How to Create Content that Boosts Thought Leadership & SEO

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Content is the fuel that drives the internet. The problem is the internet is overloaded with content. Some good and some… well you know. In this week’s SMA Marketing Minute, we answer a question about how to use content to benefit both thought leadership and our SEO efforts.

This week’s question comes from Abbe Vacek of Abbe’s Road Blog, who asked,

What’s the best medium to use when you want to use content to generate thought leadership and impact SEO?

This is a great question. We know that content is extremely important to both growing your thought leadership as well as your SEO. Having them work together to achieve both goals at the same time is absolutely doable. Check out the video below where I share some of the ways you can use content to “kill two birds with one stone.”

Video Transcript:

All right, so today’s question comes from Abbe. She wants to know which content medium is going to be best for her to help elevate herself as a thought leader as well as help her really generate more search traffic and improve her overall SEO results. Let’s dive into this question, and a little bit of the elements we have to look at.

The Internet is fueled by content. Content is extremely important. It’s the lifeblood that keeps this thing going. We use the Internet to create connections, to share our ideas, to engage with other people in conversations or friends on social media, or connect with other businesses or business leaders, or find products, but really the commonality that all of these platforms have is they all need content to exist. That’s where this phrase, “Content is King,” really originated from. That term has really been taken out of context especially when it comes to SEO where we just say, “Okay, all I need to do is create a lot of content in this space, and then I’m going to see positive search results as a result.”

What’s happened is the Internet has been overloaded with a ton of crappy content. There’s lousy content all over the Internet that really serves no other purpose other than to elevate somebody’s ego or try to manipulate the search results. That helps nobody out at all. It really doesn’t even help the person who wrote it out because search engines have figured this out, and they understand that lousy content isn’t going to correlate into good rankings. It’s also not going to correlate into thought leadership because when people read lousy content they make a judgment, and they say, “Okay, this content is associated with this site. I’m not going to trust that guy anymore because the content wasn’t good.”

Really, we want to talk about mediums, and how they’re going to impact our thought leadership and our SEO. We really have to talk about the purpose of our content first. That’s really where I want to get started. Let’s talk a little bit about content and the purpose of our content. What makes a piece of content good? How can we qualify good content? Depending on your industry, the types of content and the pieces that are going to work and the way you’re going to answer people’s questions are going to differ greatly. When you’re speaking to a technical audience you need to write in a certain way. When you’re speaking to a mommy blog, you’ve got to write in a totally different way. Content on that level, it’s really hard to determine. How I define quality content is 1) did that content have a purpose, and 2) did that content actually achieve its purpose.

When I go to write a blog, or I go to make a video I try to find a purpose. Why am I doing this? Why am I creating this piece of content? Then what I try to do after it’s finished is look at it and go, “Did I actually accomplish that? Is this something that’s actually going to provide value to the person reading it?” Let’s use these videos for example. In these videos, I take questions from real people. They submit them through my website or they shoot me an email or maybe it’s a question that I had from a client directly or in a conversation, and I take that question and I build a video around it. The purpose of that video is to answer their question and to provide them some insight on the marketing question that they have.

Once I edit that video down, and I watch it back, I have to ask myself again, “Did I answer that question to the best of my ability?” If the answer is yes, I feel good and we ship it. If the answer is no, I go back and do it again because I want to make sure the content I’m creating is going to add value, and it’s going to have a purpose. Content with a purpose is not just going to help the person you’re writing it for. It’s going to help develop you as a thought leader. People are going to say, “This guy’s pushing stuff out. This guy’s shipping stuff that’s actually valuable, makes sense, and answers real questions.”

How does writing content with purpose going to impact your SEO? Google’s goal is to deliver the best answer to the user with the shortest amount of clicks. They want to make sure they understand that search query and they deliver the absolute best piece of content to the user as fast as possible. You’ve seen some shake-up lately in the past few years in the SERPs to really reflect that where they give answers in the rich snippets box, where they’re really redefining the way that results page looks in order to try to give you the best results in the shortest amount of clicks. What they’re doing is looking at the content online. This is why they’ve made so many adjustments and tweaks to their algorithm.

Honestly, this is a big reason Rank Brain has come along, to better understand content, understand how that content works as a whole and what it means in context. Google is reading your content, they’re crawling through your content, they’re trying to understand your content, and they’re trying to understand the purpose of that content. Why was this piece of content created? Then they’re reading through that piece of content, and they’re analyzing that piece of content, and they say, “Does this content fulfill the purpose for which it was created? If so, this must be a good piece of content.” They also look at a number of factors, links and all that other stuff that goes under there.

There are hundreds of different ranking factors that really play in, but really the two biggest things are what? Your links and your content. You need to have good contextual links that make sense, that really show that your site is an authority site. Then, too, you’ve got to have content that solves problems – that’s purposeful and continues to provide value. That’s really where we need to start – really just developing good content, quality content, content with a purpose that serves that purpose, that fulfills that purpose. Two, content that the search engines are going to understand and also evaluate as purposeful content.

Let’s talk a little bit more about mediums. What mediums are really going to help you elevate yourself as a thought leader, and also have some really great SEO impact? First and foremost, your blog. You need to have a place where you’re writing content. You’re continually publishing good content and sharing your ideas with the world and engaging with them. Your blog is a great place to do that because it’s housed on your site, so those pages get indexed on your site, and the Google-bots can understand what you’re saying, and they can understand what your site is doing as a whole. Then, if you can drive people to there, you can really build thought leadership, but a lot of times it’s harder for businesses starting out.

I know this was my case where I was writing good content, I just didn’t have a large blog subscription list. I didn’t have a lot of people coming to read it yet because nobody really knew me, but I continued to be faithful. I continued to write good content. I continued to try to do my best to generate some search traffic and to put stuff out on social media. What really helped me is when I started to really expand where I was writing. I found some industry-specific blogs. I used specific sites. One of those is Search Engine Land. I committed, I do a monthly column there.

That’s really helped grow my thought leadership. It does have some SEO value as well, but it really helped to show the world that, “Hey, I know a little bit about what I’m talking about. I’ve been in the trenches for years. I’ve been working in SEO, and I’ve seen what works, and I’ve seen what hasn’t worked. Now I can share my kind of tips of what I’ve done and how I’ve failed and how I’ve had a little bit of success over the years.” By generating content on a site like Search Engine Land I can start to kind of grow my thought leadership and my influence there. I’ve also written on some other blogs. I’ve even had some of my content syndicated from other blogs.

Again, it’s not always going to have that really positive SEO value because Google understands syndicated links, they understand syndicated content, and it’s not going to really transfer the same link quality as it would say you get a link on a really high authority site even one time, but they do see that you are an active writer. He is kind of knows what he’s talking about. Now they’re starting to understand me better in the context of who I am and what I provide. LinkedIn is a great place if you’re doing business-to-business stuff. I know the readership there is … It really depends. I’m not going to say, “Hey, hedge your bets on LinkedIn,” because I’m not really sure what Abbe’s business is fully going for.

Another great place is Medium. Medium is kind of one of those blogging spaces that have really grown in the last couple of years. There are a ton of writers on there. It’s a great place to really get your voice heard by more people. I go on there and write a lot more about leadership, and a lot of things that are really personal to me because I feel like I can share my personal side there, and kind of open up a little bit, and not just be so strict on my marketing stuff and the stuff that’s going to impact the business that I write for the business blog. Medium’s a great place, and you can, yes, put links in there. Again, it may not be the same as getting a link on a big, nice, industry-related site pointing to you that says, “Hey, this site’s awesome,” but it is going to have some value. Getting those small wins and continuing to be faithful over and over and creating that content is really what’s going to help generate both the thought leadership and the SEO benefit long term.

All right, that’s going to do it for this episode. Let’s recap really quick. When it comes to writing quality content, the first thing is having content with a purpose. The second is making sure that your content actually delivers on that original purpose. When you want to grow your thought leadership, and you want to grow your search traffic, you need to have first your own blog. You need to be blogging. You need to be writing content. You need to be writing quality content, content that’s valuable to your users. Then you can kind of go out from there and expand. Look for industry-specific blogs, see if you can write a column on one of those blogs, or maybe be a columnist, or maybe even get a guest posting somewhere. Yes, guest posting still works if it’s done, again, with purpose, and you’re not just doing it for the sole benefit of trying to get a link.

Then maybe you want to reach out and try LinkedIn. Maybe you want to reach out and use Medium or one of these other blogging platforms where people in your industry are going to learn more about the problems and solutions, or the answers that you want to provide. The thing is to stay consistent, to get up and blog and write and publish good content over and over again. I know you probably read and you see all these amazing success stories where people weren’t ranking at all, and the next day they did this one thing, and then they saw all these results. It doesn’t always happen like that. In fact, a majority of the time it doesn’t. What it takes is dedication. What it takes is getting up and shipping every day, making those posts, and providing that value over and over again. Because I can assure you if you’re providing valuable content, content that people love to read, love to engage with, and love to digest, then the search engines will definitely reward that in the long run.

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