Content marketing and search engine optimization go hand in hand: No matter how much great content you release into the wild, it's not going to do you any good unless people can find it; and if you want people to be able to find it, you need SEO.
But it's not just SEO that has an impact on content marketing success; content marketing can also affect your SEO—positively or negatively.
Content Marketing Mistakes That Can Sabotage SEO
Of course, experienced marketers know that content marketing and SEO have a symbiotic relationship, but many are still making seemingly small mistakes in their content marketing that can add up—and end up sabotaging their SEO strategy.
Here are eight ways you might be doing just that.
1. Focusing only on external content
A successful content marketing strategy consists of both earned and owned content.
Earned content might include guest-contributed articles or press mentions about you or your company published on high-authority sites. Both of those are valuable from an SEO perspective when they include a link back to your website. But if you focus only on earned content and neglect your own site, you won't reap the full SEO benefits.
To stay in Google's good graces, the content on your site needs to be just as high-quality and valuable to readers as the content that's directing them there.
A solid content marketing strategy includes educational, engaging articles consistently published on your blog or site. Those articles should be optimized for the keywords you're wanting to rank for—but in a way that's written for humans, not just for the algorithm.
Here, it helps to have an SEO expert and a managing editor in-house, or to tap into the gig economy, or to work with an agency to ensure each piece of content is optimized for search and professionally written and edited.
2. Keyword-stuffing and publishing only super-short blog posts
The opposite of high-quality on-site content that's written for humans is poorly written 400-word blog posts that are stuffed to the gills with keywords. Keyword stuffing is no longer a signal to Google that your site should rank for those terms; it's a red flag signifying that your site is not to be trusted.
Instead, focus on creating a few pillar posts that dive deep into a topic within your company's expertise. The most-shared pieces of written content are long-form (specifically, more than 3,000 words). And by writing a high-quality long-form post on a topic you want to rank for, you can naturally include the keywords you will have identified during your initial keyword research.
Now you might be asking yourself, "What's the difference between a pillar post and a blog post?" Here's an example: We wrote a pillar post to answer the question "What is content marketing?" It's an in-depth piece of content that provides a ton of educational material. That makes it a valuable resource for us to link to from our shorter blog posts or from our earned content that's published in high-authority publications.
3. Ignoring the value of subheadings
Readers are looking for content that's easily digestible. Including subheadings in article creates breaks that identify sections and creates some breathing room, making the content less intimidating to consume. And the more digestible your content is, the more likely it is that people will actually read it and engage with it, which shows search engines that it's valuable.
Include relevant keywords in your subheadings when it makes sense so readers can see at a glance when a section applies to what they're searching for, but don't go crazy here... you don't want it to look like you're keyword-stuffing.
4. Not using optimized title tags
A title tag is used to specify the title of a webpage. It tells visitors and search engines what they can expect from the page. Title tags typically show up on SERPs and when a page is shared on social media, so it's vital that a title tag is enticing so people click through to your site.
If you're publishing on-site content but you're not creating title tags that include relevant keywords that your target audience is looking for, you might be missing out on bringing more searchers to your site.
For example, when Ahrefs changed a title tag from "Rank Tracker - Ahrefs" to "Rank Tracker by Ahrefs: Check & Track Keyword Rankings," organic traffic jumped 37.5%.
5. Not creating image alt text
Alt text is used within HTML code to describe the appearance and function of an image on a webpage. Adding alt text to photos not only makes the web accessible for users with visual impairments but also provides better image context and descriptions to search engine crawlers, which helps them index an image properly.
Leaving image alt text as the file name or not including alt text at all can hamper SERP rankings because search engines can't "see" what information a photo contains like a human can, so it's best not to leave the interpretation up to the search engine.
6. Forgetting to link to other pages on your site
To determine the value of your content and which content on your site is related, Google uses links. And the more high-authority links you have leading to your site, the more value search engines place on it.
When you create a linking ecosystem within and across your website, your guest-contributed content, and your other content initiatives, you signal to search engines that you're an authority that searchers can trust.
7. Focusing only on short-tail keywords
Search engines take into account people's intent when they're searching for something, which is where semantic search comes in.
Semantic search is a search engine's attempt to curate the most accurate results by trying to understanding the context of the searcher's query, the relationships between words, and the searcher's intent. In other words, the engine is trying to understand the searcher's natural language the same way a human would.
In this new, human-centric world of search, including only short-tail keywords in your content without also including long-tail keywords and keyword variations could limit how often you appear in search results.
8. Writing content before performing a technical website audit
Too many marketers dive straight into content creation and publish tons of content without taking the time to make sure their website is optimized to actually benefit from that content.
In the most extreme cases, we've seen companies publish dozens of blog posts and guest-contributed articles only to find out that their site wasn't even able to be crawled by Google. In less extreme cases, we've seen things as simple as slow pageload speeds, missing technical files, duplicate title tags, and unnecessary redirects impact how rankings change over time. These types of issues can cause a poor user experience, which search engines consider for rankings, and can hinder search engines' ability to crawl and classify pages on a site.
Before you start creating content, perform a technical website audit to make sure your site is optimized to benefit from the content you're creating.
Forewarned Is Forearmed
Now that you're armed with knowledge about some potential issues that can arise when SEO isn't considered from the start—and now that you know how to fix them—you can be confident that your content marketing efforts are bolstering your SEO results and not sabotaging all your hard work.
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