What does it mean to have a holistic approach to content marketing and SEO strategy? Since that is precisely what Lee Odden calls for in his new book, Optimize, it's exactly what I asked him when he joined me for the most recent episode of Marketing Smarts.

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The Totality of Content

First and foremost, Lee said, it means "being thoughtful about the totality of the content assets you have and how they work together."

Stressing the totality of content means thinking beyond the walls of the marketing department. Yes, Marketing will in fact produce many "content objects," as Lee calls them, everything from brochures and catalogs to blog posts, newsletters, whitepapers, slide decks, and more. 

But no matter how much content the marketing communications folk create, they are far from being the organization's sole content creators. Consider the folks over in PR and investor relations (if the company is public), for example. From press releases to quarterly reports, they undeniably contribute their share to the content pool. 

And what about the folks in customer service? Though some of them may be on the phones, many companies today try to provide customers answers to common questions and issues on their websites and actively point customers there first. Add technical support and technical documentation, and pretty soon we're talking about content creators that can even rival their colleagues in Marketing.

The HR department, too, is a constant source of content. Though we may think of them primarily as the keepers of internal policies, which may themselves be accessible to the public, HR is also home to corporate recruiters who regularly write and post ads for job openings as well as basic information for job seekers interested in career opportunities at the company. 

Making Content Findable

A holistic approach to content strategy, then, means taking all such  content into account and remembering, as Lee says, "Anybody producing content is creating an asset through which search can be an entry point." Since all that content can be searched, the next step is figuring out how best to help producers of that content to optimize it for search.

Turns out that the best way to do so is not to go to each department and begin preaching to them about the power and potential of SEO. "People have some preconceived notions about what that means," he explained, "and [mentioning] it can kill an opportunity right on the spot."

What Lee recommends instead is talking to those responsible for content in each department and "uncovering their particular needs or uncovering opportunities within those different  organizations and then presenting this [SEO] as a particular solution."

The way to do that is to ask content creators across the organization: Who is this content meant for? What problems will it solve for them? How will they find it? 

Content producers should be able to answer the first two questions (if they can't, you have bigger problems). Still, they probably won't be able to answer the last one, which is where you say, "Let me explain how I can help you with that."

It Ain't Easy

Taking a holistic approach to content and search isn't necessarily easy. Getting a handle on all the content produced by your organization (at a time when organizations are producing more content than ever before) can be daunting, and convincing content producers that they may have a problem ("Nobody can find this stuff!") won't help you win any popularity contests.

But if you maintain a customer-centric perspective ("Whatever we do only has meaning if it is meaningful to customers") and demonstrate to your colleagues across the organization that, rather than imposing new requirements on them, you are actually motivated by a desire to help them achieve their goals (an approach that is really just customer-centricity turned inward), then you will have succeeded in truly, and holistically, optimizing your organization's content and SEO efforts. 

If you'd like to hear my entire conversation with Lee, you may do so above or download the mp3 and listen at your leisure. Of course, you are also welcome to subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes and never miss an episode!