The Search Component in Content

You slave away developing content to market your brand or drive sales only to find by the end of the week that the only individuals who consumed it are your mom and your dog, who devoured the printouts you left on the floor.

Skip Besthoff, CEO of InboundWriter, an application that optimizes content marketing, says that 20% of content typically drives 80% of traffic. He points out an example from a client he’s working with: “For this really large site with 85,767 pieces of content, .5% drives 34% of traffic,” he says. “The top 1% of content drives 43% of organic traffic.

To put it in the parlance of a losing football team: When it comes to content, marketers leave a lot on the field.

Another example: A writer “with a decent Klout score” wrote something that spiked, then immediately flatlined.

“We view this as a problem,” Besthoff says. “If you’re a publisher and you put a lot of effort into content and you drive 6,000 visits, that’s worth around $30. So most people are losing money.”

Marketers may be pressured by their penny-pinching higher-ups to measure the results of a piece of content—tracking it over the numerous channels on which it’s published and republished. But how do they know, before they invest time and energy into the creative process, whether that content will be successful in the first place?

Besthoff says it’s a matter of knowing what else is out there, how your content stacks up from an SEO perspective and in terms of the competition (not coincidentally, InboundWriter is releasing a solution today that does precisely that). In other words, it’s about finding the term that’s most popular and positioning the piece advantageously against competitors.

Consider an article about, say, student loan relief. I watch as Besthoff plugs the term into his solution, which uses natural language processing to scan the Web and pull about 500 pieces of content—as well as the writers or businesses that authored the content. Other, seemingly synonymous terms like “student debt relief,” Besthoff finds, are by comparison less heavily searched for. In other words, there’s a reason “student loan relief” is such a competitive term from an SEO standpoint.

There are other factors, Besthoff says, that affect the tendency for content to surface. Being associated with a heavily trafficked site (like Citibank, to pick a hypothetical) will naturally increase the chances of content to be found, even if it’s reliant on highly competitive search terms.

For marketers who aren’t associated with the top sites in their respective industry, finding the right search term—and consequently the right topic—is a matter of drilling into a level of specificity. Take “back-country skiing,” another term Besthoff sampled and found both highly popular and, consequently, competitive.

Better terms? According to InboundWriter’s solution, something that zeroed in on a specific back-country destinations like Whiteface Mountain or Lake Placid. Ultimately, it’s a matter of finding the right topics before investing the time and energy into developing content around it.

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