In a big organization where digital strategy is a critical hub, how do writers and search engine optimization professionals work together to maximize efficiencies?
At WebMD, one of the Web’s largest consumer healthcare portals, Tom Roseberry, Senior SEO Manager, is responsible for a team of SEO professionals who work together with content writers to optimize pages and draw traffic to the website. The process he describes is one that almost all digital strategy organizations can learn from in terms of SEO, digital writing and collaboration.
Most digital writers began their careers as other types of writers, usually journalists or print writers. Learning to write for the Web is a technical skill, made more complicated by all of the various trends in organic search, link building and social media. As Tom explains, “Writers focus on the SEO keywords trap and get away from writing. They tend to see SEO as a big scary thing where they have to rank and get traffic.”
How to Write Effectively For Your Audience
Tom’s advice to writers is to write really great content that people will want to read and use keyword research to inform your writing. Ideally, Tom explains, keyword research should give you a sense of what other related topics people are searching for in relation to your topic. In WebMD’s case that would be related symptoms, remedies and treatments to certain conditions.
For example: When collaborating about several new articles about diabetes, the SEO team found that ‘diabetes diet’ was a popular key phrase. The writer used that information to add a section to the article about what to eat when you have diabetes. That could, in turn, link to an entire section on nutrition for diabetics.
Another way that keywords inform writers is by watching news trends. If a topic starts trending, then Tom’s team knows it is probably something they should cover on WebMD. When bath salts reached its peak because of the “zombie scares”, Tom’s team already had content online because they consistently watch those healthcare keyword trends.
Tom explained, “We always ask ourselves, ‘Is this right for our audience? Will this resonate with them?’ If the answer is no, then usually we won’t write about it, not matter how ‘hot or trending’ it may be. Our brand is a respected source for medical information online and we need to always be a reputable voice consumers can trust.”
Setting Up an Effective Workflow
Tom and his SEO team follow a consistent workflow when creating and collaborating about content. One of the advantages the SEO team has is that they sit within the editorial department, so they are a part of the overall team that produces content.
Their workflow process is thorough and allows for cross-pollination of ideas from different content creators:
- Content Meetings: These meetings are a very collaborative process between the programming team, writers and SEO professionals. They discuss the specific angle and audience engagement around the topic and decide how to approach it.
- Keyword Research: The SEO team researches the keywords around the topic and provides guidance to the writers. Again, the goal of the research is to find the keywords that resonate with users, but also inform the writer about any peripheral topics to include. Tom says his team uses a combination of Google Adwords and Google Insights for Search as well as internal data.
- Review: The content must go through a rigorous review process, including editors, medical reviewers, copy editing and SEO review.
It was fascinating to hear how WebMD set up their editorial process and content strategy to take advantage of the combined strength of their SEO professionals and writers. Thanks so much to Tom for spending valuable time explaining the process to me—I learned so much and I hope you have as well.
Tom’s SEO Rules for Writers:
- Use keyword research to inform your writing
- Don’t change your writing style. If you try to incorporate popular keywords, it will sound clumsy and won’t resonate with readers.
- Writing a really great article
- A headline that will resonate with user
- Use keywords in your subheadings when appropriate