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The Relationship Between Content Marketing and SEO
December 20, 2019
8 minute read
SEO and content marketing are related fields, but they are not the same thing. Content marketing is an excellent marketing approach that many companies use to make their search engine optimization (SEO) strategies successful. This guide to B2B SEO and content marketing will help you develop great content for your webpage and drive traffic to your website!
Why Content Marketing Matters for SEO
What is SEO?
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) encompasses a series of strategies designed to harness web traffic through organic mechanisms such as search engine results. While SEO has been around for years, it is definitely not static. As users’ internet habits change, so do the best ways to take advantage of those habits, which means that SEO is always transforming, developing, and adapting.
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is a strategic approach to marketing that uses content in various forms to attract, engage, and motivate a defined audience to ultimately make business actions that we desire
The most common form of B2B content marketing is a written blog. However, images and videos can also be important forms of content marketing, in addition to the written word, and in some cases, on their own.
Since SEO is (for the time being) primarily driven by the written word, most of the content that we refer to in this blog post is in the form of blog posts.
Best Practices for SEO Content Marketing Strategy
Flesh Out Your Buyer Personas.
There’s a reason why we’ve written about buyer personas on our blog before— it’s one of the most important things you can do as a content marketer!
Buyer personas are more than just a “target audience.” They are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer or client. While they often include the usual demographic information such as age and gender, a great buyer persona includes information such as the persona’s motivations and how the persona prefers to consume information.
You wouldn’t use the same sales and marketing strategies to win over two customers who had completely different life experiences, demographics, and budget realities. Buyer persona strategy takes that obvious reality into consideration.
It’s critical to build all of your content in a way that super-serves your target buyer persona(s).
What Does My Buyer’s Journey Look Like
What is the path that your customers take from being a stranger to a customer? We call this path your buyer’s journey.
For most businesses, the buyer’s journey contains multiple stages. Prospects seek answers to specific questions depending on their needs at the time.
HubSpot’s buyer’s journey model includes three basic stages defined by the questions for which buyers seek answers:
- Awareness: the prospect has a challenge or problem of which they are just becoming aware, but they haven’t put a name to the challenge or problem.
- Consideration: the prospect has identified and named the problem and now they are deciding which category of product or service to employ to address it.
- Decision: the prospect has decided on the category of solution and is now deciding on a specific vendor.
Ditch the Editorial Calendar
Is your company publishing a new blog post or other content at a regular interval? Maybe you’re publishing a new post every Tuesday from now into eternity.
This model of content marketing, called the editorial calendar, is borrowed from the media business. It is how magazines and newspapers work. It makes sense that business blogs would operate the same way since many content marketers begin their careers in the newspaper or magazine business.
However, unless your business is actually a newspaper or magazine, then the editorial model probably isn’t the best way to do content marketing for your business or organization.
Rather than thinking of your blog as a magazine or newspaper, it’s better to think of it as sales collateral. Now, I’m not suggesting that you actually write the content in a shallow, sales-y way, but rather it’s best to publish content as quickly as you can. After all, you wouldn’t purposely hold back writing sales collateral because of an arbitrary schedule. You just get it done.
Be Comprehensive and Use a Topic Cluster Model for Maximum SEO Impact
Google rewards comprehensive content. In fact, I would argue that it is the second most important ranking factor for most search queries. The top-ranking factor is the relevance to the query.
In other words, for any particular query, the number one factor is how well the content satisfies the query (or answers the question) and the second factor is how fully the content on the web page satisfies the query.
Google Rewards Comprehensive Content
Long-form content consistently outranks shorter content. In fact, Brian Dean of of Backlinko and MarketMuse found a positive correlation between word count and search engine ranking in an analysis of more than one million search engine results [source].
The average word count of web content appearing on the first page of Google SERPs is almost 1,900 words.
Clearly, not all topics require that we write 1,900 words in order to completely cover it. The length of the content is dictated by how broad the topic is.
If you’re writing about “workout routines,” then that is a pretty broad topic. In fact, a top-ranking results for that phrase is 3,278 words.
A more narrow topic, like “workout routines for a hotel room,” is only 1,095 words.
Topic Clusters Move the Needle
The topic cluster model of content marketing maximizes SEO performance by providing a group of content (usually blog posts) that cover a series of closely related topics.
The standard topic cluster model as espoused by HubSpot includes a central piece of content that covers a broad topic, often referred to as pillar content, and shorter content that covers narrower topics. We call these shorter topic pages cluster content.
It’s vitally important that all of the cluster pages link back to the pillar and vice versa.
When it makes sense, the cluster content pieces should also link between themselves. These internal links accomplish the following:
- Provide the user logical next steps for their exploration of the topic, increasing the site’s dwell time, which is a positive ranking signal.
- Communicates to search engines the relationship between the various pieces of content on the site.
Start With the End in Mind
Always start building each topic cluster and each individual piece of content with the end in mind.
Ask these questions:
- What do my ideal customers search for in Google when my business can help them?
- Why are they making those specific queries?
- How can your business provide valuable answers to those questions?
The goal for each piece of content is to rank for a specific and strategically-chosen search query.
Ensure Your Blog Posts Have Quality Content… Not Just Fillers
Here’s a secret that you need to know:
Filler content is obvious! Your readers can spot it a mile away.
Instead of content that reeks of bad SEO strategy, use a variety of post styles that have long, detailed, and high-quality content that visitors find truly valuable!
A snippet is typically 40-50 words and is shown in Google’s search results as the little excerpt that provides insights about the post. Snippable posts have lots of these phrases that can be pulled out and highlighted.
People spend a lot of time on the internet searching for how to do things. What is your area of expertise and how can you provide that expertise to these search engine users?
How-To posts are a great way to drive traffic and provide a free, useful service to website visitors.
People want to share content that inspires them, makes them laugh, and provides them with useful information that they know will help their friends, too.
These articles and posts build your online website so that once someone is there, they can click around and see a wealth of useful content. Standard posts may not be your most exciting content, but it’s the stuff that shows that you know what you’re talking about.
Want extra advice on creating these types of posts? Check out the Content Marketing Institute, where you can learn about the newest research in the field and network with other content marketers.
Understand Google’s Most Important Ranking Factors.
“The perfect search engine understands exactly what you mean and gives you back exactly what you want,” according to Google co-founder, Larry Page.
In the continuous effort to provide exactly what each user wants, Google weighs a complex set of factors when ranking web pages for each search query. We call these factors, ranking factors.
As mentioned above, the two most important ranking factors are:
- The relevance of the content in satisfying the query.
- The completeness of the content in satisfying the query.
In this case, relevance means more than just the content of the page answers the user’s question. It also includes factors like:
- How easily the user can find the information that they are seeking on the page.
- How easy is the content to understand.
- Does the content on the page anticipate the user’s logical next questions and provide that information or a link to another page with that information?
Can the User Find What They are Looking For on the Page
It’s important that your content is easy to skim. Upon first arriving at a blog post from a search engine results page, most users will scroll down the page. They skim the length of the post, absorbing elements like headers, lists, images, and graphics.
Liberal use of these kinds of elements that effectively communicate the structure of the blog post will result in the user staying on your site longer. This helps our organic rankings.
How Easy is the Content to Understand
If a prospect finds your website via a Google search but can’t understand the content then you’ve lost an opportunity.
Successful content marketing meets the user where they are. This is where buyer personas can be valuable.
If your primary persona tends to have lower literacy and/or language levels, then it’s critical to write at that level and rely more on videos and graphics.
Another important aspect of your content’s understandability is how it actually looks on the page.
Are members of your primary persona likely to be older? Make sure that the text size is large and heavily contrasts with the background.
Do Your Keyword Research… and Your Competitors’
Do you know which keywords people are using to reach your website? What are your potential customers searching when they end up on your competitors’ sites?
Keyword research is vitally important for companies that are staying up to date with SEO and content marketing. Ignoring keywords will lead to lower ROI on your SEO and content strategies.
Pay Special Attention to Title Tags, Meta Tags, Headers and Content Structure… Technical SEO.
Technical SEO requires technical knowledge. This is where professional SEO support often becomes an obvious choice for many companies and organizations. It isn’t too hard to create usable content, but who is going to manage your title tags? Meta tags and meta descriptions? Appropriate and accessible headers? What about the structure of the content--both individual posts and an overall posting strategy?
These are all parts of what we call “technical SEO,” because they require knowledge of the specific techniques that provide SEO results.
Promote Your Content
While our ultimate goal is for Google to serve our results to users on the first page of organic search, we still should be promoting it via other channels.
Social media is an obvious place to start. Use your social media audience to promote your content right after you’ve published it. But, also, don’t be shy in continuing to promote older posts for as long as they are relevant.
While social media isn’t necessarily a powerful direct ranking factor, it can be an indirect route to one. The aforementioned study by Brian Dean and MarketMuse found a strong correlation between the number of sites (technically, domains) that are linking to content and that content’s ranking in Google.
In the SEO business, these links are known as backlinks. There is a whole link building industry dedicated to building them. But, beware of cheap too-good-to-bet-true backlink products and providers. You could end up with a Google penalty as a result of a future algorithm update.
Continue Optimizing After You Publish
Once you hit that “Publish” button, what comes next? Like anything else you do in your business, content marketing is a process that requires innovation, implementation, and, finally, evaluation. If you don’t evaluate your success and look for ways to improve, you will come to a frustrating plateau in your progress.
Use analytics to evaluate the success of your content and how effectively it is converting shoppers into buyers.
One good goal is to shoot for a total average session length of three minutes.
SEO and content marketing can be really difficult. This is especially true for companies and organizations that are new to inbound marketing or don’t have an experienced content marketer on the team who can spend countless hours every week, dedicated to this important work! We can be your guide to SEO and content marketing success.
If you want to take the next steps in your content marketing strategy, we can help! At BridgeRev, our goal is to partner with companies to help them reach their marketing goals.
We do this through strategic digital marketing and smart sales techniques. We can help you harness organic visitors and help you find ways to ensure that your company is what search engine users find when they look for information related to your industry, region, or service.
We are happy to talk with you about what you can do today and tomorrow to effectively manage your SEO and content marketing strategies! Give us a call at 405-813-3330 or contact us through our website. We look forward to talking with you!
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Jake Fisher, is President and Co-Founder of BridgeRev. He helps our clients with their revenue and growth goals by providing better strategies, better processes, and better technology. He also makes videos and written content to help entrepreneurs, business owners, and managers achieve their own revenue goals. And, he talks to business and industry leaders at conferences and association events.