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Content Marketing & SEO: The Bigger Picture
Working to integrate your SEO and content marketing efforts? Columnist Trond Lyngbø discusses the benefits and challenges of marrying these two disciplines and explains how to succeed.
SEOs have long wondered how blog posts from Bufferapp consistently topped search engines and attracted huge audiences for free… until their content team drew back the curtains and revealed what went on behind the scenes.
Their SEO wasn’t just about traffic, conversions and revenue. Like every smart and successful marketing team, their success was based on content planning and content promotion.
In other words, by linking SEO to an effective content marketing strategy, a fairly new entrant into a hyper-competitive niche dominated search results and built a powerful brand. This report will show how you can achieve similar results in your industry.
SEO Is More Than Just Traffic, Conversions & Revenue
There are 4 key elements to an SEO plan developed around a content marketing strategy:
- Find out what people want and give it to them.
- Use retargeting lists to communicate with them, even after they leave your site.
- Make special price offers on your product or service if prospects act now.
- Evolve a smart content marketing plan to build content that pulls in your target customers.
If you look carefully, there’s nothing there which is “click/traffic” focused. All those tactical SEO elements exist, but grow really powerful when integrated into a bigger plan.
Everyone knows organic search is important to marketing strategy. Search marketers are aware of content marketing as a tactic to engage target audiences and improve search rankings. But still, in many cases, their marketing fails. Why?
What Leaders Must Know About Content Marketing & SEO
Content marketing is not paid content disguised as editorial content.
Done correctly, content marketing is an excellent way to build a relationship with customers. A well-implemented content strategy establishes trust and authority in the market. It positions your company in the middle of the research and buying cycle, so that you can take control of what they see, read, think and do.
Being found on organic search results and attracting traffic to your site makes it possible to engage people and convert them into fans and customers. And all those clicks and traffic from Google results are free.
The crucial concept behind effective content marketing, then, is to tell stories that people find interesting.
Your content should not be perceived as “marketing” or “selling.” You’ll sell more by NOT selling! While your content is designed to eventually develop awareness, close sales and create advocacy for your brand, it should stay focused on helping, creating value for customers, and meeting their needs.
This way more people will find your content, giving you wider reach and impact. Your content marketing strategy helps differentiate you from the crowd.
Content Marketing Lets You Dominate A Niche & Become The Market Leader
The business case for content marketing is clear: If you want to build your brand to become the market leader you must OWN the niches in your market.
You can achieve this goal by using keyword research and SEO analysis performed by an experienced consultant to tap into the holy grail of search behavior – a search user’s needs, questions and intent.
From current and historical data, you can find out what individuals…
- are concerned about (fears)
- are curious to know (interests)
- are seeking solutions for (problems)
- are dreaming about having (desires)
As discussed on a recent Moz Whiteboard Friday, “Know What Your Audience Wants Before Investing in Content Creation and Marketing,” it’s best to find out what your customer wants before investing in content.
Putting The Cart Before The Horse
Clients sometimes ask: “Why isn’t content marketing working for us?”
The answers are often obvious — and common across many companies and industries. Here are some of the reasons for content marketing being ineffective, and some simple ways to avoid those mistakes.
1. Weak Content Planning
Be smart about creating content. Planning your content is key. There’s nothing “new” about content marketing, even though it’s now a popular buzz word. SEO consultants have spoken about it for years, just calling it by other names. Whatever we call it, planning it is important.
2. Failing To Integrate Content Marketing Into Digital Channels
Many organizations fail to plan their digital channel marketing. Their process of ordering fresh content is seriously flawed. Investments should be greater in stories that people are actually interested in, and content that demonstrably converts better.
3. Not Realizing the Difference Between Advertising and Marketing/Content
Some organizations think content marketing is about
- producing a piece of content
- having people to see it
- booking orders from convinced prospects
But really, content marketing is about
- connecting with your audience
- building trust
- becoming an authority
- being the one that they remember when it’s time to order
- gaining mindshare as the go-to-guy or company
If your current content marketing strategy revolves around writing and distributing content “advertorials,” then it’s time for a rethink. Creating a mashup of advertising and content will only result in a low-performing piece published under the alibi of “content marketing”. You’ll pay money for advertising to lead traffic to the content, which dies down in a few weeks when the campaign ends.
Why is this practice so common, especially when it doesn’t work?
4. Lack of Knowledge About Digital Marketing
It’s easy for an agency or consultant to pander to a client’s demand for new buzzwords and services, without having to take the time and trouble to understand how the business really works.
I’m not accusing some agencies or consultants of intentionally trying to fool someone into investing in an inefficient model. But lacking the right knowledge and expertise still leads to failure, even if the actions are taken with the best purpose and intentions in mind.
Lack of knowledge about digital marketing is a problem. CMOs and strategy directors should know reasonably well how Google works, and understand intersections between organic search and other marketing in the organization’s overall strategy. Unfortunately, many are outdated when it comes to digital marketing.
This leads to their companies implementing strategies that an expert would quickly identify as useless or counter-productive. Silo-thinking condemns their content marketing strategy to mediocrity. All the while, their competitors are thriving and gaining market share.
To avoid this, you must:
- Take research and planning seriously
- Involve an experienced SEO consultant to uncover what people want
- Get access to valuable historical search data
- Ensure the content you’re creating takes you closer to your business goals.
5. Shortsightedness and Ad Hoc Work Patterns
Online digital content has a long shelf-life. But many organizations view their content marketing through a “campaign lens”.
Prioritizing and delegating are crucial skills for a CMO or strategy director. Busy with many other things, most take an ad hoc approach, focusing for a week on one thing, and on something else the week after. Whenever the going gets tough, or results are not as they hoped for, someone cracks the whip – and they become more confused and disorganized.
Instead, they should step off the hamster-wheel, review the situation and focus on whatever has worked for them already. Getting a content marketer and SEO consultant together to prioritize areas to focus on will make all activity more cost-efficient.
6. Content Overload
In the content glut of the World Wide Web, it’s tough to differentiate yourself. SEO is a great way to find more effective ways to reach your target audience and stand out from the crowd.
Content marketing is less about “content” and more about “marketing.”
If you take a shortcut and hire content writers to throw something together, and sprinkle some SEO “secret sauce” over the mess, you’ll only get a temporary quick-fix — and a bad one at that. Consulting experts at content marketing and SEO can help spot opportunities and craft content that’s interesting to customers.
Businesses should think about content marketing as inbound marketing, rather than push marketing. You must get involved, stay focused, and be consistent over time. Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.
7. “Campaign” Thinking
Content marketing can’t be a campaign that you launch whenever you want to sell more products. Ordering a batch of articles or advertorials just before the campaign goes live leaves little time for research and planning. Precious opportunities are lost.
Once the campaign ends, the content is forgotten — only to repeat the cycle next year. Content planning can keep your content relevant for longer, make it stronger over time, rank it better and beat your competitors on search results. That makes content marketing much more effective — and profitable.
8. Making Content The Goal
Too many organizations jump directly to production and churn out content without researching and planning it. As a result, they skip over the most important part: what the market and their prospective buyers actually want and need.
Doing this is naive and ignorant. Google has vast treasure troves of data about search volumes, trends, seasonal changes and popular search terms. Tapping this data to tailor and structure your content marketing is smart and helps you serve clients well.
Content marketing is not about what you want people to know– it’s about the needs and interests of the customer.
Your content marketing clock should tick on your customers’ schedule, not your own. Content marketing is about building and strengthening a relationship with your customers. So it shouldn’t be mistaken for advertising.
How To Find What People Want?
There are many tools to guide you.
- Google Keyword Planner is a good starting point, where you can type in keywords and discover how popular they are.
- Keywordtool.io is a logical second step, because it gives you more specific information about searcher intent through long tail keyword phrases.
- SEMrush helps study what your competitors are doing. You might get ideas to expand and broaden your approach, or go deeper into sub-niches or find new ones to explore and research.
I’ll leave you with some final takeaways:
- Investing in content marketing without SEO is sub-optimal. You will limit your own success and end up publishing content that no one is interested in.
- Effective content marketing will help build your brand and attract more qualified leads and paying customers.
- Intersections of SEO and content marketing, where experts work together, will generate better outcomes.
- Evergreen content lasts for years. Traffic, leads and sales will not stop when a campaign is over, but continue for many years.
- Content planning and content promotion can help you leverage the incredible power and longevity of content marketing and SEO.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.