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The SEO & Search Volume vs. Thought Leadership Dilemma: Striking the Perfect Balance

Understanding the Contradiction

There are two common routes marketers, specifically SEOs, take when developing a content strategy. You’ve probably heard gurus and influencers promoting each of them separately. “Be a thought leader” or “focus on high-volume keywords.”

The issue? These two common approaches appear to contradict each other.

This is because being a thought leader inherently means covering topics that haven’t been widely explored or unique solutions that users won’t be searching for yet because they aren’t aware they exist.

This article explores this contradiction and provides guidance on navigating this inconsistency in common SEO advice.

Thought Leadership: Innovation Over Popularity

Being a thought leader in your respective niche is the dream of many SEOs and content marketers alike. Thought leadership means pushing the boundaries and offering fresh perspectives on industry topics.

You're not just following trends; you're setting them. This means your content might not bring immediate clicks from organic search because, by definition, you're discussing concepts that haven't yet gained widespread recognition and therefore have a low or even 0 organic search volume.

Example: If you've developed a new marketing strategy, there's a good chance people aren't searching for it—yet. However, your goal is to establish authority and become the go-to expert as the strategy gains traction.

Search Volume: Popularity Over Innovation

The opposing strategy routinely used by SEOs involves creating content based on the monthly search volume of keywords. Monthly search volume (MSV) is a metric commonly given for keywords and phrases by SEO tools like ahrefs and SEMrush; it’s an estimate of the number of times users are essentially “Googling” the respective keyword or phrase monthly. With this approach, you’re creating and optimizing content for what's already being searched for.

This process involves researching keywords and search trends to identify high-traffic topics and strategically incorporating those keywords into your content. Provided your content is good enough, this ensures that your article appears in search engine results for common queries and attracts organic users.

Example: Writing about "content marketing strategies" could drive substantial traffic because it's a well-recognized and highly searched topic.

Can Thought Leadership and SEO Coexist?

Yes, achieving a balance between thought leadership and SEO can seem challenging but is entirely possible with the right approach. The following section details our strategies to accomplish this and practical steps to get you started.

Strategy 1: Combine High-Traffic Keywords with Original Ideas

Who says you can't innovate within popular topics? Thought leadership doesn't always have to be about entirely new ideas; it can also involve presenting new angles or insights on existing topics or simply combining related articles into a more comprehensive piece. By integrating high-traffic keywords into your unique content, you can strike a balance between being innovative and SEO-friendly.
After all, it is highly speculated by SEOs that Google includes a “Query Deserves Diversity” aspect to their algorithm that decides what web pages should show in search results. This means Google likely doesn’t want all the top 10 results to feature content covering the same topics the same way.

Practical Steps for Combining High-Traffic Keywords with Original Ideas:

  1. Keyword Research: Identify keywords with high search volume related to your industry.
  2. Unique Spin: Find a way to incorporate your new and fresh ideas into or with these keywords. For example, if the keyword is "content marketing strategies," you could write about "Emerging Content Marketing Strategies for 2024."
Strategy 2: Use a Dual-Purpose Content Strategy

Another approach? Consider employing a dual-content strategy where you create two types of content:

  1. Search Volume-Focused Content: Articles optimized for high-traffic keywords to drive immediate traffic
  2. Thought Leadership Content: Pieces that focus on new, less-searched topics to establish your authority

This approach allows you to build a strong foundation of traffic while simultaneously positioning yourself as an industry expert.

Practical Steps for Using a Dual-Purpose Content Strategy:

  • Developing SEO Content: Use tools like ahrefs or SEMrush to find popular keywords and write content leveraging those keywords in popular formats such as comprehensive guides or how-tos.
  • Building Thought Leadership: Share your progressive ideas, proprietary data, and more through blog posts, whitepapers, or industry reports.

Example: In practice for marketing agencies, this may look like writing some search volume-focused content for your client directly, while asking their team to create thought leadership content based on their own work and knowledge of industry trends.

Strategy 3: Leverage Multiple Channels

Thought leadership content will often require some additional promotion to maximize reach. After all, if your content isn’t designed to rank for high search volume queries, don’t rely on organic search to be the primary driver of traffic. Social media platforms, industry forums, email newsletters, and even digital ads can help you share this content with a broader audience and drive traffic back to your site. There are tons of other ways to get these types of content pieces in front of your audience, it just requires a bit more finesse than simply posting and waiting for Google to put you at the top of SERPs.

Practical Steps for Leveraging Multiple Channels:

  • Social Media: Regularly post snippets or insights from your thought leadership content on LinkedIn, Facebook, and other relevant platforms.
  • Email Newsletters: Send weekly or monthly updates highlighting your latest thought leadership pieces to your subscriber list. (Subscribe to Liquid’s newsletter here!)
Strategy 4: Engage with Your Audience

Creating a community around your brand can amplify the impact of your thought leadership efforts. Engage with your audience through comments, social media interactions, and webinars to build relationships and encourage sharing. While not from search, this can lead to “organic” or “viral” impressions for both your brand and your content on the channels you engage on.

Practical Steps for Engaging with Your Audience:

  • Comments and Replies: Actively respond to comments and questions on your blog and social media posts.
  • Webinars: Host live sessions where you discuss your latest insights and engage directly with your audience.

Your Content Dilemma Solved!

Balancing thought leadership with driving organic traffic is not only possible but ideal in today's competitive digital landscape. You can successfully navigate the apparent contradiction between these two goals by combining high-traffic keywords with original ideas, employing a dual-content strategy, leveraging multiple channels for promotion, and engaging with your audience.

Remember, the key is to be strategic and thoughtful about how you approach your content creation.

Ready to take your content strategy to the next level? Follow this link to start a conversation about how Liquid can help you get there.