Businesses can use an SEO content strategy to drive qualified website traffic from organic search channels, like Google or Bing. Jacob Clarke joins the Digital Marketing Troop to talk about his experience. On this episode, we talk about:
- when SEO should be a priority
- biggest mistakes brands make
- how to research keywords
- the role of technical SEO
- “would someone type this into Google”
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John Tyreman: Hi gang. Welcome to The Digital Marketing Troop, where we talk about changes and trends shaping the world of digital marketing. I’m your host, John Tyreman, and I’m joined today by a regular podcast guest, Mr. Jacob Clarke, Senior SEO Account Manager is Silverback Strategies. Jacob, how are you doing today?
Jacob Clarke: I’m doing well. Glad to be back on.
John Tyreman: I’m glad too, and for our listeners, we’ve got a cool game that we’re gonna play at the end of the podcast so stick around for that. But today we are talking about one of my personal favorite topics in marketing, content strategy, specifically SEO driven content strategies. So Jacob, how would you define an SEO content strategy? What is it?
Jacob Clarke: An SEO driven content strategy is about creating content for your website with the intent of driving traffic to it through search engines. So a helpful way to understand it is going to be contrasting it with other types of content distribution strategies. So let’s say you’ve written a really good page on a topic that’s relevant to your business. The obvious next question is, how is my target audience going to find this page? Maybe you have a really good social media following so you post on your Facebook page and we’ll get a few hundred views there, or you have a really big email list and sending it out to your subscribers there will earn lots of views. But a lot of businesses don’t have those direct followings, where you can create a page, and then directly send it out to your audience. And so the solution to that problem is creating an SEO driven content strategy, where your goal is to get traffic from users who are searching for that topic in Google. It’s a way for your audience who hasn’t heard of you yet to learn about your business and you to really present them some helpful information.
John Tyreman: It sounds like if you’re a business with a smaller audience, then an SEO driven content strategy might be something that you would consider investing in. Are there other reasons why brands should prioritize SEO as part of that content strategy?
Jacob Clarke: A lot of brands are able to have success getting traffic to their site, once they’ve spent the time and resources to build up those followings on social media and email. But a lot of the brands definitely shouldn’t still discount SEO because according to SEMRush, search engines are the number one source of traffic for company blogs, across all industries. So there’s billions of searches in Google every day. And if you aren’t targeting those users, you’re definitely missing out on a lot of potential traffic. Another benefit of SEO compared to other channels, is that it gets you in front of the right audience at the exact time they’re looking to solve a problem. So for example, our SEO Tools show us that about 1200 people every month search the term types of nursing degrees into Google. And so if you’re a university that offers nursing degrees, it’s really valuable for you to create a page to answer that question, because then you have several hundred people per month visiting your university site, or once you answer that question, you can have the call to action be something that encourages them to connect with their advisors to learn more. And so to summarize, it’s a really good way to get you in front of the right audience at the right time.
John Tyreman: That’s really interesting, and you know that may not… that could mean different things for different companies. So for your nursing degree example, they’re at a certain stage in their journey, whereas if you’re looking for like Plumbing Companies near me, like they’re at like in a dire situation, and much different journey too. So I think that that’s another really interesting way to consider that too. So, obviously, to identify these keywords that you need to search for., you need to do keyword research. What are some good tips for keyword research for these SEO content strategists or marketers out there looking to add SEO to their content strategy?
Jacob Clarke: One of the biggest mistakes that you’ll see a lot of times with doing an SEO content strategy is that people write a lot of content that no one is really searching for. And so the number one tip for doing good keyword research is to do the opposite of that, and to make sure that you’re writing about topics that people are actually searching for in Google and then creating content to address that query. And so a great way to start is just by identifying question keywords. No matter what industry you’re in, it’s likely that your audience is typing questions into Google. And it’s really important that your business is the one who shows up with the answer. And so if we have an example of a company that let’s say they sell coffee beans, their target audience is going to be people who drink coffee. And then specifically people who make their own coffee at home. And so using keyword research tools, we can identify the types of questions that audience is searching into Google. And so in this case it would be things like, what’s the difference between light and dark roast coffee, which coffee has the most caffeine, why does my coffee taste sour. We can see that hundreds of people are searching those in Google every month and so it’s a great opportunity to get in front of that audience at the right time. But then as great as it is to be able to find those keywords with a lot of search volume, you definitely want to be mindful about the competition. If you’re a new site or you don’t have a whole lot of content, you definitely shouldn’t go after really difficult keywords. Instead you should be targeting keywords that might have lower search volume, but there aren’t as many other sites writing about it. And then over time as your site builds more authority, you can definitely target those more competitive keywords.
John Tyreman: I know that this is going to depend on relativity here but what would be an example of a low volume keyword that someone starting out with an SEO driven content strategy would likely want to target?
Jacob Clarke: Yeah. So you’d want to look at things, just one kind of check you can do is terms that have very few number of words like one to three words are generally going to be more competitive because they’re targeting broader topics, as opposed to much longer searches that have a lower search volume per month. And then you’d also want to take a look at the search results. And if you’re scrolling all the way through Google and you see that there’s like, 100 pages all directly matching that query, that’s a good indicator that it’s a pretty competitive term. But if you’re scrolling through Google and you only see two or three pages at the top, that are addressing that question, that could be an indicator there’s not a whole lot of competition for that term.
John Tyreman: It could also be an indicator that that’s not a keyword that people really search for too.
Jacob Clarke: That’s definitely true as well and so I would recommend checking the search volume using some SEO tools there as well, because that kind of relates back to the popular mistake where people will be writing a ton of content, but nobody’s searching for it and so even if you rank number one for that term, it’s not super valuable for your business.
John Tyreman: If marketers wanted to create SEO driven content for their strategy, how should they go about creating that?
Jacob Clarke: Once you’ve chosen the keywords that you want to write about, you shouldn’t put pen to paper just yet. It’s actually time to… in a way you want to reverse engineer Google’s algorithm. And what that means is you want to see what type of content Google is already choosing to rank in the top positions, so you can make sure that yours is even better. So if we were to take the example of what’s the difference between light and dark roast coffee, what you would do is you Google that query, and then you open up the top five ranking pages. You want to read through each page and try to figure out what they have in common that could be helping them rank at the top of the results for that query. One of the first things that you’d notice is that the word counts are between 500 and 1500 words, so a pretty wide range there. You might decide the optimal length is going to be around 1200 words. And then several of the pages have images of each roast so they’re including images of light roast, of dark roast. And so our page would definitely want to have images. But once you understand what they have in common, it’s important to think about ways that you could create an even more helpful page. One thing that jumps out about those pages is that they don’t do a very good job of breaking down the content with sub headers. It’s a lot of just large blocks of text, and so on this new page what I’d recommend is structuring it a little bit differently than what’s currently ranking, where you’d have headers dedicated to each aspect of comparison, which might be like caffeine, taste, health benefits, color, bitterness. Those are the main points of comparison on that topic. And so you could create a much more helpful page by breaking it down into those sections with really clear answers like light roasts have more caffeine than dark roasts because… and then provide a detailed answer. And so you really look at what’s already ranking for that query and then find a way to create a page that’s even better.
John Tyreman: Okay so, from what I understand there’s significant keyword research that’s involved, then you really need to take that research a step further, reverse engineer the top results, what’s ranking currently, and then you create, take those learnings and then you apply that to creation. Do I have that right?
Jacob Clarke: That’s correct, you definitely want to start with really strong keyword research where you’re looking at things like search volume, is this relevant to my business competition level. And then once you’ve chosen that keyword you definitely want to have a really good understanding of what type of content is Google already choosing a rank for that query, and then how can I improve upon what’s already there.
John Tyreman: Okay, so we’ve talked a lot about the editorial side of SEO, what role does the technical side of SEO play?
Jacob Clarke: You definitely don’t want to forget about technical SEO. Technical SEO is about making sure that your site is built in a way that search engines can crawl, rank, and index the content. You can have the best page in the world on a particular content, but if you set it up to where search engines aren’t able to access the page, it’s not going to appear anywhere in search results. And so really before you start publishing new content on your site, you definitely want to make sure the technical foundation is there.
John Tyreman: Yeah, those are good points. Well, you know, the ultimate goal of SEO is to drive traffic, right? But that traffic doesn’t really necessarily do you any good unless it’s converting into leads or converting into revenue in some capacity. So what are some ways to, through an SEO lens, optimize the page for converting into that next, the next level?
Jacob Clarke: Yeah, like you said, for most businesses, they don’t make any money just because someone visits their site. They turn that reader into a paying customer. And that first starts with building trust with the reader by having really informative, helpful content that answers the question they’re asking. But in terms of optimizing for that conversion, it’s important to tie the call to action very closely with the purpose of the page. So for example, in the case of the difference between light and dark roast, one of the top pages does a really good job of this to where below their section on light roast coffee, their call to action is shop light roast. It doesn’t just say shop our coffee beans. The reader came to the page because they were interested in light roast. And so the call to action is specific to that. Or for our example with the university with their page on types of nursing degrees, you’d want the pitch at the end to be something like, speak with our advisors to learn which type of nursing degree is right for you. So you’re addressing the specific problem that the reader came to solve, instead of having a very general call to action like shop now or contact us.
John Tyreman: All this talk about coffee. As of this recording, it’s 2:17pm, and I’m jiving in for a cup of coffee right now. That sounds really good.
Jacob Clarke: I’m in the same boat. I’ve already had a couple today so I’m in a pretty good spot.
John Tyreman: So Jacob we talked about a game that we want to play at the end of this episode, so why don’t we jump into that. So can you give our listeners a little overview?
Jacob Clarke: Yeah, so we’ve talked about what it looks like to create an SEO driven content strategy, which is all about addressing the types of things that people are searching into Google. So the way this is going to work, John, I’m going to present to you the title of several blog articles that we found, and what we’re able to do with our SEO Tools is see what keywords people are searching for that these pages are ranking for. And so when we put one of these blogs in and we can see that they’re ranking for 20 keywords in the top five that have a total search volume of 2000, that’s a really good indicator they’re obviously getting, you know, potentially hundreds of searches per month. But in other instances, we’ll put a blog into our SEO tools and it’ll show that the page is not ranking for any keywords that anyone is searching, and so the assumption is, they’re getting no SEO traffic. And so what we’ll do here is I’ll just kind of present to you the title of these blogs, one by one, and the filter that you need to use is, is this something that somebody would type into Google, and if it is, it’s getting traffic is definitely part of an SEO driven content strategy. But if it’s not something that somebody would type into Google, then this page is likely getting no traffic, unless the business was able to kind of push it directly to their readers.
John Tyreman: Okay, is this something someone would type into Google. I’m ready to play.
Jacob Clarke: Alright. So the first title of our blog article here, a business wrote a page on what type of oil does my car need.
John Tyreman: Yes.
Jacob Clarke: That is correct. That one’s getting a ton of traffic.
John Tyreman: Okay, you gave me an easy one there to start.
Jacob Clarke: Our next topic is, we have a blog here on post Thanksgiving tips for home maintenance. Is anyone typing that phrase into Google?
John Tyreman: I’m gonna say no, but I bet that some marketer thought that that was keyword optimized.
Jacob Clarke: I think you’re exactly right. That is not getting any organic traffic. And I think the key there is that people would just be searching for home maintenance tips, it’s not really important that it’s a post Thanksgiving home tip. And so it’s not able to rank for any keywords. Well, our next one here is why small business owners need to understand supply chain and risk mitigation COVID-19 edition.
John Tyreman: Oh my gosh. Actually, yes. I’m gonna say that is something a business owner would type into Google.
Jacob Clarke: That one is actually not getting any organic traffic. And I think the reason is because things like supply chain and risk mitigation, definitely relevant topics that would likely get search volume, but because they’ve made it very specific to small business owners and COVID-19 edition. That’s likely what’s making it too specific to rank for any broad queries about those topics. Our next one: best road trips from Washington DC.
John Tyreman: Yes.
Jacob Clarke: That is correct. That one gets tons of searches every month and so that page, likely driving a good amount of organic traffic. Cool couple more here. Our next one: iPhone 12 versus iPhone 11.
John Tyreman: I’m going to say yes because it’s a comparison.
Jacob Clarke: That’s correct. This one is ranking very well, getting lots of traffic, definitely makes sense that people who are considering getting the iPhone 12 would want to see how it contrasts with the latest model. And our last one here: how to withdraw money from your 401K.
John Tyreman: Yes, because that’s something that I’ve thought about at some point. I’ve probably even made that search.
Jacob Clarke: That is correct. Yep, that one gets a lot of searches every month as well. Cool, so that’s just a really good exercise. You can kind of go through any site like that and even without having some of the SEO tools that show you exactly what they’re ranking for, you can kind of just use your intuition in determining what you want to write about. Just think, would somebody type this into Google? And if so, it could be a good SEO opportunity. But if it’s something like post Thanksgiving tips for home maintenance, you think nobody really searches that specific to post Thanksgiving, it’s probably not going to be the best fit for an SEO strategy.
John Tyreman: I love this exercise, because it forces you to stop thinking about trying to game the algorithm and create headlines that are more appealing to humans.
Jacob Clarke: Yeah, that’s definitely the case. I think it’s a temptation for companies to want to write content that they think their audience will be interested in reading. And that definitely might be true, but you do have to ask the question, how are they going to find it initially. And so a lot of the types of blogs that you will read are ones where it might be helpful information, but there’s really just no way for the target audience to come across the blog in the first place, again unless you have a strong social media or email following,
John Tyreman: Right on. Well, Jacob, thank you so much again for joining me on the podcast. I know our listeners are getting some incredible advice from you. I learned a ton personally, just from this chat. I thought this game was fun. I didn’t do too bad, but I’m still a little rusty on my SEO. Well, Jacob, if folks want to find you or connect with you, where can they find you?
Jacob Clarke: Yeah, the best place to connect is going to be on LinkedIn. So feel free to send me an invite there and I would be happy to connect.
John Tyreman: Awesome. Jacob Clarke. Connect with him on LinkedIn.
John Tyreman: If you found this podcast episode insightful, please subscribe, tell a friend and leave a rating and review. And to learn more, head on over to silverbackstrategies.com where we have a wealth of digital marketing insights on our blog and Resource Center. We’ll see you next time on The Digital Marketing Troop.