The 70/20/10 Model for SEO & Content Excellence

70-20-10Most articles that address the overlap between SEO and content strategy end up perverting the act of content creation itself. Writers often post about the importance of industry analysis, prospecting influencers, and determining shareability – all of which are vital for a winning content strategy, but also all of which have become recycled insights since content was crowned king.

I encourage marketers to look outside of data – if only a fleeting glance – to recognize a different, perhaps more discerning, governing force for creating content.

SEO professionals should adopt ways of thinking about content that people want, rather than gaming the system with content that works. We all know that what “works” changes from month to month, year to year. In the long-term, true success should hinge on how well you intuit what readers want – and why not give it to them?

And so, more than anything else, I want to encourage you to use the 70/20/10 model.

Enriching the Overlap

Coca-Cola, alongside a handful of other immensely successful brands-as-publishers, has advocated for a 70/20/10 approach to content creation. It goes a little something like this:

  • 70 percent of content should be low-risk
  • 20 percent should innovate off of what works
  • 10 percent should be high-risk experimentations

In an infamously transparent two-part video series, Coke describes their move from “creative excellence to content excellence.” Let’s see how we can position SEO within this model, pickpocketing the successes of a working content strategy, and adapt these tactics in order to deploy a SEO-heavy editorial calendar. Here goes:

  • 70 percent of content should be link bait
  • 20 percent should be optimized and opportunistic
  • 10 percent should be proactive and reactive experimentation

By using this publishing paradigm and reimagining it as a methodology to govern SEO, we begin to better understand the ways in which we should enrich the overlap between SEO and content strategy.

70 Percent: Link Bait

There have been numerous articles written about positive and negative link bait, what constitutes link-worthy content, how to gussy it up properly, and how to segment your link targets.

While “link bait” often has negative connotations, we should simply understand it as content with a purpose: the kind interesting enough to build real traction on the web. This material should be thought of as the foundation for your editorial calendar. It should inform audiences, distil complex ideas, and distinguish your expertise from your competition’s — at once asserting how your brand positions itself within your industry, as well as defining your proposition to the community surrounding it.

The problem is, if you limit yourself to content that is comprehensive and informative – both good qualities, mind you – you’re eventually and unfortunately going to run out of things to say.

20 Percent: Optimize and Sharpen

Once you have your bread and butter content written up and published, it’s time to keep an eye on the successes and failures of the articles. What material is getting the most attention? Who is talking about your work, and what do they have to say about it?

Part of optimizing your content is looking at your 70 percent and seeing what’s working, and then exploring these topics further in future texts. Try to “push the envelope,” having original approaches to old-hat issues, taking new stances on age-old standards.

Beyond thinking outside the box, it’s also important to hone in on short-term peaks. Sharpen your sensibilities by staying aware of changes within your industry – seasonal shifts, new legislation, innovations in technology – and respond to them.

It seems obvious when said out loud, but content that is relevant will grab people’s attention. Hop to it.

And last, part of the 20 percent should be spent educating yourself, going outside your own comfort zone, aiming to eventually articulate your newfound knowledge to your audience.

10 Percent: Proactive and Reactive Experimentation

This is where your content is going to get wildly far-fetched.

The reactive approach hinges on really understanding your industry, and being passionate when writing about trends or forecasting changes. This type of experimentation requires edginess and confidence – showcase your intelligences but do so in absurd and stimulating ways: think infographics, opinion pieces, or videos.

The proactive approach hinges on really understanding your audience, and going out on a very thin branch to impress them. Use the 10 percent to experiment with content that seems iffy, incomplete, unpolished and perhaps instinctive.

Many businesses are hesitant to feature humor or excitement in their content strategy – claiming there’s no place for it. I urge you to realize that Coca-Cola, before it became Coca-Cola, was merely a soda pop.

Recall “If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead.” Don’t waste your resources rehashing content that’s out there already. Make something new, and by god, make it yours.

Image Credit: Charles Jennings

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