The Secret Researcher’s Checklist to Creating Great Strategic Content

Jen Saunders
Reading Time:7minutes

Content is the backbone to any solid growth marketing strategy. There is the kind that exist in your email marketing campaigns, your whitepapers and other free downloadable materials, and the content that lives on your web pages and blogs. When it comes to creating high-conversion content, the best growth strategies from Google-partner digital marketing agencies in Los Angeles to those in New York City execute careful research using in-house checklists that have been fine-tuned for years in a comprehensive, agile process.

This article will help organizations and search marketing professionals create better content that gets clicks from the right buyer audiences, and that converts into paid dollars. In order to do this, research can not be bypassed; careful thought and consideration must me made with every piece of content your company creates. Here are come of the areas in which research is mandatory in order for great content to exist that enables business growth.

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Great Content Relies on Competitor Analysis

Analyzing the content that already exists in your market is the first step to creating unique, high-value text that resonates with your buyer audiences. In order to craft differentiated, engaging material, performing competitor content analysis will help you stay ahead of the competition by using their efforts to your advantage. In order to run a competitive content analysis, follow these steps:

  • Do competitor content inventory
  • Record and analyze content topics
  • Determine the intended audience
  • Evaluate content quality and quantity

In terms of content inventory catalog each type of content and its platform. This means record everything from videos to blogs both on and off the competitor’s website. Look at the level of investment put into each medium, and determine the format that best resonates with their audience.Also pay attention to topics and keyword relevancy used in each piece.

When examining blogs, look at how frequently they publish, how much is short-form VS longer content, and identify they keywords while notating their context. If the competitor has a podcast how does the audio content play into the overall content strategy; what topics does it address and what seems to be the engagement level? Does the competition run webinars? What are the topics and what kind of feedback did users leave? If the competitor has video content determine the tone and how it plays into branding. Do they offer newsletters, guides or other downloadable material? Download their content, analyze it using the previously addressed points, and pay attention to how aggressive their workflow is with follow up emails. If they are running an inbound marketing campaign, the cadence can give insight into buyer behavior.

May attention to the focus extent of each topic, and how the audience absorbs it. Notice how many channels the competitor is leveraging while noting the publishing frequency. One of your biggest takeaways will be in obtaining the publicly visible hallmarks that  nod at popularity and level of engagement. Notice any trends, time of day when posted / published, and notice the comments people leave. All of these insights will let you know how well this performs, and will shed light on the areas ripe for extraction to use in your own strategy.

When analyzing content topics be sure to tag them while studying the topics and their context in order to pinpoint marketing gaps that can easily be transformed into your own opportunities. For each piece of content you research, notice the title, meta description, H1 and image ALTs. If the competitor has a massive library of articles and material, start with the most popular pieces. Once you have created this competitor spreadsheet you can deconstruct it and map out a plan highlighting topics to use, stay clear from, keywords, context and tone.

Taking the time to really analyze your competition’s content is time-consuming. However, it is a critical first step in creating amazing content that your buyer groups will love. Stop blindly pumping out content to the moon; it’s time to understand where all your opportunities reside to provide your readers with valuable solutions to their needs while standing out as the true authoritative brand in your industry.

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Research Your Target Audiences to Create Buyer Personas

One of the most common mistakes made by content marketers is focusing too much on the technical accouterments of writing content while forgetting the audience. Buyer personas are important because they provide a road map for producing content that converts. A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of actual buyers that may or may not contain their job title, income level, family status, and highlight the tools they need to perform their job well. Buyer personas can get highly detailed, or remain basic. Usually, the industry and your products dictate how detailed a good buyer persona should be. For example, if you are in the SAAS industry, your buyer personas will likely be very detailed. However, if you sell socks, they may be rather basic yet still necessary.

You will want to begin your buyer persona research by working with your sales team to uncover data about your buyers (and those who didn’t buy). Ask the sales lead what common questions are asked, what frequent buyer needs are, and why the customer viewed your product as being an ideal solution to their need. You can also get data from your email lists, send out surveys, and see what people are saying about you on social media to discover commonalities for your buyer personas.

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Content that Fits Like a Glove Relies on Social Listening

In order to engineer high-converting content you will want to see what unbiased people are saying about your industry, products and brand. You can use hashtags to target specific conversations that people are having where your brand or products / services are the main topic. You can even use social media monitoring software like Hootsuite or Sprout Social to identify, target and follow social mentionings and even discover opportunities for connecting with top industry influencers. Once you are able to chart the topics and talking points that dominate social media you can tailor content to these discussions with the answers your consumers are looking for. In addition, doing some social media research will help uncover trends, allow the tracking of competitors and understand the sentiments behind purchasing decisions–things that can easily be worked into content that strikes a personal chord with customers.

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Research for Writing Content with SEO Value

Nobody will read your content if they can’t find it. Strategic writing with a goal to drive more organic traffic requires a great degree of SEO research. Start by identifying your top organic competitors, and the direct competitors already known. Then use a tool like SpyFu to view their ranking history, engagement metrics, keywords they rank for, their direct organic competition, and how aggressive they are on paid search (this can often indicate they are also investing in SEO). When studying this data you can identify their weaknesses and use them to empower your own strategy.

After completing competitor SEO research, analyze your own website. Check Google Analytics and see which blogs or pages are more frequently visited, have the longest session durations, the lowest bounce rates, and highest conversion rates. Then identify which keywords are associated with each page. This data can be combined with competitor analysis results to deliver relevant content your customers enjoy.

It is also helpful to do a little research in Google’s results. See what content ranks for Google’s related searches, and the topics that come up in the People Also Ask feature. You will also want to see what comes up in Google’s autocomplete when you go to type in a query. Often, the phrases and questions that populate hold relevance for helping search marketers improve their content for SEO value.

Finally, use a keyword tool to discover your keyword opportunities. Be sure to use longtail forms, and keyword phrases that apply context. While some keywords have a tremendous amount of search volume and are very competitive, others are less competitive but still garner healthy activity. A good strategy for creating amazing content is to shoot for the “low-hanging fruit” that is less competitive, and use context and topics to start a process for ranking for those bigger gold medal keywords. Be sure to use a keyword tracking tool to monitor your current ranking, and over time you will incur enough data to make adjustments to your content as needed. Just be sure to write naturally and for people, as any content that reads spammy will turn people off and not shine well with Google’s algorithm.

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Analyze, Rinse, Repeat

Your content will be forever changing, but the research process will remain the same. Another area of research that will help you create bomb-digity content is to analyze your own efforts. Most savvy digital marketing agencies do this for their clients quarterly, or every six months. Make note of what worked well, and what fell short. Determine what types of content performed best, top keywords, topics, and which target audience had the most engagement. You can fine-tune your content strategy by making these adjustments in an ongoing process.

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About
Jen Saunders is the Director of SEO for WEBITMD bringing more than 15 years of search marketing experience. She spent 13 years in Europe earning her PhD while looking at lots of old neat stuff. Jen enjoys simple things, like trees, sunrises, and the delicate lull of a 16th century harpsichord. Jen enjoys meditating and studies Buddhism. She is a certified master scuba diver, dolls make her nervous, and she enjoys craft beer. Jen has two cats, Chairman Thaddeus Whiskers and Lord Joffrey Gaius Pitty-Paws. They are her heirs.