The problem with SEO today is easy to explain and difficult to solve. Essentially, the average business owner is being given a series of outdated tools and tactics to solve the ever-growing problem that is being SEO friendly. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there’s actually plenty you can do to become SEO friendly.
Let’s get this out of the way: there is no ‘magic pill’ or ‘silver bullet’ approach to getting search engines like Google and Yahoo to notice your website. Aside from the occasional viral piece of content, your best bet at getting Google’s attention is to make sure your site and content are SEO friendly.
While there are plenty of other forms of content that we could discuss (infographics, images, etc.), today we’ll be focusing on two of the most popular forms of content in the world of digital marketing: copy and video.
Decoding the ‘Chicken-or-the-Egg’ Dilemma
Once you understand the basics of SEO (search engines scanning every website on the planet, looking for results that their users need), you see exactly why producing content matters. No matter what you’re selling, your site is going to need content, and lots of it.
Of course, understanding the basics of SEO isn’t the hard part. Where things get tricky is when business owners take a deeper look at SERPs and realize that they can be a bit of an echo chamber. The same site might get 4 slots on the first page of Google, with the average small business owner struggling to break the top 10 pages.
This ‘chicken-or-the-egg’ dilemma, where the popular become more popular and quieter voices are ignored, is the common thread that runs through most failing or unsuccessful SEO strategies.
So, how can your business (with limited time and resources) ever hope to break into this group and actually get Google to notice you? Well, let’s reverse-engineer this problem. The goal is to end up on Google’s first page and soak up all the undeniable benefits that come with it. To end up on that page, your site needs to go from having an online presence to becoming an online authority.
What’s going to define you as an online authority? There are plenty of factors that go into this, but the easiest way to think of it is to focus on your social proof and your content relevance.
If you’re having trouble with your SEO strategy (or you’re just about to start your first one), you’ll need to start by breaking down your audience. In the same way that you would create buyer personas if you were selling something, you should focus on understanding as much as you can about the people that will be visiting your website. Here are just a few things you should know about your audience:
- What other sites they visit
- Their average annual income
- What problem you’re solving for them
- What other problems they need solving
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Once you get people using your products, make sure to get their feedback. Specifically, how they would describe their experience with you. It might seem a bit on the generic side, but assure them that you’ll be taking their feedback into account in a meaningful way. Who knows? One customer might end up shedding some light on an inconsistency in your business that you’d never considered.
Speaking of communicating with customers, business owners around the world need to recognize the value and importance of social media. Too many people look at platforms like Facebook and Twitter as places to blast their audience with obnoxious ads and thinly-veiled self-promotion posts. Business owners can certainly try doing that, but there’s not much room for the development of a genuine connection with those techniques. And that’s the problem: too many businesses are looking at social media as an advertising platform.
Don’t be fooled by names like Facebook Ads and Instagram Business Tools. Social media is less about promotion and more about strengthening relationships via online reviews, transparent customer service and a general sense of humanity that can turn faceless corporate entities into dynamic, caring brands.
Let’s keep working our way backwards. We need to increase our social proof and maintain content relevance. If our marketing strategy relies on these two things, the solution is relatively straightforward. From a content perspective, we need to create great written and video content.
If you don’t know much about writing, don’t worry. Despite what you might believe, structuring high-quality content is actually a simple process. But before you start putting that pen to paper, consider the way that you’ll be presenting your content.
For starters, remember that this is the internet. Writing blog posts like they’re the first pages of your novel is a great way to bore your audience to death. Have plenty of paragraphs to give your audience’s eyes a break. Use images and infographics to snap readers back into attention after text-heavy sections. Don’t be afraid to use headers and experiment with the overall length of your article to see what your audience is responding to. Plus, those search engine bots love well-structured content.
This is arguably the hardest part of creating written content for business owners. If you expect to make written content a cornerstone of your marketing strategy, you’re going to need to prioritize consistency. As tedious as it might be, bust out that editorial calendar and ensure that your posts have some level of frequency.
If you’re new to the world of content creation, start small. Aim for 1-2 posts per week, and scale from there once you’re comfortable.
If consistency is the hardest part of written content, value is the most important. We touched on this slightly earlier, but it’s worth mentioning again: content is not about self-promotion. Your content (written or otherwise) exists to solve your audience’s problems.
Why? Because that’s how you develop a relationship with your audience based on trust and a desire to help each other. The moment you compromise that by trying to disguise a sales pitch as a piece of content, you’re putting your online authority status in jeopardy.
When it comes to video content, the same focus on value matters. Your content exists to either entertain your audience or educate them, but it must provide them with value in some way. But beyond that, video content is unique because of how important execution is. Having a great idea for a video and having the right equipment to capture it in are two very different things. You’ll often hear digital media marketing experts say things like “just get started!”. While I appreciate their enthusiasm, business owners are more likely to benefit from a well-organized, professionally executed video. Having no video content is bad, but having content that looks like an infomercial is worse.
If you’re creating lots of great video content, converting people shouldn’t be too hard. But it’ll be borderline impossible if you don’t make sure to include a CTA! So many business owners either completely forget about this or just assume the content is going to convert on ‘coolness’ alone.
It’s not a matter of if you should be using CTAs, it’s a matter of which kind. If you’ve provided plenty of value to your audience, asking them to check out an annotation on YouTube wouldn’t be asking too much (especially if it relates to the problem you’re trying to solve for them). Plus, these annotations are the perfect CTA because they embrace the nature of interactivity that the internet revolves around.
Hosting is going to depend almost entirely on research and personal preference. For some businesses, you’ll want to host on YouTube or some other video player. Aside from the fact that you get to take advantage of a built-in CTA tool, hosting on YouTube means that your videos are easier to stumble upon and share.
Of course, the flip side of that coin is that hosting on your own site has one very clear benefit: it drives video search straight to your domain. At the end of the day, it’s all about whether your videos play into your short-term goals of increasing overall exposure or long-term goals of driving traffic to your own domain.
There’s no getting around the fact that content creation can be a massive time and money investment for your business. But if you’re looking to become an online authority and end up on that coveted first page of Google, high-quality written and video content are the way to do it.