The concept of “big data” has gained traction in recent years as our online activity becomes more and more tracked by companies such as Google and Facebook. To the SEO community this might seem like old news, as we’ve been using big data for years via keyword research. To traditional marketers, publishers and retailers…this has been a revelation.
That’s what we’re going to talk about today: using big data to guide your content marketing plan. We’ll also discuss promotional tactics to ensure that your content realizes its full potential. To do this, I break it down into 7 steps:
1. Do Keyword Research (Market Research)
Consider content strategies like marketing campaigns. They need to target the needs of an audience by providing solutions to problems, ideally in a way that offers unique value. However, as I discuss here, they also need to help companies meet their own business goals. Finding the delicate balance between the two is critical, but it all starts with the audience, or…customer. The way that online content strategists can discover customers’ needs is through keyword research.
Keyword research is simply the process of discovering what words and phrases your potential customers are searching for in search engines (primarily Google). Instead of conducting user surveys to uncover customer needs and desires, the data is literally at our fingertips. We just need to grab the computer and begin researching.
There are a number of different resources to assist with keyword research, ranging from Google’s own Keyword Planner tool, to nifty tools like Ubersuggest for finding keywords via auto-suggest functionalities, and SpyFu for discovering the keywords that your competitors are targeting. These are just a handful, but a good place to start.
Most SEO strategists prefer to use tools that provide actual search volume data, as this can help with prioritizing keywords based on potential traffic. For this reason, I prefer to use Google’s own Keyword Planner, and have developed a handy guide to help you with learning how to use the tool. Here’s a few additional tips to help you organize your keywords:
- Judge the competitive nature of keywords with this Google query: allintitle:<keyword>. Under 100,000 competing pages is great, under 10,000 is much better, and under 1,000 is best. For less authoritative sites, targeting low competition keywords will most likely provide traffic.
- Organize topically related keywords into categories and sub-categories.
- Keep track of search volume for each keyword in order to help determine which should be used in titles.
- Assign article/content ideas to groups of keywords, ideally with a primary keyword (most searched) and a handful of secondary keywords (lesser searched).
A more simplified approach to finding keywords for those new to content marketing can sometimes be the better option, however. Start small, and build from there. For these people, I’ve written a helpful guide on how to use Google Suggest to find keywords for content marketing plans.
2. Create the Content Strategy
This is where the real fun begins. Once keywords are organized together in groups, and aligned with initial content ideas, it’s time to fully flesh out each idea…one at a time. The most important starting point is to put yourself in the searchers’ shoes. What are they trying to solve? What are they looking for? Why should they buy from you? Write down all questions and answer them. Also consider building different personas for potential searchers, and formulate their own specific needs, questions and concerns.
Next, consider how you are going to deliver the content in a way that would be most compelling to your audience and also stand out from the competition.
- Should it be a resourceful, text-focused guide that attempts to educate your audience?
- Should it be an infographic that gets the point across in a more compelling way through graphical representation?
- Should it be a dynamic/interactive tool to help customers find solutions to problems?
- Should it be a video that demonstrates something more visually than the written word is capable of (caveat: add a transcription to the page to drive long-tail organic search traffic, since search engines cannot read video content to know what it’s about).
- Should it be content that is actually created through contributions from influencers in a specific industry (like this example), which could be much more compelling to your audience than anything you could create on your own?
Consider all options. It’s critical to pour everything you have into this part of the process. What you create here will go a long way towards determining how promotable your content is…and how much traffic you drive.
3. Plan out a Promotional Strategy
Once the content is created, it’s time to revisit those personas that you (hopefully) created for your target audience. Where do they spend their time online? What blogs? What social media networks? What forums? What influencers do they follow? Map out all potential prospects and promotional vehicles for promoting the content.
For discovery, consider tools like Followerwonk to discover social media influencers within an industry. Leverage Google queries like “<keyword>” inurl:blog to discover popular blogs within an industry, or “<keyword>” inurl:forum to discover popular forums within an industry.
Also consider how you’re going to conduct the outreach. Do you plan to email? If so, consider a tool like Buzzstream, which allows you to organize, find contact information and conduct outreach with promotional prospects. This really is an indispensable tool at scaling outreach in personable ways. If you plan to use social media, consider tools like Hootsuite to help execute and track outreach with prospects via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.
4. Track Results and Join the Conversation
This is where the fun continues. If you’ve created something truly compelling, and have executed a thorough outreach campaign to promote the content, the traffic should roll in immediately via referring websites and social media networks. You can track this with content marketing software analytics and Google Analytics.
Take a look at what specific websites and social media platforms are referring traffic. Are there forum threads discussing your content? If so, register and participate in a natural, non-promotional way before dropping a link to your content. Are there particular social media networks driving more traffic than others? Find who is sharing your content, and join the conversation to keep it going.
Also, look into where people are linking to your site. Track this through engagement analytics in content marketing software, or by using Google Analytics. This is a great way to increase your own discovery of who is linking to your content, and determine how you might be able to build relationships and participate in the conversation to keep it going…and keep the traffic rolling in. With Google Analytics, ensure Google Webmaster Tools is set up for the website on which the content is published. Look at the “Links to Your Site” section, and specifically the “Your Most Linked Content” section where your content’s URL will appear once it has been indexed by Google and at least one link discovered.
Promotion doesn’t start and stop with the first round of outreach. It’s important to have a staged effort. For example, if your content is a multi-contributor interview (like this one), consider emailing the contributors as the first wave of outreach. Ask them to share with their own audiences via social media, link from their website, mention in a newsletter, etc. Monitor virility to determine if it’s catching on within their own social networks, blogs, etc. If it is, participate.
To keep the buzz going, and traffic coming in, consider reaching out to topically-related bloggers to promote your new piece of content and mention the buzz it’s creating on social media (from the help of your contributors). Monitor engagement and traffic during this stage, and always participate whenever the opportunity presents itself.
A third stage could perhaps be joining forums, Google+ communities, and other online groups by contributing in natural ways along with building awareness of your content (without coming across as spammy).
Consider other ways that you could keep the conversation starting and going through continuous promotion.
6. Update the Content
Any great piece of content deserves to live long-term, and one of the best ways to ensure that it does so is to update it periodically with new, relevant additions. Perhaps there were new developments in the industry that relate to your content. Maybe there are new features that you can add to your dynamic/interactive tool. Or there’s an opportunity to create a sequel video to one that performed well. Perhaps your content went so viral that spin-offs could be created to continue feeding the interest from the target audience.
Never let your content die, if it deserves to live on.
7. Repromote the Content
Updating the content offers a great opportunity to repromote it. Revisit Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, and your social media monitoring tools to discover who interacted with, and promoted your content. Reach back out to them and let them know about the exciting new developments within your content to get the buzz going again.
Following this strategy will create a scalable content marketing plan for most any business. Heck, I’ve even put together numerous content marketing plans about asphalt. Do your research, think outside the box for content creation, and beyond your immediate network for promotion to widen the scope of your potential traffic.
What’s important to note is what we never focused on within this strategy: link building. Links will be acquired naturally through this strategy…without buying links, submitting to spammy directories, spamming blog commenting or partaking in any other defunct form of link building that is liable to get your website into trouble with Google’s algorithms. Quality content is what search engines (and your audience) want to see.
Note: This is the 3rd article in a series of SEO advice from seOverflow. Previous articles: