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Episode Overview: SEO, when correctly utilized, plays a large role in creating successful content marketing strategies. Although content marketers are experts in their practice, not every content marketer is well versed in the nuances of SEO. Join host Ben as he speaks with WordAgents owner Vincent D’Eletto about the top mistakes content marketers make producing content for SEO and what reliable practices to adopt to create successful content.
- The most common mistake people make writing SEO content is that they write articles in academic paper format, whereas conversational writing is preferred for SEO.
- The best format rules to follow writing for SEO include short paragraphs and sentences offering succinct, useful information. Including additional media like Twitter embeds, images and video meet SEO best practices.
- Improper keyword density is a common mistake content marketers encounter. The average proper keyword density includes using your target keyword only three to five times throughout the article. Secondary keywords should only be used one to three times throughout your article.
- Keywords should be worked into header tags, from H1 to H4 as long as the titles meet SEO standards and ensure you’re not exceeding the average recommended keyword usage.
GUESTS & RESOURCES
Ben: Welcome to the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro, and today we’re going to talk a little content marketing. Joining us is Vincent D’Eletto, who is the owner of WordAgents, which is a premium content production service for small businesses, agencies and webmasters that ghost writes blog posts, product reviews, website content, product descriptions, and press releases for brands, including JD powers, TapClicks and, my favorite, A Place for Mom. Today, Vincent and I are going to talk about the top mistakes people make when producing content for SEO purposes. Okay. On with the show. Here’s my conversation with Vincent D’Eletto, owner of WordAgents. Vincent, welcome to the Voices of Search podcast.
Vincent: Thanks, Benjamin. I’m glad to be here.
Ben: Excited to have you on the show. Excited to talk a little content side of the house. We normally focus this podcast more on the technical and the SEO optimization and getting the right words on the page is a very important part of driving SEO success. Talk to me about some of the mistakes when you’re producing content for your clients that you see people commonly make.
Vincent: Sure. I think this could be a very long answer, but I’ll go through some of the most common ones. A lot of clients say, “Why do we need your service?” Or, “Why do I need a writing service? I can just write that myself.” That’s a very big red flag just because they don’t know what they don’t know. Typically people that aren’t used to SEO content or writing for search engines, they write articles like an academic paper and in our digital marketing world, that’s certainly not what we want. We want conversational writing. So it’s a very specific way of writing for the internet that the typical layperson might not know how to do. I’d say that’s a big one.
Ben: You’re talking about producing content specifically for SEO and as Google gets better with natural language processing and we’ve had their recent core update where they’re focused on natural language processing, it seems like you can write a little bit more sophisticated content and Google really understands what you’re talking about. You want to write for the right audience. You want to write in consumable fashion, but what actually makes good SEO content? What is consumable for Google?
Vincent: It’s got to speak to the intent of the keyword, right? So the whole idea of SEO content is ranking the article for the target keyword you want to go after. So you have to first identify the intent of that keyword. Why is this person using this keyword to find this article, and with that knowledge, where on the sales funnel is this person? That’s the very first thing that you really need to do when you set out to write an SEO optimized article, is identify the intent that the searcher has so you can accurately speak to their issues, to their pain points and to their questions naturally through the context of the article.
Ben: You’re starting off by thinking about the consumer first, right? What is the mindset of the person that is looking for a specific keyword? Then once you have the context of the keyword, you can start writing the answer to whatever their question is or background for what they’re interested in. You mentioned that a lot of people are just writing academic style papers. Is there a format that is better for SEO than long paragraph, long form content?
Vincent: Yes, absolutely. That’s part of what we do. We have SEO content or content that ranks well. Maybe we shouldn’t use the term SEO content. Just content that ranks well is structured in a way that keeps people’s attention. So it’s short paragraphs, short sentences, very concise, succinct stuff. You’re never going to scroll down the page and only see text. You’re going to have to see it broken up with different types of media, maybe Twitter embeds or videos, images.
Ben: Bullets, lists.
Vincent: Bullet point lists, that type of thing. So my rule of thumb is for every scroll on the screen, I want to have something that breaks up the text itself. We find that it decreases bounce rate and improves time on page.
Ben: That’s a good tip. I never actually thought about that. That you should be writing your content to have something visually interesting every scroll. Other than the sort of length and structure of the paragraphs, what are some of the other mistakes that people are making when they’re trying to rank?
Vincent: Improper keyword density. Keyword density is a term we threw around in the early 2010s, but it’s still around. It just means how often you’re using your target keyword and your secondary keywords within the article itself. These days to figure out the proper keyword density I usually go by a rule of thumb of three to five instances of my target keyword in the article. Now, there’s all kinds of tools out there that actually give you the exact keyword density based off of data mining and all kinds of fancy stuff. But if you don’t want to use one of those tools, you won’t go wrong with just using three to five occurrences of your target keyword within the article. Then as far as secondary keywords, I like to use them at least once each, but usually not more than three times each.
Ben: Talk to me about the difference between primary and secondary keywords and where do you go to build that list?
Vincent: Sure. The target keyword is really the main keyword for the topic that you want to get exposure against, I guess. It has the most search volume and it’s probably the most profitable keyword that you can rank for. Now, secondary keywords are keywords that are very related to that target keyword or support that keyword in some way. So they also have search volume, but maybe not as much and it may not be as profitable as that target keyword, but in today’s environment, you want to use both a single target keyword and then secondary supporting keywords because you’ll earn a little bit of traffic from each one of those keywords. When you add all that traffic together, you’re going to have a nice piece of revenue generating content on your hands.
Ben: Okay. So understanding the mindset and the intent of the given keyword, you’re going to look at the page structure and format your content appropriately. You have to get the right words on the page, and you’re thinking a little bit about keyword density. I personally use Searchmetrics as content experience, and that’s one of those tools that will tell you what words go onto the page or how much densities you should have. That seems like kind of basic writing for SEO content. What are some of the more advanced tricks for optimizing your content or making sure that you’re showing up in position one?
Vincent: Position one. So basically we’re going to go back towards keyword placement too. Where you add those three to five occurrences of your keywords matters. So as a bare minimum, I would have my keyword in the title tag, as close to the beginning of the title tag as possible. I’ll have it in the H1 tag also as close to the beginning as possible. If I can also work it into an H2 through H4 heading, I certainly will do that.
Vincent: Then beyond that, I’ll include my target keyword in both the introduction and the conclusion. Those are the right spots for your target keywords. Other than keyword placement, just really well-written headlines and leads or introductions, huge for SEO. It’s not so much a technical task that you can carry out, but using your introduction and your headline to speak to the intent that you identified is really going to make or break the success of your piece of content, mainly because you use your headline and your introduction to keep the visitor on your page. So I think that’s probably a big one.
Ben: I guess one of the biggest concerns I have is when you’re writing for SEO, that means you’re writing to rank, not writing to convert. Right? You’re writing for the search engine, not writing for the consumer. Help me understand how you think about balancing writing to make sure that you’re getting the most visibility for your content, as opposed to writing to make sure that your content is as clear and as focused and has the highest conversion rate possible.
Vincent: Sure. So when it comes to creating an article for Google, it’s pretty cut and dry at this point in 2020. We know how to create an article that ranks. The other side of it is creating an article that interests people. So that just goes back to intent identification and really doing your research ahead of time, understand the broad vertical about the topic, understand the pain points, really digging in and even going to forums and Facebook groups and seeing what kind of concerns and pain points that these people have to really get inside the mind of your reader.
Vincent: If you can answer those questions and pain points contextually throughout your writing in a nonchalant way, not so much like a question and answer format, but just revealing the answers throughout your writing, that’s going to really connect you with your readership. Then all the SEO ranking factor stuff, that’s just secondary. You can apply that to any article, but really getting inside of the head of the potential reader and taking the time to understand their pain points and addressing them in the writing is where you make your money.
Ben: At the end of the day, us as SEOs often think about ranking and visibility as our responsibility, as our main KPI. My job is to make sure the content shows up in Google and that people click on it. In reality, what drives business impact is a level deeper. It is not visibility. It is not page views. It is the conversions that those page views are generating, whether it’s, driving leads for a B2B business, sales for ecommerce. Whatever your company’s important business metrics are, you need to have a strong evaluation. They’re not just ranking. When you’re working with your clients and they’re asking you for content advice, how much do you think about and how do you advise them to create content that’s going to drive end business results for their business?
Vincent: Sure. So we’re very clear at WordAgents that we’re not a branded content service and we’re not built to be that. We’re built to take your keywords and create articles that have the best chance possible to rank for those keywords. So if we’re talking about a brand voice or just branding in general, I would always direct the client to work with a sales copywriter or their in house content manager that really understands the brand style guide. When it comes to SDL content, we’re not going to take those branded projects on. We’re going to take the projects on that are appropriate for, I wouldn’t say lower level writers, but more research-based writing. So we’re great for knowledge base articles, top level awareness content, top of the funnel type of stuff where your sales copywriter would really be the one that’s handling your bottom funnel content that’s going to lead to a sale. So SEO content really drives the visitor down that funnel, but the eventual conversion is done by the copywriter.
Ben: So in the content production process, you go through, you select your keywords, you’re writing your content, you’re making sure that you have your identity. Is there anything you can do in the production and publishing content to ensure that your content will rank well?
Vincent: Well, we can only guess what Google wants and we do that by reverse engineering the search engines. I’m sure you’ve heard that plenty of times, but just standard stuff. Keyword integration, meta descriptions, title tags, short URL structures. We don’t want these long URL strings that just go on and on. The shorter, the better. Inclusion of the keyword in the URL structure. Always something that a lot of people forget to do is once an article is published, go into Google search console and request indexation instead of just waiting for the Google bot to come around and crawl and find your article.
Vincent: So it was just little things like that that give you a better chance, more of an edge to rank. Again, we don’t know what Google wants to see, but we should take a best guess and just using standard best practices for on page optimization is the way to go.
Ben: Okay, and that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Vincent D’Eletto, owner of WordAgents. We’d love to continue the conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Vincent, you can find the link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter. His company’s handle his WordAgents, W-O-R-D A-G-E-N-T-S. Or you can visit his website, which is wordagents.com.
Ben: Just one more link in our show notes I’d like to tell you about. If you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, head over the voicesofsearch.com, where we have summaries of all of our episodes and contact information for our guests. You can also send us your topic suggestions or your SEO questions. You can even apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search podcast. Of course, you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is Voices of Search on Twitter, and my personal handle is Ben J Shap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P.
Ben: If you haven’t subscribed yet, and you want a daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, we’re going to publish episodes every day during the workweek. So hit the subscribe button in your podcast app, and we’ll be back into your feed tomorrow morning. All right. That’s it for today. But until next time, remember the answers are always in the data.