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You have an SEO content strategy. Now what?

Most brands know about the importance of SEO optimization. Even brands without a formal SEO strategy are doing their own research to gain insights on generating traffic through search engine ranking, using resources like Keywords Explorer and Answer The Public. And while you’ll find plenty of guidance online on when and how often to use the keywords you land on, there’s way less help on how to incorporate keywords into a larger content strategy and brand strategy. That’s why so many brands still get confused about the role SEO should play in their content marketing and content development.

A while back, Twitter user @kennykeil struck a nerve with me. He did it with this tweet:

And while it’s a mistake to confuse writing (the art form) with copywriting (the sales tool), they have some things in common. Just like a meal at a restaurant is more than just a plate of calories, your brand’s content needs to be more than just a bundle of keywords. Calories are part of all food, but nobody wants to eat a plate of calories; they want to eat a tasty, satisfying, even memorable meal. By the same token, no one really wants to read “content.” They want to read something (an article, a social post, an email) they find interesting and relevant to their lives. And that’s what will reflect well on your brand as you’re simultaneously ranking on the search engine results page, or SERP.

The ecom landscape is competitive, and we’re all trying to leverage the power of SEO to get more eyeballs on our brand. The goal is always the same: traffic, aka getting customers to visit your website. But there are a few different ways to get there. If you’re serving up keywords as part of content like a blog post, buying guide or FAQ section, you need to be sharing info that’s genuinely useful and valuable to your customer.

And as a bonus, when you create content through this lens, you get more use out of it, because it can easily be repurposed into marketing emails, newsletters, social posts and other assets.

SEO isn’t your content. SEO is one ingredient in your content.

Keywords are one way to connect your brand with the people who will love it. But think of them less as an end point and more as a starting point. (For a deep dive into the world of SEO strategy gone wrong, we recommend this article, How SEO Is Gentrifying the Internet.)

SEO is crucial in directing organic traffic to your site, but once folks are there, conversion is hardly a given. It’s impacted by factors like dwell time (the amount of time that people spend on a site found through search before they  return to the original SERP).

A study by Pathintelligence found that “there is a significant and positive relationship between dwell time and sales,” concluding that a 1% increase in dwell time led to a 1.3% increase in sales. And Brandgility agrees, noting that higher rates of dwell time and conversion are achieved through quality content: “Businesses that invest in high-quality, consistent content achieve conversion rates that are almost six times higher than companies that are lacking this focus.”

And this is straight from Google’s mouth: “Users know good content when they see it and will likely want to direct other users to it. This could be through blog posts, social media services, email, forums, or other means. Organic or word-of-mouth buzz is what helps build your site’s reputation with both users and Google, and it rarely comes without quality content.

The point is: Once a keyword has done its job of attracting a reader to your site, the content needs to hit home for them in tangible ways — by entertaining them, actually answering a question they have or introducing them to something they find interesting. Otherwise, it’s just a waste of their time and you quickly lose not just their presence on your site, but their trust and potential loyalty.

What is your audience searching for online?

The first step to building SEO-rich content is figuring out what your audience wants to read about. The first, most obvious place to look: content focused on your product or services.

What FAQs are coming to your customer service team?

When it comes to your products, your customer service team knows exactly what people are struggling with, confused about and suspicious of. Consider them your special-ops squad for content.

What questions and concerns pop up on your product reviews or on social media?

If a question is coming up over and over, that’s a hint that your audience is struggling to find the answer — and if you can be the one to answer it, you’ll have earned their awareness and trust.

What about your product might be confusing?

Real brand example: Uber-chill outdoor brand Poler is known far and wide as the originator of a garment known as the Napsack. But what is it? Is it a sleeping bag you can wear, or a poncho you can nap in? Is it for wearing inside or outside? Is the pocket big enough to fit a phone? This Core77 post answers all these questions elegantly, including instructions on how to cinch the Napsack at your waist so you don’t set yourself up to fall over your own hemline.

How does your product differ from other, similar products on the market?

Real brand example: DTC brand Diaspora sells spices grown in South Asia: things like turmeric, cardamom and ginger. Their powdered turmeric looks just as yellow as the kind you can buy at Penzeys or Trader Joe’s. So why pay a few bucks more to order it from Diaspora? Their content delves into all the reasons their turmeric is different: It’s higher than average in the medicinal compound curcumin. It offers specific tasting notes of marigold, orange and honey. And it’s grown on family-owned regenerative farms and equitably bought. Their product storytelling justifies their business model and pricing, and it draws consumers into caring about their brand.

How do your own products differ from each other?

Real brand example: Dyson sells nearly 10 different types of cordless stick vacuums, with names like Cyclone V10 Animal and V12 Detect Slim Absolute. What’s the difference between V10 and V12? Why would I want a vacuum called “Slim”? What does it mean for a vacuum to be “Absolute” or an “Animal”? Your content can help customers parse out the differences, then make their own decisions about which one they need.

The next step? Going beyond your products and stepping into the realm of subject matter expertise. The goal here is to become an authority on your field, whatever it may be. Think of it this way: As you widen the scope of your content offerings, you also widen the reach of your SEO.

Drumroll, please: Thread is now a Certified B Corp! We 🎉 are 🎉 stoked