If we’ve learned anything since the advent of Google, we’ve learned that Google is constantly tinkering with its SEO functionality. The latest change is to a popular feature called Content Keywords.
Marketers used Content Keywords to get a list of the main keywords and phrases Google found when it crawled their websites, and to spot hacks. This information allowed marketers to gauge the overall theme of their websites and determine if they accurately highlighted keywords their personas would search for or find interesting.
It sounds like a valuable feature. Yet, late last year, John Mueller, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst announced the company was dropping Content Keywords. This has left marketers with several questions, including are keywords still relevant if I want to boost SEO in 2017?
The short answer is “yes.” However, one of the reasons that Google dropped it is that it believes Content Keywords often created confusion about what the term actually means, and inadvertently lead to keyword stuffing, an old-school tactic that is penalized today.
According to Mueller, Content Keywords “almost suggests that the more often you include the same keywords on your page, the more likely it will be relevant in the search results, and that’s definitely not the case.”
Instead of relying simply on keywords to get found, in his blog post, Mueller emphasized the importance of being “clear about what your site is about, and what you’d like to be found for. Tell visitors what makes your site, your products and services, special!”
Search Study Reveals New Ranking Factors
Searchmetrics’ recent Ranking Factors study supports the fact that times are changing for SEO. The company opened its report with a bold assertion: “Traditional ranking factors have become irrelevant.”
Further, Searchmetrics stated: “Technically, it’s not ‘out with the old, in with the new’; it’s a recognition of the need to adapt to new realities. There’s been a lot of activity in the search industry this year.”
The company highlighted some of the top insights of the new ranking factors study and what marketers can expect:
- Google’s deep learning algorithm now adapts to queries and operates in real time
- Content Relevance is a new ranking factor—and it’s the driving force behind garnering top rankings
- Technical factors remain a prerequisite for good rankings, but these elements alone are no longer enough
- Backlinks are now simply one of many contributing factors; high rankings are even possible for link-free websites
Content Marketing Experts Share Top Ranking Tips
Many content marketing experts agree that marketers should move past old SEO practices and look forward to the new ways to support high-ranking content. Here’s what some had to say.
Create Unique, Higher Quality, and Highly Niched Content
Rand Fishkin, Founder of Moz, offers marketers this advice:
“Content marketers are going to have to get more unique with the types of content they create; they’re going to have to get higher quality, and they’re going to have to get more niched.”
Fishkin is a proponent of what he calls 10X content, which he defines as content 10 times better than what anyone else is doing. He created this list of criteria for creating 10X content on Moz.com:
- Have great UI and UX on any device
- Deliver a combination of high quality, trustworthiness, useful, interesting and remarkable
- Be considerably different in scope and in detail from other works that are serving the same visitor or user intent
- Create an emotional response, such as awe, surprise, joy, anticipation or admiration
- Solve a problem or answer a question by providing comprehensive, accurate and exceptional information or resources
- Deliver content in a unique, remarkable and typically unexpectedly pleasurable style or medium
Track Different Metrics
Sam Mallikarjunan, Head of Growth at HubSpot Labs, says:
“I think we’ll start to see blog and video teams talk about chase metrics like daily and weekly active users. You’re going to see them start making hooks to drive user retention.”
He wrote on this topic on ThinkGrow.org:
“Content managers don’t typically track active users. They could define an active user as someone who reads their blog at least once a week or opens an email newsletter.
“But active users of the products is an important metric, because if you’re not able to retain significant percentages of your product’s users as ‘active,’ you’re eventually going to reach a point where you’re churning users faster than you can acquire new ones.
“This redefinition of metrics on which to focus may enhance the entire approach. Should we send reactivation emails if someone doesn’t take an ‘action’ within a set period of time? Should we run retargeting ads for users who are inactive, or who are particularly prone to sharing? What can we do to make the value that readers get from subscribing to the content ‘stickier’?”
Target Specific Pain Points and Deliver Precise Solutions
Jarrick Cooper, inbound marketing consultant at Kuno Creative, says:
By targeting persona pain points, “you can better serve your customer at each stage of the sales funnel. You can resonate with them by demonstrating a clear understanding of their primary pain points. Perhaps, most importantly, you can use this information to strategize content that will get you in front of your prospects in the early research stage of their buy cycle.”
He suggests asking prospects and customers:
- What are you trying to achieve?
- What challenges and pain points are you experiencing?
- What questions do you ask most often?
Launch Highly Targeted Social Media Ads
Larry Kim, Founder of Wordstream, offered this insight:
“Winning at content marketing will feel a lot more like playing Powerball than playing scratch tickets … In terms of how to win those big jackpots, I would seriously consider doing Facebook and Twitter Ads … They can be done really effectively and generate great results.”
Many people believe content marketing is basically a three-step process: Create new content, share your content on social networks and people buy your stuff.
But this almost never happens.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that social media ads provide the most scalable content promotion, and are proven to turn visitors into leads and customers, said Kim—and without a large ad budget.
A better, more realistic process for content marketing would look like this, he said on Wordstream:
- Create — Produce content and share it on social media
- Amplify — Selectively promote your top content on social media
- Tag — Build your remarketing audience by tagging site visitors with a cookie
- Filter — Apply behavioral and demographic filters on your audience
- Remarket — Remarket to your audience with display ads, social ads and Remarketing Lists for Search Ads to promote offers
- Convert — Capture qualified leads or sale
Add More Short, Sweet, and Punchy Content in the Mix
Sujan Patel, Founder of Web Profits, offered marketers this advice:
“In 2017, content will get shorter, sweeter, more unique, and punchy.”
What more can you say about this recommendation? Its brevity speaks for itself!
Marketers who create content marketing in 2017 that does more than just target keywords are likely to reap the greatest rewards. When creating your content this year aim for unique and highly niched content, more targeted metrics, a focus on users’ pain points, social media advertising and shorter and punchier content. As a bonus, if you follow these tips, your content will continue to perform well no matter how many changes Google makes to its SEO features this year.