How to Use Journalism to Create Context for Keywords & Content

the-daily-question-who-what-where-when-why-howBack in the day, the “gatekeepers” of information were the traditional media like newspapers, and they had all the power with what went into print. The gatekeepers also had guidelines for how to create content with integrity that accomplished its purpose. These writers were professionally trained and knew how to write within the confines of industry standards.

Nowadays, anyone with a laptop and Internet connection can write words that are accessible for the whole world to see. And while this is great for unleashing individual creativity, the guidelines for quality content are fuzzy.

Upholding quality content on the web has been a priority for Google for some time, and is reflected in its Panda algorithm update, among other initiatives like its human quality raters.

With those initiatives, Google’s essentially made itself editor-in-chief in a rogue online society where anyone can report anything at any time, without accountability.

As we transitioned our content online, we lost the connection to those professional guidelines for writing. But these journalistic principles can be easily carried over to writing for SEO. And in turn, we write more for our audience and more for branding purposes, rather than just the search engines.

And that’s what we’re here to talk about today. We’ll look into how to use one form of journalistic research to help you create content for a website that offers solutions to the intent behind the keyword, and in turn, better connects with your target audience.

Context Begins With Asking Questions

Research is one the most important elements in great writing (and journalism). When it comes to keyword research, you may have already put in the hours to create a comprehensive list. But without context, keywords are just words that only provide the first step in your content development plan.

But without context, keywords are just words that only provide the first step in your content development plan.

So if you haven’t yet had a discussion about what sort of scenarios surround those queries, that’s an important next step. We want to get into the mind of the customer, so our content makes a connection with that person.

Take Cues From Journalistic Guidelines for Writing

If you’re stumped and don’t know where to begin asking questions, take cues from the “5 Ws and an H.” In journalism, they say every good story should answer:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • Why?
  • How?

The content that supports your SEO and marketing is no different. There’s a story behind every query that’s the basis of the content you’re going to create. Get to the bottom of it.

Whether you’re the expert on the topic or you’re interviewing the expert, ask what sort of problems someone who would be using that query is trying to solve. And how the business/product/service fits into the solution.

How to Use the ‘5 Ws and an H’ to Enhance Research

The great thing about the 5 Ws and an H is that it can be customized to many different scenarios, businesses, products and services. You can even explore multiple options for each “W” and “H,” making the interview more robust.

Here’s an example of how you could unpack those Ws and the H:

  • Who is the customer for this query?
  • What are they trying to accomplish?
  • When in the conversion funnel are they using this query?
  • Where do they live, and how does this impact their persona?
  • Why are they interested in that product or service?
  • How does your company offer a solution for this query?

And ta-da! You have the beginnings of a persona and the intent behind any given keyword. This gives you a fantastic basis to begin writing content that speaks to your audience and upholds your brand.

Don’t Forget About Online Research

Use the keywords to perform queries of your own to assess what other types of content exist around that topic. This helps give more context, and also acts as a benchmark for you to create better content than what’s already out there. (If you have SEO tools that give you unbiased results for what sites are ranking for those queries, use those, too.)

And check out social networks to see what conversations are happening in the communities surrounding the business and keywords in order help you get a better understanding of who you are talking to.


If you’re an SEO by trade or someone who doesn’t have a robust writing background, then you definitely should explore content writing in industries such as journalism, marketing, and advertising to take cues from those who have refined techniques over many, many years. What you learn there will almost certainly enhance your content for SEO.

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