SEO’s are marketers, even if sometimes we forget it. Surely by now many of you have listened to Wil Reynold’s talk on #RCS. If you haven’t, watch it here. Watching his presentation really inspired me. Furthermore, it made me realize that in order to accomplish #RCS, we need to first learn #RMS, Real Marketing Sh*t.

Incredibly enough, many SEO’s have forgotten what Wil put so plainly, “Business existed before search engines”, and I would add to that by saying “Marketing existed before search engines”.

More specifically, content marketing existed before search engines.

The-Furrow-1931In fact, according to Joe Pulizzi, John Deere released The Furrow a magazine for Farmers, back in 1895. Free, sharable content to generate buzz and leads for your company, all over a century ago. Who woulda thunk?

Can we all just stop for a moment and think about what marketing is.

What Marketing Is

The promotion and selling of products or services

What Marketing Isn’t

Gaining search traffic to a website by ranking for high traffic key phrases

Now I know this seems a little unfair. After all as SEO’s part of our job is to make sure that we are ranking well for all the right key phrases. The problem is that the rankings shouldn’t be our primary focus. Making our clients money should be the focus. And in order to do that today, SEO’s need to become content marketers.

The bottom-line here is that if we are to truly call ourselves marketers we must complete the mission for our clients: “Promote AND SELL their products or services”.

This means, not just stopping at the gates of rankings. That is Fake Marketing.

And if you really want more convincing, businesses are cutting costs. Your job happens to be a cost. If you want to keep your job, it’s time to chuck the rankings report and show your boss how your position is making him money.

So #RMS is just that. Me trying to teach you how to keep your job, make the company more money, and feel like Batman - know that you kick the sh*t out of your competition’s content marketing strategy.


Fact: “In 2011, the average shopper used 10.7 sources of information before buying.” If your content isn’t one of those ten sources, good luck making them a customer.

1. Who Has the Strongest Potential to Love You?


Finding out who loves you is more commonly known as identifying your Target Customer (TC). Every segment of your digital marketing strategy (SEO, SEM, Social, etc.) should all be done with a confident perspective of who your TC really is.

I’ll get back to this in a minute.

What You Should Know About Your TC


Values and Beliefs

Your company or client should have this information available for you if they are serious about Real Marketing. If they don’t have it available, however, you may have to gather it yourself.

Collecting information about your TC is a science within itself and if you aren’t familiar with it, I’d recommend starting with Psychographic Targeting Unhinged! and extending further interest by reading Kelly McDonald’s “How To Market to People Not Like You”.

Now back to how knowing your TC will affect your efforts in SEO.

SEO has changed. The best SEO strategies are essentially spotless onsite optimization, and phenomenal content marketing. Knowing your TC will help with your selection of content type, topic and distribution avenues.

Connecting Your TC’s to SEO

An easy way to connect the process of identifying your TC with SEO is to look at it through levels.

Industry Level

Looking at your TC at an industry level is going to be extremely broad in scope.  An example of this would be something like “Fitness”.

Your industry level will give you inspiration for your Head Terms in your keyword research. It is also going to guide your content strategy to be used primarily in your brand-awareness stage (more later).

General Level

Here we’re going to drill down further. An example of this would be something like “Women In Fitness”. Your correlating key phrases would be mid-length and your content targeted more towards a warm lead.

Tribal Level

Finally we narrow down your content and message to your niche. Your tribe! These are the die-hards. Your product or service was made exactly for them. They are the ones who have the most potential to really love you!

To go along with our fitness theme this would be something like “Crossfit Enthusiasts” or “Triathletes”.

Content generated from this level will be written in the “language” of your niche and should gain great sharing potential if done well.

Your key phrases stemmed from this level will be equally as specific. Entering the long-tail.

2. What Content Do They Want

Now that you are acquainted with your TC, use the information you’ve gathered to answer these questions.

What kinds of content do they consume?
Where do they go to get their information?
Who and what kinds of content do they trust?
Where can you find them?

Now go through this list of content and decide which pieces are most relevant to your TC.


3. Map the Content

At this point in our content strategy we should know exactly who we’re marketing to, where they spend their time, and what types of content they will be attracted to.

First, check out the marketing funnel we’ll be working with in this step.


There are a few reasons I prefer this inverted funnel to the traditional version. The primary reason being that marketing takes effort. Real effort on both the parts of the company and the consumer.

The company has to guide and pull the customer with valuable content in an upward direction toward the purchase.

The customer likewise has to choose to take that step up. In the digital age the customer controls everything. They can customize the types of media they see, skip past TV ads and download content right when they want it. They get everything their way. This emphasizes their ability to choose whether to escalate up the buying process or not. They don’t just fall through the funnel like the traditional model suggests.

Now refer to the marketing pyramid above and your editorial calendar. This is where we will be mapping our content throughout each stage in the pyramid and scheduling each piece. Mapping your content throughout each stage will better determine the purpose and call-to-action the content needs to serve. The stage assignment refers to the steps in our marketing pyramid.

Keep in mind as we discuss the different stages that you should map out your content in a way that makes the customer feel like they are getting something of value in exchange for their micro-conversions as they work their way up the pyramid.

Brand Awareness

Brand awareness consists of marketing tactics like SEO, SEM and social media (and others) to make your TC aware of your brand.

Types of Content:
Social Media
Website Articles
Blog Posts
In-Person Events
Article Guest Posting
Mobile Specific Content
Print Magazines
Branded Content Tools
Syndicated Content (Licensed)
Digital Magazine

KPI’s to Measure:
Social Followers
Content Views
Site Visits
Inbound Links

Lead Nurturing

At this point there has been enough trust for your TC to complete an action like a sign up, free trial, demo, etc. Think of this as the dating stage.

Types of Content:
In-Person Events
Mobile Apps
Print Magazine
Case Studies
Print Newsletters
Research Reports
Digital Magazines
White Papers

KPI’s to Measure:
Time On Site
Social Shares
Content Downloads

Customer Conversion

At this stage the lead would be considered “hot”. This is where you use the power of persuasion to close the deal.

Types of Content:
In-Person Events
Case Studies
Research Reports

KPI’s to Measure:
Average Order Value
Subscribers (Content Websites Only)

Customer Retention

Customer retention content will reinforce the customer’s buying decision. It also includes frequent and ongoing content that caters to their psychographics, keeping them interested in your brand. When you do both of these well, upselling should be a natural byproduct.

Types of Content:
Social Media
Website Articles
In-Person Events
Mobile Apps
Print Magazines
Branded Content Tools
Print Newsletters
Digital Magazines

KPI’s to Measure:
Returned Visitors
Repeat Purchases
Virality of Content

Passionate Fans

When you’ve worked your customer up to this level you have created the ultimate brand evangelist. The best part about passionate fans is that they will pull their friends up the pyramid faster than they can climb up by themselves.

Types of Content:
Every type of content previously mentioned needs to be optimized in a way that it is easily sharable so that your passionate fans have the opportunity to do what they do best – share your stuff.

KPI’s to Measure:
Virality of Content

If you aren’t sure which step you are hemorrhaging potential customers, or would like some idea as to where you should start creating content; check out our basic content questionnaire.

As you're mapping your content throughout the pyramid, beware of two common content mapping mistakes:

Mistake 1: Neglecting Stages of the Pyramid

Many content strategies used by SEOs have almost all of their best content concentrated at the Brand Awareness level. This leaves the other stages barren, with potential customers dropping off.

Mistake 2: Skipping Stages

You never want to offend off potential customers by refusing to give them “courting” type content. When you skip the relationship building stage of Lead Nurturing, it's like asking a stranger to marry you. And as you would expect, most people run away screaming. Never ask for too much too fast.

Think Gary Vaynerchuk. “Everyone is trying to be a 19-year-old dude. Everyone is trying to close too fast. Give it a little time. It's so amazing what a soft sell can do.”

4. Connect the Keywords and Content

Content is king. This is why we first identified great content and now decide where the key phrases will fall. Oftentimes you’ll find that your selected key phrases will very organically fit into the content that you have chosen. You can do this the other way around and use your keyword research to guide your content strategy (or a little of both), just don't let your desire to target a keyword overpower the primary focus of creating great content.

Matching your key phrases means inserting proper anchor text, images, etc. This is where you will start to see content marketing start to jump off the pages of your rankings reports.


You'll notice in the graph, that the further you move up in the Marketing Pyramid, the more specific (long-tailed) your chosen key phrases become.

Here is a watered-down example how you can connect your key phrases and content:

John finds Company A by reading a guest post on one of his favorite sites. He comes to the website. The website has a well-done explainer video that shows John the benefits of having a good home security system, and some of the cool home automation gadgets that go along with it.

At the end of the video, rather then asking for a sale, Company A asks John to fill out a form with his name and email so he can receive a research report about  the 2012 Home Burglary Statistics in the US.

The report includes detailed information about the causes, areas, results and preventative measures taken against home burglaries. After reading the report John gets compelled to buy a home security system. 

To keep John a happy customer, Company A created a company blog with the sole purpose of providing more value for John. After having his security system installed, John stays updated on the blog to find out how to best use it and other ways to keep his home safe.

The blog also provides him with other fun, engaging content geared around his hobbies, values and community.

Now lets look at the left side of the two-columned chart above, under “Key Phrase”. Here is where we SEO specialists do our best. We do some keyword research for each piece of content and stage that John will move through, and map the keywords to those stages. This way we can attract more people like John, who are in those respective buying stages by providing them with a valuable, relevant piece of content. 

While this is a very small sample of a potential content campaign, you get the idea.

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