Ryan Hanley

author, speaker, marketing geek

7 Basic Principles of Content Marketing and SEO that Actually Work

content marketing seo

The basic principles of content marketing and SEO are almost too obvious.

  1. Use keywords literally and deliberately
  2. Deliver more value than your audience expects
  3. Do it often and consistently

Yes, this is an incredibly watered down version of content marketing and SEO but if you had no other information on which to build your inbound marketing strategy these principles, in time, would take you to the promise land.

Deliver value with prejudice.

…for human SEO trumps every tactic you can learn from Rand Fishkin and the SEOMoz community. That’s in no way a knock on Rand or SEOMoz for I hold that organization and everyone that contributes to it in the highest regard.

That being said here’s a few basic principles of technical SEO that will have an immediate impact on your ability to get found in Google Search.

1) Target mid-tail and long-tail keywords first.

Targeting mid-tail and long-tail keywords will not yield the highest traffic volumes to begin with, but will instead return the most qualified traffic.  It may seem counterintuitive but this strategy is designed for “Early wins.”  If you are just testing content marketing and SEO as an online strategy for your business and you have to report results to a boss targeting, mid-tail and long-tail keywords would be a strong recommendation.

Your boss doesn’t have to know you only got 50 hits on your blog if five of them turned into sales…

2) Use keyword synonyms throughout your articles and website.

Try to stay away from repeating the same keyword phrase over and over again.  The Penguin and Panda updates to Google removed the necessity to keyword stuff.  Google is looking for natural keyword density, written with the purpose of delivering value.  No one in the natural course of writing or speaking would use the phrase “New York Workers Compensation Insurance” 15 times in a 450 word article.

Use variations like, “NY Workers Comp,” “Workers Compensation in New York,” “Workers Comp Insurance,” where those variations make sense.

3) Build upon your successful articles and pages.

If you find that a certain blog post or page on your website is performing extremely well, consider going back and adding onto the article. Take the subject deeper, make the article even more value than it already is…

This does two things: First is freshens up the post letting Google know you keep the information up-to-day adding to it’s importance, Second it creates an even deeper more in-depth article adding weight to the quality of the content from the viewpoint of Google.

This strengthens the specific keywords that post is ranked for.

4) Do not focus solely on one keyword or keyword phrase throughout your entire site.

Even if you are writing about a very focused niche, say taxidermy with a specialty in owls, there are a variety of phrases that rotate around that topic which are important to address in addition to your primary keyword or keyword phrase.

When I am creating content I put keywords into three categories:

  • Primary KeywordsThese are core keywords of your site.  These are the trigger words for consumers looking to buy your product.  Set up pages and/or landing pages dedicated to each keyword or keyword phrase specifically.
  • Supporting KeywordsThese are often long-tail keyword phrases that add onto your core primary keywords.  Most of these keywords will be addressed through blog posts.
  • Orbiting KeywordsThese are keywords that aren’t directly related to your core business and aren’t associated directly with your primary keywords as to be supporting.  Often these are keywords outside your specific industry that attract the same kind of consumer.  An example would be an insurance agency writing articles about mortgages.  An insurance agency doesn’t sell mortgages but consumers interested in mortgages also need insurance… 

target keywords

5) Internal linking tells Google that your old content is still important.

Internal linking may not deliver the same “Google Juice” as external linking, however, using a consistent internal link strategy is important for sending Google bots deep into your website to older posts which still contain value, as well as describing those internal pages and the keywords that should be associated with them.

This can be incredibly valuable if you have a page specifically dedicated to one keyword phrase that converts web traffic into new leads well.  Use internal linking to reinforce both the technical and human SEO of that page by sending more and more traffic there.

6) Build a natural mixture of external links into your highest converting content.

There are many different types of external links including strong, relevant keywords from sites ranked well for a similar keyword or keyword phrase all the way down to cheap, shallow link farms with a thousand links on one page.  Though I would encourage you to stay away from the very bottom of the external link spectrum (as that gets into the fuzzy blackhat SEO region) it is very important to diversify your external links.

I would however, if possible recommend a strong emphasis towards links from targeted sites with a long history and deep content structure.  These are obviously harder to get as everyone targets websites of high quality, (a good example in the marketing industry would be Copyblogger), but they do hold a lot of weight.

As these websites often take quite a bit of work to get featured on and quantity of links is also important, I recommend targeting sites with a lower barrier of entry as well.

7) Use words for their literal meaning

For as sophisticated a system as Google has created, to the best of my knowledge Google Bots still don’t sarcasm.  I enjoy an intriguing headline as much as the next guy, but if you’re writing content for the purpose of getting found in search you need to use deliberate, literal language.

That doesn’t mean you can’t use funny headlines meant to entertain your audience.  By all means… be funny.  Just understand that those aren’t the headlines that are going to help you get found in search (though legitimately those types of headlines may help you with social sharing…)

The Basic Principles of Content Marketing and SEO

Done right content marketing and SEO allow your business to get found in search at the exact moment consumers need your product.

Remember how this article started.

Deliver value with prejudice.  Before all other things create content that is valuable to your target audience.  Master that skill first then focus on best practices for content marketing and SEO

Understanding the basic principles of content marketing and SEO builds a solid foundation to generate more inbound leads but everything always comes back to value.

Below you’ll find the slides for a recent presentation I gave (you hire me as a speaker here).


The Rub

Here’s the deal… If someone tries to oversell you on content marketing and SEO tactics… run.  If you haven’t mastered delivering value yet anything beyond the basic principles outlined in this article is a waste of time and money.

So… focus you mental effort on telling your unique story of value in exceptional ways.

Good things will happen.

Thank you and Good luck,

I am Ryan Hanley and if you enjoyed this article you’ll love the Content Warfare Newsletter, get it here.

About Ryan Hanley

I help make sales easy through content marketing. My work as a marketing strategist, keynote speaker, and Amazon bestseller author will help your business establish authority, attract an audience and grow revenue. Hire me to speak at your next event or grab a copy of my new book, Content Warfare.

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  • http://www.verticalmeasures.com/services/quality-link-building/ @CliqueKaila

    Just discovering this post and enjoying it thoroughly. You provide such an honest look at SEO in content marketing, and in a way that is straightforward to apply.

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  • Randy Bauer

    thanks Ryan for a great post on Content Marketing and SEO. Continue to enjoy your media and insight. Keep up the great work.

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com/ Ryan Hanley

      @randybauer:disqus appreciate that! There are a bunch of “basic principle” posts to content marketing I’m trying to get out soon. All the best.

  • http://www.bloggersmakemoney.com Wade Harman

    Hey Ryan, another great post as always! I’m not one to get too involved in SEO all that much. I normally write about what I think is interesting and helpful. Usually the keyword is not all that great in the searches, and the one’s where I do write about things that can help people, the keyword is usually really high in competition (even the long-tailed ones). With the Panda and Penguin on the prowl I’m scared to death to build any links to the site other than commenting! But good post nonetheless!

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley


      Link building is still VERY important… it just has to be done naturally. Google has become more and more proficient at sniffing out unnatural link building which makes it not worth trying.

      As always, thanks for stopping by bro!


  • http://www.doitsocially.com Adil

    Yet another good post!

    I really liked the idea that by focusing on all three types of keywords we can provide “On stop shop” sort of value to the readers.

    Thumbs up Hanley!

  • http://www.doitsocially.com Adil

    Yet another good post!

    I came to know about supporting & orbiting keywords for very first time. I really liked the idea that by focusing on all three types of keywords we can provide “On stop shop” sort of value to the readers.

    The idea of updating & adding value to the most viewed most is also very superb.

    Thumbs up Hanley!

  • http://www.livingstoninsurancesc.com Joe P

    Hi Ryan,

    I recently met Jason Cass at a Big I conference and he told me to check out your site. Interesting Blog and posts here. I can really appreciate what you are trying to do here and I will tune in for more!

    I do feel that there is something missing here. How Much content will get there? How often do you have to repeat key words to get a higher Google ranking? I am editing our website regularly, but making sure I only do content that is genuine and just plain…Good! Just how Much is it going to take…


  • http://www.affiliatetemple.com/ Jgar

    you are correct that we should do something which will add value to the readersand not bother about SEO or write content for the search engines. if we follow this simple rule we will be getting good traffic and loyal readers.

  • http://www.thesilentseller.com Rob Metras

    Thanks for the great Slideshare presentation which I shared with my readers in an article on Content Marketing. Hope you dont mind the other company in the post

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley


      I really appreciate you sharing the slideshare with your readers and to be included was such great company is an honor.

      Thank you!


  • http://www.gasstationbusiness101.com/ Cory @ Start A Gas Station Business

    I agree with you that you must always endeavor to offer value to your readers and not bother about SEO or write content for the search engines. If you follow this simple rule, all else will be a breeze and you will be surprised later on that your site is a complete success.

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley


      Success online begins and ends with delivering value to your audience. It’s that simple.


  • http://www.barry-overstreet.com Barry Overstreet

    Hi Ryan,

    Another great article!

    SEO in regards to content marketing can be such a confusing arena. Google doesn’t help the situation by constantly changing the rules.

    That being said, this is a great basic explanation of how to get the most bang for your buck out of the content you produce. And like you said, it all starts with producing valuable content that people want and need to consume.

    Thanks for sharing. I hope you have a truly outstanding weekend!


    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley


      Google definitely doesn’t do us any favors, but all the rule changes are always geared towards helping sites that consistently produce original, relevant, valuable content.

      If you focus on that, Google Update don’t matter really.


  • Warda

    Whenever I google SEO or online marketing tips, almost every blog have similar posts. But, you have got some good stuff here.

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  • http://www.rightmixmarketing.com Tom Treanor


    Great post and slideshare. Nice explanation and details!!

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  • http://chickoryonline.com Patricia Haag

    Ryan – I swear that your posts deliver more information than some books I’ve read. I don’t really like slideshows that much, but yours was excellent and, yes, I’m going to share it on my site.

    Thanks for such an insightful post!

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley


      I’m so glad you find value in the work. What is it about slideshows that you don’t normally like? I want to make sure I don’t do those things in the future.


      Ryan H.

      • Patricia Haag

        Hi Ryan – Thanks for asking. The things I don’t like about slideshows are that they don’t have any sound our music; it makes me feel like I’m missing some important info. In an office setting, just watching a PowerPoint presentation without the presenter speaking guarantees you have missed something important.

        The thing I like least about slideshows via Slideshare is that I actually have to click through them (how lazy). If there was a way to set a timer for the show, I would like them better.

        • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

          Patricia that is excellent feedback. You can add audio to a slideshare presentation. Maybe one of these days I’ll do a voice over to a slideshare.

          Would that be valuable?

          • Patricia Haag

            Yes, that would be valuable :-)

  • http://www.fourtopper.com Michael

    Awesome article, Ryan. Content marketing is valuable, but I like your approach to it. It takes what’s not so obvious about content marketing and adds to it.

    Your tips can be used for personal branding, B2C or B2B – that’s awesome, because I’ve got businesses in each distribution channel!

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      That’s the deal buddy… In most cases these are simple ideas applied to your unique situation and if done right yield great results. Complex tactics are often not the solution.

      All the best,


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