Great SEO content marketing can be one of the most effective ways to bring long-term, targeted traffic to your website.
But many people hesitate to jump in because the process is a lot less clear compared to something like PPC advertising. The ROI of content marketing is harder to calculate and the results are slower to show.
That’s why I decided to put together this content marketing guide for anyone who wants to benefit from the power of SEO. After reading it, you should have a clear understanding of the steps you need to take in order to launch a successful SEO content strategy.
But first, you need to ask yourself an important question:
Is Content Marketing Right for My Business?
No one marketing channel is the holy grail. The best choice for your business will vary depending on a number of factors. To figure out if content marketing is right for you, start by asking yourself these three questions:
- Are you willing to invest the resources?
- Do you have a winning formula you can use?
- Can you wait?
Content marketing is a resource-intensive campaign. It will cost you either time or money. If you are going to do all the planning, writing, formatting and revisions yourself, then you must be prepared for it to take up a substantial portion of your week. Especially in the beginning.
Alternatively, you could hire someone to take care of your content marketing for you, which will probably cost you around $6,000-8,000 per month after salaries, taxes, and software subscriptions.
If you don’t want to employ dedicated staff, you could also consider hiring a digital marketing agency. The costs often start at a similar range, with 3-6 month contracts. But you get the added benefit of faster ramp-up time with a more specialized team and increased flexibility.
If you have the resources, make sure that you can execute one of the key formulas:
- Massive Search Volume – the search market is so large, you only need to capture <10 percent
- Domain Expertise – you are truly industry experts and can provide better advice than content competitors
- Special Data – you have unique and interesting data about the industry to share
- Compelling Stories – your purpose-focused and have compelling case studies of your business changing lives
And lastly, you need to be patient. SEO results can take 3-6 months to start showing, and even longer before they display their full potential. If your business can’t afford to wait a year to see positive ROI, you should probably consider a different strategy.
But if you answered “yes” to those 3 questions, then it’s time to get started.
Step 1: Determine Your Business Objectives
As with any marketing campaign, it’s critical that you understand your main business objective for content marketing.
The 3 most common goals are:
- Thought Leadership
Traffic-focused is similar to brand awareness campaigns. It’s all about bringing customers into your ecosystem. Some blogs (more so in B2C markets) also monetize their traffic through advertising and affiliate referrals. Financial Samurai is a great example of this type of blog.
Thought Leadership is about establishing your company as the go-to resource within an industry. Your content will often appeal to the masses, but you aren’t interested in selling to most of them. You want big clients and getting name recognition is part of that puzzle. Neil Patel is a strong example of this approach.
Sales is an obvious end goal for any business. But I’d caution you against expecting a blog to bring in tons of direct sales. Especially in a B2B market, the buyer’s journey tends to be more complicated and involve multiple decision makers. Instead, use it as a gateway to your sales funnel by capturing prospects’ contact info with non-SEO content like white papers or a free trial.
Step 2: Identifying Keywords
The most important element of content marketing is your keyword research. This is where you’ll determine who you are targeting with your content.
There is tons of in-depth content around this topic already. Backlinko has one of the most comprehensive guides I’ve seen on coming up with ideas:
The key is to focus on keywords with high search volume, but reasonable competition. I often suggest that people start by focusing on finer, long-tail keywords in the beginning because they have less competition and more specific intent.
Once you start building up some domain authority, you’ll be able to go after more competitive terms.
Step 3: Prioritize Your Keywords
Based on your keyword research, you need to create a content plan.
Start by prioritizing your keywords:
- What are the most important terms for you to win?
- What terms have the most bang for your buck (low competition, high volume)?
- What supporting terms are also worth writing about?
The first two questions are easy enough to answer. But the third one can be a bit tricky.
It’s based on the pyramid-linking strategy:
This is where those long-tail keywords come in. Start by ranking for low-competition terms that are related to the terms at the top of your wishlist.
Then as you publish content for broader terms, you should go back and add internal links to your more tailored posts that refer traffic (and URL authority) to the bigger content that will take longer to rank.
Not only does this help you start to see results faster, but it will help you rank faster than if you just started with the challenging keyword from the very beginning.
Step 4: Develop Your Content Plan
Once you have your keywords picked, you need to create an actual content plan.
The most important elements are:
- What will the content be about?
- When will the content be published?
- Who will create the content?
Oftentimes #1 will be answered in the keyword. For example, “how to start a blog.”
But sometimes you’ll have more creative freedom, like “sales funnel.” In those situations, you should go to Google and see what your competitors are writing about for that keyword. Try to keep your topic in the same area, but be unique with your execution or take.
Having a schedule is important because consistency is key to ranking well and building a consistent readership. I recommend at least once a week, but 2-3x a week is great if you have the budget.
And of course, each piece needs to have an “owner” who will be responsible for its creation.
I recommend that you put all this information into a project management system like Asana, but plenty of companies start out by tracking everything in spreadsheets.
Step 5: Create & Publish Content
Now you need actually write the stuff! Or you could hire a writer. It’s really up to you and your resources.
If you have a more technical product and client base, I recommend that you get someone in-house because freelance writers will be more expensive and won’t be as familiar with the specific content as someone on your team would.
But for most cases, paying freelance writers and editors can be a great way to get your strategy up and running without a long-term commitment.
But a word of caution. Don’t try to hire cheap help. If you are expecting to get nice long-form articles for $25 each, you need to rethink your strategy. A good post can take 5+ hours to write. If someone is charging a very low price, be skeptical of their quality.
Bad quality content will never rank and worse – it will damage your brand image and reputation.
Step 6: Analyze and Improve Your Content
The number one tool for monitoring your content marketing results is Google Analytics. It will let you track your traffic, conversions, and more:
You should also have a rank-tracking tool like Ahrefs or Authority Labs. These will track your ranking on Google every day and report how your articles are performing.
Check your analytics once a week. Any less than that and you risk missing important insights, but any more than that and you’re probably wasting your time or overthinking it.
Based on what content you see performing well, you can adjust your strategy moving forward. Let’s say you have an article that climbed to the top 20 but seems stuck on the second page. You can go back and add more content or spend some time doing backlink outreach to help push it over the edge.
SEO-content marketing isn’t the answer for every business – it takes a lot of dedicated work and patience to bring in results – but if it’s executed properly, the return can be huge and long-term.
If you follow these 6 steps and create genuinely compelling content, then over time you’ll start to see recurring traffic benefits as people come to your business for years to come.
Eric Siu is the CEO of digital marketing agency Single Grain, which has helped such companies as Amazon, Uber and Salesforce acquire more customers. He also hosts two podcasts: Marketing School with Neil Patel and Growth Everywhere, an entrepreneurial podcast where he dissects growth levers that help businesses scale.