Step Three of the SEO Process: Content Strategy

Content strategy: failing to plan is planning to fail.

This is the third part of a three part series on the SEO process.  If you have not yet read part 1 or 2, visit our post on technical SEO and the second post on local SEO. Establishing a content strategy before you do anything is going to be key to building a successful SEO plan.  A well-designed content strategy will potentially:
  • drive new clients to your business
  • serve as a testament to your expertise when customers are vetting and comparing you to other options
  • help you to serve your current customers by saving you time on the phone because you can simply direct them to blog posts or videos on your site
  • send solid signals to search engines communicating what your website is about
A poorly-designed content strategy will:
  • lack direction
  • have huge gaps in topics, missing key issues that your customers want information about
  • be inconsistent in publishing, with periods of new blogs followed by weeks or months of nothing new being produced
  • speak about topics that your customers don’t care about
  • promote your content in the wrong places
  • not send a clear message to search engines about your business

STEP ONE: WHOM ARE YOU WRITING FOR AND WHAT DOES HE OR SHE NEED?

Who is your audience?  What problems do they have?  Can you answer any of the questions that they may have?  What can you teach them? Figuring out whom to talk to will help you to determine what to talk to him or her about.  Client-facing employees are key to this part of the process; they understand the pain points of your customers and what you can do to address those pain points.
START OFF BY CREATING PERSONAS
Your content strategy begins and ends with your audience.  The best way to start off your content planning is to create actual personas that represent the audience that you wish to reach.  Let’s show you an example from our own content strategy:   This is Tom. He is a plumber that used to work for a well-known plumbing company in the Cherry Hill area, but has since gone off on his own.  He thought that he would be able to get work from referrals, but things have been slow.  He wants to start getting some business online, so he has a site built by someone that his cousin knows.  A few months have gone by and he is still not really getting any business, so he starts doing some research online to find out “how to get to #1 on Google.”   He wants to know:
  • how SEO works and how much it costs
  • how long it will take him to start getting business if he does some SEO
  • what Google Adwords is, since he’s seen it mentioned in a few blogs
EMPATHIZE WITH YOUR PERSONA
There will be Toms, Marys, and Josefinas that you will create.  They will be composites of customers that you have met in the past and you will be familiar with the problems and concerns that they have.  Create the persona, empathize with her, really get into the psychology of what she wants and why she wants it, and craft your content strategy around her.  Are you going to write some blogs?  Shoot some video?  How high quality does the video need to be?  How in-depth are you going to get with each topic?  How is each piece of content going to fit into the puzzle of helping this persona?
EXAMPLE OF WHAT A POST IS GOING TO LOOK LIKE
As you may imagine, this blog post is talking to Tom, someone that has never heard of content marketing.  He gets his info on the topic that I’m writing about on Google, so I’m going to create content specifically for that medium and that’s where I’m likely to promote it.  If I knew that Tom really spends a lot of time on Instagram, it might behoove me to try to create content that would reach him there and drive him to my site, but luckily, he is on a platform that I know plenty about and this is where I’m creating content for him.  I’m trying to teach him the basics of how to do SEO and content marketing, not to give him a sales pitch.  I know that he’s not an expert and he just wants a high level explanation of how to rank higher on the search engine.  Since content is a part of that, I’m teaching him to do it in a way that is more likely to work than letting him waste time by blogging about random topics. If I had decided that the audience that I wanted to reach was Gina, the director of marketing at a local college in Philadelphia, this entire post would have been different.  I would have gotten into how I use a tool such as Ahrefs.com to uncover topics that competitors are ranking for but that are missing from my site.  I would have gone in depth to show how she can use a similar tool to inform her content strategy with data.  Getting into a topic like that would be way over Tom’s head, so I don’t even mention it, but down the road I’ll get into that other topic for that other persona I want to reach.
GET THE PICTURE?
Great.  Get out the sticky notes, start jotting down all the questions that you regularly get from clients, and start figuring out the best way to answer them through your content.

STEP 2: CREATE A CONTENT CALENDAR

Now that you’ve identified all of the problems that you are going to address for Tom, Mary, and Josefina, you need to plan when you are going to address these problems and you need to stick with it.  Plan to create at least one piece of content a week; preferably, you should create 3.  This content can be a video, a blog, an infographic, or maybe even photography; the format doesn’t matter as much as the pain points it addresses.  You need to sit down with an actual calendar and answer the following questions:
  • Which persona will each post talk to and what problem will it solve for that persona?
  • When are you going to create the content?  Will you create it as you go or write it in big batches and schedule the publishing for future dates?  How are you going to ensure that you are sticking to the planned schedule?
  • How do the posts relate to one another?  How are you going to manage internal linking from older posts to newer posts?

STEP 3: CREATE A PLAN TO PROMOTE YOUR CONTENT

Now it is time to get back to the topic of where your clients are online.  Creating content that no one ever finds is not going to be particularly helpful to your online strategy.  You are going to come up with a strategy for reaching these clients, be it by reading blogs that they read, participating in forums or FB groups, or even through paid advertising. The best suggestion that I can give you is to test out a few different options.  Put equal time and effort into each one, then check your analytics to see what seems to be driving traffic.  This will help you to identify the platforms that you should be using to promote your content as you move forward, while giving you a clearer picture of the types of content that your customers want to read.  Even if these visitors do not turn into paying customers, the volume of visits to your site and the time that they spend there will serve as signals to the search engine that there is good content on your site, increasing the likelihood of your page popping up for the “money keywords” that you’re hoping to rank for.

STEP 4: CREATE, LEARN, ITERATE

Start creating content.  Check your analytics regularly.  Learn what topics seem to interest your visitors.  Find out what sites are sending your traffic.  Use all of this information as you move forward.  By using data to gain insights into what seems to be working for the content strategy supporting your SEO efforts, you are much more likely to stick to topics that resonate with your readers, sending valuable signals to the search engines, while creating goodwill by helping people, and establishing yourself as an authority in the field that you work in.

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