If you're just getting started with your online presence and digital marketing, it can be hard to prioritize tasks and make headway while keeping an eye on the big picture. When starting from scratch, getting overwhelmed is to be expected, especially given all of the (often conflicting) advice on how to achieve marketing success. Experts espouse the merits of A/B testing, sales funnel modeling, marketing automation platforms, blogger outreach, link building and virtually countless more tactics.
You may even find yourself tempted to focus on expert-level initiatives like thought leadership development right from the get-go, but your first and most pressing move must be to build a foundation of pillar content that attracts organic traffic from your target market. The more sophisticated, proactive marketing measures don't work unless you've already established a minimal baseline of visits to your site.
Set some kind of traffic milestone that makes sense for you, whether it's 500 uniques weekly or 10,000 daily, and decide that until you reach this benchmark, you won't even think about blogger outreach, A/B testing and the like. Building consistent organic traffic is your first priority, and here's how to do it.
Step 1: Find Out What Your Customers Want
Your target audience is presumably researching options for potential solutions before making a purchase decision. According to one recent study, in fact, 80% of B2C customers like to check their options online before making larger purchases, performing extensive research that can last between 38 and 135 days, depending on the product category. Similarly, in the B2B world, Demand Gen Report's research has found that 52% of decision makers view no fewer than eight online sources before selecting a vendor.
Ultimately, you need to ensure that those searching for information about products that you sell are able to find you. Before you can give them the content they want, though, you'll need to figure out what it is that they want.
You probably already know a lot of the frequently asked questions relevant to your business. Compiling a comprehensive list, however, is another matter. Your initial goal should be to create an exhaustive 100-question inventory based on every logical customer inquiry. Considering that you may be able to come up with the first 25 by yourself, where do the other 75 come from?
Consult your trusty sales and support divisions immediately. They are the ones who field every question, from the logical to the inane. Then, check with others inside your organization. Considering that content creation is everybody’s job, not just a “marketing department” responsibility, if you make it clear that you’re absolutely open to new ideas, they’ll likely start sending them your way. Just remember to thank those who submit new concepts and questions, even if you don’t end up using them. The last thing you want to do is discourage your in-house sources.
Step 2: Find Out How Your Customers Are Searching
Seemingly subtle differences in wording, tense or number can be critical when determining which keywords and phrases to emphasize in your content. For example, if you are a department store and your internal category of small kitchen appliances is called “kitchen electrics” on all of your internal reporting and store signage, it simply stands to reason that you would optimize for the phrase “kitchen electrics.” If you did that, though, you would be making a costly mistake – people are far more likely to search Google for "kitchen appliances." This is a critical SEO fundamental.
In order to determine exactly which words and phrases your ideal customers are Googling, employ a keyword tool like Keyword Tool (see how they optimized their name?), which instantly generates up to 750 alternative, longer-tail suggestions for every keyword, for free. Alternatively, you can use Hubspot’s keyword tool, which will help you to identify keyword opportunities that are within your reach – as well as conversion path ideas, keywords favored by your competitors and long-tail opportunities.
Although the most popular service for this kind of research is undoubtedly the Google AdWords Keyword Planner, you need an AdWords account to use it. The advantages to the AdWords planner, however, are notable. It’s not only free but also provides competition and search volume statistics, which is data you're going to need for our next step.
Step 3: Prioritize, Group and Schedule
Now that you know what your customers want and how they’re going about searching for it, you likely have an exceedingly long list of topics staring you in the face.Clearly, you cannot generate 100 articles immediately. You're going to need to prioritize which topics will generate the most traction the fastest.
Rank your list of articles based on the search volume and search competition data you gathered using your keyword tool. You might also do well to consider which topics speak most directly to your unique value proposition, since you want to capitalize on the specialties, features and benefits that differentiate your product from the competition.
Once you’ve determined your priorities, break down the list into tiers or themed groups. Your goal here is to turn it all into veritable bundles of monthly content activity. Not only will this process help you avoid content generation overwhelm, it will form the basis of your communications calendar.
Although a content calendar may seem complicated or intimidating, it’s actually quite straightforward and empowers you to visualize how your (already prioritized) topics will be distributed throughout the year. You can schedule your articles around key industry events, ensure content publication consistency and generate reminders for yourself to ensure that each article is ready on time.
Step 4: Write and Publish
It’s finally time to get in the trenches. You are now armed with all the knowledge required to carry out your organic traffic creation plan, and all you have to do now is generate each piece of content efficiently. Yes, all 100 articles.
These SEO foundation articles are not going to be super sexy, but they're going to give you the traffic baseline you need so you can build on the momentum they give you. Keep in mind – this is the information that is most important to the people most likely to become your next happy customers. It will draw them to your site, since you’re answering the questions they’re asking in the exact words they’re asking them.
When starting from zero, utilize this foundational strategy for at least the first two quarters of your efforts, and potentially the first four. Once your SEO-centric articles have started generating relevant traffic, then (and only then) should you start exploring more sophisticated marketing tactics.
A content and social media marketing specialist, Ben Jacobson joined the Lean Labs team in the summer of 2014. Ben has been active as a digital branding professional since the early days of social media, having overseen projects for brands including MTV, National Geographic, Zagat and Wix. His writing has appeared in Social Media Explorer, Search Engine Journal, Techwyse and the Mad Mimi Blog. Ben resides just south of the Carmel Mountain ridge in Israel with his dashing wife and two sprightly descendants.