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Create a sustainable, high-performing SEO and content strategy

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SEO Content Strategy

SEO Content Strategy

Consumers are an inquisitive lot. They seek out the best prices, look for new recipes, explore options for travel destinations, find doctors and new restaurants and bike trails and they use search engines more than any other channel to do it. Marketers of all stripes know this, which may be why, on average, marketers are investing more resources into content and SEO in 2022.

What marketers don’t always know, especially those of us tasked with SEO and content creation, is what content will be both sought out by consumers and valued highly enough by the search engine’s algorithm to earn a top ranking. Both requirements must be met for content to succeed in reaching the right people, and it’s not an easy task.

To have the best chance, marketers need to:

  • Know what consumers are searching for
  • Be able to identify patterns in those searches, including prominent keywords
  • Understand external factors, including competitiveness for the most valuable searches and mitigating influences like geography, seasonality, and the impact of world events

And that is just scratching the surface. Fortunately, organic search leaves a data-rich trail that can be leveraged to support a sustainable, high-performing SEO and content strategy. Winning high ranks is never guaranteed, but with the right insights, marketers can tip the scales in their favor.

2022 SEO Stats2022 SEO Stats

A sustainable, high-performing SEO and content strategy starts with research

Content by itself does not drive trafficafter all, less than 10% of all content generates any traffic at all – and SEO by itself does not drive conversion. In practice, getting meaningful traffic from organic search requires a coordinated SEO and content strategy, the foundation of which is research.

To make the most of the available data surrounding content, search activity and website traffic, an SEO and content strategy should account for research insights at four key junctures in a recurring loop:

  1. To establish a baseline for website performance
  2. To identify topic opportunities, gauge demand and benchmark competitors
  3. To create and optimize content
  4. To track, measure and refine content and SEO

Establish a baseline for website performance

To develop a targeted SEO and content strategy, it’s important to first understand how your site performs in organic search. This effort should incorporate both a content audit and a technical audit. The audits will help to identify and prioritize opportunities and provide a baseline against which to measure the impact of the strategy over time.

From an organic search perspective, a content audit should identify a comprehensive list of the keywords – and by extension, the pages – that help the website or domain rank in a search engine. Existing high-ranked content offers a prospective model for new content. Assess the topics, substance and structure of the content to identify patterns that can be leveraged in the larger strategy. Lower ranked keywords and pages may represent a further opportunity for quick gains if that content can be optimized to earn a higher rank.

Search algorithms are automated. In addition to keywords, they rely on technical signals found in the site and page architecture to help them contextualize the content on the page and determine its value for search audiences. A technical audit for SEO will uncover technical issues and opportunities and help ensure that the site and page can be made compliant with best practices. This can include on-page elements such as H1 and H2 tags, site elements like page speed and mobile-friendliness, and opportunities to better contextualize content, for example, by adding links to authoritative content.   

Identify topic opportunities, gauge demand and benchmark competitors

The bulk of opportunity typically lies beyond existing content. Relevant, prospective audiences are presented with search results for countless searches every day. In fact, SEO is responsible for over 53% of website traffic. Those searches hold a treasure trove of intelligence about the keywords, pages, domains, and competitors that are highly ranked and win the most clicks.

A targeted SEO and content strategy must identify and analyze the winners in the market to displace them.

Begin with understanding which topics people are searching for and what keywords and phrases they use to search. Identify within that data the topics you are best positioned to address. The goal here is to get relevant traffic that is most likely to convert. A site that sells zebra-print hair ties and accessories will want to rank highly for searches like “animal print headband.”

Analyze the content that is ranking highly for your coveted searches. It’s important to understand that in the world of search, these are your competitors, and they may not be the same as your traditional competitors. The San Diego Zoo may not be a business competitor, but if they are ranking high for “animal print headband,” they are your search competitor. Determine what competitor pages and keywords are ranking well for and factor that into your content strategy.  

Create and optimize content

All the research you conduct will be used to create and optimize content. Determine what is important to your business, then plan against your baseline research and factor in the insights gained from topic, keyword and competitive analysis to develop a content strategy for search.

Importantly, the potential for content to rank depends not only on the substance of the content but the format. The search engine results page (SERP) is a multi-faceted collection of result types, from traditional web listings to locations to videos and images, quick answers, shopping carousels and more. With the right tools, you can determine not only what topics and keywords will help you rank but what type of content is best suited for a high ranking.   

Track, measure and refine content strategy and SEO

For simplicity’s sake, we’re discussing the cycle of research, content creation and optimization as a linear process, but in practice, it is a loop. Research is not a one-and-done sort of undertaking but must be ongoing. Search ranks are dynamic and search engine algorithms are always changing to improve the quality of results and adapt to innovative technology.

The performance baseline created at the start of the SEO and content effort provides a framework for tracking and measuring ongoing performance. How much has the site’s share of voice grown or declined? What pages have begun to rank or improved in rank? What drove those improvements, and can they be leveraged for additional performance gains? Which new keywords have emerged, and which have declined in search interest?

Actively measuring performance provides the insights needed for ongoing, targeted content creation and optimization.

Research-based SEO and content strategy in practice

It is helpful to look at a real-world example of a research-based SEO and content strategy. The Nestle Meritene example below provides a snapshot of how search data can be leveraged to enrich a company’s understanding of the market and improve its share of voice in the all-important search channel. Nestle, a client of BrightEdge, used Data Cube, our enterprise solution for companies looking to implement research-based SEO and content strategies. You can read the full Nestle case study and an additional case study on Dumpsters.com in the Data Cube product guide.

BrightEdge Data Cube supports all four phases of research-based SEO and content strategy. To learn more about how Data Cube can support your SEO and content strategy, contact us to schedule a demo.

Nestle Health Science – MERITENE®

The MERITENE team, working with its agency to obtain the desired relevance in search engines, employed a strategy to prioritize keywords with the highest search volume. They first conducted research to discover high-value keywords with a minimum of 29,000 monthly searches.

They followed targeted recommendations, optimizing meta tags and existing content to improve SEO performance. Where content didn’t currently exist, they developed SEO-friendly content based on “habits of healthy living” and food supplements using the language their consumers use in search.

Over the course of the first year, they earned page one rankings for more than 90 previously unranked terms related to health. The gains increased traffic from a nascent 435 users in Q1 to 67,735 in Q4.


About The Author

For over 15 years, BrightEdge has empowered marketers to transform online content into business results, such as traffic, conversions, and revenue. The BrightEdge platform contains the industry’s most extensive data set and processes 100’s of petabytes monthly. This includes analysing over 30 billion keywords and searching social, content, and rich media data points. BrightEdge provides vital market insights, business intelligence, and automated action to SEO and digital marketers based on first-party data that is secure, compliant, and robust. 
BrightEdge’s thousands of enterprise customers include global brands, such as Microsoft and Adobe, 64 of the Fortune 100, and 9 of 10 leading international digital agencies.

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For a Better Long-Term Content Strategy, Find a Purple Audience

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For a Better Long-Term Content Strategy, Find a Purple Audience

“The stock market is not the economy.”

When the stock market is up, it doesn’t always follow that the economy is great. When the stock market crashes, it doesn’t always mean the economy is bad.

That’s as true today as it was 25 years ago when I first got into marketing. And it’s a great reminder to avoid basing business decisions on faulty connections.

Over the years, I’ve learned an adjacent lesson about content and audiences: Popularity isn’t a sign of differentiation. People don’t necessarily regard what is popular among online audiences or the media as high quality – or even true.

If you successfully chase trends and feed popular content to audiences, you have not necessarily differentiated your content. On the other hand, differentiating by taking a contrarian or highly niche view of what’s popular doesn’t always work either. How do you blend popularity and differentiation?

#Content popularity isn’t a sign of differentiation, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Red and blue ocean strategies

In their 2004 book, Blue Ocean Strategy, W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne explain red and blue ocean strategies for marketing. Red oceans are crowded markets where popular products abound and cutthroat sales and marketing strategies rule. Blue oceans are undiscovered markets with little or no competition, where businesses can create new customers or die alone.

In strategic content marketing, most businesses focus on the red oceans – offering short-term, hyper-focus feeding. They look to drive traffic, engagement, and conversions by getting the most people to consume the content. So a red-ocean strategy focuses on topics and content that have proven popular with audiences.

But this strategy makes it difficult to differentiate the content from everyone else’s.

This myopic view of content often prohibits testing the other side – investing in a blue-ocean mindset to find and create new audiences with less-popular content.

Short-term, hyper-focused #Content feeding often prohibits the mindset of creating new audiences, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Finding a blue niche in a red world

I recently worked with a financial technology company that provides short-term loans to small businesses experiencing a cash-flow crunch. It’s as sales-driven as any team I’ve seen.

When they started, they put much of their marketing and content efforts into a blue-ocean strategy, targeting small businesses that will need a loan within a month.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

Five years ago, this company wasn’t the only one to recognize the massive opportunity in fast, easily accessible, short-term lending. A red ocean of new customers who needed these loans grew in a relatively robust economy (and historically low interest rates).

The value of these loans grew from $121 million in 2013 to just over $2 billion in 2018. And competition for this audience’s attention grew, too. As short-term, low-funnel content on accessible lending saturated the market, this strategy became less and less successful because so many fintech companies pursued it.

My client’s team knew they couldn’t only count on this red-ocean audience for new business. They recognized the need to invest time in building a new audience – larger, more established, long-term borrowers.

This audience wouldn’t produce immediate lead generation. But the company wanted to diversify its product line and better support the new audience’s loan-related needs.

The genius of this strategy was teaching, targeting, and building demand for new ideas from a niche within the red audience. Put simply: They created a purple audience by targeting a blue audience within the red one.

The blue audience the team targeted consisted of fast-growing smaller businesses that would soon evolve into established, long-term borrowers. These businesses might want to know the benefits of the short-term availability of cash. The team focused the new learning content platform on teaching companies that don’t need a loan now about the benefits of having a solution at the ready when they do.

The purple audiences took time to develop. But when those audience members entered the red ocean, my client company stayed top of mind because it had bucked the popular trends and offered completely different content.

3 triggers for targeting purple audiences

Deciding to invest in cultivating a purple audience requires some thought. These three considerations can prompt the move to a different audience hue.

1. You’re ready to hedge bets on current efforts

So many companies double down on their content to the point where their strategy incorporates the same content at every stage of the customer’s journey. Why? Because everybody is talking about it.

I see some B2B marketing organizations deliver the same “why change” thought leadership content to prospects as they do their customers. Shouldn’t your customers’ needs and wants change after they purchase your solution?

Developing thought leadership you believe is important but current audiences aren’t yet thinking about can be an excellent hedge.

You shouldn’t deliver the same thought leadership to prospects AND customers. After all, your customers’ needs and wants should change after they buy.

2. You believe the consensus is wrong

Many companies fold their content marketing like a lawn chair because their content goes against the consensus. Last week, a chief marketing officer told me, “Our CEO says we can’t go out with that thought leadership message because people will disagree with us.”

You don’t have to invest the entire budget in a contrarian idea. But if you genuinely believe the world will eventually come to your point of view, build the content infrastructure that supports that opinion and experience a multiplier on the investment.

3. You see an opportunity to steal audience

Look at the most popular content, and you see all your competitors fighting over the eyeballs seeking that topic, trying to outrank everyone on search, and fighting a red ocean of potential audience members. Then, look up and ask, “What’s next?”

You might see a slight trend. Or, as my fintech client did, you may notice a niche blue audience in the red audience. Investing in that content can pull audiences from the popular content into your fledgling purple audience.

SAP’s content site The Future of Customer Engagement and Experience illustrates this concept. During the pandemic, the team, led by Jenn Vande Zande, adjusted its editorial focus to steal a segment of the red-ocean audience seeking COVID-19 coverage. Jenn and team designed the content to appeal to people looking not just for lockdown news but also for the most up-to-date practices and industry information for businesses on customer experience in the COVID-19 era.

SAP created a purple audience.

Get colorful

As a marketer, you should think about new audiences. How can you address them with content that may not be widely popular now but can help them better prepare for what you believe is coming tomorrow?

That’s a better question to answer for long-term content marketing success.

Get Robert’s take in just five minutes:

Subscribe to workday or weekly CMI emails to get Rose-Colored Glasses in your inbox each week. 

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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