Lauren Kaye

Content for SEO graphic

It’s been four years since we first published our 2011 infographic, Why Content for SEO? and a lot has changed in the search world.

If you want SEO results now, you can’t just create content and sit back. You have to build a range of resources that are all designed to answer users’ questions and give them valuable answers.

The concept of creating content for SEO isn’t new to marketers anymore, but that doesn’t mean it’s become easier. 

Our updated infographic shows you how search marketing has evolved to where it is now, what businesses are doing to keep up and which strategies they’ll need to adopt to be successful with SEO. Click on the graphic for the full version, and scroll down for more insights about how to create content for SEO results.

The crowded cityscape: More content, more competition

A primary reason why SEO has become so complicated is that the web is crowded with information.

It used to be the case that if you were creating content for SEO, you were ahead of the game, but now everyone’s doing it. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 86 percent of companies use content marketing and on average, companies create 13 different content types to fuel results.

That’s an overwhelming amount of content and information. We’re not joking. It’s estimated that 347 blog posts are published every minute, every day, and in the span of 24 hours, 2 million blogs are written. To stand out in such a cluttered atmosphere, you have to create REALLY GREAT content – not just any old content to update your blog.

Marketers are creating more content

How quality content is defined in search

Quality content sounds great, but what exactly does that mean for marketers and their SEO strategies? Should every blog post read like a Hemingway novel? (Some of our writers think so.)

Google has given us a lot of parameters about what it considers quality content by defining and punishing what it considers to be the opposite – thin, unoriginal, deceptive copy. Here’s how algorithm updates shepherded us to where we are now:

Google algorithmsMeet Google’s search squad:

Panda: Google confirmed its content quality algorithm was updated twice this year (4.0 and 4.1). These refreshes largely targeted sites aggregating content and publishing thin, repetitive content.

 

Penguin: Google’s spam-fighting algorithm was last updated in 2013. It goes after sites with a small percentage of purchased, solicited or otherwise bad links.

 

PayDay: Another algo in Google’s arsenal, the PayDay algorithm goes after verticals notorious for using deceptive SEO practices to rank. Its first target was the payday loan industry.

 

Pigeon: ‘Pigeon’ began filtering local results and Map packs with the same ranking signals Google uses for regular results. The update gives review sites and large directories an advantage over SMBs, but also uses better local signals for more accurately geo-targeted results.

Hummingbird: An entirely new search technology, Hummingbird changed the way Google organizes and serves web content. Based on semantic relationships rather than keywords, Hummingbird is focused on the context of a piece and understanding how it answers users’ questions.

 

Marketers agree content is king for SEO and sales

Why is content such an important tool? Empowered buyers use content to inform their purchase decisions – whether they’re shopping for themselves or their companies.

B2Bs realize the importance of content marketing

Research by Netline found that content has an influence on B2B sales:
  • 99 percent of decision makers said content has an effect on their purchase decisions
  • 27 percent said content has a major influence on their choice to buy or not

When asked about the content that’s most important, 38 percent of decision makers told KoMarketing that white papers, articles and blog posts are “must haves” on vendors’ websites.

Content is even more common in the path to purchase for B2Cs: 
  • 61 percent of US consumers have made a purchase based on a blog post, according to BlogHer 
  • 88 percent research products online before buying, according to G/O Digital

Content's affect on purchasing decisionsBusinesses have seen the power of content marketing first-hand, which explains why they’ve been so eager to create unique resources and get ahead of the market. Data from InsideView asserts that companies with active blogs get 67 percent more leads per month than companies that don’t produce content regularly.

People aren’t waiting for sales associates to come to them and offer help, now that they have technology that allows them to get answers on their own.

Brands that are there with the answers their customers want are going to get the clicks, traffic and sales because they’re embracing buyer behavior – not fighting it. 

Content diversity matters more in search

Content is a catchall, but companies need to pay special attention to the formats their patrons prefer if they’re going to succeed and stand out.

Visitors aren’t the only ones who care more about the way you deliver information – Google is paying more attention formats, as well, and showing more diversity in results pages. The top SEO goal used to be ranking No. 1 for specific keywords. Arguably, it doesn’t matter as much now that Google’s results pages have local results carousels, images, maps, videos and answer boxes as the top results.Matt Cutts talking about content diversity

Building strong social signals for a better search presence

The 2014 Searchmetrics Rank Factors report showed that social signals still have strong correlations with ranking signals. That is, content that gets more Facebook Likes, Comments, ReTweets and +1s will outrank comparable pieces that are less popular on social media.  

However, social media has become more of a ‘walled garden’ over time.

  1. Since Twitter largely turned off data sharing with Google, Tweets are rarely crawled and indexed.
  2. Facebook converted to a completely secure site to protect information shared within the network.
  3. Google+ is the best place to share content for an SEO boost. Google denies that +1s sway organic search rankings, but there’s no denying that each users’ results look different, depending on the people in their circles and the content they’ve engaged.

“Mobile is probably growing faster than anyone in the room expects …  I wouldn’t be surprised if we soon take mobile page speed into account for SEO.” – Matt Cutts

Planning for the next big SEO trends

Marketers who want to get ahead and stay ahead will need to consider how to optimize their content for the next big trends: Mobile devices and Google’s Knowledge Graph.

To prepare for the mobile revolution, companies will need sites optimized for tablet and smartphone viewing, complete with content that puts in-demand information front-and-center. Some early tests show Google giving answers directly on Info cards, in answer boxes and drawing from content that uses Schema markup and information from Wikipedia.

Marketers aren't using schema markup

As it stands now, Searchmetrics found that 36.6 percent of Google searches return Knowledge Graphs or other media-rich SERP elements populated by Schema markup. However, only 0.3 percent of sites use it, meaning a select few SEO-savvy domains are taking full advantage of their content to rank in search.

How are marketers managing to create diverse, quality content?

This leaves marketers with the challenge of strategizing, executing and measuring diverse content campaigns that span formats and channels.

1. They’re outsourcing

To cope, 68 percent of companies told Unbounce they outsourced their content development and writing last year, 27 percent outsourced their strategies and more plan to outsource next year.

Companies are creating more content to keep up with SEO changes

2. They’re getting more budget

They’re also getting bigger budgets to accommodate more sophisticated content marketing strategies. According to StarFleet Media’s 2014 B2B Benchmark report, most companies spent 20 to 40 percent of their marketing budgets on content in the last year, and 63 percent plan to increase those allocations in this year.

Brands that recognize how content for SEO is evolving and dedicate the necessary resource to mature web marketing campaigns including high-quality writing, video and graphics will dominate the digital landscape.

For a deeper dive into building content marketing strategies for SEO results, check out our related eBook:
Content for SEO: How to publish for search success