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The SEO community certainly has been through a lot in the past 12 months. We’ve powered through some of Google’s toughest Penguin updates, embraced new innovations like deep learning and conversational search, and held our breath at the announcement of Hummingbird. Now as we bid this year farewell and welcome another, the question on everyone’s lips is “what’s next?”
For content marketing the answer is, quite simply: more. More challenges to face and more opportunities to take advantage of. Fortunately, it seems that content marketers have started off on the right path. A recent study by Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs has found that the adoption of content marketing is on the rise, with 90% of B2C marketers now using the strategy. The study also showed how businesses are becoming increasingly confident in the strategy’s ROI and its long-term potential for consumer engagement and sales conversion.
To continue this progress and get the most out of it, content marketers need to be prepared for what the future has in store. And what better way to do so than to consult Google? Let’s take a look at some of the things that the search giant will want in 2014 and find out how you can deliver.
What to Expect in 2014
Quality over Quantity
The roll out of Hummingbird further proves that Google values quality content. Hummingbird uses the concepts of both semantic and conversational search to create a more close-to-human search experience, where users can ask Google complex questions and it brings back real answers. At Pubcon last month, Google’s Matt Cutts said the new algorithm was their way of “figuring out what the person is exactly asking for” and delivering useful results.
For content marketers, Hummingbird signals the need to shift to a more conversational way of writing content and using keywords. Keep your keyword in mind at all times, but don’t try to actively use it or insert it. If your topic is relevant to both your company and your clients, the keyword will naturally appear a couple of times anyway, as will other related words and synonyms.
When producing content, it’s also important to make sure you’re using natural language when linking to relevant websites and blogs. Links are not just good for SEO, they also aim to show a user exactly where they will be taken if they click. The goal would be to write as informatively as you can for the readers, and, if the link is so valuable to the reader and the article, the SEO will practically take care of itself. Of course, you’ll need to make sure the websites you link to are high-quality so they won’t ruin all the hard work you’ve invested in the content.
As for guest blogging, arguably the most fashionable link building method of 2013, it will still be incredibly valuable for the foreseeable future. However, Matt Cutts said in his latest video that it should be done in moderation. He stressed that if you’re focusing too much on guest blogging to increase website traffic, you may not be doing what’s best for your site’s reputation. So, strategize more with when and where you post guest blogs. Steer clear of common blogging mistakes companies make and choose topics that are right in your field of expertise.
It would also be best to use other methods that will drive traffic to your site such as citation and co-citation. Citations are merely mentions of your name around the web. Chances are Google won’t see them as spammy because you’re not getting or asking for a link from them. Yet Google still notices them and factors them in the SERPs. Co-citation, which is when your brand or website is mentioned in close proximity to related keywords, also works in the same effect.
Content with Substance
Aside from having high-quality links, your content also needs to be useful, relevant and engaging for your readers. It is the readers who will judge it. It is the readers, who, if they instantly find that the piece is of little value, will jump off the page and increase its bounce rate. The practice of writing articles for obvious selfish means will soon be outlawed. And rightly so, I say.
Producing generic industry profiles and merely parroting industry trends are also not making the cut anymore. Consumers these days are less interested in what makes your company tick than they are in what insights and tips you have to offer from your position of authority.
Choose topics that are relevant to your experience and position in the industry. Of course, make sure they are on-trend, timely, and in line with subjects that truly matter to your target audience.
Becoming an Authority
Although this was predicted in 2013, becoming an authority in your field will still be incredibly relevant next year. Google, as do readers, want content that is written by people who actually know what they’re talking about and not just writers who are producing articles for the sake of it.
Google will also focus more on Authorship. The more high-quality articles are linked back to your Google+ page, the more visible you’ll become on the web. This will effectively increase traffic to your website and help establish your reputation as a figure of authority in your field or industry.
Don’t let your competitors go too far ahead in building their reputations; it could force you to focus on quantity over quality in trying to play catch-up.
Eye on Social Media
As shown in SearchMetrics.com’s 2013 Ranking Factor study, a high number of social signals continue to correlate with better rankings. +1s on Google+ have actually surpassed Facebook signals in the past 12 months. The study points out that if this growth continues, Google+ will overtake Facebook in terms of social sharing at the start of 2016. So, if you don’t have a Google+ profile yet, it’s high time you create one.
More and more companies will be cottoning on to the fact that Twitter is far and away the best social network for expanding a business’s reach and fostering new relationships. If you’re not on Twitter; I suggest you register. Immediately!
Make sure to vary your social media distribution tactics. Don’t focus on only one platform. Find out which ones most of your target consumers are on and join those networks. The goal is to be visible in all the places where your prospective clients spend most of their online time. This will not only help boost brand awareness, but also effectively increase profit margins.
Speaking of profit margins, there appears to be a discrepancy between how content marketers have been measuring ROI and how they should be doing it. Currently, only soft engagement metrics such as shares are used to determine how efficient a content marketing campaign is. Although these signals are important for brand awareness, they don’t amount to much if they fail to bring in the bucks.
If you want to be taken seriously as a publisher, you need to adopt a publisher’s commercialism. Identify content that actually generates sales and focus more of your efforts on more of the same. Once you figure out how those likes, Retweets and shares become real money, you’ll be set for success in 2014 and beyond.
From the launch of Knowledge Graph to the introduction of conversational search, Google is telling the search industry to go mobile – and for good reason! A study by eMarketer showed that tablet users access search engines 73.9 percent of the time, which is significantly higher than other types of online activity. Other research showed there were approximately 1 billion smartphones in use by the third quarter of 2012 and this number is estimated to double by 2015.
Shifting to a more mobile-friendly content marketing strategy means considering factors like changing screen resolutions, readability, and access. You’ll need a responsive website design that can be accessed through a wide variety of gadgets. You also must make sure your content loads quickly so your clients can immediately find the information they want.
To sum up, here are your ingredients for content marketing success in 2014:
- Focus on quality content. By this I mean writing with a conversational tone and using links and keywords naturally instead of actively trying to ‘insert’ them.
- Guest blogging will still be relevant, but use it in moderation. Strategise when and where to post your blogs.
- Build your reputation as a figure of authority by writing about articles you actually know something about. Of course, make sure the articles are timely, interesting, and useful to your readers.
- Become more visible on social media platforms your target audience prefer. Google+, Facebook, and Twitter are great places to start.
- Measure your content marketing by conversions instead of consumer engagement. Focus on strategies that actually generate revenue.
- Join the mobile revolution by creating a more mobile-friendly content marketing strategy. Invest in a responsive website design and fast-loading content.
Richard is a digital marketing specialist for Smart Traffic. He particularly specializes in technical onsite SEO and content development. Outside of the SEO world, Richard is a keen musician, an avid sports fan and a far-reaching traveller. Catch up with him on Twitter and Google+