A Complete Guide to Developing Your SEO Content Strategy
SEO vs Content.
Which is most effective as a digital marketing strategy? Which drives the most traffic? Which provides the best ROI?
SEO and Content Marketing each have their following of devotees.
But it’s not always that common to see them being talked about together. In fact, it’s pretty common for digital marketers to talk about their “SEO Strategy” or their “Content Strategy”, but rarely do you ever hear them discuss their “SEO Content Strategy”.
The truth is that, while separately both techniques have their benefits, they combine to supercharge your digital marketing. In fact, it could be said that an SEO content strategy should be the starting point of every digital campaign.
First, let’s take Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – the practice of using a range of techniques to help a website rank in organic search engine results pages (SERPS).
In a nutshell, the purpose of SEO is to give search engines all they need to know to ensure that the right audience sees your website.
SEO techniques range from highly technical markups in a website’s code (which indicates relevance and importance to the search engines), all the way through to inserting links into your web pages.
But however technical your level of knowledge, you’d probably agree that without SEO, it’s extremely unlikely that anything you put out online will fall in front of the right eyes.
That being said, SEO only makes an impact when you bring content into the mix. Web pages, blog posts, whitepapers, images, videos – whatever it is – all help match your keywords against real search queries.
Content marketing is simply using content as the basis of your marketing.
In fact, it’s fast becoming a go-to for marketers because of its relatively high ROI, with 60% of B2C marketers claiming to be committed to content marketing.
So what do we mean by “content”?
Anything from an image, to a blog post, social media update, video, podcast, whitepaper, and the words and images you include on your website all count as content. A content marketing strategy will ensure that content is optimised for search engines, using appropriate keywords to match audience intent.
That said, content’s inherent value is when it’s high-quality, relevant, and helpful. In other words, when your content is crawled, it needs to be well-written, researched, authoritative and match the kinds of enquiries that real people are making.
To ensure your content is high-quality, relevant, and helpful, you need to be sure of your audience, their online goals, and how you can provide them with the right material to match their search intent.
Your content isn’t there just to impress search engines, it’s there to provide real solutions to real people.
This is where SEO and Content Marketing collide.
SEO content marketing
As we’ve already seen, SEO is no good without the content on your marketing collateral to provide solutions to search intent. Likewise, content doesn’t stand a chance if it isn’t optimised appropriately.
It’s for this simple reason that SEO and Content Marketing should be combined to get the most out of your digital marketing campaigns.
To achieve any of your marketing objectives – and business goals in general – an SEO content strategy will prove greater than the sum of its parts. Your content will be more visible in SERPs, and your audience will benefit from a better overall experience with your brand.
And so now to the task of developing your strategy:
Building your SEO content strategy
Every digital campaign needs a thought-out strategy, where you undertake some in-depth research, pinpoint your goals, determine metrics and timescales, mapping out tasks.
It’s no different for your SEO content marketing.
You may be accustomed to working towards an SEO strategy or a content strategy (or maybe even both, separately). Our view is that one combined strategy is time better spent.
A solid SEO content strategy should have your target audience at the centre of it. Only an in-depth understanding of both your audience and your business goals will help you to create the right kind of content to respond to the right people.
This, in turn, will translate to more relevant traffic to your content, and a higher chance of you achieving your objectives.
Define your goals
Every strategy needs clearly defined goals. Or, if you take the “SMART” approach to goal-setting, they’ll be specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and timebound.
To pin down your SEO content goals, look at what you want to achieve for your business as a whole. Is it to:
- Increase your revenue?
- Improve your profit margin?
- Build your brand reputation?
- Generate new leads?
- Establish new business partnerships?
- Something else?
Now, look at what SEO content goals will help support those overall business goals. They might look something like this:
- To drive more qualified website traffic
- To build more audience engagement with your content
- To increase conversions
- Improve your digital ROI
- To achieve new customers
- To grow your contact database
At this stage, make a note of your goals and start thinking about how you’d measure success.
Know your audience
If SEO content marketing is all about marrying search intent with the right content, then it’s fundamental that you get to know your audience.
You may have a good idea of your current audience – you may even have carried out some persona research in the past. But if you’re starting fresh with your audience research, here are a few pointers.
Use your data
Your website and other marketing collateral can give you a good insight into your existing customers, their online behaviours, and engagement with your content.
Use your website analytics to do a thorough audit of your audience demographics and behaviours to create an accurate picture of your audience.
Research the competition
List out your competitors and look at how they engage with their audience. Look at their website, their social media, their customer reviews, and mentions.
Make a note of the various content formats they employ, what gets the most engagement and which elements of their content don’t work that well. By snooping on your competitors, you’ll be able to get a flavour of how to position your own content plan.
Look at your reputation
How your audience perceives you now will directly impact the way you build up your SEO content strategy going forward.
Look at the comments left on your blog, what your audience is saying about you on social media, what reviews they’re leaving on third-party review sites, and any other mentions you can access.
Define your ideal audience
Bring all your research together to develop in-depth customer personas.
Customer persona workshopping helps you to define what your ideal customer(s) look like, and build up a strong picture of who they are, their online goals (search enquiries), and any obstacles that stop them from achieving what they want.
List out all the ways in which your products or services can respond to their needs and give them what they’re looking for.
Essentially, by developing as detailed and as data-driven a persona as possible, you can begin to craft the kind of SEO content strategy that will fulfill their needs.
Create a customer journey map
Why is customer journey mapping important? These days, people’s journeys aren’t as linear as times past. They’re not a straightforward A to B, but rather a higgledy-piggledy, cross-channel back-and-forth process, where the customer navigates their way through a variety of both physical, social, marketing, and sales touchpoints.
Customer journey mapping is one of those tasks that can be relatively time-consuming, but that pays dividends in the long run. Knowing how your audience, both existing and potential, interacts with your brand will help you create the most targeted marketing strategy possible.
If, for example, your data shows that your customers are bouncing off your website, or they’re spending too long on browsing and not making any kind of engagement, then chances are your customer journey hasn’t been properly thought about.
So, before you can even start to develop SEO content, you need to carry out a thorough audit of your marketing collateral, both on- and off-page, online and offline.
Some of the media you should look at are your:
- social media
- email marketing
- paid media
- paid listings
- third-party review sites
- physical location if you have one
- printed material
Bring all these touchpoints together to map out how your audience is making their way to their goals. Against your touchpoints identify what actions they need to take (a click, fill in a form, go through a check out), their motivations, and any obstacles that might be preventing them from achieving their objective.
How you do this is down to you. It could be a spreadsheet, or it might be a manual post-it note representation on your wall. Whatever works for you.
As you list out the touchpoints, notice any content gaps that could be filled. Perhaps there’s a social channel you’re not using that might be used by your audience. Maybe you don’t have a testimonials page on your website. What content areas have been neglected that could help your audience achieve their goals?
Identify your content areas
Now you have a good idea of your target audience and all the points at which you intersect, you can now start brainstorming content ideas.
But, before you get carried away, remember this: everything you should create should have your expertise at its heart. Don’t waste your time creating content that is:
- a. outside of your subject area, or
- b. in a content format you don’t have the skills for.
Instead, focus your energies on providing content that is high-quality, highly relevant to your audience’s search intent, and, as a result, helpful to their customer journey.
Use your research to bring together some topic ideas and content formats. Most marketers find that a content calendar is helpful for managing the frequency, variation, and administration of content tasks. Even better if it’s a shareable document that your team can collaborate over.
Do your keyword research
Once you know your goals, your audience personas, and their customer journey, it’s now time to get to the SEO part of the SEO content strategy.
This starts with some keyword research.
- Your primary keyword(s)
Start with broad search terms that relate to your business. For example, if you sell used cars online, then your primary keyword will be “used cars”.
- Expand your list
Narrow down the relevance of your keyword using the following factors:
- Keyword variations (e.g. “old cars”, “second-hand cars” etc.)
- Location (e.g. “Used cars London”)
- Features (e.g. “Used cars with MOT”)
- Questions or queries people might put into Google (e.g. Top quality used cars near me”)
You can use an online tool to help you out with this part. We like Keyword Surfer because it’s both free and easy to use.
When you type in a search query into Google, this plugin for Google Chrome and Firefox offers you related keywords along with their search volume, on-page data and visibility metrics.
3. Bring it all together
Using the variables mentioned, you should now have a good list of search queries. Don’t forget, longer-tail search queries will let you provide highly relevant content to match search intent.
You can also grow your list by typing your initial keywords into search engines and see what comes up as recommended or related search terms.
4. Use keyword research tools to find the best keywords
Now you have a good list of keywords and phrases, you can start using keyword research tools to narrow down your best keyword opportunities.
There are loads of keyword research tools available to choose from, so it’s down to you to explore which one you feel most comfortable using.
SEMrush is an all-rounder for keyword research. SEMrush is a complete tool for SEOs and its keyword feature gives you pretty much everything you need to know.
You get insights into keyword difficulty (how hard it is to rank for that keyword), monthly search volume (how many people are searching for your keywords each month), trends (whether the keyword is growing or decreasing in popularity), lists of similar keywords, analysis of your competitors’ keywords and much more.
Ideally, when determining which keywords you want to rank for, you’re looking for that sweet spot between high monthly searches and low competition.
In other words, search terms that are used a lot, but that not many websites are using in their content. This is your best chance at getting your content to be found by the right audience.
Implementing your strategy
You now know your audience and their ideal customer journey. You also have a shortlist of keywords that’ll help your content perform and meet their needs.
It’s now time to bring the two together.
If you already have a website, it may take a while to go back and optimise every piece of content. Instead, create a priority list of your top content pieces, your web pages, your top-performing blog post, and optimise them first.
Going forward, you need to make the most of every SEO opportunity, and here’s a checklist for you to work from:
- Implement your keywords
Every piece of on-page content you produce should include keyword-focused H1s, H2s, title tags, and meta descriptions. They simply make it easier for search engines to pick up your content and help them rank.
Optimise your media (images, videos, audio) using alt tags and including keywords in your file names,
- Create high-quality content that responds to your audience needs
Search engines will favour relevance and quality, so don’t just produce content for the sake of it.
Use search queries as your headings and subheadings, include links to authoritative sources, and publish on a regular basis (according to Zazzle Media, 60% of people find it hard to produce content consistently).
- Pay attention to your link profile
Search engines reward internal as well as external links (backlinks). You have more control over your links to other pages on your site, so be sure to insert any relevant internal links.
To achieve backlinks, you really need to earn these by creating top-quality stuff that authoritative sources will link to. This comes back to creating top-notch material.
- Keep an eye on user experience
When creating SEO content, it’s all about keeping your audience central to everything you produce.
Make sure that your content is easy to read – don’t overuse jargon, complicated terminology, convoluted sentences. Make sure the content isn’t too hard on the cognitive load. That is, include plenty of white space and break long-form written content into shorter sections.
Think about how each piece of content fits in with their overall journey. You might want to ask yourself:
- What do they want to do as a result of this piece of content (e.g. what’s the call-to-action)?
- Has this content enhanced or hindered their journey?
Test, tweak, and repeat
When you bring your SEO and content under one combined strategy, you’re essentially acknowledging that the two practices work in synergy to both improve your online visibility and give your audience what they’re looking for.
But as with any strategy, you need to see it as a constant work-in-progress. Nothing is set in stone, and it takes an iterative process (and, importantly, ongoing detailed analysis) to determine what’s working and what’s not.
A successful SEO content marketing strategy will be a flexible working document, an ongoing project that will evolve as your business objectives develop, your audience needs change, and as the digital landscape inevitably moves in new directions.