An amazing content strategy is all for naught if your audience can’t find the content your brand is producing. Too often, SEO is tacked on as a “last thought” before publishing, rather than being integrated into a brand’s content strategy. But you can’t just “SEO” a piece of content after it’s already written.

This guide will provide the necessary steps to create a content strategy that is rooted in SEO. Your content strategy should serve multiple purposes throughout your company, providing relevant information to your audience, fulfilling marketing team needs and most importantly driving organic traffic to your website. When done right, a content strategy rooted in SEO will drive ROI and generate evergreen content that continues to perform month over month for your brand, far past its original publish date.

Step 1: Connect with your team’s SEO (or gain some new skills!)

If you are lucky enough to have SEO resources at your disposal, now is the time to get to know them a bit better. Great content is not created in a vacuum and the more inputs you have into your content strategy, from your SEO to your digital marketers, the more likely you are to hit your marketing goals.

If you are flying solo, the first thing you’ll want to focus on is learning how to conduct keyword research. There are a number of tools available through a simple google search.

Here is a quick step-by-step guide:

  • Step 1: Create a list of keywords relevant to your business. Make sure to consider evergreen and current topics.
  • Step 2: Bucket these based on keyword intent across buyer’s journey stages.
  • Step 3: Find latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords.
  • Step 4: Conduct competitive keyword research. Make a list of your competitors and determine where they are ranking for keywords you have identified.
  • Step 5: Check SERP rankings. Conduct your own Google searches for specific keywords and phrases to determine what type of content (and what brands) are ranking on the first page. This will not only give you insight into the content structure but the format high ranking content takes for particular keywords. Is a YouTube video ranking over a blog post? These are things to consider when setting your strategy.

Make sure to note the MSV of the keywords you are researching to discover which content pieces can potentially rank well for high-volume keywords.

Along with keyword research, you’ll also want to conduct competitive analysis. Determine what keywords you would like to rank for that your competitors are now capturing.

Step 2: Collaborate on ideas

If you are working with an SEO resource (and other members of your marketing team) it’s time to schedule a meeting to collaborate on ideas before you begin to build out your strategy and timeline. The content team members should be prepared to come to the table with a list of topic ideas. These can be based on content that has performed well in the past, seasonality, current/news-worthy content or internal requests the team receives. Your SEO team members should bring suggestions based on audience research, competitor analysis and subjects with high monthly search volume.

Once you have a comprehensive list of topic ideas you can begin to tag and segment these ideas by audience (persona) and high level topics. Often content teams have a few high level themes they aim to cover with the content they create. Bucket out the topics based on 3-4 themes you will focus on this year. This exercise will help ensure you have a well-rounded list of content ideas that appeal to your entire audience. If you find that you have far too much in one category or for one audience, it’s essential to examine why. Is it your primary audience? Then it’s probably ok to have content heavier weighted in that area. Does content around a particular topic perform significantly better than another? All of these considerations help you discover the right mix for your brand.

During this collaboration, it’s also important to discuss the format your content pieces will take. Consider what type of content ranks for particular topics. This is where consulting the SERP to determine if blogs, video, e-books etc. perform best for the topics you are planning to cover.

Step 3: Establish your Calendar

Once you’ve ironed out a comprehensive list of ideas and organized them by your audience and themes, it’s time to begin to build out your calendar. Before beginning, you’ll want to tag any topics that are seasonal or require publishing at a certain point throughout the year. Then consult your marketing calendar, are there particular events that require supporting content? Do you have annual releases you need to align with? Slot in those immovable dates next. Then you are ready to distribute the remaining content topics for the remaining opening slots.

It helps to build this out using a content planner or an old-fashioned Excel spreadsheet. If you are able to tag or color code your content assets by audience and topic, you’ll quickly be able to see when certain months are too heavy in a particular area.

Next, plan out your contributors. Will your content team be managing all content, do you have other contributors from your business or guest contributors? Will you be leveraging help externally? Loosely slot in these authors so that you can visually see month by month what your team’s workload will be. This will ensure that your content strategy can function with the resources you have.

Step 4: Process

Once your calendar is established, it’s time to outline your content creation process. For a content strategy rooted in SEO, your process must start with a content brief that incorporates SEO considerations. You must build in time to include conducting keyword research or make your SEO collaborate on your content brief. The imperative part of this process is that SEO is incorporated into the brief itself and not tacked onto a piece of content after it has already been drafted. This ensures a more organic streamlined approach that elevates your content.

Here are some input examples for a comprehensive content brief:

  • Content type
  • Target word count
  • Target audience
  • Topic
  • Background information (including resources)
  • Content Goals
  • Outline (including H2 Recommendations)
  • Key Takeaways
  • Keywords
  • Title
  • Meta Description

Step 5: Measurement

With your content strategy and calendar set it is time to establish your cadence for measurement. Setting up a structure for content measurement will help you ensure you are fulfilling your target goals and determine the impact incorporating SEO into your strategy has on your organic traffic. Measurement will differ for each brand based on your goals, tools and stakeholders.

Things to consider:

  • How often will you monitor performance?
  • What platform, database, dashboard will you utilize? (ensure you are employing the same data source as the rest of your team)
  • What stakeholders will need to review performance?
  • How will you measure and modify your content strategy to implement these findings?

There are many benefits to integrating SEO into your content strategy from improving your website’s organic traffic to creating more relevant and targeted content for your audience. Marketing teams that collaborate early and often in the strategy development stage achieve better agility allowing them to execute more efficiently and effectively surpassing their marketing goals.

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