How to use search insights to supercharge your content production strategy

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As a journalist-turned-content-marketer, the hardest part of my job used to be convincing brands to publish content. Fast-forward ten years and the gatekeepers of content strategy and promotion are struggling to process the flood of messaging from PR, marketing and brand agencies, users and influencers.

According to analytics experts Track Maven, branded content production is up a whopping 35% – job done then! Though engagement is down 17% – oh. Fellow software specialist Beckon reports that only 5% of branded content gets 90% of all engagement. And demand for content strategy continues its upward trajectory as brands struggle to understand what exactly it is they’re getting back from their investment.

So how do we fix this? The quality-over-quantity maxim doesn’t really cut it. A series of low-fi images can attract more attention for some brands than a beautifully-produced piece of long-form content. And in a world where newsjacking made it onto the shortlist for Word of the Year and people “saying it like it is” is prized as highly as anything else, I’m proposing authenticity as a more useful ideal to aim for in 2018.

Understanding search intent can help create content that offers more authentic value. But serving audience need isn’t enough to avoid wasting your investment. Only by exploring how people engage with and unpicking the patterns within successful content can we confidently pit your efforts against every other brand and media site covering the same topics: Making a blueprint for how to be an authentic publisher.

How to use search insights to shape your production strategy

A good content strategy creates a framework with which to judge ideas – helping to stem the flow of content flotsam and jetsam – and ascertain whether or not your efforts are paying off. Without one, how will you know if your content’s ‘working’?

Combining brand and audience need shapes your content goals and content mission statement. What exactly is it you want your content to deliver for the brand? And crucially, what do you want it to make your audience think, feel and do? If your answers fill a flip-board and see you ordering in more Post-It notes, you’re not alone. The sheer scale of the opportunity and options presented by content marketing is one of the main reasons the majority of marketers (70% according to Altimeter) lack a consistent or integrated strategy.

Thankfully, we no longer have to start from scratch. All of that published content offers a wealth of data and insights that can be mined to help brands hone in on the exact type of success and connection they’re after. And the principles of search – built from the principles of human behaviour the algorithms serve – give us a solid jumping-off point.

Borrowing YouTube’s 'Hero, Hub, Hygiene' model to audit content helps to paint a picture of how audiences engage with different types of content. In broad-brushstrokes, hero content plays on passions; raising awareness with a wide audience that can be measured through social shares and backlinks. Hub is built around topics; primarily to nurture existing relationships that we explore through channel engagement audits. And hygiene answers more specific in-market queries – the demand that keyword research and search visibility helps us understand.

Through this lens we start to spot trends in the types of content that fall into these categories; the first pieces of the puzzle that help inform decisions on what we produce and how we promote it. Some will require more creative investment and collaboration with brand, PR and social than others, but that doesn’t make them any less of a search concern. And the success or failure of hygiene content is far from reliant on keyword optimisation alone.

In part two of this blog, we’ll look at how to use search insights to supercharge your content discovery and promotion strategy.

Jo-ann Fortune is head of content at iCrossing

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