It’s a common misconception that SEO and content marketing are two mutually exclusive business strategies. They’re not. In a way, it used to be true -- keyword-stuffing once helped pages get ranked well, even if the content wasn’t valuable.
Now, that’s not the case. Search algorithms have succeeded at offering the valuable content that people are looking for -- which is the main goal of content marketing. That’s why it’s now possible, and even fairly simple, to build a keyword-driven content strategy.
1. Identify the keywords that matter most.
Determining the relevant keywords for your business still starts in the same place: the Google Adwords Keyword Planner.
The difference when building a keyword-driven content strategy is where you should focus. Brainstorming should go beyond wondering what your audience is searching for and into considering the reasons behind their searches.
What are their specific needs and concerns? This is something you’re going to target with your content, but it should be an element of your keyword planning as well. Instead of focusing on general search queries related to your business, dig deeper into the long-tail keywords that better correspond to what people are actually typing into search.
2. Consider the human element.
Google wants search results to be relevant, and as a content marketer, so do you. There’s no value in using keywords to bring the wrong audience to your site -- they’re likely to just head back to the search engine.
That’s why it’s important to consider your audience’s intentions when searching for certain keywords. Google’s already getting really good at it, thanks to RankBrain. For example, if I search “cars 2015,” Google decides that I’m probably interested in buying a new car and offers these results:
But look what happens when I search for “cars 2006”:
Google made a different choice about my intentions here. In 2006, the movie Cars came out, so which is more likely:
I want to buy a used car from 2006 specifically?
Or I want information about the film?
Obviously, Google went with option number two. Understanding the intention behind searches is important for all types of topics and businesses. And your keyword-driven content strategy can help Google make these distinctions.
Related: 4 Key Findings from AdWords Audits
3. Use Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords.
Google uses a system called Latent Semantic Indexing to identify the relationships between different words. It uses these relationships to determine searcher intent, so it can offer the most relevant results possible.
As a content marketer, you can incorporate LSI keywords -- essentially keywords related to your keywords -- into your content to make it easy for Google to understand your purpose and value to searchers.
Once you have a base of keywords for your business, coming up with LSI keywords is pretty simple. You can use LSI Graph’s LSI Keyword Generator, to start. Type in one of your keywords and see the related terms.
Or type your keyword into Google, scroll to the bottom of search, and see the searches related to your term:
4. Make keywords a part of your editorial planning.
Once you have a bank of main relevant keywords and LSI keywords for all of them, it can seem like you have a lot of ground to cover. So it’s a good thing you also have a lot of content to create.
Make your target keywords an integrated component of your editorial planning. Keywords can easily help you brainstorm content ideas, since they’re based on the same questions:
What are people searching for?
What are their intentions?
What do they care about?
What are their needs?
How do they feel?
Make your editorial calendar with keywords in mind, so there’s no need to prioritize one over the other.
5. Optimize with people in mind.
When it comes to on-page optimization, there are several areas where keywords traditionally should appear:
These are definitely areas you should still optimize, but as a content marketer, you need to prioritize user experience over keyword placement. You and Google have the same goal -- providing valuable and relevant content to searchers.
Some strategic keyword placement will help you do this, but only to a certain extent. Even if you show up in a search, it's the individual person you have to convince to click, stay and read your content.
The best way to do that is not by stuffing your on-page elements with keywords, but by filling them with the content most relevant to your audience’s needs.
As search algorithms continue to improve, the line between SEO and content-marketing strategies become more blurred. As a content marketer, your primary goal is to offer value and relevance to your audience. Luckily, keywords are -- and will continue to be -- a big part of achieving that.