SEO and Content Marketing: A Match Made In Heaven (And How to Do It Correctly)

If you want to take your brand from average to exceptional, content marketing is the way to go.

General Electric engages their target audiences with a variety of content, such as 3D printed airplanes and the science of playing the piano.

HubSpot educates their customers with marketing courses and webinars.

Patagonia inspires leads and visitors to aid in conservation efforts and reach impossible heights.

However, the success they generate from content marketing would not be possible without search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is how potential customers find you and your content. Through the regular optimization of your titles, metadata, format, and load times, you make it easier for Google, YouTube, and other search engines to crawl and correlate your material with the right topics.

That's why consistent SEO and excellent content marketing are perfect for generating consistent growth on your site. But that growth only comes from using each medium to it's fullest potential.

How To Leverage Content Marketing And SEO

If you can commit to well-crafted, authoritative, and compelling content marketing, it will have a dramatic impact on SEO power. All it takes is the right process and tools for each medium.

Otherwise, you'll invest a lot of time and energy in creating and optimizing content that won't drive results. That's how a lot of companies lose faith in content marketing and search. That's why we use the following tactics to avoid common content and search challenges that prevent growth.

#1. Build Content Around A Strong Keyword

Keyword research and analysis is all about opportunity. When you start conducting keyword research you're looking for available website real estate. Where are there gaps in reliable content? What questions are other companies not answering?

Conducting the best possible keyword research and analysis is critical for success content and SEO. When you fail to choose the right keywords for your SEO, you'll risk:

  • Pursuing broad, general terms that don't get enough traffic to be worthwhile
  • Competing with content that will be too difficult to outrank

To avoid this, you should brainstorm potential keywords and grade them using tools like SEMrush, Moz, and Google Analytics.

We use a Google Sheets spreadsheet to record the keywords we want, then score each of them individually. It looks like this:


From there, we grade them using a few factors, such as:

You can use the same approach to conduct keyword research, and increase your chances of getting your content found by the right customer.

#2. Map Out A Topic Roadmap

Without a plan, your content will be all over the place. It's like throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks. You may find some success in the short-term, but you will fail to achieve consistent organic growth.

And with content and SEO, you're playing the long game.

That's why you want to connect your content and establish an internal linking structure on your website. Internal linking will send signals to Google to help put the structure of your site into context and make it easier to crawl.

You can start out with a topic roadmap, and document all of the subjects that cover your primary areas of expertise. HubSpot is an excellent example of this. The company has experience in a lot of specific topics, such as using video marketing to drive client value and how to use Instagram for marketing.

But neither of those topics are their core areas of expertise. The overarching subjects that HubSpot covers are sales, marketing, and customer service. All of the blog posts, webinars, videos, and infographics that follow relate to one of those subjects in more specificity.

Once you select the topics, you can assign topic clusters and put together a plan. Each of these topics informs value-driven pillar pages with more in-depth insight into those core areas.

Here's a session from INBOUND 2017 that explains the value of this approach.


The topic roadmap will inform your entire content strategy. After that, you can create pillar pages using HubSpot's Content Strategy feature and topic cluster tool.

#3. Keep Content Customer-Centric

If your content isn't right, it won't engage your customer or outperform competing content. That means it probably will not rank.

That's why you want to create content your audience wants (instead of what you think they want.) Assets that are customer-centric will deliver more ROI, and gain more trust from your target audience.

To keep our content customer-focused, we use a few different strategy documents. We typically use this suite of templates for website strategy, but it's also very helpful in generating accurate, game-changing insights about our customers.

For instance, The Lean Startup Canvas is perfect to get the best picture of the customer's current mindset and obstacles.


From those insights, we can come up with ideas for content that help our customer move forward in their decision-making process.

Here are a few other documents we use:

  • Buyer Personas - The details that define each fictional character in your marketing audience.
  • Buyer Journey - The process that your buyers go through when deciding between solutions.
  • Customer Journey Map - An overview of the real-life experience your customer has with your product and solution.
  • The Lean Startup Canvas - A one-page business model that matches your ideal customer and documents their frustrations, challenges, and watering holes.

All of this information helps color our content and makes it more engaging. Tyler Naples, an Inbound Marketer here at Lean Labs, also has a few blog writing tips to make content even more exciting and shareable.

#4. Create A Structure For Your Metadata

In the hustle and bustle of publishing content, it's easy to overlook or rush through updating your metadata. It happens to all of us. But it's essential to update that information for both Google (and other search engines) and your customer.

For example, your meta description needs to do two jobs. It needs to tell Google what your content is about, and it also needs to act as a preview for your customer. has an excellent example of how you should treat metadata with this look at various Starbucks Coffee website pages.


The text varies by page and matches the content for each one.

Your alt text is critical. If your CMS cannot locate your image, the alt text will be visible to your reader. That can happen if your visitor has a slow Internet connection or the image breaks. The alt text also tells Google the content of the photo.

As a result, your alt text needs some effort. It should also be descriptive and provide the reader with a visual even without the use of an image.

For example, the photo below is a bear, and it's cub, but without the image, you wouldn't know what type, color, or size.


The alt text for this photo could be "Female Brown Grizzly Bear and Six Month Year Old Cub" instead of "mother bear and cub."

That's why we use a marketing metadata nomenclature to set expectations around metadata like the description and the alt text to ensure we're always following best practices.

#5. Commit to Routine Optimization

By optimizing your content, you're making it easier for Google and other search engines to find, crawl, and get your data in front of the right customer. However, a lot of people see optimization as a one-time thing.

In truth, search patterns can change. Things throughout your blog and website can break, and detract from the customer experience. Information in assets that aren't evergreen needs a fresh from time to time. All of those reasons contribute to the need for ongoing optimization.

You can stay on top of your optimization with a consistent process for it. Search Engine Land has an excellent guide on how to conduct optimization, including:

Another factor of routine optimization is reporting. When you keep track of content performance, you can notice drastic declines in traffic, which can indicate a problem with that content. You can quickly optimize or refresh material to keep it up to date and prevent future lulls.

You can use tools like HubSpot Reporting and reports from Google Analytics to monitor your organic traffic month-by-month.

Additional Resources

If you want to learn even more about SEO and content marketing, here are a few other resources we recommend.

SEO and Content Marketing: Only The Strong Survive

Our CEO, Kevin Barber, has a saying about growth. You only get it if you deserve it. When it comes to SEO and content marketing, the principle is the same. If your content is excellent, you will get excellent results. If your content isn't, you won't get much from it. And with all of the time, expenses, and resources that go into content marketing and SEO, it doesn't make sense not to go all in.

Why create content that your customer won't use? You may as well fine-tune your approach, and start generating assets that provide tremendous value for your reader. If you create this kind of content, waiting for results from organic traffic will be worthwhile, because at least you will be helping your customers in the meantime.

We believe that content marketing and SEO are even better when you align them with an inbound marketing strategy. If you're ready to do the climb, check out our free guide, Conquering the Inbound Marketing Mountain

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