Maximize Search Traffic Return From Your Content
As those holding the marketing budget purse strings apply the finishing touches to their 2015 strategies, there will be one area above all others set to receive more attention this year – content.
The maturing Web is fast becoming a place to reward such investment, as content always has been the conduit that ties audiences of value together.
The challenge, however, remains: how to ensure that the content you create is aligned to the opportunity and reaches traffic return as many eyeballs as possible?
But why now? Why is content becoming a viable investment? The short answer is that it was always going to be online as it is in other, more mature, mass media channels such as TV, print, and radio.
The Panda algorithm has done much to punish those not creating it, but in many respects it’s a drop in the ocean in comparison to what Google’s new “engine,” Hummingbird, is doing around rewarding those smart enough to already have data-driven content strategies in place.
For those not completely aware of what Hummingbird is, here’s a quick recap.
Until the end of August 2013, for several years Google had “run” on an infrastructure known as Caffeine. It was designed to help the search giant index the entire Web faster and more effectively. Indeed, it was the very change that gave Google the firepower it needed to roll Panda and Penguin out across the Web and police content and link quality.
Its replacement is different in that it is designed entirely to help the search engine provide a more personalized search result. In simple terms that means that the results will be different when I search for something like “bingo” than when you do and that’s because Google wants to understand not just the explicit part of the query (in this case “bingo”), but also the implicit reason for me writing it.
Clearly if Google knows the implicit “stuff” about you it can present a much more useful result and in the example we see above the “bingo” search may bring up bricks-and-mortar bingo halls near Peterborough as opposed to branded online game pages.
There is still some way to go before this kind of result is commonplace, but we are already seeing useful articles being surfaced far more than they used to as they answer a query better than a landing page. That’s a huge opportunity for smart content creators, so let’s look at how marketers can take advantage.
Aligning Content to the Opportunity
There are several key ways in which you can use content to get good “bang for your buck” and the majority of brands in this space would fall into the following categories:
- On-page content to capture search opportunity
- Off-page content to earn PR coverage, citations, and links
- Marketing content to build relationships with key partners and affiliates
Ongoing Content Opportunity
While making the most of the content you already have is clearly a smart thing to do, the real opportunity lies in what has not yet been created and this is where part two of our “content hack” comes into its own.
The idea here is to look at, and build up, a long list of relevant search queries for your brand, against which you can build out a content calendar to capture that opportunity.
Let’s look at how that might look for a brand like electronics and white goods retailer ao.com as a “real” example of how the process works.
There are a myriad of ways of unearthing great content prospects in the same way there are in finding good PR relationship opportunities, but for this run through we are going to concentrate purely on the most effective.
The first place to start is with long-tail research and this can be done with the help of a number of tools. My first choice, however, is always keywordtool.io.
Before I do that, however, it is important to first reverse engineer the information architecture of the site you want to build content for. In doing that you create a “map” of potential areas of research. An example for AO can be seen below. It doesn’t have to look like a masterpiece; a list of content areas to focus on is just fine.
Clearly we haven’t included areas of the site here, but it gives you a good idea of how the process works and the next stage is to begin looking for relevant long-tail content opportunity for each of these areas.
For our example we will work through the “TVs” category to discover content opportunities.
The first step in the process is to visit keywordtool.io and select the right Google version. As you can see from the image below we want to concentrate on U.K. for this example.
You will then be presented with a huge number of phrase variants related to that parent keyword and the task then is to work through the list, clicking the plus button to add any you want to include in your final ideas list to the clipboard.
Once finished, you can copy these and paste them into whatever document you want to use. In this example I have simply pasted them below:
best TV deals
best TV for gaming
best TV buys
best TV booster
best TV for ps4
best TV for £500
best TV for £300
best TV for £600
best TV gadgets 2014
best led TV
best TV under 1000
3 best TV brands
8 best led LCD TVs
The next stage is to grab volume data for them. To do this I use Google Keyword Planner and extract complete with a column with how many people are searching for the phrase.
As you can see above we now have a priority list of content to create and by working down the list in volume order you’ll hit the biggest opportunities first.
Of course there are other ways to find popular content other than by looking at how many people search for it. With social now a key referrer, it pays to look a little deeper into the mix, so let’s do that now.
SEMrush is a brilliant competitor-auditing tool, as it allows you to take a view on the keywords driving the most traffic to their sites as well as the landing page receiving that traffic.
The key way I use the tool is to understand what my key competitor is ranking for and we’re not. To do it, select the Domain V Domain tool on the site and in the example we use here we have pitted ao.com against Appliances Direct
By focusing on the chart, as you can see above, and then clicking on the competitor (Appliances Direct) you are then presented with a list of the keywords that you don’t receive traffic for but they do.
In terms of information, this is literally gold dust and by exporting you have the ability to sort by volume and/or competition – depending on where the realistic line is for your domain to immediately rank page one or two, based on how competitive the phrase really is. After all, it’s little use attempting to rank for a 100,000 a month term that is dominated by big brands if you are a small retailer, but for AO it makes sense to go after everything.
We can see here that Appliances Direct clearly ranks for many more terms and so there is something to learn from its long-tail strategy. In total there are more than 23,000 terms that they rank for and which AO does not.
An example of what that list of keyword opportunities looks like can be seen here:
The list doesn’t suggest that AO doesn’t rank for these terms but instead is outranked, or sits outside of those critical first 10 positions.
The next step from here is to divide the list into what you rank for and can simply work on improving and those terms you have no foothold on inside the top 100.
To do that you must “dump” those terms into a keyword tracking tool, such as SERPs.com to get a view on where you do rank, in real time.
Once you have that, export the data and sort into those two lists: those outside the top 100 and those ranking.
For the first list you should sort them by keyword volume and work from the biggest opportunities down, while for the second you must kick-start an optimization review to establish what can be done, both on page and off, to improve those key rankings.
You can then also use the simple “Related Keywords” dashboard (found within the Full Search option within the Keyword Research section) to expand out long-tail ideas further, as you did with Keywordtool.io.
By typing in a term such as “washing machines (related)” into the tool you can find the Related Keywords dashboard (as below).
You can then get even more granular by clicking on those individual terms and selecting the related terms for that specific term, and so on.
The key to making this uber-effective is to concentrate on keywords with decent volume (say more than 500 searches per month) and to then look for those with highest commercial intent. You can find these easily enough by looking at CPCs.
An example of a good term to build out content for might be something like this one below. It has slightly less than 500 searches per month but you can see the CPC is high (average is around £1.00) and this suggests the propensity to convert is higher than normal.
Buzzsumo takes a different approach to highlighting key content and looks at the social graph as opposed to its search cousin.
It’s also very easy to use and here we have simply pasted in the appliances online domain and up pops its most shared content.
Sharing is the ultimate validation of quality and so such a list can prove to be an extremely fruitful exercise in content discovery.
This data can again be downloaded as a CSV and from it you can easily brainstorm related ideas that move the concept on further.
To get the most out of it, though, it’s important to understand how best to filter the results to get the results you require.
Down the left-hand side of the site you will see options to filter by content type. Before you download it, however, untick anything that is not relevant. Often it can help to remove “Guest Posts” and “Giveaways,” as these skew results and offer little idea value.
You can then further refine the result by also incorporating a keyword in the original search. As an example we may want to see which guides perform the best by performing the following search:
And if link attraction is a critical objective then there is a “backlinks” option so you can sort by most-linked-to pages and also see which pages continue to attract links now.
The final stage is to then pull those content ideas into a content calendar: you can download the one I use here and then start the critical process of creation.
It’s a lot of effort, but the knowledge that you are creating content specifically to capture key search opportunity will ultimately make that much more rewarding.