Keyword research is not enough

· marketing ·

WORK

As you might have noticed, there’s a lot going on on our blog lately. And as with all big decisions and changes, there’s usually a straightforward thought process behind it. Or, at least - there should be.

One of the biggest changes was the new content strategy that we set in motion. The defining segment of our content strategy was a set of criteria all our future content needs to fulfill. The most basic of which is the importance of demand.

Somebody is reading this, right?

This article will cover our logic behind measuring and verifying the actual demand for content.

Let’s start with baby steps.

Odds are, you’re probably not a trendsetter. Well, neither are we. Although you probably aspire to be. So do we. Trendsetters, evangelists, revolutionaries, and first movers are the ones that have more power to generate demand for certain types of content. If you’re not the one who is generating demand, it’s essential to tune in and listen to what’s going on and respond - bigger, better, louder.

But you don’t want to end up barking up the wrong tree. Since that happened to us on more than one occasion, it was clear that we needed a systematic approach in order to justify the investment in content marketing. And yes, the ROI of content marketing definitely deserves an entire piece of its own, but all in due time.

Trial & error

Last summer, we ended up investing a ridiculous number of hours researching the topics for our next content series. We did almost everything right. Or so we thought. We defined clear goals, KPIs, format, style, everything. Unfortunately, in our hubris - we figured that just by producing awesome content people would end up reading it.

Each individual piece of content was targeted at one specific persona and answered exactly one question, or a set of related questions.

What was the end result? We produced 30+ fluffy pieces that read like sales pitches for our product - not quality blog posts that increase knowledge and add value. And why is that? Because we assumed that the world needed these kinds of stories and we moved into production without actually validating the demand for such content.

One process, please

Therefore, we needed to define a very clear process for validating whether our content will reach enough readers to justify the invested resources. After a lot of trial and error, as previously stated, we put together a checklist that will help us produce just the right content in the future.

1. Monthly search volume (MSV)

Writing a stellar piece of content that will stand the test of time (and Google!) requires you to pinpoint exactly the right keywords. But here’s the rub: keyword research is not enough. It reveals just part of the picture. However, it is incredibly important if you want to check the pulse of your potential audience.

Finding juicy keywords with nice search volumes is great, but it’s only the start. Once upon a time, this was the defining factor for our content. But we’ve grown, and we know better now.

monthly search volume

There are now more forks in this path, and no keyword is done for.

2. Keyword difficulty

Measuring the KW difficulty is essential for deciding how much promotion and/or links the article will need after publishing. Yes, there is a tool for that, but we have our own formula.

You want to be on the first page, and you want to be in the top 5 - that is the end game. Most of us lack the patience for in-depth Googling, so only the top 5 results get any tangible traffic. Therefore, it’s just a matter of calculating the required number of links needed to get to at least the 5th position. This formula is tried and tested and you can share your interest in hearing more about it in the comments section below.

search engine results page

You just need the average number of referring domains with broad or exact anchor text match for the 4th, 5th and 6th positions in the SERP for the desired keyword.

A lot of you might disagree because this is not an exact science. The number of backlinks from unique domains is definitely not the only ranking factor. But it’s very important, and this calculation gives us a decent baseline for planning future promotional efforts.

3. Position in the funnel

This is where your low MSV keywords come into play. Our previous content line was based almost entirely on topics that are very low in the sales funnel and that proved to be a very bad way for getting new visitors to engage with our content. If your content strategy is built around selecting topics that should rank well in the search engines, and you’re creating blog posts instead of specifically targeted landing pages, you’re just wasting everybody’s time.

position in the funnel

So this is our advice - don’t write blog posts for keywords that sell your product/service. If your primary business goal is to sell a product, then by all means sell. But that is also a story for another time.

4. Expertise

This one was the hardest to accept. We are not all project managers, especially our writers. We are a tech company that is developing project management software, but we are not the Project Management Institute™. Therefore, creating content that we couldn’t stand behind as professionals didn’t ring true with our peers. Not every food blogger is a cook, and not every project management content writer is a project manager.

Don’t write content you won’t be able to stand behind both professionally and personally. It’s as simple as that. Otherwise, you’re creating just another generic piece of content that brings no value to your readership. I’m absolutely certain that we couldn’t impress quantum physicists with our content, and that is exactly why we won’t even try to write about string theory.

There’s actually a place for generic content, but that’s also a different topic.

5. One question above all others

One of the goals of our content strategy was to make it as simple and foolproof as possible. And, once again, we spent countless hours paving the road for the future of ActiveCollab’s content. During this process, one question came to mind and the whole team agreed upon it. We call it the “THE QUESTION”. It’s something every one of our authors needs to answer positively and back their answer with hard facts when the idea is pitched to the editor.

Would this article help the past me from a year ago be better at my job?

If you’re not satisfied with the answer, then no keyword research is going to do the trick. And I’m certain that at least some of you will think more about their keywords after reading this article.

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