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How To Avoid Going Down Google’s Instant Answer Search Trap

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How To Avoid Going Down Google's Instant Answer Search Trap

Editor’s note: This week, we’re giving everyone a taste of Content Marketing World 2022 by featuring recaps of articles filled with insights from this year’s speakers.

For years, marketers claimed victory when their page made it to the first organic listing or even a first page ranking on a Google search results page.

Now zero-click and other featured results deliver answers immediately to searchers and bury those organic links further down (or even off the first) page. What’s a content marketer to do?

Here’s what 10 experts presenting at Content Marketing World suggest.

1. Build brand and community

The instant answers are answers that are easy. Even with featured snippets, if your content is tackling a complex subject matter, Google will still refer people to your site. That said, you want an insurance policy against Google, and that policy contains two things: brand and community. Build both, and SEO will work for you, but more importantly, your marketing will work without SEO. – Christopher Penn, chief data scientist, TrustInsights.ai

You want an insurance policy against @Google that contains two things: brand and community, says @cspenn via @CMIContent. #SEO #CMWorld Click To Tweet

2. Pay attention to the details

Even though most searches do not end in a click, your content can still get attention on the SERP. This is where metadata matters most. Make sure the results showing up on Google are the results people are looking for. Answer questions directly in your meta descriptions or give people a good reason to click through and learn more. – Ahava Leibtag, founder and president, Aha Media Group

Answer questions directly in your meta descriptions or give people a good reason to click through and learn more, says @ahaval via @CMIContent #CMWorld #SEO Click To Tweet

3. Go beyond the instant

Optimization and a savvy understanding of the search landscape are the best way to own the instant answer space. Many searches don’t trigger an instant answer, so SEO is crucial to impact those search results. And even with the instant answer, there are still 75% to 90% of organic clicks available, and SEO is the best way to win that traffic. Finally, when done correctly, SEO is an excellent way to understand your audience and create content that speaks to them, answers their questions, and supports them along their journey. – Katie Tweedy, associate director of content marketing and SEO, Collective Measures

#SEO and a savvy understanding of the search landscape are the best way to own the instant answer space, says @katie_tweedy_ via @CMIContent #CMWorld Click To Tweet

4. Expand your horizons

I love the Lee Odden quote, “Content is the reason search began in the first place.” The instant answers in Google may increase click-throughs, so it’s important to structure your content appropriately (e.g., FAQ schema) to try to get those placements.

But ultimately, SEO-plus-content strategies must continue to co-exist so that great content can be found. Those looking for in-depth, valuable, and engaging resources will not stop at the first instant answer Google serves up. But you do need to make sure your content is differentiated, comprehensive, and more engaging than the search results you’re competing against. – Ali Orlando Wert, director of content strategy, Qlik

#SEO-plus-content strategies must continue to co-exist so great content can be found, says @AliOrlandoWert via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

5. Skip the glossary content

Google gives instant answers to short questions, satisfying fact-intent queries super fast. So an SEO strategy based on content that gives short answers is death. It’s not going to work. The let’s-build-a-search-optimized-glossary strategy doesn’t work anymore.

But an SEO strategy based on content that gives detailed, long-form answers to big questions is still super effective. The let’s-publish-search-optimized-best-practices-for-our-industry strategy works great. – Andy Crestodina, co-founder and chief marketing officer, Orbit Media Studios

The let’s-build-a-search-optimized-glossary strategy doesn’t work anymore, says @Crestodina via @CMIContent #CMWorld. #SEO Click To Tweet

6. Make it all about business

I’m afraid SEO is becoming a vanity metric. Many marketing managers I know can’t answer a simple question: why do you want your brand to be the No. 1 in a Google search? If SEO isn’t connected to your business model, take a step back and analyze why you should invest time and money in that. – Cassio Politi, founder, Tracto Content Marketing

If #SEO isn’t connected to your business model, analyze why you should invest time and money in it, says @tractoBR via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

7. Create assets

Every time you publish a blog post, video, podcast, or even a long-form piece of social content, you’re publishing a business asset that will serve for years to come. Knowing what keywords you want to rank for and be found with will never go out of style. – Chris Ducker, founder, Youpreneur.com

Knowing what keywords you want to rank for and be found with will never go out of style, says @ChrisDucker via @CMIContent. #SEO #CMWorld Click To Tweet

8. Answer your audience

For B2B technical buyers, research shows that engineers are more likely to go 10 pages deep than they are to stop at page one. The instant answers are helpful for simple topics, but if the stakes are high or the search topic is complex, skeptical buyers will invest the time to find the most accurate results from the most credible sources. – Wendy Covey, CEO and co-founder, TREW Marketing

Skeptical buyers will invest the time to find the most accurate results from the most credible sources, says @wendycovey via @CMIContent #SEO #CMWorld Click To Tweet

9. Stop the blue link strategy

Responses that require a simple answer or SERP feature-based answer are a unique query type and important to consider in any content marketing effort. Understanding SERP features and where you succeed and don’t is critical. Also, understand the impact of SERP features like Answers and People Also Ask. SEO is about understanding the potential and how the flux connected to the SERP isn’t just about 10 blue links anymore. – Jeff Coyle, co-founder, CSO, MarketMuse

Understanding SERP features and where you succeed and don’t is critical, says @jeffrey_coyle via @CMIContent. #CMWorld #SEO Click To Tweet

10. Look for unexpected opportunities

I still see a ton of value from our search traffic, and it’s absolutely worth it to continue to use search to inspire new content ideas. I think YouTube is also an underrated area for optimization, and Google provides you with search data directly in YouTube now. – Jennifer Jordan, vice president and global head of content, Babbel

I still see a ton of value from our #Search traffic. It’s absolutely worth it to use search to inspire new #content ideas, says @jenastelli via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Update your SEO plan

You live in a zero-click, but that doesn’t mean you should only follow an instant answer path. As with everything in content marketing, reflect on your business goals and consider how your audience behaves, then update your search strategy to achieve the best for both those worlds within the current search environment.

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:

Want more insight from these and other Content Marketing World speakers? Register for a virtual pass to get on-demand access through Dec. 31, 2021. Use code CMIBLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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Email Marketing Trends 2023: Predictions by the Industry Stalwarts

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Email Marketing Trends 2023: Predictions by the Industry Stalwarts


Every year, we see new trends entering the world of email marketing.

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5 Simple Things You Can Do To Improve the Content Experience for Readers

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5 Simple Things You Can Do To Improve the Content Experience for Readers

Who doesn’t like to have a good experience consuming content?

I know I do. And isn’t that what we – as both a consumer of content and a marketer of content – all want?

What if you create such a good experience that your audience doesn’t even realize it’s an “experience?” Here’s a helpful mish-mash of easy-to-do things to make that possible.

1. Write with an inclusive heart

There’s nothing worse than being in a conversation with someone who constantly talks about themselves. Check your text to see how often you write the words – I, me, we, and us. Now, count how often the word “you” is used. If the first-person uses are disproportionate to the second-person uses, edit to delete many first-person references and add more “you” to the text.

You want to let your audience know they are included in the conversation. I like this tip shared in Take Binary Bias Out of Your Content Conversations by Content Marketing World speaker Ruth Carter: Go through your text and replace exclusionary terms such as he/him and she/her with they/them pronouns.

Go through your text and replace exclusionary terms such as he/him and she/her with they/them pronouns, says @rbcarter via @Brandlovellc @CMIContent. #WritingTips Click To Tweet

2. Make your content shine brighter with an AI assist

Content published online should look different than the research papers and essays you wrote in school. While you should adhere to grammar rules and follow a style guide as best as possible, you also should prioritize readability. That requires scannable and easily digestible text – headings, bulleted text, short sentences, brief paragraphs, etc.

Use a text-polishing aid such as Hemingway Editor (free and paid versions) to cut the dead weight from your writing. Here’s how its color-coded review system works and the improvements to make:

  • Yellow – lengthy, complex sentences, and common errors
    • Fix: Shorten or split sentences.
  • Red – dense and complicated text
    • Fix: Remove hurdles and keep your readers on a simpler path.
  • Pink – lengthy words that could be shortened
    • Fix: Scroll the mouse over the problematic word to identify potential substitutes.
  • Blue – adverbs and weakening phrases
    • Fix: Delete them or find a better way to convey the thought.
  • Green – passive voice
    • Fix: Rewrite for active voice.

Grammarly’s paid version works well, too. The premium version includes an AI-powered writing assistant, readability reports, a plagiarism checker, citation suggestions, and more than 400 additional grammar checks.

In the image below, Grammarly suggests a way to rephrase the sentence from:

“It is not good enough any longer to simply produce content “like a media company would”.

To:

“It is no longer good enough to produce content “as a media company would”.

Much cleaner, right?

3. Ask questions

See what I did with the intro (and here)? I posed questions to try to engage with you. When someone asks a question – even in writing – the person hearing (or reading) it is likely to pause for a split second to consider their answer. The reader’s role changes from a passive participant to an active one. Using this technique also can encourage your readers to interact with the author, maybe in the form of an answer in the comments.

4. Include links

Many content marketers include internal and external links in their text for their SEO value. But you also should add links to help your readers. Consider including links to help a reader who wants to learn more about the topic. You can do this in a couple of ways:

  • You can link the descriptive text in the article to content relevant to those words (as I did in this bullet point)
  • You can list the headlines of related articles as a standalone feature (see the gray box labeled Handpicked Related Content at the end of this article).

Add links to guide readers to more information on a topic – not just for SEO purposes says @Brandlovellc via @CMIContent. #WritingTips Click To Tweet

You also can include on-page links or bookmarks in the beginning (a table of contents, of sorts) in longer pieces to help the reader more quickly access the content they seek to help you learn more about a topic. This helps the reader and keeps visitors on your website longer.

5. Don’t forget the ‘invisible’ text

Alt text is often an afterthought – if you think about it all. Yet, it’s essential to have a great content experience for people who use text-to-speech readers. Though it doesn’t take too much time, I find that customizing the image description content instead of relying on the default technology works better for audience understanding.

First, ask if a listener would miss something if they didn’t have the image explained. If they wouldn’t, the image is decorative and probably doesn’t need alt text. You publish it for aesthetic reasons, such as to break up a text-heavy page. Or it may repeat information already appearing in the text (like I did in the Hemingway and Grammarly examples above).

If the listener would miss out if the image weren’t explained well, it is informative and requires alt text. General guidelines indicate up to 125 characters (including spaces) work best for alt text. That’s a short sentence or two to convey the image’s message. Don’t forget to include punctuation.

General guidelines indicate up to 125 characters (including spaces) work best for alt text, says @Brandlovellc via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

For both decorative and informative images, include the photo credits, permissions, and copyright information, in the caption section.

For example, if I were writing an article about Best Dogs for Families, I would include an image of a mini Bernedoodle as an example because they make great family pets. Let’s use this image of my adorable puppy, Henri, and I’ll show you both a good and bad example of alt text.

An almost useless alt-text version: “An image showing a dog.”

Author’s tri-colored (brown, white, black, grey wavy hair), merle mini Bernedoodle, Henri, lying on green grass.

It wastes valuable characters with the phrase “an image showing.”

Use the available characters for a more descriptive alt text: “Author’s tri-colored (brown, white, black, grey wavy hair), merle mini Bernedoodle, Henri, lying on green grass.”

It’s more descriptive, and I only used 112 characters, including spaces.

Want to learn more? Alexa Heinrich, an award-winning social media strategist, has a helpful article on writing effective image descriptions called The Art of Alt Text. @A11yAwareness on Twitter is also a great resource for accessibility tips.

Improve your content and better the experience

Do any of these suggestions feel too hard to execute? I hope not. They don’t need a bigger budget to execute. They don’t need a lengthy approval process to implement. And they don’t demand much more time in production.

They just need you to remember to execute them the next time you write (and the time after that, and the time after that, and the … well, you get the idea.)

If you have an easy-to-implement tip to improve the content experience, please leave it in the comments. I may include it in a future update.

All tools mentioned in the article are identified by the author. If you have a tool to suggest, please feel free to add it in the comments.

If you have an idea for an original article you’d like to share with the CMI audience, you could get it published on the site. First, read our blogging guidelines and write or adjust your draft accordingly. Then submit the post for consideration following the process outlined in the guidelines.

In appreciation for guest contributors’ work, we’re offering free registration to one paid event or free enrollment in Content Marketing University to anyone who gets two new posts accepted and published on the CMI site in 2023.

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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The Ultimate Guide to Product Marketing in 2023

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The Ultimate Guide to Product Marketing in 2023

Product marketing is essential, even if you only sell one or two products at your organization.

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