Labcast: Content Marketing or SEO? Lee Odden on What Drives Top Online Marketing Strategies

Which is the bigger priority? Ranking at the top of your prospects’ search results or mapping content that helps them move forward in their buyer journey?

Lee Odden on Content Marketing SEO Strategy

Many marketers find themselves grappling with priorities when it comes to getting a content strategy off the ground. Luckily, as online marketing expert Lee Odden explains, when it comes to SEO and content marketing, it doesn’t have to be either/or.
In this week’s Labcast, Odden, CEO of TopRank Online Marketing and author of Optimize, discusses how to develop an integrated content marketing SEO strategy that creates awareness and drives conversion.
Listen in as Odden shares the secrets to developing your strategy along with his tips on working with consultants, setting proper goals and expectations, and the resources you need to create an editorial plan.
Labcast 109_ SEO_ Content Marketing_ Lee Odden Describes the Role of Both in an Online Marketing Strategy

Full Transcript

Kevin: Hello, everyone, and welcome to Labcast. I’m Kevin Cain, and
today we’re talking about a topic that’s near and dear to my heart, content
marketing. I’m actually joined today by Lee Odden, who is the CEO of
TopRank Online Marketing, which is a marketing agency based in Minneapolis.
But you may know Lee Odden, as well, just as a content and SEO marketing
expert. He’s also the author of a book called Optimize. In any case, Lee
is here today to talk to me about content marketing, SEO, and how to
develop your online marketing strategy. Hey, Lee, welcome to Labcast. It’s
great to have you here today. How’s it going?
Lee: It’s going great, Kevin. Glad to be here.
Kevin: Well, so as I was saying in my introduction, what we’re talking
about today is this whole idea of content marketing and search engine
optimization and how you use both in an online marketing strategy. And
really the origins of this conversation is a blog post that we had seen you
write not too long ago on your site, and in that blog post you had asked
your readers if SEO and keywords drive their content creation or if content
is being built through content marketing, which is by following a stage of
the customer’s buying cycle. So my first question for you is do you see
those two things as being mutually exclusive?
Lee: No. That’s a great question, and I think some folks that are
specialists in either SEO or in content strategy, or content marketing,
might feel that way. People like to think of things in terms of what they
know and advocate what they know, but they’re not. As I say in the post,
they’re great partners. SEO is a phenomenal amplification method, and
there’s absolutely a strategic perspective that SEO brings to the table in
content marketing. But they’ve got to work together, and that’s where the
win is, is when they work together, not working against each other or
Kevin: So how do you recommend that people integrate SEO into their
content marketing strategies so that they are working holistically, as you
Lee: Well, the contrast that I’ve outlined is that in the SEO world
accountability is very much driven by organic search-referred traffic, and
the way to achieve organic search-referred traffic is to have as many
optimized pages and digital assets ranking well in search as possible. So
this notion of content is really more about more. The more content we can
create, the better because there’s more to optimize. There’s more to
attract inbound traffic. A content marketing-driven strategy is going to,
as you say, map that customer sale cycle or buying cycle. So the way SEO
can best be included is, I think, not to go identify the most popular
keywords and then create content accordingly, but to create a content plan
that empathizes with that customer journey and then identify the types of
topics and search keywords that can attract traffic to the right kind of
content at the right time.
Kevin: Sure. I mean, otherwise you’re just creating a bunch of noise
essentially, that may be getting people to your site, but not necessarily
helping to move them down the path to purchase.
Lee: Yeah, exactly. It tends to be a little more mechanical. It’s scalable,
it’s process driven, and all that when you’re only focusing on keyword-
drive strategy, but, of course, we know in this sort of social web and
social world that we live in, meaningful is where more productive marketing
investments are being made.
Kevin: How do you recommend that companies go about aligning their
content to their customers and to their buying cycles specifically?
Lee: You’ve got to know who your customers are, so there are existing
buyers, there’s information that’s been captured in the course of them
becoming your customers through web analytics, conversion data, and forms
they filled out. You can actually survey those customers, as well. There’s
generalized information that can be gleaned from third-party websites that
we know our target audience visits frequently. There’s social media
monitoring that we can use. So there are a lot of different data sources
that we can bring into our wheelhouse, so to speak, and analysis that can
specify what clusters of behaviors are most characteristic of our best
customers, and what does that mean across the journey from awareness to
interest consideration, purchase, and even onto the kinds of things that
are helpful for keeping them around and to evangelize our product and
inspire word of mouth to attract other business. So knowing your customers
is first and foremost, and this is not a project. It is a journey. It’s a
journey for the brand as much as it’s a journey for the customer to
discover from you. It’s something you have to maintain on an ongoing basis.
Kevin: Now, you had mentioned before about how some SEO companies were
pushing people to create as much content as possible, and obviously that’s
not necessarily the best route. But what do you think is sort of the right
amount of content that a company needs to create as part of the SEO and
content marketing strategy to really have any momentum? Is a blog a week
from a mom and pop shop going to get the job done, or do you really need to
have some sort of momentum to really hit that terminal velocity?
Lee: Well, that is probably one of the most popular questions here from
folks that are resource strapped or uncertain about how this is going to
work for them, and the most important thing is to start, and you’ve got to
start with what’s reasonable according to your goals, not your resources,
but your goals. So a good marketer is going to forecast what kind of
percentage increase do we want to actually achieve and work backwards to
identify how much content will it take to get us there. And if a company
listening in doesn’t know that and know how to do that, then they should
work with a consultant who does. That’s basically what the answer is. It’s
on a case by case basis. I could say, yeah, sure, one post a week, one post
every month, and, of course, I’d be making a sweeping generalization that’s
going to be true for some people, and it’s not going to be true for others.
So I think you’ve really got to make the commitment to start and pick an
interval, whether it’s once a week or once a month, and get content out
there interacted with and use the data that will be created, as people do
interact with your content, to determine how you can optimize frequency or
velocity of content creation on a go forward.
Kevin: So you had mentioned in your response there about the
possibility, if you don’t have the capability in-house, to work with a
consultant or an agency or something of that nature. Now, obviously there
are some advantages to doing that and some potential disadvantages. Can you
kind of talk through–obviously from your point of view, you’ve got a
particular point of view there–what the advantages of working with an
agency are, and when it’s appropriate to do so, and when it makes more
sense to bring those skill sets and capabilities in-house?
Lee: I think it makes sense to bring in an agency if you want to make the
process of creating a road map or strategy about how to do this, so how to
plan this out as efficient and as effective as possible. There’s a right
kind of agency for that, right? But they should have experience with it,
clearly. There are different needs here with agency consultation. There is
this idea of coming in at a project level and just upping and develop a
strategy, and then the company acts on that strategy with their own
internal resources. There’s another scenario where maybe the company does
that, and they also help with implementation to a certain point, where
either they continue to provide value and innovate, and that makes it worth
keeping that agency around, or eventually the company does bring everything
in-house. Most agencies in this scenario are evolving their services and
capabilities, so, like ours, they tend to have very long relationships with
companies. But I think it’s most important to bring them in early so that
they can be part of the DNA of creating that strategy.
Kevin: Right, absolutely. Another thing that you had said earlier was
just the importance of getting started, and so that just brings me to my
last question. What recommendations would you give for people who are
looking to get started? Is it just to contact that agency, or is it just to
get to your computer and start writing something that you think your
customers care about? Or is there another piece of advice that you would
Lee: Sure, that’s another great question. So getting started, you have to
have some idea of what it is that you want to achieve, an understanding of
why your people, your customers, because they’re all people. I don’t know,
there might be some cats and dogs buying stuff, but we don’t know about
them–why do they buy from you? Why do they buy from you?
Kevin: Yeah.
Lee: What’s happening in their life or in their business that’s causing
them to need your product and service, and just think about that. Talk to
customer service for commonly asked questions. Talk to sales people for
commonly asked questions. That’s the gold of ideation when it comes to
initiating content, a marketing strategy, is tapping into the actual Q&A
dialog that’s occurring between frontline employees and the folks you want
to do business with, or that you are doing business with, and use that to
construct a sort of editorial plan. If you go to, we
actually have an ungated Excel spreadsheet. Actually, there’s one for
[inaudible 09:47] glossary, but there’s another one for a blog content
plan, and thousands of people have downloaded this spreadsheet. I would
recommend getting hold of a tool like that. You can go to a content
marketing institute and get an amazingly rich education about a lot of
things that you could do, lots of advice and templates and that sort of
thing, as well.
Kevin: Sure, and, of course, there’s that entire book, Optimize, that you wrote, which is also a great resource, and I’m sure available there, as well.
Lee: Yeah, just Google the one word “optimize,” or go to
Kevin: Great. Well, Lee, I really appreciate your time today. In addition to going there, is there anywhere else that people can get in touch with you or follow you?
Lee: Yeah, definitely. I’ve been writing for nine years at, and there is also where you’ll find links to my profiles on LinkedIn and Twitter, where I spend quite a bit of time, Google+, and that sort of thing.
Kevin: Great. Well, we really appreciate your time today, Lee. Thank
you so much, and look forward to speaking with you again soon.

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