There’s no shortage of content for Google to index these days. As of July 2019 there were nearly 1.7 billion websites, and each day about 500 million Tweets were sent and about 5 million blog posts were published—and those numbers just keep growing. Generating content for the sake of having it around is no longer a winning strategy, because the tremendous scale of content generation means that companies can’t assume that any of their content is guaranteed to be seen.
The old adage “Content is king” holds true only if the content can attract attention in a very crowded field. Today, for all intents and purposes the ultimate arbiter of what is (and isn’t) attention-worthy is Google, and companies that want to get their content in front of an audience need to make sure that it has the relevance and freshness that are likely to improve its rankings in Google search results. By following these five suggestions, organizations can more effectively reach their target audiences.
Include Both Short-Form and Long-Form Content on Your Blog
Even though many other content-delivery formats have evolved since blogs first emerged on the Internet in the mid-1990s, blogs remain one of the primary vectors through which organizations can connect with their audiences. A blog is simple and fairly inexpensive (or even free) for anyone to set up, it can contain many types of information, it can be customized with plug-ins and themes to accommodate very specific needs, and it’s easily searched and indexed by Web crawlers.
For a long time, the general consensus was that blog posts should be very brief in order to attract readers who have both limited time and limited attention spans. But some recent studies indicate that longer blog posts can often rank much higher in search results than shorter ones. Take any suggestions to write 2,000-word blog posts with a grain of salt, though, and don’t completely dismiss short-form content. Shorter blog posts have certain benefits, such as being easier to read on mobile devices and being more accessible to people who don’t have a lot of time. The most important factor when deciding how much to write is relevance. If you don’t want to waste your readers’ time, remember that “there’s no point in extending [a blog post] if there’s nothing of value to add. This will make it less engaging and ultimately boring to read.”
Embrace Video Content
The growth of video in marketing over the past few years can best be described as “explosive.” More and more organizations are implementing at least some video in their recruitment, outreach, and branding campaigns, and the growth of this media continues to accelerate. In fact, YouTube currently ranks second “in global internet traffic and engagement over the past 90 days” and is topped on that list only by its corporate owner, Google.
Any company that wants to improve its search ranking and increase the size of its potential audience shouldn’t miss the opportunity to incorporate videos into its content. Not only does video help boost search rankings, but this format can increase the accessibility of pretty much any relevant topic imaginable (e.g., client testimonials, employee interviews, tutorials). Fortunately, videos are very easy to produce and share, thanks to low-cost (or even free) websites and applications, such as Lumen5, Adobe Spark, and Biteable.
Through recycling, an “old” product gains a second life as something new. Think about how plastic grocery bags provide the foundation for the “recycled lumber” used in park benches and backyard decks. But the new product that emerges from recycling doesn’t have to be completely different from the old one. For example, old, used printer paper can be transformed into new, spotless printer paper. And some blog content can be “recycled” into new blog content: take a look at what’s performing best and think about ways to take a new approach on it or focus on and dig deeper into one aspect of it.
Produce Evergreen Content
The creation of marketing content takes time and money. By using evergreen content—that is, content that maintains its relevance and doesn’t “expire”—an organization can maximize the benefit of its investments in content creation. Content about trends, statistics, and current events are certainly useful and can drive traffic to your site, so they definitely have a place in any marketing campaign. But that type of content will, over time, transition from “timely” to “outdated” and will stop attracting attention:
Part of the algorithm for indexing web pages includes data regarding dated or expired content that has not had a lot of views or traffic in recent history. . . . Since evergreen content really has no expiration date and usually uses keywords that can be searched over and over again, then depending on the query, search engines are more likely to pull up a particular piece of evergreen content over and over again. [source]
To keep the traffic coming, companies also need to invest in content that can be read at any time. Some types of evergreen content include case studies, book reviews, tutorials, and articles on best (or worst) practices—anything to which the answer to “Will this still be relevant 10 years from now?” is “yes.”
Search engine optimization and high page rankings are not the only routes by which organizations can get their content to their target audiences. Online direct sharing (unmediated by page rankings) is another very effective way to put content in front of more eyes. For content to be considered “share-worthy,” though, it has to be more than relevant: often, it also needs to provoke an emotional response. A 2010 study that spent six months analyzing the New York Times list of most e-mailed articles concluded that “more positive content is more viral than negative content.” One positive emotion in particular, awe, inspired people to share content more than any other emotion—likely in part because awe inherently “encourages people to connect with others and spread the word.” By infusing content with emotion, marketers can increase the likelihood that audiences will engage with—and share—it.
There’s no 100-percent-guaranteed formula for successful content marketing. The five strategies here are just a few options to consider—but they are some of the options that will yield the best results. Ultimately, though, providing content that your audience will want to consume (and share) all boils down to making sure it is relevant, accessible, and valuable to them.