Seems most businesses know they need to invest more into content marketing.
The problem is, you can’t just create any type of content your heart desires. You need to create content that is going to bring visitors AND ultimately leads and sales.
Just look at WP Curve Co-Founder Dan Norris. He is a content machine. In fact, he’s writing a book titled Content Machine. This is because he understands how content has driven the growth of WP Curve as well as his other ventures.
So the question is, how do you know what content you should write that is going to be able to rank well in search results while simultaneously being something that people are actually searching for?
Determine your focus
When starting out with your content marketing plan, you need to focus on a centralized set of topics and keywords. Typically, the best topic for you to write about is your core competency.
I recently created a content marketing strategy for my startup LeadFuze (which was launched using the principles of Dan Norris’s 7 Day Startup). Given that the core service is lead generation using cold emails, I wanted to start off by developing all my content based around the topic of cold emails.
Setting up your spreadsheet
First things first, you are going to want to have a spreadsheet open to help you store your ideas. We are going to walkthrough how I was able to come up with 100+ keywords to target for our content strategy.
Across the top row you are going to place your root keywords. Then you are going to add more keywords underneath that based off of the suggestions that are given for that keyword.
Use Google’s related searches
With recent Google updates, the search volume data of typical keyword research tools aren’t as accurate. The good news is you don’t need to solely pay attention to search volumes.
You can use what Google shows you as “searches related to cold email.” Simply enter a term into Google and then scroll down to the bottom to see other related queries.
You’ll see I took root term “cold email” and “cold emails” and then found related searches. I would then input more of those keywords into Google to find even more related terms.
This is valuable because this is Google telling you that people are entering these terms.
So now my spreadsheet is looking like this:
Use Google autocomplete
Another thing you can do to see more results is start typing in your query and pay attention to what is shown in the drop down. This is their Autocomplete feature to help users get the information they need.
Now in this example, I had personalized results still on. You’ll want to use global results when you’re doing this. You can easily change this by clicking the globe at the top right of the search bar.
Go through some of the keywords you’ve found and start looking for additional keywords and add those to your spreadsheet.
You could get more ideas by entering a keyword and adding the letter A, then B, then C, etc. and find relevant suggestions that way which start for each letter of the alphabet. However, you’ll be happy to know there are tools to help you with this.
Using tools to find related searches
What I just showed you is a manual process and it’s good to get a feel for your first batch of keywords. Now you’re going to want to scale the process to find several more terms.
There are two different keyword tools (KeywordTool.io and UberSuggest) that will help you shape your content topics. I prefer KeywordTool.io for aesthetic reasons, but both tools ultimately do the same thing. They pull in various Google suggested keywords by taking your keyword and then giving all suggestions based on every letter of the alphabet.
For example, if I fire up KeywordTool and input “cold email” I see the following in KeywordTool.io:
A really handy feature is the “Copy All” button at the top right which will take all the keywords it found and copies them all to your clipboard. You can take those and input them into Google Adwords Keyword Planner to find search volume data and more.
For now though, you can start to add the one’s which are relevant to your spreadsheet.
Feel free to re-organize your spreadsheet and start grouping keywords together. After this exercise, my spreadsheet now looks like this:
There are over 130 different keywords on my spreadsheet now that I can target with content.
Now the question is, what should you focus on first?
Determining ease of ranking
Once you have a stable of keywords then you can do a couple of things.
First, I would take the complete list of keywords that we’ve come up with, and input them into Google Adwords Keyword Planner.
Take a look at the search volumes to get an idea of the amount of demand. Please note, the “Avg. Monthly Searches” column is incredibly inaccurate, but at least it provides a compass.
Since the “Competition” column is also useless, you should ignore this indicator.
Instead, you’ll want to start manually searching in Google for some of these keywords that have search volume.
What you are looking for is to see how strong the websites are that currently rank on page one for this term. I have a background in digital marketing and SEO in particular, so I can eyeball this for the most part.
I am primarily just looking for two things. One is the strength of the root domain. Meaning, is it Google or CNN that ranks on page one or is it some relatively obscure company that happens to have the top spot. The more obscure, the better. The second thing I’m looking at is the page title. How optimized is the page title for the keyword I’m targeting?
If you aren’t sure how strong a domain is, you can install the Moz Toolbar extension which gives you several indicators like their Moz ranking, link counts, etc.
You can also have Alexa open in a separate tab and look to see what their traffic ranking is that way as well. Anything under 100,000 means they are fairly well established as one of the top 100,000 websites in terms of traffic.
To determine how optimized a page title is, you are basically just looking for that exact phrase inside the page title.
For the term “cold email” it’s going to be quite a battle. The top four websites are major publications with optimized page titles. Not to mention, you can see the term “cold email” in their URL as well as the meta description.
This makes for a tough keyword to target. I’ll need to go for longer tail since LeadFuze is only a couple of months old. If you’re just starting out with your content, or as a business, you’ll want to target the long tail keywords initially. Once you start picking up steam for long tail phrases, then you can start penetrating the top search results for some bigger keywords.
For keywords where the competition is low and you’re seeing search volume, put a star next to them. Those should be the one’s you target first. This will allow you to rank quickly and easily for keywords that start driving targeted traffic to your website.
Another tool that you might find helpful is a new one called KWFinder. If you enter the main keyword, it will provide you analytics from Google. You shouldn’t put a lot of stock into this data from Google, but you can use it as a compass. In addition, it also provides a list of similar keywords that you might not have thought of yet.
It pulls in search volume data from Google, and then also pulls in competition data from third party tools to automatically help you determine how hard it will be to rank for a keyword. You can see this by the green numbers to the right. If a keyword is hard to rank for, then it will be yellow/red.
The term “email prospecting” for example is wide open and something I’ll start targeting myself.
Using questions from prospective customers
One rule of thumb for your content strategy is to use questions from prospective customers as blog topics.
Questions equal content.
When I first started LeadFuze, I was asked repeatedly if the service was SPAM. These were typically from people that hadn’t ever used cold email for lead generation purposes, but I was hearing it enough to know that I wanted to put something together that I would be able to reference.
I knew this piece was going to be fairly evergreen. It would be linked to by other people that needed a third party reference, I would use it in a newsletter drip, it would be helpful for future sales conversations, and more. I even got asked if someone could republish the post on their own blog.
With proper attribution back to you, this isn’t a problem. Many popular news sites do this type of syndication with well know bloggers and third party media outlets.
Take note of any questions you receive from prospects. Chances are these are questions many other prospects will have. You can then build content around these topics to answer common questions. This not only helps ensure you have a more educated prospect, but can bring in more of these prospects when that topic starts ranking in search results.
Creating related content
Before you branch out to other topics, try writing about the topic until there’s nothing left to be said. This helps position you as the expert on the topic, which is important since this is the basis of your service or product.
I still have many more posts coming on the topic of cold emails before I move on to other related lead generation strategies. The related topics don’t have anything to do with what we offer, but they fall under the larger “lead generation” umbrella.
Another approach I’ll branch into for our content strategy is cold calling. It falls under the “lead generation” topic, though it isn’t a service we offer. However, we do feel cold calling in combination with cold emailing can be effective so there’s a logical relationship.
When you feel there’s nothing left to write, you’re probably wrong. However, let’s assume you’re ready to write about other topics. All you have to do is determine what related topics can you write about?
For example, HubSpot recently launched three individual blogs. They started and owned the “inbound” marketing topic and eventually branched into “marketing” as a whole. From there, they decided to branch into sales related topics and another which is specifically catered towards agency related topics.
What topics can you write about that might not be exactly what you offer, but is somewhat related?
Tying it all together
What this exercise told me is I could create a massive cold email related resources page with FAQs, examples, templates, and more to start ranking for a lot of these keywords with one nicely done page.
That is, of course, in addition to all of the blog posts I’ll be doing on the topic. I can use a CTA in my blog posts to direct people to the resources page which would have certain content locked behind an opt-in to build my list.
This is just one way of many that I would leverage with all this research. Other ideas would be to repurpose content into different formats, create webinars or training courses, etc. This exercise alone helped me to generate content ideas that will last me more than a year and that’s with me producing content regularly.
Creating content just to create content isn’t going to get you too far. When you are trying to establish yourself and trying to get more traffic from organic search, you need to find the right keywords to target with your content.
Have other tips? Share them in the comments below!