Create an SEO-focused content strategy

1. Set SEO focused content SMART goals and KPIs based on your content capacity, current SEO health, and business objectives.

An example SMART goal is Increase number of leads from our website traffic by X% in Y weeks by creating Z number of optimized consideration stage blog posts and performing backlink outreach. Understand your capacity, business objectives, and goals by interviewing stakeholders or discussing with your team about content expectations. Ask questions like who are we trying to reach with our content, how do we measure success with SEO, and who will be in charge of managing SEO-focused content.  Other useful methods include content inventory, competitor analysis, and an SEO site audit. Determine how much content you already have, what SEO best practices are already in place, where you currently rank on SERPs, and what content channels you use, like whether you have a blog or use social media.

2. Create a list of content topics that are central to your brand, product, and target audience.

Brainstorm general topics with team members in an open brainstorm session. For example, a landscaping company may write down lawn maintenance, landscape design, and tree services.

3. Identify short-tail keywords for pillar content by performing keyword research with your list of content topics. Use a keyword research tool like SEMrush, Ahrefs, Google Search Console, or Moz Keyword Explorer.

To perform keyword research for short and broad short-tail keywords: Type a topic idea from your topic list into the keyword research tool. Find related terms to that keyword for more ideas. Look at the monthly search volume and competition or difficulty score. Add related terms and metrics to a spreadsheet. Look how your competitors rank for the keywords.

4. Identify long-tail keywords for long-form content by looking for relevant questions that your audience wants answers to.

Long-tail keywords have low search volumes, but are typically easier to rank for and have high-converting traffic. Example approaches to find long-tail keywords include: Refer to customer interviews, surveys, sales or customer service call logs, social media or blog comments, product reviews, and forums or social media groups that your target audience uses, to help find your target audience’s questions.  Look at competitors’ content, industry blogs, and industry social media profiles to see what industry related questions are trending. Type your short-tail keywords and topics into Google to see what phrase is autocompleted, or in the People also ask or Related searches section. Type your short-tail keywords and topics into a tool like Answer the Public, Ahrefs Keyword Generator, or FAQ Fox.

5. Map content topics and types to funnel stages by determining search intent for keywords and understanding the buyer’s journey.

If you have already mapped out your buyer’s journey with triggers and touchpoints, use this to help place topics and content types within the awareness, consideration, decision, and delight stages. If not, try to think like your customer to understand where they go for information as they go through the process of buying your product. Consider conducting customer interviews or surveys, talking to sales and customer support teams, and looking at website traffic sources to better understand the buyer’s journey. Content types may include a blog post, demo video, whitepaper, case study, ebook, how-to guide, infographic, and social media post.

6. Decide which keywords to prioritize based on your likelihood to rank and specific content needs and goals.

To prioritize keywords to begin creating content, look at your keyword research, including competition and monthly search volume metrics, competitive analysis, and SMART goals. For example, you may choose to immediately optimize your two articles that already rank on the second page of the SERPs. Or, you may want to first prioritize writing one blog post for each funnel stage, with one long-tail keyword for each.

7. Create content guidelines that include your desired brand voice, style, positioning, call to action per content type and stage, and on-page SEO requirements.

This may include creating a brand style guide, with a focus on writing style, deciding word count ranges for specific content types, matching the right CTA to the funnel stage, and finding examples of content you like. If your content will not all be written in-house, include brand positioning, values, mission, and other important information as well to improve accuracy and consistency. Include on-page SEO best practices in your guidelines, and fix preexisting website content to match these requirements: Use descriptive and engaging header tags to structure content. Include your main keyword in the title tag, H1 tag or headline, once in the intro, and again in a subheader. Use secondary keywords organically throughout the content. Include an engaging 150-character or less meta description. Include internal links to relevant internal pages with descriptive anchor text.

8. Outline your content lifecycle workflow to create content for each long-tail keyword at scale by mapping out the steps and team roles for each content creation stage.

Create a spreadsheet or chart that answers who, what, where, when, why, and how for each content lifestyle stage. Design the workflow order, like ideation > plan > allocate resources >  research > write > edit > publish > track > update and optimize.

9. Optimize your site structure by fixing technical SEO issues, developing a logical site hierarchy and internal link structure, and improving navigation.

Use a tool like Screaming Frog, SEMrush’s Site Audit Tool, or the Sitemap report in Google Search Console to perform a technical SEO audit to identify and fix site crawling and indexing issues, like no sitemap, duplicate content, insecure site, slow load speed, and redirects. One method to improve site structure is through user testing to test the ease of site navigation. Possible fixes: Plan out your hierarchy. For example, homepage at the top, then pillar pages that link to other pages, and then blog posts and other content. Make a sitemap. Include a navigation bar and breadcrumb navigation. Make sure each blog post links to its pillar page and other related content on your site. Include a related posts section and tags on each blog post.

10. Create a link building strategy to optimize off-page SEO by conducting a link audit and planning backlink outreach.