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Trending! The power of search insight: keyword research and social listening to fuel your content planning
For any brand, content is an essential tool to inform, engage and communicate with your customers. It comes in many forms, but every piece of content that you plan to use, needs to align with your audience in order to target them effectively.
There are many ways to connect your content to your customers mainly by engaging them in line with their own behaviour and interests on the channels that they interact with. But most importantly, content should answer their questions, in a tone of voice that they are comfortable with, helping to educate and inspire them into making an informed purchase decision.
Keyword research and social listening are both helpful types of insight that allow brands to find out more about their customers, what they are searching for and what is trending. Useful things to find out include what topics they’re interested in, which brands they are interacting with, which channels they are interacting on, how they like to interact (video, images or text posts), what language style they are receptive to, along with their attitudes and opinions.
With this type of qualitative insight, you can tailor your content plan to best support your customer, providing genuine value throughout their buyer journey.
Here, we outline the important role of keyword research and social listening within your content planning process and highlight the benefits you can gain from each.
What is keyword research?
Keyword research is a way of seeing what people are searching about on Google and other search engines, you can find out the specific questions they are asking, the specific wording they use, along with how frequently specific words and phrases are searched. Such information helps you to align what you think people are searching against what people are actually searching, which can help shape your search strategy and ensure that you are covering off the most popular topics and questions in your content planning.
An example of how we do this is to take a term or question that we want to research such as ‘where to buy a second hand car’ and run it through a keyword research tool (in this case, SEMrush). I can see that this particular question has been searched around 260 times over the last 12 months. This is known as the search volume, and the higher the volume is for the term, the more popular the topic is. Some tools reflect search trends, so you can see when specific topics peak at certain times of the year (such as seasonal terms).
One huge benefit of keyword research is that it boosts your organic SEO rankings by helping you to determine what search terms, relevant to your business, you should include in your content in order to align with what people are searching. The theory is that it will ensure that you appear in the search rankings and expose your business to increased user traffic.
But, it’s also important to understand that simply including popular keyword terms in your text won’t achieve the results on its own – you must ensure that your content material is relevant and authoritative to the topic in hand, providing good quality of information for those who are reading. Google will penalise you if it doesn’t and you’ll be back to square one!
You can see above that the keyword research tool gives a keyword difficulty score, which determines how hard that phrase would be to rank for. If you seek to improve your SEO, it’s a good policy to find terms with significant keyword volumes while having a low difficulty score.
Keyword research will also empower you to understand how your customer talk and think, so you can mirror their language and add value in the way they want it. When doing keyword research, you will find variations and related phrases to the term you investigate. This will highlight the most popular terminology and other questions searchers may have on that topic.
By looking at these related keywords and variations, you can inspire content planning by creating a portfolio of titles based on people’s fundamental interests in the area. This will enable you to adequately educate leads, so you become seen as a trusted source of information and guide them along their journey. It will also allow you to connect your customers’ challenges to your products and services, which should work to solve their issues.
Social listening helps you to understand what topics people are discussing on social media channels and how. Due to the instant nature of social media, it’s ideal for uncovering real-time trends and attitudes.
Most social media platforms have a search function so you can search a specific word or phrase and see what people are saying on the subject and gauge the popularity.
You can also follow hashtags related to your brand, as they act as a curation mechanism, bringing together any posts that use that hashtag. Some platforms, like Twitter, will show what hashtags are trending at any given time.
By undertaking social listening, you can easily view what the hot topics are online, which can fuel your response of timely content that joins the conversation and gets exposure for your brand. You can also understand users’ opinions and feelings on specific topics, and align your brand values and tone of voice to avoid alienating customers.
Another way to utilise social listening is by searching on your brand name (or even product names) to see what people are saying about you. Scary stuff! But this will assist you in gauging sentiment about your brand – whether good, bad or indifferent. You’ll then be in a stronger position to put any necessary or remedial measures in place, as well as additional PR activities that may help you manage your reputation and keep the sentiment positive.
Do I need both?
Many marketers will use keyword research or social trends to dictate their content planning, but not everyone will use both. However, by taking a dual approach, you can better link your content to your customers and unleash limitless inspiration for your planning.
Keyword research and social listening have specific purposes. When you utilise keyword research, you find out what people are searching for in the privacy of their phones and laptops. Due to this, people tend to be more honest about what they want to know, even on potentially embarrassing and scary topics.
Social listening, on the other hand, is curated and takes place on a public forum. Your followers will see what you post, which might affect what you put out there. Social media also tends to be more driven by opinion rather than a need for information.
By combining both, you can get a more holistic view of your customers, including how they present themselves and interact with others online and what their feelings and pain points are when they’re out of the public eye.
Keyword research is excellent for identifying blog titles by showing you what topics and questions people are interested in. Due to this, it can fuel your evergreen content, helping you to drive SEO and traffic with information that will consistently provide value to users.
Social listening is ideal for uncovering what is trending right now. With this, you can jump into the conversation at an appropriate time, offering commentary. This will increase engagement and traffic, especially to your social media profiles, which can promote brand awareness. It’s also perfect for motivating opinion-style blogs.
By using both, you can effectively fuel your content strategy while getting results in SEO and engagement across your various channels.
How do I undertake keyword research and social listening for my brand?
Now you’re aware of the benefits of keyword research and social listening, you might be asking how you implement it in your content creation processes. In this section, we explain how.
There are many tools available to support you when undertaking keyword research, both paid and free. In our previous example, we used SEMrush, a paid tool that offers a comprehensive analysis of keywords. Other useful tools include Answer the Public, which provides free and paid options and permits you to see what questions people ask around a general topic area, and again, can be extremely helpful when planning your content topics and titles.
If you aren’t ready to commit to a tool, you could use Google’s autofill function (which will automatically provide suggestions based on what others search, as soon as you start typing) or its related searches feature, which is located at the bottom of the search results page. These tools are completely free and will allow you see what kind of things people have previously searched around a topic.
Whichever method you choose, start by searching more general terms that are related to your business. From here, you can see what variations and suggestions for keywords are made, which will help you to further refine your ideas and mirror more precisely what users are searching. It will also inspire additional titles and related topics that you can further add to your content plan, that will better educate your audience and support their customer journey.
If you are using a tool that provides keyword volumes, it’s also worth checking these out, along with the difficulty score for each word to ensure there is enough traffic potential to warrant your efforts.
It’s vital to undertake keyword research each time you approach content planning as a first step. This will assist you to target precisely the correct phrases in your titles and provide genuine value to your customers by fully answering the questions they have.
There are many ways to undertake social listening. A good starting point is to search for a term you are interested in in the search bar of the social media platform you are looking at. It will usually only return results that specifically match the term, so it’s worth trying out different wording variations.
Another way is to search on hashtags (#cakesofinstagram), as this will return all content that has includes that hashtag. As we’ve already mentioned, some platforms (like Twitter) will highlight any trending hashtags, which can help you gauge what is topical and see what people are saying and posting under that content umbrella.
You might also look at what your competitors or industry influencers are posting about, which will likely align with trends and points of discussion. With this, you can join the conversation using your own content, offering value through new perspectives and commentary.
Finally, you can see how customers interact with you directly on social media, such as what they comment on your posts or message you. Think about the common questions asked and how they like to talk to you. If themes emerge, it could signal the type of content you need to produce, so you can answer their queries and provide the information they want.
Remember, whilst social listening will tell you what topics people are interested in, it will also tell you the kind of posts they are themselves producing, along with a snapshot of their attitudes and mannerisms. Using this data, you should be better armed to connect your content to their preferences. It will also enable you to take advantage of social media trends, such as viral videos and challenges, to drive exposure and remain relevant.
Every business wants their planning to be both cost and time-effective, whilst successful in driving results. By utilising keyword research and social listening, you can make your content planning smarter, by using topics and titles that you know are aligned to your audience.
By using their language, understanding their behaviour, and knowing their interests, you will create content that gives them value, such as giving them the information that they need in a way that they enjoy, thus creating a positive experience and moving them towards a purchase.
You will also boost your SEO efforts and remain in tune with trending topics as an accompanying benefit. This will help you to drive engagement across your various content platforms with an understanding of what works, and improve brand visibility by joining the right conversations in the right way.