How to Effectively Promote Your Content Marketing

Marketers all understand the importance of great content. But, when building a content marketing program for your organization, creating content is only the first step.

Marketers all understand the importance of great content. But, when building a content marketing program for your organization, creating content is only the first step.

The second step — as discussed in my previous post about reviewing your content marketing efforts in relation to the competitive landscape — requires marketers to ask themselves this question: What does your competition’s content marketing look like and how does yours compare?

Once you work through that audit, then you’re ready for the third step: distribution and promotion. Great content on its own isn’t enough. Great content designed to own a niche will get you closer. Leaping the final hurdle requires properly promoting that great, tightly targeted content. Here’s how.

Channels Is Spelled With an ’S’

In other words, it can’t be about one channel. Very rarely are there industries or niches in which only one channel is required.

That doesn’t mean finding every tiny audience you can and pummeling each with undifferentiated content. Instead, you must tailor content to each channel you have identified as a gathering place for your target audience.

Make sure the channel is appropriate for your message. For example, there’s a reason Fortune 500 B2B marketers advertise on golf tournaments. The audience is their desired demographic. But that doesn’t mean that they’d be smart to pump promotional material about their management consulting practice into an online golf forum. Same (or similar) audience, but much different atmosphere.

Also keep in mind that social media channels are all about your audience and their preferences. Not you and yours. Be sure of whose preferences you are catering to.

Email Marketing

Email’s importance and effectiveness as a marketing channel are hard to overrate. They’re easy to overuse, but hard to overrate. And easy to abuse. Spamming unknown users won’t work. Sending purely promotional content won’t work. Provide value, be relevant, and build a relationship. You’ll win business over time, even if the ramp up is slow.

Timesharing

Time share condos in the swamps of Florida have a bad reputation, and with good reason. Similarly, the idea of guest posting and cross-promoting have frequently been abused, but they can be incredibly effective in growing your audience quickly.

A guest post or jointly-produced piece of content is a warm introduction and a stamp of approval all rolled into one. You are being introduced and recommended to your counterpart’s audience and vice versa. These are great opportunities to seek out, assuming you and your partner can provide insights and information relevant to one another’s audiences.

Diversify Your Formats

Video is incredibly popular right now, but not everyone likes to watch videos as they’re researching their purchasing options. (It’s a lot easier to scan a written article to get to the info you’re looking for.)

That’s reason alone to adapt your content to different formats. Another benefit to that form of re-use is the efficiency it brings to the content development process. You can leverage the initial research and writing investment to create multiple related content elements.

The Importance of Relevance

I’ve mentioned relevance a few times above, but it’s worth repeating as we wrap up. None of the above works if the content you’re pushing is purely promotional or fails to provide value to your target audience. Without relevance and value, you’re simply not going to keep your audience’s attention.

3 Steps to Complete a Competitive Content Marketing Review

You’ve got to know what’s out there if you’re going to attract the audience you want. So it’s worthwhile to evaluate your content marketing in relation to what’s already out there.

You’ve got to know what’s out there if you’re going to attract the audience you want. The best content in the world won’t gain any traction if someone else said the same thing 15 minutes ago. So it’s worthwhile to evaluate your content marketing in relation to what’s already out there. Here are three steps to completing a competitive content marketing review:

Step 1. It’s Not About Your Competitors’ Content (Yet)

You may be tempted to fire up your browser, do some searches for the terms you want to rank for, and see who and what pops up. That would be a mistake that can lead you down a rabbit hole and far, far away from your own goals.

Begin first by examining your own content and your analytics data to see what content you’ve created that has performed best. This will give you a baseline against which to evaluate the results you find on competitive sites.

Your goal during this content marketing review isn’t to beat everyone in everything – even if that was possible. Your goal is to beat all competitors in the niches you identify as most important to your target audience and in which you have significant expertise or perspective.

Step 2. Review Your Marketing Goals

Next, review your sales, marketing, and product goals to make sure the content you have out in the world is working toward the goals you have today. It’s not uncommon for older content, aimed at other goals, to continue to garner a strong audience. Of course, being off target, these content elements don’t help your bottom line. (Which is another great reason to perform a content marketing review at least annually and prune or edit content that isn’t aligned with your marketing message.)

Step 3. Review Competitors’ Content Marketing

With all of that information in hand, now it’s time to fire up your browser and see what content you are competing with in your chosen niche. Be sure your review includes long-tail keyword phrases as well as broader queries. This should help you get a solid picture of your content strengths and weaknesses from the top of your funnel to the bottom.

You’ll also want to check the products/services that are being marketed by the content you find. It may be that some keyword phrases are more commonly used in other industries or in other ways than you intend. Performing well against those keywords may drive traffic, but it’s unlikely to generate conversions.

To summarize all of the above, your content marketing review should focus on evaluating:

  • Targeting — are you speaking to the right audience?
  • Content — are you addressing your prospects’ primary concerns?
  • Distribution — are you getting content in front of your target audience?

What Brands Need to Know About the Current State of Earned Media

The news cycle is overwhelmed with pandemic-related stories. Media organizations are facing trying times, and it’s hard to get the attention of reporters to pitch your company’s latest news. Yet, earned media remains an essential strategy for brands who want to reach their customers and prospects with trusted information.

The news cycle is overwhelmed with pandemic-related stories. Media organizations are facing trying times, including managing remote staff, a reduction in resources, and anti-press attacks. It’s now harder than ever to get the attention of reporters and pitch your company’s latest news. Yet, earned media remains an essential strategy for brands who want to reach their customers and prospects with trusted information.

To be successful at securing news coverage, brands must understand the current state of media and how to best engage the press.

Find the Right Audience

Before a brand can pursue earned media, research must be done to know the reporter and publication and ensure it’s an appropriate match for your story.

According to Cision’s “2020 State of the Media Report,” the No. 1 thing that PR professionals could do to help reporters is to understand reporters’ target audience, and what they find relevant. Of the over 3000 reporters surveyed by Cision, only one percent consider 75% to 100% of the pitches they receive as relevant.

To ensure relevance, read past stories and look at what reporters are sharing and discussing on their social handles, in particular Twitter, where many reporters and publications have an active presence.

Keep in mind that coverage areas of reporters and publications are changing in the face of COVID-19. For example, the New York Times has scaled back its Travel and Sports coverage and introduced a new section called At Home.

Be Strategic With Your Communications

Cision’s study emphasized that reporters feel bombarded with pitches and prefer email: 51% of respondents said they get from 1-50 pitches a week, 25% receive 51-100 per week, 10% receive 101-151 per week, and 14% receive over 151.

You need a good pitch, sent to the right contact and publication. If you don’t hear back right away, be patient, and send only one follow-up within a few days of your initial outreach.

Perfect Your Pitch

A pitch should be concise and include supporting information such as links and a press release. According to Cision, 72% of journalists said press releases and news announcements were one of the kinds of content they wanted to receive.

Within the pitch, let the reporter know the source available to comment, as well as when and how (video or phone) an interview can take place.

Put your news into the context of a bigger story or trend. You shouldn’t treat earned media as an advertisement or promotion (save this for owned and paid content). Therefore, do not fill your pitch with marketing speak and jargon.

Find Virtual Ways to Build Media Relationships

Your pitch is more likely to be read if the reporter knows you and your brand. Getting to know reporters is an integral part of securing earned media now and in the future. However, COVID-19 has halted our ability to network with reporters, and the broader marketing community, at conferences and events. In this environment, there are no face-to-face coffee or lunch meetings taking place.

You can, however, find creative ways to develop relationships. Social media is a valuable platform to explore shared interests with reporters. I’ve connected with reporters on topics such as cooking, fitness, parenthood, and music.

Now is not the time to abandon an earned media strategy. Instead, to break through the news clutter, brands should be strategic, flexible, and informed.

 

3 Ad Campaigns That Resonated With the Gen Z Audience

Gen Z is completely shifting the way advertisers work. The long-held mindset of heritage, comfort, and familiarity is being upset by this up-and-coming generation of digital natives. Gen Z approaches the world differently than previous generations.

Gen Z is completely shifting the way advertisers work. The long-held mindset of heritage, comfort, and familiarity is being upset by this up-and-coming generation of digital natives. Gen Z approaches the world differently than previous generations, and their way of thinking is coming to the forefront of today’s society. Their passion for social justice, demand for authenticity, and short attention spans have forced brands that target Gen Z consumers to shift their advertising strategies accordingly.

Today, brands are starting to get better at picking up on what Gen Z values and learning to adapt. From a company structure perspective, this can mean implementing more corporate social responsibility initiatives; while in advertising and marketing, this can mean deploying messages, media, and strategies designed to resonate with Gen Z consumers. There are a number of one-off ad campaigns that have redefined success with this generation, as well as continuous campaigns and brand behaviors that are molding and shaping the way marketers and advertisers target this audience.

Here are examples of three very different ad campaigns that have resonated with Gen Z in unique ways, and how they did it.

Aerie ‘Real’ Campaign

Historically, clothing brands have promoted themselves with bombshell supermodels who possess unattainable beauty. It may seem simple, but Gen Z is challenging that paradigm by calling for and responding to ad campaigns that feature “normal” people, and by rejecting impossible beauty standards.

In the early ’00s, brands began receiving backlash for digitally enhancing the faces and figures of their models in noticeable ways and removing anything that might be seen as an imperfection. Once it became clear that this imagery was harmful to the development of young girls’ self-esteem and confidence, American Eagle’s intimates brand Aerie decided to connect with its target consumer, Gen Z, with a different approach — body positivity.

In 2014, Aerie’s “Real” campaign was born. American Eagle started by announcing that it would not only cease the use of supermodels, but would also refrain from digital retouching. That campaign received a flurry of attention as the first-of-its-kind and was a big success. Since then, Aerie has continued to expand the parameters by which it chooses lingerie models. Campaigns have included women with curves, cellulite, small chests, large chests, disabilities, medical illnesses, stretch marks, body hair, and more. Furthermore, the “Real” campaign has expanded by including Aerie consumers. The brand encourages people to feel positive, confident, and comfortable in their own bodies and show it off by joining in with the hashtag #AerieReal on social media.

Not only has this approach helped Aerie stand out in the market and build a positive reputation with Gen Z, but it’s also increased sales year-over-year, with a 38% increase in Q1 of 2018, alone. Overall, the “Real” campaign enabled Aerie to earn credibility in authenticity, diversity, inclusion, and body positivity spaces. Aerie was also ahead of the curve, and many brands are now embracing body positivity and inclusion in their own branding.

Casper

Casper is a new age mattress company that has completely shaken up its sector. A traditionally brick and mortar industry, Casper took a direct-to-consumer approach to mattresses that appeals to a younger-skewing audience. Casper has succeeded with this business model by incorporating selling factors that are important to Gen Zers.

Before Casper, the idea of getting a bed-in-a-box was unheard of and viewed as impractical. Casper, however, had a deep understanding of its target audience and realized a DTC approach could be effective, if the brand positioned itself as a master in the mattress space. To that end, Casper deployed a robust content marketing campaign. The company leveraged social media and retargeting to garner attention and create brand awareness. Once its audience was engaged, Casper established itself as the expert in the space, using product comparisons, customer reviews, and influencer marketing to move the consumer down the funnel toward purchasing a mattress they had never even touched before.

In addition, Casper invested in building a sense of community around its brand. Campaigns like Staycation Story Hacks, unboxing videos, “Waffle Crush Wednesdays,” and the publication Winkle were all geared toward giving consumers many different ways to engage and interact with the brand, and with fellow brand customers. Together, Casper’s marketing efforts have brought in upward of 100,000 video views; 2,000 to 10,000 likes per post; and increased its valuation to $1.1 billion, in just five years.

#RevolveAroundtheWorld

Revolve, an e-commerce clothing brand geared toward Gen Z, has targeted and engaged these consumers, not with traditional advertising campaigns (like Aerie), but by putting its marketing dollars toward a large group of Instagram influencers — 3,500 of the most successful fashion influencers Instagram has to offer.

When influencer marketing really began to take off, Revolve saw an opportunity to grow its relatively new brand and build buzz. The company established an ongoing relationship with Instagram’s most popular fashion influencers, including Kendall Jenner, and began throwing #RevolveAroundtheWorld events in popular destinations, including Palm Springs, Turks and Caicos, and the ever-important Coachella — a super hub for influencers and Gen Zers, alike.

These lavish trips and events are invite-only and create a space where influencers can come together and do what they do best — advertise Revolve’s products by modeling the clothing and publicizing them all over their Instagram accounts. An event exclusively filled with popular Instagrammers effectively gets the brand name out there and capitalizes on the “wish you were here” mindset that Instagram seeds in its users. Consumers have their attention grabbed by the glamorous photos and then may feel inspired to buy the trendy clothing they see. They both relate to and aspire to be like their favorite influencers. Clearly, this approach is working, as Revolve was recently valued at $1.2 billion.

Final Thoughts on Gen Z Ad Campaigns

In today’s world, it is vital that brands— old and new, alike — continue to evolve in the ever-changing advertising landscape. Brands that target Gen Z have to shape their marketing and advertising strategies to convey authenticity, relatability, consistent engagement, and progressive social values. American Eagle’s Aerie, Casper, and Revolve have each taken a highly distinct and unique approach, and each has succeeded in its own way. There are lessons to be learned from their similarities, and their differences. There are many ways to craft campaigns that resonate with Gen Z, but they won’t look like campaigns of the past.

7 Steps to Advertising to the Emerging Gen Z Consumer

Advertising to the emerging Gen Z consumer is both as challenging and simple as it has ever been, which is an oxymoron in itself. But it perhaps explains the complexity of this 32% of the global population, which is edging out Millennials.

Generation Z, the post-Millennial group of digital natives born after 1997 who have an insatiable desire for instant gratification and personalization in all aspects of their lives, is arguably the most unique generation to come. Advertising to the emerging Gen Z consumer is both as challenging and simple as it has ever been, which is an oxymoron in itself. But it perhaps explains the complexity of this 32% of the global population, which is edging out Millennials.

Before we get into methods for marketing to Gen Z, it’s important to understand who this generation is and the qualities that make them unique. Generation Z has never lived in a world without the web. The Internet has always existed for Gen Z; though it has evolved into an entire entity in the last decade or so, life without an online presence is but a vague and distant memory to them. In this day and age, 96% of Generation Z members own a smartphone and, on average, they spend more than three hours a day perusing their devices. Social media is the beast that lies within these smartphones and has proven to be a powerful tool highly utilized by this generation.

For some, reaching Generation Z may seem difficult for this very reason — from the outside in, they are seemingly out of touch with the real world. For advertisers, however, it has made Gen Z more reachable than any preceding generation. Making a connection has a whole new meaning in advertising, due to the realm of social media and smartphones. Here are best practices on how to reach and engage with the Gen Z audience:

Reaching the Gen Z Audience

While Gen Zers have earned a reputation as arduous customers, there are various methods advertisers can tap into to successfully sell their brands/products to this tenacious bunch. As a well-informed and arguably opinionated generation, they generally respond well to brands that earn their loyalty as customers. This is unique to Gen Z, as other generations have typically chosen what they consume based on tradition. And just how can advertisers earn their loyalty? Sell the all-encompassing brand and its story to give it a sense of relatability.

Authenticity

When determining how to best reach this demographic, one word should be kept top of mind: authenticity. Research shows that 63% of Generation Z want marketing from “real” people, as opposed to celebrity endorsers. I put “real” in quotation marks, because this category does not stop at trusted friends and family of Gen Zers. A trusted source or friend can be found anywhere from an inner circle to their favorite social media influencers and bloggers. Influencer marketing has proven successful with this generation, because hearing about a product from an average, everyday person (with 10,000-plus social media followers, that is) resonates more deeply with Gen Z than seeing a high-profile celebrity endorse everyday items.

Influencers

Influencers are more trusted by Generation Z because they don’t seem like they’re trying to persuade; rather, they’re just filling their audience in on something they enjoy. In turn, influencer marketing does not feel like corporate manipulation. Furthermore, their followers are just that: people who follow and are invested in their lives. They are already sold on the person, which makes it easy to trust their opinion.

Keep Reaching Out/Retargeting

Online retargeting is key in engaging this generation and staying top of mind. Once Gen Zers begin researching a brand, it is vital to remain relevant to them, and retargeting is one of the best ways to do so. It is an easy way to take them through the buying process, so they end up as loyal brand advocates. As a generation obsessed with fast-paced, instantaneous moments, it can be easy to forget about something if it’s not reinforced. Retargeting — by means of social media and banner and display ads — is paramount to success with Gen Zers.

With the power of online retargeting, however, it is important to put a cap on the frequency, as to not fatigue the potential buyers. If a member of this group sees an ad too frequently, it can wind up in lost interest. They may feel it is being pushed too hard on them — which is quite the opposite of feeling authentic and caring.

Authentic Reviews

Online reviews are another important factor when Generation Z considers a product. Creating a space where they can hear from people of a similar background in a written or spoken testimonial to the product can make all the difference. Reviews get customers involved and allow their voices to be heard, tying in an element of personalization. In order to receive genuinely positive and highly regarded reviews from Gen Z, it’s important a company is honest, maintains the quality it guarantees, and makes them feel special throughout the process. They don’t want to be considered another number; rather, they’d like to feel included and impactful.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Generation Z also cares deeply about brands that have a positive social or environmental impact. It is of the utmost importance for a brand to come across as one that cares — in all aspects. Though Gen Z can seem like they lack character or substance, because they spend so much time disconnected from the world around them, this group actually has a tendency to express their values online and want to vocalize those beliefs. Therefore, they appreciate when a company does the same. Voicing inclusivity, social justice, and sustainability can majorly impact a Gen Z target while they determine whether a brand is worthy of their purchase. Typically, members of this generation look at a brand from a holistic standpoint before deciding to become a customer or not. This is why a company’s social media presence is one of the most important upkeeps. Serving as a place to express oneself, it’s the prime method to communicate a brand’s the progressive values.

Engagement

Ultimately, the best way to engage with Gen Z and make them purchase is to foster a connection that does not feel contrived. They love realness above all and prefer that a company is upfront with what it has to offer and what it values holistically. With technology at the tips of their fingers, Gen Z members have almost always done their research before purchasing. This is why marketing to them is more crucial than ever: the way a brand portrays itself online and the decisions it makes can make or break its profitability. Advertising geared toward Gen Z should always pique their interest and keep that interest alive until they decide it’s time to buy. The initial point of contact in getting this audience’s attention will push them to look further into a brand to ensure it’s something they’re interested in putting their money toward. As such, it is vital to a company’s success to maintain strong marketing and advertising tactics — from start to finish, throughout the buying process.

Brands: Show You Care About Gen Z

The bottom line of advertising to the Generation Z audience is that you should always sell the brand as one that cares not only about its own success, but also about the success and ultimate happiness of its customers. Maintaining happy customers, at the end of the day, is the main driving force behind the success of any Gen Z-focused company.

6 Google Ads Trends You Should Be Using in Your Marketing

Google Ads, formerly AdWords, has been a mainstay of PPC marketing since its introduction in 2000. Businesses now have access to new tools that allow them to refine their PPC marketing and generate more leads. Make sure your campaigns are taking advantage of the most popular Google Ads trends.

Google Ads, formerly AdWords, has been a mainstay of PPC marketing since its introduction in 2000. A lot has changed over the last 19 years, and businesses now have access to new tools that allow them to refine their PPC marketing and generate more leads. Make sure your campaigns are taking advantage of 2019’s most popular Google Ads trends.

2019 Google Ads Trends

1. Personalization

Personalizing your Google Ads means relying on the insights gleaned from your visitors to refine your ads toward specific audiences. Learn to match ads back to specific landing pages, which lets your visitors understand the relevancy of the page relating to the ad they just clicked. That helps reinforce the impact of your branding strategy, along with your message.

Use tools like geo customizers that pinpoint a visitor’s location or a place they are looking to visit. You can also upload your lists of emails into Google’s Customer Match product to help direct ads from your campaign at specific audiences.

2. Optimize for Voice Search

With 55% of households expected to own some speech-enabled device, voice search must be accounted for when designing your ads for campaigns. When users issue commands into apps powered by Alexa or Siri, they speak in more natural patterns that do not conform to standard keyword patterns.

Instead of keywords, center ad content around accurately responding to user questions. If they ask, “Where is the nearest Mexican restaurant,” ads that highlight Mexican cuisine near their location should be what appear. Clarity takes precedent over conciseness when it comes to voice search.

That does not mean that marketers should abandon keywords entirely. They should, however, focus on longer-tailed keywords that allow for more natural phrasing. Keywords no longer have to fall into a specific pattern, thanks to the advancement in algorithms used by Google.

3. Write for Your Audience, Not Keywords

The Google Ads interface now allows you to drill down and target audiences based on demographics, the reason why they may be making a purchase, and many other patterns. That means leaning less on keywords and more on gearing your ads toward items of interest to your audience.

With the array of tools now at a marketer’s disposal, keywords will decrease in importance, making it vital that marketers put in the work to truly understand what their visitors desire. That will help them design better quality ads that can elevate their conversion rates.

4. Make Use of Smart Campaigns

Google Ads users now have the option of creating “Smart Campaigns.” They simplify ad creation by making it easier for marketers and small businesses to target specific audiences. You include the address of your business, images, and other information into Google Ads templates that automatically accounts for your CTR and CVR.

Google algorithms take over and locate audiences fitting your information. You keep your volumes growing without having to do a lot of hands-on configuration.

5. Gear Ads Toward Remarketing

You can keep visitors interested in your site offerings by designing ads full of products or services in which they expressed interest. It is a matter of adding a small piece of code to your website that captures information about your visitor’s attention. You can use that information to create ads aimed at bringing them back to your site.

6. Tie Ads Back to In-Store Offerings

Localizing your Google Ads can help drive customers into your physical stores. Many people do research online when looking for goods or services. Design ads that feature inventory in your store and whether you currently have it in stock. That can motivate customers to go ahead and visit your store to make a purchase.

Summing It All Up

  • Personalize your ads to appeal to specific audiences
  • Account for voice search when designing ads
  • Think beyond keywords when creating ads for your audience
  • Maximize the benefits of Google Ads Smart Campaigns
  • Build ads targeted at previous visitors to your website
  • Use Google Ads to promote your in-store offerings.

Keep an eye out for more changes to Google Ads that will likely impact your campaigns for 2020.

Is Your SEO Thinking Showing Its Age? Here’s How to Fix It

Are you still thinking that your SEO success can be measured in keyword rankings? If you are, you are a bit behind the power curve and your SEO thinking is passé.

Are you still thinking that your SEO success can be measured in keyword rankings? If you are, you are a bit behind the power curve and your SEO thinking is passé.

Today, SEO is all about audience and relevancy, not just keywords and rankings. Yes!

I do not deny that until we can telepathically transmit our queries to an all-encompassing search engine, we will be using language. Language is created from words, but words have multiple meanings. Words are freighted with emotional baggage. The same word can connote or evoke a different response from different individuals.

In the early days of search, we were forced by the technology to focus on text and words. This was because the earliest search engines used word/text matching to find the documents that fit the query. They were essentially large-scale word matchers.

What has changed? Search technology has evolved and artificial intelligence is no longer a science fiction oxymoron. Today, search engines can use both the searcher’s own search history and performance data gleaned from each site to inform the search results delivered. This has forced SEO professionals to reconsider the venerable keyword and how they approach and measure success.

Every Site Has an Audience

If you do not have a clear picture of whom you want to reach with your site, then why bother having a site at all?

The greater the clarity around who your customer is and the more knowledge you have about the information your audience might find useful, the easier it is to develop a coherent SEO strategy.

In the past, when search technology was word-matching, we could define our audience in terms of the keywords.

Today, with the advances in search technology and the more sophisticated tools and metrics, we can more precisely target an audience and offer highly relevant content. Audience definition is first a business strategy and then a marketing exercise. If the business management does not have clear vision of who its customer is and why the customer would want to visit the site, then search success is constrained.

There are plenty of tools for the search marketers to use in the process of keyword research once the audience is defined, but without a clear definition of the audience, you are back to relying on inefficient word-matching.

Beyond Content Curation

Success comes when the content offering is highly relevant to the specific target. It is like fishing. Fly fishing enthusiasts will tell you that the successful fisherman knows how to match the hatch to present exactly the fly (or, it works with lures, too) that the desired species of fish expects to see at precisely that time of year.

Today, successful search marketers are matching the hatch so that their carefully crafted content matches exactly what their specific audience is looking for at that moment in time. This requires more than content creation and curation. It is an exercise in creating fresh content to meet the audience’s current wants to pull the audience through search to the site.

Any muddiness in defining the audience and creating optimized content that matches what the target audience is looking for yields a ticket to suboptimal results.

How Do You Know?

Research and metrics are the keys to success. Tracking success is more of a business exercise than a slavish following of rankings performance. The content and the keywords become potent revenue-drivers only when there is a congruence between the business goals, the audience and search as a revenue-pulling source. This does not begin to suggest that you should neglect the elements of technical search. They are table stakes in a bigger marketing game.

3 Quick Ways to Sabotage SEO Efforts

Are you sabotaging your own SEO efforts? As an SEO consultant, I see numerous well-intentioned business leaders make decisions that, in effect, sabotage and trash months and even years of SEO work.

Are you sabotaging your own SEO efforts? As an SEO consultant, I see numerous well-intentioned business leaders make decisions that, in effect, sabotage and trash months and even years of SEO work.

Because of these poorly thought-out decisions, organic search traffic craters and sales decline. This situation is often an indirect result of site owners making decisions without estimating or understanding the impact these might have on the long-established SEO efforts. Tactical SEO mistakes are easier to recover from than ill-thought out business decisions.

Here are three business decisions that can sabotage your SEO efforts:

  • Change your brand name
  • Dramatically shift your product offering
  • Target a different customer segment, while abandoning the previous target audience.

Here is how and why each of these marketing/business decisions can have a long-term negative impact on the site.

Changing Your Brand Name

As businesses grow, shrink and change ownership, there is often a desire to rebrand the company. This decision is usually made many pay grades above the SEO team. The assumption is that altering the name will be simply a matter of shifting the website over to a new address. This is what it takes technically, but it greatly oversimplifies the impact such a change can have on organic search traffic. A quick look at what percentage of traffic is first-time visitors and how dependent your site is on new customers coming in from search will give you the scary truth of how much of an impact a change might have.

If your site is a commerce one, there is more to lose. Google gives brand names preference in the search results, so you will be found for the new name on the door; however, this does not account for the broader loss of name recognition in the marketplace. If you are in a pitched battle for search placement with established brands, you will be giving them a gift; for until your new name is broadly known, you will be a nobody. Searchers do not see your lovely rebranding visuals or associate your once trusted name with the new name. There are ways to mitigate the impacts. Begin with a rebranding strategy that includes a thorough understanding of its impact on your organic search strategy and seek to mitigate upfront any impact. In short, don’t make the change and then ask why organic search traffic has declined.

Shifting Your Product Offering

Most e-commerce businesses change their product offering regularly as the seasons shift and styles change. This type of change is accounted for in the SEO workflow and causes little disruption to the flow of organic search traffic. It is dramatic shifts that can severely interrupt search traffic. You cannot go easily from selling gardening supplies to quilting fabrics without an appropriate segue. Before extinguishing a product offering, try adding the new offering and devise ways to inform your audience that you are shifting. This lets your content, links and traffic ramp up organically without injuring the site’s overall reputation. Organic search is not simply a spigot that can be turned on or off at your whim.

Shifting Your Audience

Search is still accomplished through keywords and hyperlinked text. Your search program is designed to optimize your visibility to a target audience. It has been my experience that search exposes how completely a business is focused on and aware of its audience. The SEO program hones the vocabulary so that the site brings the customers whose needs match your offering. When there is a mismatch of site content and keyword emphasis to target audience, search traffic declines. If there is an ambivalence as to who your target customer is, this will be apparent as well in diminished, sub-optimal results.

Conclusion

There is an overarching theme in this analysis of just a few of the ways you can sabotage your search traffic: Tie search into the major business decisions early on and seek ways to mitigate any negative potential negative impacts before they occur.

Building an Audience-Focused Content Strategy

Generating content that is relevant to your audience is easy; delivering unique content that actually serves its needs is significantly more difficult. That requires a content strategy.

Generating content that is relevant to your audience is easy; delivering unique content that actually serves its needs is significantly more difficult. That requires a content strategy.

These days, it’s not enough to produce loads of content based on keyword research alone. That might have worked years ago, when Google judged a webpage’s relevance and quality by keyword density. Since then, Google has revamped its algorithm and leaned on artificial intelligence to reward content that’s unique, useful and engaging. Focusing on people’s needs — not just their search queries — is the new goal of content marketing. And yes, there’s a big difference.

Does your content strategy really speak to your audience? And, equally important, does your audience notice? Forging a content strategy that achieves these objectives will likely help all of your marketing efforts. Here, we’ll review the basics for building an audience-focused content strategy.

Step 1: Know Your Audience

To build an audience-focused content strategy, you must first understand your audience. Who are they, and what do they need? What are their hardships? Why might they want your help? In terms of your content, would your audience prefer articles, blog posts, video tutorials, infographics or something else?

Listening is the key to answering these questions. Keyword research — specifically long-tailed keywords in your analytics reports — are one piece of the puzzle. There are better ways to get actual human feedback, though. Check websites such as Yelp and Reddit to see how people talk about merchants and issues in your sphere, or read your own social media comments for more insights on customers’ needs and wants. Brick-and-mortar business owners can ask their employees about what’s on customers’ minds.

Only after you truly know your audience can you move on to the next step.

Step 2: Find Your Content Tilt

At the core of this endeavor is finding your content tilt. Don’t worry if this is the first time you’ve heard this term — you’re not alone. Your content tilt is a form of branding; it’s what ultimately makes your content valuable in a way that’s unique to your business. Finding your content tilt doesn’t just mean pumping out articles that are relevant to your customer’s needs. Rather, it’s about diving deep into the core purpose of your business — thinking carefully about what makes your business remarkable — and then understanding how you’ll help your customers in ways no one else can.

Want an example of a content tilt? Think of how Kelley Blue Book established itself as the go-to resource for people who want to buy or sell used cars, or how Consumer Reports became known as the authority on informative, objective reviews. For another example, go to YouTube and watch different videos of chefs demonstrating their recipes. Then, watch one clip of Nadia G’s “Bitchin Kitchen.” That’s one heck of a content tilt!

Most businesses these days produce plenty of content. They barrage customers with online and print ads, coupons, blog posts, Facebook posts, Twitter posts, Instagram pictures, email blasts and more. And yet, still, people in business are often dissatisfied with their marketing.

That’s because content without a tilt is just noise in the crowd. Find your tilt, and you’ve found your voice. Unlike noise, a voice can send a message.

Step 3: Set Goals

What do you hope to accomplish with your content strategy? Your answer to this question depends largely on your website or the type of business you run.

Is Your Direct Mail Misunderstood?

Are your direct mail pieces engaging with your audience or are you talking over the audience? Do you use lingo that only people in the industry understand?

Are your direct mail pieces engaging with your audience or are you talking over the audience? Do you use lingo that only people in the industry understand?

Acronyms can quickly get you into trouble when people do not know them; especially in the age of texting, your acronym may be misinterpreted. What is obvious to you will not necessarily be obvious to them. This is a big problem if your audience is confused; the chances of you getting your important message across are significantly decreased. Basically, you have turned your direct mail piece into trash.

For the best results, create direct mail that is clear and concise. You have just a few seconds to be understood and engage them to read more rather than toss your mail piece in the trash.

So how can you be sure you are creating the best message?

  1. What Is Your Goal? Do you need to sell so many widgets or get so many phone calls? Clearly define your goal and how you will track results before you start writing.
  2. Write a List About Your Customers: What is their biggest problem? Who are they? What makes them happy? What makes them mad? Again, you need to be specific about them in order to create an actionable persona.
  3. Pick One Main Message: You should theme your entire message around one key idea. It needs to be easy to grasp quickly and be relevant to your audience.
  4. Benefit: Get specific on ONE benefit that they are in desperate need of. Consult your list about your customers to find which benefit will work best. The benefit sells your product or service, not features.
  5. Guarantee: Offer them some type of guarantee to alleviate any buying concerns. This shows buyer that you stand behind your product or service, because it really is the best and they should buy it.

We strongly suggest that you test message versions with different groups of your list. In order to test correctly, you will need to group like people together to get the right message. A benefit that works well for one group may be a dud for another. So take your time in creating the groups and which messages should go to which group. Make sure you can track your responses to see which ones are working best. You can make changes to the ones that had less traction.

Okay. Now you are ready to put it all together and write your messaging. Most of the time, there is still fluff in the message after the first couple of drafts. Go back though everything and eliminate any word that is not necessary. No extra words and no acronyms should be in your final copy. Make sure to have someone outside of your organization read your final copy. You need to see if they understand what you are saying, in the way you meant them to. Usually there is a need for a few more edits.

Your direct mail piece to should be easy to understand, targeted to the right people and with a clear call to action. Never use acronyms on your mail piece, they are too easily misunderstood. Remove long explanations and fluff from your message. You can provide links on the mail piece for them to look up more information if they want to, but most people prefer concise, straight-to-the-point benefits that make them want to buy. Are you ready to get started?