In today’s fast-moving content and marketing world, it’s important to collaborate. We can’t do everything on our own – as individual contributors so to speak – to truly be successful. Teamwork matters, but not just as a buzzword. We have to have the right teammates collaborate at the right times.
In “Content Performance Culture” – my Top 100 PR book, one of my pillars of content performance is to have the right people in the right roles. Two of those areas are the content creators and SEO strategists. They can’t live without each other in a content performance world, but how do they truly work best together? Let me share what I’ve seen work in the field.
But first, let’s get some basic definitions out of the way.
What do I mean by content creator?
Traditionally, writers would fall into this group. Then multimedia content creators who write but also dabble in other content, like quick videos. Today, I would say anyone who creates content that is intended to be published – usually on the web – falls into this category. That could be:
- Podcasters, producers, etc.
- Video shooters, editors, directors, etc.
It’s really anyone that produces content hands on. I’m a content creator right now, writing this. Keep in mind that podcasts and videos are also starting to get indexed. SEO strategies apply there as well.
What’s a SEO strategist?
SEO strategists are usually more technical in the art and science of determining the best SEO strategy for a content project. They know what terms to analyze based on the goal and find alternative words. They also often look at what competitors are ranking for when it comes to the same topical area.
One of my favorite SEO strategist stories: At the start of a project, the strategist determined that the top competitor was ranking extremely well for the top keyword. Should we go after that one? Let’s beat them! That’s an easy sentiment. But this strategist recommended that we go after the next keywords in line. It turned out that No. 2-5 still had a good volume of search traffic and were just as viable.
SEO strategists also keep on top of how rankings and algorithms evolve. That’s a full-time job in itself.
How content creators and SEO strategists can work together
When content creators and SEO strategists choose to work together, they can make their projects more successful. SEO strategies change constantly. What’s working changes. And then keep in mind that it can take months for content to drive traffic from organic searches.
At the beginning of new content creation
Content teams are facing an ever-increasing pressure to not just create content, but to create content that performs. With that in mind, content creators should really make use of all the tools and expertise at their fingertips and that includes working with SEO strategists.
I grew up in print journalism and I wrote daily stories. There was no keyword research done back then. We hadn’t even heard about it. You have a story, you figure out the best to write it – in your opinion. Then write it. An editor would edit. Done. Of course, content performance wasn’t a thing back then.
I’m the first to admit that the urge to just write what we think is a good story. We’ve done that for a while. It’s ingrained. But there are real advantages to connecting with our SEO strategist first.
Are people even searching for the topic we want to write about? I’ve had plenty of “great” ideas that nobody was searching for at all. Think zero monthly searches. Why would I write about that? Even when a topic shows zero monthly searches, a strategist can help us evolve the topic into something that does have searches.
Sure, 15 percent of daily searches have never been searched before. But it’s a gamble to produce content with the hope that somebody may potentially perhaps search for it tomorrow.
For example, “marketing emergencies” has no searches while “reduce stress” has more. While the topic is similar, picking the right words can help the content perform. That’s where an SEO strategist comes in. Many content writers can do their basic keyword search but SEO strategists can take that a level deeper. In addition, the SEO strategist can keep the site’s overall strategy in mind. Already have content that is ranking for a specific keyword phrase and update that instead. New content isn’t the only kind of content that can perform.
To update existing content
Some content pieces really do not have to be produced new. If your site already has content on Topic A and there’s new information, don’t create a new page or a new blog post. Here’s the workflow I would recommend:
- Look at how much traffic the current page draws
- What keywords is it ranking for
- What’s the potential for other keywords or improve visibility for the current one?
Most of those tasks I would put in the SEO strategist camp. If an article doesn’t perform and isn’t ranking for anything, maybe it’s okay to send it to the trash completely. It’s not performing anyway. Let’s start from scratch or repurpose pieces of it.
In fact, over the years and after many projects it seems that many sites I’ve audited have an overabundance of non-performing content. Often it looks like this:
- 5 percent of pages are home runs
- 5-25 percent are above average
- 15-25 percent are slightly above average
- 50-70 percent are under performers
That doesn’t feel good to us content creators when we look at a site and 70 percent of content isn’t living up to performance goals. Ugh. But it’s often a reality. One of my pillars of the Content Performance Philosophy is the Next-Play Mentality. Like athletes in a game, run the next play to drive results going forward.
Updating existing content doesn’t come naturally to many content creators. As the title says: Content creators create new content. They often don’t create content by updating content. Many prefer – or default rather – to creating new content. That can lead to issues with having content that is targeting the same search queries and can dilute content on our site.
That’s where SEO strategists can shine as well. They can identify the content that is a candidate for updating, deleting and repurposing in new articles.
To combine existing content
This strategy is similar to the one above. When a site has multiple similar articles like this it likely is a good strategy to combine:
- The 12 content marketing strategies that work
- 5 content marketing strategies to pursue in 2020
- 8 strategies in content marketing that are now outdated
How do these kinds of clusters of similar content happen anyway? Usually that can occur when content creators work in silos and without historical background.
What’s the best workflow?
Content ideas can come from the content team. They can also come from the SEO strategist. It doesn’t have to be a production line workflow. If an SEO strategist has an idea for content and already knows based on their research that SEO success is likely, that can help the entire team – including the content creator.
Empower SEO strategists to bring story and content ideas to the table as well.
I’m a big fan of hallway collaboration. You know the kind. A content creator and a strategist run into each other in the hallway and exchange ideas. There’s a place for this, but that process is hard to scale and we do need to look up data to make informed decisions. Certainly, that can be done to an extent end from mobile devices. I still recommend a workflow like this:
- Agree on a standard process to pass assignments and requests back and forth in a written format. Use a tool that works for most.
- In this tool, content creators can assign requests for research to a strategist. Make sure to include the current idea with topic name and potential keywords that you are thinking of targeting.
- It’s also helpful to share the audience with the strategist: Who is this content for? People might be searching for the topic in healthcare but if your client is in wellness that might not be a match.
- Add a deadline and keep in mind that not every request is an emergency.
- Consider an in-person collaboration. Or on the phone or via messaging app.
This workflow is also a two-way street. I’ve seen strategists catch content tasks that need to be considered. Examples include updating old content, combining content or creating new content for a keyword that is starting to trend up.
At the end of the day, content creators and SEO strategists have similar goals: To get their sites to get to peak performance. Marketing – which includes good content and SEO – at the end of the day is a team sport. Well-rounded teams can find ways more easily than individual players.
SEO strategists and content creators have different skill sets – all of which are needed for high-performing content. Using them as a team in a collaborative manner can drive wins quicker.