How to create a content strategy without search volumes

Branded3 September 4th, 2017

When content is all about appealing to search engines rather than an audience, it can become boring and unengaging. This is not successful marketing.

Search marketers feel like they’re going out on a limb if they aren’t gripping onto keyword volumes to justify their recommendation. But times have changed, and so have algorithms.

The idea of keyword research is great as it can help us find out what people are looking for and want to know more about. But volume shouldn’t be the only thing to bear in mind when creating our strategies. You’ll get a more complete picture of your audience’s needs if you look elsewhere.

Learn how to support your content strategy without solely relying on search volume data so you can be more audience focused and create more diverse strategies.

What does the public want to know?

The whole idea of content marketing is to create useful and engaging content that users will find interesting, and that adds value to the brand hosting it. Content that users engage with is more likely to be shared, which will attract more traffic to your website. So, before you start creating content, you need to know what information your audience is interested in finding and then provide it for them.

Answer the Public essentially acts as the ultimate autosuggest and can help content strategists to seek out potential topics for content. You put in a keyword and it provides pretty much every potential search that uses that word. A lot won’t be relevant but it also offers in-depth insight.

Strategists can look at the whos, whats, wheres, hows, and whys as well as the core search terms. This can then be assessed against search volumes and current ranking positions to contribute to the strategy for creating the new pages. Some queries will have no search volume, but those searches can show you an underserviced gap you might not have noticed otherwise.

Answer the Public can help you quickly find what people want to know

Bloomberry can gather information on questions being asked across the web, even pulling data from forums, Quora and Reddit (to name just a few). You can gain a quick (but, in-depth) overview of which keywords and topics are receiving the most interest.

What content already exists?

To identify what content is performing well in a certain niche or with a specific audience, and who the key influencers are, try Buzzsumo. It shows everything in terms of shares and social engagement, so it’s not ideal for drawing conclusions if your audience isn’t interested in Twitter, Pinterest and the like.

But it’s great for looking at things like whether your direct competitors are producing content around the same topic and if people ‘like’ it as much (or more) than yours. If there’s somewhere they’re falling short, take advantage.

Google’s other tools

You can learn quite a lot by monitoring your content through Google Analytics. Keeping a close eye on what content works well and what doesn’t: does it get traffic, do those people stick around? This will provide you with guidance on what you should focus on and/or improve going forward.

GA also allows users to monitor content performance at a more granular level by setting up ‘Content Groupings’. Content Groupings will help you monitor a certain group of pages. It’s a bit too involved to go through now, but Branded3’s Emma Barnes did a post that’ll tell you everything you need to know: ‘Why you need to be using Content Groupings starting now’.

The limited room for copy means videos work well on mobile. So why not make more of it? YouTube is as great source of inspiration, and the view counts are a good indication of interest. If you’re aiming to educate the user, create how-to content in an I-want-to-do moment.

You can easily get insight around what type of content users like to see by searching for your core terms.

Google Trends will also show you the ups and downs of YouTube searches, as well as being a valuable tool for standard web searches.

You can access data as far back as 2004. If there has been a growth in interest around the keywords/search terms you’re targeting, chances are people want to know more about it. There will be opportunities your strategy can explore.

What’s happening in offline media?

Online and offline media go hand in hand. By looking at successful offline campaigns that also had a positive impact on online you can learn how to draw inspiration from things happening in the ‘real world’.

As Branded3 discussed in ‘The importance of offline events, for online gain’, Carlsberg’s ‘Probably the best poster in the world’ billboard secured the brand coverage from some of the biggest UK and international publications (such as The Sun, Mirror, Metro, The Guardian, and LAD Bible). The US publication, Time magazine even picked this up.

An online drive to help promote a significant renovation of Money.co.uk’s HQ (a castle formally known as ‘The Barracks’) achieved 149 backlinks to the money.co.uk site from publications such as Elle Decoration, The Metro, Business Insider, The Entrepreneur and The Sun.

Google Analytics data reports that the campaign page received over 13,000 visits, with an average time on page of 03:19. After six weeks, the campaign page had received 10.3million visits and over 17,000 social shares.

And while it may be a bit early to start getting excited about Christmas, the Coca-Cola truck is a great example of the impact offline trends can have online. As you can see in the Google Trends graph below, there is a huge spike in searches for the term ‘Coca-Cola truck’ in December every year.

As a marketer, keeping a close eye on relevant search trends, rather than just volumes, can help you find opportunities to join in popular conversations.

Get social!

If you’re still needing some inspiration, spend some time looking at the type of content your competitors are posting through their social channels. What are they hashtagging? What’s getting the ‘likes’? Look at what tone of voice their audience resonates with and what kind of content grabs their attention.

Keyword research is still important, but as content marketers, we need to think outside the box. The key to creating a great content strategy is to really understand what your audience is looking for, and you don’t always need search volumes to do that.

Steph Naylor, Content Strategist, Branded3

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