In the realm of content strategy and SEO, there is nary a website launch that isn’t marred by the occasional squabble over which is a priority. Putting emotions and disciplines aside, we all know content and SEO are equally important. Obviously they are so equally important that one doesn’t exist without the other.
So, how does one ensure that the proverbial arguments over content and SEO don’t come between a successful and strategic website launch?
As a content strategist and copywriter, I have learned to understand and embrace SEO, though it has taken me some time to make it part of my own strategy from the beginning. Thankfully, I have had the experience of working collaboratively with some great search engine marketers on several successful website projects.
What we’ve come to realize is the answer lies in defining processes that help content strategists, copywriters, user experience designers and SEOs find common ground from the get go. Come to find we all kind of want the same thing – effective content that drives traffic and increases leads.
The following are some elements that have worked for our agency. Adding them to your own internal processes might help improve the relationship between your SEO and content strategy a little more with each website. And they are likely to positively impact your conversions in the long run.
1- Get buy-in from all disciplines involved early on.
For me, this is the most important part of any project. No copywriter wants to be thrown an empty website design and asked to fill it in, just as no SEO wants to be handed a website full of content that doesn’t align with what people are actually searching for. All this leads to is making people feel like their work is unimportant.
When all team members truly understand the goals and the strategy behind a project, they just do their jobs better and they work together more effectively. It’s amazing how much more energetic and supportive a project can feel when everyone is rallied around it from the beginning. Taking personal interest in a project’s success can only happen when people feel like they’re a part of it.
2- Create a keyword map alongside the sitemap.
Before the UX designer has completed a sitemap or a copywriter has written a single word of content, the SEO should be consulted. Aligned with the goals of the project, the SEO should focus on how keywords can be used to help push those goals. For example, if a lawnmower company wants to focus on the eco-friendly push mower market, the SEO should be advising on keyword strategy around landing pages that is informed by his or her keyword research. Is there opportunity to capture that market based on keyword volumes?
Of course, there is a lot of overlap between content strategy and SEO but the SEO will have an idea based on keyword research whether or not there should be an eco-friendly mowing section or simply a landing page with keyword content about push mowers. At the end of the day, intense keyword research should guide the site map just as much as UX and content strategy do.
3- Make sure everyone agrees on a goal for each page.
One of the first things I learned about SEO as a content strategist was that it’s important to give the user a page that most closely represents what it is they are searching for. Having a keyword strategy that is focused on giving the user exactly what they want is important. It’s even more important to make sure the pages that contain that information are focused on converting them in that same visit.
This means the content strategist and the SEO have to work closely to make sure the content is designed to funnel each user to a specific calls to action related to their search. Determining what the common goal is for each page helps the SEO and the person writing the content once again work together from the beginning to make sure search behavior and calls to action anticipating that behavior are cohesive.
4- Exercise all your options for keyword usage.
If you’ve planned well from the beginning, the body copy of each page will closely align with the keywords you’re targeting. We all know it’s a lot easier to use keyword variations naturally when they’re relevant to what you’re writing about.
There is, however, a limit to how frequently you can use keywords in the body if you want to keep your copy clear and punchy. Work with your SEO to balance keyword usage in the body and in other, more out of the way areas like titles, headlines, photo captions, in the sidebar, etc. This will give you more room to keep your copy sounding natural while ensuring all the relevant variations make it on the page.
5- Budget more time for content.
You can rank awesome in the search engines all you want but if the content on your website isn’t clear and focused on getting the user to actually do something there, it’s a complete waste. Your bounce rate will reflect that. Very often content is one of the most under-budgeted pieces of a project.
When you are realistic about how much time it takes to write engaging, thoughtful content that is also strategic and aligned with the goals of a website, more consideration can be given to SEO. Quality content is not cheap or quick. Be honest with your client and budget project time appropriately.
6- Strategize a plan for ongoing SEO.
Fresh content, linkbuilding, social media and outreach can all have a huge impact on search engine rankings. When you formulate a plan for ongoing tactics to boost your search engine ranking, you don’t have to overly obsess about the foundational content on your website. Having a baseline plan for the content on the website is great, but that will only get your website so far in the search engines. An ongoing SEO strategy is key to consistently driving traffic and building a stronger website that will rank better and better over the long run.