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2017

SEARCHMETRICS
CONTENT THAT PERFORMS:
WHITEPAPER

created in cooperation How user engagement leads to


with top rankings
SUXEEDO

AUTHORS

FIONN KIENTZLER

DANIEL FURCH
Can what some online experts claim

really be true? Is content marketing really all


hype, with most content never read?
Abstract, Background
and Content
The goalposts for generating relevant and successful content have shifted. This

whitepaper will demonstrate how Suxeedo applied targeted, user-focused optimization

to generate a top Google ranking.

Hypothesis:

It’s possible to create content that is guaranteed to generate traffic.

Background:

There has been a great deal of discussion on the effect that user signals have on

rankings. Google’s John Mueller claimed that these are “noisy signals”, but he did not

deny that they are incorporated into rankings. Experiments conducted by Larry Kim

show that click-through rates can be an important factor for long-tail keywords. Other

experts’ experiences have backed this up.

What is certain is that the artificial intelligence of RankBrain (Google’s third most

important ranking factor) is now able to interpret these “noisy signals” better than ever.

And why shouldn’t Google pay more attention to user behavior when determining

rankings?

SEARCHMETRICS WHITEPAPER — created in cooperation with SUXEEDO 3


Abstract:

This paper will present the theory of three different aspects of the user, and

illustrate this theory with examples. In addition, it will illustrate how high rankings can

be achieved by considering the relationship between search and the sales funnel, and

by focusing on user engagement. We will also show how user engagement can be

measured.

SEARCHMETRICS WHITEPAPER — created in cooperation with SUXEEDO 4


Table of Contents

1. The Different Aspects of the User 6

A User Psychology instead of Keyword Density 7

B User Geography for Efficient Touchpoint Identification 10

C User Frame 11

2. Content that Listens to the User 13

3. A Targeted and Systematic Way of Guiding the User into the Sales Funnel 15

4. Case Study: How Suxeedo Achieved a Top Ranking 18

5. How can User Engagement be Measured 24

6. Conclusion: Added Value for Humans makes Machines Happy too 27

SEARCHMETRICS WHITEPAPER — created in cooperation with SUXEEDO 5


The Different Aspects of
the User

There are three different aspects of the user that can be analyzed. These will be
explained in more detail in the following. They are:
• User Psychology
• User Geography
• User Frame

Figure 1: The three different aspects of the user.

SEARCHMETRICS WHITEPAPER — created in cooperation with SUXEEDO 6


A User Psychology instead of Keyword Density

For a long time, the (semantic) keyword density of a text was the decisive factor for
content marketing success. The actual relevance of the text for the user was ignored.
All content had to be search engine optimized, which often resulted in clunky texts
that were hard to read. This tactic did lead to good rankings, yet engagement and
interaction rates remained modest because of the unpleasant reading experience for
the user.

Today, the aim is often to create content that appeals to the user on the basis of
target group analyses. However, it is more appropriate to develop content based on
an understanding of what motivates the user. When creating content, the primary
question is: What is it about my content that makes it relevant for the user?

User Psychology: The user’s needs that drive their behavior – defined
as precisely as possible.

Answering this question requires a comprehensive understanding of User Psychology,


which helps us to move away from the simple boundaries of segments and cohorts.
Any company’s analysis of potential customers has to be more precise and more
differentiated if it is to identify the user needs that are relevant to its business.

Traditional target audience segments are too generic and simply describe groups of
people with shared interests and demographic characteristics. Cohorts define target
group typologies, their world views and their expectations. It is far more important to
identify the user intents that make a user interesting for a company, and to define the
framework for the creation of relevant content.

SEARCHMETRICS WHITEPAPER — created in cooperation with SUXEEDO 7


User Psychology consists of four basic elements:

1. Intent: Intent determines whether each content piece is relevant to the user. For
example, if the intent is informational, then the user expects serious content that gives
them a detailed understanding of the topic. If the user intent is transactional, then the
content can – and should – be more emotional, shorter and more entertaining.

2. Expectation: Expectation and intent are closely connected. The user’s expectations
can differ depending on the intent. At the same time, expectation also considers
other factors such as the person’s level of education, interests, experience and ideas.
Addressing the user’s full range of expectations is best done by following a holistic
approach that expands on basic information like definitions with detailed expert
knowledge.

3. Desire: Desire refers to the emotions that connect the user to the content. The desire
is made up of both cognitive and emotional needs. The former is the reason for
interacting with a certain topic or object, whilst the latter is a feeling that will hopefully
emerge from this interaction. An example desire would be someone wanting to gain
expertise to stand out amongst their colleagues.

4. Attraction: Attraction is created when user intent, expectation and desire are all
fulfilled. The strength of attraction dictates the success of the Call-to-Action and
therefore of the whole sales funnel. If the content meets the user’s expectations and
satisfies the user’s needs, then the potential for engagement increases exponentially.

We need to understand that the user has a particular


reason or goal in searching for content.They expect
something from the content. They have conscious or unconscious
desires that go beyond their initial search intent
and expectations. And if they receive an attractive
offer at the right moment, then informative content
can lead to a conversion.

SEARCHMETRICS WHITEPAPER — created in cooperation with SUXEEDO 8


Example: Pregnant women

Pregnant women can be viewed as one target audience. However, this audience has
a variety of intentions, expectations and needs. Keywords like “buy maternity clothes”
and “gestational diabetes” can come from the same target group with the same basic
needs, yet there is a drastic difference in the search intent behind these two keywords.

This example shows that a target audience cannot be lumped together when creating
content, but has to be spoken to according to each intent. This is the only way that
content can be guaranteed to be relevant, attractive and in the right place to be found
by those searching for it.

BUY MATERNITY CLOTHES GESTATIONAL DIABETES

INTENT: INTENT:
Find and purchase fitting clothes Information about the condition
EXPECTATION: EXPECTATION:
Product information, images and reviews, Get (expert) opinions, advice, experience,
price comparisons read discussions in user forums
DESIRE: DESIRE:
Feel good in the clothes, look good, save Am I affected? How high is the risk?
money

Figure 2: How intent, expectation and desire differ according to search query.

SEARCHMETRICS WHITEPAPER — created in cooperation with SUXEEDO 9


B User Geography for Efficient Touchpoint Identification

Alongside the User Psychology analysis, the targeted seeding of content to reach the
target audience is of critical importance for the measures’ success. To achieve this,
the user’s customer journey should be mapped out in detail in order to enable a highly
accurate identification of touchpoints.

User Geography: The identification of the user’s specific


position in the customer journey

To identify touchpoints, the entire customer journey has to be evaluated so that the
user can be provided with content that is relevant to them at every stage. This is
the only way to guarantee that content optimized according to the User Psychology
reliably reaches the target audience and is able to generate reach effectively.

Figure 3: Topic Explorer view of topics clustered according to sales funnel stages, example “maternity wear.”

SEARCHMETRICS WHITEPAPER — created in cooperation with SUXEEDO 10


The image above, taken from the Searchmetrics Topic Explorer, clearly shows that
the total search volume of topics in the Consideration Phase (yellow) of the sales
funnel vastly outweighs the search volume of topics in the Purchase Phase (green).
This emphasizes how important it is, not just to offer users product pages, but also to
reach them at an earlier point on their journey with information about the topic.

C User Frame

While User Psychology and User Geography reflect concrete needs and expectations,
the User Frame defines the topical and requirement framework for the target
audience. Part of this is the identification of relevant keywords with the help of a
software solution like the Searchmetrics Content ExperienceTM. This enables a direct
comparison with the competition and the identification of as yet unoccupied niches
that have a high potential for generating conversions.

User Frame: Defining the topic scope in line with user needs

In addition, a software solution is useful for the development of a semantic field of


association that makes it possible to identify further relevant keywords and terms
that are frequently used in the appropriate context. Identifying such keywords helps to
create search engine optimized texts and can have a positive impact on rankings.

Following a keyword analysis, a comprehensive Google research is recommended.


How high is the search volume? Which competitors are ranking, and how high? What
makes their content stand out? A detailed look at the search results makes it possible
to identify potential for optimization, as well as topics and perspectives that are not yet
included in high-ranking results.

SEARCHMETRICS WHITEPAPER — created in cooperation with SUXEEDO 11


Figure 4: Topic Explorer view of topics clustered according to semantic association, example “gestational diabetes.”

SEARCHMETRICS WHITEPAPER — created in cooperation with SUXEEDO 12


Content that Listens to the User
Intent Dictates Tonality
Example: Defining a user simply as an “online marketer”, just because they type
“Content Seeding” into Google, is of little use for content optimization. In fact,
someone entering this search query is looking for an overview of the topic rather than
a detailed guide. This is what is truly relevant for the content. An expressive, rhetorical
text, combined with advertising content, would be unsuitable here and would put the
user off.

INTENT: Which intent does the user have when searching for the topic?

INTENT TONALITY

Academic Colloquial

INFORMATIONAL
Editorial Commercial

TRANSACTIONAL Detailed Concise

Serious Entertaining
NAVIGATIONAL

Sober Emotional

Figure 5: Relationship between user intent and content tonality.

In the example of “Content Seeding,” the user is on the left-hand side of the tonality
scale: But even if the tonality is correct, this does not automatically mean that user
expectations will be fulfilled. What are the user’s expectations regarding this topic?

Is the user well-read and educated, or are they a novice on this topic and looking for
first pointers? Someone searching for “Content Seeding” is more likely to be new to the
topic, hoping for content with a definition – so that they can then go on to deal with
the topic in more depth. More expert users (for this topic) are more likely to search for
the keyword “seeding” in combination with “examples” or “best practice.” These search
queries imply that the user already knows something about the topic. If the user were
to search for commercial content, then this intent would be expressed clearly through
search terms like “Seeding Agency.”

SEARCHMETRICS WHITEPAPER — created in cooperation with SUXEEDO 13


DESIRE: Which needs does the user have when searching for the topic?

Desire is the longing that the user has in relation to the product or service. In this
context, psychologists talk about “needs.”

There are two types of need: cognitive and emotional.

Imagine we would like to write an article about the topic “Content Seeding.” What could
a user’s cognitive and emotional needs be in this case?

Cognitive Needs
Two cognitive needs associated with the search term “Content Seeding” could be:
• understanding the topic in order to make personal use of it. This is a positive desire,
because the user wants to learn and implement innovative processes.

• reacting to a website penalty, e.g. because the page’s ranking has been manipulated
by purchasing links. The user has learnt something from this experience and now
wants to optimize their page using more secure measures. This can be considered a
negative desire, coming from the need to reduce something unpleasant.

Emotional Needs
An emotional need could be wanting to gain knowledge to position oneself as a
thought leader within the company, in order to gain recognition amongst one’s
colleagues.

A content piece looking to address these different needs has to clarify the difference
between correct and incorrect seeding, in order to satisfy the need for security. The
text also has to contain more than a simple definition, because thought leaders need
good, interesting examples if they are to produce a “wow effect” amongst their col-
leagues.

SEARCHMETRICS WHITEPAPER — created in cooperation with SUXEEDO 14


A Targeted and Systematic
Way of Guiding the User
Into the Sales Funnel
When having a private conversation with somebody for the first time, you would
not normally begin by immediately exchanging concrete information and revealing
your personal secrets. First you have to establish the boundaries of your discussion
before knowing which topics are suitable. What does this have to do with content
optimization?

A great deal.

The sales funnel describes the measures taken by a company to gain and retain
customers – from the early awareness phase through to purchase, and beyond with
customer retention. But if points of attraction are placed too early or too late in the
funnel, then the user will be lost – and not at the point of conversion – but when they
are interacting with the content.

ATTRACTION: CALLS-TO-ACTION FOR MORE ENGAGEMENT THROUGHOUT THE SALES FUNNEL

SALES FUNNEL PHASE APPROPRIATE CALL-TO-ACTION

Awareness Lead Magnets (e.g. eBook download, share buttons, newsletter subscriptions)

Consideration Example products at page margin, product presentation with internal links in article

Purchase Focus on product conversion

Retention Upselling content in dialogue marketing

Figure 6: Relationship between sales funnel phases and Calls-to-Action.

SEARCHMETRICS WHITEPAPER — created in cooperation with SUXEEDO 15


The table on the previous page shows the relationship between calls-to-action and the
phases of the sales funnel. Practical experience and measuring have demonstrated
that the mapping in the table leads to particularly strong results. To make use of the
table, we have to identify where the relevant user is in the sales funnel when they
search, and which possibilities exist for individually seeding the different conversion
elements.

If we stick to the example of “Content Seeding,” in this case the user will tend to be in
the Awareness Phase. Here, a suitable offer would be a whitepaper download with
more detailed information. It is at this stage of the sales funnel that the Suxeedo
Seeding Booklet performs very well.

Example: In the sidebar of the Suxeedo magazine, a Seeding Booklet is offered for
download. The user can click to reach a landing page where they can submit their
contact details. In order to create the content so that it is relevant and matches the
needs of the user, a User Frame first needs to be established. Software solutions like
those of Searchmetrics or a keyword tool can be used to find user-relevant keywords.
What are users looking for and what is their intent when they search for particular
keywords? Which keywords are used by competitors? And which niches exist that are
not yet occupied by the competition, yet represent high potential for conversion (e.g.
via long-tail keywords)?

User questions should also be researched. A software platform like Searchmetrics’


also gives an overview of the semantic field of association for certain keywords. This
helps to identify additional informational needs related to corresponding keywords
and to define a vocabulary that can then be skillfully incorporated into the content.
Analyses based on search volume and intent also help to set priorities for the direction
the content should take.

Once the relevant keywords have been found, it is worth looking at the Google search
results: Which competitors and which types of content are currently ranking for this
keyword? Here, it is possible to analyze meta descriptions and identify potential for
optimization, helping to stand out in the search results and generate curiosity amongst
searchers.

SEARCHMETRICS WHITEPAPER — created in cooperation with SUXEEDO 16


Furthermore, an analysis of top-ranking positions can be used to set or identify
benchmarks. Companies should then aim to exceed the quality of the existing articles
with their own content – e.g. by using a structured aggregation of relevant information,
skills and expertise unique to the text, and thorough referencing of external sources.

SEARCHMETRICS WHITEPAPER — created in cooperation with SUXEEDO 17


Case Study:
How Suxeedo Achieved a
Top Ranking

Figure 7: Increase in SEO Visibility of suxeedo.de (German Google.de Index).

Step by step: How can content be systematically optimized for top rankings?

Today, there are several good software solutions that can be used to discover relevant
topics, user intent and keywords. One of these is produced by Searchmetrics. With
the help of the data-driven live Content Editor within the Searchmetrics Content
ExperienceTM, Suxeedo achieved a Content Score (internal metric for user-focused
content optimization) of 95%.

With the Searchmetrics Content ExperienceTM, the complete content creation (or
revision) workflow can be carried out, from the initial topic research, the creation
of a brief, writing the text in the live Content Editor and, beyond publication, the
performance analysis.

Find out more about the Searchmetrics Content ExperienceTM

SEARCHMETRICS WHITEPAPER — created in cooperation with SUXEEDO 18


Here is a step-by-step guide to content optimization with the help of the
Searchmetrics Content ExperienceTM:

1. First, a project is created in which briefs for selected keywords can be set up.

2. What is the target audience really interested in? After setting up a brief, the software
provides insight into terms that are semantically related to the central keyword. The
“Topic Explorer”, introduced earlier, shows a graphical cluster of related topics that can
be freely edited and extended.

Figure 8: Topic Explorer in the Searchmetrics Content ExperienceTM, example “content seeding”.

The Topic Explorer shows which terms are used most frequently in combination with
the main keyword.

3. The Topic Explorer can also be used to reveal the search intent related to each of the
relevant terms. The terms can be color-coded according to user intent. Another option
is displaying the terms according to the stage in the sales funnel, as was shown earlier
with the example of “maternity wear.” The search volume of each term is reflected by
the size of the bubble. The Topic Explorer can also be viewed as a list, for anyone who
prefers this to the cluster-based visualization.

SEARCHMETRICS WHITEPAPER — created in cooperation with SUXEEDO 19


Figure 9: Group and analyze keywords according to intent, Searchmetrics Content ExperienceTM.

When looking at search intent, there are three principle keyword categories:

• Navigational (the searcher already knows which website/brand they want to visit)
• Informational (the searcher is looking for information on a certain topic)
• Transactional (the searcher would like to purchase something)

The keyword “Video Seeding” has a transactional intent, whilst people searching for
“viral seeding“ or simply “seeding” are clearly looking for information. This has to be
considered when creating content. Our target audience, when searching for content
related to the topic “Content Seeding”, would like to read informative, explanatory
articles. This was taken into account when creating our article.

4. Every term in the Topic Explorer cluster can be clicked on. This reveals an overview of
the search volume and the CPC. Further details can also be called up. As well as the
seasonal fluctuations in the search volume, the rankings are of great interest.
The Topic Explorer provides information on the top 20 search results, helping to show
patterns or similarities amongst successful texts.

SEARCHMETRICS WHITEPAPER — created in cooperation with SUXEEDO 20


Figure 10: Topic Explorer, list view of top-ranking URLs for the topic “seeding strategy”.

The ranking list serves as a benchmark for content creation. It helps to find out what
the user is really interested in in relation to the topic. The aim must be to outperform
the competitor pages with your own content, formally and in terms of the information
communicated.

5. In the next step, Searchmetrics provides a data-driven recommendation regarding


which keywords are a must-have for this content piece. It also lists additional
keywords that should be included. In our case, for the central keyword “Content
Seeding”, we also find terms listed like “SEO” or “Content Marketing”. In addition, terms
like “strategy” or “distributed” are shown as optional. This list can also be edited by the
person creating the brief.

6. This information can all be used to help create the brief that is sent to the author(s).
First and foremost, the brief should be focused on the needs of the target audience.
It shows the keywords and terms related to the topic, their user intents and search
volumes. The brief includes, calculated according to the recommended word count,
an indication of how often which terms should definitely or probably be used. This is
not so much so that the text can be “stuffed” with keywords, but rather to avoid placing
keywords too frequently, and instead to make use of synonyms and content that will
make the text more holistic.

SEARCHMETRICS WHITEPAPER — created in cooperation with SUXEEDO 21


7. The Content Editor is a helpful content creation and monitoring tool. An article can be
written or copied in – and the information in the sidebar shows, in real time, the text’s
keyword coverage, word count and readability.

Figure 11: Live Content Editor in der Searchmetrics Content ExperienceTM (German).

This provides excellent indicators that show the author where and how content should
be adjusted. With our article on the topic of “Content Seeding,” we were able to write a
text with a Content Score of 95%.

At the same time, we also discovered possibilities for further optimization. The
readability could be improved and the frequency of several keywords could be
reduced. At the same time, with this strong Content Score, we were able to achieve a
first-position ranking: The article on the topic of “Content Seeding” reached position 1
(or even position zero) in the German Google search results with a direct answer box.

SEARCHMETRICS WHITEPAPER — created in cooperation with SUXEEDO 22


Figure 12: suxeedo.de ranking with a direct answer box for the search term “Content Seeding” (German).

The analysis of this kind of User Frame using keyword clusters creates a content
framework for the topic. WDF-IDF techniques should mainly be used for the
identification and prioritization of user-relevant topics. Say several articles all have a
good Content Score for the same keyword. Then it will be the article with the best User
Engagement that ultimately comes out on top. Measuring this User Engagement is the
subject of our next chapter. 

SEARCHMETRICS WHITEPAPER — created in cooperation with SUXEEDO 23


How can User
Engagement be Measured?
User Signals
In online marketing, many KPIs have been established for measuring User
Engagement or satisfaction with content that has been found via Google search.
These are referred to as User Signals. Bounce Rate is one of these indicators, as is
Click-Through Rate (CTR) or the time that a user spends on the page (Time on Site).
All of these KPIs make it possible to draw conclusions regarding the user’s interaction
with the content, and they are all accessible through Google Analytics.

The interpretation of these KPIs is always dependent on certain factors. For this
reason, any effective evaluation requires the definition of specific conversion targets
and an analysis of several KPIs in combination.

Figure 13: Time on Site, Top 20 Average/Correlation with Rankings – Searchmetrics Ranking Factors 2016.

SEARCHMETRICS WHITEPAPER — created in cooperation with SUXEEDO 24


Here, the example of Time on Site (2016, dark blue curve) shows a relatively high
correlation with search engine rankings. Ergo: The better a page ranks, the more time
users are spending interacting with it. On average, this amounts to 190 seconds for
pages ranking in the top 10. Similarly, the reverse is true – the longer users spend on a
page, the better it ranks.

This is true as a general trend, and certainly applies strongly to content-heavy pages
– but each specific case can depend on the user and their intent. If the search intent
is just looking for information about the current calendar week, then the user will
probably leave the page after two seconds – which should not be considered a
negative signal. Therefore, there has to be some differentiation.

A good demonstration of how different content can – and should – be, depending on
the industry and the search intent, is provided by comparing the average values for
certain ranking factors, calculated on the basis of industry-specific keyword sets.

Figure 14: Ranking Factor “Word Count”, a comparison of different industries.

SEARCHMETRICS WHITEPAPER — created in cooperation with SUXEEDO 25


In this example, which compares the word count of site content across different
industries, we see clear differences.

Discover Searchmetrics‘ Industry Ranking Factors

For keywords like “PS4 unboxing” or “costume ideas”, the word count can be quite
different. In these cases, the user would probably like to see a video or an image
gallery – and does not want to be confronted with lengthy text.

User Signals, that is, the feedback given by the user during their interaction with the
page, are a powerful sign of satisfaction and make it possible to draw conclusions
regarding whether the user intent has been fulfilled or not. In turn, this then enables
an evaluation of the page quality. The indicators themselves should always be defined
according to the individual targets and strategy, and cannot be universally interpreted.

SEARCHMETRICS WHITEPAPER — created in cooperation with SUXEEDO 26


Conclusion:
Added Value for Humans
makes Machines Happy too
Anyone who publishes content today without placing the user at the center of the
content’s development will have difficulties generating traffic. On the other hand, by
considering psychological and contextual aspects, we can create content that targets
the user’s intent and expectations, and draws the user into the conversion process.

To optimize your own content in this way, the three-pronged analysis of User
Psychology, User Geography and User Frame provides an important support and
orientation that is essential for content planning and creation, and that leads to
potential for high rankings.

SEARCHMETRICS WHITEPAPER — created in cooperation with SUXEEDO 27


2017

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