Schema Made Easy
Even though Schema has been around for a while, it’s still highly relevant when it comes to SEO recommendations. One experiment found that twice as many sites with schema markups gained rankings in search engine results.
Schema rankings tell Google and the other search engines what they can expect to find in the content that follows the code. You can add schema markups to your website easily by using WordPress plugins like Schema Pro, which automates markups with the capability to also create Custom Fields.
Focus on Your Links
When you’re creating a new piece of content, think about other content on your site that is valuable, relevant, and related to the piece you’re writing that would make sense to include as a hyperlink. This is called a link-building strategy.
Many SEO recommendations suggest five to 10 internal links for every 2,000 words of content. That’s roughly one link for every 200 words.
You can add links to your higher-traffic pages to support them or to lower-traffic pages to give them a boost.
Understanding External Links
External links come in two forms:
- Outbound links (which go from your web page to an external authoritative page)
- Inbound links (which go from another authoritative site to your content)
Let’s first talk about the ones we can control: Outbound links.
If you’re writing about a topic, you can add links to pages that aren’t part of your domain. These outbound links give your readers more information on the topic from an authoritative source. When you’re linking to other sites, SEO recommendations say you should choose sites that:
- Don’t compete with yours
- Have credibility as a primary or authoritative source
- Are trustworthy
If the site doesn’t meet these requirements, but you still want to link to it – for instance, in the case of a sponsorship — add a “nofollow” link. Google won’t acknowledge that you linked to the page, but your readers can find it with a click.
Just as you want to link out to authoritative sites, you want other sites to link to your content as a useful resource. Google frowns upon link trading, buying links, or other ways of securing links that do not happen organically. So, ignore SEO recommendations to “trade” links or buy links.
Instead, you can offer to post guest blogs on relevant sites, or you can ask partners or influencers to link to you. And if another site references your content — such as the results of a survey or study — you can reach out and ask if they can add a backlink. Similarly, if someone posts a positive review of your brand on their website, ask them for a link.
Effective link building is one of the hardest SEO recommendations to implement, but it can offer a valuable boost in rankings.
Catching the Elusive SEO Unicorn
SEO does not have to be a mystical unicorn to marketers. Following SEO recommendations simply calls for some patience, attention to detail, and determination.
If you install the right schema markup plugins, understand how to use the Google Search Console, and develop a strong link-building strategy, you can help your site climb those rankings in no time. Hiring the right people to write optimized, engaging content using the proper keywords can help boost your rankings,.
So, write for readers first. Publish relevant content. Understand user intent. Then, follow the above SEO recommendations to reach that coveted mark of SEO success: a ranking on the first page.
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