If you are creating stellar content, distributing it across the most appropriate channels on a consistent basis, and still aren’t getting the traffic results you expect, it’s probably time that you faced a harsh reality: If your content isn’t appearing on the first results page for relevant search queries, your target audience may never know it exists.
Fortunately, just because audiences haven’t been discovering your content on their own doesn’t mean you need to scrap everything and go back to the drawing board. Chances are the content you’ve created still holds plenty of value — and with a few simple steps, you can save it from obscurity.
In the top-rated presentation he delivered at Content Marketing World 2016, Vertical Measures CEO Arnie Kuenn shares some of the proven techniques he’s used to improve the traffic his clients’ content generates through search. The following are highlights from that discussion, along with tips to jump-start your own optimization efforts.
What’s sinking your SEO?
Considering all the semantic and contextual factors that can affect search engine rankings, SEO can get complex and intimidating. It’s completely understandable that some brands chase search success by churning out more content and cramming in as many keywords as possible. However, not only is this method going to put a major strain on your time and resources, it’s usually not necessary if your goal is to increase online traffic to your business.Churning out more content to increase online traffic to your business usually isn’t necessary. @joderama #SEO Click To Tweet
Before you take any other step, it’s worth checking for a few easy fixes. As Arnie discusses, any of these simple mistakes could be keeping your content from reaching those highly coveted first-page SERP slots:
- Unintentional duplicate content: Syndication, poor tagging, or an incorrect CMS set-up can all result in multiple URLs being generated for the same content, causing Google to flag it as deceptive.
Try this fix: Check out Randy Apuzzo’s post for tips that will help you address this problem.
- Sluggish page-load times: According to Kissmetrics, even a one-second delay in page-load speeds can reduce your conversions by as much as 7%. Reducing the resources required to process non-essential images, scripts, and files on your page might just give your content the caffeine kick it needs to boost its rankings.
Try this fix: Website speed can be tested using a variety of free tools. Aaron Orendorff offers a rundown of some of them here, along with tips to improve your results.
- Poor HTML: If your content isn’t appropriately categorized, lacks informative meta descriptions, includes broken links, or suffers from other coding shortfalls, Google can’t accurately gauge the page’s relevance for search queries.
Try this fix: While you may not be able to catch every technical glitch, learning to apply metadata correctly is something you can do to ensure that searchers’ needs are satisfied when they click on your content. Check out Michele Linn’s Metadata 101 post for a handy tutorial.Applying metadata correctly ensures searchers’ needs are satisfied when they click on content. @arniek #SEO Click To Tweet
- Lack of mobile friendliness: According to Moovweb, mobile-friendly sites dominate the top spots on Google’s SERPs — which makes total sense considering that studies have found that nearly 60% of online searches are now being initiated on mobile devices.
Try this fix: Google offers a free tool to rate the mobile friendliness of your site, and suggests how to fix any problems it finds.
This 15-point checklist will help you identify — and overcome — other SEO-related traps that could be holding your content back from reaching its full ranking potential.
5 steps to stimulate your traffic
Once you overcome the most obvious traffic traps, you should start to see performance improvements for the new content you publish. But if you are looking to make more significant gains in your organic search rankings, you should do what you can to enable your existing assets to work harder for you.
That’s where a content gap analysis and semantic keyword strategy can come into play. By getting a better handle on the content you have, how it maps to your personas and business objectives, and how to position your keywords to increase its relevance, you can improve your content’s rankings and drive more of the right traffic to your business.
Here’s the process Arnie recommends for accomplishing this:
Step 1 – Audit your content
It’s not easy to keep tabs on every single piece of content your business creates, especially if your program has been in place a while, you produce a high volume of content, and/or you distribute content across multiple platforms. A thorough content audit will give you a clear view of:
- Which assets you should focus on enhancing
- Which pieces need to be updated or replaced
- What topic gaps you might need to fill with fresh content
- Where the best opportunities lie for you to increase your competitive rankings and expand your keyword footprint
How to do it: Conducting a full-scale content audit can be immeasurably valuable for your business on many levels; however, the process can get involved. To scale it to more manageable proportions, Arnie suggests using onsite SEO tools (like this one from Screaming Frog) to get an accessible snapshot view. After the tool has crawled your site, sort the data it surfaces from high to low. Then, review your top-level pages, looking for the following conditions:
- Pages that exceeded prior performance expectations and would likely retain their relevance and impact if you were to republish them
- Pages that could be easily updated for accuracy or freshness
- Content that should be removed or replaced because it no longer matches your audience personas or aligns with your strategy
- Pages with broken links, missing code, or other errors that need repairing
- Pages that should be redirected to drive traffic to content that is more relevant
How to Stop Worrying and Love Content Inventories and Audits
Step 2 – Conduct a rankings audit
Like a content audit, a rankings audit helps you take stock of your assets and their best opportunities for success. Specifically, you should be looking to see which pages are ranking fairly well in general, where your highest-converting pages are ranking on relevant SERPs, and which terms are contributing to those rankings. Tools like SEMRush, Google Search Console, Moz, and AuthorityLabs can help you with this process.Conduct a rankings audit to take stock of #content assets & their best opps for success, says @arnieK. Click To Tweet
Step 3 – Research keywords and ideation
In Arnie’s opinion, the difference between success and failure of content marketing teams often lies in the ideation stage. This is where you explore the competitive search landscape, collect input from your sales staff and other client-facing team members, analyze the information you gather on popular search topics and terms, and then align your findings with the optimization efforts you pursue.
Complementary to the rankings audit, the ideation research process looks at the most relevant keywords your content is not ranking for, revealing valuable terms you should consider including in your optimized content. It also surfaces topical areas in high demand in your industry, uncovering informational gaps that you can fill by strengthening (or repositioning) your existing content, or by creating new content pieces that answer the questions your audience is asking.
Watch Arnie’s video for full details on ideation research process and how to apply it to your optimization efforts:
How to Create Content People Actually Search For
Step 4 – Explore the potential in proof terms and semantic terms
Once your ideation research reveals any critical content gaps and keyword opportunities for your business, you’ll likely discover some content pages to focus on in your first round of optimization efforts.
According to Moz, over 70% of the traffic you earn for any given page will come from keywords you didn’t try to optimize for. If your most important content pages aren’t ranking where they should, it’s worth looking at the secondary terms that might help strengthen their contextual relevance.70% of the traffic you earn for any page will come from keywords you didn’t try to optimize for via @moz. #SEO Click To Tweet
For example, if your content addresses the topic “fall 2016 TV lineup,” you might optimize your content to target a keyword like “TV shows.” However, a professionally written article by an industry expert would also include semantic terms (such as “TV series,” “episodes,” or “sitcoms”), as well as related terms (like “binge-watch,” “Netflix,” or “drama”). Since Google does an excellent job with semantic search, this gives you many more opportunities to show up on page one of the search results for terms similar to “TV shows.”
Step 5 – Enhance and optimize your priority pages
Beyond adding relevant contextual terms, you can also optimize your search performance by adding new content or refreshing your existing page content to make it more accurate, more timely, more detailed, or more in tune with user intent.
Arnie outlines three ways to approach these page enhancements:
- Refresh: Keep your URL intact, but update the contents of the page — i.e., add fresh text, include additional backlinks, add images where appropriate.
- Reposition: Keep the same URL and page copy, but rewrite your page title to focus on a variant of your target keyword (as long as your CMS can be configured to allow this).
Example: Old title – “Cleveland New Home Community”; new title – “New Home Development in Cleveland”
- Consolidate: If your top page requires more than just some minor updates and additions, create a new content page for your target keyword. But to make sure your new page (with its new URL) won’t be competing for search traffic with your outdated content, use a 301 redirect on the older page.
Bonus tip: To make sure your new and/or revised pages get crawled by the search engines and earn fresh backlinks, support your efforts just as you would any brand new content you publish — for example, by posting about your pages on social media, or by driving traffic to them with a small paid promotion investment.
HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:
After you’ve put your pages through this process, you will want to benchmark and measure the impact your efforts have had on your organic search traffic. To accomplish this, Arnie recommends tracking the following key performance indicators (KPIs):
- Organic traffic to your improved pages
- Organic traffic to all your pages
- Engagement metrics, including average session duration, bounce rate, time on site, and conversions
- Number of semantic keywords added
While your organic rankings may not improve for every page, you should see the needle start to move in the right direction, overall.
Simple Tips for Sleuthing Your Site Performance Using Google Analytics
Search success isn’t always about creating new content. If you can identify and plug the SEO holes in your existing content and expand your keyword footprint, you have a good chance of grabbing rankings share from your competitors and squeezing more ROI out of everything you publish.
Arnie Kuenn will be offering more great advice at this year’s Content Marketing World. Register today and use the code BLOG100 to save $100 off early-bird rates.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).