Content is at the heart of the digital experience. In today’s world, almost every purchase decision begins with a search engine query. However, consumers aren’t looking for ads. In fact, they’re avoiding them; 94% of consumers click on organic content over paid ads. What are customers looking for, then? Authentic content that provides answers to their problems.
So how do we create authentic content that drives return on investment? Creating content rooted in search engine optimization (SEO) maximizes your opportunity to appear on the first search engine results page (SERP), driving more traffic to your site and increasing the likely return.
Grounding your content in SEO also ensures you’re accounting for the topics and formats your audience is most interested in so you can generate topical, evergreen content that will continue to perform for your brand long after it’s published.
An ideal content strategy serves multiple purposes — it provides relevant information to your audience, drives organic traffic to your website, introduces your brand to new audiences and ensures you have the right targeted content to fulfill your marketing team’s planned campaigns.
How to Get Started
As you examine your organization’s content strategy, consider three key steps.
Know Your Audience and What They’re Looking for
If you have someone responsible for SEO in your organization, engage with them to understand what topics your audience is interested in. Search data is a proxy for audience interest and can inform which topics to target. This will maximize your content’s visibility on SERPs. (Don’t have a dedicated team? There are a host of resources for marketers getting started with SEO).
Conduct a Content Audit to Identify High-Priority Opportunities
Your content should speak directly to what users are searching for. Search engines prioritize pages with high-quality content. A good content audit will help you identify gaps in your existing content, retire content that is no longer accurate or relevant, and prioritize content that needs a refresh and can rank for new or different keywords.
Auditing your content regularly will help ensure that your target audience finds you when searching for relevant topics.
Prioritize Your Content Ideas to Reach Your Audience
Once you have your comprehensive list of topics, create parameters that help you rank these ideas in order of importance for your business. For some, this may heavily rely on the monthly search volume (MSV) of keywords or your probability of ranking on the first page of Google results for certain terms. For others, it may mean aligning keywords and topics to content themes or pillars.
Next, build a calendar to optimize topical content for seasons or major events, as well as evergreen content throughout the year. It’s also important to leverage search insights to help inform the format your content pieces will take — articles, videos, webinars, etc.
Understand your audience
Understanding your audience enables you to create authentic content that resonates with the people you’re trying to reach. Moreover, because Google’s algorithm rewards authentic content, you will be more likely to rank higher on SERPs.
When brainstorming your content to make it authentic and helpful, ask yourself the following questions.
What Topics Are Important to Them?
A great place to start is keyword research because this will show you what topics are in demand by your audience. While it may be enticing to target keywords with high MSV, these keywords tend to be more competitive to rank for and more generic in nature. Sometimes targeting niche long-tail keywords — three or more words — can help you get in front of more relevant audiences. For instance, your business might be ideally positioned to address a very specific subject.
In fact, using long-tail keywords can work in your favor. These searches give a clearer picture of a searcher’s intent, and over 50% of searches are four or more words.
Content in the style of glossaries or frequently asked questions often performs well on search engines. Examine what is being heavily searched or asked. Explaining industry concepts or providing how-to content is a great way to show your brand’s authority. When handling questions, use Google’s People Also Ask feature to see what other information you can provide for inquiring minds.
How and What Types of Content Are They Consuming?
Does your audience resonate more with long-form articles, videos, interactive content or something else? Understanding audience consumption preferences is the first step. From there, examine the SERP to identify which content formats rank best for certain topics. Once you have a better idea of which format can help you rank, you can optimize your content to maximize visibility.
Where Are They in Their Buyer’s Journey?
Consider what stage your audience is in their journey — their path to purchase. By understanding your customer’s mindset, what is influencing their decisions and what pain points they experience, you can empathize with and address their needs. If a customer is early in their journey, educational and how-to content is most helpful; if a customer is later in their journey, product reviews and product pages can serve them best.
Leverage SEO Insights Across Your Content Strategy
Now that you understand your audience, it’s time to organize content ideas by journey stage, themes and personas — different subsets of your audience based on their goals, buyer journeys and personal profiles.
Use these five categories to help guide you when creating your strategy:
Like evergreen trees, this content will last year-round, performing long after your initial investment. Unlike posts about industry trends or news topics, evergreen content covers topics that are relevant to your audience in perpetuity.
Make your evergreen content specific to your industry and audience to keep it focused. Ideas can come from customer feedback, search demand or internally. Try putting yourself in the shoes of your audience and think about what would be helpful or engaging in the long term.
Scheduling content with purpose will help drive traffic to your site. Create a calendar and slot in topical posts around important launches, product releases or seasonally focused content. Fill in any gaps with evergreen content posts. Make sure to factor in additional production needs outside of your content or marketing teams, such as executive bylines, guest posts or timely news-related content.
Keep a pulse on the competition. Look at the types of content and the tone they use for target keywords to understand how to differentiate your voice, address gaps in their content and strengthen your approach. SEO platforms offer competitive-analysis features that help capture market share and determine your relative visibility. This kind of research helps determine gaps for particular keywords or topics and incorporate these into content creation.
This is an easy step that should not be overlooked: Ask customers for feedback. They’re the ones who interact with your brand the most and are invaluable partners. Content that addresses their questions and comments is one of the easiest and most effective ways to drive engagement and improve organic traffic.
Gathering feedback can be as simple as connecting with your customer support or research and development teams. Tap into their feedback systems, generate a quick survey on social media or go further by conducting market research that digs deep into pain points by persona.
The more knowledge and insights you can gather, the better. Consult your customer support team for insights on common problems. Ask your Sales team which solutions or features are most important. This intel will help drive your brand content toward those who need it most — and boost SEO performance. Don’t forget to connect with internal team members who align most closely with your target personas.
Measurement: Was It Successful?
We’ve all heard the classic adage: If it’s worth doing, it’s worth measuring. By configuring your SEO tracking technology, you can better understand your content wins and identify areas for improvement. In addition to tracking the performance of individual pieces of content, creating keyword and content groupings can help SEOs and content marketers measure performance for particular topics.
Some of the best metrics to use when measuring your overall content marketing and SEO efforts are also some of the most basic:
Nonbranded organic traffic and clicks
An increase in nonbranded organic traffic — traffic driven by keywords and content not associated with your brand name — shows you how well your content is resonating with your audience. It indicates that your content is visible on Google and that people are intrigued enough to click through.
Securing top positions on SERPs for nonbranded keywords will validate your authority on Google and with your audience. It builds trust and awareness for your brand. Improved visibility means a better likelihood of traffic, conversions and revenue generation.
Page 1 Search Volume Increases
Analyze first-page keyword growth to determine how visible your site is on the SERP. A good approach will track all relevant keywords for a brand and their placement on the SERP to determine increases and decreases. Ideally, you’ll see improvements for content you are optimizing or with new content that has a good SEO foundation based on strong keyword research.
Before writing new or optimizing current content, do a comprehensive keyword search to ensure that you’re producing content that meets consumer demand.
A helpful strategy is to replicate a hub-and-spoke model to position your brand as authoritative on a topic. Demonstrating Page 1 growth can be an easy way to show that your content is reaching more people and can lead to increased investments in content marketing.
Increase in Organic Conversions
Increases can be measured by such metrics as the number of newsletter subscribers, total PDF downloads or engagement on certain parts of your site. Conversions — which can look different for different types of content — are a good way to show executives and other decision-makers how users are engaging with your content and demonstrate business impact.
Combine Authentic Content and SEO
By following these steps and prioritizing your audience’s needs, you can create authentic content that ranks higher on SERPs and, by nature, is more visible to more people. Without SEO, even the most informative and authentic content is a shout into the void.
SEO practices capture the voice of the customer, analyze what content is performing best and ensure that your content gets found by the audience you want most. By combining the forces of authentic content with SEO, you are more likely to reach your business goals and build a stronger relationship with your audience.