Using SEO To Drive Your Content Strategy

Nobody has time or resources to waste on ineffective marketing anymore, yet people still base their content strategy on almost-randomly selected keywords and loosely defined targets. Today’s technology has progressed so far beyond that as to make that simplistic content strategy nearly as quaintly archaic as quill on parchment. Fresh content and SEO keywords are still good, but they must be high quality, precisely targeted and linked to equally high quality sites.

Many marketers still try to get by with loosely defined targets, such as “the CEO,” but marketing efforts are much more successful when they start with fully fleshed out personas and carefully chosen SEO keywords. During the planning phases of your content strategy, it is imperative to design detailed personas.

Instead of just “CEO,” define the particular type of CEO. Perhaps you need two target personas. One is John, a male CEO of a publicly held, mid-size heavy-manufacturing company. He’s in his late 50s, moderately computer literate, into sports, lives in the suburbs with a family and a dog. His primary goal is to meet corporate targets for revenue and operational efficiency without rocking the boat because he’s looking forward to retirement in a few years.

The other persona is Bill, also the CEO of a publicly held manufacturing company, but Bill’s company outsources much of the manufacturing process in the interest of keeping costs low. Bill believes that his company’s core competency is ideas, and he’s excited to try anything that makes his team more creative. Bill is in his 30s, and his goal is to move into a C-level role at a larger Fortune 500 company in the next five years. He’s single, lives alone in a high-rise apartment, loves fine wine and travel.

Do you think the same pitch will turn on both Bill and John? If you do, your content strategy is flawed and your marketing efforts are not likely be as effective as they could be. You need a content strategy that addresses both personas, and SEO keywords that will draw both to the right content and lead them through your sales funnel.

When you think you have your personas fleshed out, it’s time to examine your own customer and win/ loss data to find the details about who your target customer really is. Does your data match up with your personas, or are you off the mark? Cross-reference your final draft personas with Neilson Prizm or a similar service to confirm the demographics and psychographics until you are certain you understand your prospective customers. This detailed planning will pay off in a carefully targeted content strategy with a much higher sales conversion rate.

Now that you have finalized your personas, it’s time to find out exactly what topics interest them. Look at social media sites such as SocialMention, Topsy, Followerwonk or WhosTalkin to identify trending topics of interest of your personas and to identify search terms with positive associations. This analysis will help you to understand the specific words and vocabulary the targets use so you can adapt your content strategy to utilize the right words to bring your targets to your site. This step not only helps you select the right SEO keywords to use in your content strategy, but it may suggest new product or feature ideas. Careful research will provide you with more demographic information in addition to validating your personas and their interests.

Once you have executed this data-driven social media listening campaign, your next stop should be Google Adwords. Validate that the keywords and language and keywords you uncovered in your social searches have high demand, appearing frequently in searches. When you find the keywords on your list with the most searches, you’ve found the keywords to use as the basis for your ongoing content strategy.

The next step is to map the inbound marketing funnel by identifying the steps the prospect goes through when making a decision to buy a product such as yours. A typical funnel might include the following steps:

  • I think I may have a problem or need, so I want information to learn more about it.
  • I’ve learned enough that I’m convinced I have the problem or need, so what are some possible solutions?
  • What are the pros and cons or risks and benefits of the solutions?
  • Which is the best solution for me?
  • Where can I get the solution?

Of course, your funnel may have more or fewer steps, but you should understand clearly what the steps are. When you’ve identified the steps, you can identify the information your prospect personas will need at each step in the funnel. Remember though that your personas may have different viewpoints or needs, so you will want to define content that addresses each persona’s attractions and pain points. Going back to our earlier examples, the CEO focused on outsourcing won’t respond at all to information about how your product excels at increasing plant efficiency, just as the CEO looking to maintain the status quo won’t care about how it supports high growth.

You now have the outline of you content strategy. Use your SEO keywords in each of the content pieces throughout the funnel, but don’t stuff your content with keywords to the point where it becomes unreadable for real people. It’s very important that your content gets high rankings in searches to drive people to your site, but it’s equally important that people stick around to read it. Search engines don’t often buy products, so make sure the content is appealing to the people that do.

Another issue with keyword stuffing is that it may backfire on you. Search algorithms are pretty smart, and they can tell when you are using a word purely to achieve a high ranking as opposed to using it in a meaningful way. If the algorithm thinks you’re keyword stuffing, you may get de-ranked. The only thing worse is turning off a live prospect with meaningless drivel written purely to use a keyword many times. Avoid the temptation.

The same holds true for adding links to your content. Thoughtfully chosen, high-quality links can help your ranking, but too many low-quality links will hurt you.

The last step is to keep your content fresh and engaging. Vary the content, from light-hearted blog posts to serious analysis pieces, or whatever works for your product. Keep a consistent tone and feeling to your site, but don’t make all the content the same.

Use short paragraphs, lots of headings and bullets or lists to make the content light and easy to read. Use dark fonts on a light background, and make sure your font size is readable to your target audience. That 50-year-old CEO in your target persona may not have the same visual acuity that your 22-year-old web designer has. Your prospect may give up in disgust if the font is too small or too hard to read against the background colors no matter how wonderful your SEO content is.

You will be amazed at the improved results you will achieve using a data-driven SEO and content strategy. All you have to do is follow a few simple steps, and you’ll be well on your way to increased sales using SEO to propel your content. Just remember:

  1. Understand the needs of your customers / audience
  2. Put effort into doing qualitative and quantitative audits, defining personas, etc…
  3. Use your buyer journey and / or user stories to inform your content strategy (not just keyword demand)
  4. Validate your findings with outside market research, testing and data

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Analytics & AdWords certified growth engineer with over a decade experience in making businesses successful. I own and operate AXZM and often speak at top national industry conferences on the topics of strategy, design and marketing technology. Work with me or learn more about me here. Follow me @nawlready

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