Sorry, But I Can’t “Add SEO” To Your Weak Content

Editor’s Note: This post was contributed by Gaetano DiNardi, Director of Demand Generation @ Nextiva. 

SEO has gone from cryptic to crucial. Google alone processes more than 3.5 billion queries per day. Time and time again, I see it – yet another startup trying to make noise in the content arena. They start spewing out dozens of mediocre blog posts day after day, week after week, month after month. All they end up doing is adding more dead weight to the internet indexes. Why? Because they lack the ability to understand what it takes to build great content for both humans and search engines.

In the past, all you had to do was get an entry level blog editor to craft average quality content, (usually by means of managing a bunch of outsourced writers), then build a ton of mediocre backlinks to that content, and it would rank in the search engines.

Those days are gone. Dinosaur SEO tactics are long retired. You can no longer plan an SEO campaign without having a front seat to the entire content planning process. In every practical sense, content marketing involves SEO, and SEO involves content.

Since Google’s infamous rankbrain algorithm shift, content that effectively meets a searcher’s expectations will have a higher chance of outperforming content that doesn’t align well to a searcher’s intent.

In the past, a well optimized page with tons of links and strong domain authority would likely be the victor, even if it did not meet a searcher’s intent.

Today, it’s all about the searcher’s experience when they land on a page. Brand authority can also heavily influence results. For example, if I search “sneaker cleaning tips” and I click on a result from Nike, I am likely going to trust the information on that page, more-so than information from an unknown vendor.

In short, you can add all the SEO you want to any piece of content, but if users don’t engage with it you pretty much have no chance of ranking highly in search engines.

Engagement metrics that Google looks at:

  • Average time on page
  • Scroll depth percentage
  • Click through rate
  • Pogo sticking or bounce rate (Do searchers press the “back” button on the browser and click on other results?)

With search engines — especially Google — giving more premium real estate to quality content, keeping SEO and content planning separate will likely lead to a debacle in two siloed departments.

Which brings us to the bottom line: only through shared goals and a unified strategy between SEO, content development, and user experience can businesses achieve sustainable and profitable headway into the digital economy.

While I was consulting for various clients, and even working in-house, content/editorial teams have come to me asking:

"Hey Gaetano, can you ‘add SEO’ to this landing page?"

I just shake my head. Here’s the problem:

It’s likely that this low-quality content has already spent weeks polluting the internet and making the few visitors duped into checking it out highly frustrated. Once a web page has a long history of malperformance, it’s difficult to turn it around.

Even more challenging though, is re-engineering a page to align with user intent. Too often I see pages that are pushing heavy sales driven messaging, meanwhile the search intent is higher up the funnel. Automatically, you’re building an experience that is uncomfortable for the visitor, which is likely skyrocketing your bounce rates and therefore hurting your overall page-level engagement.

That means SEO specialists, content creators, UX designers, and broader digital marketing teams must be aligned, aiming for a common goal. Otherwise, disparate strategies for content development and SEO will allow competitors with tighter integration and alignment to eventually win the war.

Lucky for you, I’m about to give a free lecture on how better to approach SEO and content planning.

Which begins here.

Businesses that are committed to ramping up their online reputation, customer experience, website traffic, and revenue should implement SEO as an indispensable part of their content planning and UX design processes.

As such, SEO campaigns, initiatives, and strategy should have the following foundational elements:

  1. A strong understanding of your ideal customer profile, their pain points, and buyer journey
  2. Clear goals and desired outcomes
  3. Set of metrics for assessing SEO performance and success
  4. Comprehensive website audit for UX quality, navigation, taxonomy, and mobile-readiness
  5. Relevant keyword research and opportunity reviews
  6. Roadmap on link building and influencer marketing

In particular, because keywords and content drive SEO as much as the sophisticated algorithms that govern search engines, effective keyword research done in advance should be a persistent element when it comes to content creation and subsequent content marketing efforts.

On-page optimization involves the alignment of content with keywords and user intent based on where the user might be in the buyer’s journey.

If you thought I’d really leave you in limbo about “adding SEO to weak content,” here’s my best (and free) shot at helping out.

Below is a checklist of how I would guide startups (and any business really) — from start to finish — on how to optimize a web page for search engines. This checklist forms part of a more comprehensive article on SEO for startups which I’ve published on LinkedIn. You can read the post to learn more about advanced SEO strategies and tactics.

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