By John E. Lincoln, President of Ignite Visibility & UC San Diego Instructor
Articles are a critical component to establishing a creditable online presence with the potential to generate 67 percent more leads. I know; my company website is up to about 10,000 visitors and over 200 leads a month, all through article marketing. When it is integrated into a strategic content marketing campaign, articles will drive a higher ranking, increase leads and conversions, and build brand awareness. Allow me to give you the full scoop.
According to a recent survey by CMO Council and the Netline Corporation, 87 percent of purchasing decisions are impacted by online content. With 93 percent of online research originating from search engines, you want to ensure your articles appear in the top of the results so that you get the business, not your competitor.
There are some very key SEO ingredients that must be implemented to get an article launched and ranking at the top of the search engines.
Create Google-Worthy Content
Google strives to expose content that offers a diverse perspective to determine what’s worthy of a high ranking. Their ranking is based on a number of factors, including the freshness, diversity, and originality of an article.
Due to Google’s recommendations, Demand Metric reported that 78 percent of CMOs believe custom content is the future of marketing. The very core to a high ranking article depends on the quality. Your content needs a strong foundation, which includes relevant and engaging information that no one else offers. Keep your readers your top priority and the rest of your marketing goals will fall into place.
Here are the secret ingredients to writing the perfect article:
- Relevant, Engaging, and Shareable Content– Readers and Google demand content that’s unique, relevant to a direct audience, and compelling to promote engagement. Research what’s already out there first and then add flavor to create a personalized experienced by delivering exactly what readers crave. Make sure your article is one of a kind.
- Focus on Quality, Not Keywords–Creating an article for the sole purpose of SEO will cause you to get burned by a Panda penalty. Instead, make the content’s quality your focus, with keywords second. This means it reads well, has lots of facts, figures and statistics and feels like a piece that some real work went into.
- Longer Articles Rank Higher– Although the length of an article is not the main defining factor for ranking, longer posts do rank higher. Create articles in the 1,500 to 2,000 word count range, but maintain the integrity of article by keeping the fluff to a minimum.
- Write to Drive Social Shares– Social media is the backbone to content distribution, which aids ranking, so write to promote social media engagement. Use a diversity of article formats such as how-to and lists articles, which are known to increase social shares by 47 percent. Make the article interesting and engaging to keep the discussion going.
- Develop a Viral Title– Articles with a killer title are more likely to rank higher due to viral shares. In addition to your keywords, use shocking words, numbers, and big brands in your titles to boost engagement and ranking. What would you rather share? An article titled “SEO Tips for Beginners” or an article titled “27 Ground Breaking SEO Strategies to Increase Your Revenue Now.”
You have about three seconds to capture a reader’s attention. Take your time developing the article title, as it is the most important component to getting your content even opened.
Research Targeted Keywords
To make sure you are maximizing the power of keywords:
- Zoom In on Your Niche– Understand exactly who you’re targeting to develop keywords that are as specific as possible with a keyword tool. Research the keywords your competitors are using to implement into your keyword strategy to beat them at their own game. Naturally integrate your selected keywords into your article, but keep the density fairly low. Make sure you use your target word twice in the first 100 words and at least once later in the article at a minimum.
- Choose Actionable Keywords– Spark an interest by using actionable keywords that include words like “best” and “how to.” By incorporating action words, Google is better able to connect searchers with the content they are seeking. People also respond well to personal words like “you” and impactful words like “destroy, stop, break,” etc.
- Optimize Headings and Headlines– Include your main keyword in your headline to drive SEO power. Then, use headings in the body of your article to feature your supportive keywords. Not every heading mind you, but the majority if possible.
- Incorporate Keywords in Metas and URLs– Boost your ranking by strategically placing your keywords in your meta description and your URL. Feature your main keyword in a custom URL, but keep it short and simple. Don’t forget to optimize your meta to attract Google and readers.
The three most important factors that will determine keyword perform are relevance, search volume, and competition. Google looks for clean content with relevant keywords to establish the value of content.
Promote Link Juice
If content is king, you can consider links to be the queen. However, the Penguin update scared a lot of webmasters due to the threat of penalties. Stop being afraid of links! They will lend credibility to your article for increased ranking.
As Matt Cutts said, “Links are still the best way that we’ve found to discover (how relevant or important somebody is) and maybe, over time, social or authorship or other types of markup will give us a lot more information about that.”
To promote the relevance of your article in Google’s eyes:
- Cross Link to Build Internal Links– Pass page rank from one article to another by cross linking old articles with new articles and vice versa. With an appropriate rich anchor text, you’ll maintain ranking of older articles and boost the ranking of newer articles.
- Promote Credibility with External Links– Adding facts and information in your content is great, but only when supported by creditable sources. Link to 3rd party sites to support your evidence and to boost your credibility, but only link to trusted websites because not all links are viewed the same.
- Link to Influencers– Find industry influencers and link to them within your article to establish credibility. Then, notify the influencers of the links to encourage more social shares. Both will work in your favor to boost the value of your article.
- Choose an Appropriate Anchor Text– In light of the Penguin updates, the appropriate anchor text (that is the text in the hyperlink) can make the difference between a penalty or a valuable link. Choose an appropriate anchor text that describes where the link will take the reader, but avoid linking to too many keywords. If the percent of external links pointing at your site with the same anchor text is too high, you will get a penalty.
- Quality Triumphs Quantity– Relevant links to reputable sites are worth far more than the number of links you include. One or two links to a highly trusted website holds more value and SEO juice than five links to less than par sites.
With 69 percent of marketers using their content and outreach to build links to promote a higher ranking, you’ll build relationships and more visitors by implementing links into your article.
A Picture Says a Thousand Words
Visual content is a huge online success, increasing by 9,900 percent in the last seven years. As humans, we are more attracted to visuals than written word and retain more information through images and videos. This builds content engagement, which Google uses to drive ranking. You should never publish an article that doesn’t include a visual.
When using visuals to promote ranking, remember:
- Include a Variety of Visuals– Articles with visuals not only rank higher, but have a higher engagement rate. Include images, videos, and especially infographics as infographic search volumes have increased by 800 percent.
- Optimize Your Visuals– To increase ranking and placement in Google Image Search, optimize the file names and alt tags of your visuals to include your keywords. Create uniquely optimized descriptions to promote visibility.
- Create Unique Shareable Images– Stay away from stock images and create unique images to encourage sharing. Images that are simple to share promote engagement. In fact, a photo on Twitter can boost retweets by 35 percent. Therefore, encourage sharing with an embeddable code. That being said, if you only have stock to work with it is still much better than nothing. I use stock photos often. When I do, I like to add a little branding graphic to them so it feels more unique.
- Correct Image Size and Dimensions– You need quality images with the appropriate dimensions and file size. Compressed file images tend to rank higher, as well as large image dimensions.
- Optimize Captions– Although there may not be a direct correlation between image captions and Google ranking, image captions tend to be one of the most well-read aspects of content. With readers naturally drawn to images, the caption can be the defining factor of whether or not they will stay to read the article, which will impact the bounce rate.
With social media engagement now used as a ranking signal, visuals in articles are considered to be the “holy grail.” To maximize the SEO power of your article, your visuals need to be optimized for both SEO and social media performance.
Writing is Only Half of It
Writing a great article is only the first step to achieving a high ranking. You must find appropriate outlets to distribute your article. Although content marketing and social media go hand-in-hand, Forbes reports only 26 percent of marketers have a solid content distribution plan. You must use social media to reinforce your content to increase organic social media presence, which Google will use as a ranking factor.
You can create an article that succeeds long term, but not if you skip over the key ingredients that are required to rank well. All of the pieces must be incorporated to achieve the final masterpiece. Good luck with your content marketing!
“12 Trends Search Marketers Can’t Ignore in Content Marketing” SearchEngineWatch
About John E. Lincoln
John E. Lincoln has been a guest speaking and teaching at UC San Diego Extension for four years. Currently teaching “Web Analytics”, Lincoln has also taught courses on SEO, social media and pay-per-click. Outside of UC San Diego Extension, Lincoln is President of Ignite Visibility, a full service digital agency. Lincoln is also a frequent writer for Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and Search Engine Journal. During his career, Lincoln has worked with over 200 online businesses and has enjoyed working on national clients such as FOX, Coupons.com, Jacuzzi, Tacori, 1800Dentist and more.