There was a time when SEO practitioners focused on building highly optimized pages dedicated to narrowly defined themes or keywords. So, if you had an insurance business, you would build one page designed to show up in a search for life insurance and another for health insurance and you pretty much left them alone once they were returning some results.
But then blogs came along and sort of upended the whole deal. All of sudden all this fresh, highly optimized, education-based content started flooding the web and search engines ate it up. People started sharing this content routinely, linking to it and even republishing it via RSS feeds.
As the search engines began to favor this type of content, the game of SEO shifted heavily to blogs, networking and link acquisition.
As is so often the case over time, I believe that the imaginary pendulum is swinging back in the direction of optimized pages. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m as bullish as ever on blogs and still believe that every business needs one. I further believe that search engines are starting to even out their results in ways that don’t favor blog content the way they once did.
High traffic blogs attracted so many links that it made it hard for the search engines to deliver the most relevant content using their existing approaches. SEO spammers abused the positive elements of blogging to game search results so a correction of some sort was predictable.
The much talked about Penguin and Panda updates from Google went after duplicate content, low quality pages and what were seen as unnatural links very hard. Many long-time, established blogs saw temporary drops in traffic from search. (Of course long-standing, high-quality blogs receive a great deal of traffic from direct links and direct readers.)
I believe the best approach currently and in the foreseeable future calls for a two-prong strategy of content development that feeds both readers and spiders. I believe that we must create what I’m calling classes of content that address the growing demand for real-time updates and long-term sustainability.
I’ve written about the types of content we need to produce, but this is a different, yet related, idea. When I refer to classes, I’m talking about how we build, display, link to and optimize our content.
I believe we need develop content strategies along these two classes:
Real-time content is essentially fresh, keyword-phrase relevant, link-worthy blog posts that are updated frequently. We must commit to optimizing the on page factors for this content to give it the most search engine reach while continuing to amplify it in social channels to attract readers, links and social signals. (Google is currently giving heavy weight to content on Google+ no matter what they are saying publicly.)
I further believe that this content should revolve around a small library of topics related to the most important keyword phrases and long-tail phrases that you are targeting for your overall online presence.
But, this strategy isn’t enough.
The second thrust of your content strategy involves the creation and optimization of pages dedicated to each of your core keyword phrases. As I mentioned in the opening of this post, many websites have been built over the years with this tactic in mind, but it’s the careful combination of real-time attraction content and what I’m calling foundation pages that will deliver the greatest results.
With blogging becoming so prominent many sites have turned to creating very little except new blog content and I think that’s a mistake.
The value of these long-term foundation pages is that once they are built you can continue to optimize them and focus on adding valuable content (perhaps from a series of blog posts) as your content library grows.
You can add eBooks, links to resources, internal links and main navigation to these pages. By doing the proper amount of keyword research you can build a group of static-like foundation pages that are so specific you stand a very strong probability of ranking them highly, particularly as you create related blog content that links to these pages.
These foundation pages also stand up as great resources for site visitors and are great jumping-in points for deeper engagement and conversion activities.
Here are a few examples or organizations using this approach.
- Copyblogger has built resource pages for a number of key concepts including copywriting
- Entrepreneur magazine and the Wall Street Journal demonstrate how publishers have used this approach for a long time
- Marketing Land has its featured libraries of content as its main navigation
The need to produce content that allows you to spread your expertise and be found will likely never go away, it will however, continue to shift as search behavior and search engines dictate.
Read more posts about blogging and share your thoughts in the comments.