An Audience-First Approach to Content Creation for SEO

Content is king! It was true when Bill Gates coined the phrase in his 1996 essay, and nowadays, it is absolutely critical to a website’s success and its search engine optimization (SEO). Although the internet is different now, searchers are still coming online to consume quality content, and they’re still looking for the most up-to-date information. 

One of the most significant changes is the expectation of a holistic online experience. When performing a search and arriving on a webpage, users want to see all the information they’re expecting as well as any other relevant information, specifications, and media, all in a pleasant and easy-to-digest manner. In order to compete in this kind of search environment, webmasters and marketers alike are honed in on creating engaging content for users to give the best experience when visiting their sites. 

Types of Content

To provide this experience, content creators are tasked with incorporating several types of content on their websites, depending on the topic at hand. The most common types of content include:

  • Blogging
  • Page copy
  • Video
  • Infographics
  • White papers
  • Webinars
  • How-to’s and guides

Knowing what type of content to use to demonstrate a specific topic or goal can be the deciding factor for success. In the end, a good balance of these content types provides the type of holistic experience users are looking for.

Creating Helpful Content for Users and SEO

All this attention to the user experience is not lost on the Google gods. Google has been very busy, releasing several algorithm updates in 2022. Almost all of the algorithm updates this year have been focused on the user experience, expressed best through the August  Helpful Content Update. In this update, Google indicated that it wants users to have a satisfying experience with the content on a site, and to achieve this, Google is taking a closer look and making the distinction between helpful content and content that has little or no added value.

And with that, the game has changed. Gone are the days of posting 1000 words of copy on a page and expecting it to rank. Using a keyword 100 times on a page with a poor user experience will move the needle as much as a gas tank on empty. In order to move forward, it’s clear that the most important thing is providing a satisfying user experience. So how do we do that? We create content that is relevant, unique, holistic, and helpful to searchers.

What is Content Creation?

Content creation is the process of finding topics, generating a strategy, and producing media and copy for users to consume. For SEO, the critical component of this will be to incorporate Google’s perspective of helpful content when building out ideas and a content creation strategy. 

You should also be sure to have your own goals and perspective in mind during this stage. To determine your goals, ask yourself questions like: Are you trying to support a concurrent media campaign? Are you focusing on building brand awareness? What actions do you want the visitor to take when they reach the page? Is the goal to simply strengthen keyword relevancy? Whatever the case, having a clear idea of your business goals can serve as a guide to ensure that the topics you gather for content will support these goals.

An Audience-First approach to Content Strategy

Another factor to keep in mind is your audience. In order to create content that will resonate with your customers, try to see things from their perspective and anticipate any questions they may have or information they might like to know. In your copy, speak to searchers in their voice and language, using words and expressions that would resonate with them. The closer you can meet your intended audience where they are searching, the more likely the content you create will be relevant to those needs and queries.

Content Creation Ideas

Finding relevant topics to create content for is the first challenge on your journey to a good user experience. There are a few ways to do this depending on your industry, your business goals, and what kind of content you’re hoping to generate. Here are some methods you can explore to gather ideas for content creation.

Content Brainstorm

To get started, you may want to start by brainstorming lists of topics based on your own knowledge and expertise of your website and industry. After all, your first-hand knowledge of your business and customers is an asset that very few have available to them. Ask yourself: What are customers always asking us about? What do you find yourself explaining to customers often? What is new in your industry? As you ask others in your organization for their input, especially customer service, this list of topics can become broader and contain more valuable insights. You can then take a list like this and validate it with SEO keyword research tools to evaluate which topics and questions are searched most often.

Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP) Feature: People Also Ask

When it comes to providing a holistic experience, Google applies the same recommendations it gives us. This is apparent in the search features it includes on many search results pages in an effort to be a one-stop-shop of information for a given keyword phrase. One of these features is the People Also Ask section. In this section, Google provides a list of frequently asked questions around a given query. Clicking on a question will provide the answer as well as populate more questions based on the question you clicked on. 

People Also Ask Section before 1st question is clicked.

After 1st question is clicked more related questions appear, highlighted in green box.

This can be really helpful to your topic-gathering efforts, as the number of questions Google will provide seems to be endless. you can gather up a few and then use SEO keyword research tools to validate the search volume performance around each one. This will help you find the most valuable ones to use as content topics. 

Perform a Competitive Content Audit

You should keep an eye on what your competitors are up to, especially when it comes to content generation. Just like you, your competitors are likely also focused on creating quality content that gives searchers what they’re looking for and caters to Google’s ranking signals. 

The content your competitors produce may also affect what Google takes into consideration when deciding what a website should include, effectively raising the standard of a given topic or type of page. Google compares your site and content with all similar websites and pages in order to determine what the standard expectation for a given page or site should be. 

This is why it is important to not only cover a topic to stay competitive, but also contribute something new and unique. On the topic of page indexation, John Mueller, the head of Google’s web spam department, shared that “what ultimately works best is that you prove to Google (and users) that the updates you’re providing are valuable: unique, compelling, high-quality, and not something that’s already published elsewhere.” So when it comes to content ideas, look to your competitors for inspiration and to make sure that you have the bases covered, but ultimately contribute something new and different than what’s already out there.

Managing SEO Content

With your topics gathered and validated by search performance, you now have a roadmap for new content creation. You will go on to create those pages and content to post on your website, but the journey doesn’t end there. Organic search performance and content creation are all about the long haul. Even after your pages go live, you must wait to see how they perform in the search results against competing pages. Once your pages have started to gain traction, you must continue to monitor their performance, making changes and reoptimizing your content.

Content has always been critical to a site’s organic search efforts, and given Google’s new direction, it will only become more important. Ensure that your content is meeting the expectations of your searchers, and be ready to re-optimize where it’s not. Create new content to fill in the gaps of opportunities left open by competitors, while serving up the best experience possible to searchers. It is by putting the user first that we can better understand their needs and create content that ultimately provides the best search experience. 

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