What does Google look for in SEO content?

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You may have heard before that strategic planning can create extensive benefits for a business, with the main benefits being:

  • Defining a purpose and sense of direction for the company
  • Increasing operational efficiencies across the business
  • Allowing the company to be proactive instead of reactive
  • Setting up the business for long term success rather than short term bursts

All of these benefits accumulate to create a more profitable business, with a higher market share.

The principles of strategic planning apply to the web side of the business world as well. If you are conducting any (or all) of your business on the internet, you can make a huge impact on your success if you incorporate strategic planning principles into your website planning.

This includes having an intentional, organized plan for the content that you are posting to draw in customers and promote your business.

However, as of July 2021, fewer than half of B2B marketers reported having a documented content strategy.

While the web is getting more crowded every day, it’s clear that it’s becoming increasingly crowded with haphazard content which is ripe for overtaking in search results.

It all comes down to strategy. That’s why we’ll be digging into how to implement strategy and search engine optimization into your content plan in this piece.

In order to do this, though, we first need to understand what SEO content is, and what Google looks for in SEO content.

What is SEO content?

Let’s break this term down.

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, which is actually an extremely broad term. SEO refers to any activities that improve one’s indexing, visibility, and ranking in search engines such as Google or Bing.

Search engines have bots that crawl each page on the internet, analyzing what the page is about and assessing its quality, and then the bots index the page accordingly. (If you’d like a play by play on how Google Search works, you can read about it here.) SEO activities often focus on improving the bots’ experience on the webpage and ensuring that the bots understand the purpose and quality of the websites accurately.

In a sense, the goal of SEO is to convince the bots that the website is worth listing at the top of the search engine results page (SERP).

Content is also a very broad term-it can refer to many different aspects of a website. Usually, it’s any form of media that is posted for users to consume. This could be blog posts and articles, lists, videos, pictures, audio recordings, interactive games and components-and usually there will be a combination of these items making up a webpage.

Therefore, SEO content can be described as any media posted to a website that is meant to improve the webpage’s index and ranking in search engines.

What is quality content for SEO?

It’s important to note that not all SEO content is created equal; there are different levels of quality that SEO content can have.

In the early days of SEO (and even still today) webmasters would focus only on tailoring their websites to look good to search engine bots, and not actual users.

This means that people would try to find loopholes and shortcuts to trick search engine bots into thinking they had the best web result for a certain search query, when in reality the page wasn’t helpful at all, but had been guilty of keyword stuffing or providing thin content.

Over the years, search engines like Google have gotten drastically better at identifying web pages that are participating in these “black hat” SEO practices. Now more than ever, to truly be successful on the SERP, the webpage must contain true, quality SEO content.  

So what determines a piece of SEO content to be quality?

It’s actually pretty intuitive:quality SEO content is anything that provides a unique form of value to the users that are consuming it. It must fulfill the purpose/answer the question of the query that the user entered into the search bar.

In order to rank at the top of the search results, the content also must be the best result for the query; this may mean that it’s content type is better than the other results, it answers the query the best and gives the most thorough information, or provides the greatest amount of some other form of unique value, such as entertainment.

So it’s clear that quality SEO content gives users what they’re looking for and does it better than anyone else-but with a broad array of search intents that users can have and the endless possibilities for how content is delivered to modern internet users, the situation can get complicated quickly.

That’s why SEO content can be divided into a few different types. Let’s dive into each to discover the advantages and use-cases of each.

Types of SEO content

The first kind of SEO content that comes to mind is usually blog posts. So, naturally, when it comes to SEO content, most people jump straight into blogging. However, it can be beneficial to review your options before deciding on a certain form for the topic of the content you’re creating. You need to consider what type of content will help you deliver your message in the most clear, sensible, yet entertaining way. It’s important to consider the advantages and disadvantages of each content type.

Let’s walk through some of the common forms of SEO content we’ve worked on with our customers through our coaching programs and training.

Product pages

The definition of a product page is pretty easy to guess based on its name-it’s a page on a website that is devoted to providing a thorough description of a particular product or service. More than that, product pages work to convince the user to purchase that product or service, so the contents of product pages need to be persuasive.

Product pages usually include photos, videos, product specs, and vivid descriptions of the product. And a product page is never complete without a call to action, such as “Add to Cart.”

Whether you are in SaaS or eCommerce, product pages are an excellent way to build authority in your industry and show your audience you have exactly what they are looking for.

When it comes to building a product page, it’s important to have your potential customer’s experience at the forefront. What is it that your customers want to know and see when it comes to the product, and what’s the best way to deliver that information to them? What  questions would they have? Proactively answering common questions can go a long way.

Really consider WHO your potential customers are. What are different needs that your different target customers may have? We have one example of a company that foresaw an opportunity to better serve their variety of target customers.

Narakeet, a text to speech video SaaS company, supports dozens of languages and created a series of pages for each language they support to provide more information and a demo of their featureset. Creating this series of pages led to an 800% increase in traffic from Google in just 2 months after publishing.

Category pages

Now, let’s look at the component that bridges the homepage of your website to your plentiful, well-crafted product pages: category pages.

The category page organizes and groups your product pages in order to create a more seamless shopping experience for your customer-which is something that’s becoming more and more imperative as e-commerce continues to rapidly advance and grow. Category pages are an important part of the customer conversion funnel that cannot be overlooked; they can be a make or break factor for how easy or difficult it is for users to navigate your site.  

Depending on what your business offers, how you categorize your products will differ drastically. However, there are some general traits of a good category page that every webmaster should be aware of.

1. An engaging, dynamic yet sensible page layout

It should be easy for the user to scroll down the page and view the different categories of products, but the page shouldn’t be boring or plain. One goal of a category page is to arrange information, and the other is to drive clicks. Take time to play with the page layout to make sure your category page accomplishes both.

2. Helpful navigation bars

Usually located near the top of the category page, navigation bars usually provide quick links to the site’s most significant set of categories. Don’t try to shove too many categories in here; instead, keep it broad, and each category listed on the navigation bar can lead to a drop down menu or another page with a detailed breakdown of types of products within that category. This breakdown would be called the sub-categories.

Navigation bars are meant so that users can jump quickly from one broad range to another, and then get more specific from there.

3. Featured/trending products

One way to make your category page more engaging is to add a section for Featured or Trending products. This is where you can show off the latest and greatest, or most popular products that you offer. It’s a way to lay out more categories without having all of them listed in the same uniform way.

4. Category images

It’s helpful to include a generic image for each category to give a broad representative visual to your users of what they will find in that category. Category images should all be a uniform size, high quality, and have a consistent style. This will improve the aesthetics of your category page and make the categories easier to quickly scan as someone views the page.

Category pages can be especially useful in the eCommerce space, but also the SaaS space as well. Insoles.com opted for this type of strategy by turning their website into the ultimate resource to show visitors the right insole to purchase depending on the activity they had in mind or painful condition they were looking to relieve.

Category pages are there to guide users who know where they want to go, but they can also lead people to products they didn’t know they needed. For this reason, category pages can be very valuable.

Articles and guides

Here is the content that you’d probably expect to be discussed in the conversation around SEO content. There is nothing like well-written authoritative content to show Google and your audience that you know exactly what you are talking about.

You may be using the terms “article,” “guide,” and “blog post” interchangeably, but these three content forms actually have marked differences to one another. An article is a piece of writing that explores one topic in-depth. It is meant to provide unbiased, objective information and facts surrounding a certain subject. Articles are typically written in a more formal manner, and they are on the lengthier side of content written for the internet; they start at 2500+ words.

Articles can be a great way to attract users to your website that are in the exploratory and discovery stage of their customer journey. Another perk is that well-written articles will help you build as a subject matter expert in your field.

Guides, however, are meant as detailed sets of instructions. They are meant to teach people how to accomplish a certain goal, while also providing any relevant background information. Depending on what the guide is teaching its reader, they can be long or short. Guides can be great ways to attract users to your website, and it could lead to fruitful business if your product/service could be used to help the user accomplish what the guide is teaching them to do.
To use ourselves as an example, the Centori website features a series of deep dive guides on SEO strategy and SEO coaching

Blog posts

Last but not least, we have blog posts. Blog posts are the infamous go-to SEO tool for webmasters. These shorter, consumable pieces are usually more opinion-based than articles and guides, and they are written more on the informal side. Blogs are typically on the shorter side, but in reality there are no steadfast rules; they may be anywhere from less than 200 words, to 1500 words.

Blog posts are great for link building, both internal and external. You can link to other places around your website to build internal links, and if your blog posts are unique and compelling enough, you can get other websites to link back to your blog. Blog posts can draw users in for a variety of reasons because the topics blog posts can cover are so broad, so they can also be an opportunity for lead generation.

While blogging is still an extremely effective way to publish content and offer a lot of value to your SEO effort, I hope you can see that blog posts are not the only option for your website. We use our blog to create a library of targeted informational content that we can then repurpose into eBooks, videos, pillar pages and more.

More types of SEO content

If your message is best represented visually, then you’ll want to look into even more kinds of SEO content. Videos and infographics are highly shareable, and slideshows can relay a lot of visual information at one time.

There are also lists, glossaries, and directories for wide arrays of information that need to be arranged into easily digestible forms for users. Take care to make these pieces especially easy to navigate, or users may get fed up and quickly click away from the page.

What does Google look for in SEO content?

We’ve hit on a number of different kinds of content and how they can each be used to attract customers and improve the user experience of your website, but what does Google actually look for when evaluating your SEO content?

We explained why you can’t only think about what search engines look for when building content, because you run the risk of creating content that is crappy for humans to read. You should always keep your target audience as the priority for your content, but you should also be trying to please the search engines at the same time. To do that, let’s first go through what search engines want.

Credibility

A major priority for search engines is to promote web pages that have trustworthy information on them. This means you’ll want to only use credible sources for your writing, and you’ll want to list your citations on the webpage.

A lot of times this has to do with the links surrounding your page. You don’t want to include any links to sketchy websites within your content, and you don’t want sketchy websites to link back to your site, either. Monitoring these links can help save your page’s credibility.

Building a positive domain and authority for your website takes time, but it’s important. Link to sites with good reputations, be honest and transparent with all of your content, and try to get those reputable sites to link back to you. It’s a little more challenging than depending on spammy sites, but it will be worth it.

Research and depth

Conducting thorough research and going into depth on the topic of your choice will prevent you from creating thin content, which we’ve already discussed as an SEO no-no. Pulling your information from a variety of sources, whether that’s from other online sources, books, trusted journals/magazines, and others will help ensure your research is well-rounded and complete.

When you’re forming content, make sure you’re explaining everything you can. If you’re writing introductory content, don’t assume people know your industry specific terms and jargon. Explain what different phrasing means, and where it comes from. If your content is for more advanced readers, don’t be afraid to dive into they “why” and the nitty-gritty details of your topic.

Matches search intent

The goal of every search engine is to provide exactly what its users are looking for. This means they are always trying to identify and bring up content that aligns with the user’s search intent. There are four main types of search intent: navigational, informational, transaction, and commercial investigation.

We have an article dedicated to optimizing your content according to your target audience’s search intent. Search intent can affect pretty much all aspects of your piece, so considering it before you dive into content creation is super helpful.

Freshness

In our fast-paced modern world, new news becomes old news in moments. It’s a competition for search engines to have the latest, most relevant search results to the current moment. That’s why Google and other search engines value content that is fresh.

In order for your content to benefit your SEO, it should be updated every so often to prevent it from becoming stale and outdated. This requires consistently taking inventory of what content you have on your website, and evaluating whether it is still useful or not. Remember, quality over quantity; if you have a piece that is no longer helpful to any of your users, it’s better to take it off the site.

In new content you’re creating, make sure to hit on hot-button issues of the moment. Using sources that aren’t outdated helps, and staying up-to-date on the latest industry trends and developments can ensure that you aren’t creating content that’s so 2021.

Proper use of keywords

When it comes to SEO, you’ll never get away from needing the proper use of keywords on your website, including throughout your content. With many different kinds and uses, keywords can be a bit overwhelming. Luckily, there’s a lot of information already on the internet that will help you narrow down a list of what keywords you should be targeting, and how to best incorporate them on your site.

First, you start with keyword research. There are plenty of creative (and oftentimes free) places to find keywords, such as online tools, Google auto-suggest, and more. We have a complete beginner’s keyword research guide available on the subject on our website.

And then what? We have content dedicated to that stage as well-everything you need to do after keyword research.

Answers

Oftentimes, people turn to Google because they need a simple answer to a question. It’s a search engine’s goal to provide those answers in the most clear, direct way possible. This means sometimes allowing users to find their answer without actually clicking on any of the links provided in the SERP.

How does Google do this? Through Featured Snippets. A featured snippet is the box that appears before all of the organic search results, with a word, phrase, number, date, etc. that Google has decided is the best answer to that search query. If the answer came from a particular page, Google will provide the link at the bottom of the box.

Providing an answer that’s pulled to be a featured snippet is a great way to shoot to the top of the SERP.

Mixed media

No one likes to click on a web page and just see a wall of text staring back at them-it’s both overwhelming and boring. To remedy this, be sure to mix in images with your text. This doesn’t have to solely be photos, you can have infographics, cartoons, videos, gifs, and other visual design elements to the page to keep the viewer’s eyes interested and break up the large chunks of text.

The way content is laid out on your website is just as important as the information itself.

Having multiple types of media on a page can also help you rank for a wider variety of searches. Don’t forget about ranking for Google Image searches and Google Video searches-they could be a great source of traffic to your website.

Structure

To help the search engine bots (and your users) understand the different aspects of your page’s content, you’ll want to give the page some structure this includes:

Title

Every page needs a title to encapsulate everything that will be found there. This should be the only piece of text that uses the H1 heading tag.

You’ll want your title to be concise and catchy-but also accurate and descriptive. Like everything else in life, it’s about finding balance.

Meta description

A meta description is the short blurb of text that appears under the page’s title on the SERP. This web component influences whether or not a visitor chooses to visit your website, because the meta description clues them into whether the content will be useful to them or not.

Subheadings (h2, h3, etc)

The more you can break down your content into smaller pieces, the better. While you don’t want to have a new heading for every sentence, being clear about the different topics and points you’re making with subheadings will allow users to navigate your page and find what they need much easier.

Have we mentioned quality yet?

All of the qualities we’ve listed so far will be for naught if your content is not quality. By that, we mean that the information is accurate, the page is easily readable and navigable, and the content is unique, valuable to users, and entertaining to users. This is a lot of boxes to check off, but that’s why the top websites have put a lot of time and effort into ensuring their content is top-notch and worth being listed on the first page of the SERP.

How to build an SEO content strategy

Your head might be swimming by now, so let’s take a breather.

At the end of the day, creating content for SEO is about creating content that answers questions with authority and expertise. Here’s a helpful exercise we take our customers through when developing a content strategy with them:

  • Write down your buyer personas, making sure to make them as specific and realistic as possible.
  • Create a list of the questions each of your buyer personas has. What can you answer for them? How do those questions change throughout the different stages of the buyer’s journey? Dig deep here, we recommend sites like Quora and Reddit for question research in addition to keyword research tools like Centori.
  • Map out the questions and start grouping the related ones. Make sure to tie these groupings to a stage of the funnel - are these beginner questions?
  • Review your questions and groupings and ask yourself: what resource can you create on your website that will uniquely serve your persona in a way that your competitors are not? Could it be a collection of articles? A library of content?
  • Once you have a clearer idea of the type of content you want to create, get to mapping it out in your favorite project management tool.

Looking for more advanced advice for SEO content?

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