Great content sells. It converts. It helps with SEO. And sometimes, it works like magic: it goes viral, creates traffic inflow, and helps you achieve your goals. But what exactly is great content? How do you produce something so great it’ll go viral and help you achieve your goals?
The Internet is inundated with a lot of similar-looking content. This very article might sound similar to something you’ve seen before. Unique content is hard to produce, and it’s getting harder by the day as more websites grasp the importance of content marketing. In view of all this, how do you produce great content that stands apart from the rest?
Answer people’s needs.
As plain as it sounds, this is one of the toughest things to do in marketing. What’s tougher is getting your ‘solution’-like content to the people who’re looking for it; but in this post, I’ll be tackling the ways in which you can figure out exactly what your target audience needs so you can give it to them.
If you think about it, that’s what enables websites to survive. If your content answers, solves, and helps, you are going to earn trust and your brand will become an authority. The trick is to discover what your target audience wants. Here are seven resources that can help you figure that out.
#1: Competitors’ forums
One of the most ridiculously simple methods, though it’s a little controversial, is to stalk your competitors’ web presence. Some regard this as unethical, but I think it’s in the best interest of both the customer and your business for you to figure out what your competitors are doing (and do it better).
If you are an SEO professional working with a client and trying to leverage content for SEO purposes, this tactic offers one of the best opportunities to position the client’s business in an entirely profitable light. When done correctly, this can also be one of the best ways to tap into your competitors’ deficiencies, and leverage that to create a win-win situation for yourself and your target audience.
For those who think this approach is unethical, there’s nothing like a little opinionated, passionate content to drive click-throughs, traffic, and conversions. Your clients will love it.
Comments are a great way to engage your target audience. But beyond that, if you’re dealing with B2C businesses, comments shed light on the needs of your target audience.
When we speak of comments, I’m not just talking about comments on your website alone. Comments are made on many websites and forums. Comment threads run into the hundreds on websites like Reddit. Discussion boards are flooded with people talking about something — expressing their need for some particular solution.
These are areas from which you can mine excellent content ideas. You have to exercise your creative neurons to find out what themes keep repeating and are hence more likely to gain traction when published. But don’t let go of an opportunity to create something epic just because only a handful of the users are talking about it. You might find yourself on the leading edge.
#3: Surveys (online and offline)
Surveys are boring; many people swiftly click past polls without even looking at them. But you can get some specifically targeted tipping points from surveys. So should you conduct a survey? If you have the resources and the user-base to get a lot of valuable input, go for it.
But you don’t have to rely only on your survey to figure out what your target audience needs. You can search for surveys conducted by others, both on the Internet and in magazines, newspapers, and elsewhere in the offline world.
Surveys are good because out of thousands polled, typically a few hundred will respond. And most of the people who respond are particularly interested in something (which is why they took the extra time and effort to answer boring questions). The results provide a funnel through which a targeted group is giving you ideas about what your content should include or cover.
#4: Keyword research – Trends, Related & AdWords tools
This is an old, but trustworthy method that’s still not often used enough.
Google’s own Trends can inform you about the interest level people have shown toward a particular item. You can pick generic keywords in your niche and look up trends. This may not give you content ideas directly, but it helps you understand what’s “trending.” With this data in hand, you can go further to identify specific keywords and then topic ideas.
If you’re hard pressed for time, Google’s Related Keywords is a great tool to start your content research and production. Related keywords are mentioned at the end of each search page. When you see a long-tail keyword, you should pick it up, do some preliminary research on it, and if indications are promising enough (search volume, competition, ROI of a particular theme/topic), you can produce content around that.
Speaking of long-tail keywords, Google’s Adwords tool has helped me figure out what people are looking for. The short keyword phrases are generic and can’t lead directly to topic ideas, but the long ones are clear indications of what people want. Chances are high that you might stumble upon a bunch of related keywords around which an entire content strategy can be designed.
#5: The social networks
Nothing beats social networks when it comes to personal expression. Although heavily diluted if you’re not looking at the right places, social networks can be a direct indication of user interest and content ideas. The key is figuring out where to look.
Twitter: #hashtags are a good place to start. Experts in your niche are bound to have conversations on Twitter that can lead to some really specific, targeted topic ideas that will solve a pressing need being discussed in the Twitterverse.
Facebook & Google+ pages: Brand pages try to engage with their audiences at an intense level. That can spark comments in which people explicitly demand something. Capitalize on this and you might really be at the forefront of creating really useful content that targets your audience perfectly.
#6. Product forums, a.k.a. support
If your niche has a product and people are looking for support, in all probability there’s going to be a forum somewhere. If your client is producing a product, find out if there are forums and support pages that relate to it. Such forums are gold mines that can be mined to learn exactly what the target audience needs.
But if there’s a support page already, isn’t it going to cover the same ground? Why produce content around the same thing again? Because support pages aren’t exhaustive, they aren’t intensive, and they’re often not terribly friendly.
Also, if your work as an SEO professional centers around a website that deals with a particular market (and not a product), you can still figure out what the end-user needs by identifying associated products or end-points where the user gets something. Then you can tailor your content accordingly to leverage this.
This applies largely to product-focused markets. Suppose you or your client run a website for top-notch information on headphones. How do you generate content that’s not just unique but also interesting enough to attract visitors and solve problems, so you can build trust, authority, and a fan following?
Head over to places where an associated product is being sold. This might be a JBL headphones listing on Amazon or a Sennheiser headphone set on eBay. Check out customer reviews, comments, and the general chatter around the product. You can find a lot of this specifically on Amazon and Amazon-like websites.
When you go through these reviews, you can find some interesting suggestions, a few tips, and potential insights about the product. This is highly specific information that you can hardly get from anywhere else. And it’s real.
How about sorting this information and packaging it into a great article that helps your users make well-informed decisions? Bingo! You scored a point there.
Conclusively, the bottom line is simple: if you’re in the shoes of a customer, you know precisely where people talk about what they require. And when you answer this, your content — no matter how boring or short — will serve a defined purpose, making it much more valuable.
Ultimately, it’s the users who matter… for everything from your brand to your return on investment.