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Forget Sticks and Stones – Words CAN Hurt You

author image Written by: Lia           Categories - Digital Marketing, SEO Tips>Content Marketing

Why Weak Content is a Missed Opportunity for Business – And How You Can Strengthen Yours Strategically

As a writer, it’s frustrating to land on a webpage with weak content. Even worse is landing on a page where a content marketer obviously didn’t care. (Close behind that, we’d rank sites and articles that say things like “most unique.” Please, just… no.)  Content is the bread and butter of SEO and digital marketing. It’s how you package keywords, it’s how you frame products and services. It’s what gets attention, but it’s also how you draw attention to what you have to offer. Weak or outright bad content is a missed opportunity, one that businesses can’t afford to miss out on in an increasingly competitive digital space. Which brings us to the question: how does your content stack up?

A mustached man throws out his computer in frustration after reading something at his desk.
Dramatization of Ben’s standard reaction to weak content.
If you find yourself falling short, it’s probably time to take a step back and reassess what’s going wrong, so you can figure out how to make things right. But first…

What is “Bad” Content?

We’ll answer this question with a question of my own: what is Google Search? “A search engine,” is the obvious answer. “An information delivery system that matches users with high-quality info to address their needs, based on their query,” is essentially the same answer, but cuts closer to an actual definition. With that in mind, then, bad content is content that doesn’t adequately address a user’s needs. Bad content simply repackages what’s already available elsewhere without adding further detail or value. In fact, there’s plenty of info out there on what makes content bad and how to avoid it. There are a number of reasons for weak content, whether it’s time constraints, poor planning, or lack of insight. Sometimes, things just don’t fall into place the way you want them to! Regardless of their cause, these complaints speak to a larger issue with content: People treat content as a disposable afterthought—and that’s a serious mistake. Content is not an afterthought! You wouldn’t throw together a mediocre business plan, project, or marketing initiative, so why would you leave content planning until the very last minute?

The Most Common Complaints About Bad Content

There’s plenty to complain about when it comes to weak content:

  • No value to the reader
  • Overly self-promotional
  • Repetitive
  • Obsolete, irrelevant, or inaccurate info
  • Slow to start
  • BORING!
  • All lists, all the time
  • Repetitive
  • Misleading titles
  • Too short – 500 words or less!
  • Too long – 5,000 words that go nowhere!
  • Obviously just used for keywords
  • Dull images and design
  • Did we mention repetitive?
  • Begging for social shares

(But, if we’re being honest, all content marketers have been guilty of some of these crimes at some point!)

The number one problem facing most content creators out there is a lack of strategic planning. Why is this the case? For starters, content creation without a plan is labour-intensive, ineffectual, and often operates under the faulty assumption that you must keep going, otherwise you’ll lose all traction. Consider this, though: without a plan, you’re just spinning your tires. Creating content for the sake of creating content is doomed to fail. Developing a strategy starts with assessing your potential audience and asking a few key questions.

A man wearing suspenders and a bowtie, but no shoes, sits on a chair in the middle of a country road. He is holding a book over his head, and sheets of paper are flying about him.
This guy’s approach to content marketing leaves a lot to be desired.

Five Ws (and One H)

When you were in high school, and even in elementary school, every time your class had to study a book, you were asked some basic reading comprehension questions to help get into the story a little more and look a little deeper. Years later, these same questions became guiding principles: the Five Ws (and One H). With a few minor tweaks, these questions are just as applicable to your content marketing efforts. These six questions can help you zero in on your target market by forcing you to think about individual aspects of your content strategy and just how effective (or ineffective) they are:

WHO is your audience?

Who are you trying to reach? This can be a tough one. Using Google Analytics, however, you can drill down on your user base and determine who, exactly, is landing on your site. With a bit of careful research, it’s easy to provide some reliable demographic outlines that can be turned into buyer personas you want to target through content tailored to their needs. This also gives you a rubric to compare old content to; how does it stack up? Are there opportunities for evergreen content?

WHAT do you want them to do?

What actions do you want your users to take? Assuming you have a digital storefront, the likely answer is “Make a purchase.” However, there’s a bit more to this than that. Perhaps you’re frustrated seeing the competition outsell you in a particularly lucrative SKU that you happen to carry as well. If customers don’t know you carry it, that’s a problem, but one content marketing can help you solve. Of course, maybe your CTAs aren’t working because your content lacks authenticity or authority. In this case, expanding on thin or weak content can help drive click-thru-rates.

Sitting on a tidy desk with modern decor, a computer's screen saver reads "DO MORE."
We recommend expanding on content to support straightforward CTAs like this one.

WHERE are you trying to reach them?

Content isn’t just on your site. It includes outreach, social media marketing, and more. Maybe you’ve actually got pretty good content, but people just aren’t seeing it. Remember, if good content is going to outrank the competition, it’s got to be at least 10 times better for real organic search change. Some careful social sharing and paid social promotion, putting a budget behind your content, can get you serious traction and give it an extra little boost that’ll get it the attention it needs.

A man wearing glasses checks his watch as an article loads on his phone.
When is the best time to push out content? It depends on what you want to accomplish!

WHEN should you reach them? (or, WHEN should you post?)

There are countless blogs out there that discuss, in-depth, the best time to post a blog. While there are peak times and peak days for traffic, engagement, and backlinking (Monday at 11 AM, Saturday morning, and Monday or Tuesday evening around 7 PM, respectively), what we’re really asking here is, “When are you reaching your audience in the buyer’s journey?” If you’re only targeting the awareness stage, then you’ve likely got a ton of content geared towards customers still determining what they need. Help them find a solution with informative content. Likewise, don’t ignore the consideration stage; you’ve got the attention of these customers, now offer them meaningful solutions. Finally, the decision stage—stick the landing with compelling content that helps these users choose your business.

WHY are you trying to reach this audience?

The obvious answer is to drive business, but this question should get you thinking about opportunities to reinforce your organization’s values and mission. Remember, strong brand identity goes a long way, and by engaging your audience with meaningful content that doesn’t just meet their needs, but also reflects their values, there’s potential to create lifelong, loyal customers who serve as brand ambassadors. Why are you targeting these customers and not another demographic? What values do you share? What passions? Start thinking about what you have in common and how you can tell your story, or better yet, how you can help customers tell their own.

HOW will you do it?

This is the big one. How are you going to put it all together? Assess your business goals and Sit down and assess business goals, how your marketing efforts need to support them, and look at how your content can fit into those efforts. Where do you need traffic? What is your audience looking for? Start drafting up a plan and pulling the pieces together. Plan out how you want to use your content. That’s a lot to take in all in one go, but the good news is that developing answers to these questions will help you start to think about how your content marketing strategy will work. The good news is that you can pause your existing content strategy while you reassess. If you’re frustrated with your current content offerings, take the time to rethink what you’re doing. You don’t want your blog on indefinite hiatus, but simultaneously, weak content isn’t doing much for you other than demonstrating you have a pulse. We mentioned earlier that weak content is a missed opportunity, one businesses shouldn’t overlook. Well, here’s why:

A woman writes statistics about an upcoming content marketing campaign in her leather-bound notebook.
Understanding value, when it comes to content, can be tricky to measure, but isn’t impossible.

Understanding the Value of Content Marketing

Your content doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and if you want it to work for you, you shouldn’t treat it like it does. Understanding how your content works in the grander scheme of things can help you develop a truly fantastic, strategic approach that supports ongoing SEO and marketing plans. Not convinced? Let’s look at how, exactly, Google considers site content. Google Search maintains an index of web pages that records how these pages look, operate, and interact with each other. Google’s crawlers, automated programs that look for and scan websites, create and update the index regularly, following one link to another. These crawlers check everything from keyword usage to site freshness and update the index accordingly. This index is the basis for search results. When you enter a search query, Google immediately analyzes the terms you’ve used to try to figure out what you’re looking for. This starts with basic query matches but goes so far as to consider the context of your search, incorporating past searches and location data, if you’ve made it available. The search results you see are based on your query and whatever contextual info Google can draw from it and you. These results are Google’s best attempt to provide users with information that meets their needs. Google’s crawlers regularly check out sites in the index, but by providing updates (through blogs, updates to your pages, and so on), you’re basically giving Google a little nudge that says, “Hey, this has changed, maybe you should check it out.” Depending on the quality of your changes, you might see your ranking increase as Google re-indexes your pages. As such, Google even employs human search quality raters to provide valuable feedback on Google’s search algorithms to help ensure they’re returning high-quality results that address user needs.

Putting Content into Play Strategically

Now we know what makes bad content bad, what Google’s looking for, and how to start thinking about content marketing strategy.

Will Ferrell as George W. Bush mispronounces
Right idea, poor execution – the bane of many a content marketing strategy.
The next step is putting it into action. Here at SEO TWIST, we often start by addressing pain points for both a client and their audience. What does a business want to achieve? What are their customers looking for? By answering these questions, we can then tailor a content strategy around a company’s goals (for example, a music store looking to sell more guitars) and help develop buyer personas around customer pain points. Sticking with our example, a potential buyer persona could be a non-musical parent looking to support their child’s interests but struggling to figure out what sort of instrument to get. (Obviously, this parent should buy their child a decent entry level instrument that they won’t grow out of after six months of lessons, but we digress.) At this point, your content team would conduct some research around search terms and traffic for “best entry-level guitar” or “best guitar for beginners.” Google’s pretty handy at providing related search terms and answers to common questions, which can help you further identify the specific things users are actually searching for. Let me say that again: Google tells you what people are searching for. This is a great way to rapidly outline content that actually provides value! From there, you can build detailed FAQ pages that link out to products, blog articles that support your site’s authority by providing users valuable information and updating on-page content to help capture search traffic. From here, it’s a matter of creating a plan moving forwards, monitoring your results, and adapting as needed.

There’s Always Room for Improvement

If you’ve checked out other articles on our blog, you’ve likely read some variation on this before: your content marketing efforts aren’t fire-and-forget. You’re not working in a vacuum, and your content plans aren’t always going to work out. It’s important to keep at it until you find something that sticks, then reverse-engineer what made it work so you can try it out again. A content marketing strategy gives you a structure to work within and can help you avoid some of those most common complaints, but the real trick to creating good, valuable content is effort. One of my favourite authors did a Reddit AMA and was asked what his trick was to overcoming writing challenges and blocks. His solution? Work through it. “Quitting kills. Write!” Keep at it and keep improving. Your content will be all the better as a result, and your customers will be thanking you for it. But whatever you do, don’t stop putting in the effort! You’ve got this – and we’re here to help!

Lia

Mueller: Web Pages Should Have “Some Content” Above the Fold

05/11/2021

Content creators may wonder whether Google views content ‘above the fold’ on websites as more important for its search results. Fortunately, Google’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller provided clarification during a recent livestream.

During an episode ‘SEO Office Hours,’ Mueller’s Google Hangout series, a viewer asked Mueller if Google paid more attention to content above the fold. The viewer shared that they were aware of a website that moved their content from below the fold to above, and found that they SERP rankings improved instantly.

‘Above the fold’ refers to what is visible instantly upon clicking on a webpage – in other words, the top of the page. Anything on the page that requires the user to scroll to view is ‘below the fold.’

Search Engine Journal explains that, previously, Google would prioritize content above the fold on webpages when analyzing them for SERPs. Google has since switched to AI and natural language processing to analyze the entire page – not just what is above the fold.

So, does Google really prioritize content that is above the fold?

Not entirely, Mueller explains:

“The main thing is that we want to see some content above the fold,” Mueller said on the livestream. “A part of your page should be visible when a user goes there.”

Mueller provided an example of a page that wouldn’t be received well by Google.

“If a user goes to your website and they just see a big holiday photo and they have to scroll down a little bit to actually get content about a hotel, then that would be problematic for us,” he said. “But if they go to your home page and they see a hall of fame photo on top and also a little bit of information about the hotel – for example, for a hotel site – that would be fine.”

Mueller’s ultimate answer?

“It’s not purely that the content has to be above the fold. But… some of the content has to be.”

read more

Master the Art of Email Marketing to Boost Your SEO

04/09/2021

There are plenty of misconceptions around emails. One of which is that emails are dead, having been replaced by social media. Another myth is that email has nothing to do with SEO.

Here’s a reality check: emails are crucial for your brand! They can increase engagement, draw in new customers, and raise brand awareness – oh, and they can improve your SEO score too. 

You may have never thought that SEO and email marketing were related in any way, but these two components of your marketing strategy can actually complement each other.

In this article, we’ll show you:

  • How email marketing can boost your SEO score

  • What elements every email should have

  • How you emails can make a lasting impression – and not end up in the spam folder

What is Email Marketing?

Every brand should have an email marketing strategy. This means building a digital list of customers sending them emails on a semi-frequent basis. These emails usually have an underlying goal and an accompanying format. Here are some common examples:

  • Welcome emails, inviting new customers to explore your brand’s world

  • Newsletters, released on a schedule to bring info to your audience’s inbox

  • Sale and promotion emails, intended to excite your customers

  • Important updates, like if your store is moving locations

Yes, Email Marketing Still Matters

You might be thinking, “Wait, aren’t emails a thing of the past?”

It’s true that emails are no longer as prominent as a digital communication method, and social networking sites have fragmented the audience that used to do everything through their email service.

Email is still a popular service, though. In fact, OptinMonster reports that 99% of web users check their email at least once a day – some up to 20 times a day!

For that reason, email marketing is super important. It’s easy, cheap, target-specific, and mobile-friendly. Plus, it can boost your SEO results! Learn how below.

How Email Marketing Strengthens Your SEO Score

Boosts Engagement

We know that having more visitors on your site will increase its SEO score. How do you draw in more visitors? Pull them right out of their email inbox. Any email format can do the trick as long as you link back to your site within the email.

You should keep these tips in mind as you aim to rack up engaged visitors:

  • Don’t just cast out a line and expect everyone to visit your site; target a specific audience

  • Make sure the content in your emails is compelling – give readers something to look forward to in your emails

  • Don’t use language that evokes spam – both readers and spam filters will turn away from emails like these

Types of stats I can look for here: what THING brings in clicks or opens from email users; OR how often do emails go to spam boxes

Gives You Better Insights

There’s a lot you can learn from how your emails perform. It’s easy to track their success, too. There are plenty of easy-to-use email marketing tools that can pick up on useful metrics – for example, learn what language makes an effective headline versus a bad one. You can even test specific keywords, and then use your results to improve your SEO results.

Helps You Create High Performing Content Content for Search Engines

Here’s another great thing about tracking data from your emails: if an email performs particularly well, you can use it for content on your website too.

We recommend creating a bridge between your site’s content and your emails’ content. If a piece performs well on one platform, re-purpose or reuse it on the other.

Helps You Supercharge Your Content Strategy

Your emails and your site’s content are like brother and sister.

You can strengthen your site’s content by testing out different things over email. For example:

  • Try out different topics and see what draws people in

  • Increase engagement by asking for direct responses from readers

  • Create personas and craft emails specifically for them

Gives Your Wallet a Break with High ROI

Email marketing is practically free, and think of how often people check their emails. There are very few ‘barriers’ standing in the way between your emails and the intended reader, so you don’t have to worry about throwing piles of money at a strategy that might not land.

Increases Brand Awareness

Brand awareness is key, and emails do a great job sticking your brand to people’s thoughts. Even seeing your brand’s name among other emails reminds readers that you exist, but why stop there? Strong email content can give your audience a true sense of what your brand is capable of.

Offers a Chance for Link Building 

You know that relevant backlinks can improve a site’s SEO score. Why not apply the same approach to your emails? In your messages, link back to your site or other channels of media whenever possible.

How to Make the Most Out of Your Brand’s Emails

Use HTML

Ultimately, there are two kinds of emails: plain text and HTML-based. Only HTML-based emails can display compelling photos, graphics and other kinds of media, and these are things you’d want to use to engage readers.

If the word ‘HTML’ makes you want to runaway, relax. These coded emails are easier to send than you might think. In fact, there are free email templates all over the web that make the process easy from start to finish.

Here are a few things to consider with your HTML emails:

  • Don’t overdo it – too many components will make your emails take longer to load, and readers will stop clicking them

  • Make sure your emails work on the web AND mobile, and that they can fit screens of any size

Timing is Everything

The day and time on which you launch an email makes a huge difference. You may have read ‘rules’ online, but ultimately, it all depends on your brand and your audience. Here are some tips:

  • Tuesday through Thursday is considered the ‘hot spot’ for emails, drawing in the most engagement

  • Friday is a hard day to gain your audience’s focus, unless your brand involves something they can partake in on the weekend

  • Email marketers and Garfield have one thing in common: they hate Mondays. That’s because audiences are usually too work-focused or dreadful to engage over email

  • Time based on your audience; target mobile-based or younger audiences in the evening, and desktop-based audiences in the morning

There is no universal ‘correct time,’ so think carefully about your brand and when your audience will likely open your emails.

Keep a Newsletter Archive

You may keep a campaign archive for various aspects of your marketing strategy.

Your emails should be no exception. This will help you:

  • Collect data over time to see what’s working and what should change

  • Refer back to older archive to reuse content

Avoid Spammy Language

Here’s something that search engines and email systems have in common: neither of them like manipulative ‘junk’ language. While it’s important to SEO that you don’t overuse a keyword or use repetitive text, email systems have strong filters that ruthlessly hunt down spam.

Avoid aggressive terms, oversimplified claims, and desperate pleas – otherwise your mail won’t make it to the inbox.

Track Your Results

We can’t stress this enough: track your email campaigns! There are so many useful metrics to check, including:

  • Conversion rate

  • Clicks per link

  • Unsubscribe rate

  • Bounce rate – we’ve elaborated on this below

Check Your Bounce Rates

This tip isn’t as much about SEO as it is about your audience, though it’s equally important. One of the most important metrics you should check from your marketing emails is the bounce rate.

The term ‘bounce rate’ might be confusing because it is used in other contexts. Your site’s bounce rate is NOT the same thing as your emails’ bounce rate:

  • On a website, the ‘bounce rate’ refers to how often users click on your page and exit right away

  • On emails, the ‘bounce rate’ refers to how often your email does not reach the intended target’s inbox

In other words, if you’ve ever gotten an error message explaining that an email you’ve sent was ‘returned’ to you, the email has bounced; this is what the bounce rate measures.

If your bounce rate is high – let’s say, 2% or higher – you need to give your email subscriber list a refresh.

Create Beautiful Emails That Are Still Functional

Should you focus more on making your emails look great or making them work well? You don’t have to choose, and you actually shouldn’t.

Your email’s design doesn’t compromise its purpose – strong design enhances it!

Make sure you include each of these important features in every email:

  • A subject line that sparks curiosity

  • Carefully chosen pre-header text, which will be visible in the subject line

  • Strong, bold images

  • A refreshing colour scheme

  • Calls to action, including links to your site

  • An info-dense footer

Bring on the Links

Your emails should be more than just a block of text. Give your reader plenty of links to click on! There should be clear paths from your emails to other channels of your brand: social media, website pages, subscriptions, and any others you can think of. Make sure to tell people WHY they should click on your links, rather than simply choosing to display them.

Another tip: Place social media links on your ‘unsubscribe’ page! While a reader may no longer want to see your emails, they still might want to check out your social media pages.

Put Your Best Content Forward

Emails are a great place to showcase your content, but make sure it’s actually good. You don’t want to end up in the spam folder or get swiftly deleted. Besides, what appeals to readers doesn’t always come down to an exact science. Quality content is the best organic way to reach new people.

The Takeaway

In this article, you learned:

  • Why email marketing is more important than ever

  • How good SEO and email marketing strategies can be combined

How to make high-quality emails that readers and marketing strategists both love

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