Interview with Content Strategist Gonzalo Arrabal
Is there any tool out there capable of doing a perfect keyword research and analysis in English, French, Spanish and Catalan? Yes. Ladies and Señoritas, let me introduce you Gonzalo Arrabal*. Furthermore, he is the best SEO copywriter and content strategist I know in all those languages, the kind you drop a line when you need serious advice.
Not saying that because he is a friend of mine. I can tell for sure as I had the pleasure to work very closely with him my last 14 months I spent in Barcelona before moving to Vancouver. 99% of what I know about those topics I owe to him. We also share a passion for old school hard rock and blues with one exception, I completely dislike Eric Clapton's bland music that he enjoys thoroughly. Nobody is perfect.
He's got a blog in Spanish on content strategy but he is busy doing work and having a family so his writing pace is not as frequent as we would like to see.
We were exchanging some emails lately, the conversation was getting the shape of an interview and I decided to go for it. Great insights there, I hope you enjoy it.
1) The usual SEO project does not take into account a real content strategy. Not many in-house SEO's have the chance to start a content strategy and it's even worse if you are an SEO for an agency. I am sure you always try to achieve the best results, but how far can you go?
SEOs are used to have problems when trying to implement technical changes, but content strategist problems start even earlier. The first task is making people understand that they need a content strategy. I deal every day with companies that a) create good content and publish it but have no strategy or b) do not create content and they think they don't need it. In both cases, my first and most important task it to make them understand that a content strategy is essential to achieve their business goals. And speaking specifically about SEO, it should never be limited to good keyword report and including keywords in pages. SEO must be related to the content strategy, and if you don't have a content strategy, a new SEO project is an excellent opportunity to start one.
When trying to explain the benefits of a content strategy for an SEO project and for an organization as a whole I always make sure that they understand that all the content strategy will be connected to the business goals. And that we are not (always) talking about a lot of content, we are talking about the type of content we need to get people engaged so that we improve conversions.
2) It seems that a lot of SEOs or people selling SEO services believe that the only content SEO that needs to be done is the keyword report. What comes next?
SEO consultants should not work alone. The keyword report is still and will continue to be important. However, it should not be used as we were doing 10 years ago. Content SEO consultants should work following a web content strategy that needs to be created and included in any rigorous online marketing strategy.
This is not demagogy for business. It is survival. Google has substantially modified the rules of the game in the last 18 months. It hit low quality websites (Panda) and then webspam (Penguin). And I would like to highlight that by webspam Google understands websites that are doing things to artificially get better rankings. Google is also taking into account social signs: tweets, retweets, likes, +1, how information goes viral, to summarize.
It seems to me that the new situation is very clear. Creating a good keyword report and including the correct keywords in your web pages is not enough. And many link building tactics that worked until last year are not useful anymore. So, why not use all this time, money and effort to really create content that can provide good info and value to the users?
The keyword report should be used to create high quality content for the website, the blog, the Facebook page, the Twitter account and to actively interact with other blogs, other Facebook pages, other Pinterest accounts in your sector.
3) After demystifying the keyword report let's go with the next one: content itself. We now have a keyword report and we create some content related to these keywords. What comes next?
Writing content is not the same as having a content strategy. You need to think about types of content, formats, plan a schedule, and assign people and time to create it. Content needs to be managed: who is in charge of verifying that published content is still valid? Who updates it if it is outdated? What is your organization doing with content that is not longer useful? This leads to your following question, because the content strategist is the person who should be deciding this.
4) Content Manager, Content Curator, Blogger, Copywriter... In real life all this work is often done by just one person. Aren't these too many positions?
I agree with you, these tasks are usually done by the same person in many projects, given that the project includes content strategy, which is not always the case ;) However I would like to add two things. The first one, I am convinced that currently only a few copywriters, content curators, content managers or bloggers are devoting enough time to one essential task: increase the visibility of all the platforms and channels of the organization. Brands tend to think that the world revolves around them: they create content, they publish it and that's it. They think users will come to see this fantastic content. It doesn't work like this. You can give more life to your content if you participate in the conversation.
As an organization you should be an active part of the conversation in other platforms and channels: with correct answers and accurate information, signing with your name and brand, no need to force a good anchor text. This way it is not a problem to link to your website, but even better, you can link to all your platforms, these are channels where you are not talking about your product, but publishing very interesting information that actually helps users, and actively talking to them.
If social signs are important, shouldn't we strengthening our social networks accounts and pages? Shouldn't we gaining links and visibility for them? For example, I can recommend a new video of my company Youtube channel in a Facebook page if the subject is related, I can link to the corporate blog if it provides an interesting point of view about a hot topic, etc. The new link building is related to good content and is social: create good content and publish it, and then try link to it in other pages where it could be helpful.
5) In relation to content: quantity or quality?
Quality, without any doubt. This post that took you so much to write, if you include an infographic it will get more links. Creating the infographic may take you even longer than the post, but the impact of the content will be bigger. If you publish a research about your customers one week later because you really need more time to dig deeper in interesting facts, your work will be more unique and valuable, therefore it will gain more links and visibility. I understand all companies have a limitation concerning the amount of content they can create. I am only saying that maybe they should create even less content to maximize the impact of each item. Is it better to create 4 pieces of content a month to get 50 tweets, 20 likes and 40 links or is it better to create 2 pieces of content that provide us with 60 tweets, 25 likes and 60 links?
I am thinking about excellent content: for example the Excel SEO tools created by Niels Bosma, or the SEO Excel tutorial created by Distilled or the SEO guide by SEOmoz. Why not trying to create a piece of content that makes you a reference in long tail keywords of your sector? You need a lot of time to create very valuable resources like these ones I mentioned, but it certainly will be rewarding. The SEO Excel tutorial by Distilled has been linked by 135 domains, while the main page on their blog has been linked by 52 domains. Valuable resources work well as signs of authority.
If you progressively create top quality content of this type, and if you make the effort of communicating the creation of this content to related pages in your sector, then people will eventually get to know you and link to you. It is difficult to be always brilliant, so even if you are working well, you should be able to tell when your pieces of content get viral in the past simply by taking a look at your analytics tool. The idea is not getting a lot of viral visits all days, but to progressively consolidate a continuous improvement that is in the long term fed by regular episodes of viral visits. This is more realistic than trying to create viral content every week.
6) To finish ¿how is the content strategist outlook in Spain? Who is a reference in this field, in Spain or elsewhere?
Well, of course Kristina Halvorson and the people of Brain Traffic are essential to understand this young discipline. In Spain we do not have anyone similar; I hope the interest in the discipline will grow as businesses get convinced of its usefulness, based in results.
*He looks like a very serious guy in the picture but he has a fine sense of humor. I really miss the SEO related discussions we used to have around a whiteboard anytime at the office.