Try to Google the role of search-engine optimisation (SEO) in content marketing and pretty soon you can find yourself falling down the rabbit-hole of algorithms, search volume, and competitiveness.
However, if you go the other way and forget about SEO to focus purely on your content, you’ll likely create exceptional resources that are never found by your target customer.
So, what’s a marketer to do?
Like any happy marriage, SEO and content marketing need to live in a constant state of compromise, both playing their parts and respecting the role of the other.
Striking this balance is, well… a balancing act. So, in order to give you a little stability, our experts have put their minds together and come up with some ways to make SEO become the yin to content marketing’s yang.
Let’s Begin At the Beginning
The first steps of any marketing strategy play a fundamental role in defining the success of your content going forwards. Since no one wants their digital presence to go unnoticed, the temptation is often to dive headfirst into SEO, conducting Google keyword research to find related terms to rank for.
A quick note: We’ll be talking about SEO in relation to Google in this blog. There is a very simple reason for this. 79% of global desktop search traffic went through the search engine in 2017, so if you want a successful SEO strategy, you have to play by Google’s rules. Okay, back to the blog...
Keyword research is not necessarily a bad way to start your content strategy, but it is worth taking SEO findings with a pinch of salt. While you have thought out your search terms with a clear, logical frame of mind, there is no guarantee that your customers have. After all, you only need to ask a customer service professional the kind of questions they’re asked on a daily basis to learn the weird and wonderful terminology in use by consumers.
Therefore, the first step to ensuring your writing stands out, is to know your customers inside-out. If you have any public-facing departments, speak to them to gather a sense of what queries or challenges are raised by customers.
Next, speak to your customers directly for their opinions. This is the best way to determine how people are coming across your business online, and will give you further insight into what they are looking for from your written content.
Discover What Makes Your Content Special
Every business, whether new or old, has, at some point, been told to find their unique selling point (USP). Perhaps it’s because of the word selling, but it’s often assumed that a company’s USP should be their product.
However, the reality is that, in such a congested market, it’s not always guaranteed that customers will realise how your product differs from that of a competitor. Especially if that competitor is more established online.
While every business may recognise their products or services form part of their USP, fewer have realised that their content can contribute, or even become, their unique selling point.
Content as a USP is no new idea. Every newspaper or magazine is built around the premise that their writing is the highest quality going. In contrast though, business’s all too often assume their online content’s only role is to convey information.
Of course, sharing company information clearly and concisely is vital to content marketing, but in doing so, it should showcase your business’s unique personality and value. This could be your expert analysis, your employee’s comedic antics, or something else entirely.
Whatever it is, using your business’s unique personality to inform your content is a wonderful way to enthuse your writing and help you stand out from the crowd.
Once you’ve determined the voice you want your content to be written in, ensure your don’t let your hard work go to waste by creating a tone-of-voice document. This should define the messages you want your content to convey, alongside your writing’s house-style.
Optimising for SEO
Defining your content’s unique selling point is, perhaps, the hardest part of your marketing strategy; so congratulations, it all gets easier from here.
Having spoken to your customers about how they found your website and what search terms they used, it’s time to conduct your keyword research in earnest.
Use a rankings tool to find keywords with a high search volume and low competition that you can make it onto the first page of Google for. This is particularly important, considering less than 10% of people make it to page two.
Also, you’ll want to ensure that the keywords you choose to rank for are achievable. Short-tail terms such as ‘trainers’ are going to be dominated by established brands like Nike. To combat this, identify more specific, or long-tail, keywords. For example, ‘low cost white fabric trainers’.
While you may be ranking for lower search volumes, you’ll be able to get onto the front page more often. Furthermore, 50% of searches are 4 words or more, so you’re still going to be benefiting from a lot of traffic.
Now you have your list of terms, you’ll want to create a piece of content for each one. In order to properly capture your customer market, you’ll need to rank for dozens, or even hundreds of keywords. This means a lot of pages.
Hosting a blog is a great way to make up these pages alongside website service pages. Use your prominent web pages to rank for the most important keywords that relate to your products or services, and your blog for more obscure terms that increase the pathways to your site.
In order to optimise a blog for SEO properly, follow these best practices.
Include Your Keyword in the Page Title, URL & Content Body
If you want to rank for a term, you need to make sure you’re using it. Google will crawl your website pages with ‘spiders’, to look at how relevant your content is and decide what search terms you should rank for. Having your keyword in these three places will go a long way to helping Google decide to rank you for the correct term.
Don’t keyword dump
Old SEO strategies revolved around using your chosen keyword, word-for-word, over and over again. This is no longer the norm, as search engines will prioritise content that is valuable to readers. As such, don’t feel you have to use the keyword exactly as it is written, just focus on writing engaging content tailored to that search term.
Use external links and cultivate inbound ones
One of the most important aspects of SEO excellence is using links to other sites, and having your content linked to by other sites. Google will crawl external links to identify the topic of your content.
From a networking point of view, external links are like extending an olive branch to influencers in your industry and saying, ‘hey, we love your content, maybe you’ll like ours too’. In turn, other sites may link to your content. These are called inbound links and if the sites linking to you are well established, Google will recognise that your content is valuable and bump you up in the rankings.
Remember to use picture alt-text
Google can’t see pictures, so instead it looks at the alt-text attached to them. Marketing software such as HubSpot allows you to write custom alt-text, so you can replace a vague definition such as ‘Pic_1’ with a fuller description that includes your keyword. Just make sure you don’t keyword dump in your alt-text.
Use subheadings and anchor text
Subheadings are a great asset for keeping your writing focused. Include your keywords in your subheadings to ensure you don’t wander off track, and then use them as anchors for a clickable menu. This provides more links for Google to crawl, helping SEO and improving user experience.
Make sure your content is mobile friendly
More people now use Google on mobile than desktop and as such, the search engine has now started prioritising mobile friendly sites higher. Ensuring you content is on a mobile friendly design is crucial then.
Include keyword in your meta description
Meta descriptions are no longer guaranteed to be used when determining rankings, but it is still best practice to include your keyword. The meta is the page description that appears on search engines, so can be used to draw web users into your site.
SEO and content marketing are best used in harmony, tailoring engaging, valuable information to long-tail keywords. In this way, you can attract more people to your site and generate more leads.
Moving site visitors from strangers to customers is a whole other story though, and this is where inbound marketing really comes into its own. To learn more about how inbound can improve your customer conversion rate, book a free Marketing Assessment with one of our team.