Editorial note – this is a post from Joslyn, one of our 26 Characters.


What’s more important? Smart writing? Or smart SEO?

This is the big content-marketing question so many companies grapple with. If you want to be a thought leader in your industry, you have to write intelligent content that makes a real impact on human readers. But if they can’t find it, it doesn’t really matter what you write.

A strategy for getting, and staying, on top

For Eventbrite, a leader in online event ticketing technology, staying at the top of a very competitive field means mastering content marketing. In an industry where behemoths like Ticketmaster loom large and there are new startups vying for market space every day, even a very successful digital technology brand has to work hard to stay relevant.

Visit Eventbrite’s Blog, and you’ll find a handful of thoughtful new posts a week, on subject matter dear to the hearts of the company’s target market: “event creators” of all types, but particularly ones who represent big brands, like festivals, marathons, and business conferences.

Much of the time, these posts lead to deeper-into-the-funnel content like ebooks, tip sheets, and “Britepapers,” as Eventbrite cleverly calls its white papers. And these content pieces, in turn, lead prospects down the road to conversion.

But it all starts with getting people to the blog in the first place, and for that, there’s search engine optimization (SEO).

Masterful content marketing never sleeps

The goal of SEO is to outrank competitors so that your content appears higher on the list of search results when people query a term. Why is this important? It’s not just an ego thing.

Consider the numbers:

• 81% of shoppers conduct research before buying

• Google processes 40,000 search queries every second

• The first page of Google search results capture the great majority of traffic to sites — some sources say more than 90%

Obviously, you want to be on the first page. Ideally, the first result.

But you’re dealing with two types of competition here:

1. Your actual competitors — businesses who do the same thing you do, and could steal your customers

2. Websites capturing the marketing on keywords, but which don’t necessarily compete with you in terms of product or customer type

That second set of competitors might not seem important. After all, they don’t even sell what you sell. But if they’re stealing website traffic that might otherwise go to your site, discover your product or service, and buy it, they’re still your competition.

Eventbrite’s goal was to grab back search ranking from all types of competition so that prospects would find them first.

A little background

A few months ago, when Eventbrite decided to see if it could climb a little higher up Google’s search-ranking algorithms by applying tactical search terms to some of its blog posts, I received a handful of creative briefs. Each one was structured around a particular search term the company was hoping to rank for — things like “event planning tips” and “conference budgeting.” These are subjects that event creators search on more than any other.

I set out to write a series of blog posts that would be useful to readers, capturing their interest on event-related subject matter.

The fine art of readable SEO

Without getting too pedantic or scientific here, there’s a loose formula to working SEO terms into content marketing pieces. You want a term to appear in its precise format in a few places:

• Definitely in the title

• At least one of the subheads

• And sprinkled throughout the piece in a way that feels organic, weighted toward instances toward the beginning of the piece

Aaaaaaaand, of course, these blog posts had to be legitimately readable—valuable even—and interesting to readers. After all, you can lure a horse into the funnel, but you cannot make it drink. Or, to be more plain, just because people land on your website does not mean they’ll buy. SEO is simply a technique to get their attention so you can pitch to them.

All told, I wrote about 10-15 SEO blog posts for Eventbrite, including:

• Manage Attendee Backlash Using Your Festival’s Social Media

• 15 Icebreakers and Networking Activities for Your Corporate Event

• Innovative Event Ideas to Excite Your Audience

Even better than #1

In the case of that last post (and a few others), not only did Eventbrite rise to the #2 spot on Google for the search term “innovative event ideas,” this post got another boost. Because we wrote truly useful, authentic content, beyond simply peppering a general template with terms, Google chose this blog post as its “featured snippet in search.”

innovative events png.png

When Google’s AI technology senses that a page is doing a particularly good job at answering the search query, it will highlight a snippet of that post and feature it at the top of the page along with a thumbnail photo.

As you can imagine, “featured snippet” is an exalted SEO position. Marketing experts call this #0 placement—even better than #1.

There’s no magical formula for #0 placement, nor is there one for SEO ranking. But a from-the-heart effort to write useful content, combined with a dash of purposeful keyword strategy, is one tactical recipe.

The next time you embark on an SEO project to infuse your content with the right keywords, keep in mind:

1. Be strategic about where you place keywords. For best results, it should absolutely be in the title and at least one subtitle.

2. Smart writing is just as important as keyword occurrence.

3. To increase the odds of landing a featured snippet spot on Google, craft a paragraph that does a good job of defining your keyword term in readable language.

For Eventbrite, this strategy was certainly a success story.