When it comes to being discovered online, there are two overall strategies that all marketers go for: Create something so fantastic that millions of people are sharing and discussing (a.k.a. “going viral”), or make their website the top search result for a keyword or phrase. On the surface, both strategies seem simple, but are actually incredibly complex and nearly impossible to make happen without major effort.
Going viral is as much as a mystery as anything. Material that makes it to this level tends to be outrageous, out of the ordinary, creative, or just downright weird. Getting ranked highly for a phrase or keyword is an ever-changing process, and takes lots of research, tweaking, and optimization to get maximized.
With both strategies, there is one thing they have in common – Content. The material that is to be shared is the key to discovery from people AND search engines. When properly crafted to appeal to a target audience, marketers can get the best of both worlds: exposure on social networks AND top search results. If you are looking for content strategies to boost your SEO results, here are five ways to get started.
1. Craft Fresh Timely Material
In the past year, Google massively overhauled the way that it displays search results, and takes concepts like the user’s social circles, real time posts from twitter, and new material from the blogosphere into consideration for displaying search results. What this means is that if a user searches for Yoga Classes, they will get results full of local yoga studios with reviews made by their friends; they won’t find an article with a ton of keywords that link to an affiliate product.
By putting out articles, tweets, videos, and infographics on a regular basis, you’re gaining credibility in the eyes of the search engines. You can (and should) take advantage of trends and popular searches to gain a new audience. For example, high-profile events like the Olympics, the Superbowl, or the upcoming election all are excellent ways to put a new spin on your material to take advantage of large search terms.
2. Use a Variety of Content
Google search results include a variety of content, and creating a mix of several should be part of your content strategy. When you click the More button on the left side of a search page, look at all of the options available – you can get specific results for photos, videos, books, places, applications, even recipes! Going back to our example of a Yoga studio, if the owner peruses a content marketing strategy, they will have photos of their instructors, a free e-book for yoga beginners, a profile on Google Maps with reviews from clients, and their own blog where they are writing about new techniques and happenings at their studio. All of these individual content pieces then get indexed into Google, and delivered to the searcher.
3. Display Authority
Any salesman will tell you that people always buy from someone that they know, like, and trust. You can craft your content to put potential customers at ease by first putting yourself in their position, analyzing what the barriers are holding them back from buying, and then addressing each of those issues head on.
Going back to our yoga studio example, the instructor, who is an expert in all things yoga, might understand that there are people out there who won’t commit to taking yoga classes because they are pregnant. They can craft a quick blog post or video titled, “10 reasons why pregnant women should practice yoga,” and give all the info to help the searcher come to the decision to sign up for the classes.
4. The Social Factor
Social signals, such as the amount of times an article is being shared on Facebook, Linkedin, or Twitter, play big into determining search results for content. Increasing social sharing can be automated through site programming – big sites like Yahoo do this through their social reader app, which automatically sends articles read by users to their friends. A less intrusive, but very powerful way to encourage social sharing, is to simply ask people to leave a comment, like a page, or share something to their friends.
Let’s revisit the yoga studio who published the article on yoga during pregnancy. Since it is showing up in search results for phrases like “yoga while pregnant,” hundreds of women are reading it, sharing it, and using it as their reason to take the classes. Other people see it, and write a new post on THEIR blog rebutting it. This may seem like a “bad” situation for a business, but the reality is that your content just got displayed to a brand new audience who has never experienced it before, and a portion might be likely to be converted. In the grand scheme of things, the cycle of content and discussion is continuing, and brings new readers in along the way.
5. Long-term Relationship Building
Content marketing should be a long-term strategy that consists of regular high-quality material, as well as shorter, useful material that readers can analyze, share and offer feedback on. All of the top bloggers and content providers utilize “capture” techniques in order to ensure that their content is delivered to readers regularly, without having to rely on the luck of the search engines alone.
Powerful tools to ensure that readers always get fresh and new content include an RSS feed, which allows instant delivery of new posts in a reader program (such as Google Reader). You can also sign up for an email management service, and deliver a weekly newsletter for people who sign up right from your website. Finally, you can use free plugins that display links to popular or related articles from your site at the end of the article, encouraging the reader to dig deeper into your archive and learn more about your business or content.
When it comes to SEO, content marketing is quickly becoming the only game in town. You may never go viral, you may never rank higher than Wikipedia, but with no content, you’re not getting found without paying for it.