Welcome back to our series on building your startup content team. If you missed part one on the importance of building a content team and selecting a great content manager , please do take a look at it before continuing with this article.
As inbound and content marketing becomes increasingly important for the success of businesses, it will be more critical than ever for start-ups and established businesses alike to build their own internal content teams. The content manager is the hub of the wheel on any good content team, and has a wide variety of responsibilities that require careful balancing. After selecting a great content manager, the next step is to hire and identify a skilled Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Director.
Content marketing is incredibly hot right now in virtually every online industry for a variety of great reasons: it builds the trust relationship between consumers and producers of content, allows sites to develop a deep library of resources that enhance their credibility, gives brands the opportunity to funnel customers from freely offered content to paid offerings, is extremely impactful on social media, and dramatically increases conversion rates. On their own, these are all amazing reasons to develop a content marketing strategy and build a content team. But one of the original reasons for the rapid growth of content marketing was the impact it has on the searchability of sites.
We’ll get to Panda a little later, but for right now just know that search engines love great content!
Let’s back up for a quick second and get a deeper understanding of search engine optimization. SEO is the process of improving your site’s traffic through free or organic listings on search engines. If the Web is a jungle, search engines are the maps that people use to get from point A to point B. Increasing your site’s prominence in search engines will increase the likelihood of people locating your site. Different search engines rely on different algorithms which dictate exactly what they care about when it comes to the automated ranking of your site, but there are some elements that are fairly consistent.
As competition between different search engines has grown, they’ve increasingly focused on delivering the highest quality results and best possible user experience to their picky customers. Over time, high-quality content has played a larger and larger role in the way that search engines rank sites. Sites that provide a deep library of great content are significantly more likely to rank well than those that don’t.
Because of this, the SEO Director is an integral part of your content team. A great SEO Director has a variety of responsibilities both technical and otherwise, and must have a varied skill set built to tackle any one of a hundred different potential problems. Before hiring your SEO Director, be sure that they are extremely skilled in the following areas:
The most basic responsibility of the SEO Director is onsite optimization. This means working through the various issues that can crop up on websites that either make them difficult to use and result in low onsite conversion rates, or hurt the searchability of your site due to the way they can incur penalties in Google. These problems range from fixing confusing, distracting, or intrusive design flaws to improving website copy and removing duplicate content.
There are two underlying audiences to serve when it comes to SEO: the human consumers that interact with your site and the programmed search engine algorithms that judge where to rank your site based on a variety of factors. Improving your relationship with either audience will enhance your site’s SEO.
Onsite optimization is straightforward, but requires a lot of effort
Presenting a clear call to action on your site, removing pop-ups, and limiting the presence of confusing website copy while providing consumers with an intuitive experience will increase your conversion rates and drive more customers to your site. This will increase the number of hits and unique visitors (two of the underlying metrics search engines rely on) that you receive on a daily basis, thereby pleasing your human audience and improving your search ranking.
On the other hand, removing any broken links on your site that result in 404 errors, limiting the presence of duplicate content, and avoiding black-hat SEO techniques like keyword stuffing will please our robot overlords and improve your search ranking that way. In either case, the quality of your site will improve as you boost your search ranking.
One of the foundations of SEO is the effective use of keywords. Keywords are words that are highly relevant to a particular subject and are often searched for. The presence of keywords in a piece of content’s URL, title, and body will increase the content’s searchability when an individual searches for that term.
Understanding keywords can be a bit tricky. It’s easy to pick an extremely common keyword like “SEO” or “content marketing” and make it the center of a given content piece. These keywords are searched for on a regular basis, so it would seem to make sense to highlight them. But the more popular a given search term is, the harder it is to rank highly for it. Your goal should be to rank on the first page of Google, as there’s a massive drop off in the traffic your content will get when ranked on other pages.
It pays to be on the front page!
One way to increase your likelihood of ranking highly is to target long tail keywords, more specific keywords that are four words or longer. While individually more uncommon, these longer keywords account for the majority of search traffic when combined. So rather than focusing a piece of content on the broad topic of“content marketing”, consider selecting something more refined like “content marketing for SEO.” Optimize your content with that longer keyword in mind, and inject the long tail keyword tastefully into the piece. Keep in mind that search engines prioritize titles, URLs, and headlines over standard body text when evaluating your content.
By targeting more refined keywords over an extended period of time you’ll increase the visibility of your content.
The Internet is built on a web of connections linking various sites and points to one another in an ever-expanding universe of relationships. Link building is the act of connecting your site to other sites by either linking out to them or having them link to you, and the number and quality of these connections has a significant impact on your site’s search ranking.
Link building is as much about relationships as anything else. Part of the responsibility of the SEO director is to search for opportunities to build connections between your site and other powerful sites that can ultimately drive significant traffic your way. The classic example of this lies in the power of social media, and it’s normally advantageous for your Social Media Manager and SEO Director to be on good terms with one another.
There are countless opportunities for link building!
There are many other opportunities to build your relationship with other sites. Consider reaching out directly to other brands with separate specialties but common interests, and see if there are any opportunities to work together. Investigate opportunities to guest blog for sites with large networks, and link any press releases you make to sites that host these announcements. There are an incredible number of possibilities, and the SEO Director will have to stay on top of them.
Staying Current on Updates to Google Search
In the world of search, Google is undoubtedly the king of the mountain. Every day there are over five billion searches on Google! If you want to be found organically online, optimizing your site for Google search is clearly the way to go. One of the major responsibilities of the SEO director is to stay on top of any changes to Google’s search algorithm, which dictates the things that Google prioritizes when ranking sites.
Believe me, you don’t want to land in the last category
Google changes its algorithm on a fairly regular basis, so staying current will be an ongoing task. In 2011 Google rolled out a series of updates titled “Google Panda”, the goal of which was to prioritize high-quality sites over “thin sites” that have excessive advertising or link stuffing. “Google Penguin” appeared in 2012, and focused on penalizing sites that violated the Google Webmaster Guidelines through the usage of unscrupulous SEO techniques like keyword stuffing and duplicating content. Major updates like these appear regularly, and can have a significant impact on the ranking of your site.
In addition to the big, well-publicized updates, Google regularly makes stealthier but still incredibly impactful changes and introduces new systems that SEO professionals can take advantage of. For instance, on May 27th, Google made a fairly unpublicized change to their “Rankings” article within Google Webmaster Help emphasizing the importance of high-quality content. We covered those changes extensively in What This Summer’s Google Penguin 2.0 Update Means For The Market, and your SEO Director will need this information. Google’s new Authorship system and the Rel=author tool could have a major impact on the way your team sorts and publicizes its content, so be sure to check out our article on the subject!
Organize and Direct the SEO Team
Above and beyond all of their other responsibilities, it is the role of the SEO Director to organize and co-ordinate any and all members of the SEO team. As your brand grows and the results from your various content marketing endeavors start to pour in, it’s likely that the SEO team will grow over time. It’s critical to select an SEO Director who can grow with your brand, and who possesses the critical managerial skills to keep the team as a whole focused, excited, and highly productive.
For all of these reasons, the SEO Director is a critical member of your content marketing team – coordinating teams of article writers to unite under one principle. It’s necessary to hire someone with not only the technical skills that will command the respect of their peers and enable them to get the job done, but also the people skills that will make them a highly effective manger. Selecting a great SEO Director can have an incredible impact on your content marketing efforts!