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How to Build a Content-Driven SEO Strategy for Long-Term Growth


December 9, 2020


January 19, 2022

Last month, Right Side Up growth marketing consultant Lindsay Piper Shaw and Head of Client Engagement/Operations Mike Timoney led a session in our Fall Webinar Series to dig into the ins and outs of building a content-driven SEO strategy for long-term growth. You’ll find a recap of the material they covered below, and you can view the entire on-demand session here.

Should You Invest in Content? 

Before you start writing and producing content, you should consider the resources you’ll be able to devote to your efforts. There’s a saying, “Do you want it fast, good, or cheap? You can have two, but you can't have all three.” Content is a bit like that; you might not have all three of the below, but should have at least two:

  • Personnel: Who will be managing content efforts? Is this inside their scope of work?
  • Time: Do you have room in your to do’s for developing a strategy, pre-production, writing/editing, and distribution after content is published?
  • Budget: Will you be paying for articles? Hiring resources to develop your blog or help with writing content?

There’s a common misconception that content is free. It isn’t. Ultimately, if you want content marketing to work for you, you need to invest both time and money in order to achieve the short- and long-term growth you’re seeking.

From your initial foray into content (phase 1) to a mature content program (phase 3), here is what your content marketing investment might look like in terms of strategy, creative, and publication/distribution.

  1. Strategy: This area is all about value. What are you bringing to the table with your content? Why should people read what you’re creating? 
  2. Phase 1: What are topics relevant to your industry that deserve a deeper dive? 
  3. Phase 2: What will bring value to others and give you authority in your industry?
  4. Phase 3: How can you use content to drive meaningful growth in your business? 
  5. Creative: The quality of the content has to be great if you want it to stand out.
  6. Phase 1: Can you bring an idea to creation and ensure the final piece is professional?
  7. Phase 2: Will content creation be published regularly about interesting, diverse subjects with different contributors? Not everyone is a writer; can you count on your team, or will you need to hire and manage external writers?
  8. Phase 3: Will your content evolve to multiple mediums, e.g. webinars, podcasts? Will you co-create content with external partners?
  9. Publishing: How will people find your content? 
  10. Phase 1: Is there a place to house your content, e.g. your website, a blog, Medium?
  11. Phase 2: What other marketing channels can you use to promote your content? For example, email, organic social, and paid social.
  12. Phase 3: Will you invest in an SEO strategy to maximize the impact of your efforts? 

Types of Content to Consider

There are many types of content to consider. Here are some of the pros and cons of the most common types we see success with.

  • Articles, guides, ebooks, and whitepapers. These long form, written pieces can give you flexibility on length, topics, and turnaround time. It’s easy to collaborate on a written piece with both internal and external colleagues as well as subject matter experts. You have complete editorial control prior to (and often after) publication, which gives you the ability to decide how much information you’re comfortable sharing and to edit and update your articles down the line. Written content is easy to share and can be distributed and repurposed for social media, email, paid channels like LinkedIn, and others.
  • Webinars and fireside chats. This content format is a high value-add and provides an opportunity to share visuals and insider information. It requires additional effort to plan these events and attract attendees, but it can be a great way to capture leads and learn more about them, as well as engage and nurture prospects. It’s important to note that you ultimately have less control over what information is being shared on the fly. Like written content, you can distribute and repurpose the materials from a virtual event across a range of marketing channels to extend its shelf life.
  • Podcasts and podcast guesting. This is a more casual, conversational way of disseminating information. If you’re thinking of running your own podcast, you’ll need a budget and some level of production know-how to ensure quality. If you’re interested in being a featured guest on someone else’s podcast, you’ll need to research shows to find the ones your target audience is listening to, and you’ll also need to conduct outreach to secure guest slots. Know that as a podcast guest, you may not always have the ability to edit and control these conversations.

Making Content Work for Your Unique Business

Before getting a content program up and running, it’s important to outline what you want to achieve and what resources you’ll devote to your efforts.

Common content strategy objectives

  • Brand awareness
  • Top funnel (e.g. email addresses)
  • Bottom funnel (e.g. sales, warm client leads)
  • Social assets/UGC
  • Thought leadership opportunities 

Distribution channels for sharing your content

Once you’ve created your content, where are you going to distribute it? These are some common channels to consider:

  • Website (e.g. blog, resource center, dedicated landing pages)
  • Organic social (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)
  • Paid (e.g. Facebook ads, SEM)
  • Email (e.g. newsletters, link in employee signatures)
  • Slack groups
  • Syndication (through industry journals/websites, Medium, influencers, partners)
  • Search (via SEO – more on this below)

The differences between B2B vs. B2C content

The lines between the two are blurring more than ever, but in general, B2B content tends to be for professional consumption, and showcases thought leadership, positions you as an authority, and fosters knowledge sharing. B2C content, on the other hand, tends to be more for individual consumption and often creates more of an emotional appeal to strengthen brand affinity.

How Should I Think About Investing in an SEO Strategy?

SEO is nebulous in some ways; it’s hard to predict the results you’re going to get. But while it is nebulous, the best practices are well-defined, and there are plenty of talented marketers with extensive experience in applying these best practices to drive results. 

When it comes to an SEO strategy, there are three main pillars to focus on: 

  1. Technical crawlability
  2. Off-page or off-site optimization
  3. On-page or on-site optimization

Let’s take a look at these pillars in detail.

Technical crawlability

You can write and optimize amazing content, but it won’t do you any good if search engines can’t find it. Good site crawlability is critical to ensure that search engines can discover and index your content. There are a number of ways to set yourself up for success:

  • Robots.txt. This is a file that lives off of your root domain, and it’s one of the first things search engines check. You can use it to tell search engines what to crawl. Make sure you’re not blocking directories or pages that should be crawled, and that those you do want blocked, are.
  • Redirect profile. Audit/monitor your site redirects to ensure everything is working as expected.
  • Sitemaps. Send the right signals to search engines using XML sitemaps.
  • Site architecture. Humans and search engines need to be able to effectively navigate and extract keyword themes from your site.
  • URL structures. Your URLs should be keyword targeted, concise, and organized by bi-directional relationship in hierarchy. 
  • Canonical tags. Not the strongest signal, but important as your site grows and evolves. These inform search engines of the “master” version of content if it lives on multiple URLs.
  • Structured data. When relevant, this sends strong and efficient signals to search engines. This is more specific for websites that have very standardized fields, e.g. recipe sites.
  • Site and page speed. These are heavily weighted variables when it comes to ranking. There are a number of ways to ensure your site loads quickly:
  • Limit site redirects
  • Compress heavy files
  • Optimize server response
  • Optimize image/alt tags

Tools to check the health of your site

Here are the top tools to help you manage your technical SEO efforts: 

  • Google Search Console (free)
  • Screaming Frog crawler (free)
  • Ahrefs (paid)
  • Moz Rank Checker (paid)
  • Google Site Speed Checker (free)

The importance of conducting an audit and setting a baseline

The foundation of any content-driven SEO strategy is always an audit to determine crawl/site issues that can hinder performance. Address these issues to unlock the ability to scale your content and optimization priorities. Baseline your traffic and rankings on key terms to establish your starting point. SEO does not afford “lift” measurement, only a pre/post view, which can still be very powerful.

Off-page or off-site optimization

Backlink relevance and authority plays a significant role in search engine ranking algorithms. There are lots of ways to do this, including nefarious blackhat tactics involving link farms and payment for backlinks. We strongly recommend staying away from these methods, as Google is incredibly sophisticated at knowing when this is happening and penalizes sites accordingly.

There are three primary types of backlinks: 

  1. Organic. A user reads your blog post and links to it from their website. This happens naturally when you create and share great, informative content.
  2. Manual. Links built through legitimate, non-nefarious actions. For example, by asking partners and influencers to share your content. Make sure you pursue this through the lens of adding value to your end user or customer.
  3. Other. Self-placed in directories and other third-party sites.

Off-page SEO is one of the hardest factors of SEO you can influence. Avoid shortcuts (i.e. blackhat methods), and focus on what you can control to build real value.

  • Create great content. Write content that your audience loves and wants to share. Optimize your product pages to ensure customers derive value from them. You can organically build backlinks if you focus on providing value to your audience.
  • Leverage your unique advantages. Some industries, verticals, and products naturally have distribution built in and can be a means for building a solid backlink profile. For example, Eventbrite has local plus event-type themes that enables them to naturally create search optimized pages for a wide variety of keywords.
  • Quality, not quantity. The quality and credibility of backlinks matters much more than sheer quantity. Don’t focus on just volume.

On-page or on-site optimization

This is where you’ll find opportunities for both short-term wins and long-term success when it comes to a content-driven SEO strategy. 

Start with what you have; baseline where you are and where you want to go with your SEO strategy, so you can measure progress.

  • Organic traffic. Where are you now? How are you measuring/analyzing?
  • Codify your keyword targets. Build your baseline keywords you’d like to rank for.
  • Build a ranking baseline. Run your keywords through a rank checking tool (like Moz) to know where you’re starting from.
  • Map your keywords. It’s helpful to map your existing content to target keywords, then determine gaps and opportunities to help prioritize your content.

Use these core on-site elements to drive relevancy:

  • Title tags. Make sure they’re keyword targeted and descriptive of the content on the page. Title tags will be presented in SERPs to promote a higher CTR.
  • Metadata. Not heavily weighted, but clear, concise descriptions in SERPs can promote higher CTR.
  • URL structure. A clean, keyword targeted structure is a strong ranking signal that drives relevance.
  • Internal linking. Cross-linking relevant content within your site (site navigation and in-line content) can improve user navigation and relevancy. Don’t forget to use keyword-focused anchor text for these links (vs. generic anchor text like “click here”).
  • Header tags. H1 tags (and H2s, H3s, etc.) can reinforce keyword themes within page content. Not the most heavily weighted, but still an important piece of the puzzle.
  • Page content optimization. Keyword density and repetition can drive relevance and reaffirm what the page is all about. A good rule of thumb is a mention of the keyword for every 40-50 words of content, but it’s very variable and you should always write your content for the user, not only to send a signal to search algorithms.

A Recap: Building a content-driven SEO strategy

  1. Where to start. Take stock of your existing content. Determine where you have success.
  2. Keyword discovery. Use tools, data, and intuition to determine your prioritized keyword list, i.e. where you should invest first:
  3. Google Search Console query reports – can be used daily or weekly to get insight into your site diagnostics (e.g. crawl issues), get basic organic search traffic information, determine which keywords are referring traffic to your site from Google, and more.
  4. Paid search (SEM) campaign performance data – find out what’s working best for paid search and consider trying to organically rank for these same keywords.
  5. Google Keyword Planner tool – look at volume of searches and competition, as well as what other pages are ranking to determine whether or not you think you’ll be able to rank for a particular keyword.
  6. Google Trends – what search phrases are trending up vs. down?
  7. Competitive research – what are your competitors ranking for, and what gaps can you fill?
  8. Keyword mapping. Create a keyword map/taxonomy to ground yourself in your strategy. Determine what pages are ranking for what keywords and build your SEO strategy around that.
  9. SEO strategies will vary. Content-based SEO varies based on the type of product/industry you’re in. While the fundamentals stay the same, the approach and opportunity is very different for an ecommerce site vs. a SaaS product vs. a local/geo-focused marketplace. Regardless, patience and diligence are critical!

Interested in discussing your content and SEO strategy with growth marketing experts at Right Side Up? Reach out to us at hello@rightsideup.co and we'll get back to you stat.

Lindsay Piper Shaw is a director of offline marketing at Right Side Up, where she partners with innovative brands on in-house marketing initiatives, including podcast and other offline channels. Prior to joining Right Side Up, Lindsay scaled podcast campaigns for brands like quip, Lyft, and Texture, and she has also worked with McDonald’s, Honda, ampm, and Tempur-Sealy, among others. She is passionate about the podcast space as a growth driver, and especially loves educating newcomers in the channel. In her free time she listens to podcasts and makes a podcast called Murder We Wrote (she really can’t get enough podcasts).

Mike Timoney is Head of Client Engagement/Operations at Right Side Up where he is responsible for the ongoing success of clients/partners in addition to other areas of business operation. Mike has over 15 years of experience, both agency and in-house, leading growth and performance marketing programs, channels, and teams. Mike has held various senior roles in growth/performance marketing/analytics at companies such as Eventbrite, Walmart.com, Credit Karma, and Front.

Katie Kearsey is a marketer, storyteller, and people person with more than a decade of experience building consumer and B2B brands with data-driven programs rooted in content, SEO, social, lifecycle, events, community, and more. She's worked with early stage startups and global brands, and enjoys building relationships with colleagues, clients, and partners alike. She has dual citizenship (US/EU) and currently calls Chicago home.

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