Although the recent Penguin update wasn’t quite the “game changer” that many SEOs believed it would be, the fact that the entire digital marketing community believed that major changes were on the way is proof enough that old school SEO is out for good.
And if we can’t rely on traditional link building techniques or on-page optimization tactics to secure high search engine rankings any longer, where can we turn to improve natural search performance?
In fact, the answer to this SEO question might come from a separate promotional strategy that’s been receiving plenty of attention in the online marketing world. That solution is content marketing.
Content marketing is an inbound marketing tactic that relies on producing and distributing high value content in order to bring about a number of different results. As an example, content marketing is an extremely powerful brand recognition building tool. At the same time, it’s a great way to drive website traffic through the dissemination of content pieces on popular social websites.
However, it’s also important to note that – when done well – content marketing can play a role in proper website SEO. The following are just a few of the different ways that SEO and content marketing intersect:
Keyword-optimized blog posts
Blog posts represent the cornerstone of any good content marketing strategy. While the never garner the social numbers or shares that “flashier” content pieces – like infographics or video clips – can obtain, they tend to be viewed more consistently by your regular website visitors.
Of course, when it comes to both SEO and content marketing, there’s a big difference between good blog posts and bad blog posts!
Good blog posts tend to have all of the following attributes in common:
- They’re meaty, consisting of 1,000 words a piece or more
- They’re authoritative, providing information that hasn’t been rehashed again and again online
- They’re published regularly, giving repeat visitors new content to engage with
- They’re engaging, relying on well-known post formats to attract attention
Writing these types of posts alone is enough to improve your site’s SEO, as the search engines have placed (or at least, claim to have placed) a priority on high quality, unique content that provides valuable information to website visitors. Even if their algorithms aren’t yet sophisticated enough to put the best content at the top of the SERPs 100% of the time, you can bet that day is coming.
But beyond this SEO benefit, you can take things a step further by optimizing all or some of the blog posts you publish to an individual keyword you’re targeting. Use the Yoast SEO plugin on WordPress sites to ensure that your keyword is placed in all of the following areas:
- Your blog post title
- Your blog post URL
- Your blog post body content
- Your blog post meta description
Don’t over-optimize your posts, and don’t compromise readability to stuff in another instance of your keyword. But by following these simple steps, you’ll help the search engines to effectively determine what your posts are about, leading to better SERPs performance down the road.
Viral-style “linkbait” content pieces
One of the biggest challenges facing all digital marketers and website owners these days is link building – specifically, how to carry out this vital activity in a post-Penguin world.
Because the search engines have demonstrated their intent to clean up spam links and penalize sites that rely on them to manipulate the rankings, many former popular link building methods are now off the table. Using automated link building programs or blog networks, for example, are an incredibly bad idea, given Google’s growing knowledge about legitimate link graphs.
The new name of the link building game is “natural” – and there’s almost no better way to do that than with content marketing.
In addition to the regular publication of blog posts, the most successful content marketing campaigns make use of “outreach” content pieces that can be distributed across social sites and shared person-to-person. These content pieces tend to be larger in scope than individual blog posts and use formats that encourage viral sharing. A few examples of these types of content include:
- Infographic or instructographic images
- Humorous or educational video clips
- Downloadable guides or reports
- White papers
There’s a reason that these types of content pieces are termed “linkbait.” When distributed appropriately, they tend to create tons of links naturally, without any effort on the part of their owners.
As an example, suppose you develop a killer infographic image and publish it to your site with the relevant embed code. You post the infographic to directories like Visual.ly, which creates an initial round of backlinks to your site. Then, you share your infographic across social properties, which results in dozens of other websites embedding your graphic on their pages.
For very little effort outside of the initial infographic creation, you’ve created tons of the kinds of natural backlinks that the search engines will always value – making this strategy an important part of both SEO and content marketing.
Content marketing social promotions
These days, the general consensus is that social signals do have an impact on SEO – even if the exact mechanisms by which this occurs aren’t yet clear.
According to an infographic created by WhiteFire SEO and distributed through Social Media Today, social media performance has all of the following effects on SEO:
- Helps content get indexed faster
- Increases rankings for terms in social shares
- Increases rankings for social connections
- Increases domain’s ability to rank
However, the thing about proper social promotions is that you need good content to back them up!
Yes, you can engage your followers with witty status updates or by sharing content from other peoples’ social profiles, but for the best results, you need to be sharing your own content as well. Promoting your own content helps your social followers to see you as an authority and increases the amount of referral traffic your website receives from your social promotions (as long as your site’s backlink remains intact).
If you’ve been following along with steps #1 and #2 of this process, you should already have this valuable content ready in the form of high value blog posts and engaging linkbait pieces. The final key to optimizing your content marketing efforts for SEO success is to share this content on your social profiles.
For best results, do some investigative research using tools like Tweriod to determine when your followers are most active. Then, use well-established social media marketing techniques to release updates on your optimized schedule in order to capture as much user attention as possible. Be careful not to be too self-promotional – share your own content alongside other pieces that will provide your followers with the best possible information.
Essentially, think of the intersection of SEO and content marketing as giving you the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. By implementing an effective content marketing campaign on your website, you’ll be able to meet plenty of important SEO benchmarks without any extra effort on your part. It’s a win-win scenario for busy webmasters and digital marketers!