We are now officially in the future, 2020 is here. With that in mind, I thought I’d revisit a topic close to my heart – SEO-driven content writing. As we know, SEO trends change very regularly. Perhaps one of the biggest changes SEO-driven content writers need to bear in mind this year is the introduction of its Bidirectional Transformers for Language Understanding (BERT), revealed by Google in October 2019.
BERT is Google’s neural network-based technique for Natural Language Processing, known as NLP (not to be confused with Neuro Linguistic Programming, which is something entirely different) and promises to seriously shake up the way we search today. According to SEO guru, Moz:
“…it’s important because it deals with the very fundamentals of how people search…Affecting one in ten searches, BERT gives Google a better understanding of how language is used and helps it comprehend the context of individual words within searches. The important thing to know about BERT (and also RankBrain), is the fact that you cannot optimize for it.
BERT is just one signal of how Google understands language, but it is one of the most important in the search engine’s arsenal. This means that now more than ever, webmasters and SEOs alike must focus their efforts on creating the most useful, natural, and highest-quality content.”
In short, it has now never been more important to write quality content for those intended to read it. So, for 2020, keep your content high-quality, natural and make sure it makes a true effort to solve the issue it’s highlighting for the reader.
I’ve said it many times and I’ll say it again. SEO is strategic. It has to be. It cannot be reduced to a mere tactic when so much depends on good SEO in today’s hyper-connected world. Google alone receives over 63,000 searches per second on any given day.
The key terms which a business ranks for are intrinsic to its success. Fail to ‘rank’ and you’re almost not in business. It’s like having your shopfront covered over, if it can’t be seen, as far as the consumer is concerned, it doesn’t exist.
This a blog about blogs but the strategic role of SEO is important to bear in mind.
For some time now, SEO agencies have been expanding their services, quite rightly, to include the creation of the very content they will then go on to imbue with SEO goodness. (Technical term ?). It makes sense for SEO experts to build a website, for example, or help a business work out which search terms it should rank for. But what about other marketing content?
Why only play a small part in the content journey? After all, with the need for so much B2B marketing material in the world right now, the opportunity is certainly there – 60% of marketers create at least one piece of content each day. With so much content flying around, some of it needs to cut through, SEO can help with this.
Positive is not an SEO agency. We realise that SEO is strategic. We have some SEO expertise but our roots are firmly journalistic – while they may not seem as rad and modern as search agencies we believe there are some serious downsides to this new search agency content creation model.
While search agencies certainly have their place, do SEO skills perfectly prepare you for content writing? Can SEO agencies create better content than marketing and communications experts?
SEO uses the rearview mirror
Sure, SEO is strategic, but the issue with keyword selection is largely based on historical search volume data. This may not make a huge amount of difference to your business, but if a trend you’ve hung your hat on changes, you’ll need to pivot quickly.
Sadly, SEO optimization is anything but fast. Type any search term into Google Trends and watch the chart plot all over the place as search volumes naturally differ over time. The challenge for B2B marketers, and SEO agencies alike is to have an idea of how their market, and therefore search terms will inevitably change over time. This is not as easy as it sounds.
As the speed of business today continues at pace, so will the need for consistently different content with the power to cut through. Remember, where you are today is but for the grace of God. That can and will, easily change. It’s nice to see where you’ve come from. But it pays more to be looking forward.
PR people, are the opposite. With their fingers firmly on the pulse, they understand the news agenda, what is driving it and its relevance to a number of different audiences at any one time. A glance in the rearview mirror is smart every now and again, but, focus should be on today and what’s around the corner.
Don’t be a non-technical turnoff
Subject matter knowledge plays a huge part in creating a piece of content which cuts through to its intended audience. In order for this to be effective, its searchability plays a part. However, there are many other issues to consider.
- Which message does it attempt to deliver?
- Is it the correct tone?
- Is it too salesey?
- Does it provide actionable advice?
- Does it have readability?
- Is it technically correct? Is its advice sound?
- Is it in line with the issues the potential buyer is experiencing?
Positive specialises in B2B technology because it’s hard and incredibly interesting. Tech purchases are complex and costly. To cut through, with any given subject, it’s impossible to hide. Today, to carry out effective B2B marketing, you need to know your stuff. Stuffing a blog full of keywords may get you seen, but if the content fails to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the buyer’s issues, you may as well have not bothered.
But what if I’m ballsy enough to create my own market?
Then good for you! Positive will always support you. This links to the first point, but is an important one, particularly for startups or those trying to carve out their own niche. Often, going out on a limb and creating a new category means you may not want to rank for the same keywords as before. Indeed, you may want your content to be seen by people who are not aware a totally new category of business exists. How can an SEO agency help with that?
As I’ve said, keyword searches tend to look in the rearview mirror – which is great if you want to become a ‘me too’ in an already crowded market, where your ability to get customers switched on to you depends on how much money you pay Google.
If it doesn’t read well, have you even written a blog?
In the quest to rank, often the object of the piece is forgotten: to be read. This is where SEO agencies often fall at the first hurdle, by focusing on how the piece will be found, rather than whether it reads well.
Those with classic journalistic skills and an understanding of the news agenda have the ability to create a good read, not one littered with random and repetitive key terms.
In today’s quest to cut through, playing with keywords is certainly a part of getting your content seen. But it’s a small part. Today, B2B businesses are fighting against multiple competitors for ownership of increasingly more valuable key terms.
Personally, I’d prefer to have an excellently written blog, and have something to say about how it can be proactively promoted to a target audience, than worry too much about how easily it can be found. Times change, and it’s not always smart to look in the rearview mirror.
So, when you’re writing your next blog, think about these four key points:
- Do I understand enough about the business problem my audience is trying to solve?
- Can I write a solutions-focused piece which demonstrates an understanding of the wider business issues?
- Can I do the above two without being promotional, or use meaningless marketing or business-speak?
- Can I make the thing readable?
At Positive, we pride ourselves on our ability to be able to tick each of these points. Our aspiration is to write as well as The Economist. We love it so much, we use its style guide as our writing bible.
If you’re struggling with getting cut through. Get in touch, we can help!
Don’t agree with us that SEO is strategic? Just leave a comment below!