Content marketing isn’t the next big thing. It’s here, it’s happening now, and if you aren’t using content to grow your audience, you’re losing them to competitors who are.
But building a content strategy is a ton of work, particularly if you’re a small team – perhaps even a team of one. Right?
Dan McGaw doesn’t think so. In his recent Unwebinar, The Facts & Fairytales of Conversion-Driven Content, he outlines a detailed framework for building a content strategy in little more than half an hour.
And he has the results to prove that it works: it’s the same strategy that he and his agency Effin Amazing employed to increase ChupaMobile’s organic traffic by 19%, and revenue by 38%.
It can be done by a single person in just one day, all with free tools from Google and a bit of research.
It all starts with finding out what people are already looking for.
Use Google Keyword Planner to assess demand for content
One of the “fairy tales of content marketing” that Dan described is that producing content is an art that is informed primarily by gut instinct. But as Dan put it:
If no one is looking for your content, no one will read the content you write.
So how do you write the kinds of content that your target audience is looking for?
Google’s Keyword Planner is a powerful go-to tool for pay-per-click marketers, who use it to measure search volume for specific keywords and plan their campaigns. But it’s not only useful for PPC. Dan explained that it can be used to learn what kinds of content your prospective audience is demanding in just a few simple steps:
- Enter keywords relating to your product and industry. This includes the names of competitors or types of services that might overlap with yours.
- Create a list of the highest-volume keywords. Google will let you know the monthly average searches for every term you search. Depending on how niche your subject matter is, what constitutes an acceptable level of traffic will vary, but Dan sets the threshold for content that people care about at 10,000 monthly searches minimum.These high-volume keywords form the core of your content direction, since it’s the type of content that your audience is likely to search for.
- Generate keyword ideas based on the highest-volume keywords. Take the list of high-volume keywords you created and enter them into the Keyword Planner under Search for new keywords using a phrase, website, or category. Google will use its omniscient cloudmind to discover related keywords and hand them back to you.
Working these keywords into your content will be critical for generating organic traffic. But the research doesn’t end here; the keywords are just the key.
Generate even more keywords with predictive search results
Now that you have your list of totally-targetable keywords, it’s time to check out the competitive landscape with some good old Googling. But make sure you’re using Incognito mode, or whatever your browser’s private browsing mode is called: Google personalizes search results based on your history, and you don’t want that interfering with your research.
You can then start performing searches of your keyword list, and you’ll realize something wonderful happens: Google will tell you exactly how people are phrasing their searches by displaying the most popular searches as recommendations.
This is the information that will inform you on what specific subjects people are interested in. After all, “analytics” is just a keyword, but “how to add google analytics to WordPress” is nearly a fully-formed post idea.
Plus, knowing exactly what people are searching for will also let you know exactly what they find.
Content audit your competitors
This is one of the most time-consuming aspects of crafting your content strategy, but it’s also one of the most important. If you don’t know what your competitors are doing, how can you out-do them?
Dan suggests performing searches using your list of keywords and the recommended search phrases, and take note of what pieces of content appear on the first page of results. Then:
- Read the three most recent articles on the first page. You’re likely to see articles that are anywhere from a few months to many years old. Focus on the most recent ones.
- Write down three things that suck about each of them. And that doesn’t mean poor formatting or ugly images (though those are important to get right). This is not about being self-congratulatory, but about finding opportunities to capitalize on. If there’s some crucial fact or brilliant revelation missing from your competitors’ content, you want it to be in yours.
- Then write down three ways your content piece could be better. This can be elaborating on a subject that your competitors glazed over, introducing a new bombshell piece of information, or experimenting with formatting in a way that makes content more engaging.
But you don’t have to stop here. By combining your keyword research with defined goals based on your audience’s needs, you can extrapolate your keyword research into even more content ideas.
Create new content ideas based on your keyword research
These are the tactics that Effin Amazing used when they took on client ChupaMobile, a marketplace for app templates that can be re-skinned and released as new apps. Ultimately, they formed four core blog topics addressing the wants and needs of their audience:
- Hiring a mobile developer
- How to launch a mobile app
- How to make money from apps
- Building apps with no code
And with the knowledge of both the highest volume keywords and the specific phrases used to search those keywords, they were able to create a series of blog post ideas addressing exactly the questions people were searching for.
And you can do the same.
Combining all of the previous research you’ve done, you’ll now have both a clear list of both which existing pieces of content you need to compete with and what types of new content to create to attract your target audience.
Converting through content, via landing pages
Once you’re growing traffic through smart content production, what do you do with it? Is there a clear pathway from your content to conversion?
Dan recommends an approach we also use here at Unbounce: designating a specific piece of gated content (like an ebook) per post, building a landing page for each, and directing to those landing pages with various calls to action in each post, like at the end of the post or with an exit intent overlay.
It’s not about exerting pressure, but about creating an opportunity. If you don’t ask, you cannot receive. Create great content, link to relevant “content upgrades” with dedicated landing pages, and nurture the leads you collect from said content. (You can learn more about the nurturing part in the full webinar.)
The white-hat school of growth hacking
Dan ended his webinar with this quote:
Growth hacking isn’t one tactic; it is how you string tactics together and automate them. That’s how you create growth!
“Growth hacking” is a term that has always made me bristle. The word “hack” implies a shortcut or workaround, an easy path to success.
But if the term is to stick around, I feel pretty happy with this interpretation of it. One that views growth not as just a series of quick wins, but of building a sustainable strategy based on data; a definition that benefits our businesses as much as it benefits our readers, prospects and customers.