This article is based on Jeff's appearance on the CMO Convo podcast.

As a CMO, one of your core responsibilities is fostering a culture of content within your organization. It's not enough to purely focus on metrics like orders, average order value, or conversions. You need to prioritize being present and providing value throughout the entire buyer journey and customer experience.

Whenever someone takes an action related to your business offerings, your brand should be there with expertise and insight. Whether they're just becoming aware of a problem or are deep in the purchase process, your content library needs to showcase your organization's know-how. If you fail to support the full journey, other third-party sources like ads, social platforms, communities, and competitors will shape the narrative instead of you.

Quality content that exhibits authentic expertise is how you connect with audiences' intent at every stage. It's not just about the sale, either - your content program should extend into post-purchase with troubleshooting, advanced education, and nurturing champions who virally advocate for your brand.

The common misconception is that "SEO content" is synonymous with cheap filler designed to trick search engines. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth in 2024 and beyond.

Prefer to listen? Check out Jeff's appearance on the CMO Convo podcast 👇

How do search engines work?

To properly optimize content for organic search performance, you first need to understand how search engines go about crawling, indexing, and ranking websites. These systems have robot programs, commonly called "bots," that constantly crawl websites based on certain queues and parameters.

As these bots ingest content from sites, they look for myriad signals that indicate expertise, authority, and overall quality for various queries and topics. Aspects like internal linking, keyword prioritization, code optimization, external validation, and content comprehensiveness all factor into their extremely complex ranking algorithms.

From a CMO's perspective, it's crucial to facilitate an understanding of how your site's architecture either guides or garbles this crawling and indexing process. For example, if your website buries links to high-quality resources several clicks deep in directory archives, search bots may completely overlook or devalue that content even if it's genuinely awesome and comprehensive.

One smart exercise is walking through common conversion paths, high-priority content categories, and other key website sections with a "bot lens." Are you properly exhibiting expertise and investing in the right areas? Or are you inadvertently devaluing and dampening your best work through a lack of thoughtful information architecture?

Start with a focus on optimizing existing content

In the modern age, content optimized for organic search visibility is precisely what you'd want for sales enablement or convincing potential investors. It illustrates your brand's true expertise and authority, allowing you to put your best foot forward digitally.

If you have content assets getting significant traffic or lead flow that you're embarrassed by the quality, that's a glaring problem. Your audience's first experience with your brand should never be content that undermines your business' professionalism and reputation. That said, the solution isn't simply deleting or removing those assets, but finding ways to systematically improve and enhance them over time.

With a robust content optimization process, you can rehabilitate those underperforming yet popular pages to become more comprehensive resources connected to the buyer's journey. I've seen examples where 90% of a website's organic traffic came from oddball content that initially seemed too silly to address. But by incorporating it into a cohesive narrative and updating the piece, you breathe new life into it as part of your overall domain authority.

That's the mindset shift required - separating out what content is low-quality and what simply needs a strategic edit or overhaul. Once you make that mental transition, your content team's efficiency will skyrocket compared to just aimlessly publishing content based on hunches.

The technical SEO foundation every marketing leader needs

Pondering search engine UX and website structure is just the start, though. You also need a robust technical SEO program that monitors, analyzes, and optimizes how friendly your website is for online crawlers. Getting the fundamentals right maximizes your content team's opportunity for success.

There are many free tools available, like Google Search Console, that provide a wealth of insights into how search engine bots crawl and interpret your website. GSC illuminates coded directives, page indexing statuses, detected issues, and incredible diagnostic information. Every CMO should have an owner and workflow for this dataset.

But based on your company's size and industry, you'll likely need additional investments in areas like rank tracking software, log file analysis, competitive research tools, and machines learned content optimization systems. The end goal should be minimizing tedious, unscalable manual work for your creators and writers wherever possible.

Nobody should waste time on administrative tasks they lack core expertise in like basic keyword research, copy suggestions, competitive gap analysis, and so on. Those rote processes should be streamlined and systematized through AI enablement. That's just rolling the dice on luck rather than following a repeatable, data-driven roadmap.

So as a first step, audit all current processes surrounding content projects - from briefs to calendars to target keywords to competitive gaps. Chances are many of those processes today rely heavily on gut instinct and qualitative opinions rather than quantifiable models and intelligent automation. But they don't have to! Modern technology solutions can govern your entire workflow with robust machine learning and accuracy.

How to get buy-in for intelligent content strategy investments

This all sounds amazing in theory, but as a CMO, you may struggle with getting buy-in and resources for overhauling your content approach to this degree. Here are a few effective tactics I've used to gain stakeholder alignment:

  1. Show, don't tell the shortcomings Let your CEO, board members, and other decision-makers experience firsthand the shortcomings of your current digital presence. Share recordings of real user sessions or behavior flow reports that illustrate where people struggle with navigating your content, finding answers, or having a cohesive experience. Seeing the issues is far more powerful than just describing them.
  2. Highlight lost opportunities in the full journey Assemble specific examples of offsite assets and journeys your prospects and customers turn to today for insights related to your products and services. Are you comfortable ceding that experience to third-party sites like review platforms, Reddit forums, and competitors rather than owning it yourself? Walking through those losses tends to resonate.
  3. Leverage quick wins For established websites, there are often very obvious quick fix opportunities if you know where to look. Things like updating high-trafficked legacy pages with refreshed insights, improving internal linking around your authority nodes, recapturing lost link equity from site migrations, etc. Prioritize those visible successes early to illustrate the long-term potential value.
  4. Sell diversification and compounding growth If 80%+ of your current website traffic and revenue sources stem from variable paid channels, that's an enormous risk lacking sustainability. The goal with an SEO initiative should be diversifying your channels through compounding returns on organic growth over time. By investing in a scalable content engine, you rejuvenate and stabilize the business continuously rather than being beholden to ads.

At the end of the day, CMOs must recognize that low-quality content optimized for search is no longer a viable strategy for being truly customer-centric while protecting your brand's integrity, revenue streams, and growth potential. Rather, SEO and content have become an integrated strategic discipline focused on experience management and unifying teams.

The cutting-edge organizations all build a culture of intelligent, comprehensive, search-optimized content as their compass for excellence. They empower writers, creators, strategists, and SEOs to collaborate around the shared mission of engineering the best subject matter authority and expertise for audiences.

Have you got questions on how to improve your SEO, while keeping that human element? Maybe you've got advice of your own to share? Join the conversation on the CMO Alliance Community Slack channel, today!