How come SEO doesn’t work without content marketing? Why do you need both?
When you have only SEO: You get content that appears in search, but users don’t care about it. Do you want site users to be more than just viewers and bystanders? Do content marketing.
When you have only content marketing: You get content that nobody ever finds online. Your content and your audience; do you want these two to meet? Do SEO.
Content marketing is about making your content work and making content that works. With SEO in the equation, there’s also making your content rank. It’s clear that content is at the crux of all of this business, and that a successful union of content marketing and SEO requires fulfilling those three requirements.
And here’s how you meet them.
1. Making the best content
Let’s define “the best content” first. The devil is in the details, so let’s grab him by the horns and drag him out into the light.
- The best for whom? That’s easy: your target audience.
- The best at what? At being what your target audience needs when they use Google (or any other means of search): a solution to a problem, a source of accurate information, entertainment etc.
- If it’s the best, then what is it better than? That would be the best currently existing content, most likely owned by your direct competitors.
So the goal is to create content which has these three traits. All of them, even the third one, boil down to pleasing your audience. How do we do that?
Obviously, in order to be popular with your audience, you need to be intimately familiar with them. What they like and what they don’t, what they want, how they think – that’s the bare minimum. All these things are on your users’ minds every time they search for some specific content and can be summarized in three words: user search intent.
So, how do you satisfy search intent?
- Choose a topic (or a range of related topics) your target audience is interested in. With a variety of topics, you will be able to attract more visitors, but you’ll also risk turning into a jack of all trades and a master of none. Keep educating yourself!
- Create content that isn’t bad. Sounds painfully obvious, but this is the one step you absolutely cannot mess up at any cost. Otherwise your whole campaign will crumble like a house of cards.
- Create unique content. Users don’t want more of the same thing they’ve seen elsewhere. Your site may share a purpose with others, but the rest needs to be special.
- Make your content as in-depth as possible. This is the sort of content that tends to be the most popular, gets the most backlinks, ranks the highest and drives the most traffic. Be careful not to confuse depth with length; a 4000 word long-read might be full of water instead of anything actually useful.
- Anticipate questions that are related to your content’s topic. For example, if a user is looking for an article about getting rid of facial wrinkles, they’ll also want to know about the best diets and skin care products. Additional related information will make your content more in-depth, as well as add more keywords to rank for.
That should help you form a clear vision of what your content should be like. Proceed to create what you envision and make it better than whatever is ranking on Google’s page #1.
The next step is to give your content the ability to convert users.
Converting means making users perform a specific action on your site (such as subscribing or buying a product). As you can imagine, this is one of the most vital parts of content marketing; it’s where you sell your content. For this part, you are going to need careful planning and experience in using websites similar to your own.
- Include your main keywords in the titles, descriptions and URLs.
Not only is this really good for your SEO, it’s also the best way to let the users know you have the content they need.
- Give the users an incentive to perform the desired action.
Users will never do what you ask if they don’t get anything out of it. If they come to solve a problem, say the solution is behind a call-to-action. If they’ll want more content like the page they are viewing, let them know they will have more if they subscribe, and so on.
- Plan out the path from the top of the page to the CTA.
Place yourself in the users’ shoes. How would they use your content? Where would be the best spots to put CTAs?
You can try to play the guessing game, or you can analyze the pages on your site that have already attempted to convert users. Use a heat map generator both on the pages that succeeded and the pages that failed to see what works and what doesn’t.
- Emulate the more successful sites.
Learning from the superior is a sign of wisdom. And the best part about imitating websites with high CTR scores is that they don’t have to be your direct competitors. For example, you can safely pick an ecommerce site which sells different products than yours and see what it does better.
Find what works for others and start doing it on your own site. And if you can make improvements to their tricks, that’s even better.
2. Optimizing content for search engines
Content marketing and SEO both play an equally large role in putting your site on the first page of Google. If content marketing can be described as the social aspect of conquering the search, then SEO is the technical aspect. So what do you do on the SEO side of things?
Use keywords that will bring you the most traffic
You can find keywords for your site with WebCEO’s Keyword Suggestions tool. But how do you know a keyword is good?
You know how Google works: you type in a few words, and the search engine shows sites which have them. But the search results don’t always have the exact match of your query; they may have synonyms or even be missing some of the words you used. What does this all mean?
The best keywords have these traits:
- Descriptive and clearly reflecting user search intent. These types of keywords are known as long-tail.
- Semantically related to your main keywords.
- Have a high number of monthly searches (or search volume).
If you have connected your Google Search Console account to your WebCEO project, you can check the effectiveness of your keywords in the Google Search Queries report, namely:
- Average ranking position in Google
- Click-through rates
- Clicks and impressions
Make your site mobile-friendly
Everyone has a mobile phone with an Internet connection these days. To make a long story short, make your website and its content work as well on mobile devices as on PCs – or even better.
- Implement a responsive design
- Increase loading speed
- Leave some space between elements
- Get rid of popups
- Don’t use elements unsupported by mobile devices (such as Flash)
Test your site with WebCEO’s Mobile Optimization tool to see how well you are doing.
Fix technical errors
Promoting a site full of errors is like trying to win a race in a broken car. You’ll never finish first, if at all.
Now, you can’t know when something might break on your site, but you must fix all errors no matter where and when they appear. A few examples of what could happen to your site:
- Broken links (they are especially damaging when they are broken CTAs)
- 404 errors
- Unindexed pages
- Server errors
- Broken page code
Use WebCEO’s Technical Audit tools to check if everything is all right with your site. If there are problems, see to them immediately!
Fix SEO errors
Unlike technical errors, optimization errors don’t cause your site to malfunction; in some cases, they might not affect a user’s experience at all. They simply mean you are squandering your site’s SEO potential. Googlebots can pass over your site and not really know what it’s about if you don’t optimize.
Here are a few examples of SEO errors you can fix to increase your rankings.
- Empty meta tags
- Overly long meta tags
- Duplicate meta tags
- Missing H1 tags
- Missing ALT attributes
- Missing sitemap
Find these errors on your site with WebCEO’s On-Site SEO Issues Overview tool.
Break your content into segments
Long content can be a chore to take in all at once. If yours is like that, make it easier to consume by dividing it into parts. Here’s what you can use:
- Paragraphs. This is the easiest and most obvious way to improve readability. There’s no limits on how short you can make them; even one-sentence paragraphs work wonders.
- Subheadings. This is the best option SEO-wise. H2, H3 and H4 tags can act as titles for individual segments, which helps both the users and Google understand the structure of your content and what it’s about.
- Images. These are best used when they are relevant in the context, especially when they contain valuable data (such as diagrams).
- Calls-to-action. If there’s just one CTA on a page, some users will never even see it, let alone click on it. Placing a few CTAs throughout the page (where it makes sense in the context, of course) is a good way to boost your conversion rates.
Use high-quality visuals
Pictures and videos are among the decisive elements that shaped the Internet as we know it. They play a major role in driving conversions, too. What are the best ways to use them?
- Use only high-quality ones (unless there’s a point you want to make with poor quality)
- Set their height and width to the exact size you need, and not a pixel bigger
- Convert them to the format that will yield the smallest file size
- Merge them into a single image where possible
- Use only the ones with high-quality visuals and sound
- Host them on other sites like YouTube
- Set them to play automatically where appropriate (for example, above the fold where you don’t want the users to miss it)
Increase site loading speed
Other than helping you rank, site speed is the decisive factor in keeping users on your site. Here’s what you can do:
- Host your site on a powerful server or a content delivery network
- Enable caching in the .htaccess file
- Use compression software such as Gzip
- Optimize your images
- Don’t host large files on your own site
- Keep your page redirects to a minimum (the ideal minimum being zero)
Test your site with WebCEO’s Page Speed tool and see what needs improvement.
3. Promoting content
Now comes the “marketing” part of content marketing. Everybody says high-quality content is the key to ranking in Google. And of course, there’s a catch. Even the best content doesn’t go places on its own; it needs your help to make it happen.
See, content isn’t restricted to being Internet pages. Content, first and foremost, is information that motivates a person to become your customer. Anything that falls under this definition can be considered as content: an email, a Google ad, a TV commercial, even shouting in the streets. It’s only a matter of reaching your target audience.
Let’s assume you have picked your audience carefully and that your content matches their interests. Here are the next steps.
Build links strategically
Link building is where SEO and content marketing intersect the closest. Everyone will tell you that in order to build links, you need to create high-quality content. But when you try it, the best you get is a few nofollow backlinks from social media. Why does it work for your competitors and not for you?
Because this plan is missing several crucial steps.
You’ll be lucky to get any backlinks by doing nothing other than making content. Other sites, especially the authoritative ones, won’t stumble upon it by chance and just decide to link to it on a whim. The best link building technique is to create content which has value for the audience and for the linking sites.
Simply put, here’s the plan:
1. Expose other sites to your content
2. Give them an incentive to link to it
What possible incentives are there? Here are a few instances when link building turns into a mutually beneficial exchange:
- Your content is a source worth citing in Wikipedia.
- Someone (for example, a blogger or a reporter) is in the process of writing an article. You reach out to them and offer to use your site as a source. One of the sites where you can do that is HARO.
- “Skyscraper” technique: you create an article and contact someone who links to its less in-depth, outdated version.
- Broken link building: you contact a site linking to a page that doesn’t exist anymore and suggest they link to you instead.
- Guest blogging.
- Creating or sharing viral content on your site, for instance something the folks at Reddit and StumbleUpon would like.
The most efficient way to build links is to target specific sites where you want to create backlinks. And for that, you need to pick your targets first. Find the most authoritative sites in your niche through Google – or, even better, with WebCEO’s Dangerous Competitors tool. This tool finds your competitors for your chosen keywords. They are not all going to be your direct business competitors, so you’ll want to be listed on these sites to get more traffic for your chosen keywords.
Make your site appear in no-click searches
Featured snippets, quick answers, Knowledge Panel, voice search. All of them can generate traffic, but they were mainly designed to give users the content they want without making them click. Even so, if you don’t appear in those search results, someone else will.
The same applies to pay-per-click ads. They occupy so much space above the organic results, it’s a wonder SEO is still relevant.
Share your content in social media
How else are you going to get traffic from there in the first place?
Still, not all of your social media followers will engage with your content. That’s why you need a large audience: the more followers you have, the better your chances. How do you get more?
- Share your business pages’ content on your own personal pages
- Ask the people you know to share it
- Reply to commenting users
- Reply to the users who PM you (and reply quickly)
- Ask users to comment, like, share and follow
- Be active on other people’s pages
- Share other people’s content on your pages
Use email outreach
Remember how content comes in many more forms other than site pages? Email is another one of those forms. Quite powerful, too, even despite the risk of getting stuck in spam filters. If you are subscribed to somebody’s updates, you know how true this is.
How do you make this method work for you?
- Have a ton of email addresses in your database. You’ll be lucky if even 5% of them respond to your call to action. The wider the net you cast, the more fish you’ll catch.
- Don’t email to your competitors and irrelevant sites. If the addressees aren’t your target audience, your emails will fail.
- Design an email newsletter. There’s no better way to make your emails unique and your brand recognizable.
- Prepare several good pitches. Don’t just send everyone the same email. If you have options, some of them are certain to work better than others.
- Make new pitches when necessary. There can be all sorts of occasions: Halloween, Christmas, Easter, your site’s anniversary and so on. A special pitch for a special day is a good way to spice things up.
It turns out there’s a lot of extra oomph your SEO needs to be effective. You will want to check if your content marketing strategy is working, too. How?
By checking these metrics in Google Analytics.
- Page views (how many times users visit your site)
- Click-through rates (% of users who visit your site after finding it)
- Bounce rates (% of users who leave your site after visiting one page)
- Dwell times (how much time users spend on your site)
- Page depth (how many pages users visit per session)
- User flow (how users browse through your site)
- Goals flow (how users reach your calls-to-action)
- Conversions (% of users who complete calls-to-action)
And, of course, the Google site rankings for your keywords. Those can be seen with WebCEO’s Rank Tracking tool.
But the easiest way to tell if it’s all worked is to check your goals. The desired number of user registrations, the amount of profits, the ranking positions and so on – have you got them? And if you’ve gone above your hoped-for success numbers, how far above was it? If all your hard work has set a trend for growth, that’s how you will know you have become good at content marketing.