Thursday, January 23, 2014

Three Keys to Writing SEO-Friendly Content That Inspires People to Share

SEO has always been about creating easily-discoverable content. For years, SEO specialists and Internet marketing firms have focused upon quality content as well as keywords and link-building to generate browser discovery, and to increase a site's visibility on search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

Inspired by the rise of Facebook and Twitter, easily-sharable content is a relatively new realm of the SEO world. And yet, with Google's latest algorithm, we're now discovering that the relative "shareability" of a site's blog posts or articles can greatly influence a site's visibility.However, creating easily-discovered and easily-shared content is only part of the battle.

Quality content is essential for both discovery and sharing. But even quality content might not be enough to tip the SEO scales. According to a recent study cited in the New Yorker, beyond quality, the true measure of content's shareability is its positive emotional appeal and psychological arousal. As the New Yorker article, aptly titled "The Six Things That Make Stories Go Viral Will Amaze, and Maybe Infuriate, You," says:

"After controlling for online and print placement, timing, author popularity, author gender, length, and complexity, [the study authors] found that two features predictably determined an article’s success: how positive its message was and how much it excited its reader."

The article goes on to list several more determinants of a viral story, at least according to one of the study's authors, Jonah Berger, the author of a new book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On:

Social currency: "Something that makes people feel that they’re not only smart but in the know. People love to share insider information that makes them feel as if they're part of an exclusive group.

Stories that you stick in your memory: well-written, easily-remembered stories are much more likely to be shared than well-written stories that do not stick in the brain. For this one, outrageous stories might work as well as stories that offer practical advice, especially in list form.

A good story: As the writer Philip Pullman says, “After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”

So how can this information help you compose SEO-friendly content that inspires people to share? With the above determinants in mind, try to let the following key principles guide your writing experience.

How do you inspire people to share your content? [Photo Source]

1. Make it Personal: Whatever you sell, though, make it personal. By relating your own story to your product's story, you will inspire others to see the humanity in your business. Please note: Here (and below) the term "product" can mean any specific good or service that you sell, from your own brand to surfboards. Whatever the product, though, it should inspire a personal connection within you.

The very first post on The Organic SEO Blog--"How I Became an SEO Specialist"--is a short biography of the blog's sponsor and founder, Alex Stepman. Alex began with this post because he wanted his blog readers to see how deeply inspired he is about SEO and the success of his client's websites.

If you sell surfboards, then, talk about your connection to surfing. If you sell widgets, talk about your love of cars, or the people who drive them. No matter what you sell you should be able to easily find an intimate story that will touch others. Otherwise, why are you selling the product?

2. Make it Personal For Others: Try to imagine your ideal customer. How would your product benefit your ideal customer? How would your product potentially change your ideal customer's life? It doesn't matter what you sell. A particularly effective hair product can change a person's life. Jeans can be life changing.

If you truly believe in the power of your product, try to make other people feel that power. Discover your angle. Even nuts and bolts can inspire a connection. After all, without nuts and bolts how would we put cars together--the cars that drive us to work, and school, and to the hospital late at night when your wife is in labor!

3. Make it Positive: As the study above notes, people share positive articles more readily than negative articles (unless, perhaps, the negative article is sufficiently outrageous). But you will do well to frame your product in the most positive light with the most positive personal story.

And that's the point: tell a good story.

Can you product help one overcome a personal struggle? How did your product change your life, and how can it change other people's lives? Think about stories of heroism and triumph, and learn how to write in a way that makes people feel. Of course, this is easier said than done, but if you maintain focus on your story and the product you truly believe in you will have all the material you need to create a masterpiece. Then you just need to begin. As William Hutchinson Murray says in this famously inspiration (and often misattributed quote):

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now."

In the spirit of this quote, we urge you to attract the customers you deserve by writing the best story you can: your story