Are you content with your content? (SEM 101)

Let’s just say it. Content is king. There. It’s done. That’s everything you need to know about improving page rank, right? Well…

Content may be king, but as in modern monarchies, the king may not be the sole authority. Parliaments now rule, and they are made up of many constituent parts of society. And while the quality of your site’s content can have a leading role in helping you optimize your site’s organic ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs), it’s a multitude of constituent parts of your webpages that constitute the whole process of search engine optimization (SEO). But in this post, we’re talking about the king. King Content.

If content is king, how do you optimize it? How do you make it better? Well, there are many ways, both easy and difficult, to do this.

Fix simple problems

First of all, clean up any errors. Run a spell checker. You’re not doing yourself any favors if you misspell your keywords in your headers and page links. You want your visible body text to be clean and free of errors.

If you’re simply not a good writer (and let me tell you, writin’ good ain’t easy!), look for the assistance of someone qualified to help. If you want your website to create conversions (where you “convert” visitors into customers), consider investing in the services of a professional editor for a thorough review of your site’s text. While you might get a 12-year-old kid to work for free to fix your iTunes connection, you’ll want more qualified help for this. Don’t pinch your pennies here — this is valuable work.

Next, make sure the content on your pages include clear expressions of your site’s goals (what is the conversion desired?), thorough descriptions of the products or services you offer, and other pertinent and persuasive information your customers need to know. In fact, pretend you are a potential customer who’s a first time visitor to your site. Does the content you provide make a complete and compelling case for them to covert? If not, make it so.

Most importantly, show off your expertise in your subject area. Write interesting and informative content about what you know. This sort of content, especially if it is regularly refreshed, draws new and repeat visitors to your site, and often helps you attain a critical goal — the qualified, inbound link!

A sample scenario

So I can imagine what some folks are thinking. “What more can I say about my business?” Let’s look at a scenario where you expand your thinking on what you can do to boost your content, and thereby your site’s value.

Suppose I own a business near Redmond, WA, called Rick’s Pretend B&B (hey, a guy can dream, right?). It’s an old, converted mansion with eight bedrooms, an elegant dining room, and nice mountain views.

So what content does my site include? Well, what would potential customers want to know about my place? They’ll want detailed room descriptions, including photos. They’ll want descriptions of the breakfasts (It’s a bed AND breakfast, after all). They’ll want to know about the amenities of the facility, room rates and availability, and direction on how to get to my place. They’ll probably also want to be able to book a reservation online.

OK, so I have all that on my pretend website for Rick’s Pretend B&B in Redmond, WA. Have I covered all the angles? No, I’ve only just done the bare minimum. Consider this: Why would people want to come to my place in my town instead of going somewhere else? They might be thinking about a visit to somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, and are browsing for tempting places to stay, but haven’t decided on which area yet. I can do much more than talk about the basics of my B&B. I can add content that describes what activities visitors can do in my area and which attractions, both local and regional, they won’t want to miss. That might help those undecideds choose to visit Redmond and thus stay at my place.

What more can I do? That’s everything, right? Well, not so fast. Let’s say I offer concierge services to my guests. I need to write about it! I should dedicate a page to that, where I mention how I can arrange romantic and fun activities, such as a hot air balloon ride and visits to local day spas, upscale restaurants, fine wineries, and a nice, local outdoor concert venue. I could write about setting up guest participation in these activities, tips for getting the most out of these places, and how I can make it all happen. I can even promote those local businesses on my site with outbound links. Those local businesses, once informed of my link to them, might choose to reciprocate with a link back to my site.

What more can I say? Well, what alternative ways do I use my business facility? Let’s say the building is an old Edwardian mansion with a grand entrance and a couple of large, ground floor rooms not used as bedrooms. Perhaps I occasionally rent those Wi-Fi-enabled rooms as meeting rooms for day-long business retreats or to wedding parties. I can even arrange for catering and custom floral arrangements. Adding new content about those additional, secondary business services will enhance my site.

But what will really make a difference, content-wise, is creating original, expert content on my site relevant to my business. I can create a page on advice and tips for organizing and planning those events. I can post a separate article on how to set up a catering plan for successful, carefree receptions! And once I really become an expert in this field, I can start a blog on my website about those areas of my expertise. Or I can even host a forum to build an online community where folks come to get their questions answered. By building my own little hub of expertise centered around my business, I make my site a destination place on the Web.

Self promotion time!

To reap the benefits of all my content creation work, I’ll need to let folks know that it exists. I can get the word out, thereby promoting myself and my website, by participating in industry-related online forums, getting media coverage through press releases, and writing articles for publications. All of those should, when relevant, link back to the content on my site.

If you do all of this content work for your site, you’ll find that as your reputation grows in your industry and community, your site will be deemed an authority site for your specific subject matter. Your fellow, SEO-savvy webmasters, who want to link to authority sites to help their customers (and their own SEO efforts), will gladly link to pages on your site.

The goal for all of this is the organic, relevant, inbound link. Good content begets fans, and fans link to their favorite places on the Web from their websites. Those high-quality, inbound links to your site are vital for improving your site’s rank in the SERPs.

Now, I admit, many of these content ideas will take a lot of work to implement and even more work to sustain. If I am busy running my pretend B&B, where is the time I’ll need for creating all of this additional content? Well, good content is not easy to get. That’s part of what separates the good from the great in search engine indexes.

The greats pay attention to their website content. They build it over time, keeping it fresh and insightful. They know that new, expert content will draw new, and more importantly, repeat visitors to their authority sites. And they know that authority sites are rewarded with higher page ranking in the SERPs. If creating great content wasn’t hard, it wouldn’t be so valuable. Think of it as a vital part of building your business.

No cheating, please

Content is king when it is well-written, relevant, and expert in nature, thus worthy of an outbound link from another website. Start your website’s reign in your industry by thinking what how you can add more relevant content to your site to attract new visitors and inbound links. But one word of caution: just like in high school, plagiarism is still an honor code violation, and search engines are like your strict English Composition teacher. They know if you’re copying content from elsewhere, and there can be penalties for cheating. Either develop your own content or give credit where credit is due by linking back to the original (after all, you’d want that link back for your original content!).

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, feel free to post them in our SEM forum. See you soon…

— Rick DeJarnette, Live Search Webmaster Center

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