Creating content that’s as commercially successful as it is brilliantly crafted, is a high-wire act of data-defying skills. So, what brings it all together?
Expertly written – tick. Commercially driven – tick. Strategically aligned – tick.
Even if you have a Walkley Award-winning writer, who can combine the storytelling skills of Dickens with the verbal acrobatics of Jay-Z, if no one reads your copy, your business can’t benefit, and your brand stays invisible. If you want to drive free, sustainable traffic, your content has to rank. If it doesn’t – and you don’t have a sophisticated paid distribution strategy in place – it’s largely worthless.
The relationship between brilliant content and ranking comes down to one thing – writing for SEO. Without knowing how to use SEO, all you have is a bunch of words on a page.
Understanding what SEO content marketing is, how to use it for the best commercial outcomes and, perhaps most importantly, how to strike the right balance between too much and not enough, are the basic lessons you’ll need to fully optimise your content map.
Lesson 1: Understanding SEO
Search engine optimisation (yes, we all know that’s SEO, but we’re writers here, so we’re following the rules!) is a process by which you can improve the way content engages an audience, increasing the amount of traffic – or eyes – to your website.
Written content for SEO has four primary components:
Here, we’re going to focus on the on-page keywords and how to get them shaking. (Like a good martini, each ingredient is key to getting a decent buzz, so do your research to make sure you’re nailing the other elements, too.)
Optimisation of content has one dedicated aim – to connect your desired audience with your brand.
Think about it. If you’re a health and wellness business, you don’t want to waste time targeting people who don’t align with your values, or don’t resonate with the conditions you’re able to treat. Instead you should be writing for an audience that is seeking out the specific information you’re willing to share.
SEO content marketing, with data-driven keywords injected into your content at pivotal points, will result in output that speaks directly to your ideal demographic.
One frustration of SEO is the fierce competitiveness of keywords, which often makes it impossible to rank, even when you have all the SEO touch points that we’re going to lay out here. The good news is that like any well-honed muscle, all SEO needs is a decent massage to make it work. In short, the better you know your brand, business and audience, the more specific and successful writing content for SEO can be.
Lesson 2: Keywords and how to find them
The clue is in the name. Keywords are the keys that unlock access to your desired audience. Without the right keywords, your kick-ass content won’t reach the people most likely to engage with your business.
At ULab, the process of identifying keywords starts with a deep-dive interrogation of you, your business and your desired demographic. Mapping out a blueprint of your business is the first step in the SEO content marketing journey.
User intent, ie what your customer wants and needs, is a big part of this – it’s important to understand more about what it is and how to make it work for you.
While our data genius Nidhi Rajan will take all this juicy research and work her magic to ID your keywords through current trends and patterns, there are ways to do it yourself.
The Holy Grail of Search Engines — you might know it as Google — offers a number of free tools.
Google is really the only search engine that matters today. More than 88% of all web searches are conducted through Google, so it’s the obvious place to start.
Check out Google Search Console if you feel your existing content isn’t hitting the keyword mark. Google Trends will help pinpoint popular phrases, topics and words that your potential audience is using for search most commonly, which can help guide your keyword selection.
Some good paid tools include Google Keyword Planner, SEMRush and Answer the Public, all of which provide keyword guidance plus a load of data that will help you drill down to what keywords are most popular, and which ones might benefit your business most in a competitive space.
An important part of keyword identification is the difference between primary and secondary keywords, and how to manipulate both across your content.
Primary keywords are your stars. The top-ranking, must-have words or phrases that should be front and centre across your content piece.
Secondary keywords are like backing singers. They aren’t as obvious, but they’re always there, making the performance that much better.
Examples of primary and secondary keywords might be:
It’s important to note that keywords don’t have to appear within content verbatim each time you use them. A combination of keywords, or something very close to them, will also contribute to ranking. Some examples might be:
Lesson 3: Where to position keywords
While it’s all very well identifying what your desired demographic is searching for, if you don’t inject these keywords into the right spaces, writing content for SEO still won’t rank. And if your content doesn’t rank, your website will be forever left to linger in the wasteland that is page two of Google search results. Sad face.
Your keywords, or some iteration of them need to appear in the:
Lesson 4: Why maths and SEO content marketing are such good buddies
While great content is about words, SEO loves numbers, too, and there are a few equations you need to write content for SEO that hits the sweet spot and ranks on page one of Google results.
If you thought Twitter was only the only place you had to care about the character count, think again — those pesky little things are all over your SEO strategy, as follows:
Your page title should be between 30-60 characters. Any more than 60 characters and your page title gets cut off, or Google rewrites it for you completely.
Your meta description should be no more than 150 characters. Again, any more than this and Google will cut you off, leaving your reader wondering if you’re really the right place to click (just to be sure, pack your keywords into the first half of the description).
Only 1-2% of your content text should be keywords. Depending on the length of the article, the number of keywords that equates to 1-2% density is going to differ, but it’s vital to do the math. Too few keywords and Google won’t rank you. Too many — it’s called keyword stuffing — and not only will it annoy your potential audience, Google will penalise you for trying to manipulate the results at the expense of decent content. Have a read of the text. If it sounds unnatural, start deleting.
An example of keyword stuffing:
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Lesson 5: Track the rank and build a dashboard
So far, so good. You’ve done the research, you’ve used primary and secondary keywords in appropriate amounts across all content touchpoints, and your reader experience hasn’t been adversely affected. What now? You need to know if it’s working.
Tracking how your content is ranking is the final piece of the content strategy puzzle. It will indicate if your research and/or execution needs tweaking, or is on point.
Building a Google Analytics dashboard will help you track how content performs over time, enabling you to compare certain trends or seasons. We recommend you track the following metrics (while you can add more layers, the following is the minimum required to effectively track and understand how your content is performing):
Having the ability to monitoring your content’s performance will allow you to hyper-focus on what content is working hardest for you, and will help guide your content map moving forwards. It will also expose any weak links and areas of the business that need more attention.
Getting your head around what SEO is, why it’s important, plus understanding the tools you need to make it work, is key to driving your business outcomes and ensuring your content is working as hard as it can. Invest the time now, and your business will benefit into the future.
We think our eDM Story Lab is pretty cool – hopefully you do too.