When a sailor is navigating by the stars they need a celestial constant — a star to reference all the other stars by, a key to unlock and understand the rest of the map.
As the Earth spins, the constellations in the northern hemisphere sky currently revolve around a single star called Polaris. It’s a “Pole Star,” a near foolproof way for sailors to find their bearings on a clear night.
A brand’s mission is no different. Every decision, every nook, cranny, fringe, and faction in the organization should revolve around their mission — spinning ’round the thing the organization exists to make happen. Defining that constant is literally mission critical.
I run a design studio, but our mission isn’t design, brand identity, or websites — those are just tactics. The tactics should never become the mission. When we work with new businesses and established organizations, first we have to understand their version of Polaris, then we can plot a course from where the brand is, over the visible horizon, to where it needs to be.
Design isn’t magic; it’s the disciplined process of changing existing situations to ideal ones. But to do that well, we need a destination beyond the craft. Without a shared destination, we lack shared mission. Arguing about taking a left or a right at the fork doesn’t matter if the designer and the client are operating off of two different maps.
Define what’s true, first. Then you can start your journey.
Amateur Celestial Navigation Tips
If you don’t know how to find Polaris, two constellations will help you see it—Ursa Major and Ursa Minor (aka The Big Dipper and The Little Dipper). Look at the front edge of The Big Dipper’s ladle, follow the path like you’re liquid being poured out, and you’ll run right in to Polaris, the last star in the handle of The Little Dipper.
Content marketing is a broad term that can be interpreted in multiple ways within the greater marketing spectrum. For some, content marketing is a blog post, for others, it could be large, interactive pieces. For John Deere, content marketing took the form of a print magazine all the way back in the 1800s!
Regardless of the format or type of content being marketed, presenting useful or entertaining information to your audience – in a way that speaks to them – has always been an important part of good marketing. Things are no different within search, where content marketing equates to promoting your webpages (content) to relevant audiences online (marketing via social media and other websites).
Today I want to walk through the process I use to help clients identify and capitalize on the content marketing opportunities available to them. Let’s dive in!
Start with existing content
The best place to start when searching for content marketing opportunities is with your existing pages – these are the opportunities that will take the least upfront investment as the content already exists.
You can easily identify your top pages – in terms of organic traffic – in Google Analytics. While it’s important to understand how your site is earning traffic, we’re looking for new opportunities – your best pages are already performing, and to achieve growth you need to capture new opportunities.
Find new opportunities with existing pages
To find fresh content marketing opportunities, start with Google Search Console. In GSC, you can analyze which keywords or queries are associated with your website and see how many clicks and impressions they’re earning in Google search. You can also analyze clicks and impressions for your individual pages.
Compare queries and pages to ensure you have pages that are good matches for your top queries. Are these the pages you would expect to be earning clicks and impressions? Do you have a better page that isn’t showing in Google Search Console? Ask yourself these questions as there may be an opportunity to optimize and promote an existing page that could rank better and earn more clicks than the page Google currently associates with a given query.
If you have the budget, there are also some great tools available that can help you identify your top pages and those that are barely missing the mark. Tools such as Ahrefs, Moz, and SEMrush all offer various ways to analyze your content.
These tools will help you find your most successful content, but more importantly, you can find pages ranking on the first page. Often, some light optimization (tweaking titles, header tags, etc.) and updating can be the difference between page two rankings and appearing on the first page.
It’s much easier to update existing pages than create new content, so you should always start by analyzing current rankings to see if you have any of these opportunities available.
Updating, repurposing, and promoting existing content
Once you’ve identified new content marketing opportunities for your existing pages, it’s time to execute.
Most, if not all, of your content marketing opportunities for existing pages will require some level of updating or reformatting or both. In some instances, you might find a page that was simply underpromoted and needs more links to perform better, but for the most part, you will need to do some on-page optimization as well.
Updating your pages means more than changing the publish date.
To improve search performance for an existing page, you need to make substantial updates in terms of depth and recency of the information on the page. For example, I recently found that a guide I had written that was ranking for a few keywords. To help push it onto the first page of the search results, I updated the post.
These updates included:
Restructuring the content for improved scannability and a clear hierarchy of information.
Deeper research into the topic to provide more actionable information.
Rewriting outdated sections to offer more accurate information.
Adding relevant links to authoritative external sources.
Fixing and updating broken external links.
Adding internal links to related pages.
Adding fresh, high-quality images.
Making these updates was a significant time investment, but still took less time and effort than generating a new content idea and writing a post from scratch. And best of all, the updates helped push the post at the top of the results I was targeting!
Converting content to a new format or adding new formats to an existing page can often help that content perform better in search. For example, if you notice there are multiple video results for the term your page is targeting, chances are your page could benefit from adding video content. Some other reformatting options include:
Adding a concise definition or bulleted list at the top of the page for informational queries to optimize for rich snippets.
Creating complementary interactive elements such as a tool, quiz, game, etc.
Converting long-form text into an easily digestible infographic.
Developing high-quality, original photography and imagery.
Transcribing video or audio content into a blog post.
Repurposing content not only breathes new life into a page, but it can also improve that page’s performance in organic search if it creates a better user experience and better answers searcher intent.
If you have pages that rank well but not on the first page, consider analyzing the current top results to see if you can identify trends in formatting – if your page is missing these elements, adding them could help your page rank better.
Finding opportunities for content creation
While optimizing existing pages is the path of least resistance, to sustain long-term success in organic search you will also need to create new content.
Content inspiration can come from a variety of sources, but if you want to build content that performs in search you should focus on niche analysis and competitive research.
Niche analysis for content marketing involves researching how your audience is searching online and which topics they interest them.
You need to understand how your audience searches for topics related to your business and the language they use. Subtle differences in word usage can equate to large differences in search volume and you want to optimize your content for the terms your audience is using.
For example, look at the difference between the search phrases [coffee mug holder] and [coffee mug rack] (using Moz’s Keyword Explorer):