Search engines are, of course, a way to find what you are looking for. But they’re also a way to find what your audience is looking for. Here are some SEO-savvy content strategy tips for figuring out what topics your market is looking for and how to help them find it on your site.

Let’s say you’re a cheese company…

1. Use Google Suggest
In other words, visit and type in a question, word, or phrase (why is, what kind of, which) and your topic (cheese), and before you even finish typing, boom! Google will magically suggest search friendly writing topics.
2. Use Google Keyword Tool
This super-powerful tool lets you read the minds of millions. It’s free, easy, and very helpful. Type in the topic that Google suggested and see how many people are searching for it each month. The suggested phrases listed below are a goldmine of topics.
Tip: Broaden your search by entering more general phrases. Narrow it by checking the box that says “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms.”

Look at “Local monthly searches.” (You can ignore “Global monthly searches.” Also, ignore “competition” since that is competition within AdWords, not organic SEO).

We’re looking for a number that’s not too high and not too low. Like Goldilocks.

  • Less than 50? None? Expand your research by trying more general phrases.
  • More than 1,000? Other search engine optimizers may already be competing for this phrase. Unless you’re site is already well-optimized (high link popularity, authoritative domain) it may be too competitive.
  • More than 50 but less than 500. That’s the right balance of competition (realistic chance of ranking) and search volume (you’ll get some traffic if you do rank).

3. Write Your Search-Friendly Post
Once you’ve selected your SEO topic and target keyphrase, you’re ready to write. Write a 500 – 900 word article, following the web content checklist if possible. Here are the steps that are most important for SEO to indicate relevance to search engines.

  • Title: Use the target keyphrase on the beginning of your title tag. Put the name of your company at the end of the title. (Example: Tips for pairing wine and cheese | Cheese, Inc.)
  • Header: Use the target keyphrase once in the header. (Example: 9 Simple Tips for Pairing Wine and Cheese)
  • Body: In the text of the article, use the target keyphrase four times, if possible.
  • Link: from the new article to a product or service page. Remember, we want to gently guide visitors toward becoming customers!
  • Link: That link you just made? Make sure the text is descriptive. A link that says “wholesale cheese” gives Google a sense for what the page is about. A link that says “click here” or “read more” does not.

4. Promote Your New Post
Once the post is live:

  • Internal Linking: It’s good to link to your new post from other pages on your site. Look for opportunities to create internal links on older blog posts. When you link to the new post, use the words from the target keyphrase in the link. (Example: “Learn more about pairing wine and cheese”).
  • Promote the post through the usual email marketing and social media channels. SEO doesn’t exist in a vacuum! Many search engine optimizers believe that the likes, shares, tweets, and +1’s that come from social promotion may help your rankings. Here are more tips for content promotion.

True Content Strategy
It’s fun to write high-ranking articles that you know your audience wants. But the greatest content marketers take this thinking to another level. They don’t just align posts with phrases, they plan and build entire websites that align with topics. There is a big difference. Here’s an example of a site that has pages that align with SEO topics. It’s the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board:

Now here’s an example of an entire website that aligns with an SEO topic: The Grilled Cheese Academy:
See the difference? Which site does a better job promoting cheese? Which site makes your mouth water?

As Michael Fishman says, “Don’t think OF your market. Think AS your market.”

To learn more about optimizing SEO and implementing the right content strategy for you, look for Andy’s new book, Content Chemistry. Sign-up here and be the first to know when it’s available. 

Andy Crestodina
Andy Crestodina is the Strategic Director of Orbit Media, a web design company in Chicago. He’s also the author of Content Chemistry, An Illustrated Guide to Content Marketing You are welcome to connect with Andy on Google+ and Twitter.

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2 Responses to “SEO Topics: What to Write. How to Rank.”

  1. Allard

    How the $#!%$$!& do I get google NOT to display the keywords tool in Spanish!!!!!!!!!!! I am in Argentina but I work IN ENGLISH. I want to choose my language, NOT have Google choose it for me! Incredibly frustrating!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And I start my search through!


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