Consider both Google and your customers when developing your next content marketing plan to ensure it’s helpful to readers while also appearing high in search.
Many companies neglect to optimize their content to drive traffic and conversions from search, which is a missed opportunity to increase sales and awareness of their organization.
Content marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) don’t function within a silo, but instead complement one another to build a robust, results-focused marketing strategy.
According to MarketingProfs, 72 percent of surveyed marketers agree that content creation is one of the most effective tactics for SEO, highlighting the need for marketers to assure their content efforts are also optimized for search.
“In today’s post-Panda and Penguin world, content marketing and search optimization have a symbiotic relationship,” says Heidi Cohen, chief content officer at Actionable Marketing Guide.
“Content makes search terms contextually relevant,” adds Cohen. “Content provides the ‘who, what, why, where, and when’ of your key search words.”
She concludes, “Content does so by answering your target audience’s questions. Content delivers this information in their desired format, text, images, video, audio, and/or presentations.”
Learn the process for creating content that both serves your customers and helps the search engines drive qualified traffic to your web properties.
1. Invest in Keyword Research
The first step to creating content catered to search is conducting keyword research to inform the topics you’ll cover based on what consumers are searching for related to your niche.
Producing content on any subject semi-related to your product or service offerings isn’t going to drive worthwhile results as the goal with content is to create focused content on subjects that add value to potential and existing customers.
“SEO-focused content starts with research around keyword choices and volume. Start by determining what keywords your audience is searching for and then estimate the volume of searches related to each keyword to create a list of potential topics,” says Sasha Fedkevich, senior content marketing manager at Digital Current.
In addition, review your Google Search Console account to determine what search queries are driving relevant traffic to your website. This data will provide additional topic suggestions based on what is already ranking in search.
In addition, visit the Search Analytics report in Search Console to see what queries drive traffic to your website and use that to inform what topics to go back and cover again in the future.
The goal here is to find the keywords that’ll bring more, relevant searchers to your content on topics that’ll serve their interests and solve their problems.
2. Develop a Cohesive Strategy
To create useful content from the list of keywords compiled, develop a written strategy to prioritize where time is spent, on what topics, and with certain types of content.
Every organization has limited time and resources, so it’s best to first create a plan of action around what approach to content will drive the most results in the shortest amount of time.
Determining priorities based on available search engine data will help your organization create content that drives the most traffic, conversions, and sales.
Data from search and your own analytics will also provide direction on which of your top performing pages should be optimized for search first.
Follow these seven steps when developing an SEO-focused content strategy:
1. Examine Search for Relevant Keywords to Target
Analyze the volume of searches for particular keywords and their relevance to your customer base and company offerings to determine which long-tail keywords to optimize for.
Aim to incorporate keywords of relevance that are searched for hundreds and thousands of times a month that also fall within the competitive boundaries you’re willing to target.
If your company targets keywords with a search volume lower than this range, then your content might not be seen by a large enough audience, though you could still receive qualified traffic that’s ready to convert.
On the flipside, if your company aims for keywords with a high search volume, there might be too much competition around them. This would make it very difficult to rank high for those terms, reducing the chance the content will ever be seen.
2. Repurpose or Optimize Relevant Existing Content
Develop an inventory of your existing content to understand what your team can immediately repurpose into a different format or further optimize.
Repurposing existing content allows your organization to get more visibility, engagement, and conversions from previously developed content by adapting it to a new format.
3. Analyze Your Competitors’ Content & How It Performs
Review the success of leading competitors in search to see what content topics and formats are performing.
An extensive competitive analysis will inform where to focus your brand’s approach to content based on their successes and failures.
4. Determine What Type of Content to First Create
Define what content formats your company will create initially to determine where to focus resources, whether that’s blogging, shooting videos, hosting a podcast, etc.
Review where your competitors are most active in order to provide suggestions on content types you should create, but to also understand where your customers consume content.
5. Create a Content Outline
Outline what steps are needed to create a content piece from start to finish to keep the process organized to make it easier to scale in the long-term.
This is useful for all contributors, content creators, marketers, and project managers alike, to understand what investment is required from each piece of content.
6. Determine Where to Share & Promote Your Content
The variety of ways your organization’s content will be promoted once published should be accounted for during the strategy phase of the content creation and SEO optimization process.
Enough time should be spent focused on promoting your content to guarantee that plenty of exposure is driven to each piece. Use social media channels that you previously learned your particular audience spends their time.
7. Use Search to Align Content With Audience
Determine what your goals are through search in order to align your content with the right audience. This process will determine content types selected, topics chosen, distribution strategies, and the metrics used to determine success.
3. Create SEO-Driven Content
Half the work optimizing content for SEO is completed during the content creation phase. With a list of keywords to focus your content around, it is important to not forget that you are also creating content to benefit your customers.
“I think any SEO professional these days will advise you to write for people,” says Mark Schaefer, a college educator, marketing consultant, and author of five marketing books including “The Content Code.”
“Every algorithmic change Google has made in the past five years has rewarded content that helps, serves, and informs,” adds Schaefer. “If you focus on those priorities, especially in an uncrowded niche, you’ll be fine.”
With the right topic in mind, create content that covers a particular subject in-depth; search engines tend to prefer long-form written content.
This doesn’t mean a longer article automatically performs better in search, but if your approach to a subject is unique, adds more value than existing resources, and is widely linked to and shared, then the length may provide an additional boost to its visibility.
According to Entrepreneur, the average length for content ranking in the Top 10 search results is over 2,000 words.
One of the reasons why long-form written content performs well in search is because the resource provides more information for Google to analyze. The search engine can better understand the piece’s focus, and readers are more likely to encounter useful information.
Another consideration to keep in mind when creating content that’ll perform in search is ensuring the topic is evergreen, meaning it’ll be relevant if viewed at any time.
An article, video, PDF, or another format of content might be viewed weeks, months, or years after it was initially published, requiring it to remain as accurate as possible over time in order to be valuable to your prospects.
Creating timely content can help bring your company’s viewpoint into a trending discussion about recent news, but the problem is that this type of content expires over time since it likely isn’t relevant for readers in the long term.
“The best way to achieve a balance of creating content that is both evergreen and timely is by newsjacking, which is the process of adding your insights through content in a conversation around breaking news,” says Jarrod Hunt, CMO and co-founder of Digital Current.
“Certain topics can tie-into recent news, while also having an evergreen aspect to them to ensure it not only gets an initial boost of exposure from being in the news, but so it also drives value in the long term.”
For example, Digital Current’s Mobile SEO Starter Guide was originally published around the same time that Google announced it was favoring mobile-friendly websites in mobile search results.
Publishing the article around the same time helped bring the piece into the larger conversation surrounding the news, but the piece was also written to be evergreen as it included recommendations that would remain helpful going forward.
As a result, the article generated 1,500+ social shares, 80+ links, and ranked for multiple keywords on the first page of Google’s search listings.
This is one of the most effective ways to serve both Google and your customers with content, as the search engines value both relevant, newsworthy content and content that is regularly linked to and shared in the long term, indicating its continued value.
Consumers want useful information, whether it ties into recent news or not, as long as it serves them in the right context, format, and medium.
4. Emphasize Content Promotion
The main reason behind creating content suited to search is to drive more awareness, engagement, and conversions.
Some of the many signals Google and other search engines consider when a new piece of content is published are the initial links and social shares it generates after first being published.
When content underperforms, it is often because not enough time or resources were allocated to promoting the content after it was first published or it wasn’t promoted at all.
Creating worthwhile content isn’t enough on its own as it needs to be promoted to drive results.
“There is a gap today in creating relevant and ‘findable’ content — creating a situation where if you write a post that no one can find, did you ever actually write it,” says Gerry Moran, content marketing strategist and global head of social media at Cognizant.
“Whether you are a big brand or a small business, you need to develop content to connect with your customer and then work in the form-factor magic.”
The magic Moran refers to is the hard work it takes to promote your content to give it the best opportunity to shine amongst all the other content being shared with your audience.
“This under-the-hood adjustment is always priority number one, since it drives awareness, engagement, and business impact. It’s a numbers game, and SEO drives the biggest gear — awareness,” added Moran.
Whether you’re paying for the promotion of your content on social media or hosting a webinar to drive downloads of your white paper, the goal is to build awareness to resources your company invested in.
One of the most successful tactics for initially driving awareness to your content in search is partnering with influencers. This promotional effort should be mapped out in your strategy document prior to creating your content.
“Most miss the mark when it comes to catering to an influencer as they need to create content that entices them to share it with their audience for social engagement, increased backlinks, etc.,” says Jarrod Hunt.
“Often the biggest difference between your content ranking well or not is an influencer taking part in its promotion.”
An influencer is an individual with high degree of authority in a particular industry, specifically in regards to the web traffic and social media audience they command.
For example, YouTube star NikkieTutorials is considered an influencer in the vlogging and beauty industry as she commands over 5 million subscribers and typically amasses 1 million views on every video published.
The impact an influencer like NikkieTutorials offers is what draws brands to partner with them to drive more visibility to their own content and offerings.
The process for partnering with influencers on content starts by using a tool like BuzzSumo to explore what content these individuals tend to share on social media, what type of content they regularly link to, and the topics covered in the content they produce themselves.
“Develop content that will appeal to an influencer’s audience which in most cases is the audience you want to reach to as well,” says Jarrod Hunt.
“From the beginning, have a plan around what kinds of things you can include to ensure influencers are engaged like including them in the process or understanding what types of content an influencer tends to link to.”
For example, creating a round-up blog post that includes multiple influencers in your industry is one example of including influential figures from your vertical in a company’s content efforts.
Since influencers are included in the piece, they are far more likely to share it and link to it if they find it valuable, which will aid in driving more visibility to the piece in search.
5. Monitor Analytics and Adapt
“Data should inform what you’re initially doing with content from an SEO perspective, but will also affect the direction of your efforts moving forward,” says Sasha Fedkevich.
Monitoring success with for a SEO-focused content marketing plan requires understanding what content items are ranking in search, which are driving qualified traffic, and most importantly, the number of conversions generated from that content.
Consistent measurement provides an organization an opportunity to invest more in the content topics that are generating results, while altering content activities that aren’t producing the desired outcomes.
“Companies investing in SEO-centric content should measure traffic generated, brand awareness, increased engagement, lead generation, and sales, which is the most important goal to focus on,” says Sasha Fedkevich.
Using Google Analytics and Google Search Console as measurement tools, pair metrics with these five goals in order to understand if your company is achieving them:
- Organic Traffic Driven: Pageviews, the time on site, bounce rate and click-through-rate
- Brand Awareness: Search volume, new visitors, and number of inbound links
- Increased Engagement: Social shares, mentions, and comments
- Lead Generation: Email sign-ups, downloads, and number of leads captured
- Sales Growth: Purchases tied to SEO-focused content
Review progress with content in search on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to inform where your organization should continue to focus and what areas need to be readjusted.
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How does your organization strike a balance between creating content to serve both the search engines and your customer base? What types of content have performed the best for driving traffic and conversions from search?
Tweet us about your experiences with content and search engine optimization over on Twitter @DigitalCurrent.