Brief Content History
Among all the strategies in attracting visitors to a website, content – rather, good quality and relevant content – has stood the test of time and survived myriad algorithm changes by Google and other search engines. Predicted as being one of the most important products the internet would have to offer, Bill Gates stated in 1996 the phrase “Content is King!” Granted, early on search engines weren’t very strong in rating content effectively. Basing search results off of meta information made it quite easy for irrelevant websites to show up. I even recall searching for information on a topic in my English class my freshman year in college and having a website with Britney Spears populate in the results. The thousands and thousands of algorithm updated implemented by Google alone have been quite frustrating to businesses who benefited short-term from tactics used by many SEO companies to rank their websites without ensuring the website content itself spoke clearly to the relevance. Links were farmed out, fake social media profiles were used to imitate a real following, and keywords were infused in spammy content to give the illusion of relevance. For instance, there was a time that a page with content like the paragraph below would help a website improve in rankings (keywords are in bold):
The squirrel ran through the forest. Fall was nearly at an end, and it worked really hard to hide its water softener before the first snow settled. It worked really hard as it searched high and low for any nuts left on the ground, and had to often race other squirrels to get it’s paws on walnuts. Fortunately for this squirrel, he was the best water softener dealer in Billings, Montana and he was able to fill his burrow with enough nuts to last the winter, plus some to spare, before the first snow flakes fell. Other squirrels, on the other hand, weren’t so lucky. They had to dig through the snow in order to find more water softeners that had fallen from the oak trees in the neighborhood.
Content spinning, where keywords were randomly placed in content meeting other requirements of filling pages up with 250-350 words became quite the “trick” used to undercut search engines because they lacked the ability to see beyond the meta information and repeated use of keywords. So, websites with pages full of spammy content like the example above had the potential of ranking well. Gradually, search engines worked to direct results to the pages with content rather than just the home page. Imagine how frustrating it would be if your own search resulted in a page with garbage content like this! It took some time and multiple modifications, but Google’s eventual upgrade with the Hummingbird update gave their search software the ability to contextually understand web pages.
A couple years ago, Google even stopped using keywords used in search results as something online marketing companies could use to evaluate traffic through Google Analytics. Instead, SEO teams were forced to evaluate pages receiving traffic and determine the keywords which were effective or not. Now, the blog posts, articles and pages as a whole are where ranking, traffic, and conversion efforts are being focused. Is this the more difficult and possibly more competitive approach to getting traffic to your website? Yes. It’s also the most ethical and direct method of attracting the most relative traffic to your site. The more value you can put in your content relative to what your provide in products and/or services, the more relevant the visitors coming to your site will be. As a natural result, bounce rates will decrease, and you’ll have a better sample of visitors to work from in evaluating and improving conversions through your website.
Now, much like what’s expected of a student writing an essay in class, the content on a website actually needs to be 100% on topic in order to have the potential of ranking well. The ability for search engines to evaluate website relevance creates a need for businesses to be stronger in what content they put on their websites in order to prove relevance over others in their industry. This isn’t any different than strategies used in more traditional forms of marketing – TV, Radio, print… Most companies would object (unless it was Red Bull or Geico) to running an ad that had absolutely nothing to do with their company outside of an extremely brief mention of the product and the company name. It should be expected in content marketing that all content speaks to the intended audience and is a proper reflection of the brand or identity of the business and their approach in providing their products/services.
As opposed to the early mentalities of building a website, when very little thought was put into it post launch, it’s crucial for a business to create a content marketing plan to continually build pages and write articles to add to the website. In the modern world of online marketing, the launch of your website doesn’t mean it’s completed. Rather, a website launch means the design and essential function of your website is complete. The website itself is never complete when it comes to optimizing it and adding content to it. Search engines also evaluate relevance on a website in search results based on how active or static a website is.
The platform you choose to have a website design completed on will also play into how well your content is optimized and noticed by the search engines. And, it will either help or hinder ongoing efforts in adding content to your site over time and making changes to improve conversions.
Every company actively engaging in online marketing should have a plan for content as an essential part of their strategy. Whether it makes sense for your business to assign the role of content writing internally or have an online marketing agency hired out to provide content, this isn’t something that can be tabled and forgotten. Decide early on what a reasonable schedule will be to have content added to the website. Whether it’s 2 times a month or 12 times a month that additional content is added to the site on pages or as blog posts, it’s important to strive for consistency. Some platforms for website development allow for pages and posts to be added with future publish dates so a content team can add several pieces of content at once and set each with a future date to actually show up online.
Content in today’s standards is more than just words. As a part of your content mix, you should incorporate videos and infographics as part of your ongoing strategy. For example, if the goal is to release 3 content items per week about the topic “car insurance”, a good plan would be to post a short video – 2 to 3 minutes – on Monday. On Wednesday, follow up by publishing a blog post your team wrote mirroring what was discussed in the video. Then, on Friday, release an infographic illustrating what was explained in the video and the blog post. This becomes three valuable content assets in helping attract visitors to your site for one line of service (or a product) offered. Using a variety in mediums to release content also broadens your ability to reach your target audience. In this example, you’ll have used YouTube or Vimeo and shared the video on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc. Then, the blog post would have also been shared on social media – perhaps even linked to in a newsletter used in an email campaign. The infographic can then also be shared via other forms of social media such as Instagram and Pinterest, with potential of sharing on Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter as well.