In a recent episode of CMO Convo, our sister community CMO Alliance welcomed Aidan Casey, CMO at Paintru, to take a deep dive into conquering the content mountain as a CMO.

During the discussion, Aidan focused on:

We'll also point you in the direction of handy content resources.

Aidan's background and current CMO role

Hi, Aidan, could you tell us a bit about your background, how you got into the CMO role?

Yes, sounds good. Thank you for having me, it's been a pleasure working with CMO Alliance thus far. Aidan Casey, here, I am originally from Portland, Oregon, moved to San Diego to go to university, and then I stayed there for about 10 years. Currently, I'm based in Scotland, my partner's on an exchange there, but I am back in the States, currently.

I started out my career in the advertising space, really focusing primarily in pharmaceutical, life science, medical device, and healthcare technology. After working at a few agencies for several years, I transitioned to working at a healthcare technology startup, I worked there for over three years and that really led me into my move overseas to the UK.

I began my role there on kind of more of a client services strategy focus and ended up really building the marketing department from the ground up with that company.

At the beginning of 2020, I decided it was time for me to broaden my experience a bit and I consulted myself independently for several clients throughout the year, where I took the opportunity to really branch more into the direct to consumer space and more lifestyle and brands that are aligned to my personal interests.

Not to say that I have not always been very passionate about healthcare, and I do love that space. But it was kind of an opportunity for me to explore whether more of a lifestyle brand focus was a better fit. I ended up taking a full-time role with Paintru who was a client of mine, at the end of 2020, as their CMO.

Paintru is a direct-to-consumer custom artwork company, so very different from the healthcare space that I had been working in. But it's been a really good experience, I feel like it's been kind of a culmination of all the experience I've had over the past almost 10 years now. So it's a really great opportunity to apply everything and move forward and it's been really great so far.

Did you approach the role or are you approaching the role with a particular philosophy in mind? Or is it still just working out how to be a CMO? Or did you have this kind of idea of, "I'm going to go in there day one and make my mark"?

Yeah, I think my philosophy is really applying everything I've learned over the past several years. There's a reason why I was approached for the position so I think you kind of have to be into you as in anyone in this position, you have to lean into your confidences and lean into what you know you're great at and what you can bring to the company.

I'm really trying to apply all this existing knowledge and then also, again, leaning into the opportunity to learn more. I mean, there are opportunities every day, I think that every mistake, every uncertainty, every interaction with anyone is a learning opportunity. I personally am committed to spending every day learning how I can grow and learning how I can better support my company.

I had prepared myself to shift into more of a direct-to-consumer marketing space by working on several direct-to-consumer brands during 2020 when I was consulting so that I think prepared me very well. And I've gleaned a lot of learnings that I'm able to apply to my role currently.

Then another couple of things I'm trying to focus on is really a collaborative leadership principle. And, especially working in a startup, it seems a lot of times that there's a mountain at your feet that you're trying to climb. So it's really about breaking that into actionable tasks and steps, there's always going to be a mountain of work to do and it is daunting, however, I think that in this role, it's really critical to be able to break things down into actionable next steps. That's the only way you can make progress.

It's one of the advantages of the CMO role that you've got, that kind of perspective to be able to break it down in that way. It's something that marketers might be missing on the way up to that kind of role. But as a CMO, you do have that perspective to see how things work and break it down in that way.

Yeah, definitely, you have the opportunity to be looking at things from a very high level. Then also, if you are in a startup environment, you're also on a very tactical level, as well, so in the weeds. I think that's also a unique challenge of being a startup CMO is, it's so imperative to be looking at things from the top down in a sense that you kind of has to have your eye on everything and be still thinking strategically and not getting bogged down in the weeds.

However, at the end of the day, we don't have a huge team. So I'm doing kind of everything in the weeds as well so it's always kind of like bringing myself back up and looking at the bigger picture.

It's a chance to apply, as you said, all those skills, having that kind of role, and then it's going to be a role that evolves, surely, as the team grows. How do you feel about that role growing, as things move forward?

Absolutely. Yeah, it is something I think about because I really love working at startup companies and small companies because of the direct impact that you feel. With that, it's inevitable that the company will change and the company will grow. So I think being a CMO from such an early phase will give me the opportunity to shape the marketing department and team, how I feel it should be shaped.

However, I think it'll probably be a little tough to relinquish some of the details at first. But I do think that having that experience of doing everything before you're just managing a team is really valuable. I think that sometimes when upper leadership comes in at a top-level, and they don't have the experience, or they're so far removed from that experience, or actually working on the tactical details, there can be a bit of a disconnect.

So as our team grows, I want to remain really committed to thinking high level strategically, but also knowing what it takes to get those initiatives done if that makes sense.

Aidan's approach to content strategy

Having an understanding of content strategy is obviously important to be a CMO. But also having awareness of what actually makes good content on a micro level, that's something that's very important.

We can have all these great ideas for content strategy and editorial calendars and stuff, but in terms of day to day, producing that kind of great content, that's something that since you're in an early phase company, you're going to have to be very involved with.

Is that something you're going to be looking at staying involved with as things move forward do you think? Or are you just going to have to take a step back, there's no way you can be involved with all the content production, all the way through?

Yeah, definitely, and we've talked about this before, I love content strategy. It is so interesting to me and I think it's so imperative for companies developing content. So whether that's writing blogs, writing social media content, sourcing imagery, writing website content, it is very, very time-consuming. I think that as our team grows, I will hopefully have people helping with that.

But I do think it's really important to be active in content development. My philosophy is that everyone in the company should be actively participating in developing content because even at big organizations, it's really important to have content that speaks to all different aspects of the company. So I will probably always be very involved in content development and content strategy.

However, it is time-consuming. But I do think, and one of the reasons why I think content strategy is so important is because trust builds brands and content builds trust and that content, again, builds relationships. It builds relationships with customers and potential customers and, on the B2B side, clients and prospects.

The last year in particular has really shown the importance of content. Content marketing was a thing that existed, people were aware of it and it was like, "Oh, it's the next craze in B2B marketing or even B2C marketing as well". But the last year and the pandemic has seen more and more brands wake up to the fact that content is absolutely essential to their marketing strategies.

Do you think it's going to be important post-pandemic? Is this going to be a continuous thing? Or are we going to fall back into old habits?

I definitely do think it will be very important. And one thing, and it's kind of hard to put into terms, but I do think that content marketing and content gets thrown around kind of as a bit of a buzz word, when really it's not a buzz word, because content is just everything that builds your brand, and your brand presence and brand trust.

As much as like, oh, call it content marketing or content strategies seems like it's maybe a newer evolution of marketing, if you think back to companies, even in the early 1900s, there are articles in a newspaper, their branding, and that is all content too. So I think that it's just figuring out innovative ways of delivering content and that delivery has to adapt to your market and where that market's going. And our market is going much more digital as we all know.

It is just pretty much an evolution of when companies would take out those full-page ads.

Exactly.

When you'd get the doctor's reports trying to say that cigarettes are okay and stuff like that in the "golden age of marketing". Maybe we've watched too much Mad Men.

The Mad Men era, yes. But hey, it's just about meeting your customers and clients where they are. How are they consuming information? And what type of information do they trust? So being a brand today, I probably wouldn't take out a newspaper ad to reach our target market for Paintru, because that's just not where they're looking for our type of solution. It's all about just figuring out, who are you try to talk to? And how can you get to them most effectively?

What makes good content?

The demand for content has never been higher. But there is a risk that people are looking at producing content for content's sake. What to your mind makes a good piece of content or a good content strategy? Because you can't think of it as just one piece at a time, it has to be part of a fuller strategy, doesn't it?

Yeah, definitely. That does go back to developing content takes time. It's critical for every company, from a startup to a large company, to be prioritizing time because you don't want your employees spending time creating something that's just not valuable for the overall strategy of the company. This is a bit of a good segway into how I think about content strategy, which is really in terms of three pillars.

There's thought leadership content, customer and client education content, and then SEO-driven content. I think that content should fit into those three pillars in some way to be effective.

Let's say you're developing a piece that is solidifying your thought leadership within let's say, a healthcare technology space, that is writing an article that is published in maybe like Healthcare Executive, or in PubMed, or something in PubMed, or in Becker's Hospital Review. That would be kind of thought leadership content.

Then maybe customer/client education content would be content around the problem and the solution. So the problem that your company or product is actively solving and how it solves it.

Then we segue into SEO-driven content, which is really hitting customers and clients with finding them by looking for what they're looking for. I think that content should really fit into those buckets to be effective because if you're developing a piece that your customers or prospects don't really care about, and that doesn't better solidify your brand position and thought leadership, then it's probably not effective and not a good use of time or that time could be spent elsewhere.

Do you keep those three pillars separate or is it like a Venn diagram where they crossover and you could have something right in the middle that fits all three?

I think they do crossover and there are probably pieces of content that... and I guess a lot of content can be maybe seen as like investor relation content, which might not quite fit into those buckets but I do think it kind of fits into the thought leadership. But yeah, I definitely see it as a Venn diagram because things definitely crossover, especially with the SEO-driven content, because SEO overlaps everything.

I don't think that companies, and we'll probably get onto this topic a bit more later, should be developing content solely for SEO's sake, it really has to be supporting your company's content strategy in other ways as well.

So in terms of getting the content that's right for your customers, or your potential clients, or your leads, how do you find out what they want? How do you know what they want? Is it just seeing what other companies are doing and producing similar stuff to that? Or how do you find a unique voice in your content?

For me, I really think that it's very important to start with your customers. You can get so much insight from your sales team because they are the ones who are actively talking to your customers and prospects every day. It's a matter of diving in really deep and figuring out, who are your customers? What are they looking for? What questions are they having? What hesitations do they have? What alternatives are they assessing?

There's really such a wealth of information that lies within the sales function of a company and that's why I think it's so important that marketing and sales work very closely together. I know a lot of organizations struggle with this but it's imperative because the sales team knows these customers, they know everything they're looking for.

Once you can dig into those insights, then that can be really helpful in guiding your content strategy and really what to develop.

Working with the sales team directly is equipping them with tools to use in their own sales processes as well. If you're working with them on the ground level, then they'll find the content more useful in those aspects.

Exactly. And I think a lot of the content that's helpful for the sales team is a lot of that customer and client education content. Because as a sales team, you want your prospect to be pushed down the funnel a bit before you're making that contact anyway.

So that's educating them, that is proactively answering their questions, that is just broadening their knowledge on the space, because with knowledge comes comfort, in a sense, and whatever solution or product that you're essentially trying to sell.

The vast majority of content is produced for lead generation, whereas it's just a valuable tool for lead nurturing, which tends to be missed in marketing these days.

Absolutely. And I actually don't have the statistic up in front of me, but I can speak to most of the brands that I've worked on, our customers or clients, prospects are coming to our website between four and 10 times before they're making that purchase, or they're converting. They're looking for information, they want to feel comfortable.

I can say it myself personally even, let's say I'm assessing a new technology platform - before I request a demo, I've already read up on that platform. I've already educated myself on the pain points that platform solves, their price point, most likely, what their strong suits are, what their kind of weak points are. And all of that content that I'm consuming is educating me. That is all content.

It's a great point when user-generated content (UGC) comes into play like case studies, user reviews, that kind of thing. Those kinds of things are super valuable for lead nurturing.

Yeah, absolutely. I think case studies are one of the most important pieces of content, especially for B2B organizations. With that, they're often the most difficult because it's often relying on other parties for that information. In my experience, it takes a long time to pull those case studies together, but they're really, really valuable.

UGC can be equally valuable in the B2C world as well. Testimonials, user reviews, seem to be more trusted than people media/press reviews as much anymore. People look at Amazon reviews, they're even moving away from the likes of Rotten Tomatoes as a way of judging whether a movie is good, they'd much rather rely on word of mouth and peer reviews, which is all UGC.

Absolutely.

CMOs' role in developing content strategies

What role can a CMO play in developing an effective content strategy? How into the content strategy does a CMO need to be? You're at an early stage company where it's a small team, where you do have to be very involved, and you said you would like to be involved as things move on.

But is that just you or do you think it's something that all CMOs should be doing? Should all CMOs have their content hat on? Because not all CMOS are coming up to the role from a content background.

Absolutely. I think it's important. As you said, I can really speak in my experience. However, I do think it's important because beyond, again, that content marketing and content strategy have kind of become buzzwords, what it really is, is your brand and how you're addressing your customer and consumer market.

In that respect, I think it's absolutely essential that CMOs try to keep that content hat on, because part of developing an effective content strategy is figuring out, it's getting in the head of the customer or client. It's figuring out what drives them, what are they looking for, what questions do they have? And, how can we address those questions?

I think if you don't have that, then it's really hard to be an effective CMO. However, most CMOs probably don't come to the role from a content strategist background. But I think that another thing that's important to kind of keep in mind to understand is the process of developing content and the different types of content available.

Because that's really a component that the CMO should be overseeing. Even though you may not have experience developing content or say being a content strategist, understanding the process by which your team develops content, and the process by which you identify opportunities to develop content is really important.

And CMOs have surely got to pitch the idea of a content strategy to the other members of the C-suite, how do you go about justifying producing blogs and producing podcasts that don't necessarily have an immediate ROI, that doesn't have measurable revenue streams? How do you get other stakeholders on board?

You mentioned getting sales on board and getting their input, which is obviously a good way to get them aligned. But what about the rest of the C-Suite? How do you convince a CEO who doesn't care about content that content's important?

I'm going to recommend a book right now that has been so helpful for my career, it's called, "They Ask, You Answer". Let me just pull up the author really quick. It's all about content strategy and there's actually a section that really dives... it's by Marcus Sheridan. It's really an amazing book and I have recommended so many of my colleagues read it after a manager of mine a couple of years ago, had us read it.

They have a really great section on how you get this buy-in from companies. He has a lot of statistics and it really comes down to, you want to proactively answer your customers’ and prospects’ questions because when you proactively answer those questions, you are building trust from square one. And with trust comes interest and with that comes sales and leads and lead driving conversions.

I think that once you can have this conversation around the importance of coming at everything from a proactive angle and developing content that is driving people down the funnel and building trust, then that conversation is heard by different key stakeholders.

Another element that I think is important, going back to the three pillars is you shouldn't just focus on one type of content because everything really interrelates and balances out a content strategy. So while some executive stakeholders may not really understand the need for SEO-driven content, they do understand the need for thought leadership-driven content and they do understand the need for developing content that addresses customer questions. Again, that type of content often enables the sales team.

Understanding SEO as a CMO

Is it important for a CMO to understand all of the current standards and practices of SEO when it comes to content because it's constantly changing, isn't it? The algorithm for Google rankings, page rankings are constantly changing, the algorithms for organic reach on social media are constantly changing.

Do CMOS just need to be aware that SEO exists and send people off to do that for them or do they need to have an understanding of what needs to be done to get a good SEO process going?

I'm approaching this question from having a pretty deep understanding of SEO. A few years back, we were working with an SEO agency, actually, at one of my past companies and I found it just so interesting. I was in a content brand strategy role at this company and we were working with an agency on SEO, and I found it so interesting. I realized that it would be so beneficial to my role as a content strategist to really deeply understand SEO.

I kind of burned it out for a couple of years and really dove deep to understand it thoroughly. So I have quite a bit of experience in SEO. However, going back to whether CMOs need to have that deep expertise and experience, I don't necessarily think so. But I think having an understanding of it is very important.

Then another role of a leader is you don't have to be the master of everything, you just need to be able to identify the right resources and when you need those resources. I think it's important that if a CMO has no understanding of SEO, that's fine, pull in some resources to round out that need in the company. For Paintru, I came on board in October and initiated their SEO strategy and our organic traffic and ratio have increased exponentially.

So it does have direct impacts. It's more of a long-term gain than paid advertising because often, it takes several months to see the fruits of your labor. But it is important and it's something that is here to stay.

However, I don't know if I would recommend a CMO take a couple of years and become an SEO expert. But having a good understanding is really important and there's a lot of good educational material, whether it's books or podcasts or online resources that are very educational.

You mentioned earlier that you don't think we should be producing content purely for SEO. Do you want to expand on what you mean by that? Because content strategies are part of SEO strategies but what does it mean to produce content for SEO's sake?

Yeah, definitely. Maybe I'll give an example of a piece of content that would be SEO driven, that would be a good use of a companies time, then I'll kind of dovetail into why it's important to make sure that you're not just producing content for SEO sake.

Let's say, this is kind of a silly example but you have an organic coffee company. You look at the data, you do keyword research, and there's a lot of great tools out there to do this. Again, part of SEO is really diving into what your customer is actually looking for, what they're actively searching for. So you're an organic coffee company and the data points to people are looking for Fairtrade ground coffee versus organic coffee.

That's really telling because if you were developing all of your content on your website with the language of organic coffee, and you are Fairtrade, but nothing mentions Fairtrade, you're failing to capture what a large portion of the market is looking for. That would be an indicator that it would affect your website copy.

Following this analogy further, this example a bit further, if you see that people are searching for how to judge the strength of organic coffee, then it will probably be smart to develop some educational material, maybe blog posts or a page on your site that deep dives into the details of coffee strengths. Because people who are searching for that are likely someone who might buy your product. That's a good use of SEO-driven content.

However, I do think that you have to take a step back and figure out how do you bring relevant traffic to your website? Because irrelevant traffic is not necessarily traffic that we need or want on our website. I'll give an example actually for Paintru.

When I started working with the company, we were starting out with a really great domain authority score, we were getting a lot of organic traffic. But then, when I actually dove in and started reporting on this traffic, a lot of this traffic was actually coming to our website based on, we do classical reproductions, as well as custom artwork, based on famous artists’ search terms.

So someone would be searching for a specific Monet painting and all those people were on the site. So yeah, we were in the top 1-3 of Google results for that search term. But someone searching for Monet's water lilies is not necessarily someone searching for that painting, or buying that painting. It's someone just searching for that image to be used on something. That is an example of irrelevant traffic.

So how do we capture more relevant traffic? How do we capture people who are looking for our work commissions? How do we capture people who are looking for custom wedding artwork or custom nursery artwork? Because people who are searching for that are actually our buyer market.

A lot of people, I think they'll see something has a really high search volume, a lot of people are searching for it, and a lot of people are looking for it. But if you don't step back and ask yourself, are those people my buyers? Do those people fit my buyer persona? Then you might waste time developing content solely to capture that traffic for someone who isn't someone who's worth spending that time on getting them to your website.

So it's a way of setting up a beacon, setting up a lighthouse that directs the right traffic towards you. That's the idea of good SEO-driven content?

Yeah, exactly. And I think a strong SEO strategy is: look overtime at your organic conversion rate. You would want your organic traffic conversion rate trending up and to the right. And how you do that is by weeding out a lot of irrelevant traffic or you don't have to get rid of it, you just reprioritize your time into developing website content that is capturing more relevant traffic and more relevant traffic is more potential buyers, or potential leads, clients, etc.

We've talked about the importance of SEO in good content, is there such thing as good content without SEO? Could you just say, "F this, we're not bothering with SEO? It's something that other people are doing, we just want to produce good quality content"? Is there such thing as good quality content that doesn't have SEO built into it?

Yeah, I definitely think so. I'll say to have a well-rounded, effective content strategy, I do believe that you should be focusing on SEO, in addition. But then it goes back to content that's answering your customers’ questions and content that's positioning you and solidifying you as a thought leader and subject matter expert in your space.

And a lot of that thought leadership and subject matter expert type content, it may not be SEO driven, you may not be bringing in a lot of organic traffic. However, that's really quality content that you can share with prospects, you can share with investors, you can share with media outlets, etc. And that's all really, really important too.

If you just focused on SEO-driven content, you would not have an effective content strategy, because you'd be missing out on that.

But how important is stuff like keyword density, when it comes to SEO these days?

Especially in light of the algorithms changing constantly, can you keep up? Google seems to change constantly what counts as decent keyword density and what constitutes as right for the page ranking.  Is it worth trying to keep track, or is it just better to focus on the subject?

Yeah, so Google's updates, as of recently, have all been pointing towards improving their users' experience. So Google wants users to exclusively use the Google search engine and they want people to have an incredible experience. I mean, just as any product or tech company would focus on, they obsess over their customers’ experience.

They want you to come to Google, they want you to find exactly what you're looking for quickly. They don't want you to show up on a site that's broken, that takes forever to load, has horrible content, not what you're looking for. So in their big algorithm change of this year, it was all focused on user experience.

I think if you always keep in mind that you want someone to come to your website and have a great experience, you want them to be able to read your content well, you want it to have nice images, you want it to load quickly, you want it to hit on the topics they're looking for. If you use that as your gold standard, then you will continually be improving your SEO.

There's a lot of these kinds of blackhat or not illegal, but just not really legal methods of SEO. And if you look back, those have all been weeded out. A company like Google, Google's so smart, it adapts and there's no sense in cheating the system. It is about really producing quality content.

However, I will say that if you are producing a blog post or online website content, it's definitely always worth looking at the keyword research because you do want to know what your customers are searching for. That's another reason why I think that SEO is really important and why I think it's really strengthened me as a content strategist.

Instead of just thinking of the brand terms and how I, as an employee of this company, think that our customers are coming to us, it's really worth taking a step back and figuring out what your customers are actually searching for.

Going back to the coffee example, customers, let's say they're searching for Fairtrade coffee, they're not searching for organic coffee, it's 100% worthwhile to take that into account when you're writing your site content and capitalize on that because you're going to be reaching more relevant customers.

Being aware of those keywords, as well, helps you get into the mindset of your customer. Thinking about the coffee example, it sounds like the customer's priorities are the Fairtrade side rather than the organic side so that can change how you're doing the rest of your messaging, beyond your content, into how you do your branding, how you do packaging, what you should be focusing on there. So you could use SEO research as a basis for other things, have you found that's a useful exercise?

Absolutely. That's actually one of my favorite exercises. I did a little exploration for a company recently and they realized that what their customers are actually searching for really wasn't what they were capitalizing on. However, they had an opportunity to shift their content and shift their positioning to capture what people are actually searching for.

I'll suggest a really good online tool too, there's a website called Answer the Public, their tagline is "discover what people are asking about" so you can type in a keyword and see what people are asking about. Do you have something you're curious about? A topic or a product?

Let's say you need a new tent, a new camping tent, so what tents are good for a Scottish summer?

Okay, so if I search in Answer the Public, camping tent, it's pulling some data for me, so it will essentially bring to bear all this data on like the what can, who, how, when, which, where, and why of camping tents.

So how: "what camping tent is best?" "How much is a camping tent?" "How to build a camping tent?" "Which camping tents are the best?" "How to choose the best camping tent?" "Which brand of the tent is best?" "What is tent camping?" "Which brand of the tent is bad?" so that's a little repetitive "Where to buy a camping tent near me?" so this is all tapping into...

Here's one: "Are heaters safe in tents?" "What is the safest tent heater?" "Is tent camping free?" "Is tent camping safe?" So these are all... you're getting into the head. You're shifting your mindset into the head of this vast consumer base and what they're looking for.

If you are a tent company, this will be really insightful for you because you're getting data on what people are actually looking for. Answer the Public spits back quite a lot - will all of this be relevant to you? Probably not. But I bet you can find some good tidbits here that can help guide your content strategy.

Just right there, just from what you've read out there's plenty of decent titles for content for blogs for an outdoors wear company. So I suppose it'd be useful in that respect as well if you're stuck for titles.

Yeah. That's a great point. And I love that from the copywriter’s perspective too.

So the idea is that SEO doesn't preclude quality content. I think a lot of writers who are approaching content writing from a sort of an authorial stance, like an auteur kind of thing, like, "Oh, no, SEO, you're restricting my groove, man, you're not let me do my own thing", where it really is making sure you're doing the writing in the right direction. It's not restricting your creativity, it's giving you the subjects to write about.

Yeah, and I would say the brand is always king in my eyes. So yes, because I've done a lot of SEO content writing and editing and so yes, I'm always trying to ensure that I'm getting the most leverage and getting the most work out of the content I'm developing, especially digitally.

However, at the end of the day, anything that would dilute your brand voice or get in the way of the positioning of your brand should be avoided. You always have to be protecting your brand, but also trying to figure out how you can make this content work for you. I mean, anyone who's worked with me can attest to me spending hours trying to write the perfect meta titles and descriptions that fit the keywords I was trying to hit on but did not diminish my brand voice.

It is a puzzle. It's really a puzzle. It's time-consuming. But I also find that when writers do understand it, they can really work with it. I work with a copywriter now, and she's an incredible writer, she actually started out as a novelist, and she now does ad copy and content freelancing. She really comes at it from a classically trained writer’s perspective and I've taught her a lot about SEO, and now she loves it.

So I think it's probably a bit intimidating, especially as a writer, you're constantly trying to perfect the linguistics and the language of what you're writing. However, if you see it as a little bit of a puzzle and a game and challenge, I think that the content team and the writers can reach some synergies there.

To show a bit of lit-nerdiness, you can think of it as like writing a sonnet, like an old school poem where you have the set structure, and you've got to work out the language to fit into the structure.

That structure didn't diminish the work of Shakespeare, we still celebrate his sonnets as being these wonderful pieces of art. Why does SEO diminish content? It doesn't. It just gives you that structure to work around and think in different ways and approach it in different ways.

I like that. That brings about too, you have to have a mutual understanding, you as the writer, you understand and you respect what the SEO strategist is trying to do. And the SEO strategist or content strategist has to respect what the writer is trying to do.

Finding that balance is really key. And it works out a lot of the time, sometimes I have been banging my head against the wall trying to get a piece of content right. And sometimes it's harder than others.

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Final thoughts

Do you have any final advice for CMOs or marketers of any level on how to approach content and SEO? What's your big message for the coming year of content and SEO?

I would say understanding your customer and your prospect is essential. Whatever you can do to really get in the head of your customer, because it's so easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day and who you think your customer is and what you think they're looking for.

Leverage the sales team, have them send you a list of the top 10 questions that they get asked every single day. And then also do a little bit of keyword research. There are some great free tools out there that are available. Uber Suggest is one, I think SEM Rush probably has a free trial, do some searching and see what people are looking for because it's really insightful.

Lastly, They Ask, You Answer by Marcus Sheridan. It was recommended to me and it's one of my absolute favorite books on marketing I've ever read. I would recommend it to anyone and especially if you're a CMO, and you're trying to get the rest of your team and your organization bought off on how important and effective content strategy is. He gives you a lot of tools on how to broach that topic with your organization.

How to improve your content

As Aidan has outlined during this discussion, storytelling is at the crux of any piece of effective content.

Join Elliott Rayner, a storytelling expert, as he explores the skill of effective storytelling in the field of product marketing in the Storyselling podcast.

Storyselling
Elliott Rayner, a storytelling expert, explores the skill of effective storytelling in the world of product marketing, focusing on the four key stages: the story, speaker, listener, and response.

During the series, Elliott welcomes a range of product marketing leaders plying their trade at globally recognized brands, as he focuses on the four stages of the storytelling process: the story, the speaker, the listener, and the response.

And if you want to refine your storytelling skills even further, sign up for Storytelling Certified, reap the benefits of Elliott's expertise, and tell a story your customers can't ignore.

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