SEO kind of freaks people out.
Some people think there is some crazy luck element to an SEO content strategy—that it only works for big-budget websites that have been around for decades. So, why bother?
From our own experience at Superneat, I’ll tell you that we’ve seen much smaller B2B organizations pass up much larger B2B organizations because they had a strong SEO content strategy. They were able to outrank and outperform their top competitors, which brought more qualified leads into their arms instead of those competitors.
For others, SEO just doesn’t make sense. They think it’s a magic trick that a select few know how to perform, and the rest have to sit and stare in disbelief.
The truth is that SEO is pretty scientific as far as content marketing goes. It’s actually a lot more straightforward than creative processes because there’s a formula that works. If you consistently follow this formula, you will see the results you hypothesized and hoped for.
Why SEO Matters
Every day, there are 3.5 billion searches on Google.
As a marketer, you have the power to take advantage of these searches by getting in front of people searching for topics that relate to your product or service. And that’s why search engine optimization (SEO) matters.
SEO is a unique opportunity to get potential customers to find you instead of having to go out and find them.
It’s very different from social media or email, where you’re approaching your audience with no idea what frame of mind they’re currently in.
With search, you have the opportunity to get in front of your target audience when they’re looking to learn more about specific search queries. They’ll be more receptive to the messages you’re approaching them with, as long as you’re delivering on their expectations.
How Does Google Search Work?
Google has one job: Provide helpful, relevant content to searchers’ queries.
Google’s algorithm has long prioritized “people-first” content rather than “keyword-first” content written specifically for search engines. To evaluate the helpfulness and relevance of content for searchers, Google’s most recent algorithm update uses the E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) guidelines.
Keywords still play an important role in your SEO content strategy. Your website acts as a huge network of keywords that signal Google and help it understand the topics where your organization provides the information searchers need.
You want this mix of keywords to be narrow enough for Google to understand what you’re focused on but broad enough that you’re able to tap into some of the more niche searches your audience may be conducting.
Over time, by publishing helpful and relevant content on your website, you’ll build up your website’s domain authority (DA). Your domain authority defines the importance of your website within your niche.
What Is an SEO Content Strategy?
An SEO content strategy aligns your content marketing efforts with Google’s high-quality content criteria. By playing the Google game, your content has a much greater chance of being discovered by your target audience. By serving up content your audience cares about, you will be more likely to engage them and eventually convert them.
If you create useful content for people, Google will prioritize your website and push your links closer to the top of the page. The ultimate goal is to be in the top 3 of search results since these pages get 54.4% of all clicks.
To ensure the success of your SEO content strategy, you need to pour your energy into two critical areas: your website and your blog.
How to Set Your Website Up for Overall SEO Optimization
Google doesn’t look at each piece of content in a vacuum. It sees the full network of content on your website, so you must provide a strong foundation for all of your new content by setting up your website for overall SEO optimization.
Your website architecture does double duty for the user experience and search engine rankings. The hierarchy of your website should make it easy for visitors to find content and for Google to find and index all of the pages on the site.
A strong website architecture:
- Highlights your most important pages
- Groups topically related content together
- Organizes groups in a logical hierarchy
Backlinks show that other people trust your website’s authority, which is a positive signal for Google. You want to get as many high-authority websites linking to you as possible.
Building your backlink portfolio organically will take time and effort. One of our top recommendations is to guest blog for other credible publications with high domain authority and a relevant audience in your niche. You’ll earn a nice backlink and reach a new (and probably bigger) audience.
Not all backlinks are a good thing, though.
If spammy websites link to your content, Google might associate your website with the spammer. Use a tool to check your backlink portfolio and identify any of these toxic backlinks. You can ask the spammer to remove the link or go straight to disavowing them with the Google Disavow tool.
Errors on your website can lead to a poor user experience, which in turn leads to poor rankings on Google. A variety of issues could be docking points for your website:
- Broken links—both internal and external
- Duplicate meta descriptions
- Missing title tags
All of these errors can accumulate and undermine the effectiveness of your SEO content strategy. For some, like heavy code, the impact may be slow load times on your site. But others, like missing titles or meta descriptions, may prevent Google’s search engine from getting the data it needs to inform your website’s ranking.
Stay on top of these issues that may arise unexpectedly. Something as simple as a plugin update or a slug update on an external site you’re linking to can cause an error to pop up. It’s best practice to use an SEO tool to run monthly audits so you catch these website errors.
Index the Right Pages
Not every page you create should show up in Google search results. By default, your website’s pages will likely be open or crawled, so it’s important to add a “noindex” meta tag to the pages you don’t want Google to crawl.
Some common examples of pages that should be noindex are:
- Landing pages for PPC campaigns
- Thank you pages
- Gated content
- Customer-facing content (i.e. help center)
How to Optimize All of the Content Across Your Website
This next batch of best practices falls somewhere in between website SEO best practices and content optimization.
These are important to consider on a broader, more strategic level for your website, but they are also something that you need to consistently reinforce with each piece of blog content you produce.
As a general rule for blog content, just create valuable content. When people value content, they spend more time on your website, and more “time on page” sends positive signals to Google.
Internal and External Links
Always include internal links in your website and blog content. Internal links create a natural path for your audience to continue consuming your content while creating networks of relevant content for Google’s crawlers to pick up.
For blog content, make sure you balance these internal links with a mix of external links. A healthy mix of internal/external links comes off as less self-serving. It also builds your authority since you’re linking to additional credible sources.
Be sure to use relevant, descriptive anchor text instead of generic anchor text (i.e. click here, read more).
We just illustrated this technique in the previous sentence by hyperlinking “anchor text,” which links to an external article about—you guessed it—anchor text. Not only will this enhance the user experience on your website, but it can also improve your website’s rankings.
For every single page you create—not just blog posts—you should create meta description copy that summarizes the page content and encourages someone to click. Google cuts off meta descriptions at 160 characters, so you want to keep your copy between 120 and 155 characters to be safe.
Meta descriptions are one of those weird SEO best practices that actually have no direct impact on search rankings. So, why do we create them? Because meta descriptions help make your content stand out to the searcher.
Using your primary keyword in the meta description isn’t even required. So, why do we include it? Any keywords that were included in the searcher’s query are displayed in bold. So, including the keyword in the meta description helps the searcher see that your result is relevant to them.
This is why many marketers make a habit of always including keywords in meta descriptions. We always recommend prioritizing attention-grabbing copy instead of fussing over the keywords. If you can make both work, then you get bonus points.
Do Keyword Research
Strong keyword research is the backbone of your SEO content strategy. When you’re creating a piece of content—whether it’s a blog post, a landing page, or a website page—think of all the words or phrases that your potential customers could be searching for to get them there.
Once you have a nice list going, plug these keyword ideas into a tool like Semrush, Moz, or SE Ranking to identify the best opportunities. The goal is to find the right balance between high search volume and low competition.
When you’re still in the process of building your online authority, it’s usually best to prioritize low competition to allow time to build up your reputation. Long-tail keywords are a great opportunity for this. For example, targeting “best video marketing tools” would be easier to rank for than “video marketing.”
In addition to the main keyword phrase you decide to target, select secondary keywords as well. These related keywords help to show authority on the main topic and allow you to subtly target more competitive keywords without relying on them as your primary keyword target.
Sprinkle in Your Keywords Frequently But Naturally
As a baseline, you need to have your keyword:
- In your title—preferably at the beginning.
- In your slug—the words behind the slash in a URL.
- In your meta description—if you can seamlessly fit it in.
And of course, you need to work the keyword into the body of the page. In addition to the best practice of including it in the first and last 100 words, it should show up with some natural consistency throughout the piece.
Natural is the operative word here.
Although you want to include your keyword enough to make sure Google understands that you’re targeting it, you don’t want to seem like you’re keyword stuffing. This causes a bad reading experience, and Google often perceives it as spammy.
The best keyword density is 1-2% or about once every 100 words. If you can’t naturally work the keyword into a sentence, it’s best to try to fit it elsewhere.
Add Relevant and Well-Distributed Subheadings
Including subheadings in your content will have a direct impact on your ranking. These headings help you rank for SERP features like People Also Ask or featured snippets since they make it easy for Google to discern what the page is talking about.
When you include keywords in your subheadings, it increases your click-through rate to your website and boosts your rankings in the long term.
Subheadings are also critical for readability. They break up long chunks of text and give the readers a roadmap for what is coming up.
You should avoid having sections longer than 300 words that aren’t broken up by subheadings. If you have a section underneath an H2 that is getting a little long, breaking it up into H3s or even H4s will make your sections more scannable.
Write for Readability
Although readability isn’t directly included in Google’s algorithm, it plays an important role in the success of your SEO content strategy. Because the readability of your content impacts the experience readers have, it will have an effect on their time on page.
And “time on page” is absolutely part of Google’s algorithm.
Many SEO tools, like Semrush and GDoc SEO Assistant, will give you live feedback as you’re typing, helping you avoid common mistakes. But as a general rule of thumb:
- Keep your sentences short and conversational.
- Use active voice instead of passive voice.
- Break up paragraphs longer than 3-5 lines into short chunks.
Add Alt Text for Each Image
Adding alt text to each image that you include on your website is a best practice for accessibility, ensuring that people with screen readers know what is in front of them. But it’s also an opportunity to squeeze more SEO juice from your content.
For every image, edit the alt text to describe it, working in keywords where you naturally can. Being extra descriptive typically makes it easier to sprinkle in your keywords.
Be careful not to keyword stuff your images. This can negatively impact the experience for visually impaired visitors, and it signals spam to Google.
How Do We Know If Our SEO Content Strategy Is Working?
This is far and away the most common question we’ve heard from clients and prospects over the years. When your team works diligently to make your SEO content strategy successful, you want to make sure that herculean effort amounts to something.
To track your progress, don’t go overboard with monthly SEO audits. You need to give your SEO content strategy time to work.
There are two types of SEO audits you’ll want to perform:
Annual SEO Audit
This audit is a deeper analysis of the overall SEO health of your website and blog content, and it includes competitor research and analysis as well. An annual SEO audit is very comprehensive and may require outside support from an agency partner.
Quarterly SEO Audit
This audit is a regular check-in of your SEO health that is more focused on blog content. We usually recommend that you pull a quick keyword report that shows current rankings. At a glance, you’ll see what’s working and what isn’t, so you understand which content opportunities to continue focusing on.
Marketers, myself included, are famously impatient.
A watched pot never boils, right? When it comes to SEO, you don’t need to watch over your content constantly. As long as you’re following best practices, your SEO content strategy will work over time.
Give it time to do its thing. And definitely start producing video content because it’s one of the best ways to improve your website’s SEO.