When it comes to content marketing, many small businesses are prone to making the same mistake over and over again. They impulsively jump straight into content creation and publishing without giving much thought to the bigger picture: their content strategy.
Unfortunately, content that is not underpinned by a well-thought-out strategy will most likely fail to work as expected, no matter how informative and well-written it might be. As a result, business owners lose time and money, which can be a real pain as small businesses can’t afford wasting either of those things on something that doesn’t work.
Understandably, small businesses can’t afford to hire an SEO agency or spend months learning the craft themselves either, and this is where I come in. I help small businesses and solo entrepreneurs to get organic exposure to their target audiences by designing their content strategy in consideration of their business, products, and backlink profile.
In this post, I will describe my step-by-step approach to drawing up an SEO-driven content plan for a small business.
Create pillar topics.
SEO revolves around keywords, but they are actually not the first thing I look at when creating an SEO-driven content plan for a website. I keep up-to-date with the ever-changing SEO best practices and do whatever is the most effective. In 2020, it is the topic cluster approach.
So, my first step is to create a list of 5-10 pillar topics that are associated with the products or services that my client’s business provides.
To this end, I compile a list of 10-20 short-tail keywords and phrases that are associated with the products/services that my client’s business provides. I am going to use these words to inform the pillar topics, NOT to dedicate individual blog posts or web pages to. Short-tail keywords are typically too competitive to target, especially for new websites with non-existent backlink profiles.
I use KWFInder to identify the search volume and come up with keyword variants that make sense for the business. This leaves me with a longer list of short-tail keywords which now includes the keyword variations.
Using monthly search volume and keyword difficulty as my measure, I narrow down the list to 10-15 keywords that are most important to the business (e.g. in terms of commercial intent) and then rank it in order of priority based on search volume and relevance.
Each of these keywords is an overarching ‘pillar topic’ that will serve as the foundation for a larger cluster of long-tail keywords, which brings us to the next step.
2. Make a list of long-tail keywords.
Once we have agreed on the pillar topics, I will use a keyword tool to identify 10-30 long-tail keywords – the actual queries people are typing in Google to explore specific aspects of the pillar topic.
For example, if the business is selling vegan and cruelty-free products, I will brainstorm and research some long-tail queries that potential buyers would search for. There are many ways to find this kind of keywords (e.g. People also ask, related searches), but I prefer a keyword too such as MOZ, Ahrefs and SEMRush. For demonstration purposes, I will use MOZ Keyword Explorer and the keyword ‘beeswax wrap’.
This approach allows businesses to attract potential customers who have varying interests and concerns regarding its products/services, which creates more entry points to suck them into their purchase cycle.
Once I have compiled a list of long-tail keywords for each pillar topic, I will rank them in order of priority based on what I like to call ‘ranking feasibility’. If it is a brand new website, the most feasible keywords will be the ones where ranking pages (on the 1st SERP) have only a handful of referring domains pointing to them. For example:
3. Create post titles and outline.
The next step is to craft post titles for each target keyword from my list I created in step 2. I try to keep the titles around the 70-character mark to avoid truncation in SERPs. I also try to include the keyword phrase at the beginning of the post title as people tend to scan and heed the first words most of all.
In addition to titles, I create an outline for each post. Outline is not just for conceptual structure and readability, but also for SEO purposes. Outline helps search engines understand what the article is about.
In the outline, I use H2 headings to introduce different sections, and H3 – to introduce subsections within the H2 sections. In rare cases – when the topic’s structure is very hierarchical or just complex – I also use H4s (usually, for technical content). Finally, I aim to include the target keyword into at least one H2 or H3 heading for SEO purposes.
I also shared a technique I use to map out an SEO-friendly outline in this post.
4. Deliver content plan.
By now, I should have enough blog topics to create an SEO-driven content plan for 1-3 months (depending on the posting frequency, the client’s requirements, etc). I use Trello kanban boards to organize the posts by their pillar category. The next step is, of course, to create a content calendar to streamline the workflow as well as the publishing, but this is beyond the scope of this post.