Brands are wrong when they pay me to write articles to target keywords and rank higher on Google.
The theory is these articles will increase traffic, which will increase sales.
That logic is faulty. For example:
Floorings R’ Us hires me to write SEO blog posts. I’m told to write an article on the 5 Benefits to Using Engineered Hardwood Flooring in Your Home, based on their keyword research.
They hope when someone searches for a phrase like engineered hardwood flooring, their article will appear at the top.
Sometimes it does. Sometimes people do click on that blog post. Website traffic increases because of that blog post.
This is an effective strategy — if you want website traffic, only.
That’s typically reserved for media companies. More than likely, you are not a media company.
You want conversions, which most SEO articles don’t deliver.
SEO articles introduce two challenges:
- The traffic these articles attract is ridiculously superficial and unqualified
- The articles are not designed to push folks down your sales funnel
Fortunately, you can overcome these challenges. But it goes beyond hiring some freelancer to write 400-word blog posts around a few keywords.
Know Your Audience
Blog posts are not just repositories for keywords. When done well, they’re one of the most effective ways to target specific audiences and get them excited about your business.
Let’s take my flooring blog example again: 5 Benefits to Using Engineered Hardwood Flooring in Your Home.
The key phrase my client is (likely) targeting is engineered hardwood flooring. The title includes the key phrase, signaling a good start.
But nothing about the title motivates anyone to click. Here’s a Google search I did for the phrase benefits of engineered hardwood flooring:
The top three results are remarkably similar to the post my client wants.
So let’s assume my client’s article ranks alongside these existing articles. What would it be, about our article, that inspires someone to take notice and click, rather than click on the post by a recognizable brand like Bruce or a trusted resource like HomeAdvisor?
By the way, use this free tool to see how your titles (and descriptions) look on the Google results page.
To complicate it further, who’s to say the traffic that our post attracts is made up of folks looking to buy flooring?
There’s no way of knowing. Not unless you do these two things before you write an SEO article, or hire someone to write one for you.
- Identify your audience. Know who you’re targeting. Only then can you conduct …
- Keyword research. Tap into the mindset of your audience. What do they want or need that you offer? And how do they look for that information online?
These tasks take time. That’s where most folks lose interest. But you’re not most people.
1. Buyer personas.
This includes market research, interviews, and surveys of existing customers. Include conversations with your staff as well — especially those who work directly with customers.
Don’t assume you know your customer. Go out and identify him.
2. Keyword Research
People go through three stages before becoming your customer:
Awareness – Consideration – Decision
The search terms prospects use vary greatly depending on what stage they’re in.
Let’s expand that a bit using my flooring example.
Floorings R’ Us wants to target subcontractors. They even created a buyer persona, Contractor Calvin, to make sure their content is laser-focused.
Right off the bat, we have a problem. What are the chances a subcontractor would even google something like 5 Benefits to Using Engineered Hardwood Flooring in Your Home?
He wouldn’t. We know immediately that writing an article like that to attract Calvin is a waste of time.
Calvin might search for something like Cheap Options for Engineered Hardwood Flooring. Then he’d realize the word cheap has negative connotations, so he refines his search to Most Affordable Types of Engineered Hardwood Flooring.
Knowing this, and knowing whom I’m writing for, I propose a blog post titled 5 Affordable Engineered Hardwood Flooring Brands for Subcontractors.
Why? Because you write blog posts for audiences you want to target, not just match a set of keywords.
Identify your audience. Identify what they search for on Google. Then create content for them.
A reminder of the journey we all take toward conversion:
Awareness – Consideration – Decision
This is a watered down representation, of course. We often go back and forth across these three steps. Or we enter the funnel on step 2 (consideration). And so on.
The engineered hardwood flooring article above targets audiences in the awareness stage. There’s an entire step most people have to take before they’re ready to buy:
Why then do most awareness-focused blog posts feature calls-to-action like:
Looking for the best engineered hardwood flooring? Contact us today!
Or, even worse:
Like what you read? Subscribe to our blog!
Assuming your article gave Calvin everything he needs to know, Calvin has moved closer to the consideration stage.
Neither of the above CTAs speaks to Calvin in his consideration stage.
Not even close. First, no one wants to subscribe to your blog. Stop creating a terrible experience between prospects and your brand.
But just as bad as pitching your email list as some type of great coup is pitching the sell too soon.
Be mindful of what type of content your audience just consumed. Identify how successful that content moved your prospect down the funnel.
Calvin learned a lot from the blog post discussing the top engineered hardwood flooring brands. He has the information he needs to start comparing these brands.
He wants to see case studies, comparison charts, and testimonials. He uses search terms like “____ vs. ____ ” and “Difference between ____ and _____.”
A CTA for an awareness-stage article should help Calvin make these comparisons. It should guide him toward his desired next step – without sending him away from your brand.
Here are a few ideas you can use as gated lead magnets (hidden behind a form):
- Guide: The Ultimate Contractor’s Guide to Helping Your Customers Choose the Best Hardwood Flooring.
- Chart: Free comparison chart of the top 10 popular flooring brands.
- Listicle: A list of the top engineered flooring brands in the U.S., ranked by ratings and reviews.
Calvin is more likely to provide personal information to access this content if he found value in our original blog post, Top 5 Engineered Hardwood Flooring Brands for Subcontractors.
- Top 5 Engineered Hardwood Flooring Brands for Subcontractors: An awareness blog post that we write to attract folks like Calvin (through Google and even paid social media).
- CTA that leads to a desirable lead magnet.
- Calvin hands over his personal information to access that lead magnet.
Your call-to-action must get Calvin excited enough to overcome any objection about handing over an email address.
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Not everyone who reads the blog post will download the guide. Those who do are probably highly qualified leads most likely to become customers one day.
Articles for Every Stage of the Funnel
Your customers are on a journey:
- Consideration: They identify a problem and head to Google for an answer.
- Comparison: They find a few acceptable answers. They start researching and comparing their options.
- Decision: They whittle down their choice to one and buy.
A vast majority of “SEO articles” on the web focus on step one: Awareness. These articles then try to force these readers to convert.
An entire step is skipped.
Don’t publish articles only to rank for keywords. Build an experience that attracts your customers, no matter where they are in the funnel. Then make it easy for them to move down that funnel.
Because web traffic is nice, but it’s meaningless to your bottom line.
What you need are conversions.