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Written by Justine Rabideau on Apr 1

From keyword research to content promotion, here’s the 411 on creating a content strategy designed with SEO in mind.

Here, you’ll find:

  • The 3 pillars of a successful SEO content strategy
  • A breakdown of 8 steps to follow
  • Pro tips to help you optimize your website content
  • How to create a plan for regular content revitalization
SEO Content Strategy: A Step-by-Step Guide

(Image via Unsplash)

Creating a content strategy — especially one designed for maximum SEO impact — is a much more in-depth process than sitting down, typing out a bunch of words, and posting it on your website. Let’s take a step back.

Why does having an effective content strategy even matter? For starters, having a good content strategy can increase your organic traffic from search engines, grow your email subscribers, and help expand your social reach. 

Data from the Content Marketing Institute shows that 65% of the most successful content marketers have a documented strategy. If you’re writing content that engages users and addresses their pain points, it can boost your overall brand authority in the eyes of the consumer and help lift you over your competitors.

Below, we’ve broken it down into 3 pillars highlighting what to do before, during, and after creating your content for maximum SEO success.

Pillar 1: Preparing to write your content

There’s a bit of legwork to be done before you put pen to paper (or, more likely, fingers to keyboard). This stage is extremely important, so we advise not skipping it in order to rush right into the writing portion.

Understand your target audience

The first question to ask before you write any piece of content or start developing your overall content strategy is, who is my target audience? Who is going to actually be reading and digesting this content?  

If you already have audience personas built out, that’s great! You’re one step ahead. If not, you can begin building them by considering  your target audience’s age range, locations, interests, and job titles. If you use a customer relationship management (CRM) tool, you likely have access to a lot of this data already. You can also find demographic and interest data in Google Analytics and within the analytics section of your social media profiles. 

If somewhere the data doesn’t match what you’d expect it to look like — if it looks radically different in your Google Analytics profile compared to your existing CRM, for example — you could be missing out on opportunities or speaking to the wrong audience. 

Pro tip: In Google Analytics, “affinity audiences” allows you to see information on people who are actively researching a particular product or service. You might be surprised at some of the things that you find in these audience interest categories, so they’re worth looking into.

SEO content strategy - HawkSEM

A look at topic and questions research in SEMrush.

Conduct keyword and topic research

Keywords don’t mean as much in the SEO world as they used to. Google updates its algorithm hundreds of times a year. Some updates are bigger than others, but the most recent ones have focused on better understanding human language and how specific terms relate to topics, as it becomes increasingly reliant on AI and machine learning. (Perhaps unsurprising, due to the rise of voice search and smart speakers.)

Thinking beyond keywords will be increasingly important as Google’s algorithm continues down the path of machine learning and artificial intelligence to power search results. Luckily, tools like SEMrush can help you delve more into the topics and questions people are typing into the search bar.

Pro tip: Keyword research is still important to your SEO content strategy. You want to make sure you understand the search volume and difficulty of ranking for your key terms. 

When conducting keyword research, you want to check what keywords you’re currently ranking for first. It’s a good idea to start here so you don’t spend time focusing on a keyword you’re already ranking for. This way, you can also identify any keyword gaps where you might be missing opportunities. You can use tools like Moz and Ahrefs to find related keywords, volume, and difficulty of terms that you discovered but that you’re not ranking for. 

In most cases, the higher volume a term is, the more difficult it’s going to be to rank for because it’s probably a lot more competitive, with a higher amount of other sites targeting that same keyword.

HawkSEM SEO content strategy - content calendar infographic

Build out a content calendar

Many marketers immediately think of blogs when they hear “content.” But there are many different content types that can increase user engagement and earn more backlinks. 

These could include:

  • E-books
  • Case studies
  • Videos 
  • Infographics
  • Podcasts

Of course, some pieces of content are going to take a lot longer to build out than others. Planning it out ahead of time and having a solid schedule in place will keep you organized and on the right track. This can be as simple or as detailed as you want — even a shared Google spreadsheet can get the job done.

Details you may want to include in your content calendar are:

  • The type of content
  • The due date for the author to submit the content
  • The date the content is slated to go live
  • The associated keyword or terms
  • The author’s name 
SEO content strategy - HawkSEM

E-A-T is a complex topic, but it ties back to that concept of writing for people and not search engines. (Image via Unsplash)

Pillar 2: Writing and editing your content

Once you’ve done all the research and prepped your content calendar, it’s time for the actual writing! 

Write for people, not search engines

When it comes to your SEO content strategy, one of the most important things to keep in mind is that you should be writing for people, not search engines. Consider Google’s main goal: to provide users with the best, most engaging content that answers the query they typed into the search box. If you can satisfy those requirements, that’s going to help you rank.

If you find yourself obsessing over things like content length or the number of times that you use the keyword within a piece, take a step back and put yourself in the user’s shoes instead. If they stumble across your content, would they find the information valuable? 

Would they want to:

  • Come back and read more because your content really wowed them?
  • Be inclined to trust you since your content helped them or answered their question?
  • Take an action like signing up for a newsletter or downloading another piece of content?
  • Request a demo or consultation?

Consider E-A-T

E-A-T is a relatively new concept in the SEO world — it stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness. This acronym is meant to help content developers and SEO pros understand how Google rates high-quality content. 

E-A-T really comes into play for sites that Google considers “your money, your life,” or YMYL (though it applies to other topics as well). These include topics like legal and financial advice, medical issues, and other things that impact your quality of life. Google understands that, for these queries, finding the best and most accurate answers is particularly paramount, so they want to make sure the info they provide is sourced from qualified professionals.

Ask these questions to determine E-A-T standards

There are questions you can ask yourself to see if you’re meeting E-A-T standards. For expertise, you can ask: 

  • Is this content written by an expert or an enthusiast who is reliable and knows the topic well? 
  • Is Google able to recognize this person as an expert?
  • Is it referencing credible sources and actual statistics?
  • Should people feel comfortable trusting this content with YMYL decisions?

For authority, you can ask:

  • If someone researched the site producing this content, would they come away with the impression that it was trustworthy and recognized as an authority?
  • Does the site have verified client testimonials?
  • Is there an “About” page on the website?
  • Is there any additional content on the site showing this brand has authority on this topic?

For trustworthiness, you can ask:

  • Does the content present itself in a way that makes you want to trust it?
  • Is there trustworthiness in the expertise of the person writing the piece? 
  • Are there trustworthy backlinks pointing to this site? 
  • Does the overall site look trustworthy? 

E-A-T is a complex topic, but it ties back to that concept of writing for people and not search engines. 

Pro tip: When it comes to writing, there’s no one-size-fits-all number for how many times you should use a specific keyword in your copy. If you think maybe you may be on the verge of keyword stuffing, read it out loud and see if it sounds natural to the human ear.

Pillar 3: Publishing and promoting your content

Once the copy is written and optimized, it’s time to publish and promote. After all, what good is high-quality content if no one sees it?

Remember on-site SEO best practices

On-site SEO refers to general best practices to keep in mind with any piece you write. This includes things like having a page title and meta description. Ideally, both of these elements will have keywords in them, since Google uses them to help understand the content of your page. 

Headings also help Google understand the different sections of your content. If you have a long-form article with more than 1,000 words, those headings help search engines understand what each section is about. They also make it easier for users to scan and quickly find the content they are looking for.

For SEO purposes, it’s a good idea to leverage internal links with keyword-rich anchor text. You’ve probably seen plenty of links with “click here” or “learn more” as their anchor text. But Google uses anchor text to understand what the page’s content is about, so if you’re using generic phrases, Google’s going to have a harder time understanding your link.

You can also use high-authority external links as needed. If you’re referencing a study from the CDC or the FDA, for example, those are good high-authority external links. 

Have a content revitalization strategy

Writing new and exciting content is key to a successful SEO strategy. But if you publish a piece of content and never touch it again, you’re doing your business a major disservice. 

If you have blogs that are 5 or even 10 years old, there’s probably information in them that’s not accurate or relevant anymore. Having a plan for regularly updating those pieces with the latest information when it becomes available can have a huge impact on your site traffic and rankings. That’s where conducting a content audit comes in.

The 7 steps to conducting a content audit are:

  • Create a spreadsheet list of all content URLs
  • Determine how many sessions each page had over the past 6 months (or longer depending on how much traffic comes to your site) and how many backlinks point to each page
  • Identify pages with “thin content” that may not satisfy a user’s search intent
  • Look for posts with duplicate or similar topics and consider removing or combining them into one long-form piece
  • Identify posts with outdated content or older statistics and update with more recent information
  • Don’t forget to redirect posts removed from the site to avoid 404 errors
  • Repeat this process regularly (once or twice a year) to keep your content fresh and relevant

As you can see, this can be a time-intensive exercise, depending on how much content you post, but the results are worth it. 

SEO content strategy - social promotion - HawkSEM

Amplifying your content on social channels and through email also keeps your brand top-of-mind for your audience.

Amplify your content 

A piece of content you don’t share via social media or email channels is unlikely to get much traction. Although social shares and likes aren’t direct organic ranking factors, if Google sees a lot of engagement on a page or post, it’s a signal of high-quality content.

Amplifying your content on social channels and through email also keeps your brand top-of-mind for your audience. 

The takeaway

High-quality content can be a game-changer when it comes to your site’s SEO. Not only that, but it helps illustrate to users that you’re a trustworthy thought leader. 

By following the above steps and having a solid, doable plan in place, you’ll have a robust, thorough content library worth bragging about. 

For more on this topic, check out our webinar, 10 Steps to Creating a Content Strategy for SEO.

Justine Rabideau

Justine Rabideau

    Justine Rabideau is HawkSEM's Lead Strategist. She's in charge of leading and executing marketing strategies across the digital spectrum including PPC, social media, and SEO. She has worked with clients of all sizes and budgets across a variety of industries. In her free time, she enjoys running, cooking, reading, and Netflix.

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