How To Use Google Search as a Tool For Content Marketing
At Hop Online, we’re always testing tools and comparing notes on their keyword research, SERP analysis, and link analysis capabilities. But it’s actually possible to optimize content without – just make Google Search do all the work for you!
Consider this: Google processes over 63,000 searches per second and counting (you can visualize it here). The algorithm analyzes each search query, goes through the hundreds of billions of web pages in the Search index to find a match and ranks the results by relevance and usefulness.
Why not tap into this data source for your own content marketing strategy?
Here are 4 major insights you can get with just a few clicks:
- Identify searcher intent
- Tackle topic and keyword research
- Determine related ideas to expand content clusters
- Find internal and external linking opportunities
1. Identify Search Intent in Google
The whole point of content marketing is to publish content that’s valuable to your audience. By doing that, you expand your organic reach, create awareness, turn prospects into customers, and – ultimately – grow your brand and business.
For successful content campaigns, figure out what, when, where, and why your potential customers are looking, and then create your content around these insights. To ensure they find your content in Google’s organic results, you’ll need to look into how Google interprets searcher intent.
Simply type your topic in the search bar and analyze the first page results. Do you see informational or transactional pages? Does Google show you comparisons or pages that list the best services in the niche?
For example, I typed a very broad query: “beef.” Here are the results:
With such a broad search term, Google offers extremely broad answers. Most are definitions, there are a few news articles, and some recipes further down the page. The algorithm is trying to gauge exactly what the searcher is looking for, from a dictionary definition to nutrition facts to how to cook a steak they just bought.
When we narrow the search term a bit – using “beef cost” – this is the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) result:
The results range from B2C landing pages for grass-fed beef to the cost of beef farming (and environmental factors) to B2B market data. Compare that with the SERP for “beef best cost”:
The search engine delivers articles and blog pages about the best value for cuts of beef. Apparently, the algorithms determined that the searcher was in learning – not buying – mode.
How to Use Search Intent Insights
When you test this method with the search terms that describe your own business and scroll over the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), you can identify search intent in organic results.
If most of the top-ranking results are transaction-oriented, such as sales offers and e-commerce pages, perhaps you too need to create a landing page targeting this search term. If the SERP is dominated by blog articles, such as “Top 9…. ” and “Best free… “, it might be best to write a similar blog article about your niche market.
If the SERP results are split into informational and transactional results, then you have an opportunity to create both top-of-the-funnel and bottom-of-the-funnel content, catering to potential customers in different stages of the customer journey.
2. Find Keywords for Your Content Using Google Search Only
Most keyword research tools pull their data from a few different sources (like Google Keyword Planner, Google’s auto-suggest, and clickstream data), so you can also identify keyword opportunities using Google.
When you have a content idea in mind, just go ahead and Google it. Next, read through the top 5-10 results. You’ll often find overlapping and unique topics, so analyze them to identify your main sub-topics.
Google Suggest can supply more specific suggestions on your content’s structure and keywords, too!
Use Google Suggest
As soon as you start typing in the search box, Google’s algorithm begins suggesting autocomplete phrases. These are based on an algorithm that reflects previous searches using the same words.
People Also Ask
This is the list of questions related to your search query. Questions are usually visible directly below the featured snippets.
As soon as you click on any of these results, the related questions section expands and is populated with even more questions:
You can find even more keywords in the “Related searches” section on the SERP. These are visible at the bottom of the search result page:
Google Trends allows you to explore a keyword or topic’s search demand and seasonal trends as far back as 2004. Numbers here are relative, scaled from 0 to 100 based on the relative popularity of a search term.
It also suggests both related topics and related search queries for your target keyword.
If you are interested in comparing the search popularity overtime of up to 5 search terms, you can really have some fun.
Apply Your Data to the Content Structure
Once you’ve gathered all this information, your content outline should expand to cover most – if not all – of the related subtopics.
Try to organize your outline into separate sections using subheaders that are each focused on one theme.
Editor’s note: Use the same technique when you’re optimizing your old content. If necessary, expand your page’s content to comprehensively cover related subtopics.
3. How to Generate Topic and Build Up Content Clusters
Brainstorming content ideas can get tiring, but simple Google searches can keep your content creators busy for months. Exploring the subtopics you’ve come across is a fail-proof ideation method, and it also helps you organically build your content hubs.
The pillar-cluster model (introduced by Hubspot in 2017) suggests organizing your content via internal linking. This structure helps your website claim several areas of topical authority, each of them bundled around one “pillar page.”
These pillar pages are then linked out to an array of sub-topics (or content clusters). In effect, you build a “hub-and-spoke model” for each of your main topics.
While planning your content calendar, it’s useful to keep each piece of content under its relevant pillar.
If you explore a topic using Google Search, you’ve essentially explored all (or at least most) of the potential cluster pages within the pillar!
Say that your blog has a pillar page – “Best Cuts of Beef” – that lists highly sought-after steak cuts. Google’s algorithms seem to suggest that your cluster pages within this pillar could be focused on all the best beef cuts – along with all the specific cooking techniques.
Next, let’s look at methods to extract useful information for link building from the search engine itself.
4. Find Backlink Opportunities for Your Content
For page performance, content marketers often focus on effective keyword placement and page copy, but they sometimes overlook the importance of links. Remember: The more quality inbound links a page has, the greater the credibility and rankings it has, too.
Your content’s internal linking should be guided by your website’s pillar-cluster structure. When creating articles for a certain pillar, make sure you link the actual pillar page to and from them. Also, add horizontal links to other cluster pages from the same pillar group.
If you’re not using this model yet – or if you simply have too many pages on your website to even know where to start – there is a simple way to find relevant pages.
In Google’s search box, simply type “site:www.yourwebsite.com search term”. The Search Engine Results Page will only include pages within your website that are relevant to that specific search term – all with just a few clicks!
Any time you write web content, you link out to pages and websites that provide valuable information about the topic you’re covering. From citing statistics or referring to a study, it’s only natural to include outbound links and to provide added value to your readers. Just make sure you’re linking to authoritative and trustworthy websites (and not sending readers to your direct competitors or spam sites).
Yet again, Google’s SERP is a great tool to identify top authoritative pages on any topic. The top pages that rank on any search query are likely the best pages to link externally to.
If Google’s algorithms have done their job well, these are the pages that provide the most relevant information for that specific query. Go ahead and link to them: Your readers will appreciate it.
Next, consider reaching out to the websites you’ve linked to and suggest reciprocal linking back to your page. If that works out, you’ll get some high-quality backlinks that will boost your fresh page’s ranking right away.
Extract Data from Google Search to Create SEO-Savvy Content
At the end of the day, you want your content to show on Google’s first page. Why not trust Google itself for useful insights? Use it to decipher search intent and keyword opportunities, generate topic ideas for your editorial calendar, and build internal and external links.
Looking for more tips on keyword research, SEO tools, and content marketing? Check out our Content Marketing Guide.