In the era of artificial intelligence, digital content marketing is finally going back to basics, i.e. focusing on people.

It’s quite surprising that we have to even introduce this as a separate concept: Customer-centric content. Who else can content really be centered around, if not the customer?

But really, in the world dominated by Google search, it’s easy to move your focus from your user to the machine. After all, in many cases, without Google’s rankings, there’s no traffic.

The good news is that you can actually please both: Google wants you to satisfy people they send your way. They want them to be happy and they have many signals in place showing them whether you are doing a good job.

Once you have both Google and your customers happy, here’s your digital marketing success right there.

Google’s Getting Smarter and the Changing Game

I remember back ten years ago when I was first really getting into content creation. One of the constant threats to ranking were these content spinners. They would write one article, put it into a “spinning” software and create multiple versions of the same content to submit to article directories and dominate the search engine results page.

Why would this subpar content be a threat to those of us who put in real effort? Google’s algorithm at the time was unsophisticated and couldn’t tell the difference between the different levels of quality. So those keyword-stuffed articles would get all the search ranking and the rest of us were banished down the page.

Well, Google was learning and learning fast. Now the crawlers can tell quality based on a huge number of factors. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to trick it into confusing a thorough article with one that was put together for search crawlers rather than people.

Google can now understand search intent, analyze searching behavior, collect feedback from their human result rating teams. Google has been investing a good deal of effort into teaching its algorithm to serve its human users better and give them higher-quality results.

Writing For Humans

I have a long and complicated relationship with keywords. Being involved in SEO and search metrics, of course I have to consider keywords heavily when I plan and create content. I encourage others to do the same.

Keywords are there to help in lots of ways: They give you insight into what it is your customers want and they help you discover great content ideas. They let you evaluate demand and create your advertising strategy.

Keywords touch so many areas of marketing and there’s no discounting them. As long as search exists, there will be keyword research.

But I have a deep loathing for content that has been made only to cater to those keywords.

Human beings are more complex in language and tone than what the spinners or keyword stuffers seemed to believe. At the time it didn’t matter, they got the ad revenue they were looking for. Now things are different and some time and energy have to be used if there is any hope for success.

What that means for us who create content is that we have to make sure we are writing for humans. Keywords will be a part of that process because we have to make sure the work gets to them to read in the first place. But multiple search studies have shown us what we already knew on some instinctive level: keywords are not the most important factor in ranking.

It is time that we let a little bit of that focus go and instead pay attention to the more important elements. We need to write for humans.

How to Target Audiences, Not Algorithms

How to put your customer at the centre of your content marketing strategy? Where to start? Here are a few tools to help!

Do your research

This is for both keywords and content itself. It is easy to follow a formula and post content other people are posting. But is that doing anything for your audience? Are your customers satisfied? Probably not. You need to research what it is they are asking, what they want to know about, what questions they have that no one else is answering.

You would be amazed at how far this can take you, especially in a world where so much redundant, boring content has been made as part of a quota.

Customer-centric tool to help:

Buzzsumo is an easy tool with lots of useful functionality. Their Question Analyzer is a great help in content research because it shows which questions are being discussed around the web in your and neighboring niches.

 

[Buzzsumo shows what your customers are asking as well as which related questions they are discussing]

Collect and listen to feedback

Customer surveys are nothing new but they are rarely used for content marketing. And it’s a shame because your customers are able to make your content so much better by sharing their actual needs and asking their actual questions.

I know many companies shy away from customer survey because they think they may irritate and distract their customer but there are ways to gamify the surveying process and even turn it into an enjoyable experience.

Customer-centric tool to help:

Wyzerr is a great surveying tool that turns feedback sharing into a fun game.

 

 

[Wyzerr’s Smart Forms provide for a playful interface that “makes taking the survey more like a game and less like a chore”.]

Integrate content marketing into all your team workflows

Use every opportunity to enhance your site’s content by using the words of wisdom coming from your customers. Integrate content marketing element in all your departments.

Have your customer support people received a new question from the customer? Let them forward the question (as well as the best answer) to your content department. Is your advertising department seeing an increased interest in a particular keyword or phrase, let them let your content team know and create more content around that.

Let your content team learn every day. This will both encourage them to create more content and serve the customer’s needs better.

Customer-centric tool to help:

XMind is a great mobile app that allows teams develop ideas. You can add many people to work on one mindmap and contribute their own ideas.

[XMind allows team to collaborate on content ideas in a most organized, yet creative way.]

Go for featured snippets

One of the most critical reasons to change your content strategy to meet the needs of an audience is this right here: featured snippets. A featured snippet is Google’s new way of prioritizing the most valuable content for searchers.

It has rendered rankings, as we understood them, almost obsolete: Unless you get featured, you may lose all SERPs visibility.

The good about featured snippets though is that the need to optimize for them pushes the marketers to improve their content: Unless you do a good job writing a good copy, there’s no featured position for you. With its featured snippet algorithm, Google is really demonstrating how important it is to improve your content quality.

Customer-centric tool to help:

Ahrefs provides a handy filter allowing you to filter keyword lists by those triggering featured snippets:

[Ahrefs is based on Google users’ searching behavior, so in essence, it’s powered by real people.]

Don’t forget voice search

This is one area that is neglected by a lot of us. Voice search through virtual assistants is becoming more popular. eMarketer found a more than 128% increase between 2016 and 2017 on people using voice activated search. What does this mean?

That search is becoming more conversational because we speak in different ways to how we type. Our content needs to focus on that fact and take advantage of it.

Customer-centric tool to help:

SpeakPipe allows you to install an easy widget on your site that will let your customers leave you voice messages. Use the tool to collect feedback or to even run fun contests (e.g. product slogan contest).

In the end you’ll have a huge variety of actual people’s recordings to learn from: How do your customers put this? Which words and terms are they using when speaking about your products? How can this information be implemented to adapt your copy to people using voice when searching?

[SpeakPipe will keep your archive but you can also download your voice messages.]

See what is attracting users on your site

One thing many website owners fail to understand is that how they perceive their own web page and how its users perceive it are two absolutely different stories. Looking at what draws clicks and what gets ignored for the most part can be quite eye-opening. Look at how your readers click your links, how they interact with in-content images and what draws their eyes.

Customer-centric tools to help:

 

 

Take a heat map software like Mouseflow or Click Tale and see where people are focusing most on your site. This is good for a lot of purposes, but I like it to see what is and isn’t already working, or getting insight into what is interesting users on my site. Content marketing strategies can be customized to match.

Really hash out that content

CONTENT IS STILL KING! This hasn’t changed in the many years I have been involved in the industry and it isn’t going to change in the future. So keep focusing on that content.

Hash out highly valuable pieces in different mediums to reach your target audience. Don’t stop, no matter how popular you get, because it is that content that is bringing that popularity.

Do you have a tip for making a customer centric content, PPC, Social or SEO marketing strategy? Let us know in the comments!