‘SEO Is Not a Unicorn’: 3 Crucial SEO Tips for Content MarketersBy Camille Padilla Dalmau October 30th, 2014
The supposed effectiveness of keyword stuffing and manipulative linking are just a few of the myths about SEO roaming around the marketing world. Some people even think social media has made SEO irrelevant! Yet, search still drives nearly three times as much referral traffic as social, and given that 90 percent of all consumer purchasing decisions are made online, every marketers’ goal should still be to top the Google rankings for their relevant keywords.
A few weeks ago, to separate fact from fiction in the complex world of SEO, I listened to Communication Week’s webinar “Unicorns, SEO, and Other Myths.”
“SEO is not a unicorn. It’s really a cash cow,” said Jared Degnan, director of digital strategy at Kellen Communications. And you know how you make SEO into a cash cow? With quality content.
Below, you can read the webinar’s key takeaways about how to optimize your SEO and content so you can go from unicorn to cow. (I don’t know why anyone would rather be a cow than a unicorn, but let’s stick with the metaphor.) And if you’ve never heard of schema markup, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
1. Find the sweet spot between content and context
Having unique content is important, but if what you’re publishing is not relevant to what your audience needs, you’re not going to get the results you want. That’s why it’s important to find a happy medium between content and context.
“There’s a difference between the way we as communicators speak and the way our audience speaks,” Degnan said.
The National Pasta Association (NPA) found the sweet (and salty) spot when they revamped their “Pasta Fits” campaign, which started in 2011 as a way to show consumers that pasta can be a healthy part of a daily diet. But they didn’t find SEO success immediately.
They finally began to build a significant audience in 2013 after years of testing. Stephanie Meyering, who manages “Pasta Fits,” said the NPA makes itself more searchable through content by identifying what questions people are asking on the Internet and providing clear answers.
While editorial intuition can be a valuable resource, it can get in the way if relied on too much for search optimization. As a result, the NPA also has found that quickly responding to reports about diets and pasta and publishing Q&As with cookbook authors who are promoting new books are two smart ways to stay relevant for food industry searches.
2. Optimize how your content looks when people share it
Have you ever tried to share a link to share on Facebook but no picture shows up? If so, that means the website has no social media tags, which is a huge SEO faux pas that’s easily fixable.
Here’s one example of a post without social media tags:
I wouldn’t even notice that post in my News Feed. If you don’t want your content to get lost, there are tools for social sharing that let you customize how your posts appear. The goal is to make your content consistent across all social platforms.
Matt Parry, director of digital development at Kellen Communications, emphasized the importance of creating posts that are visually pleasing. On Facebook you can use a language called OpenGraph Tags to optimize all social media posts. You can see an example of the interface below.
If you have a WordPress site, you can download this plug-in to add the OpenGraph Tags. If you do not use a CMS, you need to manage the tags manually on the header of your code. Twitter has a similar language called Twitter Cards, which, just like OpenGraph, lets you download plug-ins for your WordPress or write in the code manually.
Neil Patel, who wrote a useful guide to both codes on his QuickSprout blog, said his traffic increased by 174 percent after applying Facebook’s OpenGraph Tags.
As Parry said during the webinar: “With these tools you can control what it says and what the message is. I think that’s very important.”
3. Use and understand schema markup
For the uninitiated, schema markup is a language used to explain the information on a webpage. Schema.org, where you can find a list of coding terms that can help your SEO, was founded in 2011 by Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo to provide a common language that leads to better and more consistent search results.
Adding this language to your webpage gives you a competitive advantage because only about two percent of webpages currently use them. According to Parry, schemas provide a little more specific information for the search engine pages about factors like location, products, events, videos, and Google authorship. They also tell search engines how to better interpret and organize your website data, which can lead to increases in click rates by as much as 15 percent.
The code below is an example of schema. Unlike social media tags, there are still no plugin for shemas, so you have to manually place them in your article’s HTML code.
SEO does not have to be an overwhelming mystery or unicorn to marketers. And best practices should not involve trying to game the system for better search rankings. Good SEO practices require patience and a technical understanding of schema markup and social media tags, but if you’re able to master those elements and publish relevant content in a timely manner, you’ll be well on your way toward earning that coveted mark of SEO respect: a spot on the first page of a search.Image by Milos4U