It’s 2021, and your audience is suffering from content overload. The digital marketplace has become overcrowded, and you need everything you can to stand out from the crowd.
Enter search engine optimization (SEO).
Many say SEO is dead. Truth be told, optimization is as important as ever. You need to optimize your content to improve brand visibility, brand loyalty, and authenticity.
Of course, SEO has also become complex over the years. For one thing, you have to go beyond link building and focus on the overall user experience. This includes optimizing website for tablets and smartphones, and also focusing on voice searches.
And every content marketer worth his salt knows that optimization is not a one-time thing; it is an ongoing process that requires rigorous testing and creative iteration. Here’s how you can optimize your content marketing efforts in 2021.
Keyword Research & Search Intent
It all starts with keyword research. Some search terms remain evergreen (such as “weight loss”) while others are trending (such as “keto”). And while trending keywords are important, you should be optimizing your content for the long-run, something that adds value to readers for many years to come.
This is where search intent comes in, i.e. what kind of information people look for when they use specific keywords or phrases. There are three kinds of search intent:
- Transactional or commercial
In other words, your audience wants to search something, learn something, or buy something. And it is usually a combination of the three. The point is, you need to know what they are searching for, and use the relevant keywords.
A cliched example would be optimizing your fruit business with ‘Apple’ as your main keyword, only to have your traffic stolen by Apple Inc.
Simply searching a keyword tells you what kind of results Google is rewarding, and you can adjust your strategy likewise. And once you find the most relevant keywords, use them as much as you can and as naturally as you can in your website and blogs, and also on your YouTube channel and social media pages.
While you’re at it, also make a list of related keywords and sprinkle them in your content as well as your website’s meta details.
More than 60% of smartphone users carry out voice searches. The figure is likely to rise this year. That’s a good enough reason to optimize your content for voice. This will also help you engage more with mobile audiences.
When people are speaking into their phones, they use complete phrases instead of standalone keywords. These are what we call ‘long-tail’ keywords. Search for these keyword phrases and incorporate them naturally in your content. You should also make your website’s metadata more relevant to voice searches.
While meta details are not ranking factors, they do impact the click-through rate (CTR). Hence, they impact your rankings indirectly. And that is why you should write clear, concise, and optimized meta titles and descriptions for all pages of the website. Here’s how you go about it:
- Incorporate target keywords and related keywords in the title and description
- Add a call-to-action (CTA), such as “click here to learn more” or “get your free subscription today”
- Keep the description around 120-130 characters
Moving on, the title of the content not only attracts readers but also signals search engines what the page is about. That’s why you should use the target keyword in the title tags, preferably as close to the front of the title as possible.
While SEO pros usually create title tags of up to 60 characters, but you should try to keep them as short as possible. This requires added creativity from copywriters, and creating an optimized and catchy headline may take more time than writing the main content.
Structured content ranks well, and header tags help provide structure to on-page text. This is especially true for listicles, where each sub-heading is a complete topic of its own.
So try to keep your header tags short (preferably six words or less), and incorporate your target keywords naturally. This will make your pages easier to crawl and read and Google will take these header tags and use them as featured snippets on its results pages.
Snippets are blocks of text that contain exact answers to search queries. You see these right above the organic results at “position 0”.
Along with header tags, search for question-based keywords and write your content to answer those questions. You can also look at the ‘People also ask’ section of the results page for suggestions. You can also use websites like ‘Answer the Public’ to look for questions people are searching for.
Develop Interactive Content
Interactive content is all the rage now, and it will only grow in popularity in the near future. Content like online polls, webinars, virtual tours, and courses provide great value to your audience, especially when they are stuck at home during a lockdown.
The strategy to optimize interactive content is more or less similar to optimizing any other web page. This includes using relevant keywords in the page’s title tags, meta details, captions, and alt-text.
Let’s say you’re organizing a webinar. You can make graphics to promote the speakers and create explainer videos to give participants an idea of what they can expect. Later on, you can use the webinar to create optimized blog posts, e-Books, infographics, or YouTube videos. The possibilities are endless.
Use Videos and Infographics
Following from the previous point, you should use images and infographics in your content, and optimize these elements for higher ranking.
Captions and alt-text come in handy in optimizing visual content:
- Make unique titles and alt text unique for each visual
- Include target and related keywords
- Alt-text and captions should be complete statements
A helpful tip is to use the optimized image title for each file you save on your PC or Google Drive.
Finally, when you add captions for images on your blog posts, make sure to format them with italics to differentiate them from the rest of the copy.
Know Your Audience
2021 is all about customer personas and personalized marketing. And this one of the hottest optimization trends out there. Use the following questions to know about your audience.
- Who are my readers?
- What are their pain points?
- What solutions do they need?
It becomes easier to create relevant content when you know who’s reading you. So map out your audience’s persona and speak to that persona. Doing so will also help you choose the relevant vocabulary and lingo.
There’s always a need for original content.
While there is an abundance of online writing services that can churn out content quickly and cheaply, you will lose out on the trust of your audience in the long-run.
And even though every topic on the planet has been done to death, there is always a way to make your content fresh and original:
- Use the latest facts, figures, and data
- Read books on your subject and approach it from a different angle
- Interview experts (even within your company)
- Invite authorities for guest posts
You can follow these techniques even while covering trending topics.
As humans, we resonate with stories.
And that’s why high-performing content almost always revolves around stories. Marketing is all about narrating a story that involves the protagonist (your customer) overcoming obstacles in her life (obesity, debt, depression, etc.) through your product or service.
You can find countless examples of story-based content on the best-seller list of any bookstore. Popular books on personal finance, management, and leadership all convey a story. You can add stories to your content in many ways:
- Incorporate personal experiences and anecdotes in your blogs
- Make videos of behind-the-scenes or after-hours at your organization
- Use case studies of actual customers to elucidate the benefits of what you’re selling
This also resonates with what we discussed above about your brand voice. Using pronouns like “I” or “we” personalize your content and also engages with your readers on a human level.
However, there is always a temptation to make it too personal. Remember that you are creating corporate messaging and not publishing your diary.
Optimize for Humans
This cannot be stressed enough.
There is no dichotomy between quality content created for people vs. search engines. In fact, when you create authentic content that provides value to your audience, you will improve your ranking in the process.
SEO helps to make content reader-friendly. The target keywords can tell you exactly what your audience is looking for, and you can then publish content that answers their questions. It’s the perfect bargain.