Making your content perform beyond just SEO

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Content marketing serves many purposes for an organization, not the least of which is to drive organic traffic to a website. But let’s not sell content short! You have great content that’s generating organic traffic, but is it really doing all it can for you? Is it enough to have a popular, highly trafficked blog if it doesn’t actually convert?

Whatever your website’s goals — newsletter signups, sales, lead generation or some other call to action — content needs to support those goals.

Step 1: Creating compelling content

Content created with SEO in mind is a great start. Yet how do you create content that isn’t just some SEO spam, but actually is meaningful and can help your SEO efforts at the same time?

There are many great resources to determine the questions that need to be answered in your industry. One I use, as an example, is LinkedIn Groups. In a forum such as the LinkedIn Groups forum, I can see what types of questions people have and what solutions they’re looking for.

Another great resource is the Google Keyword Planner. What are the words and phrases people search for? Then do a Google search. Are those questions being answered?

Insight into creating compelling content can come from any number of sources. Think about what works for your industry, and follow that lead.

Step 2: Optimizing the content for organic search

Based on your initial content research, you probably have a pretty good idea of the keywords you optimized the content for. But SEO for content is about more than just adding some keywords to the content.

One of the more common mistakes I see, especially in blog posts, is images that are not fully optimized. This often occurs because multiple blog contributors upload images, and those contributors may not be trained on the importance of optimizing images (or even know how to optimize images). Large images are a top issue I often see when performing page speed tests for SEO audits. So, as you’re considering optimizing your content for organic search, don’t forget those images!

If you use a content management system (CMS), there are often plugins that will assist with image optimization. Since WordPress is the most common CMS, I’ll use it as my example for this post, but almost all CMS platforms have some kind of image management tool, whether it is built into the CMS or added on as a plugin.

For WordPress, I recommend WP Image Size Limit, which allows you to set the maximum file size for upload.

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Another potential optimization issue can be thin content. What if the writer doesn’t write enough content, and Google thinks it’s too thin?

The Yoast plugin for WordPress is helpful for contributors who may not always know basic SEO rules for content. It can be a helpful guide as the writer is “graded” along the way and given helpful tips, including noting when the content may be too short.

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Step 3: Getting the content to convert

Once you’ve created and optimized the content and it’s generating traffic, it’s important to evaluate how the content is performing. Step 3 is often the most overlooked step of content creation. If you did steps 1 and 2 well, you’ll be driving lots of organic traffic to your site. But what good is traffic if it doesn’t complete your call to action?

I was recently working with a client who does a fantastic job of content creation. The content is very creative and popular. One post alone brought in 17,000 unique visitors from organic search this year to date!

The unfortunate reality, though, was that not one of those 17,000 visitors completed a site goal. NOT ONE.

You likely spend a lot of time and resources on content creation. And while many people may consume the content, unless you’re a content publisher by trade, your job isn’t just to create meaningful content for everyone’s reading pleasure. Your ultimate goal is to create that content for conversion.

The first step to understanding how your content is converting is to ensure you have set up trackable goals in your analytics. Once goals are set and your content starts receiving organic traffic, monitor whether this traffic is also completing goals. Quite often, I see fantastic blogs that have great organic traffic, like my client’s, but have no measurable conversions. So what can you do?

There are many great conversion rate optimization (CRO) tools available on the market today, many for a very low cost or free. Some I’ve tested include Convert Experiments, Visual Website Optimizer (VWO) and Optimizely.

Once you have a tool in place, you’ll next want to try different techniques to drive conversion. Would a banner advertising your newsletter at the end of a blog post increase newsletter signups? Would more text-based links in your content’s copy help drive traffic to conversion pages? Would adding a popover be annoying, or would it generate more leads? The sky’s the limit with options.

Then test. And test more. Try different ideas. See what moves the needle.

(If you need ideas for testing for your blog, Aaron Agius compiled a nice list of 27 ideas to start with.)

Parting thoughts

As a search engine optimizer, you’re a marketer first. That means helping your company generate leads, increasing online sales, getting more donations and so on. Your eye always has to be on conversion.

It’s not enough to simply create and optimize content; you also have to ensure that it converts. In the end, your content needs to work for you in more ways than one. You’ve made an investment in content — make it pay off to its fullest.

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