Content Development: Improve your Content Strategy for SEO
Content development is an easy way to earn more keyword rankings and customers. Learn how to improve your content development process for SEO.
What are internet users looking for when they use a search engine? Whether they want expert information, an in-depth analysis, a detailed product review, or a quick answer, they are ultimately on the hunt for good content. When they come across a piece of web content that they find valuable, they usually browse, scroll, click, share, and sometimes even link to it. If your company wants to grow it’s online presence, there’s no better way to do so then through content development — or simply providing great content to the millions of internet users who are constantly searching for it.
With 40,000 searches happening on Google every second, the search for content is not going away anytime soon. There is so much information and content available on the internet, but most of it is low-quality and doesn’t even get organic traffic from Google. The primary reason why is because Google’s algorithms prioritize content that is high-quality and will only show users the best of the best on the internet.
So if you’re a site owner that creates high-quality content, you have endless opportunities to grow your online presence, earn new customers, and reach your business goals. Content is an extremely powerful tool, but it’s hard work, and getting the most out of content extends far beyond simply doing keyword research.
Web content development is a strategic process that your business can deploy again and again. Even better, developing a solid content marketing strategy is more cost-effective than paid media, and when done well, can result in just as many clicks and conversions.
What is Content Development | Content Development and SEO | Content Development Basics | Content Development Process | Content Optimization | 11 Types of Content | Tips for Scaling Content Development
If you have a strong content creation strategy already in place but need help with optimizing that content to rank better in search results, look to our on-page optimization resources to learn how to improve keyword rankings for your best content assets.
What is Content Development?
Content development is the process of creating content from start to finish. It may sound simple, but a successful content strategy is informed by data analytics and executed with clear purposes and performance-based goals. A great piece of content will not only provide users value, it will rank for relevant keywords, generate engagement on social media sites, and most importantly, guide your website visitors toward conversion.
With its unmatched indexing power, Google dominates the search engine market share, meaning the majority of internet users go to Google first when searching for new content. Creating content then, is not only about appealing to users, but also appealing to the search engine bots that determine those top-ranking results. Google indexes every web page you create for your site, and its powerful algorithms equip those bots to not only understand what your content is about, but whether it’s high quality and relevant to what users enter into their search bar.
There are many ways to establish a content development process, but it will likely depend on the size of your team and the resources available to your brand. A single content writer or strategist will only be able to implement a modest content strategy in comparison to an SEO or digital marketing agency that has hundreds of content creators.
But regardless, it’s important for your business, whether small or enterprise-level, to have a content development plan. Thinking more strategically about content development and optimizing each step of the process can result in thousands of new keyword rankings for your website, meaning thousands of impressions that can bring more organic traffic, more conversions, and more revenue.
Content Development and SEO
One of the primary benefits of great web content development is that content can rank for multiple keywords in search engines, which can expand your market by driving new visitors to your website. However, Google’s algorithms are constantly being updated and refined, meaning SERP results fluctuate. You may have already earned a top-ranking spot for a high-value keyword, but a competitor could soon publish a more comprehensive piece of content on the same topic that Google finds higher-quality, and thus starts ranking above yours.
Google’s crawlers are advanced enough to understand not only what your content is about, but whether it is accurate, well-written, how much information and comprehensiveness it provides, and how it visibly looks and technically functions for the user in the internet browser or the type of device they are using. Site owners that want to consistently earn traffic from search have to be creating new content and updating their old content so it remains relevant to users. Google only wants to show its users the most valuable, relevant information, meaning a “set it and let it,” approach to content may work in the short-term, but not if you want to drive traffic to your website for years to come.
Creating quality content goes hand-in-hand with SEO engine optimization. There are so many SEO benefits that come from content marketing efforts. Here’s just a few of them:
- Keyword Rankings: Every piece of content you create has the potential to rank for multiple keyword phrases in Google.
- Backlinks: If you create a great piece of content, other webmasters will want to link to it. More backlinks increases your overall site authority, meaning Google will be more inclined to rank content from your domain.
- Conversions: High-quality content can help you drive users to perform a specific conversion action on your website. According to a Hubspot report, websites with more than 40 landing pages increased conversions by over 500%.
- E.A.T.: Google looks for expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. Great pieces of content help display E.A.T. for users and search engine crawlers.
- Site Traffic: If you develop great content on a consistent basis, Google will continue to rank your content and users will continue to come back to your site again and again
- Brand Awareness: Although more difficult to measure, content that includes your branding, logo, company name, or executive bylines showing up all across the internet helps improve brand recognition and reputation
Content and SEO go hand-in-hand in that there’s no point in creating a piece of content without optimizing it for search. 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine, so if you want a share of that 93%, your content has to rank. Having more pieces of content on your site — as long as they are high-quality — gives more reasons for Google to rank your website and for all of the above benefits to start flooding in.
Content Development Basics
Don’t just create a piece of content without thinking about who will read it, what goals it can accomplish for your business, or what value it brings to users and learners. As stated at the outset, content development is all about clear, concrete goals. So for every piece of content you create, you should be asking some basic content questions.
Who am I Creating this Content for?
Who is the audience engaging with your content? A user who discovers your content in a search engine will have different needs than a previous client who clicks on a content resource shared in an email marketing campaign. It’s impossible to create your content to appeal to every single audience member, but you should have a central idea of the target audience that you’re creating the content for, and try to create value based on that audience’s needs or preferences.
What is my Goal of Writing the Content?
Your content needs to have some type of purpose so you can ultimately measure its value to your brand. Do you want to drive subscribers? Rank for a specific keyword? Get published on a certain website? Having clear, performance-based goals helps you quantify the value of your investment.
For those content marketers trying to prove the worth of their efforts to executive leadership or other members of their marketing teams, having concrete, performance-based benchmarks can really help you show the return on investment for your content efforts. You can use tools like Google Analytics to understand how much traffic your content is driving to your website from search.
What Type of Content am I Creating?
The way that you choose to develop content for an infographic versus a long-form article will differ based on the accepted rules of the content type. Nothing is worse than an article that doesn’t answer the question set out by the title, or an infographic that doesn’t deliver on the visual expectations people and learners have for that medium. Every content creator needs to understand the expectations their audience will have for each piece of content type and follow those rules accordingly.
How Can I Make this Content More Valuable for the User?
We have all seen bad pieces of content. Nothing turns off a user more than a poorly written article, a badly designed infographic, or a video tutorial that doesn’t deliver on the promise laid out in the video description. Just publishing content is not enough — it needs to be high-quality.
Google’s webmaster guidelines are very clear about what they considered to be high-quality content. Review them and ask yourself whether or not your existing content assets meet the quality standards set by search engines. If not, you can’t expect that your content will magically start ranking. But if you use their guidelines as benchmarks for what every piece of content on your website should look like, there’s a better chance that your content will rank well and often.
The Content Development Process
In reality, the content development process can be as short or long as you make it. If you simply want to publish a blog post on your site and never revisit it, that’s fine, but you will miss out on so many opportunities to drive website traffic and conversions.
A good piece of content is a gift that keeps on giving, but only if you’re willing to follow a thorough process that maximizes the value of each piece of content you create. At LinkGraph, we break down the content cycle into eight essential steps.
- Ideate: Determine your topic, subtopics, audience, content type, and the specific purposes or goals for the content, whether ranking for a particular keyword, generating email addresses or subscribers, getting video views and shares, or some other performance-based goal.
- Research: Gather the sources and information you need to produce a quality piece of content. As you create, include outbound links to the external sources that you reference and internal links to the relevant content that already exists on your own website.
- Create: Transform that research into an informative, structured, readable, engaging, and valuable piece of written, visual, audio, or interactive content. Make sure the content includes solid information architecture and interactive elements like jump links, rich media, or expandable content modules.
- Optimize: Optimize your content for the keyword target you want the content to rank for. Use a tool like the LinkGraph landing page optimizer to identify relevant Focus terms or Latent-Semantic Indexing (LSI) terms that Google will see as relevant to certain keyword phrases. Make sure the content is optimized on the front-end and also on the back-end with HTML tags and technicals like heading tags and meta descriptions.
- Publish: Publish the content on your website or pitch your content to a reputable, authoritative website in your industry niche.
- Promote: Promote the content through social media channels, email marketing, and link building campaigns. If your budget allows, you can also use social media advertising or paid media to drive traffic to your content.
- Repurpose: Find ways to repurpose the content into other pieces of content, whether expanding a blog post into an ebook, creating an infographic from a section of a long-form article, or using clips from your webinar to share as social media posts.
- Repeat: After time has passed, promote your content again to users who may have missed it the first time or now have new reasons to find the content valuable. After 6 months, make sure you update the piece of content with any necessary numbers, figures, or information so it can stay evergreen and meet Google’s content quality-signals.
Content Development and On-Page Optimization
When it comes to optimizing your content for search engines, you can reference our ebook for a more detailed guide. Optimization is a crucial step in the content development process if you want your content to rank and accomplish your strategic goals. We don’t cover optimization in-detail in this post, but here are a few key highlights to keep in mind when thinking about how to improve your overall content development strategy for SEO.
Keyword Targets vs. Topic Clusters
For years, general SEO wisdom has stated that every piece of content on your website should target the specific keywords or search phrases that you want to rank for. This has guided content strategy across industries, and most SEO writers still optimize the pieces of content they create for a single keyword target.
This is still an appropriate strategy for sites who want to rank and can prove successful, but keywords continue to grow more competitive and difficult to rank for. Also, Google crawlers no longer just see the keyword target located in your page titles and heading tags, but they are advanced enough to really understand your content semantically. Google also understands the various subtopics and long-tail keyword phrases users enter into the search bar that have a close relationship to those primary keywords.
For this reason, topic clusters — or content clusters — are a better way to frame your overall content development process. Think about the primary services that your business offers and has expertise in — those will form the “pillar pages,” of your website (most likely a home page, your service pages, category pages, etc). To form the content cluster, create multiple pieces of content that explore subtopics of those primary categories with detail, nuance, and a lot of topical depth. Then, make sure you link back to your primary pillar pages with every new piece of content your create in a cluster.
For example, if you provide financial planning services, you’re topics of expertise may include stock trading, retirement planning, or family trusts. Content you may create for each cluster could include, “Best ETFs of 2021,” “How to maintain your standard of living in retirement,” or “How to set up a Nevada Asset Protection Trust.”
With multiple high-quality content clusters linking back to your pillar pages, Google crawlers will associate your entire website as an authority on those key parent topics. Here’s a visual example of what topic clustering looks like:
And here’s an example of what those pieces of content may look like in a specific industry:
Topic clusters are a way to think about your content development process for the long-term. Google’s algorithms have changed and grown more complex over the years, but Google’s desire to rank high-quality, authoritative content from experts hasn’t. Topic clusters are a way to establish your authority and expertise, and therefore get Google associating your brand name not just with a single keyword, but with the thousands of keyword phrases that have relevance to your related field.
In order for your content to rank in search engines, you need to make sure that it is optimized on both the frontend and backend. This is why good website developers are so important. When it comes down to it, Google is a robot, and making sure the HTML side of your website clearly communicates what your content is about is a way to help Google help you.
Uploading an XML sitemap in Google Search Console is also very important as you scale up your content development. The more landing pages and content assets that you add to your site, the more important a site map becomes so Google crawlers understand which web pages of your domain are the most important.
It’s also necessary to think about what users see in search engines before they click and engage with your content. Title tags, meta descriptions, and even features like schema.org markup will change how your SERP results visually appear on the page in comparison to your competitors. Remember, users won’t really get a grasp of the quality of your content until after they have already clicked on the SERP result, so make sure that you optimize the title tag and meta description so users are encouraged to click.
11 Types of Content your Brand Should be Creating
There are so many types of content your business can create to use for digital marketing and SEO purposes. Most likely, the types of content you choose will be limited by the resources of your team. Infographics will require a skilled illustrator or graphic designer. Video tutorials will require quality A/V equipment and video editing software. In general, the ideal content development team will include content writers, UI/UX designers, graphic designers, videographers, illustrators, web developers, software developers, and a skilled digital PR team.
If your business doesn’t have the ability to employ all of these people right away, that is okay. If your business only consists of one core product, you may not need to be developing all 11 types of the below content. However, because users have so many options when it comes to content on the internet, it’s easy to lose their interest quickly. Thinking creatively about the content you create, and producing a variety of content types, is more likely to produce the clicks, page views, sessions, and conversions it takes to reach your business goals.
Here are 11 different types of content that your brand can create in your content development process.
Adding a blog to your website is one of the simplest and best ways to start implementing a content marketing strategy. Most content management systems make regularly publishing a blog post simple, and have the features to help you add rich media, jump links, or design elements that elevate the overall page experience for users. If you don’t have a content writer or strategist on your team, a digital marketing agency like LinkGraph can provide blog writing services.
In some ways, you can think of an ebook as a really long blog post, but ebooks are more technical and often include design elements that encourage a user to engage with the content for a longer period of time. Ebooks are meant to be instructional in nature and provide the audience extensive information on a topic in a specific industry niche. Ebooks can also serve as reference sources that other writers want to cite or link to in their content, and therefore can be easily used for link building campaigns.
When your content team needs a break from all of the writing, you can offer live webinars to your existing leads. Holding a live webinar provides an opportunity to offer a more personalized experience with question and answer sessions, demos, or other features. Recording those webinars and putting them on YouTube or a video page on your site means those previous live events become permanent content assets that can drive future organic traffic and conversions.
Like webinars, tutorials are video assets that provide instructional value and are more often than not connected to a specific product or service that you offer. For B2B and SaaS companies in particular, tutorial videos can help highlight the unique features and the multiple applications of your products. If you provide a software or business intelligence product, tutorials are a crucial way to also establish your expertise and authority in your vertical and to make sure customers are getting the most from your services. Tutorial videos are a great way to build customer loyalty and encourage email and YouTube subscribers.
Another engaging visual asset that is great for content marketing purposes is an infographic. Infographics can exist on their own or be paired with blog posts and long-form articles, but they provide engaging data visualizations and usually include custom graphic design or illustrations. Google also loves visual representations of data, and informative, optimized infographics often rank for multiple keywords in Google image searches.
Case studies are detailed, data-driven documents that examine how your products or services have produced concrete results for a customer or client. Case studies often follow a “Problem/Solution,” structure, and show improvements based on metrics and industry-specific KPIs like sales, website traffic, customer-acquisition costs, and more.
White papers are similar to ebooks in that they are authoritative, comprehensive explorations of topics, but they are usually more tied to specific moments in time, current events, or present day issues (e.g. “Digital Marketing in the time of Coronavirus”). White papers most often include original research or methodology, executive summaries, charts and graphs, and are organized with a top-level structure that makes for easy scanning.
Email Marketing Campaigns
Consistently reaching out to your existing customers, leads, and subscribers is a great way to show the value of your products, services, and brand. Emails that are too sales-focused often go unopened, ignored, or unsubscribed to. However, using email marketing to make your contact list aware of your content resources–also called information marketing–helps emails feel less annoying and more valuable to the user.
Social Media Posts
Having a consistent social media presence is beneficial for brands of all sizes. Although it’s not as easy to build an organic following on social media sites as it once was, social media provides another platform through which to share the content that you create and drive traffic to your website. If you run paid media campaigns on social platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn, your advertisements can promote or link to content on your site that provides value to your target audience.
Slideshares are visual presentations that can be shared on social media platforms like LinkedIn. Like infographics and webinars, slideshares provide a visual experience for internet users who respond well to visually engaging experiences. Slideshares can focus on many topics, but turning your reports, white papers, webinars, and tutorials into Slideshare presentations can be a great way to maximize the value of that previous content and present it through a new medium.
Another increasingly popular type of content that more brands are creating are podcasts. For B2B and B2C brands in particular, podcasts are a great way to display expertise, highlight the applications of your products, as well as create value-for-value exchanges by featuring other industry experts through interviews or guest speaker opportunities. You should offer your podcast on the Apple podcasts platform and have a dedicated page on your site for your recent podcast episodes.
Off-site Content you should also be Creating
On-site content is important to bring traffic to your website and help guide users toward conversion, but creating content for off-site purposes like reputation management, public relations, and link building is equally important in your content development process. Off-site content provides you the opportunity to link back to the content assets that live permanently on your site while also elevating your site authority in the eyes of Google.
Many online publications accept guest posts submissions from experts in their same industry or field. Guest posts provide the opportunity to reach a new audience, to earn backlinks, and to develop mutually beneficial relationships with other webmasters. Site owners are always looking for great content, and if you can provide them with a high-quality piece of content, it’s considered a win-win for both parties.
Most content marketers prioritize evergreen content because it ranks well in Google for the long-term, but the news cycle often brings opportunities for experts to weigh in. Opinion pieces are a great way to get published in high-domain authority sites like online newspapers that would otherwise be hard backlinks to acquire. Pay attention to the major breakthroughs, stories, and newsworthy events that happen in your industry so you can find the perfect time to weigh in.
Long-form Articles/Original Research/Reports
Like guest posts, long-form articles provide you the opportunity to provide a piece of content to another site owner. Although long-form articles are great for your own site as well, sharing that research with other members of your industry is a great way to build your expertise and reputation as an authority in your vertical.
Tips for Scaling your Content Development Strategy
The ability to grow your content development will ultimately be limited by the scope of your resources and/or team members. Creating high-quality content is a lot of work, which is why many businesses outsource their content creation to digital marketing or SEO agencies like LinkGraph who have the infrastructure and resources to produce content at scale. Here are a few tips for scaling up your content development.
#1. Hire Content Writers and Strategists
If you are just starting to improve on your content development process, adding a full-time content writer or strategist should be one of the first steps. If you cannot bring someone on full-time, there are freelance writers who can create blogs and on-site content on a part-time or contract basis. Ultimately, you will want a writer who is a skilled researcher and has familiarity with your industry, audience, and knows how to optimize for SEO.
#2: Think Bigger About your Content Strategy
Every single piece of content that you create isn’t just one piece of content — it’s multiple pieces of content. A blog post about one topic can be expanded into an in-depth ebook. A single concept covered in an ebook can be visualized in an infographic. An infographic can be shared on Instagram, LinkedIn, or can be pitched to other publications in a digital PR campaign.
Having duplicate content on your website can result in Google penalties, which is why step 7 in our content development process is called “Repurpose.” Once you create a high-quality piece of content, you can use it as a foundation to create other new types of content that provide similar information or topics, but in a different medium or content type.
Thinking about each piece of content you create as multiple pieces of content is a great way to scale up your content development process so you can be a brand that is not only known for your products and services, but known for creating tons of great content and resources.
#3. Develop an Editorial Calendar
Getting on a schedule and setting deadlines is essential to scaling your content development process. Editorial calendars are publishing schedules that include topics, deadlines, and target keywords, and guide the process of creating content across multiple channels.
#4. Outsource your Content Development to a Digital Marketing Agency
If you don’t have the resources in-house to operate content development at scale, that’s where an SEO and digital marketing agency like LinkGraph comes in. With over 1000+ pieces of original content per month, our 50+ editorial team knows what it takes to create content that ranks and to do so on a tight schedule. Brand new websites that want to grow quickly can benefit from outsourcing the content development process, as well as corporations or enterprise-level organizations that need optimized on-site or off-site content at scale.
Closing Thoughts on Improving your Content Development
When done right, improving your content development process can have so many positive results for your brand. It’s possible that your business has mastered certain stages of the process like research and content creation, but could benefit from streamlining or revamping other parts of the process like promotion or repurposing. Maybe you’re at the stage where you need to hire your first full-time writer or maybe your brand has grown large enough where you need more content than you can realistically create in-house.
Regardless of where your content development process currently stands, a site audit can help you pinpoint the areas where your process needs the most improvement. Content creation is such an essential part of your marketing and SEO strategy, and it’s worth taking the time to measure your current progress so you can direct your efforts to those areas that need the most attention.
Remember that content development is one of the most cost-effective ways you can grow your business or brand. If you start investing more time in your content development strategy, you will begin to see the rewards at every level of your organization. And if you’re ready to start scaling up your content strategy, talk to one of our experts.