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Content Marketing 15 min read January 11, 2020

how to DRIVE MORE CONVERSIONS WITH A USER-FOCUSED TOPIC MATRIX with
carolyn lyden

How To Drive More Conversions With A User-Focused Content Matrix
Hello! I'm Carolyn. I've been in content and SEO for about 10 years now. This past year I branched out and opened my own business to help companies achieve better visibility online with search engine optimization and content.

My company is called Search Hermit - because my goal is to help businesses come out of their shells and get found online.

the Idea of content matrix

The matrix I'm going to tell about actually started back when I worked at CallRail. There were separate content and SEO teams and we oftentimes experienced a small bit of tension between them as the content team felt SEO was cramping their creative style and SEO felt like the content team didn't care about key metrics.

This matrix was borne of that discussions, and I've been tweaking it and adding on to it since then.

The idea of using the content matrix, though, is threefold:

  1. Drive more traffic to your site.

  2. Move that traffic further along in the funnel through micro-conversions.

  3. All by doing what marketers should be doing since the inception of inbound marketing--serving the needs of our users and clients.
This all started when Search Engine Journal asked me to write an article about topic clusters. I do believe that topic clusters can be great for SEO, but that overall, as marketers, our execution of model was more focused on US than our clients.

What is a topic cluster?

Collection of interlinked articles or pages around one umbrella topic that serves as the hub for that general topic.
It provides greater visibility for search engines to identify your content. Because we're providing lots of internal links in the topic cluster model, it can really help search engines figure out what your site is about and what your area of expertise is. Plus it can help spread some of the link equity of your top pages to newer pages or pages that might take more than a few clicks to get to from the home page.
It starts with the main topic aka "pillar" page = main focus. The pillar page is a more generalized topic. For example "Social Media Marketing."
Detailed, hyper-focused pages relate back to the main pillar page. And that means the more in-depth pages that fall under that umbrella all link up to that pillar page and vice versa. So, under our social media marketing page we may have sub-pages like Facebook ads, Instagram stories, influencers, etc.

The problem with topic clusters

Here's where the issue start…

Topic clusters work well for search engines… Because they ensure internal linking, they make sure everything's cohesive, we just assume that it's structured well so USERS can also find what they need.

However, the actual process of navigating a topic cluster isn't always a great user experience for real, non-robot humans. As marketers, in the process of optimizing for what works well for search engines, we often become detached from our target audiences.

And we end up optimizing our sites for us, people like us, and what we think our target audience wants. Which is what Michael Aagaard, Conversion Rate Optimization Consultant calls, "the imaginary audience." Or as I like to say, "Oops! We optimized for ourselves!"

In an article about confirmation bias in marketing, Aagaard talks about how it's actually REALLY common for marketers to create content and format our websites for ourselves and what we assume our target audiences want. And that's not always true.
How To Create A Content Plan + Video Guide

the right focus

The key to overcoming our biases and targeting our ACTUAL audiences is to focus on what our buyers want and need. We need to stop marketing our product and service and instead market what it can do for our audiences.

This is all about creating BENEFIT-focused copy. Features are just a slice of business functionality that has a corresponding benefit or set of benefits for that product's end user. The benefit is the VALUE those features bring to your customers.

One of the easiest ways to break this down is to think of the features on your face. You have eyes, a nose, a mouth. But if you were to market this face, you wouldn't just say, "Comes with deep brown eyes, a functioning nose, and a mouth with teeth!" You'd tell your audience what those features can do for them--and how their lives would be better by having them.

You can see your favorite foods being prepared by a family you love, you can smell how delicious your favorite thanksgiving side is, and you can taste the magnificent feast before you next week at this time.

One sounds A LOT more appealing than the other.

The User-Focused Content Matrix

In the content matrix, you'll see there's a customizable template for figuring out your particular product or service's features and their benefits. This content matrix exists as a Google spreadsheet. You'll get a link to be able to create a copy of your own and customize it to your business.
So the first step is to set your content themes around your company goals. Depending on how you set up company goals, these may be monthly, quarterly, annually, etc. Adjust it how you need.
In the content matrix, you'll see there's a customizable template for figuring out your particular product or service's features and their benefits. This content matrix exists as a Google spreadsheet. You'll get a link to be able to create a copy of your own and customize it to your business.

But it's important to tie your content to metrics. If you're creating content with no goal in mind, you're wasting YOUR time and your users' time. With tools like Google Analytics, you can easily tell how many people are coming to each of these pieces of content, flowing to the next stage of the funnel, and converting from the CTAs on your Bottom of Funnel content pieces.

In today's imaginary scenario, I've created this matrix for an accounting software company. And their Q1 2020 goal is to drive more subscriptions to their small business accounting software.
From there, choose a target audience for each matrix. In the sheet you'll get later, you'll see there are multiple tabs in case you have multiple target audiences. Choose one target audience per content matrix. This allows you to really dig deep in the next section and create more targeted and useful content.
If your business type generally has a single target audience, think of ways to subdivide them into categories and get as granular as possible about their needs and pain points. The deeper the dive, the more tailored and useful your content will be and it will speak better to your target audience. This can also be a way to test out new target audiences or delve into smaller audiences that you want to grow.

For our accounting software, we're choosing the Target Audience of small businesses and entrepreneurs and discover their pain points.

What is a pain point and how to discover it?

A pain point is an explicit or implicit issue or obstacle your target audience is experiencing. This part is truly key to the whole matrix's effectiveness and measurability. The key to the most compelling content is figuring out what users are searching when they don't know your product or service will solve their problem (a.k.a., mind reading and magic).

According to WordStream, there are 4 main types of pain points:
Financial: doesn't make financial sense for the user.
Productivity: something doesn't save as much time as needed or worse, wastes time for a user.
Process: ineffective procedures don't get things done well.
Support: they need help in major business stages.
Paying attention to these pain points is how you write for a buyer persona while trying to rank for keywords/phrases. People will search their problems and questions.
So what are the main pain points for your target audience? How do you figure those out?

There are 3 main ways:
Talk to them (this one is often the hardest, but it doesn't have to be):

  • you can ask existing customers about their journey and why they chose you;
  • you can talk to prospects who didn't convert about why they didn't;
  • always offer them something small for their time.
Survey them: if talking is too cost restrictive or time-consuming, you can always survey them with a form. It doesn't require one on one time or a ton of money. You could pay for survey distribution if you have that ability or just send it to your email list or post on your socials. You'll just have to sort through the data and take it with a grain of salt.
Google them: if you're on a time squeeze and a tight budget, you can just Google it. Look for real people's experiences in places like forums and social media threads. Don't trust articles written by other markets though, or you're just targeting the imaginary audience again.
From there, it's important to address EACH pain point at EACH funnel stage.

Some clients may have all or just one of the pain points, some may be at the top or bottom of the funnel, so it's crucial to cover all your bases.

This means STOP FORCING PEOPLE DOWN THE FUNNEL. There's nothing worse than looking for general information on something and feeling like you're being forced to buy before you're ready.

Pain Points + Funnel Stages

So, I'm gonna look at this from the perspective of my small business goals for my accounting software:
1
Small biz owner looking for way to automate accounting, she doesn't know accounting software exists for her niche.
2
Once she's found out it exists, I need to convince her why accounting software is the answer to her pain points.
3
At the bottom of the funnel, my content should be focused on how MY software is the best fit for her accounting needs.
4
Afterward, create content that helps your existing customers in some way. Make it easy for them to refer their friends to you.
In the matrix, you'll put the funnel-focused solutions to the audience's pain points in the corresponding Solution cell. From that solution, you'll create a content topic idea that corresponds to that funnel-stage solution:

1. So I've discovered what are the pain points for my small business customer.

2. I found a solution that corresponds with the stage of the funnel.

3. And so I create a piece of content that answers each pain point at the top of funnel, middle of funnel, and bottom of the funnel.

Once you have the pain points, solutions, and content assets mapped out for each stage of the funnel, it'll be easy to see what calls to action you need to use to move your audience from one stage to the next for each specific issue.
Don't try to skip from 0 to 100. Each row color corresponds with the same row color in the next funnel stage. This means that if one pain point resonates with a reader, you can point them to the content in the next funnel stage for the same pain point.

Don't skip ahead and try to get people to buy before they know what they're buying. Once your reader has converted into a customer, the Delight phase of content gives them tools to actually iron out those pain points with your solution.

Make them happy, and your next call-to-action is to ask for reviews!
How To Do Forensic SEO Investigation With
Pam Ann Aungst

I created the matrix. Now what?

1
Be thoughtful and thorough. Create pieces of content that potentially answer every single question someone can have about what you're writing about.
2
Create links to your existing content. Keep in mind your topic clusters and don't forget about internal linking.
3
Reference data and outside sources. You don't want people to think that you're the only one who thinks this. It's important to support what you're saying.
4
Be mindful of the funnel stage so you're not trying to cram people down when they're not ready to buy.
5
Write the content that actually serves your users' needs – not your idea of their needs.
6
Be selfless in the giving away of ideas. When people need a solution that is related to your area of expertise, they will come to you because they know you're a thought leader, and they trust you.
This is the content matrix you can go in: just make a copy and then get to creating content and converting!

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