All too often I see content strategies that:
- Look at what people are searching for (keyword research).
- Create landing pages for as many keywords as possible.
- Write gobs of (often meaningless) keyword-optimized content.
This is a typical old-school SEO strategy, but what about audience (visitor) intent?
There’s a lot of focus in SEO around optimized landing pages (as there should be). An optimized landing page has a targeted topic and keywords, a targeted page title, a clean URL, a compelling meta description, intuitive layout and navigation, loads quickly, looks amazing, and has calls to action most likely above the fold.
What is audience intent?
That core audience you’re trying to attract needs something. Maybe they’re researching the best hiking vacations around the globe. Maybe they want to know where they could go hiking specifically in Utah. Maybe they know they want to go hiking in Utah and are looking for Utah vacation packages that include hiking. Or maybe they just need to book a trip from Boston to Park City. Their intent can be very vague or very specific, and when coming up with content for a landing page you need to put yourself in the mind of your audience and consider what it is that they really want to see. The audience intent would consider:
- What kind of content would help to easily and satisfactorily meet the intent of that visitor?
- If the intent is vague (ex: “hairstyles”), what are the various types of intents that they may have? Ex: hairstyle how-to videos, hairstyle lookbooks, short hairstyles, long hairstyles, hairstyles for curly hair, thin hair, frizzy hair, specific hairstyles like up-do’s, braids, etc.
- What would they consider useful?
- What would they consider interesting or engaging?
- What would they consider sharable?
The basic requirements of content strategy
- What are the goals of this content (why are we creating it)?
- What are the goals for the business (how do we make money)?
- What does it need to solve for the consumer (what is the audience intent)?
How do we build something that meets (and exceeds) user intent, while satisfying our business goals, and is better than anything else out there?
Content strategy example 1:
Content vs. lifestyle
The company in this scenario is currently purely transactional.
The setup (in brief):
- Audience: Women age 25-55, typically moms.
- The audience need/intent: Discover smart and innovative ways to be awesome and live fabulously while being budget-conscious.
- Content goals: Extend the currently purely transactional brand into a lifestyle brand through an extensive, multidimensional content plan.
- Business goals: Sell product online.
Consider these brands embracing lifestyles through content. They’re all there to sell product, but their content attracts and engages audiences, draws them in like moths to flames. Their content isn’t based on keywords and optimized landing pages, it’s based on giving their audiences what they need and getting them excited about it in the process.
|GoPro: Be inventive, buy cameras.||Nike: Do sports, buy shoes.|
|Airbnb: Travel hip, rent places.||Martha Stewart: Be crafty, buy products.|
The approach proposed for this particular client in this example:
- Client: Live fabulously on a budget, buy products.
- Client: Optimized landing pages derived from high-volume keywords, buy products.
Content strategy example 2:
Articles vs. awesome content
- Audience: Primarily women, primary age group: 35-55.
- The audience need/intent: Get fashion and beauty inspiration, tips, ideas.
- Content goals: Reach and engage more women.
- Business goals: Page views (ad impressions).
- Market research on online beauty and fashion trends.
- Extensive competitive research.
- Extensive research into trends on what’s popular in beauty and fashion online and in social networks.
- Videos or slideshows comparing different makeup brands (example: different thick lash mascaras or long-lasting lipsticks).
- Makeover tools.
- Various types of “lookbooks” for things like pixie hairstyles, colorful eyeliner ideas, nail trends, etc.
- Working with brand partners to deliver samples boxes to subscribers.
- A series on recreating celebrity looks for less (and where to buy).
- Local fashionista bloggers in major cities who blog on where the latest coolest fashion finds, fashion events and fashionable places to be are in that city.
- Weekly collections/series around various topics like This Weeks Cutest Shoes (in your inbox), Must-Have Dresses, Craziest Fashion Trends, etc.
Content strategy example 3:
Selling vacation packages
- Audience: Adult international travelers coming from the United States.
- The audience need/intent: Find things to do in the area, find tours in the area, find vacation packages, plan a vacation in the area.
- Content goals: Attract, engage and convert more people.
- Business goals: Primary: sell flights. Secondary: sell packages.
- What do searches tell us about the various types of intent the searchers have? People may be searching a specific attraction or they may be looking for hiking tours. We found at least 4 high-level ways to slice and dice intent (in addition to looking for packages): By specific attraction name, by town, by type of attraction (ex: waterfalls), or by activity (ex: bird-watching).
- Does the site architecture currently meet those intents? In fact, no. The architecture was somewhat random. It is difficult to find some of the things on the site based on those 4 types of intent. Some of the content that could be easily cross-sold was also buried as landing pages in the packages section.
- How do visitors with these intents navigate the site now? We did user testing asking visitors to find and book a specific attraction and to find and book a specific activity. Many were unable to complete the tasks, and all of them went about it in completely different ways. We learned a lot about what people expect to find and how they expect to find it that could help guide our content strategy (including additional types of intent like time of year the package is available for instance).
- What content assets do we have to work with? A content inventory was done with a sample size of content currently in season and live on the site, and content out of season that they currently remove from the site. Each page was “tagged” with the specific attractions, towns, type of “thing to see,” and activities that were included in the package along with package price, travel period, whether or not it includes a flight, departure airport, number of nights.
With all of this in mind, the end content strategy proposed things like:
- Architecture: An updated architecture with landing pages to meet the specific major intents.
- Navigation: A newly proposed navigation (which is slightly different from the architecture).
- URLs: Of course.
- Tools: A proposed filtering tool/system to filter anything from type of activity involved to price range to number of nights and everything in-between.
- On-Page: On-page content recommendations based on what we learned from user testing + adding in related content for higher engagement and search-friendly cross-linking of relevant content and pulling things like transportation options out from being a buried landing page under packages to being a module cross-linked from relevant package pages.
- Seasonal content treatments: Adding the ability to book packages that aren’t in season right now + how to address long term landing pages for seasonally available or annually changing content.
Remember, we’re creating content for people, not search engines
It all goes hand-in-hand. When you create something that your audiences like, that they link to more, share more, and engage with more, it’s likely to affect search engine rankings and traffic, too. Of course this isn’t your good ol’ typical “SEO,” but its also not 1999. The best SEO is—and for many years has been—a good product, so taking the time to consider your audience intentions when creating a content strategy can pay off in more ways than one.