Strategy

A Searcher’s Journey: Integrating Related Keywords into Your Content Marketing Strategy

Full confession: I play a little Xbox now and again to help my brain relax. Guilty pleasure. It’s like Kevin Spacey in House of Cards, just with far less peripheral criminal activity. 

But last weekend, I was in a pickle — my only controller broke, and I couldn’t really play at all. Determined to solve the problem (read: not spend $40 on a replacement), I decided to put on my Tony Stark hat and fix the thing. I’m obviously not an electrical engineer, so this took some Google searching. A lot of Google searching. Nearly five hours of Google searching.  

Here’s why this matters — in the process, I was shown an exceptional example of just how important related keyword content really is (and how good Google is at serving it up). Fixing a controller was something I knew very little about, so I was starting at square one; my first search was appropriately broad. But almost immediately, Google picked up on what I needed and started feeding me recommended searches that took me all the way from A to Z.  

Related: Make sure your audience is getting the information they need about your company with these SEO tips.

In the end, I couldn’t fix my controller; it was cooked. But once the fog of war had passed — and $40 had changed hands at the local GameStop — I realized this would be a great marketing case study. This was a perfect example of how aligning your content, through either one or multiple pieces, alongside both a primary keyword and wisely chosen related ones, can help your reader down a sales funnel in just one afternoon. 

The Path of a Keyword Search

To help illustrate the point, I went ahead and pulled my exact Google search history (myactivity.google.com) from the hours in question (1:26 p.m. – 3:54 p.m. on Saturday, and 11:43 a.m. – 1:35 p.m. on Sunday). The results are below; I did my searching across both my laptop and my phone, but I was logged into my Google account on both, so my entire search path is represented here. The linear path is pretty clear (and, as an aside, you can pretty much see the life drain out of me as the search drags on. It’s OK to laugh). 

Starting on Saturday morning, I didn’t know exactly what was wrong with my controller — I just knew the right-side joystick was registering movement where there was none. I wondered if it was just out of alignment, so my search started there. While I was browsing SERP content, Google immediately caught on, and when I clicked the search box to try again and typed “x,” it was already queuing up “xbox one controller drift” — which was exactly what my problem was. The rest of my path should be pretty self-explanatory from there (especially my shameful trip to GameStop). 

So, as marketers, how do we plan to accommodate search patterns like this? It might seem like fixing an Xbox One controller is a far cry from a complicated B2B sales cycle, but you’d be surprised how easily we can lay down a similar map for each. Here’s what I want you to keep in mind — just as I needed tailored (but related) content for each step on my failed handyman journey, so does your target audience as they move through their awareness, consideration, and purchase stages of the buying cycle.

Planning Out Related Keyword Content 

Let’s use my Saturday adventure as an example, then we’ll try this tactic on a more complicated sales process.

Here’s a pretty close approximation of how I consumed content alongside my search path: 

realign xbox one controller (1:26 p.m.)

– Techy site bullet-point article on common Xbox One controller ailments

xbox one controller drift (2:43 p.m.)

– Gamer blog site post describing what “drift” is

– YouTube video on how to quickly clean controller joysticks

– Techy site article on how to address more serious drift problems

disassemble xbox one controller (2:49 p.m.)

– YouTube video on how to disassemble controller

– Another YouTube video on how to disassemble controller

– Another YouTube video on how to disassemble controller

how to unscrew xbox one controller without torx (3:08 p.m.)

– YouTube video on how to work around Torx screwheads (I had no idea what this was, either — it’s a crazy screw you can only remove with a special wrench)

– Handyman article on how to handle Torx screws without a Torx wrench

clean xbox one controller joystick (3:44 p.m.)

– Gamer blog site post on how to clean controller electronics

xbox one controller stick drift nothing worms (3:54 p.m.)

– Idiot. 

xbox one controller stick drift nothing works (3:54 p.m.)

– A SERP page that really did me no good whatsoever — this was the land of the lost. 

You can see that I bounced around between a ton of different information sources and mediums. Considering most of the content on this topic is produced at an amateur level, that’s not surprising (nor particularly problematic). None of my information sources were trying to convert me — they were just trying to be helpful.  

But corporate marketing, on the other hand, is all about conversion, which means you can’t afford to let your target demographic drift languidly between competitor content and products — you have to have material targeting all of the primary steps (what, how much, where to buy, etc.), and the related content keywords in between. 

So let’s say you’re working in content marketing at a major software sales company, primarily in project management solutions. How would this same approach work with your target demographic? Let’s take a stab at a possible searcher journey (search numbers from SEMrush); I’m using the construction industry as my model here, because SEMrush suggests there are a ton of searches on this topic coming from that world. This seems like a reasonable search path:

construction project management software (1,300 monthly U.S. searches)

what is project management software (110)

web based project management software (170)

best project management software (2,400)

(brand-specific search[es])

project management software reviews (880)

In this example, our target demo starts with an industry-specific search, then quickly realizes they want a little more broad information (“what is project management software”) on the topic before they start trying to whittle down the field. That kind of search result could reasonably set the searcher onto a “web-based” path; now, with just enough information to start thinking about requesting a demo from certain brands, our searcher goes to that so-often used word “best.” The results there are going to yield searches around a few select brands, for which our soon-to-be customer is going to check the references (“reviews”).

There are a million ways that a consumer search pattern can progress, and it’s obviously impossible to plan for all of them. But as you and your agency/staff plan out a content strategy, you have to think along these lines.

Here’s how I would approach our construction example, content-wise:

construction project management software (1,300 monthly U.S. searches)

– If you’re a company that only provides project management software for construction groups, this search term should be going directly to your home page. In the more likely scenario that your software is for multiple industries, this term would take searches to an industry-specific page highlighting why your tool is perfect for construction teams. 

– Either way, a screen-capture video of your tool preloaded with a construction company project example would be helpful here — even 30 seconds of quality video is an excellent introduction to a brand. 

what is project management software (110)

– This is right in Techopedia’s and Wikipedia’s wheelhouse, so a top ranking will be hard to earn. But you still have to put forth the effort, and I’d recommend a two-pronged approach: short-form info, with a “read more” long-form partner. The short form is easy, so for the long form, hire a writer or agency to piece together a well-sourced, mildly timeless read that gives the reader a good sense of what project management software can do (at a generic level, with your brand tied in), and how it can push a client’s bottom line. 

web based project management software (170)

– If you’re not careful, this could end up being duplicate content to your “what is project management software” page; if you realize you’re saying the same thing twice, tweak your page to receive searchers from both terms. But this shouldn’t be an issue — putting together a bulleted pros and cons list on software as a service (SaaS) vs. on-premise solutions is both a useful topic for readers and a potentially powerful term to rank for. You could always convert this into a quiz format, too: “Which Software Solution Is Right for You?” Games work. Try it. 

best project management software (2,400)

– Time to work on the backlink profile. It would be very difficult to actually get one of your own pages to rank near the top for this term because it’s clogged full of tech media outlets publishing their annual reports. But hey, they’re doing all the hard work — all you have to do is make sure you’re included in their lists. Be proactive in reaching out to those writers/compilers, and make your case quickly and efficiently. If you’re successful, you earn more than just a prime spot for a prime search term — you also build another quality link in your backlink profile, which is a positive for your site’s overall SEO footprint.

(brand specific search[es])

– You should obviously be owning this real estate — if someone searches for your brand name, that’s a lay-up. But there are a few things to look out for; namely, competitors advertising against your name (which is very common), or frequent brand-name searches that are taking your customers to outdated destinations. Make sure to use a search tool to determine what links are turning up most frequently in results pages and adjust as needed. 

project management software reviews (880)

– If your product is any good, customers are going to be more than happy to spread that gospel. Use that to your advantage and solicit positive feedback for your Google My Business profile. Those little stars on a search results page can frequently be a potential customer’s first look at your brand, so make sure you’re putting your best foot forward.

While this search term will frequently return the same results as “best project management software,” you need to be prepared anyway — in addition to setting up your Google My Business profile, touch base with three or four of your most recognizable customers and ask them for a quote or two that you can feature on your site. If you can pull off a case study or two, do it. Such powerful testimonials can be invaluable in the conversion process. 

Connecting the dots between these search terms and your related content boils down to good SEO — more on that here

——————

I never did fix my controller, obviously. It sits in a drawer now, waiting for a better mind than mine. But despite the fact that I came up short, the experience was still illustrative — and it turned into a monster post that might prove valuable to someone else. 

That said, we skipped over a lot here — notably, how to promote and measure the impact of your content. That’s another post for another time, or maybe I’ll just throw my Xbox down the stairs and see if I can glean more marketing insights from the repair process.  

Thoughts and feedback welcome. On both marketing and fixing a controller. 

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