Content: Search engine optimization is a powerful online marketing strategy. When utilized correctly, it can help your business grow by attracting more organic traffic to your site. Through the masterful use of SEO, your content can naturally target potential customers who are searching for what you provide. With poor SEO practice, on the other hand … not so much. Here are four ways your content is either helping or hurting your SEO efforts.

1. It Establishes You as an Industry Authority

Think of the last time you purchased something from an unfamiliar brand instead of a brand you knew and trusted. If you’re drawing a blank, you’re perfectly normal. People tend to be loyal to companies that are well-established as authorities in their industry. If you own a small company, you may find it extremely challenging to compete with more established businesses. But that’s where an exceptional content strategy can help you do the seemingly impossible.

The most effective way to claim your place as an authority in your industry is to ensure your content ranks well in search engine results. If your site doesn’t appear within the first few pages of a customer’s search results, that’s bad news. Usually, the first few search engine pages are reserved for businesses that are well-established and trustworthy. If you don’t appear there, consumers probably won’t choose to shop with you.

To increase your search engine rank, you need to focus on SEO anytime you create and publish content. If you’re having a difficult time developing an effective SEO strategy, begin with content pillars. These are three to five broad topics that direct all your content creation efforts. For example, if you own an insurance company, your content pillars might include auto, home, and life insurance, as well as general safety tips. Focusing your content around a few pillar subjects will help you become a trusted source of reliable information in those areas.

2. Or It Makes You Look Like a Novice

Just as a good content strategy can help you build authority, a poor strategy can peg you as a novice. That’s the last thing you want when you’re trying to earn consumer trust and grow your business. Many small businesses try to cut costs by shelling out marketing responsibilities to other departments or inexperienced employees. This is a mistake that could cost you your reputation and kill your SEO results.

Overlooking grammatical errors is one of the most common issues that can make you look like a content rookie. Your piece could be brilliant and even industry-changing in every other way. But if it’s full of misspellings and other errors, most of your audience will automatically discount it. It’s worth the investment to have a qualified editor review your pieces before you hit “publish.”

Another way you can come across as a novice is if your content contains factual inaccuracies or out-of-date information. The miracle of the internet is that you can find answers to almost any question in a matter of seconds. Unfortunately, not every answer that pops up is going to be correct. If you aren’t tirelessly scrupulous, factual inaccuracies could slip into your content and make you look ill-informed and untrustworthy.

3. It Helps Your Business Earn Clicks

There are over a billion websites on the internet. Though an estimated 82% of them are inactive, you still have some stiff competition when it comes to earning clicks. No matter what industry you’re in, you probably have hundreds of competitors with the exact same target audience. Your content may be the only obvious difference between your business and the hundreds of other businesses like it.

To draw clicks away from the competition, you need to leverage tried-and-proven SEO strategies. One effective strategy is to exploit the “curiosity gap.” Humans are curious by nature, which means they want to explore things that seem puzzling or strange. You can capitalize on this trait by creating content headlines that entice readers to learn more. To do this, include just enough information in the title to grab the reader’s interest while leaving out something crucial.

For example, if you sell dog food, you might publish the post “A Family’s Beloved Pet Got Sick After Eating This Common Dog Food Brand.” The title piques the curiosity response and appeals to the reader’s desire to learn more. It also alludes to the growing problem of contaminated pet food and gives you the opportunity to establish your brand as a safe option. When using the curiosity gap to create content titles, be careful not to slide into the undesirable realm of “clickbait.” The content within your article should always be relevant to the title you give it.

4. Or It Drives Customers to Competitors

A robust SEO strategy can also help you with traffic, engagement, reputation management, and conversion rates. Unfortunately, some business owners mistakenly believe they can develop authority and attract customers without organizing their content efforts.

If your content development efforts are inconsistent and disordered, your customers will notice. That’s why it’s never wise to create and publish content off the cuff. Without a systematic strategy to guide your efforts, your content may come across as sloppy and lazy.

It’s a common fallacy to think that publishing any type of content is better than publishing no content at all. If your content is irrelevant, contains inaccuracies, or makes you look inexperienced, however, you’re doing your competition a favor. Potential customers will view you as a risky company to do business with and will go elsewhere.

Getting SEO Right

An effective content strategy involves many different moving parts and pieces that can be difficult to manage effectively. But despite its complex nature, SEO is still incredibly popular because it delivers results. Audit your content to determine how it’s currently impacting your SEO performance. Then make the necessary changes to ensure you’re getting the best outcome from your efforts.