Our approach to search-informed content
Designing content with SEO in mind is not writing for search engines. It’s writing for real people who use search engines. This is our approach to search-informed content.
It’s happened to all of us.
You’re trying to find some information, so you do a quick Google search. You click the top result, which looks like what you need, and . . . the page isn’t helpful at all.
This is annoying to us, but it’s alarming to Google. After all, if people stopped trusting Google and using it as their go-to search engine, the entire digital landscape would seriously change.
For the good of its users, Google has a strong interest in ensuring that the pages in its search results are helpful, engaging, and written for real people – not churned out just to rank well on search engines.
Here’s our approach to search-informed content that will delight your audience and rank well on the world’s most famous search engine.
Keyword research is user research
Most SEO projects start with keyword research. We want to find out what sort of words and phrases real people use when they search for a particular topic on Google and other search engines.
Sometimes, the findings are what you’d expect. But often, people search using different terms to how an organisation labels its information and services (see this explanation from the NHS on speaking their audience’s language for a great example).
This is why we view keyword research as user research. It tells us how people think and, crucially, how they translate what they’re thinking into a Google search. By thinking of each search query as a user need, we can better understand what types of content will address and meet those needs.
Once we know what terms people are searching for, we use the data to determine what new pages to create and what existing content to optimise. This ensures that content is always written for and directly informed by the people who will be reading it.
In other words, it’s not written for search engines. It’s written for real people who use search engines.
Find out more about how we’ve used keyword research to help charities grow their support:
- Connecting Greenpeace UK with supporters via SEO
- Evergreen content strategy underpins 31% rise in organic traffic for Chatham House
- SEO and PPC strategy delivers 130% uplift in donations for MND Association
How to maintain helpful content
Think of a garden. Planting the seeds is only the first step. You’ve got to nurture the garden and develop it over time so the seeds will grow and the bees will come.
It’s the same with a website. Keyword research is the foundation of any good search-informed content strategy, but you’ve got to nurture your content and develop it over time to continue ranking well and attracting relevant people to your website.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when maintaining your content estate.
Keep your content fresh
Unless your sector literally never changes (which is pretty much impossible), even the most helpful content will become out of date. Whether it’s a blog, a report, or an evergreen resource meant to last for years, you need to update your content from time to time.
Keep regular checks on which of your pages are and aren’t performing well. Look at how many people visit the pages, but also check if keyword rankings have dropped.
More often than not, a competitor site has probably created some more effective content since yours went live – content that better matches your audience’s searches and expectations. Check what your competitors are doing well, and update your keyword research to reflect current trends and any changes in the types of language people are using.
Assuming you’ve already got some high-quality, relevant content covering a particular topic, it’s almost always better to update existing content than to start from scratch.
Your existing page already has a history with Google, and it probably has plenty of high-quality links pointing to it from other websites. Google considers these links, called ‘backlinks’, as votes of confidence for your page, significantly improving rankings for relevant keywords. You don’t want to lose them.
Create useful, unique content
Some people just want traffic to their site; they don’t care whether it’s relevant traffic. They might create content for topics that lots of people search for, even if the topics aren’t relevant to their brand or their audience.
When Google says it doesn’t want to rank ‘content created for search engines’, it’s referring to content like this: pages created to rank well and capture lots of traffic, even if the website isn’t a genuine authority on those topics (read more about Google’s ‘helpful content’ update).
If you match your audience’s needs with your areas of expertise, then you don’t need to worry about these warnings from Google. They’re not for you.
Creating useful content also means offering something original. If your competitors already cover a particular topic that’s highly relevant to your audience, then identify what’s unique about your organisation’s offering. Otherwise, Google will view and devalue your content simply as more of the same.
Maybe you have subject matter experts who can offer a unique perspective. Maybe you want to share unedited stories from people with lived experience. Or maybe your organisation really is the best at what you do in your particular sector – if so, use your content to prove it.
When to worry about algorithm updates
Google updates its algorithm every day, thousands of times a year. This is good because it shows that the search engine is always trying to improve its search offering so people keep coming back to use it.
Every few months, however, Google announces larger updates, usually called ‘core algorithm updates’. These are the ones you tend to hear about.
But here’s the thing: Google releases these algorithm updates to reward good content and penalise bad content. If you’re creating content that is authoritative, engaging, and useful to people, then you probably don’t have anything to worry about.
That doesn’t mean we bury our heads in the sand. Every time Google announces a new update, we keep a close eye on our clients’ performance. We read any official guidance from Google. We monitor all the latest industry analyses.
But we don’t panic.
And neither should you.
Get in touch
SEO is an essential tool when crafting content written for – and informed by – your target audience. If you’re not sure where to start, we can help.