The Art of Seducing Google with Great Content

by Mustafa Khundmiri

 

Image credit: missha (Creative Commons)

There’s a reason why Google grew so huge, so fast. And no, it has nothing to do with their PageRank technology.

Any guesses?

Okay, time’s up. The big G turned big because it managed to gain a tremendous amount of mindshare. Google today does not rule the search engine arena. It rules minds.

It’s become a sort of a go-to destination for most Internet users. Let’s just say they hopelessly depend on it now.

What does this mean to you?

Targeted traffic that converts. Traffic that you can get by seducing the mighty Google with compelling content.

Content: The Currency to Rank

You don’t pay Google to have your site ranked. Really, who does that, right?

Wrong.

You do pay for it. But not with money, with content.

After Google’s infamous Panda update, the tables turned. The rules got rewritten. And SEO changed forever.

The Panda rolled in like a massive army tank – causing some serious damage. Even New York Times owned About.com had its pageviews decreased. “Ouch” was the word.

Today, in the “Post-Panda” era, your site can get penalized for duplicate content, low quality links, excessive ads and also for too much SEO.

So how do you tame the ever-evolving Panda?

Henri Martin, the first known lion tamer, had a way with the big cats. He built a relationship with the lions by interacting with them first and worked on winning their trust.

As a result the animals got used to his presence, and decided not to eat him up.

That’s lion taming in a nutshell. Surprisingly, you tame the Panda the same way.

You win Google’s trust so that the Panda doesn’t maul you.

Here’s the process in a nutshell:

  • Create superb content
  • Get people to link to you
  • Have your site ranked
  • Do your little victory dance

Appealing your target audience while making Google happy is like doing a tightrope walk. You have to have the right balance, or else you fall.

How do you achieve this balance?

Through Search Engine Oblectation (yes, yes, I made that up).

The dictionary defines the term oblectation as:

“the act of pleasing highly; the state of being greatly pleased.”

SEO has always been about pleasing and delighting your visitors with valuable information. Always.

Don’t take my word, look what the 2012 MarketingSherpa Search Engine Marketing Report says – “content creation works the best, but takes the most work” when compared to other SEO tactics.

Image credit: Marketing Sherpa

And here’s what Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team has to say:

“Even if you do brain-dead stupid things and shoot yourself in the foot, but have good content, we still want to return it.”

This clearly shows that quality content is the backbone of quality SEO. Period.

Creating Remarkable Content that Works

Ever wondered why Wikipedia and Google have been in an inseparable love union?

It all boils down to value.

Google wants to serve the best results to its users by giving them access to the most relevant, high-caliber content. And Wikipedia has that in boatloads.

Most of the information you see on the Internet happens to be ordinary. Rarely do you come across an article that makes you go ‘wow’. But in a way, that’s good.

Because it means less competition for you or anyone who manages to create and publish something outstanding.

Lee Odden writes:

“Through a combination of keen customer insight, analytics and smart creativity, online marketers can stand out amongst the 27 million pieces of content shared in the U.S. each day or the 5 Exabytes of information created every 2 days around the world.”

So no matter what your aim is, don’t be a mediocre. It’s a failing formula.

This world does not need more average content. What it needs is content that makes an impact and changes lives.

If you have the guts to take massive action by infusing real passion into the content you’re creating, you can escape the ordinary and actually create what Corbett Barr calls ‘epic shit’.

Now here’s the question that you might be asking: what is remarkable content?

Without making it complicated, let me go ahead and quote Kirsten Knipp:

“Remarkable content is literally content that will be remarked upon by your audience.”

Social Media Examiner, an online magazine focusing on social media is well known for its remarkable content. Right from case studies to instructive how-to material, they have it all.

The greatness of your content depends on a number of factors, such as its:

  • Usefulness and relevance
  • Learning and educational value
  • Uniqueness and originality
  • Clarity and professionalism
  • Quality and timeliness
  • Presentation and engagement level
  • Inspirational and motivational feel
  • Entertainment and fun quotient

It’s only when you “mix & match” these factors do you get to produce content that’s remarkable (Adam Singer’s simple presentation shows how some websites are leveraging such content).

However, in order to deliver real value to your audience you should…

Have a Passion for Giving

Kevin Spacey has a crazy idea in the movie Pay It Forward. It’s something like this:

What if you challenged a bunch of young students to go change the world?

Haley Joel Osment, one of the students, puts the idea into action. He helps three people and asks them to return the favor by each helping three other people. And this leads to a good-willed revolution.

The movie has a strong message to offer, which says: the act of giving is rewarding.

Now, my question to you is…

What if you paid back with great content each time someone else’s content really, really helped you?

Giving back makes the world go round. It makes you look nice. And positions you as someone who helps, not sells.

But here’s a reality check:

People don’t expect you to give.

That’s right. They don’t.

When you give away lots of value, your readers may expect to see a hidden clause, or fine print.

And that’s because most of us have been trained to question when something looks too good to be true. We have the “what’s the catch” mentality. So we naturally seek more clarity before making a decision.

However, this very mentality can work for you, rather than against you.

Imagine, when everybody around you is trying to sell, you focus on giving – without asking anything in return.

The result?

You suddenly become the next go-to expert.

People start seeing you as an authority. They don’t think twice before trusting you. They feel you’re awesome for being so generous.

Even the big G rewards you for giving; for writing original content that provides in-depth value.

Paul Graham is an essayist, programmer, and investor. He’s well known for his super long essays on startups. What he writes is truly incredible.

His articles are highly popular, get linked like crazy and rank at the top of the SERPS without any traditional SEO.

Why?

Partly because he’s popular, and partly because he gives away lots of exceptional content.

For many of us, giving doesn’t come easy, since we’re so accustomed to asking. However, learning to give is a self-fulfilling journey.

When you share the best, you receive the best. It’s how the universe works.

But to make giving work, you need to first understand what people really want. You need to…

Become a Problem Solver

“Problems are only opportunities in work clothes.” –  Henry J. Kaiser

The real problem is that we see problems as problems, and not opportunities.

Every single time you face a problem, you have the opportunity to solve it and learn something new.

Problems drive innovation. Do you realize how powerful that can be?

Your audience has problems. And you can solve them by creating solution based content.

Content that helps your readers get results. Adds more clarity to their existing ideas. And gives them the “Aha!” moment.

Don’t confuse this for information that merely shows the “what”. Rich solution based content goes into greater depth and explains the “how” – offering real answers minus the fluff.

However, in order to create this content you need to know what it takes to solve more problems.

Ever had an OBE or out-of-body experience?

Wikipedia defines OBE as “an experience that typically involves a sensation of floating outside of one’s body and, in some cases, perceiving one’s physical body from a place outside one’s body.”

Although I’ve never experienced it myself, the idea of traveling out of my body has always fascinated me.

But wait, what does this have to do with problems?

Everything.

Solving more problems requires you to look at them from others’ perspective.

Projecting yourself out of your body (not literally of course) and seeing things from a third person’s point of view gives you more control. It makes “thinking out of the box” much easier.

Your aim should be to find solutions for your target audience. Work on helping them see the real picture. And come up with ideas that will make their life better.

Remember, it’s all about them – not you.

Problem solving is a skill. The more problems you solve, the more skilled you become.

Whenever you find a solution for something, you sharpen your claws. You get better at creating epic content that goes viral. And it gives you a reason to…

Share Your Results

Had any recent success? Write out how you did it. Failed, faltered or made a mistake? Explain where you went wrong. Learned something new? Share it with your readers.

It doesn’t matter what kind of result you got. Big or small. Positive or negative. Having something insightful to share with your readers makes all the difference.

Because letting them learn from your experiences matters. It’s how you create useful content that gets read, and spread.

Sharing your results with your audience helps you:

  1. Connect to them on a deeper level
  2. Create a stronger bond
  3. Appear more credible

By being honest and open with your readers you win their trust. And get their genuine feedback and loyalty.

However, keep in mind that results make more sense when you’re specific. Nobody likes vague or general content – which is why you need to be detailed with what you share.

People want facts and figures. They want the juicy tidbits that give them clarity. They want details, details and more details.

Holding back confidential information is fine. But besides that, the key lies in sharing anything that matters. Not leaving the dots unconnected. And telling your story like there’s no tomorrow.

Corbett Barr runs Think Traffic, a blog that teaches bloggers and webmasters the skill of traffic generation. The interesting part is, most of his traffic comes from Google.

In his own words:

“Great content is the best SEO. Stop trying to game Google and start trying to reward your visitors with the best content you can offer.”

One of the things that makes Think Traffic stand out is Corbett’s transparency. His blog itself is an ongoing case study, where he happily shares in-depth monthly and annual growth reports with his readers.

Besides useful advice, these reports give details like number of new unique visitors, subscribers, revenue growth, top traffic sources, etc.

Corbett talks the talk, and walks the walk. No wonder he’s built an ardent fan following in such a short time.

Getting other websites to link to you becomes easy when you appear credible and trustworthy. Nobody likes linking to sites that play “hide and seek”. The Internet belongs to those who share.

Leveraging Third Party Sources

When it comes to content…

There are webmasters and there are smart webmasters.

There are bloggers and there are happening bloggers.

There are online marketers and there are real online marketers.

What makes some of them smart, happening and real is not just their ability to create value on their own. But it’s also their skill to leverage third party sources to acquire worthy content.

Even when they aren’t really “creating” the content themselves, they are still benefiting from it.

Regardless of how you populate your site, as long as your audience connects to it, you will get liked, linked and ranked. Yes, Google will still give you brownie points for your efforts.

So how do you go about leveraging these other sources?

To start with, try and look beyond simple content creation and…

Embrace Content Curation

The information age has brought in a lot of clutter. And the junk on the Internet is only contributing to it.

People online are tired of wading through useless information. They don’t want to waste time anymore. What they want is knowledge they can use.

No wonder “content curation” (the process of discovering, organizing and sharing information) has gained such traction.

Proper curation helps you give your readers useful content in a structured and systematic manner. In other words, it takes away the ‘clutter’.

Things Organized Neatly is a Tumblr blog that’s curated by Indianapolis design ­student Austin Radcliffe. The blog contains pictures of things that are uniquely organized. It’s pretty popular and has managed to receive some decent press.

Man has always craved organization. Because organization gives clarity. And clarity leads to action.

By embracing curation, you’ll be able to create resourceful content. Build a stronger foundation for your website. And of course, impress your readers with your organizational skills.

However, quality content curation isn’t about collecting a bunch of related links and putting them in one place. It’s not even about copy-pasting parts of other articles from various sites or blogs.

It’s about curating the most relevant content and adding your own valuable insight to it.

If your curated content is the meat (no offence to all you vegetarians) then your opinions or ideas form the bread that goes around it. Which makes your content tasty and appealing to your readers.

So when you curate any information, make sure you let your readers know why you did it. Give them your input. Your insight. Your takeaway.

Debbie Hemley’s article called “26 Tips for Using Pinterest for Business”  is a good example of effective curation. She not only organized some of the best tips on using Pinterest for business, but also added her own takeaways.

Need more curation inspiration? Take a look at this definitive guide by Brian Dean where he’s managed curate some of the best resources related to link building.

With the growing demand for quality, smartly-curated content can help you climb the search engine ladder. According to Gianluca Fiorelli, curation helps your SEO efforts in six ways:

  • Conquering the long tail keywords
  • Finding sources for original content creation
  • Finding great contacts for link building outreach
  • Obtaining a great amount of social signals for your site (or social media profiles)
  • Branding, online reputation management and reference traffic
  • Becoming a reference in your industry

Content curation is the future. But it’s not the only way to add value to your website. You can also…

Use Content Syndication

Everybody knows that it’s bad to steal content.

But what if you could do it legally – without having your conscience prick you for the sin of plagiarism?

It’s called content syndication. You know the whole “take content from others and put it on your own site with their permission” thing? Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.

The idea of publishing without creating sounds appealing to many. And why wouldn’t it? After all you get to spend less time on creation and more time on promotion.

However, does syndication make sense SEO wise? After all, you are publishing duplicate content that’s already on the web.

The answer is yes.

But if you’re using syndication like everybody else, it won’t make much difference to your rankings. In order to make it work for you, see to it that your content stands out.

And how do you do that?

By making it unique in terms of presentation. The way you showcase your syndicated content is what differentiates it.

This is how Rand Fishkin suggests you leverage syndicated content for SEO:

  • Write an editor’s note explaining why you’ve re-published a certain piece of content.
  • Change up the title tag to something other than the original headline.
  • Add UGC or “user generated content” such as comments, ratings and tags.
  • Earn the link references so that you can draw in traffic on the long tail keywords.

As long as you’re doing it right, there’s no reason why you can’t get syndication to work for you.

However, don’t limit yourself when leveraging third party sources. Besides curation and syndication try to…

Get Expert Insight

If you read a lot of books, you would know what a foreword is. But in case you don’t, a foreword
is a piece of writing that is usually found in the beginning of a book. It’s typically written by someone other than the the primary author.

Here’s an interesting fact: books with a foreword written by a known person tend to sell more.

A foreword from an authoritative figure helps the author establish credibility, promote the book and get better response from readers.

Even you can make your website trustable by bringing in expert insight. All you need to do is get in touch with known experts within your niche. Build relationships. And ask for interviews.

There are two reasons why you would want to partner with other experts:

  1. To generate good content for your readers
  2. To associate yourself with someone known

When their credibility rubs off on you, you boost your own credibility. And everyone knows Google likes ranking content that appears to be more credible than others.

However, don’t jump into interviewing an expert without a purpose. Make sure it’s worth it.

Entreproducer’s case study on Darren Rowse’s multi-million dollar content-based business Digital Photography School is one such example of a worthy interview.

This particular case-study is jam-packed with valuable information. Darren gives some great, workable advice, which is what makes it tick.

Conducting such interviews helps you generate useful content. Leverage the expert’s network for targeted exposure. And get some quality link juice.

Attracting Quality Links

Links are the lifeblood of SEO. But getting them has always been a challenge for webmasters and bloggers.

Even though there are countless articles on link building, it’s still confusing to many. As a result, a lot of time is spent on “planning” a linking strategy.

What most people fail to realize is that artificial link creation methods do not give concrete results. You might get a short-term boost, but that’s about it. One simple algorithm tweak and all your hard work can go down the drain.

Manual and automated link building is ineffective because Google does not want you to build links.

It wants you to build content that attracts links.

The world’s biggest search engine is asking you to spend time on creating engaging content. Because when you focus on giving what your audience wants, links naturally follow.

Let me explain with a hypothetical scenario:

Let’s say two guys, Jim and Joe, apply for a job at a major company. They go through the same interview process and are asked similar questions. But eventually, it’s Jim who bags the job.

Why?

The answer lies in how both of them used their time before they applied for the position. While Jim put in a massive effort into sharpening his knowledge and skill set, Joe did not.

Instead he spent all his time searching for jobs and jumping from one unsuccessful interview to another – without working on improving himself. Both of the guys worked hard, but had different focuses.

Similarly, websites that create great content attract more (and better) links than sites which ignore content and solely focus on building links.

The Google search algorithm is like a company that regularly promotes, demotes and kicks out its employees (read:websites) – based on how much value they bring to the table.

When you have useful content on your site, you achieve two important goals:

  1. Attract relevant links to your website naturally and easily
  2. Have Google rank you better than other sites that lack good content

Here are three effective ways to acquire natural backlinks leveraging nothing but great content…

Create Actionable List Posts

To-do lists. Shopping lists. Billboard lists.

Lists are all around us. No wonder they’re hugely popular in the blogosphere. While readers love reading list-based posts, bloggers enjoy creating them.

The reason why list posts work so well is because we humans are greedy.

Whether it’s the number of options or the freedom of choice – more is what we want.

One evident advantage of list posts is that they attract links. Whether it’s a list of tips, reasons or mistakes, the chances of a list getting linked are much higher.

Although there are no rights and wrongs when it comes to creating a list post, you do need to live up to the promise your headline makes.

You can’t just put up a list for the heck of it and expect magic to happen. Each point you make has to contribute to the purpose of the post – and that’s where many fail.

What if you had an easy way to make sure your list post rocks?

No, it’s not compiling the longest list ever. It’s not even putting a new twist to something old. It’s simply making your post actionable.

If I read a blog post that gives me 10 tips to save money, I want it to show me “how” along with the “what”. I want clarity that pushes me to act.

Your list post will be read and forgotten if your readers don’t know how to put their newfound knowledge into action. But they will remember it when it actually makes a difference in their life – no matter how small.

People read lists because they want to learn something new. However, when you help them take action, they’ll share it and link to it as a token of thanks.

Your list post should not only inform, but also direct, guide and motivate.

Check out this post by Ali Hale where she breaks down the whole list post creation process in ten easy steps.

Publish a Manifesto

A manifesto is a public declaration of your opinions, ideas and objectives.

A carefully crafted manifesto gives others an opportunity to know you. To connect with your goals. To understand your intentions. Above all, it gives them a reason to link to you.

Let me ask you something:

Would you like to dominate the world?

Random, I know. But if you answered yes, then you should read Chris Guillebeau’s manifesto, titled “A Brief Guide to World Domination”.

This 29 page report shows you how to live a remarkable life in a conventional world – and achieve other important goals. What makes it different is that it’s beautiful.

I’m not just talking in terms of the design, but its overall essence. The very essence that makes it impressive on so many levels.

For starters, it’s not cold – it actually has a soul. It’s not only personality driven but also has an honest purpose that shines through.

There is something about it that makes you want to become a part of the whole ‘take over the world’ mission.

Since its launch, the manifesto has managed to impress many A-listers. It also inspired a ton of people to take positive action. And in the process, created a loyal fan following.

With all that attention, Chris had no problem attracting targeted links to his website. And what he did was no rocket science.

The secret of creating a wildly successful manifesto is to lead your readers towards a goal, and leave them wanting for more.

Your manifesto should not only give direction, but also have your readers longing for more information.

This helps in two ways:

  1. You get people to take action after they’re done reading, such as subscribing to your email list or buying your product
  2. Since you’re involving your readers and leading them towards a specific goal, you encourage them to link to your manifesto and spread the word about it

The idea is to give them real value and make them a part of your journey.

Don’t hold back the good stuff, because that’s what’s going to get them excited. Share as much as you can to generate genuine interest.

Work on your manifesto like a skilled craftsman who toils day in and day out to produce a masterpiece. Make it so worth it that it gets shared and linked all over the place. You know, make it beautiful.

Put Best Content First

In a sports team, the most skilled players are known as the first-string players.

These players are hand-picked by the coach because they have the highest potential. They’re trained to win. And they know their game.

Let’s say you’re the “coach” of your website. And the various pieces of content on your site form a “team”. What would you do to have your team succeed?

You put your best players forward.

Cornerstone content, pillar content, flagship content… call it by any name – your best content deserves to be first.

By creating dedicated cornerstone pages you can organize all your related, high quality content in one place. And target each page towards a primary keyword.

If done right, your cornerstone pages will become link magnets in due time. Because people link to top-notch content and that’s what you’re giving them.

However, you should make the page structure as simple as possible.

It must be easy to navigate. And should precisely lead readers towards links to relevant content. Don’t expect them to take action on their own. You have to motivate them to click and read.

Try to make your page:

  • Less confusing and more enticing
  • Laser focused minus any distractions
  • Meaningful with a brief introduction
  • Action oriented and compelling

Call it a tutorial, a resource, a guide or any fancy name you like. But make sure it’s clear and trustable.

Building Real Authority

When Bill Gates talks about software, the tech world listens.

When Mark Zuckerberg discusses Facebook, the press comes knocking.

When Matt Cutts grows a mustache for fighting cancer, webmasters pay attention.

Yes, being a nobody sucks. But being an authority changes everything.

Here’s why you should become one:

  • Creating content that demonstrates authority earns you respect and loyalty. Not only from your audience, but also from Google.
  • Webmasters and bloggers link to you more when they trust you. And every link you get acts as a vote in your favor.
  • Being an authority makes you less average. More influential. Gets you noticed. Brings in more fans.

Regardless of the niche you’re in, the first step to growing your authority is to…

Find Your Awesomeness

Seth Godin calls it your Purple Cow. Others call it the USP or the unique selling proposition.

I call it ‘Awesomeness’.

If you want to become a known authority, your content needs to stand out. It has to have the ‘x’ factor.

Image credit: Carlos Galeano (Creative Commons)

The problem with web content creators these days is that they’re competing instead of creating. They’re asking instead of giving. They’re talking instead of listening.

If you’re one amongst them then…

Stop.

Because competition is for sissies. Asking without giving is selfish. Talking too much without listening is bad manners.

If you want to make a mark with your content, then “think different” like Apple.

Each Apple product is remarkable in its own way. iMac. iPod. iPhone. iPad. These products changed lives. They touched millions. They made our world a better place. They dripped awesomeness.

How did the company do it?

Apple design maven Sir Jonathan Ive reveals their secret:

“Most of our competitors are interested in doing something different, or want to appear new — I think those are completely the wrong goals. A product has to be genuinely better. This requires real discipline, and that’s what drives us — a sincere, genuine appetite to do something that is better.”

That answer is nothing short of brilliance.

Hands down – the best way to be different is to go out there and do something great. Something nobody is willing to do.

Make a difference, to be different.

Forget the competition. Have the guts to lead. Focus on producing content that is genuinely useful. And grow an insatiable appetite to do better.

Ask yourself:

  • How can I be remarkable?
  • How do I make this world a better place?
  • How can I be innovative?
  • How do I bring a positive change?
  • How can I be more useful?

Once you have answers to the above questions, you will know what makes you awesome. You will know how to…

Be a True Guru

The word guru means “teacher” in Sanskrit. A word that enlightens. A word with a beautiful purpose.

Unfortunately, it’s also a word that’s starting to lose meaning. One that has been overused in the wrong way. So much so that it looks scammy now.

Sad.

Being a guru is not about selling. It’s about teaching. Sharing what you know. Lending a helping hand. Showing the way. Being a guide.

Becoming a true guru starts with your intention.

Do you intend to sell or teach?

Selling without teaching makes you a direct marketer. There’s nothing wrong in being one. But don’t call yourself a teacher if all you want to do is sell.

On the other hand, if you intend to teach, marketing itself becomes simple. It’s easier to convince through education than persuasion because people don’t like being sold.

Helping someone learn something wins you their trust. They actually listen to you and willingly act. It pulls down any barriers that they might have.

The reason why the so-called “gurus” are failing is because their teachings are hollow. Their learning process came to a halt. They failed to be a good student themselves

Every great guru that ever lived knew the importance of self-education. Evolving and growing
with time. Gaining something in order to give. Distributing wisdom acquired through learning and hardship.

Remember, a true teacher is one who never stops learning.

There is no other way around it. If you want to teach well, you have to become a student for life. The moment you get into the “I-know-it-all” mode, your education takes a backseat.

So learn while you teach. Seek to educate, not sell. Replace “prospect” with “student”. Be a teacher first, then a marketer.

That’s what makes you a trustworthy guru – and a known authority.

When you become a trusted source for instructive and enlightening content, it becomes easy for you to…

Connect to Influencers

Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist Pejman Nozad has been called one of the ‘greatest connectors’ by Forbes. He started off his career washing cars and selling carpets to the valley’s most successful players.

Today, he’s a dealmaker connecting entrepreneurs to venture capitalists. Without an MBA or a Ph.D, he went from a rug dealer to a VC with a net worth of $50 million dollars.

There’s a lesson we learn from Pejman’s success story:

It’s not about what you know, but who you know.

In a world where you’re known by your ‘network’, connecting to influencers is crucial. After all, you build your authority by building important relationships.

One of the many advantages of hanging out with the influencers is you get linked.

As Jon Morrow said:

“If you want links now, you need to be more than great. You need to be connected.”

Getting an influential person to vouch for your content gives it a strong vote. This spreads the word about you throughout their network. And if your content turns out to be epic, it leads to a snowballing effect – bringing you more high quality links.

People listen to influencers because they trust them. And that’s the trust you get to leverage in exchange of the help you offer them.

But that can only happen when you know what this influencer gains from your help.

For instance, let’s say you want to connect to a popular blogger within your niche. Think – what can you do to help him? And more importantly, what would he get out of it?

Here’s how he may benefit from your help:

  • You write a quality guest post for his blog. He gets original content for free.
  • You interview him on your blog. He gets to showcase his authority.
  • You post useful comments on his posts. He gets more user activity.
  • You mention him in your post. He gets a relevant backlink and referral traffic.

Be clear as to what you can do to start, continue and strengthen your relationship with major influencers within your industry.

Google may not be the only way to drive traffic, but it’s definitely the biggest. It’s about time you paid attention to it. About time you started seducing it with the best content you have to offer.

Image Credits:  misshaCharlyr

 

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