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The Product Marketer’s Challenge: Producing High-Quality SEO Content at Scale

By Kathryn Hawkins.
Image Credit: Pexels. CC0 License

Search engine optimization can be important for driving traffic to static web pages. Learn how to create bulk SEO landing pages without cutting quality.

Early-stage startups know that, to succeed, it’s all about scale. Their game plan is all about growth: Grow the team (heavy on the software engineers), grow the customer base, and hey, maybe even take over another floor of your office building and load it up with standing desks, whiteboards, and eager new recruits (especially if that next round of funding comes through).

That rapid scale applies to the SEO side of the business, too: In order to compete with others in their space, startups need to go heavy on the content.

While a well-honed content marketing strategy is crucial for building trust and awareness, product marketing copy is no less essential for growing a business’ online visibility. Many companies have hundreds of product marketing pages built out to capture curious Googlers in their tracks, most boasting a thesaurus’ worth of keyword-optimized landing page titles. Such content is important, as getting just the right search term will help lure prospects to your site instead of someone else’s—but it’s also a pain to execute.

In years past, the solution was simple: Outsource the writing to a content farm that pumps out high volumes of articles. Writers for these types of agencies were often paid $1 an article (or less), and the substance wasn’t exactly Shakespeare: The content was often jammed awkwardly with keywords, grammatically incorrect, and factually inaccurate. Even so, when the search robots came calling, these content factories served up what the companies needed to get their prized SERPs.

The shift to quality as an SEO ranking factor changed everything

But in 2011, Google introduced its “Panda” algorithm update, which penalized sites that provided low-quality or “thin” content. Suddenly, sites that relied on content farms for output saw their search rankings in freefall.

Google had finally realized that the sites with the most content around a certain keyword shouldn’t be the ones ranking on the front page—they should be the sites with the most valuable content.

While Google’s made many tweaks to its algorithm in the years since, this change remains the most fundamental content-related shift. It means that in order to be seen as relevant, a content page should:

What does this mean, fundamentally? In order to rank, stop writing for robots and start writing for humans.

How to get ahead with SEO content

So does that mean it’s not worth focusing on SEO anymore? Not at all—it just means you need to invest in such content, carefully and strategically.

Start out by:

  • Conducting deep keyword research to understand what your target audience is looking for, and what your competitors are ranking for. Find out where the gaps are—this is where you can build quick wins. While you can use Google’s free Keyword Planner, it’s often helpful to use premium SEO tools like Moz or Ahrefs.

  • Creating an SEO-optimized information architecture map that showcases pages to revise to rank for target terms, and new pages to add at each “tier.” Top-level pages, such as Solutions, will feed into more segmented pages, such as Solutions for CFOs. In some cases, you’ll want to build out 80 to 100 static landing pages to capture all of your core terms.

  • Prioritizing your top target keyword phrases for your titles, and selecting other target keywords to be integrated into the content based on its relevance to the title subject. Top keywords should be matched based on a combination of “difficulty” and “volume”—those that are enormously difficult often have high search volumes, so most of your best prospects will land somewhere in the middle. Add some long-tail keyword phrases for the lower-volume, but well-targeted searches.

  • Crafting well-written and well-optimized content (yes, the two can coexist). Our team often uses content-optimizing tools such as Searchmetrics and Clearscope to “grade” the content in real-time for how it ranks around particular target keyword phrases. Skilled writers are able to organically sprinkle keywords throughout the copy in a way that seems highly natural.

But if you’re a small team, how can you possibly create an SEO product marketing strategy that competes on a national or international scale?

Scale with specialized support

When you’re building out your SEO content plan and determining your content needs, don’t push it all on your already-overworked marketing manager.

Sure, she gets the brand voice, but this monumental project won’t go to the top of her priority list, and it’ll likely be months before she’s able to develop all of the content and get it to start ranking. That’s thousands of potential site visits you’re missing in the meantime.

Instead, give your marketing team the tools and budget to solicit outside support from a small agency that can help streamline and systemize the content process. You’ll likely need to budget anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000 to build out all of your target pages, depending on the length and complexity of your subject matter, but the effort can return a quick ROI by driving well-targeted traffic to your site, which can convert into sales.

Building a workflow

When launching a high-volume SEO project, it's important to have a strong process in place. Here are some guidelines to help it go smoothly:

  • Start with an onboarding meeting: Your agency partner should hold a meeting with your key stakeholders where they can learn the brand voice, the specific requirements of the project, and get more context on the overall goals. Once they have a good sense of the brand and their needs, they'll have the right information to staff the project and build out a customized workflow with deadlines to suit.
  • Project management setup: Every big project needs a project management system that's up to the task. For example, Teamwork, our project management platform of choice, makes these types of large projects a cinch to manage, providing cloud-based access to your entire file repository, as well as detailed time lines and task lists with automated reminders. Most good agencies will have a project management system, but if they're not using one, you can set it up on your side.

  • Editorial project management: When embarking on a large project, make sure both sides are clear on the revision process. It will make things far more difficult for everyone if your boss changes the content direction after you've already signed off, so be sure to put a clear stakeholder review process in place. You'll also want to know how the process is handles on the agency side: Are writers sending drafts directly to you, or does the agency have an internal editorial process to ensure it's up to your standards first?

When working on a high-volume SEO project, make sure your agency's editorial team is built to scale—such projects can be executed quickly to a high standard when an agency has a strong team of specialized journalists at the ready, but can flounder if the agency is recruiting right as the project starts. Ensure that they've done similar projects, and are prepared to handle the workload.

Why invest in SEO?

As someone from the creative side of the table, my love for SEO wasn’t a natural fit—but I’ve grown into it, and I think you should too.

Developing SEO-optimized copy may feel like a bizarre reverse form of Mad Libs at times, but it’s also simply a way to be kind to your target audience.

If the data shows you that your ideal reader is going to be searching for a “marketing automation platform” rather than the “hypergrowth email solution” that your CEO’s trying to make a thing, then it’s probably a good idea to go with the more common, searchable terminology to actually get customers to your site.

Good SEO is simply about being aware of the questions your customers are asking, in their words—and being able to provide them with strong, detailed answers that demonstrate your authority on the subject. Paired with an SEO-aware (but not hyperfocused) content marketing strategy*, you’ll be able to build brand authority, trust, and that illustrious search traffic.

Make sure your SEO’s a cut above, and you’ll be hitting the SERPs in no time.

Once you've gotten your SEO in order, you're ready to build a killer content marketing program. Learn how in our free ebook. 

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Kathryn Hawkins

Kathryn Hawkins is principal and chief content strategist of Eucalypt Media. She has worked as a freelance journalist for media publications and managed inbound marketing and content strategy for corporate and nonprofit clients for more than a decade.

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