In case you don’t remember, there are 28 properties on the monopoly board (22 streets, four railroads, and two utility spaces).
The formula for winning at SEO (Search Engine Optimization) AND Monopoly is simple…
Winners don’t rent, they OWN.
As we all know, you can easily “rent” position 1 in Google… that is called Google Ads (formerly Adwords), but just as in monopoly this cannot be your only strategy (though it should be part of your integrated search strategy).
Similar to the finite number of properties on the game board, I have found that there are typically NO MORE than 30 questions (search topics) that every business owner must own in their vertical. Without investing in organic content, they are doomed to rent this traffic from Google (or miss out on the game entirely).
The best time to start INVESTING in content is always early and often.
If you haven’t started yet or simply need a strategic course correction, here is the step-by-step approach I call “30 Questions.”
It is a proven strategy for turning Paid Search Renters Into Organic Search Owners.
Step 1: Your customer’s have the “questions” to your problem (where to start)
The biggest problem I see that businesses struggle with is knowing what topics they need to produce content for. In my experience, there is often (unfortunately) a difference between getting traffic and getting customers. You need the former to get the latter, but too often all you get is traffic.
The best strategy I have found is to speak with individuals that interface with customers directly. That means business owners, salespeople and customer service representatives. This is best done as a proactive intelligence gathering mission, but certainly works reasonably well when you stop and think about the topics of interest/concern that brought new customers to you. In short, If you really listen to your customers they will tell you what is important to them –and that means it’s important to make sure they find you on Google when they are looking.
Your ‘Target Topic List’ should have 2 qualities.
- It can be accessed in under 10 seconds (you should get in the habit of jotting down customer driven ideas –before they are lost). I recommend either cloud based spreadsheet like Gsheets or even a low tech draft email with the subject line “Content Ideas” (I actually capture most of my real time ideas in a draft email and plan out my content queue in a gsheet)
- Everyone that can contribute should have access – this lowers the odds of missing something important while increasing the odds that you prioritize the most common situations that lead to sales.
To sum up step 1: Adopt the habit of obsessively capturing every topic/question that interests your customer. Make it easy to scale that behavior over time and across the organization.
Step 2: Get Quantitative – Validate Perceive Opportunities
Starting with the voice of the customer is incredibly important; however, humans tend to hear things in a way that supports their own beliefs (Confirmation Bias). Checking a 3rd party keyword research or Google directly is one of the best ways to validate if a qualitative “perception” is in fact quantitatively valuable in “reality.”
While keyword volume tools are notoriously inaccurate in predicting actual search volume, they are incredibly helpful in determining relative volume. Often you will find that a valuable term is low volume but a slightly different variant of a search has relatively higher volume. (i.e. “accounting for taxidermists” 50/ searches a month, “taxidermist accountant” 150/searches a month).
In my experience, the fact that you saw your search in the tool at all means its search quite a lot and can likely generate traffic that is 5-10x whatever the tool says (after factoring long tail and variant terms). PRO TIP: even if your term doesn’t show up in a keyword research tool it might still be a valuable niche term. In those cases I go over to Google and start to type the query in… if it shows up in the wildcard drop down list, I know it is searched frequently.
Pro Tip: If you do that exercise and a term does not show up DO NOT EVEN BOTHER WRITING ON THAT TOPIC — thank me later.
To sum up step 2: Test your “listening” skills by double checking google and keyword research tools for search volume validation.
Step 3: Uncover Your BlindSpots
Discovering related questions/topics is one of the best cases to check Google and Keyword research tools. Many times you will find that a highly specific question that your customers have is representative of a much larger opportunity. For example, often client’s will find Endai while looking for help with various and highly specific Google Analytics configuration questions.
For example, they might find us by searching, “Enhanced Ecommerce Google Analytics Best practices”, but when we look into the related searches we find tons of high search opportunities in related topics like “checkout funnel optimizations”, “checkout funnel marketing experiments”, “ecommerce conversion rate optimization”
To sum up step 3: Checking Google and Keyword tools often exposes you to even higher volume/converting opportunities that you were previously unaware of.
Step 4: Create Your “Target Topic List”
Now you likely have a solid list of topics. If you have fewer than 10 topics you are likely not thinking specifically enough about your customers needs. Take some time and look for ways to segment deeper into questions your customers have or look for related search terms. If you are getting stuck, you can test sending out an email to your existing customers (particularly recently acquired customers) to see what they are interested/concerned about now.
Pro Tip. A great idea is to set up an automated personalized text email to new newsletter subscribers that asks them to reply with questions/concerns that they have. For Example, at Endai, we might send an email to new subscribers asking, “what is the most important marketing challenge you are seeing lately?”
On the flipside, If you have over 30 topics, that’s fine too (And more common than having too few). You likely won’t need to get all of them produced and this next step will help you stay focused on the ones that make it your actual content queue (when you actually commit time and resources).
To sum up step 4: Once you complete this step you will have a full 360 degree view of your search opportunity.
Step 5: Impact Analysis
If you were very thorough in the first 4 steps, you likely have a deep Target Topic List (that grows periodically based on your customer listening campaigns).
The reality is, you won’t be able to produce content at the level required to win for EVERY topic (nor should you –at least not all at once).
The purpose of step 5 is to help you fast track your best ideas and keep the weaker ones towards the back of the “idea bank.” The way to do this is to assign value to the traffic.
Most businesses can do a reasonably good job predicting the median value of a sale (by traffic topic); however, often they struggle to reliably predict the conversion rate of the traffic. As such I find that a best practice is to Ballpark the conversion rate into simple grouping like from high to low.
Here is a way of thinking about it to get a simple answer, If your traffic on that topic increased by 100x, would it have a very high, high, medium or low impact on the business?
|Very High||5-10% of topics Rare opportunities that typically should be Fast tracked into production even if lower volume or higher competition|
|High||Nearly every topic in the 30 questions strategy should fall here|
|Low||Keep towards the back of the idea bank.. Other better ideas will likely supercede them|
|Delete||Why was that on your list to start? lol|
To sum up step 5: The impact analysis shouldn’t take more than 60 seconds per topic and it will keep you focused on generating traffic that generates sales.
Step 6: Build Your Content Competitive Advantage(s)
You might have noticed that we spent five steps determining which content topics we wanted to OWN. There is a really good reason. The internet is very competitive and the only way to earn a top ranking is to outrank the competition. The bad news is that it is hard work, the good news is it works because it’s hard work.
There is nothing more tragic than witnessing a marketer misplace their effort on the wrong 30 questions.
Knowing how to attack the content on your intelligently crafted list is the other half of the edge in this approach.
Technical SEO Advantage: The Double Dip Strategy
There are literally dozens and dozens of ranking factors that you can build into a page. By focusing on a Double dip Title Tag strategy thoughtfully applies two relevant terms together, one that can rank now while you build up to the more competitive term later (usually a juicier opportunity). It also does a good job of setting the tone for the on page keyword strategy and URL.
Here is an example…
Maybe you want to rank on
|Keyword||Volume||Difficulty Rank (>75 is competitive)|
|Engagement Rings||1,000,000 Searches||0.98|
|Diamond Ring||10,000 Searches||0.75|
The engagement ring search is the long term prize, but will take months to crack, whereas diamond rings is still an attractive opportunity (highly relevant to the main term) and much more accessible now.
A double Dip Title tag and URL strategy for this might look like:
Engagement Rings: Find The Perfect Diamond Ring
SEO Content Advantage: Nail The Content Framework
Now that you have your Double Dip Keyword strategy in place you will quickly realize that you can approach this content from dozens of different angles. We call those content frameworks.
We have organized “plays” that we choose from that have reliable outcomes. Here are a few content frameworks to help you understand what we mean:
- The Ultimate Guide – This is where you create an authoritative resource that covers in great detail the ins and outs of a topic. “Ultimate guide rescuing EVERY sale in your checkout funnel”
- The Actionable List Post – This post is an example of the Actionable list post. It is a longer post with a highly specific and actionable list with step by step explanations and examples.
- CrowdSourced Content – This is when you either poll crowds or survey a list of experts. An example of this is would be, “we asked 100 CEOs to name their single most profitable Marketing tactic”
- Infographic – This is when you convert a topic into visual with supporting content. Visualcaptialist.com is likely one of the best in the business at this.
- The HERO Case Study – This is when you answer a search topic by walking the searcher through how one of your clients or customers achieved success by using your product. (I plan on writing a follow up to this post where I walk you through a recent case study of a client working through the “30 Question Strategy.”
To sum up step 6: Don’t kid yourself. The internet is ridiculously competitive. You need a competitive edge to earn your spot at the top. The Double Dip Strategy overlaid with Proven Content framework helps you turn hard work into predictable results.
BONUS Step: Maximize Time-to-Value
“I have unlimited time and money”… said no business ever. If you find yourself needing a quick win you can focus on content pieces that are shorter (400-600 words) and more focused (answer a highly specific question well). Because of that they are often called “Response Posts”
A really good candidate for topics that fit this situation are searches that return Forum responses in the rankings. This is a really reliable indicator that nobody has done a great job answering that question well.
When it comes to Return on time and time to value, response posts tend to produce the most amount of sales per minute spent writing.
In the long run, there is no other more scalable higher ROI marketing channel than Organic Search. It just goes to show the power of OWNing the searches that are strategic in your niche. If you find yourself on a treadmill “renting” google rankings via adwords or think any or all of your organic strategy would benefit from our robust process feel free to reach out. We are always excited to connect and learn about your niche.