Content Marketing and SEO Success

Lots of people know more about content marketing than I do. I am likely to quote some of them here.

I am a content writer. My work fits into the web of elements that, together, add up to search engine optimization (SEO). It is used in content marketing campaigns and it does contribute to SEO success.

Clients and prospective clients quiz me about content marketing every day. So, I have to address it here.

Understanding the framework for search engine optimization will help you understand how to use content to market your products and services. It will also help you feel more confident to hire SEO services, and to get a better return on your investment when you do. If you’ve wanted to know more about content marketing, please read on. 

What is “Content?”

Content marketing is the strategic use of content to make friends with potential customers and, ultimately, sell products or services.

“Content” is broadly defined as words (writing) and images (visuals) used in business writing today. But the term “content marketing” most often refers to digital content – any words and images produced or delivered in a digital format.

Digital content is what’s on the pages, and in the posts and articles, on your websites, blogs, and electronic media platforms like YouTube. Content marketing, as a term of art, just means using these platforms to deliver “effective” content to your existing and potential customers.

What is “Effective” Content?

To be considered effective, the content needs to do things like engage, inspire, amuse, entertain, or educate them, and so on. In other words, you gotta give ‘em something. You’ve got to genuinely interest them to earn SEO success.
And they have to let you know, by doing things like:

  • Signing up for a mailing list
  • Liking or following you on social media
  • Sharing a social media post
  • Buying a small offering from you
  • Buying a larger offering – repeat customer
  • Buying large the first time – high-interest customer
  • Taking a survey
  • Referring a friend
  • Joining anything: your Facebook group, a VIP club

All that stuff is measurable. Today, apps give small business owners incredible new insights into what people do on our platforms. Where do they browse? How long do they stay? Do they come back? With all that data, you can start cooking with gas.

People ask why “SEO” is so frickin’ expensive. But is it?

Think about it this way: Walking potential customers down this path is like a slow dance. This dance is called the customer journey. Courting the special customers who love your stuff can make them lifelong ambassadors for your brand. You’re not looking for everybody. Just your special people. So, if it helps, think of it as a seduction. An artful seduction that takes time and subtlety. And maybe a little fun. And you may have to spend a little cash. I mean…!

So, why should those special people choose you? That’s the question all your content has to answer.

Why Small Business Owners, Social Enterprises, and Nonprofit CEOs Need to Know More About Content Marketing

Content marketing is the strategic use of content to reach a well-defined audience with news and information that’s of interest to them.
That’s the idea in a nutshell. You must know your customers first. If you’re not clear on your ideal customer – go back and do that work!

Know your customer(s) – inside and out. Then, learning how to reach them, how you engage them – that’s where the dance begins. That’s where content marketing links to SEO. Content, you see, is just one leg of the SEO stool.

Chasing SEO Success

SEO is complicated (but not rocket science), and the rules change often. It is more craft than art. And yes, you can rank well in search engine results with a little know-how and a little effort. And a little time.

The internet has equalized access to the masses, and whole career empires are being built by online influencers who use content to market products and services. These are empires built firmly on foundations of content. Content that lots and lots of people dial in to see.

Digital content marketing has outpaced the former “marketing campaign” that was based in print. The percentage of marketing spend by businesses on digital content marketing is now 44 percent of marketing budgets.

Before COVID-19, CMOs were expecting to increase their digital marketing spending from 44 percent to 54 percent by 2024. [Gartner CMO Spend Survey 2019-2020] (I’m sure new projections will be forthcoming, as the economy stutters back life at some uncertain point in the future.)

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

Causing SEO success requires many components. The excitement begins when all elements are active and available to work together, strategically.
The 3 essential structural components are:

Site Structure. This is the skeleton of the site. The relatedness of content – how it all hangs together – is the search engine’s best indicator of what the site is about. A careful site map focuses the site, making it more available to search engine crawlers.

Content. Make content strategic and intentional with a detailed quarterly content plan. A content plan helps you communicate effectively with diverse audiences. It also helps you refine the content for each segment, while keeping the focus on your key brand messages.

Technical Formatting. This relates to the optimization of individual pieces of content. The following elements are all a part of technical formatting for SEO.

  • Link structure: the internal link structure decodes the site for search engines. It also, not coincidentally, should help the customer get the information they need. Links may lead to more information on the site, where they can either get geeky, or see complex subjects explained in plain language.
  • External links matter too. Is anyone else linking to your page? That’s always a good sign. And are your outbound links always relevant, strategic, and sufficient in number? Do they add more information and support your authority?
  • Keywords. A good keyword strategy today is based on research, not guessing. Data lets us see the real words people use to search for us. We base our keywords on that. Nothing random about it.
  • Images. The web is a visual platform. No matter the topic, images must accompany the content. Those images can make or break your site – and must be controlled for size and optimized with your keywords and keyphrases
  • Meta tags. This is the language of the search engine, and tags on pages, articles, and images tell the search engine what it needs to know.
  • Headings and other On-Page Optimization. Search engines rate a site on its structure. The content is also rated on structure. Each piece of content on a site must be optimized for SEO success.

The best way to rank is to be a solid source for a piece of information. That takes content.

Why We Fail at Content Marketing

“I’ve spent a fortune on SEO, but my website produces no leads. WTF?!”

This is a lament I hear frequently in my business. Trust me, I understand. I did the same thing myself in a previous business. So have a number of other small businesses that I know. Thousands of dollars.

We didn’t understand what we were paying for, exactly. We never invested quite as much as we were told we _should_ for the result we wanted. So when we didn’t get it, underinvestment was invariably blamed.

Many of us gave up. Left those sunk costs behind.

Today, I am a content writer and a creator of various types of content for websites, blogs, digital magazines and other media. My work is the “content” in “content marketing. 

I create compelling words, images, and ideas that excite, inspire, and motivate the right people – your potential customers – to take an action. Most of my work has to be search engine optimized. Yet, though it is vital, my work is just one element of SEO success.

For a long time, I didn’t have an intimate knowledge of all the other parts. At some point, I realized that was a handicap. So, I’ve spent a good bit of time studying all the other parts, so that my part can be fit in seamlessly, efficiently, transparently. I’ve come to know more about content marketing.

And, I’ve learned, MY JOB IS EASIER if my clients understand SEO, too!  At least the strategic framework. Failure to grasp the big picture is why we keep getting disappointed. And, truth be told, sometimes we rob ourselves – by under-investing, and/or not giving it time.

The Bottom Line

“Why is SEO so frickin expensive?”

That’s not the question you should ask. When it comes to search engine optimization, it’s possible to buy your way to the top – if you have the know-how and unlimited funds. But there’s also organic growth. It’s way less expensive, but it takes time – and time is money too. Either way, SEO success will cost you.

Still, experts recommend that just the way you built your business, build your SEO ranking. Slowly, strategically, organically. Use content to market products and services. Slow and steady will put you in the ballpark with premium content providers, and will build you a solid content library that establishes your expertise in your field, and provides ongoing value to your customer.