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7 Ways to Easily Set Up an SEO Content Strategy

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SEO Content Strategy

I can’t imagine an army general ever won a battle by simply “winging it.”

Military leaders study their adversary, tracking their patterns and plotting their course.

They look for weaknesses and opportunities, and they use that information to devise a strategic plan of attack to increase the likelihood of a victory.

Creating search optimized content isn’t much different.

You can’t just write about any old subject, tuck in a few keywords, post it on your site, and expect it to deliver results.

Driving profitable traffic to your site and generating high-quality inbound leads takes in-depth research, careful planning, and developing a thoughtful SEO content strategy.

Once focused on using the right keywords, content marketing is now all about writing to solve the problems of your audience.

To provide meaningful and useful information, you need to understand who your prospects are and what they need from you. This insight guides you in creating content with a purpose.

Writing with intent enables you to increase the number of website visitors you gain through organic search.

This kind of traffic can net you thousands of quality leads and close tons of sales.

The question is, how do you create your own effective SEO content strategy?

As Baroness Maria von Trapp advised in the “Sound of Music,”

“Start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.”

Focus first on the fundamental basics of creating content and keep SEO at the front of your mind as you continue to build on that foundation.

If all you hear are crickets after posting your content, it’s time to take action and begin strategizing.

Here are seven tactics to help you create winning content that maximizes SEO opportunities.

1. Identify Your Target Audience

SEO is all about creating a positive user experience and delivering the most relevant information possible.

To create content that resonates with your audience, you must first know who that audience is.

Here are some things to ask yourself to help zero in on your target market:

 

Who are your current customers?

Identifying key characteristics of your current customers can give you clues as to who your prospects might be.

Look at quantitative and qualitative data, from age and gender to purchase behavior and web page engagement. All of these can help paint a picture of whom you should be writing for.

Who is attracted to your competition?

Discover what kind of people are engaging with your competitors. Look at social media accounts, blog comments, and customer reviews.

Of the people who are satisfied, what is it that they like? For those who are disgruntled, are you able to meet their needs?

There’s a lot to learn from businesses like yours.

What do you have to offer?

Think about the products and services you offer, and what they bring to your prospects.

Who would benefit from those results?

How are you perceived?

Do you really know how your prospects feel about you and your products?

Survey your audience to understand what you’re doing well, what you could improve, and what kind of information people want to learn from you.

Once you’ve gathered all of this data, segment your audience and develop personas to help you craft personalized content that meets target groups’ specific needs.

Personas represent ideal customers and provide a way to further categorize your audience for maximum impact.

2. Define Your Topic Area

Now that you know who you’re trying to reach and what they want to learn from you, you can begin to brainstorm ideas for content topics.

While your goal is to create content that people want to read, your purpose and expertise should be at the heart of everything you write.

What information can you uniquely provide to the target audience that sets you apart as a voice of authority?

This is your topic area.

It will guide your research for audience interest, keyword matches, and SEO content creation.

Ultimately, this is what will help you create content that converts.

Once you’ve identified your area of expertise (or core content), you can begin to incorporate your audience data to develop a variety of content topics.

 

These are subjects that are within your field and are material your viewers will want to read.

3. Pinpoint Keywords that Meet Your Audience Needs + Topic Area

Did you notice that finding keywords wasn’t even among the top two steps of SEO strategy?

That’s because, to create content that resonates with people, you must first know who you’re reaching and what information will benefit them.

Only then are you ready to start researching what words and phrases might direct your readers to subjects that are meaningful to them.

Here’s how to accomplish this:

Step 1: Begin with a broad search term that relates to your core content.

For example, if I sell baby clothes, I’d start with the root keyword: “baby clothes.”

Step 2: Narrow the scope by considering these factors:

  • Top sellers.
  • Keyword variations.
  • Product features.
  • Questions people might ask Google to find your brand and your products.

Step 3: Piece it all together.

You should now be able to construct a preliminary list of ideas to begin researching. Don’t forget to include long-tail keywords that allow you to dig into your topic area a little deeper.

More specific than other keywords, they help target content with laser focus.

Regardless of what list you create, keep in mind, this is just a starting point. Still need ideas? Put yourself in the shoes of your audience and simply run some of your own searches on Google.

For example, when I search my broad term “baby clothes,” I come up with this list:

  • Baby clothes for boys (a top seller).
  • Baby clothing (a variation on the keyword).
  • Baby clothes embroidery (identifies a product feature).
  • What is the best website for baby clothes? (a commonly asked purchaser question).

Step 4: Use keyword research tools.

Now that you’ve got a rough list of words and phrases, you can run them through your favorite research tool. This will help to pinpoint the keywords that would yield the best results.

7 Ways to Easily Set Up an SEO Content StrategyThe keyword suggestions I receive when I enter “baby clothes” into KeywordTool.io

The more words and phrases you have to research, the more focused your keyword targets can be.

It’ll take more time to enter those words into your research tool but believe me – it’s time well spent.

4. Optimize at Every Turn

Now that you’re armed with keywords that will boost your ROI, you can incorporate them into your writing to create powerful content that performs.

As you draft your content, take advantage of every SEO opportunity by:

  • Including focus keywords in your H1, H2s, and meta description. Google will pick up on these more easily and use them to rank your page.

7 Ways to Easily Set Up an SEO Content Strategy

  • Putting your audience first and creating content with keywords that are relevant to their needs and deliver value.
  • Building brand identity and customer loyalty by publishing on a regular schedule. People will look forward to your posts and seek out opportunities to learn from your brand.

When you optimize your content at every turn, you increase the chances of higher search rankings, more visibility, and increased traffic.

5. Keep Information Up-to-Date

Optimization doesn’t end once your article has been published.

Since creating useful material is such a cornerstone of SEO content strategy, it’s important to remember to constantly update your articles.

Research findings and societal trends are ever-changing, and references to them can become outdated quickly.

Articles you may have linked to in previous articles may no longer exist.

A site that posts outdated information or broken links loses a reader’s trust. Keep in good standing with your audience (and Google).

Show them that your site is fresh, current, and a reliable source for the most useful information possible.

6. Host Your Own Content

To maintain full control of how your content is published, it’s best to host your material on your own platform.

Think of posting on social media and content sites as leasing real estate from a landlord.

At any time and without warning, that landlord can change their mind and evict you from your space.

When conversions and sales are at stake, that’s a scary thought.

That’s exactly what happened to lots of guest writers (including myself) when Huffington Post pulled the plug on its guest contributor blogging program in 2018.

Without warning, any rankings those blogs had earned were suddenly gone.

Not only is that a waste of time and resources, but it’s also a loss of potential business.

The only way to guarantee the fate of your own publications is to host them on your own platform.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t consider partnering with other websites as an affiliate or serve as a guest writer for sites you trust.

But the priority for your content strategy should be posting your own articles on your own site.

7. Track Your Success

It takes a significant investment of time and resources to develop a well-planned content strategy.

And it’s totally worth it – if it’s yielding results.

To determine whether your efforts are worthwhile, you must constantly measure the success of your content strategy.

See if your plan is working by monitoring:

  • Organic traffic: a good web analytics tool or spreadsheet can help you determine whether you’re gaining unpaid search results.
  • Indexed pages: search engines are finding your content relevant and valuable.
  • Conversions: the more effective your strategy, the more conversions you’ll earn.
  • SERPs: higher rankings reveal a successful use of content.

Tracking metrics not only helps measure your success; it shows you opportunities for improvement, which can be equally (if not more) valuable.

Score a Victory with an Effective SEO Strategy

A content strategy built on the founding principles of SEO will drive traffic and profits to your business.

As you build your plan, the research you conduct will be instrumental in identifying your audience and your area of expertise.

You can use this insight to write with purpose.

In doing so, you’ll attract your audience and yield higher SERPs from Google.

And that’s what I call a win.


Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, April 2021

Searchenginejournal.com

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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

Google removed the Covid-era structured data associated with the Home Activities rich results that allowed online events to be surfaced in search since August 2020, publishing a mention of the removal in the search documentation changelog.

Home Activities Rich Results

The structured data for the Home Activities rich results allowed providers of online livestreams, pre-recorded events and online events to be findable in Google Search.

The original documentation has been completely removed from the Google Search Central webpages and now redirects to a changelog notation that explains that the Home Activity rich results is no longer available for display.

The original purpose was to allow people to discover things to do from home while in quarantine, particularly online classes and events. Google’s rich results surfaced details of how to watch, description of the activities and registration information.

Providers of online events were required to use Event or Video structured data. Publishers and businesses who have this kind of structured data should be aware that this kind of rich result is no longer surfaced but it’s not necessary to remove the structured data if it’s a burden, it’s not going to hurt anything to publish structured data that isn’t used for rich results.

The changelog for Google’s official documentation explains:

“Removing home activity documentation
What: Removed documentation on home activity structured data.

Why: The home activity feature no longer appears in Google Search results.”

Read more about Google’s Home Activities rich results:

Google Announces Home Activities Rich Results

Read the Wayback Machine’s archive of Google’s original announcement from 2020:

Home activities

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Olga Strel

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Google’s Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

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Google's Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

In a recent LinkedIn discussion, Gary Illyes, Analyst at Google, revealed that the search engine takes a binary approach when assessing a website’s lastmod signal from sitemaps.

The revelation came as Illyes encouraged website owners to upgrade to WordPress 6.5, which now natively supports the lastmod element in sitemaps.

When Mark Williams-Cook asked if Google has a “reputation system” to gauge how much to trust a site’s reported lastmod dates, Illyes stated, “It’s binary: we either trust it or we don’t.”

No Shades Of Gray For Lastmod

The lastmod tag indicates the date of the most recent significant update to a webpage, helping search engines prioritize crawling and indexing.

Illyes’ response suggests Google doesn’t factor in a website’s history or gradually build trust in the lastmod values being reported.

Google either accepts the lastmod dates provided in a site’s sitemap as accurate, or it disregards them.

This binary approach reinforces the need to implement the lastmod tag correctly and only specify dates when making meaningful changes.

Illyes commends the WordPress developer community for their work on version 6.5, which automatically populates the lastmod field without extra configuration.

Accurate Lastmod Essential For Crawl Prioritization

While convenient for WordPress users, the native lastmod support is only beneficial if Google trusts you’re using it correctly.

Inaccurate lastmod tags could lead to Google ignoring the signal when scheduling crawls.

With Illyes confirming Google’s stance, it shows there’s no room for error when using this tag.

Why SEJ Cares

Understanding how Google acts on lastmod can help ensure Google displays new publish dates in search results when you update your content.

It’s an all-or-nothing situation – if the dates are deemed untrustworthy, the signal could be disregarded sitewide.

With the information revealed by Illyes, you can ensure your implementation follows best practices to the letter.


Featured Image: Danishch/Shutterstock

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

There’s one thing standing between you and several days of SEO, socializing, and Singaporean sunshine: your boss (and their Q4 budget 😅).

But don’t worry—we’ve got your back. Here are 5 arguments (and an example message) you can use to persuade your boss to send you to Ahrefs Evolve.

About Ahrefs Evolve

  • 2 days in sunny Singapore (Oct 24–25)
  • 500 digital marketing enthusiasts
  • 18 top speakers from around the world

Learn more and buy tickets.

SEO is changing at a breakneck pace. Between AI Overviews, Google’s rolling update schedule, their huge API leak, and all the documents released during their antitrust trial, it’s hard to keep up. What works in SEO today?

You could watch a YouTube video or two, maybe even attend an hour-long webinar. Or, much more effective: you could spend two full days learning from a panel of 18 international SEO experts, discussing your takeaways live with other attendees.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve speakers from around the world.

Our world-class speakers are tackling the hardest problems and best opportunities in SEO today. The talk agenda covers topics like:

  • Responding to AI Overviews: Amanda King will teach you how to respond to AI Overviews, Google Gemini, and other AI search functions.
  • Surviving (and thriving) Google’s algo updates: Lily Ray will talk through Google’s recent updates, and share data-driven recommendations for what’s working in search today.
  • Planning for the future of SEO: Bernard Huang will talk through the failures of AI content and the path to better results.

(And attendees will get video recordings of each session, so you can share the knowledge with your teammates too.)

View the full talk agenda here.

There’s no substitute for meeting with influencers, peers, and partners in real life. 

Conferences create serendipity: chance encounters and conversations that can have a huge positive impact on you and your business. By way of example, these are some of the real benefits that have come my way from attending conferences:

  • Conversations that lead to new customers for our business,
  • Invitations to speak at events,
  • New business partnerships and co-marketing opportunities, and
  • Meeting people that we went on to hire.

There’s a “halo” effect that lingers long after the event is over: the people you meet will remember you for longer, think more highly of you, and be more likely to help you out, should you ask.

(And let’s not forget: there’s a lot of information, particularly in SEO, that only gets shared in person.)

The “international” part of Evolve matters too. Evolve is a different crowd to your local run-of-the-mill conference. It’s a chance to meet with people from markets you wouldn’t normally meet—from Australia to Indonesia and beyond.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve attendees by home country.

If you’re an Ahrefs customer (thank you!), you’ll learn tons of tips, tricks and workflow improvements from attending Evolve. You’ll have opportunities to:

  • Attend talks from the Ahrefs team, showcasing advanced features and strategies that you can use in your own business.
  • Pick our brains at the Ahrefs booth, where we’ll offer informal 1:1 coaching sessions and previews of up-coming releases (like our new content optimization tool 🤫).
  • Join dedicated Ahrefs training workshops, hosted by the Ahrefs team and Ahrefs power users (tickets for these workshops will sold separately).

As a manager myself, there are two questions I need answered when approving expenses:

  • Is this a reasonable cost?
  • Will we see a return on this investment?

To answer those questions: early bird tickets for Evolve start at $570. For context, “super early bird” tickets for MozCon (another popular SEO conference) this year were almost twice as much: $999.

There’s a lot included in the ticket price too:

  • World-class international speakers,
  • 5-star hotel venue,
  • 5-star hotel food (two tea breaks with snacks & lunch),
  • Networking afterparty, and
  • Full talk recordings to later share with your team.

SEO is a crucial growth channel for most businesses. If you can improve your company’s SEO performance after attending Evolve (and we think you will), you’ll very easily see a positive return on the investment.

Traveling to tropical Singapore (and eating tons of satay) is great for you, but it’s also great for your team. Attending Evolve is a chance to break with routine, reignite your passion for marketing, and come back to your job reinvigorated.

This would be true for any international conference, but it goes double for Singapore. It’s a truly unique place: an ultra-safe, high-tech city that brings together dozens of different cultures.

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Little India in Singapore

You’ll discover different beliefs, working practices, and ways of business—and if you’re anything like me, come back a richer, wiser person for the experience.

If you’re nervous about pitching your boss on attending Evolve, remember: the worst that can happen is a polite “not this time”, and you’ll find yourself in the same position you are now.

So here goes: take this message template, tweak it to your liking, and send it to your boss over email or Slack… and I’ll see you in Singapore 😉

Email template

Hi [your boss’ name],

Our SEO tool provider, Ahrefs, is holding an SEO and digital marketing conference in Singapore in October. I’d like to attend, and I think it’s in the company’s interest:

  • The talks will help us respond to all the changes happening in SEO today. I’m particularly interested in the talks about AI and recent Google updates. 
  • I can network with my peers. I can discover what’s working at other companies, and explore opportunities for partnerships and co-marketing.
  • I can learn how we can use Ahrefs better across the organization.
  • I’ll come back reinvigorated with new ideas and motivation, and I can share my top takeaways and talk recordings with my team after the event.

Early bird tickets are $570. Given how important SEO is to the growth of our business, I think we’ll easily see a return from the spend.

Can we set up time to chat in more detail? Thanks!

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