With inbound marketing, you are serving two masters: Google and your target customer. It’s a balancing act, with search engine optimization (SEO) on one side and engaging content on the other.
The reality is you need both. Your web pages have to rank highly to raise awareness of your brand while users are searching. And your content has to resonate when those users reach your website so they’re inspired to take action once they get there. If your content and SEO teams operate from the same playbook, you not only see increases in qualified traffic, but also in conversions. That leads to a higher return on your marketing investment.
We’ve outlined more than a half dozen ways to drum up better results from your inbound marketing efforts by combining SEO savvy with content marketing moxie.
The internet today is far more dynamic than it was even 10 years ago, but it’s especially true if we look back two decades. Previously, pages stayed up for a long time, so you could count on links to go where you expected them to.
Now, dead links are commonplace, as content gets deleted, replaced, or lost in the shuffle. This phenomenon presents an opportunity to engage in a process known as broken link building.
Here’s how you do it:
An excellent ground rule to follow when developing a broken link building strategy? Use Wikipedia as a resource. There you are likely to find broken links that align with the kind of content your business wants to produce. As one of the most authoritative destinations on the web by Google’s standards, Wikipedia consistently ranks highly for an inordinate number of keywords, making it extremely likely to send readers to your website if you can get the link updated with your URL.
Remember, though: Stick to creating content that makes sense for your brand and audience.
Content for content’s sake doesn’t interest anybody — not the writer, the webmaster, or the Google user. If you aren’t crafting content that engages your readers and incorporates relevant keywords, you’re wasting precious time and resources.
Targeting the keywords for which you want to rank is important, but why not build on the traffic you already receive? Using Google Search Console, you can see what search queries drive the most traffic to your site currently. Use this list of queries as a set of basic ideas for your next round of content.
You can also use Google Search Console to see what keywords or questions drive impressions but no clicks. Use this information to identify topics that interest your potential customers but for which your existing content may not be sufficient or well-optimized.
It’s smart to build content around key search terms, but only if you’re keeping up with the times. Tools such as Moz and Ahrefs, while awesome, base keyword data on historical information. What if that once-promising keyword drops off the face of the Earth in a few months? You may waste energy creating content that ultimately doesn’t attract more visitors because no one’s searching for that term anymore.
Google Trends can reduce the likelihood of such a scenario. Plug in your keywords to see related trends. Do they fluctuate wildly in search volume with no discernible pattern, or does interest start diminishing over time? Ideally, you want to see a trend line that’s headed up and to the right. Writing content around these trends could be the key to capturing motivated users.
Not too long ago, the Google algorithm wasn’t capable of discerning quality content. Thanks to extensive refinements based on input from tens of thousands of humans, today’s algorithm can better interpret “quality” on the web.
The takeaway: You can’t slap together content, publish it, and call it “good enough” because it will rank anyway. On the contrary: It won’t. If you pump out too much unthoughtful content, targeting too many keywords at once, you won’t get the results you want. Even worse, Google could penalize you for a site rife with low-quality content.
So what counts as “quality”? Go in-depth and provide accurate detail about the things your readers want to know. On average, the top-ranking URLs on Google search engine results pages (SERPs) tend to run to 2,000 words or more, although word count alone isn’t the only determining factor.
Perhaps more important to quality is search intent, which algorithms can also detect. In other words, Google returns results it perceives as best solving for the user’s problems.
Figuring out intent helps you understand the type of content you need. Should it be an article or a video? Does it require charts or pictures? Does it need to be interactive? You can get the answers to these questions, in part, by observing what’s already ranking.
So if you want to rank for a keyword — and stay there — think about a user’s needs and how to most effectively meet them. Don’t rely on word count alone.
You can’t expect every technique to net tons of traffic quickly, but a few can draw in high-quality visitors consistently. Investing in these tactics can be as worthwhile as pouring hours into producing in-depth content.
Adding a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page to your website is one way to capture traffic that’s likely to convert. In addition to an FAQ page, try using a question-and-answer format on other long-form articles. Another trick: Use FAQ schema — code that helps search engines return more helpful results to users — which allows Google to pull the questions and answers out of the content and display it on the SERP, giving your content more shelf space and, hopefully, a higher click-through rate (CTR).
But where do you start if you don’t know what kinds of questions to answer? Try asking your site visitors, using a tool such as SurveyMonkey. Some sample survey questions:
Look for inspiration in other places too, such as the inbox for your customer service email. User feedback can help you tweak your site to better meet their needs, and it gives you ideas for generating content that entices new users and (hopefully) convinces them to convert. Bonus: An FAQ page usually is quick and easy to put together.
Constructing interesting, keyword-rich content is a must. However, you shouldn’t focus exclusively on your own website. Another way to blend content marketing and SEO best practices is the guest post, i.e., writing content for other sites in your sector. This kind of mutual cooperation can contribute to long-term success.
Make connections with sites in your industry that publish guest posts. Snag an upcoming posting slot, then get to work developing content on a relevant topic. When possible, include links to pages on your website, but only when it makes sense to do so. Avoid keyword-rich anchor text — the words on which the hyperlinks display — and allow the content to speak for itself.
The results may surprise you. Routine guest posting can drive more traffic to your site and boost search volume. By dedicating some time to producing quality content on related sites, you can shift some of the burden off your own.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but your content shouldn’t always be about your brand or your search terms. If all you do is obsess over keyword reports and your own products and services, you’re missing out on a whole host of people who might eventually buy from you; they just need a reason to trust you and keep returning to your site.
You can build credibility with these potential customers by solving their problems, breaking news about your industry, or introducing them to new ideas. But you have to stay in your lane. If you’re a fitness brand, share tips for healthy eating. If you’re a bank, offer advice for sticking to a budget or saving for a college fund. If you’re a sustainable fashion brand, outline simple ways to minimize the impact on our planet.
Over time, those consumers will come to see your brand as an authority, so you’ll be top of mind when they’re ready to make a purchase. Ultimately, this strategy is designed to move up the funnel, introducing your brand to a broader audience who might not otherwise find you. As you bring in more traffic, you can expect some of those visitors to become paying customers, as long as they see your content as valuable.
If you sprinkle this content into the mix regularly, you could start to rank for keywords you never expected. But first the search engines have to see you as an expert on these subjects — and it may take Google longer than it takes a human. The farther you move up the funnel — into lifestyle content, for example — the harder it can be to rank.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try! Before you branch out into lifestyle content, focus on the low-hanging fruit — the stuff for which you’re more likely to rank — and build up your authority on other topics from there:
Even though SEO is important, it doesn’t trump people. Create content for humans first, algorithms second.
Theoretically, the more content you create, the more visitors you can lure to your site, so it’s easy to get tunnel vision and focus only on churning out more posts. However, as you accumulate more web pages, you can’t lose sight of site architecture. Your organic traffic won’t grow if you aren’t paying attention to a crucial SEO tactic: cross-linking.
Cross-linking keeps your site from becoming a collection of loose pages that don’t relate. As you add new content, include internal links to existing, relevant pages. Not only does this help web crawlers better understand your site, but it can also boost search rankings of your pages over time.
That said, beware of stuffing too many links into a single piece of content, even if it’s lengthy. Links have to be useful to readers, not just an algorithm. Adding too many links is distracting, making your content less helpful to your users, not more.
More important than simply cross-linking, however, is building topic clusters, i.e., connecting content about the same topic to increase topical authority. One way to do this is through a content hub, where you can amass digital libraries around topics or categories most relevant to your brand.
Taking it one step further, think about linking content across templates. For example, if you’re a retail brand, you can link your blog articles about, say, jackets to your jackets category page. Ultimately this helps your category pages rank for more keywords too.
In the past, content marketers were happy to let SEO technicians mine the analytics while creators pumped out posts to drive engagements. But now it’s detrimental to separate these disciplines. Content marketing won’t succeed without a strong SEO focus.
Not every tactic works for every industry. But whether it’s better cross-linking or a new FAQ page, one of these ideas is bound to make a decided difference. Just try it and track the results. When you start to see your website traffic trending up, you’ll be inspired to tackle another to pursue what’s possible.