For today’s search marketers, the content expansion process has created an overwhelming obsession with fresh content. People have been working under the impression that producing fresh content is the only way to really help websites succeed.
However, the downfall of these surges in an already fast-paced environment involves many people hastily building content before really understanding its fundamental purpose.
When the blog craze first hit a few years ago, marketers began creating site blogs simply because it seemed like that is what everyone else was doing at the time. This attitude also comes into play with other trends in new content genres, such as infographics. Back when they were all the rage, infographics were generated hand-over-fist. Yet again, this was all because everyone else was doing it.
A truly effective content expansion effort requires a degree of critical thinking: why is content is being created, and what does it need to do in order to benefit a site or organization? Before impulsively diving in and conforming to whatever is currently trending, you have to attempt to answer some of these big questions.
Here are four key questions all search marketers must ask themselves before embarking on a content-driven initiative:
1. Why Are We Creating Content?
The preceding exercise of any content marketing effort is to understand why you are creating content. As an SEO, my instinct is to assume it’s for more organic traffic.
However, while keyword-rich content on an authoritative site may benefit SEO desires, does it still satisfy the site objective?
Content can be created for a number of reasons, including:
- Gaining social engagement
- Converting on-site objectives like lead generation or sales
- Building a brand or increase thought leadership
- Copy-cat tactics of the competition
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Simply put, it is best that all hands on deck understand the purpose of the content.
2. Who Is the Audience?
Once you understand why you are creating content, you next need to understand who you are creating the content for.
If you already have a moderate amount of content and content types on your site, and you plan on creating additional content to support the existing types, analytics can offer very helpful insight that can give you direction.
Make it a point to spend a lot of time studying your analytics during this phase of planning. Take a look at Pageviews by age, gender, interests, and so on; review sections; and even landing pages on your site.
I created a sample advanced segment to review blog pages by age group:
Are you seeing different user types perform better or worse, in terms of bounce or exit rates? While existing site content may not be a first-touch conversion point, it can help to introduce a user to the site and begin the conversion funnel.
Which content types perform better at generating leads or sales on the site? If you are contemplating adding a lot more video on your site and you see that specific demographic groups are performing better, you may cater your content to this user group.
By reviewing this demographic data, you can then slice and dice data by things like site sections and mediums to assess how existing content performs for different user groups.
3. What Content Works?
We now understand why we are creating additional content on the site and who we may likely craft this content to suit. We also know what content works well for drawing site visits from things like social media and organic search, and how “sticky” this content is in retaining initial visitors. But, we still haven’t completely figured out the real purpose of the content.
In order to generate more site awareness or conversion potential, we will have to spend a little more time in analytics. If we are creating this content to make a digital ripple, we need to take a look at how well it is received by the outside world.
Tools that are able to search and track content, like BuzzSumo, can highlight which content has historically performed well for your site.
This will allow us to see what topics generated the best social engagement and what social properties are creating the most engagement. Link building tools and other properties, such as Open Site Explorer or Majestic, can also give you a sense of what content gains the most inbound links.
4. What If We Want to Test a New Content Type?
Testing a new content type is totally fine; it only gets risky if you go “all-in” on something simply because everyone is doing it. I completely advise against that approach.
Since you haven’t attempted to create this content or content type before, you can’t rely on historical data as we have previously done. The first stop will be to remain in your content tracking search tool.
Simply search keyword topics, and you should see the top socially engaged content pieces across several domains for any given subject. We can also assess how they performed by content type. Does this keyword genre feature competitors excelling at blog posts, resource articles, video, infographics, and so on? Hopefully this will shed a little more light on the content type you should approach first.
Now you know the content type that you want to pursue and have a general sense of what demographics are engaging heavily with the site. Though you may think you have keyword topics to focus on, don’t move to act just yet. Surveying your current customer base via email, focus group surveys, or social polling can help you to ask questions about a keyword genre and find out what these users are interested in. This will help take you from a keyword genre to a keyword topic.
Polling specific questions will help you hone in on specific demographic information. Be aware that you are limited by the depth of your budget, but you can gain great insight on what kinds of content people are interested in.
I hope this makes you more confident about testing new content opportunities. Remember: the only real mistake you can make is to blindly walk into a content expansion effort because you are following the digital crowd.
Analyze what appeals to your target audience and use this analysis as a foundation for your content expansion strategy.