4 Non-Negotiable SEO Content Marketing Rules for 2016

You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll hurl.SEO Content Marketing Rules

And no, I’m not just talking about the greatest movie of all time. I’m talking about your reaction to my discussing the role of content marketing in 2016.

(Cue the eye roll and sassy teenage-esque commentary.)

I know, I know. We’re all content marketing geniuses, right? It seems a little ridiculous to be discussing content marketing in 2016.

Humor me as I reinforce these 4 points to make sure we’re all aligned with the importance of a baked-in SEO-optimized approach to your content marketing to the point where your efforts are leveraged as much as possible to drive more awareness, and thus drive more sales and revenue.

Modern SEO and Content Marketing Fundamentals

Back in 2012, Fleishman Hillard famously established that 89% of consumers use search prior to making a purchase, thus making the need for SEO non-negotiable.

These numbers have not overly changed. In fact, they represent a critical shift in the need for marketers to satisfy insatiable consumers who wish to self-educate. Regardless if the search engine medium of choice is Amazon, Facebook, Google, or an app.

Below are 4 modern SEO “rules” that you need to take into account for your integrated content marketing efforts:

1. Voice search – one of the most well-known “future of SEO” elements is here. Voice-based assistants like Siri and Cortana have gotten more sophisticated and are able to understand and answer complex queries – and intent – accurately. So it’s more necessary than ever to focus on semantic, conversational, long-tail keyword phrases. Think topics, not just keywords. And think keywords 101 – the language of your customer – in addition to, and even trumping, much of the technical jargon that’s still so prevalent across corporate website pages (for the love of all things holy hire a good copywriter, people).

Think “Where is the closest coffee shop?” as opposed to typing “Coffee Shop NYC.” Here are 3 great tips from this Huffington post piece by an ex-Googler:

  • Implement Long-Tail Keywords: With longer queries originating from voice searchers, you should begin targeting longer tail keywords as well.
  • Use a FAQ Strategy: What “who, what, where, why and how” questions are your customers asking? Address those answers in your web pages, blog and social media posts.
  • Write Content in a Natural Voice: Not only will your brand sound more conversational, but you’ll be speaking the language used by your customers in voice search.

If you’re interested on developing out your Voice Marketing and Voie Search strategy, check out my “Voice 101” guide.

2. Shallow, generic and fluff is a thing of the past. Simply “having content” on your site is just the jumping off point. Especially if you’re in a competitive niche. (And pretty much, every niche is competitive these days). But if this is a given, if we all know this, then why are we seeing such bland copy? My work entails doing website audits of clients and competitors, and there is a stark difference in the voice, tone, and personality of the copy between the sites who rank at the top and the ones who are page 3 and back.

You have to demonstrate thought leadership, expertise and personality. People want a story. They want emotion. They have no tolerance for marketing speak fluff.

I heard once that the “sent”/outbox of a company’s top salesperson is the best source of source material for content marketing efforts. While that doesn’t mean you need to hack into your coworker’s email accounts, it does underscore the need to make content marketing a company-wide effort. You cannot go at it alone, nor should anyone expect marketers to be experts. Identify the SMEs at your company (subject matter experts), and get on their busy calendar on a regular basis to interview them for content. Even if this means blogging less often, but doing a more thorough job at promoting and distributing, this is a win-win.

3. Word Count – vary it up. The ongoing debate, and confusion, around the perfect amount of words on the page will never end. Some argue that nobody wants to read these days, and with the trend towards mobile engagement, shorter word count is preferable. SEO’s, like me, argue for meaty, substantial content.

Both camps are right.

  • Short Content: There’s a time and a place for short snackable content. Content in other forms and mediums like emails, images, memes, videos, social content, quizzes, games, and data visualization are a must have in your content assets arsenal.
  • Longer Form Content: However, very often, there are instances that call for you to build out a page with extensive resources so you can fight for the chance to be the definitive expert on topics core to your business, expertise and profitability. And those you just can’t get away with 100 words for. A Searchmetrics study found that in 2015 the average top 10 results on the first page of Google averaged 1,285 words, which in their words, “shows evidence that high ranking pages cover topics more comprehensively touching on a variety of related topics.”

Regardless of where you are, just remember that clear and focused wins the game.

4. Data and Decisions— 3 tools, my friends, 3 tools: ScreamingFrog, Google Analytics, and Google Search Console. In the words of Sugarrae, these tools fall into the category of “you’d have to pry them from my cold, dead, marketing hands.” I am in these tools almost every day, digging through data to support claims, helping clients understand what’s working, benchmarking, celebrating, and making “rinse and repeat” actionable decisions based on the data.

For example, to know where to get started with mobile SEO, analyze the data in Google Analytics and Google Search Console. Analyze 1) your mobile traffic 2) your mobile keywords 3) your mobile landing pages and 4) where you’re losing peeps on mobile. Here is a simple recap from Moz on how to do that.

Getting started with mobile SEO

Your Turn: Share Your Content Marketing Obstacles and Feedback

Are you finding content marketing easy these days? What are your biggest challenges when it comes to content strategy, content marketing and content execution?

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Jenny Munn

Jenny is an independent Digital Marketer and SEO Consultant with more than 10 years of experience helping companies and content creators generate brand awareness, traffic, and conversions with SEO. She is a frequent speaker and is on the faculty for the AMA (American Marketing Association) and has taught SEO to thousands of marketers over the past 10 years.


  • Don Sadler says:

    I love point #2, Jenny. As a freelance writer, I’d say more companies are now “getting this” given the fact that I almost have more content writing work than I can handle. But there’s still SO much bad copy out there on the Internet. This includes major Fortune 500 corporations — it’s mind-boggling to me how bad some of their website copy is! You’d think multi-billion corporations would be smart enough to invest in some professional copywriting given how important this is not only to SEO, but to their brand perception. Sigh.

    • Jenny Munn says:

      It’s funny, Don…I’ve found big corporations to be almost the worst offenders at having a limited marketing budget and being able to afford spending on quality. The grass is not always greener! Thanks for the great comment.

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