In the early days of search engine optimization, brands and marketers were more interested in creating mini-sites, blog posts, and articles that would land them at the top of search results than producing content valuable to their readers. The goal was clicks. People looking for information were often led to sites that didn’t provide it, resulting in frustrationIn recognition of that frustration, Google and other search engines changed their algorithms to put the focus more on quality than on quantity. From what looked to be the ashes of SEO rose something new and better: search content marketing.

What Is Search Content Marketing?

SEO is the practice of boosting a webpage’s ranking in search results while content marketing is an approach that focuses on creating and distributing valuable content including blog posts, longform articles, and videos. Search content marketing combines the two. It uses elements of SEO, such as meta descriptions and title tags, keywords, and links and merges them into elements of content marketing, such as producing an article or video that solves a problem or explicitly answers a question.

Materials produced with search content marketing in mind tend to rank near the top of search results, so people looking for information on a particular topic will find it easily. Landing on the top of search results leads to organic traffic, meaning your brand doesn’t have to pay to have its content reach the intended audience.

What Can Search Content Marketing Do for You?

If you spend some time on keyword research, you’ll be able to find the keyword phrases that are not so popular that everyone in your niche is trying to use them, and not so unusual that you’ll get very little traffic from them even if you do rank high in the search results. Once you know the ideal keyword phrases to use, often all you need are a few small tweaks to get your content at the top of the results. For example, the Content Marketing Institute points out Heinz’ Tomato Ketchup page would get more traffic and rank higher in the results if the URL for the page was adjusted to include a relevant keyword (“Heinz ketchup”).

Another benefit of search content marketing is it forces you to create engaging content. One of the ways search engines rank pages is by evaluating how long people stay on the page once it loads. If they quickly leave, the page is going to fall in the rankings. But if they linger, perhaps because they are reading an article or blog post or watching a video, then that sends a signal to search engines the content is valuable and worth a top spot in the search results.

One last benefit of search content marketing: It brings readers/viewers to your content. Sure, you can pay to promote your post or to have influencers share your content with their followers. But if you’re on a limited budget or want to have your content appear in front of people who are actively looking for the information you’re providing, focusing on search is the way to go.

What Are the Elements of Search Content Marketing?

Here are a few of the most important components to consider when working on a search content marketing strategy:

Keywords

In many ways keywords are the most important element of search content marketing. When you know what people are searching for, you can use that information to shape your content. What’s important is to make sure the content you produce naturally works with the keywords. Don’t grab a popular keyword, create a piece of content that has nothing to do with it, then try to push the keyword in there a few times. It won’t work.

Links

Ideally, the content you create will have links to other pieces of content and will be something other pages want to link back to.

Tags

Tags are important especially if you’re producing image- or video-heavy content. You’ll want to use tags to create a description that will appear on the search results page and entice readers to click on your content.

Information

It might seem like a no-brainer but having content that is full of information is essential. You’d be surprised how many so-called pieces of “content” are little more than fluff dipped in SEO.

Call to Action

A call to action spurs your reader/viewer on to the next step and helps to ensure your search content marketing achieves its goal.

How Can Your Brand Create a Search Content Marketing Strategy?

In a lot of ways, a search content marketing strategy is similar to a regular content marketing strategy. Here’s what to do:

Set a goal

First, think about what you want to get out of your search content marketing. Are you looking for more website traffic, more sales, more subscribers? Knowing your goal will help you tailor your content and search tactics.

Focus on the reader

Back in the day, markets put the search engines first. Today, you should put the needs and desires of your audience before the concerns of the search engines. That’s because in many ways the search engines will follow the reader. If people engage with your content, the search engines get the message that it’s valuable. Define your audience, figure out what they want or need, then create high-quality content that delivers.

Remember SEO

Once you have standout content, go back and tinker with it.  Make sure to do this to ensure even more search engine friendly. To do this you may consider changing the title. You might also consider adding a few more relevant links, or you might alter the format to make the content easier to scan. If you’re not sure what SEO elements you’ll need, this “Periodic Table of SEO” infographic might help.

Come up with a plan for measuring and tracking

The great thing about search content marketing is you can see where your content is ranking and where it isn’t. You can also see how people respond to your content. Measure the performance of your content and have a plan for improvement if things aren’t working the way you hoped. For example, can you try a different keyword phrase? Can you adjust the content and try a different format (a video instead of a blog post, for example)?

Keep up with search algorithms

A key part of a search content marketing strategy is keeping up with what’s going on. For example, with Google and the like. Search algorithms change frequently and sometimes those changes are pretty dramatic. When the big changes occur, the search engines usually give people warning’s or tips to help brands navigate the change. For example, Google was pretty clear it was going to start rewarding sites optimized for mobile. Search content marketing is dynamic, and you need to be ready to change and adapt as the search engines adapt.

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