Take a look at SEO contributors to content relevance
Every Business web site has a target market, a retail e-commerce customer, online content subscriber or a software-as-a-service user that represents their most valued website visitor. Attracting that type of visitor from search engine referrals occurs most often because search engines see the content as relevant to the search query each user has typed into the search bar. Relevancy is weighed by looking at multiple factors, some considered by authors far less often than others.
Here is what we’ll cover on content relevance:
- Write Relevant Post Titles & Headlines
- Make First Paragraph Relevant, Not Introductory
- Write Relevant Custom Meta Descriptions
- Link to Relevant Internal Landing Pages
- Relevancy in Body Text Throughout Matters
- Link Out to External Relevant Supporting Content
- Make Categorization and Tags Relevant on all Content
- Use “Related Content” modules to Increase Relevance
Relevant Post Titles & Headlines:
Relevant Headlines are the most important of all factors for SEO, a factor which is very often ignored by great writers who are more focused on attracting attention from those already on the web site or those who see their headline in a newsletter, or as it might appear when it gets shared on social media or maybe how it looks when featured on Apple News or Google News. Writers want “punchy” or “attention grabbing” headlines that stand out within lists of content. In reality, post titles and headlines should include your keyword phrase, preferably at the front (first few words).
Example of the difference in how writers and SEOs might title the same post – you’ll recognize who’s who right away:
- Make your Headlines Sing! Harmonizing with your Customer
- Headline Relevance & Keyword Use to Attract Search Visitors
Google would initially classify the first example as a music-related article and the second example article title as web writing related. Further, if the music metaphor is continued within the article, it may get no search engine traffic at all. Even though everyone, even SEOs, would agree the first example is more attention grabbing and interesting because it is using an musical metaphor that creates a mental picture to entice the reader in – but the second example simply says, very clearly what the article is actually about. If based simply on the headline, search engines will rank the second headline higher and send more visitors – because the algorithm will rank the second, more keyword relevant headline higher in search results.
The (slightly irritating) fact is that more than one headline must always be written. Each variation should consider the audience it is addressing. The same headline can’t be effectively used in your ad copy, email newsletter, on-site lists and social media campaigns. Organic search engine relevant headlines are factual, keyword focused, direct and perhaps even boring. Be creative with all but SEO title tags (SEO tools allow these to be different from on-page headlines).
But Wait! There’s More! Relevant headlines are the most important without a doubt – that is until the first paragraph, then the body text, then internal links and citations, then tags, are each considered as ranking factors – and finally meta descriptions absolutely do matter for click-through. So consider how search engines weight those remaining elements.
Make First Paragraph Relevant, Not Introductory:
Very often, online articles begin with introductory background material to set the scene for readers. Sometimes the most important keywords aren’t even used in those first three to four sentences. I’ll say emphatically here that you must find a way to incorporate your target keyword phrase in that first paragraph, and further, seriously consider linking to your target landing page or other relevant internal content within that first paragraph. If your topic requires an introductory paragraph without keyword phrases incorporated, you can count on slower search traffic and lower rankings for that content.
Meta Descriptions are often automatically drawn from the first sentence of body text by most content management systems, so if you haven’t crafted a thoughtful 160 character single sentence custom meta description by using SEO Tools, most content management systems will grab that non-relevant and keyword free first sentence of your first paragraph as a default meta description. This is one solid reason for the above caveat recommending against introductory background material in the first paragraph.
Write Relevant Custom Meta Descriptions:
If you’ve studied details of SEO, you may have heard that the meta description is NOT A RANKING FACTOR. That is true. However, relevant meta descriptions can have a HUGE effect on click-through rates from search results. High click-through rates absolutely improve rankings. Therefore, while meta descriptions are not a ranking factor, they can have a profound effect on visitor behavior, which is a powerful ranking factor. So your meta descriptions can influence a searcher to click your search result before your competitor, because the meta description, (which appears as the text snippet below the headline in search results) answers their search query better than your competitors default text snippet in their search result above yours.
Link to Relevant Internal Landing Pages, Buying Guides:
Articles or posts that fail to link to additional relevant content across your web site are throwing away opportunities to improve visibility for both the new article and the landing page for important products or services. Relevancy is a strong ranking signal for search algorithms. Tools can be created which automatically link product or service names in body text to internal product detail or service landing pages each time the product or service is mentioned internally. Internal links are one of the most powerful on-page tools available to influence search engine rankings.
Relevancy in Body Text Throughout Matters:
Being repetitive and overly simplistic should be avoided throughout your site, and it’s important to be thorough and complete. A pretty, but simplistic bullet point list of high-level data is sometimes accepted as justification for thin or shoddy content. Significant detail should always be offered to visitors, even if longer content is compressed by using accordion (expanding) text blocks so that additional information can be presented when users click to expand. Relevance cannot be presented in less than 300 words of text – 400-500 words is preferred. A thousand words or more will inevitably be seen as more relevant by both search engines and human users because the keyword universe is greater, there will be synonyms, stemming and useful supporting information. Avoid straying to off-topic areas and stay focused on a single subject throughout.
Link Out to External Relevant Authoritative Supporting Content:
Many business web site content editors live in fear that visitors will click any outbound link they find and leave, never to return again – and therefore refuse to link out of their own site. This behavior weakens search engine visibility because those external links can actually increase relevancy and improve search engine rankings if those links connect to relevant authoritative supporting data or authors of original content. Outbound links within body text improve the relevancy of content by citing quoted authoritative pages containing useful external content.
Make Categorization and Tags Relevant on all Content:
Many sites are set up to use a default category if one is not chosen by the author. If that default is “Uncategorized” by the content management system, it means the content is not listed with relevant related content and instead gets lumped together with unrelated content in lists and archive pages. ALWAYS carefully choose both the category and tags used on posts to aggregate similar content together. Be careful to limit tags to only those appropriate for each specific topic and not to apply more than two or three tags to any article due to the way that content is repeated across the site under each tag archive. Focus and limit to topics that coherently group relevant things together. Don’t broadly apply tags to all content as it waters down the value.
Use “Related Content” modules to Increase Relevance:
A common mistake is to use “Most Popular” or “Featured Articles” modules which are used to promote what editors or sales office want all users to click to on their site. But this is actually harmful to SEO relevance. It will gain a few clicks from readers to a second page view, which is usually a high priority for ad-supported sites, but it hurts content relevancy. Related content modules can be tuned to match keywords in headlines and uses an algorithm to focus on similar categories and sometimes on tags. Any article that is on the same or similar topic or is using related keyword phrases becomes more relevant. This furthers internal linking and relevance site-wide.
Many web sites jump immediately to linking campaigns, social media promotion or advertising to promote content – but without the above solid fundamentals in place. Search engines will not rank the content highly if not focused and on-topic without poetic metaphors clouding the picture of the true purpose of articles.
Mike Valentine is an SEO consultant working with Retail E-commerce, Publishers, and Business to Business clients nationally and internationally. Contact us