Do You Feel Lucky?
Picking the right keywords for incorporation in your content strategy is a practice that, to a large extent, has failed to evolve adequately over time. Too often, organizations focus on search volume to create a winning keyword strategy, not considering the time and energy it takes to apply best practices and rank prominently for highly coveted search queries.
For example, if you’re a national steel manufacturing company looking to kick-start your organic visibility, you might say to yourself, “hey, we need to start ranking for ‘steel manufacturing.'”
Right? Think again.
The Right Formula
So, contrary to what you might think – the formula for ranking prominently in Google’s search results isn’t:
Content + SEO = Page 1 Rankings
It’s actually more like:
[Really really] Uniquely Good Content + Proper On-Page SEO + Website Relevance + Engagement Signals + Website Performance & Accessibility + Authoritative Backlinks + [Lots of] Time + 198 other ranking signals = Page 1 Rankings
It’s why you’ve struggled to get on page 1 among your top competitors. It’s the reason why your 1-blog-post-per-month strategy isn’t working. It’s why this imaginary steel manufacturing company will have a hard time getting to page 1 for the highly competitive term, “steel manufacturing.”
You see, Google will only rank content that is uniquely qualified to earn the top spot for user search queries, not just those that are littered with the right keywords.
So what’s a business focused on creating Digital Growth to do?
The following best practices will aid in achieving (read: not ensuring) a top spot Google’s organic rankings.
1. Do Your Homework
One of the first things you should be doing when attempting to rank organically for a keyword or phrase important to your business, is spend a few (valuable) minutes doing some research.
Conduct a Google search for your target phrase and ask yourself the following questions:
- Has this been done before?
- Is there a realistic opportunity to rank for this keyword?
- What types of search results are currently ranking? Competitors? Informational resources?
This process will help you determine how realistic your goals are, or if you need to re-evaluate your strategy. If Google’s first page is displaying tons of informational knowledge graph snippets and informational resources like Wikipedia, you may find yourself up against a wall.
On the other hand, if Google appears to be display sales-oriented organic results (for example, peer organizations or direct competitors) that aren’t producing content that matches up directly with your desired keyword/phrase, you may have a good shot.
2. Have Something to Say
Great rankings will always begin with great content. Your content is doomed to obscurity if it doesn’t connect with your target audience. As a matter of fact, you can have great content that ranks really, really well without paying much attention to SEO whatsoever.
Your first step when embarking upon a content strategy should include research and discovery of which topics your target personas would find useful, interesting, and engaging.
Bonus: If content is so important, do you even need to worry about SEO? Good question.
3. Exploit the Long Tail
This is where the magic happens. Remember our imaginary steel manufacturing company from the beginning of this article? They, along with many business owners who “want it all and want it now” make a critical mistake of going for the gold (and likely falling flat).
The magic is in specificity and qualification—in other words, identifying the right long-tail search queries and crafting high-quality content aimed at being the #1 resource for that query.
Only after that’s been established and your content has been carefully crafted to be truly informative and helpful, can you focus on crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s of technical on-page optimization (title tags, descriptions, headings, links, etc…)