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Don’t be a Content Marketing Ostrich > How to Avoid Future Penalties.
2013 is going to be a BIG year for content marketing. The rise of Google penalties, social and semantic understanding has forced even the most technical SEO into considering content strategy, creation and marketing.
The result has been a leap into the unknown for many, and a fast learning curve for the rest but while quality content is a great thing for brands, and the web generally, it doesn’t mean that it’s without risks.
As we’ve seen in recent months doing too much of a good thing can be frowned upon by Google and so if there is one key lesson from Penguin and Panda it must be that you should be much smarter in the way you deliver any campaigns online.
Even white hat projects like major content pushes can bring with it an element of danger. Algorithmic penalties by their very nature take no prisoners and so you must abide by certain rules if you are to avoid misplaced punishment.
The perfect example of early stage content marketing is guest posting. It’s a relatively straightforward and immediately impactful way of leveraging content for visibility and links. The problem is mistakes are made and anchor text is overused, or other key metrics are not monitored as closely as they should and so issues arise.
This is when content marketing optimisation comes into play.
I am going to stop making up new SEO buzzwords for the rest of this article and focus on how it’s still important to plan your approach with content marketing to ensure you are not at risk of over optimisation.
To do this we need to look at how we can better understand how things have changed and how we can leverage a new reliance on link relevancy to keep the right side of that line. Enter Semantically Related Keywords.
What are Semantically Related Keywords?
We all know that Google is working hard to fully understand the correlation between different words so that they can truly understand what context we are using when searching. Add to the fact that there are genuine semantic search engines such as the wolf ram alpha and it is clear that this is the future of the web.
But for quite some time Google has been working on creating a system that will analyse the content on a page and from the keywords of the article determine the overall subject. This is what Semantic is all about. Over the years there has been a lot of discussion on whether this is Latent Semantic Indexing or just a technology that gives weight to semantically related words. Either way, this technology has been given more weight in recent months.
Where to use Semantically Related Keywords
When Google crawls a page of content, semantics come into play and will look at the keywords on the page to determine the subject. This is how Google will know whether you mean hi tech devices or fruit when you are searching for the term “Apple”.
Fast forward to recent months and semantics has evolved and is now being used in many other areas of the web. In particular semantics are being used to judge the power and anchor texts of links and even used to detect over optimised link profiles. This is where careful optimisation is needed when planning content marketing.
How is Semantics used for judging links and penalties?
You only need to look at the recent panda and penguin updates to understand that Google is on a mission to clear up link spam promote genuine naturally gained link profiles. This has resulted in the relevance of a link being one of the most important metrics. How do you think Google determines the relevancy of a link? By using its technology to determine semantically related keywords of course.
I am going to bring this back to the guest post example to show how Google uses semantics to determine the quality and relevance of a potential guest post. This will in turn show how we can use semantics ourselves to both maximise the relevance of the link and ensure that the anchor texts are not over optimised.
Using Semantics to Control the Relevancy and Power of a Guest Post
With guest posting, we all know that having a guest post from a similar niche site is far greater than having a post from a completely different niche. Google automatically detects the relevancy between the 2 posts and gives the link more power because of it. Now you can probably guess by the theme of this article that I am going to explain that Google will look for the same and also semantically related keywords on the guest post to determine its true power. This is where we can be very clever and construct specific content to produce the absolute maximum power possible. All we need to do is make sure we write content that has the semantically related keywords that Google is looking for to determine the true relevancy.
Let’s go through an example, let’s say you have done the outreach for a website that is within the payday loan niche and you have found several finance blogs that will accept your guest posts. Whilst you know that a finance blog is an excellent, relevant site for your guest post, you can refine it even further by optimising the content you write. Here is how you can do this.
So you have you finance blog ready to take the content, you now need to write the content of your post to ensure it is as relevant as possible using semantically related keywords so Google will associate that content within your niche and give the link as much power as possible. There is a fantastic site called http://lsikeywords.com/ that will generate a list of keywords for you to use. Google may not specifically be using LSI to determine the relevancy of keywords but tools like this are still a good way to determine other relevant keywords.
Simply put in your main niche keyword and it will give you a list of all related keywords based on the top X of websites in Google.
Click image to expand.
From this we can select a wide range of keywords and phrases that we can put into the content. I recommend picking out 10 phrases.
- credit check
- bad credit
- poor credit
- easy application loans
- instant payday loan
- easy fast approval
- loans online
- easy loans
Once you have your list you can then start to write your guest post based on these keywords. Now I am not saying you must use all these keywords and I am certainly not saying you must destroy the quality of the content to be able to put these in. Include these keywords where it makes perfect sense to in the article and you will have the perfect guest post to pass the maximum amount of link juice through.
We have explained how to gain as much link juice through as possible. This technique also allows you to obtain more power from a link from a not so relevant blog. We have all been there where you have secured a guest post from a niche that doesn’t quite match what your site is all about. If it does not, it is possible to use semantically related keywords to write the content and you can help build up the links relevance and ultimately its power.
Proximity of Semantically Related Keywords to the Link
It is also worth noting that the relevance of the link is also determined by the proximity of the related keywords to the physical link itself. Google is slowly moving away from placing most of the power on the physical anchor text itself and is looking at the physical content to understand whether it is a good or irrelevant link.
Using Semantics to Control Your Anchor Texts and Avoid Penalties
So we have discussed how to maximise each individual guest post and ensure you are getting as much juice as possible. Now we can look at using semantics and other techniques to ensure that all these monthly guest posting campaigns do not end up giving you a penalty.
We have all had a client that wants to have 20+ guest posts created per month for a single term in order to gain rankings. Not only does this client need educating that ranking for that term does not simply mean through tons of targeted anchor text at the site. You will also need a very structured process in order to make sure that you can still rank for that particular term the client has requested without being hit with an over optimisation penalty. Here’s how you can do this.
It is all about having a very structured anchor text profile, for this example I am going to assume that the client site is not already penalised.
Anchor Text Profile Ratio
20% – main targeted keyword
35% – Branded Anchor Texts
25% – Semantically Related Keywords
20% – Other generic keywords (click here, visit website etc)
Using this simple ratio you can build a very structured anchor text profile and plan that will both allow you to bring in the expected results for your client as well as avoiding penalties. I must add that whilst we have tested this method to date and it does work. Google are constantly changing their algorithm and this may not be completely future proof if they decide to completely alter the way they detect over optimisation. But as it stands, this anchor text profile mimics a natural profile as much as it can and at the same time is very varied yet still within the same niche. Perfect for building a powerful and authoritative site is a specific niche.
Following from the same example as before, you may have a PayDay loans client that is requesting 20 guest posts per month and wants to rank for the term “Payday Loans”. Now we can simply use the above ratio to create the following list.
4 x payday loans
7 x branded text and URL
1 x fast cash online
1 x cash loans direct
1 x credit check
1 x fast approval loans
1 x loans approved
1 x visit website
1 x visit our website
1 x find out more
1 x click here
So there we have it, using Semantics alone we are able to flip it and use it to optimise our content to both increase the power of our links as well as avoid the infamous penalties. We all know that we are entering an era where link relevance is the new Page Rank and Semantics is part of the answer to these new methods.
Other ways to Optimise your Content
It is all well making sure that you create the right content for the post to make sure that the relevance is perfect. But never forget the basics on creating good content. Here a few extra tips on creating content that will both attract attention from readers and get noticed by the search engines.
Write Page Titles that Sell
We all know it is important to make sure the content is interesting. But it will go unnoticed if the title does not stand out and grab the user’s attention. Make sure to give your content a title that will broadcast the most crucial part of what it is saying. Once you have this title, do not forget to include it in your title tag so it appears in the SERPs.
The Length of Your Content Matters
Now that we are in an age or regular panda updates, the length of the content is important and will help rank in Google. If you need an exact reason to make sure your article has enough content. Google is actively monitoring the bounce rate of pages and if your content is longer, users will stick around longer to read therefore ultimately keeping you up the rankings by signalling to Google that it is good, useful content.
Encourage Social Signals
It is well known that Google is watching social signals to assist with ranking increases yet so many people don’t actively encourage it. Even in a guest post, if you have a way of writing into the content to encourage the users to click that Like or Tweet button, do it. Encouraging your users to share the article by writing it in the content is best way to get conversions.
Don’t Leave out Authorship and Schema Markup
If your content is able to include either authorship or schema information, always opt in to use it. The schema data helps increase click through to the page alone but the authorship has by far the greatest potential. Google is recording data from each blog post and if that post is good, gains a lot of links and shares and is linked to a profile in Google plus. That author can almost directly pass that power onto the next post they write because Google will base it on the popularity of the authors overall reputation on the web. Google has only just begun using this but expect this metric to get a lot stronger in 2013.
Do Be Afraid to Link Out
So many people do not link out to anywhere on their content because they want to hoard all the link juice for their own sites. But little do they know that linking to authoritative sources actually helps and increases the relevance and ultimately power of the content. So when planning your next piece, don’t forget to link out to whatever information or tool you are discussing. It will help, and you could even be rewarded for linking to the other site.
It Is Not All About Guest Posts
This post has focused on guest posting which is one very small part of content marketing. But these techniques can be used anywhere and it is well worth the effort in doing so. Take infographics for example, when you have gained several shares across the web from your new infographic. A lot of the time it will be from infographic directories and other places that will not be entirely relevant to your site. Why not do the outreach and add content with semantically related keywords onto the page so you can maximise the effectiveness and relevance of the link. You could even control the ratio of your anchor texts this way too.
It is very easy to continue writing pages and pages for this post as there is so much to cover when it comes to Semantics. However, rather than create an opinion piece, I wanted to create an actionable piece that can give out some useful takeaways on how to optimise and control some of the newer content marketing link building methods and maximise their potential. If you are going to take anything away from this piece, let it be the following points.
- Content Marketing, like any off page SEO needs careful planning to maximise gains and avoid penalisation.
- Semantics has been around for several years and in several forms. But in a time of “Relevance is King”. It is now important than ever to start using this technology to our advantage.
- We are in a time where Page Rank is no longer a reliable link value. Relevance is now a very important metric that cannot be ignored.
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Blue Planet