When I say “monitoring online activity,” I am not talking about using spyware and keyloggers to see what people are doing online. I’m talking about relying on analytics from your website, social media channels, social listening tools, and search listening tools to help you learn more about the audiences you’re creating content for.
Daily, there are more than 3.5 billion Google searches. Annually, it’s 1.2 trillion. Lots of people are asking Google questions, much the same way they’d ask a friend or family member. Questions like:
- How to crack an egg without breaking the yolk?
- Is it okay to wear white after labor day?
- How to test a steak’s temperature without a thermometer?
- Why does my dog eat grass?
- How many feet in a mile?
But, thanks to the advent of smart speakers and voice search, more than 20% of all searches haven’t been seen before.
Chances are you’ve spoken to Google like this in the past week, and it’s likely you’ve also asked something that’s a bit more personal, too. Many questions you face every day aren’t worthy of crowdsourcing to social media because of fear or embarrassment, but Google can still come to the rescue because of the “anonymity” of the white search box. You may ask things like:
- Am I depressed?
- How do you ask a friend out on a date?
- Am I pregnant? (This is one of many widely searched questions, actually.)
Social Listening vs. Search Listening
If you’ve been reading the blog a while, you’ve heard me talk about social listening before. It’s the process of using social media to “listen” to what people are saying about your company, brand, products, services, etc. You can use it to find out what people have to say about your competition, too.
Search listening, on the other hand, is a form of research that dives into what people are sharing with Google. With its insights, you can better understand what your audience really needs, what motivates them, and how they behave. Going beyond SEO to understand search behavior can have a major impact on your marketing results, but many marketers fail to do that. SEO is about the words that go into the search box, and search listening is about understanding the people who are putting them there – either by voice or typing them into the box.
Keyword Research vs. Audience Research
Keyword research is focused on “right now” and is literal and tactical. It shows you the most common words and phrases people are searching for around a specific topic and provides search volume to help you decide if you want to try to target the keyword or not.
Audience research, on the other hand, is focused on the future and strategic. You spend time crafting personas for your audience and comparing those personas to who really is visiting your website – who your customers really are.
Monitoring online activity helps you create content that speaks to your audience, that’s also easy for them to find because of keywords and other SEO efforts. You need both keyword and audience research to succeed in content marketing – and both search listening and social listening helps with all of this.
Building Your Content
It’s better to create content for the right people instead of creating content for the largest group o people. Content marketers often want to cover as much as possible, with the broad approach. There’s nothing wrong with writing to a larger audience, but there are also more targeted questions specific to certain people and things – so you need to create plenty of options to help them answer questions.
Even if you address only a small subset of your audience with a piece of content, you can replicate it with other segments as you go through creating more content. To be successful, you have to be able to meet your audience at the point where they are at the time. Keeping your content evergreen – so it can stand on its own for a long time is key.
As you plan your content, it’s crucial to build pieces of content for each stage of your customer journey – from awareness through post-purchase. What information are people looking for regarding your brand, product, service, etc.?
Tools to Help You Get the Information You Need
AnswerThePublic – a tool I’ve talked about before, is a great tool to find out what people are asking about any particular keyword. It can be targeted by country.
For example, if you’re a sports equipment vendor, you could search for “soccer equipment.” You’d see questions like:
- How much does soccer equipment cost?
- Where do donate used soccer equipment?
- What soccer equipment do you need?
Take a look at “search engine optimization” there. You’ll find questions like:
- What does search engine optimization do?
- How does search engine optimization work?
- Is search engine optimization important for business?
Facebook Pages are a good place to look at your competition. Look closely at the type of content they’re posting on their pages – the types of content, when they go live, and so on, to learn more about how their audience is responding.
Google Analytics provides some audience insights – to show user behavior on your site. You can also use Google keyword tools to learn more about keyword volumes, etc.
YouTube – look at search activity and your competitor’s content. The search activity can help you find questions to answer and new content ideas, and the competitor activity can let you see how people are responding – so you can adjust your strategy accordingly.
Of course, these are not the only platforms you can use for your audience. If there is a place where you know your audience is, you should be there to see what’s going on.
Ultimately, using the information you find, you can find patterns that help you develop the content your audience needs and wants. It’s important to serve your audience first, in everything you do in your online marketing.