In the past, getting informational content to rank on Google was all about cramming it with keywords. It was obvious why Google had led you to what you were reading, because the same phrases seemed to be repeated every few lines and, in particularly shady examples, there would be a stack of words at the bottom of the article that were purely there to trick web crawlers.
The reason you don’t see that anymore is that it no longer works. These days, Google is much smarter and gives preferential treatment to the content that’s most useful to the user. That’s why the articles you see ranking on the first page for your keywords tend to be the ones that actually give you what you were looking for. The winners are usually the longest and most detailed, but well-written and digestible enough not to put you off reading them.
What’s the ideal length for SEO?
Marketers have argued over this metric for years, with many claiming that there is a “sweet spot” for word count that tends to rank the best. But it’s becoming clear that longer is better – which is simple enough for any of us to understand.
If your content is educational, you really have nothing to lose and everything to gain by packing your article with as much information as possible. And there’s certainly data out there to prove that the highest ranking articles have greater word counts on average. But all you really have to do is try it out. For pretty much any topic with a deep capacity for learning, the people who share the most about the subject win.
Longer content naturally results in more time spent on the page, which is tracked by Google and contributes to a higher relevancy score.
So are oldschool SEO techniques worthless now?
Not at all.
SEO has always been about how easily a robot (Google’s crawler) can understand and effectively analyze your content. The robot may have gotten smarter, but it’s still a robot. And that’s why technical SEO is still important.
Techniques such as keyword density, including target keywords in your title, and splitting your article into headings wrapped in <h> tags, are very important for a high ranking on Google, particularly considering how fierce the competition is for most subjects. If you don’t cover those bases, you could write something very good that isn’t ranking as high as it could be.
The difference now is that you can’t rely on those techniques alone – your content actually has to be good.
So what is ‘good’ content?
‘Good’ content completely meets the user’s expectations for an article with that title and those keywords. In other words, how closely does the information in your article match what they were hoping or expecting to find when they clicked on it in the SERP?
The first step in achieving this is simply to give the user the answers they are looking for. If your article is titled “the five most important SEO techniques in 2019” and half of the content is about SEM techniques then it doesn’t matter how well-written it is – it simply doesn’t answer the user’s question well enough and will not be seen favourably by Google.
The second step is in structuring the article in a way that’s logical and makes the information as easy as possible to digest. This can be as basic as introducing what the user will find in the article, then delivering on that in detail, and then closing with a list of re-cap points. Not only does this format give the Google crawler an easy time understanding what your article is about, it’s also just great for readability.
The third step is to add detail to your content, ideally in ways that can’t be satisfied with simple text. Think about which data metrics might support the points you’re making and then create some graphs that you can include in the article. Maybe you could create an infographic in Canva that helps to visualize the concepts you’re covering. Embedding videos in the article is a powerful technique these days, because it gives the user something else to interact with on the page. But, remember, the video you select has to make absolute sense and not just be there to make the article look cool on the page.
Finally, include some relevant outbound links that provide extra value, whether it be case studies, news articles or other articles like yours. It might seem counter-productive to direct your traffic elsewhere, but as long as your link-outs add depth they will be rewarded by Google. The fact is that many high ranking information articles are fundamentally lists of links. Because, in some cases, that’s exactly what your user needs.
SEO article tips and guidelines
- 2,000-word minimum;
- Sentences of no more than 25 words;
- Well-researched title and headings;
- <h1> tags for headings and <p> for paragraphs;
- Data and graphs, where applicable;
- Relevant and valuable outbound links.
Promote your content
This is a separate step to creating the content itself, but it’s just as important. Promoting your content gives Google some data to work with, like page views, bounce rate and time spent on page. So if you’ve followed all of the tips above and your article still isn’t ranking after a couple of months, it could be because you haven’t promoted it enough.
Good promotion channels include social media networks, other blogs and forums. This isn’t about spamming – it’s about putting your content right in front of the people who will find it valuable. If your content is relevant to your page followers, which it should be, then you will get some organic engagement which will help to boost its ranking right off the bat. If your article would be of interest to a specific audience that might not follow your page, you can sponsor it via Facebook so that it reaches the right people – you don’t need to spend a lot on this.
A backlink strategy is also an important part of your overall content plan. Find related blogs that you can use for a link exchange. Some people are still buying links, but this is actually against the Google Webmaster Policy so it’s not recommended. Because a penalty can kill your article’s ranking beyond repair.