Let’s face it, anyone who mentions he or she is into search engine optimization at a party is bound to get yawns or polite disinterest while expounding on the subject. Mention you work in content marketing, though, and interest increases. What most people don’t understand is that the two are increasingly becoming intertwined as modern marketers reach for the same fundamental goal: getting people to the company’s website for follow-on activity. In this installment of Memo to the Modern Marketer, we’ll walk through the seven key steps you need to turn these cross-functional fields into winning online strategies.
1. Know Your Audience
Just like traditional marketing, the most important element for content marketing is to know who you are targeting. They’re typically the people who are looking for a product that will meet a need or solve a problem. While content is the creative part of digital marketing, and SEO is the structural component, SEO strategy is based on how the target audience searches for items on the internet.
Not everyone approaches search the same way. For instance, a senior on a fixed income probably hunts for deals on a cell phone very differently than how a millennial looks for the same item. Seniors might opt for a bare-bones phone that lets them make calls in case of an emergency, while a millennial might be looking for a smartphone that acts as an entertainment center where they can watch movies, shoot short videos, and connect them with an international social circle. Different search styles might require different keywords to connect them with the various products. Those keywords would be used in the content produced to attract users to their products.
Seniors also may place a heavier emphasis on price – how much or how little they can spend to stay in digital touch with the world, while millennials might be wooed by content with interactive elements that help demonstrate why it’s a must-have smartphone.
2. Keyword Connection
Keywords are the cornerstone of both content marketing and SEO strategy. In the last 30 years, the internet has evolved exponentially. It’s opened up a new branch of marketing that birthed search engine optimization (SEO) and, along with it, a way to game the marketing system.
Marketers looking for shortcuts quickly figured out that overusing certain keywords on websites was a way of manipulating search engines into raising the visibility of their website to people punching those words into the query box – regardless of whether or not the website was related to the query.
Stuffing keywords into a website was one of the first SEO tactics – which is now considered a black hat tactic. Search engines caught on and started penalizing sites that used the ploy. Google in particular has made it a priority to give users a good search experience as seen by the regular (and sometimes vexing) changes to its algorithm to weed out sites that game the system. Google wants to deliver the right websites to the right people at the right time. At the core of search is the keyword.
3. Keyword Strategy
For search engine optimization, you have to figure out what words are used to describe your products and its uses, along with words that are related to your product.
In your research, you’ll find dozens of keywords that can be used to find your website through a search query. But you can’t simply throw your keywords onto a website and expect it to come up at the top of a search engine results page (SERP). That would make for a weird website – and Google would likely penalize your site so that no one could find it.
This is where your content strategy comes in. Content puts into action the keywords that your SEO strategist gathered. “Content” is composing articles and literature to add to your website. Content encapsulates the keywords and makes sense of them, while providing information, entertainment and inspiration to your audience.
The content strategy is designed to enhance SEO strategy, and the SEO strategy supports the content. You can’t have keywords and no content, while content without the right keywords means your sites isn’t likely to be found.
4. Knowing Where & When
Thorough keyword research is a multifaceted creature. For good SEO, you want to think about things like where people are searching from, and when they’re searching. This information is vital to the content strategist. The information shapes what type of content is being written and when it should be published and shared on social media.
Take swimsuits as a simple example. If you’re selling bikinis, and your target market is Australian women ages 18-34, your keyword research would likely show people are scouring the internet for the right two-piece between the beginning of November and the end of February.
The SEO would take that information and say, “we want to rank for ‘bikini’ around this time” as a part of the SEO strategy. The information trickles down to the content writer who would then include that information in the content strategy. From the Searchmetrics Topic Explorer below, you can see the search volume for ‘bikini’ is highest in November, so perhaps the writer would create a guide to be published in early November just as the summer vacation season gets underway on “Choosing the Right Bathing Suit Style for Your Body Type.”
But if you’re targeting buyers who live well above the equator, it would make more sense to publish that same article in May.
5. Competitor Analysis
In digital marketing, strategists should look to competitors — not to copy what they’re doing, but to determine their strengths and weaknesses and figure out where to fill in holes to leverage their own product.
SEO and content strategies overlap in this territory by establishing which keywords competitors rank for and letting you know if it makes sense to try to rank for the same keywords. Then, too, it helps one determine what other opportunities you might be missing. The content strategist uses the findings to build quality content around keywords for maximum amplification and to rank higher in the SERPs than the competitors.
Competitor analysis also provides an opportunity to create unique content. While some of your content might be similar to a competitor’s, you can see what topics haven’t been covered and create content around ideas where your competitors are unfocused. From the Searchmetrics SEO Visibility graph below, you can see World Market’s visibility sits between its competitors West Elm and Crate & Barrel.
To narrow World Market’s competition with Crate and Barrel, an SEO might look at the keywords both World Market and Crate and Barrel are ranking for. Below are a few of the keywords Crate and Barrel outranks World Market for.
World Market’s SEO might then suggest looking at Crate & Barrel’s content for those keywords and see what information is not being explored under those topics.
6. URLs, Title Tags & Meta Descriptions
The responsibility for delivering rank-worthy URLs, title tags and meta descriptions falls on the shoulders of both SEOs and content strategists. They’re all part of on-site optimization. SEOs are responsible for making sure they’re there, while writers and content strategists have a heavy hand in creating each components so that they make sense to users.
A title tag is the title for the specific page your content lives on. This is what users read in the SERPs. It should be relevant and compelling for the users and easy enough for search engines to understand what the page is about so that it knows how and where to rank it.
The URL should be based on the title tag. While the URL contains the domain name and a path to the information you want users to find, it’s also a code for its location on the internet. It should be easy for humans to read and understand what kind of content it contains, but search engines also need to be able to understand it and determine if it’s appropriate for the search query. URLs should be simple and significant, with the keyword front-loaded as a signal for what you want the page to rank for.
A meta description is a concise summary of what the page is about. It appears as a snippet in SERPs. If it ranks high in the results pages, the phrase used in the query typically will be found in the meta description. With user experience as one of the search engine’s top priorities, the responsibility for composing the description may fall to the content strategist to concisely describe the page. Making sure it’s optimized is the task of the SEO strategist.
7. Tracking & Measuring
SEOs are charged with following the performance of content — which is key if you want to know how to gain Visibility. Tracking and measuring allows strategists to see what’s working and what needs to be improved. It can also determine what needs to be refreshed to reflect search engine algorithm changes.
SEOs then make recommendations to content strategists for how content needs to be changed or adjusted, and if any content needs to be added. It’s an ongoing process to help sites see what they’re up against and stay competitive in the ever-changing digital landscape.
The digital space is an exceedingly competitive sector. To do well, your SEO and content strategies have to be first class. But there’s a lot more to content strategy than just posting on a company blog once a week, while SEO is more textured than simply adjusting a site’s structure. Much thought and strategy go into creating a great content experience and strong SEO value.
For either to work, the strategies have to move forward in lockstep. If you want to learn more about improving your strategies, request a demo for the Searchmetrics Suite to see what it can do for your website.