One of the most important ways to help your website be found in search engines is through expansion of content on your website, typically through blogs. At Points Group, when we started blogging regularly, our search traffic effectively doubled. A little while later, we decided to be much more intentional about our blogging, and traffic hit more than triple the original level. Over the last two months, we decided to try writing solid blog content every day about specific topics to see how that would effect our search traffic. Our search traffic is now approximately 8 times it’s original level. That’s a big jump!
If you want people to find your website, you need to be serious about SEO, and that means getting serious about content creation. The challenge is that it can be expensive to create a lot of good quality content. It either takes time from your team or time from an outside agency to write the content for you. We obviously recommend having professionals write content for you. Professional writers ensure high quality and accuracy, which are both important. However, if you can get quality content at a low cost, than can also be greatly beneficial. Free is even better.
What to Watch Out for with Free Content
We should start with a disclaimer – just because it’s free doesn’t necessarily mean you want it. There are a lot of methods out there that provide garbage content for free or low cost. You don’t want that. You’ll want to watch out for companies and services that:
- Promise results from writing content once and publish multiple times. We’ve seen that before, and it either gets you penalized or winds up being worthless. It just means they’re spamming it out there, not making the internet better (which Google has explicitly stated it wants – people making the internet better)
- “Spin” your content by changing words to make new articles out of old ones. It’s nearly the definition of SPAM. Stay away.
- Have content written offshore. If it’s written by a native speaker of your site’s language, that’s fine. Otherwise – be careful. Not only will it not perform as well, it will cheapen your site.
- Publish content on other sites. Many publishers will either publish on their own sites and redirect users to your sites, or they’ll post the same articles on multiple websites. Don’t settle for this – it doesn’t help your brand in the end.
Free Quality Content for Your Website
We have found ways to get quality content for your site for free. These practices can work especially well for healthcare practices, but can be modified for other industries as well. They may take a little work on your part, but usually just touch up as opposed to creation of new content.
Your clients are some of the best sources of content available. If you do a great job delighting customers (if not, you have bigger problems than free content), many will be happy to help you out. Ask for and post patient testimonials. We’ve done this for patients by simply having them fill out a form with their comments. A particularly happy patient may be willing to be interviewed or even write out the problem they had, what the procedure was which was done for them, and the results they’ve seen. It’s a little more work, so you have to choose carefully whom to ask, but it’s certainly feasible to get content this way. We’ve even set up a mini studio in a client’s office so that they could record patient testimonial videos on their own and just send them over for touch-ups. Patients and doctors now create video content with minimal extra effort.
Community Created Content
Communities can be a great place for building content. Create a place for discussion on your website. Do your patients need a place they can turn to for support? For example, if you treat patients who suffer from quadriplegia, a community for quadriplegics to discuss tools they’ve found that have helped them to live a more normal life (among other things) may be very helpful. When like-minded individuals come to your site to create discussion on relevant topics, that builds up the amount of content on your website – content that is indexed by search engines and can help your rankings.
On a similar note, encourage blog commenting on your site. It’s actually amazing how many blogs miss an opportunity for free content here just by closing off comments. Even though Google ignores links, links in blog comments (technically the links are what is known as “no indexed”), it does index the actual content. A large discussion in your comments section tells Google something. It tells Google “this is important enough for discussion” and “there is a lot of potentially useful content here.” Make sure that you encourage blog comments, even including a call to comment as a call to action.
Hold a Contest
If you can offer up a reward or some kind of incentive, you can hold a contest and have users generate content for you. It doesn’t have to even cost you much…or anything. You can simply offer up a service you provide or some type of publicity. Doritos has been great at doing this over the past two years during the Super Bowl. They have held a contest for users to submit an ad to be run during the Super Bowl. This cost them a lot less than creating their own ad, but more importantly, they received buy-in. Not only did they have a lot of great content, but are also among those who received the most attention for their ads during the big game. Here is the winner from this year’s contest:
Guest Created Content
The last free content tip is to have someone else write content for you – for free. Many authors are willing to guest post (or guest blog) in order to gain exposure to what they’re doing, often through a bio and link to their website on the blog. This is a potentially great way to have someone else write you content without it costing you a dime.
Clarification on Guest Blogging
There are many people (just do a Google search) warning about guest blogging due to Google’s recent statements about how to handle guest blogging. This includes using “no follow” links and a general discouragement from doing this for SEO purposes. Please understand, Google is not against guest blogging. What has happened is that many people have used guest blogging as another opportunity to create garbage content and get a link out of it. This is what Google doesn’t want. If someone is writing a high quality piece of content for your site, this is not a problem with Google. This is something that makes the internet better.
Get Started with Free Content
While it may be true that none of these steps are truly free, as they do take some effort, with a little bit of momentum you can create a lot of great content for free or at very little cost. When we are seeing Google focus as much as they are on content, and content being this essential to SEO, it becomes extra important to jump on this. We’d love to hear from you if you’re trying out (or have used) any of these methods and how they’ve turned out for you. If you have any other great ideas, let us know those too! Leave a response in the comments below (see what I did there?).