September 10, 2019
How SEO Makes Content Better
“If a tree falls in a forest and there is no one 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. Most firms approach content marketing from the thought perspective: they attempt to create new, novel, and valuable analysis on the issues of the day. But ignoring the leader angle — which implies cultivation of heavy readership within key audiences — raises the question, “If a firm publishes good content that no one reads, is it leadership?”
This year’s State of Digital & Content Marketing Survey reveals increased preference for (and reliance on) vendor websites and blogs as sources of information. Both C-suite and in-house counsel audiences rely heavily on their owned channels to distribute content; because they control the message and publishing cadence, a firm’s website is a natural vehicle to host and promote thought leadership content. However, only 36 percent of CMOs believe that they have “very good” to “excellent” distribution, which means that though they may be regularly creating high-quality content, they are struggling to reach their intended audiences.
A good way to bridge this gap is through search engine optimization, or SEO. While C-suite and in-house counsel audiences tend to access traditional media and trade publications regularly, they visit vendor websites and blogs in response to a specific business or informational need, most often preceded by a query on a search engine like Google. If your content isn’t showing up on the first page of results it might as well be invisible, and since you’re not likely to get more than a few chances to serve business-winning content in response to a query, SEO can provide the advantage you need to start building a qualified audience.
The beautiful thing about SEO is that it makes content better — and it can actually 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, the key components of content that addresses those topics, and ultimately answer prospects’ 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. 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. Organic traffic is almost always going to be more engaged than traffic from other channels because it represents users that are actively seeking content in response to a need, rather than an ad they were served or a post they stumbled across by accident. Creating content that anticipates their most pressing needs is the most effective way to keep them coming back for more, 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, making content findable, navigable, and actionable represents a competitive edge that will establish your site as a destination for thought leadership.
A version of this article appeared in the 2019 State of Digital & Content Marketing Survey, released in July 2019.