These days most companies are making substantial investments of time and money into their content marketing efforts. Content, in many ways, is the lynchpin of a successful digital marketing strategy. How will you gain traction with social media marketing if you don’t have anything interesting to say? Who will read your emails if the content is boring? Will anyone click on your display ads if the messaging is flat? And how will your website generate traffic from organic search if you don’t have the content that will rank for desirable phrases?
It’s clear that content is a critical component of any digital marketing strategy and companies are wise to take measures to help their content succeed. But what if, despite your best efforts, your content stubbornly refuses to generate the results you think it should?
There are a handful of simple SEO mistakes that companies routinely make, and they can have a big impact on the success each piece of content is able to achieve. Here, we go over the SEO practices and oversights that can result in lackluster content marketing results.
You’re keyword stuffing
Keyword stuffing, where you try to cram as many repetitions of whichever keyword your content is designed to target into a single article, used to work as a shortcut to SEO success. But even when it was a tactic that could still be employed successfully, keyword stuffing has long been considered a black hat means of achieving page 1 rankings.
Search engines are a lot smarter than they used to be and they can easily recognize keyword-stuffed content. When they come across this type of content they’ll ignore it or outright penalize it. That means that if your content is stuffed full of keywords it’s nearly impossible to get it to rank well for the very keywords you’re going after.
The best approach to keyword inclusion in your content is to use keywords judiciously and only where appropriate. Write the article like a human, not a machine, and only include your keywords when it’s natural to do so.
You’re not optimizing for mobile
In the past few years, mobile optimization has become a key factor in effective SEO. If your content is not designed to be functional and aesthetically pleasing on mobile, your overall results will almost certainly suffer.
There are few easy things you can do to make sure your content is designed to meet the needs of mobile users:
- Fonts: text should be large and readable when viewed on mobile devices. Nothing says bad mobile usability like forcing users to pinch and scroll through content horizontally.
- Video compatibility: make sure all video content can be played on mobile. Video players should be responsive so they’re fully functional on screens of all sizes.
- Scrolling: emphasize scrolling over clicking. Whenever possible, allow users to scroll through content in one uninterrupted vertical layout, rather than forcing them to click through multiple pages of content.
- Large buttons: calls-to-action should be in the form of large buttons that are easily located and pressed by users’ thumbs.
- Content breaks: remember that a paragraph will seem a lot longer when it’s presented to the user in a portrait layout on a mobile phone than it does when presented in landscape on a desktop device. For that reason it’s wise to break up content frequently with paragraph breaks, bulleted lists, and subheadings. These allow users to skim content, which is the way most people interact with content on the web.
- Headlines: write short, compelling headlines for your content. You want your headlines to be clearly visible even on a smaller screen, so keeping them concise is key.
Your content is slow to load
Nothing kills user experience like slow load times. Slow loading pages can have many adverse effects, including higher bounce rates and lower conversion rates. Not only that, but page speed is a Google ranking factor. Google wants to present the highest quality results to its users. User behavior like high bounce rates and reduced time on site are indicative of the types of bad experiences Google doesn’t want users to have when they click on one of their search results. So it makes sense that Google would consider page speed when evaluating the worthiness of a specific piece of content.
In order to help your content achieve and maintain good placement in organic search results, make sure your page speed is optimized on both desktop and mobile
It’s not unique
Duplicate content can be a major SEO issue limiting the success of your content marketing efforts. Content that’s been plagiarized from other sources, and “spun” content -- existing content that has been slightly reworked so that it results in a minimally-altered version of what is essentially the same article -- are both clear paths to content devaluation and potential penalties leveled against your website.
But those problems are easy to identify and easy to avoid. What’s more difficult is consistently creating truly original and engaging content, but if you aren’t doing that, your content marketing efforts aren’t going to gain much traction. The thing to remember is that content marketing and modern SEO are both about quality over quantity. Ideally, quantity will be there, but not at the expense of quality. Churning out low quality articles and blog posts that don’t illuminate any new ideas, or provide value that can’t be found elsewhere, will do nothing to improve your chances of success with content marketing.
You have link problems
If you’re doing content marketing, then you’re probably already familiar with the process of trying to earn quality links back to your content. That’s because you know that having high quality inbound links is an important factor that impacts organic rankings. While high quality links from authoritative sources are a boon for your content, low quality or "spammy" links are a surefire way to see your content rankings drop.
Links to be avoided generally fall into two broad categories:
- Paid links: buying links (ie; offering money in exchange for a link from an authoritative source) is against Google’s guidelines and this practice has been heavily penalized by the search engine in the past.
- Junk links: included in this category are any links that don’t come from legitimate sources or aren’t willingly given. Some examples are links on message and comment boards (comment spam), directory links, link exchanges, and blog network links.
Engaging in any of these links practices is, at best, a total waste of time that won’t generate any results and, at worst, a way to get your domain penalized for violation of Google guidelines. Do your content marketing a favor by staying far away from anything that looks like link spam. The only way to build quality links is to invest time in creating great content and building real relationships.
You’re not supporting it
Bad links will do your content marketing efforts no favors, but that doesn’t mean you can forget about links altogether. In order for your content to have a chance to rank well organically, it definitely needs to attract some high quality links from legitimate sources. The only way to achieve this is by supporting your content via the marketing channels at your disposal.
It’s not enough to simply create the content, you need to do the work to promote it as well. That means sharing it on your social networks with ad budget to back it up through promoted posts, sponsoring content on outside sources, distributing targeted email campaigns, and even in some cases putting display ad budget behind it. Promoting your content in this fashion may not directly result in links (ie; your sponsored post itself won’t get a link from the site where you sponsor it), but the only way to achieve links organically is to make your content visible to the audiences that it’s designed to speak to.
If you’re investing a lot of money in generating quality content, the last thing you want is to see it fail because you haven’t taken the necessary steps to make sure it meets modern SEO standards. Avoiding falling victim to black-hat tactics like keyword stuffing, link spamming, and article spinning is the first step to safeguarding your content. Beyond that, you want to make sure your content is accessible, and loads quickly, on all devices, and that you help it earn high quality links from authoritative sources by promoting it to your target audiences.