In March 2015, a well-known hospital asked Huge to increase its organic website traffic by 20%. In the course of relaunching their site, we redesigned their templates, restructured the site’s architecture, and implemented a clear migration plan. Still, what started as a strong 49% increase in organic performance leveled off after just three months.
With most of the technical issues in order, the next step was to add relevant and robust content to the site. The “donation” section of the site was rife with pages that consisted of thin content with nothing more than buttons to select a donation amount. Huge worked with the hospital to develop more robust content for these pages, fleshing them out and giving the section more context. The pages now include what specific initiatives donations will help fund, the hospital’s qualifications and progress to date, and which diseases the hospital is working on a cure for. Over the next two months, we saw a 100%+ increase in organic traffic that continued to boost rankings, increase traffic, and attract quality links.
For brands, new designs bring a surge of new users, increasing traffic and starting conversation around an existing product. But gaining and keeping users is just as important for sites that have started to lose momentum, which calls for a combination of content strategy and technology. By putting in as much effort into content as most SEO professionals do for technology, you can create a stronger site that will inform users, drive traffic, and attract inbound links. Here are a few tactics and tools that can help you make the right content choices for your site:
Review internal search and user-generated content.
Looking at your site’s internal search data is the best way to determine what your customers are interested in. They are already on your site and they are specifically searching for information. Use Google Analytics to take a deep dive into your site search queries to uncover topics that will drive a lot of conversions.
If you have any user-generated content on your site, search it for popular themes. Use your analytics to determine the most viewed or most commented-on posts; these should give you a lot of insight into your customer base’s interests. If you have product pages that allow for questions, you can review those to get ideas on ways to improve product details. In the example below, two of the questions relate to sizing issues. Including wrist and band measurement details for the FitBit is an easy way to provide more relevant information.
Google Trends can help determine if a topic is increasing or decreasing in popularity. Try comparing topics over various time periods and use other tools to get more granular. In the search result below, for example, both “travel alone” and “solo travel” have increased in popularity over the past five years. Use this information to explore unique topics around solo travel—itineraries, best places to go, safety tips, and best tours. It is important to note here that the scale on these graphs is relative to the total number of searches done on Google, so it is important to verify volume with Google Keyword Planner.
Google Autocomplete and Related Searches are a good way to learn more about the perception of your brand, what people are searching for, and what questions they are asking about your subject matter. Try typing the name of your brand into Google to see what is autocompleted, then try adding the start of a question or a comparison for more context.
For FitBit, you may want to break out specific detail pages for different models that include their features.
A horticulture blog may want to detail the benefits of aloe, including if it is edible; a beauty site may want to tackle aloe vera’s acne benefits. Questions like this are good candidates for Quick Answers, which produce even more SERP visibility.
This autocomplete gives Clorox a piece of information that it may not know: Some people consider vinegar a viable alternative.
You can also see related searches at the bottom of a query. While it isn’t clear exactly how these suggestions are generated, you can safely assume that they were frequently searched after a user searched the current query.
A financial blog would be well served to write articles about the best cards for travel, students, and applicants with bad credit.
Try these valuable keyword tools.
Answer the Public aggregates Google auto-suggest results for questions, prepositions, and every letter of the alphabet. It’s a great starting point for performing and generic searches quickly—(query + with, query + for, etc.)—before exploring more specific queries yourself in Google.
Google Keyword Planner is one of the most frequently used tools for keyword research. Use it to validate your research across other tools and to fine-tune the wording of your ideas. In the example above for Google Trends, we showed the rise in “travel alone” and “solo travel.” To see which of these is more popular among users, enter them both in Google Keyword Planner. While both terms are fairly popular, and would probably be viewed as near-synonyms in Google’s eyes, “travel alone” gets ~1,200 more searches per month, making it the better candidate for an article title.
Since Google Keyword Planner is more revenue-focused, it tends to show more commercially-viable keywords. In other words, it steers you toward keywords they can earn revenue from, often leaving out low-volume, long-tail keywords. Lean on other tools such as Moz’s Keyword Explorer, kwfinder.com, keywordtool.io, or Übersuggest to discover some of these niche keywords. In the image below, Google and Moz results for “yoga” are placed side-by-side. Google only returns three terms that have “no data”, while Moz returns several pages’ worth—more than the image could fit. These terms are certainly searched, but because people are most likely not buying ads against “timeline of yoga history” it does not benefit Google to include this as a suggested term.
Another way to approach content research is to think about your customer’s path to purchase. It is easy to fall into the trap of focusing on branded terms and descriptive keywords, but users often start researching before they know exactly what they want. Play around with this customer journey tool from Google to see how organic search factors into your customer's path to purchase and how significant a role search plays in arriving at a decision.
The image below is one example of a potential query journey that a user might take while deciding to purchase a vacuum.
While a traditional strategy might only focus on optimizing a product page for “cordless vacuum”, these other terms are equally important in the conversion funnel. Amazon does a great job of creating pages that aggregate reviews based on theme. Below is a screenshot of their “best vacuums for pet hair” page, but you can see in the right rail they also include pages for hardwood floors and carpets as well as vacuums by type and feature.
Spend time brainstorming all the possible paths to purchase your customers may take and then use the tools above to validate your theories.
Distilling actionable insights from your research isn’t always straightforward. Sometimes obvious themes will jump out at you, and other times you’ll need to dig deeper into the data and connect a few dots to create substantial and relevant content. To expand upon the credit card example above, let’s take a look at some Answer the Public suggestions:
- “Who investigates credit card theft?”
- “How credit card information is stolen.”
- “Are credit card chips more secure?”
- “Are credit card chips safer?”
- “Are credit card thieves ever caught?”
These questions could be helpful to both a brand, such as a credit card company, and to a journalistic blog, such as NerdWallet. If the credit card company offers a card that has a chip, it could write a guide to credit card safety and explain why it is the most secure card on the market. The editorial blog might consider a comprehensive piece detailing the most common methods of credit card theft, how customers can avoid theft, what to do if your credit card is stolen, and a ranking of the most secure credit cards.
Invest in and promote evergreen content.
If you are lucky enough to already have a content team, ensure that they are using these methods to shape their strategy. Often, content teams focus on brand-building subjects or pop-culture moments, such as how their product relates to Beyonce’s new single. Try to establish a healthy mix of both that keeps the brand intact while capitalizing on existing search interest. However, the feedback we most frequently get when we recommend additional content is, “we don’t have the resources to maintain a blog.” While a blog is often the easiest way to add content to your site, there are other options if you don’t have a full content team.
Evergreen content is your best friend if you are short on resources. Create workhorse guides that will drive a baseline of traffic and don’t need to be updated frequently. Men’s retail site Mr. Porter has mastered the art of evergreen content that also moves product. The example below, How to Nail a Tie Dimple, includes step-by-step diagrams, corrections for common tie-tying mistakes, and links to three ties that Mr. Porter sells.
The page, which launched in 2013, now has over 120 backlinks and ranks for nearly 550 keywords (and counting). This piece only has to be updated when the company wants to recommend new ties.
Another approach is to be the expert or find an expert to collaborate with. Choose a topic with a lot to dig into and write an in-depth guide. An often-cited example is The Serious Eats Guide to Grilling. This piece covers the equipment you need, how to clean a grill, how to arrange the charcoal before you start, diagrams of vents, and much more. It also links to other pieces on Serious Eats where users can find even more detailed information. This umbrella approach works beautifully because it catches users who are looking for broad information about grilling, then directs them internally to more specific information. This positions Serious Eats as an authority on all things grilling and is more likely to attract repeat visitors who now have confidence in Serious Eats as a brand.
Ecommerce sites can tweak their product detail templates to include information that users are looking for. Canada Goose has done a great job of detailing specifics such as the temperature range each parka can withstand. By putting these methods into action, companies can use data-supported content strategy to drive traffic for years without having to completely reinvent themselves.
It goes without saying that no good SEO would launch a new page without assistance. Use tried and true methods for promotion such as social sharing, a robust internal linking strategy, and external inbound links. You may even consider pay-per-click ads for this content to drive some initial traffic and get information on which pieces generate conversions. Depending on your bid rules you may even get other long-tail keyword ideas.
Good content is not cheap or easy to create, but it is well worth the expenditure. Continually investing in exclusively tech-focused SEO fixes will eventually result in diminishing returns, but a data-supported content strategy can drive traffic for years with minimal upkeep.