As a marketer, you likely understand the value of good content. It can attract new customers, engage current and prospective customers, and retain customers. It can build brand awareness, establish your company as a thought leader and industry authority, and strengthen its reputation.
But does that mean it drives SEO?
Companies often generate crazy amounts of content in the hopes that it will drive traffic to their site and generate quality leads but are disappointed when they see virtually no measurable bump. Their content was good, so why did the search engines not pick it up or increase traffic?
Good content does not equal SEO content. They are two different things with different purposes.
What Is Good Content?
Good content can be SEO content, but it doesn’t have to be. Good content can come in a variety of marketing content formats and be used with various intents.
Related: What Makes Great Marketing Content?
Marketing content examples are customer case studies, email drips, blogs, a how-to video, a product overview podcast, paid advertising, social media posts, ebooks, white papers, and newsletters. Basically, any content intended to get attention, inform, educate, or build rapport as you grow your business is fair game.
But what makes content good? Here are just a few characteristics to consider:
It’s relevant to the audience
Good marketing content isn’t random or good luck. It’s strategic, pinpointing what your research shows that a specific audience wants and is looking for in their search (which may or may not be online). Your content answers their questions, solves their problems, clarifies a topic they want to better understand, engages them, builds trust, and/or attracts them – all with the purpose of growing your business.
It follows the buyer’s journey
Content mapping is the process of defining the different stages of a customer’s journey so you can tailor content relevant to where they are in their journey.
Are they at the top of the sales funnel, just poking around to learn more about a specific product/service or topic? This is the “what” or beginnings of the “why” stage. You may write a blog that defines and explains terms or you offer a podcast answering general questions.
Or are they mid-funnel, not quite ready to buy but interested in more specific information? They want to know how something works and how something will benefit them if they purchase. This is the “how” stage or continuation of the “why” stage. Perhaps a longer-form asset or a webinar is best.
Bottom of the funnel is they are ready to purchase but want to see brand reviews, case studies, even talk with someone at the company to see a demo. This is the “prove it to me” stage, your last chance to convince them they can’t live without your product or service.
For each of these stages, your content will be different. You don’t want to spend time on a webinar going over specific product features or explaining how your technology works, for instance, when someone is just kicking the tires. Similarly, you don’t want to offer up blogs that define a topic and explain the whys when your prospect is ready to make a purchase and already understands the “whats” and “whys.”
Knowing which types of content to push out to which audience at specific stages in their buyer’s journey will save you resources and headaches, resulting in better outcomes for your efforts.
It’s written per channel
Of course, good content has to be written well according to the channel. That means you know the difference between social media content and blog content, whitepaper content and ebook content, and so forth. There are nuances and best practices for each, often why so many companies outsource much of their marketing content to professional writers.
Your content shouldn’t just repeat what your competitors say; it needs to be unique, memorable content that is better than the competition. It covers more topics, goes more in-depth, more accurately defines the customer pain points, offers better sources and evidence, etc. It shows readers that you are the most knowledgeable source on the subject and offer the best explanation/information to the reader/listener.
It goes without saying that good content is written well, including scripts for webinars and podcasts. Punctuation and grammar are easy to ace with the help of tools like Grammarly and Hemmingway, but you need more than that to show your aptitude.
For longer-form assets, such as blogs, articles, whitepapers, webinars, and podcasts, are the topics thoroughly covered? Is there a natural flow? Is the piece easy to read/listen to and understand by both laymen and more advanced readers? Does it provide enough explanation without being repetitive? Do you back up claims with evidence and cite quotes properly? All are critical in establishing credibility.
For shorter-form assets, such as social media posts, email campaigns, and website homepages, do you get to the point quickly? Does the content entice the reader to want to know more? Is it punchy, thought-provoking, interesting and/or irresistible? The attention span of most people is counted in seconds, so you want your content to grab their attention and plant a seed or provoke an action.
What Is Good SEO Content?
With all of this good content in mind, what makes good SEO content? In addition to the above, you add in the SEO component, which is specific to online content. SEO is all about what Google and other search engines want to see so they can give their searchers what they are looking for in a consistent, reliable way.
Related: What Is the Value of SEO?
What is Google and the like looking for, specifically? Well, the formula changes from time to time, so how it ranks content changes as well.
According to Google, “With the amount of information available on the web, finding what you need would be nearly impossible without some help sorting through it. Google ranking systems are designed to do just that: sort through hundreds of billions of webpages in our Search index to find the most relevant, useful results in a fraction of a second, and present them in a way that helps you find what you’re looking for.”
Specifically, search engines scan and index content, then deliver results based on what it believes the reader wants. The algorithms look for things like:
- Well-written, informative content that effectively and comprehensively answers the searchers’ questions, typically without being a sales pitch or too self-promotional
- Content that is easy to read and understand
- Content that is reliable and trustworthy, linking to reputable, timely sources and having reputable backlinks linking back to it
- Content that uses the right keywords (the words searchers most often search for) in the right way (not “keyword stuffing”, or used in the wrong places or too sparsely so the engine isn’t sure what the article is about)
Every piece of content your team generates and posts online has the opportunity to drive traffic to your website or other pieces of content, which, in turn, gives you a better opportunity to convert those visitors to paying customers. Of course, the goal is to leverage SEO techniques to land the first-page ranking on Google or other search engines, but there is a science to it that many struggle to figure out.
Once again, the vast majority of companies choose to outsource this piece of marketing because it not only takes time to master, but it takes time to see the results of your efforts. It’s not a quick fix but a slow burn, taking a little while to mature because it takes time for Google to start seeing your pieces as ones it wants to rank.
Many companies, particularly those without a built-out marketing team, would rather focus on other marketing efforts and let the experts deal with content and SEO, and the many technical aspects that go with them.
Good or Great Content?
It’s easy to get stuck in the mindset that you want every piece of content to be great. You can spend weeks developing a single piece of content, only to see that it doesn’t drive traffic, much less conversions.
The truth is, only some content needs to be great. Your website, for example, needs to be awesome. Your email campaigns need to be great, avoiding trigger words that email providers flag and automatically send to junk folders. Your webinars need to be fantastic, as those are often the first time a prospect puts a face to your brand.
But blogs? Those just need to be better than the competition. Remember that the purpose of blogs is to drive traffic to your site, and SEO is the focal point. Yes, you’re writing for your reader, but you’re really writing for the search engine. The best content always wins, so if there isn’t already great content out there on a keyword you want to rank for, you don’t have to knock yourself out writing a blog worthy of The New Yorker to get a top ranking.
You don’t need to spend hours and hours on blogs if you use proven SEO techniques and write them well. Spend that extra time ensuring your website homepage is clean and clear as to what you do, how the prospect will benefit, what makes you different from the competition, and why they should choose you. Oh, and do all of that with minimal words that get straight to the point.
Outsource to the Best, Not Always the Most Expensive
We’ve hit the outsourcing point throughout this blog, but there is a caveat: you don’t always get what you pay for. Many digital marketing agencies charge a fortune and deliver minimal results, making it challenging to prove the ROI of your content and other marketing efforts. We can’t tell you how many clients of ours came to us after spending tens of thousands (even hundreds of thousands) of dollars on a big-name firm, only to realize a year later that they had little to show for it.
What matters most is partnering with a firm that knows what they’re doing and can prove it with actual data. They have the best people on their team for each area of digital marketing. Their content writers, in particular, see SEO as fundamental to what they do. They also understand the difference between good content and SEO content, investing the appropriate resources in each.
If all of this seems overwhelming, you’re not alone. Most small businesses hit a wall when it comes to digital marketing. They often try to figure it out on their own but then recognize there are too many moving parts to manage effectively without sacrificing from somewhere else.
At Zilker Partners, our digital marketing team works collaboratively to deliver measurable results across all marketing tactics. Whether you’re just starting out or are tired of investing in techniques that aren’t measuring up to expectations, we can partner with you to develop a strategy, execute the work at the highest level, and grow your business. Contact us today for a free consultation.