The days of stuffing your content with as many keywords as possible in the hopes of ranking highly on search engines are long gone (thank goodness!).
Likewise, the thin, click-baity articles so many publishers once relied on no longer cut it in terms of SEO. Today, Google’s algorithms instead favor what experts call comprehensive content.
What is comprehensive content? Put simply, it’s high-quality content that goes above and beyond. That means not only answering the question that landed a reader on your site, but also, as Moz explains, exploring all the other explicit and implicit questions they might have.
Attempting to anticipate and answer all a reader’s questions may not sound feasible, but B2B market research firm Clutch breaks the process down into a straightforward formula: Audience Intent + Context + So What Factor.
Here’s how to determine these three essential aspects of comprehensive context.
1. Audience Intent: Who’s this for?
Creating comprehensive content means knowing your audience, perhaps even better than they know themselves.
Say you want to write a piece of content for the very popular keyword “how to build an app.” In order to create a comprehensive piece of content, you need to know who’s asking this question.
Is the person:
Someone with an app idea?
Someone who wants to learn app development?
A small business?
Someone at an enterprise company?
The second part of knowing your audience is knowing the other questions they have. For our app example, it’s very likely that they also want to know:
Should I build an app or a mobile website?
Should I build an app for Apple or Android?
Should my app be free or paid?
What does it cost to build an app?
How do I hire an app developer?
… And so on.
In order to create comprehensive content, you need to know all the different people who might ask this question and all the other questions they might have. Depending on how different each persona is, you may need different content for each of them.
Google’s autocomplete or related searches features can help you come up with more potential questions, as can searching Quora questions or using a tool like Serpstat.
While this may seem like an obvious first step in content development, just 14% of content marketers take the time to build out audience personas before creating content.
Marketers that do complete this essential step and know exactly who they’re writing for have a clear advantage in creating truly comprehensive content.
HubSpot is one example of a company that dominates in content marketing. They create a massive amount of content, and each piece is written with a specific segment of their audience in mind. In their post, The Beginner’s Guide to Small Business Marketing Online, they anticipate many of the questions a small business may have about online marketing and lay them out clearly at the beginning of the article:
- How can I make a website? How can I make a website without a developer?
- Why isn’t my website appearing in Google?
- Why is my competitor above me in Google?
- What is blogging?
- Why does blogging matter?
- Why do I need social media accounts?
- How do I get more traffic to my website?
Each of these topics could potentially be a separate post, but by answering all of them in one comprehensive article, they provide a valuable guide that answers all the implied questions someone searching for “small business marketing online” may have.
2. Context: Why should the reader care?
The “why factor” is a crucial part of comprehensive content. There are thousands upon thousands of articles about “How to Build an App.” That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write your own, but it does mean that your article should have a clear argument that puts your content in context for the reader, drawing them in, and making them care about your unique point of view.
In our previous HubSpot example, they start right off with a stat-based argument for why small business online marketing is important: “According to Forbes, 80-90% of consumers research purchases online before buying.” They go on to make the point that “over 90% of people searching online will not go past the first page of results on Google.”
The reader may know that online marketing is important (that’s why they’re searching after all), but laying out a clear argument contextualizes the post and makes the reader care about the content to follow.
The “why” component is also where you can gain a competitive advantage by going the extra mile to share one of a kind, valuable content that dives deeper into a topic or presents a unique take.
As Moz details, proprietary data, original research, uniquely aggregated metrics, and interactive or visual formats can all help to differentiate your content and provide that context.
Backlinko is one site that publishes with far less frequency than HubSpot but focuses on extremely comprehensive content. Their recent post We Analyzed 1.3 Million YouTube Videos. Here’s What We Learned About YouTube SEO details the findings of their own data analysis, combined with actionable tips. Other posts provide “definitive” guides to topics like video SEO, with stats and examples presented in a unique, infographic-like format.
3. “So What” Factor: What makes this article stand out?
The “so what” factor is what makes your content stand out. It’s different from the “why” factor because it’s not about convincing your audience they should care about your topic — it’s about what they take away from it.
An article published on Search Engine Journal, succinctly explains the “so what” aspect in 4 simple questions:
- Is the outcome and/or information surprising?
- Will it affect people’s lives in a significant way?
- Does it settle a controversy or answer a challenging question?
- Is it worth reading twice?
Is the outcome surprising?
Case studies or original research, like Kissmetrics’ 100 Conversion Optimization Case Studies, are a good example of a surprising outcome. Kissmetrics’ article detailed surprising results from seemingly simple A/B tests.
Because the results of the A/B tests result in a long list, readers may want to come back to the article again and again, which also satisfies question #4, “Is it worth reading twice?”
Will it affect people’s lives?
It’s not enough to just tug at the heartstrings, content should emotionally resonate and inspire people to take action.
ConvertKit’s Every Day I’m Side Hustlin’ issue goes for emotional resonance with posts like “Starting With A Side Hustle Is The Best Way To Build A Business You Love,” paired with actionable tips for making it happen.
This is also a great example of packaging less comprehensive content into one in-depth package. This “Hub and Spoke” approach to content involves creating a landing page dedicated to one topic, with links off to different blog posts answering each of the questions a reader might have. ConvertKit even offers different ways of consuming the content: Reading each blog post online, downloading a PDF, or signing up for drip emails with a different post in the series every few days.
Does it settle a controversy?
Data that settles a widely debated question or dispels a common “best practice” is one example of content for question #3.
Buffer uses this approach in its article, The 4 Biggest Pinterest Marketing Mistakes We Made (And How You Can Learn From Them). In this post, the team at Buffer shares some of the “best practices” they use on Pinterest, like finding the optimal time to post or focusing on followers, and share the stats that revealed these “best practices” actually were wrong.
Is it worth reading twice?
Create a piece of content that people will return to again and again.
CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer is a good example of a tool that will encourage people to become return users.
Buffer’s long list of copywriting formulas for social media is another, and Backlinko’s definitive guides also meet this criteria.
Comprehensive Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Long
If this all sounds a bit overwhelming, remember that comprehensive content doesn’t have to mean long. While many of the examples shared throughout this article easily crack 2000 words, tactics like packaging content in a “hub” or compiling a longer list post can also be comprehensive, and a bit less time intensive.
If you focus on publishing an article every day, your business may be better served putting that time toward creating less frequent, more comprehensive content.
Of course, this may depend on your audience’s preferences. After all, the very first question you should answer before writing anything is: Who’s this for?
But just because your audience prefers frequent, short, easily digestible videos over long case studies doesn’t mean you can’t produce more comprehensive content. Focus on satisfying the questions above, no matter the format of your content, and you’ll be on your way to crafting the comprehensive content that Google values so much.