The Lifetime Value of SEO Content: How to Ensure Your Content Keeps Delivering
Yes, content marketing can be a powerful tool to attract new audiences, increase brand awareness, and ultimately convert leads into customers. At times, though, it can feel like a black box – a long game with uncertain outcomes.
It’s challenging to create content that resonates with users while also satisfying Google’s algorithms and competing against a backdrop of ever-changing competitors and search engine results pages (SERP).
Your content also needs to be structured in a way that builds your website’s topical authority and makes it easier for Google to understand entity connections. The worst part is that none of this happens overnight. Business owners may often find themselves asking questions like, “How much content is enough?” and “Is content bringing me any value?”
In this article, we’ll explore the uncertainties of content marketing and cover:
- When Do You Start Seeing Results from Content Marketing
- The Lifetime Value of Content
- Why You Shouldn’t Publish Content for Content’s Sake
- When Not to Invest in Content Marketing
- Content Performance and 80/20 Rule
- Does Set It and Forget It Work for Content SEO
- How to Ensure Your Content Keeps Delivering
How Long Does It Take to Start Seeing Content Marketing Results?
It can take between six to nine months to start seeing results from your content marketing work. As a rule of thumb, you should expect results after the six-month mark.
However, this timeline can vary based on factors such as the industry, organic competition, content quality, and consistency.
In highly competitive industries, or with brand-new domains, it can take over a year to start seeing increased website traffic or improved search engine rankings. As your content gains traction and your website builds authority around the array of topics your service addresses, you’ll be getting more significant results. Once you start to see success, though, the growth can be exponential. This is precisely what happened with a brand that we worked with from 2018 to 2019.
The Lifetime Value of Content
Just recently, I checked the organic performance of Funeralocity, and the results were impressive.
Source: Ahrefs, site explorer, https://www.funeralocity.com/ overview, organic traffic all time
The traffic to their website has grown exponentially, and the top pages that are bringing in the most traffic are the very same pages we created back in 2018.
These pages made it to the first page of Google, and many of them are featured in Google’s answer box.
Source: Ahrefs, site explorer, https://www.funeralocity.com/ top pages, filtered to include “blog” in the URL
Bottom line – the content that we planned and created back then is still delivering results, years later. It still sends thousands of people every month to the brand’s website, helping answer their questions and solve their pain points.
Of course, it wasn’t an overnight success. We started with a Content SEO Audit and a Content Marketing Strategy, mapping the topic pillars and supporting articles, and then executing against the plan.
For months, nothing seemed to happen. The pages we had crafted were not attracting traffic, and people were not discovering them in Search. It was a waiting game.
It took time for all of this content to accumulate topical authority for the website. It took time for the brand to be recognized as a trusted source of information. Once the brand had built up these content assets and they gained traction, the results skyrocketed. The investment paid off. The pages are still delivering valuable traffic and keeping the brand top-of-mind for its audience.
Stop Putting Out Content For Content’s Sake
When marketers plan how to maximize organic growth, it’s tempting to focus on production volume and speed and start building massive content campaigns. Instead, brands would benefit from taking a more strategic approach to content creation. This requires understanding the target audience and offering value with every piece of content.
There are three main components to successful content marketing – understanding your specific audience and their information needs, understanding how Google interprets the searcher’s intent, and optimizing your pages for search.
In the example above, our content marketing strategy began with identifying the brand personas. Based on our findings, we mapped out the pillars that we wanted to build. Each pillar covered a broad topic related to our service offering and our personas’ pain points.
Finally, we created individual briefs for each piece of content. These briefs included detailed keyword research, an outline for all the sub-topics of the article, internal links, and information resources. In addition, we included examples of top-performing articles on the topic to demonstrate how Google interprets the searcher’s intent. To get a better idea of what this looks like, here is a sample brief on the topic of wine flavors.
Doing all the prep work before we started publishing paid off. Instead of chasing every keyword opportunity, we planned what topics we want to cover and what questions people have when researching this service. This strategy is still bringing success to the brand.
When Not to Invest in SEO Content
If you skip research and strategy and focus on speed and volume, your content marketing investment can be at risk. However, there are other scenarios, in which you’d be better off not investing in content marketing.
If your business operates in a highly regulated industry, such as finance or healthcare, creating content that meets legal and compliance requirements can be challenging and costly.
If you have a large e-commerce website that offers products across hundreds of categories, content marketing may struggle to cover all the separate categories effectively. This is because creating high-quality, comprehensive content for each category can be a significant undertaking, and may not provide the best return on investment. Additionally, for each category, your content would be competing against websites that specialize only in that niche, which can make it challenging to stand out and drive significant traffic. It may be more effective to consider other marketing channels, such as paid advertising, social media marketing, or influencer partnerships, that can help you reach your target audience more effectively.
Perhaps the most important factor when deciding if it’s worth it to invest in SEO content is to consider the role that organic search plays in your user acquisition journey. How likely is it for your ideal customer profile to be searching for your services on Google?
Think of a brand providing safety and communication systems for the mining industry. Their business leads come from RFPs, public procurement, and subcontracting. It is unlikely that they land a business deal because of the content they publish on their blog.
Similarly, if you market a productivity tool targeting startup CEOs, you might consider creating your content on LinkedIn, instead of publishing it on your website’s blog. Simply because your target audience is more likely to spend time on the social platform and trust the content shared there more than they trust the SEO-optimized listicles on the SERP.
Content Performance and 80/20 Rule
Working on Funeralocity’s content, we published around 50 blog articles. Today, about 20 of them are on Google’s first page. Were the others a wasted effort?
I’d argue against that. When planning your content marketing investment, not all of your campaigns will be successful. It’s even likely that the effectiveness of your content complies with the Pareto Principle – 80% of outcomes might result from 20% of all pages you’ve published.
In the case of Funeralocity, some of the underperforming articles were on niche topics with low search demand, while others simply did not perform as well as we had hoped. They failed to capture the search but contributed to the semantic mind map of the website.
Why does this matter? Since the introduction of the Knowledge graph, Hummingbird, and BERT updates, a keyword-centric SEO approach is simply not enough. Google has transformed into a semantic search engine, and the SEO and Content strategies have adapted to this shift.
Creating a comprehensive content network for every sub-topic and related question, and structuring it in a semantic hierarchy with logical internal links has become a must if you want to become an authority on a topic in the eyes of a semantic search engine. Even content that does not make it to the 1st page of Google will help crawlers and users understand more about your service and what problems it solves. If your website accumulates too many pages with low traffic, you can either optimize them to better satisfy the searcher’s intent or prune them by redirecting them to better-performing pages.
Content SEO and the Do Once and Forget About It Approach
Given how Funeralocity’s content keeps giving year after year, it makes sense to treat your SEO budget as an investment for life. And it is, with one caveat – SEO work does not end when you click the “Publish” button.
The reality is that your SEO content requires ongoing attention and optimization to maintain and improve your website’s search engine rankings over time. Here is what can happen when you don’t:
Source: Ahrefs site explorer, https://aimseducation.edu/ overview, organic traffic all time
We started on Content marketing with AIMS Education back in 2012. Within the first 4 years, we had increased their organic traffic by 1000%. We stopped working together by January 2021.
Why didn’t their content keep delivering, as in the case of Funeralocity? For 2 reasons:
- Search changed from one-keyword-one-page to semantic topics, and we were slow to adapt.
- The brand stopped investing in SEO and Content
The original content strategy for this website was keyword-driven, and as search algorithms evolved, it gradually became obsolete. At that time, though, the content was performing great. People interested in allied healthcare discovered the brand through our blog content, and 95.5% of all website conversions were influenced by our content marketing work.
We suggested a strategy shift, focused on the pillar-cluster model, but given the strong content performance, it took time to get buy-in and implement the changes.
We started pruning, consolidating content, and optimizing pages to cover topics, not keywords. Given the massive amount of content on the domain, it simply took time to make a splash.
In the meantime, the pages’ performance got worse. Understandably, the brand lost faith in SEO and stopped investing in organic channels. Once we stopped optimizing and publishing content, the traffic collapsed. The lead generation mechanism that we had created ran out of fuel.
How to Ensure Your Content Keeps Delivering
Ultimately, to create ROI-positive content, it’s essential to focus on the needs of your target audience. By understanding your audience and creating content that speaks to their pain points and interests, you can establish your brand as a trusted authority, driving traffic and conversions to your site.
To maintain and boost your search engine ranking, you need to keep track of SEO performance. Search is constantly evolving, so you need to stay up-to-date with algorithm changes and ensure that your website is performing at its best.
In addition to SEO, ongoing on-page optimizations can help improve the user experience and satisfy the searcher’s intent. These optimizations can include adding internal links to other relevant content, improving page load speed, adding more content to answer all the questions users have, and enhancing the mobile experience.
To create quality content, you need to identify the intent behind the keywords and topics you are targeting. Use structured data markup to help search engines understand the content and context of your pages. Organize your website pages in a logical hierarchy with clear internal linking. This helps search engines establish the relationships between different pieces of content on your site.
Use natural language and avoid keyword stuffing. Semantic search is designed to understand natural language and conversational queries, so it’s important to write in a way that sounds natural to humans.
Focus on providing comprehensive, in-depth content that fully answers the searcher’s query. This can include things like FAQs, tutorials, and other types of content that provide detailed information on a particular topic.
But most importantly, your content needs to add value, instead of reiterating what’s already out there. Both users and search engines will reward your effort.