New Research: 35% of Competitive Local Keywords Have Local Pack Ads

Posted by Dr-Pete

Over the past year, you may have spotted a new kind of Google ad on a local search. It looks something like this one (on a search for “oil change” from my Pixel phone in the Chicago suburbs):

These ads seem to appear primarily on mobile results, with some limited testing on desktop results. We’ve heard rumors about local pack ads as far back as 2016, but very few details. How prevalent are these ads, and how seriously should you be taking them?

11,000 SERPs: Quick summary

For this study, we decided to look at 110 keywords (in 11 categories) across 100 major US cities. We purposely focused on competitive keywords in large cities, assuming, based on our observations as searchers, that the prevalence rate for these ads was still pretty low. The 11 categories were as follows:

  • Apparel
  • Automotive
  • Consumer Goods
  • Finance
  • Fitness
  • Hospitality
  • Insurance
  • Legal
  • Medical
  • Services (Home)
  • Services (Other)

We purposely selected terms that were likely to have local pack results and looked for the presence of local packs and local pack ads. We collected these searches as a mobile user with a Samsung Galaxy 7 (a middle-ground choice between iOS and a “pure” Google phone).

Why 11 categories? Confession time – it was originally 10, and then I had the good sense to ask Darren Shaw about the list and realized I had completely left out insurance keywords. Thanks, Darren.

Finding #1: I was very wrong

I’ll be honest – I expected, from casual observations and the lack of chatter in the search community, that we’d see fewer than 5% of local packs with ads, and maybe even numbers in the 1% range.

Across our data set, roughly 35% of SERPs with local packs had ads.

Across industry categories, the prevalence of pack ads ranged wildly, from 10% to 64%:

For the 110 individual keyword phrases in our study, the presence of local ads ranged from 0% to 96%. Here are the keywords with >=90% local pack ad prevalence:

  • “car insurance” (90%)
  • “auto glass shop” (91%)
  • “bankruptcy lawyer” (91%)
  • “storage” (92%)
  • “oil change” (95%)
  • “mattress sale” (95%)
  • “personal injury attorney” (96%)

There was no discernible correlation between the presence of pack ads and city size. Since our study was limited to the top 100 US cities by population, though, this may simply be due to a restricted data range.

Finding #2: One is the magic number

Every local pack with ads in our study had one and only one ad. This ad appeared in addition to regular pack listings. In our data set, 99.7% of local packs had three regular/organic listings, and the rest had two listings (which can happen with or without ads).

Finding #3: Pack ads land on Google

Despite their appearance, local packs ads are more like regular local pack results than AdWords ads, in that they’re linked directly to a local panel (a rich Google result). On my Pixel phone, the Jiffy Lube ad at the beginning of this post links to this result:

This is not an anomaly: 100% of the 3,768 local pack ads in our study linked back to Google. This follows a long trend of local pack results linking back to Google entities, including the gradual disappearance of the “Website” link in the local pack.

Conclusion: It’s time to get serious

If you’re in a competitive local vertical, it’s time to take local pack ads seriously. Your visitors are probably seeing them more often than you realize. Currently, local pack ads are an extension of AdWords, and require you to set up location extensions.

It’s also more important than ever to get your Google My Business listing in order and make sure that all of your information is up to date. It may be frustrating to lose the direct click to your website, but a strong local business panel can drive phone calls, foot traffic, and provide valuable information to potential customers.

Like every Google change, we ultimately have to put aside whether we like or dislike it and make the tough choices. With more than one-third of local packs across the competitive keywords in our data set showing ads, it’s time to get your head out of the sand and get serious.

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Keyword Research Beats Nate Silver’s 2016 Presidential Election Prediction

Posted by BritneyMuller

100% of statisticians would say this is a terrible method for predicting elections. However, in the case of 2016’s presidential election, analyzing the geographic search volume of a few telling keywords “predicted” the outcome more accurately than Nate Silver himself.

The 2016 US Presidential Election was a nail-biter, and many of us followed along with the famed statistician’s predictions in real time on FiveThirtyEight.com. Silver’s predictions, though more accurate than many, were still disrupted by the election results.

In an effort to better understand our country (and current political chaos), I dove into keyword research state-by-state searching for insights. Keywords can be powerful indicators of intent, thought, and behavior. What keyword searches might indicate a personal political opinion? Might there be a common denominator search among people with the same political beliefs?

It’s generally agreed that Fox News leans to the right and CNN leans to the left. And if we’ve learned anything this past year, it’s that the news you consume can have a strong impact on what you believe, in addition to the confirmation bias already present in seeking out particular sources of information.

My crazy idea: What if Republican states showed more “fox news” searches than “cnn”? What if those searches revealed a bias and an intent that exit polling seemed to obscure?

The limitations to this research were pretty obvious. Watching Fox News or CNN doesn’t necessarily correlate with voter behavior, but could it be a better indicator than the polls? My research says yes. I researched other media outlets as well, but the top two ideologically opposed news sources — in any of the 50 states — were consistently Fox News and CNN.

Using Google Keyword Planner (connected to a high-paying Adwords account to view the most accurate/non-bucketed data), I evaluated each state’s search volume for “fox news” and “cnn.”

Eight states showed the exact same search volumes for both. Excluding those from my initial test, my results accurately predicted 42/42 of the 2016 presidential state outcomes including North Carolina and Wisconsin (which Silver mis-predicted). Interestingly, “cnn” even mirrored Hillary Clinton, similarly winning the popular vote (25,633,333 vs. 23,675,000 average monthly search volume for the United States).

In contrast, Nate Silver accurately predicted 45/50 states using a statistical methodology based on polling results.

Click for a larger image

This gets even more interesting:

The eight states showing the same average monthly search volume for both “cnn” and “fox news” are Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

However, I was able to dive deeper via GrepWords API (a keyword research tool that actually powers Keyword Explorer’s data), to discover that Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Ohio each have slightly different “cnn” vs “fox news” search averages over the previous 12-month period. Those new search volume averages are:

“fox news” avg monthly search volume

“cnn” avg monthly search volume

KWR Prediction

2016 Vote

Arizona

566333

518583

Trump

Trump

Nevada

213833

214583

Hillary

Hillary

New Mexico

138833

142916

Hillary

Hillary

Ohio

845833

781083

Trump

Trump

Pennsylvania

1030500

1063583

Hillary

Trump

Four out of five isn’t bad! This brought my new prediction up to 46/47.

Silver and I each got Pennsylvania wrong. The GrepWords API shows the average monthly search volume for “cnn” was ~33,083 searches higher than “fox news” (to put that in perspective, that’s ~0.26% of the state’s population). This tight-knit keyword research theory is perfectly reflected in Trump’s 48.2% win against Clinton’s 47.5%.

Nate Silver and I have very different day jobs, and he wouldn’t make many of these hasty generalizations. Any prediction method can be right a couple times. However, it got me thinking about the power of keyword research: how it can reveal searcher intent, predict behavior, and sometimes even defy the logic of things like statistics.

It’s also easy to predict the past. What happens when we apply this model to today’s Senate race?

Can we apply this theory to Alabama’s special election in the US Senate?

After completing the above research on a whim, I realized that we’re on the cusp of yet another hotly contested, extremely close election: the upcoming Alabama senate race, between controversy-laden Republican Roy Moore and Democratic challenger Doug Jones, fighting for a Senate seat that hasn’t been held by a Democrat since 1992.

I researched each Alabama county — 67 in total — for good measure. There are obviously a ton of variables at play. However, 52 out of the 67 counties (77.6%) 2016 presidential county votes are correctly “predicted” by my theory.

Even when giving the Democratic nominee more weight to the very low search volume counties (19 counties showed a search volume difference of less than 500), my numbers lean pretty far to the right (48/67 Republican counties):

It should be noted that my theory incorrectly guessed two of the five largest Alabama counties, Montgomery and Jefferson, which both voted Democrat in 2016.

Greene and Macon Counties should both vote Democrat; their very slight “cnn” over “fox news” search volume is confirmed by their previous presidential election results.

I realize state elections are not won by county, they’re won by popular vote, and the state of Alabama searches for “fox news” 204,000 more times a month than “cnn” (to put that in perspective, that’s around ~4.27% of Alabama’s population).

All things aside and regardless of outcome, this was an interesting exploration into how keyword research can offer us a glimpse into popular opinion, future behavior, and search intent. What do you think? Any other predictions we could make to test this theory? What other keywords or factors would you look at? Let us know in the comments.

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How to Use the "Keywords by Site" Data in Tools (Moz, SEMrush, Ahrefs, etc.) to Improve Your Keyword Research and Targeting – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

One of the most helpful functions of modern-day SEO software is the idea of a “keyword universe,” a database of tens of millions of keywords that you can tap into and discover what your site is ranking for. Rankings data like this can be powerful, and having that kind of power at your fingertips can be intimidating. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains the concept of the “keyword universe” and shares his most useful tips to take advantage of this data in the most popular SEO tools.

How to use keywords by site

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about the Keywords by Site feature that exists now in Moz’s toolset — we just launched it this week — and SEMrush and Ahrefs, who have had it for a little while, and there are some other tools out there that also do it, so places like KeyCompete and SpyFu and others.

In SEO software, there are two types of rankings data:

A) Keywords you’ve specifically chosen to track over time

Basically, the way you can think of this is, in SEO software, there are two kinds of keyword rankings data. There are keywords that you have specifically selected or your marketing manager or your SEO has specifically selected to track over time. So I’ve said I want to track X, Y and Z. I want to see how they rank in Google’s results, maybe in a particular location or a particular country. I want to see the position, and I want to see the change over time. Great, that’s your set that you’ve constructed and built and chosen.

B) A keyword “universe” that gives wide coverage of tens of millions of keywords

But then there’s what’s called a keyword universe, an entire universe of keywords that’s maintained by a tool provider. So SEMrush has their particular database, their universe of keywords for a bunch of different languages, and Ahrefs has their keyword universe of keywords that each of those two companies have selected. Moz now has its keyword universe, a universe of, I think in our case, about 40 million keywords in English in the US that we track every two weeks, so we’ll basically get rankings updates. SEMrush tracks their keywords monthly. I think Ahrefs also does monthly.

Depending on the degree of change, you might care or not care about the various updates. Usually, for keywords you’ve specifically chosen, it’s every week. But in these cases, because it’s tens of millions or hundreds of millions of keywords, they’re usually tracking them weekly or monthly.

So in this universe of keywords, you might only rank for some of them. It’s not ones you’ve specifically selected. It’s ones the tool provider has said, “Hey, this is a broad representation of all the keywords that we could find that have some real search volume that people might be interested in who’s ranking in Google, and we’re going track this giant database.” So you might see some of these your site ranks for. In this case, seven of these keywords your site ranks for, four of them your competitors rank for, and two of them both you and your competitors rank for.

Remarkable data can be extracted from a “keyword universe”

There’s a bunch of cool data, very, very cool data that can be extracted from a keyword universe. Most of these tools that I mentioned do this.

Number of ranking keywords over time

So they’ll show you how many keywords a given site ranks for over time. So you can see, oh, Moz.com is growing its presence in the keyword universe, or it’s shrinking. Maybe it’s ranking for fewer keywords this month than it was last month, which might be a telltale sign of something going wrong or poorly.

Degree of rankings overlap

You can see the degree of overlap between several websites’ keyword rankings. So, for example, I can see here that Moz and Search Engine Land overlap here with all these keywords. In fact, in the Keywords by Site tool inside Moz and in SEMrush, you can see what those numbers look like. I think Moz actually visualizes it with a Venn diagram. Here’s Distilled.net. They’re a smaller website. They have less content. So it’s no surprise that they overlap with both. There’s some overlap with all three. I could see keywords that all three of them rank for, and I could see ones that only Distilled.net ranks for.

Estimated traffic from organic search

You can also grab estimated traffic. So you would be able to extract out — Moz does not offer this, but SEMrush does — you could see, given a keyword list and ranking positions and an estimated volume and estimated click-through rate, you could say we’re going to guess, we’re going to estimate that this site gets this much traffic from search. You can see lots of folks doing this and showing, “Hey, it looks this site is growing its visits from search and this site is not.” SISTRIX does this in Europe really nicely, and they have some great blog posts about it.

Most prominent sites for a given set of keywords

You can also extract out the most prominent sites given a set of keywords. So if you say, “Hey, here are a thousand keywords. Tell me who shows up most in this thousand-keyword set around the world of vegetarian recipes.” The tool could extract out, “Okay, here’s the small segment. Here’s the galaxy of vegetarian recipe keywords in our giant keyword universe, and this is the set of sites that are most prominent in that particular vertical, in that little galaxy.”

Recommended applications for SEOs and marketers

So some recommended applications, things that I think every SEO should probably be doing with this data. There are many, many more. I’m sure we can talk about them in the comments.

1. Identify important keywords by seeing what you rank for in the keyword universe

First and foremost, identify keywords that you probably should be tracking, that should be part of your reporting. It will make you look good, and it will also help you keep tabs on important keywords where if you lost rankings for them, you might cost yourself a lot of traffic.

Monthly granularity might not be good enough. You might want to say, “Hey, no, I want to track these keywords every week. I want to get reporting on them. I want to see which page is ranking. I want to see how I rank by geo. So I’m going to include them in my specific rank tracking features.” You can do that in the Moz Keywords by Site, you’d go to Keyword Explorer, you’d select the root domain instead of the keyword, and you’d plug in your website, which maybe is Indie Hackers, a site that I’ve been reading a lot of lately and I like a lot.

You could see, “Oh, cool. I’m not tracking stock trading bot or ark servers, but those actually get some nice traffic. In this case, I’m ranking number 12. That’s real close to page one. If I put in a little more effort on my ark servers page, maybe I could be on page one and I could be getting some of that sweet traffic, 4,000 to 6,000 searches a month. That’s really significant.” So great way to find additional keywords you should be adding to your tracking.

2. Discover potential keywords targets that your competitors rank for (but you don’t)

Second, you can discover some new potential keyword targets when you’re doing keyword research based on the queries your competition ranks for that you don’t. So, in this case, I might plug in “First Round.” First Round Capital has a great content play that they’ve been doing for many years. Indie Hackers might say, “Gosh, there’s a lot of stuff that startups and tech founders are interested in that First Round writes about. Let me see what keywords they’re ranking for that I’m not ranking for.”

So you plug in those two to Moz’s tool or other tools. You could see, “Aha, I’m right. Look at that. They’re ranking for about 4,500 more keywords than I am.” Then I could go get that full list, and I could sort it by volume and by difficulty. Then I could choose, okay, these keywords all look good, check, check, check. Add them to my list in Keyword Explorer or Excel or Google Docs if you’re using those and go to work.

3. Explore keywords sets from large, content-focused media sites with similar audiences

Then the third one is you can explore keyword sets. I’m going to urge you to. I don’t think this is something that many people do, but I think that it really should be, which is to look outside of your little galaxy of yourself and your competitors, direct competitors, to large content players that serve your audience.

So in this case, I might say, “Gosh, I’m Indie Hackers. I’m really competing maybe more directly with First Round. But you know what? HBR, Harvard Business Review, writes about a lot of stuff that my audience reads. I see people on Twitter that are in my audience share it a lot. I see people in our forums discussing it and linking out to their articles. Let me go see what they are doing in the content world.”

In fact, when you look at the Venn diagram, which I just did in the Keywords by Site tool, I can see, “Oh my god, look there’s almost no overlap, and there’s this huge opportunity.” So I might take HBR and I might click to see all their keywords and then start looking through and sort, again, probably by volume and maybe with a difficulty filter and say, “Which ones do I think I could create content around? Which ones do they have really old content that they haven’t updated since 2010 or 2011?” Those types of content opportunities can be a golden chance for you to find an audience that is likely to be the right types of customers for your business. That’s a pretty exciting thing.

So, in addition to these, there’s a ton of other uses. I’m sure over the next few months we’ll be talking more about them here on Whiteboard Friday and here on the Moz blog. But for now, I would love to hear your uses for tools like SEMrush and the Ahrefs keyword universe feature and Moz’s keyword universe feature, which is called Keywords by Site. Hopefully, we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Tangential Content Earns More Links and Social Shares in Boring Industries [New Research]

Posted by kerryjones

Many companies still don’t see the benefit of creating content that isn’t directly about their products or brand. But unless you have a universally interesting brand, you’ll be hard-pressed to attract much of an audience if all you do is publish brand-centric content.

Content marketing is meant to solve this dilemma. By offering genuinely useful content to your target customers, rather than selling to them, you earn their attention and over time gain their trust.

And yet, I find myself explaining the value of non-branded content all too often. I frequently hear grumblings from fellow marketers that clients and bosses refuse to stray from sales-focused content. I see companies publishing what are essentially advertorials and calling it content marketing.

In addition to turning off customers, branded content can be extremely challenging for building links or earning PR mentions. If you’ve ever done outreach for branded content, you’ve probably gotten a lot of pushback from the editors and writers you’ve pitched. Why? Most publishers bristle at content that feels like a brand endorsement pretending not to be a brand endorsement (and expect you to pay big bucks for a sponsored content or native advertising spot).

Fortunately, there’s a type of content that can earn your target customers’ attention, build high-quality links, and increase brand awareness…

Tangential content: The cure for a boring niche

At Fractl, we refer to content on a topic that’s related to (but not directly about) the brand that created it as “tangential content.”

Some hypothetical examples of tangential content would be:

  • A pool installation company creating content about summer safety tips and barbeque recipes.
  • A luggage retailer publishing country-specific travel guides.
  • An auto insurance broker offering car maintenance advice.

While there’s a time for branded content further down the sales funnel, tangential content might be right for you if you want to:

  1. Reach a wide audience and gain top-of-funnel awareness. Not a lot of raving fans in your “boring” brand niche? Tangential topics can get you in front of the masses.
  2. Target a greater number of publishers during outreach to increase your link building and PR mention potential. Tangential topics work well for outreach because you can expand your pool of publishers (larger niches vs. a small niche with only a few dedicated sites).
  3. Create more emotional content that resonates with your audience. In an analysis of more than 300 client campaigns, we found the content that received more than 200 media mentions was more likely than low-performing campaigns to have a strong emotional hook. If your brand niche doesn’t naturally tug on the heartstrings, tangential content is one way to create an emotional reaction.
  4. Build a more diverse content library and not be limited to creating content around one topic. If you’ve maxed out on publishing content about your niche, broadening your content repertoire to tangential topics can reinvigorate your content strategy (and your motivation).

Comparison of tangential vs. on-brand content performance

In our experience at Fractl, tangential content has been highly effective for link building campaigns, especially in narrow client niches that lack broad appeal. While we’ve assumed this is true based on our observations, we now have the data to back up our assumption.

We recently categorized 835 Fractl client campaigns as either “tangential” or “on-brand,” then compared the average number of pickups (links and press mentions) and number of social shares for each group. Our hunch was right: The tangential campaigns earned 30% more media mentions and 77% more social shares on average than the brand-focused campaigns.

So what exactly does a tangential campaign look like? Below are some real examples of our client campaigns that illustrate how tangential topics can yield stellar results.

Most Hateful/Most Politically Correct Places

  • Client niche: Apartment listing site
  • Campaign topic: Which states and cities use the most prejudiced/racist language based on geo-tagged Twitter data
  • Results: 67,000+ social shares and 620 media pickups, including features on CNET, Slate, Business Insider, AOL, Yahoo, Mic, The Daily Beast, and Adweek

Why it worked

After a string of on-brand campaigns for this client yielded average results, we knew capitalizing on a hot-button, current issue would attract tons of attention. This topic still ties back into the client’s main objective of helping people find a home since the community and location of that home are important factors in one’s decisions. Check out the full case study of this campaign for more insights into why it was successful.

Most Instagrammed Locations

  • Client niche: Bus fare comparison and booking tool
  • Campaign topic: Points of interest where people post the most Instagram photos in North America
  • Results: 40,000+ social shares and more than 300 pickups, including TIME, NBC News, Business Insider, Today, Yahoo!, AOL, Fast Company, and The Daily Mail

Why it worked

Our client’s niche, bus travel, had a limited audience, so we chose a topic that was of interest to anyone who enjoys traveling, regardless of the mode of transportation they use to get there. By incorporating data from a popular social network and using an idea with a strong geographic focus, we could target a lot of different groups — the campaign appealed to travel enthusiasts, Instagram users, and regional and city news outlets (including TV stations). For more details about our thought process behind this idea, see the campaign case study.

Most Attractive NFL Players and Teams

whitney-mercilus.png

Client niche: Sports apparel retailer

Campaign topic: Survey that rates the most attractive NFL players

Results: 45,000+ social shares and 247 media pickups, including CBS Sports, USA Today, Fox Sports, and NFL.com

Why it worked

Since diehard fans want to show off that their favorite player is the best, even if it’s just in the looks department, we were confident this lighthearted campaign would pique fan interest. But fans weren’t the only ones hitting the share button — the campaign also grabbed the attention of the featured teams and players, with many sharing on their social media profiles, which helped drive exposure.

On-brand content works best in certain verticals

Tangential content isn’t always necessary for earning top-of-funnel awareness. So, how do you know if your brand-centric topics will garner lots of interest? A few things to consider:

  • Is your brand topic interesting or useful to the general population?
  • Are there multiple publishers that specifically cover your niche? Do these publishers have large readerships?
  • Are you already publishing on-brand content that is achieving your goals/expectations?

We’ve seen several industry verticals perform very well using branded content. When we broke down our campaign data by vertical, we found our top performing on-brand campaign topics were technology, drugs and alcohol, and marketing.

Some examples of our successful on-brand campaign topics include:

  • “Growth of SaaS” for a B2B software comparison website
  • “Influencers on Instagram” for an influencer marketplace
  • “Global Drug Treatment Trends” for an addiction recovery client
  • “The Tech Job Network” for a tech career website

Coming up with tangential content ideas

Once you free yourself from only brainstorming brand-centric ideas, you might find it easy to dream up tangential concepts. If you need a little help, here are a few tips to get you started:

Review your buyer personas.

In order to know which tangential topics to choose, you need to understand your target audience’s interests and where your niche intersects with those interests. The best way to find this information? Buyer personas. If you don’t already have detailed buyer personas built out, Mike King’s epic Moz post from a few years ago remains the bible on personas in my opinion.

Find topics your audience cares about with Facebook Audience Insights.

Using its arsenal of user data, this Facebook ads tool gives you a peek into the interests and lifestyles of your target audience. These insights can supplement and inform your buyer personas. See the incredibly actionable post “How to Create Buyer Personas on a Budget Using Facebook Audience Insights” for more help with leveraging this tool.

Consider how trending news topics are tangential to your brand.

Pay attention to themes that keep popping up in the news and how your brand relates back to these stories (this is how the most racist/bigoted states and cities campaign I mentioned earlier in this post came to be). Also anticipate seasonal or event-based topics that are tangential to your brand. For example, a tire manufacturer may want to create content on protecting your car from flooding and storm damage during hurricane season.

Test tangential concepts on social media.

Not sure if a tangential topic will go over well? Before moving forward with a big content initiative, test it out by sharing content related to the topic on your brand’s social media accounts. Does it get a good reaction? Pro tip: spend a little bit of money promoting these as sponsored posts to ensure they get in front of your followers.

Have you had success creating content outside of your brand niche? I’d love to hear about your tangential content examples and the results you achieved, please share in the comments!

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Beyond Google Keyword Planner: 7 Easy-to-Use SEO Research Tools for Generating Content Ideas

As a content marketer, you know that your target audience needs to be at the center of your content strategy. After all, modern content marketing was born to help you create valuable content that satisfies your audience’s quest for answers throughout their customer journey.

However, as the digital landscape becomes increasingly crowded with content — and you feel more and more pressure to create content in less time — you’re likely looking for quick and dirty ways to create SEO-friendly, best-answer content that doesn’t require loads of your precious time. As a result, your first stop on the research train is likely Google’s Keyword Planner tool. But, let’s face it, while it’s an excellent tool, it can only get you so far.

The good news? There are several helpful research tools that can help you uncover real questions your audience is asking around the web — allowing you to gain new audience insights and fill your content plan with relevant, SEO-infused topics. Below we dive into some of those research tools that can help you do just that.

#1 – Answer the Public

Answer the Public brings Google’s auto suggest feature to visual life. Type in any keyword or phrase, and the almost immediately you’ll be served up a visual representation of queries that are organized by specific question modifiers such as who, what, where, when, why, how, will, are and can.

What makes this tool so fantastic is that it not only helps you identify topics, but potentially some of the nuances of intent behind those questions. The best part? It’s completely free and you can sign up for a short email course to help you use the tool “like a pro.”

Answer the Public for Content Planning

#2 – BuzzSumo’s Question Analyzer

BuzzSumo’s recently launched Question Analyzer feature is incredible, allowing you to find the most popular questions being asked from across the web. How? Essentially, BuzzSumo has created a database of real questions from thousands of platforms, including forums, Amazon, Reddit, Quora and other Q&A sites. Just type in a keyword and get a list of related questions sorted by topic, as well as details on volume.

BuzzSumo Question Analyzer

Total access to this tool does require a BuzzSumo Plus subscription; however, you can sign up for a free trial for this feature and try before you buy.

#3 – Übersuggest

Like Answer the Public, Übersuggest pulls in various Google’s auto suggest keyword queries. And while the tool doesn’t create the same kind of visual representation of questions, the Word Cloud feature does help you connect the dots in a more visual way. In addition, each keyword query allows you to select “Google Trends” so you can get a closer look at seasonality — which is great for future planning. Finally, Übersuggest prides itself on being a tool that can help you uncover new keywords that aren’t available in Google’s Keyword Planner tool.

#4 – KewordTool.io

Of course, we can’t mention Answer the Public or Übersuggest without mentioning KeywordTool.io. Like the former two tools, KeywordTool.io also uses Google’s auto suggest queries as its data source. In addition, like Übersuggest, KeywordTool.io allows you to tap into Google Trends and find keywords that aren’t readily displayed in Google Keyword Planner. So, on the surface, the main differentiator between these tools is user experience.

However, from what I can tell, KeywordTool.io’s paid version, Keyword Tool Pro, offers a little something different than the others. According to the website, “Keyword Tool Pro will not only give you keywords that are hidden from everyone else but will also provide you with necessary data to sort and rank the newly discovered keywords. You will be able to see how often people search for a keyword on Google (Search Volume), how competitive (AdWords Competition), and lucrative (CPC) the keywords are.”

KewordTool.io for Content Marketing

For many marketers, the final benefit may be the most intriguing, as we’re always looking to connect business value to our efforts.

#5 – Google Search Console

Google Search Console, formerly Google Webmaster Tools, is one of the most helpful SEO and content planning tools out there. From a technical standpoint, Google Search Console enables you to monitor and maintain your entire website’s presence in Google search results. But from a content planning perspective, Google Search Console allows you to see which queries actually caused your site’s content to appear in search results.

The best part? You can filter by page, allowing you to see how a specific piece of content is drawing visibility. This means you can not only find opportunities to optimize existing content with other related keywords it’s coming up for, but also identify gaps and related topics that can spawn additional content.

Google Search Console for Content Research

#6 – Ahrefs

Back in 2011, Ahrefs launched as an backlinks analysis tool. Since then, the tool has grown into a helpful competitive analysis tool, allowing users to get a deeper understanding of how and why their competitors are ranking — and how they may be able to leapfrog them in the SERPs.

When it comes to generating SEO-infused content ideas, there are a few features that are useful. For starters, the Keywords Explorer allows you to find keywords, analyze their ranking difficulty and calculate the potential traffic you could achieve. Then you have the Content Explorer, which helps you find the most popular content for any topics based on backlinks, organic traffic and social shares. Finally, the Content Gap feature allows you to explore the keywords that your competitors are ranking for, but you don’t.

Ahrefs for Content Marketing Research

While this tool isn’t free, you can sign up for a free trial. If you like it, there are a handful of monthly subscription options at different price points.

#7 – SEMrush

Generally speaking, SEMrush offers a lot of the same benefits as Ahrefs — from discovering and analyzing keywords to conducting competitive analysis. But one feature that is particularly interesting and helpful is the Social Media Tracker.

These days, social media marketing is an important and necessary part of any digital marketing strategy, serving as an engagement and content dissemination platform. With the Social Media Tracker, you’re able to compare your engagement trends to that of your competitors, as well as see the best-performing posts in terms of engagement. You can then use these insights to craft better, more relevant content that will get more traction on your social pages.

SEMrush Social Media Tracker

How Do You Choose Which Tools Are Right for You?

Your industry, budget, internal resources and unique business objectives are all deserving of consideration when selecting research tools that will be a good fit. But, with nearly all of these tools offering free usage or free trials, you certainly have nothing to lose by carving out a little time to test them out. So, choose one to start with and go from there.

What are some of your go-to research tools for generating interesting and relevant content ideas? Tell us in the comments section below.


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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2017. | Beyond Google Keyword Planner: 7 Easy-to-Use SEO Research Tools for Generating Content Ideas | http://www.toprankblog.com

The post Beyond Google Keyword Planner: 7 Easy-to-Use SEO Research Tools for Generating Content Ideas appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.


Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®

LinkedIn Marketing: What the Latest Research Reveals

Are you wondering if LinkedIn is worth your time? Want to know how other marketers approach LinkedIn? In this article, you’ll discover new research insights that reveal what content performs best on LinkedIn, which industries use the platform today, and how marketers are planning to move forward. #1: Long-Form Content Performs Best It’s well-known that […]

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– Your Guide to the Social Media Jungle

6 Quick & Dirty SEO Research Tips for B2B Content Planning

When it comes to crafting compelling content that informs, engages and inspires action, seasoned B2B digital and content marketers know our content needs to captivate both humans and search engines to be effective. After all, 81% of B2B decision makers conduct research before reaching out to a vendor, so we know our content needs to meet them whenever and wherever they’re searching.

As a result, striking that “perfect balance” between SEO and user experience is a must—and that perfect balance is rooted in the content planning stage.

“SEO needs to be baked into the process early so that the optimization is as natural as possible,” Kevin Cotch, TopRank Marketing SEO analyst, says. “It can’t be treated as an afterthought. It’s not only more efficient to do your research up front, but it also enhances the content by helping you touch on the specific phrases your audience is using to search to solve their pain points or answer their questions.”

But there’s a little hitch—SEO research can be overwhelming for content creators. We’re often strapped for time and it’s easy to fall down a less-than-productive SEO rabbit hole. In addition, some of us may feel we don’t have the needed expertise or tools.

The good news is that you don’t need to fanciest tools or a dedicated background in SEO to craft great SEO-driven content. Below are a handful of helpful research tactics you can use to make the most of your time and create a content plan that’s flush with solid topics.

#1 – Perform incognito searches for your most important keywords.

Your team has likely developed a list of core keywords and topics that are incredibly important to your brand from a service and search standpoint. And you’ve likely begun to create content around those key topical areas and you’re seeing some movement in the SERPs. Naturally, your ultimate goal is to get your content to the top of Page 1 search results. But have you taken the time to dig in and draw insights from the content you’re hoping to dethrone?

Incognito searches using your priority keywords can help you uncover some of those important insights. An incognito search prevents your browser history or cache from impacting the results, allowing for a more accurate picture of search results. As my colleague Jesse Pickrain so eloquently said in one of my recent posts on finding B2B content marketing inspiration: “There’s gold in them thar SERPs.”

Once you’re served up with some results, spend about 10 to 15 minutes reviewing the content in the top three to five spots. Your goal should be to learn how the content is structured, identify the perceived value it provides your audience, the main pain points it addresses, and ultimately if you have the ability to create something better than what’s ranking at the top. In addition, take a peek at the “related searches” area so you can see other queries that match the search intent of your original search for more clarity and direction for planning your content.

Let’s take the keyword topic “content marketing planning” as an example. At first glance, I see the top results all offer frameworks or tactical guides.

Content Marketing Planning Search in Incognito Window

As I dig in, I can see that four of the top five are all in-depth, long-form pieces, and the content is organized using a range of heading tags and bulleted sections to make it easy to scan. But I also notice that “content marketing planning” isn’t an exact keyword match, rather “content marketing strategy” is present in nearly all of the pieces.

In addition, I can see that the related searches have several variations of “content marketing strategy.” After clicking around in those results, I can see that a lot of the same content is coming up in the top five, but there’s a broader mix as the queries get more specific.

Searches Related to Content Marketing Planning

Roughly 10 minutes later, I’ve pulled some very valuable insights:

  • Long-form content wins for this topic and search intent, and people are looking for detailed plans, examples and templates to make their lives easier.
  • More people are searching for strategy-related keywords, which tells me that “content marketing strategy” may be more relevant or have higher volume, but it’s likely a more competitive keyword term.
  • It’s going to be difficult to crack the top spots for short-tail keywords, but longer-tail or more specific, related search queries definitely have some opportunity.

Based on these insights, as well as my knowledge of existing content, I can start to flush out some relevant concepts that are on-topic and SEO-infused, and guided by the top-performing content that’s already out there. My goal now is to craft a concept that will provide a better answer than what currently exists.

#2 – Consult Google AdWords’ Keyword Planner tool for low-hanging opportunities or additional insight.

The Keyword Planner tool within Google AdWords is often a go-to research tool for SEO and developing paid search campaigns, providing cost-per-click data and average search volume estimates to help you judge competitiveness and relevancy.

When it comes to content planning, this data along with keyword topic and query suggestions, can help you identify low-hanging opportunities or further refine the other research you’ve already done.

Building off my previous example of “content marketing planning,” I know that my incognito search revealed that “content marketing strategy” was a heavily-related keyword from a search intent standpoint. I can now use the keyword planner to dive deeper into the competitiveness surrounding both variations, as well as related keywords, to further refine my concepts.

Keyword Planner Tool Example

#3- Review Google Search Console to see what keywords your existing content is already ranking for.

In my opinion, Google Search Console, formerly Google Webmaster Tools, is one of the most helpful SEO and content planning tools out there. From a technical standpoint, Google Search Console enables you to monitor and maintain your entire website’s presence in Google search results. But from a content planning perspective, Google Search Console allows you to see which queries actually caused your site’s content to appear in search results.

The best part? You can filter by page, allowing you to see how a specific piece of content is drawing visibility. This means you can not only find opportunities to optimize existing content with other related keywords it’s coming up for, but also identify gaps and related topics that can spawn additional content.

#4 – Look to evergreen content for inspiration.

Chances are you have some really solid, evergreen pieces of content that are driving in huge amounts traffic. Why? Because that content is doing a great job at providing the answers searchers seek—and you can build off that.

Use the Google Search Console tip to understand which queries are getting eyeballs on that content, and be on the lookout for:

  • Contextual nuances. Does it appear that your content isn’t the best answer for certain queries? If so, this is a golden opportunity to create new content that can better answer that query.
  • Content branches. You may find that some of the queries your content is coming up for centers on a specific section of your content. If so, that may be an opportunity to drill-in deeper on that specific topic.
  • Follow up questions. When you’re able to see the wide range of queries your existing content is coming up for, you can get a bigger picture of what questions your audience may ask next. If you identify next questions, you can create best-answer content and add add a call to action to that evergreen piece so readers can continue their journey.

#5 – Leverage free tools and Q&A platforms to uncover burning questions.

At TopRank Marketing, we believe that striving to be the best answer wherever and whenever your audience is searching is the key to creating content that resonates. Luckily, there are a number of free platforms and tools such as QuoraAnswer the PublicUbersuggest, and Keyword Tool.io that can provide quick answers and long-tail search opportunities.

Once you’ve discovered some of those burning questions, you can use the incognito search tip to understand what content already exists out there for that question, and determine how you can answer the question better and provide more value to searchers.

#6 – Use social media to get keywords and content topics directly from your audience.

Social media is all about giving people a place to share their thoughts and experiences with one another. So why not take advantage of your community’s willingness to share by asking engaging and thoughtful questions to tap into their insights?

A great example of this in action are Twitter polls, which allow people to weigh in on a specific topics as well as continue the conversation through the reply function. And, while they’re not exactly scientific, polls and social discussions can actually be a chunk of your content as you can feature the responses you get in the content to add more authenticity and perspective.

Don’t Fail to Plan

As the old adage goes: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. And when it comes to crafting effective content, SEO needs to be part of the content marketing planning process if you want to drive results. Use these tips to help make it an easy and efficient part of the process.

What are some interesting ways you conduct SEO research for your B2B brand? Tell us in the comments section.


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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2017. | 6 Quick & Dirty SEO Research Tips for B2B Content Planning | http://www.toprankblog.com

The post 6 Quick & Dirty SEO Research Tips for B2B Content Planning appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.


Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®

How Audiences Respond to Podcasts: New Research

Are you thinking about getting into podcasting? Wondering if podcasts still have an engaged audience base? In this article, you’ll discover insights from new research that show how listeners consume podcast content, and what might keep people from tuning in. #1: Podcast Listener Base Maintains Steady Growth A January 2017 phone survey of 2,000 people […]

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– Your Guide to the Social Media Jungle