Who in the heck is going to read this thing, and why do they need it?
Until we answer this question, we don’t start writing.
Know Whom You’re Writing For And What They WANT
Whether we’re prospecting for links pages, bloggers or even broken links to rebuild, it’s important to keep the needs of our intended audience in mind.
This article, the first in our series on content strategy for link builders, will explain the difference among content audiences and the type of content each seeks.
For any given product or service, there are (at least) three distinct audiences that could be served by related content:
- Linkers – those with links pages and online educational resources.
- Customers – industry laypeople or experts who we’re trying to funnel into a purchase, or retain, if they’ve already purchased.
- Industry Experts – online communities of bloggers or social media influencers who specialize in a particular vertical and engage in higher-lever discuss related to the industry.
Sometimes these audiences intersect, but often they don’t. And serving the wrong type of content to a particular audience can lead to pretty diminished return on our efforts.
Doing It Badly: What Happens When We Don’t Define Our Audience
Say SEO Joe is developing content for a dog trainer’s website. Joe may create a thorough informative piece called How to Train Dogs – that’s the business’s area of expertise, after all. Then, he signs up for a service like the Link Prospector or Broken Link Builder and look for sites that would link to such content.
This approach is pretty common among newer link builders, but it has a fatal flaw. SEO Joe has written content for that’s perfect for potential customers, but is sending it out to linkers. His piece, which may be incredibly well-written, well-researched and designed is still competing with 536,000,000 other pieces of content in Google, and not likely to rank well in search engines without a link placement miracle (or sketchy black hat techniques).
Doing Our Knowledge Justice: Choosing The Right Audience First
So how should SEO Joe approach his content creation strategy? First, he needs to determine which audience he’s writing for with each piece of content.
So let’s take a deeper dive into what each of these audiences is looking for:
I. Content for Linkers
Goal: Securing links to increase search ranking. That’s it. It’s a pretty narrow focus, meaning it’s easy to measure success, but harder to execute well.
Linkers are a special breed of content distributors. They’re knowledge curators and providers of information to their audiences. Ideal content for linkers need to be simple enough to be digested by industry laypeople, but unique enough that the linker isn’t already linking to a similar piece.
Who are these linkers? They’re:
- Educators (library, college, government agency)
- Organizational curators (business or nonprofit)
- Site owners dedicated to helping those in need
Linkers are looking for content that fills an information gap. This is why a generic industry post (“How to Train Dogs”) won’t fly with this group. There are already a thousand other similar articles, blog posts series and guides. How can SEO Joe’s piece stand out?
The answer lies with areas of linkability, or as we call them at Citation Labs, “greater areas of human concern.” If he plans to market a piece of content to linkers, Joe needs to look for topics of intersection between his vertical (dog training) and topic areas that are typically popular with linkers. Typically, these topic areas differ from traditional verticals in that they’re less populated with sales-centric content, in favor of non-profit, educational or government-supported content.
These topic areas include:
- Health & wellness (nutrition, illness, common diseases)
- Mental health (addictions, depression)
- Senior citizens
- Jobs & careers (as they intersect with some of these other topic areas)
- Local resources (as they intersect with some of these other topic areas)
- Underserved communities (immigrants, people with disabilities, etc.)
- Legal rights of a group, and legal issues
- Parenting and kids health & safety
- Disaster preparedness
- Current topics in the news (bullying, hate crimes)
- Topics the federal government is creating websites around
… as they intersect with your vertical.
Our next post will take a more in-depth look into content brainstorming for a linker audience. Ideally, you can leverage this content into a PR or business strategy to further push your brand into a unique market position. (SEO Joe can create linkable content around training dogs as senior citizen companions and created special classes at his dog training business to serve local seniors.) But for this post, let’s leave SEO Joe with an understanding that he’s got to think more creatively if he wants to pique the interest of online curators.
II. Content for Customers & Industry Experts
Content for customers and content for industry experts are both very vertical-specific (meaning, you don’t have to go searching for “areas of linkability”).
The biggest difference between the two is that content for customers is typically written in a B->C style, whereas content for industry experts can take on a more B->B tone. Even if your customers are business people, it can’t be assumed that they’re specialists in your vertical. So content for customers, just like content for linkers, stays away from technical jargon or industry insider references (B->C). We assume our customer readers are beginners, so we’re not creating content that’s over their heads.
Industry peers and experts on the other hand, do know the jargon, the references, the background information, etc. So we can create content in response to ongoing industry conversations without a fear of isolating our target reader (B->B).
Content for Customers (ie – “Content Marketing”)
Goal: More informed and productive (and therefore more loyal) current customers.
Secondary Goal: Purchase incentive for prospective customers (“hey, these guys explained this topic really well. They must know what they’re doing!”)
Tertiary Goal: Social media shares among prospective customers (“wow, this blog post/video/infographic is very informative. I need to tweet this!”).
This type of content very well may help a site’s SERP ranking. But the increased visibility will come as a result of establishing industry and customer relationships, not as much by reaching out to linkers.
Brainstorming Content for Customers
If your company or product receives customer service emails, have a conversation with the person who manages them:
- What are the most frequently asked questions your customer service rep(s) receive?
- What do your customer service rep(s) wish more customers knew before starting out with the product? (ie – what areas of information are many of your customers missing, and how is this missing information negatively affecting their experience with your product or service?)
Other ways to dig around for the best customer content pieces are:
- Survey existing customers. Ask them what they wish they understood more about your industry.
- Check out your competitors’ customer-facing content. How can you say it better?
Content for Industry Experts
Goal: Social shares and recognition among industry peers, with the hope of gaining recognition from industry experts, who can further boost your social influence among industry and non-industry followers.
Secondary Goal: Links!
There is some room for link building with this type of content, as experts and curators in many industries maintain blogs that may link to content or that may offer the opportunity for an interview or guest post. However, it’s important to distinguish these linkers from our audience of general linkers
Brainstorming Content for Industry Peers
- Use Twitter to track existing articles, conversations and debates in your topic area. Search for terms related to your vertical or industry. Or search Google or followerwonk for the major Twitter influencers in your industry, then follow their conversations. The level of conversation will vary depending on your vertical.
- Use the Link Prospector to search for blog posts or press pieces covering your topic area. Tune into the current discussions to see what areas of knowledge are still missing.
Where We Go From Here:
We’ve learned that many Link Building Tool users and prospective customers are newer to link prospecting, content creation and link building outreach. So we’ve created this step-by-step course to building an content creation and outreach campaign.
Knowing your intended audience is an important first step in content creation. Certainly all three types of content can be used in tandem. From here, we’ll be looking at more specific topic brainstorming tactics, leveraging your business goals, strategy and even PR ideas along with content into a solid business marketing strategy. No marketing effort works in isolation, not even link building.
The next post in this series is on brainstorming quality content for linkers! And feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or feedback.