“The best place to hide a dead body is Page 2 of Google’s search results.”
Now that I have your attention …
Welcome to Part Deux of our two-part series about how to optimize your content for inbound, in which we continue to share insights from Arnie Kuenn, CEO of Vertical Measures (and bestower of the above quote), about getting found and getting known.
In Part 1, we focused on what searchers and search spiders are looking for, and building content that aligns with those queries. (Because if you create content nobody is searching for … nobody is exactly who will find you.)
Part 2 builds upon that foundation with the nitty-gritty of creating content that will garner the attention of the search engines and show up in the results – even on Page 1.
A note of clarification: This post isn’t a how-to on writing compelling content. It’s a how-to on optimizing your content to be found by search (and searchers). In other words, its focus is on the nuts and bolts, not the artistry.
First Things First: A Recap
If you haven’t read Part 1 and simply don’t wanna, or you read it but that was, like, a week ago (and really, who has time to store information for that long anymore?), below is a very brief synopsis to give you a jump start.
According to Arnie, there are four things you need to understand before you start creating new content or optimizing your current content:
- Organic search trumps paid search. When it comes to visibility and click-throughs, studies show that we (you, me, everyone) click on organic results between 80%-90% of the time. Although paid search can pay off, optimizing for organic search can yield enormous dividends that mathematically can’t be beat.
- Do not break, circumvent, or otherwise “game” Google’s rules. Because sooner or later, Google will put a hurtin’ on your website. Being unaware of Google’s dos and don’ts is no excuse for tripping an algorithm. A penalty may hit you whether you do it on accident or on purpose.
- Give searchers what they want to make an informed decision. An About.com study found that 72% of people use search to gain particular information. (The breakdown: 26% want to be educated, 46% want an answer to a very specific question.) Businesses that provide the (optimized) content people are looking for will win.
- Uncover what your visitors are looking for. Arnie offered four ways to find out exactly what your prospects and customers want to know, so you can deliver it:
- Implement site search in order to see the keywords visitors are using while they’re on your website.
- Ask your staff what questions customers ask them all the time.
- Ask your customers why they trust you, how they found you, why they like your products, what they wish you’d do better, etc.
- Be human … that is, use search just like your target audience does. Figure out what keywords could/should/might be used to find your business.
By embracing even a few of Arnie’s recommendations, you’ll be well-positioned to create content that ranks higher and performs better than what you have today.
Now that you’re caught up, let’s dive into Part 2 on how to optimize your content to be found. Here’s the official headline:
Optimizing Content to Improve Your Search Rankings
In large part, getting found by Google is about tactics.
True, the quality of your content absolutely matters, as evidenced by Google’s recent algorithm changes (Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird). Google has effectively put content purveyors on notice that blatant, non-value dreck is no longer acceptable.
Even so, the general principles of effective SEO remain unchanged: Your best writing notwithstanding, optimizing for search engines has an enormous tactical side – a collection of steps that, if taken, will vastly improve your chances of getting found.
Does Arnie cover them all?
Thankfully, no. Doing so would be the proverbial “tiny sip through a fire hose,” which is (1) too long for a blog post and (b) most likely not helpful to readers who are ramping up on SEO.
(The goal is to incrementally expand your knowledge, not cause your eyes to glaze over or your head to explode.)
He offers a small and effective list of tactics everyone can take advantage of without much heavy lifting.
Here they are.
Don’t Fear the Long Tail
This was touched on in Part 1, but is worth repeating: long search strings (aka “long tail”) can be golden.
1. We search in complete sentences.
Or at least really long fragments. Take a look at the image below and you’ll see that queries comprised of 7, 8, and 9 words get clicked on the most.
Says Arnie, “Because Google bolds all of [a searcher’s] keywords, when they do a search and see their exact query in the results, they think, ‘Oh my gosh, this company created content that addresses the issue I’m searching for. I’m clicking here.’”
2. Niche searchers can equal pre-qualified leads.
Although long-tail searches yield smaller click volumes, they often result in higher lead volumes. This is because specialized (long) search queries tend to be from individuals who are further along in their decision-making process and, by extension, farther down the sales funnel.
Takeaway: When crafting your titles and your copy, keep your eyes peeled for the content pieces that are somewhat specialized for key audience segments, and then optimize them for long-tail queries. You’ll not only help your targets find you, you’ll likely entice more of them to engage with you.