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November 27, 2015

Successfully Balance SEO with Content Marketing

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Photo Credit: Augur Marketing via flickr

In the past, content marketers and SEOs have often found themselves at loggerheads. On one hand, content marketers valued creativity and imagination in writing, whereas SEOs were mostly driven by data and figures, implementing strategies that spoke mainly to the search engines.

Nowadays, however, the importance of creating holistic content and SEO strategies cannot be overstated. Marketing in today’s digital economy requires synergy between good technical SEO and the human touch provided by traditional content marketing.

This collaboration is vital to make sure that all the content being created is well-optimized and will perform favorably.  In this article, we share some tips you can follow to achieve this perfect balance between your SEO and content marketing strategies.

Ensure that your SEO strategy is well-documented and audited

Every organization will have a different strategy based on their individual needs and their maturity in SEO and content marketing. Hence, SEO and content marketing programs need to be evaluated from the very beginning. According to a 2015 study by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, only 39 percent of B2B small business marketers have a documented content marketing strategy. These companies who have documented strategies have shown to be more effective in their content marketing efforts than those that have a verbal-only strategy or no strategy at all.

Of course, there is also a need to periodically re-evaluate these strategies because of constantly evolving search engine algorithms and market trends. For example, a strategy that may have heavily relied on guest blogging may not work as well today anymore, especially after Matt Cutts commented that guest blogging is done.

Familiarize yourself with Google’s best practices for SEO

Encapsulated in Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide, Google’s best practice ideas will show you how you can make it easier for search engines to crawl, index, and understand your website’s content. Because Google’s algorithms change every now and then, you have to regularly brush up on your SEO skills based on guidelines and implement the necessary changes. This can have a lasting impact on your reader’s user experience as well as on your site’s performance in search engine results.

Using search data, create content that users want to see

Remember, it’s not always about attracting a high number of visitors to your website, it’s also about getting the right kind of visitors. To attract the right kind of visitors, you can use various kinds of data to pinpoint the information they seek. For example, you can set up Google Analytics to track which pages convert the most visitors to leads.

That tool can be also used to help content marketers understand consumer wants, needs, and demands. For example, you can check the search engine optimization option under the Acquisition section of Google Analytics to check which queries pop up the most. Insights from the data can be used by writers to create optimized content right from the very beginning.

Understand that you are writing for people

Gone are the days when keyword stuffing of online content and other questionable SEO practices were the norm. Nowadays, search is becoming attuned with semantics, meaning the searchers’ intent and the contextual meaning of the search phrases is now being analysed carefully before search engines show their search results to people. This alone gives rise to the rapidly popular online content marketing strategies, which is about creating and sharing content in order to attract and retain specific customers. It gives you an edge on content optimization by targeting other semantically related keywords on your content. Using content marketing strategies also means that high-quality and meaningful content help encourage your customers to complete their journey along the buying cycle.

Keywords are still important

Although creating high-quality content is now considered more important than keywords, the latter is still invaluable when it comes to search. Ensuring that your text is well-written and quality keyword combinations (that are actually in-line with what your business offers) are appropriately integrated into the content is the best way to attract the attention of both readers and search engines. Performing proper keyword research is a hallmark of good SEO practice.

One of the best keyword research tools at your disposal is the Google AdWords Keyword Planner. Originally made for AdWords campaigns, the Keyword Planner can be also used by content marketing professionals who are looking for topics to write about. While it may not show you the exact number of searches a term has, its traffic estimates can help you prioritize which topic you should tackle. It can also help you determine which topics may be hard to rank for, based on competition.

Make your titles and headings compelling

According to an article from QuickSprout, while eight out of 10 people will read your headline, only two out of 10 will continue to read the rest of your article. That’s why you need well-crafted headlines and opening paragraphs—you don’t have that much time to convince them that your content is worth reading. This is especially true if they are still in the first stages of researching about products to buy or services to pay. By making your titles, headings, and first few words compelling and keyword-rich, you will make your site more visible to both people and search engines.

Choose proper title and heading tags

Another important on-page SEO element you should implement in your Web content is the title and Meta description tags. Title tags are the texts that appear on search results, displaying preview snippets for a given search. These are the actual titles that appear on the search results themselves, so you should apply them with utmost care and thought.

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Meta description tags are meant to be a brief but precise description of what the actual webpage contains. These do not affect rankings in any other way, but good SEO practice uses MD tags to drive traffic into sites by writing them in a certain favourable way to both search engines and people. Remember to suse keywords and semantically related phrases carefully to support your title tag.

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These tags, especially the title tag, are critical for SEO and for social sharing, and while it is important to make sure that it contains proper keywords, it is also vital that the title tags should be read naturally. If they look awkward to a human reader, the title tags might not be able to entice these people to click.

Use SEO-friendly URLs

Never use URLs that are way too simplistic or don’t really say anything about the content of your page. For instance “example.com/page-204” is not going to be as optimized as “example.com/fishing-equipment-in-little-rock-ak.” Like your titles and headings, your URLs should also be made with proper keyword strategies in mind and understandable to your target market.

Post long (but compelling!) content often

Many studies, as collated in this BuzzSumo article, have shown that longer content pieces do rank higher in Google’s search results. Those studies include one from NewsWhip, which found that the top 10 most-shared stories on Facebook had an average word count of 1,000 words. Another cited study was from SERPIQ, which found that the top 10 search results for over 20,000 keywords all link to content that averages around 2,000 words.

Hence, you should aim to post long and high-quality blog posts or website articles every day or at least every week to maximize your reach. If you have a pool of followers who keenly share and engage with your content, the more likely Google is going to show your content in web results because it sees the latter as being important.

Track, evaluate, and improve your content

There are many tools available (free and paid) you can use to track and evaluate the performance of your content at page level. One such tool is the Moz On-Page Grader, which forms part of a Moz Analytics subscription. It will grade your page from A to F based on criteria such as the title, meta description, internal and external links, URL length, and more.

Nowadays, a holistic approach has become vital to reaching your target online audience. SEO and content marketing do not need to be at the other ends of the spectrum anymore. Both have met at the middle, and it is up to you to find that healthy balance.


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Vincent Sevilla is a professional graphic designer for Grit.ph. He also has an extensive background in online marketing. You can follow him on Twitter @easyvince

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