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Digital Marketing

Let’s Not Overcomplicate Things: What Is SEO?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the ability to reach your target audience at the exact moment they need you. That sounds extremely useful and not at all scary right?

It’s often easy to overcomplicate the process of improving your visibility in the search engine rankings (a more technical definition of SEO). Sure, there are some technical aspects, but in the main, it boils down to simple business principles. 

When you’re starting up a new business, and wondering “what is SEO,” it’s important to know that:

  1. It’s one of your most powerful tools
  2. It’s not as complicated as you may think

Here, we talk you through the “what is SEO” stage and look at some simple ways you can get started.

How Does SEO Work?

Let’s look at Google’s job in its most basic form. It’s to send people to the pages that best answer their questions. 

To do this, Google first has to understand your question, and then it’s got to understand the content of all the world’s web pages, put two and two together and see how they relate. Google and the other search engines are constantly perfecting the way they do this, and this results in regular changes in their algorithms. 

These algorithms are the basis of where SEO stems from. 

The search engines send out bots, which click through all the links on your website to understand the content. Naturally, lots of different web pages discuss the same subjects though, so how does Google decide which ones get the top rankings?

The answer is in algorithms that take into account hundreds of factors to ascertain the value of a page. While the exact details of these algorithms are closely guarded secrets, there’s a lot we do know about them. Search engine optimization is the way we maximize the aspects we know to be positive ranking signals and minimize the aspects we know to be negative ranking signals. 

For your business, this can mean the difference between a thriving online presence and search engine obscurity. 

How Can You Use SEO to Grow Your Business?

We have incredible access to information in the modern world. For the most part, the search engines, and Google, in particular, are the gatekeepers of that information. 

3.5 billion searches are typed into Google every day – that’s 3.5 billion opportunities for businesses to reach their target audience exactly when they’re looking for their services. 

Yes, there are other ways to reach your audience in these moments (paid search ads feature at the top of virtually every search engine results page), but there are few that are as effective as an organic listing. 

Google may seamlessly place ads into your search results, but the average click-through rate for a paid ad is just 3%. Compare this to an average 43.32% click-through rate for the top organic listing and the difference is clear to see. 

SEO can grow your business by driving targeted, engaged traffic to your website. 

Throw in the fact that you’re not paying for every click and it has the potential to earn you an excellent return on investment. 

Three Key Elements to Make SEO Work for You

Good SEO can bring a massive boost to your revenues. However, taking someone from that initial interaction all the way to becoming a customer is a complicated process. 

The goal of your SEO should be to attract your target audience to your website and to start to move them through your buyer journey. To do this, it should focus on three key elements:

  • Reach
  • Engagement
  • Action

These three concepts are all linked, and the better you do in one area, the better you’re likely to do in the other ones, boosting your SEO as you go. 

The first part is your reach – your ability to rank for your target keywords. Once you start doing this, then you will bring visitors to your pages, and from here, you can engage your audience. Google understands that the best pages engage users, so the more engaging your content is, the more you’re likely to grow your reach. 

Bringing people to your website and getting them to engage with your content is only part of the puzzle though. If you’re to see a return from SEO, then you’ve got to be able to get people to take action. 

It’s easy to focus on traffic, but the big question is what you do with that traffic? Can you get people to explore more of your website, sign up to your email list, or make a purchase?

If you can effectively do these three things, then it’s going to have a snowball effect and your business is going to continue to grow. 

What Areas of SEO Can You Focus On?

If you’re just starting out with SEO as a small business then it can seem incredibly complicated. Don’t worry though, at the heart of all SEO is the ability to answer your target audience’s questions and help them solve their problems. 

You’ve got the knowledge, it’s just about putting it into your content in the right way. 

Three areas where you can quickly start to do this are:

  • Content: So many search queries are people looking for answers to their questions and pain points. If you can understand what your audience is searching for and answer their questions with amazing content, then you’re building assets that give you the ability to rank. 
  • User Experience: People want answers to their questions but they also want convenience. If your site is slow to load (a one-second delay can reduce customer satisfaction by 16%), elements don’t work, or bombards people with unnecessary distractions, then they will go elsewhere for their information. Make sure your site is optimized for mobile, loads quickly, and is easy to navigate.
  • Backlinks: When someone links to your content from their own website it’s like a vote of confidence. When high-quality websites link back to your pages, Google sees it as a good sign that you’re producing quality content and this gives you greater ranking potential. 

Google’s algorithms take into account hundreds of ranking factors, but we know these are some of the most important. Although it takes time to build your rankings, you can start working on these aspects immediately. 

Conclusion: What is SEO?

Search engine optimization is the process of improving your website’s visibility in the search engines, but it’s much deeper than that. 

This makes it seem like a technical endeavor of ticking boxes to please an algorithm. 

SEO is innately human though. 

It’s about understanding what your target audience wants and giving it to them in the best possible format. If you do this, then you help the search engines do their job (sending people to content that answers their questions) and they will reward you for it. 

Yes, there are some technical aspects too, but really, it’s just giving the people what they’re looking for. 

What’s stopping you from getting started with SEO?

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Digital Marketing

Is AI Taking Over Content Marketing?

Content marketing is a great idea, especially on paper. You create high-quality content, Google loves it, your target audience is drawn to it, and the customers, blown away by your knowledge and expertise, line up to buy your products. 

If you’ve done content marketing before, then you know it’s not that simple. 

Creating high-quality content isn’t easy. To do content marketing well, you need a talented writer who understands your business and has a firm understanding of SEO. This doesn’t come cheap, and it also takes time. 

That’s why AI is so appealing – it promises to make content marketing effortless. 

As we all know though, things are rarely that straightforward. 

AI and Content Marketing 

Think about your content marketing processes

You define your brand voice, create content guidelines, research your audience, research keywords, write your content, edit your content, and track its success. All of this is energy-intensive and it’s not straightforward work. 

One of the appealing things about AI is that it can work for each stage of the content creation process. 

With AI writers able to analyze your audience and use natural language to create personalized content, your marketing promises to be revolutionized. From creating detailed outlines (Frase.io) to turning your thoughts into fully blown ideas (shortly.ai), AI seems to have the answers. 

Throw in software like Grammarly which spots even the smallest grammatical and spelling errors in your copy, and it seems like you’ve got the whole process covered. 

Ok, so where’s the but?

AI vs a Human Writer 

Now, as a freelance writer, I may be a little biased here – but there is a big but for anyone thinking AI can take over their content marketing. 

The technology is very helpful, but it’s not capable of doing the whole job. Marketing and branding are all about being human and try as it might, AI hasn’t quite mastered that yet. It’s hard to say if it will ever reach the required level of literary mastery, but right now, it’s not a chance you want to take with your brand’s content. 

Check out this video of the guys from Income School secretly entering a piece of AI-generated content in their writing competition. 

For now, at least, content marketing still requires the ingredients the scarecrow and tinman were looking for in the Wizard of Oz – a brain, and a heart. 

Valuable Tools for Content Marketing 

Your dream of a magical answer to your content marketing challenges might not be a reality, but that doesn’t mean AI can’t be a massive help. These tools can be a huge help when it comes to research, editing, and yes, even writing. 

While I wouldn’t rely on AI to write something (that’s my job!), it can be a great idea generator. When you’ve hit the wall on a subject and the ideas just aren’t flowing, AI can throw up some pretty original ideas to inspire you. 

You don’t need to take what AI gives you as set in stone. You own the work, so you can use your own judgment, add your own flair, and generally make what you receive more human. This is as true for Grammarly (it’s not always right, and you need to use your own judgment too) as it is with Frase (optimized reports often lack flair and entertainment value), or even ShortlyAI (it can sound a little robotic). 

Using AI in writing

At the end of the day, you still need the human element – that’s the magic ingredient. AI can make certain tasks easier and save you time, but to bring everything together, you still need talented people. 

Talented people are going to be able to take the insight AI gives you and turn it into something greater. 

How to Use AI in Your Content Marketing

At least for the moment, I think we should be looking at AI as a useful aid for content marketing. One of the key parts of creating content is bringing together useful information, and AI does this extremely well. 

As the technology continues to improve, it might be something you can rely on to play a bigger role in your content marketing. However, it’s likely you will always need a level of human input and oversight, even if it’s just to bring accountability. 

This will require talented people with a detailed understanding of your brand and audience (sound familiar?) So, AI might be able to take some of the load off, but at least in my opinion, you’re always going to need skilled people to bring everything together.

The important thing is that you take the time to understand what your business needs. There’s no point in being locked into expensive AI software if you’re not going to utilize the features. Lots of AI software offer free trials, so make sure you evaluate exactly what you’re getting. 

If you’re going to use AI, then it’s got to make your processes more efficient – there’s no point just doing it because it’s trendy. 

Conclusion

AI isn’t ready to take over your content marketing!

Whether it ever will be is another question, but if you’re going to be trusting your brand to a robot, then you’ve got to be very confident in it. 

It might seem like content marketing is just about ticking a few boxes to get ranked in the search engine, but there’s a lot more to it than that. It’s an intrinsically human form of storytelling that informs and entertains at the same time. 

Replicating the work of a high-quality content creator isn’t easy, and AI might never be able to do it. What it can do is make the process much easier for humans and for this reason, it already has a valuable role to play in content marketing. 

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Digital Marketing

Content Creation – Stop Writing and Start with These Steps

Amazing content creation can take you a long way. For those people who can consistently produce some of the best content on the internet, the sky’s the limit. To reach this level though, you can’t just pick up a pen (or the digital equivalent) and start writing.

As with most things in life, the key to great marketing is in the planning, and this is where all your content creation begins. Before you even start to produce content, you need to have a detailed picture of what you want to achieve, and this starts by understanding three key elements about your content creation.

Understand Your Brand

Content is a powerful way to establish your brand in the minds of your target audience. People often obsess about traffic, but perhaps the greatest benefit of content creation is positioning your brand in a way that encourages people to take action.

Before you can successfully portray your brand to your audience though, you’ve got to understand it in great detail.

Demonstrate Your Brand Values in Your Content

When you think about the most successful brands in the world, they’re immediately identifiable by a few key values. Coca-Cola, Nike, Apple; all have a clear brand identity that’s closely linked to their values.

Let’s take a slightly less glamorous, but very relevant example – HubSpot. Its core mission is “we believe businesses can grow with a conscience, and succeed with a soul — and that they can do it with inbound,” and you can feel this with every piece of content it produces.

Every HubSpot article, video, social media post, and everything else is designed to help people succeed in inbound marketing, and at the same time, it positions the brand as an impartial authority that wants to see people succeed.

With a clearly defined set of values that are reflected in each piece of content, you portray a consistent message that creates a connection between your brand and its target audience.

Utilize a Consistent Brand Voice Throughout Your Content

What do values sound like in a Facebook post or a blog article?

You may have narrowed down your brand’s values, but you’ve also got to decide how you convey them. The way you do this is through your brand voice.

Your business isn’t some faceless corporation; it has real people behind it who come together to create a colorful organization. When you create content, this needs to show through.

People want to be entertained, and they want to connect with the people behind your business, so you need to find a voice that portrays what makes your brand special. This could be through a voice that’s “confident,” “quirky,” and “playful,” but what’s important is that you keep it consistent throughout your content, allowing your readers to develop a relationship with your brand.

Recognize Your Content Goals

You need to have a clear picture of what you’re trying to achieve with your content, both on a macro (overall content strategy) and micro (individual pieces of content) level.

If you rush into content creation, then the chances are your work isn’t going to come together to help you achieve your ultimate goals. Instead, you need to take the time to write out exactly what you want to achieve with your content marketing. For most businesses, this is going to involve some mix of generating traffic, creating leads, and boosting sales.

Once you know exactly what you’re trying to achieve with your marketing, then it’s much easier to produce content that’s optimized to help you achieve those goals.

Focus on Your Target Audience

Creating content isn’t about pushing your goals. It’s about offering value to your target audience, developing a relationship with them, and then seeing your goals come to fruition as a consequence.

Your audience is the most important ingredient in your content, so you’ve got to understand them in great detail before you begin.

Develop Reader Profiles to Guide Your Content

When you create content, you’re not trying to appeal to everyone in the world. If you’re going to maximize engagement, then you’ve got to tailor your content to a specific audience.

This is perhaps the most important part of content creation – understanding who your reader is.

An effective way to do this is by building out reader profiles. Create a detailed picture of specific people who will be consuming your content, and include details like:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Gender
  • Motivations
  • Questions they have
  • Problems they need solving
  • Types of content they consume
  • How they search for information

You might have a rough idea of who you’re writing your content for, but if you want to maximize the effectiveness of your content, then you’ve got to go a step further, and reader profiles can make a big difference.

Know Where Your Content Fits into the Customer Journey

People don’t interact with your business in a linear way. They go on a complicated customer journey that takes in many different touchpoints.

Different pieces of content are going to resonate with your target audience at different points in the customer journey. For example, this article is aimed at someone slightly further along in the customer journey than an article titled “What is Content Creation.”

This is an important distinction because it allows you to ensure each piece of content is focused, helping to engage your audience and guide them through the customer journey.

Understanding the customer journey allows you to reach people with the right message at the right time – a vitally important aspect of marketing.

Ensure Consistency with Your Content Creation

Success with content is built on consistency. It takes time to see the results from high-quality content, but with every piece you create, you’re building an asset that can perform for your business for years to come.

Staying consistent with your content isn’t easy, but you can put steps in place to make it easier.

Content Calendar

Your audience wants to hear from you on a regular basis, so you need to plan out your content creation. If you have a clear content calendar, that outlines what content you’re going to create and when, then it’s much easier to coordinate.

Not only will this help you to connect with your audience on a regular basis, but it’s also important for getting your content found. The search engines and social media platforms want to see you consistently producing high-quality content, and that’s exactly what your content calendar allows you to do.

Don’t over-commit with your content but challenge yourself to produce regular, high-quality pieces.

Content Guidelines

If you create clear content guidelines then you don’t have to go through the whole process before every piece of content you create. You should have a document that outlines aspects such as your brand voice, and the basic formatting of your articles.

Modern businesses produce so much content for a huge variety of platforms, and this will often involve many different team members. It’s important that each person can quickly tap into the brand’s voice and maintain consistent messaging. When you have clear content guidelines, it’s much easier for people to jump in and create on-brand content right from the beginning.

Content Outlines

While your content guidelines help creators on a macro level, you also need each piece of content to be focused on specific goals. To achieve this, you should be producing a detailed content outline for every piece of content.

The more you can dig into your subject and find out what information your target audience is looking for, the more focused you can be with your content outline. Set out where this piece of content fits into your customer journey, and make it clear what actions you want readers to take next.

Conclusion

Content is an amazing tool to help your business achieve its goals, but it’s not as simple as just sitting down and writing. It takes careful planning to maximize the success of your content marketing and if you skip this step, then you’ll find it’s much harder to be consistent with what you do.

Before you can create the high-quality content your business needs, you first need to take a look at your brand, target audience, and writing processes. Only when you’ve done some brainstorming in this area can you really unleash the power of content creation.

It might be tempting just to get started and pump out content, but it’s a much better option to create clear guidelines and set yourself up for sustained success.