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As someone interested in SEO you’ve almost certainly, at one point or another, become victim to a drug that plagues the addictive nature of us all: Metricaine. A jump in rankings here, a sudden drop there, and a constant battle to grow your PageRank or Domain Authority to that elusive next level. You’re watching the numbers as traffic increases and then suddenly it hits you – the epiphany. You’re addicted to metrics. The numbers have lulled you into a sense of security and you feel like you’re doing your job. But what if you’re not?
Whether working as an in-house SEO, or helping clients grow their business, your focus shouldn’t just be on ramping up the raw figures – you’re looking to increase the quality of those visitors and how they interact with your content. Think about it – there’s no point attracting a few thousand people if they’re going to look at your page for a couple of seconds and then hit the ‘back’ button. It might mean that you can make yourself look good in reports but you’re not adding value, which should be your ultimate goal.
Let’s begin by stating the obvious: Engaging content will be shared and, with the right push, you’ll gain traction across your social networks of choice. Although getting to a stage where they’re common place in most niches, infographics are great for this. I know from personal experience that if you get yourself in front of the right audience, you’ll pick up a huge amount of traffic. There’s also still plenty of opportunity to stand out by adding interactivity with HTML5 or, if you’re a real pro, embedding video content inside an infographic. If anyone does this let me know and I’ll definitely give you a link!
It doesn’t need to be rich media though – just look at some of the amazing posts here on Search Engine Journal; most get hundreds of tweets. The traffic generated from this is huge and doesn’t happen by accident. The editorial team here is dedicated to giving you the best possible information and don’t let sub-standard content through the net – that in itself drives engagement. Need proof? Another SEO site famed for its content is SEOMoz – I did a random check on a Whiteboard Friday video and found the following:
Engagement for SEO
Yes, it’s true that bounce rate in its rawest form most likely isn’t a direct ranking factor, but things like dwell time almost certainly are. If users are visiting your page, leaving, and then searching for exactly the same thing straight away then that simply has to be a hint to the search engines that your page probably isn’t as engaging as it should be, doesn’t it?
If you’ve created something that’s engaging then, by its very nature, your content has a good chance of grabbing the interest of another blogger or site owner who may, in turn, feature it on their site. Even the best content doesn’t give you any guarantee of picking up links but you need to give yourself the best possible chance – churning out the same old dross that everyone else is doing makes your link building life much tougher.
Finally, by creating things like infographics, amazing video content, and blog posts that are more than just 500 words of text, you’re increasing the quality of your content while also inadvertently avoiding being bitten by a big angry Panda. Your site gets better, your visitors are happier, and Google is less likely to smack you down. Everyone wins!
5 Simple Steps to Engaging Content
Every industry and niche website has the potential to produce engaging content – it’s just working out what you’re audience needs. In the age of the social web this has become far easier and there are a few simple steps that will help you create something that people will see as being of real value.
1. Research The first thing you’ll want to do is spend some time researching what has worked for other people. Do a search for “your niche” +infographic, check visual.ly, or get yourself a Followerwonk account and see what kind of stuff the most prominent Twitter users in your industry are sharing. See what you can find on Vimeo and YouTube. Speak to people (shock, horror!). Get yourself in a room with a piece of paper and three or four other people to come up with ideas.
2. Test Once you’ve come up with a few ideas, test them out. Get in touch with some of those thought leaders that you found on Followerwonk and ask them what they think of your ideas. If they like any of them you’ve got a perfect opportunity to line them up to promote it once you’ve finished. Also, use services like Amazon Mechanical Turk to ask a couple of hundred people which of your ideas they think is the best. It’ll cost you a few dollars but there’s nothing like a bit of good old-fashioned market research to validate yourself.
3. Create The next step is to actually create something. Use the best people you possibly can within your budget – whether that includes internal resources or services like oDesk, elance and 99designs you need to get this bit right. There’s nothing wrong with going through a few design iterations to make sure you get things just as they need to be; at the end of the day what you’re creating here will be commodity and you can’t afford for it to be sub-standard.
4. Test it Again! At this point it’s very tempting to just release your product and hope that people like it. Don’t. Fire up Mechanical Turk again so that you can ask a few strangers what they think. A simple ‘Is this good enough to share on Facebook?’ would be a good question to ask if it’s a generic piece of content but whatever you do keep the question simple. Speak to friends, colleagues, family and give those industry leaders that we mentioned earlier a preview to get their input. Do any tweaks and changes, and then test again until you feel completely happy with the outcome.
5. Release I mentioned earlier that great content doesn’t give you an guarantees. Remember this. There are different views on how best to do a release, and this will change depending on the content, but I like to go with the ‘shock and awe’ approach. Whether you’re promoting through forums, Facebook Ads, paid Stumbles, or through an email campaign you need to make sure that you get this bit right. Getting yourself in front of niche bloggers all at the same time means there’s less chance that they’ll have seen your content posted on another site and, therefore, more likely to share.
If you find something that works, stick with it… but don’t become blinkered. Being engaging isn’t about coming up with the same rehashed content time and time again; it’s about being different and standing out from the crowd. In doing this your competitors will start to take notice and, at some point, it’s very likely that they’ll copy you. Take it as a compliment and smile to yourself – after all, you’ll already have started on something even newer and more exciting before they’ve had a chance to catch up!