Schedule, publish, & measure
🚌 Align content ideas to the buyer’s journey
At this point, you have lots of keywords that could potentially inspire into lots of content pieces. But it’s not time to go hog wild on production just yet. First, you want to understand if and how these keywords may fit into your audiences’ buyer’s journey.
For any non-commoditized product or service, people typically spend some time educating themselves before making a buying decision (in fact, some people don’t even know they need a product or service before you educate them about the problem they’re facing).
That educational process is often described as a buyer’s journey—and it’s your content that will help people through that journey.
For example, someone that’s unfamiliar with a new challenge needs very different content than someone who is ready to buy a solution to that problem (and they’ll search for much different terms to find that content).
In this lesson, we’ll explain:
- One of the simplest ways to understand the buyer’s journey
- The basics of search intent and why it matters
- How to align your keyword opportunities with your audience’s needs throughout the buyer’s journey
- How to brainstorm content titles across the buyer’s journey
By the end of this lesson, you’ll have …
- Specific content ideas for each of your three priority topics, aligned to each stage of the buyer’s journey
- Primary target keywords for each content piece (as applicable)
The Buyer’s Journey—At Its Simplest
There are about as many versions of buyer’s journey stages as there are iPhones. But at its simplest, you can start by understanding and creating content for three stages:
This stage is where your audience first becomes aware of and gets familiar with a new challenge they’re facing.
Your awareness content should therefore be focused on your buyer’s pain points—not your product or brand. It’s all about education. Effective content at this stage helps people to better understand a challenge and explore options for overcoming the challenge.
Let’s say a Director of Marketing in your audience searches for “content distribution”. This person is probably facing a distribution challenge and needs some ideas for getting more eyeballs on their material.
It’s tough to gauge exactly what this person needs from such a broad search term, but it’s likely some sort of informational piece of content that explains the basics.
The broadness of the term implies that they don’t even know what questions to ask yet, so you’d want to offer an introductory view of the content distribution landscape. But they’re probably not ready for the 50-page playbook right off the bat (save that for the consideration stage).
That same Director of Marketing types a question into the search bar:
“Why is content promotion important?”
The question speaks to this person’s unfamiliarity with the topic of content promotion (their lack of awareness). They’re still not sure that they get this thing, or if they ought to be concerned about it. They’re trying to understand the value of content promotion, so a blog post about the benefits of content promotion might be the perfect fit.
Getting a feel for why the person is searching for a particular term is called understanding their “search intent.” Searches that may indicate someone is in the awareness stage of their journey include:
- General terms like “content distribution” and “content promotion”
- 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 a decent 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.
This content should go deeper than awareness content and:
- Share your unique point of view
- Explain your process for solving the pain point (how-to’s are clutch!)
- Offer comparisons to other approaches
- Detail specific use cases
Think of it like guiding your audience through the way your product/service solves their pain point—without overly promoting your product or service. Teach them how to make the secret sauce to show them you’re the chef that really knows your stuff.
For example, the Director that read your intro to content distribution may really like a few of the tactics in the post. She wants to figure out when these tactics are likely to work, how their team would execute on them, what sort of results they’d be likely to see, etc.
In fact, she may actually be ready for that 50-page playbook on content workflows. Or perhaps an original research piece on what kinds of content other marketers in her industry rely on for the best results.
Searches 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.
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
Let’s say your Director of Marketing has been reading up on content promotion for a while, and she’s decided could use some help with it. If you’ve done a good job providing her with useful content so far, you’re probably already on her short list of providers. She likes your ideas, and she believes you know how to execute on them.
But she may still need some help making a final decision.
The next step could be to provide her with case studies in her industry that prove you have delivered results for similar businesses.
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”)
Buyer is trying to…
Understand the challenge
Evaluate various ways to solve the challenge
Decide on a product/service that will solve the challenge and help them complete their job-to-be-done
• Help buyers understand the situation • Focus on pain points • Educate
• Help buyers define and evaluate their options • Share your POV • Explain your process
• Make it easy for a buyer to choose your solution • Prove you know your stuff
These categories are not cut and dried
At the end of the day, your content won’t always fit clearly into one stage of the buyer’s journey.
Each content piece may serve as a different stage for different buyers.
And each persona may need different angles on the same topics and journey stages.
But keeping these stages in mind will help you to provide a more complete journey for your prospects and customers well as they explore your areas of expertise—and your offerings.
Additionally, very few buyer’s journeys are totally linear. People will bounce around in your content. That’s fine. You just want to make sure there is always a logical next step to take, if they choose to take one.
With all of this in mind, it’s important to provide content at each stage of the buyer’s journey, for each of your priority topic areas.
Buyer’s Journey Template
Now that you understand the basics of search intent and the buyer’s journey, you can start using this knowledge to choose appropriate keywords from your Module 3 lists and turn them into topics.
We’ve created an easy template for you to use in your workbook.
Here’s how the template breaks down.
Populating The Template
How to fill out the buyer’s journey template:
1. Populate your three priority topics
Add the three priority topics from your topic strategy module (Module 2) to the Topic lines.
2. Brainstorm content ideas for each stage
For each priority topic, use your keyword lists (from Module 3) to brainstorm content ideas for each stage of the buyer’s journey. The idea here is to match up keywords to your buyer’s needs throughout their journey.
Revisit your personas and use cases during this step to remind you of what they’re most likely to be interested in (e.g. their jobs to be done, pain points, etc.). You may also find some inspiration in your topic strategy module. Highly relevant topics that fell lower on the priority list because of low volume could be idea topics for single content pieces.
Make sure the draft titles you create for each keyword align with the buyer’s search intent. If they’re trying to understand a broad concept, your piece needs to deliver broad educational content.
If they’re trying to figure out how to do something, your content should teach them how to.
If they’re trying to compare tools, your content needs to help them compare tools.
You get the idea.
If you’re unsure, Google the keyword yourself. The content pieces that rank high in results likely match what Google considers to be the search intent.
3. Fill in gaps
Your keyword lists probably don’t contain keywords for everything that’s important to your buyers. And like we mentioned, SEO is less important for decision stage content. You may therefore still have some gaps in your buyer’s journey template—now’s the time to fill them.
Make sure to revisit your personas and use cases (yes, again!).
Check to see if there are any jobs-to-be-done or pain points you haven’t addressed yet related to these priority topics. If so, brainstorm a content piece or two as appropriate. You can do some more research to see if there’s an appropriate keyword to assign—but otherwise, just put “N/A” in the keyword field.
It will be especially important to distribute non-search-optimized content via other methods.
Here’s an example of the template filled out for our fictitious content agency. As a reminder, we’re working with the topic “content performance analysis” and the following keywords:
Topic: Content performance analysis
content performance metrics
The X content performance metrics you need to impress your boss
how to perform a content analysis
How to perform a content analysis—a step-by-step guide
content performance report
How to create a content performance report [free template]
content performance tools
The 10 best content performance tools for proving ROI
How Acme Co. marketers got 50% more budget by proving content performance [case study]
Onboarding guide: What we’ll need from you to measure your content performance
🏄♀️ 4: Align Content to the Buyer’s Journey
Fill out the Buyer’s Journey Template for your three priority topics.
Aim for at least 2-3 ideas per journey stage.
Feeling stumped? Remember to go back to your personas and topic strategy for ideas on what your audience is interested in learning about. You’ve already documented everything you need to inspire at least one or two ideas for each topic and journey stage.
Once complete, this matrix tells you what content pieces you should produce (after you’ve made your way through the remaining modules).
It’s time to start scheduling. Go on ahead to
- 🚌 Align content ideas to the buyer’s journey
- The Buyer’s Journey—At Its Simplest
- These categories are not cut and dried
- Buyer’s Journey Template
- Populating The Template
- 1. Populate your three priority topics
- 2. Brainstorm content ideas for each stage
- 3. Fill in gaps
- 🏄♀️ 4: Align Content to the Buyer’s Journey
- What’s next?