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Simple content optimization – SEO for when SEO doesn’t make sense

It’s not often that you’ll hear a content marketing guy tell you that a big investment in SEO isn’t for everyone. But if your marketing focus doesn’t include creating a steady stream of content for your website, for example, it may not make sense to commit resources to an on-going SEO campaign.

There are other reasons a larger commitment to SEO may not make sense, of course, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get the most out of the content you do publish by applying foundational SEO concepts to all of your work.

The importance of keywords

You’ll want to have an understanding of the language your target audience uses to talk about–and search for–the services you provide. (You should also be thinking about the language they are likely to use to describe the problems they are trying to solve.)

Chances are, you’ll have a pretty good sense of this from the conversations you’re already having with clients and prospects. Still, it doesn’t hurt to use a tool like Google’s Adwords Keyword Planner to confirm your suspicions–and to find the variations that are most productive.

Bigger isn’t always better

If you do use a tool like this, don’t be seduced by the numbers; bigger isn’t always better.

Here’s an example: “insurance” is searched for more than 100,000 times a month. Sounds great if you sell insurance. Certainly better than “new york state workers comp insurance” which has fewer than 1,000 searches per month. And yet, if worker’s comp insurance is what you sell, you really don’t want traffic from the folks looking for life, health, or homeowner’s insurance. (There are other issues at play, most notably how competitive it is to rank for a particular keyword phrase, but we’ll leave that for when you’ve decided a larger investment in SEO does make sense for your business.)

How to use keywords

With your new list of keywords in hand, you can plan the content you will publish or optimize the content you already have on your site. Rule number one is to publish content relevant to the keywords you want to rank for. So while you may have a great time writing about your alma mater’s big win in the NCAA tournament, that content is not going to help generate traffic and it’s not going to help engage the audience you do manage to attract.

(Of course, mentioning your love of all things, say, Duke University-related is a great way to make your site more personal and engaging, and you can use your non-work passions to help bring your content to life, but those passions can’t be the focus of your content.)

Don’t worry about “keyword density” or even the length of your writing, which are both terms/metrics that matter in fully-optimized SEO campaigns. For density, you do want to use your keyword in page titles, page URLs, article headlines, and in the body copy of what you write, but you want to do so in a way that is natural. If it doesn’t read well, it’s not going to work. If it looks or sounds forced, your audience is going to notice. (As are the search engines.)

Length is a bit more contentious. Most SEO professionals will tell you that a 300-word minimum is required for SEO to work. (We’re at about 450 now.) You may want to have longer and shorter pieces mixed in. It really depends on what you’re writing about and who you are writing for. Again, until SEO makes sense for your business, you an push this down the priorities list.

Next-Level Tools
As you begin to amass more relevant content, you may wish to put tools in place to help you accomplish and expand on some of the ideas above. WordPress plugins like Yoast and All in One SEO can help.

And as surprising as it sounds for something so shrouded in technological, black-box voodoo magic, a little common sense can go a long way.

Andrew Schulkind

Since 1996, Andrew Schulkind has asked clients one simple question: what does digital marketing success look like, and how can marketing progress be measured? A veteran content marketer, web developer, and digital strategist, Andrew founded Andigo New Media to help firms find a more strategic and productive mix of tools that genuinely support online brand goals over time. With a passion for true collaboration and meaningful consensus, his work touches social media, search-engine optimization, and email marketing, among other components. He views is primary goal as encouraging engagement. Getting an audience involved in your story requires solid information architecture, a great user experience, and compelling content. A dash of common sense doesn’t hurt, either. Andrew has presented at Social Media Week NY and WordCampNYC, among other events, on content marketing and web-development topics. His technology writing appears on the Andigo blog, in a monthly column on, and for print and online publications like The New York Enterprise Report, Social Media Today, and GSG Worldwide’s publications LinkedIn & Business, Facebook & Business, and Tweeting & Business. Andrew graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Bucknell University. He engages in a range of community volunteer work and is an avid fly fisherman and cyclist. He also loves collecting meaningless trivia. (Did you know the Lone Ranger made his mask from the cloth of his brother's vest after his brother was killed by "the bad guys?")

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