In this blog, Aaron Carpenter, Senior Editor at The B2B Marketing Lab, explains how search engine optimisation (SEO) and creating great content for your website go hand-in-hand.
If content is the fuel that drives marketing campaigns – and marketing campaigns are the vehicle – then search engine optimisation (SEO) must be the component that makes the vehicle work.
SEO – for the best part of this decade – has always been at the core of creating great content. For every idea (no matter how good) there had to be a search term or keyword that could be associated with it. After all, how would people find the content if it wasn’t optimised for a known term?
Back then, SEO experts would agonise over best practice and what made content rank well after each algorithm update. In those days, there was a defined recipe for success and if you followed it, your content had a good chance of getting higher placements on search engine results pages.
It was all very systematic. SEO experts knew that if they used a certain amount of words on the page and a specific keyword x amount of times throughout the copy, it would rank better.
Nowadays, it's all about value and search is much more human. Following the rules set by companies like Google is no guarantee of success. In fact, the first rule of writing today is: know your audience.
So where do you get started?
Know the value of keywords and when not to get caught up on them
For any B2B company looking to get started with content marketing – blogging is by far the easiest (and most accessible) content format.
Keywords are still invaluable when it comes to content creation (and creating great content) – they just have less importance than they did five to ten years ago.
You may be wondering why and it’s because search engines are far more sophisticated and can understand the content you create. They’re less concerned about the terms you use and more about the context of what you write and the intent of the person searching.
Of course, including key terms in your content will help crawlers to better understand what it is you are writing about, but the difference is that you don’t have to squeeze your terms into every paragraph.
What is essential, however, is making sure the content you create matches the intent of the person searching and answers a question in depth. For instance, writing a blog piece on ‘How to create a Twitter page’ and then diving into the sub topics of that content, i.e. Twitter page design, Twitter page optimisation, Twitter page layout, etc. will drastically improve the chances of that content ranking highly. You’ll also be found for multiple terms that include ‘Twitter’ (design, optimisation, layout).
Now we’re not saying abandon keywords, no. What you really want to focus on is creating more relevant content that people want to read and share.
Don't talk about yourself - talk about everything your customers want to hear
In truth it’s not about you or your business. It's about how you can help potential prospects solve problems.
Harsh words, we know – but the majority of the content you create (especially earlier on in the buyer journey) should be about how you can help people – i.e. your ideal customers – to solve business problems/challenges that you are familiar with.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you produce cyber security solutions for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Rather than diving right in and talking about how your solution solves this problem and that problem, try to relate to your target audience and address the issues that they might be having. Maybe one of their issues is a lack of cyber security awareness amongst employees. If that’s the case, consider writing a topic on ‘The complete guide to improving cyber security awareness’.
You want to position your business as an authority on a specific topic – and that specific topic should be what you do. Only after you have built a considerable amount of trust and moved leads to a point of purchase do you talk about your product and service, because by then they’ll know what they need.
Stop thinking about advertising your product and service and start answering the questions they have at every stage of the buyer journey in relation to what you do.
It’s all about delivering value and the brands and businesses that achieve success in 2019 (and the future) are those that recognise it’s not about them.
Creating great content - the six commandments
Know your target audience
If you’ve built your buyer personas, you’re off to a good start. If not, now’s as good a time as any to do so.
Avoid creating generic, stereotype personas – by this we mean personas that are assigned to job titles, like Marketing Mary or Founder Frank. The reason we say this is because it’s entirely possible for people outside of these job functions to have challenges related to what you do and solve for your customers. They might even have different reasons for wanting to acquire your product/service.
By focusing solely on these people, you immediately ostracise everyone else who is interested in what you can offer. Instead, your buyer personas should be pain point or business objective-focused, i.e. “the person who deals with lead generation”. This gives you a wider audience while still addressing the principal issue.
Of course, you’ll need to research your audience and segment as per normal, but the main focal point should be the pain point, not job title.
Build out your content strategy
If you want to get somewhere, you need to know how you’re getting there. Without a content strategy you’ll be going at it blindly and leaving things to chance.
A good place to start with any content strategy is with your existing customers. They all have issues that you’ve solved right? Use them as a means to create targeted content for your target audience. Ask them about the other problems they have and then think about how you can solve those problems. You can even ask them to help you create case studies (which are exceptionally good when it comes to proving your business’ capabilities).
Create content at scale
Once steps 1 and 2 are complete, you can think about creating great content at scale. A lot of businesses make the mistake of just creating content – loads of content – without any real strategy behind it. The net result is that while the content is interesting and of good quality, no one wants to read it because it doesn’t address relevant pain points or challenges (which is why step 1 and 2 are so crucial).
When we talk about creating content at scale, we don’t mean blogging five times a week – we mean:
- blogging regularly,
- creating case studies and eBooks,
- recording videos and publishing them on your social media channels,
- engaging with your following on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram,
- running events and getting customer feedback,
- talking to customers and identifying what they would like to see in terms of content,
- creating new web pages,
- and much more.
Obsess about providing value
Value is everything. There’s a lot of great content out there optimised for terms you probably want to compete on – so don’t go and create articles on the same topics that are optimised for the same keywords and user intent. You need to be thinking about unique angles or stories that you can weave into the great content you create in order to make it more relevant, useful and compelling.
One thing we would recommend is including stories within the content you write – stories that your target audience can instantly relate to and understand – and then including solutions that help resolve the problems in these stories. This will help to root arguments in context and better resonate with those you want to talk to.
Amplify your reach via social media and PR
So what do you do once you’ve created all of this great content? Do you just publish it and leave it at that and hope people find it? No. Sure, if your content is optimised the right people will find it but you can’t rely on just one channel when there are several you can use to amplify reach and exposure.
Our advice? Publish links to your articles on social media and utilise your PR team (if you have one) or agency to get blog posts, articles, video snippets and the like placed in key target media. By putting your articles on social media channels (Twitter, LinkedIn, etc) you increase the number of eyes its seen by – and drastically. PR, on the other hand, will help to raise brand awareness and ensure your business is part of the conversation.
Engage with your audience
Lastly – but perhaps most importantly – engage with your audience. It’s great getting all of this content out there and seen by people, but if you don’t speak to people who speak to you, you’re missing out on opportunities to build relationships or even make an impromptu sale.
When we talk about ‘engaging’, we don’t mean having a meeting or talking on the phone but just acknowledging the comments people make on your posts and making the effort to follow these people on social media and maybe even like and comment on their posts, too.
Over time, as you continue to engage with these people you will build relationships with them and they will trust your business and see it as an authoritative source of information.
Use topic clusters
If there’s one thing to absolutely take away from this article, it’s this: you can’t expect your content to rank well just because it’s optimised for a long-tail keyword term.
You have to obsess over answering the questions prospects have – and to do that, you need to be creating topic clusters, not just individual blog posts.
But what are topic clusters?
Well, the topic cluster model involves creating a single ‘pillar’ page which acts as the central piece of content for a broad topic. Linked to that central pillar page are several pieces of cluster content which talk about specific elements of the broad topic in more detail.
For example, if you had a pillar page on content marketing, the pillar page would broadly address the topic of content marketing and have segments dedicated to specific aspects of it, i.e. buyer personas, content strategy, content ideation and so forth. Each segment would include a link to a blog (or other piece of content) that addresses the segment’s topic in more detail and answers the questions prospects have in relation to it.
Each piece of cluster content is optimised for a long-tail keyword term (meaning people will find the topics organically, too).
These pieces of cluster content would then link back to the central pillar page, highlighting to search engines that there’s a connection between the pillar page and its cluster content. The advantage of this is that when the pillar page or clusters do well, the link equity is shared evenly amongst the cluster, resulting in a ranking boost.
That’s just a brief explanation of what a topic cluster is. We would recommend reading this article for more information.
Think like a publisher, not a service provider
It’s all about value. Think like a publisher that just so happens to sell a product or service, rather than a service provider that wants to publish content. If you can think from the perspective of those you want to engage with and understand what they want to read, hear or see, you can start to produce really valuable and interesting content.
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