Ads are far from the only way to be found online. Organic search marketing can be a profitable investment for a business, but it's a deeply misunderstood field, often deprioritized and ignored in favor of less complex (and sometimes less effective) tactics.
Organic search marketing is the practice of driving relevant traffic to your website from search results. So if you set up your website to promote who you are and what you do — and create educational content to help your audience better understand your solutions and industry — you can drive relevant eyes to your site through search results.
Organic search traffic is what people call "free traffic." Unlike paid search, a channel in which you get out what you put in (X dollars to generate X leads or conversions), organic search can continue to provide value over the long haul. While you have to invest in the creation of content upfront, you don't pay for the actual placement in search results. And each time your content appears in someone's organic search results, it can pay dividends over time. In fact, organic search has the ability to drive relevant traffic for years — but only if your SEO content marketing strategy is executed correctly.
That's especially important to keep in mind right now, as many business are having to pivot their marketing efforts and reduce business expenses in light of the effects of COVID-19. But if marketers decide to spend less on SEO and content marketing now, they risk diminishing their organic search rankings. And then once demand for their business starts returning, they'll most likely drive less organic traffic than before COVID-19 hit. That's why maintaining — or even expanding — SEO efforts is so important right now.
Even though SEO can help content marketers have a measurable impact on their goals, many companies still overlook it. The main reason is that investing in an organic search campaign comes with no guarantees and can take anywhere from six months to two years to really see its results. So marketers can get lured into other "What can you do for me right now?" tactics such as paid search.
By no means are these bad investments, of course, but the best marketing campaigns involve a mix of all these channels, and that includes creating content for both the reader and the search engine. Not focusing on organic search can stifle the growth of your website over time because if you're not creating content that your audience is searching for, you'll have a hard time reaching those people and, in turn, achieving your marketing goals.
Not all content has to be created with SEO as the primary content marketing goal, but not using SEO data at all when creating marketing content is a missed opportunity to maximize its potential.
Content marketers can accomplish many things through SEO efforts. They can not only create content that is set up to drive organic traffic to their website, but they can also use that same content for social media, paid search and promotion, email marketing, sales and business development, and more.
It's a little tougher to attach a dollar value to organic search than some other marketing tactics; however, you can track many metrics that ladder up to that, including how well your site and its content are ranking in search results, how many site visits were driven through organic search, and how many organic conversions were driven.
Education is the first big key to succeeding with organic search. You have to know where you stand before you can optimize further to work toward your goals. Here are a few categories of tools that content marketers can use to develop and maintain an effective SEO-driven content marketing strategy:
To get a grasp on what your audience members are actually searching for online and, therefore, what they're interested in reading about, you'll need to do some keyword research. Keyword research involves analyzing your site's rankings right now, pinpointing what keywords your competition doesn't rank for that might be good opportunities for you, finding question-based keywords you can home in on to answer your target audience's questions, and clustering your learnings so you can pinpoint trends.
Multiple tools can help you do your research and create a list of target keywords. Google's autocomplete, Keyword Planner, or similar searches are really accessible ways for you to look into what your audience is searching for online. If you want to dig even deeper, you can utilize SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Moz to get a more well-rounded picture of what keywords might be good opportunities for you to target.
Search engines love topic-based content, which is why linking related content under topic clusters can be beneficial. In a nutshell, topic clusters allow you to dive deep into the core topics you want to discuss and create an efficient information architecture.
To create a topic cluster, start with a pillar post or a whitepaper on one of your company's core focus areas. Then, use a content map to lay out what "cluster content" you'll create. These are shorter, more specific pieces of content that are related to that overarching long-form content. The pillar post will link to each cluster page, and each piece of cluster content will link to the pillar post.
Just researching keywords and creating content based on them isn't enough — once that content is live, you have to continuously review your content's performance so you can understand whether your content is reaching your audience and working toward your goals.
Use Google Analytics or HubSpot to review content marketing metrics like page views, time per page view, bounce rate, and the number of visits from organic search to see which content is resonating with your audience. Over time, if you find that an older piece of content still resonates with your audience and drives traffic to your website months or even years later, consider updating it with relevant examples and fresher data so it can continue making an impact.
The best marketing approach is a well-rounded one. If you're not leveraging SEO to fuel your content marketing efforts, try the above tools and equip your marketing team to optimize your way toward more effective marketing.
I'm the director of SEO and analytics for Intero Digital's Content & PR Division. I enjoy sports, traveling, the Lake of the Ozarks, spending time with family and friends, and whatever else life throws my way.