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. 

7 steps to a successful SEO content strategy

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. Here are seven steps to create one.

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. The more inputs you have into your SEO content strategy, from your SEO team 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 search engine results page (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 your SEO content strategy and content ideas

SEO isn’t just about your website’s backend architecture, or the way things are laid out on a page. The content of a given page is also a critical component of SEO and should speak directly to what users are searching for. 

Content quality

Search engines prioritize pages with high-quality content over those that are spammy or don’t provide valuable information. Google in particular looks for content that follows its E-A-T guidelines, which pertain to a page’s Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness. This is especially the case for pages about medical, financial, and health topics.

Content relevance

The goal of search engines is to present content to searchers that is most likely to be helpful for their query. Keyword research can reveal topics that are of interest to your audience, while also helping you better understand their voice and what’s important to them.

Collaborating with SEO resources

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 content 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 SEO 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: Create evergreen content

Creating evergreen content can have a meaningful impact on your SEO content strategy. It requires less updating than timely content and can rank well for keywords with lots of search volume. 

The longer a piece of content is relevant in search, the more opportunity it has to climb the SERPs. Your content has huge potential to rank and drive organic traffic to your site for years to come.

While you’ll want to create evergreen content that is specific to your industry and audience, here are a few tips to get you started when creating your content.

How to come up with evergreen content Ideas

Content ideas can come from a variety of places, including from within your content team, from customers, from other stakeholders at your company, from industry trends, or from anything that inspires you. 

Here are a few methods to help you come up with innovative and effective approaches for your SEO content strategy:

  • Find opportunities by doing keyword research. Keyword research allows you to understand how your audience talks about a topic. In addition, keyword research can help you discover new opportunities for content that you may not have considered before.
  • Ask customers for feedback. Asking your customers may sound like too simple of an idea, but often there are plenty of questions they have about your product or service that you can answer with content.
  • Put yourself in the shoes of your audience. When you’re brainstorming new content ideas, think about what your customer finds engaging or helpful. Explore how those ideas could work with your SEO content strategy. Check out sites with question-and-answer features like Quora to discover what topics people are asking about.
  • Brainstorm with other teams at your company. Organization-wide knowledge is a powerful tool when coming up with new content ideas. For example, your customer support team should have plenty of insight into the day-to-day problems that customers have. And your sales team will know which solutions potential customers need the most.
  • Peek at what your competition is writing about. Your SEO content strategy should always involve being aware of the topics your competition is writing about. Understanding how they approach a topic will help you differentiate your voice, approach, and content from theirs. With enough digging, you’ll identify gaps in their content strategy, which is an opportunity to create something to fill that gap.

How to write evergreen content

As you write, keep in mind that content creation is a living, breathing process. If you notice something is wrong with the angle you took or the content format you chose, take a step back. The content creation process should be fluid and you may need to adjust your SEO content strategy as you go along.

Here are a few ideas for creating innovative, and effective content:

  • Address industry concepts. There are plenty of industry concepts you can speak to or terms you can help explain for your audience. Consider yourself the expert in your field and take this opportunity to educate your audience with carefully crafted content.
  • Answer questions your customers frequently ask. Look at the questions your customers consistently ask. Creating content around these questions will continue to be valuable.
  • Write “how-to” content. How-to content (how to use a product, how to find a service, etc.) makes for great early-stage evergreen content. However, be wary that you may need to return to your content and update it as new information comes around.
  • Return to your value propositions. What’s the basic value proposition behind what you offer? If you strip away the excess information and speak directly to your value propositions, you’ll have the best chance of creating content that is relevant to your business. Features and products come and go, but the very core of your business is the value proposition behind your existence and SEO content strategy.

The ROI of an evergreen content strategy

The potential ROI of your evergreen content is high when you do it right. This type of content can drive traffic to your website for years to come, and sometimes without making any updates to the content. 

With a strong keyword strategy, the right topic focus, and informational content, you could be well on your way to SEO success.

While evergreen content can last forever, SEO rankings don’t always follow suit. Even though your content has the potential to last forever on the web, rankings are constantly changing as search engines update their algorithms and change the way results are shown to users. If you are able to get your evergreen content in a featured snippet or answer box, for instance, make sure you’re monitoring closely.

Even if the content you’ve published is still as true as the day you wrote it, the way people search is changing. If you revisit your content and update it based on any changes you see in rankings, you’ll get the best ROI for your efforts.

Step 6: Measure

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.

Aspects 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.

Setup and configuration

Configure your tracking technology to understand your content wins and losses.

Set up page groups on meaningful parts of your business. Examples might include:

  • Product categories
  • Sections of your site (pillar pages, blog, product pages, etc.)
  • Authors (journalist A, freelancer B, employee C)

Set up keyword groups to see when your website is visible for topics important to your SEO content strategy. Examples might include:

  • Branded
  • Non-branded
  • Topics
  • Funnel stage

Step 7: Create reports to identify SEO success

Reports allow you to continuously improve your SEO content strategy and communicate the impact to other parts of your organization. Reports can help you get more resources by showing the ROI and market share available.

Think of SEO content reporting in terms of questions:

  • Are new content pages performing well? Are they bringing in new organic traffic? 
  • Are we hitting our targets for rankings and organic traffic?
  • Do competitors rank important keywords that we don’t?
  • Has the conversion rate improved or declined for important pieces of content?
  • Have we gained or lost visibility for important pieces of content? 
  • Have we successfully created or optimized content that’s visible for target keywords?
  • How does our organic market share compare to that of the competition?
  • If we had more resources to create more content, what ROI could we achieve?
  • What are our top 10 most visited pages for organic search?
  • Which of our writers have created content that brings in the most organic traffic?

How your SEO strategy gets your content visible

Content involves brainstorming, researching, designing, and much more. After an influx of traffic from your distribution channels, your content might not get much traction. People won’t find it if it doesn’t rank.

Results can be erratic when you depend on spurts of traffic to drive your SEO content strategy. On the other hand, just one piece of content that ranks well has the potential to deliver more value than the rest of your content marketing plan combined.

If you’ve already created content, you need to ensure that people find it and see it. The following SEO content strategy workflow can help.

Identify the trends and topics that your customers are searching for

Come up with an initial list of topics with your team, and then use a keyword research tool to decide which topics will resonate best with your audience.

Analyzing topics enables your marketing team to prioritize and focus on using the phrases that will drive the best results. There are a number of factors to look at when determining the value of a given keyword:

  • Search volume – On average (usually monthly), how many people search the keyword or phrase?
  • Intent – Is the person searching on the keyword looking for information or are they looking to buy?
  • Competition – How difficult will it be for your website to rank for the keyword?
  • Relevance – Does the keyword align with and have the same meaning as your product or service?

Know which types of content resonate the most with your audience

Now that you have your topics, decide which format your content should take – articles, videos, images, etc. Search for the topics you’re focusing on and look at the types of content that rank in the SERPs. You’ll see formats like:

  • Answer boxes
  • In-depth articles
  • Local packs
  • Videos
  • News
  • Social posts
  • Images

Search engines now include various types of search results depending on the query, so build your SEO content strategy accordingly. An SEO platform is a great way to see how those formats vary across search locations and devices. It helps you manage, implement, and measure your brand’s presence in digital channels like Google’s organic listings.

Explore the top ranking results and click on some of the listings to get a better understanding of the content and page structure your competitors have. Don’t copy their strategy, but instead model your content after what ranks in SERPs and do it better.

Create content for the right customer at the right stage of their journey

Spend time thinking about how the content you’re creating fits into your SEO strategy. Content mapping will help you complement the assets you have by filling gaps instead of creating redundant content and get qualified traffic by mapping your content to the right customer.

Map your content to the buyer’s journey this way:

  • Define your buying personas: To understand the journey your buyers take, first understand who they are.
  • Understand the journey your buyers take: Once you understand who your buyers are, the next step is to figure out how they move throughout their buying process.
  • Map content to the buyer’s journey: The next step is to map content that addresses the challenges your customers face at each step in the process. The goal of your content should be to sufficiently address the buyer’s challenge such that they feel confident about moving on to the next stage in the process and help them to transition into the next stage.

When you’ve created a map for your SEO content strategy, you’ll be able to see where the cracks and gaps are. Look for opportunities to create content where you’re not visible. Optimize content that’s visible but not converting.

Optimize content to maximize your strategy’s ROI

Improving and optimizing the assets you have is critical for the success of your SEO content strategy. Big payoffs came come from small amounts of work.

Your content should be high quality, relevant to search queries. Optimize page elements like headings, images, title tags, meta descriptions, and body copy. Paying attention to on-page SEO includes focusing on SERPs (search engine results pages). This will boost your website traffic and mean higher ranking status on Google. 

Ultimately, optimization is an experiment. You’ll find that some things work while others have no impact, and you need to make changes accordingly. Here are some things you may want to try:

  • Update and improve upon the quality of your content to better fit buyer personas and customer journey stages.
  • Break up large pieces of content into smaller, more focused pieces.
  • Combine small pieces of content into one large piece and redirect existing posts to strengthen the authority of a single page.
  • Improve your internal linking structure – valuable, authoritative pages (the ones you want to rank) should have links pointing to them from other pages on site.
  • Try A/B testing and change aspects of a page like colors, fonts, images, and CTAs to see what converts best.

As you experiment with SEO, keep a record of the changes you’ve made for each page and when those changes took place.

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