Over the past several years many of the “shortcuts” to SEO have gradually become less effective and, in many cases, counter-productive. Google has become more intelligent about recognizing what things genuinely indicate value and what things exist for the sole purpose of manipulating search rankings. Recent algorithm updates, such as Panda and Penguin, clearly show the search engine’s distaste for “over-optimization” and it’s preference for things that really matter — like content.
This means there’s no more faking it. Your content and engagement have to stand on their own. For instance, tactics designed only for creating links (article spinning, directory bombardment, comment spam, etc., etc.) are no longer viable — Google sees them for what they are and so do most internet users.
Does this Change Anything?
If your focus has always been to first and foremost provide quality content and you only use SEO as a vehicle for driving awareness to that content, then you have far less to worry about. On the other hand, if you’ve traditionally relied mostly on SEO manipulation to drive traffic to your site and considered content an afterthought, then you may need to go back to the drawing board.
Either way, content now matters more than ever before (and it’s always been considered king), so no matter if you are accustomed to delivering worthwhile information or not, this is no time to get lackadaisical as more marketers are focusing on content and the competition is undoubtedly going up a notch. In fact, we’re already seeing this evolution take place as many SEO companies are rebranding themselves as “content marketers.”
Steps to Creating a Productive Content Campaign
To compete in the new Panda and Penguin internet world, you have to start taking your content seriously, and if you already were, focus on it even more. It’s important to treat it as a true marketing campaign — complete with plans and goals. Here are some steps you can take to make that happen:
1. Don’t Make Links and Shares Your Only Goals
Even as businesses try to improve their content, many are still relying on likes and shares as their only metric for success. Of course, you want these things, but if they are not leading to conversions then what’s the point? Instead, focus on providing information which attracts visitors, keeps them on your pages, encourages them to return, and eases them down the path to becoming your customer.
2. Have Specific Objectives
The only way to know if your efforts are working is to keep track of where you begin and where you end up. So, outline your primary and secondary objectives (these should align with your business goals), devise ways to measure their growth, and be specific. For instance, don’t just say you want to attract new visitors — specify how many visitors you want, how long you want to keep them on your page, and what percentage you expect to follow your call to action. Having clear goals gives you and your team a better sense of direction.
3. Know Your Audience
Although you may have one overall audience, your followers are by no means homogeneous. The group likely consists of existing customers, potential customers, bloggers, other business owners, and more. This means your content needs to serve multiple functions at once: engaging, converting, and inspiring links. It helps to divide your audience into a handful of micro-audiences, and analyze each group extensively. That way, you will have a complete understanding of your followers and can create super-relevant content.
That said, don’t let the makeup of your audience bog you down, because truthfully they are all looking for the same thing — worthwhile content related to your industry.
4. Tailor Your Content towards Audience’s Preferences
Once you have an in-depth understanding of your audience (there are many ways to do this: analytics, surveys, social listening, interviews, etc.), you should have an idea of what type of content they prefer. For instance, if your audience is primarily women, you may find they enjoy photo-centric content and tutorials (à la Pinterest). Or, if you’re targeting a tech crowd, you may discover they enjoy screenshots and video guides as opposed to traditional articles.
The important thing is to choose a medium relevant to the people you want to attract; don’t just pick something because it’s easier or because you like it.
5. Consider Your Resources
You may have big plans for an amazing video blog, a huge promotional event, and obtaining thousands of social followers, but if you lack camera equipment, have no advertising money, and don’t have a dedicated social media manager then, unfortunately, your ideas are destined to fail. Thus, when outlining your campaign, pick the best strategies for your budget and resources. Be realistic and choose tasks your team has the skills and time to handle.
The good news is, even if you start cheap, as long as you consistently provide value to your readers, your site can evolve into the business-boosting powerhouse you envision.
6. Marketing Channels
No matter how great your content, it can’t benefit your business if no one knows about it. Thus, you have to spread the word. There are many online channels to do this, such as social networks, email marketing, remarketing, advertisements, guest posts, and more. Again, don’t take on more than your wallet or resources can handle or you’ll stretch yourself too thin and everything will flop.
Begin slowly and let things progress gradually.
Evaluation is something you should do all the time as it’s always important to mentally gauge things like reader response. However, take time at least once a month to really sit down and crunch the numbers of your chosen metrics. Naturally, your specific goals will vary, but nearly everyone should detail:
- Number of site visitors
- Number of visitors on product pages
- Position in search results
- Number of new links
- Amount of Facebook/Twitter followers
This is great information to have at your fingertips if you need to prove to others the value of the campaign.
Of course all the steps mentioned are never-ending since you must keep fine-tuning them to get the best results possible. Even so, the process above is only the first step in building customers and seeing real monetary returns. While your content can get people to your pages and prime them for conversion, your product pages, checkout procedure, contact methods, reviews, and more are what will seal the deal.
When all is working synergistically, you will start to see your quality content and the subsequent traffic it sparks delivering measurable ROI.