Search friendly content that is targeted, optimized, and engaging differentiates front-runner brands from the rest of the crowd. Jim Yu shares five content types that add value.
The convergence of SEO and content has happened. Today, we’re experiencing the convergence of content with all things digital. That was evolution enough—then a pandemic swept through to really shake things up, accelerating digital transforming digital nearly overnight.
As businesses look to reopening, people are hungrier than ever for content. Media consumption is spiking as so many scour their laptops, phones, and tablets for information about which businesses are open, what products and services they can access nearby, and how businesses are adjusting to the “new normal”.
In the coming months, businesses are going to be challenged to adapt their SEO and content strategies to meet the constantly shifting needs of consumers. Now you have not only seasonal trends and personalization to contend with but different stages of business recovery and access across verticals and regions, too.
Look to SEO now for real-time customer insights
We have never before experienced a global, all-encompassing, and near-universal experience such as this. Nearly every customer has been affected in some way. Customer journey maps must be updated but moreover, it is critical now that you are set up to monitor and analyze customer data in as near to real-time as possible.
You can expect the rest of 2020 to bring dramatic shifts and swings in consumer behavior, and SEO insights are about as close to real-time voice-of-customer as you can get.
Search data is rich in customer needs and intent. Now more than ever, consumers are turning to search engines for their every need. The insights gleaned from search trends and queries, local search analytics, and on-site activity will help inform the decisions your business must make going forward. Aligning SEO and PPC strategy is becoming more critical. According to BrightEdge research in B2B combined search averages 76% of traffic.
If you didn’t have a structured method of communicating search insights to department heads and the C-level before, now is the time. Start with the questions your organization needs answered and work backward from there:
- Are consumers remaining loyal to their usual/familiar brands, or is it a mix of usual and new brands (perhaps out of necessity and due to availability)?
- Where are your customers spending their time online right now?
- What are customers saying about your brand in social media, on review sites, and elsewhere on the web—and are you in a position to engage and respond in real-time?
- How have your customers’ needs changed due to COVID-19?
- Are you seeing any surprising or unexpected behavioral changes in how people discover and consume your content?
- Are consumers using your products or services (or others similar to yours) in new or different ways?
These insights will help guide not only your marketing strategy but how the entire organization rebuilds and find opportunities for growth in the coming months.
Five content types to power your content strategy now and in future
Get ready to move fast on opportunities for prime search visibility and share of voice, as there’s a distinct advantage to being the first-mover. Choose your content types wisely to ensure you’re presenting information to customers in the best format for their needs, devices, and intent, and experience.
Make sure these five types of search-friendly content are part of your arsenal:
1. Written word
Text-based web content still drives the vast majority of search results. It can be made more interesting and engaging with the inclusion of other content types (which we’ll talk about in a minute), but a well-written article or webpage is still one of the most powerful tools in your content arsenal.
This is what Google calls “Main Content” in its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines—“any part of the page that directly helps the page achieve its purpose”. It can be text, imagery, video, or even user-generated content, and includes the page title. The written word is often complemented by multimedia elements but usually serves as the basis on which the content piece is built.
Writing is a great way to establish thought leadership, to guide users through step-by-step processes, to share opinions and perspectives and expertise. Landing pages, glossaries, listicles, feature stories, media releases—there are countless ways to tell your company’s stories and share messages in writing.
How can you make your written content stronger and maximize its SEO value?
- Understand what Google is looking for: “…unique and original content created by highly skilled and talented artists or content creators. Such artistic content requires a high degree of skill/talent, time, and effort.”
- Avoid writing mistakes that Google says detracts from the quality of a piece: grammar and punctuation errors, paraphrasing another piece of content but introducing inaccuracies, lack of adherence to E-A-T principles, poor quality writing, meaningless statements, failing to cite sources, sharing mostly commonly known information, text broken up by large ads that disrupt the user experience.
2. Visual content types: Photos, infographics, and illustrations
Images can feature prominently in search results, depending on the query, and can really enhance the quality of a piece of written content. They can help tell the story, illustrate specific points, help a reader envision a complex idea, and more.
We know that image alt text helps Google understand an image’s relevance to the rest of the page content (and to the query, as a result). But it serves an even more important function: improving the accessibility of your content. By now, descriptive alt texts should be best practice for all content teams.
What else do we know about Google’s evaluation of image content?
- Images can be considered “Main Content” by Google. In section 4.2, Google states that quality evaluators are to look for “a satisfying amount of main content’ and list multiple product images as one example of achieving this.
- Evaluators are to consider the “skill/talent, time, and effort” it appears to have taken to create images.
- Shocking images that don’t match the main content, sexually suggestive or grotesque images, deceptive images that imply a celebrity endorsement where is none for example, and images that don’t fit the screen on mobile are all examples of image content that detract from the user experience and therefore their SEO value.
Google says that a picture truly is worth a thousand words, in some cases. Using the example of a trestle bridge, the guidelines state that “a picture may be more helpful than a text description due to the unique design of the bridge.” Keep this in mind as you create written content—if you’re writing at length to explain something, could an image help?
3. Video content types
More than 500 hours of video are being uploaded to YouTube per minute and users still can’t get enough, devouring over a billion hours of YouTube content per day. If video isn’t yet a part of your content mix, this is the time to figure out how you’re going to make it so.
Videos can also count as the main content, and they’re great for augmenting written text. Explainers, how-to guides, product or service demos, behind-the-scenes looks, expert interviews, and more are all great material for a high-quality video.
And what is Google looking for when it comes to video? Increase its SEO value by keeping in mind that:
- Google considers “a satisfying or comprehensive amount of very high-quality main content” and “High E-A-T for the purpose of the page” indicators of quality in video content.
- Other characteristics of a good quality video include that it is well-produced, subject matter expertise, uniqueness and originality.
- Things that detract from your video’s SEO value include a subject matter with no clear expertise on the topic, publishing on a network with little oversight, or an attempt to deceive audiences in some way.
Note that Google specifically instructs raters that they “must consider the reputation and E-A-T of both the website and the creators of the MC in order to assign a Page Quality rating”. Protect the reputation of your creators and your site by ensuring that these best practices are employed in every video you publish.
4. Audio content types
The explosion in popularity of voice search and content formats such as podcasts and internet radio has made audio content a key component in the marketing mix. in optimizing audio content for voice search, you want to make sure you’re using structured data, concise headlines, and descriptions that help people understand what the content is about. Google’s main concerns about voice search as far as search quality goes have to do with mobile-friendliness. When a person uses their mobile phone for a voice query, for example, it’s not a good user experience if the page they are delivered to isn’t optimized for mobile.
For audio content such as podcasts, the content you create around the episode is key. In fact, you should be considering SEO implications even as you choose your topics and structure your shows, to ensure you’re talking about things people are actually looking to hear about. Optimize your podcast title and description in the same way you do other web content, around a focused keyword. Write a blog post that helps people understand what the episode is about and share a transcript, if possible.
5. Interactive content types
Webinars, virtual events, online courses, and other similar interactive content, when put together well, offer great value for participants and therefore can be considered quality content by Google. We’re about to see an explosion in their popularity, given the potential long-term implications of the coronavirus pandemic, too.
You can improve the SEO strength of your interactive content and virtual events by creating and optimizing supportive content for each channel in which you’ll promote the event. Create graphics to promote the speakers. Shoot a quick explainer video that tells people what they’ll learn or experience if they participate.
And don’t just hold the event and forget it about it—share the recording, write a wrap-up blog post, create an infographic with the top takeaways, create an ebook, and more. Ask participants to share their best photos and feedback and share them on a dedicated page on your site.
The best content isn’t just optimized for search—it starts with search
Optimizing for search isn’t an activity you tack onto the end of the writing process or something you do to an image before publishing. How and where your audience will discover and engage with your different types of content needs to be a key consideration from the very earliest planning stages of your content strategy.
Redesigning the website? Ask how SEO needs to be involved. Writing content? Consider how it can be optimized to fit the SEO strategy. Launching a new product? Involve SEO sooner in the planning. SEO needs to be ingrained throughout every aspect of the business right now, from the very initial planning stages of any project or initiative.
As you become more intentional in strategic content planning, your data will show you which content formats work best at each stage of your unique funnel. Work on developing these measurement and attribution systems, if you do not already have them in place. They will drive your content creation, optimization, and amplification strategy across all channels throughout your COVID-19 recovery and beyond.