You’ve probably heard people talk about the ‘long tail’ of search many times, but the key challenge for most businesses is how to exploit it. A well optimised e-commerce site could pick up visits on literally thousands of long-tail search phrases every month, but it’s less obvious how a service-based business might go about this. Fortunately, there is a great chunk of search traffic you can easily capitalise on – question based search.
Question based search is exactly what it says on the tin – a situation where a user types a question into Google, rather than the name of a product or service. The type of search often indicates the user is in the research phase rather than ready to buy/sign up, but this isn’t always the case (for instance, many users will search for something like “where can I find a ….”). Either way, if you are thinking long-term, you’ll gladly take the extra traffic (and potential leads) that ranking well for these particular terms can yield.
In order to succeed with a question search strategy, you need to break the process down into 4 steps :
- Identify your customers questions
- Decide which questions you’d like to answer
- Answer the questions
- ‘Convert’ the searcher into a lead
There are many places where you can look for questions that have already been asked – although you’ll be competing with other websites, you’ll have the benefit of knowing that those questions are definitely of interest to people. Some ideas for finding questions would be as follows :
- Look at your analytics search phrases ; the chances are, you’re receiving the occasional visitor on question searches already. Another way to use your existing site data is to use your internal search data – which you can also track through many analytics packages.
- Do a google search for a broad term, and then select ‘discussions’ from the options menu on the left
- Search websites such as Yahoo Answers, as well as any industry specific forums individually
I did a search on Google for the word ‘accountant’, and clicked discussions – an encouraging 700,000+ results. Yahoo Answers alone had over 4,000 results.
Also, don’t forget about the questions that may never have been asked – you could raid documents, textbooks and even exam papers here – an accountant, for instance, might find that many of the questions in their tax textbook would be of great interest to small businesses.
Given that finding enough questions to answer won’t be a problem for many businesses, selecting the best questions to try and answer is probably the key challenge. You’ll want to consider several factors in this, but some of the more important questions you should ask yourself are as follows:
- Can I actually answer the question? (be honest with yourself!)
- How long will it take to provide a good answer? (again, be realistic)
- Is there likely to be any value in attracting this type of visitor?
- What competition am I up against?
- How often do I think this question may be asked?
By filtering with the above 5 criteria, you should get a large number of questions that will be likely to offer a reasonable reward in respect to the effort expended in answering. You can then pass the list to your staff / content writers or perhaps even work down them yourself in an effort to create some genuinely useful content.
Answering the questions
Now, depending on available resources, this part could be the easiest or most difficult. Factual based questions are likely to be among the quickest to answer, while complex questions may need a good writer to explain. Either way, you’re going to need a section of your website where you can actually put these answers. Some of the places you could put this content are as follows:
- FAQs section
- A knowledge base system
- Your blog
- A traditional ‘articles’ section
If the system you choose has the flexibility to allow users to ask their own questions, you should try and take advantage of this, since you’ll be getting content ideas for free via this route.
Getting a conversion
Probably most important of all – you’ll need to get these visitors to convert. Often providing different ways of converting will be your best bet here.
If you think you can convert your customers straight into leads, then by all means push a ‘get a free quote’ or similar message at the customer, but if this isn’t the case then you might want to consider pushing a softer conversion type. Newsletters, mailing lists, white paper downloads etc might not make you any money right now, but they all provide you with a means of building your customer database, and hopefully an opportunity to sell your services to these visitors in the future.