Lets face it, when it comes to guides on SEO practices, guides on how to create the best content are extremely neglected. Just take a look at the blog, or the list of whiteboard Fridays on what is probably the most widely used resource by SEO companies- SEOmoz.org.
Guides on all sorts of SEO related methods such as link building, internal linking strategies, how to maximize social shares and outreaching are plentiful but only a small number are on how to generate quality content.
But…. What’s the problem with that?
The problem is as Bill Gates once said “content is king” and this quote applies especially when it comes to SEO.
Why Content Is So Important For SEO
Many SEO companies set aside a much bigger budget for link building campaigns compared to content creation campaigns. But the fact is without unique and high quality content there would be no links to build.
Sure without content you could write some short quick fire answers on Yahoo answers or other similar sites, but there is no way this type of content is going to get you the same amount of traffic that an amazing piece of content would get. Think about it, a short answer consisting of a sentence or two isn’t going to be shared, liked or tweeted nearly as many times as an article that offers a greater amount of value to its readers.
Also without content there would be no way you would be able to get the keywords you want to rank for or build the links you need in an ethical way. You could continue to roll out spammy Black Hat SEO content. But it seems much more logical to follow Matt Cutts advice and create good content as the links will come as a result. Cutts is the guy in charge of Google’s algorithm updates so shouldn’t be ignored.
Outreaching attempts can be extremely difficult. We worry about things such as how personal the email should be, what the title of the email should be and so on and so forth. However we all know that the main goal in outreach is to get our content on websites with a high PageRank.
Without great content I am afraid to say that not many high PageRank blogs are going to want your stuff. There is so much content being produced on a daily basis for the internet, that it is the stuff that stands out from the crowd that is going to get picked up more readily and that’s where high quality content comes in.
You can optimize your page as much as you like and spend time making a site look as cool as you can but, I have to tell you, if the content on the site is poor then on-page optimization is a waste of time.
Creating content is all part of creating the ‘user experience’. It is just as important as making the site readable and making sure all the tags are positioned correctly. If your site doesn’t offer the information they are looking for then they aren’t going to stick around for long. Looks account for nothing if the content is bad.
It’s Great For The Penguins & The Pandas
Every time a Google algorithm is about to be brought out many SEO companies are left trembling in their boots. Bracing themselves for the onslaught of penalties and setbacks that will be released upon all of their current campaigns.
However both the Panda and the Penguin update placed great emphasis on user experience. What contributes to user experience? You got it – great content. All the algorithms have lead to sites that contain the most relevant content for a specific search query getting rewarded the most. Amit Singhal a senior VP and Google Fellow said “our site quality algorithms are aimed at helping people find ‘high quality’ sites by reducing the ranks of low quality content”.
The only way you are going to provide people with the information they need is through developing unique, high quality content. Everybody in the SEO industry seems to be fearing the latest Penguin update and I am not surprised with Matt Cutts being quoted saying things like “you don’t want the next Penguin update”. However as long as you are creating great content with information that people need there is no need to be scared.
Content For Blogs
How new the content is on a site is considered a ranking factor. If a page hasn’t been updated in years then search engines are less likely to display it anywhere near the first page of results. They sort of mark it down as irrelevant and unnecessary.
Because of this suggesting that clients blog on their website is becoming a more frequent thing. They can supply people will great content and let search engines know that their site is still important and is worth getting ranked high.
Content Plays A Big Part In Social Media
Social media is becoming a bigger and bigger presence in the world that we live in. Facebook and Twitter both boast huge numbers of users, with Facebook hitting the 1 billion mark recently. If you are a user of social media (it is highly unlikely that you aren’t) then you will know that millions of articles get shared every day.
When articles get shared and retweeted etc etc they gain huge exposure. If you create content that gets shared then it can be a huge boost for your SEO campaign. If more people see the article you are going to get more visits for your clients site, more people viewing their product or service and greater revenue will be generated. This is what SEO is based on – getting clients more exposure and benefiting their business, and the way to go about this is to create spectacular content.
Content is also becoming increasingly important in social media as search engines are now moving towards making ‘likes’ and shares a bigger ranking factor. Bing already uses Facebook ‘likes’ as a factor and Google have plans to make Google+ a ranking factor.
So How Do You Create Great Content?
When I first started writing content for the purpose of SEO I asked exactly the same question. It’s all well and good knowing the ins and outs of why content is so important for SEO but how do you actually go about making high quality content?
I was much more tuned into an academic writing style, which for the purpose of SEO just wouldn’t be suitable. So I went out hunting for guides and as mentioned in the intro found that there is a serious lack of guides on how to make great content for the purpose of SEO.
However that it no longer a problem as here is the ultimate guide to SEO content creation.
Look At The Clients Site
Rule number one: the content you make is never going to be the same for each and every one of your clients.
Because of this you should spend some time looking at the clients site. This is because you need to understand what it is the client does or has to offer. As great as it would be you can’t know everything and when it comes to writing content for SEO you will have to write content for a wide range of industries that you may not be familiar with at all.
So take some time and learn what it is they do, you don’t have to become an expert but you do need to know what it is you are talking about. This is purely for the fact that if you are writing content to be published on a site that it is viewed by experts in a particular industry they will easily be able to tell if you are talking rubbish.
Look At The Target Site
This only really applies if you have already targeted a site and have been given permission to submit some guest posts to it. You need to look at their site in order to work out what types of articles they use and what sorts of articles are the most popular. This is not difficult to do at all, it can be as simple as looking at how many shares and tweets other articles have or looking to see how many comments they have.
You also need to check their writer guidelines, which you will be able to find somewhere on their page. These guidelines will specify things such as the wordlength, how many linkers you are allowed and what the content should offer.
Adapt For Both Sites
This is important as it is very easy to fall into the trap of writing an article that neglects either the client or the target site. You need to fully understand what sort of an image your client wants you to display through your content but at the same time you need to make it match the requirements of the target site.
Your client is the most important of the two as you can always find a site that is more suitable for the needs of your client. All you have to do is consult with them to see what it is that they want, this is the perfect time to see what keywords they wish to rank for as well.
Doing all of this may sound much harder than it is but all you really need to determine is how serious your client is and what type of content the target site wants. Get a little creative and doing this becomes a walk in the park.
Keyword research is something that you should always include in the process of creating quality content for link building. It isn’t tricky to do and can help you decide what keywords you want to rank for, which is a massive help in terms of your wider SEO campaign.
Adwords is brilliant for keyword research mainly due to the fact it is made by the search engine king – Google. All that you have to do is type in your desired keyword or phrase and it will return a wealth of information about that keyword or phrase. You can find out how many monthly searches there are and how competitive a keyword is. It also allows you to fine tune your research as it lets you enter what it is you are specifically looking for. For example if you are looking for an exact match of your keyword, all you need to do is tick ‘exact’. The same applies if you are looking for broader terms, the only thing you have to do is tick ‘broad’.
Ubersuggest is another handy tool for keyword research. It’s great because it is a straightforward tool that isn’t hard to get the hang of. You simply type in a keyword and by taking advantage of Google’s suggest function Ubersuggest then returns an extremely detailed list of keyword suggestions. You can instantly see what the top searches are and then you can see a whole host of keyword suggestions in alphabetical order. Ubersuggest also allows you to look more in depth at the keywords people have been searching for.
Once you have your keywords, you are well on your way to creating some super content.
Get People Together And Brainstorm
Not enough SEO companies utilize the opportunity of brainstorming. The fact is, the greater the number of people involved in the process of generating ideas the greater the ideas will be.
Its logical – the more people, the more ideas and the easier it is to bounce ideas off one another. Leaving the ideas for content down to just one person can lead to generic and boring content that is bad for so many reasons it would take too long to explain.
Always Consider Your Audience
There is no need to conduct a major piece of research on the demographics of the people that will read your articles, each time you are assigned an article. But It is important to bear in mind just who is going to be reading your content. This allows you to adopt the perfect writing style that will engage your audience as best as you can. For example If the viewers of your article are going to be people who know the topic you are writing on well, then you will need to adopt certain terms that are well-known in that field.
Think Of Different Angles
A different angle on a particular topic is what is going to make your content popular. It needs to be something fresh and slightly different to what people already know. If there are a million and one other sites that say exactly the same thing you can be assured that the piece of content is bad and of low quality. The other problem with creating content that doesn’t offer a fresh perspective is that it increases your chances massively of getting penalised for duplicate content. Duplicate content is always going to be detrimental to any SEO campaign.
What you need to do is think outside of the box and try and make connections between what you client does and other topic areas. If your client sells gold on their site, you don’t have to just write articles directed at finance and investment type blogs. Instead you should aim for every type of site you can such as cars (there are gold cars), home improvement (there are houses containing gold) etc etc. You should never be afraid of being a little controversial or trying something new as this will help you see what content works and what content doesn’t.
Remember The Article Doesn’t Have To Be Just About The Client
To explain this I will use a hypothetical example. The client you are required to write for specializes in payday loans. Getting content that is just about payday loans will be extremely hard to get taken up by high PageRank websites. This is because not many people look fondly on payday loans and aren’t so keen to be seen condoning them, especially websites to do with personal finance.
If you outreached with some content all about how great payday loans are the chances your content will be accepted are extremely slim. So what do you do? Your client is paying you to get them links but no one is accepting your content?
What you do is put less focus on the client, instead make the article about something else but make sure you can still include a word or two about payday loans such as “you could borrow money from family, banks or consider a payday loan”. This way whoever is going to approve your post is less likely to know that you are representing a payday loan website so you can get the links that you need.
Research is one of the most important things to do when it comes to generating fresh, up-to-date content and you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to be good at it.
Most people tend to just stick to a Google search and use the first page results – but this is not the way to go. There are plenty of sites that you can use to make your research efforts much better and easier.
Get Tooled Up!
There are two great tools that are going to make researching for ideas much easier and faster.
This extension comes with two brilliant features great for searching the web and looking things up. It has an endless page feature that automatically loads the next page, so there is no need to click the next buttons. When you conduct a Google search you can just keep scrolling down through all the pages.
The other ace feature is that if you highlight a word it will give you four options of where to search for the term; Google, Surf Canyon, Wikipedia and DuckDuck Go. It also pops up with the definition of words, just in case you are ever unfamiliar with it.
Link clump gives you the ability to open multiple links in new tabs easily. All you have to do is drag a box around all of the links you need and voila all the stuff you need is already open.
Wikipedia should be one of your first ports of call, even more so if you know little about the topic you have to write on. Yes some things on Wikipedia are incorrect and you should not think that everything you read is going to be the truth but it’s a good place to start. What you should do is look at the sources at the bottom of the page and take a look at them as this is much more likely to benefit you.
Quora is sort of like Yahoo answers but a lot better. Questions are usually answered by experts in that field and other people vote on answers so you can see which answer is the best one. Most of the time you can guarantee that the answers on this site are legit. It is a good place to get some ideas for content and uncover some angles that you may not have considered.
Alltop is a great site to use to see what topics are popular for the niche you are writing for. If you are stuck for ideas then Alltop is the place to visit. It collects the headlines of all of the latest stories and supplies them to you. If you write content that covers a popular topic then the chances of it getting picked up and used is much more likely.
Using Social Mention is good if you are aiming for content that you are hoping to make viral. It allows you to conduct a real time search to see what people are talking about, writing about and what’s trending. After you have conducted a search the dashboard on the left supplies you with some really cool statistics about the keyword(s) that you searched for.
Create A Great Title
The title is going to be the thing that makes people want to click and open your content, and if you are outreaching with a the title, it is going to be what the website owner bases their decision on. So creating a great title is important. You could have the most amazing content ever but if it’s accompanied by a rubbish title all the effort you put in has just gone to waste.
This article from Problogger is brilliant for generating some really great ideas. A little snippet of advice is that ‘top list’ titles are rather effective. Things such as ‘5 things you need…’ or ‘7 must have…’ are definitely worth doing.
Draw People In With The First Few Sentences
This is why it is so important to make sure that the headline and the content match. If the headline gives the wrong impression or is not related to the actual content, when people read the opening line they are likely to leave the page straight away.
You should start with a bold statement or an interesting quote. If you are unsure whether other people are going to want to read it then get other peoples opinions. Ask friends, family or people in your office whether if they read those sentences they would be enticed to carry on reading.
Include Videos And Images
Including videos and pictures makes your content much more appealing to readers. A page that is just filled with text is not going to make people want to read your content. The rule is that you should always try to include at least one picture in each article. You should use stock items that have a creative commons license -websites like Shutterstock and Flickr are good options. If you are using Flickr you should always conduct an advanced search as not all the pictures are licensed for creative commons.
Including videos is also handy as it can explain a point you want to make but in a lot less words. However what you don’t want is the video to take all of the attention away from your content. The video should just be a part of the content maybe a link that says “if you want to find out more watch this video” The video should never explain everything that will be contained within your content.
Include Your Research
If you make a bold statement always make sure that you can back it up. The way to do this is to include links to the research that you have used. You can either do this within the article or at the end of the article. Not everything you say has to be backed up with academic research but you should always back statistics up by supplying them with sources.
When writing content for SEO purposes you will probably be supplied with a list of keywords that you have to include within the article.
How to place these keywords is highly important.You may have come across some really spammy SEO content where keywords have been stuffed in everywhere like this:
But this is not the way it should be done. If your article contains numerous keywords like this people are going to see immediately what your purpose is, and what high PageRank websites are going to to accept content with links or keywords dropped everywhere? The answer is – None.
Instead what you need to do is learn how to place them subtly so they don’t interrupt the overall flow of the article. You need to make sure that the keywords make sense within the sentence you put them in and aren’t too obvious. This can be hard for obscure or long tail keywords that often look out of place but if you are innovative then you can fit them in really well.
Be Able To Adapt Like A Chameleon
After you have completed an article and submitted it for publication, changes may still need to be made. Maybe the website that the article is going to be put on wants a slightly different angle or the client wants you to add something else in. You need to be able to do this when required.
Track Your Content
This is a great way to manage your content strategy. Create a spreadsheet containing the titles of articles that have been done, The date that they were published and the URLs where the articles can be found.
Doing this allows you to see what types of titles work, what sites accept what types of articles so you have a clear picture of what can be done or can’t be done again.
You now know the importance of high quality content for the purposes of SEO. Search engines love it, bloggers love it and your clients will love it when they see the results. Creating quality content isn’t difficult either. As long as you follow the steps in this guide the content you create is going to be effective. Remember when it comes to content never be afraid to be bold and make statements that not many people will agree with. This is because this type of content is interesting and is going to engage the most readers.
If you’re interesting in having Jared and our other talented marketers work on building quality links to your website using these techniques, check out our brand new guest posting service!