SEO has been a staple of content marketing for over 20 years. Firms sprang up overnight as Google grew to dominate the market. They promised top results for their clients. Some even succeeded.
There was low-hanging fruit to be had. SEO expert Rand Fishkin noted on one podcast, “Back in the day, I would just point three anchor text phrases at this page … Boom! I’m number one.”
Today, it is hard to find low-hanging fruit. What used to make you stand out from the crowd on Google is now established as the cost of entry; competition for keywords has skyrocketed. Google is offering more information on the SERP so users don’t even need to click a link. Technologies like voice search are driving long-tail keywords and natural-language queries.
It is difficult to trick Google and improve rankings. But if you still want to succeed, there’s a secret you need to understand:
SEO alone never mattered.
A Brief Look Back
Technology fueled automated web crawling and search indexing. Google became the best of these algorithm-driven tools; it took over search. People that understood these algorithms could game the results, and they did. Keyword stuffing and paid backlinking created a huge number of SEO firms. Some emphasized loopholes and questionable SEO tricks over building audience value, creating a ramshackle slum of useless backlinks driven by low-effort content.
Around the time of the Panda and Penguin updates in 2011 and 2012, Google finally eradicated the worst of these slums.
Businesses that shelled out money to SEO firms promising them the first position on the SERP found themselves in trouble every time Google changed its algorithm. The search engine giant was not going to stand for people gaming its system.
Google is a business too. Its goal is to provide people with the best, most useful results for their queries. And the old loopholes exploited by SEO firms ran directly counter to that.
Your audience is not Google. Taking shortcuts to game the system might yield results in the short term, but it takes a toll on your long-term credibility and SEO when the algorithm changes destroy your high search ranking.
Chase the Right Audience
Search ranking is important, sure. But it’s not the reason to create content, and if you only publish content for Google rankings, you’re chasing the wrong audience.
Why produce great content if it’s not for search rankings?
Great content establishes your authority. Copyblogger built its business on unique, powerful and interesting content. And it wasn’t the only one — look at a company like Klientboost, which built an audience from scratch on the strength of its original skyscraper content.
Authority helps you with Google too. As any content marketer worth their salt knows, Google’s algorithm cares whether people read your content. Better content draws more eyeballs that stay on the page longer and demonstrate your relevance. It acts as backlink bait. Create relevant content for your audience. If your audience recognizes your authority, Google will too.
Social media allows you to spread your message with intentionality. Organic reach may be down from what it used to be, but social is one of the most important channels for your business.
Is your content good enough to attract attention when you share it on social media?
If it’s not, you’re chasing the wrong audience. Targeting Google’s algorithm isn’t going to help you stand out in a sea of tweets or get shares on LinkedIn. What will make you stand out is insightful, interesting, unique content that answers your audience’s questions.
People tend to share positive articles that excite them. Content should stand on its own; if it does, it is more likely to be shared on social media, regardless of the keywords it focuses on.
A constant drip of good content isn’t just something that makes Google pay attention and improve your ranking. It lets you build a library, which makes people want to sign up for more of your content. Ebooks, case studies, unique blogs, videos and podcasts are all potential areas where you can capture emails to add to your mailing list.
There’s a reason your inbox is clogged with special offers and newsletters: email just works. Email capture is the backbone of digital marketing. Great content motivates the audience to share their email address and engage so they get more of what they’re interested in.
Give To Your Audience
SEO by itself never mattered.
Audience has always mattered. Would you rather rank #1 for your dream keyword or rank #1 in your industry in audience growth?
Yes, you should consider keywords and follow search engine best practices. But if you’re creating content solely based on SEO techniques, you’re wasting your time. Google is getting better and better at recognizing content that people care about. Create value. Focus on your audience, not just Google’s algorithm. You will find the long-term content marketing success you’re pursuing. And, if you need a hand creating great content, feel free to reach out. We’re here to help.
Rainmaker Digital Services