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A simple guide to tactical SEO
Almost every content marketer has some familiarity and understanding of search engine optimization (SEO).
Whether optimizing a homepage to facilitate a user-friendly experience or creating engaging and helpful content for your ideal customer profile (ICP), the primary intent behind on-page SEO is to expand a brand’s visibility on the search engine results page.
However, like every other content marketing strategy, SEO is consistently evolving to align with modern trends and technologies. To account for the millions of published blogs each day and continuous adjustments to Google’s search algorithm, effective content marketers must view SEO from a tactical standpoint.
Implementing tactical SEO into content marketing is a thorough, intentional way to build content through contextual relevance. In other words, take prospects through your content as a trusted guide while mapping out your content strategy in a way that Google understands. By utilizing a tactical SEO approach, your business is more likely to build authority within the SERPS (search engine results page) and drive the results you want from your content marketing efforts.
What is Tactical SEO?
Today, black-hat SEO practices like keyword stuffing and reciprocal linking do more harm than good to businesses trying to improve SERP rankings. According to Google’s guidelines, a content marketer should:
Focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and in context.
Start by thinking about what your ICP might be wondering (and typing into a search engine) in simpler terms. When you implement SEO keyword research into your content creation strategy, the most results will come from three primary efforts:
- Valuable, user-friendly content
- A regular cadence
- A steady internal linking architecture
Building brand awareness to nurture your buyers while providing solutions is a balancing act. The overarching goal of tactical SEO is to drive organic leads. However, the most impactful results will stem from educating your buyers to reduce friction and tailoring your content to their needs.
Three ways to implement tactical SEO into your content
First, let’s examine tactical SEO through the lens of pillar pages and topic clusters. When planning your SEO strategy, focus on positioning yourself as knowledgeable, trusted guides by providing a library of valuable resources to your reader. These unique content pieces should align with your personas and buyer’s journey to reduce friction across the inbound and outbound funnels to develop a web of subtopics, linking and interlinking around a central theme.
To become a successful content strategist, position your business as the librarian or the epicenter of knowledge. As the librarian, you can guide your audience through your resources and provide them with the knowledge they need to move forward and solve their problem. This combination of building trust and providing contextual relevance to your readers will drive results.
1. Focus on Relevant Keywords
Always start by putting yourself in your buyer’s shoes. What words or search phrases would your ICP search for at various stages of the buyer’s journey on google? This is where keyword research comes into play.
Keyword research is the foundation of any content plan and sets the tone for:
- who you’re trying to target
- what pieces of content you need to provide along their purchasing journey
- how you’ll position your brand as a trusted source
There are many tips and suggestions to choose the right keywords for your content marketing strategy plan, but it’s most important to consider what your target audience is looking for. When it comes to tactical SEO and content strategy, it’s too easy to fall into the trap of solely analyzing numbers on spreadsheets. Instead of focusing on the data behind specific keywords, take a big-picture approach by examining topics that might be the most helpful for your reader.
As an example, let’s say you are a B2B CRM software trying to generate new organic leads. An excellent place to start would be to brainstorm a few seed keywords and build from there. Seed keywords should ideally identify each customer profile and align with your business as a whole. A few seed keyword examples for CRM software might be customer relationship management, customer service management, customer care, etc.
After conducting more in-depth keyword research, remember to prioritize and map your keywords to align them with your buyer’s journey. Ideally, the seed keywords you come up with should help you identify the more specific or long-tail keywords.
The most important step is organizing these specific keywords and baking them into your long-term content plan. This is when creating topic clusters and creating overarching themes come into play.
2. Organizing keywords with topic clusters
Now that you have a list of relevant keywords, you can build contextual relevance by grouping these keywords into topics. In the initial stages of building your content marketing strategy, organize your keywords into different themes or categories. These themes will ultimately become your pillar pages, which we’ll cover next.
Topic clusters are a newer approach for organic content marketers to guide readers along the buyer’s journey and effectively organize a content strategy.
Initially developed by Hubspot, topic clusters allow you to interlink your content to create an overarching theme and establish your subject-matter expertise on the topics you target. Building topic clusters help you keep your content plan in check so that in time, as you produce more material, your content will not compete against one another and your authority.
Topic clusters help keep your content organized, tell the search engine what page should be prioritized, and provide contextual relevance for a search engine to understand how your content works in conjunction with each other.
To build a successful topic cluster strategy, keep two separate layers in mind:
- The actual topic itself: Think about the long-tail keywords or topics that relate to a particular persona
- The overarching theme: This is the main topic all of your subtopics link up to. Sometimes, an overarching theme can be so broad that it has multiple clusters within its umbrella.
The practice of tactical SEO is to optimize topics, not just keywords. Focusing solely on keyword research sets you into a trap of potentially missing a key opportunity. The most crucial step to consider when creating subtopics is to link to the main topic consistently. This is when building a pillar page comes into play.
3. Interlinking: the key to building authority
Think of pillar pages as the definitive guide or catalog to a specific topic within your library. A pillar page should cover a keyword with a higher volume and interlink to more specific topics. Keep in mind that a pillar page is a living piece of content, so don’t scramble to include everything all at once. Start by gathering all of your keywords and grouping them into themes. Once you finish this, as you create more pieces related to the overarching theme you are targeting, you can link those topics and include them on your pillar page.
A pillar page should always include the following:
- A title that evokes authority/trust. Examples might include "The Definitive guide to X," "How to build X," or "A step by step guide to X"
- A thorough and precise definition of your overarching topic
- A bulleted or numbered table of contents
- Subtopics that are easy for the reader to skim
- Interlinks to other content that relates to your overarching theme
- A solution to a problem your buyer persona(s) face
There are various benefits to creating a pillar page, but the most important consideration is how it builds your brand authority. By continuously adding and building out a pillar piece, you increase your likelihood of increasing organic traffic to your website.
As you build out your pillar page, try to be as thorough as possible in addressing and answering the questions your ICP’s might have on the topic you are covering. Building a pillar page should be intentional and comprehensive instead of choppy and stuffed with keywords.
Prioritize authenticity over a quick-fix solution
Guiding your readers along their buying journey to provide relevant and helpful content should be the goal of every content strategy you create. While it can be pretty easy to get caught up in numbers, data, and competitor analysis, search engines today prioritize authentic and applicable content above all else.
Taking the time to visually map out your content strategy with topic clusters and pillar pages while identifying and digging into the pains of your ICP’s should give you organic visibility over time. Tactical SEO isn’t a quick-fix solution to improving your ranking and authority, but rather a thoughtful and thorough recognition of who you are trying to attract. At the core, organic content should set the reader up for success for their personal and professional development.