Tired of worrying about keyword search volume and competition when doing SEO? Instead, focus on searcher intent, what questions the people you want to find you are asking. Trying to write for a moving target like an ever-evolving search algorithm can be counterproductive. Sure, there are people out there who promise “instant results.” But, true sustained success doesn’t work that way with anything, especially SEO.
Your potential audience’s questions must always come first when creating your content. SEO should be a tool to capture your target audience, not be what drives your overall content. Instead, find what your audience is searching for and how they are searching for it. It’s not just about finding trending topics and keyword phrases.
Once you know your target audience’s burning questions, it’s nearly as simple as just answering them. But, it’s sometimes difficult figuring out exactly what those questions to answer actually are. So, how do you find these questions?
How Long Tail Keyword Phrases Help You Find the Right Questions to Ask
Many SEO services claim to help you chase the “long-tail” keyword phrases that deliver valuable search traffic. Some of these services are quite reputable and do fantastic research in finding golden opportunities. But, you’ll be happy to learn, you can do a lot of this work on your own with just a bit of critical thinking.
Think about the questions that your audience has asked you or might ask you. Base your writing around those question. Then, if you do find something trending, there’s no hurt in writing about it. But, try to spin it in a way where that information will still be useful down the road. That’s what’s known as evergreen content – information that will be good for years down the road. After you’ve done the writing, work on finding keyword phrases that will get your content found in search and integrate them naturally throughout your content.
There are many different perspectives on how to create content in an organized and systematic way. Particularly in business blogging, the most predominant method is understanding “buyer personas.” By this method, popularized by marketing giant Hubspot, a business would go through an entire process of researching where these fictional characters are on the “buyer’s journey.” You must know the questions potential clients or customers are asking search engines at various points in their buying journey.
The common interests and habits of these people who fit your buyer personas are often also considered as supplemental content. Sometimes, it can lure in people who aren’t realizing they’re being led to a landing page to sell a product that’s actually unrelated. While I’ve never been terribly fond of creating hundreds of ultra-targeted landing pages, or even thousands as some businesses do, understanding the buyer’s journey is a good idea.
But, wait… What if I’m not a business and I’m not selling anything? It turns out that everyone out there is a buyer of some sort, even if they’re just seeking information. It also applies to companies seeking talent. So, what is the buyer’s journey?
How the Buyer’s Journey Helps You Ask the Right Questions
The buyer’s journey consists of three stages: identifying a problem, researching solutions for that problem, and making a decision on purchasing or otherwise acquiring that solution. Obviously, depending on which of those three stages a potential reader or client may be in that journey, different questions need to be asked.
Many companies come to a better understanding of their audiences through market research. But, you don’t need to hire market research experts to do this. You don’t need to worry about marketing funnels or lead capturing – except maybe for email subscribers. For purposes of web writing, you’re not really looking to build landing pages or anything. You should be most interested about the topics themselves, and why people ask certain questions about them.
The psychology of content marketing has always been more fascinating to me than the attempt to create a perfect “persona” that defines your target audience. You’re not writing for personas, after all. You’re writing for real life people. Yes, well-researched buyer personas can lead to lots of successful content being created.
But, you don’t need a big marketing company and a huge staff to be successful in knowing what your audience wants. Just put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Imagine what questions they may be asking, then seek out how to create the most valuable answers for them.
Answering people’s questions thoughtfully positions you as a thought leader on a given topic. Not every piece of content has to be a sales pitch, after all. You should always focus on the best answers you can give, then soft-sell a solution if you have one.
But, What If I Don’t Have the Answers to My Audience’s Burning Questions?
If you can’t answer some of your audience’s questions, it’s possible there are other expert sources out there that can. This is where curating content comes in handy. Whether the answers come from your competitors or non-competitors doesn’t matter. The trick is to combine information and ideas that answer questions into a resource that people will find useful.
Basically, the best way to create a resource begins with simply typing a question into a search engine. If it’s not clearly answered without doing some additional research work, you can instead do the legwork. Then, you create content that brings answers to searchers quickly and concisely.
The search engines smile on well-researched content that clearly shows effort to answer questions. People will remember that you were the one who answered their questions, not where you got the information from, even if a source was actually a competitor!
Creating buyer personas for your audience is useful in better understanding where your audience is coming from. But, the real trick to knowing the right questions to answer is to naturally provide timely and useful answers for everyday questions. You may find that while your “hits” may not be as high as some marketing gurus may promise you, your interaction and consistency of organic traffic will be a lot better than you might expect.
Quit obsessing over “SEO hacks”. Just answer your audience’s questions. Once you know what those are, you’ll find your content becomes much more valuable and successful in converting visitors. Stay on top of answering your audience’s questions the best that you can, and eventually you’ll profit!