I recently taught a class to small business owners on the foundations of website content strategy. My students were entrepreneurs and professionals who were in the process of building new websites for their companies. They had a lot of questions about how to choose what they should put on each new site page. Questions like…

  • How do I create content that is optimized for search engines?
  • How can I find topics to write about that will have high SEO value?
  • What kinds of content will help my business grow?

I told them that to answer these questions, they would first need to do some deep thinking about the people they want to attract to their business sites.

Anyone who is building a new business website should be mindful of today’s best practices for SEO. Keyword stuffing is a thing of the far-distant past. Optimizing your site content for search engines (using niche short and long-tail keywords appropriately after doing extensive keyword research) also means being relevant and engaging to the people you want to reach. Make sure your content not only hits the right words but is also genuinely useful, helpful, interesting, or otherwise valuable to your audiences.

Here is the most important lesson I taught my students that day: empathizing with your target audiences can help you create a website that will serve your audiences while helping your business achieve its goals for growth.

The Best Content Strategies Begin with Empathetic Target Audience Research

One student who was building a website for her counseling practice asked me to give her tips on how to choose the best blog titles for attracting search traffic.

I told her not to start off by obsessing about the wording of blog titles, but to begin by researching how her content can help the people she wants to attract to her practice.

I then gave her a step-by-step plan for how to do that research and use her findings to begin building a content strategy. Though her business might be different from yours, I think that my advice to her would be helpful for anyone building a website for a small business.

Step 1: Think of Your Best Customers: What Needs Do They Have?

Begin by thinking about the people who you are best suited to treat. Who are they? Don’t think of generalities. Think of specific people with whom you have had enormous success. Your former and current best clients can serve as models for your target audiences! Think of the overlap between those clients’ needs and your expertise. Document your observations. Those notes will be a great starting place for all your digital marketing research efforts.

Write down a list of the needs your best clients had when they came to you. Don’t think of their symptoms in clinical terms (from the point of view of a practitioner). Try to recall what they asked or said in their own words.

It is important to note the exact “conversational” language that your clients are using because voice search is on the rise. It is estimated that up to 50% of all searches will be voice to text by 2020. Documenting the “natural language” your clients are using to describe their needs and interests will help you discover conversational, long-tail keyword phrases that you should absolutely be using in your content. Test different content to see what works best.

Step 2: Google From Your Customer’s Point of View

Use Google and other popular search engines to search for answers to your patient’s questions and other relevant information, from their point of view. Think about the differing questions that they might have had at various points before they first came to your office.

They might have researched their symptoms or looked for ways to self treat individual symptoms. Perhaps they had questions about whether they had one distinct issue or another, or if they actually suffered from multiple diagnosable illnesses. They might already have a diagnosis and are looking for a second opinion or alternative treatments to ones they have already tried.

Map out all the different journeys people go on that could lead them to seeking treatment and how they might use search engines to get help at each stage of the journey.

Answering questions that your potential new ideal customers are asking online is one of the smartest content strategies today, especially if you are using the natural language your target audiences might use in a voice search. SEO Journal listed that as one of 5 Voice Engine Optimization Strategies to Get Ahead. Use tools like Answer The Public or sites like Quora to see what kinds of questions real people are asking about your area of expertise. Go as deep into your niche as possible. Remember to search from their point of view using language that they are likely to use.

Keep a spreadsheet of questions that you are uniquely qualified to answer. These are all potential blog topics or topics for downloadable e-books. Keyword research will help you discover related terms on topics that are of interest to your target audiences.

Step 3: Take Note of Your Competition

As you are using search engines from the point of view of your most promising target audiences, take notes of all of the content you discover along the way. Any new site content that you produce on certain topics will “compete” against the content that is already performing well on those respective topics.

  • What resources did you discover? (What online tools and resources came up in your searches?)
  • What is missing? (What questions have no good answers? These are opportunities.)
  • Is there a resource that you are uniquely suited to provide that can help patients get the treatment they need, whether they come to your practice or not?
  • Could you do better? (Can you create content that will be ten times better than the competition? Learn more about 10x content from SEO powerhouse Moz).

Step 4: Look At Your Own Website Through Your Customer’s Eyes

Blogging is important for SEO and you should have a long term-plan for content production. Before you begin that, though, make sure that your website is set up to be user friendly and maximally beneficial to visitors who do visit your site.

Look at your website from the perspective of someone who has already recognized that they have an issue and is looking for treatment.

  • What questions do they have about you?
  • What information would they like to know about your practice, your approach, your area of expertise, or your style of working with your patients?
  • Is there a clear call to action that helps them see how to take the next step toward becoming a patient?
  • Do they understand how to ask follow-up questions?
  • Would your site be easy for them to navigate? (See Four Examples of Site Architecture that Nail UX and SEO)

Major Takeaways

Your site may have absolutely nothing to do with a therapy practice, but the advice that I gave to this counselor can help you out as well. By empathizing with the customers or clients that you already have, you should be able to come up with ideas for site content that will better serve the people who are likely to become your clients in the future.

As you look for content ideas, try to put yourself in the position of the person or people you want to attract so that you can do a better job of designing a site that will benefit them. Make it your primary goal to create a website that truly serves the needs of your target audiences.