The Gold Standard for Content Marketing in 2016

At the end of each year, we like to look back through the blog posts and articles we’ve collected to see which had the biggest impact on SEO and content. This year, a Whiteboard Friday video and post by Rand Fishkin is the piece we’ve referred to most frequently, and it sets the tone for how we’ll be approaching content creation and content marketing in 2016.

In his post “Why Good Unique Content Needs to Die”, Fishkin talks about how content marketers have recently upped their game, and while many are creating good, unique content for their websites and social platforms, that’s not enough to rank well.

He urges us to think bigger and work harder to create content that’s 10 times better than anything else you can find in search results. 

UNDERSTAND SEARCH RESULTS + USER EXPERIENCE

To create “10X” content, you must first assess the competition.

Fishkin recommends searching in Google for products and services similar to what you offer, to learn what your prospects are searching for, and understand what questions they are asking. He also recommends using BuzzSumo to understand what content is being shared. For the purpose of this post, we’ll focus specifically on search results.

If we use “hearing loss” as an example, and search in Google, the first page search results include WebMD in the number one spot; two entries each from the American Speech Language Hearing Association, Hearing Loss Association of America and the National Institutes of Health; one from Mayo Clinic; and one from the National Institute on Deafness. These are all information-oriented sites as opposed to corporate sites, but as such, we expect to find outstanding, informative content on each one.

Next, Fishkin suggests that you gauge the user experience on each of the websites in the results.

This includes site speed, mobile-friendliness, and the ability to find what you need on the page. The results varied, with WebMD providing a faster, better mobile experience than most of the others, and the NIH sites being slowest and most difficult to use on mobile.

Since click-through rate is an important ranking factor, we would urge you to pay particular attention to the title and meta descriptions for each search result. Let’s look at the top result – WebMD . Based on the title and URL, you’d expect to find a page with information about the symptoms of hearing loss.

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However, when we visit the page, there is no information about hearing loss symptoms – a big “miss” that makes me return to the SERP for the information we need.

KEY TAKEAWAY: 10X content quality begins with a great foundation. Make sure that your titles and descriptions are accurate and enticing, and that the resulting pages deliver on their promise. Check your site speed and how your pages render on mobile to ensure a quality user experience.

 

IDENTIFY CONTENT GAPS

Detailed information is another important feature of 10X content, as well as a key content ranking factor. Fishkin suggests that you review each search result for what it includes, but also for what’s missing.

This is your opportunity to fill in the blanks for the searcher with your 10X content — to provide the most detailed information and answers, in the most accessible format. When we return to the hearing loss results, we find that The National Institutes of Health NIH Senior Health page does this well by providing detailed information in the main page, and helpful supplemental information like links to videos and a quiz in the left hand navigation.

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KEY TAKEAWAY: Each page of 10X content should include main content that clearly supports the purpose of the page and supplemental content that complements the main information. Provide as much detail as possible — when answering a question with your content, think of the next question that might be asked, and the next, and be sure to have content available on the page or via link for the searcher.

 

LEVERAGE VISUALS

The next factor in Fishkin’s 10X content list relates to visuals.

Are visual elements used at all? Are they used well to tell your story, to answer the searcher’s question? Again, the NIH Senior Health site is the clear winner, with visuals that direct the searcher to informative videos and images.

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WebMD also includes some visual elements on its hearing loss page – one that supports the page’s purpose, and another larger image that doesn’t complement the text. This issue is more common with information-oriented sites than with corporate sites, but should always be taken into consideration.

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Some visual content on a page — again primarily on information-oriented or news sites — may be in the form of display advertising. While advertorial content does not necessarily have a negative impact on ranking, it should support the page theme. The WebMD example below shows how advertorial content can support the page and its purpose.

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In contrast, Mayo Clinic’s page includes unrelated advertorial content that could detract from the user experience and does nothing to support the theme of hearing loss.

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KEY TAKEAWAY: Visuals are an important aspect of 10X content, and should be used to complement the page text. Visuals in the form of advertising should, whenever possible, support the page’s purpose.

 

UTILIZe supporting content

Finally, Fishkin suggests that 10X content is supported by data.

WebMD tells us that 36 million Americans now report hearing loss, and Mayo Clinic states that 25 percent of US residents ages 55 to 64 have hearing loss, but neither cites the source of the statistics.

It’s perhaps less important in the examples above than if you were claiming the cost savings associated with your product or service, or some other benefit of doing business with you. Citing statistics and providing testimonials / reviews enhances your experience, authority, and trustworthiness – all important content quality ranking factors.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Any time you are making a claim, your 10X content must support the claim with data.

 

Each of the sites we reviewed in this exercise had room for improvement – either in terms of user experience or in the content included on the resulting page. We urge you to take 10 minutes to watch the Whiteboard Friday video  and see how you can apply Fishkin’s recommendations to your own content with the goal of making it 10 times better than anything else related to your products and services.

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