24 Nov 2008

Creating Content to Answer Natural Questions

Late last week Lorelle VanFossen had a post on Blog Herald regarding Sarah Palin’s recent criticisms of the blogosphere. Basically, the almost-VP is bellyaching that bloggers passed around rumors instead of asking her directly if little baby Trig was really hers.

Poor Sarah. It’s too bad she didn’t have any media time to set the record straight herself and be forthcoming with information. Oh wait.

But that’s another issue.

What caught my eye about Lorelle’s post wasn’t that she was talking about Sarah Palin (the only interesting Palin story is this one). It was the topic of natural questions. The questions and concerns that people are going to ‘naturally’ have about you and will continue to ask and think about until you clear them up. The questions that you have to answer because your customers aren’t going to take the time to figure it out on their own. They’ll simply believe what’s easiest and move on. Even if the the “most obvious” and “easiest” answer isn’t true.

Your Web site must answer these ‘natural questions’. That’s where you need to dedicate yourself to writing content.

I’ve been meaning to comment on this for awhile now, but we’re seeing a huge demand for content creation services at We Build Pages. Every day we have more and more requests coming in to our team of writers asking for new site pages, new link bait ideas, new articles, and new product pages that are actually useful. What’s interesting about the requests is that most folks still don’t know what they’re really looking for. They don’t know why they need content, what the goal is or how it can help their site to rank better. They’re not using the content to answer questions and put visitors on the path to conversion.  Instead, they’re just coming up with words. And that’s unfortunate.

It’s unfortunate because that’s not what your content creation process should look like. We Build Pages is lucky enough to work with some pretty big name clients. I’m talking about brands that would make Perez Hilton should they end up in rehab tomorrow (drink responsibly, folks). They’re well-branded companies with a world of possibility in front of them. But they don’t know how to take advantage of all that fairy dust they’ve been blessed with. That’s why they’ve come to us.

Before you hire anyone to write SEO content for your Web site (or even attempt to write it yourself), you need to know what your goals are. How will your rankings be supported by the content you’re writing? What content needs do searchers have? What pages of your site need to be filled out in order to hep answer user’s natural questions? What holes do your logs show?

Content is important, but it can also be fairly expensive. You don’t want to waste valuable time and money creating pages or content ideas that aren’t going to help you. You want to focus on what matters. Your content writing strategy should be just that, strategic. You can’t just throw words at your site and hope some of them stick in the right places and bring visitors. You should know what content you need, why you need it, and how it’s going to help you. That’s how you’re going to see results.

Personally, as many companies as we have asking us for it, I don’t want to write a client’s About Us page. That’s not the kind of content that’s important to their Web site and I view it as a waste of their money. I’d much rather help them create a subtopic landing page or another content piece that will bring the site together and help visitors find the answers they’re looking for. That content has value.

The best way to figure out what kind of content you need on your site is to realize that when people search, they’re not looking for you. They’re looking for answers. That’s why even though an About Page is nice to have, it doesn’t do anything but maybe make you look more reputable. It won’t compel someone to buy from you. For that, you need to provide the information that people are looking for in the moment. They want information on New England hotels. They’re looking to buy an electric fireplace so they don’t freeze to death in historic Troy, NY. They’re looking for a plumber because Sears has the worst customer service in the entire world and won’t hook up your dryer (call me!). That’s why people are searching and you need to tune into their queries and then find ways to answer their questions in your content.

All content is not created equal. Make sure you’re investing in the type of content creation that will help your users and the search engines find you and establish you as an authority. Save the About Us page for your 13-year-old niece. We’ll do the rest.  ;)