A content investment strategy
By Tracey Wallace
“I think people under-resource SEO and over-resource ads,” said Ethan Smith on Lenny’s Podcast back in Q422.
In that interview, Smith lays out the three types of SEO:
- Programmatic SEO: You need a ton of SKUs to do this, like large retailers have, or like AirBnB or Zillow where each listing is a SKU.
- Technical SEO: All websites have to do this, and it isn’t as ”technical” as it seems. Make sure the site loads fast. Submit a clear sitemap. Don’t 404 a ton of stuff. Interlink to important pages. Build an organized, easy to navigate, mobile-first and fast-loading website and you’ll be alright.
- Editorial SEO: This is the SEO that has really taken off over the last couple of years, and it is when an organization primarily uses its blogs or similar content pages to rank for non-brand search terms. There’s a ton of different ways to do this, but content teams and SEO teams typically must work very closely to make it work.
Now, editorial SEO is one of the best long-term marketing strategies because of its compounding effects. This is why Smith says that folks underinvest in SEO. He’s primarily talking about editorial SEO. And they instead over-invest in ads.
Because with ads, you can put a dollar in today and maybe get 2 dollars out tomorrow. That’s a very fast return!
With editorial SEO (or content marketing), the revenue return takes longer as you start up––but then speeds up far faster over time––proving to be a much more worthwhile long-term investment strategy than ads.
Now, thinking about content marketing and editorial SEO in this way can be helpful when you talk to executives and pitch your content strategy.
Content teams are often asked to produce all kinds of content––and don’t usually have the flexibility to focus on only one type (nor is that what I’d recommend they do). But, no one person nor team can do everything all the time.
So, using an investment strategy mindset to educate your executive team can buy you the time to get the work done that you need to, and set yourself up for success.
For instance, at Klaviyo, we are dedicated in 2023 to spending roughly 70% of our content marketing resources on editorial SEO so that we can use this year to speed up our non-brand term flywheel for this year and beyond.
Next year, we’ll likely shift to a 40% editorial SEO focus, in which we spend more of our time updating older content, and producing more strategic pieces on any new keywords that pop-up.
Editorial SEO is like gardening afterall––you plant (which we are doing in 2023), and then you tend (which we’ll move into in 2024).
Now, spending 70% of your time in any given year on editorial SEO is a big bet. So, why make it at any company?
Well, if your company is:
- In an industry in which traffic volume is decently established
- And you are already an authority (both of these are true for Klaviyo),
- Then the earlier you focus on editorial SEO, the faster your flywheel starts to spin, and the more you compound.
It’s like starting to invest at 20 versus 30.
Now, you don’t have to be Klaviyo’s size to invest 70% of your time in content marketing for a year.
If your site is driving ~1,000 sessions (You’d find this in Google Analytics) to the site outside of SEO and you have ~1,000 referring domains (You’d find this in Ahrefs or SEMRush), and you are working in an industry in which search volume exists (this is most industries), then your organization is ripe for a 70% hedge bet on editorial SEO for a full year.
This is especially true if your organization has never done this before.
Get the flywheel turning, faster and faster, because not only does this help the company gain increased traction overtime in SEO dominance and brand authority (show the executives the compounding chart], but it also means that as you shift your bet down to that 40% investment in editorial SEO, the flywheel of growing organic traffic you are already driving to your site is now a distribution channel for all of your other marketing efforts.
This creates efficiency.
And efficiency matters a lot. I have seen so many brands invest in YouTube or Podcasts––and even focus on that for a full year. I say that full year because folks often argue that brands don’t invest long enough in content plays like these to see their revenue return. So, let’s put it right here and say that these brands spend an entire year on those programs, and still aren’t’ seeing any lift… then you’re in trouble.
So, when the numbers don’t pan out, when the series aren’t seen, and when budgets are reevaluated (because YouTube and Podcasts can be quite expensive), these programs and often their teams get left behind and laid off.
Now, this can happen for a few reasons:
- The podcast / YouTube series wasn’t very good: Maybe the brand didn’t know its audience well enough.
- The podcast / YouTube series didn’t get the distribution it needed: This is very likely for early stage companies, companies that don’t invest in go-to-market, and companies that don’t have a strong editorial SEO flywheel.
- A combination of the above.
Now, I know it isn’t feasible at every company for the content team to manage or have a big say in go-to-market programs. Instead, content teams often only have say over their own content properties, which means that is your only real outlet for distribution.
Focus, then, on making the channels in which you have the most say and control the ones that determine your future success. You’ll be far happier if you do––and for most of you, that will mean investing more in editorial SEO now so that you can do cooler, more creative programs in the future.
Build that case for your executive team too––the compounding effects in traffic and brand awareness, and the built-in distribution network for any future content programs.
This might be one of the only cases in which if you build it—and build it right––they will come.