It’s about writing from the outside, in.
The content (or inbound) marketing movement has spawned vast quantities of keyword-stuffed blog posts across the world. The philosophy goes something like this: “If you can satisfy searchers’ thirst for knowledge, your customers beat a virtual path to your business.”
But satisfying that thirst requires more than simply penning the correct answer. You need to ensure how you’re saying what you’re saying aligns perfectly with how your customers are phrasing what they’re asking for. In other words, let the consumer frame the problem for you, then sit down to create. Thankfully, there are four fairly straightforward ways to get to that understanding.
Scour your analytics.
Assuming you use a modern analytics package (statistically speaking, probably Google Analytics), you can easily get an understanding of the search terms that are currently bringing organic traffic to your site. If you are using Google, in your Webmaster Tools account, navigate to referral data in your dashboard. If you have more than one domain attached to your account, click on the domain you want to review, then on “Search Queries.” There, you can review the data for the top 1,000 queries for which Google returns pages of your website. You can monitor click-through rate, as well as impressions and average position for each query.
The downside to this approach is that it is only a rearview mirror. It points to the way people are getting to your site now and may offer insights into what phrases you may wish to amplify your relevance against. But it won’t tell you what all of the valuable customers who are ending up on your competitors’ sites are searching for. Luckily, we have the tools for that as well.
Get the 30,000-foot view.
To gain a better overview of what topics interest the market at large and, more importantly, what part of that market’s search behavior you’re not capitalizing on, you need to investigate outside of your analytics. Thankfully, there are a few easy-to-use tools that can give you just that kind of insight.
Google Ads Keyword Planner
You will have to sign up for Google Ads, but, assuming you’re trying to run a business based, in part at least, on driving web traffic to your site, you likely should already have an account. You can use this tool to quickly understand how many search queries are conducted against specific words and phrases and, more importantly, how they perform at generating click-throughs. Of course, you can begin to play with long-tail search phrases, but that is, in effect, kind of hit or miss. Again, there is a better way.
AnswerThePublic.com is basically reverse engineering for SEO. You put in the keywords you want to optimize around, and the tool delivers the natural language search phrases people are using most against the topic. It also delivers related search information, as well as comparative searches, e.g., “SEO content vs. technical content.” And each of the main results are clickable, so you can see the results for those searches directly in a Google search results page. The best news about this tool is that it is, for most use cases, free. If you do more than 30 or so searches in a day, they will cut you off for a bit and ask you to pay for the pro license. But I assume the usage of most businesses will fall well below that limit.
The old-fashioned way—ask actual people.
And by old fashioned, we don’t mean “bad.” We mean primary market research. Whether you create online surveys (again, for more generalized markets, Google has a relatively affordable solution here), conduct individual interviews or conduct focus groups, these methodologies can help you get to a more nuanced understanding of your customers’ relationship with the subject matter than what their search terms can tell you. Further, if your market is composed of low-volume but high-value customers (an extreme case would be something like purchasers of control systems technology for nuclear plants), the most important search terms or phrases wouldn’t occur at high enough volume for generalized tools to surface them during your research.
Translate queries into titles.
If you have spent even a small amount of effort optimizing your site or content to be Google-friendly, you’ll know the importance of the title tag in letting Google (not to mention your readers) gain an immediate and clear understanding of the content to follow. An example would be, well, this article. How’s that for proof of concept?
Enhance your SEM planning, too.
At Magnani, we are fans of incorporating long-tail strategies into our SEM planning (see that post here). These tools and methods can just as easily be employed to give you insights into that market activity as well.
Go forth and create content.
The next time you’re sitting at your laptop, wondering what you’ll write about, blank page staring you in the face, just take a few minutes and use these tools to let your customers tell you what they want to read.