Does your content answer your audience’s questions?
Since Google unveiled its Hummingbird algorithm in 2013 some content marketers have been borderline obsessed with question-and-answer articles. The big takeaway from Hummingbird was that Google was getting smarter at handling longer search queries and that it would be using all the words in those queries rather than just certain keywords.
With an increasingly large share of searches phrased as questions the conclusion was simple: create more pages with questions in the headings and answers in the body. If Google really was handling longer queries differently, there should be some gains to be had in close or exact match headings.
Almost three years after the arrival of Hummingbird, question-and-answer articles can still play a role in your content marketing strategy. But just like any content you create for an increasingly crowded internet the questions you ask and the answers you provide have to offer real, genuine value to your audience.
The first step is working out what your existing and potential customers want to know. What are the questions they’re asking? What information about you, your products or your industry do they want but don’t have?
If you want to tap into the important questions for your target audience, here are some tips…
Hello, is it leads you’re looking for?
With so many tools for analysing search data and customer behaviour, there is really no need for any guesswork these days when it comes to knowing what content to create. There are a number of methods you can use to discover information about your audience’s online activity and topics of interest. Here are some examples:
Answer the Public
Answer The Public, for example, provides some great insights about keywords and search queries. Let’s say you have a bakery business and its primary product is birthday cakes. To understand what content you need to produce to meet your audience’s needs, you first need to know what questions they’re asking.
Answer The Public allows you to enter a topic and country into its search bar, which will then generate a list or visual display of related search terms. This is what you get if you search for “birthday cakes” in Australia:
The results are displayed in three sections: questions, prepositions and alphabetical. The data analysed in question format allows you to see the type of searches users make for birthday cakes, such as “where to order birthday cake” and “how birthday cake is made”. Under “prepositions”, there are queries such as “birthday cake without butter” and “birthday cake shaped like a cat”.
This information provides valuable insights into what your potential customers are trying to find when they’re searching for anything to do with your products and services. Not only does it inform your keyword selection, but it also provides you with some great ideas for what to base your content on.
For example, there are a lot of queries relating to birthday cakes without certain ingredients, so if this was your business you might want to write some articles about different substitutes for eggs or how to make cakes that are dairy free. Now you know people are looking for this information you can create pieces of content that closely match their needs. This makes your content more useful and more valuable, which will not only increase its visibility in search but will also make it more likely to drive conversions.
Google (of course)
‘Just Google it’ has become the default answer to questions on any number of topics. What better source to get information about content creation than the largest search engine in the world? Get ideas for your content by entering some search queries into Google for your products and services and looking at some of the highest ranking results. Check out the related search suggestions at the bottom of the page. These are based on the most commonly searched phrases and can give you some great ideas for useful content you can create for your blog or website.
To look a little further into Google’s search insights, enter your products, topics or keywords into Google Trends and view the results for interest levels, regional areas and more related searches. You can also adjust the geographic location for results, timeframes and categories.
When it comes to how users interact with your website, Google Analytics is an invaluable tool. But as well as tracking the performance of your latest paid search campaign, Google Analytics can also help you create better content. It can tell you the pages on your site where users spent the most time, the pages they found in search that brought them to your site in the first place and the paths they took as they navigated around.
You can also look at your audience’s interests – such as hobbies and purchasing trends – and then go create some content that’s associated with these interests. Birthday cakes again: if “arts and entertainment” was popular with your audience you could create an article like: “The ten best celebrity birthday cakes of all time”. Alternatively, you might devote some of your content creation efforts to articles that just hit those interest areas without linking to your products. Content marketing is not always about sales today.
Social media listening
Monitoring social media trends will provide some insights into what your audience is doing Facebook, LinkedIn and other popular social media sites. Creating content that focusses on topics already popular on social media is a good way to get your brand into live conversations. It’s not always possible to easily relate your product to the latest craze (like Pokémon GO, although everyone is trying, even us) but social media can also provide longer-term intelligence by helping you understand the language your audience uses and the broader topics they’re interested in.
Let’s take Instagram. Sites like Websta provide easy access to popular hashtags and influencers. The site allows you to search various keywords and displays the hashtags with the highest number of hits, as well as user accounts that have the highest number of followers. Tagging and giving a shout out to these accounts could be a great idea for gaining some extra likes and followers. But they can also drive particular ideas for your blog.
For Twitter, Hashtagify.me is a similar tool that can show you the highest trending hashtags as well as related tags. It will also display the top tweets by users that include your particular tag, so you can get a glimpse into what Twitter users are talking about in relation to your products, services or keywords.
Why go to all this effort?
A good understanding of your audience is vital for any successful marketing campaign. As the internet gets increasingly crowded, brands face a challenge to earn the attention of their existing and future customers. Whether it’s search, social media, email or paid, your content will be much more effective if it is relevant and useful.
Answering questions can meet this criteria. But if your content is lightweight or the questions you ask don’t line up with what your audience wants to know, there is just too much competition these days for your efforts to have any measurable impact.