Google has stated that ‘content’ is among its top three ranking factors, but what makes content ‘good’ from an SEO perspective? Columnist Nate Dame outlines what makes high-quality SEO content.
Effective content marketing is a vehicle for modern SEO.
Just as wheels without an engine leaves you pedaling, content without an SEO strategy can’t keep up in a digital marketplace. And just like an engine with no wheels, SEO without content is a shiny machine that goes nowhere.
Content needs SEO to stand out in the din of mediocre blog posts clogging up the internet these days, and Google has said that one of the top three ranking factors for organic search is “content.”
But what does that mean? Not any content, surely. Unfortunately, search engines are not handing out checklists for “high-quality content,” and they probably never will. That means it’s up to those of us who geek out on this kind of thing to study search results, mine Google Analytics and create massive spreadsheets that we pretend to be bored by but secretly love — all to bring you (and ourselves, who are we kidding?) a comprehensive guide to creating “high-quality” SEO content.
Step 1: SEO your content strategy
Too many marketers are still waiting until the end of content creation to bring in SEO as a promotional tool. They try to figure out what they’ve just created, so they can plug in a few keywords and links.
But an effective content marketing strategy should start with keyword and user intent research. Once you know what queries your audience is using, and what kind of content they are looking for, you can design a content strategy that answers their specific questions and helps move them through the funnel.
- is based on an understanding of your audience, as well as keyword and user intent research. Use your audience’s language, and provide the information they’re actually looking for.
- helps the reader complete one specific task. Long content (1,000+ words) tends to rank better in organic results, in part because it is thorough. That said, stay on task and don’t let the content lose focus.
- features an enticing call to action or a clear next step. When you know your readers and their buyer journeys, your content can point them to more of what they want.
Step 2: Design good content
Good UX is good SEO. When users are engaged, they consume more content, interact with it and share it. From the overarching structure to the details of the layout, make sure you are designing good content.
There are plenty of philosophies about which characteristics make content “good” — or “sticky” or “thought leadership.” They are all worthy considerations, and every piece of content should cover at least a few:
- Novel/Unique (in value, not just in content)
And as you continue to design content, keep your audience in mind: you are writing for people, so search engines can also understand — not vice versa.
- is written to its audience, not your peers. Make sure the language is neither too simple nor full of industry jargon.
- is shareable. Take a step back and ask yourself if you would share it — and, if so, could you? (i.e., are social sharing buttons readily available?)
- can be scanned quickly. Use short paragraphs, callouts, bold text, bullet points, numbered lists, quotes and so on to make the text easy on the eyes and easy to digest quickly.
- uses strong titles and H1s. Create enticing, actionable titles that use keywords strategically and naturally. CoSchedule has a nice headliner analyzer tool if you need help here.
- features ideal results, common objections and/or time frames in subheaders. Anticipate the audience’s hopes, fears and concerns.
- is better than current SERP winners. Spy out the competition. Review the pages that are currently ranking well for target keywords and ask yourself if your content is better. Make sure it’s better.
Step 3: Create correct content
Is there anything as unsettling as a typo in an otherwise great piece of content? No. There isn’t. While there is no evidence, at this time, that grammar is a ranking signal, it’s a UX/credibility concern.
Additionally, citing sources and linking to other authorities is good technique, but it’s also good SEO — those outbound links demonstrate to search engines that you know your stuff, and that you’re associating with the right crowd.