How to Build a Content Marketing Strategy with an SEO Mindset
July 26, 2023
By Kate Ference
For marketers prioritizing where to focus their efforts, search engine optimization (SEO) can be an intimidating outlier. There are constant changes to algorithms, and the details of indexing are undeniably technical. Should keywords drive your marketing strategy? Should the content? Which keywords are even worth your time?
SEO is what makes your content discoverable. It determines which terms on a given webpage will make it both searchable and credible and where your page will rank among results.
Content marketing is everything you develop to support the customer’s journey from awareness to loyalty. It’s the relevant, impactful content that enhances their relationship with a brand.
If your brand is doing anything online, an SEO mindset is not optional. Let’s explore how to leverage SEO to inform your content marketing strategy rather than serve as an afterthought.
Better Together: Informing Content Marketing Strategy with SEO
Content and SEO are excellent examples of the whole being greater than the individual parts. Without content, SEO is simply words on a page—they cannot be an effective or credible source of information alone. Content and SEO should go hand in hand to ensure you reach your target audience.
Like any marketing campaign, start by considering the pain point of the customer. Why do they need the product or service they do? From there, research the strategic opportunity for content.
Define terms and behaviors associated with your customer’s needs, and zero in on keywords that will help the right people find the content they’re searching for.
- A primary keyword is the main term that your content focus is structured around, with the goal of ranking competitively on search engine results pages. Terms that are identified as primary keywords help drive traffic to a webpage because a target audience is actively searching for information on that topic.
- A secondary keyword is a closely related word or subtopic phrase tied to the primary search term your page is targeting. Secondary keywords demonstrate that your content is not making an attention grab—it’s providing nuanced information. They can be variations or synonyms of the primary term or keyword phrases, often referred to as long-tail keywords.
The primary keyword should support the topic cluster within your content strategy. Create a pillar page for content on this topic to rank toward the primary keyword. Then create related content—such as a blog post—that links back to the pillar page, targeting the secondary keywords. An example of this could be “ice cream” as a primary keyword, with “chocolate ice cream” or “ice cream delivery services” as secondary keywords.
This model of primary and secondary content development is sometimes referred to as hub and spoke. The use of a linking strategy like this will support the search ranking of the pillar page and increase keyword visibility for the primary keyword on your site.
Identifying Opportunities for Ranking, Relevance, and Authority
When you set out to build an SEO content strategy, your ultimate goal is to give people the content they’re looking for. They’re asking questions, and you want to provide the answers. Set yourself up for success by identifying the keywords that will help you improve your ranking, relevance, and authority.
Choose Your Words Carefully: Tips for Keyword Research
- Use the right tools for the job. You can conduct keyword research with resources such as Keyword Magic in Semrush or Keyword Explorer in either Moz or Ahrefs. They’ll provide in-depth, quantifiable information so you can see where your efforts will have the greatest chance of traction.
- Respect the data. The contextual insights of metrics such as search volume and keyword difficulty will empower you to reach your audience where they are.
- Embrace trial and error. There’s not a lot of right versus wrong here. Resist focusing too much on a single keyword. Spread your strategy across multiple terms, analyze, and optimize where you see results.
- Play the long game. Proactively outline keyword opportunities for the future of your site. Are there keyword targets that you want to rank for as you go after new verticals and develop strategic content?
When you’re up to your elbows in prospective keywords, two metrics that will help narrow the focus of your SEO content marketing strategy are search volume and keyword difficulty.
Search volume reflects how many monthly searches occurred for that keyword or keyword phrase over a year. Keyword difficulty reflects how hard it would be for a website to achieve organic search ranking for a specific keyword. Think of it as the potential to reach the front page of Google’s search results without sponsorship.
Hidden Search Terms
In an ideal scenario, your research will identify primary keywords with high search volume and achievable keyword difficulty. It can be easy to obsess over an aspirational keyword, but don’t let it drive your strategy. For terms with high keyword difficulty, you’ll be spinning your wheels trying to fight multinational brands for ownership.
When you can’t easily achieve results by volume, consider where there are open opportunities to gain rankings with content that provides relevance and authority.
- Relevance: A simple way to increase relevance is to support long-tail keywords. These are keywords with less search volume and likely less difficulty for search ranking because fewer sites have addressed the subject. Providing content for niche searches your target audience is seeking will improve your ranking through increased search relevance.
- Authority: This manifests when you focus on the search intent and establish your site as a credible source. Create content with the user experience in mind, and go beyond a simple keyword. Your authority will increase when you provide nuanced information your target is looking for in a format they want to engage with.
Measuring Success of SEO: The Moving Target
What does success look like for a content marketing strategy with an SEO mindset? Measuring numbers is straightforward, and there are many tools available to evaluate performance, but your goals will define whether the campaign is delivering the desired results.
- Establish benchmarks. It’s harder to acknowledge progress without a reference to the starting point. Begin your reporting with the SEO data that informed your research: keywords, organic search, domain rankings, and so on.
- Look at the bigger picture. It’s not productive to assess the performance of a single moment because content doesn’t live in a single moment. Monthly, quarterly, and yearly reports will capture the consistent pulse of your campaign and allow content time to be discovered by the target audience, shared, and referred by backlinks.
- Don’t be scared to audit. An SEO content marketing strategy is defined by optimization. Analyze metrics such as site rankings, conversion rates, content downloads, and page traffic, and adjust your approach accordingly to serve your desired outcomes.
- Stay up to date. The internet is a perpetual motion machine. Keywords and search volumes are constantly changing, and so are the algorithms that rank them. Follow publications such as Search Engine Journal for information about the latest changes and best practices.
Broaden Your Mindset
Understanding the interplay of SEO and content marketing is just the first step to amplifying your strategy. If you want to refine your SEO content marketing strategy further, there’s more to learn about how to prioritize your SEO efforts.
About the author
Kate Ference is a Senior Marketing Specialist at SmartBug Media. Kate developed a passion for the power of inbound marketing through her experience with B2B SaaS. She’s always thinking about how HubSpot can leverage marketing automation for brands and believes that MarTech is the future of marketing! Read more articles by Kate Ference.
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