I’ve seen the idea that SEO and content marketing are at odds, or that one replaces the other, many times. Today I’d like to explain why SEO and content marketing intersect in many critical ways. I’m doing this because you can really only catapult your website to the top of the list if you understand how SEO and content marketing work together, how they don’t, and how to maximize these intersections.
Great SEO has a lot of moving parts. Yes, it’s about keyword strategies, link-building and other technical points. But it’s also about social media and great content. So SEO without content marketing isn’t as effective as it should be. The reverse is also true: content marketing without attention to a sound overall SEO strategy can never work as well as an integrated approach.
The ABCs of Content in the Context of SEO
You probably have some ideas about what makes content good, but it’s important to break the elements of awesome content down with SEO in mind so you don’t miss any steps. Here are the ABCs of content:
Actionable content. Your content should provide advice, tips and hacks that can be used by your audience. Remember, actionable content is what people look for, and search engines reward quality. And even if search engine algorithms aren’t yet precise enough to always rank the best content highest on the SERPs, someday soon they will be.
Banish banality. Eliminate all fluff, duplicate content and content that’s just not good. This is the only way to achieve better search results. Choose both hot and evergreen topics that are on point. Check for trending issues, news and “holes” in the resources that are currently available.
Collaboration. Don’t fight other influencers; collaboration benefits everyone by mutually bolstering authority. Interface with other influencers on social media to be more visible in front of a new audience. The better connections you make, the more natural links you’ll get. And don’t forget quality guest posting which is essential to a great marketing strategy.
Data-driven choices. Know how your past content has performed, how the content of your competitors performs, and use this complementary analysis to find holes in existing content and other opportunities. Don’t make blind guesses when you’re plotting out your content and SEO strategies; use your metrics and base your decisions on data.
Engagement. You must engage with your audience, your social media followers and other influencers to make your SEO and content marketing efforts work.
Formatting. Proper web formatting is critical to the readability of your content. Create ample white space, and break up paragraphs that are too long. Use short sentences that each express a simple idea.
Growth hacks. Engineer your content based on your metrics and the fundamentals of human psychology to drive growth. As your content becomes more popular, continue to evolve your approach for more growth, not stagnation. Check out this massive list of growth hacks.
Holistic goals. Set common SEO and content marketing goals so they work together holistically. Your SEO and content marketing goals don’t need to be identical, but they do need to mesh together. If your SEO goal is to generate leads based on long tail keyword research, your corresponding content goal should be to create original content on topics that surround those long tail keywords. Finally, set KPIs for tracking your content’s performance based on your holistic goals.
Influence and internal links. Build your influence, credibility and authority. As you gain it, use it; this creates a feedback loop which allows you to build more influence by showing the influence you already possess. And remember, never lose the chance to use an internal link to your other awesome content. This too builds authority.
Jargon: don’t use it. What do you think the odds are that your audience is searching for something using jargon? Not good, in most cases. Keep your content accessible and inclusive.
Keyword-optimized strategy. Only focused, well-researched keyword strategies yield the results you are hoping for. Your keywords and long tail keywords should be skillfully placed (not stuffed) into the titles, URLs, body and meta descriptions for each post. Stick to contextually relevant keywords; don’t just insert keywords and long tail keyword phrases into your content. Provide intelligent settings for your keywords by focusing your content carefully.
Leadership. No matter what your niche is, show leadership within it. Participate in discussions online and in person, and highlight your thought leadership for your audience.
Master spelling and grammar. Few things are more irritating than trying to plow your way through poorly written content. Don’t put your readers in the position of mining for gems among a sea of awful writing.
Native and niche content. Curating great content is a good way to make connections with other influencers and fill in gaps in your schedule, but amazing native content is what builds rank and authority. Similarly, producing niche content allows you to solve problems based on your metrics and user demographics. Your goal is to be broad enough to gain traction and niche enough to generate the most promising leads.
Optimize for mobile. Your content must be readable on any device. Google is using a mobile friendly algorithm, and increasing numbers of people consume content on mobile devices. If your page is too slow or hard to read, you will lose those people.
Plan carefully, but deviate when necessary. Yes, you must have a content schedule planned out. Choose useful topics that are evergreen, but don’t be afraid to deviate from your calendar to make room for trending issues and news. And remember to vary your type of content as part of your plan; mix it up with infographics, memes, video clips, white papers and downloadable guides and reports.
Qualified traffic. As you plan out your content marketing schedule, choose topics and keywords that are qualified for your business. Choose a wide variety of topics, yes, but make sure they’re united by being targeted for your demographic. Learn about qualified traffic now. Keep in mind, I could get your 100,000 visitors a month in moments notice, but who cares if it doesn’t convert.
Readability. Is your content a joy to read? Does it interest, inform and entertain? Readability doesn’t mean understandability. It means something much more.
Shareable content. It seems incredible, but there’s a lot of content out there that doesn’t have share buttons. Your content must be a snap to share and should include strong CTAs that ask users to share.
Thick, meaty, lengthy content. Google and other search engines are very sophisticated. If you’re producing thin, repetitive content, they will notice. Produce substantive, long-form pieces of content.
Unique content. If your content and SEO strategy are working, don’t shrug your shoulders and leave it. There are always new ways to innovate, create more and better content and improve your SEO.
Writing routine. It’s sometimes a challenge, but you must post great content regularly and with enough frequency to get noticed by the search engines.
Xenophilia Your content should be designed for the community your business serves, but for most of us that is a potentially worldwide audience. Know where your users are and what interests and needs they have.
You, not me. If your content is sales-y and overly promotional, it won’t work. No one likes someone who talks about themselves constantly. Focus on the pain points and preferences of your audience and avoid “me, me, me” content.
Zero-sum fallacy. You may think that content marketing is a zero-sum game, meaning that the utility your readers get out of your content is exactly balanced by the work you put in, but that’s a fallacy. If you put a lot of effort into content that’s only so-so and isn’t optimized, you’ll get far less back. But if you put a lot of effort into awesome, optimized content you’ll get back far more than you invested.
Why SEO and Content Marketing Must Work Together
Think of it like this.
People are generally finding out about who you are in this stage. In most cases, this is reserved for content marketing and informational pieces. For Ignite Visibility for example, you might Google SEO reporting and see this article.
Now you have found out about our company. As you can see, this is a content marketing piece, but also has been optimized for the term SEO reporting. This attracts people who would be interested in what we do.
When people are interested in a service, they will start searching for the core terms. For us, this is terms like “SEO company, SEO firm, SEO agency.”
You generally want to have a service page for this, as well as a content marketing page. For example:
The Ultimate Guide to Choosing an SEO Agency
Now keep in mind, this content marketing page can live on your site or a large publication. In most cases, it is a good idea to get placed on a larger site. Then people will read it, find out about you and request your service.
At this stage people know about you and they are shopping. Think of content marketing terms like:
- <brand> coupons
- <brand> sale
- <brand> vs. <brand>
- <brand> reviews
You need to make sure you have an SEO/reputation management/content marketing strategy around these keywords as well.
It is finally time for the purchase. Now it is time to make sure you really own your branded search space. Make sure no affiliates are getting your traffic, competitors are running ads or ranking for your big terms. As long as you can do this, you should get the sale.
There’s really no way to separate your SEO and your content marketing. In fact, the more skillfully you integrate them, the more “rave reviews” your site and business will get. How are you integrating your content marketing and SEO strategies?