Page one. Answer box. The top result. In the minds of marketers, these prime destinations have largely been associated with SEO success.
From the days of keyword-stuffing and algorithmic alignment to more nuanced modern approaches accounting for semantic voice commands, influencer integration, and search intent, edging competitors on that SERP has been a key source of aspiration. As it should be: heightened visibility on Google makes a big difference in terms of driving traffic.
But it’s a little short-sighted to think only about that first, fleeting interaction — the search, the discovery, the click. What about the deeper impact? As customer experience becomes a central focus for brands everywhere, we should be more considerate of what happens after a user clicks through that search result, and how it affects your brand.
We talked recently about how best answer content helps fuel strong SEO results. But as part of our new “Trust Factors” series, which examines practical ways for marketers to strengthen trust with their audiences, we’ll shift our perspective and break down the critical benefits of effective best answer content when it comes to building credibility and authority in your niche.
As #CX becomes a central focus for brands everywhere, we should be more considerate of what happens after a user clicks through that search result, and how it affects your brand. @NickNelsonMN #ContentMarketing #SearchMarketing Click To Tweet
Beyond the Click: The Lasting Impact of Best Answer Content
Brian Dean of Backlinko is a masterful creator of best answer content. He preaches, and practices, a quality-over-quantity approach. At the recent Social Media Marketing World 2019 conference in San Diego, Andrew Pickering and Pete Gartland (the hilarious speaker duo @AndrewAndPete) shared the story of how Dean decided on a plan of publishing one blog post every 4-6 weeks, investing huge amounts of time into making sure each of those pieces was as robust, useful, and comprehensive as possible.
To get an idea of what this output looks like, you can check out his SEO in 2019 or Link-Building for SEO, either by clicking those links or simply typing the basic terms into Google; his posts will show up near the top.
Using this approach, Dean reported his blog was receiving more than 200,000 unique monthly visitors with just 51 total blog posts, which is a pretty amazing feat. Obviously, the premium SERP placements have helped him achieve those gaudy numbers. But it’s the substance beyond the headlines and meta descriptions that really makes his content powerful.
Perusing one of his in-depth resources, you’re going to learn a ton. The posts are extensive but navigable; technical but understandable; fun but serious. They include videos and images to illustrate concepts and break up the copy. Most importantly, they answer pretty much every ancillary question a searcher could ask about their respective topics — accurately and actionably.
And that’s how Dean turned his SEO training company from a humble startup to a seven-figure business in five years. His credibility speaks for itself. People trust him and want to learn from him because of the content he creates — not because it ranks so well, but because of how it ranks so well.
How Best Answers Build Trust
He’s a great example, but Dean is hardly the one out there building trust through best answer content. At TopRank Marketing, this methodology is fundamental to our integrated strategy mix, and we’ve seen plenty of awesome results with our clients. As two examples, there was this content and strategic PPC campaign for DivvyHQ, and this SEO-driven content program for Antea Group.
While both of those efforts drove excellent results in terms of traffic and reach, what’s really heartening in both cases is the deeper business impacts.
“Lead quality has definitely improved,” said DivvyHQ Co-Founder Brody Dorland. “The prospects coming through our website front door are much closer to our ideal customer than they have been in the past.”
“We’ve been able to marry our field and digital marketing efforts together, resulting in numerous digital leads, real revenue opportunities to the tune of millions of dollars, and credibility with our clients, partners, and media as a go-to source for EHS&S information,” said Antea Group USA Solutions Marketing Manager Margaret Uttke.
As any sales team can tell you, prospects who are both well qualified and predisposed to respect your brand are vastly more likely to convert and become happy customers. Here’s how effective best answer content achieves these outcomes:
This more or less speaks for itself. When someone finds content on a topic they’re looking for and it gives them everything they need, expertly articulated, it paints your company as a trusted source: These people know what they’re talking about. They know how to present the info. They’ve done it well enough that Google’s algorithm — which now heavily weighs dwell time and quality inbound links — has elevated it above most or all others.
Sometimes, content marketing can get away from its essential purpose: providing value. Pressured to show results — even if just vanity results — some practitioners blur the line between pull and push with strictly gated content or thinly veiled promotion.
Best answer content gets back to the basics. When done right, it’s all about delivering value and earning trust before you ask for anything. Dean spends weeks researching and composing his hefty Power Pages, which are freely available to anyone who visits. He even makes them downloadable in PDF form if you can’t consume all of that content in one sitting, and while the assets are technically gated, in that you must enter an email address to receive them, you aren’t required to fill out a long contact form.
Yes, it’s helpful to outrank competitors for key terms because you are more likely to bring in that search traffic. But there is also an important reputation element. When you outrank a direct competitor, the optics are compelling. And even if you’re not at the top, simply ranking in the vicinity of a giant company or reputed publication enables you to soak up some of that “second-hand trust.”
It’s a simple psychological phenomenon, as Neil Patel explains on his blog: “This is not just a convenience issue for users. It’s a trust issue, too. When a result appears first, second, or third, users tend to trust it, believing that it is somehow more reliable, popular, or more legitimate than anything lower in the SERPs.”
Given that Google is increasingly structuring these SERPs based on indicators of query fulfillment, that’s a valid shorthand conclusion for searchers. And when your page delivers a definitive best answer to back up the ranking, you’ve made the right impression.
Organic and Inbound
It’s getting harder to build trust through ads. That doesn’t mean you should ditch the paid side by any means, but it does raise the stakes for organic content. As digitally native millennials grow to account for more and more of the buying population, we must be cognizant of their ingrained instincts. They are more likely to trust information they find themselves, as opposed to sponsored results or content that is (in truth or perception) pushed on them.
Gaining the Top Rank Is About More than Search Placement
Yes, it’s great to rank at the top of a SERP, for a variety of reasons. But it’s also vitally important to rank at the top of your audience’s mind for strategic topics, through content that satisfies their curiosities and provides legitimate value.
As Google’s algorithm continues to evolve and prioritize the most satisfying results rather than the most technically optimized results, you can trust that best answer content — which, when done right, covers both of those bases — is increasingly a no-brainer.
Want to learn more about TopRank Marketing’s best answer framework in action? Check out our CEO Lee Odden’s post on How A Best Answer Content Strategy Drives B2B Marketing Results.