How to ensure an authentic SEO strategy

Ahead of Innovation Enterprise's Content Marketing Summit, we spoke with Binti Pawa, senior director of SEO at TheStreet, about creating an effective and authentic SEO strategy


SEO is a strategic art form, and it's one that is constantly changing and evolving and, perhaps most significantly, it's one where you must find a balance between focusing on the search-worthiness of your content and ensuring you are always providing authenticity in your content.

According to Hubspot, 61% of marketers say improving SEO and growing their organic presence is their top inbound marketing priority, and therein lies the difficulty of SEO: On the one hand, your brand needs to have a consistent tone, mood, vibe – whatever you choose to call it – but it still needs to be SEO-friendly so it's actually reaching your audience.

To find out more about how to ensure your content and brand are both authentic and SEO-friendly, we spoke to Binti Pawa, senior director of SEO at TheStreet, US-based financial news and services website.

Innovation Enterprise: Do you have any tips on toeing the balance between your content being SEO-friendly while remaining authentic to your brand?

Binti Pawa: It depends on your type of business and your business goals. You have to find that sweet spot that balances your SEO with your overall brand strategy.

The best way to determine your sweet spot is to test and see what drives the numbers – but doesn't change the tone and/or voice of your brand.

Recently, we went outside of our comfort zone and tied it in with what we are known for (finance, markets, investing). The result? We saw a huge gain in traffic from one particular story. In fact, the story had the highest sessions and page views for that given day and on multiple traffic sources including search.

IE: How do mobile and desktop SEO strategies differ?

BP: We are in a new era of SEO now that we are accessing the internet with smaller screens. Google recognizes this and that is why they pushed for mobile-first indexing earlier this year.

While many factors remain the same, the strategies that differ for mobile are that the site must be responsive and it's not only important to be responsive, but you must monitor your page speed and optimization separately for desktop and mobile.

User intent is different on mobile; users want quick answers to their questions. whereas the user's intent on desktop is exploring and researching through information. The keyword research should be tailored for mobile and desktop. Users use different keywords on mobile devices, particularly due to voice search, which is more conversational based. The mobile landscape is evolving constantly.

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IE: How is the rise of voice search affecting SEO strategies? What can you do to make sure your content is voice-search friendly?

BP: Voice search is the real deal. Voice search requires different keyword research and research outline. It leads to normal conversational searches, that are usually five or more words. For example: "Cancun weather" vs "what is the weather in Cancun, Mexico?". SEOs have to optimize their content differently, by avoiding unnecessary jargons and using more of a natural language as if you are talking to the person directly.

To optimize your content for voice search, start with keywords that are long tail, conversational queries and are in the form of a question. Create pages that will answer the searchers intent, such as a glossary of terms in the form of a question and FAQs for your business that will give the users quick answers, are just a few examples.

IE: As someone who has worked for both startups and corporate heavyweights, how do content strategies differ in both types of companies?

BP: Startups take a slightly longer time to perform well on their content strategies vs established corporate brands. It's important for startups to build an entire backbone. They need to focus on a number of things to get it right including site architecture, responsiveness, page speed and content, to name just a few.

You really need to think about how to be creative and to find your niche. Do it better than the competitors by adding better imagery, video, infographics and going after the long tail until you've got it. At the end of the day, you have to work harder and more creatively.

Also, startups often don't have the budgets, resources and branding, this is where working for a corporate heavyweight can be a blessing in disguise.

IE: Do you believe that in the future digital marketing could be fully automated? Or will there always be the need for the human in marketing?

BP: Automation in digital marketing will never be 100%. There's already a lot of automation and there will be more. But, there are things that are difficult to determine with technology, like the state of a user's mind when they are exploring and researching. There needs to be some thought process in what the user's intent is.

Hear Binti Pawa, senior director of SEO at TheStreet at Innovation Enterprise's Content Marketing Summit in New York on December 6–7, 2018. See the full agenda and buy tickets HERE.

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