When searching online, a whopping 95 percent of people look at the first page of search results only. If the content you worked so hard to produce appears on the second or third page, few people will ever read it. In fact, even appearing on the first page doesn’t guarantee success, as the top three results on search engine results pages (SERPs) garner the greatest number of clicks.
That’s why it’s so hard to separate search engine optimization (SEO) and content marketing. SEO determines where your content appears during the crucial search stage, so it has a direct impact on whether people will even see your content, let alone click through and engage with it.
A unified and symbiotic SEO and content marketing strategy is a crucial factor in improving the results of your digital marketing campaigns.
Search engine optimization defined
According to Moz, a leading SEO software platform, SEO is “the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.”
We’ve all typed a question or keyword into Google or Bing. Although these search engines return results to us in an instant, there’s actually a complex method behind the scenes that determines which links the search engine will select and how it will rank them.
The key to SEO rankings is relevance. If a web page is more relevant to the user’s search, it will appear higher on the SERP. The keywords the user has searched for largely determine relevance. Brands boost their search engine rankings by creating content that contains keywords their target audience uses in searches. In this way, brands can help customers find them when searching for information related to the company or to its products and services.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is the creation and distribution of content that helps your target audience learn about your brand, your products, and your services.
Content marketing is highly effective, which is why it’s a very popular marketing tactic in all industries. In its Not Another State of Marketing 2020 report, HubSpot states that 70 percent of marketers actively use content marketing. According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing generates three times more leads than paid search advertising.
Although conversions are ultimately the goal, not every piece of content is about selling. Sometimes the content you publish is meant to educate your audience. Sometimes you’re putting it out there to entertain and engage your audience. All content that provides valuable information for your readers helps you build a relationship with them.
How to create an SEO and content marketing strategy
SEO and content marketing must work hand in hand. One of the most effective ways to boost search engine rankings is by producing content that includes the keywords, questions, and phrases your target audience is searching for. Another tactic is creating high-quality content that people like to read.
Search engines crawl web pages in order to see how users are engaging with the content. Good engagement also improves SEO, which makes it easier for more people to find the content. Here’s how to systematically apply SEO to all your content marketing.
Research your target market
Before diving into SEO and content marketing, it’s important to establish who exactly makes up your target audience. By creating buyer personas based on market research, you can discover what questions and pain points your audience has. This helps you understand what topics they are likely searching for related to your products and services.
Researching your target market not only helps you focus on the best audience, but it also determines the list of keywords you should be targeting in your SEO strategy and the topics you should be covering in your content strategy.
Keywords are the linchpin of SEO and content marketing. Once you’ve pinpointed the keywords that relate to your business and those that your target audience is searching for online, you can begin to create content around them. This increases your chances of ranking higher on SERPs for those specific keywords.
Go for long-tail keywords
Instead of focusing only on general and obvious keywords, try to compete for longer phrases and questions that people are searching for — otherwise known as “long-tail keywords.” These are a great way to drive more relevant traffic because they are more specific and focused.
A good tool to have in your arsenal is the Google Keyword Planner, which helps you choose the right keywords to get your content in front of the right customers.
Create quality content
After creating that list of relevant keywords, it’s time to put them into action.
Well-written content includes relevant examples, targets your audience, and is easy to read. Just sprinkling the keywords throughout your content isn’t enough — and if you stuff your content with keywords, Google will actually penalize you. Rather, put the effort into creating high-quality, readable content that addresses the interests, questions, and pain points of your target audience.
Regularly optimize your content
Last but not least, it’s important to review your content regularly and update any of the SEO elements that aren’t performing well. Look for opportunities to include additional keywords, to update links, statistics, or facts, and to add new, relevant information.
This can improve the quality of the content, which makes it more relevant and valuable to your target audience. Work on optimizing the web pages that get the most traffic first, as the improvements you make on these will yield the best and fastest results.
Moving forward with SEO and content marketing
By using SEO and content marketing together in a strategic and deliberate way, you can optimize your content and marketing efforts for higher rankings, more conversions, and an overall better ROI.