Ask most hardworking content marketers where they spend the majority of their time and you’ll continue to hear that it is spent creating content. This is no surprise, as that function of their job is extremely important. Often though, they’ll admit they aren’t spending nearly as much time distributing their content or strategically planning new content campaigns.
In this article, we’re going to focus on the strategic content planning aspect of a content marketer’s job, with a particular focus on explaining how predictive techniques can be used to create more impactful content.
What is predictive SEO?
These days, with how frequently Google and Bing algorithms are changing, there are a lot of SEO practices to avoid. Thankfully, though, one SEO technique that will never be a faux pas in the eyes of the search engines is planning excellent content. Predictive SEO is just that… planning excellent content that plans for the future.
If you could predict what investments were going to do well in the future, you’d be rich, right!?
If you can predict what topics will do well in the future, your content marketing-driven traffic will explode.
With predictive SEO, you are thinking about what topics will be popular in the future, and writing content in advance of it becoming popular so that you can capture a rather uncontested SERP rank, sacrificing immediate traffic for much larger gains in the future.
As an example, with the recent outbreak of the coronavirus in China, as news spread of its virulence, many people wanted to know more about it.
- “coronavirus in cats”
- “coronavirus symptoms”
- “coronavirus in the USA”
These topics trended very quickly, and as sad of outcomes as we’ve seen from the disease, many firms, and news agencies have garnered a lot of web traffic from the terms. If you look at the last few years’ trending topics you’ll see that about this same time each year, there is a spike in flu, cold or other illness-related topics.
If you wrote some generic content ahead of time you could quickly customize it for your needs and then publish at the early onset of the trend to get in on the traffic early and get an easy SERP placement.
How can content marketers add predictive SEO to their strategy set?
High-impact content creation is part art, part science; to get good results from your predictive SEO efforts you’ll need to roll up your sleeves and put on your science hat.
While each industry will have different methods of positive predictive SEO, there are a few techniques that are broadly accepted as predictive SEO best practices, which you should follow. Below are five of these techniques.
1. Ask the right questions
Making the most impact as you work to release content early on in its interest and news cycle, requires that you first identify the topics you should be watching for.
To identify those topics you should first look into the future and ask yourself a few questions, including:
- What legislation, regulations or other large government interactions are likely going to affect your industry in the coming months/years?
- Are any of your competitors or complementors releasing products on a regular basis?
- What cultural events are likely to be held in the coming year?
- If you were to identify three major sporting events (e.g. 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan) that your readers may be interested in, what would they be?
- Which pop-culture icons or topics do you expect to be trending this year?
- What political trends (Brexit, U.S. presidential election, etc.) do you anticipate will draw a lot of attention in the next 12 months?
2. Look to the past
In ‘Furious 7,’ a movie known for a lot of action and not much in the way of witty dialogue, one of the main characters, Deckard Shaw, actually has a moment with some substance, where he pontificates that, “they say if you want to glimpse the future, just look behind you.”
His comment provides some meaningful advice to any marketers looking to leverage predictive SEO in their content planning.
Before planning out foresight focused content, closely examine the past. You should pull up all the main trade conferences for your industry and see what kinds of topics there were, who the keynote speakers were, and what topics were trending during that conference. Then, go through and identify the top hashtags for the last year in your industry and in the general public. It helps to also identify winners of industry awards to evaluate what made them special.
Roll all this past content and insight together into a document and review it regularly to get a good feel for the trending topics of the near future, as those topics often evolve slightly into the trending topics of tomorrow.
3. Create a foresight focused editorial calendar
Armed with the right questions and a strong understanding of the past, one of the next critical steps to finding success with predictive SEO is to list out all future notable events, focusing on events that you anticipate will be newsworthy and generate buzz.
To start, it’s best to create an expansive list, brainstorming and listing out all the holidays, events, and occasions you can think of.
Putting together all these event ideas can take a lot of time, but with Elizabeth Chey’s list of ideas for a foresight-focused editorial calendar (500+ ideas!) you’ll be able to get a great head start.
4. Record and analyze the trending traffic
In addition to getting alerts on what topics are being mentioned or what topics are being forecast as popular in the future, it’s important to record metrics on what traffic is being generated on the web from these given topics.
As you diligently record the data you’ll be able to use it to determine how “on point” your predictions were from your last planning round, and adjust accordingly in your next predictive SEO planning round.
For the purpose of recording meaningful data, there are a number of tools you can use to evaluate past traffic that was driven on the web:
- Google Trends will help you evaluate overall interest and seasonal trends in topics of the past.
- Google Ads Keyword Planner, if used regularly for your top keywords, can provide a rolling snapshot over time of traffic estimates.
- SEMrush is similar to Google Ads Keyword Planner, but also gives you insights into competitor actions and other valuable side analytics that may be beneficial to your forecasting efforts.
5. Get alerts
In addition to planning content ahead of time, it is valuable to closely watch for these anticipated trends. In comes Google Alerts and Exploding Topics Tuesdays.
- Setting up Google alerts for your predictive SEO keywords and topics makes sure you are one of the first to see when that topic begins to get attention. That way you’ll be able to adjust your already existing content, as necessary, to include the right phrases and begin sharing it more publicly to ensure it is driving the results you predicted you’d get.
- Exploding Topic Tuesday is a newsletter you can sign up for (scroll to the bottom of their page), which will email you up and coming trends every… wait for it… Tuesday! They’ll email you a couple trending topics, along with some ways you could potentially leverage those topics, to help you stay on top of what is going to be top of mind in the coming weeks and months.
Measure twice, cut once
Any woodworker or builder knows from firsthand experience how many unnecessary trips to the hardware store to buy additional lumber could be avoided if they had only measured one more time prior to cutting, to ensure their cut was in the right spot. Such is the case for content marketers.
If you utilize these techniques to plan ahead, and then create some great content beforehand that includes the keywords you expect to be trending, you’ll be ready to receive the extra traffic when it comes along. It requires you to do a lot of planning, though. And revise those plans regularly.
It would also be valuable for you to pre-plan some social posts and ads that you can run once the topic begins its climb to trend-worthy popularity.