During the Hummingbird update and ever since, Google has diminished dependence on keyword density as an indicator of relevance, with LSI (latent semantic indexing) having the effect of increasing the search engine’s vocabulary.
This removal of density restrictions frees writers to better address another ranking factor – the production of what we at Click Consult have come to refer to as SURE content:
- More than competitors
- Aim for over 400 words
- Not automated or boiler plated
- Don’t pad content out
- No duplication from other sites
- Limit the amount of in site duplication
- Direct Titles
- Natural writing
- Latent semantic Indexing
- Write for Humans
- Converting content
- Shareable content
This underpins our approach to creating quality written content – it should inform, in a way no other source does, should be relevant to search queries, and visitors should find it engaging. This acronym goes a long way to how we see and define a commonly coined, but seldom explained description: ‘Quality’.
What is ‘quality written content’?
Content is how we’ve come to know the creative arts in the SEO industry, and it plays down both its importance to a brand’s image and, to some extent, the skill of the practitioners. In the early days of SEO this was an understandable piece of minimisation. For the keyword stuffed internet copy prevalent at other times, the term ‘content’ – stuff we put in our metaphorical internet box in order to increase traffic, was certainly more accurate. For modern SEO, however, the term is too banal to describe some of the dynamic, engaging content the industry seeks to produce and which Google’s algorithm updates encourage.
As Google continues to update their algorithm driven by a desire to improve UX, a good and ethical content marketing plan is becoming ever more important. The output for a blog, for example, should not be driven by a desire to display consistent freshness to Google’s site crawlers, or even to generate links (though it should go without saying that a good content strategy will do both of these things); it should be seen as a first point of interaction with consumers.
Millennials, for example, comprise a difficult but growing demographic to target – with a recent study finding that 84% do not trust traditional advertising, it is, therefore, important for content to provide genuine opportunities for engagement, useful answers to questions, content which is written for your blog’s consumers and not just for the Google algorithm – and a good SEO strategy will take this into account, optimising for interaction as well as for search.
In this regard, your employees have the potential to be your brand’s biggest fans. The chances are that these employees will share a lot in common with your ideal consumer, so ask for advice on topics of interest to them – these do not need to be product or sales-driven, but should appeal to the interests, however tangential, of your target audience. This is one area in which brands can take a lead from Red Bull – which would not, perhaps, have been served so well by sponsoring people trying to stay awake during Monday board meetings or late night stocktakes. You can look to write content which will be of interest not only to your present customers but to potential customers and even their friends – even if it does not immediately seem obvious how it will drive sales.
With this in mind, the idea of ‘quality’ written content becomes somewhat clearer. Though the key to your product descriptions remains clarity and concision, your content – that which is produced to represent your brand and reach out to your consumers – is defined by rules which will be familiar to writers but possibly less to the business or technically minded.
It is here where the SEO industry has to manage the unmanageable, to produce a workable synergy between art and science. While the technical aspect is of the utmost importance, the success of a technically superb piece of optimised written content is determined by its SURE-ness. The following is a breakdown of key rules which writers should seek to follow when approaching their work for a brand, and which anyone seeking to fill their site with ‘quality’ written content will also need to consider.
- Hold the reader’s attention. The author Kurt Vonnegut summed this idea up tremendously well in his advice to ‘use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.’ Whether you are responsible for your brand’s written content or you have delegated the responsibility to another, your main concern must be that your audience, your brand’s consumer must leave a piece of content, well… content.
- Listen to your writing. In SEO it is not really practicable for a producer of written content to ‘have a voice’ in the traditional authorial sense of the phrase, because their voice will change depending on the brand for which they are writing. Yet listening to the prose they produce is just as important – if you ever witness a writer mumbling under their breath, they are checking the rhythm of their prose, or losing their minds – weighted slightly in favour of the former.
- Beware the cliché. That is not to say don’t use cliché – in SEO a shared language is important, and so the cliché aversion of the fiction writer must be somewhat subdued. Clichés become cliché according to their use (for extensive information on cliché, see any and all sports coverage); this offers the writer the ability to tap in to a collective culture, to immediately build a rapport. The danger is, of course, overuse – that is a stonewall fact.
- Edit, then edit again. This is again applicable to all forms of writing, but is probably more difficult in SEO than with any other form due to extremely tight deadlines. There is, in this regard, a necessity for the SEO writer to abandon all sense of ego and allow suggestions and criticism to pour in from across a team of other experienced writers to help them polish their work – generally in-between writing further pieces.
- Have something to say. This is another tip borrowed from fiction which takes on new significance within SEO. The SEO writer will not always be familiar with a subject they are writing about, or may not have an instant opinion or question about the topic, but good writing, engaging writing depends upon having something to say. Experience will make this easier for an SEO writer but whatever a brand is producing it must speak to the consumer.
- Increase your vocabulary. That is not to say that you should seek to be sesquipedalian in your prose – pretension does not make for good prose, but words are the building blocks of a writer and the more blocks you have, the quicker and higher you can build your tower.
This post was written by John Warner, Content Executive, Click Consult.