Optimise for humans, not search engines
In recent years, there has been a disturbing increase in a trend to think of SEO-friendly content as this magic wand that will miraculously drive all this amazing, qualified traffic to your website. ‘Do you know how to create search-optimized content?’ is a common query.
So I thought – the time has come for another good opinionated rant on the topic.
Back to basics: search engine optimization (SEO) is the branch of digital marketing that pertains to increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website or web pages through organic search engine results.
Why has SEO become so important for tech B2B? The statistics are pretty compelling. On any given day, people conduct more than 6 billion searches on Google. These searches generate results from more than 1.8 billion websites that are live right now (this ticker that tracks live websites is fascinating – and jaw-dropping).
On the first page alone, the first five organic results account for 67.60% of all the clicks (the results from 6 to 10 account for only 3.73%). That is a lot of demand – and a lot of competition. It’s very hard to rank in the number one position, but it’s well worth the struggle.
How does SEO work?
When it comes to search, there are three parties involved: the searcher, the website and the search engine. Let’s say you want a content marketing agency that specialises in campaigns for tech B2B clients. So you go to a search engine (and 9 times out of 10, this will be Google), and type in ‘tech B2B content marketing agency’. Your search engine will then take this phrase and run it through their own – closely guarded – algorithm. This algorithm will then throw up web pages that includes content that is most likely to satisfy the search intent of users looking for a ‘tech B2B content marketing agency’.
If, as Isoline Communications, we want to be found by anyone searching for a ‘tech B2B content marketing agency’, we need to have content on our website that will help satisfy the search intent of people entering the search term, as well as convincing search engines that our content does this. This, fundamentally, is SEO.
A wise man said recently that in the world of content writing, SEO is king. In tech B2B, it is unwise to assume that writing for the search engine and writing for the audience are somehow different. Yes, good SEO discipline is essential, you don’t want to make any mistakes. If for nothing else, writing with good SEO principles and a keyword strategy in place is extremely beneficial. But this is because these principles focus your content and helps you create sales and marketing materials that are value-adding and enriching for potential clients or customers. There is no magic wand or secret SEO-language that makes content somehow irresistible to search engines.
The secret formula for search-magnet content is SEO best practices combined with high-quality content for humans. Search engine algorithms, without exception, try to second guess through software, what the human behind the keyboard will find useful. So if you focus on creating relevant content that people will engage with, based on a strong keyword strategy, you will see that content rising to the top of search rankings.
SEO Best Practices for tech B2B companies
- Have a keyword strategy: Identify key search terms and phrases that your readers might find valuable. In our case, we had to think about what users might search for when looking for a content marketing agency that specialises in high-tech, complex technology clients. What kind of searches do we want to be found on? While we are passionate about IoT and analytics, for example, we had to think about whether someone typing in ‘streaming video analytics’ be looking for a content marketing agency.
Shortlist a few keywords so that you are able to dedicate resources to creating content for it. Think about whether you have the resources to compete for very popular keywords, or do you want to target the smaller number of people that may type in the less popular keywords: the ‘long tail’ of search.
- Keep content relevant and valuable: Once you have your keywords identified, use them as shorthand for your content creation strategy. Create content that satisfies the needs of human beings that read your content. That means using all the principles of good technical writing: jargon-free, accessible content that truly satisfies the needs of your audiences.
Repurposing value-added content into multiple form factors is a great idea but avoid rehashing content and topics that are too common. Readers are annoyed by content that does not add value and is created just for the sake of it: engagement will be low, bounce will be high, and the page will not rank highly in search.
This is often an area where a good external content marketing agency who understands your sector can help: in bringing a unique perspective and angle on topics that might feel a little commoditised. Think about niche sectors that your company targets, any specific techniques your technology uses, key geographies, regulatory implications and other trends to make your content unique and topical to your readers.
- Write content with easy-reading principles in mind: It is surprising how aligned ‘writing for SEO’ and ‘writing for humans’ really are. Use primary keywords early on: that’s because readers want you to get to the point as quickly as possible. Use H1, H2 tags as needed in the content: because content that’s broken down is easier to follow. Keep sentences short and crisp: nobody likes a 50-word sentence.
Proofread, get somebody else to proofread, and use professional editing tools to ensure your content presents you in the best possible light.
Any newspaper sub-editor will tell you that headlines make a huge difference to whether an article gets read or not. Keep headlines punchy and focussed on the topic. A headline like ‘IoT technologies’ is so generic that no amount of SEO magic will get people to want to read it; while a title like ‘How to choose the right connectivity technology for your IoT deployment’ is much more specific and will get the attention of a reader who is thinking about connectivity for IoT.
- Internal and external links: Ensure you provide links to content on your website as well as external websites, to allow people who want to learn more to explore. This is the way most people like to explore topics online. By including links to high-quality external websites with high domain authority, you are increasing your chances of getting them to link back to you as well.
You might want to consider organising content into a resource centre to make it easy to discover.
- Images really enhance readability: Images are attractive to people: and are especially vital for tech B2B. Try and include custom graphics or infographics where possible. They break up text that can be quite complex to understand, help people who are visual learners and just make pages more readable.
For this reason, search engines like Google have been forthcoming about preferring content with plenty of high quality imagery. From an SEO perspective, the only additional thing to be done is to give images the right alt-text so they can be found by search engines.
Focus on Quality Over Quantity
There is no doubt that sustained content over time is essential to do well in search but quality is more important. Rather than drowning your readers in an ocean of words, try to craft content that adds value and best showcases your unique perspective on a pain point or problem for your readers.
Remember that whether you’re seeking to put out a new blog every week, or reworking your website, SEO is important but only as a sort of pointer for what your reader actually wants.
Yes, there are advanced SEO techniques but they cannot replace a simple, back-to-basics approach to creating content. Focus on adding value to your readers, and the rest will follow.
Photo credit: Michelle Luo on Unsplash