What is SEO Content? Why do I care?
Google has come right out and said that, along with links, content is one of the most important factors in any website’s search ranking. Content is a necessary component of any SEO campaign, but what does that mean?
Content is King, but Not All Content is Created Equal
Small business owners who are trying to manage their own online marketing often struggle with this topic. They know they need to create content (because they’ve been told that it’s important) but have no idea how to create content that is effective for SEO.
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the practice of making sure every element of your website is designed to help it rank well in search engines like Google. Search Engine Optimized content is simply content that has been created with search engines in mind – it’s been written with the intention of helping your site rank for keywords that you’ve decided are important for your business.
If you’re trying to follow the advice you’ve read and you’re creating content to help your site rank, it’s important to create content with an SEO strategy in mind.
Search Intent and Keyword Research
SEO strategies start with determining which search terms you’d like your content to rank for (i.e. the keywords you want to target), and the best way to figure that out is by thinking about search intent.
Search intent refers to the reasons someone might have to type in a search that could potentially lead them to your website. Think of the ideal search like this:
Problem → Google → Solution
People who are searching in Google have some kind of problem they want to solve. They want to fix something, or they want to find something, or maybe they just want to know something. The first step in this process for you is to figure out what types of problems it makes sense for your website to solve.
Let’s look at an example. Imagine for a moment that you’re a plumber. You know that you want your website to be at the top of Google when someone searches for “plumber,” but what else might you want to rank for?
The answer is that you want your website to come up whenever someone does a search about plumbing, even if they’re not actively looking for a plumber. If someone googles “how to unclog a drain” or “how to install a new toilet,” you want your website to come up. If someone googles “water heater making strange noises,” you want your website to come up.
The way you get your website to rank for these things is by creating content that gives people the answers they need.
Choosing the questions to answer
But as a small business owner, you don’t have an unlimited amount of time to create content. You need to prioritize. So how do you choose the most important things to write about?
The answer to that is keyword research. You may have a list of questions potential customers might be asking, but how often do people search for them? If people in our hypothetical plumber’s city search for “how to unclog a drain” 5,000 times each month and only search “how to install a new toilet” 10 times each month, one of those searches is much more important to target.
Until recently, the Google AdWords Keyword Planner was hands down the best way to do this kind of keyword research. Google has intentionally changed the way Keyword Planner works to make it less useful for SEO purposes, but it’s still worth using to get ballpark figures.
Keyword Planner lets you plug in any number of search terms and then gives you the numbers for those search terms. Until a few months ago, Google would give you a nice, precise number. Now, in an attempt to discourage SEO research, they give you a range unless you’re paying them a lot of money for AdWords campaigns.
But still, even with the huge ranges Keyword Planner gives us, roughly 10 times the number of people are searching for information about unclogging drains. This is exactly the kind of data you need before deciding on a content strategy.
How to use keywords in your content
In the old days, the term “keyword” was much more literal. It would be a word that you would repeat over and over on your website in the hopes that your website would then rank for that word. Nowadays, search engines are much more sophisticated. Google’s Hummingbird update, in particular, was all about semantic search and understanding both user intent and the content of web pages.
As a result, content writers no longer need to spam keywords. Using the word or phrase you’re targeting along with synonyms and other related phrases is all you need to rank well. However, there are still some best practices to emphasize to search engines that your page is focused on those keywords.
Keywords and HTML
Keywords can be important even in parts of your website that don’t show up on the page. Your title and meta tags are very important for your SEO, both because Google directly uses them while analyzing the content of your pages and because they display this content in search results.
- Title Tag: The title of your page will be the link text when it’s displayed in search results. Your keyword should be in the first few words of the title. If you’re targeting a longer phrase, like “How to unclog a drain,” you might want to make that the entire title.
- Meta description: Google says they don’t use this to evaluate your site directly, but the meta description has a big impact on whether or not people will click on your site when it appears in search results, and that DOES affect your ranking. Write clear meta descriptions using the phrase you’re targeting so people will know what they’re clicking on.
- Header tags: Header tags create the section headings, and Google looks to them as a clue as to what’s important in the content below them. The heading on this section of the post you’re reading now is “Keywords and HTML,” so Google will look at it and assume all this text in the section is about keywords and HTML (which it is).
Don’t spam your keywords
Unlike the old days, there’s no reason to spam your keywords in your content. Instead, you should feel free to write naturally. If you organize your content well and use headers correctly, Google should have no trouble recognizing the topic of your content without you needing to write “clogged drain” 50 times on the page.
Instead, use variations of the keyword and other related phrases. If you’re writing about clogged drains, use synonyms like “stopped drains” and talk about sinks draining slowly. Doing this helps Google understand the context of your keywords, and when their algorithm is more confident, it’s more likely to suggest your page in search results.
SEO content can get you halfway there
Content and links to your site are the two most important factors that influence your search ranking. If you take the time to create high quality, optimized content, you’ve done everything that’s in your hands to help your site rank. The next step is putting your content out there, and hoping that it can earn some links to help push your rank up even further.
Do you have any content tips or SEO strategies that other small business owners could benefit from? Leave a comment or drop us a line on Twitter!