Aren’t SEO and content marketing two different things?
Let’s start at the start. SEO strategy and content marketing are not the same thing. At least, not necessarily the same thing. But they can be combined for outstanding results – to a point where you could arguably make your SEO strategy into a content marketing strategy.
Defining your SEO strategy
SEO (search engine optimisation) is all about:
- Achieving new rankings in search engines like Google
- Improving existing rankings in Google
But realistically, a good SEO marketer will be thinking beyond that. Because rankings are great. But what then? You want that traffic to have value for your site. And that means your site needs to give value to that traffic.
That’s where this word “strategy” comes into play.
By definition, “strategy” is all about long term goals, and how you’re going to reach them. Having an SEO strategy, rather than just “doing SEO,” is a statement of intent. You’re saying you’re going to use SEO to reach those long term goals. And for most websites, that’s most likely going to be generating revenue in some way.
So rather than achieving rankings and then hoping for the best, you’re working backwards from the long term goal. That’s going to keep you on track, instead of chasing meaningless vanity metrics, you’ll focus on obtaining rankings that are valuable.
Congratulations, you are now an SEO strategist! But how can we use content to create an all-conquering combined SEO content marketing strategy?
Strong, valuable on-site content should help you rank anyway
Search engine algorithms are built by people and governed by robots. Yep, believe it or not, Google has real live people building the search algorithms at their HQ. Their job is to look at websites they believe provide value to readers, figure out what the commonalities are, and then build them into the algorithms. Rumour has it they work independently, so that no one person knows the full algorithm “recipe.” But that’s just a rumour…
Those boffin-built algorithms mean websites that have strong content on them – content that offers value to real people – will have a good chance of ranking well. Just the way those Google geniuses intended.
Now think about that outside of SEO strategy; if you’re going to produce pages for your website that your users will love so that you can rank well…that same content is going to be useful and valuable to your users once they hit your site. That means they will stay longer, come back more often, visit more of your pages, share your content, and possibly buy your products or services.
So to break it down:
- SEO strategy is about achieving long-term goals – mainly, revenue
- Marketing is about driving revenue
- Content is what goes on your website
So SEO content marketing strategy means using content to meet long term goals for SEO and revenue generation. Congratulations, you are now an SEO content marketing strategist!
Well, not quite. There are a few more factors to consider…
What about technical SEO?
SEO strategy is about more than great content. Or…is it?
To rank well on Google, you’ll need great content, but also a technically well-optimised site; for example, images that load quickly so people don’t leave your site because it takes an hour to load.
But think about that for a minute; aren’t images content? If you’re going to write great content for your site, strong meta tags and well-optimised images also ensure your site’s content is valuable to users. They’re also part of that algorithm the clever people at Google built; they hate sites whose huge images take ages to load, because they know other people will hate that too.
So into the algorithm it goes – no huge images and long load times. It’s all very circular!
It means you can consider a fair chunk of technical SEO to be part of your SEO content marketing strategy as well.
What about links?
The other part of the ranking equation is links. Not necessarily having tonnes of links pointing to your site – quality trumps quantity every time.
It’s about having good links pointing to your site. Links from legitimate websites that act like a “vote” for your site. Because why would any legitimate website link to a horrible site?
And guess what legitimate websites do like to link to? Let’s say it all together, now…
Let’s say your website sells fountain pens. And let’s say you’re going to work really hard creating a wealth of fountain pen-related content for your site that you know your visitors will love. Here’s a small selection of websites and organisations who might want to point their audience to that great content:
- Gift sites (who doesn’t love a new pen at Christmas?)
- Fountain pen fan clubs (yes, they really exist)
- Sites that sell fancy stationery (a match made in calligraphy heaven)
- Professional networks (a pen says a lot about a professional!)
- The manufacturer that makes the ink in your pens (you’re showing off their product as well, after all!)
- Web design blogs (who love your content so much, they use it as a “best in class” example on their site with a link)
You get the idea. Create amazing content on your site. Think about who else might find that content valuable. Approach them. Voila – a link-building strategy, centered on high-quality content.
You could go one step further and offer to create custom content for their site in exchange for a link. But consider this – why would you give away your best content, in the hope that another site owner might like it enough to link back to your site? If they have the strong content, they’re in the driving seat, and you’re relying on their goodwill to get that link.
But if you have the strongest content, they have to link to you. Using that fountain pen website as an example again – put your strongest fountain pen content on your site. Offer a cut-down version to the sites you’d love a link from. Then they’ll have to link to your full version to give their audience the full story. Simple (in theory!).
How to create an SEO content marketing strategy
Start with your audience. What kind of content will they find valuable that’s relevant to your website? That fountain pen audience may also love…sports (for example). But there are already sports sites for sports content – why would they want that from your site?
The trick is to find the crossover between:
- What you want to talk about (pens)
- What your audience wants to hear (sports)
Maybe you have a great story about how Shaquille O’Neal once bought a fountain pen from you. There’s your crossover!
How do you find that crossover?
Research. Plain and simple. You could:
- Ask them face-to-face
- Run an email survey
- Trawl social media groups your audience uses
- Use web tools like Google Keyword Planner (it’s free) – is there loads of monthly traffic for Man City-themed fountain pens, for example?
Next step. Where on your site would people expect to find the content gold you’ve unearthed? That story about Shaq’s fountain pen should probably be a blog post. But the Man City-themed pens should probably sit on a new product page (assuming you can stock them).
Find your advantage
Now ask yourself: “How am I going to make this content better than what’s already out there?”
What if Shaq’s a fountain pen nut, and the internet is littered with stories of where he bought them? How is your blog post going to be better than the others out there? Better photos? A more in-depth back story? Find your advantage, and use it.
Create a plan
Now you have a wealth of ideas you know your audience will love, it’s time to get a plan together. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy – just a spreadsheet with a working page title, links to any relevant assets (like photos), some strong keywords, and an intended publishing date.
Make sure you account for any days you’ll be unable to create content – like holidays.
Working to a plan will help you organise your thoughts, keep your content production on track, and stop you having to rack your brains for ideas every few days or weeks.
All that’s left to do is to produce it! Create the content to the highest standard you possibly can, without obsessing over it. Remember – done is better than perfect. Although both is ideal!
Always create through the eyes of your audience. Step out of your shoes and into theirs – keep asking yourself what’s in it for them.
And use those keywords sensibly – just write naturally. You can always go back and check for opportunities to include them in a few more spots.
What not to do with your content
Speaking of keywords, here’s a list of SEO content tactics that some people will swear still work, but don’t (or might at first, before they start doing real harm):
- Shove a million keywords in your content
- Create loads of poor quality content to bulk out your site
- Create loads of poor quality content to obtain loads of poor quality links
- Mistake creating content for having a content strategy – creating without an end goal in mind is just doing stuff. And anyone can do that.
- Mistake a spreadsheet with content ideas for a strategy – ideas are great, but they need to tie back to “why.” Why have you chosen these ideas? Without strategy, it’s just a list of stuff that might work or might not.
Even if you did see an initial spike in rankings, what then? If your content is low quality, your audience isn’t going to stick around. So it’s not content marketing – and certainly not an SEO content marketing strategy! Again, those Google eggheads have thought about all of this, because they want users to see valuable content. So you can guarantee any sneaky uplift in rankings and traffic will be short-lived.