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How to Create SEO Content: A Strategy Planning Guide from Start to Finish

Published on: 
February 17, 2021
Updated on: 
September 3, 2021
by
Brenna Lynne
Brenna Lynne
Tyler Tafelsky
Tyler Tafelsky

Approached as both an art and a science, creating an SEO content strategy can take many shapes. Whether it be on-page SEO for a product or service; different forms of blogging, vlogging, and content marketing; or even organizing a photo gallery, the process on how to create SEO content can have a range of applications.

In simple terms, creating SEO content is all about great research, writing, and attention to technical details. Because 68% of all trackable website traffic is organic or paid search and Google is said to process 5.8 billion searches per day, it’s fair to say that developing an SEO content strategy can go a long way in generating in-market, lead-generating traffic. The trick is you have to beat out all of your competitors for a coveted first-page spot (which 75% of users never scroll past).

It’s also worth mentioning that a balanced SEO content strategy will consider all potential touchpoints in which users can engage with your content. While organic search is one primary means of visibility, SEO can also affect where your content shows up in other places, like Google Images, News, YouTube, Pinterest, and other platforms.

That’s why we’ve created this SEO content guide which outlines the steps you need to take to optimize your strategy and set yourself up for long-term success. Read on to learn the fundamentals of SEO, how to create effective content, and ultimately increase visibility across organic search and beyond.

What is SEO Content? 

SEO content (or search engine optimized content) refers to any form of text, photos, or visual media that can be found either on your website or other web property where it’s published (e.g. blog, product page, social media channel, news publisher, press site, etc.)

Great content is a spectrum. Examples range from simple blogs to elaborate landing pages. The underlying premise is that the content is discoverable via search engines. When SEO is put into practice, there’s greater intention behind the content being found by targeted search users who are actively seeking it.

searching for seo content

There are many different types of content but the most popular options include:  

  • eCommerce Product Pages - a page on a website where customers can make a purchase or learn more about an offer
  • Blog Posts - written content that provides information using text, photos, and sometimes videos
  • Short Form Articles - blog posts that average 300-700 words in length and are often preferred by human readers
  • Long-Form Articles - sometimes referred to as skyscraper content or pillar pages, these blog posts can be anywhere from 1,500 to 10,000+ words and are sometimes preferred by search engine algorithms
  • Press Coverage - a news announcement shared with the press for publication that brings increased exposure and backlink opportunities
  • Guides - an educational long-form piece often used as a freebie for email newsletter sign-ups
  • Photos - images you can optimize for better SEO rankings using keywords titles and alt tags
  • Videos - videos you an embed directly onto a web page or link to a third-party host (such as YouTube or Vimeo;) Webinars are a specific type of video, often with live interactivity
  • Infographics - a visually interesting presentation of data using colorful illustrations
  • Glossaries - a collection of relevant terms (like this list) your audience can reference
  • Podcasts - audible, engaging content users can subscribe to, and listen to on the go

Essential SEO Terminology

As you begin to create SEO content, you’ll notice that there are a lot of terms you’ll need to master along the way. Here are a few digital marketing acronyms and abbreviations worth mentioning, if you’re a beginner:

  • Keyword Research - the process of researching search terms your target audience might use to find your business online
  • Keyword Optimization - the process of implementing your keyword strategy, as chosen through your keyword research process
  • SERP - stands for “search engine results pages” which are the suggested links to specific parts of websites that match your query
  • Metadata - technical information about a webpage such as creation date, author, and tags that were either manually or automatically added. Colloquially, this may specifically refer to the "title" and "meta description" elements (and historically the "meta keyword"), though it technically encompasses more
  • Backlinks - a referral link, or website shortcut, from a different page or site to your own website or web property

With these important definitions in mind, let’s get into how you can use SEO content to drive traffic, reach the right audience, and grow your sales and leads.

How to Create GREAT SEO Strategic Content That Gets Results

Follow this step-by-step guide on how to plan and create search engine optimization-friendly content that ranks for target keywords and generates qualified organic traffic to your site. Use the tips, template, and checklist to jumpstart your SEO content strategy.

strategic content comes in many forms

Develop a Strategy

The term “strategy” is often tossed around loosely, taking on many meanings and intentions to different marketers. On a more granular level, you can have a strategy for a specific piece of content and the desired SEO outcome you wish to achieve. From a wider perspective (and perhaps more applicable for this exercise), a strategy can include several pages, websites, and web properties as part of a greater SEO strategy.

In essence, an SEO strategy is a well-planned and executed roadmap of data-informed steps based on assumptions, constraints, and big picture goals that evolves over time. It is not simply a list of random “to dos” and boxes to check just to say you’ve “done it”. Instead, it’s a complex yet measurable plan of action that aligns marketing with your brand, strikes the right tone, and converts the best target audiences.

As can be expected, B2B strategies differ quite a bit compared to customer-facing businesses. Over time, applying one to your digital marketing materials can help you land on the first page of results for topics and queries your leads are most interested in.

Narrow Down Goals

Your SEO strategy, along with the content you choose to create and/or optimize, should revolve around goals. Goals should be both measurable and attainable, and ideally built into your analytics tracking and reporting processes. In the context of formulating an SEO content strategy, some of the most commonly sought goals are:

  • Increase organic traffic & conversions by X%
  • Grow a particular product/service line within a company
  • Achieve desired rankings for target keywords and phrases
  • Improve backlink profile & strengthen domain authority
  • Earn more Featured Snippets & People Also Ask (PAA) answer boxes
  • Boost user engagement, like average time on site and pages visited
  • Take ownership of brand queries for reputation management

These are just some examples of SEO-related goals and targeted outcomes. Narrowing down the goals motivating your strategy should be a holistic effort that involves multiple departments and perspectives, especially those managing a brand’s social media, PR, and email marketing.

Although most SEO best practices mentioned below are universally applicable across different pages and web properties, your content is not “one size fits all” when it comes to making a direct impact on your sales, traffic, or branding efforts. Once you’ve prioritized which goals will generate the highest ROI, you can better craft an SEO strategy that will guide your content choices.

Research Your Audience

Most businesses and brands will already know their target audience based on their current customers, website visitors, and social media followers. In such cases, it’s a good practice to create profiles on them and acquire a more behavioral understanding of who you’re trying to reach. Identify what they care about, how and why they’ve come to your website, and the type of content and subject matter that gets the most response.

If you’ve yet to grasp the “who” behind your target audience, explore industry trends, related news sites, and savvy competitors in your space. You can gain a lot of insight by exploring what’s being discussed and what’s already out there, which in turn can help you better position your own SEO content strategy.

In addition to the content types and subjects they prefer, note the tone of voice and language that’s being used throughout the content, including the types of images, graphics, and videos. Are they reading info-dense blog posts that are heavy on industry jargon? Or are they watching short, casual videos that provide a brief overview of niche ideas and concepts? Look for patterns that can help you define your target audience and plan to test them within your strategy.

If you need more ideas, you can actually use search engines to source insights about your target audience and what keywords they’re searching. One of the simplest places to start is using Google autocomplete to understand patterns and trends based on popular searches of interest.  

Google Autocomplete example

Next, examine the content shown on the first page of the search results. If you’re seeing several paid ads, it might indicate a very competitive search landscape. In other instances, you’ll see more organic content intended to provide information, ideas, local businesses, or other forms of value - sometimes in the shape of Featured Snippets and PAA answer boxes.

Google featured snippet example

For example, when you hear the phrase “what is bone broth,” you may assume that the user is looking for a definition. However, the search results for that query show content related to bone broth recipes, health benefits, dietary considerations, types, and uses. So if we wanted to rank well for this search query, it would behoove us to diversify our content and discuss the many interests of bone broth to help make it stand out and rank better among competing sites.

Search intent varies more than you might think - example for query what is bone broth

Next, examine which angles competitors take with their content for this keyword or phrase. Find ways you can fill in the gaps with missing yet important aspects of the subject your audience may also be interested in.

In the bone broth example, there currently aren’t any top-ranking pages that include a list of bone broth flavors, even though Google provides an option for users to narrow their search this way.

An example of a user's ability to narrow and refine search intent in Google

Including details like these will help in outranking and differentiating against competing content because it goes above and beyond what the top results have shared. Quality, original content matters most, and part of delivering the best quality content is providing even more value to users. With the help of the top SEO tools, analyzing SERPs will give you guidance on the path to quality content.

Lastly, in the process of analyzing SERPs and familiarizing yourself with top-ranking content, consider other dynamic search features that can offer insight. In addition to Google autocomplete, the PAA  questions, Refine by, and Related searches can also lend ideas on how to strategically position your content.

Related searches example for the query bone broth

Choose Smart Topics

Determining which topics to cover as part of your SEO content strategy is equally as important as the work you put into creating it. It can be tempting to target popular keywords that have high search volumes and significant traffic potential. But it’s also important to be realistic and consider the level of competition that you’re up against.

Conversely, some brands fixate on low competition keywords (eg long-tail keywords) and create content that stands the greatest potential to rank. However, despite achieving top rankings and earning a modest amount of traffic from their efforts, they still don’t see an increase in conversions or sales. Why is that?

Companies that have this issue are, more often than not, choosing subjects that attract users who aren’t part of their target market. So even if they see an increase in site visitors, those users aren’t truly interested in their products or services after they’ve digested the content. The solution is to choose smart topics that fulfill both your SEO goals and the needs of your desired customer. In other words, choosing smart topics means honing the heart and soul of choosing the right keywords for SEO: always remember to consider search intent, and use a keyword tool to select the right keyword for the job.

Take your discovery efforts offline and talk to your sales and customer service teams about the key questions and concerns your target audience might have. In doing so, also consider the needs and opportunities that can be leveraged for other marketing channels. At a minimum, SEO content creation should also support the efforts of your email and social media teams, providing them with internally-generated assets that can be shared and promoted.

Draft Content Briefs

An SEO content brief outlines all the technical, informational, and creative details that need to be included in a piece in order to fulfill your goals. How you structure your content brief is up to you and your team. But at the very least, your content brief should include a potential title, a keyword or phrase, the intended audience, and specific information that should be included to bring your content to life.

Here’s a content brief template you can use to get started:

Title:

Content Details

Target word count or range:

Brief description of what the article is about:

Relevant tags, like titles and meta descriptions:

Target audience personas:

Customer funnel stage target:

Goals:

Keywords: (include monthly search volume)

People Also Ask Questions from Google Search Results

  • Question #1
  • Question #2
  • Question #3
  • Question #4

Top Ranking Results for Primary Keyword

  • Link to a first-page result #1
  • Link to a first-page result #2
  • Link to a first-page result #3

Internal Links to Include

  • Relevant webpage link #1
  • Relevant webpage link #2
  • Relevant webpage link #3

Find more SEO templates here.

Example content brief

Create High-Quality Content

Planning your SEO content strategy is one thing, but actually developing high-quality content is another. Here’s a checklist you can use to create the best content that ranks well - no matter what strategy you choose.  

  • Add subheadings and bulleted lists that break down complex ideas into digestible steps.
  • Prioritize action words and use short sentences (14 words or less is ideal).
  • Shoot for a readability score that matches that of your target audience
  • Optimize images by adding your target keyword to the file name and alt text. Then reduce the file size to decrease page load times.
  • Create an SEO-friendly URL.
  • Include your chosen keywords into your page title tag, meta description, headline & sub-headlines, and body copy, where appropriate. You can start optimizing content for your existing content first, then build on your efforts with the new pages.
  • Link to external sites that are authorities in the subject matter, but are not associated with competitors. Always prioritize links that are highly useful, relevant, and timely.
  • Add helpful & relevant internal links to related pages and posts on your site, ideally at least twice throughout the content.
  • Make sure that your content offers a comprehensive take on your chosen keyword theme given the context of the search results and what your competitors have neglected to include in their own pieces.
  • Avoid keyword stuffing. No one wants to read crap!
  • If rich snippets and structured markup are appropriate given the subject matter, don't forget to include them.
  • Don’t forget to include a CTA (call-to-action). Traffic doesn’t mean much if you fail to funnel users down a path to conversion.
  • Write compelling social media descriptions, and don't forget to share them once they are live.
  • Provide your readers with a great user experience.

How To Maintain Your SEO Momentum

Once you’ve learned how to create impactful SEO content that’s competitively unique and provides real user value, you’ll want to create an SEO roadmap for your content strategy to keep things organized and moving.  As a distilled roadmap summary, do these three things for better long-term results:

  • Create an editorial calendar. Consistency is the foundation of any good content strategy. An editorial calendar (template) will help you organize ideas, schedule projects, and publish high-quality pieces of content on a regular basis.
  • Analyze and re-assess content on a regular basis. Use performance monitoring platforms such as Google Analytics, Ahrefs, MarketingCloudFX, and Animalz to track & monitor your chosen KPIs/metrics. Even if you’re already ranking for a few target keywords, you can oftentimes find new keywords or low-hanging fruit worth exploring. You’ll need to keep an eye on performance over time, as new content is published online daily that will require you to reevaluate and tweak published pieces if you want to maintain your position for those search terms. Also - don't forget to update your internal linking as new great content is published, and old content is retired!
  • Hone in on the best topics for your unique audience. Look for patterns among high performing content or webpages. Then use a tool like Ahrefs, Semrush, or BuzzSumo to check your rankings for specific keywords and find new, similar ones your audience might also be interested in. Using our previous bone broth example, you may find a new opportunity in creating content about collagen, which is a trendy protein found in bone broth that provides a host of health benefits.

Need SEO Content Strategy Support?

SEO content is any digital marketing piece that helps your website rank higher in search, reach the right audiences, and build domain authority over time. Although the SEO content planning process looks straightforward, it is actually quite detailed and complex.

Now that you know the basics, you can get started on creating your own SEO content marketing strategy, editorial calendar, and content briefs. For more support, contact us today for help building and executing a results-driven SEO content plan tailored to your goals!

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