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Use Search Insights to Improve Your Content Marketing Strategy: 4 Steps

light bulb-represents searchDo you have content envy? Do you feel like your competitors’ material skyrockets while yours can’t get off the ground? The truth is, they are probably working with an “informant” — aka: search insights — and you should be, too. Below I’ll explain the power of search insights to inform your content marketing strategy, and provide you with a step-by-step guide to get the job done.

Understanding the value of search insights 

Everyone is scrambling to produce more content, but few take the time to develop a strategy (CMI’s research shows that 44 percent of B2B marketers and 39 percent of B2C marketers have a documented content strategy). Instead, content is often based on hunches, or on what someone thinks their audience wants. Not surprisingly, this approach can produce disappointing results. But there’s a better way.

Search insights contain a wealth of information that can be used to inform your content marketing strategy and help you make smarter content marketing decisions. In fact, it’s the first thing you should turn to before starting any content effort.

Available via free Google tools and premium third-party providers such as comScore, search insights can help you understand your target audience’s online query behavior. For instance, this data can tell the following:

  • The keyword phrases your audience uses most
  • The intent of those queries
  • Where a user goes online and what results they click on
  • When they search
  • Where they search
  • The device they use to search

In other words, your search insights can tell you exactly what you need to know to develop effective content. The “inside information” provided by search insights will help you develop material that meets the needs of your audience members, speaks their language, and demonstrates how your product or service is exactly what they are looking for. In turn, it will help boost the success and ROI of your content effort.

A step-by-step guide to using search insights 

From my perspective, search insights hold tremendous value. I can’t imagine anyone beginning a content effort without consulting this data first. The guide below explains how to make search insights work for you:

1. Identify your best keyword phrases to target: Don’t skip this step as you may be surprised by what you find.

When developing content, many marketers think they know their target keyword phrases, but later learn they were wrong. For instance, content today often includes corporate marketing language, or kitschy, unique terms. But if the target audience members aren’t using those phrases in their search queries, the content won’t have a shot at engaging them.

For example, a marketing team might want to use the term “power toothbrush” to describe and differentiate a new dental hygiene product. However, the search insights might point them to a better option. As you can see in the table below from the Google AdWords Keyword Planner, the search volume for the related keyword phrase “electric toothbrush” is 37 times greater than the term favored by the marketing team. When the difference in keywords is semantic and still highly relevant to your product or service, the data shows that you can connect with a larger audience by choosing the right keywords.

toothbrush keyword examples

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you know your keyword phrases. While a unique term might land you a No. 1 ranking position in Google, it won’t do you much good if your target audience isn’t searching for that term.

Before you start a content initiative, review your search insights and identify the best terms to use for driving the most qualified traffic, based on the keywords your target audience uses and the volume for each. Doing so could save you from making a big mistake or missing an opportunity. The next step provides more insight into further research to discover audience intent for different keywords.

2. Discover what your audience cares about: To develop content that will truly resonate with your audience members, you need to know what they care about. Fortunately, search insights can tell you a lot about your audience members’ needs, and what interests them most. For instance, these insights can reveal the intent of a keyword phrase by showing the types of content people are drawn to for each. This can help you understand the type of information your audience is seeking.

For example, a vitamin company might tend to develop content that is product-focused. However, data accessed through a comScore Search Planner subscription can show whether searchers are more likely to select less product-focused content from their search results. In the pie chart below, the comScore click-through data shows that vitamin consumers actually choose websites that offer editorial content that educates them more often than other types of websites. While the top destination websites for “vitamins” are WebMD, eHow, and Yahoo! Answers, aggregated at a category level, the pie chart below shows over half of “vitamin” searchers are choosing editorial and informational websites.

pie chart website breakdown

Clearly, such insights can help inform your content marketing strategy. Be sure to examine such data to discover what’s important to your target audience.

3. Learn about the format your audience favors: Now that you know what your audience is interested in, how do you decide what format your content should take? Should it be an eBook or a white paper? A video or a SlideShare? These decisions should be based on data, not a hunch. Examine search insights to learn what your audience prefers.

Both comScore and Google Trends have keyword phrase-level data on what searches are going to video content. For example, comScore data shows that YouTube has been a top destination for eye makeup, capturing 8 percent of search traffic. Compare this to the searches going to SlideShare, and the data could reveal that an eye makeup brand would be better off investing in video content creation than SlideShare presentations for its audience.

comScore Social Media

ComScore data can also identify new platforms drawing searcher traffic. For example, in April, Pinterest skyrocketed from less than 2 percent of search traffic in March to over 75 percent. While this is most likely due to fresh, optimized content launched by a fashion/beauty blogger on Pinterest, it indicates that Pinterest provides content in the format that is trusted and favored by searchers. (Note: YouTube is rolled into Google Sites in the above image.)

4. Uncover your audience’s unique regional qualities: Any brick-and-mortar business owner will tell you about the importance of location: It matters. A lot. But how does location apply to content marketing?

It’s important to keep in mind that search behavior can vary depending upon location. Whether your business has physical storefronts or is online only, you might be surprised to see the difference in the terms used by your audience in one area compared to another. The good news is that search insights can reveal important information about regional vernacular.

For instance, Google Trends can provide search volume from a regional perspective. As you can see in the graphs below, the term “clothing store” has 145 percent greater relative search volume than “department store” in Illinois. In West Virginia however, “department store” had twice the search volume over “clothing store.” Given that, relevant campaigns targeting each area should prioritize the terms with the higher local search volume.graph comparing regional search terms

As you develop your content strategy, first consult search insights and determine whether or not you should account for any regional differentiators or trends.

Staying on top of search insights

User behavior can change quickly with new platforms, pop culture, and competitor strategies. Be sure to examine search insights closely, looking for trends and correlations on a weekly basis. That way you can jump on the opportunities before your competition does. Free tools such as Google Alerts and IFTTT can be set up to provide alerts based on your brand or top non-branded keywords. Free social listening tools can also identify trending themes and topics relevant to your brand and offerings.

Overall, search insights can provide you with a wealth of information to guide your content marketing efforts. I encourage you to think of them as your content strategy “informant.” Before you start your next content initiative, be sure to tap into search insights.

How have you used search insights for your content efforts? Have they saved you from making any big mistakes? Thanks for sharing your stories and tips below.

Want to learn more about using data to inform the direction of your content marketing strategies? Read CMI’s eGuide, Measuring Content Marketing Success.

Cover image via Bing creative commons