Welcome to The Copy Shop!
The Copy Shop is Copywriter Exchange’s monthly blog series written by our community members with the goal of sharing advice and insider tips with like-minded copywriters around the globe.
This month’s entry is by Christine Hill
Christine is a member of the Copywriter Exchange and a content writer with ten years of agency experience specializing in web copy, data-driven content strategy ideation, and UX writing. Today, she works freelance while studying ancient religions at Boston University. She has a deep passion for bringing the stories behind small businesses to life, and loves to talk about strange ice cream flavors and Dawson’s Creek reruns.
Using Questions to Fuel Your Content: Four Great Brainstorming Tools
Let’s face it–once you’ve written for a company for a couple of years, it’s easy to feel like you’re saying the same thing over and over again. Add the fact that most content directors and marketing execs give you assignments based on the same 20 short-tail keywords each month, and you end up with a persistent dilemma: how do you take the term “truck accident lawyer” and make it different from the last five “truck accident lawyer” articles you wrote?
Shaking up your patterns with some user-query research can not only revive your creative spirit but also allow you to understand your audience better and delight your clients with excellent, purpose-driven copy. Here are a few resources I’ve used over the years to see what my target audience is actually asking about the subject. This information helps me frame a unique outline, address audience concerns, and maybe even (shocker!) add something new and valuable to the body of knowledge out there on the internet already.
Why Query-Driven Content Is Just Better
The era of keyword stuffing made copywriters forget what search engines were meant to do in the first place: answer people’s questions. When it works well, content will directly address user queries with authoritative and clear information. And while conversion-ready, end-of-the-sales-funnel customers might simply type in “cosmetic dentist” (which, of course, your client is desperate to rank for), most content marketing is meant to address prospective customers at the top of the funnel. In other words, they’re still in the research phase. These people are looking for background information and advice and are more likely to type “what’s the difference between porcelain veneers and Lumineers?” into Google than they are to ask for a dentist right out of the gate.
When you build around the same stock keywords each month, you’re going to get the same content as everyone else. It’s boring to write AND boring to read. It’s also very hard to compete this way with larger companies in the industry who have more money to spend on content volume. But if you can identify the actual questions that people are asking when they’re in the research phase of their search, then you might just contribute something useful to the conversation.
4 of the Best Research Tools to Learn About Customer Questions
1: Google’s People Also Ask
You’ve probably found yourself noticing this feature on your search results page and going down a rabbit hole in your personal searches. How often do you use it to do copywriting research? Start with a basic, well-known question in the Google search bar, and see what similar questions others are asking. Every time you open one question, more related ones are generated, so feel free to keep on digging deeper!
Sure, it’s full of spammy comments, but it’s also genuinely a place where people go to ask questions they can’t get a clear answer to on Google (yet). You can sign up for notifications related to your industry and pay special attention to bundles of similar questions and ones that haven’t been addressed very well. If you can get some primary research done with your client, you could create a highly valuable piece of content that will put them on the map.
3: Answer the Public
Not only is this tool highly useful–it’s pretty, too. Simply enter a couple of keywords and Answer the Public generates a huge list of real queries people have asked on the subject, sorted according to their popularity. I’ve used this site more than once to construct a whole content calendar from just one target keyword.
Reddit is a social media platform built not around relationships but around topics. It’s a great resource for in-the-moment discussions, and you’ll find plenty of places where people are either confused and looking for clarification or they just need to rant about something. This is a great way to identify pain points for customers in your industry, trends that are happening with competitors in the space, and persistent perplexities that the internet hasn’t sufficiently solved. If you’re working with a location-based business, it can also be a great way for you to be an insider on local news and issues.
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