Content Marketing and Search: How To Write For SEOTuesday, January 14, 2014
Whenever an organization builds a new website with us, one of their top concerns is making sure their website is properly search engine optimized. And they are right to make SEO a big priority—how your website performs in search plays a huge role in how many people visit your website and who exactly those people are. Your website’s SEO directly impacts your ability to accomplish your organizational business goals.
What Does Content Have To Do With SEO?
Everything! Allow me to explain…
First of all, to truly understand how SEO works, you have to understand how search engines work. Look at it from Google’s point of view:
As a search engine, Google’s #1 goal is to provide searchers with the very best, most relevant results. In the old days of search (last year), Google did this by matching keywords. A search for “business startup information” would yield any webpages that used one or more of these keywords. By optimizing your site with keywords, you could affect your rankings in search results.
But over time, an interesting thing happened: searcher behavior changed. Instead of submitting a string of keywords, many people have begun asking questions in search— “how do I start a new business?” “How do I apply for a loan?” “What are the risks of investing in a startup?”
The chart below (borrowed from Hubspot) illustrates the rise in search queries that include “how do I” and “how do you.”
This change in searcher behavior was one of the factors that led to Google’s new algorithm, Hummingbird. Launched in August 2013, Hummingbird enables Google to better understand searcher intent—what people are actually trying to find when they submit a search query. Rather than looking at individual keywords, Google can understand the words in combination with one another. And this allows Google to provide more precise search results.
For example, before Hummingbird, a search for “how to donate to charity” might have shown these results:
- a list of the home pages of charities in the area
- a news article on a celebrity and his large donation to a charity
- an article about how to run a charity
But now, Google is getting better at understanding the meaning of your search. That same search today will provide more useful answers:
- a blog post on the best ways to donate to charities
- a list of local charities’ donation pages
- a news article on the local charities that need donations or support and how to serve them
So, what does content have to do with SEO?
SEO today is all about producing original, high quality content that factors in searcher intent. It’s about writing answers to people’s questions, so that your organization will be there when they need help. It’s about creating content so relevant and useful that people begin sharing it and reposting it on social media, driving more and more traffic to your website.
How To Write For SEO: Focus On Searcher Intent
1) Define searcher personas.
Your target audience can be segmented based on what types of searches they are performing. Your personas should align with your business goals, and be defined by what each persona is searching for.
For a charitable nonprofit, searcher personas might look like this:
- Persona #1: Matt, 19, college student, part-time server, searching for volunteer opportunities
- Persona #2: Angela, 35, PR director for local business, searching for a nonprofit sponsorship opportunity
- Persona #3: Henry, 65, CEO, philanthropist, searching for a nonprofit to support with yearly donations
As you can see, each persona represents different segments of your target audience (potential volunteers, corporate sponsors, and donors). Now that you understand what your targets are searching for, you can begin determining what their search queries might look like.
2) Determine how visitors are currently finding your website.
Do some research to figure out what your target audience is interested in, in regard to your organization and industry. This research will help you determine which topics to focus on when you’re creating content.
Start by asking existing and new volunteers/donors/members how they found your organization on the Web. Some of them might be able to tell you what their search queries were.
You should also use Google Analytics to determine how visitors are navigating through your website to reach your call to action (Join, Donate, Volunteer, etc.) Which pages are they first landing on when they come to your site, and what pages do they visit before eventually filling out a form?
Finally, just do some brainstorming. You know your target audience like the back of your hand. So think about what interests them, what concerns them, and what types of questions they might be asking in search.
3) Develop a list of queries to answer.
For the charitable nonprofit example used above, some questions to answer might look like these:
where can I volunteer in (City, State)
where can I volunteer on Thanksgiving
how to volunteer at a hospital
how to volunteer at a nursing home
benefits of corporate sponsorship
why sponsor an event
how to sponsor an event
best organizations to donate to
how to choose a charity to support
how to make anonymous donations to charity
Be sure to use the Google Keyword Planner to figure out how the majority of searchers are phrasing these questions. It’s important to speak their language.
4) Create content that answers your target audience’s queries.
Finally, it’s time to create content!
A blog is one of the best vehicles for providing useful content on a regular basis. Every week or every few days, you can focus on answering a new question.
If you wanted to write a blog post to attract people searching for “how to choose a charity to support,” you could write a blog post titled precisely that—How To Choose A Charity To Support—or something like 5 Tips For Choosing A Charity To Support.
It’s also important to consider search intent when you’re writing your static webpages. If research showed that people are interested in making anonymous donations, you could create an entire webpage (separate from your basic donation page) about how to make an anonymous donation to YOUR organization!
Optimizing your website for search takes a lot of work—research, planning, strategizing, and hours of writing. But believe me, because we’ve experienced it here on our website—all of that hard work pays off.
Sign Up For A Free SEO Audit!
Not sure if your website SEO is up to date with the latest changes to Google? We’ll perform a free SEO audit of your website! All you need to do is fill out this form and provide a link to your website, and we’ll send you a report.
Up Next: Building A Content Marketing Program From Scratch
If you’re itching to get started with content marketing, you’ll love next week’s post! Come back next Tuesday for a guide to launching your organization’s content marketing program.