Over the past 10 years, SEO has changed dramatically. If you’re an SEO with any tenure in the marketplace, you already know that. If not, if you’re just starting out in this crazy world of ours, you really missed the fun days — the days of wealth and abandon.
In 2014, we have to work much, MUCH harder to get our clients to rank well in search. Some say that SEO is dead, and if you base your perspective on the idea that we can’t use any of the tricks we were taught back in the day, I’d agree with you. That kind of SEO is dead. Buying links, using keywords all over the page or loading up meta tags with keywords are now not only gone, but if you use tactics like that, you may as well close shop and take the shingle down.
So, should SEOs curl up and die?
As an SEO, you have to stop thinking about tricks, and start loving your consumer. That’s right. Think about how your client can help others. You need to make them experts in their field, and to create authority for them so that they matter. If you’re on your own — a one-man or one-woman show — you need to produce content
Google now wants the SERPs (search engine results pages) to be filled with authoritative information. Google wants us to know how to write well, or at least to HIRE people who know how to write well. But if you’re on a shoestring and producing your own content, how should you go about it?
Allow me to give you a simple way to write any type article you want, and to do it as an “authority.” As the author of 11 books, all published by major American houses, and as someone who taught writing for a living for five years, I hope I know my stuff. So, here goes.
In high school, my English teacher, Mr. Holveck (the man that made me a writer, though I was never able to tell him) gave us a simple structure for an article or a presentation, which I’m going to relay to you now.
The simple structure is this:
1. The Introduction
This is where you pull the reader into your work and where you provide an overview of your argument.
In order to do well in search in 2014, you must establish authority in your niche. That happens when you provide useful content that solves problems people have and when they, in turn, share your advice with others, either with a backlink or by sharing in social media or both. When you establish authority, search engines pay attention and rank your pages accordingly.
Simple enough. In just three sentences, you can open your article. Tell people what your article is about. Then, prove that what you’ve written is true in the next section, which is the largest part.
2. The Body
Come up with three points of proof to support your argument in this section. This would be point one:
We know for a fact that Google is watching. In Search Engine Land’s Guide to SEO, its author wrote, “There’s little doubt that search engines try to assess authority. One only needs to look through the questions Google told publishers to ask themselves in building high-quality sites that should be immune to ‘Panda’ updates. The words trust, authority and expertise are all frequently mentioned.”
OK, so that’s our first point of proof that Google cares that you know about your niche and that you’re a trusted source for answers. They want to be sure that you’re an expert in your field and not just some Joe Schmo writing garbage to get better search rankings. In other words, authority is important in search.
Now, here comes point two to prove our premise further.
We know that great content matters in search, and it’s obvious that Google is very interested in page quality by the materials they have written. We also know that backlinks are still important in getting your page ranked in search results, and we also know that engagement and sharing in social media provide a rule of measurement by which authority can be proven.
In Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO, the author states, “All of that positive attention and excitement around the content … translates into a machine parse-able (and algorithmically valuable) collection of links. The timing, source, anchor text, and number of links to the new site are all factored into its potential performance (i.e., ranking) for relevant queries at the engines,” proving once again that authority does matter.
We’re strengthening our argument that authority matters and that it’s a measure of how well the people who read it respond. If it’s authoritative, people will link to it and be excited by it because it’s helpful to them in some way. And now, we have to show that when authority rises, so do your rankings.
That’s where point three comes in to further prove your argument.
In other words, some pages are more important than others. What makes them important is the authoritative information provided. Demian Farnworth wrote in his article, “Seven Ways Writers Can Build Online Authority with Google+” at Copyblogger: “Google was founded on a simple principle — some web pages are more important than others. How is that importance quantified? Ideally, it’s based on the fact that people think that page satisfies their questions about the topic better than other pages.”
Farnworth tells us that some pages are just better than others. Pages that provide the best answers are more important and are treated as such in search. If your content piece satisfies people’s questions (and is better at it than other pages) you are seen as an expert in that niche. If you’re an expert in the niche, you have gained that all-precious authority. When you have authority, your search rankings will naturally rise because Google wants to provide only the best results for the queries it’s given.
Bingo. Three reasons why we know that Google loves great content and rewards “authority” sources. Google’s (and all other search engines’) goal is to provide the best results for their search customers. We have used three authoritative sources in the search industry to prove our premise. But… we’re not quite done.
3. The Conclusion
This is where you re-summarize what you’ve already written, provide an interesting anecdote that illustrates the point you made in the piece, or ask your audience a question. You tell them why the words you wrote matter, and you should always give them even more to think about.
This is also where you should write a call to action. Get people to comment on your work, share it, and like, tweet, etc. This matters! When people share your stuff, you become an “authority” in that niche over time. So, build your rep with content!
If you want to do well in search in 2014, the answer is simple: establish your niche authority. If you can consistently provide the best answers for people’s problems in your niche, and they feel so confident about your answers that they share the information with other people via linking and/or social media, you will be seen as an expert by them and by search engines.
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The bottom line
Because content is so important to SEO these days, it’s important to pay attention to what you write and how you write it. This simple structure — an introduction, a body comprised of three points to support your argument, and a close — is one of the easiest ways to produce a great, quality piece of writing.
Yet, be sure to include more than just your own opinions on things (unless you’re already an authority, of course). Find authority sources that you can quote to back up your assertions. Use charts, graphs and statistics whenever possible. Give readers a great solution to a problem they’re having, make your work readable and maybe even fun, and you’ll make out all the way around.
The bare fact that you’re creating content for SEO doesn’t even matter! You’re creating content for your potential clients and customers. That’s what matters most, certainly NOT Google.