Tag Archives: Search Engine Optimization

How content marketing actually improves your SEO

content marketing improves SEO

Content marketing and SEO are intertwined these days.

Ever since Google released the Panda and Penguin updates people have come to understand that SEO doesn’t just mean using the right keywords while writing content.

Although keywords are important, they are not the sole factors in determining your search engine rankings, the way they used to be 10 odd years ago.

Somewhere along, Google realized that it had to crowdsource its ranking algorithms. Merely depending on the machines was open to exploitation.

Hence, social validation and acceptance of your content became as important as the way you used the keywords.

These days, your search engine rankings depend on

  • The overall quality of your content
  • The ease of reading
  • The number of people sharing your content on social media and social networking websites
  • The number of people linking to your website or individual links
  • The relevance of your content
  • The bounce rate on your website or blog
  • The number of times you update and refresh your content

Although Google (and other major search engines) don’t let people know how actually the search engine ranking algorithms work, the above-mentioned attributes of your content can ensure an improved SEO.

As you can see, a big part of your search engine rankings depends on how people perceive your content.

Google has incorporated these attributes because even if you can use black hat SEO tactics to trick the machines, it is practically impossible to trick humans.

Therefore, SEO these days depends a lot on content marketing.

Why SEO and content marketing are interconnected

The basic nature of content marketing is, publishing high-quality content and then making sure that people who need to access that content, can easily access it.

Read Can content marketing improve your SEO?

Once you have published high-quality content and made it easy for people to access it, since people these days love to share content on social media and social networking websites, they start sharing your content too.

The beauty of this is, they won’t share your content if they don’t find it useful.

If they don’t like your content, your content will not earn social validation.

You may find it nagging that you always have to publish and then distribute high-quality content for better SEO, but look at it logically…very few business owners can publish content that can earn social validation.

If you can improve your SEO with better content marketing, it creates a level-playing field for everyone.

People cannot force their way into better search engine rankings simply because they can spend more money.

SEO these days is not about quantity.

It’s about quality.

And quality comes with knowledge, wisdom, experience, and a strong desire to keep your prospective customers informed and educated.

Well-executed content marketing automatically improves your search engine rankings.

As mentioned above, content marketing can succeed only when you publish valuable content, content that people appreciate.

When you focus on your core topic, you are naturally creating content around your keywords.

Content marketing means providing compelling content on an ongoing basis.

The more you refine your content marketing the better focused you are when publishing useful content.

Being better focused means, focusing on the right questions and the right answers.

Content marketing also means making your content available on all possible distribution channels, which means more people can access your content.

When people can access your content there is a greater possibility of them sharing your content and linking to it from their own websites and blogs.

So, all the steps that you follow to execute a good content marketing strategy, are also the steps needed to improve your SEO.

Better SEO means publishing relevant content in as friendly a manner as possible.

Better SEO also means a greater number of people responding to your content and linking to it.

Consequently, better content marketing means improved SEO.

Google’s Featured Snippets: How to rank at #1 with strategic content writing


I was checking the rankings of my blog posts that I have recently published and I suddenly found one of my links in Google’s Featured Snippets box. Here is the screenshot


What Are Google’s Featured Snippets?

Nobody knows exactly how Google decides to feature a particular piece of content in its “featured snippets” box, but you must have noticed that sometimes when you do a search on Google, one of the links appears at the top with highlighted paragraph, or some portion of the web page or blog post, along with the link.

Some call it ranking #0 because the link that is featured in Google’s Featured Snippets box appears even before the first link on the search results page. But many would be scared with #0 so, in my title I have used #1.

As you can see in the image above, the Google’s Featured Snippets box appears at the top, within the highlighted box, and a description almost as long as a paragraph.

It isn’t always a paragraph that is featured in the snippets area. Even if you represent the information in bullet points, it can appear over there. See for example, this one…

another example of Google snippets

How does Google pick a particular link for the Featured Snippets box?

As I have written above, it is unclear how Google decides which link to feature in the snippets area. Many SEO experts and content marketers have tried to figure out but there is no algorithmic logic to it. Google seems to be picking the information randomly.

Here is a very extensive blog post on how to optimize your content so that it can feature in Google’s Featured Snippets box [HubSpot link].

The author says that whether you get featured in the snippets box or not doesn’t depend on the SEO quality of your link. Your link may not even appear on the first page of search results and still appear in the snippets box.

Of course, it doesn’t mean that even if you throw all SEO benchmarks out the window you are still going to feature in the snippets box. No, that won’t happen. Your content must be of good quality and it must give some indication to Google that it deserves to be featured in the snippets box. Read What is quality content and how does Google recognize it?

Is focusing on the Google Featured Snippets box good for your SEO?

People are sometimes worried that featuring in the Google Featured Snippets box deters people from clicking the link because what they are looking for is given in the box itself. Since they have found a solution to their problem, there is no reason for them to click the link.

The author of the above HubSpot link says:

From a sample of just under 5,000 queries, I found that the CTR to the HubSpot website for high volume keywords increased by over 114%, even when we ranked #1

What he means to say is that even when their link was already appearing at #1 there CTR increased by over 114% once the link started appearing in the Featured Snippets box.

Even I feel that this should actually increase traffic to your website because one, people who know how important search engine rankings are, are quite impressed that you are bang there in front of them, at the top, even above the link at #1, and two, they want more information. A single paragraph may provide a concise view of the solution they are looking for. They can only find a detailed description when they visit the link. Most do.

Here is a Moz link that demonstrates that traffic to your website actually increases if your link features in that box.

How to write content for #1 ranking by Google’s Featured Snippets?

As I have mentioned in this blog post titled 20 Evergreen Characteristics of Quality Content, focus on quality.

Provide to people what they are looking for. Don’t mislead them. Don’t create titles and headlines in such a manner that people are tricked into visiting your website and then when they come there, they are disappointed.

In fact, due to the “Search Task Accomplishment” factor, web pages and blog posts that don’t provide straightforward answers to people’s questions will start ranking lower even when they are decently optimized and even when they have quality back links. It matters what you are providing.

In order to be able to feature in Google’s Featured Snippets box, it has been observed that

  1. Try to create a question out of the main expression and put that question within the <h1> or <h2> tags.
  2. Try to enclose the main quarry by the user in the above tags.
  3. Just beneath the question, provide an answer. Try to provide the answer within 50-60 words.
  4. Use the language as if you are providing an answer to a question. Your answer should follow the question naturally.
  5. For question-oriented keywords, Google prefers bullet points but if you are searching for something like “content writing services”, Google prefers to pick a paragraph.

Focus on answering questions when writing content keeping Featured Snippets in mind. Ask a question, and then immediately provide an answer, preferably in 50-60 words.

Does this guarantee that your link will appear in the Featured Snippets box? No.

It is quite random.

Then how can you get your link featured in this coveted section?

Create lots of content. Create many webpages and blog posts providing high-quality content.

You have to establish your authority. Many of your links should already be ranking well before Google begins to notice useful chunks of information on your web pages and blog posts. You cannot suddenly start publishing blog posts and then expect that your links will be featured in the snippets section.

Follow the pattern. Follow the SEO format that includes

  1. Use the main search term or the keyword at least once within <h1>, <h2> and <h3> tags.
  2. Write shorter paragraphs under the headings and try to provide as complete an answer as possible to the main quarry within 40-60 words in a paragraph.
  3. Use bullet points wherever possible to present stepwise information.

I would like to stress again that there is no set formula for appearing in Google’s Featured Snippet box. All you can do is, keep publishing great content.

How to write content for humans but optimize for Google and other search engines

The greatest objective of your content should be that it appeals to your human readers and provides them the information they need in order to decide in your favour (that is, when they seek something that you provide). But for many businesses, search engine optimization takes precedence over the relevance of the content they are writing. How do you create a balance? How do you make sure that you write content for humans but you optimize it for Google and other search engines? How can you make both the parties happy?

SEO chart that explains the entire process of SEO content writing

Can you ignore your search engine rankings?

There are many online marketers and in fact, even content writers, who will tell you that don’t worry much about search engine rankings because if you have great content, your rankings should automatically improve. Ideally, yes, they should automatically improve. But do they? No. We don’t live in an ideal world. In the world we live, there are people who can manipulate their search engine rankings and search engine algorithms can be manipulated. Not just that, you are constantly facing competition. Someone or the other is going to get better of you no matter how hard you try.

Sure, it is the quality of your content and the regularity with which you publish your content that has the biggest impact on your search engine rankings but optimization also plays a very important role, so you cannot ignore your search engine rankings if qualified and targeted traffic matters to you.

In his recent blog post the renowned online marketer Neil Patel has explained how you can create content that is both human friendly as well as search engine optimized.

SEO content writing to improve your search engine rankings

Neil says that in order to search engine optimize your content you first of all need to understand what all helps you improve your SEO, and the first stress he makes is SEO copywriting. Many content writers and content marketers are of the opinion that every piece of content that you produce and publish must have the ability to “sell” something. I have used quotes because selling doesn’t always mean selling products and services. You can sell an idea. You can sell an opinion. You can sell an action. For example, if you want people to subscribe to your newsletter, for you THAT is selling. If you want people to download your e-book, then that is selling for you. If you want people to click your ads than that is selling for you. When you are making people do something, you are selling to those people. So even convincing content writing is like copywriting. How do you convince people? By writing logically and convincingly, of course. So this automatically makes your writing human-friendly.

How do you make your content writing SEO-friendly? By writing in the language used by people who are looking for solutions rather than products. By actually using the words and expressions people use in order to find what you have to offer.

A peculiar thing about search engines like Google is that their crawlers and ranking algorithms study bits of text at particular locations. For example, your page or blog title must contain your keywords. It helps if even your description contains some combination of your keywords. Then, the algorithm also studies your first paragraph and checks for the appearance of the main words. It also looks for your relevant words in the headings and subheadings that you use while writing your content. The bulleted list also gets some sort of importance and also does the text inside the hyperlinks.

These are small things that are often ignored by content writers but they can make a big difference. The above-linked blog post also contains some tools that can help you significantly improve your search engine rankings. Do check it out.

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20 Evergreen Characteristics of Quality Content

Evergreen characteristics of quality content

Quality content with evergreen characteristics isn’t just a phrase to be thrown around in order to sell content writing services, it should carry some substance and a sense of reality. I personally believe that when a client pays me to write content for him or her, he or she assumes (or at least I assume that he or she assumes) that I’m going to give my best shot. What is this the best shot?

The definition may differ from person to person or content writer to content writer. For some, the only thing that matters is the search engine rankings. Some want to be famous on social media websites. Some hard-core salespeople want to write a tightly-knit sales copy. Quality content contains all of these characteristics. A business needs all these things to use content as a highly productive business tool.

Evergreen characteristics of quality content never go out of fashion

Why I call these characteristics evergreen is because they never change, because inherent qualities in people, in behavior, even the nature of sub-atomic entities, remain the same throughout the ages. There is a reason why philosophers like Aristotle, Socrates and Panini are still read and admired. Their teachings never go out of fashion. The same is true for the evergreen characteristics of quality content. These are the fundamentals. These fundamentals are not just applicable to writing content, they are applicable to every aspect of your life. These are like the gospel truths. The 20 of these evergreen characteristics of quality content are listed below.

1. Quality content is relevant to the target audience

Content written for a particular audience always performs better than content written for pretty much everybody. For example, if on my website I write about all sorts of writing including poetry, fiction, sci-fi, eroticism, horror, and whatever, it will become a portal of sorts. There will be no target audience. For a business it doesn’t work that way. Your content needs to be relevant to a specified audience and only then it can make an impact. Hence, although I talk about writing on this blog, I’m primarily talking about content writing and even here, I’m primarily addressing the concerns of people who may need content for their websites.

2. The writing must be professional

Now what does professional mean?

  • The language should be decent
  • There should be no spelling mistakes
  • There should be no grammatical mistakes
  • Industry-specific language must be used
  • A consistent style guide must be followed
  • The text must be arranged under appropriate headlines and sub-headlines
  • Shorter facts must be arranged in bullets

3. Focus on a single topic

One of the biggest evergreen characteristics of quality content is its level of focus. Are you writing about a single topic or are you trying to handle multiple topics in a single article or blog post? Try to keep your content as focused as possible.

4. It should be written in scannable format

Scannable format means your content should be readable without having to read the entire body text. Even if someone quickly goes through the headlines, sub-headlines and bulleted points, he or she should be able to get the gist of what you’re trying to say. This is not to discourage detailed writing, it just makes sense to make it convenient for those who don’t have enough time to go through the entire thing.

5. Highlight the benefits of the product or service being promoted

Yes, somewhere you have to mention characteristics and features of your product or service, but ultimately what matters is what benefits people are going to derive from your product or service. People are interested in knowing what they are going to get rather than how great your business offering is.

6. Encourage the desired action among your visitors

What should people do once they are on your website? Should they fill up your query form? Should they subscribe to your newsletter? Should they download your ebook or catalog? Should they buy one of the products listed in your online catalog? Whatever you want them to do on your website, you should write your content accordingly.

7. Include valid data and statistics

People always find numbers reassuring. How many people in the previous month have used your product or service? What are the worldwide trends? How are your competitors doing? Among all your customers last month, how many of them saw a marked improvement in the concerned aspect of their lives (in whichever manner your product or service is meant to affect them)? When you mention exact facts, people feel more reassured.

8. Whenever possible, write in the first person

You strike a personal chord when you write in the first person. This is an evergreen characteristic of quality writing writers have been following through ages (or at least since the art of storytelling developed). Personal accounts are always fascinating. “I had this problem and this is how I solved it” always sounds better than “Peter had this problem and this is how he solved it”. Also use “This is the problem that you have and this is how you’re going to solve it” rather than “This is the problem Peter has and this is how he is going to solve it.”

9. Quality content is available in preferred format

Although I’m a content writer and my sole focus is on writing, not everybody is crazy about the written word. Maybe your target audience prefers videos? Pinterest has proved that there is a great demand for images. Some prefer slideshows and some prefer animations. You should know which format of content your audience prefers and then create your content accordingly.

10. Quality content changes perceptions

When you convince people into believing in what you believe in, you are changing perceptions. People come to your website with a certain set of ideas. But when they access your content, when they read it, you change their way of thinking or at least you influence their way of thinking. This is what quality content must achieve. If it is not changing perceptions, people are not going to come to your website and buy your stuff.

11. Encourages people to engage with you and vice-versa

Engaging people in a constructive dialogue is the best way to make an imprint in their minds. People will remember you more if you engage them, if you ask them questions, if you provide them answers and even when you seek answers from them. The ability to engage people gives your content an evergreen characteristic of quality.

12. It’s okay to have a mix of original, curated and aggregated content

Evergreen characteristics of quality content don’t just involve original content. Don’t have enough time to write? You can always curate content. You can routinely aggregate high-quality content from other websites or blogs. But don’t simply copy/paste that content. Even if it is just one paragraph, add your own take on it. In fact there is no use regurgitating quality content that already exists on other websites and blogs.

13. Quality content involves a consistent publishing schedule

Although, frankly, this has less to do with writing and more to do with content marketing but still, the evergreen aspect of your content is more sustainable if you follow a consistent publishing schedule. If for the next five months you are going to publish a blog post every day, then do so. If you feel that on certain days you’re going to be busier compared to the other days, you can schedule publishing in advance, but make sure you publish every day. Similarly, if you want to publish every Wednesday, then make sure that your blog post or article appears on Wednesday. This is because after a while people begin to expect hearing from you, even unconsciously.

14. Write content around a persona

It is very important to know for whom you are writing. It gives you a clear idea of what problems to solve in the present piece of content. Once you know the persona of your reader, you will be able to decide whether

  • You want to use formal or informal language
  • You want to follow a personal or a professional approach
  • You should use industry-specific terms or not
  • You should focus on facts or rhetoric

For example, if you are writing content for a product that caters to teachers and academicians your writing must be flawless, appropriate and must adhere to the proper usage of words and expressions. On the other hand, if you are writing for a product that caters to youngsters you can use the hip-hop expressions used by them, worrying less about the accuracy of language.

15. Storytelling is one of the most prevalent evergreen characteristics of quality writing

Storytelling creates a context and then dramatizes that context so that you can visually imagine it and if possible, apply it to your own circumstances. A story lays bare the problems, tribulations and challenges faced by a person and then how either he or she solves those problems or the problems are solved by your product or service, or something similar. Through storytelling, instead of directly telling people to buy your product or service, you present them with a reason.

16. Keep your content constantly refreshed

Outdated, stale content fails to attract people. Just as it is important to constantly create new content, you also need to keep your existing content fresh. Quality writing also involves rewriting your existing content to bring it at par with contemporary trends and developments.

17. Quality content is search engine optimized

Although quality content is by default search engine optimized, in case the thought hasn’t crossed your mind, don’t ignore this aspect. When you are producing quality content why do you produce it? It is because you want people to benefit from it. How do people benefit from it? They benefit from it by accessing it. A search engine like Google is a great way to find good content. Make sure your content is searchable and written according to Google’s guidelines. It will make it easier for people to make use of your content and you will also get new customers and clients.

18. Quality content is social media optimized

Millions of content updates are shared on social media and social networking websites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr and YouTube. Do social media users find your content attractive enough to share? Is it possible to share your content on social media and social and networking websites easily? Content that is optimized for social media websites should ideally be topical because people normally share content around a current topic.

Take care of the following in order to make your content social media optimized

  • Keep shorter page or blog post titles so that they can be easily shared on Twitter that allows just 140 characters.
  • When you are writing blog posts, articles and webpages associate a strong visual with it because an image or a photograph has a greater tendency of attracting people compared to just text, and besides, it creates a bigger box when the update appears on Facebook or Twitter.
  • Focus on different formats for different social media channels, for example, you can create attractive and interesting graphics for Pinterest, informative slides for Slideshare and captivating videos for YouTube. The more social media channels you target, the more choice you will give to the social media users to share your content. Just make sure you don’t dilute your effort and end up with no advantage over the particular social media channel.

19. Entertainment is an evergreen characteristic of quality content that never loses its value

People always love to be entertained. But what is entertainment? An avid reader may find reading Nabokov or Camus entertaining. Some find popular soap operas on television entertaining. Kids love to hear stories from their elders. Not only funny articles and essays are entertaining. Try to find out what would be entertaining to your audience and create your content accordingly. You don’t always have to entertain, but whenever you can, do that.

20. Show your love and consideration for causes

Your business doesn’t exist in isolation. It will always function within the circumstantial parameters of the world around you or even across the globe since we are all connected these days. When you associate your content with the cause whether it is about saving the environment or the polar bears or fighting for the education and health of the underprivileged, people will appreciate it. Get involved with the causes and then write about them. Or simply create content to raise awareness about your favorite causes.

Please keep in mind that what I have listed above are the “evergreen characteristics” of quality content, I haven’t written about creating evergreen quality content, that would be a totally different topic.

Relation between content writing and SEO

Relation between content writing and SEO

Although content marketing has gone pretty much mainstream, people still want content writing to improve their search engine rankings. They’re still looking for an “SEO content writer”. There is nothing wrong in trying to improve your search engine rankings with targeted, high quality content writing, but this should not only be the purpose of it. The main purpose should be providing useful information to your visitors. The main purpose should be to engage them and help them remember your product or service in a positive manner. The purpose of content writing is to generate enough relevant content to take care of all the questions and apprehensions people may have about your product or service.

So you shouldn’t hire a content writing service for SEO?

I’m not saying that. Many clients hire me because they want to improve their search engine rankings through well-written content. But when I’m writing content for them that is not my sole purpose. I focus on the quality of the content, its relevancy and the justice it does to the subject matter at hand and then the SEO side is taken care of automatically. Yes, you need to strategically use the keywords (because if they don’t appear on a particular web page or blog post the search engines aren’t yet evolved enough to interpret the relevance) but those keywords must be a part of the overall message rather than forcibly trying to convey that the content is optimised for them. When you cannot draw the line between optimisation and keyword-spamming you are in for some trouble.

You don’t necessarily get penalised. Even keyword-stuffing works sometimes and people are able to get good search engine rankings with keyword-spamming. But what’s the use of getting traffic (unless you can generate an insane amount of traffic to make up for lesser conversion) if that traffic doesn’t convert? Remember that 20 people buying from you out of 200 that visit you is far better than 5 people buying from you out of 1000 that visit you.

Some clients can understand this some don’t. When they want my content writing services to improve their SEO I have gained enough experience not to try to educate them against solely getting content written for SEO. They get wary of my intentions and go find another content writer. Then neither get enlightened nor do they do business with me. Instead, I tell them that through my content writing I’m going to improve their search engine rankings and then I try to create high-quality content for them so that their search engine rankings improve automatically?

Does high-quality content writing necessarily mean better SEO?

No, it’s not. It depends on your competition. Some keywords are highly competitive and it’s very difficult to get better rankings for them unless you have written hundreds of pages on them and high-quality blogs and websites are linking back to you.

If you face tough competition for your primary keywords then start with your keywords that are less competitive. If you’re selling wristbands and if you face lots of competition ranking for this keyword, maybe you can try something like “wristbands with green beads” or “wristbands with rough green beads” or something like that. Target broader terms and create high-quality content around them. This sort of intelligent content writing definitely improves your SEO.