You may not even know what an integrated SEO content strategy means. Content marketing and SEO tend to live two separate lives in many companies. They often have two separate strategies and two independent teams of people working on them. This is true for both in-house marketing teams and agencies the world over, even though the two are inextricably linked. In fact, treating them this way could be stopping both your SEO and content strategies from realising their full potential.
A match made in digital marketing
The rise of content marketing and the now too familiar phrase ‘content is king’ has only exacerbated the old problem of SEO and content. Many believe that the key to organic traffic and successful digital marketing is simply great content, while others still see SEO as the winner for organic traffic. So, who is right?
The fact is neither of these views reveals the full picture. While great content is undoubtedly more shareable, it’s simply not true that just because you build it, the masses will come. With millions of blog posts published every day, even amazing content is more likely to be lost than found. Equally, SEO needs content to even work. Sure, you can optimise metadata and tweak on page copy across your website, but all SEO strategies will eventually need more content to grow and improve. And what is metadata and on page copy if not another form of content?
Good SEO can give great content the visibility it deserves, but to do this it needs to be incorporated into your strategy from the outset. Without it, you’ll find structure difficult, leading to an eventual build-up of dead end, low visibility content bogging down your site. This means developing an integrated strategy to help create content that meets the demands of SEO.
An integrated SEO content strategy
The good news is SEO and content marketing go so well together that integrating the two is fairly straightforward. With some basic research and planning, you can build SEO into every stage of your content marketing process, resulting in more content that meets the needs of the SEO strategy.
Keywords are the foundation of SEO, and your content is how you utilise this fundamental SEO component. That means both your SEO and content marketing strategies, or preferably your new integrated strategy should start with some good old-fashioned keyword research.
That means identifying the keywords that are relevant to your business, including your basic product or service offering as well as the myriad of relevant synonyms and similar keywords. Using the keyword planner from Google AdWords can be a good place to start to find similar keywords and identify terms your customers are likely searching for.
Once you have all the words you would want to target, use an SEO tool like SEMRush to assess and prioritise your keywords. Concentrate on the search volume, the competition, and the traffic value or cost of each word. The competition will indicate the ‘difficulty’ of the keyword; the higher the competition, the harder it will be to cut through the noise and rank for the keyword. Your high priority keywords will be the ones that strike the perfect balance of a high or decent search volume but low competition.
You can and should also undertake some manual research by analysing search results. You can gauge the volume of competition from the number at the top of the results page. It will tell you the rough number of results returned from your keyword; the higher the number, the more competition. You should also have a look all the ranking URLs to get an idea of the quality of content. Lots of government websites or big-name brands indicate a competitive keyword.
Top tip: prioritising your keywords can be difficult when you’re faced with thousands of competing results and hundreds of multiple searches for several keywords at a time. When researching keywords manually you can divide the number of results returned by the number of average monthly searches. This will very roughly give you a more manageable ‘competition per search’ number. While it is by no means accurate or scientific, it does make comparing the competition to search volume ratio across several keywords a bit easier.
If you’re getting excited about the prospect of finding a magical keyword with thousands of monthly searches and next to no competition, be warned. Many people get caught up in finding the ‘low hanging fruit’ promised by agencies and experts alike. This is a common misconception that often results in unrealistic expectations; be prepared to prioritise keywords that are too relevant to pass up but will demand some serious SEO work to make a dent in search results.
Content layering and internal linking
Once you have your priority keywords you’ll have a clear idea of the categories and topics that will guide your content. With your SEO content strategy taking shape, you’ll next need to think about layering your content for internal linking. This needs to be strategized before you start creating content as it will work with your keywords to guide your content topics. You will also have to look out for internal linking opportunities every time you plan and produce another piece of content.
Layering your content just means layering mid funnel content on top of bottom of the funnel content with internal links. Mid funnel content are usually broader topics, such as health food advice and information, and are typically more linkable and shareable. By internally linking to bottom of the funnel content, such as a review of one of your health food products, you can drive traffic to your converting content.
This technique ensures your content is meeting the user experience and link demands of your SEO. Quality mid-funnel content that gets plenty of shares and third-party links pass on some of their SEO authority to your converting pages; and highly relevant, quality internal linking can even get some links for your converting pages.
Internal linking also inspires a coherent structure across your site. Visitors are likely to spend more time on a site or blog where further relevant information is easy to find, and search engines love great user experience even more than we do.
Create linkable content
When it comes to planning and creating a piece of content, there is only one thing that matters: linkability. Links are one of the top three ranking signals by Google and research has proven time and again just how important they are. It’s safe to say that your SEO demands links, and it’s probably also safe to say that your homepage or your delivery information page isn't all that linkable. It’s your helpful, informative and interesting content that people want to share.
The good news is that if you’ve been creating content with a strong focus on quality and your audience, then you’re already halfway there.
Always begin with some thorough research. This should start with the audience part of your content. Find the audience you’ll be targeting, particularly the influencers for your topic or subject. These are the loud voices that would share or link your content if it existed. What type of content are they sharing and what is the standard of quality?
Next, look at the top search results for your keyword and topic; is there anything being missed? Maybe it’s a take on a topic no one has thought of yet or a style of content that no one has produced for your topic. The chances are if you can think of it, it’s out there, but you may be surprised and find some gaps waiting for a unique piece of content. A good example is often some original, specialised research.
In the likely case that coming up with something completely original isn’t an option, take a closer look at the type of content that is ranking. Can you identify any areas for improvement? This addresses the quality part of your content. Maybe it just isn’t of the best quality, or perhaps you could add some more interesting mixed media such as video. Improvements can be anything from a complete overhaul and rework to some simple but effective changes. Even if you’re creating original content, it’s good to gauge the existing quality to guide your own.
Here are some of the areas of improvement and quality points to consider:
- Improve the overall quality including readability and formatting. This can include some headings and subheadings with a table of contents at the top, a series of posts, and incorporating lists and graphics.
- Make some interesting interactive content that visitors can click to reveal graphics and texts or play with graphs.
- Optimising the page speed and performance of the content, particularly if there is already a lot of media being used or if you're planning to add more.
- Using original or more up to date research, opinions and other general expansions on the depth of the content.
- Collaborating with other experts or influential people of the subject, either by citing their work or producing the content and/or research together.
Top tip: always aim for quality over quantity by writing thoroughly researched, in-depth posts and content, even if this means spending more time on each and posting less altogether. Research has consistently shown that even though 85% of published content has less than 1,000 words, content with more than this and upwards of 2,000 ranks better with more links and shares. There is often a difference of up to 45% in length between content that ranks in the top 3 and those that rank in position 20.
Once you have your quality content it’s time to secure your links. As we said, targeted quality content means you’re halfway there. Even the best content must contend with the competition, and simply clicking publish won’t bring the masses. Truly linkable content needs some proactive link building that goes beyond just sharing it on your social channels and emailing it to your mailing list.
Using your earlier research take another look at your industry influencers, bloggers and active community members. These are the people that are most likely to share your content, plus they have a whole audience that is engaged and ready to share as well. Use some proactive outreach to let these people know that your content exists and explain why their audience will be interested in it. Here’s a quick example to get started.
Maintain existing content
Google is all about the user and users want the latest, up to date content. How frustrating is it to find some great research only to see it’s five years old? That means Google has long prioritised fresh content; they’ll index it quickly and rank it higher than older poor-quality content.
Remember too that when it comes to finding stats or research in particular, searchers will often change their time range to the past day, week, month or year. That puts your older or out of date content at risk of being excluded from some SERPs entirely.
The bottom line is your content needs to be meeting the SEO demand for fresh content. While this does mean having a healthy content calendar with new pieces planned regularly, it also and perhaps more importantly means maintaining what you already have. New and better content will be ranked better by Google, leaving yours in the depths of the SERPs. This means that amazing posts you spent hours on creating and promoting with link outreach will simply go to waste.
Additionally, it can sometimes be more effective and time efficient to update an existing piece rather than create a new one. With a good record of your existing content, you may find that some of it already addresses most or all of the topic you’re currently working on.
Not all your content needs to be maintained, but you will undoubtedly create in-depth informative pieces or an interactive series that will stand the test of time if given the opportunity. For your truly outstanding pieces make sure to put a ‘last updated’ tag at the top of the page. This means you can continue to add to and improve it or update any stats. It reassures visitors that the information they're reading is up to date, and lets search engines know that it is still fresh.
You can also maintain your content by updating any content that didn’t perform so well the first time. Apply any of the improvements from the point above to your own content and repurpose it for success. This should include going back to the basics by researching what is currently ranking and fixing yours to match or improve on the existing quality.
Your SEO needs content
And your content is nothing without SEO. This simple mantra should guide your future SEO content efforts and, hopefully, drive success. As with all digital marketing, your SEO content strategy is an ongoing process that will need to be analysed to identify opportunities for improvement.
If you’re starting to worry you may need help with your SEO and your content, have no fear. We offer a full range of digital marketing services and a range of affordable packages to suit any business.