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Which Content Marketing Format is Best for SEO?

By Andy Mullins on March 8, 2017 in SEO
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In a recent Whiteboard Friday, Rand Fishkin presented findings from his research into which content strategy and content marketing formats best suit SEO.  By carefully investigating hundreds of SERPS, Fishkin learned which formats are most effective for finding a URL atop the Google results page.

The top 10 content formats are:

  1. Blog Posts
  2. Short-Form Evergreen Content and Articles
  3. Long Form Articles
  4. Photo and Visual Galleries
  5. Detailed and Information-rich Lists of Information
  6. Interactive Tools and Content
  7. Comprehensive Category Landers
  8. Multi-Page Guides
  9. Data or Complex Information
  10. Video

One format that did show decent search results yet isn’t something Fishkin suggests you pay much attention to is that of formal research documents such as PDFs and PowerPoint presentations.

Why? From an SEO perspective, Google’s shift to mobile-first indexing means documents that are difficult to open and view on mobile devices (such as PDFs and PowerPoint presentations) won’t be resulting in good SEO for much longer.

When it comes to deciding which content marketing format you should use, Fishkin set up 3 categories of questions you should ask yourself that will help you land on the right format based on searcher’s intent, SERPS, and your audience.

What is the Searcher’s Intent?

Those searching Google typically fall into 3 separate categories. The first and second categories are Navigations and Transactions. Neither of these two categories is suitable for content marketing. In both Navigational and Transactional searches, users have already made their decision.

The third, more expansive category is that of Information. Informational searches look like one or more of the following:

  • Quick answer
  • Deep comparison
  • Broad Overview
  • Curiosity & Intrigue
  • Professional/Scientific Interest
  • Multi-Threaded Explanation & Others

By distinguishing your user’s intent, your content marketing and strategy can be better suited to provide the best answer in the most convenient way for your users, which means Google is indexing for your content to be atop their SERP.

What Appears in the Search Results Page?

The second category of questions you should look at pertains to what’s already showing up in the SERP for your industry and type of content. Regarding SERPS, Fishkin asks, “Who already shows up there, and what kinds of formats are they using? That can be informational. That can give you some inspiration, or it could drive you to want to be different from the rest of them.”

By paying attention to what’s already showing up on related SERPs, you can quickly discover what formats have been working for the type of content marketing strategy you’re trying to execute. At the same time, when you’ve noticed which formats are oversaturating the SERP, you can provide an alternative that may boost your SEO simply for the sake of answering your user’s questions in a different yet more convenient way. For example, a SERP full of infographics may find its URL’s bowing down to your video containing the same information. Why? Because pressing play is easier for users, and Google loves that.

Which Type of Content Marketing Resonates with Your Audience and Their Influencers?

Which devices is your audience using? Are they looking for new, interesting formats, or is the persona you’re pursuing looking for the familiar, professional presentation they’re used to? Answering these questions will help you distinguish between a format your audience must adjust themselves to and a format that’s already been adjusted to your audience. 100 times out of 10, Google is looking for the result that’s already been adjusted to user behavior and devices.

Your content marketing strategy is no strategy at all without an understanding of what kind of information your audience is after, what formats have or haven’t been ranking well, and what devices your audience is using to find your content. But by paying attention to these categories and answering these questions, you’re better prepared to choose the format your users (and Google) will love to see on SERPs.

Key Takeaways

  1. Choose the right format for your content marketing by observing what type of information your audience is after.
  2. Look at current SERPs to see which formats are/aren’t working and whether or not certain formats are oversaturated.
  3. Which devices is your audience using? Which format is your persona looking for? Answer both questions to prepare the best content marketing strategy.

About the Author

Andy MullinsView all posts by Andy Mullins >