A weekly Google Hangout dedicated to discussing content marketing, search marketing, SEO and more.
Topic: Using Search Keyword Data to Create Better Content
This episode is part 2 in the series: Keyword Best Practices for Marketing Strategy. In this episode we discuss practical advice about how to find the most relevant keywords to improve existing content, create better content, and stay ahead of the competition.
Erin O’Brien, COO at GinzaMetrics
Karen Scates, Manager Marketing & PR at GinzaMetrics
FULL VIDEO TRANSCRIPT
Karen: Happy Friday, everyone! Welcome to this week’s edition of FOUND Friday. Today is the second in a series that we’re doing about keyword best practices for marketing strategy. Last week if you were here, you know that we talked about sharing data between social and search to improve both efforts. Today we’re going to focus on using search keyword data to create better content.
I’m your host, Karen Scates, and with me today is Erin O’Brien, our COO. Welcome, Erin. How are you doing?
Erin: Hey, doing good.
Karen: Great. Creating content that actually gets found and creates conversions is something we’re all hoping to achieve. So today I thought we’d give folks some practical advice about how to do that and stay ahead of the competition. Let’s get started!
In case people weren’t here last week, can you recap what are keywords in relationship to marketing?
Erin: Yeah, of course. Keywords are the targeted topics in words that you want associated with your brand, as well as how your audience is finding you and your content. There are a couple of really important things to remember here.
The first is that keywords don’t just have to be individual words. They can be phrases, products, taglines, etc. like a string of words, a description, etc.
The second thing to remember is that your targeted keywords may not be what’s really driving traffic to your content. So it’s important to look at keywords from both angles: the ones that you want to drive traffic from your audience and the ones that actually are. So you want to be sure that you have the most accurate information based on your desired target keywords and actual keywords that are really working for you.
Karen: Now that we’ve defined keywords, how does someone go about finding the relevant keywords for their brand and their content?
Erin: There are a lot of ways to find out what keywords are driving traffic to your content although you are now after keywords not provided. We went through this last week. But there are a couple of different things. If there’s someone in charge of SEO at your brand, obviously it’s important to ask that person. You can get a list of ranking keywords.
I think that one of the things that I touched on last week that’s really important is you really want to know both rank and volume data. By “volume” I mean search volume. That’s important because when you’re talking about prioritization, you want to know things in terms of how high you’re currently ranking and where you might need to make improvements. But you also want to know total search volume because what you’re really looking at there is how to spend your time. So if something has hundreds or thousands of searches per month, obviously ranking higher means you’re at least going to get some traffic there. Spending time on something that may only have 10, 15, 20 searches per month on the grand scheme of things may not be where you decide to concentrate your efforts.
If you don’t have anything that’s in place in terms of an analytics tool, I’d say that you can check out Google AdWords Keyword Planner tool if you have an AdWords account. If not, there are also keyword tools out there that you can find that are free. You can also give us a shout out at Ginza and we’ll show you around what we have for our platform, as well.
Karen: Once you’ve found your keywords, how do you differentiate between what’s popular now, what’s evergreen content, and what might help your audiences to actually convert?
Erin: This is really interesting. Sometimes what’s popular, what’s good long-term content, and what creates conversions are all the same thing, but not always. It’s important to think about keywords in a few different ways to maximize your use of them.
In terms of popularity, what we’re really talking about here is trending topics, the things that people are really excited about that are giving a lot of buzz on social media and things like that. Trending topics are great because you can create content that’s part of a discussion that’s happening right now and that it’s top of mind. But keep in mind that a good way to leverage trending topics is to tie them back to larger, more evergreen issues that your audience has so that you’re not only staying relevant on current topics but contributing back to this larger cycle of things that either you’ve already created or that are part of a larger need set.
Talking about evergreen topics, these are your real bread and butter. These are things that your audience likely deals with on a regular basis. They’re also likely to be tied to goals that your audience members have, whether the goals are business-related for B2B folks or personal aspirations or desires or maybe more of a B2C setting. By keeping at least a couple of evergreen topics in your content and social rotation, you’re going to make sure that you’re always appealing to these basic issues and needs that your users struggle with. That way you’ll be seen as a reliable place to talk to and go to for more trending topics.
Both of these things can create conversions. That’s not necessarily a separate topic. That said, sometimes what creates conversions are appeals to budget, sensibility, and other needs that don’t always align with things like trending topics. So keep in mind that to create conversions, things are likely to shift throughout the year or even throughout the month in terms of what really does appeal to creating conversions.
For instance, around the holidays obviously what creates conversions is different than what might create conversions at different times. When people come up with new budget or are ending a fiscal year, when you’re talking about B2B stuff, that may be a really great time to focus on a conversion creation then. Make sure that you use a platform that allows you to keep an eye on what’s really contributing to conversions at the individual keyword and content level and watch how that shifts quickly.
Karen: We’ve talked a little bit before about how to track seasonality in some earlier episodes. I’ll be sure to include some links to that seasonality for people to get a little deeper dive into that.
How can marketers use keyword data to improve that content that they’ve already created, that existing content?
Erin: Anytime you already know what topics and keywords that your audience is interested in and what content they’re being driven to from those keywords, you have a much better chance of creating a conversion making a sale. When we’re talking about existing content, there are a few ways that marketers can use keyword information to amp it up.
The first is going to be by knowing what keywords are already driving traffic to that content and then using those keywords in social media shares, e-mail subject lines, landing page, URLs and headers. Because you’re already ranking highly for these keywords on search then it’s showing a positive relationship between the keyword and the content, so you should really use that to your advantage as you promote and share that content. Even if it’s evergreen content that’s been around for a while, if you see it start to change in rank and start to gain some traction – and we have a top keyword activity area in GinzaMetrics that will show you your content that has started to gain and change traction – that’s actually a great time to go back and re-promote that evergreen content.
The next way you can use keywords to improve existing content is to look at what keywords are relevant and highly searched by individual pieces of content, and then go back and pick a couple of pieces of relevant content to give a refresh to. This can include from anything from adding more depth of content around that particular subject or more technical things that have to do with page structure like header tags, meta descriptions or other elements that make sure that keywords that you’re actually ranking for are included in every possible good SEO place throughout that piece of content.
One of the things we do is we provide recommendations at the site and individual page level that can actually be sorted by your targeted keywords. What you can do is can actually optimize that page for a selected keyword as keywords change throughout the life cycle of a piece of content. If you’re using a tool that would align to you then I’d say that that’s a really good quick win to refresh existing content and amp up your traffic.
Karen: I think there’s a big mistake made when people think about content as one and done. You produce the content, you stick it on your website, and you move on. You never look back to that existing content. Sometimes just working with what you already have, taking a little bit of time can really increase your SEO value and increase the value of the content that you already have. Remembering that that content is there and keeping an eye on that popular content and keeping it fresh is something that – in that always creating new content cycle that we get into, people forget about that value.
Erin: You’ll also notice too, if you pay attention to keywords and content, what will happen is that old content will gain popularity for different reasons, especially if you’ve done the work to make sure that it is findable on search. You will see pieces of content resurface. If you’re paying attention to that bubbling, resurfacing, you can leverage it across multiple marketing channels. You don’t just need to let it bubble back up on search then you can take that resurgence of excitement around that topic and share it via social, share it via e-mail, use your other distribution outlets to re-pump that up again.
Karen: Beyond that in using content, how can marketers use market data to figure out what new content to create?
Erin: Obviously if you know what keywords and topics your audience is looking at, you can actually create some better content to match that need.
I want to go back to when we were talking about what’s popular trending content, evergreen content, and converting content. You should really keep these things in mind when you’re creating new content based on keywords because it’s going to help you figure out what type of content to create and how much time and energy to expend on it. Here are a few of my personal suggestions and guidelines.
For trending topics, I like to create quick create-and-consume content. For example, I would maybe create a Pinterest Board, a hashtag for Twitter and Instagram, some quick Vines, maybe a Google Hangout with a live conversation about a topic that happens to be important right now, anything that you can really put together in less than an hour and get approved quickly. The reason is that the ROI is not going to be there for something that took you three days to put together and get approved if the conversation is pretty much over by the time you get done crating it. You need to make sure that you have at your disposal pre-approval to create some of this quick-hit content and a stable of ideas for quick create-and-consume content.
For evergreen topics and keywords, I usually want a variety of content types that all work together to engage the audience. For example, I might have e-mail landing pages, blog posts, ads, social media, video, infographics, etc. all around a particular keyword and topic area. Honestly, I don’t care what anybody says about infographics being over. People still click on them constantly. I just wouldn’t do one if you’re not going to take the time to do it right.
Since we’re talking about evergreen, it’s really important. This is where SEO value is huge because you want organic traffic as opposed to just paid because paid stops working when you stop writing checks. High ranking content stays high ranking content. There are blog posts out there that are still in the top three from 2009. So, good content is, honestly, good content. If you’re really going to take the time to create it, keep keywords in mind. Keep those target keywords in mind because that’s going to be what keeps it up at the top long after you’ve done creating it.
When it comes to conversion content, remember I said this can be the same as trending and evergreen. But keep in mind, if you’re talking about a page specifically designed to convert someone using a specific action, that you’ve really thought through all the types of actions that an audience member might take and what that content is built on.
For example, what’s the best conversion for a trending topic versus a longer-standing audience member who maybe visited your evergreen content a few times? Sometimes you’re just going for initial engagement and an intro to your brand while other times you’re really looking for a purchase or a form to fill right then and there so you have to consider what type of content you’re creating within that segment.
Karen: One of the challenges for marketers is to be able to discover those new keywords that they’re not already tracking. How can they do that and why is that important?
Erin: Discovering new keywords is difficult for a lot of marketers because it’s not always at the forefront of their mind and it’s not a feature offered in a lot of tool. While social media tools will offer trending topics and related topics. But what you really need is combination of not just what people are talking about but the content that it’s associated with. For options, it’s baked into the GinzaMetrics platform is Keyword Discovery and Competitor Discovery based on your content and targeted keywords. Those things work hand in hand really well.
If you’re not using our platform or one that provides this information then I would suggest doing what we call a Discovery Board. Discovery Boards can be in the form of a spreadsheet or Word document. They come from visiting things like forums, Facebook posts, LinkedIn, blog posts, etc. and really being an observer as to what potential users, problems, concerns, and current issues are and how people are proposing to solve them.
For example, things like problems mentioned by potential users, suggested solutions or hypothesis for how to solve the issue, tools mentioned, and the response. If somebody is mentioning a product that would be a solution, you want to make note of that. Best practices currently in use to solve the problem, and keywords and phrases that you see used a lot. From this information, you can also see what people are talking about, how they’re talking about it, what kinds of messaging actually directly applies to problems that your audience members are having.
Because Discovery Boards are really hard to describe without visuals, I’d like to propose we do a separate whiteboard session on how to set them up and we’ll attach it to this blog post from the show. We talked about Discovery Boards a little bit before, so I’m happy to dive into that deeper on an individual basis, too. But I think visuals really work best for that.
Karen: Yeah, that’s a good idea. We talked a little bit about Discovery Boards last week, as well. Maybe we can give people a little deeper dive into exactly what those look like. Of course, if people have questions about that, they want to get started immediately, you can always contact us and we’ll get some information to you immediately on that.
What do you think marketers can learn from competitor keyword data that’s going to help them to create better content?
Erin: While it might seem an obvious idea to use competitor keyword data to create better content, there are a lot of missed opportunities with making the most of this information, really. A few things to look for with competitor data include what keywords and topics they’re increasing in rank for and gaining a lot of traction around right now. This data is going to show you where they’re concentrating their marketing efforts, as well as where they’re doing a really good job matching content to their target audience’s need.
Also, with competitor keywords, you’re going to want to see where they’re outperforming you in terms of rank for your highly targeted keywords and what content specifically associated with that. This gives you an idea what your audience is really looking for and some ideas on how to modify existing content of yours or create new content that better serves that need.
Along the same line as content that they’re performing well for untargeted keywords, you can also use this information to create similar content but in new mediums. For example, if your competition has a highly ranking blog post for targeted keyword, consider making a video, infographic, SlideShare – some other form of content around that topic. Because obviously, this is something that your audience is interested in and they may want to consume across several different mediums.
I also want to point out the competitor discovery is a really important part of this keyword discovery and competitor analysis, as I mentioned previously. Since we’ve discussed it in other shows, I don’t want to go into it too much. But the idea is you know the competitors that you’re already tracking but what about the competitor brands and companies that you’re not following that are already taking audience members away from you that are already getting traffic? The market and competitor landscape changes regularly. So you really need to keep an eye on who is creating content that’s attracting your audience to be able to stay ahead of the curve.
We have lots more information on competitor discovery on the GinzaMetrics website. As you mentioned before, we’re happy to answer questions. But I did want to mention that just following the same three to five competitors throughout the entire lifespan of your brand is a really bad idea and you really need to be looking at it way more regularly than once a year, I think.
Karen: Again that one-and-done mentality. As things are moving quickly and people are coming in and out of the space and differentiating products, you just never know when someone’s offering is going to be closer to yours. Also, a hole might appear where you see an opportunity for some product development too, or for some content that just isn’t being covered. Keeping an eye on that is a good idea.
Speaking of keeping your finger on the pulse of things, how often do you think marketers should be updating and expanding their keyword lists?
Erin: I haven’t gotten to say “it depends” yet so far in the show, which I know is your favorite response of mine, so I’m going to use it now. It depends on a couple of things.
First is going to be your resources. Are you managing content, search, and marketing all to yourself? Do you have an SEO team and a content team? If it’s just you, this might be something that you have time for once a quarter. I would say that that’s sort of a baseline for some general updates. If you use a platform that does automated keyword and content management, this should be something you can actually go through pretty quickly because it’ll take care most of the heavy lifting for you.
Ideally, you should be keeping up with keywords and content as often as you’re rolling out new campaigns, SEO initiatives or basically any major marketing initiative. Say you have campaigns monthly or quarterly, it’s a good idea to at least check in on it before you spend a lot of time and resources rolling out a new campaign.
Second is going to be the size of your market. If you’re in a rapidly growing or highly competitive space, you’re going to want to keep an eye on keyword and topic changes as often as possible because it’s going to help you stay ahead of your competitors and engage your audience.
Karen: Sometimes especially if people are working in a small team, they have a limited amount of time to do this and they’re looking at all this going, “Oh really? How am I going to get all this done? I’m already overwhelmed.” If you are working in a small team or you don’t have a lot of time to spend on using keyword data to create better content, what are some things they should focus on?
Erin: It’s funny we get this question a lot. We’re a small team here at GinzaMetrics so we really sympathize with the needs of what teams that don’t have necessarily hundreds of folks focused on something have to do. There are a couple of important things that will help make a big difference.
First is: make sure you know what keywords are ranking for each of your pieces of content. This is going to tell you specifically what is driving your audience to that content. That will help you share and promote it more effectively. You’re going to leverage stuff you already have to make it more popular. It’s also a good time to consider making similar forms of content across other mediums. I say this all the time and I still don’t see people do it, so I keep saying it. If something is working really well and highly ranking and the keyword is getting a lot of search terms, make some videos around that thing – ads, e-books, white papers, whatever. Get in there. Make some additional content.
The second thing I’d suggest is, understanding what content your competitors are ranking for with regards to your target keywords. This is going to tell you where you’re losing audience members and what is working that they want to consume. It’s another opportunity to create other forms of content around that same topic using those same keywords, but you really need to be able to see what’s working for you and what’s working across the market in general because it’s going to give you information on what the audience wants to consume.
Another thing that gets missed out on a lot is these gaps of good consumable content. Sometimes what you’ll notice is the piece of content that’s ranking for a particular topic or keyword for your audience is actually not super relevant but it’s the only thing that’s out there right now. Or it’s not leading to a product, it’s leading to a Wikipedia page. So maybe what you want to do is be like, “I recognize a gap.” Yes, there is some content but it’s actually not the most educational, not the most recent or it doesn’t point to any type of solution. It’s more of informative post. I would say that that’s a really good opportunity for most people to take a look.
I want to finish by stressing that I am not suggesting that you take the content and copy it from your competitors. Like I said last week, when I mentioned this, that’s bad for SEO and it’s just generally lazy, crap marketing.
What I mean when I say that you should take these topics and keywords and look at competitors’ content and leverage it to make it something similar is that if somebody has created content, let’s say “A Beginner’s Guide to SEO” and it’s downloadable on their website as a PDF. I’ll say, “This thing is really great, super thorough.” I don’t need to just copy and paste somebody else’s beginner’s guide to SEO, change a few words around it and add it to my blog.
What I would want to do instead was maybe create a video series on how to handle SEO for people who are new to it. Or maybe I want to create a SlideShare that addresses beginning SEO for agencies. Maybe I want to narrow the target. Maybe I want it to be “Beginner’s Guide to SEO for Agency Beginners,” “Guide to SEO for Contractor Beginners,” “Guide to SEO for In-House.” Whatever it is.
Take what’s working, understand the keywords and topics that seem to be driving a lot of traffic to it and how people are finding it and what about that content is working. Then leverage that information to just do some better marketing on your own.
Karen: Before we end the episode, I do want to go back to the beginning where you talked a little bit about how keywords aren’t just singular words. There’s some content out there saying, “Forget about keywords. Keywords are past.” I think, again, like lots of things where they predict the demise of something, this is a little premature – but a lot of times we’re talking about keyword phrases and that long-tail semantic search. I don’t know if you want to comment back on that. We touched on that already. We’re talking about topics as well as just keywords.
Erin: If you ever look at Google AdWords, Keyword Planning tool, or anything like that, when it’s actually suggesting the keywords, you don’t just blindly be like, “Yes. Select all. Add them.” Look at what some of these things are suggesting. Look at the competition for those keywords.
I always use trail running shoes as an example and I don’t know how I got started on this thing. It’s a three-year long example now so I’m sticking with it. If I am the maker of a women’s trail running shoe company, I do not necessarily just want to target the word “shoe” or “trail shoes.” Trail shoes is by far better, but I’m going to get my audience look at what they’re typing in, which is probably going to be, “What are the best trail running shoes?” “How do I find trail running shoes?” “How do I find the right size for my shoes?” All these different things that people are thinking about when they’re purchasing something like this.
As we talked about last week, we were talking about social, one of the combined issues here is how do we actually talk about things that are adjacent keywords to a topic. I’m going to think that there are a lot of really great information from last week on adjacent keywords and why you shouldn’t really care about that. But people might care about trail conditions in their local area. If you have a local content team or somebody who can create local content and some core areas, that could be really important. Or weather-related issues, upcoming big events in the space. All those things are really important to consider.
So when you’re talking about keywords, it’s not an individual word like “shoe” or “trail.” It’s a phrase that’s really descriptive and when you really start to brainstorm these descriptive phrases, this is one of the places that the Discovery Board or using a tool that does topic and keyword discovery is worth its wait in gold.
One of the reasons we baked it into Ginza is because doing a Discover Board, quite honestly, takes some time. But it’s really, really worth it because what it’s going to tell you is: how is your audience natively talking about this topic and subject, not just around products but around the entire ecosystem that has to do with you.
Karen: Exactly. I think that’s all for today. You’ll want to be sure to join us next week for the last episode in this three-part series. We’ll be talking about keyword data that informs better paid media opportunities. If you’re joining us for the first time today, you can get caught up on this series on the GinzaMetrics website. All of our FOUND Friday episodes are on our resources page.
Of course, as I mentioned before, Erin and I are always here as resources to answer questions or to get more information. You can e-mail us at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get back to you immediately. Post your questions and comments on Twitter #FOUNDFriday and we’ll respond there, as well.
If you don’t have anything else, Erin, I’m going to call it a day.
Erin: Sounds good. Enjoy your Friday.
Karen: Enjoy your Friday. Bye-bye.