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How to Create a Content Strategy for Both Users & Search Engines

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How to Create a Content Strategy for Both Users & Search Engines

Creating content that satisfies both search engines and users is imperative if you want a fighting chance to show up on the SERPs.

But how exactly do you know which content types and topics can help boost your rankings and organic traffic?

On January 30, I moderated an SEJ ThinkTank webinar presented by Kristi Kellogg, CEO and founder of Dazzling Digital.

Kellogg shared tips on how to create a content strategy for both users and search engines that will drive traffic to your website.

Here’s a recap of the webinar presentation.

Woman typing on laptop

What Is a Content Strategy?

The goal of content strategy is to drive visibility and awareness through traffic. It’s not necessarily about conversions, but it’s definitely a part of the overall conversion funnel.

When creating a content strategy, you should consider both users and search engines. One can’t exist without the other.

You can have the best content in the world that is highly useful to readers, but if it doesn’t show up on Google, no one will ever read it.

And on the opposite side of the spectrum, you can have content that is optimized for search engines and is ranking at the top of Page 1, but if it isn’t actually useful to readers, they’ll bounce immediately.

If you’re doing content strategy, you first need to:

Know Your Audience

Research your audience. Look at your analytics and your demographic data to see who are visiting your site. What do they do? What are they interested in?

Know Your Content

Do a content audit to identify what content you have.

  • What is ranking and what isn’t?
  • What is almost ranking on Page 1?
  • What are the gaps?

You must figure this all out and approach content strategically.

Know Your Options

You should also identify what content type is the best way to deliver your content. A few common formats include:

  • Ebooks.
  • Whitepapers.
  • Case studies.
  • Blog posts (i.e., listicles, comparisons, review, news, commentary, etc.).
  • Non-written content (i.e., podcasts, webinars).

In any event, the idea should come first, and then the format.

Consider Promotions

Don’t forget to use all your channels to promote your piece. Share your content via social and email. You can also run paid ads on Facebook and Twitter if you have the budget.

Content Strategy for Googlebot

Take into account on-page SEO best practices that will make it easier for search engines to crawl, index, and rank your content.

Meta Description

A meta description is a clear signal that tells Google what a page is about. While your meta description won’t necessarily show up as the snippet on the SERP every time, you should always optimize it as if it will show up.

Here are some best practices to keep in mind when writing a meta description:

  • Add a CTA at the end of the meta description to entice clicks.
  • The keyword should appear as close to the beginning of the meta description as possible.
  • Limit your meta description to 158 characters. Snippets have a maximum length of 920 pixels on desktop and a maximum length of 680 pixels on mobile.

Title Tags

As with the meta description, what you write in your title tag is a major signal to Google for what a page is about. It can also show up right in the SERPs.

Here are some best practices to keep in mind when writing your title tag:

  • Limit your title tag to 60 characters.
  • The keyword should appear as close to the beginning of the title tag as possible.
  • Use Moz’s Title Tag Preview Tool to quickly check your title tag.

Headers

The H1 is the headline that shows up on your webpage (as opposed to the title tag, which shows up on the SERPs). A few things to keep in mind when optimizing header tags:

  • Header tags should be used hierarchically (i.e., a subhead should be formatted as an H2. A sub-subhead is an H3, and so on. Don’t reverse the order, or skip H2s altogether and go from an H1 to an H3).
  • There should only ever be one H1 on any page.
  • Don’t use headers as a stylistic choice. Don’t bold, italicize or underline something that should, in truth, be a header. If you’ve identified an appropriate place to use a header, use it — using headers is an excellent way to increase your chances of getting an Answer Box.

Content Length

How long should a piece of content be? This is such a common question, and the answer is that it entirely depends on your target keyword.

You need to find out the word count of what is already ranking for a particular keyword phrase, and then use it as guide for how long your own content targeting that keyword should be.

Keyword Opportunities

To find keyword opportunities, look at:

  • Your own content: Use the content drilldown report in Google Analytics and Search Console to identify your top traffic drivers.
  • The content of your competitors: Use SEMrush’s Organic Research report to identify what your competitors are ranking for. If they’re ranking for a term, there’s a good chance your own site can rank for it, as well.

Content Strategy for People

Writing awesome and relevant content for users should be a key part of any content strategy. Here are a few ideas that can help you produce the best content you can give to your audience.

Editorial Calendar

Having an editorial calendar is an important part of your content strategy as it will help you set publishing goals and frequencies.

You’ll also be able to identify seasonal keyword opportunities and create content surrounding upcoming business events (i.e., contests, sales, charitable activities, etc.).

Style Guide

Professional content should be uniform and streamlined across the board. A style guide is a useful resource for editors and writers joining your team.

To make it easier for you, use an already established style guide to as the foundation for your own.

Evergreen Content

Avoid referencing days, months and years in your content. The only exception is to refer to current year — that’s actually helpful, but make sure to refresh the content with the new year with each progressive year.

Also, don’t write anything that will date evergreen content, such as:

  • “It’s beach season!”
  • “Summer’s right around the corner!”
  • “Winter’s finally here!”
  • “It’s pumpkin spice time!”

Remember, people will read your articles throughout the year.

Content Formatting

Format the content to keep the reader focused. You have little time to grab your readers’ attention so make sure to:

  • Utilize short paragraphs.
  • Use bulleted and number lists.
  • Use pull quotes.
  • Use headers.
  • Incorporate images.
  • Embed videos.

3 Key Takeaways

  • Always think about the search engine and the user.
  • Always be on the lookout for new keyword opportunities, using your own content and your competitors’ as inspiration.
  • No matter the size of your site or blog, treat all your content with the same care and attention to detail as a professional publication.

Questions & Answers

What’s the best tool to study the competitor’s or a business sector’s keywords?

Kristi Kellogg (KK): I like to use SEMrush’s Domain Overview for competitive research. You can identify your competitors and find out the keywords they rank for.

Should the publish date of a popular evergreen content page be updated each year?

KK: While updating the date can give a boost to the content, you should only do so if a significant amount of the content was actually updated or changed (at least 25 percent of it).

In terms of structuring, how many sentences should be used per heading?

KK: No more than one sentence. Headers don’t need to be complete sentences, either — clauses or even single words are just fine.

Is there a cheat sheet for best practices for SERP optimization?

KK: Try using this SEO checklist.

How can you make the most out of podcast type content? Is it a good strategy to transcribe the audio to written content?

KK: Yes! It is absolutely a good strategy to transcribe the audio. You can then repurpose the transcription into a blog post, or break it up into bite-size chunks and post those on social media.

Do you want the Answer Box? Won’t it reduce click through to your site in many instances?

KK: You definitely want to Answer Box. Earning the answer box (a.k.a. ranking zero) is actually a huge win. Your click-through-rate will actually increase. The Answer Box can drive even more traffic than a No. 1 position.

While Google is showing the answer right on the SERP, people will often want more context so it’s only natural for them to click through to your site.

How is important is site speed in terms of SEO?

KK: Site speed is extremely important. It is one of the factors Google takes into consideration when ranking your site.

Furthermore, people will bounce if the site doesn’t load lightning fast. According to Google, 53 percent of mobile users will leave a page that takes longer than 3 seconds to load.

What about the corporate sites which do not have a lot of content — how can you get them to rank?

KK: You need to create content! No matter what industry you’re in, you should be able to come up with content that is relevant to your customers. Do the work to create resources on your site. As you create content, you’ll increase your chances to rank!

Why should there be only one H1 on a page?

KK: Your H1 is a page header — having two H1’s would be like having two headlines on a news article. It doesn’t make sense, and would only confuse the search engines when they crawl your page.

[Video Recap] Content Strategy & Actionable On-Page SEO Tips to Drive Traffic in 2019

Watch the video recap of the webinar presentation and Q&A session below.

Or check out the presentation deck.

Join Us for Our Next Webinar!

Join our next webinar on Wednesday, February 27 at 2 PM Eastern and get insights on how to develop your own winning PPC strategy and how to use the tools that Google gives to its advertisers.

How to Develop an Effective PPC Strategy to Create Profitable Campaigns

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Danny Goodwin

Executive Editor at Search Engine Journal

Danny Goodwin is Executive Editor of Search Engine Journal. In addition to overseeing SEJ's editorial strategy and managing contributions from ... [Read full bio]

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