For years, writing articles was the best way to create meaningful content and improve your site's rankings in search engines. Today, content is still king--but the type of content required to see the best results is starting to change.
We may be entering the era of interactive content--content that allows or encourages users to engage or experiment with it--in the context of SEO. So what exactly does interactive content look like, and how could it affect your search results?
Examples of Interactive Content
It's best to define interactive content with a handful of examples. These are all forms of content that encourage some type of action from the reader or consumer:
- Calculators. First off, there are calculators, which typically rely on a set formula to help customers find information. For example, Investor.gov offers visitors a compound interest calculator, designed to show the effects of investing or accumulating debt long-term. You could also offer a quote calculator for your products and services.
- Personal quizzes. You can also make personalized recommendations or help people understand their unique situation with a custom quiz. For example, Ken Ganley Nissan offers a quiz that helps visitors decide whether it's best for them to buy or lease a vehicle. You could also skew these to be more entertaining, such as comparing visitors to characters from pop culture.
- Infographics and maps. Some organizations give visitors interactive visual displays of data, which they can play around with by controlling the variables, altering the layout, or zooming. For example, WNYC offers an interactive map of the median household income throughout the United States.
So how can interactive content help your SEO campaign more than straightforward, traditional content?
- Differentiation. Not all companies are willing to invest the time and money into developing interactive content. Because there's an extra layer of development, and typically higher demands for unique data, interactive content is rarer than traditional content. If you can differentiate yourself from your competitors by offering it, you'll get more visitors and retain them easier.
- Time spent on page. Website engagement rates could have a significant impact on your search rankings; in other words, users who spend more time on a page of your site can help that page rank higher. Interactive content invites users to spend more time engaging with your brand and content, which in turn can help you climb the rankings.
- Inbound links. Interactive content is practically valuable; people need it to make estimates, discover new things about themselves, and even entertain themselves. These types of content also tend to offer unique information you can't find anywhere else. Accordingly, they have a high likelihood of attracting links--or at least, more links than their traditional counterparts.
- Shareability. Again because they're practically valuable, interactive forms of content have higher rates of social sharing than other types. Those social shares won't impact your rankings directly, but could help you earn more links that eventually boost your domain and page-level authority. You'll also stand to earn more social traffic and brand visibility because of it.
- Brand trust and visitor retention. Customers who find value in your interactive content will be impressed, and more likely to return in the future. Return visitors who search for and click on your content can help inch up your rankings, but more importantly, they could bring you a significant boost in direct traffic.
- Data acquisition. Finally, your interactive content is a potentially significant source of data for your own use. For example, let's say you have a calculator that helps visitors find out how much their latest creative project is going to cost. You can use these data to project the average user's project costs, and how much they'd be willing to pay. If you keep the data to use internally, you can develop a better understanding of your customers. If you decide to release the data to the public, you can write a follow-up post containing that original research to earn even more links and shares.
So will interactive content be the shortcut you need to get more number-one rankings and finally trounce the competition? Probably not-you'll still need good fundamentals and a sound high-level strategy in place--but it will give you a competitive advantage. And in today's oversaturated content world, any advantage you can get is important.
Try working more interactive content into your campaign; there are few, if any downsides, and you have everything to gain.
Jayson DeMers is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing & social media agency. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.