Although we aren’t experts in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) research here at Fixate, we’re exposed to it all the time. Therefore, we know how valuable it can be in helping to give your product wings. People normally think of SEO as something you do to your content after you’ve written it. But did you know that your SEO research strategy can actually harm your content before it has even been created? In this post, we’ll explain how that can happen — and more importantly, how you can avoid it when planning your content.
How SEO Can Harm Your Content
In a previous post, we discussed the problems with treating SEO as a science, noting that your SEO strategy can impact the nature of your content. A post with too much SEO focus can actually repel readers — especially technical ones. For example, if a reader clicks on your post out of interest only to find robotic jargon rather than the voice of the practitioner who wrote it, they will be disappointed. A bunch of jargon isn’t easy or pleasant to read, even if it gets you a good SEO score. The same applies to AI-generated content. Although tools such as ChatGPT can create content that satisfies keyword requirements, it will probably lack in-depth and original insights. It might also leave your readers feeling like you’re using bait and switch tactics, or that your blog is inauthentic. In the end, they could come away with a negative view of your brand.
In fact, that’s why we devoted a whole post to explaining why a good blog post is worth 1,000 keywords. What’s more, Google even updated its search engine to filter out excessive SEO noise and return quality content.
As with your keyword strategy, your SEO research itself can be either a big help or a big hindrance. Companies normally conduct this kind of research on an ongoing basis irrespective of any one piece of content. The idea is to maximize traffic to the company’s site, and the goals are for the long term.
However, it often happens that the people who are doing the SEO research are not part of the target audience. Sometimes, they don’t know much about the market they’re engaging in or their organization’s competitors. This is especially true in the tech world, where the market is highly specialized with several niche areas. An SEO expert will undoubtedly be able to find the right target keywords for your tech audience. But that same person will probably not know much about how your readers normally encounter those keywords. The expert will know all about their relevance for search rankings, but little about how they’re normally used in context.
The Challenges of SEO Research in the Tech Market
SEO research can be especially challenging in the tech world because it’s based on which keywords generate the most traffic. However, these might be the exact keywords that you don’t want to use for your optimization strategy.
Let’s take a look at a very specific example from the DevOps market. The terms Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD) appear in more than 50% of DevOps conversations. As a result, those two terms have a high level of saturation in the DevOps tooling market. If you use the term CI/CD frequently, it will show up to SEO researchers as something they should optimize. That, however, will be a problem if you don’t actually sell a CI/CD tool — and an SEO expert probably won’t know the difference.
Sure, if you optimize for CI/CD even though you don’t actually sell a CI/CD tool, you’ll probably still see a spike in traffic. But the spike will be due to the popularity of the term, not your content. In other words, you’ll just be measuring noise. For example, let’s say that you sell an API monitoring tool. If that’s the case, your content probably won’t interest someone searching for CI/CD tools. That’s an oversimplification, of course, but you get the idea.
It’s not uncommon for SEO experts to utilize common terms without realizing that they don’t align with your business goals. Instead, they are inadvertently directing their efforts toward the wrong audience — or casting their net far too wide.
Use SEO Research for Topic Curation and Content Creation
Most people think of SEO optimization as something they do after their content has been created. However, you’ll get the most from your SEO research by integrating it into your topic curation and content creation processes. In fact, we love it when our clients come to us with keywords. That helps us generate themes and topics that we can tailor to their goals.
The process goes something like this:
- We combine first-order and second-order keywords to create themes.
- We suggest topics to our clients based on these themes.
- After we’ve created their content, the first-order keywords will show up as focus keywords.
- The second-order keywords serve to boost the content’s relevance to the vendor and the topic.
If you start your content creation process with flawed SEO research, your keywords and themes will inevitably be off. Worse yet, the final product will probably be completely misdirected.
Fortunately, Fixate’s team can spot misguided keywords a mile away. We can also help coach your SEO experts and others about the challenges of the keywords they’ve selected. That’s because Fixate is the only practitioner-run technical content marketing agency, and our authors are first and foremost practitioners. We have excellent insight into your target audience because we are members of your target audience.
A Few More Tips for Maximizing Your SEO Research
In addition to the strategies we discussed above, there are a few more ways you can maximize your SEO research.
- The first is to take the time to educate your SEO experts about your target audience and the tech market. For example, teach them some basic industry terms and where your product fits into the market using key terminology. That way, they can learn to speak the language without having a DevOps background. This will help them use the skills you hired them for much more effectively. After they’ve done their research, you and your product marketing teams can review what they found and provide feedback. That way, they’ll have a much better idea of what’s relevant — and what’s not.
- You should conduct SEO research on your own company AND on your competitors. That will give you some insight into how you can strategize to come out on top.
- You’ll also want to do some SEO research on your target persona. You can start by looking for keywords that your target audience uses in online conversations and comments. For example, you can examine Twitter and LinkedIn to see which words they use (and how they use them).
- Then, take the results from each aspect of your SEO research and cross-reference them.
In the end, you just need to make sure that your SEO research is not a static process. Integrate built-in iterations with people who understand the market intimately, like product marketing teams and tech evangelists. Better yet, involve some practitioners in this process. This will prevent your SEO research from derailing productive traffic and harming the quality of your content.