Sign up for weekly recaps of the ever-changing search marketing landscape.
Planting The Seeds For An Evergreen Content Strategy
Columnist Patrick Stox explains how to create an evergreen content strategy based on keyword insights to capture searchers at various points in the conversion funnel.
Evergreen content is content that stands the test of time, that is found through search and provides constant traffic, that is shared socially over time, and acquires natural links. Evergreen content is the lifeblood of inbound marketing and the key to being viewed as the expert in your niche.
By creating quality, useful content that is targeted toward search queries people use, you will be able to build your audience and expose your brand to potential customers in different stages of the conversion process, giving you multiple opportunities to capture them as a lead.
Some types of content just can’t be evergreen, such as pop culture, trends, seasonal article, statistics/studies that will go out of date, or news. It’s not that these types of content aren’t valuable, it’s just that they have a quick rise and fall, with a limited lifespan.
The first step to creating an evergreen content strategy is to find out what your audience is searching for so that you can properly position yourself in front of them. Gather data from your favorite long-tail keyword research tool such as Ubersuggest, KeywordTool.io, or ScrapeBox. (Note: I have no affiliation with any of these tools.)
I typically start with a combination of terms from the Google AdWords Keyword Planner (which I don’t trust it completely as it tends to hide many highly searched phrases that Google has deemed don’t have commercial intent for their PPC customers) and Google Search Console. I take my gathered list and use a long-tail tool to find more of what people are searching for in my targeted niche.
My tool of choice in this case is a paid tool called ScrapeBox, which I use to gather keywords from Google Suggest. That’s right, ScrapeBox lets you gather keyword data that comes from how people actually search. For a long time, this tool was considered black hat as it was used for spamming blog comments. However, ScrapeBox also contains many features for quick research such as keyword research, link checking, grabbing emails, whois data, and more.
In this example, I entered one Search Keyword (“content strategy”) and set one source (google.com). I used some very basic settings of the program, appending a-z to the search queries and scraping 4 levels deep, meaning ScrapeBox adds every letter from a-z to my suggested term and scrapes the Google Suggest terms for my base keywords, then takes the results and gathers suggested terms for them and does this a few times (see gif below.)
This gave me a list of 669 phrases related to content strategy that are popular enough to be included in Google Suggest.
Now that I have this long list of keywords, I need to group them by common terms. To do this, I use an old version of the AdWords Editor, in which Google included a Keyword Grouper feature.
Many times, the groupings will be similar to the terms originally suggested in the Keyword Planner, with the difference being that I now have several actual phrases used by searches. The reason I don’t use the Keyword Planner tool inside AdWords to group the keywords is because the tool limits you to 800 search terms; however, if you have less than that and want keyword volume data as well, then this option works just fine.
You can still use this Keyword Grouper feature if you download an old version of the AdWords editor such as 10.6 from http://www.google.com/intl/en-US/adwordseditor/. Google has since removed the Keyword Grouper instructions, but you can still find an archived version here and I have copied them below as well.
AdWords Editor 10.6 and earlier
- Create a draft campaign by selecting one of the draft campaign options in the Data menu.
- Name the campaign and the first ad group.
- In the tree view, select the campaign name.
- Select the Keywords tab.
- Select Edit > Select All to select all your keywords.
- Select Edit > Copy to copy all your keywords.
- Select the new ad group in your new draft campaign.
- Select Edit > Paste to paste your keyword list.
- Select Tools > Keyword Grouper to run the Keyword Grouper on your entire keyword list.
The Keyword Grouper allows you to group by common terms which it can suggest or you can specify, depending on whether you like their suggestions or want even more control. You can also add a list of “stop words” or other words you want to ignore when grouping, giving you a lot of control over the groups that are made.
You can see the result of my grouping of the terms related to “content strategy” here. The terms are now sorted around various topics and give a ton of information about popular subtopics for the chosen keyword. This type of research provides the foundation for an evergreen content strategy (not to mention a lot of insight and extra search phrases for a PPC campaign).
For this example, I can glean insights based on the groupings, telling me the main topics that people are looking for related to “content strategy,” such as a content strategy for social media (including specific platforms like Facebook), content strategy templates, content strategy process, content strategy for mobile, etc.
To give you an example of how they are grouped, here is the grouping for terms related to “Template” with the relevant search phrases people are using, giving me insight into the kind of information they are looking for when searching for a content strategy template:
|Template||blog content strategy template|
|Template||content management strategy template|
|Template||content migration strategy template|
|Template||content strategy brief template|
|Template||content strategy document template|
|Template||content strategy outline template|
|Template||content strategy template|
|Template||content strategy template download|
|Template||enterprise content management strategy template|
|Template||facebook content strategy template|
|Template||online content strategy template|
|Template||sample content strategy template|
|Template||website content strategy template|
Targeting The Content Strategy
Armed with an array of search queries around your topic, the next step is to classify the different queries as far as intent and figure out which stage of the conversion funnel the searcher is in. For this to be successful, you need to know your buyer personas or representative groups of buyers and their questions, habits, buyer journeys, and needs.
Conversion funnels have many stages depending on how far you want to break them down, but in general top-of-funnel visitors are showing awareness and some interest, middle-of-funnel shows interest and intent, and bottom-of-funnel users are ready to convert.
Navigational Queries are branded searches or searches looking for something very specific. If the query is for you or your product, you will likely receive the click anyway. If the search is for a competitor or competing product, it will be difficult to capture these users.
These will be either your most valuable visitors or your least valuable, depending on if they are looking at your or a competitor. Someone looking for you or your product is probably at the bottom of the conversion funnel and ready to act now, whereas someone looking for a competitor probably isn’t in your funnel at all.
For the content strategy example, any queries including a brand name would fall into this category such as “content strategy hubspot,” “content strategy moz,” or “content strategy quicksprout.” Navigational queries in general aren’t targeted with content, but more by building your brand. A caveat to this is that product comparisons can target competitors’ brands or products, but are typically more informational in nature.
Informational queries are where an evergreen content strategy will shine. These are “how to” queries, research, product comparisons, etc.
Information queries are top- to middle-of-funnel and represent where buyers are going from looking for someone who meets their needs to someone who answers their questions and convinces them they are making the right decision. This is your time to convince them you are the right person, the right company, or the right product to do exactly what they want.
The term I chose earlier, “content strategy,” is more informational in nature than anything else, making this the biggest bucket and your best opportunity to attract buyers. Some of the terms searched are typical of users who will not likely convert, however, such those that fall in the “diy” and “how to” categories. Still, by providing information to these searchers, you set yourself up as the leader in a niche.
Unfortunately with this category, you can have everything from very light to very high intent. With this part of the funnel, the more users you can attract at the top of the funnel and stay in front of, the more users you will have near the bottom of the funnel who convert.
Transactional queries are very high intent queries. These searchers have likely done their research (or are rushed), and they are ready to buy.
A couple examples of high intent search queries for content strategy would be “content strategy agency,” “content strategy consulting,” “best content strategy agency,” or “content strategy san diego” — and even these could technically fall into the “informational” bucket. Typically, you would see more phrases such as “buy,” “order,” or location specific queries. I do see a lot of location specific queries for content strategy, which would indicate that a user is looking for someone to make a content strategy and they are looking for someone local.
Generally, your home page and product/service pages or any landing pages you have made will be for transactional queries, as the action you want is for the page visitor to contact you via phone, email, or a form.
While these types of queries have been the standard since Andrei Broder published A Taxonomy of Web Search in 2002, I never limit myself to just these categories or set a specific number of steps in a conversion funnel, as every industry and buyer is different. In fact, when classifying search queries I often end up with a few unexpected categorizations, and I recommend you make as many categories as you need to make sense of the data.
I often see terms that I would call “adjacent terms,” or terms related to my product or service in some way but not directly relevant. For instance, I see a lot of references to SEO strategy in my research, and this is the type of related search that could lead people to my targeted service of content strategy.
In many cases, search phrases may fall into multiple categories, and that’s okay! The purpose of building this is more for the insights gleaned into your industry and finding the best way to target your buyers at different parts of their journey. If you’re just targeting people at the end of their journey, you have already missed out on the majority of your potential customers.
Succeeding With Evergreen Content
The recipe for success with evergreen content is matching the buyer persona with their position in the conversion funnel and targeting your messaging and content to meet their needs and intent. Content can be anything such as resources, FAQs, tutorials, lists, definitions, case studies, whitepapers, images, infographics, videos, or new pages. Each has its own merits as far as establishing trust, building awareness, acquiring natural links, and generating leads.
Resources, FAQs, how-tos, infographics, guest posts, press releases, social media, and definitions lay the foundation and target users high in the conversion funnel while planting the idea in the mind of prospects that you are the expert. Case studies, whitepapers, webinars, and demonstrations show your expertise and are the foundation for the middle of your conversion funnel. Testimonials, newsletters, and special offers provide the social proof and incentives needed to convince a buyer you are the right choice and to complete the funnel.
Some types of content may extend over multiple stages of the conversion funnel. To use social as an example, a social post may bring in someone at the top of the conversion funnel who didn’t know about you previously; it could also contain a statistic that helps convince a person of your expertise; it could contain a coupon leading to a conversion; or, it could be used for ongoing client communication and customer service.
Knowing how to target the right user with the right type of content and messaging at the right time is the foundation for a successful evergreen content strategy. You will catch people early in the process, and they will likely see your brand in multiple steps of their conversion process, giving you both brand awareness and multiple chances to capture the person and get them into your sales funnel!
The more touch points you have or the more times you appear in front of a prospect, the more likely they are to convert — and convert sooner rather than later, unless you’re overdoing it and stalking them. Typically, with more informational queries higher in the conversion funnel, you simply want to capture their email address. As you get lower in the funnel, you’ll want to get more information so you can have a full conversation about how you meet their needs.
The rest comes down to making sure your content is in-depth, answers your readers’ questions, and overcomes their objections. If your content needs a little kick start, I recommend creating a list of people, targeted sites, or current customers or prospects who might be interested in your content and reaching out to them to promote your it! The trade-off here is that you could be spending time creating more content as well.
Are you attracting enough inbound leads? Tell me what you are doing to be successful below!
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.