What is the role of content in today’s search and social environment?
Recent trends in search engine and social media algorithms have brought on a need for SEOs and social teams to integrate more closely with the content department.
The digital marketing landscape is constantly changing and both SEO and social media experts are having to adapt to new challenges and approaches.
Google’s algorithm has become more sophisticated. With older SEO approaches failing to produce the same sort of results they once did, the focus has shifted toward more natural content marketing strategies.
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In the past, many SEO experts had the same approach: hacking the system. Search engine optimization has largely revolved around attempts to outsmart search engine algorithms.
As these algorithms have become more complex, so too have the methods to fulfilling the many criteria that determine a website’s ranking.
Despite SEO experts’ ability to keep up with the many search engine developments over the years, things have recently begun to change.
Google’s ranking algorithm has always had the same goal: ranking web pages according to their quality and relevance for specific keywords.
For years, the algorithms were not complex enough to guarantee that the best pages rank the highest.
This allowed SEO experts to manipulate the pages and outsmart the algorithm so that their page ranked higher than more "valuable" pages.
This was done by rigorously checking off all the factors that search engines used to rank pages.
More recently, Google and other search engines have significantly strengthened their algorithms to such an extent that it is near impossible to make a sub-par website rank highly.
Nowadays, it isn’t enough to simply perform a variety of SEO steps to your content and ‘tick off ‘the main boxes.
Instead, quality content has emerged as one of the most important factors in your page's search ranking. If you truly want to fulfill all of the requirements set by search engines, you need to produce content that people care about and are willing to engage with.
Quality content is now considered an absolute must for anyone who wants to see their website rank well on search engines. This is a major game changer in the field of digital marketing.
Improvements to search engine algorithms is not the only reason that content has taken the spotlight. Another big factor behind the emergence of content marketing is the rise of social media.
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Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have become absolute staples in digital marketing as they offer websites the opportunity to promote their content directly to an unlimited pool of potential clients or users.
Social media have emerged as a modern version of ‘word of mouth’ promotion through likes, shares, re-tweets and follows.
The rise of social media networks has placed more importance on the quality of a website's content, as social media users only engage with content that they are most interested in.
Unless your post is compelling enough, people will not engage or share it with their followers.
Not only does the nature of social media require quality content, but the increasingly important role that social signals play in SEO means that quality content has become a vital factor on all fronts.
What are the implications of these changes for digital marketing and SEO? The main development will be a big change in the practices and role of digital marketing.
The new focus on content creation will evolve the role of digital marketers from predominantly technical to creative developers. A strong mechanical understanding of what factors search engines value is no longer enough.
Digital marketers and SEO experts will need to figure out what content will help make a website the most valuable to readers.
They will need to work together to not just check the SEO boxes, but also provide compelling content that will entice the user to engage with the page.
This could have a whole range of implications as digital marketers will have to adopt a whole new set of skills including writing, branding, photography and graphic design.
The sites that truly want to thrive in 2016's digital landscape will have to learn to write for humans, and not just for search engines.
Of course this does not mean that SEO is dead. On-page SEO is still very important, as are SEO techniques off site.
The many factors that have always played a role in website rankings continue to exist and have an important impact.
The difference is, that SEO alone cannot guarantee website visitors like it used to. If you are writing a blog article, it is no longer sufficient to create a blog post that is well structured and keyword-dense; it will also have to be interesting, unique, and targeted.
If you are looking to bring your online presence up to speed with the modern digital marketing world, you need to create a quality site with great, engaging content that is optimized for search engines, social media, and most importantly, humans.
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While this might sound like more work, it is a shift in the search and social paradigm that was needed. As technology becomes more integrated into our lives, so too is the need for search engines to provide more targeted and valuable results for our queries.
If you want to help your website reach its full potential, you have to devote time, money, and resources into creating content and optimizing the page for search, social, and conversions.
So do you write for search, social, or humans? The answer, quite simply, is all of the above.
Google’s factors are not going to disappear any time soon and there are still many ways to improve the ranking of your website beyond just content.
Back-linking, keyword research, and other on and off page SEO factors are still major contributors to your search ranking.
However, successful digital marketers are continuing to place quality content at the core. Providing great content that follows good SEO techniques is the best strategy moving forward in 2016 and beyond.