There are countless articles—and opinions—out there about Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Optimizing your website to maximize organic traffic is a key part of any good content strategy. Yet there still seem to be contradicting opinions about SEO as it relates to content strategy. Despite these contradictions, there are still four main concepts that remain true. These four pillars of Search Engine Optimization are the foundation for any good content strategy.
1. Make a plan
The first pillar of SEO is to make a plan. Content strategy—and thereby SEO—is a plan to optimize your website so that the right people end up with the right content. Ultimately, this is the goal of search engine, and we want it this way. You don’t want users jumping onto your site thinking it’s relevant only to bail out seconds later. You want leads to become conversions. And in order to do this, you need to know what you are offering and who is going to want it. You need a plan. Your plan is the starting point that allows you to make decisions within the other three pillars.
So the question is, how do you make a plan? Any good plan starts with good research. I’ve outlined some key research tools for developing a content strategy in my article for Content Equals Money, Research Tools for Content Strategy. Using the tools in that article, like keyword and page rank research, will help you identify keywords that are relevant to your clients while having a traffic level you can compete with. Once you’ve researched your keywords, create an editorial calendar. Bill Ross offers some excellent tips for creating an editorial calendar that will promote your content strategy.
2. Keep it relevant
The second pillar of SEO is to have something worth sharing and to share it with people who are interested. Relevance is a key concept of SEO and content strategy, and you will see it recurring in almost every article about either. Whenever you publish something to the internet, you should keep relevance in mind. Whether you’re posting a comment on a blog for back linking or posting articles on your own site, think about the relevance it will have to users. If possible, post back linked comments on blogs that relate to what you offer. A relevant back link is worth way more than an irrelevant one.
In addition to being meaningful to the audience, whatever you are offering should be worthwhile. It should be something that is needed and that will give a reason for people to invest in your product or service. Apple is perhaps the greatest modern-day example of this. Apple is known for creating products that we never even knew we wanted. And yet, now that they are in our hands, we can’t imagine life without them. Although your products or services may not be that groundbreaking, find ways to make what you offer original and needed.
3. Be social
The third pillar of SEO is to be social. There are a lot of aspects to being social in a digital world. Social Networks are the obvious avenue for this. Connections to social networks are perhaps the biggest SEO connection for a company. In an interview with Danny Sullivan from December 2010, Google and Bing confirmed that social media connections were now part of their search algorithms. This meant that social media connections to your site now influenced your page rank in these search engines. But why?
Edwin Huertes, in an article for Social Fresh, gives what I think is the best answer as to why social media is relevant. Search is a powerful tool for finding what you are looking for, but what it lacks is engagement. Search gets us places, but it doesn’t help us interact with the community we arrive at. According to Huertes, that’s where social comes in, it offers engagement. It’s the same reason I was given by LinkedIn specialist, Greig Wells, for how and why employers used LinkedIn. LinkedIn as with all social networks, allows employers to see how active you are in your field. Social media gives a measurable sense of how engaged you are in your industry.
So be sure you connect your social media strategy with your content strategy. For more ideas, read my Content Equals Money article Boosting Your Social Media Based Conversions. But social networks are not the only place you can be engaged. Use your blog as a place to engage your clients and professionals in your field. Regularly post in your blogs and be sure to include links in your blog articles that connect to others in your field. And engage with other blogs in your profession. Leave comments that move the conversation forward. These build back links while also developing your company’s online presence.
4. Keep it current
The fourth and final pillar of SEO is to keep things current. In general, content that is more than a week old is out-dated in this fast-paced internet society. Therefore, any content strategy needs constant maintenance to stay current. Make use of Google’s search refinement tools in the left sidebar in their search engine. Clicking More Search Tools will reveal options to limit the time range of articles that appear in your search. Keeping things current helps to build your content strategy. In November, Google shared that their search algorithm now takes into account how current articles and sites are in its search.
This means that when you are leaving comments or linking to other articles within your own blog, stick to blog articles written within the past week. Not all your links need to be current, but remember that current ones have a stronger impact in search algorithms. Also be sure that you continuously update your content. Your own blog is obviously the best place to do this. Keep posting articles to keep your followers interested and to show search engines that your content is active and dynamic.
These four pillars form the foundation of content strategy for SEO. There are many opinions out there about how to accomplish them and what is most important, but in the end, make sure your content strategy is well planned, relevant, engaged, and current. These core aspects will be important in any content strategy. How do you make use of these pillars in your own content?