Years ago, if someone had told me I’d one day make my living as a content marketing writer, I’d have laughed in their face. Me? Marketing? I hate marketing. It’s so pushy and sales-y. I’d really rather not.
A lot of people feel that way. That word “marketing” is a real turn-off for many. Some people are born salespeople and can’t get enough of marketing, but I’m not one of them. And yet, marketing is necessary. How else will anyone learn about your brand or product if you don’t market it, and market it well?
Thank heavens for content marketing. What I didn’t understand back in those days when I would have laughed is that this approach is 180 degrees removed from those hard sales tactics that make introverts like me so squeamish. Not only that, but letting your content do your marketing for you is a highly effective way to create awareness for your brand, drive relevant traffic to your website, and build relationships and brand confidence that converts visitors into repeat business.
What’s Content Marketing?
It’s simple, really — content marketing means creating meaningful content that will appeal to potential customers and clients and attract them to your platform, where they can learn more about you and what you have to offer. That’s it.
Content marketing is a form of “pull” marketing — a passive form of advertising that captures interest and pulls people in where they can become curious and learn more. The opposite of this is “push” marketing, more aggressive forms of marketing such as ads and direct sales that push your products and services in front of people. When people say they hate marketing, they usually mean this second kind of “in your face” marketing. On the other hand, content marketing, if done correctly, doesn’t feel like marketing or selling at all. It feels more like sharing or having a conversation — because that’s exactly what it is.
Backing up a bit, what do I mean by “meaningful” content? Something that will provide value for your potential customer — typically, information that can help them solve a problem or that answers a question they’re asking. But meaningful can also simply mean entertaining. Preferably, your content will hit that sweet spot of being both informative and entertaining at the same time — or if not exactly entertaining, at least engaging enough that it won’t feel like a slog for your audience to get through.
Content marketing can take on myriad forms: an article, a blog post, a newsletter, an infographic, a tweet, a TikTok or Reel, a YouTube video and a podcast are just a handful of the more common examples. That’s one of the things I love most about this type of marketing — whatever your personality, whether you’re the most laconic of introverts or the most outgoing of extroverts or somewhere in between, there’s a form of content marketing that will suit your energy level.
But whatever form your content marketing strategy takes, it needs one vital component to truly succeed.
SEO Copywriting for Your Content Marketing Strategy
However engaging, entertaining or informative your content may be, it won’t matter if nobody sees it. That’s where SEO copywriting comes in. You’ve probably heard of SEO, and you probably already know that it stands for Search Engine Optimization, but you might not know much beyond that. A true SEO expert could regale you with lengthy explanations of algorithms and metrics and other terms that would likely make your eyes glaze over, but you don’t need to know all of that in order to effectively use SEO as part of your brand content marketing strategy. All you need to know are a few best practices for SEO and how to implement them.
But first, a quick sidebar on why this is important, and why you don’t want to treat it like an afterthought: SEO keywords are what makes it easy for the people who are seeking the information you provide to find that information. Think of a search engine like a match maker that matches your desired audience with your content.
Say you’re a pet writer who posted an awesome recipe for gluten-free peanut butter dog treats. The right SEO keywords will help get your recipe in front of people who are looking for awesome gluten-free dog treats. You created a video on how to teach puppies not to bite? SEO can help match your video with puppy parents who are tired of chewed up fingers. In short, SEO can help get more eyes on your content — eyes belonging to people who are searching for the exact type of content, and likely also the products and services, you have to offer.
With that in mind, here are a few SEO best practices that can make the difference between your content actually being seen or languishing in the no man’s land of page forty-five of search results:
1. Use relevant key search terms in your content
2. Build external links back to your content
3. Create internal links between your content
Let’s break these down.
How To Use Key Search Terms in Your Content: Placement is Everything
Key search terms, also known as key words or key phrases, are what tells search engines that your content is relevant to what someone is searching for. When you enter a word or phrase into a search engine, the search engine sends out robots to scour the internet for content that’s highly relevant to that search term and then present that content in order of what is most likely to satisfy your search request. So if you want your article or video to show up on the first page when someone searches “how to trim my dog’s nails,” you need to not only offer the best article on getting those nails trimmed, but you also need to include that phrase throughout your article.
But effective SEO isn’t a matter of cramming as many relevant search terms as you can think of into your content as many times as possible. That’s called keyword stuffing, and it’s a practice that can backfire, getting your content pushed way, way down in the rankings, or possibly de-listed from search listings altogether.
It’s much more effective to focus on one or two highly relevant search terms, or at most three, and place them strategically throughout your content. Where to place your key words? Follow these rules:
1. In the title — the title of your article, blog post, YouTube video, etc. should contain your primary key phrase. So using the above example, you would title your content, “How to Trim My Dog’s Nails.” If that’s not catchy enough for you, save your spice for after the key phrase: “How to Trim My Dog’s Nails: Expert Tips for Safe and Stress-Free Nail Trimming at Home.” Remember that an eye-catching title won’t catch any eyes if it’s too far down in the search rankings.
2. In the first paragraph — generally, it’s a good idea to use both your primary and secondary key search phrases within the first 100 words of your written content. That goes for descriptions on YouTube videos and podcast episodes as well as articles and blog posts.
3. In section headings — when it comes to articles and blog posts, a bonus SEO tip is to use a format that’s easy to read and easily skimmable. That means using short paragraphs and breaking your content up into sections with their own headings and subheadings. These section headings are a great place to highlight your key search terms.
4. In image file names, alt tags and title tags — When adding images to your content, most content management systems or blogging platforms will provide fields where you can enter or change the image file name as well as the alt and title tags. These are all great places to insert your primary target search term and give your SEO an extra boost.
5. In the URL of your post — Typically, your content management system will automatically do this for you when you include your key phrase in the title of your post. But if it doesn’t, if possible, edit your content’s URL to include your key phrase.
So how often should your key words appear in your content? Twice for each key phrase at a minimum. For longer content, such as articles longer than 800 words or so, aim for at least four times for your primary key phrase, not counting your title, URL and image tags. But try not to use it more than six times. You don’t want to risk getting penalized for overdoing it.
Boosting Your Content’s Search Engine Ranking with External Links
As essential as good keywords are, effective SEO isn’t built on keywords alone. External links — links to your content from other blogs and websites, also known as backlinks — will also help make or break your search engine rankings. The higher quality the links — that is, the more popular and trusted the websites linking back to your content — the better. These external links act as votes of confidence that let those busy little search engine bots know your content can be trusted.
External links can be a bit of a road block when developing your SEO strategy. After all, you don’t have a lot of control over whether another blogger or content creator decides to link to your content. But it’s not completely out of your control. Here are a few creative ways you can build back links to your content:
1. Write articles and guest posts for high-profile blogs that allow guest posters to include a byline or bio. Include a link in your byline to relevant content or a landing page on your own website.
2. Seek out interview opportunities. Become a go-to expert on YouTube shows and podcasts and ask the hosts to provide links to your content in the video description or show notes.
3. Sign up as an expert on Help a Reporter Out. Freelance writers and journalists use this service to find expert sources to quote in their articles, typically in exchange for full credit with a link back to your website.
4. Ask. It’s a bold approach, but there’s no harm in asking a blogger or content creator whose audience is similar to yours if their audience might be interested in your content. If they have content that’s also relevant to your own audience, offer to return the favor. The key word here is relevant. Don’t approach a blog that has nothing to do with the topic you’re writing about and expect a positive response. You’ll need to do a little research to find platforms that are a good match for your content.
5. Create your own. Articles you post to Medium, videos you post to YouTube, a separate blog you’ve got on a separate domain, and other platforms you operate external to the website or content you’re promoting are all places where you can link back to your content and provide an SEO backlink boost.
Maximizing SEO with Strategic Internal Linking
Internal links — links between posts and pages on your own website or blog — are much easier to achieve. As such, they don’t carry the same weight as external backlinks, but they still help provide a shot of positive “link juice” to your SEO, encouraging visitors to spend more time on your website. This not only tells those algorithms that the quality of your content makes people want to stick around; it also gives visitors a chance to learn more about your brand and what you have to offer.
So there you have it — a rundown of how content marketing and SEO strategy can help attract new customers or clients to your business. Need help putting it all into practice? A content marketing writer and SEO copywriter such as myself can help you develop and implement an effective content strategy that will appeal to your ideal customer and help build a relationship that goes beyond a one-time purchase and keeps them coming back.