Lee Odden

Key Questions to Optimize Your Content Marketing Strategy

I’ve been thinking about how entering the content marketing space is not for the faint of heart. It can be a signifcant undertaking both in terms of resources and a change in an organization’s approach to marketing and sales. Obviously, content marketing is better for some companies and industries than others. Outside help also makes a difference.

While increasing numbers of companies are realizing they  must provide more than product information to satisfy customers, many of those same companies fail by implementing random tactics and missing out on benefits like better search visibility.

In order to take full advantage of the significant gains in search traffic that are available with a content focused marketing effort, it’s essential to answer some key questions:

What do you really know about your customers?

I put customers first before company goals because a social media and content focused marketing effort must emphasize the needs of those you’re trying to reach in order to meet your own. Think of it as, “Give to get”.

Who are you trying to reach? Have you developed Buyer Personas? How well do you understand your customers’ goals? What are your customers preferences when it comes to content discovery, consumption and sharing? What keywords do they associate with your products or services? Who are they influenced by? In what communities do they spend their time on the social web?

What business objectives are you trying to achieve?

What are your goals? What is your social media strategy? What must happen for your customers before you meet your business objectives? What are the key performance indicators that will help you measure the buyer persona’s path towards conversion? Do you have the measurement tools in place to properly monitor and measure for research and to determine the effectiveness of your marketing efforts?

What does the competitive SERPs landscape look like?

What does the search engine results page look like for the keyword phrases you’re after? The SERPs page is a big part of the competitive landscape for SEO. What types of web sites appear in first page results? Who is linking to them and not linking to you? What type of Universal results are triggered? (News, Blogs, Real-time, Books, Products, Local) What types of media are included in the SERPs for your target phrases? (Images, Video). Will the new Google design have any impact on the SERPs landscape for your target keyword phrases? What other types of search engines should you focus on besides Google.com, Yahoo.com and Bing.com?

What resources will you need to succeed?

Most companies are not in the publishing business. In order to achieve longevity for an optimized content marketing effort, it’s important to outline the resources available to implement including: content, people, processes.

  • Content. What content do you currently have available for optimization? What content will you need to create according to your keyword glossary and customer needs? Know what digital assets you have available for publishing online and indentify what new media you may need to create, and who will be creating/promoting it.
  • People. Who will create that content in your organization? What in-house content development resources do you normally use? What new content resources, including other departments, could you leverage for SEO? What other groups in your organization will you need to coordinate with in order to execute on promotions?
  • Processes. what is the current content creation and promotion process? Identify how can you make optimization a baked-in part of established content publishing processes. Determin whether manual keyword glossary sharing is applicable or if the content management system can be modified to dynamically pull in keyword options when adding new content.

Can SEO be made part of the corporate identity standards and incorporated into the style guide?

What is the right tactical mix to help you reach your goals?

Based on customer preferences, your goals, the SERPs and resources, what channels will you optimize?

What mix of content creation will be used? Web pages, press releases, white papers, case studies, online newsroom with press releases, articles, video, images, audio, rich media, sharing content on social sharing web sites.  How will you get the content creators within and external to your organization trained on content optimization? What oversight and monitoring methods will you use to ensure quality and avoid unfortunate overwrites?

Also, what link building tactics will be emphasized? How can you leverage existing communications and relationships to increase relevant links? Can you tap into existing dealer networks, affiliates, branch office web sites and marketing partners for quality links? Can you get public relations on board with using links that are more likely to be included in placements? Can links be better optimized for SEO within other online documents such as press releases?

How will you measure success and what tools will you use?

Measurement is the most critical piece of an optimized content marketing program. Measurement with social media monitoring tools up front can be essential in defining the social conversations driving content creation, sharing and consumption that are consistent with your marketing goals. Once a program is implemented, analytics will help measure key performance indicators (KPIs), conversions and anything in between.

There’s a lot you can measure so here are a few examples for SEO, Social Media and Online PR.

SEO related measurement often includes search referrals and keywords that drive traffic to the web site, what search engines send traffic and what the visitors do once they visit. Relative measures of rankings and links can be useful as well. Ultimately, conversions are an idea measurement for SEO, whether it’s a white paper download, webinar signup or an actual product/service sale.

Social media measurement often includes engagement metrics such as fans/friends/followers, comments, brand mentions & sentiment, referred traffic and links. Tracking buzzing topics on the social web can create opportunities for real time content creation/optimization and promotion.

Online PR measurement often depends on determining the effectiveness of press releases distributed via email directly to a short list of journalists or to a newswire service for broader exposure online. Blog and publication mentions (unsolicited) as well as links and sentiment are also important.

Do no underestimate the value and importance of using social monitoring and web analytics to help inform the ongoing content marketing opportunities and the creation of specific types of content in order to attract trending search traffic. Social conversations fuel search traffic. Understand the keywords most often used in social conversations and you may get a leg up on your competition by creating, optimizing and promoting content that’s being discussed and popular.

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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 B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Avatar rduermyer says

    Great post, Lee. You've really encapsulated the important parts of a content marketing program, which generally requires more planning and effort than most think. It's also too easy to overlook the importance of Buyer Persona, but it's critical because it's really the foundation for everything else.

    • I appreciate that Randy. The convergence of marketing, social, PR and advertising disciplines has created a lot of opportunity for SEO education.

  2. Avatar kalpanamurthy says

    I recently attended a training on content marketing and its benefits in SEO. This article reiterates what I took away from the training. Thanks for the post.

  3. It sounds complicated, but it is actually just common sense.

    Put yourself in your customer's shoes. What would you search for? Where would you search for it? What problems would you need a solution to? What questions would you need answered? How would you want to be treated?

    The better you can answer these questions, and better you can provide your customers with the answers to these questions, the more successful you will be.

    Good luck.

    Matthew Zinda

  4. A lot more details than I've seen in related posts. Sometimes the best way to get answers are to ask yourself questions. Thanks for the info!

  5. Interesting post! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Avatar Rinforsideweb says

    Asking yourself questions helps you understand what you want. Interesting post

  7. I like these asking yourself questions. It helps you focus on problems and solutions. I also liked what Matthew suggested about putting yourself in customer's shoes. It's very important in customer service and you get to know what they would want and need. I also think it's important to always have new content–something new to offer. Because everyone always wants more, new things, even rehash of the old things works sometimes. Here I found more tips on business and marketing planning http://sn.im/uxpfu

  8. Agreed. Content marketing can be very effective when used wisely. Content is a great way to go beyond a customers needs and provide them with useful information they may have otherwise not known.

  9. Avatar haugenbrian says

    This post is great because it really focuses on results/ROI. Content marketing can also be used to really gain that exponential lift that all of us marketers are looking for. This blog post I just wrote describes how a rock band did it, and how marketers in any business can learn from it!


    Thanks! – Brian Haugen