Content and SEO: The Art of Being Found on the Web

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A lot of folks think the secret to driving the right traffic to their websites is some magical set of search engine optimization (SEO) tricks that can only be implemented by computer whizzes working in their silicon laboratories.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, the ability to drive traffic — and with that traffic, leads and new customers — is in our own hands. Literally. It’s in the very blog you’re reading now.

Content is the secret to good, lasting SEO. Does that mean you can produce content and ignore SEO best practices for optimizing that content? No, it does not. Not by a long shot. What I’m saying is that SEO begins with the creation of content valuable to your key audiences. Optimized properly, this content will drive the right traffic directly to your door.

Here’s how to get it done.

Use Content and SEO to Drive Traffic

  1. Start with a list of keywords. Keywords are the lifeblood of the Kingdom of Google. You must create content around the keywords you believe your audience will be searching. Long-tail keywords, which are specific keyword phrases, work particularly well. In this post, “content and SEO” is the keyword.
  2. Determine your primary platform. Where on your site will you post your content? One of the very best channels for content-based SEO is a blog, since blogs create unique URLs for each post and contribute to RSS feeds. For most organizations, a blog living on your company’s primary domain is the best place to post your content.
  3. Create content around your keywords. Your keywords should drive the actual topics of your content, so you’ll need to be creative here. For the post you’re now reading, I chose to write about the keyword “content and SEO” and wanted to talk about how content and SEO work so well together. You can see how I accomplished this.
  4. Place your keywords in the right places. Keywords must not only serve as the topics of your posts, but they must also appear within your posts in certain places. They should be in your subject line, in a subhead and show up within the body of your content. Do this in a creative way, so it doesn’t seem forced.
  5. Don’t forget your meta data. Although less important than it once was, your keywords should also appear in your meta data. They should appear in your meta keywords section, along with variants, as well as appearing in your meta description. Your blogging platform should allow you to manually fill in both of these.
  6. Tag your content. You should provide a number of tags with each post that help will people identify its subject. But don’t get carried away. Two or three will usually do. Try to use the same tags over and over and keep them simple. If you have a lot of posts with the tag “content,” you can even develop some SEO authority around that topic.
  7. Add images to your content. Images can help your efforts to be found as search engines also provide image search. One key recommendation here: Use your keywords in the image’s file name. Also, make sure you pick an appropriate image for your post that really represents what you are talking about.
  8. Create links to/from your content. Linking is a key aspect of SEO. The best links are inbound links, also called “backlinks,” from busy sites. You can’t simply create these but by building good content and developing relationships with the operators of these sites, you can work to get backlinked. In terms of outbound links and internal links, they do have some value so create them where appropriate.
  9. Promote your content via social media. This is all about driving the right kind of traffic directly to your content. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ are all built around the concept of sharing content. Social media allows you to go out and drum up traffic. So have at it. The search engines will like it, too.

Follow this list and you’ll be off to the races in terms of driving the right kind of traffic to your site. Anyone can do this. Just start creating content — and make sure to approach it with SEO in mind.

New Technologies Are Exciting — But Don’t Neglect the Idea

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Clearly, the proliferation of new media technologies is changing the way communications is — and will be — done. Anyone who reads this blog knows I’m a big fan of blogging, podcasting and other new means of distribution.

I’m also a big fan of using multiple distribution mechanisms to get maximum exposure. I’ve posted on this point.

Lets say you’ve got a great idea for an op-ed or contributed piece. OK. Research possible placement venues, write it up and submit it. Voila, it’s published. Now, we start reusing the material (I sometimes call this “repurposing”).

Once you’ve got a published piece, the first step is a no-brainer. Buy reprints and/or online reprint rights. Then, put it on your Web site, e-mail it around to the right clients or customers, put it in your marketing materials and add it to your press kit. There, already we’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of your original piece.

But I wouldn’t stop there. How about pitching other reporters by sending them the piece and suggesting they do an interview on the idea? This can be particularly successful with broadcasters, who routinely pick up print pieces that are strong, as well as others with some lead time who might be interested in seeing if they can come up with a fresh angle on your original story.

Don’t go away yet. How about giving a speech or two based on the idea your wrote about? It might make a nice presentation at an industry conference.

Let your creativity guide you. If you are interested in online marketing, Webinars and Podcasts can also be spun out of your original story. It can even be fodder for — gasp! — blog entries.

So, what’s the issue? Reading various stories about the power of distribution over content, I’m a bit worried that communicators will embrace these new technologies and neglect the one thing that drives all effective communications…

Ideas.

Yes. It’s possible to get so caught up in how to present and distribute information that the information itself becomes lost in the swirl. This will result in utter failure, I guarantee it.

The reason is simple. It is good ideas that drive successful communications. For example, if you write an op-ed devoid of new or interesting thinking, all the best writing craft in the world won’t get your piece published — or read.

It will also be too weak to be leveraged across mediums. A poor written piece will make a poor speech, a poor blog post, a poor podcast, etc. A strong medium won’t save a weak idea.

The solution is simple: Begin with a strong idea. It only takes one! Then, start your distribution.

Use the traditional media. Use the new media. Use technology to its fullest! And enjoy yourself as success in one medium leads to success in another.