As a member of the content team at Conductor, an enterprise SEO marketing platform, I often serve as a guinea pig for our new product offerings for content marketers. I mean, everyone knows SEO and content are birds of a feather, right?
Many content marketers I speak to still see SEO as a technical checklist they have to use to get people to their content. They view SEO is a chore or a necessary evil or, dare I say it, a boring part of their jobs.
But they’re wrong too. Because SEO is a superpower for content marketers. It’s a direct connection to the customer voice. It’s the radioactive spider bite to the Peter Parker of content strategy. And, most importantly, it’s a way for content marketers to be more creative, not less.
So let me share three ways to evangelize SEO to your content marketing colleagues that will are guaranteed to win you some converts (and a closer relationship between SEO and content).
Content marketers know they have a responsibility to do keyword research for their content, but too often they approach it in a painfully old-school way: find an idea, create the content, then ret-con titles, headers, URLs, and other elements to align with keywords.
On enterprise marketing teams, that might be an even more protracted process, with SEOs providing keyword research to content marketers or optimizing content themselves independent from the content team.
One way our team has made keyword research not just an essential part of the content ideation process, but a creative exercise in itself is by creating keyword clouds as part of our brainstorming sessions.
In real time we use our own tool, Explorer, to use keyword research as a way to use a kind of data-driven lateral thinking. We come with ideas for content topics, and start throwing them in Explorer to see what comes out the other side, whiteboarding new ideas and connected concepts until we find a compelling and unique angle that also serves as a strong keyword strategy outline for the piece of content that feels holistic and true to the topic.
Plus we get to have a meeting in which other Conductors walking by see us creating enormous, semi-incomprehensible diagrams on a whiteboard while jumping around excitedly and shouting, which increases the mystique of the marketing team generally. So win-win.
Have you ever looked back at blog posts from years ago at your company? It’s like visiting the house you grew up in after other people have lived there for years. It’s familiar, yet infinitely strange. The hallways are the same, but all the furniture is just… weird.
That’s because the vast majority of content we create ends up in a great big ghost town that exists along the edges of our websites. There are some unicorns of course; pockets of civilization in the wasteland that still get traffic and hold a respectable position on the SERP. But most of it is only doing duty as an exercise in nostalgia.
That’s where SEO can make a huge difference to content marketing teams. We like to think about it in terms of calories: if you’ve expended calories (effort, budget, time) creating something, don’t you want the most out of it that you possibly can? At Conductor, our SEO and content specialist (let’s call them Matt and Amy, because those are their names) meet every other week for a meeting to discuss re-optimization and re-publication opportunities.
Matt, our SEO, comes with his recommendations for older content on the site that are solid candidates for either a re-op or a republish. Reoptimization candidates tend to be more recent and are usually pieces of content that are teetering on the edge of appearing on page 1 of a SERP and require small adjustments and edits to position them for success for those striking distance keywords. The higher the MSV on a striking distance keyword, the higher the priority for reoptimization.
We also look at blog posts that showed sudden drops in organic traffic, indicating something new is happening on the SERP or with the post. Matt brings that intelligence to the table, while Amy helps guide prioritization using her knowledge of the content strategy and current publication cadence and team bandwidth. She is also responsible for implementing the changes to the actual content.
Re-publication requires some more stringent qualifications for candidacy. The initial discovery process is the same, but the content itself is outdated or the striking distance keywords the content is ranking for are outside the core subject matter of the piece. Then the team collaborates to decide if it’s worthwhile to use the older piece of content as a base to create something better that aligns with the current content strategy and the SEO opportunity. If it is, we add it to the editorial calendar.
If the original content is too mis-aligned with either the current priorities on the content team or the keyword opportunity, then we have an additional potential source for brand new content.
Bounce rate is often the scourge of content teams because it’s hard to understand how to approach it: it’s great that somebody came to your site and interacted with a piece of content, but it also means we didn’t provide them with a tantalizing next step, i.e. another fantastic piece of content that aligns with what brought them there in the first place.
User paths on a website are where UX, content, and SEO come together. We need to understand where people are coming from, what appeals to them once they get to us, and how to get them to the next thing they need.
SEO helps us answer all of those questions, and create a content strategy that reflects the actual behavior of people once you connect with them. Those word clouds we talked about above? They give us insight into how different search queries connect with each other, and set us up to create multiple content touchpoints to keep people engaged beyond a single interaction.
We also can use SEO to look at the actual user paths from key pieces of content, and set up optimized next steps to bring people deeper into the site. Our SEO and content experts team up with our web development designers to make sure that those user paths are as seamless and comprehensive as possible.
We’ll be discussing all of this and more at our annual organic marketing conference, C3. So if you’re looking to meaningfully connect SEO and content on your team, we would love for you to join us.
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