Today, there’s more content on the web than ever before (and that’s an understatement, I know!) Blogs, vlogs, podcasts, news sites, online shops and social media.
There’s an overwhelming amount of stuff out there and truthfully, it’s not about to slow down. The need to make your content stand out and work for your business is integral to its overall success.
I was listening to a podcast about blogging last week. It featured Justin Hall, the guy known as the world’s first blogger and he fascinatingly talked about the ‘early days’ of the internet. “There was a real sense of a need to fill it up with information,” he said. As he talks about those earlier times, I’m in awe. It’s just not like that anymore.
In today’s post, I’m running a quick history lesson, with some great, actionable tips at the end. Bob Marley once said “if you know your history, then you know where you’re coming from” and taking a look back really gives us great context into how to create amazing content today.
A brief history of online content
The early days: Content to Inform
In these days, content only had one purpose: to inform. When the ‘world wide web’ was invented in 1989, there were no news sites or blogs, just personal homepages. But as it started to ‘fill up’ blogging became popular throughout the 90’s. The content was being written to inform, to educate, to ‘delve deeper and comment further than regular media’. Eventually, blogs made their way into the mainstream. With major news outlets adding blogs to their sites, discussing relevant topics and beginning to digitalise all content.
In these early years, content was informing; breaking big news stories, linking out to other web pages as helpful, informative references for further reading. It was educating, exciting and linked to extra sources of useful information. Take note!
The midst and rise of ‘SEO’: Content to Perform
But as the available content was growing, the concept of search and search engines was developing too. There was a lot of informative content out there, so there was a need to search and find what you were looking for, efficiently. The world’s first search engine was the ‘Archie Query form’ invented by a US college student back in 1990. And what a beauty it was!
Sites were now dedicated to indexing other sites and organising their content. In 1994, Yahoo search was born, beginning as a ‘collection of favourable web pages’; the search engines were starting to call the shots. Yahoo included a man-made description with each URL and eventually became a searchable directory, as it had so much content to include. ‘Informational sites’ were added for free, but they expanded to include ‘commercial sites’ for a yearly fee of $300. Load times were slow and clunky, but the service was there. You could search using relevant keywords and you would find something (hopefully) relevant in return!
But how did this affect the creation of content? Some of SEO’s biggest players talk about the time when content seemed only to be created for search engines or SEO purposes. Not writing for humans, but for ‘bots’. Keyword stuffing was rife. Some webmasters would even write two versions of web pages; one for the bots and one front-end as they knew how much the keyword stuffed content would turn off the (human!) end user.
In 2018 and beyond: Content to Inform, Perform and Serve Intent
Thankfully, for both user and business, search engines have increased in intelligence. Search engines are now smarter than ever; using machine learning to process and rank information. They can now even understand natural, human speech.
As a result, as search engines have become more sophisticated, so has content. I can’t help but feel like this year is the year we’ve finally reached an equilibrium. Google and Bing are super smart, but so are we. They rank content that solves problems, serves intent, is well-optimised and the best match for the query at hand.
They also rank excellent, well-made websites that engage their audience, and this is helped even further by great branding and social media activity too. Content about relevant topics and technical factors like time spent on the page are more important than ever before.
Read more here about developing your on-page brand awareness.
How to Create Great Content in 2018 and Beyond
So, here we are. It’s Spring 2018 and we’re ready to create some exceptionally good content, who’s with us? Here are our top tips on how to create great content for SEO in 2018 and beyond.
One: always write with relevancy
A golden rule of SEO writing, (that funnily enough is as relevant now as ever!) is writing with relevancy.
Long gone are the days where we stuff keywords into blog posts, headers, titles and URLs. Now, we write about topical, industry-relevant matters for human beings interested in our sector or services. Sounds easy, but finding relevant topics to talk about can be tricky. The process starts with knowing your audience. Tools like Google Analytics and Facebook Insights can be used to gather stats on your readers: What percentage is male or female? How old are they? How many kids do they have? What are their interests?
Starting with data, or with an ‘audience persona’ based on your clients and their needs, will help you come up with relevant topics tailored to them.
Two: solve problems (and consider intent)
In 2018, the best content doesn’t just solve problems (although that is good content) it considers the intent of the user. What are they looking for? Can you create a landing page that serves that intent? Or even a blog post?
To gain some insight into what your users or potential customers are searching for, make use of free tools like Answer the Public. It helps you generate a list of questions people are asking Google based on key topics related to your industry. So, for the keyword or topic of ‘sell my house’, the tool generates related questions such as “How to sell my house quickly”. A great way to generate problem-solving blog post ideas for very little effort.
Three: engage your users
This is absolutely crucial and is one of Google’s key ranking factors (see Andy’s earlier post on getting to page one of Google, highlighting the importance of on-page interaction), and it mainly depends on the usability of your website. When users land on your site, is it easy to navigate? Can they easily see who you are, and what you do? Are there some great, easy-to-find articles they can read to learn more?
All of these things add up to engage the user, to tell them your story effectively and get them to buy into you and what you do. The more time they spend on your site, the better it will perform in the search engines.
Four: earn some links and offer some links
Earning new links through great content is still one of the most powerful ways to get your website ranking, and offering valuable links to your readers is good too!
Seeking out linking opportunities can be done via free tools like Moz: Open Site Explorer. But link building on a larger scale requires a lot of time, care and attention to get it spot on. You can read more about Fishpool’s approach to organic link building. In the post, I offer more detail into what it takes to gain really great links for SEO purposes.
Five: don’t just rely on SEO
SEO is an extremely powerful tool and is something every start-up or existing company should be leveraging. But, it should not be relied upon in isolation.
Your company brand and ethos, activity across social media, other marketing efforts should all come together to play their role in increasing your business’s chances of success. And in turn, they actually all boost your sites SEO efforts too!
If you want to know more about how Fishpool can help you and your business succeed, then get in touch with Rachel on 0115 993 2351 or drop us an email email@example.com.