You can’t be successful online without SEO content marketing.
Content marketing is at the heart of SEO. In fact, without a decent content strategy, you’re unlikely to get anywhere near the first page on Google. But you probably know that. The trouble is knowing what kind of content to make.
After all, content creation takes a lot of time and effort. You want to make sure you hit the ground running and create effective content right from the outset. That’s what we’ll cover today in this guide to SEO content marketing.
Specifically, we’ll be answering several important questions, including;
- How do SEO and content marketing relate to each other?
- What kinds of content are best for SEO?
- How do you create SEO optimized content?
That’s a lot to cover, so let’s jump right in.
What is SEO Content Marketing?
It’s always good to start with the basics. Unsurprisingly, SEO content is any content with the specific goal of getting more traffic from a search engine. It may sound obvious, but it’s still worth pointing out.
Google themselves say that content is pretty much the most important ranking factor they use. So if you prefer, you might think of SEO content as the thing that’s going to get you a boatload of organic traffic.
This is crucial. After all, more traffic means more sales.
With that in mind, let’s look at the details of how you can make that happen.
How to Create an SEO Content Marketing Strategy
Every marketing strategy has three basic stages. These are;
In other words, you decide what you’re going to do. Then you do it. Finally, you look at the results to figure out what you could have done better.
Writing content for SEO is no different.
Set your SEO Content Marketing Goals with Keyword Research
Your preparation stage starts with setting your goals. This means deciding which search terms you’d like to rank for. This is keyword research.
- You can start your keyword research with a little mental game. Try and sum up the mission of your business in a couple of words. Say for instance I ran an affiliate marketing site in the software niche. I’d probably come up with something like affiliate marketing.
Equally, I might come up with a few more specific phrases related to that niche. These might include reviews of popular software platforms, for example, Clickfunnels review.
Doing this exercise is also a good way to understand the two main kinds of keywords. These are;
- Short Tail Keywords – These are shorter and more general, but attract more traffic,
- Long Tail Keywords – These are longer and more specific, but attract less traffic.
This kind of brainstorming is okay for getting started, but to get a comprehensive list of all the keywords you can target, you should use Google’s Keyword Planner. Simply start by entering the terms you’ve already come up with, like so.
Keyword Planner will provide you with a lot of related keywords, as well as how many people are searching for them and the level of competition.
A premium tool you can use to do this, which is affordable, but provides the results from a Google Search is Keywords Everywhere. The Chrome Extension works in the browser.
Both of these content marketing tools provide you with a lot of related keywords, as well as how many people are searching for them and the level of competition. Alternatively, you might want to opt for a premium research tool with more features, like Longtail Pro.
Choosing the Right Content for SEO
Now that you know what keywords you’re targeting, it’s time to consider your options in terms of content. Since the majority of search takes place on mobile and desktop, we’ll be focusing on written content. Frankly, audio and video are a topic for another day.
We said earlier that content quality is one of Google’s primary ranking factors. The reason behind this is simple. Great content is what users want. Specifically, they’re looking for content that solves their problems or gives them the facts they need.
When defining what the right content for SEO is, start by looking at your target audience.
Defining your Audience
The easiest way to get to know your audience is to create what is known as customer personas. A customer persona represents what you’d get if you cooked up your ideal customer in a lab. The information you want to collect can include demographic information, like age, gender, income, and level of education.
Your customer personas should also include the kind of problems your customers typically face. Of course, you might have multiple ideal customers.
Let’s return to our affiliate marketing software example from earlier. One persona might be a blogger with a full-time job. Another could be a business owner looking for useful tools to save time or make them money.
In each case, we have some customer information and a concrete problem.
The next step is understanding how to match this problem with a certain kind of SEO content.
Understanding Search Intent
This missing link is search intent. This is a way of classifying different searches based on what a person wants. There are three main types of searches people make on a search engine like Google. These are;
- Informational Searches – These happen when the user wants to learn more about a particular topic. The results you’ll typically find for these types of searches are “how to” articles, guides like this one, or list posts.
- Transactional Searches – This is when a user wants to buy something. This might be a specific product or a generic term. These can be targeted with product comparison articles, as well as content focused on the best alternatives to popular products.
- Navigational Searches or brand searches – This is when a user is looking for a specific website. Unless you have a lot of traffic, you can probably ignore branded searches for your company. You might decide to create content that aims to steal traffic from a competitor. This is a strategy you’ll see a lot of companies do with paid ads
While you can use your common sense to figure out search intent, you can also use a very simple trick. That is, pick a keyword and enter it into Google yourself. Search for the phrase, ‘understanding search intent.’
Enter this into Google, and you’ll see a mixture of guides and how to articles. From this, you can tell that it’s an informational article. You’ll be most likely to rank for this term by doing an informational search.
Create an Editorial Calendar
You’re almost ready to start creating your SEO content. Before doing this, though, I recommend creating an editorial calendar to keep track of what content you’ll be publishing and when.
This has several benefits. For one thing, you’ll never suffer from writers’ block. You’ll also be sure that you’re creating a healthy mix of informational, transactional, and navigational content.
Start by creating a Google Calendar. Then decide how often you’d like to publish new content. Just as importantly, decide how many guest posts you plan to write. This is important because getting your content to rank involves building lots of backlinks.
At the beginning of each month, populate your calendar with the content you plan to make for your site. To do this, return to your list of target keywords from earlier. Prioritize the ones with the best balance of high traffic and low competition.
As far as coming up with your exact angle on a topic, one helpful trick is to use a tool called BuzzSumo. You can use Buzzsumo to analyze all of the content targeting a certain keyword.
You can then use this for inspiration when coming up with titles for your editorial calendar.
You might also browse forums like Quora or Reddit to find niche questions related to a keyword. Question based articles are an excellent basis for SEO content.
Equally, you should list how many guest posts you want to write, and have a list of sites to target for outreach. This blog post contains useful information that covers the fundamentals of guest posting.
How to Create SEO Content
Now it’s time to put pen to paper. When creating SEO content, you have a couple of options. You can do it yourself, or you can pay somebody else.
Each has its benefits and drawbacks. Creating your content can take a long time, which you might not have. On the other hand, you might not have the budget to hire a writer.
Despite this, both approaches are more achievable than you’d think.
How to Write for an Online Audience
You don’t need to be a literary genius to write content for SEO. There are a few basic rules of thumb you need to understand.
First of all, you need to know a bit about readability. This is basically how easy your copy is to read. When writing for an online audience, I recommend you:
- Avoid fancy words: Clever people can explain the most complex of things in the simplest way
- Avoid complex sentences: Skip sentences with a lot of commas. They are difficult to understand. This is a big problem with writers from the UK
- Use a friendly conversational tone: For most niches, an informal conversational tone is the right approach
- Keep paragraphs to five lines max: Large chunks of text can be hard to understand.
- Keep people interested: People are used to reading articles with pictures and bullet points. It breaks up those large chunks of text
So there you have some readability tips.
I always use the analogy; imagine your writing for a college educated person who speaks English as a second language. You can use frameworks like the Flesch Score, to check the readability of your work. There are online tools that will help you with this, like Hemingway Editor.
In terms of the structure of your content, check the article headings of ranking content. This will help you identify what you should include in your article. It will also provide you with a structure for your content.
There are plugins like HeadingsMap that you can use to check the Html headings.
Finally, you have the article length.
The ideal length of your content will vary by niche and keyword. I recommend you create a post that is as long as one of the ones ranking in the top five places. The standard wisdom is that around 2,000 words are the sweet spot for most SEO content.
Those tips will help you create useful content that is likely to rank.
How to Optimize the Content For SEO
From an SEO angle, you need to understand keyword density. You need to include the keyword and variations of your content in the article. As a rough rule of thumb I recommend you:
- Use your target keyword in the headline
- Use the keyword in at least one of the headings
- Add the keyword once every five paragraphs or so
In addition to keyword density, what is becoming increasingly important is what you cover in an article. Reviewing the headings of content targeting the same keyword as you, something I mentioned earlier, will help you with this.
Talking about headings, it’s important you use them correctly. Just a reminder, most people use the following HTML heading tags:
- H1: This is your headline. It is used once in an article, and if you’re using WordPress or similar you never need to insert it in a post
- H2: These are the main headings in your article
- H3: These are sub headings. They fit under the H2
- H4: These fit under H4
Use headings in this order. If you look closely, you can see how the headings are nested correctly in the screenshot below.
Finally, when you think your article is ready, proofread the content.
In large companies, an editor will check your work. If you’re a solopreneur, this is not possible. Use an online grammar tool for proofreading. There are plenty of great online tools available.
Image Optimization Best Practice
It’s easy to forget when you’re browsing the web that the content you are reading is a file. The more information you have in that file, the longer it takes to load. You can analyze page load speed by reviewing a page load waterfall. This is a visual representation of the amount of time it takes for each element of your site to load.
There are plenty of good articles on the internet with advanced tips on page speed optimization. I’m not going to cover that today. Instead, I’ll focus on one easy thing you can do to improve page speed.
If you are going to use images in your content, make sure you optimize the file size. I use Pixlr.com. I recommend you:
- Keep image size under 150kb
- Resize regular images to 1,000-pixel width
By implementing these two tips, you will diminish the file size of your content. This will improve the page load speed, which is a ranking factor on Google.
Outsourcing Content Creation
You may also opt to hire someone to create your content for you. If you want to go down this route, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
Firstly, be careful when using the major freelancing marketplaces. I’ve always relied on my peer network for a recommendation. Alternatively, you can search for professional writers in your budget on LinkedIn or advertise through job boards.
Secondly, it’s good practice to create a style sheet from the outset. This will ensure a consistent voice across all of your content, especially if you end up working with multiple writers.
What to Do After You Hit Publish
Up to this point, I’ve covered what you need to do to create an SEO optimized piece of content. These tips have minimal value if you don’t spend time building links to the content to make it rank.
You can review how much of an uphill battle you are going to face to get your content ranking using a premium SEO tool. I generally use Ahrefs for this, which is expensive, though you can use the free backlink checker to get basic insights. I’ll walk you through how to do this now.
Firstly, look at what content is ranking on Google for the keyword you want to target in the region you want to rank. Here’s how I do this:
- Open your browser in incognito
- Use a tool to review the local search results. I use Bright Local
- Enter the keyword and the region or even city (for example, US)
- Press enter
- Pick one of the first results on Google
Here is the result I get if I look up a search term I’d like to rank.
Now click on the first link and do the following:
- Use a backlink checker. Here is a link to the free backlink checker on Ahrefs
- Enter the URL in the input field and press enter
- Check the number of referring domains
The more referring domains a piece of content has, the more links you will need to get your content ranking. Of course, not all links are created equal. I generally only count the number of referring domains with a DR of 50+. This is because I try to guest post on sites that have this rank or higher.
Unfortunately, you do need the premium version of Ahrefs to review all of the referring domains by DR. However, for keywords with low competition, and only a few referring domains, the free tool is good enough.
Of course, there is more to it than this. However, with these basics, you now know how much work is ahead of you to get your content ranking. This is where SEO content marketing gets difficult.
Measuring the Success of Your SEO Content
Finally, it’s time to measure the success of your SEO content. The easiest way to do this is by using Google Search Console. The metric you’re interested in is impressions.
Quite simply, this is the number of people who see your site in Google search results. You can also use Search Console to filter this for specific keywords to compare with your overall site performance. I’ve written a guide to Google Search Console on Mangools with more information on this topic.
SEO Content Marketing Summary
Your SEO content strategy essentially has four stages. First, you prepare by setting your goals in terms of which keywords you’d like to rank. Second, you create content that is appropriate to this, both in terms of your customer personas and their specific search intent. The third stage involves building backlinks to your SEO optimized content. Finally, you measure your success in terms of total impressions.
By following the steps outlined in this guide to SEO content marketing, you should be in a position to improve the organic rankings of content published through your site. Now it’s over to you. It’s time to turn this theory into practice.
Learn more tips on how to improve your Content Marketing and SEO in this great infographic from MedResponsive.