Though Google did much to pave the way for the advent of content marketing by adjusting its algorithm to favor fresh, quality content, telling a compelling story that provides useful information for your audience is only the beginning.
In addition to consistent community-building on the social media platforms where your audience spends time, an effective content marketing strategy must include search-friendly formatting.
It bears repeating: for online marketing to have any kind of impact, it must be done with search engines in mind.
So if you are serious about finding search engine love, make sure to check this list of formatting tasks before hitting that “publish” button.
- Write the Best Headline You Can. Your headline is arguably the most important part of your post. It will largely determine whether or not anyone reads further. The best headlines are short and catchy, and clearly reflect the focus of the piece. Lists, questions, comparisons. and how-to’s are all proven to attract attention. Your targeted readers should immediately identify the blog post as meant for them. Steer clear of “column”-style headlines meant for regular readers who don’t mind cryptic or mysterious titles. Write headlines with new readers in mind, making them easy to tweet or share on other social media platforms.
- Include a Few Keywords. Use the keywords under which you’d like your site to be found in online searches. Include them in your headline, in the body of your content, and in subheadings. BUT take care not to write with keyword ranking as your main goal or stuff your posts with keywords—your live readers won’t appreciate it, and the search engines are likely to penalize you. Your goal is to help, inform, and/or entertain your reader. If you write about your niche topic with this in mind, there should be plenty of opportunities to use keywords when they make sense.
- Chunk Your Paragraphs. Though longer blog posts are gaining in popularity, you should always write with information-weary audiences in mind. So make sure to break up your content in paragraphs that are no longer than three or four sentences. In fact, some of my favorite bloggers regularly include one-sentence paragraphs in their posts. The format makes their material easier to scan and much less daunting to read.
- Use Subheadings. On a similar note, subheadings are nearly always a good idea. Speed-readers love them. And when they include your keywords, they give you a little extra SEO juice.
- Include Calls to Action (CTAs). What do you want your reader to do? If you’re marketing an event and want your readers to register, your blog post should include or end with a link to your registration page. If you’re asking your reader to supply an email address, include a link to your contact page. If you want them to subscribe to your blog, include a link that makes it easy. If you just want to build greater trust with your reader, include links to other pages in your site that provide related information. Your calls to action should be clear and easy to respond to.
- Use Pictures/Graphics to Add Interest. Always have aesthetics and interest in mind when creating a blog post. Pictures and graphics are easy on the eyes and help to grab attention. Graphics should be clear, and as self-explanatory as possible. Pictures should be crisp, correctly sized, and well composed. To avoid infringing on copyright, always be sure you have permission to use pictures that you find on the web. You can find free, copyright-cleared photos at Flickr Creative Commons and Wikimedia Commons.
- Always Use Tags. Your blogging platform should make it easy for you to list one- to three-word tags, or keywords, at the end of your post. They’re an important clue for search engines looking to determine what your blog post is about. Although they’re critical for proper SEO, many new bloggers completely overlook them.
- Include Alt Descriptions. Alt descriptions use a few words of text to elaborate on your pictures or graphics and gain the attention of search engines.
- Write Summaries. Though they don’t directly affect SEO, tools such as meta-descriptions and excerpts allow you to add a short summary of your post that appears in search results or in RSS feeds. They boost traffic to your site by giving searchers more information on your post.
Finally, as you create well-formatted, fresh, quality content for your website, make sure you are building relationships and establishing yourself as a trusted member of the community on the social media platforms that your target audience uses. As you do this, you will be able to enlist the support of your friends on social media in helping to promote your content.
A version of this post appeared previously on the Cvent blog.