For years, content marketers and Google have engaged in a fascinating game of cat and mouse. With each new update to their search engine, Google reminds us not to try pleasing their algorithm. Content marketers will retort, “of course!”—focusing on creating great content for the reader. But if you ask any search engine optimization (SEO) expert who defines the standard for great content: the universal answer is Google.
A great content marketing strategy calls for direction, planning, and organization. There’s no question that strategy will also align with Google’s ranking signals when done right.
We’re going to examine three of the most common approaches that may have worked sometime in the past but are unlikely to bear much fruit going forward.
We’ll also provide content marketing tips for 2023, so you can replace ineffective processes with new strategies that will prime you for success.
3 Main Content Marketing Plans That Didn’t Work
Content marketing requires an understanding of the subject and the reader. It also means measuring your success to improve your content marketing strategy over time.
Let’s look at three content marketing techniques best left in the past and, more importantly, what to do instead.
1. Creating Content Optimized for Google—Not the User
You may be asking yourself, “why can’t I write for both”? We’re glad you asked.
The answer is you can, and you should. The distinction is to put your audience first, then optimize your content in keeping with Google’s preferences.
There’s an interesting paradox at play. In a roundabout way, following Google’s recommendations simultaneously requires you to ignore them. It’s not unlike judges at an Olympic event telling the athletes not to get nervous—“just pretend we’re not here.”
Strategists make the mistake of designing their campaigns around preconceived notions, emphasizing keywords and a content schedule. These certainly matter, but they should be factored in later in the creation process.
What to do instead: Place the reader’s needs first
The first steps in your content marketing strategy should center around understanding the subject matter and the audience, in order to maintain a people-first strategy.
This means knowing the audience’s demographics and how competitors approach similar content.
2. Creating Content Solely Based on Keyword Research
Great keywords are vital to a successful campaign, but they shouldn’t be the primary focus of your content. Did we actually say that out loud? Yes, and it’s a good thing we did! Don’t worry—the emphasis is on the word “solely.”
Too often, content marketing strategies go from understanding an industry straight to keyword discovery. SEO experts work so hard to serve Google’s algorithms that they tend to lose perspective on why Google designed them in the first place.
Google’s happy to provide valuable data with search results and their keyword planner, but with the purpose of serving up the best results.
The key to effectively using keywords in your content marketing plan is to identify the driving purpose behind them. When keyword research is done at the beginning of a strategy, it’s far too easy to miss your target audience’s actual needs.
There are three main reasons people prioritize keywords too early in their process:
- Keywords are the gateway to your brand’s visibility. Without ranking keywords, your audience can’t find you.
- Without a great keyword strategy, tracking a campaign’s progress would be nearly impossible.
- Keywords help you connect to the reader in highly-specific ways.
What to do instead: Gather more data before trying to target your keywords
Keywords and SEO are meant to serve readers with the best web experience. From Google’s view, that means the most accurate results. You must gain a meaningful understanding of your industry and customers before delving deeply into keyword research.
Google cares a lot about the underlying context of keywords to better match results to the user’s intent. The more Google understands—the better your content needs to be. When you’ve perfected content that matches what the user was looking for, Google’s algorithm is more likely to serve your page as a result.
3. Prioritizing Quantity over Quality
It may seem obvious—writing articles in bulk won’t outrank fewer articles written well. But the issue lies in how you define quality. For years, many have created a tight schedule of content where each article focuses on a single keyword target.
Shorter, single-topic articles can be effective, but Google is getting good at recognizing when substance suffers from an attempt to power through search rankings with a constant influx of related content.
What to do instead: Focus on providing value
A release schedule is an excellent way to plot out how a company can connect to its ideal audience. Articles should go deeper into the values of the topics covered. Google cares about the display of value and information integrity over multiple instances of keywords used in context.
How to Create a Better Content Marketing Strategy in 2023
We’ve identified specific areas where professionals can improve upon the past. Now it’s time to lay out the best path toward the future of content marketing. Follow this five-stage strategy guide to create lasting improvements to your content.
1. Know Your Brand
Every stage of your strategy is about your audience’s needs. Understanding their Google searches means getting to know specific products and services. Running a thorough content audit will offer you industry and brand insights, helping you answer valuable questions to shape your strategy.
- What pain points does your company solve for customers?
- What are some unique identifiers your ideal audience is looking for?
- What do customers have to say online?
- Are there clear areas for improvement?
2. Know Your Competitors
Understanding the target audience in a campaign means learning about competitors in the same field. How are they addressing their customers’ needs? This helps you better understand what keywords users might use to find your brand.
3. Create Personas
Now that you have a foundational understanding of your industry, brand, and competitors, you can use these details to build up personas of your ideal target audience. Search for supporting demographics to gain insight into who they are and their needs.
You may find that a single, detailed persona covers one main audience. In most cases, a brand can benefit multiple personas.
For instance, a clothing line may have casual wear and formal styles, different lines for different times of year, or various age groups. There may be unique ways your content marketing strategy should address each persona’s needs.
4. Build Your Keyword Strategy Around Your Personas
You now have plenty of data to build a killer keyword list. You can build your best keyword strategy around your understanding of a customer’s needs, and you’ll devise a much clearer strategy with topics that cut to the heart of your strong points and your audience’s main interests.
5. Develop Quality Content Around Your Audience’s Needs
We’re revisiting quality over quantity, but now you can see exactly where quality and quantity fit in. Content should use keywords with specificity and accuracy, going deep into the brand specifics you’ve learned, identifying blind spots of your competitors, and targeting benefits that align with your audience’s search.
Here are a few more important pointers to help you create your best content.
Follow all relevant Google guidelines for E-E-A-T and YMYL
Google’s E-E-A-T guideline stands for experience, expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness and coincides with a category of websites and businesses they call YMYL—your money or your life.
In the context of creating your best content, E-E-A-T and YMYL mean that Google’s artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are looking for deeper levels of proof that content is accurate and comes from reliable sources.
YMYL websites contain information that could impact a visitor’s mental or physical health, finances, or overall well-being. E-E-A-T and YMYL mean your content needs to be truthful and backed by sources, and people will need to know who you are—including your credentials.
YMYL can apply to a broader range of subjects than you might think. For instance, real estate advice or home improvements can significantly impact a visitor, nearly to the same degree as medical or financial advice.
They say a picture’s worth a thousand words. In this case, images can help emphasize and support what you’re conveying with text, adding a layer of communication that also presents articles in more than one dimension.
When adding images, be sure you have the licensing rights for their use, or look for royalty-free images that are free to use. Always add accurate alt text in case an image doesn’t load.
Infographics are great for communicating complex concepts visually, restructuring information in a way some people may learn from better than text alone.
YouTube videos are a great way to add sight and sound while broadening your reach to Google’s other search engine. Embedded videos tend to help reinforce Google’s impression of written articles, which can improve your ranking. YouTube videos need to be treated with special attention just like your articles, including aligned keyword research, titles, and descriptions.
Custom-Tailor a Content Marketing Plan with Big Leap
If you’re ready to raise the bar on your content and get the search results you need, we’d love to work with you to make that happen. Get in touch with our content marketing team so we can develop a winning strategy, especially for you!