By now, every business owner knows that SEO is essential for driving traffic—both online and on foot. Spending on SEO alone is projected to increase from $65 billion in 2016 to almost $80 billion in 2020, according to a study by Borrell Associates. The motivation is obvious: having the best product and the strongest content won’t matter if no one can find your website. The importance of content creation by business owners and marketers alike has also been validated, with a similar jump in growth projected over the same time period. But treating SEO and content creation as two separate elements of your digital marketing strategy means wasting potential returns on both investments. 97% of marketers surveyed agreed that SEO and content have become more integrated and are converging and/or are converting to a single function. So what does that look like in practice? And what does it mean for your marketing department?
SEO Determines Content
Keyword strategy of the past meant finding the most-searched keywords in your industry or niche and then writing a blog post stuffed with those keywords. While this is still one part of a successful keyword strategy (minus the stuffing), it neglects to consider the intentions of the user. Whenever you’re creating content the first question should be, “What does my customer want or need?” The second question is, “What will they do with this information?”
People type queries into search engines for a variety of different reasons. Sometimes they may be ready to purchase, other searches are solely informative in nature. Google takes user intent into account via the concept of “micro moments,” and actively uses it to adjust the SERP. For your brand, this means creating different content that addresses each stage of the buyer journey and further optimizing that content for buyer persona and device. Someone searching “Dell Inspiron i7 coupon” is likely more ready to purchase than someone searching “best desktops 2017.” Understanding these differences—and building content around them—means not only will you be more likely to offer the content that satisfies your customers’ needs, but it will be higher-ranked as well.
Good Content Drives SEO
Intelligent content tailored for different stages (and different devices) in the buyer journey is important, but so is understanding who your customer is and how to engage them. An informative and well-written blog post is worthless if it doesn’t appeal to your customer base. Content that drives engagement not only increases conversions and revenue on your site, but highly shared posts, videos, and infographics in turn drive SEO. The more useful/informative/popular a post is to your base, the more it can be used to increase your SEO footprint.
On the other side of the coin is emotion. Experience matters more than words, and emotional hooks will have people sharing your content (and remembering it) long after they’ve left your site. Beyond just sharing, emotions drive purchase decisions. Simply put, utilizing brand storytelling to create an emotional connection with your audience can have a bigger impact on your bottom line than offering a superior product.
Numbers Drive Everything
If SEO is about data and content is about engagement, then the convergence of the two means using the former to drive the latter. For every piece of content you create, for every page on your website, there should be hard data behind it. Markets should constantly asking themselves the following questions: “Which pages drive the most conversions?” and “What kind of blog posts get shared the most? You should be continuously optimizing the type and style of content you’re producing based on the content that gets the most results. Decide on the KPIs that are the most critical to your strategy and follow the numbers. If your content is getting eyeballs but not action, your SEO investment is getting wasted by a misguided content strategy. Removing operational silos and fully integrating your digital strategy is the most efficient way to guarantee that your investment in great content isn’t getting wasted on poor SEO, or vice versa.
The Case For Convergence
Long gone are the days of keyword stuffing and shady link-building to drive traffic. Great SEO efforts must lead users to high-quality, differentiated, intent-based content, and data-driven content creation will impact SEO and revenue more than any black-hat tactics ever could. Technical SEO considerations such as removing duplicate content, utilizing rel=canonical tags, or fixing any 404s and orphan pages on your site are still critical in getting your content ranked and seen, but integrating your SEO and content strategies is no longer an option or an alternative—it’s an imperative.