December 9, 2021

Be What They Want / Be What They Need: The Overlap of SEO and Content Strategy

Photo of young Asian man looking at his iPhone

A deserted island paradise … a silent street at dawn … a beautiful mountaintop view: they’re all beautiful photo opportunities. But as a metaphor for your brand content, these unvisited idylls are everything you DON’T want to be.

The most perfect content in the world is worthless when your target audience doesn’t see it. You work hard to create content that’s appealing, informative, compelling, engaging, resonant. How do you make sure it’s found?

Now, more than ever, your content must be easily discoverable. Your audiences have to be able to find it of their own accord. They don’t want their lives disrupted. They want to be able to find what they need when they want to find it.

Search engine optimization (SEO) and content strategy can make this happen. But neither can succeed on its own. The two disciplines must constantly be working together.

  • Content strategy ensures that brand claims and messages are packaged such that users actually want to see them. It’s about more than persuasive messaging; it’s about consistency and relevance. Understanding what you have and how to use it.
  • SEO ensures that you have an understanding of your audience’s needs from their latest search patterns, along with an understanding of what current search engine algorithms are prioritizing. This is continuously applied and reapplied to your content strategy to maintain relevance.

This combination ensures that, over time, you build something that’s worthwhile and effective for your audience. Google’s shorthand for it is E-A-T: expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. And this is influence-able, from both a content perspective AND a search perspective.

But how?

Here are just a few of the many ways that we turbocharge SEO and content strategy by integrating their efforts. These examples apply to websites primarily, of course, but these principles can be used to improve all content, both online and offline!

  • Developing content on topics that are informed by search behavior. Diving into how people search and what content they seek, as well as how they talk about your topics on social media, can give you useful information for content topics that you can be certain will be relevant to them.
  • Using language that is informed by search behavior. What words and phrases does your audience use when they talk, or write, or search about their medical condition, your brand, or your competitors? Using what you learn about their language and tone can help you convey your information in ways that they will find familiar, AND that are more likely to be found in their searches.
  • Optimizing the overall experience page load speed. We’ve all had a bad website experience, particularly when using our phones; for example, if the layout is cluttered; the sections don’t translate well to a mobile layout; the text makes it hard to glance through and find what you need; or the page takes seconds to load. Search engine algorithms know that issues like these give users an unsatisfactory experience – and they de-prioritize your content accordingly. So these problems are a double whammy: they make you less likely to be found, and those who do arrive have a sub-par experience.
  • Building link profiles. It’s not just who you know; it’s what you know. When authoritative, trustworthy sites link to your content, that establishes and increases your own reputation. Our process to actively build link profiles takes into account the caution and care necessary for even the most regulated brands.
  • Caring for content over time. Leadership doesn’t happen overnight. Let your content stay as you slowly, progressively build your authoritativeness. Continue to optimize it as it remains out in the world. Search algorithms care about the age of content – and as noted above, they care because they know consumers care.

Search algorithms care about the age of content – they care because they know consumers care.

There is, of course, a delicate give-and-take between providing your audiences information that they already know that they want, and information that you want to convey. Steve Jobs apocryphally used to retell an anecdote about Henry Ford saying, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Sometimes it’s important to give people information that they don’t yet know they want or need. 

You can’t be merely reactive. After all, you can’t follow that approach with a new product that people don’t yet know exists. You have to use your knowledge of the condition, the market, the brand, and the world to discuss the topics that your expertise tells you needs to be out there. Even then, though, while you can’t always be informed by how people are searching, you can still be search-friendly. It’s on us to shape the market, to inform our audiences so that, eventually, they will search themselves (and be able to find your content).

Life-sciences companies ought to have the most high-ranking content about health online. All of our work is MLR-approved: it’s careful, it’s checked, it’s rechecked. But because brands don’t always follow SEO and content strategy best practices (and because, as we all know, inaccuracies, misinformation, and disinformation can unfortunately be very appealing) our hard work isn’t always what shows up first. So we have to work for it.

In Conclusion: A Call to Action
Integrate your SEO and content strategy approaches, please — for your own benefit and for the benefit of your audiences. But also? Consider shifting how you measure the performance of your content.

If you prioritize traffic results based on paid media, you will absolutely get a sense of how many people followed your ads. But that may give you a skewed perspective on your content.

Too often in pharma marketing, we measure content based on metrics that we’ve influenced. Media traffic is excellent – but it doesn’t mean better content; it just means promoted content. SEO can give us a clearer understanding of how strong the actual content inherently is. Think about it: the most powerful algorithm in the world has determined that audiences prefer a piece of content. That’s an impressive insight.  

Metrics like these may sometimes seem old-fashioned, but they can’t be bought. They’re a strong indicator that you have a strong content asset, and should not be overlooked.

Talk to your Intouch team about ways your SEO and content strategy can work more closely – and effectively – for your brand!

Contributors: Nathan Stewart, SVP, Content Strategy & SEO; Tylor Hermanson, VP, SEO; Matthew Griffith, Group Director, Content Strategy