Content, the No. 1 Overlooked Area in SEO

Did you ever wonder why Wikipedia is one of the most top naturally ranked sites out there? It seems that for really any keyword from “ipad” (ranked 3) to “new york” (ranked 2) to “the oscars” (ranked 4), Wikipedia has a dominant position. This holds true for both English markets and here in Asia. So when we look at the competitor landscape for our clients or conduct a ranking audit here in Japan, this is one of the main questions our clients are asking us – “How is it that Wikipedia has so much coverage for our industry keywords, what’s their secret, and how can we join or beat them?”

There are a few different responses we give on the above question, but they all tend to centralise on one key theme – content. Everyone thinks they nail content, but in our experience, content seems to be the No. 1 overlooked area in SEO. And it’s probably one of the easier pieces to figure out because, well simply, it’s within your control. Through controlling content, you can be in a much better position to then influence the search engines and potentially dethrone Wikipedia and other sites like it.

In my last article, “The 7 Virtues of SEO That Made a Difference in 2010”, I outlined content as being one of the key areas for growth and an area that clients felt they’ve hit the ceiling with their existing content in reaching and acquiring new customers.

In this piece, I’ll drill down in more detail, outlining five areas to immediately add a punch to your content plans.

1. Thinking ahead is important: Right about this time in the year, advertisers are working to finalise their marketing plans for the year, both on and offline. This is one of the most critical points to really hone in on what digital content should be created for an optimal SEO return. When we work with clients, we always recommend creating a digital content map for the year that a) highlights all upcoming promotional activities, b) includes all local market events that are particularly relevant for your industry, and c) maps out any press release opportunities you see fit. Using this map, you can get a head start in developing this content and ensuring you have enough time to instill the solid SEO fundamentals that will make a difference down the road. Also, for any offline activities that you haven’t thought about creating content for online, you should work to do this as well.

2. Measure for content sufficiency: Creating content is great, but if you don’t have the ability to tell which content is working for your users and which isn’t, then it’s a wasted exercise. I am always surprised by the lack of attention brands spend with both selecting a good Web analytics tool and then actually using it, particularly, in relation to how much they spend in developing content. Getting into the details of understanding the basic metrics like bounce rate, dwell time, time on site, and leveraging the various funnel reports to see what paths users take with your content will all be vital information to tell you if users are engaging with your content or not. Even including simple polls that ask “Did you like this content”, can be powerful. And the beauty with Web analytics is that you can segment your traffic as being ‘SEO’, ‘Paid search’, ‘Display’, etc., so you can then see the behaviour patterns by traffic source, and then tweak to ensure your content is speaking to the right audience.

3. Going beyond your content map: Another area where we see tremendous opportunity is in analysing search query demand for concepts that relate to your industry and then creating new content to support this demand. For a client in the travel space, we saw that there were a lot of people searching for Italian cuisine related terms in Japan. Obviously, when people travel they like to understand what local cuisine is popular, therefore, the relationship between travel and food is strong. So based on this insight, we worked to develop original content and created several regional cuisine guides in Italy with the intention of capturing this search demand and to lead them to book their travel plans, either now or in the future.

4. There’s more than just text: The search engines are becoming more sophisticated by the day and their ability now to decipher meaning beyond just words has vastly increased. Coupled with the fact that users are increasingly starting to search for specific types of content like videos, PDFs, news, and images, makes it important to develop content beyond just text. For SEO purposes, and even user experience purposes, building “beyond text content” into your content map will allow you to be a bit more creative in your message, while appealing to the diverse content needs of today’s users. And knowing that the search engines will find this content eatable should put you at ease.

Overall, for SEO, content can be one of the most important elements of a successful search optimisation program. If done correctly (and consistently), this single element can keep your users engaged, will show the search engines that you really mean business, and will accelerate your brand to the top.

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