At this point, we all know we need content for our websites to be successful. However, exactly what that content is can often be unclear. As we’ve heard many times, creating content for the sake of creating content is just a bad strategy and a waste of time.
So how do we figure out what content we actually need? The answer isn’t simple, but in order to create content your audience wants (and can find in search results), there are a few places we must look.
1. Analyze Search Results
You may have a great idea for content, but do you know if it’s been done before? Do you know if people are actually looking for that type of content? Do you know how they’d be looking for that content?
This may seem obvious, but one way to get a better picture of your content needs is to take a look at the search results themselves.
By searching potential titles, keyword phrases and content topics, you can begin to understand what’s out there, what’s being asked and most importantly, search intent for your target keywords.
Let’s take, for example, Client A. Client A offers healthcare analytics software:
Looking at the search results for the term “healthcare analytics,” we see mostly top-of-the-funnel content, including blog posts and healthcare-related articles. There are no product or solutions pages listed, letting us know that if we want to reach users searching for this term, we have to give them more information-based content.
When crafting the content strategy for this phrase (and this buyer), search results are something we must take into consideration. Does the client already have a blog post about this or an informational page we can use? If not, we likely need to build something… and that something needs to be better than what’s already out there.
Just because you have a content idea you like doesn’t mean it’s something your buyers will like. Your favorite content idea may also perform poorly in the search results.
I want to be clear, I’m not implying your content strategy should be entirely driven by the search results themselves, but the search results should inform your strategy and help you better understand user intent.
2. Evaluate Existing Content
To understand our content needs, we must also understand the buyer journey and what information is needed to help our customers make a purchase.
We can start by evaluating what content is currently working (or not working) on the website. Using analytics, we can identify what content resonates best, how customers are interacting with our site, and what they are seeing before making a purchase or filling out a form.
One of the more useful elements in Google Analytics is the ability to set up conversion funnels.
By setting up conversion paths, we can learn how visitors are moving through a site and where they are dropping off in the conversion funnel.
If a specific page is responsible for a large percentage of exits, you should probably take a deeper look to determine what is or isn’t on that page. On the flip side, if there’s a page that is performing exceptionally well, evaluate what’s on the page and why it may be helping drive customers through the funnel.
Similar to conversion analysis, Google Analytics also provides the “Behavior Flow” tool, letting you see how visitors are moving throughout the entire site versus the configured conversion funnels.
I’ve heard a number of people say that bounce rate is a bad metric. While I agree in some cases, understanding why a specific page has a high bounce rate can be really helpful when trying to understand how your content is performing.
For example, if a product page has an 80-percent bounce rate, I’d recommend investigating why. Is the page missing information? Is it targeting the wrong keyword? Is it driving traffic from an irrelevant source? Along with looking at referral sources and keyword targets, also take a look at:
- On-Page Content
- Webmaster Tools Keyword Data
- Next Page
Once we have a better understanding of how people are getting to the page, what they’re expecting and what is actually on the page, we can start to put together the full picture, helping us understand why they are leaving and what we need to give them.
Now, conversion funnel analysis and bounce rate analysis are only two pieces of information, but they can help us start to see how our content is performing and what we need to do to make it better.
3. Assess Customer Needs
I mentioned above the need to understand the customer journey and the decision-making process. I also discussed evaluating pages to better determine customer needs and wants. It turns out there’s another way we can do this.
By talking to our customers.
Okay, maybe not physically picking up the phone and talking to them (although I encourage you to do that, too), but by utilizing customer surveys, live chat functionality and online user testing tools. If you’re in the B2B space, tap your salespeople to uncover prospective customers’ most frequently asked questions.
I’ve talked quite a bit about customers and customer experience, including how to utilize customer support for SEO and how to utilize customers for link building.
Customers are huge assets to marketers (not just for sales), and they want to feel valued.
One way we can make them feel valued and improve our own knowledge is through online surveys. SurveyMonkey is an email-based tool that is easy to use and offers expert templates. There is also the option to run on-site polls using tools like KISSMetrics. One thing I like about the KISSMetrics tools is that you can target specific pages and set triggers based on behavior.
Regardless of which survey tool you use to gather feedback from customers, surveys can provide great insights into buyer needs and help you with content strategy.
Have you ever started to buy something, only to leave before fully checking out? If so, you may have received an email encouraging you to come back and complete your purchase.
Marketing to cart abandoners is growing, and while it’s primarily used for e-commerce purchases, it could also be used to survey customers about why they left before completing their purchase.
Tools like Rejoiner make this process easy (for a relatively low cost) and provide a way to gain insights from potential customers.
Last week’s #SEOChat focused on UX, and it was interesting (and positive) to hear how important everyone feels user experience is to SEO (The recap is here).
Some of the suggestions for gaining user feedback included live testing through Usertesting.com and CrazyEgg. I am a big fan of both of these tools, but I do like the human element of Usertesting.com.
By watching customers interact with your site and asking them questions in real time, you can get immediate feedback on what may be missing from the site.
I’ve been preaching the side benefits of live chat for years, but very rarely do I see people actually do it.
Live chat is a huge asset to content creation, as it can show you:
- Frequently asked questions
- Missing information
- Keyword phrases
- Website problems
- Misleading content
What I love about live chat is that you can see actual conversations people are having. You might find you have the content people want, but it’s hidden. Additionally, you could find the site is missing a key piece of information your customers need to make a decision.
Evaluating chat logs can give you some great insights into content needs and help you learn more about the buyer journey.
Note: Site search also can offer some of this information, showing you what people are looking for once they are on your site.
Putting It All Together…
Creating a successful content strategy is no easy task. It takes time, effort and a true understanding of what it is your users want.
By evaluating existing content, talking to customers and analyzing search results, we can combine the information to fill content gaps and create content our audience is actually looking for.