If we can agree that the ultimate purpose of marketing is to attract attention and generate interest, then combining SEO and content marketing is a no-brainer for smart brands and marketers.
SEO is all about creating brand visibility – it ensures that customers can find your website. Engaging content is what will make them click and stay on your website.
SEO and content marketing, when combined effectively and intelligently, become an unbeatable one-two punch that defines the experience – and success – of your brand.
Today’s digital world is insanely competitive; it’s always shifting and evolving. More than a billion websites are competing for the attention of today’s consumers. Millions of new pieces of content are generated every minute of every day – blog posts, whitepapers, infographics, videos, GIFs, social media updates, and much, much more.
All of this is done in the hopes of influencing people when they are in the market to buy a product or a service. Customers are seeking out solutions on their own terms. They find brands using any number different devices, channels, and platforms. In fact, 66 percent of customers use more than one channel during the entire purchase decision journey.
To meet and convert customer demand, it’s up to brands to be visible, be persuasive, and wow consumers at every possible micro-moment with amazing experiences. Content is the key to building these relationships. It should encourage readers to think deeply and it should invoke emotions.
As much as people like to think their choices are based on logic or concrete facts, emotions and psychology are important parts of making decisions. People remember experiences, not text. That’s why stories resonate. Creating content and stories that resonate with an audience is key to content engagement.
Content and SEO: One in the same?
Because so much of the buyer’s journey happens via digital, brands must have content that is optimized, engaging, and reaching customers wherever they are. And to do this, marketers must optimize for intent.
The types of searches users conduct can help marketers learn a lot about their intent. Searches typically fall into one of three types:
- Navigational: The user knows a brand and uses Google or another search engines to find that specific website (e.g., “Microsoft”).
- Informational: The user wants to learn something about a company, product, or service (e.g., “how much does Microsoft Word cost”).
- Transactional: The user enters a highly commercial query, signaling that he or she is ready (or nearly ready) to buy a product or service and (e.g., “buy Microsoft Office 2016”).
By combining SEO and content marketing efforts into one function, marketers can influence consumers whether they are in the discovery phase or purchase stage.
According to new research from BrightEdge (my company) over 97% of digital marketers now believe that SEO and Content Marketing have become one and the same.
SEO is vital to content discovery. Discovery tends to start via the organic search channel. Did you know that organic search:
- Drives 51 percent of all visits to B2B and B2C websites
- Has no direct media cost and extremely high returns
- Impacts all digital marketing channels and offline sales
- Builds brand awareness
- Helps increase revenue?
So it’s critical to identify keywords that demonstrate commercial intent. With this data, marketers can better understand the intent of customers and create and optimize intelligent content that is more likely to convert.
Combining SEO and content isn’t just good in theory. Cross-channel marketing is helping marketers achieve a higher ROI. Integration results in higher conversion rates, engagement, customer retention, and brand advocacy.
It’s critical to understand what will resonate with customers and help influence them during the decision-making journey. But to create the intelligent content that engages and converts, marketers need intelligent data. You need to know who your target audience is – their ages, demographics, locations, interests, habits, and preferences.
How do you market with intent by combining SEO and content marketing into one function?
Developing a powerful content optimization program takes time and careful planning, but there are five things marketers can do to establish a strong foundation.
1. Know your audience
Everything a brand does must revolve around the customer – the products, experience, and marketing strategy. Defining an audience allows marketers to create content on interesting and relevant topics that will grow loyal audiences and achieve business objectives.
Yet, a surprising number of brands – 80 percent – say they don’t know their customers,
Brands that intimately understand the motivations, pain points and processes of their audience are best set up to deliver better and more impactful content that helps drive revenue, growth, and long-term sustainability.
Here are three keys to marketing with intent to your audience:
- See how people engage. Examine how customers consume and engage with your content. Identify what generates interest and results in people taking action. Adjust and optimize content as needed.
- Think about the customer journey. Consider how customers engage with different types of content across channels and devices, at different stages, and in different states of mind. Understand conversion and buying behavior as customers move between devices (smartphones, tablets, and desktops).
- Do ongoing customer analysis. What customers are interested in or desire today can quickly change. Performing regular analysis of customer-brand interactions. Listen and gather insights to keep up with the trends and continue delivering the right experiences.
2. Have a purpose
Just as a brand needs a mission statement – a stated aspirational or inspirational purpose for existing – content also must have a purpose. Every piece of content you create should have a reason for existing. Generally, the purpose of content is to inform, educate, persuade, entertain, or inspire.
Keep purpose top of mind when developing a content strategy by incorporating the following:
- The goal of creating and publishing content is to become a valuable resource and tell memorable stories. Incorporate customer pain points and interests into the content strategy and creation process. Also, remember these three Es:
- Experiment: Try different content types.
- Experience: Make your audience feel.
- Engage: Keep them coming back for more.
- Consistency: A brand’s voice should mimic the way its customers speak, whether it’s conversational, edgy, or professional. This voice should be consistent across all content, regardless of who creates it or where it’s published.
- Goals: Set realistic and concrete goals for your content, whether it’s to drive awareness, organic search traffic, and rankings, social engagement, conversions, or revenue.
3. Create & optimize content
After nailing down a target audience and a purpose, the next step is creating and optimizing content for maximum visibility. Failing to optimize content is a suicide mission. People who can’t find content, no matter how great it may be, can’t engage with that content – or the brand that created it.
Every piece of content can always be improved through optimization, whether that content is for your website, social media, or email campaigns. Some tips:
- Choose relevant topics: Content should be customer-centric, not a brand- or business-centric. Topics should appeal based on demographics, behaviors, and interests.
- Use the right keywords: Ditch the corporate jargon. Use words people actually use when searching for your products or services.
- Map content to specific personas and purchase funnels: Customer journey mapping helps set up content for success from the start.
- Mobile optimization: This is especially critical for mobile. Brands that fail to optimize for mobile get 68 percent less traffic.
4. Combine quality & quantity
Many marketers believe consumers are simply overwhelmed by all the content we’re creating. After all, U.S. adults consume an astounding 10 hours and 39 minutes of media every single day. According to Smart Insights, every minute 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube; nearly 150,000 emails are sent; nearly 1,500 new WordPress posts are published; 3.3 million new Facebook posts are published, and 448,000 new tweets appear on Twitter.
This had led many marketers to one conclusion: focus on quality, not quantity. It makes sense in theory. After all, more content doesn’t usually mean better content.
Yes, there is an enormous amount of content on the web in aggregate. Global Internet traffic is forecast to hit an unfathomable 2.3 zettabytes by 2020, according to Cisco.
However, the average person has no desire to consume every piece of content that exists on the web. They want to consume intelligent content that is personalized, relevant, and helpful to them.
- Does quality matter? Absolutely! Poorly crafted content is ineffective, won’t help you attain your goals, and can turn off potential customers.
- Does quantity matter? Yes! Consistently telling stories and starting conversations with customers through memorable and compelling content helps keep brands top of mind.
5. Measure results & iterate
That which isn’t measured can’t be improved. Luckily, marketers have access to a wealth of real-time data to gain content performance insights and track metrics to determine ROI.
Brands can learn from every content campaign, whether it failed or achieved its goals.
- Content failures: Compare underperforming content to previously successful content (both your own and that of third parties). See where it falls short. Pay close attention to traffic, conversions, and revenue attributed to or influenced by content.
- Content wins: Figure out what made your best content stand out. Try to replicate the success and turn anomalies into more regular occurrences.
Below is a great framework on how best to approach SEO and content in your organization:
Optimization is critical to maximizing the value of content. The right audience must be able to find the content. And the content must drive business results. Ensuring your content is search engine friendly and optimized across the buyer’s journey is critical to the success of a combined content and SEO team.