Ask Your SEO Agency These Content Questions – Sarah Panus – Episode 79

TUNE IN: Apple Podcasts l Spotify

Types of content insights to ask your SEO Agency for. Timing recommendations about how frequently to meet and discuss. Measurement questions to ask for. Quick advice to improve your brand storytelling content plans and strategy with your SEO Agency. 

THIS EPISODE AT-A-GLANCE

  • What to ask your SEO agency: three things
  • Number 1: long tail phrases and insights
  • Number 2: keyword specific optimizations
  • Number 3: backend optimizations – meta descriptions, hashtags, etc.
  • Measuring what you’re doing to impact the business

Full Podcast Transcription

Sarah Panus:
Whenever I have leaned into SEO insights for like these long tail phrases, as like themes of stories and headlines and things. Every single time in my career, you guys, the content is always in like the top 10 performing content for the year.

Sarah Panus:
Hi, my name is Sarah Panus. I have spent the last two decades driving digital content for billion dollar brands. Now I help content marketers build winning brand storytelling strategies and reduce feelings of overwhelm and confusion. Join me as we discuss strategy, creativity, confidence, and building a better connection with your audience. Think of this as a creative content marketing jam session mixed with chicken soup for the soul. This is the Marketing With Empathy podcast. 

Sarah Panus:
Hey, Hey, Kindred Speakers. Welcome back to another episode of Marketing with Empathy. If you’re new here. Welcome. I am Sarah Panus and today we’re gonna be doing a quick tip episode about the benefit of SEO and your brand storytelling content plans, and specifically talking about ways to tap into your SEO agency.

What to ask your SEO agency: Three things

Sarah Panus:
More than you may be already for really valuable storytelling insights. And why do you wanna do this? I’m sure so some of you listening may already be doing this. Some of you may not, and some of you are kind of in between and thinking you wanna do more of it. And so that’s why I wanted just to come on with some different ideas of things that you can, the different types of things you can be asking your SEO agency for the timing of when you can be meeting measurement questions, you can be asking them to help advance your storytelling work for your company. So when I think about SEO and brand storytelling content, it really is SEO, a very critical component of data insights that feeds into your brand storytelling strategy plan. And when I work with my clients, I have this framework called the FED method, F E D.

Sarah Panus:
It stands for Focus + Empathy + Data and SEO fits into the data piece, cuz you’re getting to see like what are people searching for around like your storytelling pillars, certain topics, monthly storytelling, themes that you have coming up, but it also gives you a little bit of insight too into that empathy piece because you start to see, well what are people searching for? And the beauty with online and SEO insights is that it’s people just typing it in themselves. So you get to see really pure answers of what their questions are. What are they looking for versus like, you know, an in person focus group where I feel like, you know, just as human beings, we may censor ourselves a little bit. We may be too nervous to say what we’re really searching for or what really questions we have versus when we’re in front of our computer or on our phone, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s ours and we can search for whatever we want.

Sarah Panus:
So that’s why I love leaning into SEO insights as one piece that informs your content strategy and your storytelling strategy. But what I found in talking with and working with corporations and companies and folks throughout the years, the last 20 years, is that not everybody does it, not all communications and content teams tap into their SEO agencies. They think of SEO as very often siloed within corporations as like one team owns SEO. Usually it’s like your website team and it doesn’t branch out too much further to other groups across marketing and communications groups. This is a huge, huge miss people. So I worked, you know, at sleep number billion dollar retailer, and we had a really great process for how SEO agencies and SEO insights were part of our storytelling team that I was leading. And so I’m gonna talk you through some of the insights that I’ve had on today’s episode. So we’ll get all into that. We’re gonna take a quick break from our sponsors and then I’ll be right back.

Sarah Panus:
Okay. I’m back. I also maybe should premise, I don’t know if my voice sounds different than normal. It feels a little different for me. I’ve been doing a lot of trainings with one of my corporate clients, training their internal team on how to think more like editorial directors and to do aspects of their job better. I’ve been talking a lot today. So if you hear me on a clear my throat, sorry in advance. But I really wanted to get this episode recorded still today. So we could get this out to everybody cuz it’s such an important topic. Okay. First step then with SEO and your content brand storytelling content, there’s kind of like three buckets, I would say for the types of things that you ask for of your SEO agency and actually before I even get through those three things, I think the first obvious thing is to make sure you have a contact at your SEO agency and to make sure that it’s cool that you connect with them, that it’s part of their scope.

Sarah Panus:
And if it’s not part of their scope, talk with whoever owns the SEO relationship to see if it can be added. If another group owns the SEO agency relationship, the last thing you wanna do is start asking that agency to do a bunch of work for you. Or correct questions of why is so and so asking me to do this, you know, get that allyship, get that transparency internally with whoever it is that you need to collaborate with first and foremost. Okay. So I’m gonna assume that’s happened. Let’s like do that. If not, that’s a great to do coming out of this this episode. Okay. So you have a contact with your SEO agency and your internal teams. You figured out kind of how you’re gonna work together. And so then the types of things from a storytelling perspective that you wanna ask for SEO.

Number 1: long tail phrases and insights

Sarah Panus:
So there are kind of three things. There’s the first, which I would call like long tail phrases and insights. These are usually non-branded long tail keywords. And what I mean by long tail like phrases, not just one single word, but it’s multiple words. Usually it’s a sentence, people asking, you know, how do I, I blank? Or is it normal to blank? Things like that. So that’s like one bucket amazing insights because I love long tail searches because it’s so helpful to see like what are the key phrases around certain things that relate to your business, relate to your storytelling pillars and use a lot of times those long tail searches can literally become the headline for your content.

Sarah Panus:
If it’s a blog post or a video or a infographic header or a social post, like you lean in and use those words because you’re seeing, okay, this is what people are searching for online. It’s amazing. Whenever I have leaned into SEO insights for like these long tail phrases as like themes of stories and headlines and things, every single time in my career, you guys, the content is always in like the top 10 performing content for the year. Like my experience with it would be on like the blog side when I was the editor in chief for a very large billion dollar retailer. And it consistently happened year after year. And so I think SEO insights definitely, definitely, definitely need to be part of your content strategy plan. So long tail phrases and insights.

Number 2: Keyword Specific optimizations

Sarah Panus:
The second type is more of your like keyword specific optimizations that are relevant to your brand. So instead of like the long tail phrases, obviously, are there any certain keywords or two words, you know, that are very specific to your brand that you wanna keep top of mind as you’re creating content and being clear and asking the SEO agency of where is it better to put this within our content? Does it matter if it’s in the header versus in the description, does it matter? Like, should we make sure we’re putting this in, obviously you’d wanna be putting it into like meta descriptions and things for longer format copy, but just like having that discussion so that you, as the content person understand just the difference, the benefits of where these things should go and what the benefit of, of it is what’s been interesting is through, you know, over the last 20 years that I’ve been working in this BI, you know, it evolves obviously year to year and sometimes more often throughout the year in terms of Google’s algorithm and what the, what they’re prioritizing versus what they’re not.

And there’s never like a really clear cut list of like dude X, Y, and Z. They’re getting more transparent. Now Google is, I feel like with things that are of importance to them, meaning what are those indicators that when the search engine is crawling around looking for content, that if it finds these things within your content, it’s gonna make it rank higher. So understand that it’s really valuable insight so that you’re not just creating for the sake of creating. Obviously you never wanna do that, but this is like a great piece of insights to help inform. And it also is a great piece internally too, if you need to sell in an idea, get SEO insights to back up as well as one of those like data pieces. It’s not the only data piece or in some instances, maybe it will be, you know, just kinda depending on what topic you’re talking about, but it’s a great thing internally too, to kind of back up the idea and say, this is rooted in data. We’re seeing X number of people are really searching for this phrase. There’s a lot of questions. We are a leader in this topic. We need to answer this. We need to get that content out there.

Number 3: Backend Optimizations – meta descriptions, hashtags, etc.

Sarah Panus:
We need to be of value to our customer base. And in the third type I would say is what a lot of people think of SEO traditionally is more of that technical SEO, backend optimization stuff like meta descriptions or hashtags and recommendations and referring link recommendations or broken link stuff or whatever it may be, right? Like those that more technical side ding in that might of expertise, but super helpful to get those insights from the SEO agency to audit your existing stuff. Especially if you have a brand blog and on your site, more wherever your content is living in multiple places to help get those insights from them, your YouTube channel, all those places. So that’s like the types of things you want to be asking them for. And then from a timing perspective. So how often should you be meeting with them?

Sarah Panus:
So ultimately this is gonna be up to you and your team and based on how it works, but I recommend a three-pronged approach of quarterly, monthly and ad hoc. If you can get access to them in this capacity, this is gonna give you everything you need. Okay. From a quarterly perspective, you would set up one quarterly meeting or a recurring quarterly meeting with your group, with whoever owns the SEO agency, like, you know, wherever your content is living, like have those people be part of that discussion, cuz then it creates a really great collaboration internally. So quarterly, what you’re gonna do and those agendas is you’re gonna wanna do two things. You’re gonna look ahead of like content that is gonna be planned so that they can, you can have a great discussion around how to what’s new, that you’re gonna need to their help on giving you insights around.

Sarah Panus:
And then you’re gonna wanna look back at the results to date. So SEO impact and rank and results don’t happen quickly. Those say it’s a marathon and not a sprint, which is super true, frustrating, cuz you like just want your stuff to rank really fast and you’re like, come on. But it doesn’t always happen that fast. And so quarterly’s a nice cadence to see like how, I mean track monthly of course like movement from an SEO traffic perspective. But on these quarterly discussions you can get deeper at looking back at results to date for that year, year over year kind of understanding growth. You always wanna have growth if it’s stagnant for a while, that’s a problem. So quarterly monthly, then I would ask your agency to have some type of a deliverable to you that would help improve your storytelling content performance.

Sarah Panus:
So generally what I’ve done in this instance is that the monthly stuff is every month. We’ve agreed that they’re gonna go back and look at things we’ve already published and see if there’s any further optimizations that we should be making to that content. And we’ve agreed on, you know, X number of deliverable recommendations each month. So that’s a great way to just, you know, kind of check chip away at it. And make sure that things, if things change, you can go back and optimize or if they can give you insights on dang, this article is really doing amazing from an IEO perspective. What else can we do to get this out there? In a bigger way. And then the third is ad hoc. So have the option to ask the SEO agency for keyword insights as new ideas, new content ideas come up.

Measuring what you’re doing to impact the business

Sarah Panus:
So that would be my, of how to tap into them. The agency from a timing perspective. So quarterly, monthly and ad hoc, you could also do mid midyear, you know, so just like a real big midyear kind of assessment that’s deeper, but I, I find that quarterly works so they can come back again. Like with looking at, you can talk about looking ahead, what’s coming and then they can share a look back and all the results to date good and bad, cuz you wanna hear both to be able to optimize them. And then the final piece you wanna ask your SEO agency for is measurement. Right. That’s always a, that’s always a question. How is what you’re doing impacting the business? How is storytelling helping us? How is it? And there’s so many answers to that. I mean so many answers, qualitatively and quantitatively and advancing all the time, which is great, cuz there’s so much more advancement now versus when I first started 20 years ago and you couldn’t really track anything.

Sarah Panus:
So from a measurement perspective with the SEO agency, you wanna lean into them and all their tools to be able to help give you like the SEO value of your storytelling content. So from like a monetary perspective, as well as like a content traffic perspective. So those are kind of the two buckets I see where they really play in. So from a money perspective, you know, they can give the SEO value of how much would it have cost you as a company to pay for these articles to rank where they currently do, if you were doing it via paid S SCM, but because it’s SEO and it’s organic and it’s earned and you’re not paying for that placement it’s ranking, right? So that’s like free advertising in, in search engines. If you think of it that way. So ask them to, I can’t think or quantitate, is that a word?

Sarah Panus:
I don’t know. It sounds very funny in my head right now, ask them to calculate. There you go. That’s better ask them to calculate that for you really smart people at all of our agency partners, right? And so tap into their tools to help give you that insight. And that’s something you can build into as a one of the many benefits of what your storytelling content is doing for your company. And then obviously traffic. So traffic to the content, traffic, to your sites, traffic, to your blog, traffic, to, you know, wherever your stuff is living that you wanna be driving to on your own properties. So from a traffic perspective, you’re looking at new visitors and repeat visitors. I love looking at both of those because then you can say, Hey, our storytelling content is actually attracting X number of people to the brand every single month.

Sarah Panus:
Or it’s attracted this many people this year, you know, millions of blah, blah, blah. It’s a great way to show the upper funnel benefit that storytelling does to attract that audience, to bring them in, to then start being able to retarget and serve them up with value added content that they’ll wanna keep coming back. They’ll trust you, hopefully eventually down the road, right? They’ll convert with you. Your existing customer base sees value from the storytelling content. I mean, there’s so many things, so I’ll keep unpacking a lot of the measurement stuff in these kind of quick tip episodes moving forward for you guys. Cause I know measurement is a hot question. I get asked a lot. So that is it like that’s it, that’s it for today’s quick tip episode I wanted just to help give you some really actionable things you can ask your SEO agency for.

Sarah Panus:
If you have any other questions on this, feel free just to reach out to me. You can email me sarah@kindredspeak.com. That’s Sarah with an H, and or LinkedIn. DM me on LinkedIn, Sarah Panus. And I’m curious if there’s any other measurement questions you have or SEO questions just drop ’em to me. Cause I’m always looking for show ideas of what you guys are wanna know about that I can cover on this show. And I hope that is really helpful for you. Take those discussions as an action item, connect with your SEO agency, your internal partners, your external partners. And if there’s anything that I outline that you don’t already cover with them, ask if it can be added to their scope and try to just make this like a regular part of your cadence moving forward. So I hope that was helpful and we will chat next week. So, until next time, Kindred Speakers.

Get brand Storytelling inspiration, tips and support – sign up now

Sarah Panus:
If you’re hearing my voice right now, you’re likely a corporate content marketer of some kind looking to level up your brand storytelling career. What would it feel to have the skills, confidence, and know how to advance your brand storytelling results and love the work you’re doing? In an ideal world you and your content team are high level strategic thinkers that know how to humanize your brand to drive seven X engagements and actions. You have the right creative mindset to attract your ideal audience and build brand trust and loyalty through storytelling. You’re viewed as top performers in the company and brand storytelling is valued because it’s driving business results and supporting multiple channel teams. But things don’t always go our way, right? Maybe your brand lacks, a cohesive content strategy. Maybe you and your team are asked to deliver a lot for your company and it’s hard to keep up.

Sarah Panus:
You know you need to invest in figuring out next steps in your company’s brand storytelling plans, but haven’t had the time to figure out how yet. And you need help integrating it across the organization. You personally want to level up your skills because you know, you need to know how to do these things to advance in your career. You want your work to be valued so that you love coming to work each day, attracting leads, increasing repeat, and referral actions or creating a loved brand. And in this competitive market, you’re looking for ways to stay competitive, for yourself or retaining and attracting top talent for your company. That’s why I created the Brand Storytelling Academy, a hands on three month group training program designed to help corporate content marketers attract upper funnel leads that drive bottom funnel results through storytelling. For one sixth of the cost to hire a person on the team or onboard a high level brand storytelling strategist, you and up to five people on your team can be developing and accelerating your brand storytelling skills. Think of it like a college certification program for you and your team, but you get the knowledge a lot quicker and your professor, me, has 20 years of hands on experience guiding you along the way. Curious? Fill out the application at kindredspeak.com/apply to learn more and I’ll be in touch to answer all your questions and discuss if it’s a good fit. Go to kindredspeak.com/apply.

ABOUT SARAH PANUS

Sarah Panus is a brand storytelling marketing strategist, Minnesota mom, and owner of Kindred Speak, LLC, a remote consultancy that helps corporations attract upper-funnel leads that drive bottom-funnel results through storytelling.  Her mission is to add value to the world by humanizing brand+consumer connections. Her online courses teach content professionals inside corporations think like Editorial Directors for their brand to drive stronger results while enjoying their jobs more.  She’s spent the last 20 years helping brands including Sleep Number, Starbucks, Nestle Waters, Christos Bridal, Game Crazy, Cone Inc, and others, speak a kindred language with their audiences, driving brand advocacy and millions in revenue and brand engagements. Learn more at www.kindredspeak.com. Follow Sarah on Instagram and LinkedIn.