When you create content for your digital audiences, it can be easy to sink into a pattern of the same old format and target audience without realising. However, this does not allow you to optimise your content to perform well for different users, and therefore search, either.

Getting articles to rank highly on search engine results pages (SERP) has been discussed at great length. Rather than getting caught up in the technical aspects and box-ticking associated with writing for the web, the guiding principle is always that content which is useful and well-propositioned remain first prize. So how can we ensure that our audience actually finds our content when they search?

How to optimise for search

Understanding the search landscape - In your content campaign research, start by finding the highly searched topics. It will show you where the highest level of 'opportunity' is, as well as which types of content are performing well for searches on this theme. It's important to look beyond just the words, but find out what the most popular formats are too.

For example: let's use the search "What are ETFs?". As expected from a Google search, we have a familiar blue link appearing at the top. It is a very specific article from a well-known source in this field, however the old long list of only blue links is gone. Below and to the side of this first link we can see the results page has developed beyond this. This gives you an idea of the type of content that users can expect to find with such a search.

Google search result for what are ETFs?

Making the most of your 'features'

Below the top result there is a 'People also ask' feature. You can use this feature to inspire sections in the content you are creating, that will help it appear as the answer for this question or as inspiration for a more detailed future piece on this topic. This approach is useful in helping you learn about your potential audience and what they might want in future content.

To the right of the results, we have a 'knowledge panel'. Consisting of the most basic information on a topic, it doesn't require the searcher to click to another page but enables them to get their answer, including who provided the answer, instantly. It might seem counterintuitive, but it has been shown that having your answer in the 'Knowledge panel' increases your click-through rate (CTR), in addition to building your brand authority on the topic.

While not all of these features are appropriate for the investment management industry, if you wanting to understand them better, here is a link to a definitive list of SERP features.

Technically correct or simply hard to read?

For industries that often feature a great deal of technical content, such as investment management, searches can be niche and the language complex, but there is still an audience searching for your content. They just might not be using the same language as you. Just think of the growing number of searches from millennials and Gen Z who are keen to learn more about investments after the recent social media-inspired stock market activity.

This is yet another reason to stress the importance of simplifying the language we use so that it is more accessible to a broader audience. Our industry is a big culprit in using complex language that does not encourage easy consumption.

Understanding the language your audience uses will help you find search terms with more opportunity for you. It will likely also highlight a subtopic within your content that might have great demand.

Content format

Find the answer to the follow questions: What is performing well and reaching the top spots on a search for "x"? What is therefore receiving a good CTR and low bounce rate?

Is it a Q&A article, a video, a listicle, a brochure, a news article, an infographic, an image? There are so many different formats that need to be used to attract different users looking for slightly different answers. Take advantage of this and provide multiple formats for your content and don't simply stick to the 'tried and trusted'. Use the evidence in front of you to show that there is an audience for it.

It's important to understand that the SERP 'area' is always changing, so what may have been perfect for your search results 6 months ago may have changed. Instead of seeing this as a frustration, see it as Google simply reminding you to keep your content fresh and up-to-date.

If you want to learn more about the role of content in the industry, visit our learning pages to see how we can help.