Today’s post is a direct answer to a question I receive frequently.
First, the question – “I get that I need to produce lots of content but what should I write about?”
And now, the simple answer – “Write about things that your customers and prospects want to know more about.”
It really is that simple. Of course, the challenging part is understanding and staying focused on the most important, otherwise known as highest payoff, topics.
Today it’s not enough to simply write brilliant stuff. Yes, that’s certainly one aspect, but you’ve also got to write brilliant stuff that addresses what your prospects want to know in ways that search engines and searchers alike find relevant.
A little bit of research can go a long way when trying to develop a content strategy based on winning search results for phrases and topics related to what you do.
For this I’ll turn to a primary SEO routine.
Keyword research is a fundamental practice in the search engine optimization and marketing world. It’s how you determine what your pages need to say, it’s how you determine what your competition for important search terms is doing to stay at the top of the rankings and it’s how you determine what search terms and countless variations you want to bid on in your pay-per-click campaigns.
It’s also a great way to develop a body of primary topics for your editorial content calendar.
Below is a routine I’ve used over and over again to help sort out the precise body of topics that will produce the highest payoff in terms of search engine results. (If you want to read my thoughts on how I use these phrases once I discover them check out – The 7 Most Important SEO Factors for Bloggers)
List of 30 – 5 groups
The first thing I do is brainstorm a list of key search terms based on my own analytics, my sent email box and questions that clients routinely ask. I try to produce a list of suspects that reach thirty or so.
Then I try to group them into five or so major themes.
Google Keyword Tool
Next I take this list to a free tool like the Google Keyword Tool or a paid service such as WordTracker.
I run the words or phrases into these tools and quickly start working on revising my brainstorming list based on actual search volume, competition and a host of related phrases that these tools feed me.
Volume and competition prune
I revise my list, sometimes greatly, based on an initial analysis of the amount of search volume and how competitive a search term is and land on a group of phrases somewhere between perfect world and extremely long tail.
The more specific a search phrase is the more valuable it may be in terms of conversion. In other words, someone searching “small business marketing” could be looking for a lot of things, but someone searching “small business marketing growth strategy” might likely be looking for that killer course you’re selling – less volume, more relevance.
Now I take my revised list that is probably no more than ten phrases, to the Google. I plug each phrase in and note the page one results. (These days it might make sense to do this logged in and out of your Google account as the results can vary greatly.)
I analyze the top results to make sure this is a place I want to land and create a list of what I now call my “competition” for these phrases. I then employ a few competitive research tools, such as the free Open Site Explorer or SEO Toolbar from SEOBook or the paid Raven Tools to learn a great deal about why these sites or pages are ranking well for these terms.
Website content feature
One last step I like to use is to return to Google Keyword tool and use the website content feature that allows you to run a keyword analysis not on a search phrase but on an actual URL.
I do this with many of the competitive sites to learn why Google thinks what they do about this page and drum up more related search term candidates.
From all of this research I can generally come up with a meaty list of topics that I know I need to blog about in a very optimized way. My only task now to is find ways to say some of the same things over and over again in highly interesting ways. I also employ a tool like Scribe in my writing to help keep me laser focused on the content strategy.
This isn’t the only way to do keyword research and I’m sure many of the SEO folks have great strategies and routines for accomplishing what I’ve described here, but this is a way that works for me and helps me naturally balance the need for content with the need for optimization.