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Content marketing & SEO often goes hand-in-hand. A proper reverse-engineered content promotion strategy – coupled with the right data – can create bursts of attention followed by sustained, long-term traffic.
When making SEO a priority, it can be easy to measure up against competitors. As a result, content loses originality. It fails to stand tall and shine in a sea of content playing by the same rules.
Great SEO-driven content should accomplish the following:
- Alleviate the challenges and deliver specific solutions to make your audience happy,
- Deliver value that answers every single question they have, and
- Make Google happy from a data-driven perspective
In this article, we’ll outline the content marketing & SEO methodology we use to help companies get results like this:
- Fintech company: 25% month-on-month increase in search traffic (~10,000 visitors to ~32,000 in 6 months)
- SaaS company: An extra 10,000 organic visitors a month
- Consulting company: 1,185% increase in search traffic in 12 months
🤫 We’ve included anonymized data throughout this article. Want to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes? Get in touch.
A content research methodology to optimize success
Research is what will make or break your content marketing efforts. It’s a delicate balancing act. In order to capture visibility in the SERPs, your content must:
- Target keywords relevant to your audience & brand
- Satisfy the Google monster, and
- Delight your audience, empower them and give them answers
As well as a data-driven approach, your research must also be qualitative. At the very least, your process should uncover the following:
- An understanding of current trends
- Analysis of content competitors and their high-performing articles
- Customer interviews to generate insights
- Need identification (challenges, pain-points, desires, etc.)
- Keyword research
- Funnel mapping (how the content serves the audience)
- Topic ideation
Content competitors are the brands or publications that are attracting the same audience as you. They may not sell competing products, but they are fighting for the attention of your customers.
It’s also one of our favorite places to start with data-driven research. With the right approach (and tools), you can identify upcoming market trends, common audience challenges and uncover keywords you may not have thought of.
But the most important part of content research is understanding your customers.
This means getting on the phone and conducting customer interviews. If there’s friction, start with your sales or customer support teams. They talk to your customers on a daily basis and hear the same questions, objections and pain points regularly.
The insight and data you collect through these approaches is your ideation fuel. Use it to prioritize topics, set content objectives and map them to the funnel.
Funnels, flywheels and spaghetti hoops – the trusty marketing funnel is under scrutiny in today’s marketing landscape. However, funnels are still a useful tool to help you give your audience the information they need, when they need it.
They control the customer journey. But you can still give them the stepping stones that help them navigate it. That’s what a marketing funnel should do.
Some topics may not have a large search demand, and that’s ok. Your content strategy should be fueled by satisfying market needs, not by search data alone.
A process for comprehensive & original content
Once you’ve prioritized your topics, it’s time to plan and produce your content. At Grizzle, we do this using a “Content Framework”, which covers the objective of the content, search data, target audience information and an outline.
In order to create content that ticks all the boxes, we use a planning methodology that defines the high-level strategy of an article as well as the nuances and details it should contain. A macro/micro approach.
Let’s say we’re creating an article on “transcendental meditation”, with the objective to rank for that keyword. As SEO is the main goal here, the macro-level planning would include an opportunity analysis. This should include the following:
- Content Competition: How comprehensive is the existing content? Does it include proprietary assets we don’t have access to? What are the gaps we can fill?
- Backlink Competition: How many referring domains does each piece of competing content have? Is the competition moderate or fierce?
- Content Opportunities: What do we need to do in order to overcome the competition, and create the most valuable piece of content available for our audience.
On a micro-level, consider sub-topics that would make the content original. For example, can you add unique stories, original insights or influencer quotes? There are dozens of ways to inject originality into your content.
Use this same philosophy throughout the content production process. Start by identifying “expansion threads” – areas of your content that can be expanded upon with more granular insights, advice and how-to information. “Value bombs”, as we sometimes like to call them.
To summarize: Macro/micro mapping means taking a high-level approach to what your content must look like in order to succeed, as well as the details that will ultimately make it original.
A data-driven editorial processes
I won’t wax lyrical about the need for polished, high-quality content here. You already know that a solid editorial process is key for a strong content strategy.
Instead, let’s focus on how we use data to help the process. Using data-driven tools and a general understanding of our audience, we’re more likely to create the best content possible.
Clearscope is invaluable for this process. It helps us identify common themes and weave a logical narrative. For example, here are some relevant terms for the keyword “smart casual:”
Of course, common sense is required. You can’t simply shoehorn a phrase into your content just to tick a box. Look for how to add an original spin on important terms, and use them as a guide when planning content from a macro/micro perspective.
An 80/20 approach to promotion
When publishing content, many marketers go on a promotion spree, spamming every channel they feel is relevant.
However, for pure-play SEO, you don’t need to go nuts. Select a handful of channels where your audience is active, and promote your content there in a contextual manner.
Why? Because if you did your homework correctly, your content should do the heavy lifting. A handful of promotion channels will help get your content on Google’s radar. As a bonus, it’s likely you’ll attract targeted eyeballs in the first seven days of publishing.
I’m not downplaying the importance of promotion and distribution. Depending on your strategy, and how competitive your niche is, a robust distribution strategy is critical.
However, for SEO-driven content that relies on a reliable publishing schedule, focus on content quality.
What about link building?
In short: Link building isn’t always necessary. For example, we managed to get this Sales Hacker article ranked #1 without any link building, appearing above the likes of HubSpot for our target keyword:
And it’s not an isolated occasion. We recently helped a fintech client rank on page one for a term with over 400,000 monthly searches and a keyword difficulty of 57/100 (according to Ahrefs).
How? Because we committed to creating something 10 times better than the competition. Pick your link building battles and focus on the topics and keywords that need it most.
Getting better SEO results requires the best content. But before you can do that, you need to identify the right topics.
This means understanding your audience’s challenges and needs at all stages of the funnel. Use the funnel as a guide to deliver the right content at the right time.
Ultimately, focus on creating content that delivers long-term nurturing opportunities, while simultaneously catering to visitors who are ready to buy.