More than 5 billion people have access to the internet — and when it’s all added up, they’ll spend 1.4 billion years’ worth of time online in a single year. As you can imagine, that’s a lot of search queries to process at any given moment.
So how do content marketing experts take advantage of all this time spent online? How can you make “search marketing” just one more tool in your digital arsenal?
The answer: search engine optimization, or SEO.
Why Do You Need SEO?
To understand the why of a digital marketing plan, you need to know the what. So let’s start here: What is search engine optimization?
Every SEO strategy is about positioning your company’s web pages in search results. The higher you are on that search engine results page (SERP), the higher your chances of earning a click.
SEO marketing, then, is all about playing to search engine preferences. Your goal is to find out what these systems like and put that in all your content — whether it’s a high-value keyword, a certain number of headings, a specific format or even just a good level of user-friendliness.
There are plenty of behind-the-scenes technical factors that go into SEO, but at heart, it’s about assessing your current standing in search, identifying potential ranking opportunities and executing on content gaps.
You’re going to need tools and automation to help with this process. (That’s right here.)
And you can save time and resources by knowing the best way to build or use an SEO strategy template. (You guessed it. We’ve got that, too.)
Why do you need an SEO marketing plan? Here are a few digital marketing statistics that will make you want to take your content strategy to the next level:
69% of marketers actively invest time in SEO marketing. If you’re not doing the same, you’ll be left behind — and so will your content, which is far more likely to be overlooked by a search engine.
These days, people are on the go — or even just on the couch — and away from their computers. Luckily, SEO marketing is flexible enough to meet customers where they are, as almost 25% of companies invest in mobile optimization as a top SEO marketing strategy.
With plenty of online shoppers worldwide, it’s more important than ever to make sure your content is the first search result they see. Why? Over 40% of shoppers go to Google to research a purchase, whether they intend to shop in-store or online.
Compared to traditional marketing and advertising, SEO as a strategy is cheaper, more effective and better aligned with demographic, digital and purchasing trends.
How Do SEO and Content Marketing Fit Together?
SEO marketing and content marketing are inseparable; in fact, they’re practically synonymous.
Thorough, high-quality content feeds search engines, allowing your brand to own more SERP real estate and index a higher number of crawlable web pages. Similarly, SEO ensures the content you produce is analytically sound, target audience-oriented and much likelier to serve searcher intent.
However, these two parts of digital marketing have their differences, too. For example, the teams involved in building an SEO marketing plan might not be the same people actually creating the content.
So how do you fit these two puzzle pieces together to create an SEO content marketing strategy? Here are a few things you’ll need:
An SEO expert can be anyone, from an SEO manager to a trained content writer. No matter what field they come from or what kind of experience they bring to the table, these teams must work together to create something search engines and readers will love. Generally, this starts with an SEO strategy template or a digital marketing plan — but as you work through the details, you’ll find more ways to ensure everyone stays on the same page.
Authoritative, trustworthy content is a must — not just because readers want it, but because search engines expect it.
Content that contains rich media, scannable action items and logical next steps for readers is inherently more valuable to readers than stale, surface-level writing. Google’s algorithms prioritize this reality accordingly in SERPs.
On-Page and Off-Page SEO
SEO content marketing strategies are nothing without considering on- and off-page SEO.
On-page SEO refers to just that: anything directly to do with the metadata and the content that exists on a page. This includes:
- Title tags.
- H1 – H6 tags.
- URL strings.
- Alt text.
- Internal/external linking structures.
Off-page SEO refers to inbound link-building. Though not direct ranking indicators, social media engagement, influencer marketing and brand mentions provide adjunct off-page benefits as well.
What Is an SEO Marketing Plan?
When it comes to digital marketing, it pays to have a plan. But what does an SEO plan look like?
An SEO marketing plan is a documented system of every tactic, asset, execution and analysis of a site, its content and its reach. This system must revolve around the talents of in-house or outsourced marketers, the value proposition of a brand and the nature of search engine algorithms.
Basic tenets of an SEO marketing plan include:
1. Inventory of All Site Collateral and Marketing Materials
Content and other assets should be shared with all appropriate stakeholders and be able to quickly be delivered to sales teams, executives and prospects at a moment’s notice.
2. SEO Audit
This year’s SEO marketing strategy needs to be different from last year’s. Knowing where your current strengths and weaknesses lie, which landing pages need refreshing and where Featured Snippet opportunities exist is paramount. An audit gives you a solid starting point.
3. Digital Hierarchy of Priorities That Outlines Benchmarks and Next Steps
To organize and empower any SEO effort, you need clear priorities. Which metrics matter to the marketing team? What about the sales department? What about the CEO who doesn’t know a thing about mobile site traffic? How will you appease all of the above?
4. Regularly Updated List of Current Keyword Rankings and Potential Ranking Opportunities
This is your SEO success dashboard, and it spotlights the likelihood of ROI on given search terms. What’s working? What isn’t?
5. Editorial Calendar and Content Schedule
A clear, well-documented content pipeline or SEO content brief keeps all producers aware and engaged.
6. Content Optimization Goals for High-Conversion Pages
Updating existing content is now the industry norm, as opposed to churning out new content every day (if you can do both, that’s great). Landing pages that drive conversions are often square 1 in terms of choosing how to schedule content optimizations.
7. Distribution, Syndication and Promotion Channels and Possibilities
As stated above, off-page SEO is important. Networking with relevant influencers, pitching industry publications and customizing social media posts pays off.
8. Automated Metrics Tracking and Analytics Reporting
To keep your SEO marketing strategy on track, you need daily performance metrics at your fingertips as well as monthly, quarterly and annual figures to show progress or justify changing course.
To achieve the SERP dominance you seek, you must not only be mindful of how search engines serve results but how they determine the quality of your work. That means your strategists, web managers and content creators must be singularly focused on the most prominent Google ranking factors.
While pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns are by definition not under the same umbrella as “organic” or “SEO,” they can still be valuable complements to a content and search marketing strategy.
Also, remember that paid ads appear at the top of SERPs, so there is definitely value in crowding out the organic results of competitors and owning the branded keywords that searchers are querying.
One of our asset management clients paired SEO and PPC to reduce their total cost-per-lead by 63%.
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3 Keys To a Stronger SEO Marketing Plan
Knowing what goes into a successful SEO marketing plan is a victory unto itself. But how do you launch one?
1. Focusing Your Investments
If you’re starting from scratch, you need a few things:
- Site audit: What’s your Domain Authority? What’s your page speed? Are you using structured data?
- Content audit: How much collateral do you have that can immediately be repurposed and republished? How much content will be needed to achieve your SEO goals? How diverse should your content be?
- Competitor audit: Who are your primary, secondary and tertiary competitors? What do they rank for? What do their link profiles look like? Do they have a coherent social strategy?
Knowing where your strengths and weaknesses lie, as well as those of your competitors, allows you to home in on keyword targets and ranking potential.
2. Targeting Quick Wins
Setting marketing aside for a moment, you also need to know who cuts your checks.
We see it every day: Stressed marketing manager is given 3 months to show ROI or their budget is nixed.
That means you need to come out swinging, with quick SEO wins to prove the value of content marketing.
Here is a handful to get you started:
- Improve site speed. Optimal page speed is 1.5 seconds or less.
- Optimize for mobile. Google now uses mobile-first indexing, so this is a must.
- Update everything. That includes your Google My Business account.
- Fix site errors. All your users will thank you.
3. Creating a Plan for Longer-Term Initiatives
As a general rule, content marketing ROI doesn’t normally materialize until month 6 or later. But once you lay the groundwork, SEO marketing victories tend to snowball: Your Domain Authority rises, your social media engagement improves, your content generates more leads, etc.
6 months to a year out, your SEO goals should be:
- Qualified lead generation.
- Shortened sales cycle.
- Lower CPC.
- Bottom-line ROI.
- Additional marketing investment.
Examples of Winning SEO Marketing Strategies
Need a little inspiration for your own search engine marketing strategy? Here are 2 examples from our own repertoire:
Example #1: Prioritizing The Right Parts of SEO
One of our clients came on board with a flat URL structure and was concerned their industry was way too niche to rank for even 1 high-value keyword.
Through a series of technical SEO cleanup, advanced keyword research and landing page optimization, we were able to get our client ranking on Page 1 for 5 of their most critical search terms.
Lesson: Fix all site errors first and then optimize existing copy for immediate SEO gain.
Example #2: Turning SEO Into ROI
Another client in the consumer products space was unclear on how to attribute ROI to their content marketing. They came to Brafton in need of fresh blog content across seven brands.
We were able to drive not only higher traffic and engagement but actual revenue from our optimized content. For an $833,000 investment, the client earned $4.03 million in revenue attributed to Brafton content marketing.
Lesson: You can draw a straight line from SEO to ROI. To show results, focus on metrics that matter (AKA money).
Make Your SEO Strategy Shine
By now, it should be clear that you need a search engine optimization strategy, like, yesterday. The good news is that SEO marketing comes to life when you have the right content — and when you know how to plan, create, schedule and position it.
But content marketing isn’t always easy. Search engines can be picky and even your customers themselves aren’t necessarily sure what they want. What’s a marketing expert to do?
Your best bet is to brush up on all things digital marketing. Keep an eye on search engine updates, let your SEO strategy template evolve organically and — perhaps most importantly — remember that SEO delivers real results if you know where to look.
Editor’s Note: Updated February 2023.