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Content strategy beyond SEO

A successful site does not rely on "Search Engine Optimisation" (SEO) alone. SEO alone simply ensures your content is "indexable", having a "content strategy" that counts is the greatest key to driving traffic to your site. In this piece we attempt to highlight key areas for consideration. Covering a number of these areas well will definitely improve the quality and frequency of traffic visiting your site.

Here we briefly look at sixteen key areas to consider when devising your content strategy.

Blogs & blogging

A blog is a great way to market your site, relevant frequent and useful posting can help to raise your company profile and engage with your audience in a constructive way.

Length is not important, a simple interesting post will be much more effective than a rambling one.

Title and Excerpt are key – these are probably the most important parts of your post. Revisit these areas upon completing your text and consider how best to describe your post. Not only do search engines give bias to titles in regards to keywords, it is also the first snippet a user will see of your post in a search result. Therefore these parts need to captivate your audience as you rarely get a chance to make a "second best first impression".

Make it personal, a blog works well when the author’s personality shines through. A blog need not be limited to one voice, find contributors within your team who can give a range of views.

Devise a schedule, aim to post regularly – ideally daily.

Comments are a good way to engage with your readers. Don’t focus on comments on your own blog, explore other relevant blogs and comment on theirs. Generating discussion across the net will help to encourage others to engage with your blog too.

Type in traffic.

Some users find their way to sites by simply entering a keyword or phrase directly into the browser and adding a domain extension. This highlights how important good and relevant domain names are.

Most modern browsers will take a phrase or keyword directly in the address bar and return a search result.

Word of mouth

This form of marketing is one of the best forms of unpaid promotion at your disposal. Whether verbal and/or written this relies on your users sharing their positive experience. In marketing this is one of the most credible forms of advertising because when people don’t stand to gain personally by promoting something they are putting their reputation on the line with that recommendation.

Email

Targeted email campaigns supporting your site are a great way to acquire new interest or maintain interest in an existing client base. Be careful to make sure that communications are timely, relevant and wanted – poorly structured campaigns could damage your reputation so it’s vital not to take to an email campaign trivially.

Webinars

Whether text or video based these type of conferencing events can work very well to generate interest in your product or service. These are great opportunities to give free advice and or show off products and/or services, with the bonus of maintaining a dialogue with your potential customers.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

There are many ways to optimise content structure and it’s speed of delivery to the users browser. Apply thought to the titles, description and content of your pages. Ensure that these are optimally delivered, a fast site will impress both reader and search engine "spider". Whilst there are significant resources available to test pages, ultimately there is no substitute for well written content as the best search engines target this type of material.

News / Media / PR

Gaining exposure in relevant publications and press will generate a buzz about your product and service, a great way to stimulate social sharing too. Having your web address featured in any collateral produced to promote your goods and services is obvious. QR code’s can also be a great and simple way to link a particular marketing activity to content. There are tracking services available that make it easy to quantify the success of these types of promotions. Sponsorship can also be a great way to get your business name out there, your web address should feature – particularly if your business name doesn’t index well alone.

Social networks

Producing high quality content that people will want to share is vital as a natural approach to enable your material to permeate social networks. The aim is to acquire links in a natural way, social sharing of information should not follow a manufactured approach as consumers tend to avoid this type of material.

Social networks are an ideal hunting ground for identifying content that readers have interest in, and the needs and concerns of your potential audience. For instance, using Twitter you can quickly get ideas by searching for questions using industry specific keywords.

Social data is increasingly being used by the main search engines. Both Google and Bing offer ways to see results written by or shared by your friends. Search engines use a variety of techniques to decide whether content has authority on a subject and one of the key indicators is how socially that content has influenced others.

As a general rule of thumb, the following points need covering to enable your site to diversify your traffic base –

  • Build authority within your industry. Being recognised as a niche leader within your sector will attract repeat visitors and referrals. Advertising total shares can help to back up how popular content is.
  • Make it easy and encourage knowledge sharing, complete each blog post or email newsletter with links or prompts to share the article if the reader found it useful.
  • Include share buttons at both ends of your page, a clear and prominent button with a call to action will help to encourage endorsement.

Q & A sites / Forums

"Question and answer" sites give you the opportunity to more actively promote your business or service. It is important however to make sure that the questions you answer and discussions you engage with are topical, with your responses being constructive. Be careful not to simply SPAM forums with links to your site, this will degrade your reputation and may ultimately have a negative effect on your ranking. Shameless posting will just annoy other users and could see your site black listed.

Be selective about the sites you choose to engage with, keep it relevant and specific – be careful not to use sites that deliberately build vast resources of search engine waffle, since these could get your site black listed.

Podcasting

The recording of audio or video files and delivering them over the web so users can stream the content to their media players.

As with your traditional web content there are podcast search engines that actively trawl the internet for fresh media to index. Correctly describe your cast, meta-data is important and should relate to the podcasts content. Some crawlers will use speech recognition software to understand more completely what your cast was about.

To make sure your cast reaches the widest audience consider the following –

  • Optimise your audio – many users will listen to your cast over the air or on a mobile device so make sure you have considered their needs when producing your cast.
  • Support it with a landing page with clear and detailed information about the contents of the cast. Provide a transcript and/or summary information to further give colour to your casts content – transcripts are key for accessibility.
Help bring traffic to your website.

Infographics

A common term used to describe graphics that illustrate what could otherwise be difficult to understand purely from stats and figures. They can help appreciably enhance comprehension of your proposition. However you might be thinking, "How does this help the search engine, after-all a search engine won’t index my image?"

Whilst the search engine may not understand the graphic’s contents your audience will. A good info-graphic makes for great "link bait", specifically content that is interesting enough for your readers to want to share and pass on to others.

Creating a masterpiece that is of good enough quality for your users to want to share will take a significant amount of time. If the graphic doesn’t cut the mustard then you will be wasting that time so make sure the idea is a good one.

Social bookmarking

Similar to social networks, social bookmarking is an approach to organising rating and sharing bookmarks with a wider audience.

As part of your overall strategy, bookmarking increases the social signals which ultimately will affect your rankings, provided that the social bookmarks shared are interesting, relevant and result in "likes" by others.

There are several tools available to help you distribute your links to many sites, be careful to make sure that you post links in relevant categories as this will help to make sure you are reaching the right audience.

Online video

You may be forgiven for wondering how a video could benefit your presence in the search engines… With an ever-increasing emphasis on social signals, search engines will improve with the use of video.

A leading audience analytics company reported in a recent study that 181 million U.S. Internet users watched nearly 40 billion videos of online video content in January 2012 alone. YouTube ranks first with 152 million views, around two-thirds of the total views. This same study also showed that sites containing videos held users attention for at least two minutes longer than sites without.

A short video can get a point across much more quickly than a lengthy article, it’s undeniable that a well structured video is often the most effective way to share a story. There is also the chance for your video to go viral – and that’s great way to build in back-links to your site.

As with infographics, video is great sharing material, the more this material is "liked" and shared, the more social signals the search engine will pick up on and the better your ranking will become.

Document sharing

Document Sharing sites are sites that allow you to upload documents in a variety of formats.

The good thing with these sites is that the material gets indexed by search engines fast, it has been known for documents to feature in the index within 24 hours.

You can generate some good quality back-links from both the document submitted and from the description provided at the point of upload.

Research & white papers

White papers support your proposition by providing evidence that you’ve understood the prospects needs and delivered a solution to their problem that delivers real benefits to the consumer. They can give you a platform to explain the unique benefits and to give further competitor analysis giving credibility.

This type of material is good for attracting links, be careful not to obscure your papers behind subscription links.

Well presented studies can greatly help substantiate your idea and are a great way to support a conversation, pushing a potential client to detailed evidence can help greatly to complete a sale.

Direct / referring links

This is a simple one, the more high quality links your site has the better. Make sure to remember these need to originate from high quality sites and quantity is not the key. Using link farms or low quality traffic sources will dramatically affect ranking and may even result in your site being dropped.

Conclusion

Not every point will be applicable in every case and we highly recommend periodically reviewing the content strategy, as what is applicable now can change over time. Devise a simple plan detailing which channels matter to you, how often to publish material and who will be responsible. You may have channels unique to your business too, the important thing is to have a strategy – exploiting many channels will greatly increase the effectiveness of your online proposition. It’s important not to rely on in-page SEO alone, how your content is distributed, shared and liked will give your content a competitive edge. After-all, search engines are more advanced than ever and will ultimately be looking for quality material and will hunt for indicators that help to substantiate that the content is relevant and topical to it users.

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Craig

Craig enjoys producing usable and friendly sites that look great and function well. He often also experiments with workflow automation and owns and runs web-engineer.

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