Six SEO Tips for Killer Content

Sterling PR's Hilary Ferejohn shares her advice on how to develop and maximize your online content...

Content creation continues to spark discussion. Almost everyone has an opinion on what elements are most critical to success—some tout measuring ROI, others say having a documented content strategy is the most critical element, and still others believe everything hinges on reaching target markets across all the different stages of the buyer journey. That said, it seems that everyone can agree on this fundamental tenet: begin with your target audience in mind. This means being empathetic to how the people you want to know about you search for, consume, and share content.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, there’s a catch: it doesn’t matter how well-targeted your content is…if your target isn’t reading it. The good news is that SEO can help. SEO, like content development, is part science and part art; fully integrating your SEO and content marketing strategies ensures that your intended targets will easily find your content.

Here are 6 SEO tips that will absolutely help you develop better content:

1. Know your audience. Be clear about the audience you are trying to reach and what they want to know. What issues are top of mind? What problems are they trying to solve? What information would be most informative, engaging, and/or novel?

2. Don’t try to do it all: have the discipline to target your content. Targeting your content to the specific stage—awareness, consideration, preference, or retention—in the buying life cycle that will yield your company the best results is vital. Rather than trying to reach your audience from beginning to end, define the biggest problem in your buyer journey, and focus your content on that.

3. Leverage keywords and keyword phrases. Research and consciously select specific keyword phrases that are not only relevant, but also frequently used by your target audience in their searches. Nuance is important, because seemingly small differences can prove to be big. For example, take the words “house” and “home.” There are 26% more monthly searches on average for “home buying” than for “house buying,” yet there are 120% more monthly searches for “house for sale” versus “home for sale.” Many people are also tempted to coin new acronyms and name new market categories; unfortunately, unless you have many millions of dollars to spend evangelizing those new phrases, people won’t be searching on them anytime soon. A better tactic is to research how others write about your industry, reviewing articles from well-respected, authoritative sites. Also take advantage of the many tools available, such as Google Adwords KeyWord Planner.

4. Keep the audience’s environment in mind. Consider where your audience is likely to consume your content—are they on a phone, using a tablet, or searching sitting in front of their desktop? Someone searching for product information while in a store is likely looking at his/her smartphone, while someone exploring B2B security solutions is likely sitting at a desk, in front of a laptop. The length of time spent on the smartphone will be much shorter than the time spent on a laptop, so make sure the length of your content reflects the consumption patterns of the primary device.

5. Apply SEO when you create content, not after the fact. Incorporate your keyword phrases and draft meta tags as you write your content, not after it’s all done. Meta tags help browsers understand the content on a web page, which results in more accurate query results for your audience. Be sure to include your keyword phrases in meta tags for your page title, page description, and keyword list. In addition, it’s always good practice to include your most important keyword phrase in the URL name for that page.

6. Don’t let the tail wag the dog. Don’t over-optimize at the expense of readability—there’s no replacement for great, compelling copy. Define a real, immediate problem and illuminate your solution. Use straightforward language. Eliminate unnecessary words. Tell a story. And put your audience’s needs first.