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How to Achieve a Balance Between Quality Content & SEO

On November 26th, Kathryn Strachan, Head of Copy, gave a talk on how to achieve a balance between quality content & SEO at the Glasgow SEO Meetup. This article is based on her presentation.


Long gone are the days of keyword stuffing and creating content solely for Google’s algorithm. Modern technology makes old-fashioned SEO tricks rather outdated and calls for an even greater need for quality content. 


Join us as we explore why creativity matters for SEO and explain how you can achieve the perfect balance.


Introducing BERT: Google’s Most Recent Algorithm Update


On October 21st, 2019, Google released a new algorithm update — one that changes how we view and think SEO.


BERT essentially uses natural language processing to understand a user’s search intent and deliver content that perfectly fits their queries.


Moz’s white board Friday video dives into how BERT works, it’s evolution and what this means for the SEO world. Highly recommended if you’d like to know more.


So What Exactly Can BERT Do?


  • BERT can analyse the words before and after a masked word to understand the context and correctly guess the hidden word.

  • BERT can understand users’ intent to deliver content that best supports this intent.

What Can’t BERT Do?

Image from: https://moz.com/blog/what-is-bert


Like most technology, BERT does have some restrictions and negation is one area where the algorithm struggles. 


For example, if given ‘a robin is not a ?, BERT would guess bird.


While BERT has some limitations, it does serve as a rather interesting indication of the changes we can expect to see in the near future. 


“As natural language processing becomes more common, SEO rankings will increasingly depend on quality content that answers customers’ questions and fulfils search intent.” - Kathryn Strachan, Copy House

How Can You Blend Creativity & SEO?


Since you can’t optimise for BERT, securing a spot on page 1 will demand a greater focus on supporting customers’ and delivering quality content.


Striking the perfect balance between creativity & SEO isn’t easy and more often than not requires some professional assistance.


We’ll walk you through our approach to show you how we go about achieving this result.

Step 1) Conduct Keyword Research


All good SEO strategies start with keyword research. When choosing the right keywords, you want to focus on and prioritise user intent. 


Rather than merely choosing the keywords with the highest volume, go for the ones that answer users’ questions.


For example, if you’re creating an article on ‘What is SEO?’, you might start by looking at the keyword volumes for SEO. You’d see results like this:


The second highest-ranking term ‘Park SEO Joon’ is actually a South Korean film star so, in this case, probably doesn’t serve the right intent. 


Do Keywords Even Matter?


As you can’t optimise for BERT, it’s only natural to question why we even still need keywords. What’s the point of keywords?


Keywords are about more than scoring the right points with Google. Search volume tells you what users are looking for and what questions they might have.


Using this information, you can then create an article or landing page that supports these needs and helps users to have a better online experience.


So, yes, even with natural language processing, keywords still matter.


Step 2) Create an Outline Using Long-Tail Keywords


After we’ve conducted keyword research, we start to create our articles by pulling the relevant keywords into a table. This table serves as our guide when we’re researching and writing content and helps us to make sure we incorporate the right and enough keywords. 


Under this table, we create an outline using long-tail keywords like ‘what is SEO’ or ‘SEO Tools’ as sub-headers. And, presto we have an outline!


Step 3) Get Writing 


Once you have your outline in place, you can start the writing process. Writing content certainly isn’t easy, but we have a few tips to help you achieve the best results:


  • Investigate your audience and try to understand their most pressing needs, desires and ambitions. Focusing on your audience will allow you to create valuable content that people actually want to read.

  • Use this understanding to develop and capture a tone-of-voice that speaks directly to your ideal customer.

  • Conduct thorough research to find content gaps & ways to offer something new. Look at your competitor’s content. What are they doing poorly? What are they doing well? How can you leverage these insights to create something unique?

  • Ditch the jargon, complex terms, run-on sentences and other grammatical errors. Run your content through Grammarly, the editing software, to highlight any issues before hitting publish.

Step 4) Review for SEO


After you’ve created the first draft, make sure to take a moment to review your content from an SEO angle. Go back and look at the table you created in step 2 and ask yourself whether you’ve used all the keywords. 


Did you rely too extensively on one keyword over others? Can you see any opportunities to use a broader range of keywords? 


Could you make any small tweaks to naturally integrate more keywords without keyword stuffing? For example, replacing vague terms like ‘it’ or ‘thing’ with a keyword.


You also want to review all of your h1s, h2s and h3s to make sure they contain keywords. HTML tags are important for on-page SEO, so missing keywords in these areas could negatively impact your ranking. 


Step 5) Publish & Distribute


Your work doesn’t end when you finally hit publish. A good content marketing strategy goes beyond SEO and on-page optimisation.


Sharing your content on social media platforms, like LinkedIn and Facebook, as well as in your regular newsletters helps bring people onto the page and makes sure your audience know about your latest article.


While distributing your content doesn’t directly impact your search rankings, increased page views and sites visits do. 


3 Key Takeaways


  1. Quality, creative content is now more important than ever, and its relevance will only increase as natural language processing becomes more prevalent.

  2. Use keywords as a guide to better understanding customers’ search queries and identify ways to create valuable content.

  3. Never lose focus on the customer & their search intent. Ask yourself what kind of content would make their lives easier, better or hassle-free? Finding the answer to these questions is your key to creating quality content.

Take Your SEO Knowledge a Step Further


Do you want to learn more about SEO and content marketing? 


We love learning and teaching people about SEO best practices. Send us a message to find out more about upcoming training sessions, one-on-one support or to book Kathryn Strachan, Head of Copy, as a speaker for your next event.

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