I was less than two weeks into my first job out of college – a copywriter for an ecommerce company. I was feeling like my time had finally come to make an impact in the world. My boss, talking to a coworker, whose job involved editing images, and me, nonchalantly commented that the images are much more important because “nobody reads the content anyway.” I was a little bit taken aback and a whole lot crushed.
What I’ve learned through the years, though, is that his comment was not that far from the truth.
Many people don’t read the content on our websites because it is…well…BORING!
The copy we write to tell people about our products or services may be too sales-y or overly optimized for keywords. All day, every day, we are inundated with ads – on social media, on websites, on TV, in the newspaper, and even in our email. The last thing we want is to be marketed to . . . again.
So what makes great content?
Information that is worthwhile to our consumers. As the Content Marketing Institute explains:
“In short, instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent. The essence…is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.”
Great content has the user in mind.
Google’s featured snippets are the perfect example of providing valuable information to our customers. Search for, “Why is the sky blue?”, and an answer appears immediately without having to click through to any websites. The answer, from a university’s math department site, comes directly from copy on an FAQ page that asks then answers the question, “Why is the sky blue?”
A quick look in Google AdWords Keyword Planner reveals an average of 135,000 monthly Google searches for the query.
How do you know what content people want?
The first step is doing keyword research for your niche, using tools such as Moz’s Keyword Explorer or Google’s Keyword Planner. Once you have a list of keywords, sites such as Google Trends or Answer the Public can help you discover topics related to your keywords.
Like PB&J, content & SEO are just better together.
For years, marketers have argued over whether “content is king” or an “SEO first” mentality is most important. The truth is, you need both. The days of writing content without the thought of optimization or just scattering keywords throughout a page are over. Search engines want to provide value to their consumers – all of us – and are therefore focused on user intent.
Let’s say you optimize a page on your website for “scale.” Google sees “scale” but also needs more context. Do you mean a musical scale, a fish scale, a scale that measures weight or to scale a wall?
If a user searches, “what are fish scales made of,” Google looks for signals on your site that tells it this page is not just about scales, but fish scales, and not just fish scales, but what fish scales are made of. Google will reward your site with higher rankings if your page is optimized for “what fish scales are made of.” However, if your page is really optimized for “how to scale a fish,” you won’t rank well for either query because your content does not match your optimization.
How do I optimize my content the right way?
- Ensure that whatever information you’re writing about is something people want to find (keyword research.)
- Write/create content for humans, not search engines. Make it interesting, relevant and informative.
- Use the page title, meta description and headers to further emphasize the topic.
Remember, content is more than just the pages on your site.
Blog posts, infographics, videos, social media posts, buying guides, whitepapers and case studies are all forms of content marketing that should be optimized.
What does the future of content optimization hold? Ask Siri or Alexa…
Some estimates suggest that more than half of search queries will be voice search by 2020. To create and optimize content that will succeed in voice search, it’s important to think and write how people speak. Humans don’t always say things in the most succinct or logical way.
My prediction: Well-developed Q&A pages will shine in voice search.
Technology is constantly changing. Today the future is voice search, tomorrow it could be something different. Understand the role it plays in search, but please, for the sake of wide-eyed, ready-to-make-a-difference-in-the-world me, don’t write for technology. Write for people.
About the Author
Monica Simmons is a Digital Marketing Specialist at ChoiceLocal. She enjoys helping small businesses succeed in their SEO efforts. Outside of work, Monica loves crossword puzzles, live theater, Netflix and spending time with her husband and toddler daughter. It’s a privilege to experience the world every day through the eyes of a child.