In this episode of Actionable Marketing In Minutes we talk with Larry Lembcke about optimizing content for SEO.
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In 2010 Microsoft researchers Chao Liu, Ryen White and Susan Dumais published a paper whose focus was on the time users spend on a web page applying the Weibull analysis.
Weibull is a reliability-engineering concept that’s been around since the mid-1900s. It is used to analyze the time-to-failure for whatever components are being analyzed.
There are two types of Weibull distributions in the analysis:
1. Positive aging: the longer the component has been in service, the more likely it is to fail.
2. Negative aging: The longer the component has been in service, the less likely it is to fail.
The researchers discovered that 99-percent of web pages have a negative aging effect. That means that visitors stay on a site longer than expected. But, they do so by chance. And that is because web pages are all so very different.
As you likely know, a visitor’s first 10 seconds on your website page is crucial in their decision to stay or leave. For whatever reason, website visitors are unwilling to give sites very much time.
Now, did you know that if a user stays past that first 10 seconds, they’re still highly likely to leave at any point during the next 20 seconds? But, if they do make it past the 30-second mark, they start to leave at a much lower rate.
Visual appeal may be the first attractor, but the factor most impactful in determining whether a visitor will stay on your site for at least 30 seconds is your content. And, not only is your content crucial to human visitors, but it is also vital to search engine robot visitors.
I know it’s hard to believe, but Google – which is the largest search engine, by far – is now making about 500 algorithm changes each year. And, many of these algorithm factors are related to your content.
Most marketers are aware of the increasing importance of content and therefore are increasing their investment in both the quality and quantity. But, marketers also need to understand the new SEO rules if they are going to make their content work for them.
Original content is key. That can come in the form of what you think when you hear the word ‘content’ but it can also be a video or an image – anything that will express your information and brand quickly and succinctly to your visitors, and will entice them to read or to share.
Today, Larry Lembcke, our resident SEO expert is in the studio with us to discuss how we can make our website’s content work for us.
Hi, Larry. Good to have you with us.
Thanks, Lisa. Good to be here.
Larry, we know that SEO rules have changed substantially in the last few years. Can you give us the scoop? And, maybe tell us how we act on the recent algorithm updates to increase our search engine rankings?
It used to be all about the click only. But as search engines get smarter, they are able to detect how people are interacting with your site. Besides getting the clicks, you have to satisfy user intent.
Another thing: traditionally, SEO tended to focus on keywords. So, we used to pack headlines with a lot of them. That’s no longer the case. Now, it’s semantic meanings.
According to a 2015 report by Moz, a Seattle-based consulting company, search engines are paying attention to: a page’s perceived value, usage data (such as dwell time) and readability and design.
And, strange as this may sound, the search engines are able to ‘think’ about what other words might be expected within that content. This is a good thing because it’s getting more challenging for black-hat programmers to game the system by throwing in unrelated keywords.
Larry, can you quickly tell our audience what a black-hat programmer is?
Sure, Lisa. As we know, if we optimize a site’s content properly, we can get both user and search engine attention. These strategies can be done in a legitimate manner, or in an underhanded way. Those who
follow the rules are considered white hat; those who don’t, black hat; and those who walk a fine line of not-so-proper methods are gray hat.
Though white hat methods often don’t get results as quickly, they are most definitely the way to go. Think of it as building a foundation for your house. It’s important to make sure it is strong and sturdy and not quick and flimsy.
Regarding content: many businesses think it is good enough to just have a paragraph describing a page, and some images. What do you think about that?
This type of page can actually be detrimental to your campaign, since pages with low word counts and several pieces of media often trigger low quality signals.
What is a signal?
A signal is user interaction, such as sharing your content. Though signals are not currently included in Google’s algorithms, they are most certainly considered because they make your page look more authoritative. And many SEO experts believe signals will soon be the new SEO.
Q: Got it! How long should the content be?
Size really does matter. In the past, 300 words were considered long enough, but now it’s good to aim for about 750 words per page. Though search engines understand that not every page has the perfect word count, there are times when you can have less and it is usually ok.
I do want to say if your site has a blog, shoot for longer articles – usually in the 1,200-1,500 range. That length tends to perform better. Not only do larger articles get more traffic, they rank higher in SEO – especially for competitive terms. That’s because there are more words – and usually images – for the search engines to rank.
And, they trigger more signals because people share them more over social media channels and they cite them more. All of this activity should eventually link even more users back to your site.
One caveat for a longer page: as we know, many people scan a page before they commit to reading it. And, if they do choose to read it, you want to make it easy to digest. So, you’ll want to break up your content with things like sub-heads, bullets and images. Don’t just overwhelm readers with a huge page of words.
What if your pages are very straight forward and don’t require lots of content?
There is usually always an opportunity to add content to a page, even if the page is very basic. Add a unique value proposition to your contact page; add variations and history descriptions for your products. If all else fails, pepper a few testimonials throughout.
We sure covered a lot today, Larry. Wow! I wanted to talk about optimizing content for mobile devices, but we’re simply out of time today. Looks like our listeners will have to stay tuned. We’ll be sure to have you back!
Lisa: Thanks for coming.
Larry: Talk to you soon.
I think the best takeaway from today’s discussion is to always focus on your audience. Gone are the days of talking incessantly about your brand. Today’s consumers want a relationship. They want to interact. They want you to engage with them. And, Google knows it.
We believe by focusing on your audience, and developing original and interesting content specific to their wants and needs, the search engines will recognize your efforts and will reward you for it.
We hope you’ve found this information helpful. Please connect with us on Twitter @DirectiveGroup or on LinkedIn and be sure to share it with in your networks using hashtag #actionablemarketing. Join us next time for more actionable marketing in minutes.