In 1996, Bill Gates coined the phrase ‘content is king’, though this was hardly true in the early days of the internet.
In fact, up until past few years, one could still write ordinary content, artificially stuff it with keywords, throw some Web 2.0 links and still sleepwalk their way to the first page of Google. It was a time when content farms, private blog networks, and blackhat SEO experts made hay in the sunshine of Google.
Those times are now over. Google in 2018 is very different from Google in 2000, 2010, or even 2015 for that matter.
Rapid advancements in machine learning and continuous algorithm updates have ensure that Google has now become incredibly good at recognizing and rewarding an extraordinary piece of content.
And the famous words of Bill Gates have now finally found their rightful place as the gospel truth of internet.
In 2018, the fate of most businesses depends, on their ability to create content which is good enough to consistently rank on the first page of Google.
What You Need to Know while Writing for SEO in 2018
1. Write for Humans — and not for Google
Google wants you to write content that provides value to the audience. It doesn’t want you to use tricks to impress the bot. Period.
A page with an unnaturally high keywords density is not going to help anymore.
An overly optimized page stuffed with keywords can even attract a penalty from Google. Mentioning the keyword in the title, description, heading, few times in the introductory paragraph is perfectly fine, but don’t go overboard in your quest to convey relevancy to Google.
Write in a language that is engaging and easy to understand.
According to Google’s official statements, around 60% of searches are now happening on mobile, where people often read on the go, sometimes even while multitasking.
This makes it even more important to write in a conversational tone. You don’t need to display your Harvard academic writing skills on the internet, unless of course, you are writing for the Harvard Business Review itself.
Write in a way that holds the attention of your audience, brings them delight, and provides actionable advice. Better writing is going to significantly increase the average time spent per visit on your website, which is understood as an extremely important ranking factor, something that has been proven through a study published on wordstream.
Write a stellar opening paragraph
You have written an in-depth, well-researched piece of content, but the opening few lines of the article are not good enough to hold the attention of the user.
Guess what? You have lost the user already.
Simply put, your in-depth article can’t move the needle without an even better opening paragraph. Bounce rate is seen as an important ranking factor by Google, and there is no way to beat it without great content, even if your website loads in nanoseconds and has a terrific visual design. This becomes incredibly important in a world with perennially decreasing attention spans, multi-tasking and an endless supply of content.
So how do you write a stellar opening paragraph?
- Study how the best writers on the web do it. John Morrow from Copyblogger is a great example to follow.
- Write, Edit, Edit ….. until you hit a complete mental block. Take a break, come back and repeat the process. This is one way to do it.
Or hire a top-notch writer with a proven track record
2. It’s Time to Write Long In-depth Posts
Instead of writing 20 thin pieces of content that don’t take you anywhere, it is better to write that ‘1 epic piece of content’ that can become the go-to source on the internet for that topic.
Not convinced yet?
Read on …
Brian Dean from Backlinko first coined the term — ‘Skyscraper post’ for an article that is supposed to be 10 times better than the next best article on the web for the same topic. The Skyscraper Post is a sure shot approach to get into the top results of Google, even for a highly competitive keyword.
Now, how does one write an article which is 10 times better than the next best piece of content?
Let’s say, you see an article titled ‘10 Ways to Beat Anxiety’ ranking amongst the top 3 results in Google for its relevant keyword. And it seems to be a well-researched and fairly well-written article. Now, let’s assume, your goal is to rank above it.
Don’t write something that is just incrementally better.
How about writing an article titled ‘101 Ways to Beat Anxiety’?
Of course, it’s not just about the number of points. The article should also include in-depth description along with each point, eye-catching images, expert quotes, research-backed data etc. It’s almost like writing a well-researched, multimedia-rich eBook and publishing it on the web as a single article. And soon you could find your place amongst the top results on Google, sometimes even without massive outreach efforts.
Realistically, it’s not always possible to write something as comprehensive as the above example. Nevertheless, the principle still remains the same. The effort you may want to put in a specific article could be directly proportional to the search volume, competition and commercial value of that keyword for your business. But if you want to shoot for the moon, go for it by all means, for there is a definitely proven way to do it.
Why does this approach work so well?
A truly ‘epic’ piece of content is likely to work favorably on SEO for several different reasons.
- An in-depth piece of content could rank for hundreds, or even thousands of similar keywords apart from the primary keyword you are targeting.
- Such a piece of content is likely to perform as an outlier in terms of on-page factors such as organic CTR, bounce rate, average time spent per visit. All these factors are understood to significantly improve ranking prospects.
- An epic piece of writing is likely to attract a fair amount of social shares and engagement, sending social signals to Google, apart from sending a healthy spike of traffic. The early spike in traffic due to social shares along with the great on-page performance should help your website rank much faster.
- A truly great piece of content will encourage users to come back to your site in future, and even search for your brand name in Google. This is likely to convey to Google that your website is a brand, which is also an important ranking factor.
- Last but not the least, a great piece of content is likely to attract lots of backlinks, with the slightest amount of push, often even from authority websites. This can work wonders not just for that specific page but also for the entire website’s domain authority.
3. Write Content that Naturally Attracts Backlinks
In 2018, backlinks are still an extremely important ranking factor. Not the kinds of backlinks that are bought from PBN services, Web 2.0 or paid guest posts.
We are talking about high-quality backlinks from editorial pages and resources pages of authority websites.
Such backlinks not only help your individually linked pages to rank, but they also increase the authority of your domain, which in turn helps in ranking any new article with far more ease. And there is surely no shortcut that can lead to backlinking success here. Apart from an outreach strategy, what you need are content assets that are truly linkable.
In the world of backlinks, not all content types are equal, some are certainly more link-worthy than others. In fact, truly great pieces of content can even naturally attract backlinks with minimal or no outreach effort.
Here are 10 content types that are likely to attract quality natural backlinks.
- Other rich multimedia assets like gifographics, maps, great illustrations etc.
- Detailed List Posts
- Detailed How-to-Guides
- Case Studies
- Original Research
- Extremely In-depth Posts (Skyscraper Posts)
- Expert Roundups
- Detailed Curated Content
Not all content formats are likely to work equally well in every industry.
One good approach could be to understand what kind of content formats work best in your industry for backlinking by analyzing the backlinks of your competitors using a tool such as Ahrefs.
Remember, the content formats by themselves are no guarantee of success, the key as always lies in execution.
Be Strategic about what you write, how you write. This article could be a good starting point towards building your SEO content strategy.
Invest in Writing
Whether it is investing the time to hone your craft of writing and spending a disproportionate amount of time writing ‘epic content’, or it is hiring a great team of writers — there is no substitute to making an investment in producing great content.
As the 4 times New York Times bestselling author and CEO of Vaynermedia, Gary Vaynerchuk says, ‘today, every company is a media company…. The faster your business realizes that it’s a media company, the more likely it will be to succeed’
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