Why Engagement Is The New Rule Of Content

Why Engagement Is The New Rule Of Content
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In this guest post, King Kong’s head of growth, Sabri Suby (pictured below), takes a look at recent changes to Google’s rankings and how it will affect content makers and the measure of any content’s success…

Changes to Google’s ranking algorithm mean that time on a page is valued higher than the number of clicks. With these new rules in mind, how can you fire up your content marketing and wage a war of words on your competitors?

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Content marketing success is no longer measured in terms of clicks and backlinks. Dwell time and low bounce rates are the new search currency, spelling the end of the clickbait era for good (I hope). Finally, the battle for eyeballs will be fought out through wisdom, not simply information.

Social triggers hero better content

Search is evolving. Once upon a time Google based a page’s ranking on who and how many linked to it on the premise that it meant the content was worth referencing. But when the trade in backlinks exploded, Google had to find another way to rank pages. Enter social triggers, a measure of who is sharing and talking about content.

The battle plan for this new algorithm is twofold. You still need backlinks, done properly, in your armoury to assert domain authority. Secondly, social authority via sharing and discussion is the trigger to make your content more visible. This is a component that has never been as vital as it is today.

Wisdom worth engaging

So, how do you capture attention and boost ranking, you ask? Deep, engaging content. The longer you can get someone to stay on your page, the better ranking you will earn. Long dwell time, low bounce rates, scroll depth, comments, and shares are now the new drivers of a good ranking. If content is king, engagement is most certainly its queen.

A standard content marketing approach would see an article or post targeting keywords that Google would then rank. Keywords are still an important part of categorising content but it’s less important when it comes to ranking. For that, Google now factors in dwell time and bounce rates. This means if a visitor lands on your page and sees a shallow piece of clickbait content, their dwell time will decrease, bounce rates will sky-rocket, and your ranking takes a hit over time.

The lesson here is that you should, without hesitation, be aiming for quality over quantity. It’s better to publish one meaty article monthly than two tepid blog posts week. Only a few years back it was about how much you were pumping out, but when everyone and their neighbour caught onto this and began releasing a flood of content, it diluted the value of that content. A 400-word piece without imagery, graphs or free reports attached to it just doesn’t cut it any more.

The algorithm is now rewarding true value. Content now must be irresistible, to capture a visitor’s attention and engage them. Entertain them, enrich them! It needs to have a WOW factor so great they can’t not share and discuss it with their networks. This is where wisdom outranks information every time: wisdom is value you can take away and implement. People are drowning in information, but are hungry for value and wisdom.

And wisdom is more likely to generate an action from the reader, so you can move your ideal audience further along the customer journey. This shouldn’t only be about rankings.

Long-form lives

There was a theory not so long ago that reading things on the internet was killing our attention spans. Short, punchy pieces were the name of the game. In fact, this was a somewhat self-fulfilling prophecy: people consumed more short pieces because more short pieces were being published. While, in parallel, we saw the opposite occurring. Audiences were starting to engage more with longform articles.

One example of this is the handiwork of the heroes over at Grammarly. You see, Grammarly has two blogs: one focussing on spelling and one on grammar. The average length of a Grammarly piece that ranks on page one of Google is 2,800 words long. Yep, 2,800 words each! The specific, relevant and interesting content entices the audience to read deeply, boosting dwell time and reducing bounce. And for that Google has rewarded Grammarly with all the spoils of war – the much-coveted rank of first, second or third for 250,000 keywords in the US market. Booyah!

We have also found long-form valuable in our own content marketing efforts. The average case study we publish sits at 8,500 words. Our case studies demonstrate an entire business’ strategy in subsections, where a reader can take what they want – maybe they only want the SEO strategy or perhaps only the Facebook strategy and apply it themselves, which is why people read them. The in-depth studies might take us two weeks of research and analysis to create, but they are key in our battle plan for search ranking and are a super strong magnetic customer acquisition tool.

Content has always been about providing value, but thankfully (I mean, who really wants to publish the lukewarm?), the way Google measures that value has evolved. Backlink numbers are foundational, the real shift has been how social triggers and interaction with the content, come into play. In this world, clickbait is like consuming empty calories – a waste of time for all and sundry. Instead, focus your game-plan on irresistible, engaging content and watch the dial shift on the value of the attention that ensues.

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