What is it about your content that draws people in and keeps them coming back?
It seems a rather obvious, if not cliche point: Create relevant content. We’ve all heard it, and frankly, nobody deliberately sets out to create something that’s irrelevant. And yet it happens far more often than it should.
Yet, creating relevant content is the first step to optimizing your content.
As a publisher, how can you maintain relevance and avoid falling in the same trap? We’re going to quickly analyze some of the most common traps businesses fall into when creating their content and help you sidestep a few of the things that can hurt the relevance of your content.
1. Research your keywords
Keyword research is a fundamental SEO strategy ensuring that your content is going to be relevant to your niche and customers’ needs.
Use keyword research tools to analyze your target customer’s searching patterns, find questions they ask and determine your organic competitors. Use semantic analysis to understand search intent behind those keywords and queries.
2. Ask your audience
You can create personas and agonize over market research—or you can just ask. Whether through email, social platforms or in person, there’s nothing wrong with taking the question to your customers of what they’re most interested in learning from you or what they’re hoping you can shed light on.
Of course, sometimes the answers are right there in front of you, too: What are people saying or asking about in the comments sections of content you’ve created? What are the most common questions you get over email, or the things your sales team keeps on hearing about or having to answer?
Don’t just look at keywords and traffic numbers, focus on the people behind them and their motivations.
3. Quotas can kill
One of the silent dangers to content relevance is simply creating too much. Businesses tend to view content as a commodity: “We NEED four blog posts a month. We MUST have at least six emails in our drip campaign.” And, so on…
Often, the volume is decided before any ideation or planning takes place, and arbitrarily committed to out of a notion that more content will bring in more people and make you more money.
In a scramble to keep producing, ideation breaks down and you start creating content that solves problems your audience doesn’t even have for the sake of hitting a quota. There’s a great case to be made for producing less and giving your team the time and space to test, vet and properly promote ideas while learning along the way.
Don’t create outside your means.
4. Don’t always “throw what you know”
This one is particularly common with startups and small businesses, though you’ll see it virtually anywhere in any niche. There’s a real tendency to write about the things that interest YOU instead of the things that are relevant to your audience.
For example, lawyers ought to produce content that proves their competence and helps their potential clients understand what they do. And yet, often we see lawyers writing content intended for other lawyers. Start-up founders often write about marketing or business instead of the things their audience wants to know about (their product and the problems they solve).
It’s easy to write about the things closest to you—your passions, ideas, pursuits and expertise. But it can be a distraction, or even totally irrelevant to the audience you’re trying to reach. Sometimes, you’ve gotta stop throwing what you know and get back to customer pain points and questions.
5. Copycats get run over
If your approach to content is second-hand—seeing what’s out there and mimicking other people’s successful posts—it’s time to rethink things.
Yes, there’s much to be gleaned by diving into what has worked for other companies in the past, but there’s a huge danger in blindly following the path someone else has blazed. For example, it’s tempting to look at the success of Buzzfeed quizzes or listicles and think you ought to roll those into your own marketing. That success may not translate well to your audience; they may not be interested in the things the audience of Buzzfeed is interested in.
Whether it’s a successful post outside of your niche or even something that did very well for a close competitor, you should never simply borrow someone else’s ideas and hope they’ll work for you.
Start at the root of the matter: The pain points and interests of your personas. Then you can frame those outside ideas and approaches through the informed lens of your own audience and make better decisions that won’t send you spiraling into irrelevance.
A huge part of relevance that is constantly overlooked is that the format your content is delivered in is just as important as the content of your content (now there’s a mouthful)! The way you package your information will have a huge impact on how (and if) your content will be consumed.
The context in which your customer will consume the information will define how relevant your content is to them.
Explainer videos are great, for example, but not if the customer is a traveler on a mobile device with a limited data plan. Long blog posts might perform great in search, but what if your customers are in a situation where they urgently need the facts?
Back in 2011, IDC research was already showing that content like white papers, webinars and videos were too lengthy and not as relevant to buyers as marketers believed, calling for an improvement in relevance to help improve consumption.
As you plan your content, you should also be considering where, how and when it will be consumed, as those will help define the relevance, not just your subject matter.
7. Take a Map
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you need to be mapping your content to the stages of the customer buying cycle, because needs and pain points change as your customer moves closer to purchase.
In the interest stage, your content should aim to earn permission for you to pitch yourself later on and appeal to primary, glowering pain points and questions. Customers at this stage want answers and to be engaged/entertained, not necessarily sold to; they may not even be aware they have a need.
In the consideration stage, your content needs to help customers establish you as their preference and establish your credibility.
In the purchase phase, your content has to hammer the deal home, with clear, concise content that overcomes objections, supports the purchase decision and qualms any lingering fears.
Finally, during the evaluation and repurchasing phase, you need content that follows up, reinforces the purchase (again) and encourages repeat business/ongoing development.
Because the needs and tone change across the cycle, your content must, too!