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Are You Missing this Vital Ingredient In Your Content Strategy?

How to focus content
Focused content… infinitely better than blurry content. Image via Shutterstock.

Let’s be honest.

Running a business blog is hard.

Deadlines loom. Good writers are hard to find. And even the good ones will miss deadlines or disappear when you need them most.

The result is often content for content’s sake.

You end up publishing a post that isn’t the quality you’d like. Or a post that’s only “sort of” related to your brand’s message, products and offers.

There’s no harm, right?

Wrong.

One of the least talked about but most critical elements of a strong content marketing plan is focus. Those posts that are almost on-topic or loosely related to your brand message can actually dilute your brand and confuse people about what you do, not to mention negatively impact your SEO.

Like it or not, you must focus your content, and that takes commitment and discipline from everyone involved.

To put it bluntly, great writing isn’t the hallmark of successful content marketing.

Focus is.

It’s time we get back to the basics. A strong blog focus will make the entire content creation process easier — and get you the results you’ve been looking for.

The impact of a loose blog focus

I get it. Talking about focus is easy. Finding your focus is hard.

That’s why you see high-traffic, industry-recognized blogs that still lack focus. When they started out, they didn’t know what their focus was. They were doing what we’ve all done, trying out different topics until they found what worked.

At some point, they have to focus. As do you. Because not focusing your content does more harm than good.

Lack of focus muddies your brand

What do you sell? What’s your site about? If your content doesn’t have a tight focus, you’ll hear these questions a lot.

That’s because there’s a disconnect between your content and your offers.

Content marketing is much more than branded publishing. It’s attraction marketing. If it’s doing its job, it should call out your best prospects and weed out everyone else. It should reflect your values, your voice and your brand promise.

Teabox may be taking a loose-focus approach that, over time, could muddy their brand. Below, I’ve taken screenshots of three recent posts. The first two posts are good. But look at the third one.

Teabox example of on-topic blog content
Teabox example of on topic blog content
Teabox example of on-topic blog content

This is a good example of what I’m talking about. By creating a While It Steeps category, Teabox opened the door to blog about other topics, from music to literature.

Right now, that may work. It’s definitely a creative approach to content — adding variety and human interest to the blog. But if I only look at the blog, I have to wonder what Teabox is about. Do they sell tea, or are they a media company?

Off-topic content creates negative SEO

Off-topic posts may be entertaining, but they can seriously undermine your SEO strategy. Your audience may see the connection, but search engines won’t.

Teabox’s music and literature posts are a good example.

From a content perspective, these posts are engaging and creative for existing visitors. But they’re not likely to attract new tea drinkers.

For instance, the post “In Music: Yin and Yang” is an audio file of Schubert’s Impromptu no.2 in E flat major, Op.90 and has the keywords “classical music” and “schubert.”

The post “The Entertainer” is an audio file of The Entertainer and has the keywords “scott joplin” and “ragtime.”

Are these really the keywords a tea vendor should rank for?

By pursuing these keywords, Teabox is telling search engines that it’s as much a music blog as a tea blog. These posts won’t likely win a page-one rank in SERPs for the music files, and they won’t attract tea drinkers at all.

So what’s the point?

A blog is your best source for organic traffic, but you need to attract qualified traffic. The only way to do that is to keep your posts on topic.

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Unfocused content makes it harder to leverage for sales

Here’s where the rubber meets the road. To leverage your content for sales, you need to be able to make offers that are relevant to your posts.

Think about Teabox’s music posts. They’re likely to attract visitors who love the arts but have no interest in tea. These people aren’t prospects and won’t respond to tea-related offers. Not only is it okay to exclude them, it’s for the best.

Besides, from a conversion standpoint, traffic from non-tea-drinkers will dilute the effectiveness of any promotion Teabox wants to make.

As Brian Massey says in his book, Your Customer Creation Equation,

“There are two ways to increase your conversion rate:

  • Get more visitors to take action, or
  • Bring in fewer unqualified visitors.

Which strategy is more important? To get the high conversion rates you want, you must master both.”

There’s a degree to which content is advertising for your brand. You promote it in social media and optimize it for search — why? To attract traffic. But not any traffic. The point is to attract qualified traffic that will fall in love with your brand and respond to your offers.

To do that, your content needs to be meaningful for your business and your audience. It can entertain, persuade, educate or convert, but it needs to do that for your best prospects — not the web as a whole.

Distilled content guide
Image via Distilled.

This graphic shows you the possibilities when it comes to creating content. Notice that you can use a wide variety of formats. But don’t take that as license to create content on a wide variety of topics.

Again: Your content should create interest in your brand and curiosity about your offers, which means it needs to be highly focused on the topics related to your products.

So how do you find your content focus?

Sometimes your focus is baked into your brand. Teabox’s focus is tea.

But sometimes it isn’t so obvious. If that’s the case for you, these three steps can give you a head start.

1. Start with your products

If your content focus isn’t obvious, you need to reverse engineer it, starting with your top products/services or your core message. If you had to pick one “umbrella topic” that covers everything you do, what would it be?

That’s your core topic.

Next, jot down the supporting ideas and/or topics that you generally talk about when presenting your core message. These should be the topics or ideas that help you stand out from the competition.

If you aren’t sure, try answering these questions as you think about it:

  • What do you do that’s unique to your brand?
  • Why do you do it?
  • How do you do it?
  • Who do you do it for?

2. Tighten even more

Based on your products, the discussions you have with customers and the answers to the questions above, list two to five topics that are central to your brand.

For instance, Neil Patel’s QuickSprout talks about traffic and conversion. SEO used to be its core topic, but since search algorithms have changed, it now revolves mostly around content.

Quicksprout blog

The blog doesn’t use categories, but if it did, they would probably be content, traffic, and conversion.

In most cases, you only want two to five supporting ideas. Your umbrella topic (core message) should be the main topic of all your content. That’s “what you talk about” as a brand.

Your supporting ideas should be the categories of your blog. Any topic or idea that falls outside this list should be considered off limits — your content should attract your best prospects… and no one else.

3. Keyword research

Once you know the topics you’re going to focus on, you’re ready to pick the keywords you should rank for. My favorite tool for this is Ahrefs — using one tool, you can do keyword, content and competitor research, making it easy to pick your target keywords.

Keep in mind, if you’re in a competitive industry, you may not be able to rank on Page 1 of Google for the generic topic you cover, but you can rank for long-tail keywords or for related keywords.

Ahrefs gives you the keyword difficulty (KD) for each keyword, so you know how accessible it is. For example, “content,” “marketing,” and “content marketing” may be so competitive that you’d have a hard time ranking for them, but “define content,” KD of 36, might be accessible.

Ahrefs keyword difficulty

To clarify, keyword difficulty is a score that ranges from zero to 100, with 100 being the most difficult. The KD that’s right for you depends on your domain authority and number of backlinks, or referring domains, you’ve acquired. According to Ahrefs, to rank well for a KD of 10, you should have backlinks from 10 different websites, and to rank for a 90 KD keyword (such as “content” from the screenshot above), you’d need backlinks from 756 different websites.

Bottom line, with a tighter content focus, you can pick a cluster of keywords you’d like to rank for and begin creating content that could help your brand show up in the SERPs.

It won’t happen overnight, but by focusing your content, you have a much better chance of succeeding.

Now do it

The number one complaint I hear from content marketers is, “We’re doing everything we’re supposed to do and it isn’t working.”

If you aren’t getting the results you need, the issue may not be style or format or even writing quality. It may simply be that you aren’t focused enough in the topics you cover.

Onsite and off, you need a tight focus for your content.

It’s tempting to create off-topic content simply to meet your next deadline or entertain your visitors. Don’t do it!

Find your focus and stick with it. A clear focus allows you to create higher quality content with less effort — and finally get the results you’re looking for.

What about you? Have you successfully found your blog focus? What’s your biggest challenge with narrowing the focus of your content?

About Kathryn Aragon
Kathryn Aragon is a content strategist and consultant on a mission to help marketers get better results from their content. Her unique combination of content and conversion strategies can help you get more subscriptions, traffic and conversions. Follow her on her blog and Twitter.
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Comments:

  1. APPSC Panchayat Secretary Model Papers 2016

    Dear Kathryn Aragon
    I have read your article regarding marketing strategy such an amazing article with nominal language and mind of information.. keep posting thanks for ur post

    (1)
    Reply
  2. Latlon Technologies

    Such a useful information. Thanks for sharing these things, you have clarified the doubts.

    (0)
    Reply
  3. anju

    We specialise in tours to Haridwar, River Rafting in Rishikesh, Chardham Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Agar etc. We also specialise in wildlife tours and adventure tours to Uttarakhand. We organise tours in small groups and see to it that you are very well guided throughout your tour.

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  4. sowjanya

    What you wrote in this article it’s help a lot. Thank you

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  5. Tony Mariotti

    You make a claim that off-topic content can hurt SEO but offer no data to support that claim. I’ve become increasingly wary of SEO advice that is not data-driven. The reason I bring this up is that I run a mortgage company and all my posts are about…you guessed it…home loans. But I know realtors get traction (SEO) and actual leads (CRO) from posts about moving to their city (e.g. a blog post called Moving to Los Angeles). That’s not directly “on topic” for a real estate website as it has nothing to do with homes, listings, etc. But that content pulls in an audience that is looking to move, many of whom will be looking to buy a home. And it’s not just anecdotal; I know 10 realtors doing this with success. So getting back to the point, it “off topic” helping or hurting SEO? I don’t know. But I know how some leads are being generated and deals closed by using topics better suited (in terms of being ‘on topic’) for a chamber of commerce site than a real estate site.

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    • Kathryn Aragon

      You’re right to be wary of people making SEO claims that aren’t substantiated by data. But I’m not trying to make a claim about SEO. It’s more of a logical progression of thought, and I’m talking more about content strategy than SEO.

      That said, my point is validated by the story I share, and it’s based on what I’ve seen on my own website and client websites. If you’re selling tea, and your posts attract people who like music, you’re probably not helping your SEO.

      In your case, category topics–topics that are related to your main topic–are still on-topic, especially if they attract people who are good prospects for your business. It’s really a matter of testing ideas and watching the numbers to know if they’re working. Sounds like that’s what you’re doing. :)

      Great point. I appreciate you bringing it up.

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    • Amy M Blitchok

      I would argue that quality writing trumps this idea of focus any day. Especially since any quality content writing inherently comes with a strategy that takes audience and purpose into account. What is the point of having an on-topic article that is poorly written and doesn’t offer any significant value to the reader?

      I am afraid that the substance of your article doesn’t really support your title. Also, why give writers such a bad rap right at the beginning? Some of us are both talented and professional. ;)

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      Reply
  6. NodyRay

    Strategizing content is really an essence. You need to get a proper factual data before getting into any promotion act. You just need to keep in mind to stick to your topic and get the content within your bounds.

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  7. ravi

    i am a m.b.a. students so very helpful marketing information to me and you clarify my dought thanks …

    (0)
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  9. royal

    Thanks for sharing.

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  11. Bidyut Bikash Dhar

    Thank you with your step by step information. Now, it is pretty clear to me.I would also love to suggest some of my views as: 1-The author is the key, Make the blog post from a person, not a company. 2- Ease of reading is a must, Write the blog post in a conversational manner. 3- Promote sharing and discussion. I think it can also help. If my insight is not correct feel free to let me know my fallacious part.

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    Reply
    • Kathryn Aragon

      Yep, these are all good points. It’s important to be real–writing as one person speaking to another. Add readability and engagement, and you’ve got the recipe for good writing. Thanks for sharing.

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      Reply
  12. NIkhil Sharma

    As you told about the most important strategy for the content that how can we write a good content for our site, this was really awesome and keep your sharing up..thank you..

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  13. Arun

    Thank you Kathryn Aragon..I read your SEO Content writing Book and found very useful..

    (0)
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