September 10, 2019
How SEO Makes Content Better
“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
Philosophical thought experiments and professional services marketing don’t appear to have much in common. But in a content ecosystem where every firm is vying for the mantle of thought leader, the comparison is pertinent. Except the question might be, “If a single tree falls in a forest where hundreds of trees are falling around it at the same time, does anyone notice it?”
We’re at a point in the arc of thought leadership where the term itself has lost some of its meaning. That’s because most firms approach content marketing from the thought perspective — attempting to create useful, novel, urgent analysis on the issues of the day – while ignoring the leader angle that implies cultivation of heavy readership within key audiences. The result is a lot of well-written content that isn’t breaking through to those audiences.
For years at Greentarget, we’ve studied this phenomenon and it was a key consideration in our 2019 State of Digital & Content Marketing Survey. We found that busy executives increasingly prefer vendor websites and blogs as sources of information. And they still trust traditional media’s credibility above all other sources.
That gives firms and their marketers multiple avenues for engaging C-suite audiences. But to do that effectively, they have to ensure their owned content and published bylines are conveying true authority – by providing the value executives want: relevance, novelty, urgency and, above all, utility.
The beautiful thing is that SEO, when combined with expert editorial judgment and a deep understanding of the relevant issues, can help deliver all of those things. In other words, it’s not just a tool for optimizing your web pages – SEO can actually make content better. In fact, combining these three elements will supercharge the editorial process.
SEO research is a proxy for user interests: because search queries represent informational needs, this type of analysis helps marketers identify the topics that matter and how they can answer audiences’ most burning questions. Instilling SEO techniques into your editorial process will not only lead to more effective website architecture and better search ranking for your content, but a much deeper understanding of your customers and their current needs that translates into stronger and more relevant points of view. All of this is essential for organizations working to pinpoint and focus on the topics and attributes decision-makers value most.
Finally, SEO is critical for lead generation. Traffic from search, known as organic traffic, is almost always going to be more engaged than traffic from other channels because it represents users who are actively seeking content in response to a need, rather than just clicking on an ad they were served or a post they stumbled across. Creating content that anticipates their most pressing needs is the most effective way to keep them coming back for more, thereby establishing a strong pipeline of leads from your content marketing efforts.
Optimizing your site for organic traffic means optimizing for strong user experience, and in an environment where dozens of firms with similar practices are frantically publishing similar content, SEO techniques will help make your thought leadership visible and valuable. Making that content findable, navigable, and actionable will create a lasting competitive edge that will establish your site as a repeat destination for thought leadership.
A version of this article appeared in the 2019 State of Digital & Content Marketing Survey, released in July 2019.