At the start of your content marketing career, how many SEO tips did you receive?
If you’re anything like me, the answer is zero. Part of this is by design – I was a product specialist who dabbled in writing industry-related posts. I hadn’t ever asked for SEO tips because I didn’t know what SEO was.
But, part of this is because a typical content marketer isn’t taught about SEO until after they produce their first, second, or thirteenth piece of content.
For example, when I reached out to my Twitter connections for their best SEO tips and asked them one thing they wish they knew about SEO when they first started out, Lauren John, Copywriter and Journalist, gave me the most important thing content marketers need to know about SEO.
“The theory behind the practice. I was often praised for following the briefs and keyword balance. But, a little of how they came to the briefs might have been useful – and still would be.”
In this post, I round up the best SEO tips and a wishlist of what these great content marketers would have liked to have know when they first got started.
- SEO tips for content strategy
- SEO tips for writing a new post
- SEO tips for beating the competition
- SEO tips to avoid over-optimisation
- SEO tips for off-page optimisation
- SEO tips for post-publishing
- SEO tips for the long game
1 – SEO tips for content strategy
Include everyone when it comes to SEO in content strategy
A simple enough tip, right? But, if only one person knows about SEO, it’s hard for everyone else to work towards your SEO goals.
In a content marketing team with lots of employees, there are people pulling the strings and devising a strategy. There are SEO specialists who know all the SEO tips so create content briefs for copywriters and content marketers to work to.
But, this doesn’t help a content marketer grow. And it isn’t the best way to produce the best end product in the most productive manner.
When SEO is included in content strategy, it’s important that all collaborators on a project are aligned. They need to know why they have been asked to include certain keywords. They need to know what impact omitting certain criteria has on traffic and conversions.
When I asked Marshall Bowden, a content marketer at New Directions In Music, what the one thing he wishes he knew about SEO when he started his content marketing career was, he said “That SEO is baked into the content strategy. It’s not something you worry about after you’re underway, you’ve got to have it in mind from the start.”
“I wish someone explained to me from the start how internal links work, and how to create pillar pages. Now, when I get a hold of bigger projects, I plan the content strategy with the pillar page in mind.”
Focus on high-value content to gain natural backlinks
Once you know why you’ve been asked to add these keywords into your content, it’s time to start writing. This next SEO tip is all about high-quality and relevance.
Kerry Sherin, Manager of Creative Strategy and Outreach at North Star Inbound, says it’s important to “Stay true to your integrity and provide relevant high-value content. Focus has shifted from doing and any and everything for links to building content that is natural and worthy of links.”
When I pressed Kerry for how she copes when bigger brands with higher domain authority trump your content, she said it’s about doing everything you can in your power to beat it.
I mentioned a post I’d written on Slack shared channels being superior to the post that ranked above (in my humble SEO opinion) it. When Kerry offered to check it out for improvements, we discovered it did indeed rank above the competing post. This is a testament to Kerry’s original point of creating relevant and high-value content that is worthy of links.
2 – SEO tips for writing a new post
Write based on search intent
If you are writing about something that nobody searches for, your post won’t be found on Google.
Kevin Daniel, a Freelance SaaS Content Writer, says he wishes he knew “The importance of writing content that people are actually searching for. And how to turn a bad content idea into something useful.”
Until I learned about SEO, I didn’t know this either. I would crank out post after post about interesting topics and share them on social media. Sure, a few people read them. But, I was missing out on the largest pool of readers there is – search traffic.
I’m not alone here (phew). Priyanka Desai, Founder of iScribblers, says “I wish I had known the importance of writing articles based on the search intent and keyword knowledge rather than randomly writing on the topic I felt was good to cover.”
Use what Google gives you
“I always look back to my early days and think it would’ve been great had I known technical SEO and the need to align different formats of content. For example, if it’s an explainer guide, creating the FAQ section and writing sub-heads based on Google suggested queries!”
While SEO is not about the short game, this is a quick-win for improving existing articles. If you’ve written about a topic, and it isn’t getting the traffic you thought it would, type your keywords into Google and see what pops up in the people also ask section.
This tells you the literal questions readers ask Google that relate to your topic. You should be answering these questions in your post.
3 – SEO tips for beating the competition
Once you’ve written a post, some content marketers leave it there. Even if you’ve ranked #1 on Google the same day, what happens when someone writes a better post and outranks you?
How to beat competing posts
Often, SEO professionals think adding more keywords into an existing post is how to beat a competing post. This is referred to as keyword stuffing.
“Stuffing keywords into content isn’t the right approach when creating content.”
Best practice is to continuously update and optimise your post. But it’s about more than adding in more keywords. This just leads to over-optimisation.
4 – SEO tips to avoid over-optimisation
Find the right amount of keywords but don’t compromise the reading experience
Andy Hair, Content Strategist at Leeds Building Society, says “When I first started, I wish I realised that keywords shouldn’t compromise the reading experience. Content should be about user needs over optimisation.”
This is a point I wish was more true with some posts I’ve seen ranking high on Google. For example, when searching for how to restore deleted tweets, the first two posts were incorrect or out of date.
By the third listing on Google, I found my answer. I felt obliged to leave a comment – in the hope this would help bolster the posts Google ranking.
Don’t just optimise the body copy
Some blog posts are written then published straight away. This is fine if you don’t intend to generate views from search traffic. But, why would you limit yourself like that?
C. Beth Cooper, Director of Marketing at KNB Communications, says “I wish I had known that keywords in titles were weighted more heavily, that adding alt-text to pictures helped, and how important meta descriptions were.”
When I write a post, or receive a post from another writer, I spend almost as much time editing and optimising it than I (or they) did writing it. This doesn’t mean I’m rewriting the copy. But, I am changing the sub-headings, adding alt text, and image file names. I find the perfect slug URL and spend a good amount of time on the meta description.
If you’re a Yoast plugin user, you can change this in the snippet editor – as demonstrated below.
Adrien Lemaire, Content and PR Manager at RingCentral Engage, says he wishes he knew “The importance of slug URLs. Not just choosing the default structure in WordPress and optimizing it with keywords. When you realise that too late, it’s not easy to make changes on published articles.”
5 – SEO tips for off-page optimisation
Fi Shailes, Freelance Content Writer at Digital Drum, wishes she knew that “SEO is a far deeper discipline than adding some keywords and meta descriptions to a content management system (CMS). It’s impossible to know lots about everything, so it’s best to know lots about one or two aspects of it.”
There are so many elements of off-page SEO and technical SEO. Rather than listing some resources to help with this now, I suggest you search for help with these practices. After all, if they are ranking high on Google, they must be doing something right!
One thing I will call out is internal linking.
Inma Gregorio, Founder of A World to Travel, says she wishes she knew “Not to underestimate internal linking and taking some time to brainstorm a category and cornerstone content structure that works. If only we knew seven years ago when we launched.”
Not only does internal linking SEO-ify your pages, it gives the reader somewhere to click and stay on your site. The more content they read, the more chance of conversion.
6 – SEO tips for post-publishing
Content pruning is as important as content creation
Seema Nayak, a B2B SaaS Content Strategist at AdChina.io, says “I wish I knew how powerful content optimization can be. Be it image SEO, H-tags, or content pruning. It can make a huge difference and increase your traffic by 20-30% from existing content in a couple of months.”
Now, I am not familiar with the term content pruning so I had to Google it. In concept, it’s something that great content marketers have been doing for years. And it works for Content King, whose definition was the featured snippet.
“Content pruning is removing obsolete, and low-performing removing obsolete content that is weighing down your website. By getting rid of that dead weight, you’re creating room for other content, that does have potential, to flourish.”
Hiba Amin, Content Marketing Manager at Soapbox, expanded on the deletion of old and underperforming content. She says she wishes she knew “That content decay is a thing. It’s important to understand and be aware that it’s not just about creating new pieces, but rather updating old ones too. Mainly because it’s an incredibly effective way to boost your growth.”
7 – SEO tips for the long game
Ignore the quick-win hype
Dan Thornton, Founder of The Way of the Web, wishes he had “The confidence to ignore the naysayers when I started combining SEO (and social media) into my writing 15+ years ago… The key has always been to find projects which have a long-term combined strategy for content and SEO. Each complements the other when done right.”
I cannot stress enough how important this first one is. In my own experience, transforming the Mio blog from no readers to half a million monthly readers took considerable time and effort.
But, readers alone don’t pay the bills. The goal of your blog is more than likely to get someone to click to something else – a case study, a product page, your pricing options.
Stephanie Conway, Owner of Symphony VA, says “I wish I knew to focus on a positive return on investment (ROI) over superficial likes and clicks when I first started. People can miss the point that SEO isn’t about traffic, but generating genuine leads.”
How can I improve my SEO strategy?
The first thing you can do is create a physical SEO strategy. Understand what you need to do (and why) and document it.
Next, make SEO your holy grail. Don’t do anything without thinking about SEO.
Karolina Cala, Marketing Manager at Calla Ltd, says “I wish I had known that SEO needs to be at the forefront of everything you do. There’s very little point writing amazing content if no one is ever going to find it.”
When you obsess over SEO, it becomes main source of inbound marketing to your business. Upon reaching this stage, it’s time to push things further.
“The number one thing I wish I knew about SEO was it’s all about relationships. If you want to build links and get your content to rank, it’s not all about writing the best piece of content. A lot of it is who you know. Knowing other Marketing Managers, SEOs, and Content Directors helps you so much. It’s like politics rather than marketing. That’s the one part that you have to figure out on your own – no one will teach you how to make great connections online.”
Jane’s point is very true. While you do need to create outstanding content, you need people to read it, share it, link to it, and comment on it.
If you’re just getting started with SEO in your marketing team, I’ll leave you with a final tip.
Read about it first.
Some recommended reading includes:
4. Any brand’s blog that is always #1 on Google – read it, dissect it, reach out to the Editor and ask how they got so good.
I am always happy to answer any queries. In fact, I encourage it.