How to use keywords and digital insights to plan content

Jo-ann Fortune

Head of Content

Q: Can I plan content based on keyword research?

Keyword research gives you an idea of demand around a topic; a starting point to focus content on what people really want to know. But it’s no silver bullet.

To make your investment in content marketing pay, it takes more than the basic optimisation your competitors are doing. Though as words are the live voice of your brand, no more than your audience and business deserves.   

Plan content armed with an Excel export alone and you’ll miss your chance to:

Increase visibility

Demand means very little without the context of what’s already serving it, to help you answer two key questions:

  • Is this a real opportunity for your brand?

  • How can you turn that opportunity into visibility?

And you don’t need to look far for hints. SERPs themselves are one of the best audience insight tools we have; laying bare the massive investment Google ploughs into understanding language and audience intent.

So a quick look at your competition – content already ranking for your target keywords – becomes your mirror on who’s searching and what they’re after. All reflected in how Google serves this.

You’ve then got informed choices to make. Do you follow suit to improve your chances of increasing visibility? Or kick topics out of your organic focus that are too competitive; or where intent doesn’t match your audiences and brand positioning.

This context is so critical to content success that our content gap analyses cover not only what peoople are searching for but when, in which formats and what they’re interested in.

Then the real eye-opener; your competition.

Which sources are people looking to for information? Can you rival the engagement your content competitors have attracted to make your own efforts worthwhile? Do you have the expertise, promotional strategy and resources to make it happen? What value will your content add? And could you even benefit from partnering with these key opinion leaders?

For some topics the list of considerations beyond keywords stretches further.

Google has a higher Page Quality rating standard for ‘your money or your life’ pages, which it classifies as covering any topic that could impact a user’s future happiness, health, financial stability or safety. So it pays much more attention to Expertise, Authority and Trust (E-A-T) when evaluating the overall quality of a page. 

And while less exciting than the thrill of editorial ideas, macro content strategy elements can also cause them to sink or swim. Site structure, templates, promotional platform strategy and production processes all need addressing in your content strategy toolkit.

Turn that visibility into business value

Traffic is nice; everyone likes a little attention. But what value is it driving for your business? 

If you’re not 100% sure on the purpose of your content – what you want specific audiences to think, feel and do once they’ve found it – effective measurement and planning is tricky. It all becomes a bit uncomfortable when reporting back on ROI.

But there are tangible tools that can help.

Having a content mission statement that defines what you’re offering, for whom and the outcomes for them, helps filter ideas. And setting out content pillars with associated audiences and KPIs can save you more time and money.

These foundations then make it easier to signpost strategic focuses and the topics, editorial strands, formats and channels you’re using to build each pillar, in order to hit your goals.

Not only does this keep ideas within parameters that work for your audience and brand (without content planners and creators having to sit in on every marketing and sales meeting). But also enables collaborators to structure insights and recommendations in a way that can help refine your strategy.

Crucially, it leaves no room for ambiguity around whether content ‘worked’ or not.

Of course laying out what you want to create also gives planners an idea of what you don’t, but if there are certain topics you want to completely avoid and considerations for covering others, give these space in your planning resources too.  

It all prevents people falling down rabbit holes. Which in digital research is a real hazard of the job.

Get a complete view of your opportunities to engage

Keyword research can help you deliver on informational, transactional and navigational intent. But if you’re after inspirational content ideas, you might want to explore other inputs.

Social listening provides more reactionary insights, so you can shape original content around new and future trends.

If these take off, you’ll be in a good position to rank. And this content can also capture attention earlier in the consideration journey, for example through paid media, email and partnerships.

And more personal truths; data collected through surveys, studies or simply by talking to your colleagues and partners, can also inspire content with cut-through.

Good content marketers make a living from asking questions; so expect our queries to stretch far beyond those in Keyword Planner. But it goes both ways. Submit your questions to our content team at results@icrossing.co.uk to answer in future FAQs.  And download our free content strategy template here.

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