“Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.”
This line’s been borrowed by many marketers from an essay written in 1996, by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates titled “Content is King”.
Content – or content marketing as it’s become more popularly known – certainly used to be king.
Today, everyone is “doing content marketing”.
It’s not enough to throw a few blogs stuffed with popular keywords at search engines and expect to rank.
To succeed with content marketing and SEO today, you need to think longer term.
You need to have a content marketing strategy.
As Canadian writer Arjun Basu once wrote:
“Without strategy, content is just stuff, and the world has enough stuff”.
- What’s the ultimate goal?
- Who’s your ideal audience?
- What problems are you helping people solve?
- Will your content stand out?
- What keywords should you target?
- What’s the intent behind a search?
- What kind of content will you create?
- How will you promote and deliver content to your audience?
- What does success look like?
What is an SEO content marketing strategy?
An SEO and content marketing strategy uses valuable and relevant content like a blog post, videos, podcasts, guides, infographics and reports to improve your ranking in search results.
Being strategic with content marketing gives you a better idea of your customers’ questions.
You’ll understand what topics and phrases they’re using to find answers.
And you can figure out what content you need to rank higher and create more leads using SEO.
Planning your content campaign
A successful content campaign is more complicated than writing a new blog a few times a week, hitting publish and sitting back until your content ranks.
Before you begin any content marketing strategy (whether it’s for SEO or lead gen), make sure you have considered the following:
- What’s the ultimate goal?
- Who’s your ideal audience?
- What problems are you helping people solve?
- Will your content stand out?
- What keywords should you target?
- What’s the intent behind a search?
- What kind of content will you create?
- How will you promote and deliver content to your audience?
- What does success look like?~
Building a solid SEO content marketing foundation – Technical SEO considerations
We’ve all heard the parable of the wise and foolish builders.
The wise one builds his house on solid rock. The other builds theirs on sand.
When the rain comes, the tides rise, the house built on rock continues to stand strong.
The house built on sand is washed away.
Your SEO and content marketing strategy needs solid foundations to stop it being washed away in the tides of other content online.
You need to consider the technical SEO aspect of your website before starting with content marketing.
Find out more about what you need to consider for both on-page and off-page SEO for your website.
To build a strong SEO foundation for your content strategy, you need to consider the following:
If you don’t know your customers, how will you sell anything?
Understanding your niche will inform what you need to target with your content.
Less than half of web searches are made via desktop in the UK.
With search engines moving towards mobile first indexing, websites optimised for mobile devices are more likely to rank higher.
- Don’t suffer a slow website
About 40% of web visitors will leave your site if it takes more than three seconds to load.
If your page load speed is 2.4s your conversion rate drops to 1.9%.
It falls further to 1.5% with a 3.3s load speed.
And to 1% if a page takes 4.2s to load.
Customers won’t wait around for your website to catch up.
You can speed up your website’s load speed by compressing images, videos or using a browser cache.
Are you optimising page titles, H1 headers, H2 headers, meta titles, meta descriptions, and URLs for keywords?
Yes, your content marketing will target keyword variations, but without tagging your pages, you’ll hold yourself back.
This includes alt tags and alt text on images or including scripts for video content.
Here’s 10 quick fixes you can do today to help improve your SEO
Start at the beginning – What is your current SEO and content marketing performance like?
Before starting on a strategy, understand your current position.
To borrow a phrase from US poet Maya Angelou:
“You can’t really know where you are going until you know where you have been.”
Analyse your website and benchmark your SEO and content performance.
An SEO audit helps identify obvious problems.
There might be “easy wins” you would’ve otherwise missed.
There are loads of tools to do an SEO analysis and understand the technical SEO aspects of your website.
We tend to use Google Search Console.
This gives a complete oversight of website errors, opportunities for quick wins and engagement levels of your website’s content.
When doing your SEO audit, there are a couple of things to pay particular attention to:
- Crawlability of your site
Can search engines crawl your site?
Or are you blocking it with a robots.txt file?
Do you have an easy to understand sitemap file pointing towards your primary pages?
- Are your main pages indexed?
When people search for your pages, can they find them?
You can use Google and search engines to figure this out by typing site:websitedomain.co.uk into the search bar.
The results will look something like the image below. You need to scroll through and make sure your pages are showing up:
- How good are your page titles and meta descriptions?
Are your page titles and meta descriptions doing the job of summarising each page?
More importantly, are they generating a good click through rate?
Read this blog post which looks at why meta descriptions still matter for your SEO
- What’s your page speed like?
Google Search Console can analyse the page speed of your website to see if it’s hindering your SEO performance.
If your pages are loading slowly, see why that might be.
For instance, images with large file sizes attached to them.
- What keywords do you currently rank for?
If you’re a brand new website, you probably don’t rank for much.
If you’re more established, are you ranking for any competitive keywords that you could get quick results for with a bit of work?
Maybe you’re at the top of page two for a particularly high intent search and could focus on getting that onto page one?
- Where is your current web traffic coming from?
Are you driving high numbers of traffic from organic or are you relying heavily on paid or referrals?
If you can figure out how your current audience is finding you, you can create a better content strategy.
Do a content audit
Now you know your SEO position, it’s time to figure out where you stand with your content audit.
Doing a content audit is an essential part of a content marketing because it helps you figure out:
- What SEO friendly content you have (or are missing)
- Your content’s topics and themes
- What topics you’re focusing on
Without a content audit, you could spend the first six months of your strategy trying to write content, only to find you’ve already published similar content months ago.
Organising your content audit is simple.
You can do it either using Google Sheets or Excel.
All you need to do is map columns to the following information:
- Type of content (Blog post, eBook, guide, podcast etc)
- Original publish date
- Content theme/ topic
- Buyer stage aimed at (awareness, consideration, decision)
- Target buyer persona
- Primary keyword (including search volume)
- Secondary keyword (including search volume)
- Total traffic
- Traffic from the last 3 months
- CTA click through rate
Next, go through every piece of content and map it against the above criteria.
You now have the data to analyse your content performance.
You could also find holes in your SEO and content marketing strategy that need filling.
You may have plenty of content aimed at short-tail searches with high traffic volume, but little targeting long-tail keywords.
You might have lots of content on one topic, but nothing on another.
If so, you can focus your new SEO content on different topics.
What goals do I want to achieve with SEO content marketing?
Now you know where you are with your content marketing it’s time to set some goals.
Having reviewed your content marketing performance, you might decide you want to rank for a topic to increase traffic for a particular product within the next six months.
Just make sure your content and business goals are aligned, and that they’re:
These SMART goals will keep you focused and give you a framework to measure your success.
Without this, you’ll run the risk of getting distracted.
Or you might get to the end of your SEO content strategy (which has taken a lot of work) and have absolutely no idea what it’s achieved.
Break your goals into long term, medium term and short term.
Plan in regular progress meetings with your team so you can see:
- what you’ve been doing
- what’s working well and could be replicated
- what isn’t working yet and needs adjusting
- what’s been failed
Don’t start with search engines – start with your target audience
Now you know your SEO situation.
You’ve got your goals mapped out.
And you’re ready to kick on with the content strategy.
It’s time to start researching those all important keywords, right?
Yes, keywords will be important to your content strategy.
But planning starts with the most important thing, understanding your target audience.
This is the most important information you need, because everything that follows from here:
Will be driven by your audience profile, or buyer personas.
What is a buyer persona?
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer, based on research (according to HubSpot).
If you’ve followed any marketing blog you’ve likely come across characters called “Marketing Mary” or ‘CEO Christine”.
These are the names usually given to buyer personas (don’t ask us why).
Most businesses have got their buyer personas wrong.
This is because the typical buyer persona is broken down into:
- Job title
What they should focus on, are the problems customers deal with.
These problems are what you’ll tackle when you create content.
Start by asking current customers what problems they have, why they chose you, what success they’ve had etc.
Or you can do market research to understand these problems and what your audience is looking for to make educated decisions on their own.
Whatever method you choose to build your buyer personas, make sure you understand:
- What their common problems/ challenges are
- What their goals are for their business
- What solutions they’re looking for
- What information they find useful when making a decision
- How, and where, they get this information
This is what ultimately informs topics you’ll focus on, and the content you create.
Focus on questions customer ask around key themes:
Focusing your content marketing with keyword research
Now you know who you’re creating content for, you need to do keyword research.
Keyword research is part science, part psychology.
You need to understand words and phrases people use in a search engine when looking for information (short and long tail keywords).
You need to understand their intent, and what information they’re expecting to find.
What are short-tail keywords
Short-tail keywords are phrases with usually just one or two words – like “running shoes”.They’re typically not very specific and have higher overall search volume.“Running shoes” for instance gets 68,300 monthly searches in the UK alone.
What are long-tail keywords?
Long-tail searches are more specific and detailed.
Long-tail keywords tend to have fewer overall searches a month than short-tail searches.
“Best men’s marathon running shoes” for instance, generates 20 searches a month.
So it would be better to aim all your content at short-tail enquiries, right?
After-all, they drive the most traffic.
But, it’s not as simple as that.
Short-tail keywords might make up more individual searches than long-tail keywords.
But the majority of searches are long tail phrases and questions.
Long-tail searches have two major benefits over short-tail searches:
- They’re typically less competitive
- They have much better conversion rates
What is search intent?
Search intent describes the reason for making a particular search.
Depending what stage of the buyer journey the searcher is at, their intent will be different, so understanding this as part of your keyword research is important.
Understanding search intent gives you a steer what mix of words and phrases you should be looking for.
Let’s stick with the running shoe example.
Someone searching for running shoes is likely not ready to buy.
They’re more likely looking for general information.
But someone who searches for “best men’s marathon running shoes” is likely to be further down the marketing funnel.
They’re running a marathon, and need the best trainers.
If you have a blog post on the Top 10 best men’s marathon running shoes in 2022, they’ll find your blog, with your recommendations, and come to you.
There are three types of intent:
- Transactional (buy, subscribe etc)
- Informational (how to etc)
- Navigational (log in)
When doing keyword research, consider your buyer persona and what information they want from their search.
Organising your content marketing efforts around topic clusters for SEO
Now you know your audience.
You’ve done keyword research.
And you understand the intent behind your customer’s search.
But before you start creating content, let’s talk about the key thing that will determine whether your content marketing campaign is a success or not.
Are you using topic clusters?
What are topic clusters?
Topic clusters are a content marketing strategy based around creating a single “pillar” page, which gives high level answers to every question searchers might have on a particular topic.
The pillar page is surrounded by “cluster content” expanding in more detail on each section of the pillar page.
Why should I use topic clusters?
Search engines are increasingly searching for topics and search relevance that will give people the best, most detailed information available based on what they searched for.
Google’s recent “helpful content” update is a prime example.
This is another reason not to get hung up chasing high-volume short tail searches and focusing more on buyer intent.
Here’s a visual demonstration of keyword clustering that we’ve borrowed from HubSpot.
Using this model for SEO content, you could have your main pillar page topic as “Women’s running shoes”.
Then you’d create cluster content (with a link to the main page, on supporting content around topics like):
- Top women’s running shoes for trail running
- Best women’s running shoes for the gym
- Care tips for women’s running shoes
By following a pillar page strategy, Google will see all the links pointing to your main page, and recognise it as a valuable source of information – ranking it higher.
(Just be careful about including broken links as this could have a negative affect).
Plus, Google or other search engines will identify all the cluster content you have connected to the pillar page – and rank those pages higher too.
Where to get topic ideas for your content marketing
You probably think you’ve done the hard work.
You’ve got your buyer personas.
You identified questions, topics and phrases that satisfy high volume searches and high conversion searches.
And you know pillar pages and cluster content will drastically improve your SEO ranking.
But now we’re getting to the hard part of content marketing or digital marketing campaigns.
Coming up with high quality content ideas.
It’s one of the biggest challenges.
But, there are content ideas all around you.
You’ll be surprised where your best ideas can come from:
Sales teams get asked questions about the company’s services everyday. They know what information people need. That’s an invaluable source of content ideas.
Could you do research into a particular industry issue which would generate original headlines and could power a quality content marketing SEO campaign?
Use keyword tools like Answer the Public, Google, Amazon etc to find relevant keywords and phrases.
Don’t just copy them but there’s nothing wrong with getting content ideas from competitors.
Trade press are full of hot topics in your industry that you can use for inspiration.
What content should I create for my SEO content marketing strategy?
Nearly there on content creation.
Even experienced content marketers can struggle to know what types of content work best. Especially with so much conflicting information.
Should you write blogs. What word count should you stick to? Does long form content perform better in search results?
Are videos the way forward? Do you need a podcast?
The fact is, any educational, informative, interesting piece of content will work.
You just need the right mix.
Here’s a few types of easy to go content that you can use for an SEO strategy.
Creating blogs in your SEO content strategy has a number of benefits. They can be optimised for all keyword searches and can be used across every stage of the buyer journey to get information across.
Obviously you need to have some writers on staff to create content as part of an ongoing process to target keywords you want to rank for in search engine results.
Still wondering if blogging for your business works. Or if it’s still got a place in your SEO content strategy. Read this blog.
Videos have always been a good source of content for marketers but are definitely in the middle of a high point in terms of popularity.
Product demos, how to guides and explainer videos are all extremely effective forms of video marketing.
You can easily use your videos for search engine optimization by including transcripts and sub-titles on the hosting page.
If you want to start with video, tools like Vidyard and Drift let you start with basic videos for free.
To get information across quickly (especially complicated or stats based information) an infographic can be the way to go.
They work either on web pages or as part of your social media promotion.
These are particularly important if you’re an Ecommerce business.
Ecommerce search engine optimization is a bit different from ‘regular’ SEO because many of your targeted keywords are going to be product focused.
However, the same rules apply in terms of descriptions and targeting long-tail search terms.
Don’t forget to include alt image text and tags on your product pages.
Guides and eBooks
These are typically magnets for lead gen rather than search engine marketing.
But increasingly we’re seeing eBooks written as long form pillar pages rather than the standard PDF format hidden behind a form.
You can get the best of both worlds by writing your eBooks as a PDF and including a CTA to download it at the top of your pillar page.
Remember, your pillar page is going to be a long read.
Your audience might want to download a copy they can save and read when it’s best for them.
Have you ever read a news story which included stats?
For example 47% of people prefer X
Or 57% of the public think Y?
These stories are ideal for SEO and content marketing, lead generation and thought leadership because you’re generating industry insights no-one else has.
Again, these are typically used for lead gen.
But you can put the guide directly onto a web page to get the SEO benefits and have the report behind a form too.
Trust and reputation are essential whether you’re B2C or B2B.
For B2C customer reviews are what counts, in B2B nothing says trust like a case study.
Unfortunately many companies fall down on case studies.
Case studies are an opportunity to tell a story.
Your customer was struggling.
Then you came along and helped them solve it.
The results were amazing.
And your customer was left wondering why they’d never come to you before.
They’ve even commented on how blown away they are with your service.
If you don’t include all that information (and try to get your customer to do a video case study as well) you’re missing a big opportunity.
Not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about SEO content.
Product demo videos can be a huge boost to your SEO performance. Especially if you include transcripts and text descriptions on the hosting page.
While the well shot, and edited, video can show off your products to customers, an SEO optimised description can make the page viewable by search engines.
Managing the SEO content creation
If you want success with SEO and content marketing, you need lots of content.
You also need to work out how you’re going to publish and host it all.
Which involves choosing the right CMS for your site.
Using WordPress can be a good place to start and help you grow and scale your content production.
There are other options that can help with automation and content management like HubSpot CMS.
But they have additional costs, which can rise quickly once you choose the paid versions.
What you definitely need is a content manager to keep the process on track (more on that in a minute).
For managing your content, a content calendar can help.
Work out a few things first:
- How many blogs you plan to publish per month
- How many guides or pillar pages you plan to publish per month or quarter
- How many new videos you want to create
- Any new web pages you might need
Once you know what you’re creating, you can start to populate your content calendar.
You should plan your content calendar around the following information:
- Content type (pillar page, blog, video, eBook etc)
- Content topic or title
- Current owner
- Target keyword (with search volume)
- Current status (in draft/ editing/ published etc)
- Deadline for copy to be drafted
- Deadline for publishing
Be realistic with your schedule.
If you’re going to keep this process in-house, do you have capacity to write daily or weekly blogs?
Or create videos in house?
Hubspot has a decent template that you use to get started with your content publishing. You can download it here
Repurpose existing content to boost your SEO and content marketing
Let’s talk quickly about something that everyone starting with SEO and content marketing forgets.
If you have existing content you have a perfect opportunity to repurpose or update that content with fresh stats, quotes or information.
Simple things like changing the target keyword, updating the title, adding new images and renewing the meta descriptions can freshen up content and save you creating everything from scratch.
How do you identify content you can update?
Older content that performed well before, but hasn’t for a while
If you wrote a blog six months ago that got lots of traffic initially but has dropped off, add to it with new content and promote it again.
Older content which has started to perform well again
If people are reading an older blog they might like the topic, but you could update it with updated, valuable information, add a redirect from the old blog to new one, and re-promote it.
Content on similar topics that are performing differently
If you have two blogs on a similar topic and one is performing better, you can add the poor performing blog to the bottom of the successful one to create a longer form guide.
Don’t get us wrong, you still need to create new content as part of your content marketing, but it can help to renew what you’ve already got to free up resource.
Read this blog for more benefits and tips for repurposing your existing content to help improve your website performance and SEO positioning.
Managing the content creation in-house vs bringing in a content creation agency
Should you manage content creation in-house?
Or should you bring in a dedicated content marketing agency?
Honestly, if you have capacity for content creation in-house, consider keeping it in-house.
If you don’t, then you might consider bringing in an SEO content marketing agency.
Either way, make sure you have a single point of contact who’s responsible for managing content on your side.
This person needs the authority to sign off content without going to every other internal department.
If you want to see a content plan go off track, just send a blog around your company.
It’s not anyone’s fault.
People are busy.
If you ask them to review content they’ll feel obliged to make edits, just so it looks like they’ve taken an interest.
Having too many points of sign off is one of the biggest problems when it comes to keeping an SEO and content marketing strategy on track.
So hire a content manager you can trust to manage the process for you.
If you do decide to keep your content creation in-house, your challenge will be getting people invested.
If the idea of managing all these moving parts seems a bit overwhelming and you’d feel better bringing in an SEO and content marketing agency, here’s 10 questions you should ask them.
Promoting your content
So you’ve written all this valuable content.
it’s bringing loads of organic traffic, congratulations.
Now you need to promote it.
Content promotion is a huge part of any content marketing strategy.
You have various channels to use.
Here are just a few things you can do to promote your content (or you can read this blog for more detail on effectively promoting your SEO content):
Organic social media
Use your X, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok accounts to promote your content.
You might have to edit it to suit the style of the social channel (and focus more on the ones your customers use) but social media platforms can be great for growing your audience.
When you think of paid social in content marketing you think back to old days when you threw a few quid at a post that was doing well organically to boost its audience even more.
Today, you can be extremely targeted with your social promotion. If you have valuable content (like a guide or research report) do some account based marketing to get the content in front of your target audience.
No, email marketing is not dead.
But people get so many spammy emails it can be hard to break through the noise.Be more targeted with your content.
Segment your list and only send content to lists that will find it useful.
How does this help with SEO?
Google, or any search engine, prefers sites regularly updated with valuable information.
The more pages with useful content you have for search engines to crawl, the more authority your site will earn and the higher you’ll rank against competitors that don’t produce the same quality content.
As well as improving online visibility, this content turns your company into a source of valuable information that leads and customers can turn to for answers.
Ultimately, all this content creation serves these essential business metrics:
- It helps to generate more traffic
- It helps to generate more leads
- Which helps to generate more revenue
Measuring and reporting search results for SEO and content marketing
Here comes the important bit.
You’ve created and implemented your content strategy, now you have to see whether you’ve hit your goals.
Go back to your original goals and use these to figure out what you should be measuring and reporting on.
It’s possible to report on anything, but focusing on some key metrics helps focus your reporting so you can improve going forward.
You can use tools like Google Analytics (GA), Google Search Console, KWFinder or ahrefs to measure your results.
And here’s a few things you should definitely look at:
Total web traffic
Compare your total site traffic now compared to the same time last year, and also compare it month on month to see whether you’re increasing your site visitors.
Total traffic can be a vanity metric if you’re not converting any visitors, but it’s a good indication of whether your content is attracting an audience.
Website traffic sources
Knowing where your traffic is coming from is a key part of measuring SEO success.
You’ll want to focus on organic visitors to judge SEO, but it can also be good to see how many visitors come through social, email or direct.
Visitor time on page
This can be useful to see how engaging users find your content.
If they’re only spending a few seconds on the page before moving on, chances are you’re not providing relevant information.
Similar to the above, if you have a high bounce rate on your site it shows that visitors aren’t finding what they need and you aren’t succeeding in getting them to do what you want.
You can set goals on GA that track whether visitors click a certain button or take certain action on your site. If they’re taking the actions you want it means your content is doing its job.
Most successful content
Most analytics platforms let you create custom reports that show which pages are performing well. By measuring which pages are being viewed most, or which blogs are being read most, you can try and replicate that success across the rest of your site.
Find out more about which metrics you should focus on in your SEO and content marketing strategy, and how to set them up in this blog.
Take the time to analyse your performance properly. Sometimes it takes a detailed look at your analytics to understand what’s going on.
Find out how you can set up tracking in Google Analytics and use it to track, measure and analyse your SEO and content marketing strategy here.
There are loads of useful SEO and analytics tools you can use to judge your content marketing strategy.
You’ve completed, analysed and optimised an SEO and content marketing strategy for one of your main topics, products or services.
You learned lessons and you can take those learnings into your next strategy.
Now is the time to choose a new topic, service or product you want to raise the profile of and increase traffic for and repeat everything we’ve just been through again.
And then again for another topic, and then for another, and another.
Yes, search engine optimization and content marketing are both a long term strategies for success.
Remember, you might have got ahead of your competition, but they’ll be working now to overtake you on search engines, so the goal becomes to stay on top.
As you create more content the process gets easier.
You begin to understand what works and what doesn’t so you can focus your efforts, and you can start to focus on content optimization rather than constantly creating new content from scratch.
Think you might need help with your SEO and content marketing?
We’re an SEO agency full of content marketing experts who produce content to constantly improve our clients’ search results.
We’ve spent years experimenting on our own site (we never use clients as guinea pigs) to figure out what strategies get results so we can create a focused, effective SEO strategy that meets your business goals.
Want to learn more?
Book a time to talk with one of our consultants with no obligation and we’ll see if we can help.
Schedule time with me