How do we create an SEO content strategy?

May 15, 2017
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How do you go about creating an SEO-first content strategy? Hmm, let's think about this one.

Audience-First or SEO-First Content Strategy?

We recently developed a content strategy proposal for a software company, and it included a basic level of SEO research, which we include whenever our client doesn't have an SEO consultant or expert already on it.  After all, knowing what people are searching for can help you shape and direct the content.

But that's only part of the puzzle.  Our projects are what we call "audience-first" content strategies. In other words, we're asking, Who's going to use this content? Who needs to see it? Who needs to be impressed?

Understanding the audience and the audience journey is number one in our book to creating an effective strategy and ongoing content.  The most valuable (and therefore SEO-friendly) content happens when you consider your audience first. Not a spreadsheet of numbers and phrases in isolation.  

SEO research is one tool (of many) that we can use to figure out what your audience is searching for. Using SEO research as your only guide to content strategy? We don't recommend it.

Why You Shouldn't Let SEO Hijack Your Content Strategy

  1. Choosing the right SEO keywords is part science, part art. If you rely too much on search numbers, you'll be chasing what everyone else is chasing. Also, some of the lower search numbers may be underestimated or be the perfect target for you for big and fast wins. Plus, after you collect the research, you might have not found the words your audience is using at all, and may run in the wrong direction.
  2. Asking writers to create SEO content based on only keywords is narrow and limiting. You might get a keyword-rich article, but are you providing something unique? Something of value? A new point of view? Are you answering the audience's intended question? Is it something worth sharing or does it lead to a change of heart or a decision to take action? Not likely with this approach.

    I'm not sure what the psychology is, but give a writer a list of keywords and the writing goes flat instantly.What's more, I find that by focusing on a single keyword phrase, for example, you're missing out on all the other ways people describe that thing that will help search engines and the right people find you.
  3. You may overlook original thought leadership opportunities. Content strategy not only addresses your audience's needs, but also your business needs. And part of that may very well be thought leadership in your space. That means you're talking about things your audience hasn't even thought about yet, let alone searched for online. If you go SEO-first, you may miss out on an opportunity to create something new and viral.

Visibility Builds Naturally over Time as You Add Valuable Content

SEO takes a bit of a lot of things to work well. Current content optimization, meta data and link optimization, cross-linking, content marketing, paid search, and PR all contribute to traffic -- not just keywords in articles. Visibility also builds over time -- even with the best optimization plan, it can take months to see results.  

SEO research is a great tool for helping understand the market, the product landscape, similar language that means different things, and how people are phrasing their searches. But when it comes to creating a great content strategy, looking to your audience first is a better bet for creating content that attracts the right people and encourages action.  

Need help effectively incorporating SEO research into your overall content strategy? We're here for you.  

About the Author: Shelly Bowen

Shelly Bowen, content strategist

Shelly Bowen, MFA, is a content writer, content strategist, and founder of Pybop.

For decades, Shelly has written for businesses on complex topics from disease prevention and medical devices to alternative energy and leveraging data. Today, she's hyper-focused on supporting B-B technology businesses. In her spare time, she hikes, kayaks, draws, and works on her T-Bird.

A wide variety of brands rely on Shelly as an essential freelance writer and content strategy resource.

Follow Shelly on Instagram @pybop or connect on LinkedIn. More about Shelly and Pybop.

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