A few years ago, all it took to achieve a high ranking in Google’s search results was a little bit of keyword research and a whole lot of copy-and-pasting those keywords all over your site. Maybe throw in a few “links” from directory sites, and you were good to go.
Today, that’s not at all the case. Search engine algorithms are evolving to put user experience first, and as it turns out, human readers don’t enjoy reading unintelligible pages littered with keywords. So if you want to rank well, you need to provide the interesting, useful content they’re actually looking for – a strategy known as content marketing.
If you’re already using content as part of your company’s marketing strategy, you’re well on your way to building a reputation as a valuable source of industry knowledge. And if you haven’t, the following tips will help you get started.
Understand the overlap
Before you can effectively integrate content marketing into your SEO strategy, it’s important to understand the relationship between the two.
SEO includes any effort you make to boost your site’s visibility in search engines, like link building, social media, and on-page optimization.
But does content marketing fall under that umbrella? Not completely. According to CMI, it is:
The marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.
Basically, when you create content (blog posts, articles, infographics, free guides, etc.) that has value to your target audience outside of attracting them to your business, you’re marketing with content. And while this can improve your visibility in search engines (especially if the content you create attracts links from other sites), it shouldn’t always be created with the user in mind.
Some of your content should exist simply to build your brand and its relationships with customers. Even though it doesn’t have a direct impact on rankings, that’s still an important marketing function.
That being said, if you’re new to content marketing, you can start with content that is likely to improve your SEO. Here’s how:
Analyze your existing pages
If you already have an SEO strategy in place, you probably have quite a few pages on your site that are optimized for different keywords. But how much information do you actually provide about those keywords?
For example, let’s say I’m about to go on hiking trip but I’m not quite sure what to pack. I search “backpacking checklist,” and the first result is this page from REI:
Of course, many of the items on their list link to products that they sell. But some – like park passes and toilet paper – are simply there because they’re important for hikers to remember, even though REI doesn’t stand to benefit by including them.
This page provided exactly what I was looking for when I searched for a backpacking checklist, meaning REI succeeded in supplying helpful, free content. But can your site visitors say the same thing when they land on one of your optimized pages?
If the answer is no (or if you’re not sure), you have some work to do.
Comb through the pages on your site, and make a note of the keywords that each one is optimized for. Then, determine whether or not each page provides the information that users searching for those keywords would logically want. The pages that don’t are prime spots for improvement.
Note: If you notice during this process that any of the keywords are outdated or simply not good choices (too broad or competitive), do some keyword research and select replacements.
Expand on your content
After you’ve identified the pages to improve, it’s time to beef them up. However, this isn’t an excuse to start rambling about your products – remember, content marketing is about providing value to your audience.
Consider what your audience wants when they search for each page’s keywords, whether it’s to learn about your company, make a purchase, or simply find information that relates to your industry. Then, create it.
Take, for example, the Patagonia page I found in a search for “trail running”:
Across the top, there are links to profiles of trail runners, their trail running blog, and trail running products. The page’s focus is a film (about trail running), followed by details about their plan to build 50 miles of running trails in Chile, profiles of well-known endurance runners, and landscape photos taken by employees. Then, at the very bottom, they list a few of their “favorite” related products:
So while the page does ultimately direct visitors to make a purchase, it only does so after providing them with a wealth of interesting content – a solid overall approach.
The type of content you create depends on what your business has to offer, so although the example above relates specifically to ecommerce retailers, any business can benefit from content. This post from CMI and this one from HubSpot both provide excellent examples for your business to emulate.
Revise your approach going forward
Now that your site is full of useful, optimized content, your job isn’t quite over – in fact, it’s only just begun. Content marketing, much like SEO, is an ongoing process, and you should continue to provide your audience with interesting, useful information a couple times each week.
One of the best ways to do this is by on your business’s website. Blogs are an excellent way to keep your site updated with fresh content and also offer a little more freedom than the main pages of your site. You can write, create infographics, post video, and do a lot more about topics related to your industry and interact with your readers in the comments section. As an added bonus, you can promote your new posts on your social media channels to get more followers.
However, this is only true if you commit to posting on a regular basis. But even if you only set aside time to write and publish a post once a week, that’s still 52 new pieces of audience-friendly content per year!
Looking for ideas?
As you continue to grow your content strategy, you’ll need to make a conscious effort to research new opportunities, produce different formats, and promote what you create. For more information on how to accomplish these tasks, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Content Marketing.
And if you have any questions about how SEO and content work together, please let me know in the comments below!