SEO Fundamentals for Content Marketing

There is a lot of chatter about SEO in the content marketing field and for good reason. 

“Think about SEO in terms of a sandwich: if customer-focused content marketing is the sandwich, SEO is the mayonnaise. It touches practically everything and enriches the overall flavor of the sandwich, but it’s not really delicious on its own.”

In this fifth edition of our Back to Basics content marketing series, we look at the fundamentals of SEO – the main ideas and critical aspects you should be aware of in order to create the most successful content marketing possible.

Creating for people always comes first

You’ve probably heard of the content marketing vs. SEO debate. These two disciplines, in my opinion, can and should complement one other extremely effectively. There are no drawbacks to optimizing your content for SEO, but it should not be your major focus while creating and delivering content.

Given what your customers are likely looking for in the content they choose to consume — not to mention Google’s ever-changing algorithms that aim to keep online content relevant and of high quality — you can’t go wrong if you follow this golden rule: Write compelling content about the topics your target audience is most interested in.

SEO is only one piece of the puzzle

While search is likely to provide a large portion of your website traffic, other traffic sources, such as email and social media, should also be prioritized in your optimization efforts.

If you’re curious about how much of your traffic comes from search (and hence how much of your content optimization efforts should be centered on SEO), open Google Analytics and navigate to Acquisition > Overview. You’ll see a breakdown of how much of your traffic comes from each of the seven major sources here:

  • Search engine optimization
  • Email
  • Straightforward (people getting to your site via a bookmark or by typing a URL directly)
  • Suggestion (viewers who come from any site that links to your content)
  • The Internet of Things
  • Search engine advertising
  • Other (traffic that cannot be ascribed to any of the aforementioned factors)

Even Matt Cutts claims:

“I wholeheartedly believe that people should be able to reach out to their target audience in a variety of ways. So relying solely on Google may not be as effective as having a variety of other ways through which you can reach people and lead them to your website or whatever your goal is.”

Social impacts SEO

Social signals have had a stronger impact on search results than ever before since Google’s Hummingbird update. As a result, it’s critical for content marketers to have a solid social plan in place that takes SEO into account.

Check out Cathy McPhillips’ Back to Basics post from last week for further information on how to include social media into your content marketing procedures. Provides an excellent Social Media and SEO Smackdown! Also worth a look is this infographic.

SEO is a long-tail strategy

When you first start out with content marketing, it is unrealistic to anticipate search traffic to develop quickly (which is another good reason to incorporate social into your distribution strategy). However, once you begin to notice traffic improvements as a result of your search efforts, the benefits might be long-lasting. I can’t tell you how many times older pieces on CMI have experienced a boost in popularity as a result of search — in fact, many of our contributors have told me that they receive inquiries on their posts years after they were published.

Keywords still matter

While focusing on keywords is not a suggested technique for successful content marketing, you do want to ensure that your efforts are ranking for the phrases that are most important to your company and customers. As a result, it’s a good idea to do some preliminary research and then compile a list of relevant keywords to target with your content, 12 Tips for Keyword Selection to Guide Your Content Marketing SEO, for more information on this approach.

Get technical

SEO optimization entails some very technical components, such as ensuring that your content pages are correctly indexed by search engines and that you have 301 redirect pages in place to ensure that visitors always reach their intended destination on your content pages. To do so, you must first understand what information you have and where it is located, which you may establish and document by doing a content audit.

An example from CMI

CMI evaluates and optimizes a variety of traffic sources, including search. How do we differentiate between what should be optimized for search and what should be optimized for social?

Search is an excellent approach to support long-tail and evergreen content, but we’ve seen that themes that are more forward-thinking (i.e., those that people aren’t necessarily searching for directly) are usually best supported by social media techniques.

Another distinction between search and social optimization is the approach taken. When we think about search, we evaluate the terms that people are searching for — and those that have the best chance of ranking at the top. For example, going after keywords with high search volumes — i.e., those with a lot of competition for the top rankings — isn’t always in our best interests. In contrast, when considering social media, we place a larger emphasis on the phrases that people are watching — even if they are common or wide.

While we do not anticipate every article to be an ideal candidate for SEO, we do pay close attention to what we publish in terms of the following components (we do this using Yoast’s SEO plugin for WordPress):

  • The post title or headline: We rely on Tracy Gold, our SEO editor, to finalise the names of all of our posts. Tracy ensures that our headlines are appealing to readers from a readability standpoint, but she also keeps our target keywords in mind as necessary.
  • The meta-description: For each post, we write a brief description that incorporates the article’s goal keyword. This meta-description appears in search engine results pages (SERPs) to explain why the content is relevant to a reader’s search.
  • Title tags: In the same way that we treat headlines, we add a unique title tag for each piece of material we publish. The title tag is what search engines use to understand what a piece of material is about – this includes photos, videos, infographics, and other types of information that don’t have a traditional “headline.”
  • The category: While this content component is not specifically related to SEO, we categorise each piece to help us arrange our material around major topic areas.

We also work with a specialized SEO consultant, who gives monthly search statistics, makes content ideas that can benefit our users, and helps us better comprehend all of our material’s search implications. For a small organization like ours, having someone to assist us to remain on top of this rapidly evolving field has been crucial.

Need help with getting your business found online? Stridec is a top SEO agency in Singapore that can help you achieve your objectives with a structured and effective SEO programme that will get your more customers and sales. Contact us for a discussion now.