SEO today – new methods in optimizing content

As Google has cracked down on these practices and as consumers have moved to other avenues of finding content (social media sites, blogs, aggregators, etc.), SEO has been swallowed whole by a much broader set of necessary considerations.


Jackson readily admits that many legitimate SEO best practices are still not only relevant but are highly effective with the rising importance of all forms of content.

Instead of simply declaring SEO dead, Jackson argues that it should be incorporated into a new, more comprehensive framework for outlining the necessary approach content marketers should take to promoting and building content effectively — a framework he dubs OC/DC, or optimizing content for discovery and conversion.

OC/DC is a more holistic and goal-driven approach to content marketing. SEO’s narrow focus not only does not address all the avenues through which consumers now discover content, but its tight constraints also can negatively influence the content creation itself.

The rest of this article will highlight various strategies and guidelines, showing you how to optimize website content for SEO, discovery and conversion in the coming year.

Readers First, Algorithms Second

Google has made it crystal clear that it will always favor content that is valuable to people over content that is written primarily to rank for Google. Not only have they emphasized this over and over on their blog, they’ve made dozens of changes to their search algorithm that reflect this decision.

There are certain SEOs (the ones who don’t seem to heed Google’s warnings) that live in constant fear of the next Google algorithm change. The reason for their concern is that the content they produce and the SEO tactics they use, in large part, pander to Google’s algorithm changes instead of actually suiting and serving real readers.

Creating quality content is hard, and these workarounds and hacks can seem like tempting avenues to high search engine rankings. However, constantly having to pick up the pieces when Google penalizes your efforts is probably more costly in the long run.

That’s because creating quality content from the outset might require more initial effort, but will all but guarantee that you will be immune from Google’s constant updates and very well might be helped by them. That’s because your content will be the material that Google hopes to promote instead of the keyword-stuffed spam their engineers look to punish.

As we will discuss later, many SEO best practices are still very much necessary in ensuring your quality content gets discovered, but these optimization considerations are much better reserved for after you focus on creating high-quality, targeted content created to serve your audience.

What Is Quality Content?

Before you even begin strategizing on how to make quality content, you need to pin down exactly what constitutes high-quality content in the first place. This is a daunting task, but luckily Google provided a wonderful outline of what they see as indicators of quality content.

Google Quality Content Outline

The format of the linked blog post is a series of questions, as seen above. The one question of particular relevance to this discussion is:

“Are the topics [on your site] driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?”

This question is so important because any rubric for judging quality content will be intimately linked to the readers and audience you are attempting to reach and appeal to. The first stage of content planning and strategy should be to seriously consider your audience and their genuine interests.

Know Thy Niche

Every business or product has something unique about it. Even if you are competing in a crowded space, if your business has enjoyed any kind of success it’s because you’ve offered something that no one else has. Whether it’s a focus on cost-savings, or a quirky sense of humor, or an emphasis on professionalism. Any one of a variety of factors can be identified as part of your brand’s true story.

As a content marketer, your goal is to create content that appeals to your audience in a way that mirrors the appeal of the product this content marketing is calling attention to. In fact, a smart content strategy can naturally lead to conversions if it is appropriate to your product.

The more you can narrow down the unique appeal of your product or service, the more likely your content is to appeal to the “genuine interest of your readers.” Considering these are the very words that Google used, any content marketing that makes good on this goal will likely be favored by Google’s current and future algorithms.

The Quicksprout blog has put together a wonderful step-by-step guide to developing a content strategy based on a unique set of customer interests. This guide is quite in-depth but the main ideas are fundamentally simple.

  • Find a niche that is narrow enough to be unique, but broad enough to meet your business objectives.
  • Locate your ideal customer within this niche and discover what blogs they read, what social sites they use, what kind of events they attend, etc.
  • Create a persona reflecting this average customer and try to gain an understanding of their demographic makeup as well as their psychology, beliefs, etc.
  • Use this persona as a guideline for focusing your content marketing efforts.

What makes this approach so powerful is that it makes discovering and appealing to you customer’s genuine interests a central focus. This aligns your content with the goals of Google and other search providers.

So even though this is not “SEO” in the sense that the term has come to be understood, creating content from a plan that looks like this will certainly go a long way towards optimizing your content for discovery by search engines.

In his book “Google Semantic Search,” David Amerland argues that the “four Vs” that govern big data processes can also be used to inform SEO and content marketing decisions (if you think about it, understanding Google’s search engine is nothing but a big data problem).

The four Vs are:

  • Volume. This is the simplest of the four, but the amount of material you put out about your topic of choice will be a big indication to Google of your authority on the subject.
  • Velocity. The overall frequency of your content will also give Google a hint as to your expertise. Posting once a week for a year, likely looks better than posting once a month over the course of four years.
  • Variety. While you don’t want to venture too far with your content’s subject, covering a variety of areas within your niche of choice will signal to Google that you have authority on the topic.
  • Veracity. Having content that is received well by readers (that is shared, talked about, etc.) is perhaps the strongest indication to Google that they should serve content from your site to readers interested in the concept you chose to focus on.

Focusing on making sure your broader content strategy satisfies the conditions of these four ideas will ensure that your individual quality pieces of content end up constituting search benefits that are greater than the sum of their parts.

“Traditional” SEO as the Final Step

Once you have ensured that you have identified your audience, understand what interests them, are producing quality content for your niche, and are doing so in a way that is establishing your site’s authority, then you can start thinking about “traditional” SEO considerations.

Traditional SEO is kind of like rainbow sprinkles. On a vanilla ice cream cone, sprinkles can improve the whole experience and can actually offer people additional value. But if you give someone just a pile of rainbow sprinkles, you won’t be giving them anything they really want and will likely just leave a bad taste in their mouth.

Content Marketing-1

In much the same way, legitimate SEO best practices such as linking to other relevant posts within your blog, providing accurate keywords within headlines and anchor text, and properly tagging and categorizing your content can really offer a lot of additional value to readers.

If these best practices are followed in addition to providing quality content that people want to read, then they will not only enhance the user experience, they will make this great content easier to find. However, if best practices are not incorporated into a broader content strategy they will likely do more harm than good.

In fact, this is exactly what Sean Jackson was saying when he claimed “SEO is dead.” It doesn’t mean that these practices are dead, but if you’re notcreating awesome content, they’re essentially useless.

How do you incorporate key SEO tactics when creating content for your business? Share your experience in the comments below.

The Interactive Website Redesign and Migration Checklist

Time for a website redesign? Whether you’re migrating, changing your URL structure, or just switching to a different CMS, a website redesign is not a one-step process. For an SEO, especially, it requires the participation in every step of the process and of every member of the team.

But don’t pull out your hair just yet! We put together this list of site redesign/migration best practices to help alleviate one of the most stressful processes for an SEO. After all, it’s a lot easier to prevent site migration problems, than to fix site migration problems. Which, if you haven’t heard before, have the possibility of being pretty disastrous.

Remember though: every site migration/redesign is unique. Don’t just rely on this (fantastic) list; make sure to cover all your bases by informing yourself as much as possible. Check out these other resources: Intelligent Site Redesign & Migrations Webinarand Only You Can Prevent Site Migration Disaster.

Jump to a section:


  • Find the best time for your site migration. Give yourself leeway for potential problems/delays. Discuss with your team.
  • Understand why fluctuations occur during post-migration and relay these to your project manager.
  • Understand the SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle).
  • Analyze and review all requirements for SEO. Make sure SEO is involved from the beginning of the process.
  • Estimate the financial impact of your re-launch.
  • Review the current state of your site. Do a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats).
  • Run baseline report in your analytics platform.
  • Take inventory of what you’ve done. Identify your assets.
  • Export your top pages report (Monitor your top pages at least a month before your migration).
  • Which pages have naturally attracted links? Which pages have attracted social links or movement?
  • Export your revenue-producing landing pages.
  • Look at how those pages are internally linked.
  • Gather key metrics and trends:
  • Natural search traffic.
  • Search engine rankings on top terms (Tip: Use Searchlight).
  • Page load times.
  • Number of indexed pages in search engines.
  • Number of unique landing pages that are driving natural search.
  • Clean up the legacy content or assets you’ve built.
  • Corral your server errors (Tip: Use Webmaster tools).
  • Find broken links (403s, 404s). (Tip: Use Broken Link Checker)
  • Get all your links’ status codes. Find not just 404s/410s, but also, “Soft 404s.” (Tip:URI Valet (for multiple redirects))
  • Prevent 404s in your navigation.
  • 301 Redirect all URLs to similar content. Stay clear of blanket redirects as much as possible.
  • Have a XML sitemap strategy (Tip: Use GSiteCrawler, Intellimapper, Integrity,
  • Make sure your sitemaps are up to date
  • Submit sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools.
  • Submit sitemap to Bing Webmaster Tools.
  • Double-check any geo-targeting preferences.
  • If there is a domain/URL change:
  • Keep major changes to a minimum (if possible).
  • Check Internet archive, waybackmachine, to see if there was harmful content previously on your domain.
  • Verify both sites in the same Webmaster tools account.
  • Make sure old and new URLs can be fetched by Google bot.
  • Use the change of address option in GWMT site configuration.
  • Do not run two identical sites simultaneously. Use the cross-domain canonical.
  • Inform linking partners of your new URL structure.
  • Make solid design around SEO.
  • Make sure there are no crawling issues with your design.
  • Reduce duplicate content issues.
  • Test aggressively and make sure to back up your claims with real data!



  • Be proud of yourself. You did it!



  • From your baseline report pre-launch, monitor what has changed.
  • Validate robots.txt file in your production environment.
  • Validate your page load times and compare it to your pre-migration baseline.
  • Reduce ranking fluctuations by updating the date stamp in your XML sitemap (for your old 301-redirected URLs).
  • Reclaim links. Attempt to get your old links updated.
  • Try to establish a 1:1 relationship for all your URLs. Check that the pages actually getting traffic are being redirected.
  • In your previously exported landing pages report in Searchlight, make sure you’re getting a similar background of backlinks.
  • Take a deep breath… the checklist is finished. (But don’t stop monitoring your analytics!)