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Over the last 5-10 years, content marketing has risen from a “good idea,” to an “essential part” of any marketing strategy. Today some 1,500 blog articles get published every minute. That’s over 2,000,000 articles every day and close to a billion articles every year! Ya, that’s a lot of content and, equally so, a lot of competition!
So what sets content apart? What makes some content rank highly while other, equally good content, never get’s found?
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the secrets of creating compelling content that ranks well in search engines, and discuss the difference between writing for people versus writing for search.
Creating Engaging Content
There’s no way around it — if your content sucks, no amount of trickery or good fortune is going to help. Ultimatly, it’s people who read content, and if your content is unreadable then It doesn’t matter how much SEO optimization you’ve put into it, you’re content will simply fall flat to it’s intended audience.
In most cases, bad content simply comes down to someone writing about something that they have very little interest in. If you find yourself in this place, and your content just isn’t compelling, you may want to ask yourself if you’re really interested in what you’re writing about.
Engaging content is a result of a writer who has taken the time to understand the meaningful and relavant information about a given topic. Every topic has many facets. If we lack inspiraction for any given topic it may be that we’re simply not looking hard enough. Good writers aren’t passionate about everything, but their good at finding unique and relavant information about whatever they’re writing about.
Starting with Why?
Before writing anything you should take a good long look at why you’re creating content in the first place. If it’s just because you’ve been told it’s something you need to do then you’ll probably fail miserably.
Your content is the reflection of your business. It’s purpose should not be to sell your products! It should be to introduce and share your values and mission, as a business, with your readers.
The purpose of a blog should be to ignite the passion you have for what you’re doing with others. It should be to educate your customers and, ultimately, help them to achieve their own goals.
If this is at the forefront of why you’re creating content, you’ll attract a passionate, trusting audience, who will champion your brand.
In Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk, “Start with Why,” he talks about the fact that it’s not what companies do, or create, that makes them successful; it’s why they do it.
Take Apple for example; they’re a computer company. But do you think of them as a computer company? No, you think of them as an innovative and cutting edge company. Their products evoke excitement and passion and, over the years, they’ve introduced us to products we never knew we always wanted. Oh, and they just so happen to make computers.
This is marketing at it’s finest. When our customers resonate with our desires for what the world could be. When they relate to our struggles and victories. When they live vicariously through us as the ambassadors to a better way of life.
It’s this loyalty that builds brands, not products or services.
“I Want What He’s Having!”
I recently read an article by an author I had never heard of. It doesn’t’ really matter what it was about but, it was engaging, thoughtful and inspiring.
Needless to say, I found the article very helpful and, at the end, I found myself thinking, “I want what he’s having.” In other words, I was sold on his outlook on life and thus I wanted to attach my identity to his in some way. He didn’t have a product to sell or a service to sign up for, but if he did, I was all in.
So, now that we understand what motivates people, how do we work with search engines to rank our content in the first place?
Writing for Search
People are great at reading between the lines. Being able to decipher situations and jump to conclusions based on context and norms. Really, it’s what sets us apart from machines. But, unlike physical arts whose value is “in the eye of the beholder,” our works’ are digital and need to play by digital rules.
If I started talking about that plane that flew into those towers in New York, you’d understand immediately that I’m talking about 9/11. If you saw a picture of the scene you’d, more then likely, also know.
Search engines, on the other hand, aren’t able to make such jumps in logic. If you don’t say 9/11 they’re not going to know you’re talking about 9/11.
Think of a search engine as a small child. If you put them in front of a meal they’ll make a mess of things on their own. What they need are things cut up into little pieces that they can handle.
Search is the same way. While people can read entire documents without keywords, links or headers, and come-away with a clear idea of what’s what, search can’t.
It’s not that search isn’t able to, it’s that they have a hard time prioritizing 2000 words by importance without some ques.
And if they don’t know what’s important they’re not able to know what keywords and search phrases to associate your content with.
Using Tools to Help
Yoast SEO Plugin
One of the best ways to ensure you’re doing everything you can to make your content optimized for SEO is to install Yoasts SEO for WordPress plugin.
The plugin helps to give you clear direction for identifying SEO related issues, how to improve those issues, and thus making your content more findable by search engines.
Beyond providing SEO recommendations for your site copy, Yoast SEO for WordPress plugin will also help configure your XML sitemap, Permalink cleanup, breadcrumbs, and much more.
Within the WordPress post editor, the Yoast Plugin provides a graphical interface to see how you score in both “Readability” and “SEO.” Yoast will provide a score for each of these areas with lists of recommendations that can be used to improve your scores.
But then what, how do you know if your changes are making any difference? Well, we’re glad you asked!
How to Know Your Site Ranking?
“You can’t manage what you don’t mesure.”
Knowing where your site stands in terms of being found through search is especially important as you start to change and improve your site content. As Peter Drucker said, “You can’t mange what you don’t measure.”
One way to do this is by tracking keywords, and how you’re ranking for those keywords, over time. For this purpose, we use SERPS.com to track keywords, see how were performing for those keywords, and track that performance over time.
Let’s say that one of your blog posts is ranking in in the 60th position. You can work to improve the post, and then, using a keyword manager, watch to see how that page performs. You’ll gain insight into what changes make the biggest impact and get better at writing content.
Of course, if you’re shooting for page one, or position one, for any particular keyword, then it’s going to take more than just optimizing for SEO.
So what are some additional ways to increase page performance for search?
Search is “For the People”
Well optimized, SEO content, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s any good. Sorry to be so blunt.
Making content more SEO friendly helps to be found, but if it’s not engaging, fun, or insightful, to begin with, then, as they say in Italy, “Chi se ne frega” (who cares).
The truth of the matter is that you need to become a better writer.
But before you give up thinking you don’t have the time, keep in mind that you’re not alone and there are plenty of tools to help you to succeed along the way.
The Hemingway Editor is a desktop application, like Microsoft Word, but without all the fancy bells and whistles; Just the basics. but most importantly, an editor that, “makes your writing bold and clear.”
Unlike most spell checks that often correct your spelling as you go, and thus never letting you actually learn how to spell. Hemingway highlights errors by telling you what’s wrong. For instance, using too many adverbs, the use of passive versus active voice, sentences that are hard, or very hard, to read.
Best yet, for WordPress or Medium users, there is a direct publish feature so you can write on your desktop, like the old-school days. Once you’re done you can publish directly to either platform at the click of a button. This way you can also eliminate the nasty copy and paste formatting issues you’d get otherwise.
Content marketing has become an increasingly popular form of marketing and for good reason! As they say, “content is king.” But with so much content being created these days it’s not just content that’s important. It’s well written, engaging and SEO optimized content that really performs.
Creating content is hard work and takes time. But it doesn’t mean you have to go at it alone. Using the resources we’ve mentioned above will help you become a better writer and will ensure that your copy not only gets found, but read, and championed by your readers.