Content Marketing Strategy: How to Rank & Persuade

Keith Messer Content Marketing, Inbound Marketing, Marketing Strategy

Content Marketing Strategy
The best place to hide a body is on the second page of Google. Meaning the difference between average, underperforming website content and a great content marketing strategy that both achieves first-page organic SERP ranking, i.e., is discoverable, and persuades, i.e., gets your readers to take further desired action, can mean the difference between serious revenue impact for your business and a competitor eating your lunch.

Yet a lot of businesses are flat out falling short. With the average bounce rate on a B2B blog falling somewhere around 80% and the average search result returning dozens of pages, of which about 75% of searchers never move past page one and of which 65% are zero-click searches, as clear evidence.

With that established, let’s discuss a clear strategy to ensure you’re building content that is relevant, discoverable, and persuasive to effectively reach and influence your intended audience…

Creating Value-First Content

The single biggest mistake content creators make is producing content with zero value to their readers. Your content can check off all the other ‘content marketing must-have’ boxes: it can be persuasive, organized, and clear, but if it’s useless to your desired audience, it’s still useless. The topic and ideas must have value first and foremost.

Should go without saying but your topic and the ideas within must also be important. Original ideas and new knowledge are great, but if your message is not of any import to your audience it’s not worth writing about.

How do you know if your topic has value and is important?

The great thing is we have a data-driven barometer that goes a long way toward gauging value called Search Volume that provides creators with the data they need to assess whether anyone is actually searching for a given keyword-based topic.

While search volume shouldn’t be the only determinate in whether or not to write about a given topic, especially if yours is a hyper-niche business, it can help determine the push vs. pull nature of your content discoverability strategy.

It’s Not Enough to Know Your Subject-Matter…

… You have to know your readers.

Even content produced by subject-matter experts operating at the highest level within their field can at times miss the mark because the writer doesn’t understand their readers. Put simply, if you don’t know your audience it’s pretty tough to create value for them.

More important, if you don’t know your audience you won’t know what they doubt, and the ability to persuade depends in no small way on knowing what someone doubts.

So set off with clear definitions of who you’re looking to educate or persuade and write with that in mind in terms of assumed knowledge, depth of topic and other elements within your content.

Stop Writing How You Speak

‘Write how you speak’ is one you’ll hear from a lot of the marketing-influencer set.

While it may work at the individual level, we’ll wager a good number of you are operating within a business with some form of brand voice guidelines / definitions, so we’ll do you one better:

Write how your audience speaks in your own unique brand voice.

Understand how your audience speaks and, more specifically, the terminology they use to describe the solution you market and the topics about which you’re writing, and mirror this language within your content to a) be discoverable when they’re searching for those things, and b) feel more relatable through the shared language.

What About Content Optimization? Is SEO Dead?

So, you’ve written a piece of content on an ICP-relevant topic that perfectly balances value delivery and persuasion to further action, how do you ensure the content will rank on Google (and other search engines too… but… you know… Google)?

Machine learning within search algorithms has gotten pretty darn good and gets incrementally better all the time. Nevertheless, the need for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) remains necessary, especially where you’re dealing with topics containing competitive high-value, high-intent search phrases and keywords.

But all of this AI in search engines does mean that you can ditch a lot of older best practices across on-page and off-page SEO.

For example, should you use as close to the exact keyword for which you’d like to rank in the article title? Probably, yes. Do you need to place it at the very beginning of the title? No, the search engines will figure this out.

Additionally, does having a lot of inbound links benefit your ability to rank for competitive keywords? Yes. Does that mean you should stock up on pay-for-play link building and low-quality directory listings? No, the search engines are wise to this game and will actually punish you for low-quality or spammy inbound links.

Put Emphasis on Semantic SEO

Anyone in the know will tell you pages, and websites overall, that rank well for their intended search term also tend to rank for a number of other related phrases. The best way to capture this data is to understand what’s called Semantic SEO. This is essentially all the related phrases often associated with the cornerstone phrase or topic for which your content aims to rank.

You can find these semantic variants at the bottom of Google’s SERP page in the section for ‘Related Searches’ or use keyword planning tools such as keywordtool.io.

Google Related Searches for Semantic SEO

Utilizing the top semantic phrase variants of the primary search phrase within your h2/3/4/5 headers and within your body copy will increase your chances of ranking for both the primary phrase as well as those variants and help to drive more relevant traffic to your content and, in doing so, boost organic search ranking potential.

Don’t Forget About Position Zero on the SERP Page

We mentioned the uptick in zero-click search activity earlier and one main culprit has been the introduction of position zero content on the SERP page.

Position zero content will take shape in a number of different ways depending on the search term and the prevailing search intent upon with the nested content will be determined, but, in most cases, it presents the answer to a question(s), a definition, and/or some sort of ordered list to provide the person an answer to their query without requiring them to migrate off the SERP page to the website hosting that content.

Content Marketing Position Zero SERP Result

When doing keyword research and planning, it’s important to take note of not only the topics within the competitive organic content that currently ranks for a given phrase to help guide the nature of the content you’re creating, but also take note of any position zero content and plan to fill any gaps or improve upon what’s already there.

Don’t forget that visual content may also be served within position zero, providing quick-win opportunities for image, infographic, motion graphic and video creation to place your content above the more traditional ‘articles’ most often found within organic search results.

Content Marketing Position Zero Image SERP Result

Building a Connected SEO Strategy

Producing great individual pieces of content is a good start, but when you’re competing for eyeballs in a crowded space with high-difficulty search terms the difference will come down to your overall content marketing strategy and intelligent intra-site linking within a pillar content strategy.

When auditing content libraries, we’ll often encounter a blog archive consisting of some great content, but alongside it we’ll also find a high amount of low-value content focused on the exact same search phrase. This leads to an outcome where these pages cannibalize each other and nothing ranks in the end.

In this case, the writers clearly knew their topics and audiences, but went overboard creating a load of individual pieces about the same topic rather than creating a cornerstone piece, which can be gated or ungated depending on business goals, and supporting it with a number of pillar content pieces concerning related topics to drive traffic into it.

Optimizing Toward 360° Search Discoverability

At Ledger Bennett we support our clients with a connected Search Engine Marketing (SEM) strategy, encompassing opportunities spanning paid search, position zero, image & video search, and traditional organic search ranking.

Our delivery is a critical mix of strategy, planning, and execution deploying Paid Search Marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in tandem with associated content creation and optimization with the end result of our clients ranking for cornerstone search phrases across search PPC, position zero, multimedia, and organic ranking opportunities – In short, owning the SERP page.

Contact Ledger Bennett today and start building a connected SEM strategy that gets you discovered!