Irina says: “My number one tip for SEO in 2023 is to create or update content to satisfy user intent. As an SEO, you shouldn’t be doing something just for SEO if it doesn’t benefit the user and customer UX.
You need to create a website that is not for Google. Don’t think about how to rank, first you need to think about what customers or potential users are going to see on your website. Content is still king in 2023, but now you need to understand how to create the type of content that users are looking for and be more specific about what you actually put out there.
There are already thousands of websites even in just one market or industry. To be competitive, you need to think about the customer first and not about the keyword research first, because of the level of competition in the space. In the end, that just might not be your audience.”
How do you create content that is different, distinctive, and better than your competitors?
“I would recommend (and this is what we are doing for our clients) that you speak with customers and potential customers - and use the feedback from customers to create content.
Don’t just use a keyword research tool, but actually go to the customers and ask them what questions they would like to find answers to on your website. What benefits are they looking for when they would like to buy your product or pay for your SaaS tool?
That’s the main difference. Instead of creating content based on keyword research, go to customers and ask what they are looking for. Then, you can match this with the data that you have.”
Is it sufficient for a customer service team to simply ask an additional question or two when they are communicating with customers or do you have to set up a separate, more intensive conversation?
“I think it’s both. You might have a group of customers who are open to giving you more detailed feedback, and if they are a fan of your business then they will appreciate the opportunity to take part and make improvements.
To have broader data, however, you might ask questions after you talk with the customer, or you can listen to the questions that your customers ask. You don’t always need to directly ask them what they would like to have on the website.
The customer team can give you a list of questions. They will be having hundreds of calls during the week, so they will know what questions are coming up. People might say, ‘I don’t know how to cancel’ or ‘’How can this tool work with another tool?’ You can get these queries from the customer team directly without asking any questions of the customers themselves.
Conversations with customer service teams often revolve around negative feedback, so you do need to be proactive in reaching out to your more neutral customers as well. That will reflect a broader section of your audience. You could have a focus group so that you can reach the customers who are maybe not that satisfied with your tool or the customer service in general. All of this information is really useful for making improvements to your business and the content on your website.”
How often would you recommend getting a focus group together?
“Once per year should be enough, unless you are launching a lot of new products, new tools, or new features for your tool. It takes a lot of investment to actually organize a focus group - perhaps not from a financial perspective, but from a time perspective - that the team needs to put in to get it done properly.”
You mentioned that SEO should be a broader part of the whole business, including conversations with marketing teams, product teams, development teams, etc. How does SEO better marry itself to different parts of the business?
“SEO is part of marketing because, when you create content, you need to understand how you can share it on social media, how you can promote it through your email marketing campaigns, and how it could help you with your PR activities or your brand awareness.
If you can achieve all of those goals with one piece of content, it’s a win-win for the business. If you only create content for SEO (e.g., to rank on Google) that’s a fair goal but, if you can match it with other marketing channels, you will get much more out of that one piece.”
What are some key aspects of content that should be included?
“First, it should be written by an expert - either from your company or externally. There should be some expertise in your content, not just rewriting the content that is already out there.
The second thing to think about is: will this content be shareable? That’s very important. Do you have any data, for example, that could be interesting for your audience and that they would like to share, download, or save? Is it newsworthy? If you have these three things - newsworthiness, shareability, and expertise – then you will probably have created some really good content.”
What makes good newsworthy content?
“It could be related to something that is happening in the news at the moment, or it could be something that should be popular or important every year. We have New Year, Black Friday, and the summer holidays every year, for example. During April and May, the media is writing about where you can go for your summer holidays, and in October there will be content pieces about what you should buy during Black Friday.
You need to get this kind of content planned in advance. When it’s something reactive, you need to be very fast and this isn’t always possible for marketing teams. You might not have the capacity to react, but there are other ways that you can plan ahead.”
If you want to have your brand featured in news media for Black Friday, for example, is it best to publish an article in mid-November? Should you be reaching out to journalists directly and should you be publishing content yourself?
“There are different strategies that you can apply. If you have the data, then it makes sense to publish it as a press release or put the research up on your website. It is also best to prepare these things in advance and publish them early on, particularly if that data is about how to prepare for an event like Black Friday – which is something that needs to be published before the event itself. Then, you can pitch to the journalist, and they can mention your content and link to your website, because you have data there.
If you write your content and publish it earlier, you have more time to promote it and pitch it to a journalist. You will get more publications and more mentions, compared to content that you create reactively during the event - although you can still get a lot from reactive content as well.”
If you should never be creating content just for SEO’s sake, should SEOs not be building links unless they are sure it will drive traffic?
“It does still make sense to build relevant links, even if you would not necessarily gain direct traffic from them. However, they need to be the right contextual links – where a website has mentioned your brand.
People generally don’t click a link mentioning that a company prepared some research or data, for example. They are not necessarily interested in who provided that data, they are interested in the data itself, which was probably already published by the journalist. However, you still need links like these, because they are relevant and they build authority.
On the other hand, if you add links that lead to promotional pages and places like that, people will not click on those, and they do not provide authority. That’s not a strategy I would recommend.”
What shouldn’t SEOs be doing in 2023? What’s seductive in terms of time, but ultimately counterproductive?
“First, stop buying links from low-quality websites or buying links from comments. People still do this, and I would not recommend it. Second, don’t create content if you can see that there is a lot of high-quality content for that keyword already. It’s very tricky to create better content if you can already see some of the best content possible.
Before you start writing any content, you should look at the SERP. If you see that the optimum answer already exists, then you should be aiming for another keyword phrase instead.
You should only create that kind of content if you don’t have any other ideas and you have already written thousands of pieces of content. For most businesses, you will still have less competitive keywords that you can create content for, where you have more expertise and can provide more value.”
Irina Serdyukovskaya is an International SEO Consultant, and you can find her over at irinakudres.com.
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