A well-maintained blog is a great tool for a brand to have in its arsenal. Though it can provide many benefits — like enhancing emails and social media activity — I’m of the mindset that blogs are primarily an SEO asset. If done correctly, they can capture new readers and answer their questions, strengthening brand association amongst relevant audiences.
However, many brands miss the mark when executing their posts. Missteps I encounter include short experiences, subpar design and visuals, and superficial insights.
However, as an SEO professional with 7+ years, I believe the gravest mistake companies make is to choose the wrong topics. Below are four tips to help you find content ideas that attract and engage the right audience.
1. Don’t deviate from your core expertise
Blog topics’ primary objectives should be to attract new relevant audiences, as well as to strengthen the brand’s relationships with existing clients by reinforcing its standing as an industry leader. However, a surprising amount of companies disregard their brand’s main purpose when brainstorming topics.
This is a waste of resources for the following reasons:
- It’s much more difficult to attract quality audiences for a topic that’s unrelated to your site. From an Organic Search perspective, Google prefers to exhibit results from authoritative resources. Therefore, a website that has a one-off reference to a seemingly random topic will have a harder time gaining visibility for related search terms when compared against a site that established itself as a topical expert.
- The topic does nothing to strengthen perceived authority amongst potential clients. A great example of this is the blog post Spring into Spring by Messa & Associates, a law firm specializing in personal injury. The content lists common spring cleaning tasks and quick tips to staying safe, missing the opportunity to exhibit their knowledge of the law. After reviewing the post, the reader is given no further incentive to trust Messa & Associates’ expertise over a competitor’s. Which begs to question, what’s the point?
- The majority of the audiences that visit the page through Organic search results will be unqualified. There are plenty of occasions in which a brand manages to rank for search terms unrelated to their offering. However, this still does little to bring them closer to their goals. Using the above example, the type of terms Spring into Spring could rank for entail “spring cleaning” and “cleaning safety tip,” terms that would naturally apply to a broad audience. One can assume that the vast majority of searchers the article targets has no need for a personal injury lawyer.
- It’s harder to provide a qualified experience about a topic with which you’re unfamiliar. Your team has years of experience in your chosen professional space, so producing quality messaging for related topics should come naturally. However, if your writers wander into unknown territory, it’s going to reflect in the shallowness of the insights.
To summarize, use keyword data to find out what questions and topics interest your target audience. Consider whether you have the knowledge to provide a quality answer, as well as whether the content will further strengthen perceived brand authority in your chosen space.
As an example, Axos Bank wrote How Much Money Should I Keep in Savings. Unlike the previously mentioned article, this provides an in-depth explanation of a common question that applies directly to their expertise.
Subsequently, it ranks on the first page of search results for terms that naturally apply to individuals wanting to learn more about banking, such as “how is savings account most useful” and “how much money should I have in my savings account.”
2. Limit self-promotion
Nothing turns off web users more than visiting a page expecting one experience only to receive a vastly different one. If someone is seeking unbiased information or guidance, pushing your brand too hard can dissuade readers from further engaging with the page.
For example, The Travel Institute’s article How to Become a Travel Agent ranks for highly relevant information-seeking terms including “how to become a travel agent” and “travel agent requirements.”
However, upon visiting the page, it becomes immediately clear that the content doesn’t intend to answer the searchers’ questions, but rather to sell their services. This immediately makes the reader mistrust the messaging.
In contrast to the above, Intercoast.edu offers the short-and-sweet post How to Become an Electrician: 5 Easy To Follow Steps in which it addresses the visitors’ driving question, saving self-promotion for the ending. By meeting readers’ expectations when they first visit the page, they’re more likely to improve engagement.
In short, don’t try to sell someone who is not ready to be sold. As Joel Widmer noted in his post How to Write Magnetic Blog Posts That Attract Your Best Prospects, “I believe in having a call to action in your content, but it should guide your prospect to take the next logical step, which usually isn’t to buy right away.”
3. Strategically leverage data to determine topics
You should have a wealth of data at your fingertips, so make sure to harness it in a way that yields valuable insights! Use this information to understand what topics interest your audience, what repels them, and what nurtures additional engagement. Example metrics to examine include:
- Bounce rate and average-time-on-page. Found in Google Analytics, these metrics can tell you the percentage of people who landed on the blog post from an outside resource only to immediately bounce away, as well as how much time they spent reading. To learn more, check out the post How To Reduce Your Bounce Rate and Increase Your Engagement.
- Scroll rate. You can use Google Analytics to create an event that tracks whether people scroll on a page. This can tell you if people bother to see the experience below the fold or if their first impression is enough to have them bounce.
- Email and social click-through-rate. Assuming that all posts have the semi-equal reach, determine which topics lead to an increased CTR, showing elevated interest.
- Social interaction. Do certain kinds of blog topics (and their accompanying posts) generate more likes, shares, and comments than others? Keep this in mind with future strategies.
Leverage these metrics to understand how visitors like your content, as well as topics in which your current and new audiences would want to view more.
4. Intelligently use SEO keyword data
Search volume is a great way to gain visibility into relevant topics matter most to your audiences. However, there are other factors to consider beyond merely the monthly search volume, such as:
- How competitive are the targeted terms? Depending on the strength of your blog’s domain, it may be unrealistic to target a highly competitive term, especially if it’s broader in nature. To determine this, look at who currently ranks for related search phrases and be honest about whether your site could ever overtake them.
To find a list of questions that relate to your expertise (and maybe more long-tail), I recommend the tool Answer the Public.
- Are you targeting keywords that align to upper-or-mid-funnel audiences? As mentioned above, a quick way to turn off any reader is to not meet their expectations. With this in mind, try to determine the intention behind a keyword. If someone is looking to buy a product or enlist your services, a blog post is the wrong user experience. With this in mind, try to have your blog posts address searchers who actively seek information or guidance, but perhaps aren’t ready to commit. Indicators of this can include:
- Is the search term a question
- Where to vacation in Mexico
- Is Mexico a good place to travel
- Do supporting phrases suggest information-seeking
- Mexico travel ideas
- Mexico travel warnings
- Mexico vacation tips
- Best places to see in Mexico
- Is the term itself too broad, showing indecisiveness
- Mexico vacation
- Central America travel
- Are they capitalizing on new trends? Google Trends shows how different topics grow or diminish in popularity over time, as well as how they compare to one another. Though a key phrase (like a fresh technology, a seasonal trend, or a new product) may not currently have significant search interest, look at trend data to determine if it's on the rise.
- Are you using the same terminology as your readers? Google is becoming more and more sophisticated in its ability to understand how different phrases and can mean the same thing. However, it’s still important to use keyword data to ensure that you’re speaking the same language as your target audience.
For example, burgundy shoe men generate 2,900 monthly searches while oxblood shoe men generate 390 monthly searches. Google is savvy enough to treat these semi-interchangeably within search results.
However, this data shows that men are more likely to know “burgundy” and, perhaps being unfamiliar with the term “oxblood,” are more likely to click on the more popular color name.
Choose all blog post ideas to better serve your readers
I can best summarize the four points above with the single directive to make your readers’ on-page experience the top priority. Use data to understand their interests, and speak to topics for which you can provide expert-level insights. Such efforts will naturally yield improved KPIs, including search engine visibility, traffic, and engagement.
Author: Rachel Lowe
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