The phrase “content is king” gets thrown around a lot. Yes, that’s a cute use of alliteration, but what does it really mean? Thanks to Google’s Panda update, it’s simply not enough to stuff a few keywords into some ham-fisted copy and call it a day. Unique content is both valued and needed more than ever by any self-respecting website that hopes to breach the first page of the SERPs.
Many SEO strategies are now relying upon content to help clients thrive. Whether it’s a one-shot guest post placed on a relevant domain, or a more in-depth overhaul of a site’s existing content, the written word can be one of the most powerful tools in an SEO’s arsenal.
Unique content seems to be a no-brainer when you don’t want your client’s site slapped with a penalty for duplicating content all over the place. But what’s the next step when it comes to creating not just unique content, but meaningful unique content for your clients?
Clients who enlist your expertise as an SEO and/or content writer may look at you like you’re Obi-Wan Kenobi. They’ve dubbed you their only hope and placed their trust in you to boost their site’s rankings (and revenue). They may not require that you become an instant-expert on an industry where they themselves have toiled for many years... But it’s always nice to go that extra mile to better understand your client’s line of work. Consider it your duty as an SEO / content Jedi.
From Zero to Hero
You may not be an expert, but it is possible to become a pseudo-expert even if you have zero background in your client’s industry.
It’s easy to create compelling content when you have a client whose business dovetails with your own interests. However, it’s not always companies in the realm of pop culture, fashion, or video games that come a-callin’, in need of your help. You’re far more likely to deal with clients in highly-specialized B2B industries such as finance, architecture and construction, or even pharmaceuticals.
So, you’re an SEO tasked with creating a content-based strategy for your client and you’re a financial dullard who can barely balance your checkbook. Or maybe your knowledge of the construction industry is limited to building 1/60 scale models of the huts from Gilligan’s Island out of Popsicle sticks. What do you do now?
For starters: Don’t fake it. Savvy professionals in your client’s sphere of interest can spot a phony or improper use of jargon a mile away. When you’re trying to maintain or establish your client as a thought leader, the worst thing you can do is claim authority where there is none.
Where it concerns content, communication is key. Talk to your client and see if there are any free industry blogs that they subscribe to. Subscribe to these blogs yourself or sign up for daily or weekly newsletters or digests. Sure, there is a learning curve, but the more you familiarize yourself with industry terms and hot-button issues, the richer and more informed the content you produce will be.
Tools of the Trade
Even if you’re not writing the content yourself and are farming it out to a qualified freelancer who can capably speak in the voice of your client's industry, it can be a daunting task to put together an editorial calendar of topics for your client. Yet, there several quick, easy, and free tools that can help you become a pseudo-expert in your client’s industry and generate timely, meaningful content topics for them.
SmartBrief collects summaries of daily news across a number of industries. From finance to nonprofits, SmartBrief breaks each of those business sectors down into more granular subcategories so you can more easily find news pertaining to your client’s industry. Simply choose the brief(s) that work best for your client, submit your email address, and BAM! You’re subscribed! These reports can be emailed to you daily and you can skim through to see what’s most important in your client’s industry at the moment or find topics that will yield evergreen content. This can also better inform your linking strategies for the client, too.
2. Google Alerts
It’s always a good practice to set a Google Alert for your client’s company name to see when they appear in the news or are recognized for work they’ve done. (And if a less-than-flattering bit of news pops up on your client, you can also figure out whether you’re able to help them run damage control.)
Beyond setting alerts for your client’s name, you can also set up Google Alerts for your client’s business category itself. Be as specific as possible. A general alert set up for an industry such as “education” may inundate your Inbox with a lot of useless crap you have to sift through. Using a more specific term such as “online education” or “online universities” may yield far more useful news results and mean the difference between receiving news on topics such as “Getting Your Students to Stop Eating Paste” and “Emerging Trends and Majors in Online Education.”
If you’ve already done keyword research for your client, take a look at keywords your client is trying to target as part of your strategy to see what the current buzz is around those terms. Plug some of those keywords into a Google Alerts search and see if anything interesting comes up.
At worst, you can always unsubscribe from specific alerts. At best, you can come away with a solid cache of knowledge about your client’s industry and what matters most to them.
3. TalkWalker Alerts
TalkWalker Alerts is another free alternative to Google Alerts that you can subscribe to in the the same way. In fact, TalkWalker often catches some of the articles and info that Google Alerts sometimes misses. This is another great, free service that can help get you up-to-speed on what’s current in your client’s industry.
4. Industry Conference and Convention Agendas
One of the best ways to generate timely, intelligent, and relevant content topics for your client is to scour the net for industry conventions that post their conference agendas -- and speakers’ presentation topics -- on their conference’s website.
No matter where you’re at, there’s almost always one industry conference or another going on someplace in the world. To attract attendees to their event, conference / convention organizers will post a list of speakers and the topics they will be presenting.
While you may not have access to the presentation itself, taking a look at the topics of discussion listed on the conference website is a great way to gauge what is currently hot in your clients’ industry and what professionals want to hear more about. In turn,“borrowing” (ahem) or building upon these topics can be extremely useful when trying to cobble together an editorial calendar of authoritative guest posts or blog posts for your client.
No one tool or strategy is going to make you a pseudo-expert in your client’s industry overnight. Regardless of what tools you use, the surest route to success is to team up with your client to assess their needs and what they feel makes a good story... With your SEO Jedi expertise sprinkled on top for maximum effect!
May the Force be with you and your client’s content!