Despite the benefits of aligning strategies, marketing and SEO managers don’t always have the same goals when it comes to promoting content, from what I have observed with clients and partners.
Often, SEO professionals are striving to meet their key performance indicators (KPIs) on time, yet depend on the output of the marketing team for success.
Meanwhile, the marketing department strives to deliver a long-term content strategy guided by the broader goals of the CEO and subsequent priorities of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) to advance brand awareness and demand generation strategies, to name but a few.
It is often the macro view of these goals which can lead to SEO not being leveraged to its full potential due to the time taken to yield results or attribute value.
While SEO strategies are often long-term, they are fundamental to maximizing the potential of content marketing and delivering the demand performance to boost exponential growth.
In this article, I present a four-step strategy to align both teams and make sure their goals are met, as well as four best practices to establish harmony between your SEO and marketing efforts.
4-Step Strategy To Balance SEO And B2B Marketing Goals
Avoid ambiguity and establish clear protocols for your creatives to make sure both marketing and SEO goals are met.
1. Create A Brand And Style Guide With SEO In Mind
To ensure SEO and marketing strategies are completely aligned, it is important for brand and style guides to consider SEO.
In other words, rather than SEO being an afterthought, it should be a key component of the marketing process – particularly for content marketing.
Dedicating a chapter to SEO in the brand and content style guides will solidify this relationship and set tasks for SEO pros to advance brand awareness.
This shifts the common “adjust content to rank for SEO” mindset toward the more effective “optimize SEO for marketing” approach, which is especially important for businesses that rely on writers and freelancers to be in charge of their own SEO efforts.
To maintain an amicable tug-of-war between CMO and SEO goals, it is also important for the marketing strategy to allow keywords that rank well but may bend grammatical rules (or not use the C-Suite’s preferred language).
An example is “top of funnel” as an adjective, which ranks better for SEO than the grammatically correct “top-of-funnel.”
Additional tips on what to include in the brand and style guides:
- Suggested and prohibited SEO keyword lists, so managers, new hires, and freelancers can consult the guides easily to avoid ranking for keywords deemed irrelevant.
- List of branded terms that can’t be adjusted for SEO, so the CMO and the marketing team don’t see their strategy impacted by keywords and branded terms that have been “tweaked” to rank better for SEO.
- Key content topics: Define key topics in the guide to advance brand awareness and rank for SEO. Implementing this in the guides (rather than only in a content calendar) makes the content strategy definitive and provides expectations for SEO managers to plan their long-term strategy.
2. Optimize Each Content Asset For SEO And Marketing Goals
Ideally, all content should rank for SEO.
However, the goal of each content piece will likely differ based on the topic covered, its search intent, as well as its role in brand awareness and shaping audience opinion.
Thought leadership, for instance, may present a challenge for implementing SEO, particularly if the author is pitching an innovative, original idea for their audience that has no search intent yet.
In this case, it is better to prioritize “marketing goals” and optimize to boost ranking where possible rather than guide content creation with SEO. This ensures content meets its purpose.
Consider amplifying reach via content syndication and paid media to boost the impact of this content.
On the other hand, content that is highly influenced by search intent, such as FAQs or guides, should focus on SEO first and foremost to inform content creation and rank better for highly-searched queries.
While branding may take a backseat here, it’s important that this content remains aligned.
Thus, to meet both outcomes, planning each piece of content beforehand with a marketing or SEO focus helps to determine KPIs for each asset – as well as guide the production and promotion of content to meet these goals effectively.
However, it is important to strive for harmony between CMO and SEO goals by establishing shared KPIs whenever possible and creating content that advances brand awareness while also ranking for popular queries.
3. Survey Your Audience To Measure The Impact Of SEO On Marketing
Survey your audience to assess if marketing goals are being met with content, as well as the impact of SEO on marketing strategies.
By asking questions about the values your audience associates with your brand as well as the top keywords that come to mind (to evaluate SEO priorities), you can gauge if the overall impression your audience currently forms of your brand is on par with the CMO and marketing team’s goals.
It is important to mention (particularly in this step) that SEO should be seen as a promotion tool for driving brand awareness and long-lasting demand.
Therefore, if the survey results point to values or keywords that are SEO-driven, yet don’t meet marketing expectations, then it is important to adjust the SEO-focused content to deliver the intended brand messaging.
If you wish to test certain assets or topics, then A/B test a “marketing-driven” and “SEO-driven” version to see which engages readers better, as well as survey their brand impressions.
This will provide plenty of intel to guide future content creation for your writers.
4. Create A Content Calendar And Hold Regular Meetings Between Marketing And SEO Managers
After assessing how your audience views your brand, it is time to create a content calendar to address possible unintended brand associations the public has made – all while meeting SEO goals.
Plan your content calendar per quarter, establishing “marketing” and “SEO” goals per topic/asset.
For SEO content, such as pure search intent content, outline the keywords beforehand to avoid unintended off-brand impressions after the content is launched.
As for the marketing content, establish goals for yielding engagement and the purpose of the content (to drive awareness or lead generation, for example), as well as branding goals and promotion methods – since SEO will not be the primary option for driving traffic.
Hold regular meetings between the marketing and SEO managers to discuss the metrics and impressions of the campaign as it is ongoing.
Social listening tools can assess the impact of the content and guide adjustments for writers before the next assets are promoted.
By gauging audience impressions while the campaign is ongoing, it becomes easier to adjust live content on a case-by-case basis, as well as change topics/assets to meet goals in the case of shared KPIs suffering.
4 Best Practices To Maintain Common Ground Between CMO And SEO Needs
Employ these four best practices to maintain harmony between marketing and SEO:
1. Onboard Writers With Marketing And SEO Dos And Don’ts
Onboarding writers, freelance or otherwise, is a crucial task for maintaining brand voice and content goals.
Considering that, it is also important to create an onboarding guide for writers that covers SEO dos and don’ts alongside additional training resources.
Typically, new writers will not be familiar with the minutia of your branding and style guides, so clarifying how to promote brand awareness correctly (such as boilerplate language, product descriptions, recommended adjectives, and allowed/forbidden keywords) will provide guidance for them to meet both marketing and SEO goals.
2. Utilize Social Listening
As mentioned previously, leveraging social listening tools can help to define your audience’s sentiment toward your brand and evaluate the results of your overall messaging.
This, combined with survey feedback, will help you make critical adjustments.
As a result, social listening tools are perhaps the most valuable weapon in your arsenal to balance CMO and SEO needs, so utilize them frequently to collect insights and guide future content creation.
Another approach is to search for your brand name and products on forums and social media channels manually, gaining insights from the way your audience comments on your solutions to evaluate if the discourse is aligned with your intended messaging and current SEO priorities.
3. Develop A Detailed Content Strategy
To meet your overarching content marketing and SEO goals, establish a strategy based on your content calendar to ensure that any content produced has a key role in driving your desired outcomes.
This should include how content pieces interlink and support one another, regardless of whether they are marketing or SEO-driven.
For example, start by defining an innovative thought leadership piece and link this out to supplementary videos, short blog posts, and podcast episodes.
As you analyze the performance of this content piece, you will be able to expand the topic to match the ICP’s buyer journey and search intent.
This could take the shape of a foundational SEO-focused piece for the topic that matches search intent and acts as a hub linking out to all the supplementary content that also ranks for keywords to drive brand traffic.
This strategy, combined with a consistent publishing cadence for your editorial calendar, will ensure that campaigns meet intended marketing and SEO outcomes.
While having content that speaks to marketing and SEO focuses independently, interlinking and guiding content with a long-term strategy is essential.
The best-performing content pieces are those that blend both priorities, establishing harmony between ranking for SEO keywords and leading the way in your industry with innovative thought leadership.
If done successfully, this will build long-term demand generation for your business.
4. Establish Joint Paid Media And Social Media Strategies And Goals
Bridge the gap between CMO and SEO by building upon both focuses with complimentary paid media and social media goals/strategies.
By viewing both as promotion methods for marketing and SEO goals, it is possible to fine-tune when to utilize paid media and social media to boost a variety of content pieces across a campaign that supports both SEO and marketing initiatives.
The more developed your content strategy and calendar, the better interlinked your content will be, facilitating your ability to craft omnichannel campaigns that deliver on all KPIs.
Meeting the demands of both the CMO and SEO manager requires a mindful approach that balances ranking in search engine results pages with promoting positive brand awareness.
This article presents best practices and a four-step strategy to achieve this balance, however, there are additional elements that you can incorporate into your content calendar to better meet CMO and SEO goals.
Developing a content strategy for the top-of-the-funnel (TOFU) stage, where search intent is less niche, is a good example of how to advance brand awareness while ranking for highly searched keywords.
You can then utilize this foundation to incentivize the lead to go through the buyer’s journey and consume thought-provoking, innovative content optimized with more specific keywords that further your marketing efforts.
By considering content marketing and SEO as two sides of the same coin, you can better align content creation to feed into each other, build an overall positive brand experience for your audience, and therefore leverage the full potential of your marketing efforts to drive demand.
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