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There is a very distinguishable difference between SEO content and content that brings SEO value.
The easiest way to look at it is that SEO content is what you put on each page of your website to let both visitors and the search engines understand what the page is about, while content that brings SEO value isn't necessarily there to help the page rank but to help other pages on the site rank better. The easiest way to create content that has the ability to bring SEO value is to make sure that the content is engaging and that people will be willing to both link to and share the content itself.
This is Part III in the series about “Killing Birds With Content Stones”. Read Part I and Part II first.
It has to be real.
When most internet marketers think of using content for SEO, they think along the lines of using the appropriate keywords in the html content on the page to demonstrate the keywords for which they want the page to rank. This is, in many ways, harder than writing engaging content. There's a lot less science and practically no risk in writing engaging content. It's what Google and Bing want. As a result, giving it to them gives you little chance of triggering anything negative as a result, at least not from the search engines themselves.
With modern SEO, content has gone from being a tool to being the hub. If you use content marketing properly, you can enhance your SEO while still bringing value to the website and social media sites at the same time. Here's how:
If you are trained in search engine optimization, get one thing out of your head for the rest of this article. Keywords don't matter in engaging content. Our goals with writing engaging content have nothing to do with getting that page ranked for any particular keywords. It will rank because it's valuable and the keywords that it ranks for do not really matter. The goal is to get traffic, links, and social signals. These types of pages do not have to rank for the keywords that you want and they don't have to convert visitors.
It's hard to understand for many marketers. It's almost unnatural, to want to put out a piece of content that has no direct value from a search or conversion perspective, but it's the indirect value that can be so much more powerful when done right.
These engagement pages are designed to stay loosely on topic with the goals of the company or website, but only so much as to have a reason to exist. Using a car dealer as an example, the vast majority of the site might be geared towards selling cars, servicing cars, or highlighting the dealership, but the engagement content will only touch on the appropriate topics. It could be an article about the local area or even the state itself. At that point, it becomes an opportunity to highlight landing pages that are area specific.
When you create the page, it will be about a topic that allows you to work in links (or in many cases, a single link) to the target landing page. In the example below, the page is about iconic images in Wisconsin while the landing page it links to is specifically geared to rank for the term "Milwaukee Ford Dealers". Do what you can to make sure the link is naturally situated within the content.
The goal is to build a page that is engaging enough to be shared on social media to generate social signals for the domain as well as have the potential to be linked to by other websites that find the content interesting or useful.
I've always thought it was easier to take a writer and train them on SEO than to take an SEO and train them to write well. Don't get me wrong - a strong SEO content writer is still valuable, just not as much as they have been in the past. Natural writing is prevailing in the search engines, so as long as someone knows how to properly describe what's going on with a particular page or the website/company as a whole, they should be able to piece together good SEO content.
Writing engaging content is harder and potentially more valuable from an SEO perspective. The example above was designed to appeal to people around the state itself. The subject should always tie in with the target landing page in some way. Since our landing page is targeting Milwaukee but the dealership isn't in Milwaukee, we posted about the entire state and worked in references to the bigger cities in the state - Milwaukee and Madison. Let's say our goal was not to target the brand and a city but rather a model and the local area. We might have posted something like "Most Used and Abused F-150's in Fond du Lac". A piece like that would require much more research and help from either the service department, locals in the community prompted by social media, or both. In that case, the landing page that we would create would likely be an inventory search page for F-150s or even a landing page highlighting the vehicle.
You know your area. You know your brand. You know your products. There's plenty of valuable content available to post about. It doesn't have to be an article or a list of images like the one above. It could be a video, an infographic, a review (written, not scraped or syndicated), or any of a dozen different types of content.
Always think about it from a sharing perspective. Would YOU be interested in sharing the content on social media sites if you didn't work there? Would you be willing to link to the page as a resource or piece of interest if you had a website about the subject? In the example above, the page could be sent to local newspaper websites (particularly if the images were unique to the business), a tourism site, or any website that had an interest in the state of Wisconsin. Schools, government agencies, travel sites - all make for a good potential link. They don't have to link to your target. Your page takes care of that for you. Your goal is to get links and social signals to the engaging content that links to your landing page. It's not as good as getting a direct link or social signals to the target itself, but the vast majority of landing pages do not have enough general interest to make them sharable. This is an alternative to direct links and if done right, it's the most effective way to move the needle in your search rankings.
In the next part, we will describe in detail how to get the most social media benefit from the same piece of content. Stay tuned.