So the time has come for you to create content for your website because you want to drive more traffic, but the thought of it gives you (and your team) the sweats – what will you even write about?
Never fear: with the right plan, you can ensure your website content is set up with search engine optimization in mind, addresses your audience’s intent, speaks to your personas and offers something useful.
The tips I’ll share in my two-part series will help drive website traffic, keep your visitors on your Web pages longer, and leave them feeling satisfied that they found what they were searching for.
The first post in this two-part series will discuss the foundations of Web content quality using Google’s criteria when evaluating Web pages, in addition to how to create content that speaks to the intent of your target personas. To learn more about crafting content that brings in real results, join OMI's Digital All Stars Virtual Summit on May 13th, for my session - Web Content Playbook.
First, Take Notice of Google’s Quality Guidelines
You may or may not remember when Google’s search quality evaluation guide was leaked back in 2012 and then again in 2014. Google then made the 2012 edition publicly available; now you can find the cached copy here.
These guides serve Google’s “human rater” staff – people who would spot-check the quality of Web pages against specific criteria. This data then serves as a feedback loop for engineers at Google testing algorithm tweaks.
One theme in these guidebooks is the idea of delivering on the purpose of the page. So whatever that page is meant to do, make it the best that it can be at that.
If you’re an entertainment site, make that blog post the most entertaining and engaging it can be. If you’re a medical site, ensure you have the most factual and up-to-date Web pages as possible, and so on.
The purpose of the page may vary simply by the nature of the topic. For example, if you are discussing services, the purpose of the page would be to clearly communicate what those services are about. On the other hand, the purpose of your in-depth blog post on an important issue may be to educate.
As we’re all playing in Google’s sandbox, it’s wise to understand and deliver on what it believes to be quality at bare minimum. And then of course you layer your own quality standards on top of that.
So Rule No. 1: Define the purpose of the page, and then deliver on that. How? I’ll share with you two ways to help you do so.
Next, Create Content That Fulfills Intent and Speaks to Your Personas
The first piece in having a relevant Web page is examining intent. Let’s look at that next, followed by understanding personas …
1. The Intent
What was the intent of the person who typed in that query into Google’s search engine? What did they expect to find?
The traditional way of understanding keyword intent is by bucketing it into categories like “these keywords are related to general research” and “these keywords are related to shopping and buying.”
More general terms, for example, “Yorkshire Terriers” typically mean that people are just learning about the subject, as they are searching in very broad terms. More specific, for example, “Yorkies for adoption” would indicate where in the buying journey this person is.
And so your content approach – what you write – changes from page to page based on the search terms your website is targeting and where in the cycle the user is.
So when examining the page you are about to write or have written, the question is: does the content on the page help them facilitate which place they are in the search journey?
Better intent targeting on your website = less occurrences of people coming to the page from organic search only to leave quickly when they don’t see what they are looking for.
2. The Persona
Your personas are archetypes of your target audience, whether it’s a client, an industry influencer, a certain type of prospect or someone else. Basically any person that matters to the success of your business is someone you want to create a persona for.
Once you understand whom you are creating content for, the angle of your content changes based on what’s important to them. Whereas the intent helps drive the overall approach to the topic of the page, the persona refines what you say.
To create your personas, you want to start brainstorming a list of all possible people who matter to your business.
You can start by examining what you know – your current customer base. As you ask questions about these people, distinct patterns will emerge that will give way to perhaps more than just one typical customer. But it’s perfectly OK to start with just one.
You may also find “hidden” customers during this process that you don’t interact with but who are ultimately the decision-makers.
Questions you’ll want to explore for each persona are things like:
- Age and gender
- What matters to them in their daily lives?
- What problems are they having?
- How does your brand become a part of the solution for them?
- How do they make decisions about what you have to offer?
- What are the barriers to entry?
- Why do they choose you? Why do they choose the competition?
If you have the ability to gather quantitative data about who your target audience is, grab as much as you can during research.
- You can look at things like your Google Analytics “Demographics” and “Interests” reports if they are enabled
- Dig into your customer relationship management system to see what you can find
- Mine the data you can on Twitter, for example, who are the influencers that matter to your brand? Followerwonk is a nifty tool to use.
- What does your Facebook page have to say about your demographics in its Insights analytics?
Then, qualitative data helps provide even more insight, as numbers can only tell you so much. Consider things like:
- Interviewing those who are closest to the customer base, like the sales people
- Interviewing those who hold the vastest or most historical knowledge of the industry like the owner, CEO or someone similar
- Reaching out to past and current customers on the phone to ask key questions
- Sending out surveys to all stakeholders
- Conducting remote video-capture interviews with a panel that represents your target market. YouEye Inc. is one qualitative research company in this space that offers this (full disclosure: they are a client)
When you’re done, you’ll write up profiles about these folks, add a picture that is representative of them and give them a name. Then, your content creators will have a “real” person with real needs to write directly to.
For example …
“Miranda the Mid-Level Marketer”
- Age: Late 20s
- Company type: Mid-size B2B corporation
- Career: Mid-level
- Has decision-making capabilities but collaborates with direct report for approvals
- Spends between $10,000 and $60,000 on Web marketing per month
- Is digital marketing savvy, and has been doing it in house for years
- Believes in ethical Web marketing and following Google’s rules
- Lacking knowledge of how to create a Web content strategy from the ground up that aligns with business goals
- Doesn't have a clear grasp on the ins and outs of Google’s ranking algorithm and how quality content factors
Personas not only help you decide which topics to write about, but how to frame up the message in a way that your target audience can relate to, making your Web pages that much more relevant.
More relevance = more time on your website engaging with your brand.
The overall goal of your Web content strategy is to create relevancy by balancing information that is of interest to your target audience, and presenting it in a way that makes it simple for your target audience to get what it needs.
Of course, building relevancy also helps those Web pages be the best “answer” to a person’s query within the search engine results. In my next post tomorrow, I’ll show you how to optimize your pages to get maximum visibility online.