What Is Content Marketing If It Does Not Help You Sell?
Ahrefs YouTube Videos on SEO and Content MarketingAhrefs Screenshot by TJ McCue
Forbes is in the content business. So are thousands of other media outlets and, of course, many bloggers and influencers. Creating content is a profitable business, but as you may have noticed, there is an absolute Noah’s Ark level flood of content in our world today. Figuring out what content to produce and what people will find meaningful, useful, and valuable, so that they stay on your website is an elusive gem. This long post is exploring how to find content that will appeal to your customer audience.
After I wrote the $80 Billion SEO post, I heard from a number of SEO tool companies. I heard from a handful of experts that I did not mention. Ahrefs, one of several search engine optimization services that I mentioned in that post, reached out to give me a temporary media pass so that I could test their platform a bit more (as I disclosed in my previous post, I have paid for occasional subscriptions there, so I had a decent idea of how it worked).
Note: While I highlight Ahrefs in this post, there are many free tools that might help you do this, over time, without using a paid service (I will link to two posts at the end that list out many of those valuable content tools).
I am always trying to improve my content – from my headlines to the actual content to the social sharing. It is a constant game with pieces flying around the proverbial chess board. What I discovered this time, however, was I was missing a lot of the important parts of search engine optimization – mostly, how to make my own content better by narrowing the topic to more precise terms that people are searching.
Some call this “search intent” and the results are meant to paint a picture of what the search engine believes you are looking for. I call it customer or reader intent. The big thing is – am I, are you, answering their question so that Google (or other search engines) see your information as valuable enough to list at the top of the search engine results page. Is your content answering a person’s search question well enough that they want to take the next step and do business with you?
My question evolved – what do Forbes readers, largely business and tech-minded people want to know? From conversations I have had with my readers, at least, they are interested in how any tech or business service (web-based, usually, but not always) can help them do their job better. More specifically, how it can help them sell more product or service and take their company to the next level of success.
In my case of creating content, I decided to use Ahrefs to answer questions around what narrow topics would generate more web traffic. I used their Content Explorer tool to do a search on social media, as a term, and then Instagram since it is a popular business app now.
Researching Content Topics for Your Content Marketing
This tool is like a laser-focused, mini search engine within Ahrefs. The beauty is you don’t get all the Google ads. You do not see a lot of irrelevant results. Plus, you can filter by number of words, publish date, and other variables that help you narrow down to truly useful content. Yes, you can do some of the advanced filtering in Google, for free, but the Ahrefs Content Explorer tool shows you these four key things:
The text content of the page;
Number of referring domains linking to the page;
Organic search traffic of the page;
Number of social shares (and big bonus, you can click on “Who Tweeted” a particular story)
Ahrefs Content Explorer _Social Media search 12 million resultsScreenshot by TJ McCue
Ahrefs Content Explorer _Social Media search _Results 239Screenshot by TJ McCue
As you can see in the first image above, my Ahrefs “Social Media” search resulted in over 12 million pieces of content. With the above filters and variables, in the second image, I got it down to 239 and could have focused it in even further. It was in that winnowing process that I figured out Instagram was well-loved, but some users were trying to solve a problem: How to post to Instagram without a smartphone, from their PC or Mac computer directly. Here was a problem that my readers might care about, so I then put that phrase into the Keyword Explorer tool (which is one of the things Ahrefs is well-known for).
From Social Media to How To Post On Instagram
Again, in the past, I would have done a lot of searching in Google, finding articles, reading them, discarding many as not relevant, and so forth. The Content Explorer tool saved me hours of research. Within minutes, I had my topic narrowed to “How To Post On Instagram From A PC.”
The same process helped me with the “What Is IGTV?” and “Square Vs Paypal” search phrases. By using a variety of terms and cross-checking them against other popular terms, I have been able to improve my content appeal to my audience.
For this post, I started looking up terms to see if I could tie content around a sales effort. I mean, after all, what is content marketing if it does not help you sell services or products? You might argue that some content is just an altruistic endeavor, and that might be true for some, but I would posit that we are all selling something and how we do it matters. Some of my early searches resulted in my digging into these terms:
LinkedIn Social Selling Index
Building Customer Relationships
Social Media Marketing Tips
Ultimately, people are trying to figure out how to engage customers and prospects, to build a relationship. What I realized on the path to content in this social media era is that people are still searching for relationships they can trust and that includes with companies and brands. Are you studying potential content ideas and topics with your customer in mind?
My other recent favorite is found, no surprise, on the Ahrefs blog: 29 Best Free SEO Tools (Tried & Tested). Ahrefs offers a 7-day trial for $7.00 so you can get in and really test drive the service, but they are not afraid to tell you about all the best free SEO tools. That tells me that they care about their customers in all the content they provide.