The phrase 'content is king' remains seminal in the world of digital marketing, after a series of evolutionary, Google algorithm updates have combined to change the way in which websites are ranked. Instead of being driven by quantity, rankings are now determined largely by the quality and insight of published content along with its relevance to specific keywords and landing pages.
Despite this, the description "content is king," is slightly misleading for brands and marketers alike. After all, there are other prominent, would-be rulers in the field of digital marketing, while content on its own, is extremely unlikely to deliver higher rankings (particularly in relation to competitive keywords).
It is fair to surmise that content underpins most of the other elements that contribute to higher rankings, however, while its diversity, quality and relevancy are also key metrics that Google uses when appraising specific websites. In this respect, it is perhaps more fitting to describe content as the king-maker in the field of digital marketing, as it retains the power and influence to drive your overarching campaigns and optimize each individual element.
This slightly altered description may encourage marketers to view content in a slightly different light, as they look to leverage its influence to optimize their search engine rankings. In light of this, the question that remains is how content really helps you to get higher on Google, particularly when looking to rank for competitive keywords.
Here are some answers that may help you to refine your content marketing strategies going forward.
Consider the Length of Individual Content Pieces
If we accept that Google is increasingly influenced by metrics such as engagement levels when appraising content, then we must consider quality in this context. Google is known to reward high-quality content that engages readers, for example, as well as copy that offers value and genuine, in-depth insights.
The result of this is that the length of content has emerged as a key indicator of quality, with significant correlation having being shown between word count and search engine ranking. Several studies have affirmed this, with one, in particular, having analyzed one million Google search results across multiple keywords.
The findings were insightful, with the average length of content ranking on the first page standing at an impressive 1,890 words.
At this stage, it is important to note two things. Firstly, this is an average figure, so not every piece of content or landing page has to feature such a body of words. Secondly, it is important to prioritize the impact and insight offered by each piece of content that you produce, as this will prevent you from creating vacuous or mundane copy simply to increase your word count.
How do these factors translate into strategy?
Your blog offers an excellent vehicle through which to publish long-form content, as this enables you to build on relevant areas of expertise and explore complex subject matter for the benefit of the reader. Try to construct a viable content calendar that includes multiple in-depth blog posts each month, while supporting these with shorter publications that have a more instant impact.
The key is to make idea generation a central part of your content strategy, as this will help you to manage your word count and optimize the quality of each post.
On a final note, you should also recognize that any included blog comments are calculated as part of your overall content, so engaging with readers can have a positive impact on your ranking. It is important to manage these comments and only retain relevant responses, however, as this ensures a positive level of keyword variation throughout.
Links Remain a Seminal Part of your Content Strategy
While Google's regular algorithm updates have caused panic and confusion among some webmasters, there is one universal rule that underpins successful and impactful content. This is the presence of links, which drives online visibility and remains one of the two most important ranking factors.
Inbound links are particularly important, as they correlate highly with Google rankings and are considered to be more impactful than word count. What has changed in recent times is the way in which links are measured, as while quantity was once the dominant factor this has now been replaced by quality. So while Google still rewards pages that draw inbound links from a diverse range and high volume of authority sites, your primary focus must be on the topical relevance of your content.
This brings us on to the relationship between links and content, as while the former are a key ranking metric their impact can only ever be measured by the context that they are presented in.
This is why even established SEO agencies can struggle to obtain purposeful inbound links for clients, as the task of identifying authority sites and creating viable content for publication often requires a specialized set of skills.
So, how can you make inbound links an effective engine for your content marketing drive? Aside from contextual and topical relevance (which relate to the nature of your content and the timing of its publication), individual links must also be contained within a natural sentence and suitable anchor text. While your backlink profile should include a combination of branded and natural anchors, for example, the key consideration is that each link and its placement reads organically within the content.
Additionally, links from trusted, authority websites also carry considerable weight, so the websites that you partner with must have viable SEO metrics. The problem with this is that the most relevant metrics continue to change, as while page and domain authority were once pivotal it is now more important to consider elements such as Majestic Citation and Trust Flow. There is also a movement towards engagement levels and social conversations, so try to appraise these when identifying potential sites for guest posting.
Social Media Can Improve the Reach and the Impact of your Content
The role of social media in content marketing is an interesting one, as Google have not yet fully embraced this medium as a decisive ranking metric. There is no doubt that this will ultimately be a dominant ranking metric, however, while the search engine giant is already paying close attention to social signals and traffic. This means that social media can not only enhance the reach of your content, but it is increasingly able to translate into a viable ranking metric.
Once again, however, this all starts with the quality of your content. After all, Google pays particular attention to metrics such as social traffic, user engagement and the number of affiliated comments. Your content can only score well in these by initially engaging readers and offering them something of tangible value, so they are compelled to share, respond or take a direct action that benefits your site.
It is also important to recognize the most impactful social channels, particularly in terms of the ranking recognition that are awarded. While you may be unsurprised to note that Facebook (with a global user base of more than one billion) and Twitter are particularly effective social channels in this respect, it is Google+ that receives the highest level of recognition.
So while this channel is sometimes overlooked by brands within the B2C sector, generating engagement and traffic through the platform can have a highly positive impact on your ranking.
Ultimately, you must focus on creating an integrated social presence that is tailored to suit your audience, products and the individual purpose of each campaign. Channels such as Google+ and Facebook should serve as staple elements of your social profile, particularly if you are to leverage the power of your content and optimize your search engine ranking.
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