It doesn’t matter what your content team has fallen in love with, what you think is the next hot topic, or what products you want people to know about: If your target customers aren’t looking for the type of content you’re producing, you’re already losing the organic search game.
I’ve noticed content marketing success has nothing to do with how exciting your industry is, the skill of your writing, or how many keywords you fit in the content. Content marketing success depends more on thoughtful content ideation, as well as framing the content’s headline, meta description, and tags to be attractive to search engines based on existing or even future queries.
Our team at Vertical Measures is almost tired of hearing me say, “Double-check your title and make sure people are looking for that in search engines.” Google and Bing won’t recognize your brilliant colloquialisms or groundbreaking data that you believe is so vital for content consumers to see. Instead, search engines are designed to match results based on relevancy, which makes creating content with search top of mind a top priority.
Double-check your title & make sure people are looking for that in search engines says @ArnieK. #SEO
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What I see, more often than not, is a title and content that are totally going to fail (unless you have a promotion budget, but more on that later) because people are not searching for what you’ve created. Don’t let the hours of work you’ve done go to waste. Learn how to create content people are searching for.
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Use content ideation to give customers what they want
You know content marketing plays a significant role in influencing buyer decision because it lends credibility to your brand, increases brand awareness, and can generate more leads or sales. Synchrony Financial, formerly GE Capital Retail Bank, conducts an annual Major Purchase Shopper Study and found that 80% of shoppers aiming to buy something in excess of $500 begin their research online – a 20% increase from the year prior.
80% of shoppers aiming to buy something in excess of $500 begin their search online via @SYFNews. #SEO
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The study also found that consumers spend an average of 79 days learning their options through research before committing to a major purchase. Your content should be in front of them during their extensive information-gathering. By using content to offer valuable information, you can get consumers to begin to trust your brand, and when it comes time for them to make a purchase decision, your company will be top of mind.
To match your content with what people are searching for, it’s essential to do your own research, using keyword tools and social sites to learn more about your customers. Content ideation should be paired with methods such as:
- Keyword research, using search engine tools like Google AdWords, Bing’s Keyword Research Tool, io, AnswerThePublic.com, and Ubersuggest.io,
- Search of question-and-answer sites such as Quora and Yahoo! Answers to see what people are asking regarding your industry
- Moz’s Open Site Explorer tool to see what kinds of successful content your competitors are creating based on other sites that link to them
You also can go beyond online-based research to identify topics your customers want to read. Besides combing through social media profiles to see what your customers are curious about and using search tools to gauge popular topics, use the wealth of knowledge from your employees to spur ideation.
- Ask your staff what questions they get asked every day. Include anyone who talks to prospects or clients – from customer support members to sales reps.
- Have a chat with your market research analyst to dig through company studies and surveys, identifying what your customers are most concerned about.
- Look through the data from a chat feature on your website; it may be an information gold mine.
- Talk with those who worked your booth at your latest trade show to see what topics were most prominent in conversations.
- Look at questions in comments of content to inspire follow-up posts.
- Share your content marketing goals company-wide, and empower team members to share ideas as they come with your content team.
Organize your ideas with an editorial calendar to keep content production consistent and the content itself fresh and interesting. If you’re wondering how to create editorial calendars, there are many inexpensive tools on the market. Group similar ideas so you’re able to space the schedule for articles and blog posts on similar topics.
Pro tip: Before you commit to writing a post, take the title you have in mind, enter it into a search engine and look at the results. Do you see a substantial number of results with the same title or a title that’s very similar? If the answer is yes, you may want to move onto your next idea unless you feel confident you can create a much better piece of content than your competitor. If you don’t see a lot of results for that title, you have just found the content gap we all search for. Publish away. After you create the content, check the final title one last time before hitting publish; it may have been changed during the editing process and you want to stay unique while still remaining searchable.
Ditch methods that lead to an organic search abyss
One of the easiest ways you can penalize yourself in search engines is to create a headline (and content) that is:
- Missing relevant keywords that relate to the content … keywords people are searching for. It’s better to be straightforward when it comes to headlines since search rewards keywords over cheeky copywriting.
Be straightforward when it comes to headlines. Search rewards keywords over cheeky writing says @arniek. #SEO
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- Unclear about the content. A witty title doesn’t get people to click. Searchers never see it because it likely won’t show up in relevant results, and if it does, they’ll choose a headline that sets clear expectations.
- All about self-promotion. People who aren’t familiar with your products or services and are not actively searching for them have no chance of seeing your content.
In addition to integrating keywords that directly relate to the content and what your target consumers are searching for in a headline that is around 65 characters or less, follow these best practices. Based on a sample of more than 3.3 million paid link headlines by marketing platform Outbrain, here’s what can make your next headline more clickable:
- Add a descriptive bracket: Headlines that included a bracket summarizing the content type (e.g., [infographic] or [slideshow]) performed 38% better.
Headlines that include a bracket summarizing content type perform 38% better via @SYFNews. #SEO
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- Use the word “who”: The study also found headlines that include the word “who” achieved a 22% higher click-through rate.
- Announce photography inclusion: Headlines including the word “photo(s)” performed 37% better.
Content marketing and social scheduling tool CoSchedule has more ideas based on its Headline Analyzer tool:
- Solve a problem with a “how to”: Searchers typing in questions to learn a skill responded well to content that offers answers.
- Turn your post into a list: Give content consumers an expectation of how many items they’ll be digesting while still leaving plenty of room for keywords.
- Answer a question: Since searchers often type questions into search engines, your headline might perfectly match what they’re typing.
Unless you are lucky enough to have a viral piece of content on social media, there are really only two ways for people to find your content: organically in search results or via paid promotion.
Only 2 ways for people to find your content – organically in search results or via paid promotion says @ArnieK.
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Promote your content
If you’ve followed the above steps, congratulations. You’re on your way to boosting organic reach through targeted, relevant content. If you simply want to blog about whatever you fancy but still expect readership, you’ll need to have a large enough budget to promote that content.
Paid promotion can be effective if done correctly, but just like everything else it requires a plan and a budget. It does not require a lot of money – sometimes just a few hundred dollars can make a big difference – but you do need to determine the best outlets for your promotion. Is it LinkedIn? Facebook? Bing? Native-advertising platforms? Determining that is outside the scope of this article, but it’s an important element to your marketing success.
Content Distribution Strategies and Tools to Drive Traffic
Rev the engines
Whether you’re starting a new content marketing strategy or need to give your methods a face-lift, don’t forget that excellent content marketing is both art (creation) and science (SEO and amplification). Make sure to:
- Use content ideation to power your editorial calendar.
- Write search engine friendly headlines, meta descriptions, tags
- Amplify your content in social media channels, email newsletters, webinar slideshows, and paid search campaigns.
Excellent #contentmarketing is both art (creation) and science (#SEO & amplification) says @ArnieK.
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And be patient. Organic results don’t happen overnight. Last year, Content Marketing Institute founder Joe Pulizzi said content marketers experience what technology research firm Gartner calls the “trough of disillusionment” when they don’t immediately achieve the sensational results they expect.
Follow all these steps, then give it time. Believe in the process, trust your audience, and continue to publish relevant content that people are actively searching for.
Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute