“Write for people, not for search engines!”
“Don’t be like your grandma’s cookie recipe — help people find you online!”
“If you need SEO to make your content noticed, it’s not good enough!”
The Internet is flooded with contradictory advice about SEO and content marketing. Entrepreneurs over-commit to one while completely neglecting the other, and as a result their marketing efforts fall short of even the modest expectations.
But SEO and content marketing are supposed to be like peanut butter and jelly: two great marketing methodologies that go very well together! So why don’t they?
The answer is: they absolutely can, with a little bit of effort on your part. It’s not hard to create content loved both by viewers and search engines. Today, we’re going to show you how to find that “sweet spot” intersection of SEO and content marketing…
…so anything you put out in the future will get the views, subscriptions, and social shares it deserves. Let’s dive in!
Step 0. Here’s what you really need to focus on with SEO
Anything that signals to Google, “Hey, this content is highly relevant and really good.” Ranking factors like:
- Bounce rate — the longer your visitors stay engaged with your content, the more relevant it appears to Google (and the higher your search ranking).
- Click-through rate — how eagerly, and how often, people click through to consume your content is another powerful ranking factor. Most entrepreneurs under-appreciate it, because it’s tricky to optimize — don’t be like them!
- Backlinks and social signals — if you want to get more traffic, link-building is just as important as keywords. You want plenty of authoritative websites linking to your content, and lots of social shares.
- Outbound links — finally, linking out to authoritative, relevant content indicates to Google that your content is high-quality, and also boosts your rankings. Making your content a self-contained black box with no outgoing links will put it on Google’s bad side!
Focus on these factors in your SEO strategy, and your content marketing efforts will yield much higher ROI. “But wait!” you might ask. “What about keywords?”
Well, keywords will take care of themselves, believe it or not! Later in the post we’ll show you the bare minimum of what you need to do to make sure you’re ranking for the right keywords, that the right people are searching for.
For now, let’s go ahead and figure out how to make your SEO and content marketing strategies fall in love and marry one another!
Stage 1. Create your content map
No matter what industry you’re in, opportunities for high-quality, engaging content abound. So to start with, you need to figure out the initial 30-50 topics to cover.
This might seem like a lot, but don’t worry — here are three tips to help you get it done:
- Brain dump! It works for headlines, which means it will work for content topics as well. Just empty the contents of that beautiful brain of yours by writing down every single idea you have. And don’t get self-conscious — at this early stage, there are no bad ideas! You’ll self-censor and weed out the losers later.
- After trimming off all the topics that sound awful, aim to be left with at least 10 decent ones. If you don’t have 10, use the suggestions from this post about “content goldmines” to get more.
- Finally, take each topic and make 2-3 more out of it. You can do it by narrowing it down, putting a different spin on it, or playing with different types of content.
Not sure what that last action step would look like? Let’s see…
For example, let’s say you want to write content around financial products. One of the topics you have is absurdly vague, like “retirement accounts” — how do you turn it into multiple topics?
Option A. Narrow it down — you could write about a specific type of a retirement account. You could talk about retirement options for a specific group of people, like self-employed professionals, creatives, or small business owners.
Option B. Put a spin on it — you could write a motivational post about the incredible power of compound interest (even Einstein talked about it), and describe in vivid detail how it can work its magic on even the humblest retirement savings.
Option C. Try different types of content — who says you need to write anything? Make a video; commission an infographic; create a SlideShare. You could also create a comparison chart for the most popular types of retirement accounts, listing the pros and cons. Even if you stick to writing, there are so many different formats to play with: a case study, an ultimate guide, a list post, etc.
See? Just this quick exercise can turn one broad topic into 3-10 potential pieces of content. You can do it — no excuses!
Finally, after you have your list of content topics, you should rank them by size and depth:
- huge, extensive topics that would need a big piece to do them justice.
- mid-sized topics on par with your typical article.
- small, snackable content.
Then, let’s move on to keywords — a step that seems quite scary, but actually isn’t!
Stage 2. Doing keyword research (the easy way)
Keywords are misunderstood — most people can’t handle them, and treat them as scary and unfamiliar. Kind of like sharks and wolves. OK, not really.
Even today, a lot of content is either oversaturated with keywords, or completely devoid of them. Neither approach is good for business — as we said before, you want both Google and real people to like your content. Which means that getting your keyword research, and usage, right early on can make a big difference.
Here’s how to make it happen.
- Take your topics, plug it into the Google Keyword Planner. If it doesn’t return any meaningful search data, try variations suggested by Google.
- Pick the keywords with the search volume of at least 4,000 per month — otherwise it makes little sense to try and rank for it.
- Put your chosen keyword next to your content topic, so you know which one you’ll be ranking for.
After that, you’ll need to learn how competitive your chosen keyword is.
The ‘Competition’ field in the Keyword Planner is only relevant for ads, not actual searches — so we won’t be using it. Instead, just perform a search in Anonymous mode (most Internet browsers have it).
If you don’t find any authoritative niche sites ranking for that keyword on the first page, that’s a clear winner!
Note: notice how we said, “niche sites” — giant websites like Amazon or Wikipedia will probably show up, but only because of their authority. They don’t actually compete with you on that particular keyword.
(Slightly longer) note: The only 2 places to use keywords
We promised to make it easy for you, remember? Here’s where your keywords will make the biggest impact:
- Meta name — this is the headline Google will display in search results.
- Meta description — this is the little summary you always see just underneath the headline in search results.
If you want to go nuts, you can also use your chosen keyword in the H1 headline tag, as well as within the first 100 words of your article (if it’s a written piece as opposed to, say, a whiteboard and cartoon animation video).
As for the rest of your piece, as long as you make it valuable and communicate with the viewers clearly, you don’t have to worry about keyword usage — you’ll hit the “sweet spot” naturally!
Now that the research part is done, it’s on to the fun steps: execution!
Stage 3. Your publishing strategy
This one is very easy. The only two things you need are:
- A list of upcoming topics.
- A regular publishing schedule.
That’s it! Come to think of it, we probably shouldn’t have made this into a separate step…
That said, there are a few more guidelines you could follow to make sure you get the biggest ROI on your efforts, like these:
- Frequency doesn’t matter as much as consistency and heavy promotion. Derek Halpern famously coined that content marketing should follow the 80/20 rule: you need to spend 20% of your time creating it, and 80% promoting it.
- Schedule your writing time, promotion time, and publication dates on your calendar. If it’s not on the calendar, it doesn’t exist!
- Once every month or so, schedule times to look at analytics and see how your content is performing, and go back and update the older posts that are doing well (more on that in Step 4).
But putting out the content, even when its SEO is iron-clad and its appeal to your target audience is irresistible, is just one piece of the puzzle. The other one is promotion — and this brings us to Step 4…
Stage 4. Your simple and powerful promotion plan
To get as many eyeballs as possible on your content, whether it’s a blog post, a whiteboard and cartoon animation video, you’ll need to roll up your sleeves and get to work.
The sooner your content starts getting linked and shared, the faster your SEO efforts will pay off — but we also want healthy evergreen traffic, not just a short-term boost!
To make all of the above happen, stick to these three promotion strategies:
- Basic promotion — email your latest content to your list, post about it on social media… you know the drill. This doesn’t seem like much, but it provides an initial traffic spike. However small it seems at the start, it will do some good to your search rankings. Plus, if you make sure that your content is shareable, even the results of this basic promotion may exceed your expectations!
- Outreach to influencers — anyone you mention in your content, anyone who is on your radar as a business partner, mentor, just someone with an audience who might enjoy what you’re doing… they’re all fair game. You can reach out to these people and ask them to share your content (just don’t make these mistakes).
- Updating your old and popular content — that’s why we mentioned checking your analytics occasionally to learn how your content is doing. Sometimes you’ll find that a piece is getting ranked for a completely different, but still relevant, keyword. Why not go back and update your meta tags to focus on that new keyword? Oftentimes you’ll want to update, expand, and otherwise revamp your popular posts, so new visitors get an even stronger first impression!
- (optional) Create content upgrades — you can do it to enhance your most popular content pieces, and encourage more people to subscribe to you by email. It’s doesn’t take much to create a terrific content upgrade — check out this post for inspiration.
And there you have it — it took a while, but we’ve done it! Now you have a perfectly actionable, SEO-friendly content marketing strategy to make brand stand out and attract high-quality leads in droves, without spending a ton of money on advertising, or wasting months figuring this all out by trial and error. Enjoy!
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