Today I want to share an incredibly simple yet massively powerful process for building search-optimized, “great content.” There’s no fancy tricks and nothing proprietary about the approach, but it is rare indeed to find an organization that follows these steps and hence, it’s a way to potentially differentiate and build a competitive advantage.
Step 1: Build a Survey
No one knows what searchers want better than the searchers themselves, so let’s hear what they have to say. To find out, we’ll start with a short series of questions asking the survey taker to imagine they’ve just performed the desired query. Here’s an example:
The basic structure is simple – request the top 3 content pieces your audience desires, then ask specifically about features that would make the page worthy of sharing (this is important, because it often differs substantively from what makes a page merely answer the user’s query). Finally, you can ask them to actually do the search (you don’t want them to do it until the end, because what they find might bias their responses) and report any results they liked (which can provide additional insight).
Step 2: Send it to Your Customers / Potential Customers
I cheated and used a tweet:
You can find customers or potential customers virtually anywhere – your friends, neighbors, co-workers, friends on social networks, etc. Anyone who fits your customer demographic or is creative enough to imagine themselves as that demographic will work. A link in the bottom of your email newsletter or a share on Facebook/LinkedIn/Twitter can often do the job, too. You might even try posting a link in a relevant industry forum or discussion group (so long as you’re sure it won’t be perceived as spammy).
Step 3: Record Responses + Leverage them to Build What the People Want
My Twitter followers are clearly office chair experts because I got some fantastic responses:
There are some fantastic suggestions in there – enough to form a serious roadmap for content generation and to steer me clear of crafting a landing page missing these features (which would likely increase bounce rate, earn less links/shares and, probably, have a lower conversion rate).
It gets even more fleshed-out with the next section:
Simply amazing. I really believe that by following the recommendations of these few, late-night, Twitter-obsessed, good web-samaritans, I could build a page of content better than anything the top 20 at Google or Bing have to offer right now.
When you’re doing this formally, collect as many responses as you reasonably can (before all the answers start to look the same) and use your intuition plus the aggregates of the data to make the best page possible. Any feature/content mentioned by 3+ respondents should definitely make the cut. From there, you can learn from what they liked/didn’t in the current SERPs and bolster it with any remarkable suggestions they gave for making the page “share-worthy.”