For many SEOs, developing content that best serves the needs of users is a struggle. While many think that content strategies can be driven by keyword research alone, there’s much more to creating successful and meaningful content. Keyword research certainly informs a good content strategy, but it isn’t enough to fully capture your audience’s needs, or your brand’s unique voice. Moreover, developing more content with your users in mind will help in creating content that converts.
So what questions should we ask ourselves before tackling a well rounded content strategy? Here are the most important ones to start with:
- Who is my target audience?
- What are their pain points and needs?
- Where are they currently having conversations?
- What is our brand voice?
- What unique expertise does our brand offer?
- What expertise can we offer to our audience?
Overall, your content is just empty words if your audience doesn’t connect with it. This is often the most nuanced part of content strategy, and involves a bit more creativity when thinking about what makes your brand unique. Many brands will say that it’s their product that makes them unique. However, if there is a competitor out there with the same general product, it’s not unique. So you need to develop your voice. To start, think about developing a unique content angle that finds intersections between your brand’s expertise and your audience’s needs.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s jump into creating our strategy.
Building A Content Strategy
- Define your goals.
What are you trying to accomplish through this content? This doesn’t always have to be, “I want people to read this and go buy my product”. Maybe your goal is to solve an audience issue, to educate, to bring awareness to something your brand offers, or to convert in some way. Clearly defining your goals in this way before you put pen to paper will help you figure out what type of content you want to create and what the calls-to-action should be.
- Who is your target audience, and what do they need?
The next step is to get to know your audience. Your brand’s target audience is often a large group of people, made of up smaller groups that have different pain points and needs. Find out what your audience is struggling with and what content could be created to help answer their questions. Doing research in this area is extremely helpful in answering these questions. Check out social media, online forums, and subreddits related to your topic to get an idea of where your audience is talking and what they want to know.
- Bring in SEO.
Because creating content can be a creative process, there’s often no one way to go about doing it. Many times, SEOs wait until after they’ve created the content to plug in a few keywords and links. However, keyword research and content strategy do not exist independently of each other. Simply plugging in a few key terms after the fact can often come across as clunky, robotic, and unnatural. This misses the point of creating content that first and foremost, serves the user. You users are human, after all, and they want to read content that they can relate to. By basing your content strategy solely on keyword research, you’ll inevitably miss out on some of this nuance in your writing. A truly effective content marketing strategy should bring in keyword research early on in order to inform your content. Only when you know what queries your audience members are using, and what kind of content they are looking for, can you design content that will be successful in helping and connecting with them.
- Define your brand’s voice.
Again, dig deeper and figure out what makes your brand truly unique. Though your product may seem unique, your brand is more than just your product. Think about the people behind the brand, your story, and the problems that you believe your product addresses. Even expertise that may seem boring on the surface can be extremely valuable to your audience.
- Develop a list of potential content topics based on user research and your expertise.
Now that you know your users and you’ve defined your voice, it’s time to brainstorm possible topics. Again, there’s no one way to go about doing this. One of the fastest ways to get some ideas is by looking at long tail queries. This is where your keyword research comes into play. By looking at those more specific long tail phrases, you can get a pretty good idea at the topics your audience cares about, and what questions they have.
- Create quality content.
You’ve got the foundation in place, now it’s time to start building. With your brand’s voice in mind and your keyword research completed, gather the information or research you need and outline what you want the content to look like. Start with your H1 and H2 headings, and bullet point what you want to talk about in each section. Don’t forgot to make sure you’ve addressed the need you attempted to resolve, and that you’ve got a strong CTA that works toward your goal. As you create your content, make sure to avoid these mistakes:
- Spelling and grammatical errors. Never deliver your content until you’ve thoroughly proofread it. Have someone else proofread it after you, for good measure.
- Fake news. Just because everyone else quotes that statistic, doesn’t mean you should, unless you can find the source. Make sure everything is fact checked.
- Your content isn’t shareable. Could I share this if I wanted to? (i.e., are social sharing buttons readily available?)
- Keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing is very, very out. A good way to visualize if you’re using primary keywords too much is to use the “Find” feature in your document and search the keyword. If it looks oversaturated, start plugging in some synonyms.
- Unnatural keyword use. Don’t overthink it. Use synonyms, abbreviations, plurals and so on like you would normally in conversation.
- Un-optimized titles and subtitles. Write for people first. But, if you can keep that target keyword toward the front of your title and/or H1, this will only help you from an SEO standpoint.
- Content doesn’t play on mobile. This will not likely be an issue if the site uses responsive design, which most do. Still, make sure forms and CTAs are tappable in the content, images are center-aligned, and your content is overall visually pleasing.
Once you’ve created and delivered your content, you’ll have to be patient for results. Be sure to build a report or dashboard where you can track your content performance on a regular basis. Some metrics to consider are traffic source/medium, conversion rates, clicks on any CTAs you include in blog posts or in general website content, and session duration. If you’ve waited several months with nothing to show for it, it’s a good idea to go back through the content strategy and assess your voice, your target audience, or if you’ve optimized the content in a way that best serves your users.