<< by on April 26th, 2013
It’s National Tell A Story Day tomorrow, April 27th – and as a marketer, I love to tell stories. Ultimately, that is what your content should be doing: telling a story your customers can understand and relate to. But the biggest mistake we as marketers can make in our content is telling a story about our companies and products, and NOT our customers. You must know what challenges they have, how what you’re selling will help them with that challenge, and then create content that shows them this while making them the hero of your story.
I recently participated in a panel of very smart marketers at the Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit, and we talked about how Google’s Penguin and Panda algorithm updates created a fundamental shift in how we view content creation. All of a sudden, we needed to create content that was useful and people liked to read (gasp!), rather than just content to feed the Google monster and get rankings. So, the way we approached SEO also shifted – no more over-optimization practices, just good content that was not only searchable, but shareable.
But that doesn’t mean that SEO goes completely out the window when creating content. You can still optimize, just don’t over-optimize. You want to make sure that Google is still indexing your content correctly and for the proper keywords. Here are some tips to ensure your content is telling Google the right story:
Know what keywords drive people to your content
What are people searching for before they get to your website? If you understand what those keywords are, as well as how many clicks your content receives in search results for those keywords, you’ll have some incredibly valuable insight into what searchers are looking for and whether your content is fitting the bill. Google Analytics can give you this information (look at the Queries report under Traffic Sources > Search Engine Optimization), as well as the Search Queries report in Google Webmaster Tools. You can then use this information to properly keyword optimize your content (just don’t over-optimize by keyword stuffing).
Make sure your inbound links are relevant
Inbound links are one of the big signals that tell Google what content is most relevant for specific keyword queries. This is why having relevant anchor text links from authoritative websites is extremely important. You may not have as much control over this when it comes to getting links from external sites, though. You do, however, have control over your internal links – links from one page of your site to another. Use the most relevant anchor text for your internal links so Google understands what the page you’re linking to is about. Webmaster Tools also has a Content Keywords report that tells you the keywords Google found when crawling a page on your site – so you may think you’re telling Google a certain story, but it’s actually hearing and interpreting something completely different.
If you write bylined content, make sure you’re getting proper authorship credit
If you have a Google+ profile (and if you don’t, trust me, you’re really going to need one), you can associate it with your content so your photo shows up in search results next to content that has your byline. Here’s an example:
This is a search result for a blog post where I have a byline – so Google recognizes that that displays that, along with my photo (from my Google+ profile). But here’s where you have to be careful: as demonstrated by a now infamous Google Authorship oops where author Truman Capote was credited with writing a New York Times article 28 years after his death, Google can get a little aggressive and presumptuous when it comes to associating content with a Google+ profile. So not only is it important to have a profile, you need to follow Google’s authorship guidelines to connect it to your content, and it should be kept up to date (at least more often than a dead best-selling author would be).
Make sure your title tags and meta descriptions are useful and relevant
You may already know what title tags and meta descriptions are, but just in case you don’t, here’s a visual:
This information is not only useful to Google in determining what your content is about, but most importantly, to readers. Title tags should be no more than 60 characters, while your meta descriptions should be no more than 160 characters. So, you’ll need to be brief, but descriptive to ensure your content will be seen as relevant to searchers.
Make sure your visual content is labeled properly
If you have a lot of visual content (specifically images), good for you! People love visual content, so make sure you’re using relevant keywords to alt tag your images so they’re indexed properly in Google Image Search. You should also be naming your image files using relevant keywords as well, as the image URL will contain that file name.
Use rich snippets
Rich snippets are a way to enhance your content with more descriptive information that will appear in search results. Authorship is an example of a rich snippet, but there are many other types of rich snippets available as well. By marking your content up with appropriate rich snippets, you’re telling Google more information about what kind of content it is (such as a recipe, review, product, etc).
How are you celebrating National Tell A Story Day? Are there other ways to make sure you’re telling Google the right story with your content? Discuss in the comments below!