Pairing SEO and content marketing is a combination of formidable marketing forces. A modern digital marketing strategy involving both of these isn’t just a smart idea — it’s essential.
It’s all about helping your customers with great content and enabling them to find you when they look up relevant information on search engines like Google.
SEO, or search engine optimization, refers to specific ways to make your content friendly for search engines. This includes various signals to inform search engines about the type and subject matter of your content.
There are various technical angles to SEO, but it’s also an art.
Content marketing represents your overall strategy, including the content you’ll use to acquire inbound organic traffic. While most people think of content like blog posts, it also includes videos and even social media messages. If SEO is art, content marketing is your canvas and informed content is your paint.
Many marketers struggle with creating content that signals search engines and serves users, but in recent years, the value that content has to the reader has become increasingly important.
A Brief History of SEO
Search engine optimization is over 20 years old. It initially began with the intention to help search engines categorize content, but its sales and marketing purpose became evident quickly.
In the early days, users adopted what we now call “black hat SEO” strategies like keyword stuffing. Back then, it was all about gaming the system because it was very possible to outsmart the early search engines. Then, something big happened: Google.
This is when the practice of link building really started to take off. People realized that the more powerful backlinks one had, the better the website would rank. Google added AdSense (paid advertising) into the mix as video platforms like YouTube emerged.
Not only did Google and other search engines like Bing rise to catalog multiple forms of content, they got smarter. Google evolved to focus on what it does best: serve people, providing them with a pleasant experience so it can serve more paid content to them.
It’s in Google’s best interest to give you searchers what they want, and through a series of algorithm updates, Google cleaned up its act. This shaped and changed the SEO industry by forcing everyone to focus on producing high-quality content.
In the present, Google cares about whether your content is informative, impactful, and enjoyed by actual users. This plays well into the growing content marketing industry, which involves creating content that works hand in hand with Google-approved SEO practices.
Contemporary SEO and content marketing function like this:
- Find a missing need on the SERPs (search engine results pages)
- Create engaging, well-liked content to fill that need
- Maintain and update the content
- Promote it to your audience
Let’s take a look at how to make that happen.
Start With Goal-Focused Branding
Before you charge into keyword research and investigate the best SEO practices, you need to take a look at your brand’s goals, aesthetics, and ethics. Prepare for a long conversation, especially if you wish to take input from an entire team.
Answer questions like:
- What does our brand stand for?
- What products and services do we represent?
- What is our tone?
- What does our brand look like aesthetically?
- What does the brand voice sound like?
- Why are we important?
- What is our unique selling proposition?
- Where are we marketing, online and off? Does location matter for our customers or clients?
- Who uses our products and services?
- Who do we want to reach even though they don’t know about us yet?
Your objective is to figure out exactly what you are so you can define your reach and create a content strategy appropriately.
Create a Buyer Persona
Your buyer persona is a short biographical piece of information about your standard customer. Many brands appeal to multiple segments and create secondary and tertiary buyer personas too.
You can create a buyer persona by using demographic data you already have from your website and Google Analytics, mailing list, and survey feedback. This includes information such as age, income level, and location.
However, a buyer persona includes further information such as psychographics and affinities. Affinities, in particular, require a bit of thinking about your ideal consumer and researching their interests.
If you’re a clothing retailer and your engaged buyer is a 28-year-old single woman who likes comic book movies and has a full-time job in an office, what else might she be interested in?
What kind of clothes might she like? She might love some office-appropriate items that allude to her favorite characters (who doesn’t want a high-quality Wonder Woman purse?) or outfits for the office.
Once you have that down, you’ll need to think about your buyer. Where do they live? What’s their day like? Where do they hang out, online and off? That’s important because you’ll want to mesh with their other affinities and meet them where they spend their time.
Our comic book movie lover might hang out on movie websites. She may also own a pet, and we can assume she has a bit of disposable income for clothing if she doesn’t have children.
From a marketing standpoint, maybe having a booth at a convention or striking an advertising deal with a comic book movie website would be a good first step to reaching this person.
Now we also know a few things about what types of content your ideal buyer would like as well.
Find High-Value, Low-Competition Keywords
Handling the technical SEO details of your website is its own process. Implementing technical SEO and conducting an SEO audit of your website (especially ensuring its mobile-friendliness) is essential to the success of your blog and everything else you host on your site. Although it isn’t the focus of this post, attend to that before proceeding.
Once your website is in order, you’ll want to find high-value, low-competition keywords using tools like Moz, SpyFu, and SEMrush (tutorial here). These types of keywords are easier to rank for (there isn’t much competition for them), but there is some demand in search engines, meaning that the value of what it would cost to buy advertising for that keyword is high. These keywords suggest you’re filling a need in your niche.
Your keyword tool of choice will export a report for you with these keywords. Pick the ones that make the most sense and make sure to include a hefty amount of long tail keywords — or phrases that people search for. These are niche-specific phrases and are notoriously excellent for bringing engaged audiences to content.
Remember our Wonder Woman fan? She might not look up “Wonder Woman fashion,” but she is likely to look for “where can I find a Wonder Woman purse?” If you have exactly what she wants to buy, that’s a great match.
Consider Searcher Intent
Looking at searcher intent means going beyond the basics of finding the right keywords to analyze search user intent. Searcher intent is all about the context, meaning, and intention behind the searcher’s query, and it involves some intuition that tools can assist you with. Parsing searcher intent is key to creating optimized content in your marketing efforts.
Think about Amazon, which has its own search engine. Let’s say your user’s friend told them that they absolutely have to read the book “The Secret,” which is all about positive thoughts and the law of attraction.
The user heads to Amazon and looks for the book directly. Amazon’s search engine satisfies the search but also provides related results, presenting books about the same topic. Naturally, it can show books about the same subject, but here’s where it goes further: Amazon’s algorithm shows other products that people who looked for “The Secret” have browsed and bought. This data reveals connections between “The Secret” and other products a buyer might not have thought of.
That said, we haven’t fully automated searcher intent, especially when it comes to new or innovative products and services. Instinct is still part of this, and it’s on you to determine what related topics are most interesting.
Amazon can help you figure out that “The Secret” readers might also like tarot cards, but only by being in a group about that book will you know that some fans of the book are anticipating the release of a specific tarot card deck. This can guide your content in the right direction.
This is the heart of searcher intent.
Create and Execute Your Content Marketing Strategy
Once you have your keywords, you’ll want to create blog posts and content topics around those keywords. Consider a unique take on a popular topic. If you want help with ideas, BuzzSumo, Quora, Reddit, and Answer the Public are ideal resources for finding hot topics and things people want to know about your subject of expertise.
When you plan your content marketing strategy, consider a free tool like Airtable to help you and your team stick to a schedule. Evaluate and tweak your strategy quarterly, especially if you’re in an industry like fashion or marketing which thrives on constant change.
Don’t forget to use SEO best practices and helpful plugins like Yoast SEO to ensure you’re using your keywords properly (without stuffing them). Use short sentences and headers, and always deliver engaging and useful content.
Also, don’t forget to track and adjust your SEO results using Google Analytics.
Connecting solid content strategy and SEO can be made easier by following the processes outlined above. It requires diligence and time, but it’s a useful investment to help your customers come to you.