You’re smart and you have a content calendar to fill. You have a handful of topics that you’re planning to write about for your brand’s blog. Each one is broad enough to generate at least a handful of content pieces.
So… what should those pieces be? What titles will you assign to writers?
There’s a data-driven approach to making those decisions. It’s what we use in our agency work. You can use it too.
In this post we’ll walk through the steps:
- Finding the best possible keywords
- Refining your keyword list for relevance
- Aligning them with the steps in the buyer’s journey
- Creating titles that promise exactly what your readers need
Keywords vs titles
You can’t simply slap a keyword at the top of a blog post and call it a title. Most keywords are fragments of language. Your readers need more – and search engines are designed to give them what they want.
In our model, titles are informed by keywords. They’re also shaped by your brand priorities, sales funnel considerations, and your customers’ priorities.
So titles are more than keywords. That’s why the process we outline in the following section simply begins with keywords.
A quick breakdown of keywords vs titles…
Keywords are phrases that people type into search engines in order to locate specific pieces of content. They help to define what your content is about. They are also the phrases that your audience uses in a search query to discover content.
“Content performance analysis” is a keyword example.
Titles, on the other hand, are phrases that define a unique piece of content. A title on a blog post works in the same way as a title on any non-fiction book: it sums up the subject-matter and narrative angle of the piece, ideally providing clarity and intrigue for a reader.
“Getting started with content performance analysis – and what you need to know” is a title.
A note on topics vs keywords vs titles
Note: we recommend that you begin the following process with 3-5 topics already chosen. It’s not essential, but sticking to a few topics will enable you to work more efficiently, and start building organic search results more effectively.
Topics are the broadest category in this bunch. They identify subjects that your brand is interested in writing about.
To work with the previous example:
The topic, “content performance,” leads to…The keyword, “Content performance analysis,” which leads to…The title, “Getting started with content performance analysis – and what you need to know”
If you need help choosing topics, we recommend checking out other Ercule resources.
Step 1: Finding keywords with search tools
To start off, you’ll want to create a list of keywords that you could lead to useful blog posts for your audience. The point at this stage is to choose more keywords than you plan on using, that way we can refine the list later on to prioritize the best ones.
For each topic, aim for 20 keywords.
No matter your budget, you can leverage tools to figure out which keywords people are actively searching for.
- Keyword tools will provide detailed keyword lists and data, but there’s usually a fee involved
- Google will also provide you with query lists, for free, if you know how to use it. Though it won’t provide much data.
Let’s look at both groups…
Keyword tools like SEMrush or Moz can tell you how frequently a keyword is searched and how tough it is to rank for a given keyword.
Since these tools are designed for this exact purpose, they make it really easy to iterate on your topic ideas to find the keywords that are relevant to your audience and your brand’s value proposition.
You can type a phrase like, “content marketing,” into the tool and it will suggest keyword iterations on that phrase as well as adjacent terms that might also fit.
The pros of using these keyword tools:
- Comprehensive keyword generation
- Clear, reliable data on volume and competition
- Easy compiling and exporting for keyword lists
- Fees. They’re not the most expensive tools in the world, but the costs can add up quickly.
If you’re not in a position to invest in a keyword tool, you can get a surprising amount of insight from the Google search bar itself.
Google search bar suggestions list popular keywords that command search volume and are an easy place to mine suggestions for subjects.
You can enter a topic phrase into the search bar and, automatically, a list of longer-tail keyword phrases will appear.
“People also ask…” is another great element of the Google search page to use.
Scroll to the bottom of a search results page, and Google will show you other phrases that users have searched.
This option shows you what queries people are using to find your content. It also provides valuable insight as to which queries your competitors are ranking for.
Since Google isn’t particularly engineered for creating keyword lists, these methods are going to take you a little longer than it would with a tool like SEMrush.
The pros of using Google to generate keywords:
- Extensive lists
- It’s free
- No volume or competition data
- No list creation tools
- Time (it’s slow)
Step 2: Refining a keyword list for relevance
For each topic, you’ve now got about 20 keywords in a list. Hopefully, every one of them is already relevant to both your audience and your brand’s unique offering.
Now is the time to refine the list and prioritize the keywords that show the most potential for generating leads.
Adding relevance data
This is arguably the most important criteria. All the leads in the world won’t amount to much if the content you create isn’t relevant to them.
Relevance means: How likely is someone to convert if they land on your site after searching for that topic?
While this is a subjective question, you can still quantify the answer. Assign a relevance score of 1 to 3 to the keyword on your list, with 3 being the most relevant and 1 being the least relevant. Your list should only include the most relevant of keywords.
Prioritizing the most relevant keywords
Once you’ve added that metric to each keyword, highlight those with the highest score. Choose 5-7 of the best from that bunch. These will be the keywords that turn your into blog titles.
Note: if you’d like to further refine the list with volume and competition data, you can use our 3 Hour Keyword Strategy template.
Step 3: Aligning titles with the buyer’s journey
Now that you’ve got 5-7 of the most relevant possible keywords, you’re ready to assign them all to different stages in the buyer’s journey or sales funnel.
We’ll use a simple version of the funnel for this exercise:
This stage is where your audience first becomes aware of and gets familiar with a new challenge they’re facing.
At this stage, it’s all about education. Effective content at this stage helps people to better understand a challenge and explore options for overcoming the challenge.
Keywords that may indicate someone is in the awareness stage of their journey include:
- Questions that reflect a challenge (“how to get more blog readers” or “get more web traffic”)
- Questions about what or why (“what is content distribution,” “why is content promotion important,” or “benefits of content distribution”)
- People looking for examples (e.g. “content distribution examples”)
Once a buyer has an understanding of their challenge and the ways in which it could be solved, they start looking for solutions that best fit their specific situation.
Content in the consideration stage helps people to clearly define and evaluate their options. Teach them how to make the secret sauce to show them you’re the chef that really knows your stuff.
Keywords that may indicate a person is likely looking for consideration stage content includes:
- Searching for how to do something (“how to promote content”)
- Looking for types, methods, or ways to do things (“content distribution methods” or “ways to promote content”)
- Searching for templates (“content distribution plan template”)
- Searching for tools (“content promotion tools”)
Push has come to shove. Your buyer now understands their challenge and knows what sort of solution they want to invest in. Decision stage content makes it easier for a buyer to choose your product or service.
Search plays less of a role in decision stage content, as buyers are more likely to ask friends and colleagues for recommendations and explore existing vendor relationships. That said, searches that may indicate the searcher is in this decision stage include:
- Vendor comparisons (“Buffer vs. Hootsuite”)
- Searching for reviews (“Reviews of Mailchimp”)
- Searching for case studies or success stories (“Hootsuite case studies”)
Branded case studies with quantified results shine at this stage of the journey. Customer testimonials are also particularly effective (and the next best thing to a case study if you don’t have any of those).
But you might also consider content like:
- A buyer’s guide that details how to choose the best vendor
- An onboarding or implementation guide that shows how you’ll get started working together
- An interview with a client or customer that talks through their experience working with your or using your product
Step 4: Writing titles
The final stage of our process. You know where those keywords will fit. Now it’s time to adapt them into titles that will intrigue your target audience exactly where they are in their journey.
A few tips when crafting those titles
Keep the funnel in mind.
Top-funnel posts, for example, are answering introductory questions, which you can incorporate into blog titles.
- What is ____ ?
- Getting started with ______
- Challenges for _____
- Why you need ______
Check out the competition.
Before you start writing title ideas for a keyword, run that keyword through a Google search and see which titles are ranking at the top. This will give you a sense for the content that’s performing best – and the types of questions that readers need answered.
Keep it clear, simple, and focused on the reader.
Clarity will help you more than cleverness when it comes to blog post titles for the sales funnel. Search engines use your title to make sense of your page and align it with people’s search terms. An inside joke is only going to confuse them. The same principle holds true for your readers: they’re looking for quality answers to specific questions. If they want witty entertainment, they’ll probably just go to a TheOnion.com.
How Ercule can help
We believe that organic search is where B2B brands get the most bang for their buck.
If you want to chat about what’s possible with your content library, just give us a shout!