How SEOs Can Dominate with Early-Stage Content

Busy day? If this blog post is TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read), watch the video below. You’ll get the crucial points on early-stage content from Max in about 90 seconds.

If you work in SEO, you have a few significant challenges in front of you. These are the two that I hear most consistently:

  1. You must yield results quickly
  2. Prove these results (internally and/or to clients)

Even best of breed SEO teams rarely see their desired results realized immediately; that is simply the nature of the beast. It is not always easy to tie an exact ROI to SEO, plus the people reading your monthly reports often need a translator to truly understand what’s going on or what to expect.

But don’t forget that SEOs also have some big, distinctive advantages on the marketing team. One strategy that should have your attention: early-stage content. We’ve been seeing this strategy making big waves for small and well-known brands alike.

“One strategy that should have your attention: early-stage content. We’ve been seeing this strategy making big waves for small and well-known brands alike.”

Why the Best SEOs Create Early-Stage Content

Everyone wants to be #1 for the late-stage “buy right now” terms, and I’m not downplaying the importance of them. If you have been managing SEO for your company or clients for even a short time, you are probably already targeting these terms – and so are all of your competitors.

The opportunity lies in uncovering untapped gaps in your content. While the Paid team may be forced to focus on late-stage, high-converting terms in order to justify their spend, you can begin to target potential customers at ALL stages of their buyer’s journey.

“While the Paid team may be forced to focus on late-stage, high-converting terms in order to justify their spend, you can begin to target potential customers at ALL stages of their buyer’s journey.”

By targeting more than just your “buy now” terms, and structuring your site such that users can find specifically what they are looking for (based on their unique position in the buyer’s journey) you are taking a great first step in transforming yourself from “the SEO guy” to the Web Presence Manager.

If high-converting keywords are your Prom King or Queen, there are many other initial research terms that make up the planning committee – they won’t steal the spotlight, but without them, the party doesn’t happen!

(Still not sure about all this? Take a look at the early-stage content success of REIRockler, and New York Life.)

Target Users Based on Intent

In order to feel confident that you are truly managing your entire web presence you should map out your customer’s buyer’s journey. The buyer’s journey may be unique to your industry.

Once you have identified the various stages of this journey, revisit and potentially refine the list of keywords you target and determine whether or not your content appeals to consumers based on the intent of their search at each stage of the journey.

“Determine whether or not your content appeals to consumers based on the intent of their search at each stage of the journey.”

When targeting based on intent, ask yourself, “does my content truly engage readers based on what they are looking to accomplish today?” And “is my content too salesy?” Nobody likes the feeling of being sold to.

Check out this early-stage content article from REI on finding the proper rain gear for you. This helps a potential buyer answer all of the questions they need to know in order to make a confident purchase without aggressively pushing them to do so. It even highlights the cons of choosing a specific type over another.

A user who views your site as a real authority during the research stage is more likely to return directly to you when they are prepared to make a purchase.

Educate and Entertain with Your Early-Stage Content

Finally, creating content for a “boring” industry is no excuse to create boring content. As an industry insider, you are uniquely qualified to provide your readers with a welcome break from the monotony of their day while still delivering useful information relevant to your field.

Even if your content does not immediately lead to a conversion, it can help you establish trust in your relationship with the otherwise faceless consumer. Ultimately, redefining how and when you target different members of your audience can not only open up tremendous opportunities for new and unique content, it can encourage a new kind of conversation with your customers.

Alternatively… post cute pictures of cats.

Get started with mapping your content to the buyer’s journey with this Interactive Persona & Buyer’s Journey Worksheet.