Say you have a presentation with a very powerful message about the mission of your brand. You’re qualified to speak on the subject matter because you live and breathe it — and your audience cares, because what you do makes a difference in their lives.
Your goal is to get this message in front of as many people as you can. So you sign up to talk at professional organizations, networking events, industry conferences, small groups of decision-makers and so on.
After years of giving this presentation, you realize that there’s one particular group of people who represent the most opportunity for your brand — those who want to receive your message and are most responsive to it. You observe that these people have certain characteristics and may even live within a particular region. To maximize your ROI, you’ll want to ensure that you are tapping into this group in a meaningful way.
This is the scenario brands face today online: working to get the right message in front of the right people. When harnessed properly, organic search presents one of the greatest opportunities to find those with whom your message will resonate best.
Content Marketing Is Big
Content marketing is in full swing. In fact, one statistic shows that brands invested upwards of $44 billion in content last year.
Yet, many brands still struggle when it comes to content marketing strategy. According to a survey conducted by BrightEdge (which concluded in January of this year), 93% of marketers say they would increase content budgets by at least 10 percent in 2014 if they could identify what content is the most effective for engaging their audience.
Additionally, a majority of marketers are increasingly looking to organic search as a means to drive content ROI.
Right now, brands are facing a disconnect between the content they create and its ability to perform well in organic search. Those coming purely from an SEO perspective typically take a data-driven approach to content strategy, sometimes failing to take into account other important factors (like the branding and messaging, for example). Those coming from a pure content creation role are likely to be primarily focused on the content itself, without much regard to optimization techniques or data-driven insights.
If you’re taking a true content marketing approach, your content should be fueled by data about topics and your audience, then created with a laser focus on relevance and expertise. Distribution of content should be done across multiple channels, including search and social.
Those approaching content marketing without a background in organic search may not understand what it takes for content to compete in what’s arguably among the most profitable online channels.
Add to that the fact that growing brands have expanding teams that span departments, buildings and geographic locations, and you likely have a scenario where, even if a brand sees the value in organic search and the power of content in that channel, it may not have the internal collaboration capabilities to ensure that their content will be able to compete.
Harnessing Organic Search For Content Marketing
We studied the impact of optimizing pages for search before they are published, and we uncovered a potential to drive 10% more traffic, 25% more revenue and 50% less time to results for targeted pages.
However, organic search can be one of the most complicated channels to understand — and, due to its competitive nature, not simple to succeed in. If your brand is ready to tackle the organic search channel for your content marketing, there are three key ingredients for success:
- A content management system that supports your company’s marketing needs
- A content optimization plan that uses data to inform topical focus
- An understanding of what success means for your content marketing plan
It goes without saying that you need some form of analytics to succeed in content marketing for organic search. Some brands stick with a single source of data while other stitch multiple sources together. While the latter may lead to a broader view (and thus deeper insights), it can also produce a fragmented view of your efforts if those data sources aren’t effectively integrated with one another.
Some brands may decide to stick with Google Analytics, for example, to measure their organic content marketing, so long as they can also measure other channels like social and email, and how they interact with one another. Brands that are performing multi-channel content marketing must consider these types of integrations.
Content Management Systems: Not Just For Web Developers
In the olden days, decisions about content management systems (CMS) were reserved for the IT folk. But in the context of content marketing and organic search, the CMS plays a vital role.
When choosing a CMS, it’s important to select one that:
- Allows search engines to crawl your page content with ease, and understand what that content is. Not all content management systems are created equal when it comes to this.
- Allows staff to easily collaborate, make changes and update content without having to go into the source code or request the help of IT. When it comes to content marketing, nothing slows a brand’s productivity more than when teams can’t make swift updates.
Content Visibility: Optimize, Optimize, Optimize
The term “optimize” can mean different things to different people, and brands sometimes shy away from content optimization when they believe it is meant for technical-minded SEOs tucked away in dark, corner offices. But the truth is, optimization is a task for which everyone on the marketing team — including content creators — can (and should) be held accountable.
In general, optimizing content for organic search means using data to inform your content creation and distribution strategy. Specifically, you would use data to:
- Understand what your audience wants information about
- See what your competition is up to (and thus determine how you can do better)
- Create content that search engines can easily understand and interpret
Optimization starts before you even begin creating content (when you are in the research and planning phase) and can continue for the life of a piece of content (as you review content performance data).
In general, optimizing content for organic search includes:
- Keyword research to discover what your audience is searching for
- Assigning those keywords to topics, and mapping those topics to actual content assets (such as web pages, for example)
- Creating quality, relevant and unique content that matters to your audience
- Making sure content is optimized for search engine visibility
- Sharing content across other channels, like social media, to increase the chances that people will link to and share it (search and social are synergistic channels that pass value from one to another)
To expand on No. 4, the optimizing a web page for search visibility involves a consideration of the following elements:
- Title tags and header tags
- Meta tags
- Image tags
- Page URL
- Text-to-code ratio
- Duplicate page content
- Slow page load time
- Mobile friendliness
There are countless other factors that search engines like Google take into account when they rank content. Understand how the back end of the site and the structure of the web pages can negatively or positively impact your content marketing in organic search.
Tracking Content: Know Your Goals
While analytics tools are great for lending powerful insight into the performance of content, success depends on what you want your content to be able to achieve (traffic, leads, brand awareness, etc).
Goals should be defined long before the research even begins. Then, these goals can be set up within your analytics tools so you know exactly how a piece of content is performing. (For more on setting content goals that align with business value, see this post on earning the right to invest in content.)
In addition to looking at content performance at a high level, consider digging into your page-level data as well. Where did the users come from? What did they do while on the page? Where did they go next? Analyzing page-level data for your content can help you determine not just what is performing well, but why.
The gap between content performance and the organic search opportunity is still wide for many brands. But, the marketing industry is still converging to marry more traditional marketing with SEO and digital channels. As brands grow their marketing teams in 2014, the need for integrated skills sets and the right technology will be crucial.
(Stock image via Shutterstock.com. Used under license.)
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.