I spend most of my time as a freelance financial writer creating articles and blogs that are part of my clients’ content marketing programs. As freelancer, I’m not always privy to the details of these programs, but one of my clients let me peek behind the curtains a little bit to see what makes their program a success.

I’ve been writing personal finance articles for Personal Capital for about four years now. PC is one of the leaders in offering online financial and wealth management services. After a Zoom meeting a couple of weeks ago with the PC editorial staff and all the freelance writers, I asked my contacts if they’d share some insights about their content marketing program, and they said sure!

The Backbone: Daily Capital

The backbone of PC’s program is their editorial site, Daily Capital. “We publish several articles every week based on what’s happening seasonally and in the news and what we’re seeing people look for on search engines,” Personal Capital’s Senior Marketing Manager Hilary Miller told me. “Through a blend of SEO and storytelling content, along with newsworthy and evergreen content, we’ve been able to dramatically scale traffic to the site.”

Hilary said their two main goals for Daily Capital are to increase brand awareness and boost earned leads, or leads generated via organic instead of paid search. “A vast majority of our traffic comes from organic search, so we’re constantly leaning into new keyword research and optimizing existing pages for better search visibility,” she said.

The results have been pretty impressive: The Newsroom section of Daily Capital drove a 27% increase in earned leads during the first quarter and an 88% increase in organic traffic to Daily Capital. Overall, Personal Capital has seen about a 90% year-over-year increase in organic traffic to Daily Capital.

Personal Capital’s Content Manager Alicia Castro says they’re on track to tripling content production by the end of this year. “This makes for a lot of articles to write, edit, review and promote,” she said. “We’ve really had to stay organized to manage this increase in production!” Part of this was rolling out a new content management platform called monday.com last month.

The Critical Role of SEO

Both Hilary and Alicia stressed the critical role search engine optimization plays in their content marketing strategy.

“SEO helps ensure that our content gets in front of the people who are interested in what we’re writing about,” Alicia said. “Many articles are written with a specific search term in mind and they all go through a process of optimization for search. We’re continually learning and improving this aspect of our program.”

“Ultimately, we want to be omnipresent in search results when someone is entering a financial query,” Hilary said.

The PC team works closely with a search engine optimization agency to accomplish their SEO objectives. “We dictate the strategy in terms of what kind of content we want and the themes we want to cover and they help us find keywords with a high volume and high relevance for our business,” Hilary said.

“They also help us understand what we need to include in new content if we want to be competitive for certain keywords, and they help analyze our existing content to find areas for improvement.” Content briefs are created based on all of this analysis and given to the freelance writers.

“On Daily Capital, we perform content gap analysis to identify new search terms to reach our intended audience,” Alicia told me. “We also optimize our existing content to help it rank better.”

Challenges and Advice

I asked Hilary and Alicia what are their biggest challenges when it comes to managing Daily Capital. “For me, the biggest challenge is just having big plans but not being able to tackle everything at once,” Hilary said. “We have a small team so we need to carefully prioritize what we think has the most editorial value and balance it with what will best serve the business.”

Alicia agreed, stressing the ongoing challenge of balancing the various aspects and goals of the program. “We want to increase our editorial/storytelling content while also promoting the Personal Capital brand … while also highlighting our spokespeople … while also providing SEO-focused educational content,” she said.

So what advice do Hilary and Alicia have for other businesses looking to create a new content marketing program or improve an existing one? “First, make sure you clearly define your goals,” Hilary said. “For example, do you want to drive a large volume of traffic to your site? Or are newsletter signups your top goal? The type of content you create will really depend on what your goals are.

“And second, while this sounds obvious, it’s really, really important to make sure you’re producing content that is super high-quality and in some way unique to your business,” she added. “I sometimes see companies prioritizing content volume over quality by churning out several pieces that might respond to a specific search query, but they really don’t stand out. This approach can only take you so far.”

Alicia recommends identifying other brands in your industry that you admire and then doing some competitive research and analysis. For example, what do you like about their content? How are they using social media? How are they working with spokespeople and brand ambassadors? Where are you seeing their name in third-party news sites?

“Feed this information into your big-picture goals,” Alicia said. “When you’re producing and distributing content at scale, you can sometimes get lost in the weeds. These big-picture goals can help you see the overall picture, stay focused and continue growing your program.”