James Arnold, Chief Digital Officer, Rooster Strategic Solutions
As a trained journalist and lifelong writer of things, I am a huge proponent of content marketing. And I’m not alone; in a recent survey, more than two-thirds of U.S. marketers expect to see their content marketing budgets increase in 2022.
And, as a digital marketer for more than two decades, I’ve also seen the power of search. An efficient paid search strategy is practically a requirement for anyone taking marketing seriously.
It might sound obvious, but the two are connected – or should be, anyway. Search without content is either stupid or so tilted to paid that it’s inefficient. And content without marketing is ethereal poetry.
The right answer? Relevant content that supports your search strategy, and search techniques that drive back to your content, which should be the liveliest and most updated part of your website. It’s honestly not complicated. Which makes it even more baffling why so few companies do this well.
A few basics: SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the technical process that increases both the quality and quantity of traffic to your website. For the most part, it’s a numbers game. Search engines use complicated algorithms to determine which sites are authoritative, relevant, reputable, and most likely to answer the searcher’s question, whatever that question may be. Our goal as marketers is to ensure that our pages rise to the top of this list. In the past, we relied almost exclusively on keywords to accomplish this, and we typically focused on those keywords that generated the highest search volume. As a strategy, this worked well – in 2008. But if you haven’t revisited your keyword list in a while (or a decade) you’re likely missing something critical.
It’s not the volume that’s important, it’s the intent behind it. Customers don’t want to purchase a ¼-inch drill bit, they want to make a ¼-inch hole. So, if your keyword list is littered with generic titles or product names such as “MetalBitr 2000®,” you’re probably missing your audience.
That’s where content marketing comes in. It’s all about solving your customers’ problems. Your customers benefit by getting the answer or information they desire. You benefit when the audience perceives you as an expert in the field, and when they act on this perception by coming back to your website and purchasing your products or services.
What’s more, the advantages grow exponentially. When you create content that’s easy to comprehend and answers a popular question – whether it’s an article, blog, infographic, product description, or even a quiz or game – search engines recognize this and reward you with higher placement on the page, which leads to increased and more valuable traffic.
Here are some basic steps to ensure your content and SEO are working together:
- Get your website in order. First and foremost is technical optimization, ensuring that there are no broken links or error pages and that everything loads quickly. This should be considered routine maintenance, but I’m constantly amazed at how many companies neglect this important piece of marketing. If your site is slow to load or hard to navigate, it can negatively impact search engine rankings.
- Create relevant content. Sounds simple, right? Who would create content that’s NOT relevant? But ask yourself this question: Does your content, in whatever form it takes, offer real value to the audience you’re trying to reach? Does it answer their questions, solve their problems, or help them in some way? A common mistake is assuming that because something is important to us, it will interest our customers, so we provide content about our wonderful drill bits rather than teaching customers how to create holes, which is what they really want. Put on your customers’ shoes and take them for a spin. As you walk this journey, identify any stopping points, knowledge gaps, or questions your customers might have, and use this insight to guide your content.
- Make your content “search engine friendly.” Search engines work by cataloging pages into various sections and matching queries to the pages that they believe best represent the intent of the search. Knowing this, you’ll want to break your content into smaller, bite-sized, narrowly focused pieces. For instance, if your company sells oil filters for ag equipment, you know that customers will search using the brand and type of equipment that needs a filter. You’ll want to arrange your content by manufacturer name and type on your website. Or, better yet, by creating separate pages based on the equipment your customers own. The tighter your focus, the more likely that search engines will consider your page to be a match for specific queries.
- Publish new content. It’s a little-known fact that search engines include how often you publish new content as one of the criteria they use. Regularly updating content or adding new material helps get your pages to the top of the list, as well as helping to continually provide your customers with new and relevant information.
- Measure, measure, measure. Optimizing your website and creating a stream of new, relevant, and interesting content is a time-consuming process, but it’s worth the investment. Tracking metrics will help you verify this, as well as pointing out any opportunities for improvement. A few key metrics that I like to track are Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), Indexed Pages, and Organic Traffic.
You’re already creating content, so you might as well make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck. These are just a few of the ways that your content and SEO can work together to create higher conversions and profits.
If you have any questions, or aren’t sure where to begin, Rooster can help, with everything from a one-time web audit to complete, turnkey content management. If you’re ready to make your content work harder, I’d love to have a conversation.