The In Search SEO Podcast
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Tips for Creating High-Performing Content: Summary of Episode 75
Yosef Silver, SEO and culinary expert, joins us to talk about creating high-performing SEO content that reads well and shares well!
We’re getting into:
- Search-ability, shareability, and how to create content findable content that pops!
- Tips and tricks for a content structure that engages
- How to achieve content zen. Finding a good content balance
Plus, why refusing to look at content, the SERP, and SEO with fresh eyes is killing you.
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Content Expectations Are Changing, Are You? [00:06:28 – 00:24:45]
The way user’s digest content and what they expect out of content has changed. Yet there are a lot of verticals and sites who are stuck in an old way of thinking in a time when we’re in the middle of a shift. In Mordy’s opinion, we’re in the middle of one of those big moments in history where content consumption is changing. How we consume content and what we expect out of content is changing. Of course, it’s hard to see the change in the middle of the change.
A good example would be zero-click searches when readers don’t want to read anything other than a snippet. They don’t even want to see more than a snippet for those super top-level keywords like checking the weather. And they certainly don’t want to have to click and then wait for a site to load to consume that content. They mentally expect immediate answers which Google and the SERP give them.
Mordy thinks we’re just coming to terms with that now. Google is just giving the people what they want. They don’t want your site in these cases because what we consume and how we consume it has changed.
Let’s see why this goes beyond zero-click as sometimes we get hung up on these SEO buzz topics and they blind us to the larger reality.
Here’s a great example that happens again and again. While this is only one example, the trend is more prevalent than we think. The trend is that entire verticals of content, entire approaches to content that we take as institutions, are way less irrelevant than we think. In this case, documentation, i.e., technical content, is a thing of the past. User’s don’t really want it, at least the way it’s being written and presented.
Don’t believe it? Mordy did a search for how to use canon m50 as webcam and guess what? Canon did not rank at all! There was a Featured Snippet from some YouTuber and the rest of the page was all videos. Instead of trying to create their own video, they created boring, dry technical content. The kicker is that Canon did try going after this keyword as they do rank but only for how to use canon m50 as webcam + canon.com! And even then there’s a video box that ranks above it.
If you look at the Canon page they tried to rank, you’ll find a link to download their documentation as well as a link to an intro video.
Do you know what the problem with this is? They didn’t embed the video! Canon is offering documentation, but Google wants a video! Even with the video link, it’s very unclear, not specific to that model, the title is not relevant, and the content did not match the standards you see on YouTube.
The point here is that for a lot of these types of queries, documentation content is old school. And we get it, it’s a stable content fixture. You have to have this kind of content. This is how it works and this is how you create documentation. Even the video content has to be like how people “expect” it to be. But this doesn’t work anymore. You have to be willing to shake yourself loose of these outdated constructs no matter how much of an institution it might be.
In this case, Canon should hire a Youtuber, embed the video on the page, do a short how-to to accompany the video, and, if you want, have a full set of detailed instructions. Meaning, if you feel that some users will want that, just throw a downloadable PDF on at the bottom of the page.
Here you have a well-optimized, well-designed site spending a ton of money creating content that no one wants. Why? Because no one went to the SERP to check their preconceived notions. Three seconds of research would have made the difference here.
Does this mean you should get rid of all your technical documentation? No, just most of it. Pander to Google’s needs. When COVID-19 came around, Google said to write health content that the average reader can understand. So in this case, you should do three things.
- Simplify your content. Turn it into a nice how-to with plain and informal language.
- Video it. Add embedded explainer videos.
- Research. For some queries, users do want a step-by-step breakdown, but even then, take it easy with the formalities.
How to Create Well-Rounded Content that Performs Well Across the Board: A Conversation with Yosef Silver [00:24:49 – 00:50:01]
Mordy: Welcome to another In Search SEO podcast interview session. Today we have not only a prolific industry speaker, not only a Search Engine Journal author, but a man after my own heart. A kosher food connoisseur. Give it up for the founder of Kansas City’s Fusion Inbound, Yosef Silver.
Yosef: Thank you for having me.
M: I have a really important question to kick this off. Shawarma or falafel?
Y: Shawarma, for sure. With amba. Lamb or turkey?
Y: Really? I like lamb. But it has to be cooked right. When it’s cooked badly, it’s not enjoyable at all, but when it’s cooked well, I really enjoy it.
M: Well, I’m not a good cook, although my wife is. Anyway, we could talk about kosher food from now until tomorrow but we’re here to talk about content.
So you have this thing called a five-step ideation process for content where you’re basically trying to get content that’s good that also ranks well. Would you please walk us through that?
Y: Absolutely. What I like to think about when we’re creating a content plan for a client is making sure that we’re not just creating content for the sake of content. I hate seeing content plans where once a month, on the third of the month, we have to publish something. That’s not how I like to approach content. I would rather get the client to buy in to create really long-form content that ranks, that delivers, that generates leads, whatever the goals are, and making sure that you’re not building content with a calendar, you’re building content for the user.
When it comes to content, it’s not just the content ideation process and it’s not just the content creation process, but it’s also the content distribution process which I think a lot of places will fall down on. You might invest hundreds or thousands of dollars into creating some masterful piece of content and then it just sits. I think that content distribution and repurposing the content has to be a massive step of these five steps.
M: How do you distribute it? What’s the best way?
Y: First of all, know where your audience is. You don’t want to have a massive Twitter strategy if everyone is on another social platform. Know your audience and create the content that is correct for that audience. Even if you are creating video content and you’re putting it on Facebook and YouTube, are you optimizing your end screen for subscriptions, comments, or things like that? Don’t treat all platforms the same and really know where your audience is. I work with a lot of real estate agents, which I know is a niche that a lot of SEOs hate.
M: Why is that?
Y: I think it’s the competitive nature of it. I found that creating a ton of local content and positioning my real estate clients as almost city ambassadors for where they live has been really successful. We’ve taken clients who had the very generic out of the box franchise website that they would give them that didn’t rank for the name and we gave them great content strategies which has fed their social strategies too.
M: Yeah, and from personal experience, I can say that a real estate agent really has the opportunity to become a local super authority.
Y: Totally, as they know the city and the neighborhood. One of my largest real estate clients, when COVID hit, wanted to be of service to people. And overnight, my team and I wrote an article that had 151 things to do with your family while you stay at home. We got all the virtual tours, cooking classes, and free apps and we put together this massive piece of content. Not only did that resonate really well with his audience, but he sent it to his peers. So among his peer group, it was really well received. The whole position there was how can we be of service, not how can we sell, sell, sell. We want to create that value in everything we do.
Another really great piece we’ve done, when it comes to long-form, is to think about things that aren’t out there. Years ago, I was working with a client that was in accounting and we realized that on every letter that the IRS mailed someone, there was a four or five-digit code. You could go to the IRS and look it up in the database and it will spit it back but there was no glossary of all those codes. So we crawled their database and we wrote this monster list. So it’s finding those niche opportunities that no one’s done yet that are relevant and helpful.
M: When you write long-form content, how do you balance that with readership in a world where the attention span is eight seconds.
Y: That’s a really good question. It’s a couple of things. I try and write in short paragraphs then space it out. So you have a short paragraph and maybe a sentence spread to grab people’s attention. Also, the placement of your visuals. If you can try and place a visual just to the bottom of the fold or at the bottom of the screen as they scroll to grab their attention that has been pretty helpful.
M: Yeah, I think people don’t realize that you can use images as a way to break up the monotony of your post even though you don’t really need an image right here, but it’s a good break.
Y: 100%. Two other things we do. First, we do a lot of email marketing. Although I got into SEO about 15 plus years ago, I’ve gotten really involved in email marketing in the last probably five or six years. Animated GIFs in emails and then things like that will push up your click-through rate. Another thing is we have clients who do video content including a transcription. Now that’s not a new trick, but people often don’t take that effort. There are great AI platforms out there now where you don’t have to sit there and type it out. You don’t have to go back and get the transcripts. There are some great ways to do that through artificial intelligence.
M: What do you use, by the way?
Y: I use Trint.
M: You just mentioned chunking your content. Just to make a point, I used to teach in Baltimore City, and I had a lot of kids in my class who had special accommodations that they needed to learn. The most common one for kids with ADHD was chunking, I don’t remember exactly what they called it. Instead of having a massive piece of text to read, you just take a piece, and then another piece, and another piece so it was not overwhelming. If you could set up your content where you have a bunch of headers or subheaders, it’s really the same principle. You can use the headers as a way of not making it seem overwhelming.
Y: Right and it’s also a good way of structuring your content not only for readership but for search. Before we had the formality of schema or structured data, content that was formatted really well using headers properly was what grabbed those spots.
M: I love images. I’m an image person. I don’t like stock images so much as I can avoid them. I hate the typical stock image of someone smiling, but finding a good image that’s a little bit unique takes a long time. When you’re trying to find an image, what do you do to cut that time down?
Y: It depends on the client. Some of our clients we’ve actually coached. Phones have become so much better at photos. I used to be into photography so I’ve been able to coach some of my clients and tell them, “Hey, if you’re out and about, take photos this way.” Here’s how to frame a shot. That’s the best-case scenario if a client is on board and available enough to do that. Obviously, a lot of people are too busy and they just need that content. I use a reverse image search engine called TinEye and before I buy a stock image I check to see how many other people use that image. I remember once I was on the London Underground and I’m looking at an advertisement and I noticed that I used that image last week.
Also, before I got into search, in high school, I was doing graphic design for a magazine. I had that creative background. I’ll throw together images. We’ll create a lot of custom stuff to offset the stuckiness.
M: Yeah, I use a basic screen grab tool called Snagit but there’s a lot you can do to mess around to make it look a little bit different.
Going back to the content calendar. I’m generally not a type A personality but when it comes to content, I’m a little bit of a type-A personality only because I have so many things to do. So writing a piece of content I need to plan it out and if I don’t plan when I’ll write it and when I’ll post it, it just won’t get done. How do you balance the million things you need to do?
Y: We have content calendars and we have regular cadences of content for our clients but there’s room in there. We’re not going to go more than six weeks without a blog post, but we’re not going to publish on the fifth because the corporate guidelines say so. I’ve worked in that environment where the 10th of the month is email day.
There is something to be said for creating something your audience is coming to expect and then knowing what to expect from it being valuable. Generally, what we do with a content calendar is we’ll plan out three to six months of content ideas at a time. We’ll revisit those with the client at the top of the month and ask which one’s next. What’s resonating right now? Seasonally, especially right now with COVID, we scrapped content. For our medical clients, we were writing how to address emergencies or what to look out for. You have to be nimble, you have to be flexible.
We write ahead. When we onboard a new client, we might write ahead of time the first three or four months of content so we’re already ahead. So yes, I’m saying we’re not writing for the calendar, but we want that regular cadence and we want it to get approved. We also generally keep a backup piece of content on deck all the time. That way, if something has changed drastically In the landscape, in the business, or whatever, we’re not stuck where our content doesn’t work anymore and we have nothing. We have whatever is pre-approved backed up and ready to go.
M: Yeah, writing ahead is very important as it gives you a lot of flexibility. While recording this, we’re in the middle of the May 2020 Core Update, which means whatever I had planned to release next on my content calendar is scrapped as the core update article is coming next.
Y: I will say though, we had a client that we were working with where we did a content analysis. We basically identified the 80/20 thing where 20% of the content is getting 80% of the traffic. They had hundreds of articles from years of archives. So we repurposed the top 20% of their content and their new content from the previous six months. She was a prolific writer, she was an author, and she was a speaker so we built out a 15-18 month social media calendar. I mean, talk about Taipei and spreadsheets. I had all sorts of beautiful concatenation rules in this spreadsheet full of UTM tags for tracking. We were also rewriting captions. And at that point, the heavy lifting was done.
And having it available doesn’t mean we have to use it. When we were re-promoting the same piece of content on Twitter for a year it gets boring and stops resonating, but we have the option. I’d rather have more social to choose from than less.
M: That’s a nice balance of using repurposed old content where the users are amazed at all your content, but you wrote it three years ago.
Y: Evergreen content is good and refreshing content is definitely part of the process. We’re onboarding a new real estate client right now and we’re basically gutting their content. My afternoon today is dividing the website into the content to keep, the content to rewrite, and then the new content.
M: What are you looking for?
Y: I mean, they’re really only ranking for a lot of event content which is no longer relevant.
M: That’s not good. By the way, for everybody listening, just because you’re ranking well doesn’t mean that it’s good because you could be ranking for something totally irrelevant.
Y: Yeah. I like the planning stage. I like the data. There are some great tools out there for your content ideation. You asked me at the very beginning about my process and my steps. One of the things that I think is key is to get that you don’t want to convince your client why you need to do something. Build that trust, build that relationship, show them the data, but don’t show them a screenshot of Analytics that makes no sense to them. Speak their language.
There was a client we worked with which we took over from another agency and I asked them to send me some of their recent reports before we start the process. It turns out the agency mailed them quarterly a physical copy of their reporting. There were no email reports. It was just screenshots of Google Analytics.
M: That’s insane.
Y: And it goes both ways. Speak the language your clients speak but also speak the language your audience is speaking.
M: I wonder if you could talk about the content calendar again for a second because it just hit my mind. I love content calendars, but do you ever think about the frequency of your posting in terms of authority? In other words, if I’m going to be a part of the conversation of let’s say local real estate, I want to be a part of the local real estate scene and if Google wants to see me as a reputable authority on it, then I need to post frequently enough for them to realize that I have a stake, I have a say and a sense of trust and authority because I’m posting often about it. I’m a very vocal proponent of whatever topic we’re talking about and you can clearly see that by how often I’m posting.
Y: I absolutely agree. I think that’s an area where your content distribution as well as your content creation comes into play. So we’ll leverage Google My Business for local related content. Our content isn’t just writing blog posts. We’re actually in the middle of writing neighborhood guides for our real estate client like walkability to school, best gym, best grocery store, and how many minutes to whatever. Going beyond that, we have a check-in. When a new store opens we have a spreadsheet of all the attributes that are in there. So if the barbershop closes down then we change that out in the content too. Then we refresh that content and we sort of weave it back into our social schedule too.
Another thing we do is, again, we do a lot of email for our clients, so if we have a new listing we can say not only is this the property, but we have this local guide. Again, going beyond that we’ve got great internal linking going on as well because we have content to link to. It’s not just a bunch of houses.
M: I’m wondering, when you’re creating really authoritative content and really prolific, deep lists of what’s going on locally, how do you take something like that, that’s really authoritative, very comprehensive, and push it on social media?
Y: Part of it is we’re selling a lifestyle, we’re selling a dream and the visual is important and that’s true of all content. It builds on what you were saying about the stock images. When I give a presentation, when I speak at events, I don’t like a lot of writing on my slides. It keeps that attention. We wrote a glossary that was boring, but the images are of people being lazy in bed with a cup of coffee or people at home reading a book. You sexy up the images to the boring glossary content.
M: It’s so much to the point where what you write in a tweet sometimes is not nearly as important as what it looks like, even just the formatting of it.
Y: I have a bit of a pet peeve. I see this a lot in e-commerce where a big brand has a really cool visual like a beautiful lamp and you want to buy it so you swipe up or you click and it’s an email capture, but I say, “Nope. I would like to buy it please.” And then maybe I find the tiny little ‘x’ in the corner or maybe I don’t and then I get through to the landing page and it’s not the sexy product I want to buy, it’s the product category. I’m literally ready on my phone to buy the thing and I can’t find it! Don’t bait and switch people with your content.
Optimize It or Disavow It
M: Either you’re targeting the overall reading level or you’re optimizing your H2s. Essentially, you’re either targeting your readers or your skimmers. What would you choose?
Y: Reading level because they’re the ones who are going to convert.
M: Yosef, thank you so much for coming on the show. I really appreciate it. This was as fun as anything.
Y: Real pleasure. Awesome. Thank you for having me.
SEO News [00:50:36 – 00:54:05]
Google to Limit Demographic Settings: Google is strongly limiting demographic targeting for advertisers running ads related to housing, employment, or personal credit. This includes targeting by zip code, gender, age, marital status, and parental status.
Google’s Reiterates Stance on Guest Post Links: Google reiterated that all links from a guest post should be nofollowed.
EU Requests Social Platforms to Combat False COVID-19 Info: The EU has asked Facebook, Twitter, and Google to produce a report on how they are combating false information related to COVID-19. All three platforms have said they will commit to the EU’s request.
Tune in next Tuesday for a new episode of The In Search SEO Podcast.