Content is king, blah, blah, blah. Great content drives SEO, blah, blah, blah. We’ve all heard all the cliches before. But just like there’s a huge difference between building websites for search engines and building websites for users (i.e. human beings), there’s a difference between writing for search engines and writing for users.
Well, not exactly, anymore… You see, over the last couple years, Google’s Panda and Penguin updates have been shaking up what it takes to rank. To oversimplify it, while Panda has gotten really good at judging the quality of content, Penguin has gotten a lot better at figuring out the popularity of that content. And one of the ways they both do this is by evaluating content’s social imprint.
The point is that writing for search engines now means writing for actual human beings (or at least a lot more than it ever has). The problem when you do that, of course, is you end up with popular (or even viral) content that is not at all related to the terms you’re trying to rank on. So while you’re attracting tons of social signals and backlinks (which are all good for SEO), they’re boosting your rankings for terms that have nothing to do with your products or services.
The result: you end up with a lost of trust from the search and popularity among users, but not enough relevance to actually rank competitively on terms that will help you drive conversions.
The 3 Facets of SEO (in a nutshell)
If you’re willing to allow for some more oversimplification (for simplicity’s sake, of course), there are basically 3 fundamentals components of SEO:
- Indexation: this has to do with whether search engines can access all the pages on your site, and how they go about it — you know, the technical stuff.
- Relevance: this has to do with what keywords search engines associate with your site, and how those associations are reinforced.
- Popularity: and this is all about how many backlinks and social signals are being generated around your content.
The first two of these are usually pretty easy to tackle, and are the very first and second steps to a solid SEO strategy. The real trick is developing (targeted) keyword relevant targeted that can actually gain the popularity it needs to help you rank.
The Challenge (with Keyword Research)
Normally, once you’re sure that your site architecture lets Google (and those other guys) find and index all your pages, you start working on making those pages as relevant as possible for the most targeted keywords — i.e. those that users are actually using to look for your products and services. You start that process, moreover, by doing some keyword research.
The thing with keyword research is that (when it’s properly done) it’ll give you insight into how users are searching for your products and services, and it’ll help you optimize your product (and category) pages, but it’s not always useful for developing popular content because content that’s been developed specifically keyword density usually reads like it was written for search engine and not a human being — and human beings don’t share (or link to) that kind of content.
The Solution: Keyword Narrative
Properly done keyword research, however, can give you insight beyond just how users are searching for your products. It can also give insight into the kinds of users interested in your products. In other words, it can give you insight into their personalities and their psychographics.
Basically, people search for the same things in different ways because they are different kinds of people with different goals and priorities. Each group of these people can also be understood as different customer profiles. And each of those profiles can be targeted through good content which will, in turn, boost your rankings on the targeted keywords that are relevant to each of those customer profiles.
Step 1: Audit Your Keyword Research
So the first step is to conduct a keyword research across all your product/service verticals. So if you’re a show retailer, this might include men’s sneakers, women’s sneakers, high heels, open toes, etc.
Step 2: Segment Your Keyword Verticals
Now that you have all the keyword data for each keyword vertical, you’ll need to choose 5-10 top priority keywords based on a mix of:
- Search Volume – the more a keyword is searched for, the more traffic it can bring
- Competition – the more competitive a keyword is, the harder it’ll be to rank for, but there’s probably a good reason why everyone wants to rank on it
- Avg. CPC – and the more people are bidding on that keyword on their paid search campaigns, chances are the higher quality traffic it delivers
Once you’ve done this, you’ll probably notice that there are keyword combinations with very different mindsets behind them — e.g. “cheap sneakers” indicates a discount shoppers, while “best sneakers” indicates shoppers looking for high performance products. So start breaking up your targeted keyword groups into psychographic profiles.
Step 3: Develop Content Based on Data
Now that you have each of your targeted keywords segmented into profiles in each keyword verticals, you can determine how what proportion of your potential search traffic each customer profile represents. For example, you might determine the following:
- Discount shoppers represent 40% of your potential search volume
- Brand conscious shoppers 30%
- and Performance conscious shoppers 30%
From here, you can determine that 40% of your content should target discount shoppers, while 30% of your content should target brand and performance conscious shoppers respectively. Now you can go forward and distribute your content resources accordingly, creating content that’ll appeal to each of you target customer profiles.
Let the Data Guide Your Creativity
There’s this perceived tension in the marketing world between creatives and quants. The stereotype goes that creatives see the quants as bean counters who don’t know how to connect to people, and the quants see the creatives as artsy-fartsy types who just clamor for any kind of attention they can get.
Whether or not this is the case with your team, it doesn’t have to be. The beautiful thing about the split between quants and creatives is that they each represent different sides to the same coin — the conversion coin.
What should be happening is that quants should be providing the insight and inspiration that creatives use to get jiggy with it, and SEO is no different. Your SEO should be aggregating and segmenting the data that your content team can use to develop that killer kind of content that’s supposed to be king. Doing this will not only help you develop more engaging content, but content that can support your efforts to rank on targeted keywords that can actually drive sales.