Long-tail content marketing

Content marketing in a competitive idea space is tricky — but not impossible. Here’s the strategy for how to bring tons of that juicy, valuable Google traffic to your site.

Haje Jan Kamps
Aug 6, 2019 · 6 min read

A while back, I wrote about how content marketing is gold-dust for putting your company on the map. That is still true, but I can guarantee one thing: You aren’t the only company competing for eye-balls and search engine rankings. To stand out, you have to get smarter — and to give your customers valuable insights into the problems they are trying to solve. This is where the ‘long tail’ of search results is your friend.

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Long-tail content marketing is all about search results. Coming up with exciting content ideas is half the battle.

Step 1: Who are your customers?

Content marketing starts with having a solid grasp on who your target customers are: Who are the people most likely to buy your product or service? How do you want to capture their attention?

Step 1: Create 2–3 customer profiles (or ‘personas,’ if you will) that describe the customers you are trying to target. You probably have these personas already; if not, Hubspot’s got your back with a good template.

Step 2: What are the problems they are solving?

Your product is probably solving a particular problem. Describe this problem as carefully as you can, in as much depth as you can muster. It’s worth looking at the problem from various angles.

For example, if your company sells mattresses, what problems are you solving? Is it sleep comfort? Back pain? Better sleep? Better rest? Deeper sleep? More affordable sleeping options? Adjustable sleeping options?

The more flexible your product is, the more challenges it can solve — so get creative here — you’ll want to aim for ten problems that can be solved using your products.

Step 3: What might they search to find a solution to the problem?

In this step, the goal is to put yourself in the mind of your customers. Think about the problems they are trying to solve. What might they type into Google to find their solutions?

To continue with the mattress example above, it’s worth pointing out that some of your customers might know that they want a mattress. The ship has probably already sailed for content marketing on that front; you’re better off buying AdWords or other advertising to cover that particular segment.

Again, get creative — and think about what next questions your customers might ask themselves.

  • How can I fall asleep easier?
  • Why do I wake up at night?
  • Do sleeping pills work?
  • Does alcohol make you sleep better?
  • How can I cure my insomnia?
  • Causes for back pain

Etc. Get creative — remember that the questions don’t have to be directly related to your product; you are just trying to brainstorm things your customers might conceivably search for.

At this step, go deep. The goal is to come up with a hundred or so search queries that your customers might conceivably type into a search engine, where the answer might be your product.

Once you have your search terms, do some search volume analysis. There’s no point in writing a blog post as a response to a question if people never search for that particular combination of words. There are tons of tools available; find out which of your search terms are popular?

Step 4: Brainstorm blog titles

Now that you have a hundred search queries that your customers might search for, come up with the answers — in the form of a title of a blog post. For each of the search terms, come up with ten different ways of answering the question. Also, circle back to the customer personas you came up with in Step 1 — different customers might be drawn to different answers here; so use that as your inspiration.

To take an example; the “how can I cure my insomnia” search query above.

  • Five herbal cures for insomnia
  • Using meditation to cure insomnia
  • New research shows what causes insomnia
  • “My brain just wouldn’t let me sleep — My story of insomnia.”
  • How Insomnia ruined my life — and how I solved it.

Have fun with the headlines, and be super creative. The wilder the titles, the more fun you’ll have with it — and the higher the chances are that you come up with something fresh and unique.

Step 5: Paring it down

If you’ve followed all of the steps above, you started with ten problems, you came up with a hundred search queries, and ten blog titles per search query — and you now have a list of 10,000 blog titles. Yes, ten thousand. Yes, that’s a god-awful number of blog titles, and you neither can nor should write them all.

The trick is to start ranking the blog titles. If it’s a bad idea, throw it away. If it seems like it’s a good idea, search for it on Google. The chances are other publications already covered many of your ideas. If a blog title has been done by 50 different websites already, don’t waste your time.

Rank your blog titles by ‘long-tail value.’ A high-value blog title is one that has relatively high search traffic, relatively low competition, and substantial overlap with the problem you are solving.

The result here is a scored list of quality blog titles, prioritized by a combination of the criteria above.

Step 6: Start creating content!

The final step is to start creating content; whether through ghost-writers, a team of freelance writers, or by engaging your organization to start writing content. Start with the highest-potential articles, and start working your way down the list.

Remember that at this point, you are not pushing your products. “Five herbal cures for insomnia” is a valuable, helpful article that your customers will be delighted to read — and perhaps share.

You’re trying to help your customers find solutions to complicated problems — and if they are struggling to sleep, a good mattress is an obvious (and essential) part of the solution, but it’s not the whole solution.

Remember also that you’re not piggybacking on news stories here — that can be a valuable arrow in your content marketing quiver, but that’s a different type of content marketing approach than the ‘long tail’ content we are covering here.

Long-tail articles should be ever-green — in other words, they should be as relevant five years from now as they are today.

Step 7: Keep an eye on the stats

You are going to want to track absolutely everything that’s happening with your blog content. Which articles are getting a lot of traffic, and which ones are duds? More importantly; which ones are converting into sales or leads?

Once you start getting data, you should be able to use that as a guide for future content creation. Invariably, you’ll find that some of the articles you thought wouldn’t perform, do. And some that you had high hopes for, don’t.

Ultimately, great content marketing is a numbers game. Your customers will continually surprise you with what they search for, and with what causes them to convert. You’ll probably find that some articles will go viral and get shared around a lot, and others only get a smattering of search traffic. That’s all okay — keep going, and keep experimenting.

Let the data inform your content marketing efforts — and don’t give up. The internet rewards fresh, engaging, innovative angles into the content. Your goal is to give your customers something valuable: your content. It will help them solve their problems (that’s the whole point, as you’ll remember from steps 2 and 3) — and hopefully convince them that the product or service you are selling is at least a part of the solution.

Haje is a pitch coach based in Silicon Valley, working with a founders all over the world to create the right starting point for productive conversations with investors — from a compelling narrative to a perfect pitch. You can find out more at Haje.me. You can also find Haje on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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