You may have heard that content is king, but the truth is that informational content is king. It’s estimated that approximately 50-80% of search queries are informational in nature (pdf). Most websites have very little informational content on them, preferring instead to focus on driving a conversion. These websites are missing an excellent opportunity to capture search market share.
Ratios of Informational Content
In previous articles, I’ve written about the importance of theming content – developing a strategy that truly plays to your customers’ search intent. But usually, very little of that is informational content. The average website has a ratio of 80/20 navigational or transactional content to informational content — the opposite of how people are searching. If you have a blog, the ratio usually doesn’t get much higher than 60/40, and even then, most of that content is either not keyword rich or it’s what we call “time-limited” content.
Types of Informational Content
There are two primary types of informational content: “time-limited” and “evergreen.” The former describes the category that most blog posts fall into: a summary of some industry event, a commentary on recent news, or an opinion piece that will be outdated in a few months. Evergreen content, on the other hand, will continue to be relevant for many years.
The most popular of the latter type is “how to” content; but, that content has unfortunately earned a bad reputation due to sites like ehow and wikianswers, where you are as likely to find content on how to tie a shoe (not particularly useful) as you are on how to tune a guitar (useful). If a how-to is useful, then by all means, you should write it and include it on your website.
If you’re having trouble determining what people in your industry are looking for, try using the “Discussions” feature in Google. To do this, search for a keyword, like [computers]. Then, click on the “More” drop-down menu and select “Discussions.”
The resulting page shows you a variety of queries and discussions related to your keyword. “What percentage of computers are gaming computers?” “Where can I buy a used computer?” “How can I connect multiple computers to the same Internet connection?”
These questions all make great fodder for evergreen content. You could collect some data and write a post about what kinds of computers people buy and what they are used for or a post on what to look for and be wary of when buying a used computer or a post that explains how to connect multiple computers through a single router.
As you can see by the examples above, evergreen informational content doesn’t necessarily have to be “how-to” in nature; it can be explanatory (the difference between x and y) or best practices (why x, y and z will continue to work), as long as each is based on a topic or concept that is likely to remain relevant for years to come.
While time-limited content tends to be more effective at gaining links and attention, evergreen content is generally (not always) more effective at gaining rankings for specific keywords. The key is to make sure either type of content is truly helpful to searchers and not just written for SEO.
When is Informational Content Useful?
To answer this question, consider what the searcher is looking for. For example, if a searcher is looking for “droid cases” and you sell batteries, then content related to “droid cases” is probably not going to be all that useful to either party. A searcher of “droid cases” is not going to find your website relevant if you don’t sell droid cases, even if you do provide great information about how to choose one.
But, if the searcher wants to know why his “phone won’t charge” (10k monthly searches and very low competition), then you could provide some detailed, helpful content about when it’s best to buy a new charger or how to tell when your battery may be past its prime. This type of content is directly geared toward producing a sale, but it does not have to be.
Another example: let’s say you have a corporate website and you are trying to attract investors. This is a very competitive, low search volume market. Obviously, you want to optimize for the brand keywords [xyz company investing] and such, but you also may want to provide information on the different types of investments as well, even if you don’t offer them.
For instance, [high yield investment] is a strong search term. If your company is focused on long-term investment, then this would be the exact opposite of what you do; so normally, you would not optimize for it. But, with such a limited volume for [low risk investing] and similarly relevant keywords, you should take the opportunity to try and capture these additional keywords. Here’s how:
Integrating Your Informational Content
Informational content is important, and you shouldn’t just throw it everywhere. Long-form content has its place, and you should consult with your designers and user experience team to determine where it fits best. (We’ll explore that more next month.)
For now, just know that you need to have the content as well integrated with your site as possible. Keep in mind, too, that evergreen content can be in a blog if that’s where it makes sense to put it, but it’s more likely to get search engine attention if it’s part of your main navigation, such as within an “information center” or “resources” section.
If you fill a few pages of your site with informational content, you’ll find that you will get a lot more traffic. The catch? You must accept that the purpose of this exercise is to get more eyeballs on your site (oops, I mean to provide a valuable service) and that the traffic may not convert well. Still, 1% conversion on 10,000 visitors is a lot more conversions than 5% conversion on 1,000 visitors.
I joked earlier that this is just an SEO play, but the truth is that all websites should have some element of informational content. There are several stages in the buying cycle, and information gathering is one of the most important. Don’t leave your information seekers out in the cold — or worse, at one of your competitors’ websites.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.