SEO is a necessary part of online marketing, since it’s what helps your customers find you when they search on Google or another search engine. It gets eyeballs on your content long after you’ve stopped promoting it – if that content ranks well, anyway. If you can’t get the content ranking well, it won’t work alongside your content marketing efforts to connect you to your readers. You’re only going to promote a piece of content for so long before you move onto other pieces as part of your overall strategy, so you need SEO to help keep the traffic rolling in after promotion stops.
As you write your content, make sure you’re not making any of these mistakes – and if you are – it’s okay – you can always go back and edit the content for improved optimization.
Mistake #1: Your Content is Too Short
Search engines want to provide a great experience for their users – because first and foremost, they are a business and any successful business aims to keep their customers happy. Part of this great experience lies in making sure people can easily find what they’re looking for. When search engines return search results, they’re keeping track of which results people click on and how long they stay on the page. If the content isn’t long enough to sufficiently answer the question or otherwise address the issue the user is looking for, then eventually, the search engine will change the ranking. Search engines assume that if a person clicks a result and then quickly goes back to the search results page that they did not find what they are looking for. If that happens too often for a result, the result will move, because it doesn’t appropriately match the query for some reason or another.
So, how long should your content be? Unfortunately, there’s no solid answer, but we know longer form content tends to do much better – because it does a better job of providing users with information they need; longer content can address issues more in-depth. But, there are of course times when short content is sufficient, so rather than focusing solely on a word count – focus on user intent and giving them the answer they need. If you’re trying to educate a reader, have you said all there is to say? Do whatever it takes to give your user a quality experience, whether you can do it in 1,000 words or 3,000.
Though it’s a bit dated (from 2012) SerpIQ did a study looking at the average content length of the top 10 results on a number of queries in Google. In positions one through three, the average content came in at around 2,400 words – putting longer content at the top of the results pages.
Here’s a trick that may help you in deciding how long your content should be:
Search the keyword phrase you’re planning on targeting with your content and see what comes up in the results. That’s your competition, so it makes sense to try to make your content better than theirs, right? Take a look at the top three results to see how long theirs are. But, beyond the word count itself, determine how well the content meets user intent. Then start writing your content.
Mistake #2: Lack of Outbound Links
Your readers want credible content. Sure, there are a few people out there that believe anything they hear or see on the internet – but your content should use outbound links to support your points. You can write anything you want, but that doesn’t make it true. If I were to tell you the sky is red, and you’ve known it to be blue all your life, wouldn’t you want to know where I got that information from?
Since the sky isn’t red, I’ll prove my point about sourcing with outbound links from credible websites with a link to show the sky is in fact blue. (Ha!) Search engines count on you linking to other credible sources in your content toward considering your source as a credible one… and when other sites link to you, it’s also a vote toward credibility.
Plus, if someone knows you’ve linked to their content in yours, they’re that much likely to share the content with their audience because of the mention – so there is more than one reason to share the link love. Just don’t go too crazy – only add links when they offer real value to the audience.
Mistake #3: Skipping Imagery (and Optimization)
It’s a good idea to include at least one image in your articles and blog posts because research shows articles with images once every 75 to 100 words receive twice the number of social media shares compared to articles with fewer images. Including just one image in your content can increase views by up to 94%. Images help break up the text and add visual interest, which is important for avoiding mistake #4. But before I move on…
Images can also be optimized for search engines with the ALT text attribute for usability. If your image shows up in image search results, users can go back to the source (your article!) so it pays to optimize them, too.
Mistake #4: Ignoring Formatting
As much as I’d like to believe you’re glued to this article, reading it word for word, I know for a fact you’re not. Even if you’re one of my best friends and have vowed to read everything I post on my blog, you’re still not reading… you’re scanning. (About 16% of people do read word-for-word, though.) That’s what most people on the internet do – and to get the best possible result, your content needs to be formatted accordingly.
That means using shorter paragraphs, lots of line breaks, and headings to break up the content when needed. You can also use more than one image if you want; and some articles will call for the use of multiple images.
Mistake #5: Firing Your Proofreader
Having issues with spelling and grammar won’t directly affect your SEO, but they will directly affect your ability to maintain credibility. Your readers won’t take you as seriously if your copy is riddled with errors, and other sites won’t link to you as often, if at all. Poor spelling and grammar could take an otherwise stellar piece of content and send the traffic straight to your competition.
When readers see a well-written piece on the other hand, it increases the chance they’d link to your content or share it on social media. Since building backlinks does play a role in SEO, that’s why I mention the importance of using spell and grammar checks (outside of Microsoft Word) or having an editor take a look before anything goes live.
Mistake #6: No Optimized Meta Description and CTA
The meta description for your content will always be the title and the first two sentences of the article by default, unless you take the time to craft one yourself. You should think of the meta description as free advertising space, since it’s what the user will see in the search engine under the result. You want to give the user reason to click it, but it should also feature your keyword with a CTA. Grabbing the user’s attention right on the SERP makes them that much more likely to click your link rather than another result.
Mistake #7: Skipping Content Promotion
Content creation is only the first step. Even if you’ve done everything correctly in terms of SEO, there’s still go no guarantee the content will ever make it to the number one result for your keyword – and if it does, it surely won’t do so instantly. Part of what makes content rank high in the first place is the volume of traffic it gets. So – if you want people to find your content in the search engines, you’ve first got to make it easy for them to find and share from other places.
That’s why it’s important to share your content on social media channels, and encourage your and followers to do the same. When this happens, you’ll build positive signals to the search engines, and get eyes on the content before it even starts to rank. Waiting for those ranking signals to come naturally could take days, weeks, months, or even years. Promoting your content helps those signals come faster.
Mistake #8: Inconsistent Content Creation
Search engines look at how often you’re updating your website with new content when they determine where to rank you. And your audience needs a steady flow of content (even if it’s just one new post a week) for your brand to stay at the front of their minds. If you create content whenever you want – both your SEO and content marketing efforts will suffer. Have a plan for consistent content production.
Mistake #9: Thinking Only About Google
Yes, Google may be the most popular search engine online, but it is certainly not the only one. Even if the bulk of your traffic comes from Google searches, it’s important to consider the fact that many personal assistants, such as Siri (Apple), Cortana (Microsoft), and Alexa (Amazon) use Bing. If you neglect to optimize for Bing as well as Google, you could be missing out on a large portion of traffic based on voice searches. Research shows half of searches will be voice by 2020.
SEO and Content Marketing Go Hand in Hand
The truth is that to be successful in your online marketing efforts, you must consider SEO and content marketing. If you’re making mistakes with SEO or your content marketing, it will have a negative affect on your digital marketing efforts.
The key is to think about SEO while you’re creating content for use as part of your content marketing strategy, rather than making SEO an afterthought. This ensures your content is the quality your audience and the search engines are looking for.
Can you think of any other potential SEO mistakes I’ve left off this list? Share ’em with me below.