Why Content Marketing & SEO are Like Chicago-Style Hot Dogs

By Susan Reilly

With a staff of great content strategists in our Chicago public relations agency, Reilly Connect has its favorite haunts for nabbing a Chicago-style hot dog when lunch rolls around.

Windy City hot dog devotees know that a plain dog on a bun ain’t gonna hit the spot. Even worse, a hot with ketchup is heresy.

Our town gives its people what they want, and what they want is a 100% beef frankfurter lavished with yellow mustard, chopped white onions, bright green sweet pickle relish, a kosher pickle spear, fresh tomatoes, pickled sport peppers and a dash of celery salt. We “drag it through the garden,” so to speak, and make sure it’s on a steamed poppy seed bun.

It's about the ingredients and how they work together that makes a Chicago hot dog. No one component of the dog is mutually exclusive or powerful enough to send us into hot dog heaven on its own.

Content marketing experts should build their SEO strategies with the same mindset as building a Chicago-style dog. The components must work together if you want to leave the people satisfied. Just as the best Second City hot dog havens have honed their skills to serve up Chicago-style dogs the way the locals like it, content marketers must figure out what ingredients it needs to give Google what it wants.

Hot Dog: What Does Google Want?

Relish this thought: Google wants satisfied users. While this is not a new goal for the search engine, its ability to consistently meet this goal is new, thanks to algorithm changes that have gone into effect over the past few years. 

For Google, satisfied users are those who find the most thorough, trustworthy, and user-friendly information on the topic they are researching. Search engines have only recently reached a level of artificial intelligence-like sophistication where they are able to punish old SEO tricks that used to outwit Google’s game—like posting duplicate content and blatantly stuffing content with keywords (i.e., the culinary equivalent of filling a Chicago dog with tofu)—to deliver rich, valuable content to its satisfied users.

Meaty Content: What Does This Mean for Brands?

Because smart, credible content is what’s most valuable to Google’s algorithm, brands hoping to top the search results must develop a strong, comprehensive content strategy that is authentic and high-quality, much like a 100% pure beef frankfurter.

While Google makes over 600 algorithmic updates a year, SEO experts expect high-quality content to remain the most important SEO factor from now on.

Google’s algorithmic changes are pushing brands to come to terms with the new marketing reality, where 70% of internet users want to learn about products through content vs. traditional ads and 54% of consumers would consider ending a relationship with a retailer that fails to deliver tailor-made, relevant content.

This means that brands should zero in on their customers (who they are, what they like, what they expect, how they consume content, how they are influenced, etc.), and create engaging content accordingly. If the market speaks that ketchup on a hot dog is profane, give the people what they want, and that is mustard.

Brands like General Mills have had great success with their robust blog thanks to a dedicated editorial team and authentic, content-rich postings that align with their corporate values as well as the interests of their customers across multiple brands. From their wide range of interesting blogs that highlight unique and engaging stories, it is clear that they understand what resonates.

Got a Craving: Are you fulfilling it?

An engaged customer is one that is able to make a personal connection to the information being consumed, which is much more likely to take place if brands tell a story rather than present a cold string of facts.

Does your content plan help conjure up images of a laid-back Saturday afternoon with your favorite friends, swapping stories or meeting up after a soccer game to give in to hot dog desires?

Neurological studies have shown when we read stories, our brain lights up in the same way that it would if we were actually experiencing what we were really only reading. Stories are much more memorable and powerful, and they are what our brains crave (which is why we spend about half of our lives daydreaming).

Brands wanting to engage with their customers through storytelling have an increasingly impactful tool at their disposal: social influencers. Good influencers are in sync with their followers who devotedly turn to them for advice (i.e., reviews) via personal stories that feel authentic and credible. And considering that 83% of people consider personal stories what makes a review influential, it comes as no surprise that 22% of marketers name influencers as their top customer acquisition tool.

Natural Ingredients: Does Your Content Use the Right Key Words?

With so many brands both recognizing and responding to the need for better content, even the best content will need SEO tweaks for Google and other search engines to come crawling.

A symbiotic content and SEO strategy should consider the following SEO tactics.

While keyword stuffing will no longer get you anywhere with Google, keywords are still important, and Google’s Hummingbird update has made keyword inclusion easier and more natural than ever as it now recognizes keyword synonyms so you don’t have to sacrifice user-friendly content for the sake of SEO rankings.

At Reilly Connect, we also know the importance of choosing the right keyword. We extensively research terms using a variety of tools and research tactics to ensure our content matches search queries that correspond with a set of established ROI-driven criteria.

Zack Reboletti, Reilly Connect’s SEO Strategist, explaines:

When developing content with keywords in mind, there are several important criteria to consider, including: the intent of the searcher and how this relates to your marketing objectives, the search volume associated with topics you’ve identified that align with these objectives, and the competition (current first page results) surrounding them.

Reboletti works closely with Reilly’s content strategists to make sure that the content we produce for clients is both smart and optimized to improve rankings.

Pairing SEO and a content strategy is the sum of its parts. Strive for what people want. Use only the best ingredients. Make it natural. Leave readers with a positive experience, and your brand and customers will be as satisfied as when a Chicago hot dog lover chomps on their favorite Chicago-style dog. 


Susan Reilly believes puns are the lowest form of humor, spends a great deal of time daydreaming and favors Portillo’s Hot Dogs, makers of the best Chicago-style hot dog on the planet.