Search marketing and content marketing are undeniably linked. Search helps brands get found in a crowded marketplace, while content provides the opportunity to make connections. Marketers know this: 30% of marketers said higher search engine rankings were the primary goals for their content marketing programs, according to a recent report from Clutch, a research, ratings and reviews company. (The only goal that was higher was brand awareness — 49% — which is no doubt a function of search.)
“[Search optimization] is all about online visibility,” Sarah Patrick, senior content marketer at Clutch and the report’s author, tells Search Insider. “It connects to content marketing because one way to attain this online visibility is to show up organically in response to a user’s search query, and the best way to do this is by producing great content.”
Yet many marketers are still struggling with what “great content” is. Some are cranking out volumes of content in hopes of having something stick to the wall, while others are generating content that doesn’t do much to separate them from the rest of the competitive pack. As the field gets more crowded, the ability to stand out gets harder.
“Content that ranks in search engines in response to a searcher’s query goes above and beyond: it’s data-driven, presents a unique perspective, is comprehensive,” Patrick says.
The report suggests a different way, creating what Patrick calls “strategic content,” which meets an audience’s requirements with information that goes beyond the traditional avenues to provide something unique and original. According to the study, many content marketers are relying on research and original data and infographics for their content output when other types — research-backed and/or opinion-forming articles, for instance — get more links and shares. And, in turn, better search rankings.
“[Infographics] are relatively easy to create because of the numerous tools and templates available,” Patrick says. “But the problem is that they lack originality if everyone uses the same template.”
To perform well in search, content marketers need to create something that’s unique, emphasizes quality and authority, and is high quality. So many people are producing content that “good enough” will no longer do, Patrick says.
That means not only knowing what competitors and colleagues might be producing, but also understanding what you can add to the conversation. (It also means knowing your audience; only 14% of content marketers create audience personas before creating content, according to the report.) The report outlines this as an equation: “Audience Intent (who is this for) + Context (why should they care) + So What Factor (what makes it unique).”
“Content that performs the best – by accruing social shares, earning media and links and ranking and becoming evergreen – has to take into consideration a number of factors,” Patrick says. “If you’re thinking strategically before even writing an introduction or choosing a topic, you’ll identify your goal and format the content in a way that will help you reach this goal.”
Easier said than done. Like everything, producing strategic content requires practice and lots of trial-and-error. Creators must not only be able to communicate their ideas, they also have to connect with the consumers, present information in a unique way and format the content in a way that is visually and informationally appealing, Patrick says.
“Doing all of this takes a lot of practice and experimentation to figure out what works for your company’s particular audience and how to create high-quality, unique content in general,” she says.
That can be scary and difficult, especially when budgets are tight. But, as with most things that are worth doing, “easy” is rarely an apt descriptor.