Before You Say Content One More Time, Listen
Written by Anthony Pensabene and published
You may have heard – content is the jewel of digital marketing.
But WTF does that mean, exactly? We want to generate interest and engagement. That way, content drives attention, produces traffic and – what’s that thing we get paid for? – inspires sales.
How do we produce content that does all that? Don’t ask the ‘marketing gurus’ – ask customers directly. Be empathetic to the needs of the target market. Advise marketers to effectively study your target market.
How we do that? Let’s use an actual scenario; this way, you won’t think I’m full of SEO poop.
Let’s focus on the travel industry, targeting the ‘vacation-on-the-fly’ niche.
I’ll search for “quick vacations.” Competition is fierce, with me up against these top-results hitters amid the 25 million total results.
It’s competitive. So rather than strictly building links for highly competitive keywords within crowded verticals, we want to look for other ways to get attention with content.
How can I supplement the rank game? Take a guest post or public relations route? To pitch an editor or reporter, I have to know what will captivate reader interest.
And to do that, I have to get to the people rather than the rankings.
What do people want to know about?
We begin by thinking about search behavior. Let’s use Ubbersuggest or Super Suggester to view popular queries related to our broad term.
These tools, like toying with Google search, give me an idea about the target market’s search behavior and help tell me what they’re thinking.
I searched “last minute vacation” in UberSuggest and got 342 suggestions overall. We’ll use the first suggestion, toying with some content generation ideas.
I open up the ‘deals’ and ‘packages’ section, revealing targeted destinations. As a content consultant, I would alert my client of some of the more popular destinations sought (I’ve instructed the tool to elicit U.S. results only.)
New York City is oft searched. I think this is a good investment for content production. So, we’re going to focus on people making quick decisions to vacation in NYC.
The web is littered with competition in this industry – some with content not worthy of its rank, but that’s the way the cookie Cutts sometimes.
How can I help a client with a limited budget get noticed in a crowded vertical dominated by big businesses, with plenty of money to invest in link building?
See what’s ranking
Let’s use it to look at some metrics for content within the last six months or so.
We can get some content ideas by looking at authority and links.
Now that I know what kind of content is ranking well, I have to pivot on my approach for my client. We’ll have to form superior on-page content – something people will actually want to read.
Use review sites for intel
While we may not have the resources to outdo the number of links of a Travelocity, we can create better content.
I’ll place my digital ear to the streets, reading the minds of the people rather than Google SERPs. We can leverage review sites to take a closer look.
First, I’m going to Yelp to listen to real people, reading (hopefully) genuine reviews. To start, I want to read what people like and dislike about the travel process. That way, I can better sculpt desirable content.
What are quick travelers’ concerns? Remember, good ad content conjures and focuses on a problem, finally addressing a solution.
Okay, passports – sure, that’s a concern for those traveling on the fly.
Listening tip: listen to passionate people; they’re more likely to ‘give the goods’ regarding what’s on their mind.
This commenter also supplies her own travel tips for readers:
Time, customer service, and ease of process are important to last-minute travelers. Perhaps I can create something like, “Everything You Ever Needed to Know About Getting a Quick Passport”.
Let’s look at another angle. How about tours?
Lots of potential angles here, just from listening to consumers. We can also try looking strictly for positive signals (with the word “best” present) regarding New York tours.
Mine social media
We can use social platforms like Twitter to listen to personalities, concerns, championed causes, etc.
What positive associations do people have related to traveling? Some prefer home.
Search for specifics
Let’s ask Google some questions about peoples’ questions. Rather than search in a macro way, such as [using allintitle:], I’m going to do [allintext:]
Again, let’s remember passionate people usually tip us off about intense likes and dislikes – often with pizazz.
Lots of content ideas here. These concepts may not (yet) be on the list of terms a client wants to rank for, but often they’re more real, more tangible and help me get in consumers’ heads better by walking in their shoes.
Vibram footwear is obscure, though I’ve noticed people wearing those creepy things in a number of locales. Let’s follow that thread and see if we can get in the cracks. What do people think about them relation to traveling? What things do they like? How do they feel? What are their fears?
Following threads like these will lead me to lots of different seeds of ideas. From here, I just need to choose the best ones to pursue.
Dig for statistics
While we want to write some engaging content that could catch the eye of travelers, we also would like to get to reporters. They’ve got the power – and platform – to broaden peoples’ awareness of our brand.
People like reading about statistics, leveling the subjective nature of topics. Let’s search for intriguing topics regarding NYC stats.
There are a number of statistical avenues to explore. Statistics can also help develop intriguing infographics.
We have a topic, but what’s the angle?
Okay, I’ve shown how to begin gathering ideas for content. Let’s say we have a topic – I need to write about NYC bar nightlife. But what about, specifically? I must ask the people.
McSorley’s Old Ale House has 874 reviews on Yelp. I’m not (so much) interested in the bar itself, but I am interested in syntax related to bars and associated night life.
I’m going to copy a page’s worth of syntax and place it in a word cloud generator.
I’m just listening and observing. You could listen to syntax for a number of bars, passport places, restaurants, sports venues, etc. Perhaps some of those words I highlighted below may generate content ideas.
Like, for example, the lower left corner there. What’s up with sawdust?
Does sawdust on the floor really relate back to urinating on the floor? Does the question or its potential answer incite emotions related to content?
These are elements related to viral content. Perhaps a bit of exploration of additional related topics may poke and prod at my readers, potentially making it viral.
Marketing is about emotion. We want to ‘stir’ our readers with invigorating content – the kind that comes from the thoughts of the people – not the gurus in the top Google SERPs.
While it’s tough to craft guarantees, if we keep listening and thinking, diving deeper into the cracks and nuances of real people’s opinions and reactions to products and services, we’ll only come closer to being the best marketing dudes and gals possible.