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Don’t Obsess Over Search Rankings; Do This Instead

Editor’s note: Given the complexity around tech in content marketing, we’re sharing conversations with thought leaders to bring greater understanding.

Too often, SEO is an afterthought – a technique for complementing or enhancing content creation and distribution. But failing to plan for search up front can be a big mistake.

Recently, I asked a search marketing technology thought leader what it takes to win traffic from the always evolving search game.

Meet the expert

Oleg Shchegolev, CEO and founder of competitive intelligence platform provider SEMrush

Background:  SEO, SEM, information security, digital marketing, and web analytics

Productivity playlists: The sounds of nature: waves for relaxing and a thunderstorm for getting work done

On taking a strategic approach to search

To get the most from a search strategy – tech-enhanced or otherwise – you need to start with an in-depth analysis of your market, your competitors, and how your business measures up in your consumers’ eyes, Oleg says.

The best search strategy starts w/ analysis of market, competitors, and consumers, says @aramisguru via @cmicontent. #SEO Click To Tweet

Every decision you make and action you take should flow from a single, unified vision of the consumers’ needs at each point in the purchase process, the competing content options that are available to them, and how they prefer to access information in pursuit of their goals.

That includes the decision to incorporate search marketing technologies that can enhance the value and performance of your content. Oleg emphasizes the importance of involving all your team silos – including sales, PR, and IT – in the process right from the start. In his view, ensuring cross-team understanding and alignment on your implementation plans will help facilitate more effective adoption and use of the tools once in place.

Keep analyzing for insights to determine actions

Oleg recommends that every marketer follow the PDCA method (plan, do, check, act) to set up a framework for matching search data to the actions you should take to improve performance.

Originally conceived as PDSA (substituting “study” for “check”) by W. Edwards Deming, the process uses known consumer insights to create an initial content plan, then continually iterates based on new insights gathered through an ongoing action-and-optimization loop. Here’s how it works:

  • Plan: Identify your initial marketing goal or purpose, then formulate a theory on how to achieve it based on the insights you have. Don’t forget to define your indicators of success as you develop a proposed plan of action for your campaign.
  • Do: Implement the plan as conceived.
  • Check: Monitor the outcomes to test the validity of your initial assumptions. Identify any problems that may exist and determine areas for improvement.
  • Act: Integrate what you’ve learned into the process and adjust your original content plan as necessary.

“Track your marketing campaigns carefully and make all the needed tweaks as quickly as possible,” Oleg recommends.

Sweat the content, not the ranking

Oleg believes content marketers must reduce their obsession with search rankings. The best possible defense against poor rankings, he says, is high-quality content. If you create content that clicks with your target audience (matches search intent, is educational and tip-driven, and offers them real value), you’ll earn longer time on site and other behavior signals that will eventually boost your rankings organically.

The best defense against poor search rankings is high-quality content, says @aramisguru Click To Tweet

Of course, Oleg says, it doesn’t hurt to follow standard SEO best practices, such as:

“All of these are still relevant,” Oleg says, “but they should only come after you’ve ensured your content offers something of value to your audience.”

His team practices what he preaches by focusing on content that explains key concepts and helpful details using non-technical, everyday language.

“Our goal is to provide everyone with the necessary information they need for their role, whether it’s in-house specialists, agencies, particular industries, or even SEO beginners. Instead of going into lots of technical detail that some might not understand or need to know about, we focus our content around specific benefits, such as ways marketers can benefit from boosting their online visibility,” he explains.

For example, given that organic search is the primary source of traffic for most websites, content creators should understand how using clear, simple language can make their writing more engaging, relatable, and effective and, therefore, more discoverable on search.

Clear, simple language creates more relatable – and discoverable – content, says @aramisguru via @cmicontent. #SEO Click To Tweet

To increase this understanding – and provide a space where aspiring creatives can sharpen their writing skills – SEMrush’s content team developed its annual Content Marathon. (Disclosure: Content Marketing Institute is a co-promoter of this program.) The intensive, seven-day program consists of a writing workshop and a creative competition. Through video tutorials delivered by writing professionals and the practical exercises they assign, Content Marathon both teaches the fundamental mechanics of good writing and motivates program enrollees to continually work to master their craft.

Continue your tech-enhanced content journey

In our next TechTalk interview, we’ll dive deep into the tech considerations for account-based marketing. In the meantime, if you’re looking for guidance on selecting marketing technology, implementing it, and applying it to your specific content marketing challenges, tweet your questions to me @cmicontent using the hashtag #ContentTECH. We might feature your question (and provide some answers) in a future TechTalk post.

Join us for two days at ContentTECH Summit and grow your skills. Register now for the April event in San Diego.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute