Nearly 90% of companies now use content marketing. They’re pinpointing specific topics, targeting certain audiences and doubling down on distribution across various channels. But how are they optimizing their content to ensure it’s actually seen by those who matter most: prospects and customers?
I’m glad you asked. It’s hard for businesses to optimize content in today’s rapidly changing digital world. There have been 18 updates to Google’s algorithm in the last three years alone. Millions of articles across the Web give completely contradictory advice for ensuring a healthy ranking. There are unfortunately still dozens of untrustworthy companies that practice black hat SEO. So, what can you do now to help your business naturally (and ideally, aggressively) boost its search rankings? Here’s my two cents…
1. Indexation: SEO companies are reporting ranking drops due to a new Google algorithm change that separates desk top and mobile indexation. This might lead to decreased desk top rankings and increased mobile rankings, or vice versa. More info and tips for improving this can be found here.
2. HTTPS migration: There is currently a huge push for companies to migrate their websites to HTTPS (consider that Apple now requires all iOS apps to be HTTPS connected). If your content isn’t ranking as well as you’d like, make sure your site is secure and meets HTTPS requirements.
3. Images: They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, but only if it can be seen first. Use unique images (NEVER stock photos) and be sure to name the images accordingly (ex: picture of a hotel front desk worker being titled “hotel-front-desk-worker.jpg” verses “gtj938363928.jpg”). The goal is to help Google best understand what the content of the image is to optimally rank it. As always, I recommend Unsplash for amazing, free HD images.
4. Meta descriptions: I recently wrote over 200 meta descriptions for various pieces of content a client had produced over the years: white papers, eBooks, infographics, case studies. If you can’t go back and add them, start including meta descriptions with each new piece of content. These should be 160 characters or less. Here are some great tips for getting started.
5. Keyword Optimization: The way I see it, you should NEVER compromise the quality of your content to fit a keyword. I’ve always been of the firm belief that content should be as organic and human as possible (after all, you’re writing for a human audience). If possible, try to ORGANICALLY integrate a focused keyword or key phrase (no more than four words) into the title, introduction and a few times throughout the body copy. Use Google AdWords to gauge the competitiveness of a given keyword.
6. Title: Try to keep your title short (around 70-80 characters), pithy and actionable. Always challenge yourself to think outside of the box. Continually reimagine possibilities to differentiate your content. Here’s a blog title generator that I’m currently obsessed with. It really helps get me going when I’m spinning out.
7. Questionable links: Consider Google’s Penguin 4.0 Phase 1 (launched September 2016), which goes out of its way to devalue bad links. Marketing/SEO leader Moz puts it best: “For search engines that crawl the vast metropolis of the web, links are the streets between pages. Using sophisticated link analysis, the engines can discover how pages are related to each other and in what ways.” Check out this article from them that offers a beginner’s guide to linking.
8. Pop-ups/anything else that might damage user experience: In January 2017, Google introduced an “Intrusive Interstitial Penalty” aimed at punishing aggressive interstitials and pop-ups that might damage the user experience (specifically, via mobile).
At the end of the day, the best way to rank well is to simply focus on the user—NOT revenue. Do this and you’ll continually head in the right direction.