Every SEO campaign can be broken down into 5 fundamentals, then segmented into off-site (link building) and on-site (content) approaches to identify and understand the application. This webinar recap and slide deck (at the bottom of this post) is a top level guide to assist you with setting the correct content marketing strategy today.
1. Have a Plan
A good content strategy will consist of a plan rooted in specific value-based principles. These values are those that make a website good, worth visiting, long lasting etc. The way I came to determine just what these values should be is by drawing some parallels beween human success and marketing success gleaned from the well-known self improvement book: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
In the beginning of this book Stephen Covey outlines that all success literature over the last 2 centuries can be broken into two approaches to achieving success. One of these approaches should be considered primary, and the other secondary.
Character Ethic: This is the primary way to achieve success. It would be an approach based on principle based solutions. Covey calls this the "inside-out approach." Meaning that if you focus on the key characters that make up who you actually are—such as honesty, integrity, creativity etc.—and as you work to improve yourself success will naturally follow.
Personality Ethic: This is the secondary approach. Often you could define these as quick fixes, superficial or even instant gratification. These are the appearance driven tactics you find in self-help books that only focus on the surface of who you really are. They can gain you short term success, but often wean off and deter your overall success in the long run.
While approaches to gaining success under the personality ethic are valid, they really only have long term value when they are utilized by a person who has mastered his character and established a personality rooted in strong value-based principles.
The Marketing Parallel
So it is with a website. No matter how many links you build (personality ethic), and how flashy your website looks—it's long term success (traffic, leads, sales etc.) and sustainability of that success can only be secured if you first focus on the character of your website.
What this means is if you focus on your websites internal content strategy (character ethic) by applying the below value based principles to establish a well thought out strategy the longevity of your website will be secured.
Here is a quick mind map of what typically should branch off of these values and develop into your content marketing strategy:
And if you were to sequence these in order of priority I would lay them out as follows:
In the end, links are only as valuable as the website you pass them to. To put it in other words, no one cares if the directions you got to a party were great if the party isn't any good.
As you focus on these core principles that make up a quality content marketing strategy I suggest approaching the plan with 3 specifics:
- Measurable Goals
- Target Audience
- Target Keywords
As you approach these 3 things look at how they apply to the characteristics that make up an ideal content strategy by asking questions like:
- What KPI's indicate good usability?
- How will I know the right people are finding my content?
- Does our branding speak to our audience?
- What is the user's end goal?
- What phrases is our demographic most likely to search? (findable)
- Does my use of keywords on the page make sense? (valuable)
2. Put People First
As you cater a content strategy to your specific audience or customer you will achieve higher success in content marketing. People enjoy making a connection. Understand the type of people your website is most directed toward and put these people first by ensuring you build a website with content that is:
There is no doubt that people like easy. Which means as soon as the user opens a browser they are looking for a simple process.
- Building content that is optimized will ensure people can easily find your website
- Creating a logical navigation with clear taxonomy means people will easily be able to locate what they are looking for
- Integrating the right social network sharing capabilities in the right places makes sharing you website with others easy
People love to be entertained. From the wording in your copy to the design to specific media used on the page each part of content is an opportunity to entertain your visitor in one way or another. As you plan your content, look to marry your brand with some form of entertainment that speaks to the targeted audience. And no matter the audience that entertainment will be most delivered best through a combination of:
- Remarkable graphics
- Spectacular videos
- Engaging content
Just as much as we all love to have entertainment handed to us, we are drawn to learn more. The informational form of content is often one of the greatest for SEO purposes as well. Look at the questions your industry is currently asking and seek a unique way to deliver the right answers to the web.
3. Nitty Gritty SEO
Once your content is quality in terms of design and user experience then look to basic SEO implementations to ensure the nitty gritty is in order:
Page titles are placed within the <head> area of the source code and should:
- Be between 65-70 characters typically
- Contain branding somewhere in the title
- Use 1-2 keyword phrases that are most relevant to the page (don't overdo this)
- Read naturally (not spammy)
- Inform the searcher what they will find as they click through
Here are various acceptable formats to approach your page titles:
<title>Branding: Page Title With Keyword Here</title>
<title>Keyword Here In Title With Branding Included In Middle</title>
<title>Page Title & Keyword Inclusion Here | Branding</title>
Your page headings <h1> are given more prominence and importance that paragraph content <p> by search engines. This means that the keywords and phrases used within headings are considered indicators as to the pages relevance. In approaching the use of your page headings you should:
- Not sacrifice true headings for keywords
- Use the most important/relevant key phrases naturally in the most prominent heading (the <h1>)
- Use supportive or variant phrases in subheadings (<h2> through <h6>)
- Not overuse headings on the page in an attempt to optimize for keywords
Body content (or words) should be integrated into nearly every area of your website. Search engines view this as quality, and users benefit from it. Words on a page are not placed their solely for search engine optimization purposes. If they are, you have got it all wrong. The content you use should:
- Explain each page
- Direct the visitor
- Be placed both above and below the fold
- Be part of the design, not separate from it
Using keywords and variants of those keywords within the content is an integral part of making your website findable. Do not concern yourself with using the phrases a certain amount of times. In fact, using keywords correctly on a page will often happen naturally and without intention.
In approaching your content creating for a web page it is best to write the content first to be readable, purposeful and succinct. After this is done, review the content to determine if the correct key terms have been used. If they have not revise as needed.
One of the most under utilized areas of a website for optimization are images and graphics. In the placing of your images there are two opportunities for optimization for a topic:
- Alternate Text
- File Name
<img src="keyword-rich-file-name.jpg" alt="Highly Descriptive Alternate Text With Keyword Included" />
To correctly optimize a website navigation the keywords you are targeting for each individual page must be common knowledge among all those touching the development. Typically this is referred to as establishing keyword mapped URLs. To ensure you navigation is best optimized it must be:
- Crawlable to search engines
- Contain a logical taxonomy
4. Stay Active
Beautifully designed static pages will become stagnant if you don't have active content regularly supporting your websites relevance to major search terms and pushing visitors to landing pages. A major factor enabling web properties to gain increasingly more search engine real estate is active content production.
The idea is that you need to keep your website up-to-date and interesting both for people and for search engines by:
- Creating discussions about industry news
- Updating audience with business news
- Niche guides
- Case studies
- Instructional blog posts
Above all else, the best way to ensure you content is active is to have a schedule laid out and broken down to the week or days if needed. Often this is referred to as an editorial calendar. Itemizing the content piece's you plan to publish will help you look at everything with a bird's eye, ruling out overuse of a specific topic or type of media. A well planned out content calendar successfully integrates with other marketing initiatives as well. For most internal blogs I find laying out a 12 month editorial calendar is best.
5. Don't Overdo It
Over optimization is an increasingly detrimental issue in search marketing. It is very common for professionals to latch on to one specific strategy or become accustomed to a few singular approaches that, if done over a long period, can in turn deter the websites performance. While over-optimization has always been an issue, with the latest algorithm updates from Google, this has been publicly announced as a target.
Stay Away From Over-Optimization
There are many forms in which over optimization can creep into your websites SEO campaign, but looking specifically at your content on-site there 3 items to watch out for:
- No content above the fold
- Overuse of exact match anchor text internal links
- Overuse of keywords within page titles
Your Content Strategy Checklist
And if all else fails, here is a quick checklist of major items every great content strategy consists of:
What is your thought on this content strategy? Anything you would like to add? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
You can also view the recording of my webinar on this subject by clicking here