As part of my deck for the upcoming SIMA Bootcamp event I wanted to make sure I had some interesting content ideas to pass along, in addition to the slides about SEO basics (Side note: This video from SEL does a great job of explaining SEO 101 in 3 minutes).
I wanted to really add value...Not so much that you should 'create good content', since that has been said 100x over, but more actionable ideas like, 'here is a quick way to get started w/ said content'. Since the majority of the audience at this particular show is in the surfing industry, my natural inclination was towards a relevant topic...wetsuits.
My first step was to think about what content about wetsuits would be compelling in the online space...then Google pretty much laid it on me: A Wetsuit Buying Guide:
We know Google likes guides, heck, they are serving them in their own shopping results. So how should surferhop.com approach the daunting task of creating a compelling guide? In addition to checking out what is currently getting love (and their backlinks), I thought, why not connect with actual surfers - the people who will be reading and linking to this content? Sure, interviewing 10, 20, 30 surfers would be a great start. Asking them what brands they care about, what features are most important...using that insight to create the content. But who was the time and resources to do interviews, parse through answers and distill that into something actionable?
Instead, why not find a venue where surfers are already talking about this very topic...where you could just listen to their wants, needs and concerns. Then you'd know exactly what factors are critical when they are making the decision to plunk down $400 or more on some skin tight neoprene so they can sit in icy water.
So I dropped in this query (and a few others) in hopes of finding a forum where this very discussion was taking place:
"Powered by UBB.threads" wetsuit review
Low and behold, there is a 15 page thread on the surfermag.com forum titled "The Great Unbiased Wetsuit Review Thread". 15 PAGES!! At 40 posts per page, we're looking at almost 600 posts worth of content, from engaged surfers - the people you want to create content for.
Since I'm not a scraping master, I did things the old fashioned way...Disable Images, Show all Comments, Disable Inline Styles...and a few other crude hacks to get myself in a position to copy/paste all the text. Next, I dropped that all into excel and removed the user handles, post dates, and miscellaneous junk that comes with a huge copy/paste from a forum.
I was left with a huge amount of comments - nothing more, nothing less.
To make this actionable I decided to use TagCrowd to visualize what the commenters were talking about. I'm not going to lie, this was the first time I'd tried this, so when I hit Visualize! I was nervous the output would be junk. Thankfully, it wasn't. (I know there has been some backlash against using wordclouds recently, but in this case I think it works quite well since we're just using it for pure text analysis).
What I was left with was a clean picture of this enormous thread of engaged surfers:
For those who are not surfers, my trained eye immediately picked up some patterns - namely the most important brands and 'features' that the surfers were interested in:
With this information we can bridge the gap between:
'man, we should really create a wetsuit guide...'
'Alright, let's get content on Matuse, Patagonia, Xcel and Hotline and make sure that we touch on the materials used, what type of seams each manufacturer uses, if there is a warranty and how flexible the suits are'
Not only did this little exercise generate a clear path for content, but it also came from the source. Engaged surfers wrote those comments, not your brand team, not your writers who 'think they have their finger on the pulse'...nope, this is the content the surfers want, and the type of content that could make for a great linkbait piece. I want to mention that some of the mentions in the thread that popped in the word cloud could have been negative (these [brand] suits are no good, bad seams, not flexible at all etc) but that in my mind is a good thing. If you do your research well for the guide, you'll almost certainly find that X brand under performs and that Y model has been known to leak...Making your content even stronger.