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In the Hall of the Mountain King – Creating Great Content and the Rules of Engagement

June 27, 2015 • Scott Zeller

In 1867, Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg created an orchestral piece for Henrik Ibsen's play Peer Gynt. The score was titled “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” and it’s one of the greatest pieces of storytelling ever created through music. If you’re unfamiliar, THIS IS THE PIECE.

Although there are many interpretations, the story begins with Peer Gynt, a strong, handsome young man full of charisma, wit, and intelligence. His one flaw was his arrogance. He fancied himself a great storyteller, and would often lie to his friends and family. After telling one too many lies, he was outcast into the forest, where he got lost, grew tired, and fell asleep.

When he awoke, he was surrounded by trolls, gnomes, and goblins, in the hall of the mountain king. To get free, he lied and told the king he was a great prince.  Believing him, the king thought he would be a fine husband to the king’s daughter. Peer ran for his life, and was chased by the creatures. All through the caves, around every corner, he was chased (you can hear this dramatic part come through in the music). After narrowly escaping, he never told another lie.

The moral of the story : to thine own self be true. Don’t try to be someone or something you’re not. And that’s what I’d like you to think about when creating your content strategy. More specifically, what is your true brand, and what does it stand for? And more importantly, how does your brand benefit your customer?

I used to tell my clients that if you do one thing to boost your SEO, hire a storyteller; a copywriter who can creatively, honestly and effectively tell the story of your brand. But in today’s world, it’s not enough. Now you need to go one step further, and actually use that high quality content to engage with your audience. Today’s consumer is more demanding than ever of a valuable user experience.

So what are the best ways to do that in 2015? I’m glad you asked.

Content Creation

Creating consistent, high-quality, relevant content that enhances the user experience should be the goal of your content marketing strategy. Do some keyword research, but don’t get hung up on including them all in your content. You want your writing to be natural, easy to understand and easy to read. Use your main keywords in context to each particular topic you’re writing about. Use them in the headline, and use them early in your post. Use synonyms and related phrases so your content is rich and all built around your main topic or keyword. For example, if you’re writing about plumbing, using related terms and phrases like “water piping”, “household fixtures”, and “sink and tub repair” will carry value with the bots, as Google’s algorithm groups these words together, using them all in context to understand what you’re writing about, and index it accordingly.

Context has become increasingly more important in SEO, as Google’s algorithm has moved away from keyword seeding, and more to the aggregate discussion. So how does that translate to strategies and tactics? When creating your content, don’t focus as much on the keywords, and focus more on your customer. Who is the customer you’re writing for, and what is the customer’s situation? What questions would they ask? What challenges are they facing? Try to keep each piece of content focused on one specific topic or category. Remember that great content is all about the user experience. Master that skill, and people will link to your content. The more they link, the greater your authority. And the greater your authority, the higher you’ll rank in the search engine results pages.

And don’t be afraid to use photos, infographics, videos and other multimedia to enhance the user experience. In fact, I encourage it, as visual elements are becoming increasingly more important in SEO. Videos are very popular, and a great way to share content, especially on mobile devices.

Rules of Engagement

customer-engagementOnce you’ve created your content, aligned with the customers’ needs, you’re ready to share it with the world. And that’s where your social media starts working for you. Networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr and LinkedIn are just a few of the options available that allow you to share your content, and engage with your customers. And don’t forget about your email newsletters and blogs. Keeping your blog parked on your domain carries a lot of weight with SEO, as it can drive more traffic, lower bounce rates, and increase time on site.

The Rule of 5 states that for every content development endeavor, your goal should be to use that piece in at least five different ways. Find five different applications or ways to share that content and engage with your audience. While this rule is primarily associated with the B2B industry, I encourage you to apply this to B2C industries as well.

Finally, you want to localize your content whenever possible based on the scope of your audience. For example, you want to speak the language of your audience. Use timeframes and geographic references, if applicable, to better relate. Test your content, and use your analytics and research to discover the content that’s most popular with your target market, and then leverage that when creating new content.

Conclusion

To summarize, creating great content is about telling a great story, and connecting with your audience. Content is still king of the mountain, but now we create it focusing on context. While still important, keywords are becoming less of a focus, and that trend will continue as Google’s algorithm becomes increasingly more semantic. And tell your story in a conversational manner, providing value that aligns with the customers’ needs and enhances the user experience. In addition, you want use that content to engage with your audience. And finally, measure your results and adjust accordingly. Do this, and you’ll have a sustainable content marketing strategy that will secure higher rankings in the search engines, and your rightful place atop of the SEO mountain for many years to come.

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