It should come as no surprise that this seismic shift in content attitude among marketers is in lock step with Google’s aggressive crusade (verging on Draconian) to purge the SERPs of low value rank spam, and bubble up content of value.
However, it isn’t enough to simply take a seat on the “awesome content” bus. Heck everyone is doing that. One look at the meteoric rise in “content marketing” searches is all you the proof you need.
If you really want to dominate your niche and distance yourself from your competitors, you have to take the wheel of the “awesome content” bus, be a leader and set precedent for your industry. And by implementing the following 27 tactics (which range from keyword targeting to link analysis to content usability tips), you will dramatically improve the value of your content for readers, users, customers and engines as well and absolutely own your vertical.
1. Review Keyword Targeting
Check your analytics; see which keywords searchers are using to find specific documents on your site. Are those terms well aligned with the topic of the content, with user intent and with the audience you’re targeting?
Ask yourself if you were searching those same keywords and landed on the document would it answer your questions, serve your needs, educate you? If not, think hard about retargeting or aligning the topic better with searcher intent.
2. Create Descriptive and Engaging Headlines
The title of your document is the first and most important piece of on-page copy the user is going to see. It sets the tone for what will follow and also allows the user to determine whether to continue reading.
If users aren’t engaged and bail here, it doesn’t matter how awesome your call-to-action or unique selling proposition is. Read this for more on creating engaging headlines.
3. Vary Page Title (Headline) and Title Tag
This is more for engines than users, and mixing up the keywords, modifiers, stems in your page’s heading and title tag helps your assets rank for a broader basket of keywords, allowing your content to work even harder for you.
4. Thicken Your Content
Google and readers love long-form content so why not give them what they want. Approach each of the “money pages” on your site with the mindset that it’s a comprehensive, “evergreen” guide on a specific topic. If not, drop a thousand (or even a few thousand) words of original, value-add content.
You’re almost guaranteed to see results in either a boost in rankings (extra text helps it rank for a broader basket of keywords and there’s the QDF factor), longer time on page, more unique visits to the page, or all of the above.
5. Tighten Your Copy
Make sure your content is clear, concise, and to the point. Overwriting plagues the Web and kills the digestibility of your content.
Slash unnecessary words and entire sentences like a samurai. Cutting the fat raises the value of your content. And again, freshening up your content has distinct SEO benefits.
6. Improve the “Usability” or Your Content
Easy content consumption starts with readable text that is organized and structured well. Articles that are difficult to read and scan will negatively impact user experience and hurt the overall value of your content.
7. Hire an Editor
If you’re not a wordsmith (and most aren’t), hire a professional to edit your copy. We’ve used services like Guru.com for this with great success. You can also leverage Craigslist to find quality freelance writers. You can get a document professionally edited for a very reasonable rate.
Or if you’re on a shoestring budget, Fiverr has tons of folks that are eager to try and improve your article for $5. Though, you get what you pay for.
8. Hire an Expert
Amazon is a fantastic place to find published authors who are experts in certain niches. And many of these authors do freelance work. So find experts in your niche, reach out and hire them to review your existing content to help revise and raise the bar up to “expert level.”
9. Review Your Document’s Link Profile
Are the sites that link to your pages relevant, trusted, and credible domains, or are they chiefly derived from $50 guest post bio links in irrelevant content on irrelevantly themed sites? A former member of Matt Cutts team said that “relevance is the new PageRank”, which makes sense.
Discovering high ratios of irrelevant links is a perfect way for Google to devalue those links algorithmically. So if your links are irrelevant and have no value, logic stands that neither will your content.
10. Link to Relevant, Authoritative Sources
Just as the quality and relevancy of sites linking to your documents weighs on the value of that content, so to do the sites you choose to link to. What’s more, linking out to other sites of value lays the groundwork for conducting outreach to those link targets to let them know you’ve cited them in your article, which can translate into relationships, shares, and relevant links.
11. Add Anchors or “Jump to” Links Within Your Documents
These links offer added usability for users who want to consumer specific pieces of information quickly. But more, anchors often display as “jump to links” in Google SERP snippets, which make your listings stand out, earns higher click-through rates, and yields higher intent traffic.
12. Link Internally to Relevant or Related Resources
Internal links are a great way to manage relevancy signals and PageRank flow throughout a site, but linking to additional internal sources of quality information on your site helps provide context for and further educate your audience, which only raises the value of the linking document. Deep linking also help boost page visits and time on site.
13. Enable Customer Reviews
The benefits of implementing user reviews on your site are exponential. User reviews instill trust and social proof for a product or service. In fact, the majority of users trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Also, user reviews serve as a free source content that serves to freshen up and lengthen your documents, two signals that influence rankings.
14. Add a User Survey to Your Site
Live surveys can be an invaluable tool to help get a sense of what users like about your content, what they don’t like, what else they’d like to see to improve the page or to make a purchase.
We use Qualaroo and it’s helped us raise conversions across sites by learning such things as users felt we were being “too aggressive” with our marketing. We dialed it back and conversion rates doubled.
15. Stop the Hard Sell
I’m not saying don’t sell. I get it: you need revenue to survive. But there’s a time and place for everything. Like I said, we’ve seen site wide metrics improve from dumping aggressive form popups and pushy sales language, which we mistakenly thought were working but were only hurting.
The key is to align goals content with user intent. If visitors are there to buy and at the bottom of your funnel, then great: sell away! But if they’re on your page to gather information, learn about or get educated on a particular topic, rein in the salesy language, the half-dozen CTAs, the pop up forms, etc.
16. Clearly Convey the Benefits
This is especially true when it comes to SEO landing pages, where you’re trying to sell a product, prompt a form fill etc. When you want users to take a specific action, you need to convey the clear benefits and tell them exactly why they should buy your product or fill out your form.
Put yourself in your visitors' shoes and ask, “what’s in it for me?” as you review your landing page copy. Adding clear benefit only raises the value of your document.
17. Focus on User Metrics
Look at key user engagement signals like the most visited pages on your site, pages with the highest “average time on page,” documents with the most links and social signals. Think about what you can learn from those documents as to why they perform so well and what takeaways you can apply to raise the value of other content on your site.
18. Make Your Content Easy to Share
To help increase distribution of your content across social channels, you need to implement frictionless sharing. Treat your share buttons as a tool. Make them obvious, but not disruptive or distracting.
19. Enable Authorship
Tying your site to an author builds trust, authority and credibility for your content with readers, with searchers (SERP snippet visibility) and with Google. Heck, Eric Schmidt is on record as explicitly saying “information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification.”
So really, the message couldn’t be any clearer. Enable authorship now!
20. Add Rich Snippets
Making your content readable and consumable for users is part of the story here. The other half is making it easy for search engines to consume.
Structured data may not impact your on-page users, but it does have a considerable impact on the search listings for your high-priority content, leading to higher click-through rates, more trust and credibility of your content in the SERPs. And microdata is pretty easy to implement, so it’s a high ROI output with minimal input that goes a long way to building more value for your documents.
21. Embed an Infographic
Most marketers publish infographics (IGs) as a stand-alone page with a giant graphic, some introductory text and an HTML code embed box. In the past, this was a pretty effective tactic for gaining links at scale.
But publishers are suffering from infographic overload and are tired of cold email pitches. So rather than publishing your IG as a stand-alone asset, try embedding it as “part of” an already meaty document to raise the value of that content and make it stand out even more from competitor docs.
Great examples include this, this and this. Also, be sure to add the transcription of the infographic to your document as well, to beef it up for search engine consumption.
22. Turn Data Points Into Graphics
The tactic above doesn’t just apply to conventional infographics. It goes for any graphic, charts, graphs, etc. Turn data in your existing content into graphics. There are plenty of free tools out there to do so. Adding graphical representations of data only boosts the value of your documents. Be sure to add the ability to share and embed those data charts as well.
23. Add Images to Your Content
And not just any image. Don’t fall into the trap of using images or stock photos that take up space or are there for “SEO value” so you can add keywords to the alt and title attributes. Instead, add compelling and engaging images that have story appeal and evoke curiosity in the reader.
Photos are content so pay close attention to your image strategy and use visuals to effectively enhance readability. Be sure to follow Google guidelines for images for best possible user experience as well.
24. Add Image Captions
Most people don’t know it but captions are read more than copy. Which makes sense given everything we know about how users like to scan copy quickly. So add those captions for readability (and extra, crawlable content).
25. Embed Videos and Other Rich Media
Embedding informative, educational and helpful videos within your content will undoubtedly boost time on page and elicit more of those “long stays” that Google is placing more and more value on with each Panda Update.
There are a couple of ways to approach video. Hosting it on YouTube is easier, YouTube videos appear in the blended results, and you leverage the power of YouTube’s internal search engine which is key given it’s the second largest search engine. However, the case can be made to host videos on your site as well so you own and control the traffic nozzle.
26. Add Trust Symbols
Adding trust symbols, such as “as seen in” logos for pubs where your writing has appeared, or where your website has been featured or written about, goes a long way in boosting the credibility of your site and your content. Trust symbols also improve conversions, which inherently raise the value of your content, since what could be more valuable than content that informs and generates revenue?
27. Focus on Site Speed
It’s worth noting that if you implement many the preceding recommendations in this article, and add images, videos, graphics, charts, additional content to pages on your site, you’re going to experience bloat and incur load time issues. Improving the load time of your content and the overall performance of your site can dramatically raise the value of your content by enhancing user experience which can boost conversion rates.
Site speed also plays a valuable role in rankings. There are some great tips in this guide on improving load time. I also recommend the optimization service from W3Edge to tweak site speed and overall website performance.
If you want to outpace your competitors and command an audience, you need to make a commitment to hosting informative, expert-level, value-add content on your site. Otherwise, you don’t deserve to rank.
If you have more tips, definitely share them in the comments.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!