Why Search Isn’t Dead (and How to Optimize Content For SEO)

I’ve been in the content game for a little while now and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that measuring return on SEO, can be tough — really tough.

True story: I previously worked at a startup where I tasked myself with optimizing the SEO for the content I was producing — I wanted to get the most eyeballs on my content that I possibly could to create the biggest impact for my company.

No big deal, I thought. This will be easy, I thought.

So, I did what any content marketer would do: I researched my keywords, strategized what pieces I could write that would best go after said metrics, and then I got to writing — making sure to add in all the relevant keywords, links, and so on. Once my pieces were “perfect”, I pressed the publish button and waited for my well-deserved lift in traffic to materialize.

But here’s the thing…it never did. Despite “doing everything right”, my SEO efforts flopped.

So, how’d this happen?

I immediately jumped online, scouring websites, trying to create a plan to remedy the situation. I saw what Moz had to say about the state of SEO and read up on SERP research. Next, I headed over to Search Engine Land who said that what I really should be doing is creating an SEO-friendly website. And then I landed on Backlinko to learn the secrets of SEO copywriting.

So, where did all of this research leave me? I realized SEO isn’t dead — it’s simply changed to keep up with the tech landscape.

What I learned the hard way about SEO (so that you don’t have to)…

The way you and I search for things on the internet has changed.

Think about it: You likely hop on the internet on your mobile phone or tablet more often than on your laptop. And, when you search on Google you’re not typing in short keywords — you tend to type in full phrases and questions.

Put simply, you use the same conversational tone with search engines and bots that you would with a friend.

And guess what? Search engines have had to redefine the search playing field using updated algorithms (Penguin and Panda) to optimize the relevancy of the content that you do see. With these updates, gone are the days of low-quality content overstuffed with spammy keywords and links.

Today, in order to create top-ranking content, you need to be strategic. You need to create top-notch content, that’s written for humans while incorporating targeted, top-ranking keywords.

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Want to make sure all your content doesn’t go to waste? Here’s what you need to do:

Create high-quality content. Simply put, your content should always answer the “why” question. Not only does this provide value to the reader, but it also increases your chances of getting backlinks, and backlinks are what SEO dreams are made of.

My favorite quote from our in-house SEO expert, Matt Vazquez:

“Ask yourself, ‘does my content have authority?’ Is there a study that you’re referencing, supporting data, commentary from influencers or experts that you’re using?” – Matt Vazquez, manages SEO at Drift

Bottom line: Killer content = content that is worth sharing, and content worth sharing = more eyeballs on your website. Done and done.

Optimize UX for mobile and tablet users. The majority of website visitors come to your site via mobile. As a result, all content should be packaged with a mobile-first mentality.

Your copy should be snappy (to the point and easy to scan) and your UX should be responsive (both from a design and technical standpoint). 

This does two really important things: first, it allows search engines to easily crawl your content and, second, it gives people the ability to effortlessly read through and digest your content.

Bring real speech patterns into keywords. How do your prospects and customers talk? How do they have conversations with you and the chatbots on your site?

Make a habit of creating content that speaks the language of your prospects. Prioritize the use of top-ranking, long-tail keywords that target the way people actually search (and talk), over short-tail keywords.

Here’s how to create more conversational content that will keep prospects on your website site longer and boost your rankings:

  • Use forums to discover keywords. To speak the language of your prospects you first need to learn it. How? Visit the forums your prospects live on, find out what keywords they frequently use, and then create content with those keywords.
  • Add modifiers to your title tags. Target the way people actually search by adding modifiers to the title of your articles. For example, title a post “best b2b marketing companies” rather than “b2b marketing companies”. Highly-trafficked modifiers include: how to, easy, guide, tips, simple, etc.
  • Try to land the featured snippet so you can catch more eyeballs with your rankings.
  • Follow the APP rule. Agree, Promise, and Preview. Start your introduction by agreeing with your audience on an idea or concept, promise that there’s a way to make this issue better, and then give people a preview of what your blog will help them do.
  • Use ‘Bucket Brigades’. These are words and phrases that hook people and make them want to keep reading. Simply find a place in your content that might feel stale (i.e. where someone is likely to hit the back button in their browser) and insert a ‘Bucket Brigade’. Here are a few to get you started: Hear this, what more, simply put, bottom line, you may be wondering, etc.

Consistently create new content (and delete “dead” content). Search engines like fresh content, plain and simple. Why? Because all newly shared content is scanned and indexed by bots and web crawlers to help provide people with better search results.

But hear this: Google also indexes any old, outdated pages (aka “zombie pages”) that may still be lingering on your website — i.e. content pages, product pages that no longer receive sales, etc. — which can cause a decline in your ranking. Audit your website and delete any low-quality pages to let your fresh, high-quality content shine.

A tip from our resident SEO expert, Matt:

“People are producing so much content that it’s so hard to compete. The takeaway is to consistently create new content in different areas — if you’re not then you’re cannibalizing your keyword ranking. Try to cover more ground by talking about different parts of your company and then tying back to your mission.” – Matt Vazquez, manages SEO at Drift

The more often you share, the better your chances of moving up your websites search engine ranking and attracting more visits.

Focus On The Conversation

People don’t want to read content that’s written for search engines. They want to read stories, and they want to be entertained. The most successful content marketers understand this, and are using conversational marketing as a means to get back to the root of content and to create stories that deliver results.