Tag Archive | "Focus"

3 Areas of Focus for Consistently High-Quality Content

OK, I’m just going to say it. In today’s world, publishing second-rate content is a total waste of time. There’s no point in contributing to the growing pile of mediocrity. It wastes your time, and, worse, it wastes your audience’s time. Sometimes I’ll see a marketer complaining that: “I spent two years doing all of
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Essence Pro: A Theme that Allows You to Focus on the Essentials

Announcing Essence Pro, a beautiful, clutter-free theme for sites in the health, wellness, and lifestyle niches. Imagined and built by our own Rafal Tomal and Chris Hufnagel, it’s designed for simplicity, both at the exterior and on the back end, allowing you and your readers to focus on the essentials. Some key features include: Customizable
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Quit Annoying Your Audience! Take 3 Simple Steps to Focus Your Content

Ever have a friend who tells stories that never seem to go anywhere? It sounds okay at first, then it spins off to a tangent about how they met their spouse, then we go into their first college dorm room, with a side trip to that deeply formative event that happened in third grade, then
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Focus on What Needs to Happen

he-vincent-dignan

My guest today is a speaker, guerrilla marketer, and an entrepreneur.

He founded PlanetIvy.com and ScreenRobot. These two sites combined have received nearly 20 million page views without any paid marketing.

He is currently the founder of Magnific, a company that helps grow early-stage companies through a combination of rapid social media growth, guerrilla community management tactics, and growth hacks.

Magnific also beat out more than 1,500 other startups to be accepted into the prestigious accelerator TechStars London.

Now, let’s hack …

Vincent Dignan.

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To leave a rating or comment, visit iTunes.

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Can SEOs Stop Worrying About Keywords and Just Focus on Topics? – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Should you ditch keyword targeting entirely? There’s been a lot of discussion around the idea of focusing on broad topics and concepts to satisfy searcher intent, but it’s a big step to take and could potentially hurt your rankings. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand discusses old-school keyword targeting and new-school concept targeting, outlining a plan of action you can follow to get the best of both worlds.

Can We Abandon Keyword Research & On-Page Targeting in Favor of a Broader Topic/Concept Focus in Our SEO Efforts?

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week, we’re going to talk about a topic that I’ve been seeing coming up in the SEO world for probably a good 6 to 12 months now. I think ever since Hummingbird came out, there has been a little bit of discussion. Then, over the last year, it’s really picked up around this idea that, “Hey, maybe we shouldn’t be optimizing for researching and targeting keywords or keyword phrases anymore. Maybe we should be going more towards topics and ideas and broad concept.”

I think there’s some merit to the idea, and then there are folks who are taking it way too far, moving away from keywords and actually losing and costing themselves so much search opportunity and search engine traffic. So I’m going to try and describe these two approaches today, kind of the old-school world and this very new-school world of concept and topic-based targeting, and then describe maybe a third way to combine them and improve on both models.

Classic keyword research & on-page targeting

In our classic keyword research, on-page targeting model, we sort of have our SEO going, “Yeah. Which one of these should I target?”

He’s thinking about like best times to fly. He’s writing a travel website, “Best Times to Fly,” and there’s a bunch of keywords. He’s checking the volume and maybe some other metrics around “best flight times,” “best days to fly,” “cheapest days to fly,” “least crowded flights,” “optimal flight dates,” “busiest days to fly.” Okay, a bunch of different keywords.

So, maybe our SEO friend here is thinking, “All right. She’s going to maybe go make a page for each of these keywords.” Maybe not all of them at first. But she’s going to decide, “Hey, you know what? I’m going after ‘optimal flight dates,’ ‘lowest airport traffic days,’ and ‘cheapest days to fly.’ I’m going to make three different pages. Yeah, the content is really similar. It’s serving a very similar purpose. But that doesn’t matter. I want to have the best possible keyword targeting that I can for each of these individual ones.”

“So maybe I can’t invest as much effort in the content and the research into it, because I have to make these three different pages. But you know what? I’ll knock out these three. I’ll do the rest of them, and then I’ll iterate and add some more keywords.”

That’s pretty old-school SEO, very, very classic model.

New school topic- & concept-based targeting

Newer school, a little bit of this concept and topic targeting, we get into this world where folks go, “You know what? I’m going to think bigger than keywords.”

“I’m going to kind of ignore keywords. I don’t need to worry about them. I don’t need to think about them. Whatever the volumes are, they are. If I do a good job of targeting searchers’ intent and concepts, Google will do a good job recognizing my content and figuring out the keywords that it maps to. I don’t have to stress about that. So instead, I’m going to think about I want to help people who need to choose the right days to buy flights.”

“So I’m thinking about days of the week, and maybe I’ll do some brainstorming and a bunch of user research. Maybe I’ll use some topic association tools to try and broaden my perspective on what those intents could be. So days of the week, the right months, the airline differences, maybe airport by airport differences, best weeks. Maybe I want to think about it by different country, price versus flexibility, when can people use miles, free miles to fly versus when can’t they.”

“All right. Now, I’ve come up with this, the ultimate guide to smart flight planning. I’ve got great content on there. I have this graph where you can actually select a different country or different airline and see the dates or the weeks of the year, or the days of the week when you can get cheapest flights. This is just an awesome, awesome piece of content, and it serves a lot of these needs really nicely.” It’s not going to rank for crap.

I don’t mean to be rude. It’s not the case that Google can never map this to these types of keywords. But if a lot of people are searching for “best days of the week to fly” and you have “The Ultimate Guide to Smart Flight Planning,” you might do a phenomenal job of helping people with that search intent. Google is not going to do a great job of ranking you for that phrase, and it’s not Google’s fault entirely. A lot of this has to do with how the Web talks about content.

A great piece of content like this comes out. Maybe lots of blogs pick it up. News sites pick it up. You write about it. People are linking to it. How are they describing it? Well, they’re describing it as a guide to smart flight planning. So those are the terms and phrases people associate with it, which are not the same terms and phrases that someone would associate with an equally good guide that leveraged the keywords intelligently.

A smarter hybrid

So my recommendation is to combine these two things. In a smart combination of these techniques, we can get great results on both sides of the aisle. Great concept and topic modeling that can serve a bunch of different searcher needs and target many different keywords in a given searcher intent model, and we can do it in a way that targets keywords intelligently in our titles, in our headlines, our sub-headlines, the content on the page so that we can actually get the searcher volume and rank for the keywords that send us traffic on an ongoing basis.

So I take my keyword research ideas and my tool results from all the exercises I did over here. I take my topic and concept brainstorm, maybe some of my topic tool results, my user research results. I take these and put them together in a list of concepts and needs that our content is going to answer grouped by combinable keyword targets — I’ll show you what I mean — with the right metrics.

So I might say my keyword groups are there’s one intent around “best days of the week,” and then there’s another intent around “best times of the year.” Yes, there’s overlap between them. There might be people who are looking for kind of both at the same time. But they actually are pretty separate in their intent. “Best days of the week,” that’s really someone who knows that they’re going to fly at some point and they want to know, “Should I be booking on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or a Monday, or a Sunday?”

Then, there’s “best times of the year,” someone who’s a little more flexible with their travel planning, and they’re trying to think maybe a year ahead, “Should I buy in the spring, the fall, the summer? What’s the time to go here?”

So you know what? We’re going to take all the keyword phrases that we discovered over here. We’re going to group them by these concept intents. Like “best days of the week” could include the keywords “best days of the week to fly,” “optimal day of week to fly,” “weekday versus weekend best for flights,” “cheapest day of the week to fly.”

“Best times of the year,” that keyword group could include words and phrases like “best weeks of the year to fly,” “cheapest travel weeks,” “lowest cost months to fly,” “off-season flight dates,” “optimal dates to book flights.”

These aren’t just keyword matches. They’re concept and topic matches, but taken to the keyword level so that we actually know things like the volume, the difficulty, the click-through rate opportunity for these, the importance that they may have or the conversion rate that we think they’re going to have.

Then, we can group these together and decide, “Hey, you know what? The volume for all of these is higher. But these ones are more important to us. They have lower difficulty. Maybe they have higher click-through rate opportunity. So we’re going to target ‘best times of the year.’ That’s going to be the content we create. Now, I’m going to wrap my keywords together into ‘the best weeks and months to book flights in 2016.’”

That’s just as compelling a title as “The Ultimate Guide to Smart Flight Planning,” but maybe a tiny bit less. You could quibble. But I’m sure you could come up with one, and it uses our keywords intelligently. Now I’ve got sub-headings that are “sort by the cheapest,” “the least crowded,” “the most flexible,” “by airline,” “by location.” Great. I’ve hit all my topic areas and all my keyword areas at the same time, all in one piece of content.

This kind of model, where we combine the best of these two worlds, I think is the way of the future. I don’t think it pays to stick to your old-school keyword targeting methodology, nor do I think it pays to ignore keyword targeting and keyword research entirely. I think we’ve got to merge these practices and come up with something smart.

All right everyone. I look forward to your comments, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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SearchCap: Twitter Renews Focus On SEO, Facebook’s New Places Directory & Mobile Search, Shopping & Buying Tips

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web. From Search Engine Land: EBay Dumps Google Syndicated Ads For Bing Ads On Mobile Devices Quietly, eBay has dumped Google AdWords sponsored text ads from mobile devices in favor of Bing…



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Focus on These 4 Steps to Harness the Addictive Power of Email (And Turn Your Traffic Into Business)

social women standing in line for a sale

Are you working your butt off to run your business?

But feeling you’re not making enough progress?

You’re building a social following, slaving over weekly blog posts, and managing a heavy client load. Perhaps you’d also love to develop digital products or write a book. But it’s difficult to find the time when you juggle so many demands, right?

Building a thriving online business may often feel like an insurmountable task.

But when you learn the right way to apply the addictive power of email, you’ll possess a dynamite business tool.

A laser-sharp focus on growing and engaging your email list will help you turn casual blog readers into repeat visitors. Sound good?

Here are four steps to make email an integral part of your online business.

Step 1: Hook readers with your voice

You know the concept of a “bribe,” don’t you?

A “bribe” is an incentive for subscribers to join your list.

A report or ebook is the most commonly used incentive, but how many free ebooks have you downloaded that you still haven’t read?

Ebooks are now so common that their value has rapidly diminished. Have you seen how many Kindle books can be bought for the price of a Starbucks coffee?

What’s more, an ebook isn’t addictive. An ebook won’t build long-term connections with readers because it doesn’t invite them to come back. One ebook rarely gets readers hooked on your voice.

So, how do you hook readers instead?

Your first option is to build a content library. Once you have a content library, you can give readers the option of registering to join your library, rather than subscribing to your newsletter.

To create your library, consider sprucing up a series of blog posts and turning them into ebooks or an exclusive series of video tutorials. When you use the Rainmaker Platform to set up your library, the registration process for visitors is simple.

To see how this works, you can register for Copyblogger’s free ebook library, which includes ebooks on copywriting, content marketing, landing pages, and more.

Your second option for an addictive bribe is a short e-course. In its simplest form, an e-course drip-feeds tips by email to your subscribers.

Rather than “hearing” your voice only once a week when you send your blog update, your e-course allows you to email new subscribers frequently, so you can turn cold connections into warm friends.

Creating an e-course is not as difficult as you might think:

  • Brainstorm at least 30 simple tips around a problem your readers struggle with
  • Pick your favorite 10 to 20 tips — the best tips are easy to implement and solve common problems
  • Write a short email for each tip
  • Consider increasing the appeal of your e-course by including one or two free downloadable guides (you can re-use an old ebook!)
  • Create an enticing name for your e-course

Don’t be afraid to schedule your emails frequently. When readers join your course, they’re eager to learn from you. New voices are exciting, so this is your chance to get readers hooked.

For example, if you join my 16-part snackable writing course for busy people, you’ll receive ultra-short emails with writing tips you can implement instantly.

What value can you give your readers so they look forward to your emails? And so they actually email you if they happen to miss one or two installments?

Step 2: Invite blog readers to become fans

How do you get more casual blog readers to join your list so you gain opportunities to pitch and sell your services or products?

Before polishing your sign-up forms, consider these two traffic sources:

  • Traffic you control: This is traffic from, for instance, a link in an author bio of a guest post or from a SlideShare presentation you’ve made; you can control where web page readers land. Rather than sending them to your home page, create a dedicated landing page to increase your conversion rates.
  • Other traffic: You can’t always control where readers land — search or social traffic can arrive anywhere on your site. You can add prominent sign-up forms on your home and about pages, at the top of your blog posts and archive pages, and in your sidebar. For example, Buffer recently doubled their email signups by offering more options to join their newsletter (without popups!).

A common mistake when enticing readers to join your list is to promote it solely with features like a free ebook or e-course. Readers are more interested in the benefits of your information.

The titles of Copyblogger’s ebooks, for instance, highlight benefits like:

  • Landing Pages: How to Turn Traffic into Money
  • Content Marketing: How to Build an Audience that Builds Your Business
  • How to Create Content That Converts

And the landing page for my 16-part snackable e-course promises you these benefits:

  • Learn simple persuasion tricks — such as the power of the subtle nod
  • Discover how to cure sentence bloat and avoid irritating your readers
  • Write more seductive content and win more business

Readers will join your list and become fans when you demonstrate how you will make their lives better.

Step 3: Review your traffic sources

Website traffic doesn’t fuel your business. Most traffic bounces off your website without ever returning.

As you review your list-building activities, you must understand which traffic turns into email subscribers.

If you haven’t done so already, set up a goal in Google Analytics so you can see which traffic converts best. This is how:

  • Go to “Admin” at the top of your Google Analytics dashboard
  • Under the “View” section, select “Goals”
  • Click the red “New goal” button
  • Select “Custom,” click “Next step,” give your goal a name (e.g., “course” or “library registration”), and select your type of goal — in most cases this is a destination
  • Click “Next step” and enter the URL people reach once they’ve completed the conversion — it’s usually a “thank you” page that appears after they’ve signed up for your newsletter or free trial, or after they’ve purchased your product
  • Click “Create goal”

Once you’ve set up your goals, you can start evaluating your traffic sources:

  • Which guest posts generate the most subscribers?
  • How do conversions from social media traffic compare to conversions from guest posts?
  • Which social media activity generates the most subscribers?
  • How well does search engine traffic convert?
  • Which landing page converts the best?

To strengthen your ability to grow your list, you must understand which of your activities work and which don’t.

Step 4: Hook readers on you

Inboxes are bursting under the weight of too many emails. Nobody wants yet another email, another newsletter, another update.

How can you stand out so readers look forward to your emails? Follow these essential email writing tips:

  • Write in a conversational tone, so readers feel your email is personal
  • Consider adding tidbits about yourself, so readers get to know you
  • Be concise; poorly edited emails waste readers’ time
  • Always add value and be helpful

Stop thinking about readers as subscribers, and write as if you’re emailing one friend.

Here’s what to do next

Ready to seriously grow your email list?

Block 45 minutes in your writing journal this week to:

  1. Spend 15 minutes generating ideas to grow your list
  2. Spend 15 minutes brainstorming ideas to engage your list
  3. Make two or three top ideas your first priorities
  4. Block time on your calendar to execute these tasks

A responsive audience is the foundation of a successful business, so the best way to build this asset is to grow your email list and engage your subscribers.

The truth about building a thriving business

The size of your list is not as important as the enthusiasm and engagement levels of your readers.

Do they know you? Do they trust you? Do they look out for your next email? Do they miss you when you’re on vacation?

When you treat your email subscribers like good friends, you can build your own tribe and community with those special relationships.

How do you develop relationships with your readers?

What’s the most addictive offer you present to your audience?

Let me know over on Google+

Flickr Creative Commons Image via Paul Townsend.

About the Author: Henneke Duistermaat is an irreverent copywriter and marketer. She’s on a mission to stamp out gobbledygook and to make boring business blogs sparkle. Get her free 16-Part Snackable Writing Course for Busy People and learn how to enchant your readers and win more business.

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Simplify Your Inbound Marketing Process: Focus on Content Assets

Posted by kaiserthesage

Content ties everything in the digital marketing realm together—that’s why it is king.

Content creation has been the core part of my blog/business’ inbound marketing strategy this year, which was around 70% of my entire marketing effort. The other 30% was allocated to content promotion/distribution, relationship building, site optimization, and analytics.

So this post is basically a case study of how I simplified a very complex process by only focusing on one integral part of inbound marketing (content), and how that led to hundreds of service leads for our company this year.

On content strategy

Content assets help brands communicate their messages to their target audiences. These may come in the form of visual guides, web-based tools, extensive resources and many more (as also listed by Cyrus Shepard on his recent Moz post).

In my case, I aim for every blog post I publish to be an asset that I can continuously optimize and improve.

So in order for my overall campaign to be really scalable (and for me to be able to easily integrate other inbound marketing practices), I based my content development efforts on these core principles:

  • Create content that contains ideas/information that isn’t found anywhere else.
  • Make the content very comprehensive and evergreen if possible.

And as for the content formats, I mostly focused on creating:

  • Case studies
  • Extensive and evergreen blog posts (how-to’s)
  • Reusable content (newsletters, slide presentations, PDFs, etc.)

If in case you’re wondering about the content assets I’ve repurposed, here are few samples:

2 months ago, I released a 4 part newsletter series that talks about 12 different scalable link building tactics.

After a couple of weeks, I decided to publish the entire series as a long-form blog post here on Moz.

Another sample is with one of my most popular guides this year (that was also featured on Moz’s top-10 monthly newsletter) entitled 22 link building tips from @xightph, which I just recently turned into a SlideShare presentation:

Perhaps this approach of allocating the majority of my efforts into content development is easier for me to accomplish because I established my blog’s readership 2 years before I tried it, and also given that I’ve already built relationships with other online marketers who habitually share my new blog posts.

I still believe that this exact process is replicable for those who haven’t yet established themselves. Since it always comes down to what you can provide to your industry and finding ways to let others know you have it.

Content = links

Content assets are able to attract and build links over time, knowing that it is in the nature of content to be genuinely linkable.

Link building becomes automatic when you focus on creating useful and actionable content on a regular basis (and, of course, letting other people who’re interested in your content’s topic know that your content exists).

Your content won’t stand on its own and be linkable by itself, so it’s also important to make an effort for it to be more visible to your target audience. Here are a few things you can do to ensure it’ll get to your audience:

  • Outreach: Connect with other content publishers, industry influencers, and enthusiasts, and see if they’re interested in checking out your content.
  • Social ads: Use content placement services from Facebook or StumbleUpon to get more eyeballs to your content.
  • Conversations: Participate and share your content on relevant discussions from online communities in your space (forums, groups, blogs, Q&A sites, etc.).
  • Distribution: Promote your content assets through other content distribution channels such as guest blogging, regular columns, newsletters, slide presentations, videos, or podcasts.

Further reading:

Content = relationships

Providing high-value content assets on a regular basis will also help you easily connect and engage other content publishers in your industry.

This can somehow impact how other people perceive your brand as a publisher, especially when other thought leaders are sharing your content, interacting with your brand, and inviting you to contribute to their websites (which is quite similar to what Moz has done in past years).

Relationships, partnerships, and alliances are vital in this age of marketing, as they can help increase your readership and follower base, and can particularly help improve the shareability of your site’s content.

Here are a few pointers on how to engage and build relationships with industry influencers:

  • Mention or use their works as a reference for your content. You can also ask them to review and validate the information within your content to build a rapport (which is also a great way to get them to see the quality of your work).
  • Make sure that your content appeals to their audience/followers; this increases the likelihood of getting your content shared.
  • Don’t worry. You don’t have any reason to be afraid to reach out to influencers when you’re really confident with the caliber of your content.

Content = social activity

With the right push, a well-thought-out piece of content will almost always do well in terms of social sharing. Most content assets are designed to be share-worthy, and the common factors that make most content assets shareable are:

  • Their design and if they’re visually appealing.
  • If they’ve been shared by popular/influential entities in their industries.
  • If the content is emotionally compelling, educational, useful, and/or just simply adds unique value to the industry.

Making your linkable assets timeless or evergreen can also amplify its social activity, given that every time it gets a new visitor the content remains relevant, which can continuously increase the amount of social shares it is getting.

And the more you create content assets on your website, the more you can grow your following base and network. Which is why content plays a big role in social media – because it’s what people are sharing.

For more actionable tips on increasing your content assets’ social activity, you might want to also check the post I wrote a few weeks ago at Hit Reach on how to get more social shares for your site.

Content = search rankings

The ways in which search engines determine web pages’ importance (and whether they really deserve to be prominently visible in search results) have evolved over the years.

Major factors such as relevance (which can be measured through usage/page activity) and authority (measured through social, links, domain authority, brand signals, etc.), though, still play a huge role in terms of search rankings. These metrics are also elements that most successful content assets embody.

Great content generates rankings.

A couple of pointers on making the most out of your site’s content pool to boost your SEO:

  • Turn the pages on your website that target key industry terms into evergreen content assets.
  • Optimize your important pages/content assets for interaction, conversions, and user-experience. For example, test your pages’ CTAs, encourag people to share the content, etc. These are the key areas that will make your pages rank better in search results.

Further reading:

Content = email subscribers

Email marketing is an essential part of inbound marketing, because it’s a marketing platform that many businesses have full control of (owned media).

Growing your email list is a whole lot easier when you’re consistently putting new content up on your site (and especially when you consider every piece of content you launch as an asset).

The more content you publish, the more people get to discover your brand, which can ultimately increase your chances of getting them to subscribe or sign up for your email newsletter.

Tips on how to increase email sign-ups:

  • Make your opt-in form(s) very visible on the site’s key landing pages.
  • Incentivize sign-ups by offering free content such as ebooks, whitepapers, newsletter series, and/or access to free web-based tools.

Content = conversions

Content assets can definitely lift conversions, mainly because they can strongly demonstrate the brand’s domain expertise and authority.

If you’ve planted a lot of useful and actionable content on your site, then these things are influencing your site’s ability to convert visitors.

More on improving your content assets’ conversions:

  • Identify which landing pages/assets are constantly driving sales/new customers/service inquiries to your business. Make them more visible by building more internal/incoming links to them, improving or updating the content itself to earn better search rankings, sharing them on social networks, or basically anything that can improve their traffic.
  • Continually test and improve the content’s calls to action.

Becoming a better inbound marketer

Before I became an SEO in 2010, I was a freelance writer. It never occurred to me that I’d be doing both in the future—and actually more.

But I guess knowing how to get the right traffic and having a better grasp of the kinds of content that my audience needs and wants to read made me a better inbound marketer.

I would love to hear your ideas about this approach to inbound marketing, or if you have questions, I’d also love to see them in the comments section. You can also follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

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Google’s New Mobile Guidelines Focus On Delivering Content In Less Than A Second

One second. That’s about how long it took you to read the two words above, and it’s also the focus of Google’s latest advice for webmasters when it comes to developing mobile websites. The company has published new guidelines that emphasize why sites should deliver above-the-fold…



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Making Your Online Marketing Work: Sharpen Your Focus on This One Thing

Image of Blurry Eye Chart

You devour online marketing lessons. You feast on articles, reports, books, and ebooks.

Maybe you spend some of your precious time attending webinars and conferences, and you can’t help but join the conversation on blogs and social networks.

Good for you.

There’s a ton of information to take in, the landscape changes daily, and if you’re going to have success marketing your product, service, or idea online, you need to master a good many practices, techniques, and tools.

The more these ingredients get heaped onto our plates, the more the meal calls for a bowl and spoon. It’s digital soup, my friend.

Clarity is hard to achieve. So, pencils out. It’s pop quiz time …

What should you focus on to make your online marketing more effective?

  1. Content
  2. Social networking
  3. Search
  4. Analytics
  5. All of the above
  6. None of the above

Answer: (6). I told you this was a tough one.

If you answered “5″ it wouldn’t be fair to give you an “F.” You studied the choices and decided it’s not all that effective to focus on just one ingredient in this complex recipe.

They’re absolutely interdependent, you’re right about that.

But you’d be wrong to focus on each of these items as tactics alone.

As marketers, we fall into this trap time and again. Right now, in offices everywhere, marketers’ pulses are racing with questions such as:

  • How will we produce video content?
  • What’s our Facebook strategy?
  • Should we revisit our keywords?
  • What’s producing the peaks and valleys in our website traffic?

These are good questions. I applaud you for asking them and agree whole-heartedly that they deserve thoughtful answers.

But you need to push these questions to the back burner until you answer one far more important question …

What does the customer want?

The customer — I chose the singular for a reason. The most effective online marketers have one thing — the word You — written boldly on a sticky note and forever attached to their frontal lobes.

“You” is a person your marketing strategy must focus on, a word your copywriter must use, the living, breathing person your designs need to appeal to and your social media specialist must connect with.

“You” has five senses. Can your marketing team state in no uncertain terms what he or she wants to see, hear, smell, touch, and taste?

“You” opts in or out. “You” follows your company or a competitor. “You” either does or doesn’t find your pages and posts via search. “You” affects your numbers, but is far more complex than a zero or a one.

So what’s wrong with “We?”

A week or so ago, I’m on the phone with a new client and his marketing team. They want my honest opinion about their home page, so I give it a quick once over and say, “It’s all so self-serving. The word ‘we’ is the subject of practically every sentence.

Someone on the other end of the line doesn’t like it. “What’s wrong with we?,” he protests.

If I was in the same room, I might have kissed him for writing such a great line for me. Though it’s the bane of copywriters the world over, in one form or another, clients have been asking this question since the beginning of time.

I go on to explain the website visitor isn’t there for we. He’s not interested in your company. He’s dealing with a challenge. That issue got him a-Googling, and lucky for you, it drove him to you.

If you feed him a steady stream of “we, we, we,” and start singing your own praises, he’ll bounce right back to the search engine and find someone who’s going to help him solve his problem.

That’s what’s wrong with we.

Now for a clinic in you.

The most effective marketers focus on the customer. While it may be the oldest lesson in marketing communications, all you have to do is read corporate websites to be reminded how often it’s forgotten.

How to forge your way down the more effective “you” path

  • Develop detailed customer personas — You can’t push your customer’s hot buttons until you know what they are. Conduct research by interviewing and surveying customers, observing social media behaviors, mining data, and asking the sales and support team for insights gained from their interactions. Armed with the answers to what makes your customers tick, document fictional bios or personas to represent different types of customers.
  • Find the pleasure and the pain — The act of buying boils down to a person striving to avoid pain or increase pleasure. Yes, even in business. Understand what hurts and what makes the prospect’s heart race.
  • Recognize the hurdles — What might derail the sale? Potential hindrances often include price, terms, competitive offerings, approval protocols, risk, time frames, and lack of urgency. Take a proactive approach to addressing common deal breakers.
  • Re-orient your language — As soon as you find your communications creeping back in the direction of what you do, what you make and how you do business, stop. Retreat. Turn features into benefits. Turn around first- and/or third-person voiced propositions into a “you” statement or question.
  • Remember, how to win friends and influence people

    • Make your prospect feel important — Demonstrate appreciation and give encouragement.
    • Arouse an eager want — These are Dale Carnegie’s words. As are these: “The only way on earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it.”
    • Smile — In copy? Why not? Use welcoming, upbeat, and friendly words and spread the love.
    • Personalize — Apply what you know to make your message as customized and personal as possible.
    • Talk in terms of the other person’s interests — There’s Carnegie again, delivering a copywriting 101 course.

    And, in Dale’s legendary guidebook, he writes,

    You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years trying to get other people interested in you.

    This is a hard habit to break, but you must break it.

    Track the changes that really matter

    The “you” path tends to take unexpected turns. That is to say, if you create a map and follow it forever more, you’re bound to get lost.

    The goal is to connect with and meet the needs of your audience—people—and people change. Brian Clark reminds you of this in the Copyblogger ebook The Business Case for Agile Content Marketing.

    So, when you understand the need to be agile with your online marketing endeavors, it follows you’ll then stay perpetually tuned-in to the mindset of your target audience.

    As Pamela Wilson explains in How to Create an Agile Content Marketing strategy (and Stay Sane Doing It), you need to determine which content your audience responds to and adjust accordingly.

    Remember the one thing that doesn’t change

    You’re not going to dig into any deeply useful source about content that doesn’t get into search, about social that doesn’t get into content, and every other conceivable combination.

    These strategies are awesome. In this age dominated by all things digital, online marketing (done right) is more powerful than ever.

    But the landscape evolves faster than ever. In the field of marketing, the lines will continue to blur. The tools and tactics we rely on will continue to change.

    The need to focus on the customer will not.

    About the Author: Barry Feldman is a content marketing creator and strategist, copywriter and creative director. He writes for several leading online marketing websites and recently published “The Plan to Grow Your Business with Effective Online Marketing.” If you’d like a piece of his mind, visit Feldman Creative.

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