Nowadays everyone knows that perfectly crafted content is able to miraculously bring your website to the top positions in the search engines. That is why SEO optimized content has become one of the pillars of digital marketing. Yet, great content comes not only from creativity, but from science. MarketMuse uses artificial intelligence to identify topical gaps across your content and improve its performance in organic search. We asked Jeff Coyle who is behind the creation of MarketMuse to share with you simple rules for writing content that brings results.
Tell us a bit about your background and how you got started with digital marketing
I studied Computer Science with a specialization in Usability at Georgia Tech, where I was focused on user experience and early research related to the search engine industry. While in college, I started working as an early employee at KnowledgeStorm, where I continued after graduating in 2001.
At KnowledgeStorm, we were part of a market creation for B2B technology lead generation through Content Marketing, which, at the time, consisted of white papers and product brochureware. We built a network of sites and a lead generation/delivery platform that gave B2B Technology Companies a way of promoting their content marketing materials during a time when most technology businesses had no content or online lead generation strategy. I wore many hats for KnowledgeStorm, spanning Product Management, UX, Organic SEO, PPC, Lead Generation, Reporting, Email Marketing, Testing, and Content Strategy. In 2007, KnowledgeStorm was acquired by TechTarget, a top B2B publisher, research provider, and lead generation leader where I worked as VP, Traffic, Search, and Engagement, managing all of Inbound Marketing and expanded their network of 300+ sites to new levels.
In 2015, I joined MarketMuse as a Co-founder and Chief Revenue Officer, where I work today. I’ve seen a lot of things in the SEO world and spoken and attended conferences during every ebb and flow of the industry — from 20 person meetups in parking lots to 10,000 attendee events sponsored by media networks.
A central element around which SEO revolves is content. Tell us, please, where to start, if one wants to create a killer content that ranks high on page one. Maybe, you can give us a checklist?
The ideal path to killer content is a combination of self-awareness, user intent profiling, topic research, and competitive analysis.
As a checklist, here’s the tip of the iceberg:
- Understand your content inventory, assessing breadth of coverage, depth, and quality
- Identify your target reader, understand their most likely searcher-intent profiles and connect with your current inventory
- Assess the competitive landscape to determine the resources, types, and scope of content needed
- Build a content strategy that connects your existing inventory to your target topic/keyword universe, appeals to all of your ideal user intent profiles and will give your content a chance to compete in the current competitive landscape
- Identify subject-matter experts (internally or externally) that can develop content that adds more value than is currently present in the current SERPs
- Make sure your content provides great next steps for readers, whether that manifests as additional reading materials or conversion opportunities
What is the absolute minimum of SEO optimization tools/plugins/extensions a website needs? What are your favorites?
For most of my career, I was focused on building as much as I could in-house because the earliest software would never meet my needs. Reporting platforms with table limits, early SaaS pricing models, and unscalable SEO programs were not a fit at the enterprise level or for users managing many sites. All of that has changed now.
As an absolute minimum, use the free systems that the search engines make available, get a rank tracker, and crawler — that’ll get you started.
The tools I use include the following:
We know that MarketMuse has a lot of useful features, but what’s the one that makes you proud?
The feature I am most proud of is the quality of the output of our topic modeling technology. It gives content marketers and search engine professionals a reliable way of understanding exactly how to build high-quality content on a particular topic.
Sometimes webmasters put as many keywords as they could into a meta keyword tag. But we all know that Google can punish you for keyword stuffing. Tell us, please, about an SEO-friendly way of placing keywords all through the post
If you are a webmaster focused on the meta keywords tag, you need to:
a) listen to every session at Digital Olympus
b) buy a book, I recommend Enge and Spencer’s guide to SEO. Read it, cover to cover
c) watch every MOZ Whiteboard Friday (you might as well fall in love with Rand’s facial hair)
The answer to this question is, then, to STOP.
What you need to do instead is:
- Focus on the target topic
- Understand the topic
- Write down the questions that your content should answer
- Document the user intent profiles your content should satisfy
- Read top content on the topic
- Write content that exhibits your expertise on the topic
If you do these things, the appropriate keywords will already be 'throughout' the post. MarketMuse is uniquely focused on this. We provide the ideal content outline — topics and keywords that should be present in high-quality content on a topic, allowing you to focus on writing and creativity, not keyword research.
What are the most common mistakes people make when targeting keywords and how to avoid them?
- Using Google Adwords Keyword Planner only and not knowing how to use it
- Doing long-tail targeting without building a foundation of content
- Focusing on keywords-in-isolation instead of content quality/comprehensiveness
Let’s imagine that someone targets only short keywords instead of chasing long-tail keywords. Are there any workarounds that s/he can try to rank for popular keywords?
If that person can build quality content that is the best, most comprehensive content in a competitive landscape that is weak — it’s possible, but isn’t a workaround. It still requires significant content strategy, creation, and promotional effort
Off-page factors are still vital. I don’t want to get too deep into this and again, it isn’t a workaround — it is hard work to build content that is worthy of amplification and promotion (and links)!
How crucial is the image optimization? Is that a must to include relevant keywords in image tags?
Alt and title attributes are a must for images. Leaving them off is a missed opportunity that is hard to justify, whether images appear in the competitive SERP landscape or not.
The same goes for all rich media. I’ve never heard a good reason to ignore rich media (video, audio, webinar, etc.) optimization other than not knowing where to start!
When it comes to tools, people are usually very conservative and opt for things they already know how to use. How does your company face competition with Google Keyword Planner and gain the audience’s attention?
The unfortunate reality is that most GAKP users don’t know how to use it well, and it leads to strategy blindness.
If you know how to use it and understand the workflows necessary to develop great content strategies / keyword research processes in 2016 — you are naturally more likely to rely more heavily on other solutions and tools.
MarketMuse solves many content strategy and workflow problems, and this quickly differentiates us from traditional keyword tools.
That stated, we also do many innovative things with keyword universes, like machine learning-assisted keyword clustering. Our unique focus is to guide clients towards the best next steps for their content, whether it is a new content creation effort, existing content updates, or content integration.
As a fun side-note, we often help our clients identify competition that uses only GAKP (or similar, predictable sets of tactics), and we use that to help build an effective content strategy (hard to find things that are better than predicting your competitor’s next steps).
Nowadays we live in the world of Big Data and sophisticated algorithms. What is the future of content creation?
Big data and sophisticated algorithms that subject-matter experts and editors can use to make them more powerful by augmenting their knowledge are already here. This is what I am focused on at MarketMuse.
These concepts open up doors to tactics that yield larger volumes of higher-quality content while still generating a variety that appeals to more types of readers and learners.
Algorithms will also write high-quality content with little assistance from humans. They already are being prototyped. Combining human expertise and creativity with these algorithms will lead to content success in the future. You’ll still be able to do great things with any one piece, but the strongest content teams will use them in an ensemble.
And for a final question (this time anyways), could you share with us a simple little hack that will instantly increase search relevance?
- Call me (rim shot)
- Find the page on your site that generates the most traffic or yields the highest KPIs
- Think about how users find that page and identify one user type (intent profile) that this page doesn’t connect with, that you haven’t addressed with another top-performing page, and that you still want to attract
- Build that page and integrate it naturally with your site
Then, call me
Jeff Coyle is a data-driven search engine marketing executive with more than 16 years of experience managing products and website networks.
Jeff is currently the Chief Revenue Officer for MarketMuse, where he is focused on helping content marketers, search engine marketers, agencies and e-commerce managers build topical authority, improve content quality and turn semantic research into actionable insights. Prior to joining MarketMuse, Jeff owned and operated his own inbound marketing consultancy and managed the Traffic, Search and Engagement team for TechTarget, a leader in B2B technology publishing and lead generation.