Developing Content that Addresses Your Audience’s Needs
Doing your research, embracing SEO, and avoiding assumptions can make a big difference in creating top-notch content.
By Kelly Whelan, Content Marketing Manager, Higher Logic
As an association marketer, keeping a finger on the pulse of your industry is essentially a job requirement —and likely one you’re pretty good at. But while it’s OK to use background knowledge to brainstorm content ideas internally, you shouldn’t assume you know everything.
Instead, shake off preconceptions by putting yourself in your members’ shoes. Figure out where they are: Are members active in your online community? Are they present on social media? Are they part of a particular group, and do they follow specific people? What blog posts and web pages do they visit on your site?
Once you’ve determined where members congregate, listen carefully to their conversations. You may see a lot of engagement with a blog post or thread on social media, indicating you could produce additional content on that subject. Or, if several people in your online community ask the same question, you could interview the members who are responding to that question to provide an in-depth exploration of the topic.
Make it a habit to check in with your members and find out what’s important to them. Monitor online community discussions and check your web and blog traffic. You can also conduct topic and keyword research to determine what people are searching for and what questions you need to answer.
If you have a specific question, poll members or run focus groups to learn more. Not everyone will have the time to get involved, but those who do typically appreciate the opportunity to tell you what they need.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is exactly what it sounds like: Optimizing your website and your content so that it shows up in search engine results. In addition to ensuring your audience finds the content you created, certain pieces of an SEO strategy can help you zero in on your audience’s needs.
Keyword research, for example: You can and should monitor what people are searching for online, down to the phrasing of their questions. Let’s say you work at an association for marketing professionals. You might research keywords and discover people are often searching “How do I use SEO?” or “How do I come up with compelling content?” To meet their needs, you could then create a guide on using SEO to create compelling content.
Additionally, consider on-page optimization: A process that helps ensure the content you create to address your audience’s interests actually gets in front of your audience. At a basic level, having done your keyword research helps you determine what words and phrases you should include when you write or create content.
For example, in my previous work at an association, we referred to a particular topic one way internally but later learned that others in the industry used a different phrase. Because the words we were using in our content didn’t align with the words our audience was searching for, our content might not have appeared in search results and wasn’t getting the traffic we expected. Fixing this issue drew more attention to the content we’d put so much effort into creating.
On a more technical level, make sure to build pages and content in a way that encourages search engines to crawl, index, and rank your pages. This can make your content more user friendly too—ensure the structure of the copy you’re writing is clear and includes at least some aspects that support SEO. For example:
- Use target keywords in your first paragraph.
- Organize your content in a way that makes it easy to consume: break up text with informative headers (try incorporating keywords in those headers); keep vocabulary simple; use short sentences, use bullets and lists, etc.
- Write skim-able headlines.
- Include visuals, but make sure to compress them and use alt text.
A 2020 post on the SEMRrush Blog describes content marketing and SEO as “natural complements to each other”—and that’s a good way to think about them. SEO helps your content strategy, and good content improves your ability to appear in search results.
Even small organizations with limited resources can conduct abbreviated SEO-driven content strategies. A free Google Trends analysis, for example, provides insight into top search queries, while tools like Question DB, Also Asked, and Answer the Public allow you to explore questions people are searching for.
Plenty of tools exist on the keyword front. Browser extensions like the free Keywords Everywhere tool for Chrome are useful for speedy SEO analysis and daily keyword research, including monthly search volume, cost-per-click information, and trend data. In addition to providing information about how often certain words are searched, Google Keyword Planner shows how those searches have changed over time.
Finally, tools like this on-page SEO checker help you optimize your site for better search engine rankings.
Remember to check keywords and audience behavior periodically. This isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it process—you need to regularly evaluate what the hottest topics are, what your members are looking for, and whether or not you’re optimizing your site so members can find what you’re offering. To that end, a bit of trial and error goes a long way.
Higher Logic Thrive is a member experience solution that provides a powerful but simple approach to community, marketing, and member engagement. For more information on how Higher Logic’s years of experience, research, and feedback can solve your challenges, visit thrive.higherlogic.com.