According to one recent study, a full 93% of online experiences that consumers have with a brand still begin the exact same way: via a search engine like Google. Likewise, the same source revealed that about 70% of the links that search users click on are organic. This means that most of the time, people are going to ignore the paid ads and other promotional links entirely – instead devoting all of their attention to those first few items on the results page.
Based on this, it’s easy to say that SEO isn’t just important – it’s critically so. But when search engine companies push out algorithm updates that essentially rewrite the rules of search engine optimization on a daily basis like Google does, many people (correctly) feel that it’s a bit of a moving target. Because of this, many marketers instead turn their attention elsewhere, towards techniques that are a little more “stable” and that may offer similar or even superior results in the future.
In no uncertain terms, this would be a mistake.
Even Google’s algorithm changes continue to underline just how important true SEO really is. Keep in mind that according to another recent study, a full 58% of marketers still say that original written content is the most important type of marketing opportunity they have available to them – outranking visuals and even video content. This simply wouldn’t be true if SEO – and in particular, content development and management – didn’t still have a lot to offer businesses of all types.
What’s in an Algorithm Update? Breaking Things Down
On the subject of Google algorithm updates, maybe one of the most important examples in recent memory was their E-A-T update. That’s an acronym that stands for “expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness” and it originally rolled out in August of 2018.
The early impact of that particular update was on “your money, your life” sites, otherwise known as YMYL sites for short. Google describes these types of sites as those that “could potentially impact the future happiness, health, financial stability or safety of users.” Almost immediately, some of the sites that fall into that category saw short-term reductions in search traffic of 50% or more. An extreme example of this would be Prevention.com, which experienced a traffic drop of 65% in traffic in the first seven days.
But people who saw this happen and took away the lesson of “SEO is too much trouble for its own good” are failing to see the forest for the trees. The intention behind the update was crystal clear from Google’s perspective. If you want authority for your site, it MUST display a level of expertise, authority and trust to prove that level of influence is not unwarranted.
Sites that couldn’t – or at least, couldn’t in those early days – were obviously penalized. But the sites that could were handsomely rewarded.
For serious SEO agencies, the message behind all of this was clear: content is still king. Content marketing in general – when done properly – is just as strong as it ever was, if not more so than ever. Getting to the point where you’re one of the sites that is rewarded instead of penalized, however, requires you to keep a few key things in mind.
The Art of Content Marketing: What’s in a Message?
The key thing to understand about all of this is that while content marketing is essential, not all collateral is created equally. Simply participating in a content marketing strategy is not in and of itself enough to get the job done. For true success – and to essentially make sure that your domains are staying in front of algorithm changes – you need to make sure you’re focusing your attention on the right details.
That begins with the right target audience. The target audience will be a specific group of potential customers with whom you will want your marketing message to resonate. They are the people who are most likely to buy your products or services.
Beyond personal and lifestyle demographics, psychographic factors, internal and external influences, it’s important that content focus on some common characteristics of your customers related to:
- What problem are they looking to solve?
- What criteria must be met in a solution to their problem?
- How and why your solution is the best option, including points of differentiation.
- How the customer’s life will be better for your solution
- Metrics or proof points of the value you provide the customer.
In developing effective content, you may need to consider different target audiences, since different groups of people may buy your products for different reasons.
An effective messaging methodology that works well to connect content with search engine algorithms focuses on elements like:
Highly relevant keywords. Not keyword stuffing, mind you – that can absolutely get you penalized. But Google only makes money if people keep using its search engine. People will only keep using Google if it keeps returning highly relevant, quality links during searches. Targeting highly relevant keywords allows them to do exactly that – thus creating a situation where everybody wins.
Meaningful keyword groups. These are equally important, especially for AdWords. Keeping your keywords closely related, tighter and better organized can have a significant impact on your content’s relevance – which again will go a long way towards ultimately increasing your ranking.
Relevant landing pages. Landing pages with high ratings are usually those that have A) a high level of organization, and B) have text that is directly related to whatever someone was searching for. Basically, if you make it extraordinarily easy for someone to find the answer to his or her question or the solution to his or her problem, Google will reward you for doing so.
The appropriate use of negative keywords. This technique helps Google contextually understand your content a bit better by allowing you to specify what types of searches you shouldn’t appear for. If you’re selling a product that isn’t free, for example, using “free” as a negative keyword can help make sure only the people who are interested in your specific offer are being served your content.
A/B testing. So much of your success in terms of marketing depends on your ability to finely tune your message for the exact audience you’re speaking to. A/B testing is one of the best ways to do it. By creating subtle variations of messaging and trying them out on smaller groups to test their success, you can see what is working and what isn’t. This gives you a unique chance to double down on the former and get rid of the latter before you roll something out to a larger audience.
All of these techniques are hugely important to achieve higher Quality Scores and Page Quality, thus allowing your ads to rank higher – all while lowering your advertising costs at the same time. So, not only do they allow you to harness the power of SEO to your advantage, but you also get to enjoy a lower cost-per-click price as well.
In the end, it’s important to remember that it IS possible to stay in front of search engine algorithm updates. It’s just not something that is going to happen automatically. To “win” against algorithm changes, you need to be focused on establishing the credibility and authority of your site. You need to find the right partnerships to create a site that people deem reputable in the first place. Every single contributor to your site needs to be seen as every bit as credible as the site itself. Managing the reputation of both your site and the company behind it needs to become something that you focus on every single day.
All of this, of course, leads back to the exact same place: content. If you can effectively manage your content to hit these targets, so much of the hard work has already been done for you. At that point, success isn’t a question of “if” but “when.”
This is why content is king… and it’s very likely that it always will be.