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A Lot of SEOs Get Content Wrong – Here’s Why #232

Eric Enge and Eve Sangenito on Why A Lot Of Seos Get Content Wrong

Many Digital Marketers focus on content creation as an SEO tactic. But have we ever considered if that content would satisfy the readers?

In this episode of the award-winning Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Eve Sangenito joins Eric Enge to explain why a lot of SEOs get content wrong. They also share the right approach for content creation in SEO.

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Eric: Hey, everybody, Eric Enge here, Principal with the Digital Marketing team at Perficient. And with me is Eve Sangenito, our Managing Director of Digital and Content Marketing Services. Welcome, Eve.

Eve: Thank you.

Eric: I have a question for you. What makes really great content? And by that, I mean content, not for SEO, but for humans.

Eve: I think of it the same way I think of a good book. When you sit down to read a good book, you’re creating an experience for someone or you’re hoping to have an experience. You’re not looking to just get some rote information that answers one immediate question. You’re looking to actually be engaged, discover something new, learn something new, have some sort of interaction that makes you laugh or cry or be sad so that you’re taking something away as an experience. I think that’s what makes great content even in the marketing context.

Eric: And I think that we often lose sight of these things. We get very focused – we have our message we want to tell people instead of thinking about how they want to consume it, which is really important.

Eve: Totally agree. So, Eric, how do SEOs typically think about creating content? Is it the same way?

Eric: Sadly, no. Because I think what happens is SEO teams often get overly focused on the keyword research and they pull out whole arrays of keywords. Then they go to their writers and give them very explicit instructions saying, here’s the title, make sure you use these eight keywords in the article, use this one at least three times, that one twice. And it’s just not the right way to go about it.

Eve: So, interestingly, you put out a lot of content in the world, specifically around the topic of digital marketing, but also SEO. Do you do keyword research?

Eric: No, actually. I typically don’t. I tend to be very focused on what piece of content I think will have a great response in the market. What’s the information that’s missing out there? Especially in our research studies. What would be great information that the market would just love to eat up and consume. So, I’m very much thinking about the target audience. And, with that is that, if we’re successful, we’ll get a lot of social sharing, we’ll get links to it. As I like to say, maybe I didn’t do as much keyword research as someone else did. But if I get a lot of links, a lot of social shares, it feels like it’s pretty good SEO.

Eve: Yes. And pretty good engagement, which is where it should really start.

Eric: Yes. Exactly.

Eve, what frustrates you about content online?

Eve: I sometimes think about what inspired someone to create a piece of content, because if I go looking out on the web for information about things I want to do in my personal life, whether that’s traveling or DIYing something at home or cooking – which I rarely do – but when I do, I have to look it up online. I definitely get frustrated if I feel like they’re not surfacing the information in a way that’s clear and answers what I’m looking for. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to have an experience, but sometimes I don’t want five pages of experience before I get to the information I need.

I think a lot of the content out there is misguided in how it’s put together because people are going back to that thing of trying to think about what they want to tell, as opposed to what someone might be looking for.

Eric: Got you.

Eve: So, Eric, what is the SEO viewpoint on this?

Eric: It’s interesting because some SEOs think that there’s an ideal content length. I get this question at conferences a lot. Is it 250 words? Is it 500 words? Is it 2,500 words? There are studies out there that suggest that longer-form content by definition gets higher ranking. And I think those things are wrong actually. Or, maybe they’re right and maybe there is an ideal content length. But the ideal content length isn’t a fixed number of words. It’s the length that best meets the user needs for what you’re trying to talk to the user about. So, for example, you talked about a situation where you might be getting too much content but not what you want. But on the other hand, if I’ve just discovered I have diabetes, I’d probably want a lot of content, a lot of different detail, and I want an in-depth experience.

Eve: Great point.

Eric: So, it varies by the need.

Eve: Absolutely. So, how does SEO fit into the picture if we’re saying it shouldn’t be the first thing that someone is considering as the driver?

Eric: Keyword research is still very helpful. You could use it to validate that your topic is popular and people are going to respond to it really well. The way I like to think about it is – step back, identify the market need that you’re trying to meet with the content, write the content to meet that need, then let the subject matter expert go ahead and create that content. And, by the way, maybe do keyword research to help inform the title. I confess that I actually do that with some of the content that I produce. And I do think about it at that level, just not beyond that level personally. And then when you’re done, maybe there’re some tweaks you make to the article at the end to just help it rank better. As long as you don’t change the ability to meet the user need, I think it’s perfectly fine. But the user need comes first. The SEO you add in to get more value out of the content.

Eve: I agree. Because sometimes you can learn something from that data. You might think you have it covered because you’re a subject matter expert (SME) in a certain area, but you might find that there’s a new trending term that you didn’t realize and it might help reach a broader set of audience. So, I think it’s great to use that way.

So, what other considerations should people have in mind when thinking about content, specifically around editorial calendar management?

Eric: I think the other thing you really need to think about – and we’ve both talked about ­– is this idea of creating something that people want to consume. I always like to talk to people about – let’s say I have a recipe site, so I’m going to help you with some of the cooking that you’re doing in the kitchen. As frequently as that happens. So, what are you going to add that’s unique to this conversation? Your recipe site doesn’t need another site on how to make French toast. French toast has been around for a long time. There are tens of thousands of articles out there about that.

The chances that you’re going to bring something new to that topic are basically zip, right?

Eve: Unless you have a really unique French toast recipe.

Eric: Yes, unless you do. But as I like to explain, I haven’t eaten French toast in over 25 years and I can still tell you how to make it. So, what are you going to bring that’s different and unique? It is the absolute underlying key to your success online, in my opinion, to have that unique thing that you’re bringing.

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Eric Enge

Eric Enge is part of the Digital Marketing practice at Perficient. He designs studies and produces industry-related research to help prove, debunk, or evolve assumptions about digital marketing practices and their value. Eric is a writer, blogger, researcher, teacher, and keynote speaker and panelist at major industry conferences. Partnering with several other experts, Eric served as the lead author of The Art of SEO.

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