For this post, I've teamed up with my friend Dennis, the Digital Marketing Manager at Core dna.
If your startup has reached a point in which sustained growth is a distinct possibility:
But, while it does feel good to gain some initial traction, you still have a number of challenges ahead of you.
One of the biggest hurdles is the creation of content that aims to not only generate awareness and traffic to your brand, but also spurs readers to convert.
Today we’re going to talk about how your startup's SEO and content strategy needs to evolve as it prepares for exponential growth.
Specifically, we'll walk through 7 different content frameworks startups can use to bring in more qualified traffic from search. These are the exact content types Core dna has used to grow its organic traffic by 499.81% over the last 12 months:
And generate over 2,500 conversions - subscribers and demo signups - each month:
These are the same content frameworks my agency uses to consistently rank our growth-stage SaaS clients for important keywords:
Grow organic traffic across a range of industries:
And drive more conversions across the entire funnel:
For each content framework, we'll provide a brief explanation of what it is, look at examples, and show you step-by-step how to quickly find the right keyword opportunities for each one so you can start implementing them in your business.
In a hurry? You can use the links below to quickly navigate to a specific content framework:
Before we talk about what to do, let’s make it clear what not to do:
How Not to Approach SEO During a Company's Growth Stage
As we mentioned above, the main goal of your SEO campaign as a new startup is to generate brand awareness, and start to position your product and team as a go-to resource within a specific industry.
Once you’ve established an audience and positioned the brand, though, you’ll need to adjust the SEO strategy accordingly.
Yes, you’ll still need to drive awareness and engage a target audience—but you’ll need to take this engagement to a whole different level.
You need to become laser-focused on creating content that nurtures your audience towards conversion.
Unfortunately, many growth-stage startups remain too focused on creating content that looks good “on paper,” but doesn’t actually do anything to get readers to become paying customers.
Often, content production is driven by keywords showing high search volume and low ranking difficulty. But, this merely promises visibility—which the brand has already earned.
Growth-stage startups need to center their SEO strategy around delivering content that convinces a newly-engaged audience that your product/service is the best solution to their problem.
Sound good? Let's dive into the frameworks.
7 Conversion-Boosting Content Frameworks for Growth-Stage Startups
This guide will focus on creating the types geared specifically to audiences closer to the point of purchase. i.e. users who are either solution or product aware.
Creating such content — and using it to showcase the true value of your product or service — should move your close-to-converting audience to make the final decision to become paying customers.
Content Framework #1. “Alternative to [Brand]” Blog Posts
No matter how "niche" your company may be, it will always face competition.
(Side note: If you don’t have competitors, chances are it’s because there’s not much demand for the services you offer. If this is the case, it’s going to be near impossible to grow organic traffic much further. Instead, you'll need to focus on other channels - guest posts, podcasts, paid media etc - until search demand matures.)
At any rate, you might choose to create content that summarizes the basics of some of the most well-known brands in your niche.
A few examples:
Best Practices For “Alternative to” Blog Posts:
- Provide an overview of what the top companies in your niche have to offer.
- Be objective when discussing both your solution and your competitors’.
- Include information your target audience will find important (specific features, pricing tiers, pros and cons).
- Include your company’s solution early in the post to ensure visibility.
Image: Helpjuice positioning itself at the top of the list of alternatives.
Helpjuice doesn’t waste time to introduce their product, and provide a quick summary of what they’ll be discussing in the post. This is a great SEO copywriting principle that sets an expectation and draws readers down the page.
- Create a subsection or silo on your site dedicated to housing these alternate product roundups. Eg: Groove HQ showcases this mid-funnel content directly in the footer.
How to Find “Alternative to [Brand]” Keywords
1. Drop ALL of your competitor's names in the Ahrefs Keyword Explorer, then head over to All Keyword Ideas tab:
2. Click Include > Any word > and type in “alternative, alternatives” > click “Apply”:
3. Scan the list of brand + alternative keywords and add any relevant ones to your keyword list:
Pro tip: Don’t worry about the search volume. These investigatory search terms have lower search volume, but they tend to convert much higher than other keywords.
Content Framework #2. Comparison Blog Posts
In contrast to the "alternative to" content framework, in which numerous brands’ products or services are discussed in isolation, comparison blog posts place two or more brands side-by-side one another.
By directly comparing your offering against the competition, you’ll be able to “own” the conversation as users weigh up different solutions to their problem.
Conversely, not creating such content will force customers to rely on third-party review sites — or worse, your competitors’ blogs — to get the information they’re looking for.
The goal here is to own the “narrative”.
Here are a few examples:
- Magento 2 vs Shopify Plus vs Core dna: The Enterprise eCommerce Standoff
- Team Chat Showdown: Slack vs. Discord
- Thrive Themes vs ClickFunnels: Which Is The Best Sales Funnel Builder?
Comparison blog posts can be huge for your company in terms of generating additional business.
Case in point, more than 2% of those who check out our “Standoff” post end up becoming paying customers:
Best Practices For Comparison Blog Posts
Insert yourself into the conversation. For example, “Magento 2 vs Shopify Plus vs [Your Company]”:
- Provide a point-by-point rundown of each solution’s features (again, focusing on the features that are important to your audience).
- Highlight the areas in which your solution has a clear advantage over the competition (while also approaching these features objectively).
- Include testimonials from current customers — especially those who have experience using the other solutions mentioned in the article.
- House this content within the blog section of your website.
- Create a TL;DR (Too Long, Didn’t Read) version of the comparison and embed it just after the introduction.
How to Find Competitor Comparison Keywords
1. Same strategy as the “Alternative to [Brand]” keywords. Drop ALL of your competitors name in Keyword Explorer, then head over to All Keyword Ideas tab:
2. Click “Include” > “Any word” > and type in “vs, compare” > click “Apply”:
3. Scan the list of comparison keywords and add relevant ones to your keyword list inside the Ahrefs Keyword Explorer:
Note: just because a comparison query doesn't contain your brand name, doesn't mean you can't target the term. You just need to insert yourself into the conversation.
Core dna could create a piece of content titled "bigcommerce vs shopify vs Core dna" and target a range or comparative terms such as "big commerce vs shopify", "shopify vs core dna", "core dna vs bigcommerce" etc.
Content Framework #3. “Best Tools for [Specific Task]” Posts
So far, we’ve talked about creating content with the assumption that your target audience has a general idea of what their options are. i.e. they are solution-aware.
Of course, that isn’t always the case.
(You don’t want to completely neglect generating awareness among new audiences.)
Your audience will know, however, that they have a specific problem that needs to be solved and are unsure of the best solution. i.e. they are problem-aware.
As really simple example would be an individual interested in creating a website, but unaware of different CMS options such as WordPress, Shopify, Weebly or Wix.
You can attract this audience by creating content that introduces them to products or services that will allow them to accomplish what they’ve set out to do.
Best Practices for “Best Tool for [Specific Task]” Posts
- Include your product at the top of the list of tools, and provide a more in-depth feature/benefit overview than the other competitors on the list.
- Focus on a specific function of the tools being discussed. For example, Ahrefs’ (affiliate) function includes keyword research, SEO audit, backlink checker, etc.
- Create multiple pieces of content focused on a different functions of your tool.
- Focus on longer tail keywords (e.g., “Best SEO software for small businesses”) — despite potential low search volume metrics — as individuals using these search terms are looking for a very specific solution, and are more likely to make a fast purchase.
- Compile a shortlist of the top features people should look for in a solution. For each feature, provide a description as to why it is valuable, and include UI screenshots for visual context. Ideally, most of the UI shots will showcase your product. You can see this in action in my article on best rank trackers and SEO reporting tools.
- Include a call out box at the end of each feature section and give readers an opportunity to compare your product against competitors using the content you created in earlier steps. Groove does this well in this post.
How To Find “Best Tool for [Specific Task]” Keywords
1. Make a list of product features and solutions.
Core dna would use seed topics related to content management, content marketing, headless commerce and intranets:
2. Enter all of the product solution head terms into Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer, then head over to “Phrase Match” tab:
3. Click “Include” > “Any word” > Enter “best, platform, solution, top, tool, software, system” > “Apply”:
4. Scan the list and add any relevant opportunities to your master keyword list inside the Keyword Explorer:
Note: look for long tail modifiers related to persona, market and vertical (eg: enterprise, small business, startup, healthcare, agencies etc). These terms will typically have much higher conversion rates compared to broader "best tools for X" posts (eg: best ecommerce platform for small businesses vs. best ecommerce software).
4. “Best Tools for [Industry/Job Title]” Product Pages or Blog Posts
In a similar vein to the above content type, you can also create roundup posts focused on the various tools often used by people or entities in certain scenarios.
A few examples:
Best Practices For “Best Tools for [Industry/Job Title]”
- Use the job title(s) of your target audience as a seed keyword.
- Create multiple pieces of content for various audiences (For example, BigCommerce offers content similar to the above example tailored to eCommerce companies in the health & wellness, food & beverage, manufacturing, and automotive industries).
- House this content on your company blog, persona or industry page.
SPOTIO is another company that is using the use case, persona and industry pages to target a very specific audience:
How To Find “Best Tool for [Industry/Job Title]” Keywords
1. Make a list of ALL industries and job titles that would benefit from your solution
2. Enter all of the head terms into Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer, then head over to “Phrase Match” tab:
3. Click “Include” > “All words” > Enter a combination of “best, tool”, “top, tool”, “best, solution”, “top, solution”, “best, platform”, “top, platform > “Apply”:
Another way to surface "best tool for [Industry/Job Title]" keywords is to use the same solution/feature seed keywords, but instead enter the modifier "for" into the "Include" > "All Words" filter in the Keyword Explorer:
Or, if you notice competitors are housing industry and persona-based content inside a dedicated subfolder, you can reverse engineer which ones are driving organic traffic each month by entering a competitor domain into the Ahrefs Site Explorer and navigating to the Top Subfolders report:
You'll be able to see how many pages are housed in the subfolder, and the estimated monthly organic traffic going to them. Click the Pages link to see all the URLs and their Top Keyword:
In the example above, a startup entering the last-mile food delivery software niche might look at a competitor like Bringg and start building out pages optimized for restaurant, retail, and logistics delivery software.
4. Scan the list of keywords and select any that are relevant to your product and target audience:
5. “How to Choose the Right [Product or Service]” Articles
Here’s where your content starts to get a bit more “meta.”
That is, instead of talking about all the different options at your audience’s disposal, you’ll explain the process your audience need to go through when determining which solution is right for them.
Here are a few examples:
- How to Choose a SaaS CMS: The 9-Point Checklist
- Guide to Buying the Right Customer Support Software
- Are All Sales CRMs Created Equal? How to Choose the Right One
- 6-Step Guide to Buying the Right Business Software
- How to Choose the Best Business Software for Your Small Business
It’s a no-brainer:
Helping your audience make the correct purchase decision will inherently increase the chances of them choosing your solution.
Case in point, our guide to choosing a SaaS CMS converts at a rate of 3%.
Best Practices For “How to Choose the Right [Product or Service]” Articles
- Provide step-by-step instructions for your audience to follow when choosing the best product or service.
- Ensure you’re helping your audience make the right decision — not just convincing them to go with your solution regardless of their specific needs.
- Solicit information from your current (and most successful) customers regarding the process they followed to make a final purchase decision — and use this info to help inform prospective customers.
How To Find “How to Choose the Right [Product or Service]” Keywords
1. Make a list of ALL overarching product solutions and features.
2. Enter all the head terms into the Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer, then head over to “Phrase Match” tab:
3. Scan the list and add any queries related to your product or service.
6. Industry Trend Reports
Moving away from product/service-focused content for a moment, there’s also value in developing editorial-style reports based on current or future trends in your industry.
E-commerce store owners who have read our take on headless CMS’ know that such an approach is quickly becoming the norm, while traditional platforms may not provide the most effective means of engaging consumers in the near future.
Creating these reports also allows you to position yourself as an industry thought-leader.
By taking data and other evidence, and turning it into content your audience will understand and learn from, they’ll have every reason to trust your brand moving forward.
You also may — intentionally or spontaneously — have your report get picked up, and linked to, by other websites and publications in your industry.
This can generate major visibility for your brand, and instantly foster trust and credibility among with a new audience.
Core dna's post discussing upcoming eCommerce trends for 2020 has already earned links from 21 different domains and ranks for 370 keywords:
Industry reports like this are easy to build links to, and are often the most linked-to assets for many startups.
Best Practices For Industry-Trend Reports
- Clarify why certain trends have emerged, or are emerging.
- Talk about the evolving needs of the modern consumer in your niche.
- Make predictions and projections as to what the future holds for your industry.
- Include data to support each trend prediction:
- Mix in expert research and/or quotes to support trend claims:
If your startup is in an industry where it is hard to draw from existing research or statistics, reach out to other influencers and include their insights in a roundup-style report.
How To Find “Industry Trends” Keywords
1. Make a list of ALL industries and job titles that would benefit from your solution.
2. Enter all the head terms into Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer and click the “All Keyword Ideas” tab:
3. Add any relevant topics to your Master keyword list.
7. Use-Case Focused Product Pages or Blog Posts
This is an incredibly effective strategy, as it:
- Provides surface-level value to newbie prospects (that doesn’t require them to make a purchase).
- Prepares them for the moment when they will need to make a purchase—at which point they’ll be much more inclined to check out what you have to offer.
Take a look at the following examples:
Once again, such content is vital for increasing conversions. In fact, many of our use case product pages convert at well over 10%:
Best Practices For Product Use-Case Pages
- For product pages, explain what your product or service is and does — and what it enables your customers to do:
- Illustrate how simple it is to get started.
- Include social proof from existing users.
- Include an FAQ section to address last minute objections/concerns.
- For blog posts, structure them in a “how-to” type format, explaining how your solution paves a path of least resistance for the customer:
(Ahrefs show you how to do broken link building using free tools AND their own tool)
How To Find “Use-Case Product Pages and Blog Post” Keywords
1. Make a list of your target market’s “Job-to-be-done” (JBTD).
For example, Ahrefs’ JBTD might include: find informational keywords, find competitor’s backlinks, resource page link building, guest blogging, link reclamation, etc.
Pro tip: Head over to your competitor’s website and look for their solutions and/or feature pages.
2. Enter all of the head terms into Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer, then head over to “Phrase Match” tab.
3. Click “Include” > “Any word” > Enter “best, how to, strategies, tips, ways” > “Apply”.
4. Add any relevant terms to your master keyword list.
Use SERP Analysis to Properly Qualify (and Prioritize) Your Keyword Set
By now, you should have built a targeted set of conversion-focused keywords:
Now it's time for the most important step in the keyword research process:
Here are six things to look at when qualifying (and prioritizing) your keyword set.
#1: Domain and Page-Level Link Metrics:
Studies have shown a clear correlation between the number of referring domains pointing to a page and its rankings:
Google even confirmed it is a top ranking factor. As a result, always look at the number of page-level referring domains of competing assets in the SERP:
Image: Analyzing the SERP report inside the Ahrefs Keyword Explorer.
Ideally, we're looking for a SERP with at least a couple results that have a single digit or low-teen referring domain count.
#2: Domain and Page Authority
This study found that there is also a strong correlation between keyword rankings and domain authority:
As well as page authority:
It makes sense since domain and page authority is driven primarily by the quality and relevancy of the links pointing to the domain/URL.
Coming back to our previous example for "best ecommerce platform", we can see that the lowest Domain Rating is 72, and all the URLs have a minimum rating of 30 or more.
Since Core dna has a Domain Rating of 70, they have a fighting chance to rank. But, they'll need to build a lot of backlinks.
The query "best intranet software", on the other hand, is a much less competitive target:
This SERP report shows multiple sites ranking with lower Domain Ratings, and no backlinks. Core dna could crack the first page for this term within 30-60 days with a quality piece of content and a handful of relevant links.
#3: Content Type/Format
A common mistake I see many clients make is to target keywords with the wrong content type.
For example, should you publish:
- Blog post?
- Category page?
- Product page?
- Comparison page?
Get this decision wrong and you'll waste a lot of resources trying to rank a piece of content that is essentially dead in the water.
Case in point:
We had a client trying to rank a product page for the term "interactive infographics". No matter how much quality content they added, or how many backlinks they acquired, the page was stuck on page two.
After analyzing the SERP, it quickly became apparent as to why. They were trying to rank a product page when the SERP was telling them they needed a list-based (format) long form blog post (type) to target the keyword:
We quickly created a list post and ranked the company in position #1 within 60 days.
This is a simple example of the importance of targeting keywords with the right content type. The good news, Google tells you which one you need to use.
#4: Content Quality:
This one is self-explanatory. You need to produce content that is equal to or better than anything else in the SERP.
Analyze the top 10 results and produce a content brief outlining all the topics that need to be covered. Your content should provide the cumulative value of the top results.
I cover this process in much greater detail in my training course.
#5: SERP Volatility:
Typically, you'll want to target keywords where there is some volatility in the SERP:
Image: SERP volatility report in the Ahrefs Keyword Explorer.
In the example above, you can see that Namogoo jumped from nowhere into the first position in less than 30 days.
All else equal, this is a good sign that Core dna could rank quickly with a list-based (format) blog post (type) targeting the query "b2b ecommerce platform".
#6: Business Value (1-3):
Once the keywords have been qualified, we'll assign a business value on a scale of 1-3:
1 - Create problem awareness (top funnel). Informational intent with no direct solution/feature alignment.
2 - Create solution awareness (middle funnel). Investigatory intent with an indirect solution/feature angle.
For example, a person knows that they need to invest in a CMS for their eCommerce business, but aren't aware of all the available options.
Core dna can produce an article targeting the term "best B2B ecommerce platforms" or "best enterprise content management software". While it would not be dedicated to their solution, they would be able to directly call it out and position it against the competition.
3 - Create product awareness. Buying intent with direct solution/feature angle. People know exactly what they are looking for, who they are considering in the final purchase decision, and will be actively comparing you agains the competition.
Examples: "Corporate intranet software", "magento vs volusion vs bigcommerce" etc
Once the analysis is complete, each keyword will be tagged based on whether or not we can compete, and assigned a content type and business value:
This template allows us to collaborate with the client, and quickly filter the opportunities down to the most valuable targets that we can realistically rank for in the next 3-6 months.
Next - we map the keywords to content types and visualize where they will sit in the site structure:
And finally, move the keywords into our Pipeline document to assign writers, briefs and ultimately begin scaling content production:
You’ll learn how to find, qualify, prioritize and map keyword data at scale:
Screenshots of the Aggregate and Keyword Mapping tabs in The SEO Playbook.
If you'd like me to do all this work for you, contact me here to set up a free strategy call.
Which Content Framework Is Your Startup Going to Implement in 2020?
So there you have it; when you’re in that growth-stage the name of the game is not just about traffic. There are a lot of nuances for growth-stage companies; brand name searches, branded terms, MQLs, SQLs, etc.
For growth-stage startups, traffic is nice, but conversion is better.
To recap, here are the 7 conversion-boosting content frameworks your startup should create:
- “Alternative to [Brand]” Blog Posts
- Comparison Blog Posts
- “Best Tools for [Specific Task]” Blog Posts
- “Best Tools for [Industry/Job Title]” Product Pages or Blog Posts
- “How to Choose the Right [Product or Service]” Articles
- Industry Trend Reports
- Use-Case Focused Product Pages or Blog Posts
Did I miss a content framework? Let me know below by leaving a comment