SEO still matters. In a world of paid advertising, many people believe that SEO isn’t worth the effort, but the fact is that SEO is still a hugely important part of marketing plans. SEO, short for search engine optimization, as described by Lyfe Marketing, is “the process of bringing in organic, or free, website traffic from the search engines. All search engines like Google and Bing have a search engine results page that delivers search results to users based on keywords and phrases that they’ve typed into the search bar.”

Why is this important to your business? Because “by optimizing your site and content for the search engines, your business can help improve online visibility. Most consumers start the buying process by researching relevant topics on Google and other search engines.”

SEO is not only a critical piece of getting in front of the right audiences, but it’s also a fairly cost-effective addition to your marketing plan and particularly important for your content marketing strategy. Pay-per-click, or PPC, advertising is extremely helpful in getting your name to appear in searches and get in front of a broader audience than you might otherwise, but it means that the more people who find you that way (and click-through based on a paid ad link), the more you spend. This might eventually pay off in ROI of acquiring and keeping a customer, but SEO can be more cost-effective. Good SEO certainly isn’t free and requires time, research, and paying either an experienced employee or hiring an agency, but it’s usually an affordable addition to your long-term marketing strategy.

Here are some things to keep in mind to develop or improve your SEO content marketing strategy.

What matters in your SEO content marketing plan
1. Research your target market
Content matters a lot in SEO – it’s the thing that Google and other search results are looking for and linking to. Any solid content marketing plan will understand what you’re trying to achieve with your content and that means knowing the audience that the content is meant for. Researching your audience and the market for your product or service is key in developing your content – understanding what drives them is important in knowing how to talk to them and what kind of content to create to resonate with them. Using target market research through a firm or conducting your own helps you identify drivers and preferences as well as demographic info like average age, gender, location, education, and more to help you build a foundation of information that your content marketing grows from and is based on.

2. Research keywords
If you know your audience, you know their challenges. That means you have a better idea of what they’re Googling to find answers for their problems and you know that you want to be on that list of solutions. Much of SEO is keyword-based, so understanding what keywords you need to try to rank for is a key part of the process of developing your SEO content marketing strategy. Keyword tools and research options exist to help you in this important step, including Moz, SEMrush, and Google Keyword Planner.

3. Create quality content
Your target market data and your keyword research help you to start creating the content that will help to boost your brand and engage your customer. Content can include anything from blog posts to whitepapers to case studies to infographics to ebooks to videos and more, but the most important piece is ensuring quality. Lyfe Marketing notes, “It’s not enough to just sprinkle the keywords throughout your content. If you want consumers to read and take action based on your content, it needs to be of high quality. Additionally, Google penalizes businesses that create low-quality content, which can impact your SEO ranking and ability to reach new leads on the search engine.”

Search engines define quality in a few ways:

Well written: Make sure there are no issues with grammar or spelling.
Relevant: Use examples that help connect you to your potential customers.
Easy-to-read: Audiences are busy, so make your content skimmable with headers and lists.
4. Make updates
SEO isn’t static. Your content and even your strategy may need to change over time to better serve your business and your audience. Regular content audits can help make sure that everything is still optimized. Here are some things to keep an eye on to make sure your content remains successful and connects well to customers.

Check for new keyword opportunities
Update stats or facts that have changed
Add additional content based on industry updates or changes to best practices
Your SEO content marketing strategy is a long-term investment that will pay off over time by consistently helping your audience solve problems and connecting them with a valuable resource – your brand.