Pillar #1: Produce Expert-Level Content For High Purchase Intent Keywords
There are naturally more people at the top of the funnel in the awareness stages than at the bottom of the funnel in the purchase decision stage.
So prioritizing keywords exclusively based on monthly search volume often means you’re targeting people higher in the awareness stages.
As a result, you probably won’t see many conversions from these blog posts simply because these readers aren’t in the purchase decision stage yet.
Unfortunately, any agency reporting on traffic is incentivized to drive these awareness-stage readers who aren’t yet ready to buy.
Sure, you can nurture awareness stage prospects and bring them down to the purchase decision stage. Still, it’s a lot cheaper to simply target and convert people who have already made it to the purchase decision stage, as they require less nurturing/education and therefore are cheaper and faster to close.
To drive home this point, check out the conversion stats from a client I worked with last month.
You can see that blog posts targeting bottom of the funnel (high purchase intent) keywords drove 92% of the 56 first-touch conversions:
It’s also worth noting that many of these bottom of the funnel keywords had less than 20 monthly searches, further proving the theory that traffic doesn’t always correlate with conversions.
Benji Hyam of Grow and Convert introduced me to this concept of reporting on conversions rather than traffic.
He came on a podcast I used to host and explained how they use pain point SEO to write content about the pain points the SaaS product solves and then work backward to match a keyword to that pain point.
I eventually signed up for their course, where they teach members how to execute their exact process. I still think they have a great process, so I’ve adopted a modified version of it for my own client work. Here’s a brief overview of the process I use today:
Identify pain point or product focused keywords
Interview an expert
Write the post
Below, we’ll discuss each of these steps in more detail below.
Customer Research – Identifying Pain Points Your Product Solves
People won’t buy your product just because they landed on your website.
They’ll only convert into customers if they understand that your product solves the problem they’re researching.
This means that to drive conversions, you need to:
Attract prospects that a.) have the problem your product solves and b.) are willing to spend money to solve it.
Show those prospects how your product solves their problem better, cheaper, and faster than the competition.
Most content marketing agencies have a basic understanding of the problems that their customers face, but they don’t understand the product or customers well enough to understand why they choose your product over the competitors.
For example, I worked with an accounting software company that had a unique feature that made it super easy for multi-entity companies to automatically consolidate all of their entities. So even though there are tens, if not hundreds, of accounting software solutions, the best customers were CFOs of multi-entity companies that were currently using spreadsheets to manually consolidate multiple entities.
So instead of creating content for generic keywords like “how to close the books” or “best accounting software” (keywords a small biz CFO might search for) we went after much more specific keywords like “best multi-entity accounting software” and “how to account for multiple entities,” as that’s the main pain point/feature CFOs purchase our accounting software to solve.
However, without a thorough understanding of the product and the customer, we probably would have targeted generic accounting keywords and attracted small business CFOs who aren’t a good fit for the product.
To uncover these insights, here are some questions we interview the customer success and sales teams to understand:
Once we understand who the ideal customer is, we dive into the product and how it solves those pain points by asking these questions:
We also do a full product demo and ask to see case studies to fully understand its value.
Once we have this information, it becomes much easier to both identify the highest value keywords and craft a blog post showing how your product solves the ideal customer’s specific pain point.
Identifying High Purchase Intent Keywords
There are two main types of high-purchase intent keywords:
Product focused keywords
Pain point focused keywords
Product focused keywords convert well because these searchers are already solution aware and actively looking to purchase a product like yours. This means they’ll close quickly.
Here are the product focused keyword frameworks:
Competitor Comparison Posts (Example: Freshbooks vs Quickbooks)
Competitor Alternative Posts (Example: Freshbooks alternatives)
“Automation” Keywords (Example: Automated Twitter scheduler)
“Best” List Posts or product-focused posts (Example: Best CRM Software or just CRM Software)
This was a strategy that we took with Upcoach, a coaching platform we worked with, and these keywords made up the majority of the blog’s total conversions:
During the customer research process, we also discovered that most people were just using an assortment of different apps tied together with Zapier to run their coaching programs, so we also created blog posts for keywords like “best coaching apps,” and even individual tools they may be using like “coaching CRMs.”
These also turned out to be some of our highest converting keywords, because we could show searchers looking for various apps that they actually don’t need to buy any of the apps if they just use our all-in-one coaching platform.
Here are a few examples of posts we’ve written using these product-focused formulas:
Pain point keywords can be a little trickier to identify as there isn’t really a set formula for these keywords.
However, there is a process you can use to identify them.
I call it Reverse Keyword Research.
Most people start the keyword research process by opening a keyword research tool, finding a list of topically relevant keywords, and then selecting the one with the highest volume and lowest difficulty.
The problem with this is that you often end up targeting keywords with high volume that are topically relevant but have very little purchase intent.
Instead, the Reverse Keyword Research process begins with analyzing customer research notes.
To get started, identify the most common pain point your highest value customers face that your product solves.
Then, Google a variation of that pain point.
For example, going back to the accounting software I worked with, its key differentiator was that it made it super easy for companies to automatically consolidate all of their entities. So I started with the pain point “how to automate accounting for multiple entities.”
As you can see, this phrase has zero search volume.
So to find a keyword to match the pain point, I’ll click on the top ranking post and see what keywords it ranks for.
Sure enough, there is a closely related keyword (“accounting for multiple entities”):
I would then repeat this process for all the top pain points that VIP customers purchase the product to solve.
Interview A Subject-Matter Expert
You can rank in search engines by hiring a writer to search around on Google, compile an article that’s more detailed than everything that currently exists in the SERPs, and then hope that your domain authority is higher.
But if your goal is to convert blog post readers, you’ll need to craft a blog post that:
Resonates with your ideal prospect’s key pain points.
Demonstrates how your product solves those pain points (ideally, better/cheaper/faster than competitors).
Emphasizes the benefits of life with the product and shows case studies and proof of how it has helped others like them solve the same pain points.
Unfortunately, you can’t really expect a freelance writer to magically know the intricate details of your VIP customers’ pain points, how your product solves them, and how it’s different from all the other products on the market.
To solve this problem, we interview experts on your team (e.g., sales, product developers, customer success, etc.) for each keyword we select.
During these interviews, we present the keyword and ask about:
The pain points this specific searcher might be experiencing (and misconceptions they may have regarding the topic)
An overview of how the product solves these problems
Specific case studies to support the argument
The main benefits of using the product to solve these problems
This may sound similar to the customer research interviews we did at the beginning of the engagement, but those interviews tend to be much broader. These interviews are specific to a single keyword and help us accurately position the product as a solution to that searcher’s problem.
You’ll see how we now take the call recording and turn it into a blog post.
The Writing Process
Once the interview is complete, the freelance writer essentially acts as a journalist and uses the call recording to craft a blog post that (loosely) follows this structure:
Open with the searcher’s pain point and the issues associated with how this problem is traditionally solved.
Introduce the product as the solution and provide an overview of how it solves the problem, why it’s different from competitors, etc.
Highlight the benefits of the product.
(Notice that this follows the interview structure I outlined above?)
Let’s walk through an example of how we created a blog post for a pain point keyword.
Example of Writing For a Pain Point Keyword
When I was working with SoftLedger, a key pain point the product solves (and a key differentiator) is its subsidiary accounting consolidation automation feature.
So we targeted the keyword “subsidiary accounting.”
The blog post opens by showing the reader how to manually execute the subsidiary accounting process and we highlight the pain points with this traditional process:
Then, we introduce our product as a solution and provide a product walkthrough showing how our software automates the process:
Again, we show how it automates the process:
Finally, we highlight the benefits of automating the process with our product (improved data accuracy and time savings):
Again, we gathered all of this information on the expert interview call with the SoftLedger team. They told us about the specific pain points, how the product works, and its benefits (according to case studies and talking to customers).
As you can see, it’s a no-brainer for an accountant with multiple subsidiaries to purchase this software because the article clearly demonstrates how the tool will save them time and give them peace of mind that they’re working with accurate data.
This is why our content converts so well.
Example of Writing For a List of Tools/Software
In the example above, I’m comparing our tool to a manual process, so I don’t really dive into why it’s better than other software that offers subsidiary accounting (And, we discovered during customer research that most people aren’t even considering other competing software).
However, if the search intent is a list post of different tools, you’ll probably have to mention your competitors to be able to rank for the keyword.
In these cases where your readers are actively comparing your product to competitors, the key to winning conversions is to highlight your product’s key differentiators and the specific pain points those differentiators solve.
Given that those key differentiators are unique to our product, this argument structure makes it a no-brainer for our ideal customers with those pain points to convert as the competitors’ products will always pale in comparison to our product’s differentiators.
Then, I highlight the aspects of the other tools that would attract customers that are a poor fit for our product.
Let me give you an example of this in action.
I worked with the trend discovery tool, Exploding Topics, and one of the blog posts we created for them was “find trending topics.” A quick look in the SERPs showed that the search intent is a list post, so we knew we’d have to mention competitors.
So we started with it’s three key differentiators:
Easy to use
High data quality
Then, I opened the article by discussing the pain points associated with each of those differentiators:
Then, in the Exploding Topics section, I explain how it solves each of these pain points by discussing its key differentiators. For example, you can see below that, rather than just saying it has great data, I explain exactly how Exploding Topics collects its data and how it’s different from most traditional trend discovery tools’ data.
I also explain how we ensure trends are relevant to business professionals and the benefit (you don’t have to manually sift through irrelevant topics):
For each of the competing tools, I discuss how they approach solving those same pain points linked to the Exploding Topics differentiators (data quality, ease-of-use, etc.).
Given that those pain points are key differentiators of Exploding Topics, the competitor’s products will naturally pale in comparison (at least, for our ideal customer) and I don’t have to be biased. For example, here’s how I showed how one competitor, Trend Hunter, collects its trend data:
This information (how Trend Hunter collects trend data) is genuinely useful for people looking for different trend solutions, though it also makes Exploding Topics a no-brainer for our ideal audience. The best part is that I don’t even have to be biased.
You’ll also notice that I highlight how other tools are ideal for people who are poor customers for Exploding Topics.
For example, I highlight that BuzzSumo is great if you’re trying to find current, hot trending topics.
Our ideal customer wants to find under-the-radar trends suggestions, so highlighting this aspect of BuzzSumo helps readers who aren’t our ideal customer find a better alternative solution and helps our ideal customers realize that our product is the best fit for them:
Therefore, the key to creating list posts that are useful to the reader and still convert is highlighting the product’s differentiators and the pain points it solves and then demonstrating how other products approach solving the same pain points.
It’s also helpful to highlight the characteristics of other products that are positive signals for poor-fit customers.
And that’s it for Pillar 1! I encourage you to continue the journey and
The Next Step: Pillar 2 – Update And Prune Old Content