Substance over style.
More matter, less art.
Don’t get cute.
Chances are you’ve heard or seen at least one of these quotes. For many content creators, they’re the equivalent of a teacher slapping your hand with a yardstick. We want to flex our creative muscles and dazzle readers with wordsmithing. But according to Google, too much of that could make it difficult for search engines to find your mind-blowing content.
And if it can’t be found, then what’s the point?
To be fair, Google isn’t trying to make every web page into a boring slog or garbled keyword soup. As always with search engine optimization (SEO), it’s nuanced and a bit complicated. So, let’s jump into where this information is coming from, and more importantly, how it might change your strategy for content marketing.
Google’s latest advice on keywords
Google provided feedback on keyword usage in a YouTube video posted June 4, 2021. John Mueller, the Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, broke it down (thankfully in plain english). Long story short, he says you should focus on writing naturally. Great, right? But, there’s a catch.
If you want to be discovered by a search engine, he says (I’m paraphrasing here) to make sure that your natural flow clearly mentions what you do or what you want Google to find you for.
In other words, use keywords, but don’t overuse keywords.
Impact to your content marketing strategy
Thankfully, the YouTube video covers how content shouldn’t be about keyword quantity, keyword placement, or even precise keyword usage (as many SEO experts would recommend). Instead, it’s about being straightforward. By communicating clearly, your keywords should come out naturally, without effort.
Unfortunately, from content marketing and writing standpoints, that doesn’t always work. As any writer knows, there’s a thousand ways to say one thing. While a search engine might pick up on 999 of them, a professionally-written piece should ensure it’s optimized for searches.
For example, say you’re running a pet grooming shop and want to target “pet grooming” as a top keyword.
In a blog, you could say: “We’re rub-a-dub dubbing some furballs today.”
Or, you could say: “We’re grooming some amazing cats and dogs at our Denver shop today.”
Both pull off the same message, but in very different ways. And there’s a strong likelihood search engines will “get” the second option.
To recap, a keyword strategy for content marketing should:
- Focus on the flow of your message and valuable content first.
- Know your keywords, but let them come out naturally in copy.
- Don’t worry about writing keywords verbatim. Just make sure your goals for the web page (be it a blog, product page, etc.) are clear.
- There’s no keyword volume or keyword ratios to hit in your word count. (Yippee!)
Don’t take these best practices as search engines stomping the fun out of writing or sucking the personality out of your brand. After all, the spirit of what Google is saying is that you shouldn’t write soley for SEO. Just use a smidge of keywords, in a natural way that flows in your content, and move on to write as creatively as you’d like.
Ultimately, it’s up to the writer and marketing team to navigate these challenges. You’re essentially serving two customers: people and Google. But, this is infinitely better than the ratio-based keyword optimizations SEO agencies used to swear by not so long ago. And to Mueller’s credit, it really shouldn’t be all that challenging to hit a keyword or phrase if you’re focused on your topic.
Tips for SEO writing
Now that you’re up to speed on what Google is looking for, what should you do? Here are some additional tips to help your content find more people:
- Look for less competitive keywords:
Keyword tools will show you what terms are searched for in your industry. But, don’t jump on keywords with the most search terms right away. Look at the keyword difficulty first. (You can use platforms like Ubersuggest, ahrefs to check). If you’re just getting started with a website or content marketing, you probably have more success ranking for low-difficulty keywords.
- Place unique content up top:
Search Engine Journal highlights another John Mueller comment about placing unique content early on a web page. Specifically, this content should be “above the fold,” or visible from the top of the page. This might be difficult on mobile depending on your website. But, the point is to show search engines the unique value of a page early on.
- Don’t rely solely on search engines:
It would be great if all we had to do was write amazing content and watch web traffic skyrocket. But, it takes time for a website to pick up steam. Best practices are to use content such as blogs as fodder for social media, newsletters, and emails to expand your reach. Yes, it’s a basic tip, but it’s never good to skip on the fundamentals.
Keeping up with SEO
SEO has come a long way, and it’s important to remember that SEO constantly evolves. This means that if businesses want to be in the best position in search engines, they need to pay close attention to keyword trends and other SEO updates. It’s not easy, and it’s a big reason why businesses lean on SEO or content agencies for help with their marketing materials.
For more help and insight on content trends, shoot me a message on LinkedIn, or subscribe to get the latest insights from New Leaf by providing your info in our footer!