SEO Content Marketing Strategy to Drive Leads and Sales
by Mike Khorev
The center of SEO is good content.
You can implement all the advanced optimizations and even ‘buy’ the highest-quality backlinks out there. But, if your content is low-quality, you won’t get far with your SEO.
On the other hand, SEO is also very important for content marketing. Ranking on the first page—or better, top 3 spot—of Google SERP remains one of the most reliable organic traffic sources for your content.
In short, content marketing and SEO are inseparable, and it’s best to plan the two together as an integrated strategy to get the best possible results in getting organic traffic, generating leads, and finally, converting these qualified leads into sales.
Step-by-Step Guide To SEO Content Marketing
Below, we will discuss all the necessary steps that I use in my B2B SEO services to implement content marketing and optimize content for SEO, beginning with the first step.
Step 1: Define Content Marketing Objectives
Before anything else, it’s very important to first define the objectives—or goals— of your content marketing and SEO.
Your content marketing goals should align well with your marketing goals, as well as your overall business objectives. Defining these goals is very important, so we can build the right strategic framework to pursue these goals.
The main principles are that your content marketing goals should be:
- Specific: clear enough to understand and to implement.
- Realistic: in a sense of, attainable. This is important to maintain a sense of achievement and maintain your morale (and your team’s). Breakdown big goals into smaller milestones, if necessary.
- Measurable: you can assign KPIs and evaluate key metrics to measure the content marketing performance according to these objectives.
With those being said, here are some common content marketing objectives you might want to apply to your own:
- Establish credibility and trust. A common objective for content marketing, and a pretty obvious one. Consistent publication of relevant content can help establish your position as the thought leader in your industry.
- Attract new prospects. Also an important objective. Compelling and valuable content can attract new potential leads. This is mainly done by publishing content that gets shared a lot on social media—and if possible, go viral—.
- Educate prospects and customers. Inform potential leads and existing customers about your product/service. It can also be about solutions to your audience’s pain points (not directly discussing your product).
- Persuade people to buy. Here, the content is designed to handle sales objections, so content might talk about why your product is worth the hefty price, or a case study on how your service can save more money in the long run.
- Tell a story. All content should essentially aim to be a storytelling medium.
- Maximize retention/loyalty: content marketing is one of the most effective channels in maximizing retention. Maintaining existing customers can be more cost-efficient than acquiring new ones, so this can be a very important goal.
This list is certainly not exhaustive, and there can be more objectives you can pursue with content marketing. The important thing is to actually define at least one so we can move forward.
Step 2: Keyword Research
The next step is to find your target keywords according to your objective.
This is mainly done by first defining our ideal audience. The idea is to find keywords that our audience is searching for, and this will be impossible if we don’t know who our audience is, their behavior, needs, and pain points.
We can do this by conducting market research and developing a buyer persona.
The main thing to consider here is to find keywords based on your audience’s search intents, according to your content marketing objective, as discussed in the previous step.
For example, if your objective is to attract new prospects, then you might want to find keywords that are related to informational intent. (Check this guide on different types of search intents and their examples).
You can use various keyword research tools to help you in this process, from the free Google Keyword Planner to relatively affordable ones like KWFinder to premium ones like Ahrefs or SEMRush.
There are three main principles in implementing keyword research:
- The keyword must be relevant to your audience according to their search intent. This is mainly measured through search volume.
- The keyword must be valuable for your business, according to your objective. Not all keywords or keyphrases with high enough search volume will be relevant to your objectives.
- The competition for the keyword(s) must be manageable, according to your available resources and timeline. Some keyword research tools might use metrics like keyword difficulty (KD) or similar ones to measure this.
Make a list of potential keywords according to their priorities, and include related metrics like search volume. We will use this list for the next step.
Step 3: Topic Research and Planning
The next step is about how we can expand the target keywords into topics—and later on, actual content—.
The best, and very accessible approach to do this is to do a quick Google (or your target search engine) search for your target keywords and look at the top-performing content:
- If there’s any rich/featured snippet for the query, take note of this. We will also aim to get this featured snippet (see Step 5: Content Marketing Best Practices for more about this)
- Check at least the top 3 ranking content. If possible, analyze all content on the first page.
- There are two main approaches you can do here:
- Create something better than the top ranking content
- Take a unique angle and create a really different content
- In most cases, creating a unique/different content is somewhat easier since if you want to create a ‘similar but better’ content, you’ll need to be significantly better to get noticed.
- There are various tools that can help you get topic ideas. BuzzSumo, for example, is a popular choice. You can also use various keyword research tools (most notably SEMRush’s Keyword Magic Tool) to help in this aspect.
- Although you can be as creative as you can, make sure the topic aligns with the search intent related to the keyword. For example, if the search intent for a specific keyword is mainly informational (the audience is searching for this query to find solutions/information), then your topic should be informational or educational and not transactional.
- In some cases—for example, when targeting long-tail keywords—, the topic might be fairly obvious (and limited)
Be as creative as possible, but make sure to pay attention to the content’s objectives.
Step 4: Planning Your Content/Editorial Calendar
Remember that SEO is a long-term game. We can’t expect to create a single content, optimize it and get ranked (although there are very rare exceptions), but typically we’ll need to be consistent— both in quantity and quality—for at least 6 to 12 months.
This is why it’s important to create a content calendar—or editorial calendar— to keep track of your content marketing strategy. Ideally, you’d want a year’s worth of content calendar, but you can start with a 6-month calendar at the very least.
The content calendar should list the following items (not an all-inclusive list):
- The target keyword
- The topic idea and/or working title
- Meta tags, meta description, tags and categories to be used
- CTA (call-to-action) plan
- Who’s in charge of the content (if you have more than one content writers)
- Type of content (blog post, video, podcast, etc.)
- When to publish the content
- Where to publish the content (publication channel)
- How to promote the content
- Where do you plan to get backlinks from
- Status (Started, working, published, etc.)
The more details you include in your content calendar, the better. The idea is to brainstorm and consider all the different aspects beforehand, so the execution will be seamless.
Step 5: Content Marketing Best Practices
It’s time to execute the plan and actually develop your content.
Here, the process might vary (significantly) between individuals and organizations, but below we will list important best practices to pay attention to:
- In most cases, the content should be non-promotional, except for special content designed for transactional intent (i.e. product tutorial, introducing a new product, etc.)
- Have a clear structure with your content—introduction, problems/challenges, solutions, conclusion—. You can also follow different structures, and this might also determine the tone (or voice) of your content.
- The ideal length for the textual content is 1,000 to 2,000 words, but you will also need to maintain quality and engagement. Divide the content into subheadings, at least one subheading every 300 words with no more than 150 words in each paragraph. Maintain readability with a lot of white spaces.
- Make sure to use universal, widely understood terms and definitions instead of niche ones. For example, “qualified leads” instead of “MQL/SQL”. If you used specific or unique terms, explain them or provide outbound links to justify their definitions.
- In general, add outbound links whenever you made any claims or mention data. This is important to establish your content’s credibility.
- Build a proper internal linking structure between your content pieces. A good internal linking structure can help with crawl and indexing—among other benefits.
- Implement structured data markup (schema.org) to your content. This will allow your page to be eligible for featured/rich snippet, and also will improve the page’s indexability in general.
- One of the most important things to focus on is generating backlinks—or inbound links—. We will discuss it a little deeper in the next step.
Again, the key here is maintaining consistency, both in quality and quantity. That is, consistently publishing your content—and generate backlinks but also internal and outbound links—, and maintain the quality and relevance of your content (as well as the quality of your backlinks).
Step 6: Content Promotion and Backlinks Building
How you promote your content is just as important as the content development process, and that’s why we mentioned that you should include your content promotion strategy as a part of your content calendar.
We can use various channels to promote our content, and here are some of the most important ones:
- Social media: fairly obvious, since social media is where the audience is. It can be divided into organic, paid, and influencer promotion.
- Email marketing: still one of the most effective channels with the highest ROI.
- Blog commenting: also including forum commenting, an old-school blogging tactic that can still be effective when done right.
- Paid promotions: from various types of ads to content delivery networks (CDNs) and other channels.
The main principle to hold here is that content promotion has two main purposes: generating organic traffic to your content and building backlinks. Every time you promote your content, aim to get backlinks from relevant and high-quality sources.
It’s also important to note that nowadays, the quality of your backlinks is more important than quantity. In fact, getting too many low-quality backlinks at any given time (i.e. a month) can get you penalized by Google and the other search engines.
In general, getting just 2-4 high-quality backlinks every month is sufficient.
Step 7: Evaluation, Re-optimization, Content Leveraging
As mentioned, content marketing and SEO are long-term tactics.
Typically it will take 2-6 months for a page to climb (slowly) from page 5 to page 1—if we consistently implement all the above optimizations—, and then another 6 months at least to climb to the top 3 or #1 spot.
Thus, it’s very important to constantly monitor our progress during these months, and here are some important areas to evaluate:
- SERP ranking
- Improvements in organic traffic
- Reach and impressions
- Bounce rate and dwell time—how much of your content are they consuming—, other on-site engagement metrics
- Conversion rate, if the content involves CTA
- Technical factors like page load speed and mobile responsiveness
- Backlinks profile
In short, evaluate your content according to all the above steps, monitor its progress using various KPIs and metrics, and re-optimize your content accordingly. If necessary, we can update the content or even change our tactic altogether, depending on the case.
Textual content—such as blog posts— typically have an average conversion rate is around 0.5% to 1%, which is higher than the CTR of display advertising at ‘only’ 0.46%. Thus, content marketing can be a very cost-efficient channel to generate highly targeted traffic, build an online presence and credibility, grow your remarketing list, and most importantly, a very effective lead generation device.
February 17, 2020