Content is an essential component of an effective SEO strategy. It helps to reach your target audience, communicate with it, and convert it into customers. Besides, content is super important for ranking in Google. Unfortunately, content often fails to work as expected, even if it targets the most searched keywords in the niche. A business owner wastes time and money spent on content production, getting no revenue. For small businesses, it can be a real pain, as they usually can't afford wasting budgets on ineffective things. To make content work in favor of your business, you need to approach it strategically. It means that you need a well-elaborated SEO strategy and a good content plan that helps implement this strategy.
- 1. Define your SEO goals
- 2. Identify your target audience
- 3. Analyze competitors to understand where you are
- 4. Research topics and keywords
- 5. Map keywords to your customer journey stages
- 6. Map keywords to landing pages and goals
- 7. Group keywords to your content structure
- 8. Create an editorial calendar
- 9. Plan outreach activities to get links and mentions
- 10. Track your SEO KPIs
- 11. Update and repackage content
1. Define your SEO goals
As writing content for the sake of content usually boils down to nothing but a waste of time and resources, each piece you write should have some purpose. From an SEO point of view, there are two general goals you aim at with the content that you create.
Goal 1 — Drive traffic from the organic search.
To reach it, you write content that ranks well for industry-related keywords and sends tons of relevant traffic to your website. An effective SEO strategy means the ability of your content to pay off. Well-targeted SEO content serves to:
- Generate leads;
- Increase conversions;
- Boost sales.
To build a successful SEO strategy, you need to thoroughly analyze your customer’s journey down the sales funnel. SEO marketers investigate how users enter the site and proceed to its landing pages where they perform conversions. The task of SEO is to create the ideal marketing funnel, drawing visitors from the organic search and converting them into payable customers, the sooner the better.
Goal 2 — Build website authority.
In other words, you write your content to acquire backlinks from topically-related sources, which signals to search engines about your website expertise and authority. Backlinks strengthen your site authority, trust, and expertise (remember the Google guidelines on E-A-T helping content to rank). In broader terms, outreach activities for the sake of backlinks:
- Strengthen site’s authority to rank higher in search results;
- Increase brand awareness and recognition;
- Contribute to lead nurturing and customer engagement.
2. Identify your target audience
The next step to take after having defined the goals for your SEO content is to identify the audience you'll be targeting with it.
To do this, you need to examine your existing audience and potential customers to single out its typical representatives. Speaking the marketing language, you need to identify your buyer personas.
Shape your buyer personas
Creating personas requires some analytical work. But in fact, it sounds scarier than it is. Here's where you can get the data for analysis.
Give it a thought
No one knows your business better than you. And you can suggest who are the typical consumers of your products or services. So make yourself a cup of tea and think about your customers.
- Typical features of the buyer persona: gender, age, marital status, sphere of work, size of the company they work in — anything typical for the majority of the group representatives and important for your business.
- The problem or motivation which they have in mind when searching for your business.
- What you offer to solve the problem of your buyer persona.
For example, as a travel agency, you know that a big part of the buyers of your Galapagos tours are divers eager to see whale sharks. And usually, they are fifty-fifty men and women. But all of them seem to have a good income.
You could also notice that for bird and turtle watching tours, your major clients are women. And the majority of them are also interested in good beaches for sunbathing.
You might have also noticed that there's a big group of consumers who look for tours as a gift.
Write down the buyer persona's features. For convenience, it would be nice to have a sort of template at hand. For example:
|Buyer Persona||Typical Features||Problem / Motivation||How you can help solve them|
|#1 A passionate diver||Male/female, above 30 and under 45 years old||Wants to see whale sharks||Offer a tour specially tailored for divers, with a special 5-days diving package deal|
|#2 A lazy birdwatcher||Needs relaxed vacations with sunbathing and birdwatching||A female from a creative/marketing sphere, no children||Offer 10-days tour to a place with birdwatching spots and good beaches, plus a quiet childfree hotel|
Even after this analysis, you can already create three-four different buyer personas. You see that they turn to you having different goals and motivations, so you'll be targeting them with different types of content, offering different solutions to their problems.
To support your ideas, or find more information, you'll need the real data. And there's an ideal place to find it.
Consult with Google Analytics
If you have a website for your business, you definitely have a GA account. With the takeaways from the previous step in mind, you can create (or probably already have created) several segments to analyze. Such as a segment dedicated to diving that includes all the site pages dedicated to this service. The same for birdwatching, turtles, a tour as a gift, etc.
Now, explore the Audience section for each segment. You can start with the Demographics > Overview to see the groups your audience falls into in terms of age and gender.
Drill into each data section to learn what information is important for your business, and what you can ignore. For example, is age an important factor for you? Let's check.
In the example below, you can see that two age groups altogether make the biggest contribution to the revenue. Two more joined age groups also contribute but with a much less share.
Explore each group to find peculiar features that unite these groups' representatives and what differentiates them. Probably, they have different motivations to use your service or different expectations from it.
You can see that the first group comprises people of active working age. Probably, the industry matters they work in, so you'll need to clarify this point somehow. What else can you presume? Probably, they don't economize on their vacations, so you might target them offering some top-level services.
Another group is a different story. A part of it is young people, probably students (or working students) and young specialists. The other part is represented by people of working age, including some being on the verge of retirement. Judging by how they convert, they are eager to consume services similar to yours but probably have limited budgets. You could make them convert, offering some economy options, sales, package deals, etc.
The third group seems to be occasional buyers, and you can presume that their goals are similar to those of the people from the previous group. Thus, there's no need to create a separate persona for them.
Now, drilling step by step into each section of your audience and looking at interests, age, gender, location, behavior, etc. for each group, can result in at least two things. First, you may be able to correct the buyer personas you've created previously. Second, you'll come up with a list of questions to clarify.
Ask your audience
The best thing to learn something about people is to ask them. This is the best way to see the full picture of customers' needs, problems, expectations, etc. Whom can you question?
1) The database of existing customers.
This is the source from which you are most likely to get the necessary marketing data, as people you question are already loyal to your business. Here is what you may ask about:
¿ What is their background/occupation/family status (choose what's important for you to know)?
¿ Have they ever tried using your competitor's products/services?
¿ How exactly does your service help them?
2) The database of your prospects.
They are the leads that have not yet turned into your customers. These people know about your service but haven't decided to buy it. The possible questions you may ask are as follows:
¿ What problems do they face/ goals do they want to reach?
¿ What blocks them from using your service?
¿ What solutions do they use to address their problems/ goals?
Putting together all the data you've gathered, you should come up with a list of very precise buyer personas.
This means that each persona you create will have its unique problem that you can solve. Also, each persona's profile will contain only the information that would help you target them. All the unimportant data should be cleared away.
3. Analyze competitors to understand where you are
Just like you do a SWOT analysis for marketing strategy, you need to explore the online market to find your status quo and opportunities in organic search. There are plenty of SEO tools performing competitive intelligence, so it’s up to you to choose what’s convenient for you. I will show how to do it using SEO PowerSuite tools.
Find your online competitors
If you launched your website like yesterday, everything is clear. In other cases, you need to get an idea about how authoritative your website looks to search engines. To make it simple, you need to know who is more authoritative, to understand how hard it would be to rank in your niche. So let's see who makes the competition.
To do this, create a project in Rank Tracker and jump to Competitor Research > Domain Competitors. Enter your domain in the search bar and choose the search engine from which to take the results. Here you go.
In the top widget, you will see colored bubbles showing domains of those competitors who stand close to your site. The domains are compared by monthly estimated traffic and the total number of ranking keywords.
Down in the workspace, you’ll see the list of top 100 sites ranking for similar keywords in the selected search engine. Sort the list of the competitors by the amount of the organic traffic they get: simply click the header of the Organic Traffic column. Check out the Intersection column, showing how many unique keywords you have versus the selected competitor. The more common keywords you share with the domain, the more likely it is you are competing with each other for search traffic.
Compare SEO strength of your site and competitors’
Open your project in SEO SpyGlass and go right to Bulk Analysis. Copy the list of your competitors from Rank Tracker and paste it into SEO SpyGlass. Click Analyze, and in a couple of seconds, examine the results.
Compare the number of backlinks and your Domain InLink Rank — a domain backlink authority measure — with those of your competitors.
If you add to track competitors with SEO SpyGlass, you will also have their SEO authority compared by most important metrics in the Domain Comparison module.
Choose your SEO content strategy
Depending on the starting point, you will have different types of activities to perform on your site in order to strengthen its SEO authority. Let's break it down.
An old authoritative website that has a massive backlink profile behind it can rank for almost any necessary keyword (for example, a how-to-do-something word) fast enough. So there's no need for a site owner to put too much effort into link building. In such a case, driving traffic from search seems to be the most appropriate goal to build a content strategy around. If your website performs the same as the most authoritative competitors, you can engage in writing SEO content for ranking.
When it comes to younger websites, there's another situation.
For a total newbie with the number of backlinks close to zero, ranking for keywords that can drive a significant amount of traffic looks a bit back-breaking. For them, authority and link building will be a priority. If you see that your backlink profile looks poorly compared to your competitors, then you need to put more effort into acquiring quality backlinks.
And there are always websites somewhere in the middle. They will have to build a content strategy to reach the balance between both of the goals — split your efforts and aim at both backlinks and traffic.
4. Research topics and keywords
If you decide to focus on driving traffic to your website, build your strategy around getting good rankings. And here you can't go without knowing the search landscape. What content occupies the highest positions on SERPs? What search terms users enter to find it?
Examine top-ranking content
The easiest way to start with is to look through your SEO competition to fill the gap between your website's content and your competitors'. Checking out two or five search terms on SERPs could be done manually. For researching hundreds and thousands of terms, you will definitely need some SEO tools that facilitate such time-consuming tasks. Again, we’ll use Rank Tracker to do keyword research for our SEO content plan.
With the list of SEO competitors you’ve selected at the first step, move to Keyword Research > Keyword Gap module. Enter your domain and your competitors to compare (up to five at once) clicking + Add competitor. Choose the comparison condition Competitor keywords (any competitor but not your site) and click Search.
You'll have a list of keywords that your competitors rank for but you don't.
Enhance your keyword list with topic-related questions
Now, you may drill deeper to expand your content plan with additional research methods. Look at what questions people ask search engines.
Go to Keyword Research > Related Questions, choose your preferable search engine and an option from People Also Ask or Questions Autocomplete. Enter a couple of seed words in the search field and click Search.
Step by step, go through the most popular keyword tools (there are over 20 of them in Rank Tracker, including integratable tools like Google Search Console and Google Ads Keywords Planner). Consult our SEO Guide to keyword research and the manual on how to use long-tail keywords for SEO. You will surely find tons of ideas for your content.
Having gathered loads of keywords, you need to look through the list and delete all the irrelevant items, as well as the keywords that nobody searches for, i.e. those with an extremely low search volume.
Brush up the keyword list
All the keyword ideas you've found using different methods in Rank Tracker land in Keyword Research > Keyword Sandbox. Go right there and analyze your take in terms of relevancy, number of searches, keyword difficulty, etc.
Go for terms with higher search volumes (‘cause why optimize for keywords which hardly anyone is looking for). Prioritize keywords with lower Keyword Difficulty and higher Keyword Efficiency Index (KEI), they will help to get your pages quicker to the top results on SERPs.
To get rid of all the keywords that seem unsuitable, right-click the keyword and choose Remove Keyword(s) from the drop-down menu.
Copy all the rest to an Excel file, it's a standard procedure of Ctrl+A, Ctrl+C, and Ctrl+V. You may also export the list as a CSV file. To do this, click the download button in the top-right toolbar, right above the results.
By now, you already have your personas identified, best-working types of content defined, and a list of keywords gathered. The preparation is over, and you can finally get to planning.
5. Map keywords to your customer journey stages
Depending on which stage of the customer journey people are, they search for different things and use different search terms. Grouping your keywords on the previous step, you might have noticed that keywords in each of your groups cover different search intents. So now, you can map them to the corresponding customer journey stages by different types of search intent:
At this stage, people have a problem they've faced. So they explore it to find how they could possibly solve it.
To catch this audience, you'll be building a piece of content around keywords that cover informational search intent and describe the problems people face. Usually, they are broad search terms and may have higher search volumes.
At this stage, people have already acknowledged that they can solve their problem this or that way. So they start exploring the subject to learn more about the existing solutions.
You can thus build your content around all the solutions-related keywords to trigger this audience.
Okay, now searchers have an idea about different options existing on the market that can help them solve their problems. Now they compare and decide which of them can help best.
Here you use narrower, service/ product-related keywords.
At this stage, searchers decide on whether to use your service. And you need to push them a bit and convince them that your service is the best fit for their needs.
Here you use the narrowest keyword terms with a clear purchase intent behind.
The stage after purchase is all about turning the user into a loyal customer. Here you want feedback from your clients, as well as know what issues they are faced with when dealing with your product.
At this stage, users may input navigational queries, as to how to find support or help pages. Or they want to learn more about how to benefit from your products, so they may ask questions with informational, educational intent.
To keep the grouping process in order, use the semantic filter and add tags, classifying the keywords according to search intent. Later, you will be able to use the tags to sort, set checking tasks, and arrange keywords in topical buckets inside Rank Tracker. Alternatively, you can copy or export them in a CSV file and use the intent labels for keyword mapping in your content plan schedule in a spreadsheet.
Grouping complete, congrats, you now have a list of keywords around which you can start building your content plan!
6. Map keywords to landing pages and goals
Knowing what intent and the funnel stage all your keyword groups belong to, you can easily define what type of page you can create around them. You can also understand what goal each of your pages may pursue.
Here's how it works.
The traffic you receive from the awareness stage keywords is rather cold. Remember, people are not about buying anything yet, but searching for the remedy to their pain points. Thus, you'll be giving them information showing your expertise in the subject. Plus, you can offer them some useful content in exchange for an email, signup, etc.
While for the searchers closer to the conversion stage, you'll be serving pushier, marketing-oriented content that aims to convince them to try or buy what you offer.
Having already defined buyer personas and their expectations, you understand at which stage of the funnel each persona is landed. So it should be simple enough to connect your pages to personas that they target.
Now you can join all the components in your content plan template.
In Rank Tracker, the words can be added to the Keyword Map module. You can group them in Keyword Groups by intent or by Landing Pages. From there, you will track the ranking progress as long as you have done some on-page changes to your content, and figure out how your pages and keywords succeed or fail in your overall SEO strategy.
7. Group keywords to your content structure
An SEO-wise content structure is good for both search engines and website visitors. For the former it contributes to ranking, for the latter it improves navigation and user experience.
The general idea here is that your content should work in favor of increasing your topical relevance. To get it, different pieces of content should support each other by means of internal linking.
There are different content models that you can use. But I believe that the one that seems to work quite well for this purpose is the pillar-clusters content model. To make it simple, you have a general page (a pillar page) and supporting pages (clusters). The essence is to link each supporting page to the pillar page to emphasize its relevance. Clusters may also link to each other, signaling search engines about their relation to the same topic. Pillars sometimes might share content clusters. Also, a pillar can be a part of another pillar's cluster. It's like a win-win strategy.
Now, find out how many pillars and clusters you might have.
Step 1. Take your keyword list and single out the highest search volume keywords — you'll use them to build your pillars around.
Step 2. Arrange all the rest in small groups of closely related keywords that cover different aspects of the topic. They will be the basis for your clusters.
Step 3. Build a list of your future pillar pages and clusters and map keywords to them.
For an in-depth understanding of how internal links contribute to SEO, jump on our guide on best internal linking practices here.
Tip: Analyze site structure with WebSite Auditor
For an existing website, you can run WebSite Auditor to have a look how all its pages are linked internally. With its inbuilt tool creating a visual map, you will easily find more prominent pages, all links, internal and external, get the list of links, and spot orphan pages that should be connected to your main content. Having your site structure at full glance, you will be able to quickly devise an actionable pattern for internal linking within your SEO content strategy.
The visual map is editable, so you can plan adding new pages, deleting old ones, and adding more links. Besides, you can throw in a bit of creativity in the process, like coloring pages, leaving notes, etc.
By the end of this research, you'll decide which SEO goal comes first and where to focus your content writing efforts.
8. Create an editorial calendar
Content creation is another big theme that needs to be covered separately. But here are a couple of helpful SEO tips for you.
- Compile the content plan. Nice to have a spreadsheet with your URLs, titles, keywords, etc.
- Manage content boards in a shared editorial calendar, for example, in Trello.
- Use content creation tools to verify accuracy, literacy, readability, etc.
What's your next step then? Now you need to turn on your creativity and get to copywriting. I won’t dwell on this in detail, I suggest you read our guide to a perfectly optimized landing page which will be a handy manual to your content writers.
Tip: Conduct content audit and set tasks for copywriters
For SEO content, it’s not enough to only write a great story. You need to make your texts eligible also for BERT, RankBrain, and other Google algorithms that rank your pages. With the help of SEO tools, you can conduct a content audit and compile detailed guidelines for optimizing the content on each separate page. Go to WebSite Auditor > Content Audit and paste the URL of the page you want to check.
The content auditor provides the SEO score, errors, warnings, and optimization tips for the page. Switching to the Content Editor, you will be able to edit the text in-app and see the score improved. Or you can print out the SEO task for copywriters as a PDF. You will have recommendations on keywords of your top SERP competitors. A special TF-IDF analysis shows which keyword phrases they are using most frequently.
A bonus on top, you will get warnings about all possible on-page errors that could be solved generally with the help of SEO planning and task setting: removing duplicate content, fixing empty tags, empty alt texts, broken links, etc. All these issues affecting SEO should also be taken into consideration when setting the task for copywriting.
Done with SEO content planning, you think? Far from that.
You can and should approach the moment of glory and create the buzz for your article. This goes beyond the simple posting of stories on social media. You need to analyze your niche and find ideal influencers who would help you spread the word. Speaking the marketing language, you need to identify your linkerati.
These are websites or influencers that you target to get backlinks. So if you build your content strategy around acquiring backlinks, you'll focus all your efforts on getting their attention. They can be bloggers, journalists, industry experts, etc. — those having armies of dedicated followers or readers.
9. Plan outreach activities to get links and mentions
One of the best ways to build up site authority is getting backlinks and mentions from all over the web. For this, you’ve got to pitch influencers you want to reach out for backlinks, mentions, and exposure. And this should also be part of your SEO content plan.
Monitor social media for mentions of your brand and topics
Everyone who has ever tried influencer marketing knows that social monitoring is one of the best ways of finding influencers in your sphere. And there's a variety of social listening tools on the market that help make the process fun and easy, such as Awario and others.
So create your account in Awario, feed it the keywords related to your industry to create an alert for their mentions. You can create alerts for different groups of keywords, as well as for your brand name mentions.
Check your alerts to see who dwells on the same topic and in what context.
Now, go to Reports to see and analyze your topic influencers. Find out what these people generally write about to understand their overall interest in the topic. Look at the size of their following and the context in which they mention your name.
As a result, you'll come up with a couple of linkerati personas that you can use to promote your content in the future.
Moreover, you can turn directly to individual influencers mentioning your brand and ask to add a link. As people are more eager to link to what they know and are loyal to, you will likely get a backlink.
Find domains linking to top-ranking content.
Speaking of linkerati, they don't have to be individual bloggers, but bigger Web resources as well. The easiest way to find them is to analyze best-ranking pages and see what sites currently link to it.
The closest place to find backlinks is to analyze your SEO competitor (a website that ranks higher than you for your target keywords) to find its best-performing pages and who links to them.
First, it will help you gather a list of websites potentially interested in your topic. Second, knowing your competitor's most linkable content can pitch you an idea of what types of content gather backlinks better.
Step 1: Discover top-ranking pages.
Open your project in Rank Tracker and go directly to Competitor Research > Top pages. Enter the domain address of your competitor in the search bar and click Search.
You'll be given a list of the best-performing pages, which you can sort by organic traffic they receive or the number of backlinks, choose whatever seems more informative to you.
Step 2: Explore the linking domains.
Copy the list of top pages to an Excel file to keep it at hand and go to SEO SpyGlass.
Create or open your project and jump to Backlink Profile > Backlinks. Filter the results entering your top pages URLs one after another in the Quick Filter > contains window.
Sort the results by the Domain InLink Rank value to see the most authoritative domains in the list (they have bigger values marked with green points).
Gather the list of resources to analyze and group them based on what content they link to and what they are dedicated to (just like in Rank Tracker, you can add tags in SEO SpyGlass to group the domains by topic).
Thus, you'll have a list of relevant resources that might link to your content with a high likelihood and an idea of what content to write to target them. The next step is to promote your great content to linkerati.
Related article: Skyscraper Link-building Technique
Tip: Start with local SEO for brand new sites.
If your website is brand new with a pristine backlink profile, you need to get your first backlinks from somewhere. Think of pushing it with local SEO: try getting free backlinks from local business directories, forums, niche listicles. Although the SEO value of such links is lower than that of editorial links, it can be a good starting point. Run Link-Assistant to search for high-quality linking prospects in your niche.
10. Track your SEO KPIs
To check that your overall SEO content strategy is right, track the success of your website in terms of rankings and search visibility. To see the mission accomplished, you will need to measure the basic KPIs of your landing pages.
- Site’s rankings and visibility;
- Organic traffic to your website;
- Performed conversions;
- User behavior data (returning visitors, views per page);
- Domain strength;
- New backlinks.
Some of these metrics can be conveniently tracked in your Rank Tracker. For rankings and visibility, see the Rank Tracking module and Keyword Map with its landing pages. The overall strength of the site, together with backlinks is shown in the Domain Strength module.
For conversions, set up Goals in your Google Analytics on your major product pages (or any other pages where users are supposed to do some valuable action).
Measuring KPIs is a science in itself, so I’d suggest reading our guide about 9 important SEO metrics you should track.
11. Update and repackage content
Last but not least, remember to update your content from time to time. Google may show the date of publication or update on the search results page. Generally, users are more likely to click on fresher pages, as they are believed to contain fresher, updated information.
As for repurposing content, it contributes to your site SEO in a variety of ways.
- You reach out to new audiences on other platforms that you would otherwise miss on. This way, you expand outreach, gain more traffic and new backlinks.
- You will make the most of your evergreen content, you will always keep it up-to-date. It also means there will be fewer SEO errors, like broken links, empty tags, etc.
- You’ll be able to track deeper the buyer journey on your site, spot trends, and get a more granular analysis of your audience across multiple marketing channels.
- You will be able to find underperforming pages and turn them into more profitable assets.
There are many ways to repackage content to make the most of it, such as:
- Create visuals and infographics and share on social media;
- Post video tips, how-tos etc. on YouTube;
- Run Q&A and interviews in podcasts;
- Grant subscription to email newsletters;
- Do online courses, webinars, educational polls, and quizzes;
- Offer downloadable e-books, White papers, PDFs, and templates.
Repackaging content into other formats lies within a broader strategy for content promotion. In any case, by updating old content and changing it into other formats, you contribute to the overall SEO health of your website.
Sounds like a plan?
An SEO content plan is an important instrument that helps to bring your content production in line with your business goals. Shrewd planning requires a significant time investment in research and data analysis, but it is worth every second.
How do you plan your SEO content production? Your opinions and discussions are welcome!