SEO content requires effective planning and strategy
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Five Ways SEO Still Dictates Content Marketing Success

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Though quality content matters more than ever, it shouldn’t come at the expense of SEO content. While quality is increasingly on the radar of search engine algorithms, SEO tactics are still an essential part of content marketing success. Quality and SEO should be equal players in developing content strategy. Content must be meaningful and easily found to address your audience’s content needs and discovery process.

If your content lacks proper optimization, it will become buried in search results beyond a searcher’s attention span and trust level, regardless of its quality. As the saying goes, “The best place to hide a dead body is page two of Google’s search results.” Don’t let your content suffer this fate. Practice the following five SEO tactics to develop content that resonates with readers and search engines alike:

1. Keyword Targeting Based on Search Intent

The days of keyword stuffing are long gone, and keywords have taken a backseat for SEO measurement as a result of secure search implemented across Google, Bing, and Yahoo. However, keywords maintain their vital role in on-page optimization to determine page rank and drive relevant search traffic.

Google’s Hummingbird algorithm release expanded rank requirements beyond keywords. Although greater emphasis is now placed on conversational search, Hummingbird did not eliminate the need for keyword targeting. Keywords are still the primary entry method to the search process, whether initiated by conversational or exact match searches. Keywords should not be the sole focus of your on-page strategy, but they must be integrated in the URL, title, body, internal links, and meta information of your content to align with search intent.

2. Quality Inbound Links for Authority and Discoverability

Quality content will naturally gain quality links. However, link-building strategies should not be disregarded, despite the inherent quality of your content. Inbound links continue to influence search rank and visibility. Although manipulative link-building strategies have come under attack, search engines still crawl links to evaluate the authority of linked content. According to Google Documents, “a link from a site is regarded as a vote for the quality of your site.”

Despite caution around proactive link-building as a result of Penguin’s penalizations for manipulative methods, it maintains its value as an SEO technique. Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, confirms that links continue to be the best indicator of relevance and credibility. Bing also attributes the same authority to quality links. Therefore, you should focus on gaining quality links through organic, white-hat methods such as reciprocal linking. If the waters of link-building are too murky for your SEO taste, at least perform regular link audits to identify and remove low-quality inbound links.

3. Responsive Design for the Mobile User Experience

Optimizing content for the mobile user experience is critical as mobile’s share of digital traffic continues to rise. According to comScore, mobile devices accounted for 55 percent of all digital site traffic in January 2014, surpassing desktop traffic. Additionally, comScore reported that 89.4 percent of mobile media users accessed Google sites via smartphones in January 2014, the highest percentage of all measured Web properties. Consequently, your content should be designed for mobile screens and optimized for mobile search.

Cutts asserts that there aren’t any negative SEO effects of responsive design. In fact, responsive content has greater SEO benefits than content that redirects users to mobile URLs. Content hosted on the same URL for desktop and mobile access eliminates the potential to divide page rank between two URLs due to mistakes in canonical URL tagging.

Key mobile considerations that factor into responsive design include page load time, voice search behavior, content length, formatting and structure, and image and video processing. Mobile consumption habits and responsive elements should be at the forefront of your mind to ensure a fluid content consumption experience across all devices.

4. Social Sharing Functionality to Leverage Social Signals

Social influence is cited as a contributing factor to Bing’s ranking algorithm. If your content is shared widely across social networks, Bing will identify and incorporate social signals as it ranks content. Strong social engagement signifies content quality and resonance. Therefore, you should facilitate social promotion for readers through strategic placement of on-page social sharing buttons.

Google does not incorporate Facebook and Twitter signals in its ranking algorithms. Facebook and Twitter pages receive the same algorithmic consideration as other Web pages. According to Cutts, crawl attempts were previously blocked, resulting in Google’s reluctance to invest in special engineering work. The frequency of user updates also adds risk by attributing rank value to dynamic data. Cutts also claims that Google+ signals do not contribute to page rank. While social actions do not currently factor into Google’s algorithms, they are likely to gain greater influence as Google’s algorithms become more sophisticated and continue to expand to include broader Web and social connections.

5. Authorship Markups for Rank Influence

Content authored by individuals who leverage Google Authorship and Snapshots—Bing’s Klout integration—ranks higher in search results. Authorship markups enable search engines to incorporate an individual’s social influence and digital presence in search rankings to improve the quality of search results. You should pursue engagements with influencers to capitalize on this SEO methodology across Google and Bing.

Even if an author’s image is not displayed, there are still SEO benefits to implementing Google Authorship. Google released new algorithms in December 2013 that eliminated about 15 percent of authorship markups for lower-quality authors. Previously, the credentials to display author information included Web signals such as authorship markups and email verification. The new qualifications include relevance and interest level of content, further demonstrating the tie between quality and SEO.

Quality content and SEO content are not mutually exclusive approaches to content marketing. You need to fuse quality and SEO tactics to create content that engages readers and can be crawled and indexed by search engines. SEO methodology is constantly evolving, yet it still relevant to content marketing success.

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