Organic search traffic is the gold standard for just about any B2B content distribution strategy.
And why wouldn’t it be?
We know that organic reach on social platforms has plummeted. We know that communities are flooded with so much content that standing out feels nearly impossible. And we know that the paid promotion model will continue to get more expensive.
Amidst these challenges for your B2B content distribution strategy, organic SEO offers hope. With the help of an SEO tool or two, you can gain deep insight into what your audience is searching for and the intent behind those searches. If you create great content that satisfies that intent, you’ll climb the SERP rankings and watch organic traffic grow.
Let’s not pretend that building organic search traffic is as easy as following a few simple steps. But with that chance to build your B2B content distribution strategy around this essentially free channel, why wouldn’t you optimize every piece of content for search?
Well, there are a few reasons. Not all content has to be relentlessly built for search optimization.
Where Search Optimization Goes Wrong for a B2B Content Distribution Strategy
Backing your content strategy with loads of search data has two effects. First, it gives you some reassurance that you aren’t just creating content for content’s sake. And second, it gives you some data to point to when discussing the potential ROI of your efforts.
But there’s a reason why search engine optimization is a profession unto itself. For content creators and managers who know the basics of on-page SEO, it’s easy to fall into a few traps.
SEO Trap #1: Relying Too Much on Keywords
After putting so much time into keyword research, it’s easy to look at the results as a concrete roadmap to success.
The problem is that we’re long past the days when stuffing one keyword into your content as many times as possible was enough. Now, you need to match your content to searcher intent while also optimizing for topics rather than just one target keyword.
When you rely too heavily on writing for search engines, you could run into two problems. First, writing content solely based on general keyword research could lead to plenty of traffic and minimal conversions. You need that deep understanding of search intent and conversion-oriented keywords if you want to drive results.
And the second problem is that slotting keywords into all the “right” places in your content won’t guarantee success. Search engine algorithms have become sophisticated enough to identify the value your content can deliver to users. If you’re focused on keywords but providing a poor user experience, you’ll have invested all that time only to receive little or no traffic.
SEO Trap #2: Constantly Following Competitors
One of the best ways to build out an SEO-based B2B content distribution strategy is to analyze your search competitors.
Instead of focusing solely on keyword research, you can check which of your competitor’s pages drive the most traffic. Then, using either the 10x content approach or the skyscraper technique, you can create something better than the competition and climb the SERP rankings.
This is a great way to generate content ideas and improve distribution. It just can’t be the only source of ideas for your strategy.
Once you’ve addressed situations where competitors outrank you for valuable keywords and phrases, you have to take a more forward-looking approach to content distribution. Generate unique ideas, get out ahead of search intent, and create content that strengthens your brand.
SEO Trap #3: Expecting Immediate Results
If you’re just starting to focus on SEO for an existing site, there’s probably some low-hanging fruit for content distribution.
Maybe there are some high-performing blog posts that you could update to capture even more organic traffic. Or, maybe there are some critical issues blocking your excellent content from ranking as highly as it should. These tasks can result in some quick improvements to your organic traffic.
But when you’re talking about SEO as part of your content distribution strategy, you have to be in it for the long term.
Even the world’s best SEOs might take a few months or more to show consistent improvements in B2B content distribution. And if you’re using SEO for distribution without a dedicated professional or agency, you might have to wait even longer.
Treating SEO as the only thing that matters to your content distribution will lead to frustration over a lack of short-term results.
When Not to Prioritize Search Optimization
I think every content marketer has fallen into one of these SEO traps in the past (I know I have). Especially if SEO isn’t your primary area of expertise, it’s easy to go all-in on such a data-driven approach to content.
Even though SEO is a high-value part of B2B content distribution, we don’t have to search and optimize every single asset. A recent article from Andy Crestodina offers some support for that thought:
“Around half the articles I write are search optimized. For these, I research keyphrases (look at search results, consider intent, estimate competition) and then indicate relevant (use the phrase, answer related questions, work in semantically related topics).”
There’s plenty of value in the article itself, but it’s not really about the topic we’re discussing now.
That first line stood out to me, though. If Andy Crestodina isn’t relentlessly search optimizing every single piece of content, do the rest of us need to?
The only problem is that we need to decide when we should optimize for search and when we can go without it.
Whether you’re adding some paid promotion to your SEO-based content distribution strategy or looking to become the exception to the trend of dwindling organic reach on social, you need the right content to do it.
Here are a couple of types of content where search optimization might not be the top priority.
True Thought Leadership
The concept of thought leadership has been overused in recent years. And while there might be a better term for this type of content, this will have to do for now.
True thought leadership isn’t just posting your brand’s spin on a well-known topic. That means you aren’t publishing thought leadership pieces by creating the 1,073rd “Beginner’s Guide to X.” Taking the pillar page approach to that kind of topic could earn you some important search traffic. Still, it doesn’t fall into the thought leadership category.
Creating thought leadership content means bringing some first principles thinking to your editorial calendar.
First principles thinking breaks down complicated issues into essential elements, giving you the building blocks to come up with truly unique solutions.
One article used the analogy of a coach and a play stealer to explain what this really means. Every leader, regardless of the sport, starts with the same historical knowledge of plays and strategies. A true coach “reasons from first principles” because “they assess what’s physically possible, along with the weaknesses of the other teams and the capabilities of their own players, and create plays that are designed to give their teams an advantage.”
The play stealer is largely “just copying something that someone else has created,” maybe tweaking a few elements here and there.
You don’t want to be the brand that is constantly tweaking the content others have created. Coming up with truly unique insights into your audience’s pain points will generate more social shares, better engagement with paid promotion, and greater long-term brand awareness.
Search optimization might help, but the focus should be on new insights rather than keyword trends.
Subject Matter Expert Roundups and Interviews
For a long time, expert roundups were a hallmark of content marketing success.
The format has been a bit overused at this point. But it only feels that way because quality has declined as more brands have jumped on the trend.
When executed well, collecting insights about a specific (relevant) topic from many subject matter experts gives you an easy way to counter the drop in organic reach on social media. Instead of focusing on search optimization, you can think of these kinds of articles as avenues for better engagement and social shares on a platform like LinkedIn.
Another option is to run an interview series with just one guest per post. The rise of interview-style business podcasts has made this even easier as you can pull the transcript and turn it into a blog post.
While you want to take the basic search optimization steps for these posts, your sole focus isn’t necessarily ranking for a certain word/phrase.
Product News and Announcements
You should optimize product marketing for search. That way, you’ll be in position for buyers to consider your brand as they reach the end of their decision-making processes.
However, the initial announcement doesn’t need to check all the boxes of search optimization. You don’t need to type up 1,500+ words about a new feature. And you don’t need to pack the post with keywords from your spreadsheet full of research results.
You’ll want your product pages and relevant blog posts to rank well. But the announcement can be geared entirely toward customers and prospects who have been waiting for this new feature. Focusing on delighting customers will generate better engagement on social platforms and email newsletters than if you wrote specifically to satisfy search engines.
Balancing the Many Sides of B2B Content Distribution
The point of all this isn’t to tell you that you shouldn’t prioritize search optimization for content distribution.
When you implement the right SEO strategy, you’ll start to unlock that organic search traffic over time.
But you don’t just want long-term results. Your B2B content distribution strategy must also address the short term. And that’s where you can find success with content that doesn’t specifically prioritize search optimization.
This ultimately comes down to your ability to create content that is specifically designed to work on different channels. You have content that’s optimized to drive search traffic. You have content that will attract attention on social media. And you have content that will consistently position your brand as a thought leader.
When the distribution strategy factors into the earlier stages of content creation, you’ll end up with assets that are more likely to gain attention.