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Going Beyond Keywords to Create Great Content

Atigro Webinar Series

Atigro’s Clark Taylor joined Lisa Friedlander of NEXT.law for their partner webinar series to talk about what it takes to create great content that generates relevant organic traffic and makes readers happy.

The following is a summary of the takeaways from the webinar which can be watched in its entirety (above): 58:10

Google is not the same as it was 10 years ago, or even five years ago. Google’s goals are the same (providing THEIR users with a great experience), but they are using AI, machine learning, and  natural language processing to do a better job at knowing when they’re giving people better results. In 2023 and beyond you must go far beyond keyword research and old-school SEO to create content that performs well on Google.

Satisfaction Is a Ranking Signal

Google has always had the goal of satisfying users but in the early days couldn’t accurately measure how users felt about a webpage Google sent them to. For decades SEOs speculated on what signals Google used or didn’t use (bounce rate, time on page, engagement, etc.). Google is still very vague regarding what is or isn’t a ranking signal and as recently as June 2020, Google’s John Mueller denied that bounce rate is a direct ranking signal. But nearly all of Google’s algorithm updates over the past five years have focused on their ability to reward high quality, helpful content and page experience.  And Google specifies that their core updates, which are more broad, are to ensure they’re delivering quality results:

“Core updates are designed to ensure that overall, we’re delivering on our mission to  present  helpful and reliable results for searchers,”  (source: developers.google.com)

Creating great content is best way to make sure you’re delivering a satisfactory experience. The 100 User Model is a content strategy that requires you think about all of the possible readers of your content, making sure you satisfy as many of them as possible.

100 User Content Model graphic

Source: Eric Enge via Search Engine Land

Your job as a content creator is to make sure your content satisfies a larger percentage of the readers than any of your competitors or any other content on the internet.

Intent > Keywords

Because of advancements in Google’s ability to use natural language processing and artificial intelligence, creating content that meets the intent of users is much more important than simply forcing the use of keywords that people are entering into Google. True subject matter experts must be creating content with an understanding of the audience, their needs and all of the competing content on the topic.

The graphic summaries the content creation process at Atigro:

Content Optimization Process at Atigro

If an SEO creates content alone, we all know what happens…you get “blather”. This “blather” or “SEO content” may have performed well in years past but you’ll want to avoid this as Google’s advancements are likely to understand it’s not helpful. At Atigro, our motto is “let great writers write great content”.  But sometimes even great writers fall short. They don’t always do enough analysis of the competing pages that they’re up against when it comes to ranking in Google. So the Atigro process uses sophisticated AI tools to help us analyze all of the top-ranking content on Google and then the SEO team works with the SME on what is needed to create competitive content. The result is excellent content that readers love and performs well for dozens or hundreds of keywords.

Content Depth & Breadth is Key to Building a High-Performing Website

Even with all the AI and machine learning and other advancements, Google is still primarily a document classifier. They find a piece of content on your website, index it and classify it for all the things that it may rank for. They also must compare your document to all of the other content on the web on the same topic. To win you must build significant depth and breadth on the topic or topics you which to rank for.  In most cases, just having an article or two will no be enough.

Breadth & Depth Checklist

Great Content Alone Might Not Be Enough

If you have great content and you’re still not performing well, you may not have enough “EAT”. E-A-T is a Google-conceived concept for evaluating  [Experience*], Expertise, Authority, and Trust. It’s really important if you want to increase your traffic and your leads, reduce your dependence on paid placement, or to become a thought leader and get increased visibility across the web, It’s really important that you have a high degree of E-A-T.

EEAT Infographic with Trust at the center

*Note: On December 15, 2022 Google added “Experience” as part of E-A-T

According to Google instructions for its human quality raters, Google Search Quality Guidelines, E-A-T is evaluated for the content itself (quality, grammar, typos?), the website (safe, secure, depth, breadth), and the authors of the content. If some measure of E-A-T evaluation is built into Google’s main algorithm, as we believe it is, using authors with strong bios and externally verifiable credentials.

UX and Content Structure Matters

The way a piece of content or an article is structured matters. And the way all of your content is organized within your website matters. Most web developers and designers probably already know it matters to users but they may not know it matters to Google. For example, organizing content into clusters or hubs obviously makes it easy for users to find lots of content they’re interested in but it also helps Google understand the depth and breadth of content on a particular topic, setting you apart as an authority. If done correctly, hub pages themselves may rank for broad queries where the user-intent is unclear to Google (per the 100 user model described above).

Content hubs and clusters infographic

Not only does the organization and structure of the website matter but individual page structure and user-satisfaction has become increasingly important. People don’t like to read long blocks of content. Make your content easily scannable so users can quickly find key takeaways. Use headings and descriptive subheading to break the content into sections. Incorporate relevant images that add value to your content or engagement elements that give users something to interact with.

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