When you think of it, creating awesome content that gets read and shared shouldn’t be that hard.
We’re all experts at the concept of Googling our questions and finding the best answer. So, in theory, we know what people want to find when they conduct an online search: we need only look at our own search histories for reference.
But somewhere along the way, we get lost. We hear marketing-isms like SEO and we forget who it is we’re actually writing for: people.
I’m not saying SEO isn’t important. Understanding the basics of SEO helps you rank higher on results pages.
But all too often what I see marketers and brands do is put the cart before the horse. They produce content for search engines, thinking that’s what’ll attract web traffic.
That’s not how Google operates. In fact, every day, Google’s at work trying to minimize the impact of these SEO tactics marketers put into place.
Simply put: Google wants to create the best possible user experience. If your piece of content delivers that experience, you’ll do just fine – SEO be damned.
Q. How do you create the best user experience with your content?
A. You have to understand the mindset of the searcher.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve told clients that we can’t start creating content until we know who we’re writing for.
Once we know the specifics of the audience (and I’m talking specifics here!), we can conduct research to see what type of content resonates with them.
Deep dive: Learn how to create a customer persona
Two ways to understand your customer is to conduct market research and speak with your existing customers.
When talking with your existing customers, I recommend asking them the following to get a better picture of the psychology behind their search behavior:
- What need or pain point prompted you to start searching for our product or service?
- What specific search terms did you use to find us online?
- What made you choose our business over competitors?
You can pose these questions in person; however, if you want to minimize your time commitment, consider creating a survey that you automate to send out to existing customers from time to time.
Just make sure you set up your automation to not send the survey to people on your list you’ve already sent it to.
Learn more about the power of email marketing now.
Now that you know your audience, it’s time to understand their intent and context
Every web surfer has two things running through their minds as they conduct a search:
- The query frame: What search term, question, or phrase should I use to find an answer for my need?
- The solution frame: What do I think a “good” answer will look like? (This could be an article that compares prices, a video that shows how to complete a task, etc.)
These frames speak to the searcher’s intent (what am I looking for) and context (what gives it meaning?).
By understanding these two concepts – as they pertain specifically to your target market – you’ll have all the pieces in place to create valuable content that you can optimize for both users and search engines.
Using semantic search for your content ideas
Wikipedia defines semantic search as a type of search that “seeks to improve search accuracy by understanding searcher intent and the contextual meaning of terms as they appear in the searchable data-space, whether on the Web or within a closed system, to generate more relevant results.”
Seeing as we’ve already constructed our buyer persona above, it’s now time to use semantic search as the helpful tool that it is.
Tips on using semantic search to create content ideas:
- Type in phrases and questions in Google and look at which sites appear on the top spots on the results pages
- Use questions or statement searches like “Why do …” or “Top 10 reasons …” The pages that appear can help you get good basic content to build your editorial calendar
- Use Google Trends, Facebook Trends, and Google Keyword Planner to get more data behind the popularity of certain searches
Conducting research on the relevant content that exists within your marketplace will:
- Help you know what your audiences are searching for
- Provide you a solid foundation of story ideas to expound on
- Provide insight into what content topics are lacking in quality
Knowing keywords is just one part of it: now you have to make good content
Here’s the deal: When SEO first became a discipline, it was perfectly logical to create a 1,000-word article that was drab in both style and appearance, and expect to rank high (so long as the article focused on the search phrases the audience uses).
You can’t expect that to happen any longer. There’s just no way that type of content will compete in a web space that has billions and billions of pages, all vying for attention.
That’s why you have to think outside the text.
Your audiences aren’t just expecting text when they click to your site. They want images, videos, and diagrams.
Did you know that Tweets that contain images receive 5x more engagement than those that don’t?
Images help the brain process information and understand your content up to 60,000 times faster than text.
Videos have now taken on an important role as well, thanks to faster internet speeds and impressive smartphone capabilities.
If you want people to consider your content valuable, you have to make space for more than just words.
Infographics, podcasts, multimedia-rich articles: these are the types of content that users will want to read … and share.
But even fancy looking content isn’t enough. You have to really stand out with your content, and I don’t just mean on search engine results pages.
Sure, it’s important to craft a killer meta title tag and description for your content. This not only helps with ranking, but also influences which link a user will click on. Take, for example, my simple search for “How to fold a shirt.”
A title like “3 Ways to Fold a Shirt” might be attractive to me, because the number 3 gives me an idea of what to expect: three simple steps to get to my answer.
I might also prefer a video, as a visual learner, and will be attracted to the three video options I have, all of which smartly labeled within their title tags as a video.
But that doesn’t mean once I click on that link I’m going to do anything more than read it. If you’re a newspaper, then that’s fine. You served your purpose: you got folks to your website, where they read your article and (hopefully) clicked on an ad.
But I’m guessing you’re not a newspaper, are you? You’re a business, with something to sell. You produce content to broaden your reach and get folks interested in what it is you do, right?
Then just optimizing your content for search engines isn’t enough. You have to produce the type of content that your audiences want to share with others.
Understanding why people share content
Digital word of mouth is one of the single most influential ways that you’ll get your message heard by the masses. It’s one thing to get a singular person to consume your content. But if that content goes viral, you can bet your customer base is surely to grow.
So, why do people share content?
Fortunately for you, the good folks at the New York Times conducted a study on The Psychology of Sharing, which, in part, discovered that:
- 49 percent of people share content as a form of entertainment
- 68 percent share content that helped them define themselves
- 78 percent share content that helped them stay connected to others and nurture their relationships
- 69 percent share content that helped them feel more involved in the world
- 84 percent share content that supported a particular cause
When people share content, it boosts your SEO and ranking, and bolsters your reputation. And, in fact, 73% of participants to that New York Times survey admitted they were able to process information more deeply when they shared it with others.
When you create content worth sharing, you’re actually increasing engagement with your original readers.
So, how can you bring value to your readers and help them define themselves?
This is where a strategy like influencer marketing can be huge. People trust influencers as third parties who share worthwhile content. When you get these influencers to share your content, the domino effect that’ll take place is enormous.
How to dabble in influencer marketing
To leverage influencer marketing, you’ll want to identify a few key influences with an existing audience. Share the original content these influencers create, and work on your relationship with these folks.
Then, as the relationship strengthens, start sharing your own content with these influencers (“Thought you might see value from this article …”).
While you might not get a share right away, don’t despair. When your efforts do finally result in a share, the results can be extremely valuable.