This is an excerpt from our new eBook, The Complete Professional Services Content Marketing Guide.
From Google’s latest Hummingbird algorithm update to the mobile search revolution, understanding today’s SEO and social media landscape is essential to successfully promoting your content. All too often, the term “SEO” is synonymous with unprofessional practices like link buying and web spamming for article placement. Rather than thinking about content marketing SEO in terms of keywords and links, however, you’re better off optimizing content for discovery and conversion. In essence, successfully content marketing promotion is all about being a publisher rather than a gamer. So, how do you optimize content for search today?
The new SEO for professional services businesses
Over the last five years, SEO has gone from its infancy to its adolescence. Gone are the days when SEO was strictly an exercise in technical expertise. Strategic keywords, crawlable site architecture and backlink building still matter, but these tactics alone are not sufficient to guarantee a high page rank. Today’s SEO requires the coupling of traditional SEO techniques with high quality content.
“Our advice for publishers continues to be to focus on delivering the best possible user experience on your websites and not to focus too much on what they think are Google’s current ranking algorithms or signals,” wrote Google way back in 2011 – and that’s advice which is still relevant for content producers today.
With 67 percent of the search market, Google remains king, and as search and discover tools like Knowledge Graph suggest, it’s getting increasingly more sophisticated at not only returning the richest query results, but also anticipating what someone will want to see next.
Semantic search is also upending traditional keyword-based search engine optimization.
Semantic search starts with an increased focus on the intention and interpretation of the search query itself, providing personalized results based on predictive queries. Semantic search relies on structure data markup, which are rich data snippets added directly to a page’s HTML. Structured data makes it easier for web crawlers to quickly identify basic NAP information (name, address place) data on your website as well as more complex information, like blog articles.
Google’s latest algorithm update, Hummingbird, is driving this shift. Hummingbird rewards websites that create content for people, not search engines. Link building remains the “Holy Grail” of SEO. Backlinks from reputable websites signal to Google that your business’s site is also reputable. However, not all backlinks are created equal. The old technique of buying backlinks from “link farms” now hurts SEO since these links are artificially obtained. There are no more shortcuts. Earning quality links from quality websites starts with great content.
Google Authorship is also now coming into play. Google Authorship includes a headshot and author tag in search results, which builds drives relationship building with potential customers and clients. While Google does not “officially” use Author Rank to determine search results, as Google continues to emphasize the importance of claiming Google Authorship in conjunction with producing quality, relevant content, it’s a matter of when – not if – Google Author Rank becomes a factor in search results. This reflects Google’s continued preference for rewarding content quality over quantity.
4 SEO best practices to follow
Put simply, SEO can no longer exist as a standalone strategy. Rising in the search engine rankings has to be part of a larger inbound marketing strategy in which content marketing, SEO, PR and social media work in harmony. That’s not to say, however, that keywords, backlinks and other SEO “strategies” do not still matter. When it comes to improving the reach of your content, keep these best practices in mind.
#1: Use keyword search tools for topic alignment
Keywords are more than the sum of their phrasing; they’re the ideal means for identifying optimal content themes. Use keyword tools like Google AdWords Keyword Planner and Ubersuggest to determine the most popular content themes and optimizing your content around the top keyword queries. Put your content on top by using data from Google Trends to identify the hottest content search trends.
#2: Write great headlines
Upworthy’s infamous ‘you won’t believe what happens next’ approach may not work for your professional services businesses, but they do underscore the importance of creating compelling headlines. When it comes to professional services content marketing, create headlines that balance curiosity and interest with keyword optimization and actual substance. Headlines must give your reader a reason to click while also connecting with your audience in a way that builds a long-term relationship with your brand.
#3: Optimize content for mobile consumption
To put it simply, today’s business leaders are busy. They scan emails and blogs while waiting in line for their morning coffee or commuting to and from work. Consequently, your content needs to be optimized not only for mobile viewing, but also for easy mobile consumption. This does not mean, however that all your content must be a small, bite-sized piece. Blog posts can fall between 350 to 500 words; just use numbers, bullets and subheads to break up the content. End all your content with a short summary of key points. This keeps the material scannable and easy to digest.
#4: Engaging content wins every time
Whether your content is a “Top 5” list or a long-form article, it needs to be engaging. In fact, Google’s latest Hummingbird updates have placed an even greater emphasis on in-depth, long-form articles that deliver real, meaningful information to searchers. Genuinely valuable writing wins our over low-quality, keyword heavy content.
If we were to summarize our SEO advice for professional service content marketers in one sentence, it would be to optimize for humans, not search engines. Engaging content that resonates with your audience is the best SEO tactic you could choose. While you do have to promote your content for it to be successful, an SEO strategy that recognizes the current environment will push good content over the top. Learn how to use SEO with the tips shared above and you will be on the path to growing your professional services firm.