Modern SEO Starts with Content Marketing
The challenge for the modern digital marketer is the paradigm shift away from optimizing content for the purpose of ranking in Google and toward creating content that serves humans with a great user experience. Unless you’ve been living in a digital cave, you know that Google’s Penguin updates are like a verdict in a court of SEO law: Un-natural back links are guilty of web spam. Relevant content that answers people’s questions is in Google’s favor, resulting in positive SEO results for marketers. Add to that the fact that rankings are personalized to each individual, and the SEO world has basically been turned on its ear.
The Content Strategy
Let’s look at how to develop a content strategy that will deliver consistent SEO results. The process described here is a proven process. I didn’t invent it. I have observed this process in action over the past year or so at businesses who understand the importance of a content strategy to attract and retain customers. This process works. It is totally “white hat” meaning that you won’t get in trouble with Google. And, best of all it is good for your customer and good for the employees responsible for executing your content strategy.
It may sound trite, but always start with a goal for each major piece or series of content. Even if SEO is a perpetual goal, there should be another specific goal. Possible goals include; thought leadership, brand building, competitive differentiation, lead generation, etc..
Who is the content intended to reach? Identify the target audience as specific as possible. It’s not enough to broadly identify your target. Identify personas by role in a business, demographic, special interest, or any specific criteria that segments your target. For example, a software company whose ultimate buyer is the CMO might also need to capture interest by a business analyst, a CFO, a CEO and maybe the Chief Sales Officer. Each persona needs content that specifically addresses their needs and interests. Below is an example in the home building industry.
Once you have outlined your personas with details about each of their needs, it’s time to develop your keyword strategy. Such keyword research is requisite SEO best practices. For content driven SEO, the key is aligning keywords with the personas you’ve outlined so that they can be used relevantly to each persona in each content element.
The Content Theme
Any major piece of content must have a specific theme. Content should always serve to address a need or interest that solves a problem or improves someone’s current situation through utility or inspiration. This always starts with the content theme. For example: Social Media for the C Suite; or The Anatomy of an SSAE16 and Why Your Business Needs One.
The Content Production Process
The production process is often the least understood aspect of content marketing. Often content production is left in the hands of the subject matter expert as assigned or requested by the marketing department. In the example above, the person best suited to answer the question posed in the title is often the content producer with nothing more than a deadline from marketing. Content production needs a process so that it is structured, efficient and repeatable.
Consider the analogy of filming a movie. The actors who bring the script to life on screen in the final delivery of content to the audience are not the ones who produced the film. Each movie has a producer and a director. The producer’s job is to oversee the entire process, ultimately responsible for the end product (like a CEO). The director is responsible for executing all the details among all the actors and technical staff (like a COO). In content marketing a producer is usually someone in a marketing leadership role who communicates the content strategy, recruits subject matter experts, writers, video technicians, web architects, designers, programmers and anyone else involved in the process of creating content. The producer coordinates all these people to create and execute the content in whatever format deliverables are chosen. In some organizations, another person is responsible for managing the myriad of details. This person is analogous to a director in a movie. If content production was left solely in the hands of a subject matter expert that would be like expecting actors to produce a movie.
In content production there are many details that need to be managed. One detail worth mentioning is the content calendar. A social business serious about producing content on a consistent basis creates a content calendar. This calendar allows all participants to visually see their assignments. Calendars can be managed in various ways ranging from a shared online spreadsheet to a calendar function in an online content management system as shown below.
Before content production is completed, a promotion strategy should be identified. The promotion elements vary according to each business, content type, target, etc. Map out a written promotion strategy with assignments to members of the team. A key element to a content promotion strategy is socializing it. Invite all employees to promote the content in their professional networks. As content gets shared across relevant social channels, Google picks up on the social signals for ranking consideration in personalized search results.
Organic SEO Finally Has Meaning
The term organic SEO has been used for many years. Perhaps it has finally arrived. It appears that Google’s 4 Penguin updates have transformed SEO from tactical and technical to strategic and qualitative with emphasis on providing a good user experience. Ultimately, when a user’s consumption of content is useful and shareable that content finds its way to its target audience. Therein lies the biggest paradigm shift in modern SEO. It’s no longer about your content being found. It’s about your content finding your audience.