Video Deep Dive: Systematic approach to writing effective content

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This is our Deep Dive Into Local from June 25th, 2018. In our Deep Dive series, we take a closer look at one thing in local that caught our attention and deserves a longer discussion.

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Mike: Hi, welcome to Deep Dive into Local. This week we have Blake Denman with us. Blake, why don't you introduce yourself so folks know what you do, where you do it, and just a little bit about your company?

Blake: Sure. So my name is Blake Denman. I am the president and founder of RicketyRoo Inc. https://ricketyroo.com/blog/ We are based in Bend, Oregon. And I founded RicketyRoo in February of 2009. We are a digital marketing agency, small team, big results and primarily focused on local search, aided search for small to mid-size business in multi-location.

Mike: And most of them are in the Bend area or outside the Bend area, where are they located?

Blake: Most are outside of the Bend area. We do have a couple of clients locally. But primarily, we have clients across the country.

Mike: And verticals you specialize in?

Blake: Our primary vertical that we tend to focus on is addiction treatment facilities. But we have other clients across the board.

Mike: Interesting vertical just because there's so much abuse of local in that vertical, huh?

Blake: It's crazy.

Mike: How do you find honorable clients to work with?

Blake: That is the hard part because we only want to work with legitimate treatment centers and my process is mainly checking my gut and really identifying their goals. And if they're all about, we need as many intakes as possible, then I know something is a little shoddy or if you look at their staff and you look at their history and they were founded in 2017, and they have a high churn rate of their people, it's pretty easy to take a look at it from a granular level.

Mike: So besides addiction treatment, are there other local businesses you typically deal with?

Blake: yes. I mean, we work with some law firms. I have an artificial turf installer, we have a couple of vets. It's across the board.

Mike: I see, okay. So you laid out for me in this nice Word doc that you sent me, a five phase process to...four phase process, I guess...is it five, four? I counted wrong, four phase process structure to allow you to systematize the process of writing effective content. The first of those is keyword research. Maybe you could just, ...obviously most people in this industry have a system but maybe you could just tell us what you do and how you think it might be a little different?

Blake: Sure. So, what we primarily do is we'll ask clients , "Okay, what are the top 10 to 25 keywords you want to rank for?" Then we'll take all those keywords... and we use a combination of tools. Primarily we'll use SEMrush and Ahrefs for keyword research. But if they do have any previous AdWords data, I'm going to log in, get access to that data and run a strict terms support so I can actually see what people in their locality are actually searching for. Because often times, with local and specific markets, they're not going to give..., Ahrefs or SEMrush, they won't give you great data on local specific queries. You know, , if you do a search...You can find data on personal injury attorney, Los Angeles, because that's a massive city with a high search volume. But on a city , Bend where we have 90,000 people here, we're not going to get that data. So I have to go over the hill to Portland to get data, but then we'll get some data. So if they have AdWords data, we'll definitely run with it. If not, we'll use a combination of SEMrush, Ahrefs to look at search volumes, identify semantically related keywords and dig through and see if we can also identify potential content assets we can publish in the future too.

Mike: So then, how would you organize that into, , structure of the site?

Blake: So, what we'll do is once we know primary head terms for different products or services, we'll look at all the semantically related keywords and we'll group them by topic. So once we have identified the topic, then we say, "Okay, here's the clusters of keywords for a given topic that need to be on a dedicated page." And then go product or service, move down step by step until we are satisfied with, "Okay, everything's covered based off of our research."

Mike: So you mentioned that the next step then is to develop buyer personas. How do you go about doing that? And if the client doesn't have a clue what you're talking about and you indicated that they typically don't, how do you help them through that step?

Blake: We have a questionnaire that's on our website that clients can download and if you would , we actually have a Google Drive link in a talk they gave last week that has the actual questionnaire that we use. And anybody can go and download it. I can sent you a link later. And once they fill all that data, then we develop them an analysis and send it off to them for..., is this an accurate summary of your buyer personas and go from there.

Mike: And how many personas typically do you try to develop for any given local business?

Blake: Try to identify a minimum of two. Ideally, we want a minimum of three but some industries, it's going to be a little less, some there's going to be more. It just varies.

Mike: So pick one of your industries and give me a couple personas, examples, from that.

Blake: Sure. So let's start with the last one we did was for a touring company in Hawaii and we identified three personas. One was tourists, that was 18 to 25. Their biggest concern pertaining towards the tour was not how exciting it was or the potential risk of danger but it was mainly, is there going to be interpreter there. Then we also had...

Mike: A language interpreter.

Blake: yes, Correct. Then the other was a college student who, I guess, you would call a millennial that wanted to have fun, that was against the grain. They didn't want to do all the super touristy things, they want to feel it was more an insider's local guide to this particular event. And then the other was, , family...I guess you can call it cluster which would be the mom or the father, other little family that wants to have fun with their kids but they have specific concerns too, is it safe for the kids, what are age ranges, things that.

Mike: So how does this affect your copywriting? I mean, do you create more pages and then write specifically to these personas? Or do you just aggregate their concerns and adjust them in the pages you have. I mean, how does it impact the flow of the site?

Blake: Sure. It depends, but what we try to do is we want to try and bake that content naturally into the copy of a specific page. And instead of creating a ton of pages that are specific to one persona, we will try to incorporate most of that information into one. Now, if there's a language barrier, instead of having conflict, we'll link to a deeper page on that topic where that particular buyer persona client could go and research. If the answer to their particular concern or question is short, we'll try to include it easily in the content. But if it requires a lot more thought, a lot more content in order to answer, to fully satisfy that user's questions, we'll link to a deeper page on that website for that topic.

Mike: So you've got keywords categorized semantically, you've got a rough structure of the pages, you've got people you're writing the topic to and hopefully able to consolidate those personas into good copy. And then you mentioned that you do some analysis. Explain how you do that and what you get from it.

Blake: So, this is something we've been doing for a little more than a year and I actually got the idea from Wil Reynolds' MozCon talk last year. He was talking about a mattress company that they did something very similar for and they were able to make some tweaks with copying and thus improve the conversion rates. But they used customer surveys in order to do that. And I thought, how can we do this locally without doing customer surveys? And the idea was to, well, what if we just grabbed all of the positive reviews and the negative reviews. So, I don't know the tool yet that can automate this because it's tedious to manually copy most of the positive and negative reviews from Facebook or Yelp. So the process is copy those reviews, positive and negative, separate into two separate documents...

Mike: Do you segment and just go for the super positive and super negative or do you go for all of them and just categorize them? I mean, how do you categorize the three for example?

Blake: Sure. So four, five star reviews, positive. Three star and below we'll put into negative. And once we have all that content in separate docs, we use an Ngram analyzer. The website is guidetodatamining.com where they have an Ngram...where you just paste all the content, run and the analyzer and it tells you all of the commonalities, essentially the most commonly referred to phrases in all that content. And what we try to identify is, what do people love about this particular business? We ask clients, you know, Greg Deufer talked about this years ago, , why do you deserve to rank? , clients have an idea of what their unique selling proposition or what differentiates them from their competitors, but we want to see what people actually care about. And the results are always interesting.

Mike: How many reviews do you need to get significant results?

Blake: It's going to vary. You know, if it's a business that's maybe a year or two old, they only have 15 reviews across all third party channels, I don't think that would be enough. But you could create a customer survey and that could create something very similar. We like to go with a minimum of 50, just to make sure that we're not throwing all of our ideas into a single basket. And, yes, I would say 50 is usually the lowest benchmark.

Mike: Got it. Just as a note, at get five stars but we do aggregate third party reviews and allow them to be exported into a spreadsheet along with first party reviews and first party survey content. So it's a trivial task to gather first party content and third party content using the tools...but if you're looking for something to do it automatically, we have that in place.

So once you've developed this , you call them bi-grams, tri-grams and...

Blake: Four-grams.

Mike: ...four-grams, describe what those are.

Blake: So bi-grams are two-word phrases that are the most talked, mentioned in a given content document. Tri-grams would be three-word phrases, four-grams would be four-word phrases. So you can go up to six or eight but with reviews... On four-grams you won't see too many but if you do that's great. And we will look at bi-grams and you're going to see a lot of highly-recommend or best-of, very common positive review phrases. But you're going to see some interesting data when you go through it. And I really like tri-gram because you're able to see three-word phrases and it's able to identify, okay this is what people love about this particular product or service.

Mike: And in a 50 review sample, how many of each of these are you able to find that are useful, you know, other than best or worst or whatever?

Blake: yes. It depends. You know, I don't have a ton of clients coming in and it's... I think we've only run the process maybe 8 to 12 times total. So I don't really have a huge data set to be, , okay these are the results. But...

Mike: And then...Oh, sorry, go ahead, finish up. Sorry.

Blake: No, that's okay. I was just going to...

Mike: So how do you then integrate this sentiment effectively into the structure of your copy?

Blake: So, once we know what people love and hate about a particular product or service or a given business...because we also run the process for their local competitors. We want to see what cutting-edge that they have as well. We provide all this data to the client, say, here's the most common phrasing that people love about this particular product or service, here's all the negatives. Then we just analyze and say, okay, how can we improve the content so that... The tour company in Hawaii, what we found, instead of a thrilling adventure or a great experience, what we found was written about the most had to do with the actual tour guides themselves. And, you know, the tour guides aren't incentivized to have people write reviews for them...

Mike: They are incentivized, you just said...?

Blake: No, they are not.

Mike: They're not.

Blake: No. If they were, then we would have taken with a grain of salt because if they were incentivized so those tour guides are , "Hey, make sure you mention my name in the review so I can get a little commission bonus," or whatever. So they weren't which meant that it really stood out to us. And that was actually talked about more than the actual experience. So we're in the phase of writing the copy right now and we're going to make it still focused on how great the adventure is but we're also going to talk about specific tour guides. Their current website doesn't have any tour operator, stat page. So we're going to create that, that way people can actually get to know those tour operators on the actual content even before they book.

Mike: I wonder, I'd be curious to know, from a psychological point of view, pre-sale versus after the sale, my experience having just recently returned from a trip to Alaska was that the interaction of these guides was important and mostly negative in my situation. I felt that they didn't know that much, they were immature, they asked way too often for reviews, you know, gag me with a spoon. But it was not something that I would have thought of ahead of time. So in other words, I don't know, given that it did not occur to me, the experience was front of mind... And it did occur to me after the experience, I'm wondering whether that's common. In other words, it's not necessarily a selling point, it's more of a making sure that...it's really an experience point, right? So you can't sell what they don't fully understand but what they enjoy is really having a relationship with somebody who seems to be interested in their questions and them, etc. So I'm just curious how much you backfill the selling proposition based on this, or whether you just use it for business improvement.

Blake: On this particular case, I don't think it's going to make a dramatic increase in new business. I think, if anything, it could potentially help with referrals from previous customers to this business. So if they write about certain tour operators and they rave about it to their friends, you know, friends go on Facebook and say, "Hey, we're going to Hawaii, what should we do?" And you go, "Oh, you got to go do this experience, make sure you get this tour operator. He was so awesome." They go to the website, they back it up there. So I think in this particular case it could help in the long term from the referral side.

Another situation is a multi-location house cleaning company we work with. When doing the sentiment analysis, the biggest thing we saw..., we were expecting to see people were probably going to write about cost and how good of a job they did. What we found was the most comment was their communication. And we were able to just make improvements to highlight their communication processes for booking, texting, stuff that, more on the location page on their website. And they're having the best year, , month over month, year over year, their internet bookings are crushing it. But there's a lot of other local SEO going on so we can't directly attribute it all to just that but I think it's definitely helping, too.

Mike: So, we're on to phase four here in your very nice outline, by the way, thank you. So you know what people search for, you know who their ideal customers are, you know what people care about by doing the sentiment analysis. How do you actually tie that together into content and pages?

Blake: That is mainly the job of my copywriter because I am not the best copywriter in the world. But we usually meet about it and say, "Okay, here's how the content in this page should be structured." Essentially, what we're trying to do is, , okay, if someone's coming in from search and they're, let's say more in the awareness stage of this product or service, how can we move them through efficiently the entire funnel and then have a strong click thru conversion at the bottom. And then it's a case by case to where we say, "Okay, here's where it would be good. No review, here's what we address." Timing or cost or whatever that page structure should be and then move into the close.

Mike: So you made a comment that you try to address all of the pain points of potential customers before they become an actual pain point. Is this mostly about setting expectations or is it more about helping the business avoid them? I mean, how do you actually do that?

Blake: It varies. For the house cleaning company, it was more that content already exists on page so we just made it more prominent. And that's actually satisfied that portion of improving the copy. It's hard to say "Okay, here's the actual structure...here's the outline that we use for every single page, for every single client." I think as we get more and more into specific niches, with addiction treatment, it's a little bit easier because then we have more of a template you can reference and then address everything accordingly.

Mike: So do you track conversions before you do your work and after so you have some basis of comparison with the change?

Blake: yes. With us, during our onboarding process or month one, that's where we're doing all the research. We'll set up, excuse me, all the conversion tracking that we can to track, you know, phone calls by using number search of a call rail, form completions, purchases, if it's e-commerce. And then we track everything as we're moving along. And the hard part is to directly attribute this one thing to improvements in conversions because we're doing a lot of other things as well.

Mike: So I'm just curious, this is a question I've been asking pretty regularly for the last year or two but what percentage of, say, phone calls if the phone call is the key thing, do you see coming from Google directly versus coming from the website, versus coming from every place else on the internet? When I say Google directly, I mean from the knowledge panel or local search.

Blake: Right. The house cleaning company, I don't know the data off my head but... I have to dive a little deeper into that to say, "Okay, this is what we're seeing." But for a lot of other clients in the addiction treatment space, it's dominantly on their website where that phone call conversion actually happen. A lot of the phone calls that are happening from knowledge panel results are branded searches that we've noticed especially in addiction treatment, they already know where they're going to go or who they need to talk to, or it's a patient's family who wants to reach out to them, so it's predominantly brand search. But I'm sure other industries are going to vary too.

Mike: So you want to just wrap this up and put it on a neat little conclusion for listeners?

Blake: Sure. So keywords are important. Don't track keywords obviously, you know, track based off of phone calls, conversion data that you can. Identifying your buyer personas is really going to help you on the copy side but it can also really help you on link-building campaigns in the future. Instead of just saying, "Okay, let's go get this link," you know, think about your buyer personas at the same time to help you with your link building efforts, or local brand building efforts. Review, do the sentiment analysis or the review analysis. Look for the commonalities of your business as well as your local competition. And see ways of improving the content on certain pages for specific products or services, or for overall branding. , on the negative review side, if you see that everyone doesn't like a certain part X about your business, then maybe it's a good idea to take that internally. You know, instead of just having all this for the external use on the website, it's a great document to use internally as well. So hopefully, look into that. On the copywriting, I'm not a great copywriter, we have one on staff, that's why we have him. Work with somebody to help you structure the content..., write great copy on your website that is going to connect with your ideal customers and become the answer to that user's questions before they even have them.

Mike: Great. Thanks. Great summary, appreciate it. So with that, we'll call it a wrap. I really want to thank you for joining us and we'll talk soon. Thanks.

Blake: Thanks for having me.

Mike: Bye-bye.

Blake: Bye.

Related Links:
Client persona questionnaire
Client persona questionnaire

Ngram Analyzer

Ngram Analyzer

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