One of the biggest challenges for the modern marketer is finding a balance between content marketing and SEO. While the former is the toast of marketing town, the latter has been pronounced dead”more than a few times.
In truth, SEO is still essential to the marketing process and the cornerstone of any content marketing campaign.
So how can you combine content marketing and SEO? In this post, we’ll show you exactly how through a process we call "content engineering," a term coined by the digital marketing agency Marccx Media.
The state of SEO
SEO today is very different from what it used to be a decade back. Thanks to a number of major algorithm updates (such as Google Panda and Penguin), effective SEO in 2015 usually involves three tasks:
1. On-page optimization. The technical side of SEO: ensuring the proper use of HTML tags, keywords, and meta descriptions.
2. Content creation and distribution. The part where you create content in order to gain backlinks and social media exposure.
3. Link Earning. Earning links from high authoritative websites that are relevant to your content is how you move up in search engines for keywords that you target.
The first task—on-page optimization—is rather straightforward for most businesses. It’s usually a one-time process. There are even hands-off solutions to do this on popular platforms such as WordPress.
It is the second task that confounds most businesses. They don’t know what content to create, how to create it, or how to market it.
Planning Your Content
The first step in the content creation process is to figure out what your buyers actually want to read. Follow these steps to do this:
1. Identify your content goals. Figuring out what you want your content to achieve is the first step in the planning process. This will help you decide the direction for your content creation efforts.
Some target goals for your content could be generating new leads, creating brand awareness, educating prospects, and helping new and existing customers.
2. Create buyer personas. Buyer personas help you decide what tone, style, format and voice you use in your content. A number of factors go into a well-crafted buyer persona. Some of these are deemographic data (age, gender, location, income and education), psychographic data (activities, interests, hobbies and personalities) and behavioral data (loyalty to your brand, existing relationship, and buyer readiness).
3. Target long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords such as “download spicy guacamole recipe online” are the secret sauce to big content marketing success. Focusing on such keywords has two distinct advantages:
●Limited competition. There is limited competition for long-tail keywords since most marketers tend to focus on head keywords.
●Better conversions. An analysis by Search Engine Watch revealed that keywords between 11 and 15 words convert 35 times higher than those under 5 words.
Create Content for Your Sales Funnel
Every buyer goes through a number of steps before making a purchase decision. These steps together are called the “sales funnel.” There are four such steps or stages in most conventional sales funnels:
1. Discovery. This is the initial step in the buying process, where customers first recognize their problems and find solutions for them. Since prospects mainly want to learn more about the problem, content made for this stage should answer questions like what, why, and how. For best results, focus on creating the following types of content:
2. Consideration. In this stage, buyers understand their problems and start evaluating (or ‘considering’) possible solutions. Content made for this stage should help prospects in the selection process while also subtly selling your product.
Your aim should be show, not just tell visitors about the solutions. Focus on creating the following content types:
3. Decision. This is the stage where prospects pull out their credit cards and make the actual purchase. Your job here is to convince them to buy your product. Hence, sales-focused content that demonstrates your product’s value does particularly well.
Try to create the following:
4. Advocate and Repeat. The final stage (which some funnels opt to not include) is all about turning customers into fans. You can do this by creating educational content that educates new and existing customers, and also gives them a reason to evangelize your product.
The following content-types work really well:
●Giveaways and contests
●Special offers for loyal customers
Promote on the Right Platform
If you follow the two processes outlined above, you should have a strong library of valuable content. Your next step should be to promote this content on the three promotion channels:
1. Paid media. If you have to pay to get any airplay from a channel, it would come under”‘paid media.” This includes display advertising and sponsored posts.
Paid media offers two distinct advantages:
●Instant traffic. Paid traffic has no gestation period. You can start getting thousands of visitors from day one if you’re willing to pay for it.
●Scalable. Paid traffic is usually highly scalable. Top ad platforms have a reach of millions of prospects.
For most small businesses, however, a promotion strategy that relies heavily on paid media is financially unsustainable. This is why you need to focus on owned and earned media.
2. Owned media. Promotion channels you have control over are called owned media. This includes assets you directly control (such as a website or an email list), as well as accounts on other sites like Facebook and YouTube.
Owned media offers two advantages to marketers:
●Control. You usually have complete or nearly complete control over what you show on owned media channels such as your website.
●Cost. Since you own the media property, you can usually reach your existing audience without paying anything.
When it comes to owned media, your primary focus should be on building up your email list. Here’s why:
1. Email has the highest ROI of all marketing channels.
2. You can reach every person on your list multiple times.
3. You can use tactics such as content upgrades to segment your email list.
3. Earned Media
As the name implies, earned media is media presence that you’ve earned through the sheer virtue of your product or marketing.
Earned media is the holy grail of marketing content. It is not only free, but also a powerful brand building tool. Seeing others praise your brand gives it greater legitimacy than seeing an ad plastered all over the internet (especially since word-of-mouth remains the most trusted source of advertising).
Getting earned media right is hard, but can be engineered if you follow these three steps:
1.Create a stellar product.
2. Actively pursue earned media mentions through guest blogs, interviews, press outreach, or winning awards.
3. Create content such as infographics, listicles, in-depth how-tos, and videos to attract shares.
This is a tough nut to crack, but you can definitely win by if you focus on consistently creating and promoting high quality content.
Modern marketing is a complicated, messy affair. You have to master multiple disciplines if you want traffic at scale. A strategy that combines SEO with content marketing can be highly effective. Focus on perfecting on-page optimization, content creation and distribution to win big on both search and social.