Lee Odden

Key SEO Questions For Better Content Marketing

sunset lake minnetonka

Amazing sunset outside of the TopRank office.

The agency (TopRank Online Marketing) that I started with Susan Misukanis celebrated it’s 10th Birthday this year and in all my time as an Internet Marketer, no other combination of marketing tactics has yielded results like Search Engine Optimization and Content. Over the past 5 years Social Media has entered the mix as an even more powerful amplifier to the effect of optimized content.

But there’s a key problem with how content marketing is implemented by many SEO-focused agencies and practitioners. Creation of “content” has escalated to amazing levels but there is a lot of that content fails to achieve the desired objective. In the midst of keywords, links, rankings and search algorithms there are several important pieces missing.

SEO tends to be viewed as very tactical when it’s actually not only an important piece of a business internet marketing strategy, but it’s a compelling way to view online marketing overall. I’m talking about an “Optimized” state of mind that focuses on customers more than keywords and outcomes more than the trendiest online platforms.

Part of solving this problem is for those who employ SEO and Content Creation, Optimization and Promotion to think of optimization as a strategy. What can be searched can be optimized for better performance. That’s a holistic approach beyond keywords in title tags, Page Rank and inbound links. Not only is there benefit to view any electronic file that an be published online as a potential marketing asset, but understanding how they can work together is something that can elevate and scale a company’s content marketing effectiveness.

So, what does this mean at the individual content tactic creation and optimization level?  I recommend Internet Marketers ask a few key questions for every content object they create. Whether it’s an email, blog post, press release or article for a publication, it’s essential to think about the answers to these questions:

  • What is this article’s key message and how does it relate to the brand?
  • Where does this content fit within the mix of brand content created on the same/similar topic?
  • What target search keywords is this content focused on?
  • What are the compelling social sharing motivations for this content?
  • What media can support this content (video, audio, images, interactive)?
  • What is the first level, second level audience?
  • What need or pain point does this content solve?
  • What’s the hook? (creative angle, metaphor,
  • What’s the punchline (revelation and call to action)?
  • How will this content inspire the reader to the next step, to action?
  • How can this content be repurposed and/or reposted in the future?
  • What promotion channels will be used to automate distribution?
  • How will the content be promoted, pitched, shared at large and with relevant influencers?
  • What are the target key performance indicators for this individual content object and for it’s category?

Answer those questions and think about the flow of the content. Does it identify a need or opportunity? Does it empathize with an audience or a problem?  Does it suggest a solution or conclusion? Is there a compelling call to action? Does it inspire the reader to do what you want them to do? (act, share, feel, experience). Does it have a purpose relevant to customers and the brand that stands alone outside of SEO and Social Media?

Regardless of the type, format or length of content, these are important questions to answer in order to produce relevant and compelling content that drives business as key components of a Search Engine and Social Media Optimization strategy. In the context of content marketing, an “optimized” approach is holistic and adaptable at making content easy to discover by the right audience, meaningful to consume and motivating to engage and act on.

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on integrated content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing.

Comments

  1. Great list of questions. I think one of the most important questions is the one about inspiring the reader to take the next step. If you’re creating content and blogging not only to provide information, but also for sales purposes, then finishing with a call to action is extremely important.

  2. I think content should always have it’s own personality as well. Give it a reason to stand out from the rest. 

  3. The hook/ creative angle is something that people have forgotten in this Internet SEO era. At the end of the day, we are writing the articles for real humans to read and not just search engines. We ought to remember that!

    • I’m glad that resonated Raj – there’s so much more to effective content that it’s SEO and findability properties. How many marketers actually think about how their content might make people feel? Emotions are what motivate and inspire action and understanding customer needs is an important first step towards an Optimized State of Mind 🙂

  4. Lisa Kalustian says:

    The issue of content can get shortchanged amid all the SEO tactics and strategies.  Getting people to your site is not the end-game, it’s the means to getting eyes on purposeful content designed as part of a comprehensive marketing strategy. Thanks for focusing some attention here.

    • Exactly, it’s a bit of “the means become the end” for many marketers. Some of that is short term thinking and some of it is because that’s all many internet marketers are held accountable to. Thank you Lisa for stopping by 🙂

  5. Jayna Locke says:

    Very well stated. We speak the same language! Thank you so much for articulating that. I very much agree with the holistic approach and how critical it is to support your brand marketing and customer engagement with all of your content.

    • Thank you Jayna.  You know, the definition of optimize is: “Make the best or most effective use of (a situation, opportunity, or resource) and taking a holistic perspective helps to better connect brands with customers across the customer life cycle. Unfortunately, that’s a rare perspective and those who adopt it immediately gain a new challenge (for implementation) but also a competitive advantage.

  6. Dschulenberg says:

    Precisely what I needed to reinforce as I am seeing conflicting brand v SEO driven content drivers in a distributed vendor project. The team of vendors need to understand this premise to deliver a cohesive product even when the client doesnt know to ask for it as you’ve well described here.

  7. I found SEO for blogs is simple to implement, the hard part remain the link building but the main problem here is the time, when you optimize a blog post you need some fast traffic before your content lose value because of the time

  8. Great list of questions you provide. I frankly use some of it but not most of it. Thanks to your post. I do like the question “How will this content inspire the reader to the next step, to action?”. Making an article or blog post should consider your audience, their needs, their
    wants. Once addressed, the next step is call to action which is the most important thus makes you fulfilled.

  9. I appreciate that you bring up the importance of not only focusing on getting
    people to your website, but also to deliver some meaningful content that catches
    their interest and fits their needs. The content should not only be informative
    but also inspire to action. Like you say – the focus should be on the costumer
    more than keywords.  Thanks for a great article and your list of SEO questions.

  10. I have been taking courses on Social Media and of course SEO is a big part of that.  I have been learning a lot about the how to of it all, but this really helps in terms of the content.  I just recently started a blog and trying to figure out how to do SEO, but also keep the content true to my voice is confusing. I’m going to have to re-do my blog to make it more “optimized”, but I’ll also answer these questions with each post to make it about more than being searchable.  Thanks so much for the information.  

  11. Anonymous says:

    Great questions! Definitely gets to the heart of truly targeted content. Love the question about how the content will inspire the reader to next steps. Good stuff.

  12. The SEO is a new subject to me and your article (the list of questions in particular) has helped to clear up the situation. Thank you for this. Also thank you for reminding everyone that our customers are the real humans. We are writing for them! Not for the crawlers.

  13. Nicholas Cote says:

    Once again Lee great article! Firstly, congrats on the 10th anniversary of TopRank Online Marketing. I agree that a great deal of people create content simply to plug keywords and create backlinks without really considering the substance of what they create. People should aim to create meaningful content that is relevant to the consumer in addition to what is relevant to the search engine. That was a great list of questions I will certainly be using in my future online marketing endeavors!

    Nicholas Cote
    http://www.audimated.com

    • Thank you Nicholas, glad you liked the post. I think the reason SEO content isn’t usually customer-centric is that clients (external or internal) aren’t driving it. If there’s no accountability then people will just follow the path of least resistance and get by on what they can. However, things are changing and I think a lot more of the Search community will be looking at their craft more holistically

    • Thank you Nicholas, glad you liked the post. I think the reason SEO content isn’t usually customer-centric is that clients (external or internal) aren’t driving it. If there’s no accountability then people will just follow the path of least resistance and get by on what they can. However, things are changing and I think a lot more of the Search community will be looking at their craft more holistically

  14. Nicholas Cote says:

    Once again Lee great article! Firstly, congrats on the 10th anniversary of TopRank Online Marketing. I agree that a great deal of people create content simply to plug keywords and create backlinks without really considering the substance of what they create. People should aim to create meaningful content that is relevant to the consumer in addition to what is relevant to the search engine. That was a great list of questions I will certainly be using in my future online marketing endeavors!

    Nicholas Cote
    http://www.audimated.com

  15. Spot-On, Lee. Well said. I especially like that you broke it all down into a LIST that, once the weenies like us shut up, it the best of its ilk I’ve ever seen!

  16. Spot-On, Lee. Well said. I especially like that you broke it all down into a LIST that, once the weenies like us shut up, it the best of its ilk I’ve ever seen!

  17. I think you make a great point Lewis, it isn’t always practical to answer these questions for every single page, but knowing them at the category level should be a minimum.

  18. I think you make a great point Lewis, it isn’t always practical to answer these questions for every single page, but knowing them at the category level should be a minimum.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I love that you wrote about creating content that’s people-centric, more than just what keywords would allow.  I’m just tired of all those sites posting contents written by bots and it’s quite hilarious- the site owner didn’t even take the time to check if the sentences make sense at all.  Hey, Congrats!! Never knew it’s been 10 years.

  20. Julie O'Day says:

    This is fabulous. I just launched our blog for the marketing agency I work for. We are trying to get into the groove. This helps so much. Thank you.

  21. ya you are right its the question about the content writing.

  22. Hey Lee — Your blog is on the reading list for a course I teach on social media best practices. Students are required to comment on at least one PR/social media blog of their choice each week, and it appears (based on the comments below) that yours is the overwhelming favorite. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and consistently coming up with information that’s valuable. Congrats on the 10-year anniversary!

  23. I have a question concerning the importance of duplicate content on inner pages.

    Except for long-tail keywords that have almost no competition and can rank high with just 1 page of content, most slightly competitive terms seem to reward sites with more pages of content. What I would like to know is this: I know that NOT having duplicate content is important for the page I’m trying to rank, but would this page be adversely impacted if other content pages of this site contained duplicate content?

    Now I already know the typical response would be to tell me to use original content in my inner pages and optimize these for other keywords to get more search volume but I already know that. What I’m really interested in knowing is that if I’ve decided to focus on just 1 keyword on my ranking page, while the other content pages merely exist as “filler” for my site to appear bigger, will my ranking page suffer if my filler pages have duplicate (but not stolen) content.

    Thank you in advance to anyone who can answer to this question.

    • How will “filler” help convert visitors to customers (or whatever goal you have for your site). Sounds like puffer fish SEO 🙂

      If your duplicate pages link to the source page using the source title tag as anchor text, you should be fine.

      But make the effort to create pages that are useful and have purpose vs. as filler. That approach “might” help with search visibility but what use is attracting search traffic to “filler” content?

  24. Is copy extremely important for SEO on the Home Page? Or can you incorporate plenty on every other page?

    I ask because I like the look of simple, clean images on the home page, but I’ve heard how you need to have content on the home page to get the best SEO.

    Thanks!

    • Hey Will, the home page of a website typically receives the most links and in combination with relevant text, can be come one of the most powerful assets for ranking on competitive, broad terms. If that plays into your marketing strategy, then it makes sense to find a way to include good text on your home page. If not, then let your text rich interior pages handle it. Regardless, I’m still a fan of some text on the home page, since it’s good for users too.

  25. That is very well said, content marketing is a very effective method of generating good amount of traffic and brand awareness as well. Every top organization is doing damn good in content marketing whether it’s through their own website blog or any other means. That being said it is utmost important for content to be informative and interesting.

  26. Content is very important role in seo.The content should not only be informative but also inspire to the action.If your creating a blog you should have good content.Content designed as part of a comprehensive marketing strategy.

  27. Great ideas and suggestions that help people do something useful in the context. Until people create more content with a specific goal in mind that uses keywords but does not have Seo as the only goal, we won’t be able to create more relevant search results.