Using Questions to Inform Your Content Strategy: A Guide

It can be really hard to think of content topics to inform a content strategy, especially when you’ve been working at it for a long time. But wouldn’t it be awesome if we could get these ideas directly from our audience without having to pay for expensive surveys or focus groups? Well, actually you can.

Your audience and customers are constantly asking questions online that relate to your key topics, product or service, and these questions will form a perfect content strategy for you as you know it’s of genuine interest to the audience.

Here I’ll outline all the different sources we use for mining questions and then how we use these question to form the strategy.

Step 1: Mining for questions

Before you start mining for questions, set up a master spreadsheet for yourself where you can paste the questions you find in one column and also write the source in the next column so you remember where the question came from.

Search Analytics (Google Search Console): Within Google Search Console you have access to your ‘Search Analytics’ report which is essentially the queries that your site has appeared for – but not necessarily where a user has clicked on your result.

Log in to Search Console > Select site > Search Traffic > Search Analytics

You can either download this report or filter directly in Search Console to find all the queries that are questions, then add these to your master spreadsheet.

Search terms reports (Google AdWords): If you use Google AdWords to drive traffic to your site you’ll have access to the search terms report (if you don’t have direct access, ask your paid team to at least send you the report). This report shows you all the search terms that people have used where one of your ads has been triggered. Your ads should only be showing for relevant keywords to your company, therefore any questions in this report should be relevant to you.

Log in to AdWords > All Campaigns > Keywords > Search terms

Again, you can download this report and then filter to find all the queries that are questions, then add these to your master spreadsheet.

People also ask (Google search): This is probably the simplest way to find questions people are searching for but the least scalable as it’s a very manual process. The box won’t appear for all searches, but for some searches, you’ll get a ‘People also ask’ box which is fairly self-explanatory – it’s questions people also ask in addition to the one you’ve asked.

For this, you simply need to perform a Google search and scroll down the first page and see if the box appears. Once you click to expand one question it will add more questions within the box as well. Paste these into your master spreadsheet.

Answer the Public: Answer the Public is a really useful (free) tool that lets you enter a topic and it will then generate a report for you of what people are searching for in Google around that topic.

Answer the Public > *enter topic* > Get Questions

Again, this can be exported and the questions then added into your master spreadsheet.

Your own site: If you have site search set up on your website, this is another excellent source of questions.

First of all, ensure you have site search set up for reporting within Google Analytics – here’s Google’s guide on setting it up.

Google Analytics > Behaviour > Site Search > Search Terms

Again, you can download this report then filter for questions to add to your master spreadsheet. If you’re an advanced GA user (or have one in your team), you can use RegEx to filter just for questions before you export the report to save filtering afterward.

Other sites: If people can’t find an answer to their question through Google or it requires an in-depth answer, they’ll often to turn to other websites with communities that will answer their question. Again, these sites can be mined to find the questions being asked about your topic/product/service.

Buzzsumo has a feature called ‘Question Analyzer’ which allows you to input a topic and it will then return questions asked about that topic across Forums, Ecomm sites, Q&A sites (like Quora) and Reddit. This is awesome as it saves your trawling all of these sites individually.

Buzzsumo > Content Research > Question Analyzer

You can filter by a specific date range and export the report (all questions) to then add to your master spreadsheet.

You can also use Twitter search to see if people are asking any questions about your topic/product/service on Twitter.

Twitter advanced search > All of these words > *enter topic of interest plus ?* > Search

This is a manual process of scrolling to find any relevant questions and adding these to your master spreadsheet.

Customer service/sales teams: Finally, one of the most useful sources of questions your prospects/customers have is your customer service and sales teams. If people are actually taking the time to call or email someone with their question, then you know they’re invested in the answer. These are perhaps the most engaged questions of all.

Arrange some time either to sit down with them and ask them to talk you through the most common queries they get (I record this so I can type up later) or ask if they mind emailing you over the common questions they get asked. The face-to-face approach is nice as it helps to build a relationship with these teams and sometimes it can be quicker for them to say the questions to you than for them to spend time typing them up for you.

This is especially good for your company as answering questions through your website is a lot cheaper than paying a customer service advisor to answer it over the phone/email/live chat.

Step 2: Forming your strategy

If you’ve used some or all of the above sources then your master spreadsheet should have a lot of questions in there now, next step is to narrow these down into the ones you actually want to address.

The first step is to remove any duplicates in Excel, then go through them all and see which apply to your product/service as, no matter what source (aside from customer service/sales teams), you will probably have some irrelevant ones in there to get rid of.

As you’re working through it may also be useful to start grouping the questions together. For example, are there multiple questions around price, or sizing, or whatever is relevant for your industry? Also, try to assign a priority score to the question or group to determine how soon content should be produced, so for example 1 could mean content needs producing within the next two weeks where 5 means within the next six months.

Now ask yourself the following questions:

From this, you should have your content strategy easily divided into two types of content: content that needs reformatting or more detail added in order to surface for questions, and brand new content to be written.

The Rise of the Machines in Digital Marketing: Building Relationships Between Brands and Consumers

Today, we rely heavily on information technology to increase our brand image and reach consumers. In 2018, the rise of the machines (minus the I, Robot plot twist) is evident in the popularity of augmented reality (AR). The AR industry is experiencing serious growth compared to that of virtual reality, due to the likes of Ikea Place, Snapchat and Pokémon Go. Flow Digital, a digital marketing agency based in Newcastle, are looking into the increasing impact of augmented reality in the world of digital marketing.

To begin with, analyzing the effects, we need to understand the concept. Augmented reality refers to modern technology that superimposes computer-generated images on a user’s view of the world, thus presenting an augmented reality. While there are significant benefits for all industries, e-commerce stores, in particular, must take note of the uses. The ability to showcase your products in such a unique format – far superior to that of your competitors – is an opportunity that cannot be missed. Today, AR is still a relatively untouched tech by many brands, yet Pokémon Go was the most profitable app in 2016, with more than 750 million downloads.


The statistics for AR speak for themselves, but we’ll go into a little more detail. For starters, the augmented reality industry is booming, with massive investment. In 2020, the number of AR users is expected to reach a staggering one billion, demonstrating enormous growth for a trend that many brands are yet to utilize. The AR market is also likely to be worth four times than it’s brother, virtual reality. With those stats in mind, you must already consider how to incorporate the trend into your marketing strategy. Many brands are still finding their feet with the industry, but there is great potential – as showcased by Ikea Place. The app provides consumers with the opportunity to ‘place’ their products in a user’s home, gently encouraging those prospects to buy into their products. Of course, AR may be a little too costly for specific brands, so it’s worth analyzing the relevance to your market before investing. E-commerce stores will certainly benefit from the tech, but will local solicitors? Probably not.

AR doesn’t have to involve the development of a high profile app, such as Ikea. Take, for example, Estée Lauder and their subtle nod to the trend. Using their Facebook Messenger Chatbot, customers could virtually try their makeup products before buying.

However, as we discuss the advantages of AR, it’s worth noting that the lack of adverts could have an effect on the world of digital marketing. Advertisements are the foundation for brands, with the ad spend alone reaching £22.1 billion in 2017. Yet, AR doesn’t have a place for advertisements, such as marketing ads and header bidding, so agencies and brands alike must become savvy when appealing to consumers.

AR advantages

While there is a lack of adverts in AR, and agencies must produce ‘creative’ methods to communicate with audiences, there are significant advantages to adopting the trends. Of all the benefits, the most notable is the ability to bring your products to life. For example, your static advert for your products could become a catalog, for consumers to flick through.

When providing all necessary information for your products – even going so far as to show users how the product would look in their home – you enhance engagement. Prospects will enjoy interacting with your brand, subsequently boosting your profile as they share their thoughts.

How can I use AR?

Video content is one of the most common uses for AR, and will serve to improve your marketing strategy vastly. Video is already one of the biggest trends within the marketing world, with over 22 million daily video views across YouTube, Snapchat, and Facebook, with the figure continually growing. While regular video content offers brands several seconds to catch their consumer’s attention, AR offers upwards of 50 seconds. Similarly, your social media platforms will only improve with association.

AR also allows you to ‘catch’ impulse shoppers. Those consumers who may not intend to buy but only need a little persuasion can be significantly encouraged through the use of AR. Augmented reality is that persuasion, demonstrating how their life (or living room) would drastically improve with your services.

As many brands know, behind-the-scenes content always does well. We’re a nosy nation, and the opportunity to witness our products in the development stage, and even in the delivery process, is excellent. This transparency could help replace the lack of adverts, building the relationships between brand and consumer. For example, venues in the food industry could, quite literally, demonstrate what it is like to dine in their restaurant.

The world of digital marketing is constantly changing and adapting to new trends. AR is one trend that shows longevity, so you must begin considering its uses.

The New Retail Frontier: Next Level Personalization

The best retailers will embrace new digital tools that make it easier to personalize every encounter from that first moment of inspiration to finally taking action. In spite of this, it’s surprising to see that almost two-thirds (62%) of UK marketers say they do not incorporate personalization into their campaigns, according to a recent State of Digital Commerce report from Episerver.

Whether you work for an eCommerce brand, mass retailer, or the next great direct-to-consumer business, we can all agree that today’s consumers have more options than ever before. And as a result, brand loyalty is waning, consumer tolerance is low, and expectations are high. Today’s consumer is conditioned to expect tailored, visual, shopping experiences — online, in-store, and at their doorstep.

While data integration, dedicated resources, and technical obstacles have been real barriers to personalization, the potential hit to your bottom line for not personalizing the modern shopping experience will be far worse. According to Accenture, consumer dissatisfaction led to an astounding $2.5 trillion this past year in lost retail and brand sales globally.

The revenue loss is usually a lagging indicator of the problems happening further upstream for your shopper. As an experiment, become a new consumer of your product or service. Experience firsthand all the ways your brand (and others) show up. Notice where your experience feels easy versus disjointed; identify the business metrics tied to those experiences and what teams are responsible. For example, when you start researching a new product, are your signals of early intent (e.g., searches for “couch ideas,” “winter boots,” “healthy breakfasts”) being met with helpful information or a lower funnel hard sell? Which brands show up and how? Do the recommended products match your style or taste preferences?

As you continue evaluating your purchase, do any of the retailers make it easy to continue where you left off, or are you starting from the beginning each time you re-engage with them?

How do you feel about the series of new emails showing up in your inbox? And for those products or services that offer a physical store presence, do you make an in-person visit? If so, does a visit to the store build on the digital experience?

With this exercise, you can begin to understand how tailored and visual customer experiences lead to strong conversions. And this has been proven by the experts. According to a Boston Consulting Group survey, brands that use technology and data to offer customers personalized experiences are seeing revenue increase by 6 percent to 10 percent, two to three times faster than those that don’t.

Technology gets personal

Netflix, Spotify, and Amazon have raised customers’ expectations for personalized experiences. Soon, personalization is going to be an expectation of every consumer on the internet. And that expectation will extend to every aspect of their lives — especially on mobile, where the limited real estate requires you to offer the most relevant items in a visually compelling way. Technology can help create more relevant shopping experiences and shorten the distance between inspiration and purchase.

This is a problem that Pinterest is working to solve. At its core, Pinterest is a visual discovery platform that 200 million people around the world use to discover ideas relevant to them. As people search and save, we refine our understanding of what they’re interested in. This is what we call the Pinterest Taste Graph—a map that connects people not to individual products but to their taste preferences—and the data asset we use to power personalization.

Because we understand our audience in a totally different way than a standard search engine or social platform, we’re able to surface the perfect ideas for each Pinner as they move through the various stages of planning their lives. And often, those ideas inspire them to buy something.

Personalization gets modern

While the majority of UK marketers have not yet embarked on some form of personalization strategy, more than 42% of UK marketers identified “personalization” as one of their top priorities last year, according to The Chartered Institute of Marketing. Today, it is not enough to just consider website customization, email marketing or digital in-store pop-up experiences. In today’s market, it is necessary to move from random acts of personalization to holistic, relevant consumer shopping experiences. This requires engaging on an individual basis across all consumer touchpoints, all the time.

As you rethink how your business puts the consumer front and center in the era of the modern shopping experience, here are three things to keep in mind:

  • Early matters: In the past, it was sufficient to know who a customer was (think demographics) and provide content tailored to that. Today we know that it’s more impactful to understand what moment they’re in and match it with the right message and channel. Historically, personalization has been focused near the end of a customer’s journey because that behavior has been the easiest to identify and target. If someone has visited a specific product detail page or searched for the product name, we assume that consumer is nearing a buying decision. However, personalization earlier in the decision process can be more effective. If you can reach the consumer before they’ve decided on a brand or product, you have more influence to affect their decision and commitment to it.
  • Visual at the forefront: Thanks to machine learning and the proliferation of cameras in everyone’s pocket, we can create digital consumer shopping experiences that mirror what it’s like to shop in the physical world — using visual cues to steer to the right products. According to Bazaarvoice, visual content in the shopping experience produces a 111% conversion lift and 180% revenue per visitor (RPV) lift for brands and retailers — probably because the brain processes visual information 60,000x faster than text. People want to search for and discover new ideas, even if they don’t have the right words. The future of consumer marketing is visual, and marketers need to use new ways to reach people that don’t rely on keywords.
  • Consistent experience throughout: The big opportunity in personalization is the ability to use all the data about your consumer and your product catalog across all of their different experiences with your brand. That leaves many other consumer shopping experiences impersonal and random. This includes the in-store experience, mail received at home, searches conducted across digital platforms, or videos watched anywhere. Personalising the full consumer shopping experience is critical to securing loyal customers, but few retailers are doing this right now.

Retail has always been a people business. Today’s consumers are now challenging retailers to put the individual customer at the heart of everything they do. With more choices than ever before, consumers will align themselves with the brands that truly put them first, giving them the most relevant experiences at every touchpoint.

Podcasts Reeled in $314m in Ad Spend Last Year, Finds IAB

Popularised by titles such as Serial, Stuff You Should Know and Ted Radio Hour, the humble podcast raked in $314m (£235m) in ad spend throughout 2017 in the US, according to new research by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PwC US.

That’s an 86% hike on 2016, while the study forecasts revenues on the channel to hit $659 million by 2020.

Of the self-reported data provided by top podcast companies in the study – including Audioboom, How Stuff Works and ESPN Radio – revenue for 2017 sat at $257m (£192), representing a 117% increase from $119m (£89m) in 2016.

Host-read and ‘baked-in’

For two-thirds of ads in 2017, it was host-read ads that were the preferred format for advertisers, the majority bought on a direct response, cost-per-thousand basis (64%), followed by brand awareness ads, among 29%.

In addition, ads integrated or ‘baked-in’ to podcasts were the most popular type of ad delivered in 2017, rising from 44% to 58% year on year.

Of the 14 podcasts measured in the study, just four accounted for more than half of all advertising revenue in 2017, shared across Arts/Entertainment (17%), Technology (15%), News/Politics/Current Events (13%) and Business (11%).

Who’s buying?

When it comes to the types of advertisers buying placements within podcasts, the IAB found that financial services spend the biggest, taking an 18% share, while direct-to-consumer retailers and arts & entertainment brands represented 16% and 13%.

Commenting, the IAB’s executive vice president of industry initiatives, Anna Bager, said that advertisers are increasingly recognising podcasts as a “powerful platform” to reach and engage with a captive audience.

Meanwhile, PwC US partner, David Silverman, added; “The growing trend toward ‘anywhere and everywhere’ media engagement has created a tremendous opportunity for digital media, of which podcasting is a significant component.

“Whether at home on a smart speaker, at work on a PC, or somewhere in between on a mobile device, more and more Americans are listening while they live, providing a robust podcast platform where advertisers can connect with today’s consumers.”

Apple Takes Aim at Facebook User Tracking Features

Apple has announced it will be making efforts to block Facebook’s user tracking tools within the next iteration of its iOS and Mac operating systems.

Announced at its WWDC developer conference yesterday (June 4), the tech firm’s software chief, Craig Federighi, said on the social network’s automatic tracking features, “we’re shutting that down”.

Those tracking tools in question allude to Facebook’s like buttons, share buttons and comment fields, which when integrated on a publisher’s site – even if not interacted with directly by the user – can be used to track users across the web using a cookie, providing advertisers with a wealth of valuable data on users’ browsing habits.

This is available to all other pages with the features integrated; a substantial amount given that the buttons are a requirement for any site wanting to drive traffic from Facebook.

When unveiling the new features on Safari – which will request via popup for user permission before allowing Facebook to attach a cookie – Apple’s Federighni made little effort to hide the firm’s disdain for user-tracking techniques.

“We’ve all seen these – these like buttons, and share buttons and these comment fields. Well it turns out these can be used to track you, whether you click on them or not,” said Federighni, according to BBC News.

“Do you want to allow to use cookies and available data while browsing? You can decide to keep your information private.”

With certain sources believing the move could throw down the gauntlet for other browsers to follow suit, the update will change how Safari loads content and the level of information it provides while doing so, with browsers typically releasing data to any plugin that requests it.

But while Facebook was the only company directly called out on stage, the change could have similar implications to its key competitor in ad tech Google, which also relies on tracking users to deliver targeted ads.

In addition to the browser update, Apple also revealed it would be rolling out an update to MacOS Mojave that would crack down on ‘fingerprinting’, where advertisers aim to tracked users who delete their cookies by identifying configuration details such as fonts and plug-ins installed.

Apple will therefore present web pages with less detail about a user’s specific computer; “As a result your Mac will look more like everyone else’s Mac, and it will be dramatically more difficult for data companies to uniquely identify your device,” said Federighi.


Google Announces Shopping Tweaks to Drive ‘Brick and Mortar’ Sales for Retailers

Google has announced a string of new updates to its Google Shopping platform, aimed at attracting online customers to retailer’s offline ‘brick and mortar’ stalls.

Announced at Search Marketing Expo Advanced (SMX Advanced) yesterday (June 12), the search giant claims despite the massive growth of e-commerce driven by the likes of Amazon, when customers want an item right away, 80% will head to the high street.

Google added that the new updates are designed to “remove friction” between retailers’ online and physical stores, while its motivation will lie in brands increasingly taking to the search engine’s ad products to funnel foot traffic offline.

First of those tweaks includes expanding its affiliate location extensions to its video-sharing platform YouTube. Already available to advertisers using search and display campaigns, retailers will now be able to list nearby outlets under TrueView in-stream and bumper ads which, according to YouTube’s internal data, can increase click-through rates by over 15%.

A new display ad format comes with local catalog ads; these let retailers list a range of products in one “easy-to-scroll” ad, featuring additional information on in-store availability and detailed pricing. A “See What’s In Store” feature, meanwhile, allows retailers to showcase local inventory on their existing search knowledge panel.

Google says that both of these functions will be made possible via integration with point-of-sale or inventory providers such as Cayan, Pointy, Link and receipts.

It wasn’t all offline focused, however, as Google announced some updates to its online Shopping platform including a price benchmarks update that allows retailers to up-bid their most competitively-priced products against the same products sold by other retailers.

Meanwhile, on its Shopping Actions programme launched in March, allowing consumers to order from retailers direct via search, Assistant and voice, Google said it had more than 70 retailers live, reporting an increase in total clicks and conversions at a lower overall cost per click and conversion compared to running Shopping ads alone.

A Last-Minute GDPR Checklist: Data Mapping, Privacy Notices, and More

GDPR goes into effect in just a few days, and while your company has probably been working for months (or more) to be compliant with this groundbreaking new regulation, here are five items that should be at the top of your last-minute GDPR checklist.

Map your data

Article 30 of the GDPR requires data controllers and processors to have a record of processing containing certain high-level attributes (e.g., the purpose of processing, a description of categories of data subjects and categories of personal data, etc.). However, a more detailed data map, consisting of information about specific data elements and how they flow between different entities, IT applications, vendors, etc. throughout the course of a processing activity, will be essential to meeting many other GDPR requirements, such as breach notification and fulfilling data subject rights. Thus, not having a data map in place will make life more difficult when having to respond to a personal data breach or a data subject request.

Additionally, having a data map will help you to solidify your understanding of the scope of GDPR as it applies to your organization. In other words, knowing which of your organization’s processing activities are subject to the GDPR, and which that are not, can help you prioritize your compliance efforts—in particular, if you are behind the eight-ball as we approach 25 May.

Document your legal bases

Article 6 of the GDPR allows for lawful processing of personal data under one of six different legal bases. Therefore, at a minimum, data controllers need to identify and document their legal bases for all processing activities that are subject to the GDPR; and doing so will also help in other areas as well.

For example, where a data controller is relying on consent to process personal data, they will need a way to request and obtain consent, manage records of those consents, and provide a withdrawal mechanism. Similarly, where a data controller chooses to rely on legitimate interests as their legal basis, they will need to document their analysis of the organization’s interests weighed against the interests of data subjects. Lastly, relying on consent or legitimate interests as legal bases can open the door to the exercise of certain data subject rights, such as the right to erasure and right to object.

Update your privacy notice

Articles 13 and 14 of the GDPR require certain information to be provided to data subjects about the processing of their personal data (e.g., the contact details of the data protection officer, the purposes of processing and legal basis, recipients of personal data, etc.). The information provided needs to be concise, easily accessible and easy to understand, using clear and plain language. In other words, avoid legal and technical jargon, and think about what the average data subject in your audience would understand. Layered and/or just-in-time notices can also be implemented to assist in informing data subjects.

Moreover, data controllers will need to bring their updated privacy notice to the attention of data subjects (e.g., via email, letter, pop-up, etc.).

Facilitate data subject access requests

Article 12 of the GDPR requires data controllers to “facilitate the exercise of data subject rights” (e.g., the right of access, right to erasure, right to data portability, etc.). Specific requirements exist with respect to each of these rights; however, general overall obligations exist as well, including fulfilling requests within one month of receipt, providing information by electronic means where possible, and notifying data subjects of reasons for delay or denial of requests.

Moreover, Recital 63 of the GDPR suggests that “[w]here possible, the controller should be able to provide remote access to a secure system which would provide the data subject with direct access to his or her personal data.” Therefore, you should think about not only your process for handling data subject requests behind the scenes, but also about how you will communicate with data subjects, and transmit their data to them, in a secure manner.

Update your cookie practices

Article 5(3) of the ePrivacy Directive requires that any “storing or retrieving” of information from an end user’s device should be subject to consent unless it is technically necessary to enable the intended communication to take place. Currently, implied consent is enough; however, the GDPR will require consent to be “unambiguous,” which means that simply loading a website’s landing page or scrolling through the page will not be sufficient to establish consent. Instead, consent will need to be freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous, with a withdrawal of consent being as easy as giving it.

Remember, May 25 is not the last day we talk about privacy – it should be an ongoing piece of your business operations. DPOs and business leaders will need to continue to work together when GDPR goes into effect, and beyond.

Editor’s note: For more information about these topics and what you can do to prepare for the GDPR, visit