What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is one of several tools in the field of marketing. But don’t let the little word “tool” fool you. Content marketing is extensive, affects almost every facet of business, and is both technical and creative.
As you understand more about content marketing, you’ll realize that a huge percentage of your day-to-day activity relates to it.
Although interesting, this still doesn’t get us to the bottom of what content marketing is.
The Content Marketing Institute wrote a fantastic definition of content marketing. It’s a tad complex for a beginner though. For this article, let’s use a simple definition from Robert Katai, a content strategist:
“Content marketing is the use of any type of content to help meet a marketing goal.”
Love that simplicity – let’s go with that for now!
(For a more in-depth look, download my Six Step Content Marketing Framework. It’s really quite good.)
What is SEO?
SEO, which stands for Search Engine Optimization, is a scary term – it sounds like you need a Masters of Engineering to figure it out. But have no fear! I will break it down into a simpler idea:
Good SEO makes your content more visible by helping it rank higher in search engine results.
I’ll admit, that’s a pretty short definition. But hopefully it helps you understand SEO at it’s most basic level (I added “hopefully” because it took me 30 minutes to whittle down that definition from where I started!).
So let’s move forward with our simple definitions in hand…
Get Cozy with Your Target Audience
You didn’t think we could skip talking about your target audience in a content marketing article, did you? After all, you shouldn’t write a single sentence without knowing who you’re writing it for.
I’ll save the buyer persona deep dive for another article. But, only if you promise to remember to learn the demographics, psychographics (attitude, emotions, values, etc.) and pain points of your ideal customer. Knowing these details and creating a buyer persona with them will help you decide what to write about.
Think about their possible wins and challenges and create your content to entertain them and/or solve their problems.
The other “must know info” is your company’s goals. Yes, you want to create content that your reader trusts, enjoys and learns from, but you also run a company. You need to balance audience needs with your company goals.
This is not to say every piece of content has to end with a sales pitch – we’re much more subtle than that. But, you must write every piece of content with an end goal in mind.
Your company may have one goal or it may have several goals (one or two is best). For this example, let’s say your business goal is to build your email list. Your content should be so entertaining that the reader wants to immediately sign up for your newsletter. Or, your article should be so informative that the reader wants to download the gated content upgrade.
This is the desired balance: delight your customer while at the same time moving your company closer to its goals.
Now you know who you’re writing for and what goals you want to meet with your content. Next step? Figuring out what the heck to write about.
This leads us to one of the greatest overlap between content marketing and SEO: keywords. A keyword is a word or a phrase that a person types into a search engine to find some type of information. A keyword can be one word or it can be several words (known as a keyword phrase).
Most often, a person will type in a question they want answering, such as “why does Scrappy-Doo speak when Scooby-Doo can only grunt?”
A search engine is like a guy who hangs out all day finding answers to peoples’ questions. You want him to answer these people with your article or blog post. So, when a potential customer types a question with a keyword, the search engine guy matches it to the highest quality content and website that uses that same keyword. And if your blog post matches the criteria, it could be the first answer the search engine guy gives people.
Anything that appears on the first page of a search engine results pages (SERP) is excellent. Showing up on that front page brings visibility, authority and sales to your company.
But how do you get a picky search engine to serve up your quality content on that front page? You make sure your content is optimized for search engines, or in other words, you concentrate on SEO when you write.
Use customer and competitor research to find keywords that people are using in their searches. Then use Google Keyword Planner to analyze the best keywords based on volume and competition.
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, create content that is search engine optimized for your chosen keywords. Use words and phrases in your writing like your customers would say them. This is also known as using natural language. (If you’re a word nerd like me and want to know the exact definition for everything, click on natural language.)
Use words and phrases in your writing like your customers would say them. This is also called natural language. Click To Tweet
This is a simplified version of SEO research, but it outlines the basics you need to know:
- Brainstorm keywords using customer and competitor data.
- Discover which keywords are the most valuable using Google Keyword Planner or another research tool.
- Create content that naturally uses those keywords (with a bit of maneuvering, as you’ll soon see).
Editorial Calendar with Topics and Keywords
Now you’ll need something to help you plan your content and use your keywords effectively. Here enters the editorial calendar.
The calendar can be a simple spreadsheet or paper planner, as long as you include the important, relevant information in it. Ideally, you will update your calendar every quarter, but you can also plan out 6 months to the whole year in advance.
Let’s say you plan on publishing a blog post every Monday. Then every Monday, your calendar should include a working title and the keyword(s) being used. Even better, note on your calendar who is writing the content and when it will be completed, graphics and all.
After the publish date, you can also use your calendar to show how and when you will promote the blog post.
And, don’t forget to consider your marketing campaigns. Be sure to schedule content using the appropriate keywords in the weeks before a promotion. This will bring more traffic to your website and product.
Optimizing Content for Search Engines
When creating content with SEO in mind, there are variables you can control, from the quality of your writing to the way it’s coded “behind the scenes” of your website.
First I am going to list what you should focus on when you’re writing, then I’ll explain what you should pay attention to when you’re coding, publishing and promoting the content.
(Warning: you are about to proceed into an extremely dry area of this post. Please stay alert and remember, if you feel sleepy, drink coffee or come back sometime in the future. Safety first!)
SEO Content: Written
- Content is high quality: relevant, fresh and edited.
- Keyword is in the headline, preferably towards the beginning.
- Keyword is in at least one subheadline.
- Keyword is used about 2-3 times in an average length article, more in long-form content.
- Include a few related keywords or keyword phrases (for more info, read about LSI.)
- Use photos or graphics that are related to the subject matter/keyword.
- Use the keyword in your captions.
- The length of your articles will vary, but most experts agree that around 2,000 words is optimal for SEO.
- Include actionable advice or content upgrades to encourage sharing and repeat traffic.
SEO Content: Technical
- The keyword is used in the H1 tag.
- The keyword is used in at least one H2 or H3 tag.
- The keyword is used at least 2-3 times in the body text <p>.
- Include the keyword in the page URL (permalink).
- Include the keyword in the title tag, which is no more than 50-60 characters.
- The meta description should contain your keyword and is no more than 300 characters.
- The image alt text should contain your keyword.
- Use a social media plugin to encourage readers to easily share your content.
- Link to several reputable sources.
- Link to your own posts and pages whenever possible.
- Use your keyword in only one anchor text (used related keywords in any others).
- If applicable, create a gated content upgrade and automated email follow up.
- Verify that your post (actually, your whole website) is mobile responsive.
SEO Content: Publish/Promote
- Post your content on social media to encourage sharing and backlinks.
- Send out a link to the content in your email list to encourage sharing and backlinks.
- Actively search out opportunities for backlinks from other bloggers or websites.
- Use public relations outreach to place your content on other sites or publications.
- Identify opportunities to use your content and keyword in paid search, social or advertising.
- Update your content periodically to keep it accurate and “fresh.”
Content and SEO Analysis
As with any other marketing campaign, you need to analyze your SEO and content to see what’s working. If your campaign was successful, you’ll want to understand and duplicate it.
While examining your analytics, if you notice one of your articles is getting lots of shares, you can assume it is a high-value piece. In that case, you may want to pay to promote it on a social media platform so it receives even more exposure.
If a post isn’t being shared or commented on, it may need some writing tweaks or additional optimization.
Some of the key performance indicators (KPIs) that will help you measure the success of your SEO content are backlinks, comments, pageviews or social media shares.
If something isn’t working, change or improve it. Keep your editorial calendar flexible so you can incorporate new content based on your successes.
Besides the ongoing analysis of your content, you should strive to keep your articles updated. New and refreshed content helps you continue to reap benefits from SEO. Here are some suggestions:
- Add, refresh or change your article’s content upgrade.
- Update any statistics or facts used in the post.
- Check for broken links.
- Review your technical SEO for accuracy.
- Add new content to increase the value and/or length of a post.
SEO Plug-Ins for WordPress
Keeping up with the frequent changes in SEO and remembering every “best practice” can be daunting. But then…with a quick leap to the rescue…
(Cue exciting intro music.)
…comes a fine selection of SEO plugins for WordPress. They will handle tasks like:
- Analyzing your keyword optimization
- Checking for duplicate content
- Examining post readability
- Submitting sitemaps automatically
- Generating meta tags automatically
…and other tasks small and large, depending upon the plugin.
Here are my top choices for SEO plugins with links to where you can download or buy them:
- Yoast SEO (I use Yoast SEO Premium and it’s the bomb! It even helps me with my social media graphics and commentary. I get so excited – and I’m not even an affiliate!)
- All in One SEO Pack
- The SEO Framework
- SEO Squirrly
- Rank Math
I realize this has been a lot of information on a small screen space.
If you have any questions at all, or would like me to expand on any of the topics I wrote about, please toss me an email.
In the meantime, don’t forget to download the most awesome SEO checklist ever!
Now you’ll never forget an SEO duty and ruin your company’s entire content marketing campaign!! (Okay, I’ll admit that’s an exaggeration – but the checklist is still awesome!)