The Most Common Mistake In SEO Content Marketing: Lack of Specificity
Right now, training is one of the biggest priorities at my company. We have a lot of employees that we hired in the last year and I’m trying to find a way to speed up the amount of time it takes for each person to achieve excellence in their job. This article is meant to address the single most common mistake I see in our new writers: a lack of specificity in the topics they choose.
As a content marketing firm with an expertise in SEO, we have an obligation not just to engage people, but to drive new customers to our clients’ websites. Our company was built on driving new leads to websites in a very particular way: by writing articles that people who buy what our clients sell come across when they’re searching on Google.
I’ll give you an example. One of our clients sells a crowd-funded real estate investment product. Basically, it’s a way for people who are wealthy enough to want to invest their money, but not so wealthy that they’re out buying entire buildings, to invest in the lucrative commercial real estate market. In other words, this company allows you to be one of, say, 100 people that buys, renovates, and later sells an office tower. It’s a fascinating company in that it brings an advantage that used to belong only to the mega-wealthy to a much broader swath of people who are looking for an alternative to plain ol’ stock market investing.
So, if you’re a new writer for First Page Sage, it’s your job to understand, first and foremost, who this company’s clients are. The answer is pretty simple based on the information we already have: their clients are well-to-do people looking for an alternative investment strategy. Once you have that in mind, you have something else to figure out as well: what would these people search for on Google? This is a much harder question to answer, but getting it right is essential to our success as content marketers. In fact, if we were to get this element wrong and write about a subject that is not particularly interesting to well-to-do people looking for an alternative investment strategy, there would be no point in writing the article in the first place. You see, we need this particular group of people to find our articles when they’re searching on Google, and we can’t reverse engineer how to get them to find our articles until we know what they’re searching on Google.
So, what would people looking for an alternative investment strategy search? Well, I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit that they search for all kinds of things – restaurant addresses, medical symptoms, DIY home repair, and all the other stuff most of us search – but capturing them when they’re looking for unrelated things isn’t going to help us. (This is the fallacy of nearly all forms of advertising: that interrupting people who are engaged in something unrelated to your product is a good way to sell to them.) What’s going to help us is being there to provide them with answers when they’re searching for information about investing. You see, there is no better time to insinuate our crowd-funded real estate investing product into the conversation than when they’re already interested in the idea of investing. This very concept — that it’s easiest to sell someone something after they’ve already expressed interest in the specific topic your business addresses — is the basis of Google’s entire business model.
Let’s take a moment now to think about what these people would search for when they’re considering alternative investment ideas. After a few moments of contemplation, I’ve come up with the following list of potential keywords:
alternative investment ideas
alternative investment strategies
real estate investing for beginners
crowd-funded real estate investment
These are just the first ideas off the top of my head, but they’re probably reasonably good keywords. I can picture the type of person that our client hopes to attract typing any of these phrases into Google.
Now comes the part that inspired the title of this article: coming up with a topic for an article that is specifically about one of these keywords, which we are assuming our client’s target audience would search for. Before I show you how I do that, let’s take a moment to note that the last two steps – understanding who our client’s clients are, and guessing what they’d be looking for on Google – aren’t child’s play. They require critical thinking and at least some familiarity with the industry that our clients are in.
Okay, so onto the topic idea. I’ll bring you into my brainstorming process:
First thought: “Alternative Investment Strategies for Beginning Real Estate Investors”
Nah, too general. I’m certainly addressing the right audience, but it’s just a boring title. It’s like the title of a big, thick book written by some stodgy professor at Columbia that you wouldn’t bother to pick up if you came across it at Barnes & Noble.
Next thought: “How To Start Investing In Real Estate”
A bit better, but still sooo vanilla. Needs some spice.
“The Best Way To Start Investing In Real Estate.”
Warmer. But still vanilla. Really push yourself, Evan, you can do this.
“Crowdfunded Real Estate: The Best Investment Strategy You’re Not Doing.”
Ooh, I like that. It’s got a bit of sass, it’s filled with keywords people interested in this topic would search for like “crowdfunded real estate” “investment strategy” and “best,” and it’s intriguing enough that I could picture someone getting curious and clicking on it when they come across it in the Google search results.
We’ve got our title, folks.
Notice the difference between the first title I thought of – “Alternative Investment Strategies for Beginning Real Estate Investors,” which is super general – and the more specific one I ended up with. If I chose the first topic, and made it my article’s exact title, it would probably never rise up in the search results because it’s such a general topic that there are probably hundreds of articles like it, making competition much tougher on the first page of the search results. Another downfall of the first title is that few people would even care to click on an article with such a boring title. You may recall that the “clickability” of a search result, as well as how much a visitor engages with a web page, are actual ranking factors that Google looks at when deciding which results to include on the first page.
In contrast, the new title – “Crowdfunded Real Estate: The Best Investment Strategy You’re Not Doing” – is not only more interesting, but the keywords it uses are far more specific (e.g. “crowdfunded”) which means that fewer people might search for the keywords, but more people would actually find my client’s article on the first page since the level of competition is lower than the first title.
Now then, if I were one of First Page Sage’s new writers and submitted this topic, I’d get a pat on the back for coming up with a good topic. But I still could be more specific. That’s right; there is a way to do better than the title I came up with, and our top writers are the ones that get to the level I’m about to show you.
What if, for instance, I wrote about the same subject but thought about it through the lens of a particular group of people? For example, “Why Crowdfunded Real Estate Is So Appealing to Millenial Investors.” Not only does that topic draw in even more specific keywords, but its specificity makes it more interesting. Not just Millenials, but probably all people interested in alternative investing, would be intrigued by the finely-honed point I’d be making when writing about that subject. The lesson here: Looking at a subject through the lens of a specific group of people is good content marketing.
Another way to get more specific is to use high-impact names (e.g. celebrities) or current events. I can easily apply this idea to the title we originally liked: “Crowdfunded Real Estate Is The Poster Child of Obama’s Technology Legacy.” Note how much juicier the title becomes when I include a highly interesting name – Obama – and relate it to a specific event: his presidential legacy. That’s interesting because it’s so current; his presidency ends in 2016. The lesson here: Looking at a subject through the lens of a celebrity name or current event is good content marketing.
That’s the end of today’s lesson on topic specificity. There are many more ways to be specific, but hopefully I’ve whet your interest in the subject. This idea is, without a doubt, the toughest thing for new writers to grasp. But our most successful campaigns are always marked by writers who can hone in on highly specific subjects that are well-tailored to the things our client’s audience searches for. Here’s hoping we can keep training people how to do this as we continue to grow.
Evan Bailyn is a best-selling author and award-winning speaker on the subjects of SEO and thought leadership.