No matter how great your website looks or how well it functions, if it can’t easily be found by searchers, it’s just an uncharted island on the web. Website visibility is where all organic traffic begins, so higher visibility for relevant terms is essential to good SEO. What’s the best way to increase visibility on Google and other search engines for long-term growth? Through content development. Content is the single largest aggregate factor search engines use to evaluate a webpage against a query when determining rank. Plus, content builds organic visibility, which is long-term, while other visibility types such as paid search can go away if ads are paused.
Content Development for Higher VisibilityPlease don’t get the idea that you should turn your web team into a mini-content farm. More content absolutely does not mean better content! Long content doesn’t necessarily mean better content either; we’ve helped clients develop shorter (less than 500 words) content pieces that have still ranked first for their applicable search terms. When it comes to SEO-friendly content development, focus on quality rather than quantity: whatever the amount of content you produce, it should always be relevant, unique, and fresh.
Relevant contentIf you’ve ever scanned a webpage only to realize that you’ve learned nothing (or that you’ve learned something but it had nothing to do with what you were searching for), you’ve felt the sting of irrelevant content. Search engines dislike irrelevant content just as much as readers, so a set of guidelines has evolved for content that increases web site visibility:
- Useful and informative – Provide your site visitors with content that answers their questions: the one(s) they entered into the search engine and follow-up questions they might not have realized they’d have.
- Case study: A business analytics firm wanted to increase their visibility for answers to business-related questions. To do so, their content team focused on identifying questions asked most often by their customers, then developing content pieces that each answered a customer question. In 13 months, organic traffic from queries that asked questions to pages that answered those respective questions increased by more than 450%, and the percentage of organic sessions that came from these question queries had more than tripled.
- A high level of “expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness” – In Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines (p.18), the expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) standard means that content should:
- Reflect a high level of knowledge on the content creator’s part
- Be produced to professional standards of quality: accurate facts and correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation
- Be regularly maintained and updated, if applicable
- Credible – Some of this is covered by Google’s E-A-T standard, but credibility for users also means clear accountability signs, such as authorship. Similarly, if content is updated, the date when it happened should be included, as should a brief explanation of what was added, removed, or changed.
- Engaging – Finally, add value by making your content easy to digest and interesting to read. Not only will visitors enjoy their time on your site (and therefore want to spend more time there), they’ll retain more of the information conveyed by your content.
Unique contentMake no mistake: search engine visibility is a competitive marketplace. Your content has to earn its place on the search engine results page (SERP) by standing out. Specifically, it has to be more valuable and useful than your competitors’ content. Please note that “more valuable and useful” doesn’t necessarily mean “longer,” “better written,” “more thoroughly researched,” or “containing absolutely groundbreaking ideas.” It just means that your content should offer value that your competitors’ content doesn’t – and that value can often take the form of your company’s unique perspective on persistent customer problems. Having duplicate content definitely doesn’t help with increasing website visibility. “Duplicate content” is content that appears on the internet in more than one place (a location with a unique website address or URL). If the same content appears at more than one web address, you have duplicate content, even if that address is on your own site. Our technical SEO experts can guide your web team on fixing duplicate content issues to get the most visibility out of your original content.
Fresh contentOut-of-date information is nobody’s friend. It frustrates site visitors, damages your site’s credibility with them, and can harm your search engine visibility. That said, content that is still accurate and isn’t subject to a great deal of change (such as content about strategies, philosophies, or perspectives) doesn’t necessarily require updating. This is known as “evergreen” content, and it can build link authority through longevity. Additionally, different search terms have different freshness needs. These types of queries require fresh content:
- Recent events or “hot”/trending topics
- Regularly recurring events
- Frequently updated topics, such as “best” and “reviews”
- An increase in search volume
- News and blog coverage, especially if many outlets start writing about the same subject
- An increase in social media mentions
How to Increase Website Visibility Using Content ClustersA “content cluster” is a group of content assets created around one topic. Developing these clusters is a smart SEO content strategy to build visibility around the topics that are most relevant to your business, your customers, and your website goals. For instance, if you wanted your site to be visible for “coffee,” you’d have an uphill battle to capture that high-volume, high-competition search term. However, you can create content around topics that relate to that central search term. For coffee, associated topics could be brewing, growing, roasting, the coffee industry, the benefits of coffee, product reviews, etc. Within each associated topic, you can develop high-quality, SEO-driven content indicating your expertise in the associated topic. For instance, you could publish content about growing coffee, then break the topic down farther into content about the best land for coffee, how coffee is harvested, the people who grow the coffee, the varieties of beans, photos of coffee growing in various regions, a map of those regions… the possibilities are almost endless. Imagine each piece of content as a grape that’s just budded on a vine. As you keep producing content and keep optimizing the content and your overall site for SEO, the visibility of that content grows, meaning that search engines take notice of the content and your site. They perceive that your site is a very authoritative source of information on growing coffee. Meanwhile, you’ve also produced content focused on other aspects of coffee: brewing it by hand, brewing by machine, coffee culture, all the other stems on your content cluster that center around coffee. Because of its high quality, the content keeps building visibility, and search engines notice that your site is also an authoritative source for information on other coffee-related topics. Eventually, search engines notice all the content clusters growing on your website and perceive that they all have one thing in common: coffee. Due to the quality of all the content “grapes” on your “vines,” search engines give you much greater visibility on the term “coffee” itself. That’s how to increase search engine visibility for a high-volume, high-competition term like “coffee” without producing lots of repetitive “coffee-coffee-coffee” content. (Which wouldn’t get much visibility anyway because keyword-stuffing is very much frowned upon by search engines.)
Applying content clusters to your websiteIf you’d like to grow a content cluster to increase your website’s visibility, follow these steps:
- Choose a topic for the center of the cluster – it should be relevant to your company’s business goals and to what your customers care about
- Brainstorm content topics to surround the center of the cluster – but realize that not all of them will be used
- Organize content topics outside the center – these can be broken down by:
- Searcher intent/buying funnel: these categories include educational (top-of-funnel), comparative (middle-funnel), and decision-oriented (bottom-of-funnel)
- Audience: organize content by which products/services are most relevant to target customer types, or by audience needs
- Review brainstormed content topics to determine if there are any gaps where additional relevant content can be created
- Develop the content for each “grape” – remember to keep the central cluster topic in mind, and add internal links to central pages
Case Study: How Content Development Increased VisibilityA multi-location retailer in the automotive industry wanted to increase organic visibility and assist searchers by sending them directly to the pages they were most likely to need. This was a multi-step process. First, the site’s overall SEO had to be improved so that search engines would consider it very useful and valuable to searchers. Once the site had cleared that hurdle, it would be eligible for organic sitelinks. Unlike sitelinks in paid search ad extensions, organic sitelinks cannot be designated; search engines select which pages qualify for sitelinks based on the usefulness, helpfulness, and value of individual pages. Most of the initial organic sitelinks that appeared for the company listing were for specific locations, rather than pages that applied to all visitors. Thus, the next step was to develop content on those pages to provide additional help and value to searchers. The pages the retailer recognized as most valuable to all searchers were Locations, Coupons, and Special Offers. Because these pages contained multiple items (location listings, coupons, and offers), it was determined that the best way to enhance the content on these pages was to provide explanations for each item on each page. For instance, on the Special Offers page, each offer was explained, so visitors would understand the benefits as well as the conditions for each offer. This content also helped differentiate between offers from the same vendor, adding more value for the user. In a few months, these pages began to appear in organic sitelinks. They remained in the sitelinks and garnered significantly more impressions (i.e., visibility) in the following months. To sum up, content development is an incredibly effective, long-term way to boost website visibility. When used strategically, content development can, among other things:
- Improve your rankings and traffic for questions your customers ask (while also demonstrating value to searchers)
- Increase visibility for terms that might seem out of reach due to high search volume and competition
- Optimize your organic sitelinks to direct visitors to pages you most want them to visit