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Guiding Principles of Crafting a Compelling SEO Content Strategy

01/03/2019

In this article, I explore the importance and purpose of an effective SEO content strategy at a website's UX design stage, and why this is a vital aspect to any digital strategy, as well as the health of your new website.

If you’re building a new website for your company, whether that’s with an agency or not, then you’ll know that each build should begin with a digital strategy encompassing an SEO content strategy (sometimes referred to as a search strategy) which informs the UX phase of the project.

When we think UX, we think wireframes and compelling user journeys, yet, an aspect that is so often overlooked is the website content itself. In a lot of cases, it’s an afterthought. Once the website has been designed and built, content is jammed in, and weird and not so wonderful tricks are used to make this happen.

Not good.

A website without well thought-out, SEO optimised, user-centric content may as well not exist…

This is because a website that doesn't rank well, won't ever be seen, and if it is discovered, it's less likely to be found by your target audience.

Ranking factors go beyond typical SEO. Google's algorithm is ever changing, and the user is at the very centre of these changes, hence the need to include the SEO content strategy at the early stages of a new website build.

The purpose of an SEO content strategy

The aim of the SEO content strategy is to inform the wireframes, taking users on a journey that builds as the user moves through the site, and in turn, creating an experience that genuinely contributes.

Content is king, and UX designers must understand the importance of content and how content is the driving force behind decision making. Of course, UX and UI are of upmost importance in organising pages for the hierarchy of specific content, letting content breathe so as to avoid analysis paralysis, but it’s the content that’s consumed by the user, and this is what will resonate with them. In short, this shouldn’t be an afterthought in any circumstance.

So, SEO content strategists must work in harmony with UX designers to design the most compelling, user journeys that tell stories based on what the user is looking for.

User-centric content is paramount

In my opinion, strong content doesn’t necessarily have to be clever. I always think this can go one of two ways: your audience gets it, or they don’t. If they don’t, you risk not capturing them. Unless you have 100% confidence that your clever copy, or play on words, will be interpreted in the way you want, avoid it.

It doesn’t have to be walls of text. You don’t have to use fancy words to make your brand sound more credible.

What it must do is tell a clear, genuinely interesting story.

I like to think of the three 'Is' before starting any story, and it’s good to place your customer at the centre of these and work out the answers. The result? Great content!

The three 'Is' include:

By using this approach, you can demonstrate to your audience that you understand them - their pain points, what they need to know and their desires.

Content should Interest – what’s the pain point you’re addressing with content?

Whatever content you’re writing, it should pique interest. In a nutshell, grab your audience’s attention. This would usually start with your headline, so it must be snappy. Get them hooked from that very moment.

For the rest of the content, whatever tactic you use, and whatever the tone of voice, I’m a firm believer of writing loud and clear to quickly communicate important points. Remember, we’re time-poor nowadays – reading an article for most people would be skim reading heading tags to find what they’re looking for. I am a lover of content, and I still do this. (More on this later.)

Content should Inform – what does your audience need to know?

So, we’ve grabbed their attention. Great. Now we must inform them. Tell them what they don’t know. Now, there are ways to get this information, but we need dedication! Keep reading – again, more on this later.

When we consume content, we’re eager to learn more about whatever it is we’re reading. So, again, any content you’re writing should be informative. Now that’s not to say go ahead and waffle on and on, but do be clear, and be informative enough to inspire…

And that is hard. You won’t need me to tell you that. Writing concise yet informative pieces of content is a challenge, but a challenge that can’t be ignored.

Content should Inspire - take the above into account and present an inspiring solution

Winner, winner. If you’ve reached this point, then you’re nailing it. How will you know? The answer is in the analytics… Oh yes, another side to the wonderful world that is SEO content.

This is the hardest of the three I’s, not only because writing content requires the creative ability to craft evergreen, user-centric content, but because you need to craft something so compelling that will beat your competitors, placing your target audience’s trust and desires with your brand. And, of course, aid your SEO efforts. Page 1 and rank 1 is what we’re after, and all these factors contribute to that ranking success…

So, we’ve talked a little on content (I could go on, however I risk edging closer to crossing the line into waffling…) moving on...

Building an SEO strategy to inform the content strategy

SEO comprises of two approaches. The technical side, which may indeed scare you to some degree (but that’s ok because we’ve put together another article for technical SEO beginners here) and the not too technical side, which we’ll talk about now.

The not-too-technical SEO practice

A strong SEO optimised content strategy will help place users on journeys that are only relevant to them, cross-pollinating important pieces of compelling content to inspire the user to complete the desired action.

So, the not-too-technical side will hit upon offsite customer journeys and onsite user journeys. There is a difference… CX and UX. Take a look at this here.

The not-too-technical SEO is based around keyword and topic research – understanding your audiences’ needs, wants and desires and presenting them with damn good content that converts.

Without keyword research, you’re stabbing in the dark and wasting time creating content that won’t actually have any substance, and most importantly, won’t help you reach those KPIs for increasing web traffic, decreasing bounce rates and maximising conversions.

There is a whole world of tools available to us to help us understand who we’re talking to. So, keyword research is conducive to nailing the three 'Is'.

So, let’s assume you’ve identified high-value keywords. With each high-value keyword should come a lovely list of related keywords. Related keywords help you plan and structure your content for stellar SEO performance. These related keywords then act as chapters within your story, which brings us onto heading tags.

Heading tags are important in SEO, but also, they help to make content easy to digest and easy to skim read as I previously mentioned.

So, let’s take a look at content hierarchy and heading tags for SEO...

Heading – Includes high-value keyword, tagged as a H1 on the site. (Strictly one per page!)

Subheading – Includes related keywords. These are tagged as H2s and should be used when changing topic – much like a new chapter in a book.

And if said chapter has a few topics within, we start to use the heading tags H3, H4, H5 and H6.

Heading tags are wonderful things yet are almost always incorrectly used. The presentation, hierarchy and structure of content is so important for your readers.

Make it easy to follow and beautifully set out on the page, and it can be as simple as adding heading tags.

A compelling and effective SEO content strategy means interdependent disciplines must be aligned

SEO, content and UX are so intertwined, and it always surprises me how a lot of content is crafted without any previous keyword research. On the flip side, UX designers work on creating beautiful wireframes without considering technical SEO factors impacting the hierarchy of content and the story the content will be telling.

Basically, a lot of the time, these three interdependent disciplines (SEO, content, UX) are not working together.

The result?

The new, shiny website doesn’t rank well.

And there we have it - a website without well thought-out, SEO optimised, user-centric content may as well not exist…

Author: Emma Vaughan - Digital Marketing Executive