SEO for startups (not dummies) part 2: content marketing

SEO for startups (not dummies) part 2: content marketing

SEO can make or break your overall marketing strategy, but there is a lot more to SEO than meets the eye. 

In our SEO for startups part 1, we discussed how to get started with SEO. If you haven’t read that yet, I suggest you do as this post is a continuation which focuses specifically on content. Once you’ve  built your site and enabled the necessary tracking tools, you can start to think about content creation. Begin to brainstorm what type of content you will post, at what frequency, and with your goals in mind.

You’ve heard it before but we’ll say it again: content marketing is one of the best ways to grow your business… when done right. But simply creating and publishing content doesn't guarantee you anything.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is a strategy focusing on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content. The goal is to attract potential customers and retain an audience to, ultimately, generate leads and close deals.

Content marketing is an umbrella term that includes various kind of content types: blog posts, video content, infographics, email marketing, white papers, social media content, e-books and podcasts; though blogs account for the majority of content marketing for most businesses. Content can then be shared through various distribution channels like website blogs, social media platforms, in print or through other marketing channels. In 2019, blog content accounted for 86% of all content marketing, according to Semrush. Content marketing is the best way to connect with an audience but there is more to content marketing than just producing and publishing. 

High-quality content adds value for the reader. Many marketers do this by conducting research and providing unique and relevant insights on a specific topic, sometimes in the form of case studies. One thing to remember is that, content should appeal to your audience. Always ask yourself, what does my audience gain from reading this? If the answer is nothing, then it might be a good idea to reevaluate your content and see how it can be improved. Creating quality content won't get you far unless it is consistent. Consistency is everything. You cannot post a single article and expect it to double or drastically increase your site’s performance. Content marketing is a long-term strategy. You may not see results straight away but if done right, you will see results.

Like we mentioned earlier, content marketing is an umbrella term covering various forms of content creation. Today we are focusing on blog or article writing.

Just like with anything else in marketing, you should start with a game plan. A strategy that dictates the type of content you will create, the frequency at which you will publish and the medium in which you'll transmit it with.

Editorial planning

Planning and creating a content marketing strategy is what will help you succeed. The best advice we can give you when it comes to editorial planning is to be realistic. Starting a new venture like content marketing can be exciting at first but like we mentioned before, it's a long-term strategy which means you may not see the fruits of your labor until later down the road. This can be discouraging. That is why we suggest being realistic with the type of content your marketing team can produce and the frequency at which it can be published.

What is an editorial calendar?

An editorial calendar is an organization and collaboration tool that allows you and your team to strategically plan and execute your content marketing strategy. It serves as a visual workflow that helps teams keep up with tasks and deadlines. 

Editorial calendars are used in various industries but are especially useful to marketers. If you’re anything like us, you work with multiple screens and have at least 15 browser tabs open at once. This is not including the reminders you have on your notes app or the sticky notes all over your desk. Using an editorial calendar means storing anything and everything content related in one central hub. Making it easier to find and collaborate.

How to create an editorial calendar?

An editorial calendar does not have to be fancy and there are many different ways to create your content calendar. Our editorial calendar is set to a monthly view so that we can visualize the coming month but we aim to have all (well, almost all) content planned at least 2 weeks in advance. 

Before getting started on creating your own editorial calendar, there are a few decisions you need to make. For example: what type of content will you share? who will create the content? who will edit? and who will be responsible for publishing? Depending on the size of your team, one person might be responsible for all of the above but it is always a good rule of thumb to let fresh eyes see and edit your content before it goes live. Even if the editor is not a part of the content team, they will be able to offer a fresh perspective on anything you create. This is a great way to gain new perspectives and gain feedback.

Another important thing you need to know before creating your content calendar is the frequency at which you will be posting. Your posting schedule will vary depending on the channels you use. For example, a company's LinkedIn page requires less post frequency than a TikTok account. Regardless of the channel you’re using, we suggest you start small. Even if you think you can do more, start small. This way you can nail your iteration process. Once you have the hang of it, you can increase your post frequency. Just always remember to be realistic. 

Once you have all these things figured out, the next step is to create your editorial calendar. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. The only requirement is: functionality. Creating the perfect editorial calendar for you and your team will take some time at the beginning. But as you use it, you’ll come to realize which functions are needed and which you can do without.

Deciding the functionality to include in your editorial calendar depends entirely on you and your team, the size and the dynamic. Make sure to include those who will be involved in the content creation process or have a vested interest in what you publish in the discussion. 

Some key things to include in your editorial calendar are:

  • The publication date
  • Type of post (social post, short or long form article)
  • Post status (not started, drafted, edited, published)
  • Person responsible

Now onto the fun part, what tool will your editorial calendar be built on. There are various tools you can use. We prefer Notion as it is a tool that our entire team is familiar with. But you can also use a spreadsheet or a project management tool like Trello. If your team is already used to a specific tool for other aspects of their work, build your editorial calendar on that. It will make things so much easier.

Keyword research

Now that you know what content marketing is and have an editorial calendar built, it's time to start creating content. Even if your content adds value to your target audience and answers their pain points to a T, you still need to make sure that your content can be easily found. This means making your content search engine optimized (SEO). That is where keyword research comes in.

What is keyword research?

Keyword research is the process of identifying and analyzing search terms with the goal of marketing to a specific audience. Search terms are the phrases we type into search engines like Google to find answers. 

For example, if I wanted to find the best SEO strategies for my startup I’d go to google and type, ‘SEO for startups’. The term ‘SEO for startups’ is a keyword. Anyone trying to target startup founders to help them with SEO advice should consider using  this term in their content.

Why is keyword research important?

Keyword research helps you with two things. It helps you see which keywords are the best for you and your business to target, and it gives you insights into what your audience is searching for. 

How to do keyword research?

Keyword research is a big part of content marketing. Not only do you want your content to resonate with your target audience but you also want it to be found.

Before you begin your keyword research, you need to know what you’ll be writing about. Even if you don't have the specifics, a broad topic will do. Once you have that, it's time to get researching.

When it comes to keyword research, there are a few things you'll want to pay attention to.

  • Search volume: The number of searches for a specific keyword during a selected amount of time (usually a month). Ideally, you want to go after keywords with high search volumes but depending on the maturity of your site, you might be better off targeting less competitive keywords which tend to have a lower search volume.
  • Keyword difficulty: The difficulty of ranking for an identified keyword. Ranking refers to a website’s position in search engine result pages (SERPs). The higher a keyword’s difficulty, the harder it will be to rank in the 1st page of search results. For businesses with relatively new websites or with low domain ratings, it would be easier to focus on low competition keywords. These keywords are typically long tail keywords or question type of search queries.
  • Questions: Search queries that include the identified keyword and are phrased as a question. It is good practice to add a few of these into any content. Answering exactly what people are searching for will help increase your chances of ranking.
  • Related terms: Variants of the keyword that you are trying to target. Oftentimes, the related terms are long-tailed variants. Following our example. A long-tailed variant of the keyword ‘SEO for startups’, would be something like ‘SEO for saas startups’..

Ideally, you'll want to be using an SEO tool to provide you with all of the information above. Some of the best tools are:

  • Semrush: SEMrush is an all-in-one SEO tool that helps you analyze and optimize your website's performance. With SEMrush, you can conduct keyword research to find new opportunities for organic traffic, analyze your competitors' websites to identify areas for improvement, track your website's search engine rankings over time, and monitor your website's backlinks for quality and quantity. You can also use SEMrush to perform site audits to identify technical SEO issues and get recommendations for how to fix them. Additionally, SEMrush offers tools for PPC advertising, social media management, and content creation.
  • Google Ads: While not specifically an SEO tool, Google Ads (formerly known as Google AdWords) can also be used to conduct keyword research to help inform your SEO strategy. With the Keyword Planner tool in Google Ads, you can enter a keyword or phrase related to your business or website and get data on search volume, competition, and suggested bid amounts for advertising. This information can help you identify high-value keywords to target in your website's content and metadata, and optimize your site for search engines. Additionally, you can use the Keyword Planner to generate new keyword ideas based on your existing website content or target audience. By using Google Ads for keyword research, you can get valuable insights into how people are searching for your products or services and improve your website's visibility in search results.
  • Ahrefs: Ahrefs is another powerful SEO tool that can help you improve your website's search engine rankings. With Ahrefs, you can conduct keyword research to find new opportunities for organic traffic, analyze your website's backlinks to identify high-quality links and disavow spammy links, track your website's search engine rankings over time, and monitor your competitors' websites for new content and backlinks. Ahrefs also offers a content analysis tool that can help you optimize your website's content for search engines and identify gaps in your content strategy.

After choosing your main keyword and compiling a list of other related keywords and questions, you can begin composing your article. 

How to publish

Now that the hard part is over, it's time to publish. Publishing content fully depends on your site and how it was built. But regardless of that, there are a few things you will want to include when publishing.

Typically, when pasting your blog or article into your site, you will also be asked to add a meta description, meta title and slug. The reason why I say that publishing is the easy part is because by this point, the keyword research is over.

  • Meta description: A meta description summarizes a page’s content and appears under the meta title. 
  • Meta title: A meta title is the title of a search result that appears on Google Search.
  • Slug: The slug is a part of a URL that easily explains the content of a page. 

Because you already identified your target keyword, writing each of these components is a piece of cake. Make sure to include your target keyword in each (the meta description, meta title, and slug). 

Why is my content not generating traffic?

If you have been consistently posting content and it is not generating traffic to your site, it might be for the following reasons:

  1. Your content is not being indexed by Google.

Content not indexed by Google is the number one issue we see. A page is indexed by Google if it has been visited by Googlebot, Google’s crawler. The crawler visits the page, analyzes it for content and meaning and then stores the page in the Google index, making it visible on Google search results. If your content is not indexed by Google, your content basically doesn’t exist. 

There are many – no, really, MANY –  reasons as to why your content is not being indexed by Google. Some common examples are website age, poor mobile optimization, poor website speeds, and redirect loops. In some cases, you may not know what the exact issue is so identifying what is stopping your content from being indexed is tricky but necessary. 

For more information on page indexing, check out our SEO for startups, part 1.

  1. Your content is not SEO optimized.

Content marketing and SEO go hand-in-hand. Typically, the higher you rank on search engines, like Google, the more traffic your site receives – SEO optimization helps you achieve this. 

Even though you've gone through the process once, SEO is a never ending process. Go through your existing content and see how it can be improved. It might be that your content is ranking for other search queries or keywords which means you should update your post and include them.

  1. Your content does not resonate with your target audience.

If your content is indexed and SEO optimized but it is still not generating any traffic, it might be time to scrap it. Marketers know - better than anyone - the difficulty in creating content that resonates and engages with your audience. 

You can find just about anything and everything on the internet, so use this to your advantage. With a bit of internet research, you can find out what your audience is already talking about. The best content marketing strategy is one that speaks to the audience’s specific issues, pain points, wants and needs. Use online forums, online communities and social media channels to discover what is trending in your niche and what your audience is saying about it. 

Always reflect on the content you create, is it something you’d want to read? If the answer is no, then it's time to improve it or get rid of it. Do not create content just for the sake of creating content. Create with a purpose. Your content can answer a question, provide a solution, or spark a conversation. 

You are never ‘done’ when it comes to content marketing. It’s about creation, analysis, and follow up. Every few months or so, you should revisit your already existing content and identify ways to improve it. It could be that maybe you are ranking for unexpected keywords so now you go through your blog and optimize it for different keywords. Or maybe the data you included in your blog is now outdated and needs to be revised. Whatever the case may be, content marketing is a never ending strategy that provides BIG value.

Think of it as a cycle:

  1. Conduct audience research
  2. Decide on a topic
  3. Create content
  4. Promote the content
  5. Measure what you can measure
  6. Repurpose it
  7. Repeat steps 1-6 again 

Unfortunately, SEO is also a bit like a box of chocolates. “you never know what you’re going to get” (with apologies to Forrest Gump). Applying all of the above-mentioned content marketing strategies does not ensure that your content will rank on the first page of Google Search. No content marketer can guarantee you that, if they do… RUN in the opposite direction. What content marketers CAN guarantee is that SEO works, if you apply the right methods and stick with it. 

Ready to develop or improve your content marketing strategy? Give us a call. 

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