Integrating SEO and Content Marketing to create Content Plans-An Enterprise perspective

One of the biggest challenges for Content Marketers and Strategists in Enterprise environments is to effectively integrate Content Marketing into the work of other teams such as SEO and Paid Media. It is not uncommon to find instances where SEO teams develop plans and keyword strategies without fully understanding the high-level business context of exactly what is being promoted, to whom and why. Nor is it uncommon for Content marketing teams to create content based on self-assumed and often primitive intelligence about the role of keywords in getting content found. The disconnect may not manifest itself strongly for solo marketers or small, 2/3-member teams, but the inefficiencies can be debilitating in Enterprise environments that have chosen to adopt Content Marketing as a long terms strategy for customer acquisition and retention.

In one of our previous posts, we talked about how the roles and responsibilities should be structured to integrate SEO and Content Marketing efforts. In this article, we move on and look specifically at how to create fully auditable, business aligned content plans once the organizational structure for SEO and Content teams is in place.

Since our focus here at Syptus is B2B and for most B2B brands, combining SEO and Content Marketing functions to deliver long term pipeline of leads using organic search is the favored approach, we present a simple 7 step approach to create high-level content plans that can be tweaked based on organizational specifics.

1-Thoroughly understand the business context!

Put simply, this involves developing a shared understanding of What is it that the company is promoting, Why, and to Whom. There are other aspects to this context but since we are talking specifically from the point of view of SEO and Content Marketing, these should suffice. Both the teams should make an effort to get at least a high-level understanding of these parameters before proceeding with any planning, let alone actual execution.

Technical SEO Personnel and Content Writers alike, typically jump to creating keyword lists and writing content outline without thoroughly understanding the underlying context. Senior Strategists must take it upon themselves to discourage ad-hoc execution unless there is clear evidence of a sound understanding of the underlying business context and high level marketing objectives.

2-Define the top-level content topics

In short, these would represent the WHAT part of business context identified in Step 1.

Start with all the offerings that you wish to promote as part of your current business plan. Each becomes the top-level content topic that you will restrict your focus to. For example, a B2B Technology Company selling IT Services might conclude that for the short and medium term, it wishes to promote the following services.

  • CRM Development
  • Website Customization and backend development
  • Mobile apps development

Each of these become a top-level content topic.

Put a note about current business plan-you want to make sure that the focus is on medium term max and not plan too much ahead

3-Find and group keywords for each top-level content topic

The next step is for the SEO team to conduct keyword research and identify a ranked portfolio of keywords that need to be tracked and developed content for. Notice that in almost all cases, keywords within each high-level topic would need to be further grouped into smaller categories. For example, within the top-level content topic of CRM Development, you may have smaller groups including SugarCRM development, Salesforce development, Dynamics CRM development and so on. As a best practice, you should look to have a one-to-one mapping between your keyword groups and content groups which are nothing but a collection of logically related content ideas.

4-Prioritize keyword/content groups

In all likelihood, you would need to prioritize the keywords based on a variety of SEO related factors including ease of ranking increase, keyword competition, resource availability and so on. The next step is to not only prioritize the keyword groups but also keywords within each group. This would automatically prioritize the content groups that you identified in Step 2 above.

Since it is assumed that the keyword prioritization process involved a comprehensive, business level review of how the offerings and keywords need to be prioritized based on a combination of technical and business level factors, we effectively have the first signs of a content plan that follows high-level marketing strategy and is aligned with SEO efforts.

5-Identify content campaigns(WHO)

By this step, the context is fairly set in terms of what keywords need to be promoted within each content group and around which offering. If you were to be writing simply to build search engine traffic, you should be good to go. However, if the intention is to engage users who arrive on your site, and to actually push them down the purchase journey, then a bit more planning needs to be done around how you actually create content. Specifically, you need clearly developed target audience profiles.

In the example above, one audience set for the company might be mid-sized clients in a specific vertical and within a specific location. Another one could be enterprise clients already known to use certain products. The composition, tone, and implicit purpose of content would differ radically depending upon who the content is being written for. For example, SugarCRM comes bundled in with a number of modules, and if the target is mid-tier companies, then content focus may be restricted to articulating how the company can help clients integrate with third party apps that are known to be preferred within SMB segment. If on the other hand, the target was enterprise clientele, then content relating to enterprise features would make more sense.

The high-level point being made here is that for every unique target audience, there should be a separate campaign that deploys resources specifically geared to planning, research, production and promotion of content suited for a specific target audience.

6-Identify content themes, and formats (WHY, HOW)

What you are promoting and to whom, is still not enough to physically create content. Sticking to the example above, if the company wants to use Content Marketing to generate leads, then it will likely focus more on creating landing pages, email newsletters, direct response ads, and other content types that are involved in direct, one-to-one communications with its prospects. If on the other hand, the goal is branding, then the focus will likely be on top-of-the-funnel formats such as blog articles, infographics, case studies, and so on.

7-Identify content production frequency (When)

The last step in creating the content production plan is to figure out content volumes and frequency. This will be a function of many factors including content writing resource availability, budgets, timelines for key milestones (e.g. internal product releases or sales targets) but the final output is as simple as number of content pieces to be published per week/month across all campaigns.

Notice that we are leaving out Content distribution from this plan because that involves many more actors than SEO and Content teams.

Summary

SEO and Content Marketing collectively help Inbound Marketers in generating a long-term pipeline of high quality traffic and leads. However, for most organizations, integrating the two functions with a view to creating a business-aligned content plan remains full of glitches, failed attempts and eventual rollbacks to ad-hoc styles that lack accountability and audit. By putting in an upfront effort in planning for integrating the two disciplines, Marketers can not just make their SEO and Content efforts not just effective but a whole lot more efficient.