37 expert insights on how to rock SEO and content marketing (including Rand Fishkin, Jason Falls and Ruud Hein amongst others)

How is it that a new and small entrant, like Buffer, in a very competitive niche can seem to consistently attract huge audiences? How is it that they are also visible on the search engines time and time again?

This was bit of a mystery until they revealed what went on behind the scenes to make this happen.

Their SEO wasn’t so much about traffic, conversions and revenue. Rather, it focused on content marketing and content planning.

There has been something of a battle between content marketing and SEO for some time. Articles with headlines like, “Content marketing overtakes SEO,” have helped foster this perception.

The battle, if any, is for the attention and investment required for online success. The problem lies in how people view what it takes to be successful online.

Brian Clark of Rainmaker Digital in this article on MarketingLand says –

The struggle many face with online marketing is a misguided impulse to put various tactics into separate boxes instead of seeing each as an aspect of one overarching strategic process. The result is often a disjointed, ineffective mess that leads companies large and small to question the return on investment of online marketing in general.

To this day, I see people referring to content marketing, social media marketing, and search engine optimization as three different things — as if each is a tactic that can get you there alone.

The smart way to practice effective online marketing is to treat social media and search engine results as aspects of a holistic strategy that centers around compelling content.

So it is possible for a new business in a competitive industry to dominate search results and build a powerful brand.

How?

By linking SEO to an effective content marketing strategy just like Buffer.

So if they are tied together, how can we ensure that we rock at both? I reached out to 34 experts to find out how you can achieve similar results in your industry.

But first, let me answer a question I get asked a lot –

Which comes first?

Let’s say you created a great guide to share with your customers. Would you start with important keywords and then build the content around it?

or

Would you create the content and then insert the appropriate keywords wherever you could?

The fact is either way could work.

Content marketing first – With this approach, you’d focus:

  1. First on coming up with topic ideas that your audience would be interested in.
  2. You would investigate keywords around that topic.
  3. You would find keywords that you could rank for and add those in appropriate places in your content.
  4. Then you’d find ways to get the content in front of as many people as you can.

The benefits of this approach are:

  1. You are not tied to a particular keyword.
  2. You have the option to choose a long tail keyword to give your content the chance to rank.
  3. You are focused on creating value for the reader, not on gaining search volume. Why is that important? Because search volume does not translate into value for your readers.

This can make a huge difference to your audience.

Take for example a person looking for the term “hydroponic gardening.”

diy hydroponic systems

The term gets a fair amount of traffic.

Chances are that most people will be looking for a definition or brief explanation of the term. So no matter how good your content is, it won’t impact most people much.

But, once they have learned a bit about hydroponics, they may have a bigger problem. Which would be, “How do I make a hydroponic system at home?”

So they might search for “DIY hydroponic systems” or something along those lines. They may then look for a guide to help them create or select a hydroponic system. They may also want to maintain the system that they can use at home.

However, such phrases get a lot less traffic according to Google’s Keyword Planner.

hydroponic gardening

So if you create content based only around keywords, you will miss out on creating value for your audience by solving their biggest problems.

Why is this so important?

Your site will be viewed as being useful and a go-to resource.

When someone comes to WP Curve, we want them to be able to find just about everything they need to create and build a better business without going through the technical hassles of maintaining a WordPress site. If they don’t, we know they will move on to another site that offers such information. We want to be our audience’s go-to resource for related content, and later on, for business.

High value content converts better – if your content solves a problem for your readers, then they are going to remember it. That’s how you get loyal subscribers who later turn into paying customers. Large volumes of traffic are nice, but not if they don’t stick around or convert into paying customers.

By simply relying on a keyword tool, you’ll miss out on the opportunity to address the problems and interests of your desired audience and thereby lower the potential impact of your marketing endeavors.

SEO first – When creating content first and then inserting keywords, you may lose out on the optimal phrasing you originally had. By that I mean it might not have the same appeal as before.

However, if you know your main keyword and then create content, you will keep that in mind as your craft your content and that would change the direction you would take.

The other benefit from this approach is that you do not look at the value of the problems to solve but instead focus on solving it.

With a content first approach, you might observe and talk to your desired audience and really only hear from them when they’re having a pretty big problem. You are unlikely to hear about the smaller issues that they encounter but have learned to cope with or bypass.

By creating content around keywords, you ensure that you find all of the medium to high volume keywords, regardless of the value they hold for your desired audience. If you rank for those terms and your audience doesn’t convert as highly, you can still use it to direct your visitors to more valuable content.

The combination approach – The approaches above have their own strengths and downsides. But the combination of the two will result in better outcomes.

In other words, spend the time to research good keywords to create content around. At the same time get to know your desired audience and their issues, interests and challenges. You can then create content to address those and add appropriate keywords where suitable.

Even though SEO and content marketing both aim to raise your website traffic, they tend to do so in different time frames.

What do you after you create a new post? Perhaps like others, you promote it right away by sharing it with your email list. Do some outreach to others that operate in your niche.

This generally results in a quick burst of traffic. But that’ll soon die out unless you have an authoritative domain. But if you were to promote your post over time and it accumulates backlinks you’ll notice a change. You’ll notice that the search engine traffic continues to increase for those posts.

This is a problem. After all, no one wants to spend the time and resources to create content if it only gets seen for a short period.

So how do you get it to be visible for years to come and get a compounding increase in traffic over time?

By getting your content to build on itself by creating evergreen content.

Evergreen content refers to any content that is just as useful in the future as it is today.

So content around the latest Instagram features, for example, will be interesting for a few weeks and then be forgotten and outdated. But an evergreen topic like a guide to building a following on Instagram will provide traffic in the short term via content marketing and also provide a steady flow of traffic from the search engines over time. Assuming that you have done the work to optimize the content and position it as a valuable piece of content.

How do you spot evergreen topics?

Think about the content you are considering to produce.

Ask yourself – Will the content be useful a year from now or even five years from now?

If the answers to the questions are a “yes” or “maybe”, then you might be onto an evergreen topic.

You could also try searching for the keyword and note how old the results are. If you see many posts on that topic, then it is likely to be an evergreen topic.

Having said that the significance of certain topics does change over time. That does not mean a topic is not worth writing about because you do have a guarantee that the post will be useful in a couple of years’ time.

Take Brian Deans post on Google ranking factors. It continues to stay relevant due to ongoing changes in the SERP algorithms.

GOOGLE RANKING FACTORS

Brian continues to update the post from time to time to make it relevant to his audience, instead of letting it fall into obscurity.

Now that we know how to create the best possible content, let’s examine how we can ensure the best possible outcome for SEO and content marketing.

How to get the best outcome for SEO and content marketing on each content piece?

To answer this question, I looked at a few key areas and reached out to several experts. Here are the key areas and the experts answers.

  1. Examine your content requirements

Without content, there is no point to SEO. In fact, if there were 2 tactics that belong together like PB&J, it would have to be content marketing and SEO.

Why?

Because they are both about the same thing – giving your desired audience exactly what they want. You need the search engines to help prospects find your content. At the same time, you also want your content to capture your visitors’ attention and interest.

Why?

So that they return to your site having discovered you.

Sounds a little like the chicken and egg scenario, right? It is.

That’s why the 2 need to work together. SEO without engaging and compelling content for your audience is just noise. Content that cannot be found might as well be placed in a dark closet, as it stands a good chance of not gaining any long term visibility past its publication date.

The good news is that you don’t need an elaborate strategy or a great deal of technical knowledge to make the 2 work. You just need to understand which elements of your content to optimize.

Here are a what a few experts do :

helen nesterenko
Helen Nesterenko (@HNesterenko) is the Founder at Writtent.com, that is all about generating traffic, social shares, backlinks and sign ups through blogging. Read Helen’s insight
What do you do to get the best outcome from SEO and content marketing on every piece of content you publish?

There are quite a few things to do on every post to maximize results:

Before I decide to write a post:

  • Research top content using BuzzSumo. I base my writing on content that performed well in the past. This allows me to minimize risks and make sure my post performs well.
  • Pick a keyword with high search volume [1000+ monthly searches].
  • Occasionally I may use broken link strategy — find content that was linked to a lot, but the link is not working now (this means I have an outreach list once the content goes live).
  • Do a survey (ask my audience questions) to gather data, and then ask for expert opinion before the content goes live.

When writing:

  • On-site SEO: Title using Headline Hacks, Description tag with the main keyword, LSI (semantically related keywords throughout the post).
  • Custom visuals (screenshots or images with text over them).
  • In-text links and mentions.
  • Conversational and easy-to-read style.

Once the post goes live:

  • Reach out to everybody who contributed (experts, survey results).
  • Reach out to everybody mentioned in the post.
  • Use broken link building if initially designed for the piece (reach out to sites with broken links).
  • Use the Skyscraper technique (reach out to sites that linked/shared similar content, but my piece (hopefully) is better).

Basically, to maximize ROI (links, social shares, traffic), you want to treat each post as a marketing campaign and plan for it.

adam connell
Adam Connell (@adamjayc) is the founder of Blogging Wizard and marketing director at UK Linkology. He helps solopreneurs to get more visibility online. Read Adam’s insight
1) The end goal – Each piece of content must have purpose. Know what that purpose is, and be clear on what action you want readers to take after checking out the piece.

2) Relevance – It’s a good idea to have a few audience personas that you can choose. This is especially helpful when you come to craft your headline and write your post – specificity will help you stand out.

3) Topic selection – This will be guided by your end goal and a good understanding of what your audience wants to learn.

4) Topic validation – Does the topic you’ve chosen have enough appeal? Validate with BuzzSumo to find whether it’s being shared, Ahrefs to see whether content on the topic is earning links and whether it’s being searched for. These validation methods aren’t foolproof, nothing is, and sometimes there are topics that aren’t being talked about that people are waiting for.

5) Identify relevant search queries – If people want to learn about the topic, what will they search for? See which sites are ranking now and look for patterns – patterns are the best indicator of how to optimize for organic search (H/T to Ross Hudgens for this tip).

6) Research competing content – Look for what ranks well and generates shares. What stands out to you? What can you do to differentiate your content from theirs?

7) Pre-publication promotion – Your content will get far more traction if you can leverage the audience of influencers in your niche. An easy way to get started here is to ask influencers for quotes, you’ve then got a good reason to email them the link once the post is published. This is an easy way, but there’s plenty of opportunity for you to get more creative here.

8) Format for usability – This ties in well with what I mentioned about patterns in point #5. The easier you can make your content for readers to put into action, the better. Your content will likely rank higher, get more shares and earn more links too.

9) Promotion – I see a lot of people just share their post to their go-to social networks once and leave it at that. But the truth is that you need to do far more than that. Share your content regularly, and leverage every possible promotional opportunity in your niche.

10) Repurposing for extra mileage – Which other formats could you turn your post into? I published a group interview and repurposed it into an infographic that was hosted by TweakYourBiz. The result was a few extra thousand shares and over 35,000 extra views that I wouldn’t have gotten without repurposing. There are plenty of other formats you can use too – video, audio and Slideshare decks all have a lot of potential.

jason acidre
Jason Acidre (@jasonacidre) is co-founder and CEO at @xightph. Author of @kaiserthesage – Philippines’ premier inbound marketing blog. Read Jason’s insight

  1. Focus on ideas that people will rarely find elsewhere

For every piece of content I publish, I always make sure that I have something of high value (preferably useful and actionable) in it that people won’t usually find in other sites.

Even if it’s about a topic that’s already been covered many times by other publishers in the past, having something unique (could be content aspects such as depth, research, interactive elements, ingenuity, etc…) can serve as an “unexpected hook” for your content to be more shareable/linkable.

  1. Optimize for User Satisfaction

Focus on creation of long-form content has been one of the go-to content marketing/SEO strategies of many marketers in the past few years.

But more often than not, many online marketers also tend to forget how exhausting it is for people to consume these types of content, in which sometimes they lose the actual value they should be providing (by complicating things for users who are more interested in finding the information they need fast).

One of the best ways to really satisfy users, especially search-driven visitors, is to provide direct answers to queries frequently used by searchers in finding your content.

The key is to provide both – direct answers for people in immediate need of the information and in-depth content for people who’ll need more information.

Place summaries, TL;DR versions and/or key takeaways of your content on the top-part of your posts instead.

I’ve written a detailed guide on this optimization process that you can also check.

eric enge
Eric Enge (@stonetemple) is a Direct Marketing Excellence Practitioner. Read Eric’s insight
Write outstanding content. Not good content, but outstanding. Something that covers a topic in a way that it’s not been covered before.

Then, promote it to people (media and influencers) that will care about what you wrote. Be judicious about this – don’t simply blast an email to everyone about the content. Target that outreach to people that will care about each specific piece you publish.

kevin gibbons
Kevin Gibbons (@kevgibbo) is managing director of BlueGlass, a strategy-driven SEO & content marketing agency. Read Kevin’s insight
At BlueGlass, we see that SEO and content marketing alignment needs the following 3 pillars:

  1. Strategy – clearly defining your goals and KPIs, understanding your audience, brainstorming creative content ideas
  2. Creativity – producing high quality content to resonate with your audience
  3. Promotion – engaging with coverage on authority publishers, social influencers and driving targeted traffic

The sweet spot is understanding that you need all of this to line-up from the start – everyone needs to be involved, and you need to get buy-in as early as possible to make sure you’re putting the odds in your favor towards achieving success.

You won’t always get it right, but make sure you learn from the failures and build on the successes to keep improving the process and model that works for you.

daniel cartland
Daniel Cartland (@DanielCartland) is a King’s College London Neuroscience graduate and SEO Consultant at @screamingfrog. Read Daniel’s insight
The first step in any content creation is to decide what form you would like to create. More formal guides or how-to pieces may be useful to the consumer and have the ability to draw relevant traffic to a site in the long term but require an in-depth knowledge, are very consuming of time, and are unlikely to have wide reaching mainstream pick up. A visual content piece, however, may not have a significant long term impact on traffic, but is far more likely to be shared and can be useful in building brand awareness.

Once a form of content has been established, you need to think of the idea to pursue. During this content ideation phase, ideas do not have to be in their final form – it is far easier to alter an existing idea than it is to think of one from scratch, so any potential idea should be written down, no matter how obscure. Discussing ideas with other members of a team is a great way to quickly and efficiently gather a variety of themes and approaches. An example of how to do this succinctly is by using the 6-3-5 brainwriting technique – a method that we have used to great effect at Screaming Frog.

Once you have these ideas, it is time to analyze them in order to find the content that will most effectively complete your goals – I have recently written about a good framework to use to achieve this. A final essential aspect of content marketing is to research the people you plan on outreaching to. No matter how incredible the content you have is, if you are contacting people who have no interest in the subject, it will not succeed. Taking the time to find the relevant people who will be interested in your content and personalizing your message to them seems like a no-brainer, but it is an oft-ignored step in content marketing.

Following this process will ensure that you have gathered a broad spectrum of ideas, bounced the ideas off of others, analyzed the potential ideas to find an interesting “angle” and found the relevant people to market your content to, thereby putting yourself in the best position you can to have success from your content!

simon penson
Simon Penson (@simonpenson) is a former print editor & founder of @zazzlemedia. Content strategy, creation & distribution is my thing mixed with SEO & social. Writer & speaker. Read Simon’s insight
The answer to this starts and ends with audience understanding. Without detailed insight into who you are creating the content for, you have little chance of consistent success. We use data from a variety of sources to understand who we are targeting, where they are online already, what they like and dislike, and how they want us to speak to them. By combining all of these things together, we paint a very accurate picture of what content we need to create and how we should distribute it to get it in front of the right people.

I have written previously about our wider ‘brand as publisher process’, which shares a little more insight into how this works and you can download our free toolkit to help do all this from our content marketing resources section.

ron sela
Ron Sela (@ronsela) was named one of the Top 50 Influencers in B2B Marketing and one of the Top 100 Influencers in Social Media Marketing, Ron is a profit-driven marketer and conversion optimizer, focusing on maximizing ROI on social media campaigns. Read Ron’s insight
SEO and content marketing can revolutionize a business. However, people should be sure to make every single piece of content count.

Writing the content takes time and money, and many people will pay other services in the process. There are ways to make SEO content as efficient as possible.

Get inside the minds of your potential customers, and respond to the questions that they are likely to have. If you are writing content on a particular topic, you have to consider the questions that people ask about that topic. Then, you have to write content that answers those questions. Content like this is going to be useful to people.

Write the content in such a way that it is clear that it is useful. Content marketing is no time for subtlety. People have too many choices online. It has to be immediately obvious that a given piece of Internet content is useful to them, and they have to feel as if the content is giving them the information that they need.

Create content that is either designed to be shared or that could be shared. Posts won’t go viral unless people feel the need to share them for some reason or another. Some pieces of content are actively written to be shared. Others are so great that people feel compelled to share them. If you can write posts that belong to either of these categories, you will be that much more likely to succeed.

At the end of the day, the content that succeeds is the content that people market heavily. You need to promote your content on all of the major social media websites. Finding creative ways to promote your content will give you an even better chance of succeeding.

tad chef
Tadeusz Szewczyk (Tad Chef) (@onreact_com) says – I help people with blogs, social media and search both in German + English. I popularize ideas, people + things. http://popularization.info http://bike-blog.info. Read Tad’s insight
First off: I rarely write these days, in order not to just add noise to the already overwhelming information overload out there. When I publish something, I make sure it is unique and I cover a one-of-a-kind angle of the topic.

In other words: I only say something when I have something to say. I don’t just spit out content for the sake of it.

Most people just use “me too” headline formulas and reproduce boilerplate content all the time. I don’t. Depending on the complexity and potential audience of the particular article, I either simplify it (for complex issues) or appeal to a particular audience (for general interest topics with a too large competition).

I don’t write selfish or self-promotional articles. Instead I try to involve others in my posts and make sure to write about them.

When you only write for yourself, nobody will be interested in sharing such a post. For Google, I make sure not to use the same keywords for every second article like many people do who add [insert your main keyword here] into each headline. Google treats such headlines as duplicates and such sites as content farms in the worst case.

Readability is probably one of the key features of my articles. I make sure to allow people to scan my posts by among others

– using lists
– adding bold and italics sparingly
– highlighting quotes
– limiting paragraph length
– adding subheadings

Last but not least, I add enticing images that often metaphorically illustrate the point or topic instead of the same logos or cliches.

james norquay
James Norquay (@connections8) is a SEO & Content Marketing Consulting Director from Sydney Australia. Work with Big Brands, Funded Startups and B2B’s to drive huge growth online. Read James’s insight
A few tips to get the best outcome for your content marketing and SEO efforts –

– Mention specific brands and influencers in the post, then reach out to these brands via email and on social media to let them know you have included them in the post. This will usually push the brand to share your piece of content on their own social.

– Use your own Facebook fans to build your content assets and once the content is made, ensure you share it with the fans to amplify reach.

– Also look at using paid methods to promote your content, such as buying space on a email list to promote your brand’s content. This can be an effective strategy which can yield results.

– Focus on building great content which is going to make a difference. So many brands are pushing out average content; usually to get people sharing something, it needs to be GREAT to begin with.

kai spriestersbach
Kai Spriestersbach (@seokai), is an Online Strategy Consultant & Partner of eology GmbH and Owner of SEARCH ONE works in the field of SEO and Online Marketing for more than 12 years. He is frequent speaker to Germans most important Search Marketing Conferences like SMX in Munich or SEOkomm in Salzburg and a contributing author for Website Boosting. Read Kai’s insight
The first thing I do is to ask myself: What is my goal to achieve with that particular piece of content? Every piece of content should have a specific goal to achieve. If not, ask yourself: Is it really necessary to publish? According to the goal, I do a little keyword research to find the mostly targeted search terms with decent search volume to optimize for. I search for these terms to see what the pages on the first 10 results have covered and what pieces of information are missing. Ask yourself: How can I create the best content to that particular search?

After creating a really helpful and outstanding article that matches the users intent and delivers real value, I try to create unique images, charts, e.g. to enrich the content further.

The on-page optimization is done via a TF*IDF analysis from http://kai.im/onpage and important missing proof keywords are integrated in a meaningful way.

Next step is snippet optimization: Creating a unique and compelling description and title to maximize the SERP CTR.

Finally, I integrate a useful call-to-action, to ensure that users perform your desired action to accomplish a goal.

To maximize the reach and outcome of the content, most articles will be shared via Twitter and Facebook and mentioned in an email marketing campaign.

If the competitiveness is very high, I will also perform an outreach campaign and seed the content to influencers and the media.

kevin cotch
Kevin Cotch (@kcotch) is an SEO Analyst @Toprank Marketing and digital marketing strategist. Part-time High School lacrosse coach. Read Kevin’s insight
At TopRank Marketing, we take a 2-pronged approach to content optimization that is focused on meeting the needs of our target audience. In order to accomplish that, we:

Identify Audience Pain Points: Before focusing on optimizing content for search engines, we need to first determine what paint points the target audience is experiencing. This can be accomplished by surveying and communication with current clients, and conducting research on the web at large by using a variety of different tools.

Conduct Keyword Research: The second step is to conduct keyword research for the content topic(s). This will help us determine exactly how people are searching for the topic, so that content can be tailored to meet those specific needs and solve any pain points.

mike morgan
Mike Morgan (@meetmikemorgan) is a Director of High Profile Enterprises – an internationally recognized content marketing agency based in the Bay of Plenty in New Zealand. When he is not up to his eyeballs in technical SEO or content strategy, you might find him surf-casting on beautiful Ohope Beach or brewing an uber-hoppy IPA. Read Mike’s insight
So much content is published, and so much of it is generic and has all been said before. So much of it has not had any sort of strategic thought. So much is either over-optimized or SEO is seen as a series of metatags.

In my experience, these are the things that are not handled well by most businesses.

  1. Relevance – Content is pointless if you do not understand the audience and their needs, and also if the content does not align with the business that the content is being created for. This is the most common mistake I see – content being created that is not 100% relevant to the target market.
  2. Targeting – Traffic/demand has to be researched, and realistic targets need to be set. Content allows the ability to be very specific, so forget about generalist content creation unless you have something that is going to bowl people over.
  3. Optimization – Understanding SEO is critical: optimizing content effectively, balancing the needs of search engines with user experience for users. But SEO needs to be invisible to human users. It needs to create a natural, frictionless experience.
  4. Popularity or reach – An effective promotion strategy is also important. Depending on the client, this will vary and will take in a range of social media platforms, newsletters, outreach, strategic partners and business relationships. Don’t just publish and expect people to find your content.
  5. Wow content – Content that challenges or that stops people in their tracks. This can be highly visual or can utilize technology in a way that is unique and exciting. Or it could be a piece that is remarkable for its beauty or the way it triggers emotions.
ryan jones
Ryan Jones (@RyanJones) is the SEO Manager @ SapientNitro – 2006 Time person of the year – CEO at WTFSEO.com. Read Ryan’s insight
My secret is contradictory to what most people do. Instead of publishing around a content calendar or on a set schedule, I only write when I have something new, useful or meaningful to say. That way, the content is sure to resonate with the audience and provide value rather than more noise.
Arnie Kuenn
Arnie Kuenn (@ArnieK) is the founder and CEO of Vertical Measures, a highly respected SEO and Content Marketing agency. You can find Arnie on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn. Read Arnie’s insight
It’s all about the title. We spend a lot of time researching what people are actually searching for online. Instead of researching keywords, we research topics (both for our clients and our agency). We gather a list of topics we feel we can create content around, then check to see if the competition has already created something similar. We do this by checking Google search results and our competitor’s sites. Once we find a gap or little competition, we create the piece of content. Before publishing, we have a checklist to run through and one of the key items is to double-check the title, making sure it is perfect before hitting publish. To me, a perfect title reflects what people are actually searching for online and makes them want to click on my title to engage with the content.
scott polk
Scott Polk (@scottpolk) is the founder and CEO of MarketingNomads.com, he has built his expertise as a knowledgeable & experienced technical SEO strategist, consultant and in-house SEO since 1997. Read Scott’s insight
There is really no easy answer for this question. It all depends on the client, goals, industry and audience. The main objective is to connect with the audience. Once you have them hooked on the content, the rest of the pieces fall into place. This requires an integrated, multi-channel, online promotional strategy. Every channel should be promoting the content – it’s all about integration. This increases the chance of traffic, conversions, branding, inbound links, social shares and increased revenue.
joe williams
Joe Williams (@zenoptimize) is the founder of Zen Optimise. Sharer of SEO, Content Marketing and Social Media. Read Joe’s insight
If it’s a blog post or content marketing piece, I tend not to focus on keyword targeting too much. Instead I try and create the most epic content I can and make sure it’s easily shareable. It needs a killer headline, empathy with the reader, and a compelling reason why they might share it with a friend or their followers. I use Buffer to promote blog posts and often email key Twitter followers who have previously shared my content.
jason falls
Jason Falls (@JasonFalls) is Sr. VP for Digital Strategy, Elasticity (www.goelastic.com). Read Jason’s insight
The only trick I’ve ever used is to make sure the content delivers on the promise of the headline. If people click and don’t get what they expected, that’s the definition of ‘clickbait’ which is a bad thing. If they click and get what you promised them, they’ll be happy and the metrics that feed back to the search engines that the content is good will happen too.
Dev Basu
Dev Basu (@devbasu) is an Enterprise SEO & Inbound Marketer. Founder at @PoweredbySearch. Professor @SenecaSoME. He loves startups, fast cars, & smart people. Helping brands grow. Read Dev’s insight
I use a simple 5 step process:

  1. Write content for search intent that is underserviced i.e: great content that helps the user doesn’t exist, is unpopular, or is outdated. I also look for content that already has other people linking to it or sharing it on social networks.
  2. Make a list of influencers who would likely link to or share the content. I do this by conducting competitive research via buzzsumo or ahrefs.
  3. Write the content and maximize for three things a) N-topic score b) engagement, by introducing visual breaks and white space and (c) sharing via call to actions such as click to tweet.
  4. Email influencers with a link to the content prior to it being published.
  5. Publish the content, email the influencers, and follow up with paid promotion via social media platforms.
kenny hyder
Kenny Hyder (@kennyhyder) is an expert in SEO, PPC, Affiliate Marketing, Lead Gen & Sunshine :)). Read Kenny’s insight
What I do to ensure the best outcome from each content piece is plenty of research. Not only do I make sure that each piece has a focus that aligns with interest from our audience, I also research who might have interest in it when it’s published so I have a list for outreach once it’s live to alert people who might pick it up or share it.

2. Don’t just use keywords

Perhaps you’ve heard keywords don’t matter as much anymore. Well, they may not matter as much but your content should still include keywords.

Why?

Traffic that comes from a search engine starts when a user enters a keyword. So keywords are how your content gets found. Sure there are other factors that matter as well, but people still search with keywords.

Smart businesses research not just the industry terms they want to rank. They also research words and phrases their audience might use. These include long tail keywords that are indirectly related to your product or service. Each of these long tail keywords get less search traffic. But they usually also have less competition, which makes them easier to rank for.

So how does one use keywords on a practical level?

Via content marketing.

You are likely to drive traffic to your site if you produce content based on what your visitors want to read and the keywords they use.

It doesn’t really matter if Google Analytics hides most of your search traffic via the “not provided” label. You can still ascertain what most of them are via the geographical summary report, landing pages report and queries report.

You can then use them throughout your content in a manner that makes sense to readers and search engines. In other words, when SEO and content marketing do what they are meant to, they do so quite well. They do so without earning the unwanted attention of the search engine algorithm changes.

Also searches for long tail keywords tend to convert to leads and sales better than head terms. That’s what “my little nomads” did with a content piece around the long tail keyword – “south east Asia family holiday destinations”. It has earned them the first position on the first page of the Google search results.

keyword ranking example

Here are what a few experts do:

rand fishkin
Rand Fishkin (@randfish) is the Moz founder, author, blogger, husband to @everywhereist, tiny Techstars investor, & feminist. I tweet 30-40X/week about marketing, SEO, technology, & startups. Read Rand’s insight
Before I publish or even create content, I follow a short process to get the best results from that piece:

Step 1: I conduct keyword research using this tool; my goal is to identify terms and phrases I can target in the title and description of the piece, as well as focus the content to help solve the problems and issues I know searchers are seeking.

Step 2: I ask the critical question — who will help amplify this and why? If I don’t have a great, specific answer to that question (hopefully a list of at least a few folks who have powerful networks), I don’t publish.

Step 3: I work to create not just unique content or “valuable” content, but *uniquely valuable* content. I’m trying to discover what it is that I can do both better and differently from anyone/everyone else who’s produced content on that topic. That means researching who’s already ranking in the search results and using a tool like Buzzsumo or Moz Content to see what others have produced on the subject, then working to create a dramatically upgraded version that provides value in a different way from all those.

michael karp
Michael Karp (@MichaelKarp) runs Copytactics, a blog that helps people get more traffic, leads, and sales through content marketing. Check out how he drove 34,000 search engine visits in 60 days. Read Michael’s insight
To get the most out of my SEO and content marketing efforts, I do a TON of research before I write even a single word.

I like to start with keyword research, because in every content marketing campaign, I’m always looking to maximize my long term value (search engine traffic).

The main goal here is to find high search volume, low competition keywords to target. The right balance will be relative to your site’s authority and the products/services you sell.

(For example, the higher your site’s authority, the more competitive search terms you can target. And some businesses only need to close a couple customers/clients per month to thrive, so lower search volume keywords might be ideal for them.)

Then I head over to Buzzsumo and see if the topic is shareable. If so, that’s a double whammy, and I focus on social promotion as well. If not, I usually put all of my promotion efforts towards link building.

Then I start writing the content.

It’s a system I’ve used over and over again to drive traffic and generate leads and sales.

gael breton
Gael Breton (@GaelBreton) is the main editor and founder behind Authority Hacker, the place to learn how to build authority sites the white hat way. Read Gael’s insight
To make sure our content does well in terms of SEO, we first ensure the content itself is helping our SEO strategy, either because it can acquire a lot of links or because it has a chance to get a lot of traffic through targeting strategic keywords.

Once we have identified an opportunity, we usually try to make sure the resource we are building is way above average when it comes to quality.

That is usually done through hiring experts that know a lot about the topic and can provide original insights. This is essential to get buy in from other sites to link to that piece and make sure we can rank eventually.

Once the content is edited and read to be freshly published, we run through this checklist to spread it around:

  1. We schedule several shares for that piece over time using Buffer
  2. We email our list to let them know about the new content
  3. We send a push notification to our push list
  4. We tweet / email everyone mentioned inside the content
  5. We look for opportunities to add internal links to that piece from our older pieces of content
  6. We email people linking to similar but less in depth pieces of content offering them to share / link to our new piece

Overall this is a good, time efficient routine that works very well in the several niches we are involved in.

Fernando Maciá Domene
Fernando Maciá Domene (@fernandomacia) is the founder and CEO of Human Level Communications, one of the leading online marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) consulting firms in Spain and Latin America. Fernando is a best-selling author of 8 books on SEO, online marketing and social media and has published many post and articles both online (WebProNews, StateofDigital) and in national newspapers and magazines. Read Fernando’s insight
Well, sometimes we publish content based on what is hot: for instance, about a new algorithm update or a change in the SERPs outline… But we do have an editorial plan based on our visibility goals. We check whether we are ranking on first positions for the right keywords or not, and when we find interesting keywords for which we do not rank, then we prepare a series of different content to rank for them: posts, videos, presentations…

We try to identify multiple aspects and perspectives connected to the same topic. The customer journey analysis comes in very handy to identify those micro-moments in the buying decision where doubts might arise. Posts addressing those issues usually achieve excellent positions for searches that clients might do to gather all the information that they think is relevant for their buying decision. From these pages, we include relevant Calls to Action to drive visitors to conversion.

Multiple pages on the same content is helpful to build popularity and authority on a certain topic for your domain. And it is the right way to get good positions for long-tail searches that are not as competitive as the most obvious keywords but attract good quality visitors. The key point here is that the content is focused on a clear search intent that might lead prospect clients to the right conversion pages.

lisa barone
Lisa Barone (@LisaBarone) is VP of Strategy at Overit, a digital agency Redefining Creative through motion graphics, development, design, SEO/PPC, PR, content & social. Read Lisa’s insight
I use insights from SEO to understand the specific content needed (what questions customers have, what are they searching for, what holes exists?) and then I use my understanding of who that audience is to write content that pulls them in and fills that need. By crafting a content marketing strategy that puts users first, while using SEO tools like Google Keyword Planner and SEMrush to inform language, you’re able to write content that offers the best of both worlds – a strong focus on both users and organic search.
ashley faulkes
Ashley Faulkes (@madlemmingz) is a SEO and WordPress specialist. Helping small biz, solopreneurs and other awesome peeps. Eats too much Swiss chocolate. Read Ashley’s insight
When I plan a piece of content that I want to rank in Google (which is most of them), there are a number of things that I do to ensure success.

  1. I look for a topic that is super relevant to my audience, is actionable, useful and highly shareable. Without all those, you are usually wasting your time.
  2. I then look for keywords that are achievable for my website (ie. gaps in the top 10 of Google) and have enough volume to be worth my effort, especially if it is a big piece.
  3. Now I figure out how to make the content better than anyone else in the top 10. This will help me rank naturally, and if need be, get more links if I need them.

Depending on how high the bar is for that particular search/keyword, I scale up or down my content “epic-ness”. That means I might make it insanely long (15,000 words anyone?), add an infographic (highly shareable and killer on Pinterest), include influencers to get that extra social share-worthiness, and more.

Want to see an example? Here is a recent post I did that covered over 100 Online Business Ideas. I included quotes from over 50 experts, wrote over 15,000 words and added an infographic. Yes, sometimes content takes a lot of work!

The result:  Over 5400 (yes, 5.4 thousand) social shares, more than 4000 page views, and although not in the top 10 on Google yet (28th at the time of writing), it is moving up fast.

garth o'brien
Garth O’Brien (@garthobrien) is the Director and Global Head of SEO for GoDaddy. Read Garth’s insight
In order to maximize your content marketing efforts, you need to follow a 5-step process. First, analyze what people need by conducting keyword research and a competitive review.

Second, create content that targets the discovered subject matter themes and uses the language of your audience. Some segments of the population communicate differently than others. For, example, gamers utilize a completely different written and spoken language than the average person. Adopt your audience’s preferences.

Third, publish the content and ensure SEO is part of the pre-publication process. Do not limit yourself to written forms of content. Consider an accompanying video summarizing your written piece and deploy on the second largest search engine in the world: YouTube.

Fourth, promote your content through social media. However, your social media program cannot solely be a push model. Engage and respond. Become a community member and ingratiate your social presence with others. If you never listen to your friends and you only talk about yourself, sooner or later you have no friends. If you comment, praise and become part of the community, then when you add to the intellectual collective others will reciprocate.

Finally, monitor your content performance. Which content performs well? Is there a pattern? Determine if one subject matter resonates better than others. Begin to refine what people want and need. This data is very powerful and will be advantageous the next time you start over with the analysis phase.

ruud hein
Ruud Hein (@RuudHein) is the senior SEO & editor for Search Engine People. Love family, coffee, music, coziness. Web publisher, WordPress geek, Productivity. Read Ruud’s insight
For SEO, deep link to other articles. I use visitor and sharing data to select both popular and less popular posts. This way I boost the already strong performing ones and give underperforming articles a second chance, a second push.

For content marketing and shareability, images. Definitely images. A post without a lead image just flunks; with, it gets shared.

nate
Nate Dame (@seonate) is a SEO advocate/strategist, emphasis in SaaS & B2B, tweets about results-driven SEO and content marketing. Founder at propecta. Husband, dad, love God, love people! Read Nate’s insight
Figure out the target keywords that are appropriate for each post you write, but don’t stop there. Be sure to also study the intent (or needs) of the user behind that keyword that you can answer thoroughly, and meet those needs – better than any other content currently online.

I wrote about this idea a little more on this post if you’re interested.

Seek linking opportunities

Did you know that there is a correlation to the number of words on a page and the number of links that a page receives? Research by SerpIQ and Buzzsumo support confirms this.

It is for this reason, as well as to earn the attention and respect of your audience, that you should create in depth content.

Also don’t just create content for your own site, but look to have your brand mentioned on other sites. Google tracks mentions, not just links to your brand, so you can grow the authority, ranking and recognition of your site via mentions.

Rand Fishkin in a recent video suggests using a combination of 1-to-1 outreach, broadcast to your audience and paid amplification.

The best links for SEO are also the best links for content marketing.

Why?

Because they send traffic, increase authority and rankings.

Take the following for example:

Guest posts – If you’re guest-posting on highly authoritative sites, your links will not only send you direct traffic but also improve keyword rankings.

Contextual links – A contextual link on an authoritative page is gold. The better your content marketing, the more of these you are likely to get, and in turn get more traffic and keyword rankings.

Internal links – These links may not seem to have much effect if your site isn’t authoritative, but will help you rank better for keywords by sending link juice to other content to help your SEO efforts. It also exposes your audience to more of your content.

Focus on on-site optimization + UX

Another way in which to leverage both SEO and content marketing efforts is through on site optimization. Optimization can be a technical process which includes things like ensuring:

  • Posts and pages are being indexed by the search engines
  • 301 redirects are setup to ensure that visitors reach their intended destinations etc.

To do this, you need to know what content you have and where it is located through a content audit.

This post and this one will take you through the details of conducting a content audit and then enabling you to optimize it.

Here are what a few experts recommend doing:

jim stewart
Jim Stewart (@jimboot) is a specialist in SEO and CEO of Stewartmedia. Read Jim’s insight
Firstly, I recommend that you always produce your content for your readers rather than a search engine. Having said that though, there are several things we do at the article level and site level to give every piece of content the best chance to rank.

Google’s advice is to be “descriptive” with things like page titles & file names. What they’re really saying is use your keywords. If possible, I like to have the target key phrase in the title URL & H1. I also like to use it in any relevant assets like images or pdf. If it’s good for the user, do it.

Before you worry about your content though, make sure your site structure & performance is optimised. Get your page load times as fast as possible, make sure the site isn’t full of duplication by using no index & canonical tagging.

Optimise your URLs by keeping them as short as possible. The easier it is for the user to quickly understand the URL, the quicker they’ll click. Once published, make sure you share throughout your networks and pay attention to when Google indexes. Your content can’t rank until it is indexed.

steve wiideman
Steve Wiideman (@seosteve) is an SEO Expert and Consultant, savvy with Universal Search and internet marketing. Read Steve’s insight
To assist our clients in succeeding with content marketing, we typically recommend the following steps:

  1. Plan ahead for scheduling, tracking and distribution channels (example)
  2. Time-release weekly keyword-rich how/where/why/when/tips content based on keyword research (try answerthepublic.com).
  3. Use the most searched term within the title, 2nd most searched term within the h1, 3rd-5th within H2’s, etc.
  4. When possible, include the video with schema.org/VideoObject markup; add to Video XML Sitemap.
  5. When possible, include keyword-rich illustration (fiverr.com has $20 illustrators); name them using the target keyword and include descriptive ALT text (wrap in schema.org/ImageObject markup).
  6. Include a call-to-action within the copy to keep them on the webpage or to capture an opt-in for marketing automation.
  7. Include 1-3 links within the copy to related topics in the same topic silo (another how-to) using keyword-rich anchors.
  8. Include a couple charts/graphs from a quick requester.mturk.com survey on the topic (50% of respondents did not {something}, 25% of respondents thought that {something}) – think link bait/reference bait. Add a poll to continue the data collection indefinitely.
  9. Include an interview or quote from someone influential we speak with before the page goes live; encourage them to share when it does go live.
  10. Create a project in Buzzstream called Content Marketing; tag each post respective to the keyword theme and create a custom filter to work on one page at a time (for outreach). Use Link Prospector within Buzzstream to dump all the keyword targets for the page in quotes, and name the filter based on the keyword theme. Sort opportunities by page authority and spend Wed-Fri performing outreach to authors with similar content containing the target keywords with a goal of curation (or if you’re lucky a link – but NEVER ask for one).
  11. Rinse and repeat weekly – Tuesdays are great.
  12. Measure your results in terms of traffic, keyword rankings, links, shares, and mentions (setup Google Alerts for 6 words in quotes from each article).
harsh agrawal
Harsh Agrawal (@denharsh) is the fountainhead of @ShoutMeLoud. He tweets about blogmonetization, SEO, WordPress. Read Harsh’s insight
Here are things I keep in mind when writing content to make it SEO friendly:

  1. Ensure content covers every thing that educate the readers. In simple write for readers first & optimize for search engine later.
  2. Internal links (This helps a lot to reduce the bounce rate & increase the avg. time on the site).
  3. Compress images before uploading. This helps in faster loading of content (A search engine ranking signal).
  4. Use proper heading tags (H1, H2 & H3).
  5. Encourage readers to share articles. This helps in getting social signals.
  6. Link to reliable resource. Outbound links improves SEO.
  7. Here are few more On page SEO factors that I often take care of before publishing.
greg shuey
Greg Shuey (@shuey03) is the founder of Stryde, a content marketing agency located in Salt Lake City, Utah. Stryde helps ecommerce businesses grow their online distribution channels and drive accelerated growth for their business. Read Greg’s insight
To maximize our SEO impact for each piece of content we publish for clients, the one thing we try to do is get other thought leader participation for each piece published. This can be a stat, a quote, or something else, but gets them emotionally tied to the piece, therefore they share it socially and link to it wherever they can.

Ensure consistent output

The search engines like fresh content, and they have for a long time as Cyrus Shepard points out in this post.

You may be aware that fresh content often gets rapidly indexed and may register higher in the SERPs than older low-value content. A great benefit of having fresh content appear on a site that is authoritative is that you can be sure it will get a SERP boost.

To ensure you get to maximize your site’s potential, you need a consistent output of content. In other words, you also need to be doing content marketing, and doing it right. It isn’t something you do once and then stop; you’ll need to do it and keep doing it.

Here are what a couple of experts do:

benji hyam
Benji Hyam (@benjihyam) is a growth marketer. Left the SF startup world. Now traveling SE Asia and bootstrapping my business. Co-Founder of Grow and Convert & Postable. Read Benji’s insight
We follow The Specificity Strategy – this helps us write highly detailed posts about very specific topics. With every post I write, I try to target a pain point or question that someone would have. If you think of how someone searches these days, rarely do they go into Google and type in “content marketing”; they would go in and ask, “how do I get more traffic to my blog?” or “how do I hire writers for my blog?” So, our strategy isn’t to go after head SEO terms but to go after long tail search phrases instead. We try to match all of our content to search intent, so that if someone has a question related to content marketing, our content will show up. By doing content marketing this way, we show up when our audience has a questions they’re looking to have answered, we help them think through that problem, and build trust immediately. This in turn helps our sales down the road.
nick wilsdon
Nick Wilsdon (@nickwilsdon) is the global SEO lead at Vodafone. Consultant at NTT DATA UK. Digital strategist, SEO and tech geek. He blogs at http://nickwilsdon.com. Read Nick’s insight
The best way to ensure a successful outcome is to ensure your content is aligned with other campaigns across the business. You can often create a complementary piece to most larger campaigns, especially those running across traditional media channels. That alignment can build bridges across the organization, opening up new funding for your distribution and give customers a joined-up experience across different mediums.

Use metrics that present a whole picture

Some marketers don’t really know if their SEO and content marketing efforts are actually working.

Metrics can provide the information you need to reflect the result of your efforts and to help decide on what is worth doing.

When it comes to SEO and content marketing, you can choose metrics that correspond to each separately and together. The metrics don’t have to be perfect but indicative of your success.

Here are a few common ones:

Traffic: One of the main goals of engaging in SEO and content marketing is to increase traffic to your site.

To record overall traffic numbers, you can go into Google Analytics and get the information from Audience Overview.

That in itself doesn’t tell you much about each piece of content, so you need to make note of organic and referral traffic by going into your acquisitions tab in Google Analytics, and select “by source”.

Keyword ranking: From an SEO perspective, if you are doing a good job, then your keyword rankings will rise over time. There are a number of tools you can choose from, so just pick one that lets you view your rankings over time.

Subscribers: Measuring the quality of traffic is also important. So you’ll really want to know how many of your visitors are turning into subscribers and customers.

The rate at which people subscribe to your list is indicative of how valuable and persuasive your content and call to action are.

To track this, you can set up Goal Tracking in Google Analytics or alternatively look at the reports provided by your email marketing service provider.

Engagement: To determine how valuable your audience finds your content, you can also track metrics that are reflective of engagement. For example, metrics like:

  • Average time on page
  • Pages per visit
  • Unique visitors vs return visitors
  • Comments

You’ll need to monitor these over time to determine if your engagement is increasing.

Here is what one expert recommends:

fili wiese
Fili Wiese (@filiwiese) is a renowned technical SEO expert and former senior member of Google’s Search Quality team. At SearchBrothers.com he successfully recovers websites from Google penalties and offers SEO consulting with SEO Audits and SEO workshops. Read Fili’s insight

Excellent results from SEO and content marketing initiatives are measured in engagement, brand building and converting traffic. It is a common misconception to try to correlate important SEO factors, such as a growing number of pages per day, directly to a recent or particularly successful content marketing initiative.

However, it is impossible to attribute the site being crawled more often or more in-depth because of a compelling initiative that may or may not have contributed as one of many SEO signals that carry weight over an extended period of time. This is an outdated approach, narrowly focused on an imminent impact that is neither likely to materialize nor can be easily replicated again and again.

Content marketing initiatives are vitally important for the SEO health of a website, but they need to be focused on users and their actual needs and desires. If content marketing efforts contribute to brand building and the site becoming or establishing itself as a household name in the respective niche, that is a content strategy working as intended. While these kinds of initiatives do not tend to boost rankings overnight, they grow a site’s position in Google SERPS over long time. The objective must be to create a brand that is so popular, Google is ashamed not to have it prominently visible in their Index.

Over to you

As we have seen above, both SEO and content marketing are effective ways to drive traffic, lead conversion and profit for most businesses. You don’t really need to pick one or the other but rather utilize both to get the full benefits at the same time. In fact, a focus on one will help increase the results of the other.

We have covered 6 areas that are affected by SEO and content marketing. To help with implementation, we created an on-page SEO optimization checklist which you can download below.

seo and content marketing banner

About

Vinay is the content marketing manager for WP Curve. Follow him @wpcurve

8 responses to “37 expert insights on how to rock SEO and content marketing (including Rand Fishkin, Jason Falls and Ruud Hein amongst others)”

  1. Adam Connell says:

    Sweet, thanks for including me!

    I’ll be digging through the insights everyone else shared over the weekend. Plenty of excellent thoughts to check out.

    Great work putting this together.

  2. Debbie Ang says:

    Just what I needed! Useful insights to get me up and rolling in Content marketing and SEO

  3. David Martinez says:

    This post is epic in its scope and depth. I’m keeping it for future (and present) reference. Thanks for writing it!

  4. Vinay Koshy says:

    Thanks David. Glad you found it useful.

  5. Zimana says:

    This is indeed a great list that has been put together. Well done!

  6. This is a neat post Vinay! Is there a tool that could help us determine what makes certain pages on our site/s rank well compared to other that preform poor.

    Further explanation: Certain pages get listed on first page although we didn’t invest any time optimizing them (no special on page seo, no backlinking…), while some others don’t preform at all and we have put a way more effort into getting them listed high.

    How to detect what has been done good on page that is listing well compared to those that are not listing good at all?

    Thnx!

  7. Great Job. You have really kept no stones unturned. Keep it up.

  8. Hi Vinay. Fantastic detailed post. Has given me some good insight to things I hadn’t thought about before. Just curious whether you would be able to provide some info what Plug Infusion has asked in this thread? Thanks in advance.

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