The Informational Content Advantage

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blog posts fall into: a summary of some industry event, a commentary on recent news, or an opinion piece that will be outdated in a few months.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.”

Discussion tab in Google

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:

Steps to write informational content

Steps to writing informational content

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.

Related Topics: Advanced | Channel: SEO | How To | How To: SEO | Keywords & Content | SEO: Writing & Body Copy

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About The Author: is the President of an online marketing consulting company offering SEO, PPC, and Web Design services. She's been in search since 2000 and focuses on long term strategies, intuitive user experience and successful customer acquisition. She occasionally offers her personal insights on her blog, JLH Marketing.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • http://twitter.com/AbeBellini Abe Bellini

    Nice article, Jenny. I really like the examples you used for informational search queries. Great strategy.

  • http://www.archology.com/ Jenny Halasz

    Thanks, glad you enjoyed it!

  • http://www.buzzmaven.com/ Scott Clark

    Awesome! I would only add one small tactic… the inverted pyramid approach to content bundles. Assume that 80% will read 20%, so the punch line is first and supporting information after.

  • http://www.archology.com/ Jenny Halasz

    Good point, Scott! Thank you.

  • Dean Iodice

    Great post I love the idea of posting the content off the blog creating articles as a informational area as opposed to stuffing all on the blog. This give me some great ideas I’m going to implement right away

  • http://www.bestravelcoupons.com/ Best Travel Coupons

    I would like to add another important value which is very important for writing. Don’t use big words in content. Content should be easy to read and easy to convey your message.

  • http://www.archology.com/ Jenny Halasz

    Glad it was helpful!

  • http://www.delsurseo.com/ Dou9las

    Great article Jenny, this nicely reinforces a strategy that I’ve recently presented to an enterprise client. Not to split hairs nor to be argumentative, but I did want to clarify your point above regarding 50% to 80% of queries being informational. In the linked PDF above, the breakdown provided for queries in the “informational” classification is 48%. This percentage is of course significant and in fact, commands a greater share than the other 2 classifications (Navigational at 20%, Transactional at 30%.) I might be missing some other data and/or conclusions derived from that research, can you clarify for me? I do plan to share your article with my client, so just want to have my ducks in a row. Thank You!

  • Jerry Hilburn

    Hmmm…..

    Interesting, but you have based your analysis and recommendations on a study that informs the state of search as it was in 2001. Hardly relevant to today’s search patterns. I reject the claim that 50-80% of search queries today are informational in nature, as defined in this study.

    I suggest that this study is seriously out of date due to the manner in which it fails to consider Temporal Informational Queries. The Survey Questions do not ask the user if they are searching for temporal types of information which are short lived, and necessarily dynamic! I wonder aloud how this information is relevant today?

    I would prefer to see a study that explores behavioral statistics of 2013 as it relates to search patterns for breaking news, real time events, weather, stock ticker, sports updates, and other dynamic information sets as compared to static “evergreen” content.

    2 centavos deposited.

  • http://www.archology.com/ Jenny Halasz

    Fair enough! I looked everywhere for newer data, but the best I could find was that several other noted industry leaders supported this research in newer posts – Aaron Wall of SEOBook was one. Google has said that as much as 20% of searches have local intent, but the majority of that is estimated by others to be from mobile. Remember the classic definition of informational, navigational, and transactional queries: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_search_query. There’s no distinction for types of informational queries, although you are quite right that temporal informational queries are a significant portion of these in today’s marketplace. I agree that I would like to see a more updated study, but firmly believe that consumption of informational content is still a significant part of user behavior and therefore necessary on most sites. Gracias por tu dos centavos.

  • http://www.archology.com/ Jenny Halasz

    Thank you! You’re correct that the study itself says 48% on the low end, but I saw it referenced many other places as 50-80 and chose to go with that for the sake of simplicity. However, the study is very old (2001) and I was simply using it as a springboard for my hypothesis. I’d try to focus a client on that rather than on the study itself. While I believe those percentages are still pretty accurate today, there hasn’t been a newer study conducted. What I would suggest for you with your client is to familiarize them with the query types: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_search_query and maybe try to find some research on human psychology as it relates to the buying cycle. The concept of the zero moment of truth may also be helpful, as the majority of content shared at that stage is informational as well. Good luck!

  • http://www.delsurseo.com/ Dou9las

    Sounds like an exceptional opportunity to author just such a study since there is an obvious need and demand for it among marketers and SEOs. I think I will get crackin’ on that now and then…hmm, maybe post it in an informational hub on my site to help establish greater authority AND get a boost in ranking and traffic. ;)

  • http://twitter.com/mtipolyexe MTI Polyexe

    I agree in fact I put in the program that allowed for updating of PDFs recently on an e-commerce site. My team did it I will report back more about it but essentially what it does is it allowed the manufacturer to make updates to PDFs inside their website from a third-party piece of software. I’m a big word press guy and believe that this site was not made in WordPress I have to check with my team so I will get that info to. Because a PDF is readable of course it is prime for indexing. In addition it’s great for getting leads because you can ask somebody to give their e-mail address.

  • http://www.blueprintmarketing.com/ Thomas Zickell

    I agree in fact I put in the program that allowed for updating of PDFs recently on an e-commerce site. My team did it I will report back more about it but essentially what it does is it allowed the manufacturer to make updates to PDFs inside their website from a third-party piece of software. I’m a big word press guy and believe that this site was not made in WordPress I have to check with my team so I will get that info to. Because a PDF is readable of course it is prime for indexing. In addition it’s great for getting leads because you can ask somebody to give their e-mail address.

  • http://www.archology.com/ Jenny Halasz

    I love the new capability to render PDFs within a page. Really nice because then when they get indexed, it forces the main site “wrap” around it instead of google just pointing to a .pdf file.

  • http://www.archology.com/ Jenny Halasz

    well-played, sir. ;-)

 

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