Why Content Is Key to SEO

By Lindsey Laughlin

Every industry has its own lingo, an alphabet soup of acronyms that are tossed around like chips at a casino. For digital marketers, the fun is taken to an all-new level because you have to know your SEO from your PPC (or CPC, as some people still call it) and your Panda from your Penguin. Quite frankly, it’s enough to make me scream. If you’re looking for technical information about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), this isn’t the post for you. However, if you want to know how to help improve your website’s organic search rank – in words you can understand and take action on – keep reading.

As a marketer or business owner, your goal is to get your message in front of your audience. Online, that means having your website rank high in organic search results (i.e. they come up at the top of the page when someone searches for a relevant keyword). You’ve probably had people contact you out-of-the-blue to say that for a small fee they can ensure your site ranks at the top of the page. Don’t buy it. There is no way to guarantee where you show up on the page, and your placement will change over time, whether you make any changes to your page or not.

Let’s start with an overview of how search rank works. Search engines use complex algorithms when ranking search results, so this explanation will be simplified and high-level. Here’s what those algorithms might look like in layman’s terms:

Relevance x Authority = Rank

Relevance determines which pages of your site will rank for a given keyword, and authority impacts how high it will rank.

It’s important to realize is that it’s not your website that will rank for a keyword, it’s a page (or pages) on your site. This means that not everyone will enter your site at the homepage, and each page of your site is able to be optimized.

Leveraging Content for SEO

It may sound counter-intuitive, but one of the best ways to improve your relevance and authority is to design your website for people, not search engines.

What does that mean? In one word: content. Here are some key ways content can help improve your site’s search rank:

  • Relevance: Quality, keyword-rich content can increase your relevance for a given page. Years ago, people would try to squeeze a bunch of keywords onto a page, in meta tags, etc. to try to increase their relevance – this was call keyword stuffing. The result was pages that had little value, and search engines caught on and updated their algorithms. When your focus is on developing content that is truly valuable – such as a blog – you’re able to incorporate important keywords organically, inherently improving your relevance for those keywords. When creating content, think first about what’s actually valuable to your audience, and let that guide your content creation efforts. Then in the proofing phase, think about what words people might use to search for that topic or question, and make sure they are included in the main content and title.
  • Return Traffic: Keeping your content fresh gives your audience a reason to keep coming back to your site. Think of traffic like voting – each visit is like a vote for your page. When search engines return search results, they want to show pages that are popular, and higher traffic is one way to demonstrate popularity. Content ideas to make your site a resource for your audience include a blog, company news, and educational information and videos.
  • Inbound Links: Not only will you benefit from return traffic, but having quality content on your site makes it a resource for others. When other sites find your content valuable, they’ll link to it, and those links are known as inbound links. Having high-authority sites link to yours can increase your authority.
    • Note: Not all inbound links are created equal. Gaining links from credible sites with high authority will help you more than sites with less authority. The type of link also makes a difference – if the referring site tags the link as “no follow”, the traffic it sends your way can help your SEO efforts, but the link itself won’t help as much because it’s not passing along equity from the referring site.
  • Engagement: Content can also help to increase your site visitors’ time on page and engagement with your site. In the days when keyword stuffing was popular, people would land on a page and leave quickly because the page didn’t provide the content they were looking for. Search engines learned to look not just at the traffic to a page, but also the engagement with the page. This doesn’t mean you should take three paragraphs to say what you could say in one as a ploy to keep people on your page (guess what – they’ll either just skim it anyway or be overwhelmed and leave), but it does mean that content should live up to the promises made in titles and excerpts, and should provide real value to readers. Video content can be a good way to increase engagement and also provide content that people want to link to/share.
Resources for Digging Deeper into SEO

If you want to read more about content marketing and SEO, there are many great resources available. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • MOZ: Not only does MOZ offer a suite of SEO tools, they also provide a variety of educational information for everyone from beginners to advanced marketers.
  • SEOquake: This free tool is a browser extension that enables you to run SEO diagnostic reports from any web page.
  • Content Marketing Institute: CMI offers a variety of resources, ranging from online educational information to large marketing events.
  • Search Engine Land: If you’re looking for current information about anything related to search, this is a great resource to check out. You’ll find information about SEO, search engine marketing, search engines, etc.
  • Search Engine Journal: SEJ is similar to Search Engine Land in that it also provides articles on SEO, PPC, and more.
  • think with Google: Google is a master at not only providing tools for marketers (Analytics, AdWords, etc.), they also provide a wealth of educational content. Add think with Google to your browser’s bookmarks, and also sign up for their newsletter.

Have a content or SEO tool that you love? Share it in the comments below!

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