Have you been writing for robots? If your site pays more attention to outmoded SEO and back-linking strategies than to writing for real people, you risk losing the interest of your human audience and the respect of search engines. Quality content, the kind of information that your readers are eager to share, is becoming increasingly far removed from old-school SEO tactics.
The new content marketing model relies not on arcane formulas of keyword percentages and devalued back-links but on relationship building with real people. Successful sites now take a long-range, strategic point of view instead of the tactical tricks that were once effective link-bait. They’ve stopped delivering soliloquies and initiated dialogues with their customers.
Sites built on conventional link-building strategies have plummeted in search engine rankings. Content mills that used complex algorithms to find out what people wanted to read are floundering while companies that ask visitors what they need are surging.
Three factors have contributed to this massive shift.
- The increasing sophistication of search engines.
- The rise of social media.
- A new definition of quality content.
Of Pandas and Penguins
Before Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithms, search engines naively trusted sites larded with high-value search terms, low-value links and overstuffed meta tags. Unscrupulous black-hatters took advantage of this, packing pages with nonsense to game the system.
In February 2011, Google grew up and realized that wicked site owners had lied to it. The Panda algorithm responded by destroying thin or duplicated content by burying it. Sites that relied on spinning or stuffing instead of quality content suffered cataclysmic ranking penalties. After Panda crushed bad content, the May 2012 Penguin update targeted keyword-stuffed link strategies.
Why do search engines crack down on bad SEO practices? Google asked itself, “Would I read this?” If the answer was no, the site got penalized. The ultimate goal of Penguin and Panda was to help the giant search engine think like a human. The lesson here is that quality content works equally well for carbon-based and silicon-based visitors.
The Power of Attraction and Social Media
Link-building strategies once followed a simple format. Putting your company’s links in article mills, blog comments and crowd-sourced answer sites created enough synthetic buzz to fool search engines into higher rankings. With social media, great content spreads through different channels, bypassing automated article spinners and link builders.
Building links from scratch is only an effective strategy if the content containing those links is worth reading. Good content should aim for attracting links rather than building them. Focus instead on building relationships, and the links will follow. Always put your human readers first.
Humans love that.
Defining Quality Content
You know the value of quality content, but do you know it when you see it? When you’re reading for enjoyment or education, you do. You don’t waste a second on thin, keyword-stuffed content before you bounce. It’s easy to develop a blind spot, though, when it comes to creating your own content. Follow these steps for SEO that works.
1. Loosen Up
Ask yourself one question about your content: Would you read it by choice? If you have trouble choking down clumsy keyword phrases, dry jargon and meaningless buzzwords, your readers will, too. Unlike you, they don’t have to stick around, so give them something lively to keep them reading.
2. Be Generous
Share some of your knowledge with your readers. By getting something of worth from you, they’re likely to reciprocate with links and recommendations. Put your expertise to work for you by giving some of it to them. Some possibilities include:
- White papers
- Easy-to-share infographics
With blog posts and newsletters, you get to share more of yourself. Give your blog some personality and let customers get to know you. It’s an important step to fostering a better relationship.
3. Keep It Fresh
SEO has changed, but it’s still vital to your rankings. When you add fresh content to your blog or static site, you nudge your ranking incrementally higher. The Panda and the Penguin smile on sites that update often, and so do your visitors. Keep the quality content flowing to see your traffic rise organically.
4. Be the Expert
They may not realize it, but every visitor to your site subconsciously invests your content with authority. Don’t diminish that by posting content rife with poor grammar or factual errors. If you aren’t a gifted writer or don’t have time to edit, hire a professional. There’s no more shame in paying for quality content than there is in buying a great dinner at a restaurant. Let a pro handle it and enjoy the flavor.
5. Think Beyond Content
You aren’t posting your content just to have a place to hang your links. Great content goes beyond SEO to foster improved customer service, provide valuable market research and a create stronger brand identity.
Content Marketing Concepts: Three Case Studies
How does relationship-building instead of link-building work in action? To get a feel for how the new style of SEO works across industries, take a look at how it’s implemented for three professions.
The Law Office
Law is a serious subject filled with potentially baffling legalese. A content marketing approach that demystifies legal procedures is ideal. Maintain a blog of legal tips aimed at your niche or a series of tutorials clarifying terminology to enhance your authority. Most clients are local, so make your community involvement visible on your blog. Positioning yourself as a local expert builds your brand.
- Establish yourself as an authority in your niche with white papers and tutorials.
- Localize your market with blog posts.
- Put visitors at ease with a warmly professional tone in all content.
A great doctor-patient relationship can start with a content marketing approach that welcomes conversation. Pose questions in the blog and open the comments for answers. Relating current events or seasonal occurrences to your specialty isn’t just an effective content marketing strategy, it’s a service. Awareness weeks and flu seasons are great reasons to update your blog.
- Make medical care relatable with timely posts that encourage conversation.
- Showcase professional relationships with guest blog posts and press releases.
- Use infographics and images to make complex concepts clearer.
The Real Estate Agent
Quality content marketing for real estate agents demands great visuals. Infographics and colorful tutorials will excite buyers and sellers. Build in social media as an integral part of all content marketing. Few professions are more reliant on great networking than real estate, so make it easy for readers to share content.
- Build appealing visuals throughout the site and support it with lively writing.
- Use forums and a strong social media presence to enhance a static site’s functionality.
- Fill a blog with timely tips on preparing a house for sale or expand blog concepts into a white paper.