I’d been blogging for Mr A for over a year, and things were not going well. Every week, I would send him a long-form blog post, as per the editorial calendar. I’d pepper our post with our chosen keywords used in a natural way, looking to add value for readers as much as I was looking to drive traffic from Google.
The aim was to make him the go to in his industry, a hotly competitive industry with a saturation of similar experts. And that’s just in the real world. Online? It’s the Wild West. Huge brands already had monopoly over any keywords related to his field of work, so attempting to boost his Google ranking was already a hard task.
Don’t get me wrong: we did manage to get him ranking for a few keywords here and there, and celebrated some small wins along the way. But while we’d quadrupled his traffic and hit a few KPIs, we weren’t smashing his other goals out of the SEO park.
His bounce rate was far too high, his pages viewed far too small, and his conversion rate was abysmal.
Why am I writing about my content marketing failures?
I want to be honest with you about what I've learned, and how I've adjusted my services to provide more value.
Not to mention, actually achieve results.
Like many others who turn to blogging as part of an inbound marketing strategy, my client and I were making a huge mistake.
We were doing ZILCH to build his SEO backlinks.
I'd mentioned SEO backlinks to him before, but it wasn't included in the scope of my contract. The ball was in his court, but as a busy family man who was running a business, SEO backlinks were not a priority to him.
Why you need to stop blogging and build your SEO backlinks
Over my near two-year tenure blogging for Mr A, I learned a lot about content marketing and what does and doesn’t work.
Firstly, here’s a list of everything we were doing right:
- Produced regular content on timely, relevant topics
I’m not an expert on real estate, so I relied a lot upon Mr A’s wisdom, expertise and direction. Additionally, I would always check the news, interest rates, announcements from the RBA, trending topics on Google Trends, popular content on Buzz Sumo, frequently pinned items on Pinterest, and search online forums like Whirpool. Mining these resources gave me plenty of topics to choose from, and more than enough to create a pool of content for us to choose from.
- Used keywords naturally within copy
I don’t believe your h1 and h2 tags ALWAYS have to feature exact match key phrases. But I do believe your content needs your keywords at least once (but sometimes there are exceptions, mentioned in this post I wrote here).
Keeping my client’s tone of voice in mind, I’d use industry-relevant long-tail and medium-tail keywords in a way that was designed to drive traffic, but also to appeal to a reader on an emotional level.
- Ensured his website copy had a consistent tone of voice
If your blog tone of voice doesn’t match the tone of voice on your website, the user experience can be quite jarring and sound fake. Make sure all of your channels are aligned to create a consistent experience.
- Used a documented strategy with KPIs
In my first year as a full-time copywriter in Melbourne, there were many a time where I'd gone to create a strategy, scribbled a few lines in a note book, and then treated myself to ice cream for all my hard work. Needless to say, I don’t do this anymore.
Because here’s the thing: a strategy is not a few haphazard goals or a good intention to post frequently on Facebook and Instagram.
A strategy is a larger docum ent that goes beyond creating, distributing and sharing content. It should be a couple of pages long, with multiple sections, and shared internally amongst all involved in the process.
A content marketing strategy outlines audience personas, organisational goals, the ways different types of content can be used across a buyer’s journey, KPIs to gauge success, roles of team members, budgets, and a mission statement, just to start with.
When you have a content marketing strategy, you’ll be better placed to measure your success and figure out what needs to change should you not reach your KPIs.
What we were doing wrong:
- We weren’t building links
When people think of content marketing, they believe they’ll create content that Google loves, and then this will get pushed to social media. And bada-bing, bada-boom. Improved Google ranking, social media love and droves of happy customers – right?
If I’ve learned one thing in this past year, it’s that you absolutely need to focus on building authoritative, editorial back links, in additional to social media sharing.
When myself and Mr A didn’t focus on building external links and relationships with other credible websites, we were shooting ourselves in the foot.
What is an SEO backlink?
An SEO backlink is an external link (in other words, not from your domain) that points to your website.
The following are all examples of SEO backlinks that are worth pursuing.
- Editorial links from organisations
- Links from other popular blogs
- Directory listings on highly reputable domains
Google loves back links because they’re like credibility votes. If I write something for a website with a high domain authority and a high Google ranking for a few keywords, then Google looks at my website and thinks my website must be credible too, just by pure association.
FYI, SEO backlinking is one of the biggest ranking signals.
The more credible backlinks you have, the more SEO juice Google will send your way.
The difference between a NoFollow link and a DoFollow link
There are two types of backlinks: NoFollow and DoFollow. If I write an article for another blog, I always make sure they give me a DoFollow link. This ensures that they pass on their SEO juice to my website.
A NoFollow link is usually implemented when a website can’t keep track of the links on its website, like on news website that relies on comments for engagement. As you can imagine, often blogs get hit with a lot of spammy comments with spammy links. And linking out to a spammy website can be detrimental to your domain authority and Google ranking too.
That's not to say there isn't value in commenting on blogs. Blog comments can send traffic to your website, but they don’t have as much value as a natural, editorial link.
How to begin your SEO backlinking strategy
An easy way to begin building your portfolio of links is to guest post for others in your industry. It’s a matter of finding those influencers, asking to post on their blog and asking them to share other articles of yours via there social channels, or within their website.