How many people are looking up “pet cremation,” and what does that have to do with getting visitors to your site? It’s Shawn Lim’s job to know. As IMMedia’s SEO expert, he combines research around SEO and content promotion strategy to plan and optimise content for long-term traffic and better engagement.

“Signs that your company has bad SEO is when you search for your brand name on the search engines, and you can’t find it!” he says. “If you notice that your website is not getting much traffic from search engines, that can be another sign.” Meanwhile, good SEO means that your content gets traffic over time because you are writing about something people are searching for.

At its most basic, SEO stands for “search engine optimisation.” Years ago, that meant nailing down keywords that people were likely to search for so that a webpage would show up higher in the search results. Today, that process goes much deeper, beginning with content ideation and through to creation, publishing and beyond. 

“Time spent on an article can range from 30 to 50 hours, depending on the type of article that we [IMMedia] are producing,” he details. Shawn spends that time doing keyword research during content creation and then outreach after the content is published. Outreach includes finding webmasters and building relationships with them, crafting messages to get them to link to the article.

The nuts and bolts of SEO

Shawn gets involved with content from conception, working with content editors and strategists to brainstorm and pinpoint keywords and topics audiences are searching for – then works with them on crafting content that addresses those concerns and offers a solution.

He achieves this mainly through keyword research. Keyword research involves a deep dive into what a target audience is looking for on search engines, then bringing that back into the content conception process so writers know what content to create in the first place and the breadth that content needs to cover. He also does long-tail keyword search, a broader, more subject-based approach to keywords that informs content creation.

Like any research, keyword research can unearth findings that range from expected (millennials are interested in saving money) to things you never asked for (pet cremation), but that’s part of the quirks and perks of the job. No discovery is a bad discovery.

But Shawn also takes a look at what other content creators have to say on the subject and how to differentiate IMMedia’s content so that it’s even more useful. This process takes about a week.

“We bounce ideas off each other quite a bit,” says Shawn. “This is because we need to include topics that people are searching for and at the same time include an interesting angle to our article so that it doesn’t look like everything else that is already on the internet.”

“Other multimedia, like pictures and videos, do help with engaging the audience and making them stay longer on the article,” Shawn adds. Details like that can help rank web content higher on Google.

Shawn uses tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, and Google Keyword Planner to identify keywords and topics. 

Pro tip: Shawn recommends Ahrefs, because he feels it has the biggest toolset to help with keywords. It also does the best job of teaching the user how to get the most out of the keyword tools.

After the content is published, SEO becomes very social and community-based, with Shawn turning his attention to promotion channels, including social media, forums, and websites and bloggers that talk about the same topic.

Creativity: the special sauce

While Shawn approaches each piece of content in a similar manner, his job is far from routine. SEO is a field that requires continuous learning because it involves keeping up-to-date on how search engines are structured.

Search engines have rules, and it’s up to SEO experts like Shawn to work with those rules for the best results. For example, backlinks can help boost a webpage’s ranking in Google. A backlink is an incoming link to a webpage, so the more people that link to your page (and the more authoritative those sites are considered), the higher your page ranks in a Google search.

That sounds very technical, but Shawn says that SEO has plenty of room for right-brained thinkers. “Adding a creative spin to content and thinking about how to make it different from all the other articles online demands creativity.” At the end of the day, people will share and discuss articles that they find interesting and genuine – not something that looks like it was written straight off spreadsheet compilation.

Big picture thinking comes into play there – writing SEO-optimised content has less to do with hitting keyword quotas for clicks and more about creating content that offers the information users are searching for.

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