As we look at today’s digital landscape, we can easily see how crowded the marketplace has become, placing a greater demand for quality content to cut through the noise.
Alongside the need for a solid content strategy comes the need to amplify your reach to help achieve your organization’s goals.
With many digital platforms at your fingertips, you may be wondering which ones are worth investing in, and how your organization can effectively reach more people.
Throughout this article, we’ll dive into the importance of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), why it’s worth the investment, and how to implement a powerful SEO strategy to help increase your organization’s impact.
Let’s get started!
Why should I invest in SEO?
One of the greatest reasons to invest in SEO is to ensure your content is findable and aligned with user search intent.
As you probably know, Google is the number one search engine used in the world today, (SEM Rush, 1). Users are increasingly relying on Google as a way to answer their questions and provide real-time solutions.
While there are several search engines available to use aside from Google, we’ll focus primarily on Google since they own a majority (84%) of the market share (Statista, 2).
According to Search Engine Journal,
“SEO is the most viable and cost-effective way to both understand and reach customers at key moments that matter” (Search Engine Journal, 3)
Living in today’s digital landscape means we should meet the user in their moment of need on the platform where they are searching by providing valuable, relevant content. And with a solid SEO strategy in place, you can provide the best possible user experience (UX) with your brand.
How can SEO help my organization increase its impact?
You may be wondering how publishing content to address Google search inquiries could move the needle for your organization.
After all, most organizations are focused on high-level goals (related to sales and fundraising). So, how does SEO fit into the bigger picture?
While SEO is primarily known for playing into the top of your marketing funnel to bring brand awareness, if executed correctly, it could support your entire communications funnel.
Implementing SEO-driven content with a strategic communications plan allows you to cultivate a deeper relationship with your audience.
To ensure they are cultivated appropriately, it’s important to map out subsequent actions you’d like your audience to take. See an example user flow below:
A strategic user flow forces your organization to be forward-thinking on the next step you would like people to take after viewing your content.
Not only does a thought-out SEO plan create opportunities to gather further interest in your organization through aligned search intent, but it also provides you with a bidding advantage when it comes to paid advertising.
If your search engine results page (SERP) is ranked high, your organization has a stronger chance of competing for keywords in a wider paid advertising strategy. When you have a bidding advantage, it could be used to target your demographic more accurately.
It’s important to keep in mind that SEO is a long-term play and will require time in order to see results. According to Google Search Central (4), “it takes typically from four months to a year from the time you begin making changes until you start to see the benefits.”
Patience and consistency will significantly pay off in the long run.
How can I roll out an effective SEO plan?
Now that we’ve covered the “why” behind SEO, let’s discuss how an effective SEO strategy can come to fruition.
Keep in mind that all SEO strategies should be unique. There isn’t a “one-size fits all” approach as there are nuances to each strategy based on overall organization objectives, market competition, and search demand.
Let’s now take a look at 6 steps to creating a powerful SEO strategy.
1. Define Your Goals and Audit Your Site.
Before you dive into the content planning and production process, it’s crucial to establish overall goals and KPIs to determine what success will look like.
Consider creating at least two types of goals:
- Primary goals – Consider the wider goals of your organization and what topics you desire to take authority in. Create a specific SEO-related goal around this with a measurable result, such as ranking in the top five (high-value keywords) within six months. You can use a rank tracker tool to measure success, such as the ones from Ahrefs or Moz.
- Supporting goals – A goal in this category supports the primary goal, and details steps to achieving it. An example would be to acquire 20 high-quality backlinks to a page in 6 months.
To achieve the supporting goal, you could break it down even further to detail how you plan to collect 20 backlinks in the allotted time frame.
In addition to setting goals, we recommend running a technical audit on your website to analyze the errors that may be impacting your site’s overall score.
Start with establishing a plan to resolve the critical errors, and then begin working through the lower priority ones. Over time, small tweaks can make a big difference in your website’s ranking.
2. Strategize a Content Plan.
Now that we’ve established the foundation for our SEO structure, it’s time to begin creating a content strategy.
A SEO-content strategy lays out the core topics based on your organization’s brand pillars, describes the type of copy to create, and articulates how much to write.
It’s also important to include user-intent phrases, keywords, and a suggested backlink strategy.
Here are a few key components to consider while creating your wider strategic plan:
- Content Pillars -Identify your organization’s primary themes, choose the topics you desire to take authority in, and ensure the angle of your copy is unique in comparison to other similar organizations.
- Personas – Creating personas allows you to define your target audience. They also help you to begin thinking in the mind of the user to understand their needs, pain points, and demographics. There are many tools to help with this. One example would be SEM Rush’s persona tool.
- User Intent Phrases – These phrases help you further understand the nature of the user’s initial search.
While users may not be searching for these exact words, hypothesizing the “why” behind their search will help inform your copywriting strategy.
For example, if one of your pages is focused on Christian Women’s Leadership, a user intent phrase could be, “Resources to help me lead my women’s group at church.”
To equip your copywriter with further SEO knowledge, consider utilizing tools like Keyword Insights AI.
- Keywords – Based on the content strategy, use a keyword planner tool to determine which keywords to infuse within the content.
Using this will help determine the best course of action for your keyword strategy through checking traffic potential, analyzing competition, and aligning keywords with the established goals.
A few tools to consider include Google Keyword Planner, SEM Rush Keyword Research, and Ahrefs Keyword Generator.
While the integration of keywords is crucial, it’s important to ensure you aren’t “keyword stuffing,” which means loading up an article with top keywords in hopes of increasing your page ranking.
Search engines are advanced enough to detect this stuffing mechanism and lower your page ranking.
Bottom line – include keywords, but also ensure your content flows properly.
- Backlink Strategy – One of the best ways to gain authority in the search engines results page is to acquire backlinks to your content.
A backlink is defined as an incoming hyperlink from one web page to another. When other organizations, partners, or media outlets link to your website page from their website, it tells Google that your page is relevant.
The greater the authority of the backlink’s website, (such as a link from Dallas Morning News instead of a mom-and-pop shop website) the more your content rank will soar.
When you acquire backlinks to your website, it boosts the overall Domain Authority (DA). This is a search engine ranking score to predict how likely a website is to rank in the search engine results page.
Domain Authority scores from one to 100. The higher scores correspond to a greater likelihood of ranking in the top search results (Moz.com, 5).
3. Write SEO Driven Content.
With the core components of your content strategy established, it’s time to begin writing SEO-driven content.
During this phase include specific keywords and user intent-phrases (as relevant) into each piece of content as it is written.
Additionally, strong SEO content is written in a way that is skimable, utilizing headings, bullet points, and bolding where necessary to break apart sections for the reader.
When possible, include images within articles to increase the chances of a user discovering your content.
4. Set Up Content to Ensure It’s Optimized.
Once the copy is finalized, it’s time to set up the content on your website. To ensure the page performs at its best, include the following:
- Heading and subheading of the content
- Simple title structure for your URL
- Detailed description, which includes keywords
- Internal Links and backlinks
- Images with related alt text (which displays if the image can’t render)
- An SEO plugin to help with ranking, such as Yost or Rank math to measure your predicted page score
- A subsequent step for the user to take (map out the user experience flow)
Another vital step is to ensure your website page is indexable (findable) by Google. This means telling Google that it can crawl and index your website pages, which allows users with relevant search queries to discover it.
You can do this by submitting your sitemap to Google using these steps (SEM Rush, 6).
5. Publish and Promote Content.
Your SEO-driven content is now ready to go! Depending on the scale of your strategy, it may take several months to begin seeing statistically significant results.
Even though your content will be findable on Google, we suggest amplifying the reach of your content through various ways:
- Organic Marketing – View your SEO-driven articles as macro content, which you can use to create micro content for other channels such as social media, email, SMS, and newsletters. Tease the content on the other channels and point users to your web pages for increased momentum.
- Paid Advertising – Since paid search advertising and strong SEO-driven content complement each other, consider running paid ads with the same keywords utilized within the content to provide further reach and engagement for the page.
- Partnerships – As mentioned above, establishing an effective backlink strategy is pivotal.
Whether it’s connecting with a ministry partner, an influencer-level advocate of the organization, or even a media outlet, there are creative ways to leverage partnerships for increased page authority. If this agreement is mutually beneficial for both organizations, it may also mean linking to the partner’s website in your related content.
6. Report Results Based on Your KPIs.
Lastly, it’s time to circle back to the technical audit to see how the resolved critical errors have improved the website’s overall ranking score. Once the most urgent errors have been addressed, begin working through the next set of errors that have a lower priority.
We encourage circling back to your goals and KPIs on a bi-weekly or monthly basis to see how your content is measuring up.
By reviewing your content performance against the original goals, it allows you to realize what small tweaks need to be made, and to identify next steps to reach your content’s fullest potential.
As a reminder, a successful SEO play will not happen overnight. It’s a long-term investment to collect domain strength and to begin seeing strong keyword rankings.
SEO is an iterative process, but if done correctly, it’s one that could change the trajectory of your ministry or organization.
I hope this article has helped you understand the importance of SEO and how it can move the needle for your organization.
Powerful content is more than words on a screen. It’s about creating a deeper connection with people, and strategically moving their hearts toward the mission of your organization. All to create greater Kingdom impact.
Happy search-engine optimizing!
By Rachel Tyler | Director of Marketing
SEM Rush – Google is the number one website used in the world today
Statista – Google owns a majority of the market share http://bit.ly/3JDJotS
Search Engine Journal – “SEO is the most viable and cost-effective way to both understand and reach customers at key moments that matter.”
Google Search Central – Typically from four months to a year from the time you begin making changes until you start to see the benefits.
Moz – Domain Authority, https://moz.com/learn/seo/domain-authority
SEM Rush – How to Submit a Site Map to Google – https://www.semrush.com/blog/submit-sitemap-to-google/