Tired of investing in content that doesn’t drive revenue? You’ve come to the right place.
SEO & content can be an incredible investment into what ultimately (when done right) becomes the best scalable customer acquisition channel there is. But, in a competitive vertical (which is very much the case for most these days), it’s can be difficult to achieve positive ROI while also balancing:
- Positioning your brand, product, and service (i.e. setting yourself aside from the competition).
- Earning attention, trust, and ultimately the conversion from people that fall into your ideal customer profile (i.e. your ideal customers).
This approach to content combines the data in SEO with the creative skill involved in producing content that is truly helpful, informative, and more useful than most content is. This is exactly what we pride ourselves on at ScaleMath – we use SEO & content to run growth for industry-leading companies.
So, without further ado, in this post, we’ll walk you through our approach to creating an effective SEO content strategy.
SEO & Content Go Hand In Hand
Most companies we work with have their own definitions and measures of success in growth. That can be focusing on metrics like ARR, MRR, retention (among others), and others like to focus on driving traffic.
Regardless of the measurement and what is deemed to be important, in order to be able to justify continued investment in an initiative, this has to be matched with some business result – that is, regardless of whether you work with an agency or build an in-house team. Content & SEO both play a role in making that happen.
The value in content that serves searchers and real users (current and potential ones), matched with the SEO-driven approach that will allow you to use this content to your competitive advantage, i.e. reap the benefits of it actually being discovered in search.
Whenever you write content, considering searchers (i.e. evaluating the SERP, user intent, etc.) in the approach that you want to take is useful for a number of reasons, including:
- You’ll be more likely to rank/show up in search to begin with, which will, in turn, allow you to attract the type of visitors to your site that you’re looking to get. As a byproduct of which, you can drive business results with content (aside from just helping people, not that this is a bad aim to have / one that you need anyway).
- Google (and search data) is an indication of your ICP – data from Ahrefs and other services is a great glimpse into what your ideal customer profile wants. In keyword research, you can often identify trends and distinct pain points that potential users experience (some of which can actually feed back into your product strategy too).
As with everything, this strategy is great in theory, but what really matters is bringing it to life, which depending on the vertical you’re in & the business you run, can be difficult.
And this is exactly why, for every new company we partner with, the focus remains on how our work can drive the most business value. Here’s a glimpse into how:
Defining Your Content Strategy
1 – Understand The Business
When we begin to define content strategy, the first step is and always will be to fully align on what the business is and does. This applies to what they currently do as well as what they know will be a focus months (even years) down the road, as that start to make its way onto the roadmap and inform the approach that you take ahead of time.
- Go and find out who your best customers are (and as you go, define your definition of best in this context)
- Understand the vertical in which you operate, the market, competitive landscape.
- Fully understand your product’s positioning, “what is it that you do?”, “What pain points do you address better than anyone else out there?”, etc.
Go and find out who your best customers are.
And as you go, define your definition of best in this context.
Understand the vertical in which you operate
The market, competitive landscape, and how you compete and play a role in the industry.
Nail your product’s positioning
Start by asking yourself these questions:
- Who really are you as a business?
- What are your goals / what impact do you aim to have?
- How do you compete? Why would a potential customer choose you over your competitors?
- Who is your ideal customer? (go back to review your findings as you looked into defining who your best current customers are).
Note: One thing that goes without saying to us but isn’t necessarily a given, as we find that a lot of people try to shy away from referring to what competitors are doing – please don’t. Yes, you may not want to draw the comparison to competitors, but ultimately you are working in the same industry, and the chances are that you share a good percentage of the same ideal customer profile so ignoring them entirely is a guaranteed way to slow down and hinder your ability to earn market share.
Some of the things that we like to look at regularly when it comes to competitors:
What are competitors doing well?
This is more so important for earlier-stage companies but remains applicable throughout the lifecycle of a company. You need to understand what people like about your competition to fulfill the needs of your potential customers. This can be anything from their messaging to the content that they produce. Keep an eye on what’s working for them and while they may not always be the best people, spend less time trying to discredit them every step of the way.
What are competitors ranking for?
Ignoring the search data that you get from evaluating competitors with tools like Ahrefs would be silly. They have been around for longer and have likely invested more than you in growth, so seeing what they rank for, and the topics that drive the largest share of traffic to their site is incredibly important to informing (note: not copying) the approach that you will apply to your business.
2 – Find High-Value Topics With Keyword Research
Even if you’ve come across SEO today, the chances are you’ve heard of keyword research.
It forms one of the most important parts of SEO & content strategy (as well as the prioritization element that is involved with that). However, common advice tends to suggest prioritizing topics that have:
- Very high search volume (high difficulty)
- Low search volume (generally lower difficulty)
This may sound great in theory, and it’s not as if it can’t work, but the reality is that this only looks at part of the picture.
Why? Well, let’s break it down.
High search volume keywords are great in theory, that is, they are competitive and expensive to rank for, so prioritizing them and focusing on them early on tends to be why most businesses end up feeling that SEO & content is not worth the investment.
Meanwhile, low search volumes are great in theory because they tend to allow you to rank in a shorter time (even if your site is not quite as authoritative yet).
But this misses one key thing: traffic value.
Your goal should be centered around finding ranking opportunities that would allow you to drive traffic that is valuable to your business, your business model, and the types of ideal customers you want to attract.
This is where you need to start being more strategic about how you perform your keyword research & content strategy cycles (we have a post on this underway) to allow you to:
- Identify and pick content opportunities worth pursuing.
- Identify the order in which you tackle these to drive a measurable impact.
- Ensure you have a mix of topics to cater to the different stages of the buyer journey.
And as you go, the list of opportunities that you can and should be tackling will continue to grow as you rank for more topics and build out authority in a vertical. This makes it possible to rank for the higher search volume and more competitive keywords.
Once you’ve got a list of topics (along with the keywords you’re targeting) with each piece of content, it’s time to move things forward to production & create share-worthy content your audience will truly enjoy.
3 – Prioritize And Build Your Roadmap
Once you have a list of topics and the keywords that each aims to rank for – you want to build a roadmap to plan how you can bring the strategy to life in an efficient way (having the biggest impact possible).
Budget definitely comes into play here.
What you’ll be able to tackle and the pace at which you’re able to move is without a doubt affected by the resources you have at your disposal. However, despite that, even if you’re operating with a theoretically unlimited budget, we still advise that you prioritize and plan to operate in an efficient manner.
Things that we consider at this stage include:
- Grouping content ideas that fall into a broader category – i.e. consider content about Docker (of which there could be hundreds, if not thousands of posts to write about)
- Does this directly address a pain point that your users (and as a byproduct) people in your audience have?
- Is this likely to be a shareable piece of content?
- Does this allow you to highlight how you’re different from the competition?
In addition to this, we equally consider whether the resources (i.e. subject-matter expertise) is at our disposal for any of the topics that we want to tackle. If not, or not within the current budget, then we would push tackling a certain topic or broader category of topics further down the line until that changes.
4 – Establish How You Measure Success
How do you measure success?
If your business is solely driven by content marketing (i.e. a content site that you intend to sell at some stage, a content site that serves ads), then measuring success by things like organic traffic growth can be a decent way to measure success.
Though we find that in most cases, the better approach is to try to consider the impacts of SEO & content on the entire business as a whole. This is because content serves you in more than just one way – some of the lesser-known ways we’ve seen our content impact businesses we work with include:
Just to name an example that is often overlooked is easing customer support load by answering questions that actual users have, as well as potential users, so that content both attracts new users as well as helping existing ones. This ultimately builds a better customer experience, as a byproduct of which you have better retention and various other things which you wouldn’t see if you just spend your time obsessing over Google Analytics data.
That is not to say that you should shy away from tracking metrics, including:
- Organic traffic to your site/content
- Domain rating
- Rankings (i.e. using a rank tracker for the keywords that you consider most important/relevant to your business).
Goals change, metrics like this ultimately are 1% of the picture, but keeping an eye on them can be a helpful way to compare and spot outliers (i.e. most of our content is ranking, but we’re seeing a few of these pieces not ranking; therefore this is something that we are going to look into).
5 – SEO Is An Ongoing Commitment
SEO is not a one-off effort that you run for a few weeks, wait a bit before running again and repeat. Once your content starts driving traffic, you’ll want to start ensuring that it actually helps you acquire customers.
Once you have a good amount of data to work with (that could be once you start to observe a growth trend and you’re able to look for patterns), ask yourself:
- Which content is driving the most traffic?
- What topics are popular & which ones aren’t?
- What is our click-through rate?
- How long are visitors staying on the site?
- What do visitors do when they land on-site?
- Are there any pages with particularly high or low conversion rates?
The purpose of this information is not necessarily used to assess the success right now as point-in-time metrics but can be useful in informing your future plans.
Now you should always have a huge backlog of content ideas to work on for your team to pick away at week by week, month by month.
But it really doesn’t stop there.
Now you can start to tackle initiatives, including competitor alternative/comparison pages, building a site structure that highlights high-performing content, and consistently reviewing low-performing content to see what you can improve.
After Action Report – Align Content Strategy With Business Objectives
Using SEO to inform your content strategy is the biggest motivator to ensure that you’re keeping what you do in line with what there is demand for. In almost every case we’ve seen, giving people what they want in terms of information (in content) has a direct correlation with allowing you to have a bigger impact and make better decisions on the product side.
We hope you’ve found this guide useful as an overview of what our process looks like behind the scenes. You may want to take comfort in the fact that there are very few out there that are really doing an incredible job with content which means if you are up for a challenge, willing to dig deep (whether that’s with help or on your own), getting to know your reader, it’s possible & the sooner you get started, the easier it’ll be.