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Give a Little, Get a Lot: How Superstar SEOs Use Content to Outshine Their Peers

Nathan Safran
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At Conductor, we recently published a comprehensive research study that analyzed the behaviors, tactics and strategies of superstar SEOs—search marketers who are more confident and achieve better results than the industry average.

The research surveyed 380 search marketers across a wide spectrum of topics related to how they practice SEO, their organization, tactical execution and strategy. From the original group, we segmented out ‘superstar SEOs’—those SEOs who self-assessed higher than their peers and also demonstrated an ability to grow search traffic and conversions at a rate far higher than their peer group.

Our analysis revealed several strategies that superstar SEOs use to achieve success. In this article, I’m going to focus on a key insight around how Superstar SEOs approach content in today’s post-Panda/Penguin/Hummingbird quality content landscape. Also, I’ll provide a few examples that will flesh out the insight in greater detail. If you want to read about all the strategies of SEO Superstars that our research uncovered, you can download the full study.

Superstar SEOs Are Involved in Content Creation from the Beginning

Our analysis showed that when it comes to content creation, Superstar SEOs have overwhelmingly found a way out of the ‘bolt-on SEO after the fact’ trap that holds organizations back from achieving search success.

Sixty-six percent of superstars reported involvement with content creation at the beginning of the content process, while less than one out of 10 (9 percent) remain involved only at the end. This is compared to ‘non-superstars’ who become involved mostly at the end and in the middle of content creation.

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In our follow up interviews with the superstars, many pointed to early involvement in content as the single most important action any SEO can take towards SEO success. They stated loud and clear: “Early SEO involvement in content creation is critical to natural search success.”

Getting Yourself Involved vs. Waiting to Get Involved

It was recently the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s famed Gettysburg address, so I think it only appropriate that we look at what he says about waiting to be involved vs. involving oneself:

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This certainly applies to digital marketers. Looking at the data and parsing the follow-up interviews, superstars consistently told us this about content creation:

It’s Not ‘Wait for Someone to Involve You Early.’

It’s ‘Get Yourself Involved Early.’

This can be challenging. Some of you might be thinking, “Been there, tried that.” You may have been met with: “Don’t tell me how to write my content,” “I’m too busy writing content to talk with you about how I should write content,” or any number of variations on that theme. But, given how important superstars emphasize early involvement is, it’s worth another look.

I Come Bearing SEO Gifts

I’d like to suggest an approach that begins with bringing ‘gifts’—search insight that will help content creators do their jobs more effectively—either by giving them new content ideas or by mapping their efforts to organizational business goals.

I’m going to give you two examples, leveraging data from distinct sources. They may not map precisely to your business; my goal is to get you thinking about the kinds of insight you can bring to your content team that they would find valuable. Show them how SEO can improve the direction and impact of their content, and soon they’ll be asking you to get ‘involved early’ without prompting.

Our first example is from Google Analytics. The latest version of Demographic insight about your site visitors is extractable with just a few clicks.

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Looking at the geographic section of the demographic data shows a distribution of visits by location. In the example below, I copied the info into Excel and within three minutes produced a chart that showed a distribution of traffic by major geographic regions. The process showed that the majority of traffic came from North America, with barely one in ten from Asia/PAC.

Imagine there’s an executive directive to spread internationally; you could take this insight to your content people and say, “Right now, our site gets barely one in ten visitors is from the Asia/PAC region. Since it’s a key business goal to increase international traffic, let’s build some content that caters to that region.”

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Capture Low Hanging Fruit – Use SEO to Find Easy Content Wins

Our next example draws on search ranking data. For visualization purposes, the screenshots below are from Conductor Searchlight, but there are other ways to find this data.

In the example below, I sorted keywords by Google rank and the level of competition—less competition, of course, means that it’s easier to move your keywords up the search rankings. I sorted so that keywords ranking at the bottom of page one, top of page two and low competition keywords were displayed. Once I’ve isolated these keywords, I can take them to my content team and say, “We’re on the top of page one/top of page two for these low competition keywords. Let’s make some content and get to the top of page one!”

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If You Come Bearing Gifts, You’ll Get Invited In

Superstar SEOs point to early involvement in content creation as one of the most important things any SEO can do to achieve search success. Don’t just try to wedge yourself into the content creation process; consider the ‘bringing gifts’ approach.

Think about the kind of insight you can bring to your content creation team that will help them do their job in a more focused and effective manner. Start a dialogue that will result in your being involved early and often in your organization’s content creation process.


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