If you’ve studied up on internet marketing to any degree over the last few years, you’ve likely been bludgeoned with the acronym “SEO” so often you’re ready to scream. Everyone’s ranting at the top of their digital lungs about the importance of search engine optimization. There are courses that teach it, agencies that pitch an endless array of SEO services and countless Chicken Little bloggers garnering tons of traffic through intentionally maddening “think pieces” that question whether SEO is withering faster than we can type out a meta description (it’s not, it’s just changing).
What so many people don’t understand, though, is what SEO is and why it even matters. On its own, SEO is nothing but a checklist of tactics that may or not make a difference. Insert the why, the who and the how, though, and you can make the kind of magic that Google quite literally scours the interwebs trying to find.
Learn how to wave that wand and your content strategy is suddenly on fire — and so is your business.
The Truth About SEO
First, some clarity. Once upon a time, SEO was the plaything of marketing con men who stuffed their bag with dirty tricks. “Google wants to see my keywords in my content? Well then, I’ll put in so many keywords my gibberish-filled page will have to rank at number one.” And it worked. For a while. The problem was that these tricks were about as customer unfriendly as you can get. The content offered no real value, the search results were ranked according to a soulless algorithm rather than a site’s actual usefulness and the entire system smacked of opportunism over substance.
The powers that be at Google spied the fly in the ointment and made some choices. Now, the algorithm recognizes snake oil SEO and reacts with an appropriate drop in the site’s reputation and ranking. Meaningful, high-quality content, on the other hand, is the apple of Google’s eye.
You need Google to love you, and that requires a crafty blend of content and behind-the-scenes technical work. When those two elements join forces, they make up the key components of an SEO-driven content marketing strategy.
The Four Essential Steps of an SEO-Driven Content Marketing Strategy
When you’re putting together your SEO-powered content strategy, you have to hit all four steps:
Step 1: Technical SEO Audit – The word “audit” probably makes your eye twitch, but fear not; this is not an interrogation but rather a sort of temperature-taking exercise. It’s our version of a “State of the Site” summit. Do your URLs work with both HTTP and HTTPS? Is there any duplicate content? Are title tags longer than 60 characters? Have you used canonical tags to showcase the pages you want to be ranked? This is where we take the car apart to see what’s making that irksome clacking noise.
Step 2: Content Audit – Rumor has it that some 30 percent of Microsoft.com’s 10 million pages have never been visited. That’s a nauseating amount of wasted content. What did Microsoft do following that revelation? They did a little spring cleaning. By plucking out irrelevant, outdated and insipid content, you’re left with smaller, tighter and mightier collection on which you can better concentrate your efforts.
If you’re frustrated by heaps of traffic that spawns few, if any, qualified leads, think your blog is pointless or find yourself wondering where the value of your site is hiding, a content audit can shine a much-needed light into the crevices of your online presence.
Step 3: Keyword Research – We flesh out our content strategy by identifying the keywords our target audience would likely type into a search engine in their quest to find us. These keywords will then be used in content and to tweak your site’s technical SEO.
Step 4: Build a Content Roadmap – Designing a growth marketing funnel to help usher consumers from awareness to consideration to decision is how we build a business without wasting time on random acts of marketing. A big piece of that strategy revolves around the hub and spoke model; the hub is your main, originally published piece of content, and the spokes are other bits of content and collateral that lead people back to the main event. The spokes are important, but they’re just supporting characters; they’re the glass slipper bringing the prince to Cinderella’s door.
These “topic clusters” are the future of SEO and, not coincidentally, they’re a wonderfully effective way to offer your audience value while simultaneously serving your own needs. Start with a pillar page (that’s your hub) and create a network of content pages that are related to the main content, so you can link back over and over again. This practice increases the perceived authority of the hub page and, over time, juices the site’s ranking.
When someone asks you if you’re happy with your content strategy or whether your website is up to snuff, you either answer yes or no. But how do you know? Understand the State of Your Site and plan for a smarter marketing future by scheduling a Technical SEO Audit. You may be shocked at what we discover, but you’ll be even more thrilled at how quickly we can turn a tune-up into oodles of profit-boosting traffic.