Google’s Shift from Answers to Journeys: What Does It Mean for SEO? by @jasonhennessey

From dog training to fidget spinners, when users look for information, they usually start their journey with a Google search.

It used to be that Google’s algorithm tried its best to give users the answers they were searching for. However, today, things aren’t that simple.

With concepts like user intent and the buyer’s journey becoming increasingly important, Google has revamped its algorithm in order to better understand what users are actually searching for when they type in a phrase or question.

But when Google announced their new update in 2018, no one expected that they would not only be changing their algorithm, but that they would actually be changing the way we think about user searches and search history altogether.

Enter Search Journeys.

Why the Change to Search Journeys?

With Search Journeys, Google uses AI to better understand the language that users use when they search.

That is, Search Journeys looks at context – and uses that knowledge to show users content that is most relevant to where they are at in their journey rather than simply giving them an answer to a question.

Google’s AI looks at where users have been, what they have searched for in the past, and what they are likely to look for or do next.

This challenges the way that we have previously seen web searches. It also reveals how Google uses prior search history in an entirely new way in order to present users with better, highly-tailored results.

The Problem with Answers

When users go to look something up online, they first go to their chosen search engine and type in what they want to know.

This could be “painting tips for beginners”, “family lawyer in pasco”, or “how to make a wicker chair”.

In the past, Google focused on giving users the best answer to their question. What was “best” was determined by a variety of factors, like keyword match, relevancy, proximity, and others.

Problem is, the old algorithm didn’t account for what a user meant to do. Rather, it simply tried to find the best fit (i.e., answer) to what they searched for.

Further, Google wasn’t predictive in what to show users next based on previous searches or where they were at in their “search journey”.

The Purpose of Following the User Search Journey

Now, Google knows that there can be a variety of things that users are looking for when they type in a given term, and that there can be many different stages to that process.

Here’s an example of a user’s Search Journey in action:

A user starts their search for a family law attorney in Pasco. They Google a few terms, like “family lawyer near me” and “best family lawyer in pasco”.

After visiting a few law firm websites, making a mental note of who to hit back later, they decide to think on it a bit.

A week later, they Google the same terms again.

Only this time, Google knows what websites they have visited and for how long. The algorithm knows that they aren’t really looking to explore new options, but are wanting to decide between the options they found in their first search.

So, Google may show the user reviews of the law firms they checked out already, or present them with content focused on how to hire a lawyer.

Already, we can see how this lines up with what we already understand about the buyer’s journey.

Users often start by looking for a solution to a problem, then they weigh their options, and then they are ready to buy.

With Search Journeys, Google’s algorithm uses user history to figure out where a user is at in their journey and then present them with content that fits.

How Do Google Search Journeys Work?

The introduction of Search Journeys was built upon a similar concept as Knowledge Graph – a technology that looked at the connections between people, places, things, and facts. However, Search Journeys added AI in order to understand how these connections are built and how they grow over time.

Basically, Search Journeys use this information to understand how user searches and intentions change the more users learn about a topic that they’re interested in.

Activity Cards

Search Journeys uses something called Activity Cards to remember articles and webpages that users have visited after searching a particular topic.

This Activity Card appears at the top of a user’s search feed. It shows users the webpages they have previously visited and how long ago it was that they last viewed the page.

This is so incredible from a user standpoint because it reminds users of what they searched for last and why it was of interest to them. Further, it gives Google important data for what content to present to users next.

But, there is so much more to Search Journeys than the flawless integration of previous search history into search feed. It helps Google generate results that are most likely to match where users are at in their journey – rather than simply presenting them with an answer to a question.

Google Collections

Along with Search Journeys and Activity Cards, Google has also developed what they call Collections.

Collections allow users to save information and content in a Collection in order to refer back to it later. It is similar to what Pinterest does with Boards, but on a much wider scale.

Users can save an article, webpage, or picture to their Collection. They can then visit the Collection later, rename it, edit it, delete anything they no longer want, and even share the Collection to others through a simple link.

Then, within the search results, Google will provide users with even more content relevant to what they have already saved. That’s because the algorithm now has more contextual information to understand where a user is at in their Search Journey.

Users are then presented with content that deepens their knowledge about the topics they are interested in.

What Does This Mean for SEO?

For SEO professionals and digital marketers, the introduction of Search Journeys presents a new way to understand search – primarily, the why behind what users search for.

It’s importance to map keywords to stages of the buyer’s journey, whether it’s the Information, Decision, or Buying stage.

Google Search Journeys use AI and advanced data to determine what stage users are at when they search for something.

For instance:

  • Are they looking for more information about how to solve a problem?
  • Are they ready to compare different solutions and make a decision about what’s best for them?
  • Have they decided on the best solution and now are looking to buy/sign up/hire?

Google’s AI technology is able to figure this out and show users content that matches what it is they are actually searching for and are ready to see.

But you don’t have to be an AI robot in order to apply this to your own SEO strategy.

There’s much to be learned from the introduction of Search Journeys – from how to conduct keyword research to creating content that matches where users are at in their journey.

Journey-Focused Keyword Research

Identifying the intent of the user has been an important part of the keyword research process.

That’s because it isn’t enough to simply consider what terms you are trying to get a website to rank for, but also which terms will draw in the most relevant, targeted and conversion-ready traffic.

Now, it’s worth considering the buyer’s journey.

Here’s how to do it.

While doing keyword research, you can categorize your keywords by type based on what stage the user is likely at when they are searching for that term.

The three main types are:

  • Informational.
  • Navigational.
  • Transactional.

Informational keywords align with the first stage of the buyer’s journey – where the user is aware that they have a problem and are seeking a solution.

These tend to be “know” keywords that lead them to informative content.

Examples:

  • “do I need a lawyer”
  • “family lawyer in waco”
  • “best family lawyer in waco”

Navigational keywords help users find a specific brand, product, or service. They are already aware of the options and now are trying to make a decision.

With Search Journeys, Google will likely show users content from websites that they have looked at previously.

Examples:

  • “bob johnson law firm reviews”
  • “bob johnson law firm”
  • “directions to bob johnson law firm”

Transactional keywords match the final stage of the buyer’s journey – when a user has done their research, explored their options, and is ready to buy, sign up, or hire.

These terms tend to include:

  • “apply”
  • “buy”
  • “discount”
  • “where to buy”
  • “schedule appointment”

We can deduce that Search Journeys can identify when a user has visited a website and is closer to the Buying stage. Google may then show them content that’s more transactional in nature – urging them to schedule a call, submit an application, or buy a product.

Examples:

  • “bob johnson free consultation”
  • “call bob johnson law firm”

Map Your Keywords to Each Stage

By categorizing your keywords based on these three types, you can better identify what kind of content to create around each term.

You can also be confident that you are drawing in users at each stage of the buyer’s journey.

That will help you avoid creating solely informational or solely commercial content (both of which happen quite often) and miss out on more conversion-ready traffic. The transactional keywords, in particular, help you draw in traffic that is most likely to convert.

Creating Content That Matches Where Users Are At

With Search Journeys in mind, SEO pros and website owners can create content that is uber aligned with what users are searching for – and even match it to each stage of the buyer’s journey.

Doing so will help content creators reel in users from each stage; those looking for informational content, those looking for navigational/commercial content, and those looking for transactional (“buying”) content.

Types of Informational Content

Informational content typically takes the form of blog posts that serve to help users learn something or solve a problem.

Targeting those more question-based terms, this type of content tends to be your ultimate guides, how-tos, and listicles.

Some examples of Informational content could be blog posts like:

  • How to Know if You Need a Family Lawyer
  • 10 Ideas for Remodeling Your Kitchen
  • Why You Aren’t Losing Weight with Crash Diets

Types of Navigational & Commercial Content

Navigational content draws in users that looking for a particular brand. Similarly, Commercial content can target branded terms, but also terms related to the industry, type of business, or category of product.

An example of Navigational content is a Contact Us page that targets “[brand name] directions” or even just the brand name itself.

Commercial content could target terms like “best law firm in Waco” or “trusted Waco family lawyer” with an optimized service page or landing page.

If you are doing SEO for a business, they should ideally rank for their own brand name. At the same time, focusing on Commercial terms will draw in users that are looking for a certain type of business rather than a specific brand.

Types of Transactional Content

Transactional content is the content that draws in the users that are most ready to buy. You will typically have less of this content, especially if you only have one or a few sales pages.

For ecommerce stores, this type of content will be particularly helpful. You can optimize your product pages for terms like:

  • “buy [product]”
  • “buy [products] online”
  • “[product] discounts”

Optimize for conversions and you are likely to increase sales through this type of content.

Applying ‘Search Journeys’ to Your SEO Approach

Search Journeys makes it apparent that Google cares about where users are at in their buyer’s journey when they search for content online – and so should you.

If you are simply targeting keywords to match intent or answer user questions, you could be missing out on conversions on certain steps of your funnel.

By categorizing your target keywords and creating content that matches each stage of the buyer’s journey, you have the opportunity to attract users that are:

  • Looking for information.
  • Weighing their options.
  • Ready to buy.

There are conversion points to be set at each stage, and then you can move users down your funnel.

Will you be considering Search Journeys when you next conduct keyword research?

More Resources:


Image Credits

Featured Image: Shutterstock, modified by author, March 2019

Four visual design cues ecommerce marketers should use in 2019

visual design cues for ecommerce

Digital campaigns are all about visuals in today’s digital world.

According to Deposit Photos on visual trends in 2019,

“To get users to pay attention, visual content across platforms has to have an edge. Brave, bold and sometimes daring choices of visuals are becoming prominent for a reason.”

Social Media Examiner’s 2018 Industry Report shows that 80 percent of marketers use visual assets in their content marketing. And 11 percent more B2C marketers than B2B marketers attest that visual content is the more important type of content today.

Retail marketing without visual content can be boring, unattractive, and will yield low ROI. Visual cues will, however, help direct attention while portraying a message with visual methods of communication, including videos, photos, infographics, memes, and comics.

Using the appropriate visual cues on landing pages will help direct attention and engagement to the intended CTA and if they will get any value from it. You could use bright banners, exclamation marks, arrows, product images, and more.

Here are four visual design cues ecommerce marketers should focus on in 2019:

1. Arrows

Arrows are one of the most commonly used visual cues because they explicitly describe what you should do and are easily understood. They are often used to point to a CTA and could come in different forms. According to ConversionXL, when it comes to using explicit visual cues, an arrow outperforms a human’s line of sight as humans tend to spend twice the average time looking at forms with arrows.

The Gift Rocket design below is an example of a creative way to use arrows. They simply directed the top of the rocket toward what is important.

Example of using arrows as a visual cue

To get the best of arrow cues, ensure the color of your arrows align with the rest of the design and remember not to use more than one arrow, unless where necessary. Also, be creative with your arrows and remember that they have the tendency to increase traction and sales.

2. Color

Color is one of the most important aspects of design and is also a form of communication. The choice and usage of your brand color play a huge role in how you interact with and engage your audience.

Colors have a strong connection with the human mind, as they could help set a mood, make a memory stick or invoke memory, and also affect decision making. It is then imperative that marketers learn how to implement various colors in a campaign to draw attention and help their customers decisions.

Your choice of color could be based on age, location, gender, or trends. Or you could simply use a color that depicts what the brand is about and represents the emotion you want your audience to associate with. Know what your brand stands for and choose a color that accurately depicts it. For example, the color blue could be associated with trust, loyalty, confidence, wisdom, and faith. A popular company that uses this color is Facebook, with its core value being transparency and trust.

The Oxford Summer School also uses the same shade of blue which stands for trust, integrity, and communication across its website and social media platforms. This does not only depict excellence and a professional brand identity but also helps improve brand recognition by 80 percent.

Example of color usage as a visual cue

3. Line of sight

A line of sight can also function as an explicit visual cue. Based on the cognitive bias of deictic (or “pointing”) gaze, eye directions on an image naturally direct viewers to look in the same direction as the line of sight. People often follow the line of sight of others, so if someone on a screen is looking at a quote, form, or testimonial, others will follow. This technique can be used to influence attention and connect emotions to your offer.

This technique was used by both presidential candidates (Trump and Clinton) in the 2016 US elections. Using the line of sight on landing pages as seen in the pictures below, Clinton and Trump’s marketing team guided visitors to the forms on their respective landing pages.

Example on line of sight as a visual cue

Like arrows, the line of sight in an image can be used to draw attention to a CTA button or something significant on the image. It could be a simple eye illustration, an animal picture, or a human photograph looking towards the action point as seen in the image below.

Example of using human figures for the eye of line visual cue

This technique is particularly effective for social media ads with pop up forms, testimonials, and landing pages. Whatever you do make sure, don’t use a human looking away from the intended target.

4. Product imagery

Consistent and high-quality imagery that perfectly describes your product or service is one of the best ways to engage your audience with your brand.

Humans have a short attention span, which leaves you with three seconds or less to capture your audience. Your social media images represent your brand and how your customers view your products to determine if they will purchase or not.

To get the perfect product imagery for your social media that will engage your audience, use high-quality images and high color accuracy. Also, take great close-up photos from different angles to help your customers easily analyze the product.

Conclusion

Visual design is not limited to using videos and gifs on landing pages, and adding cues yield an effective way to convince visitors to act. Don’t be limited by your visitors’ attention span, grab the bull by the horn and guide visitors to a mutually desired outcome with the help of visual cues. Visual design cues, if maximized properly, will help increase conversion ratio, customer satisfaction.

Tell us how you have or plan to make your website stand out with interesting usage of visual design cues.

Pius Boachie is the founder of DigitiMatic, an inbound marketing agency. 

Related reading

Conversation Mapping
lessons learned from launching 100+ campaigns
four tools to structure articles for SEO
link reclamation: a practical guide to turning unlinked brand mentions into links

Backlinks vs social shares: How to make your content rank for different SEO metrics

Backlinks vs social shares How to make your content rank for different SEO metrics

A new study by Kaizen has revealed that content that performs well for backlinks does not necessarily perform well for social shares and vice versa.

Analyzing over 2300 pieces of finance content, Kaizen has found the best performing pieces of content for URL rating, the number of referring domains, and the number of social shares. Nine out of the top 10 pieces of content with the highest URL ratings also featured in the top 10 pieces of content for the most referring domains.

Stats on top content by referring domains and URL ratings

This shows a clear correlation between the two. The higher the quantity of referring domains, the higher the quality of URL rating.

The best-performing piece of content for both URL rating and the number of referring domains was the Corruptions Perceptions Index 2017, by Transparency International. The campaign highlighted the countries that are or are not making progress in ending corruption, finding that the majority of countries were making little or no progress.

Screenshot example of Corruptions Perceptions Index - country wise

Screenshot of Corruptions Perceptions Index scale

But what made this campaign succeed so well in SEO terms?

1. It has global appeal

By placing emphasis on visual components of content, the campaign is easily understandable without language and is based on data from across the world, making it globally link-worthy.

2. It is emotional content

The piece evokes an emotional response from the element of corruption and the fact that the majority of countries in the world are making little or no progress in ending corruption.

3. It is evergreen content

Evergreen content” is content that is not tied to a specific date or time of the year and can be outreached (and can gain links) at any time. In addition, Transparency International is able to update the data each year, creating a new story for outreach and increasing its chances of landing links.

By combining these typical elements of viral content, the Corruption Index earned 6372 referring domains, and a URL rating of 84, making it the most successful piece of finance content in the study. Use these three aspects as a checklist for your own content, and it should emulate great results.

Social shares

The Corruption Perception Index also ranked in the top 10 pieces of content for social shares, with a grand total of nearly 48,000. However, it is only one of two pieces to rank in the top 10 for URL ratings or referring domains and social shares. There is much less correlation between social share success and backlink success, showing that they are not directly or significantly linked.

The most successful piece of content for social shares was this car insurance calculator by Confused.com, with 91,000 total social shares. This piece of content, as well as the majority of the top 10, is B2C-focused. In comparison, the URL rating and referring domains lists are more technical and B2B-focused.

Therefore, B2B content performs better for SEO strategies focused on backlinks, whereas B2C tools and guides suitable for customers rather than businesses perform better for social shares.

The Corruption Perception Index is an exception, performing well for both backlinks and social shares. However, by focusing on analytical data from experts and business people, and by providing relevant data for both businesses and customers, it has equal value for both B2B and B2C audiences.

In conclusion

Don’t expect the same piece of content to perform well for both backlinks and social shares. But, if you are able to create content that provides equal value for both B2B and B2C communities, you will have the opportunity for multiple outreach strategies, with resounding value throughout the industry.

Nathan Abbott is Content Manager at Kaizen.

Related reading

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Content Massacre: Why & How You Must Improve or Remove Old Content [Webinar] by @lorenbaker

Could old content be dragging down the overall “authority” of your website? We think so.

If we agree this is true, then you have an important decision to make: should you improve your old content or remove it?

Making the right decisions during this process can bring great rewards, in terms of traffic, organic search visibility (rankings, featured snippets, etc.), links, conversions, and engagement.

Google spokespeople have downplayed the idea that “old content won’t hurt you” and have warned that removing content is a dangerous SEO strategy.

But is it really? Not based on our results.

Removing Old Content: Is It a Good Idea?

For the last 18+ months, Search Engine Journal has been focused on improving and removing old content. And now SEJ Executive Editor Danny Goodwin is ready to share our impressive results with you.

Learn how getting rid of bad content can bring you great rewards when you join our next webinar on Wednesday, March 27 at 2 p.m. ET.

In this session, you will learn:

  • A repeatable process for auditing and evaluating your existing content. We’ll tell you how to find out what content you have and what you should be looking at to understand whether your old content is helping you, having no impact, or potentially hurting you.
  • How to tell the difference between high-quality and low-quality content. Is your content high quality or low quality? We’ll review what Google has told us over the years, and share some metrics you can use to better evaluate the “quality” of your content.
  • What to do with your existing content. The final step of this process is making data-driven decisions about whether you should improve (update, rewrite, or consolidate) or remove (deindex) old content from search engines.

Learn How Getting Rid of Bad Content Can Boost Your Traffic

We will also share numerous examples of what we did and how it increased overall site traffic by more than 60+ percent year over year.

I’ll host a live Q&A session following the presentation.

Sign up for this webinar now!

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5 Types of Stories Brands & Marketers Should Be Using by @https://twitter.com/seocopychick

For many, the term “storytelling” conjures up memories of reading nursery rhymes or fantastical childhood tales like “Sleeping Beauty” or “Cinderella”.

It often has the connotation of being fuzzy-feely, make-believe, or something best reserved for novels.

So how, then, does storytelling apply to the often fact and data-filled world of marketing?

Believe it or not, some of the same principles of storytelling apply to marketing – weaving a tale with words, speaking to emotion, and leaving readers with a lasting impression.

Marketers & Brands Can Be Storytellers, Too

Storytelling, if done effectively, can do wonders to engage with one’s target audience and entice them to buy.

The issue is, many brands and marketers don’t fancy themselves as storytellers.

The question, Is an analytical mind incongruent with the creativity and emotion of storytelling?

Fortunately, there’s a way to take a data-focused approach to storytelling that will help you make the most of your content when it comes to traffic, shares, and conversions.

Here are five story types that you can use to broaden reach and draw in new clients or customers.

5 Story Types to Engage Your Audience & Drive Them to Take Action

The basic “story types” have been covered ad nauseam in the past, mostly in relation to what kind of emotion they provoke in the reader.

Instead of putting my own spin on these types (most of which marketers have already heard) of, I am bringing up some story types that I have seen pick up traction lately.

The tried-and-true still work, but why be boring?

Apply these to your own brand’s content or incorporate them into the content marketing strategy for your clients.

1. SEO Search Journeys

In late 2018, Google introduced what they call Search Journeys. To me, this is amazing.

Search Journeys takes “user intent” to a whole new level.

Rather than identifying the intent of the user based on the keywords and context used, Google is now using AI to predict where users are at in their Search Journey. Then, Google shows the user content based on what they are likely to be looking for – more information, to weigh their options, or to buy.

This maps closely to our understanding of the buyer’s journey.

A user may be “Problem Aware” and are searching for possible solutions online.

Then, they become “Solution Aware” and start comparing different brands and service providers to each other.

Finally, the user is ready to make a decision, becomes “Product Aware”, and is looking for ways to buy what they want.

Google is working to pinpoint where users are at in the buyer’s journey and then present them with content that will urge them along that journey.

For brands and marketers, this presents that opportunity to create content that draws in users at each stage.

How to Create Story Content that Aligns with the Buyer’s Journey

Brands and marketers alike can take advantage of this Google update by creating content for each step of the target audience’s buyer’s journey.

For example, say someone is looking to remodel their home.

They may first search for “home remodel ideas” or “kitchen remodel examples” to get get some ideas. Google will present them with informative content, assuming they are at the beginning of their search journey.

As a brand or marketer, you can create blog content that addresses “Top 65 Home Remodel Ideas” or “12 Kitchen Remodel Examples Under $5k” to draw in users at this stage.

Then, assume the searcher takes a break and a week later comes back searching for similar terms.

Only this time, Google knows that what they really want are ways to achieve the ideas and examples they saw during their last search. Now, they want to weigh their options.

Google will present them with things like “DIY kitchen remodel or hire a contractor” or even construction contractors in their area.

This is where you may want to target industry-related terms and create content like “Should You Hire a Contractor for Your Kitchen Remodel?” or a service page for “kitchen remodel services in (location)”.

Finally, once they have weighed their options and have visited a few commercial websites, Google can determine that they are about ready to buy.

If they decide to take the DIY route, they may be searching “buy used kitchen cabinets in (location)” or the like.

If they are leaning toward hiring a contractor, they may have gotten as far as to search for a specific company with “(brand) free consultation” or “(brand) costs”.

To draw in users that are right on the edge of buying, you could create content like “(brand) discounts”, “(brand) pricing sheet”, or “buy kitchen remodel materials online”.

Use Search Journeys to Generate More Organic Traffic

By following along with the buyer’s journey, you are essentially creating content that tells a story and leads users down a sales funnel.

For example, “If you are looking for information on [insert product/service here], here’s where to start. After that, here’s how to decide which solution is best for you. Ready to buy? Here’s where to look.”

Google’s intention with search journeys is to predict what users what to know next.

If you are able to create content that maps to each stage of your target audience’s journey, you are already leaps ahead of your competitors when it comes to hopping on this SEO goldmine.

2. Breaking False Beliefs

You spend a lot of time telling your target audience what makes you stand out from the competition, why you should be trusted, and how you understand their pain points better than anyone.

But how much time do you spend breaking down the false beliefs they have about your industry and the types of services you offer?

What Is a False Belief?

First things first: a false belief is an inaccurate belief that your target audience has about your industry, the kinds of services they offer, other service providers, or their own abilities.

These false beliefs often prevent them from seeing the value that you have to offer or from recognizing how much power they themselves have in terms of making monumental changes in their business.

An example of this is the belief that “SEO is all about rankings”.

As marketers, we know this isn’t true. Yet, the brands we aim to help often come to us with this false belief. It then becomes a struggle trying to convince them that rankings are less important than other KPIs, ROI, etc.

What’s a marketer (or savvy brand) to do?

How to Break False Beliefs in Your Story Content

Simply telling someone “You’re wrong and this is why” isn’t going to work. Often, these beliefs are so deeply ingrained that the only way to shake them is through storytelling.

Essentially, you are going to create a story that is so relatable that they can’t help but question whether what they believe has been incorrect all along.

Here’s what it looks like in action:

Say you have a landing page that talks about your SEO services. Let’s assume you target local restaurants.

Based on market research, you happen to know that your target audience assumes that their ranking in Google is the number 1 indicator of whether SEO is working for them.

Knowing this, instead of listing one of the benefits of SEO as being “increased rankings”, you dive into a case study (i.e., story) instead…

“(Brand) came to us on even when they were #1 in Google. The problem? They simply weren’t seeing an influx of new customers. That’s because their website and content didn’t fit what users were actually searching for. Basically, they were targeting the wrong terms. It didn’t matter if they were #1… they wanted their reservation book to be full.

That’s why we optimized their site to draw in customers that were psyched to reserve a table. We didn’t care whether they were #1 or #47 – we were focused on 2x their restaurant revenue. The result? They actually got 3x more reservations after the first 2 months!”

With this story, you create a relatable situation for your target audience: being a restaurant in desperate in of more reservations.

Then, you appeal to their false belief by showing that they aren’t alone – your client had this false belief too – but that your client came around when they saw that they could get more reservations without focusing on rankings.

The increase in revenue was the proof they needed in order to know that SEO works.

Instead of driving home the “what we offer” bits of your business, sometimes all it takes is one false-belief-killing story to get them to trust you. With storytelling, you can prove that you understand their pain points and that you have the right solution, despite what they may have heard elsewhere.

3. The Epiphany Bridge

The “Epiphany Bridge” is a concept first coined by marketing pro and author Russell Brunson.

This is a “marketing secret” he uses in order to “ditch the techno-babble” and inspire one’s target audience to have an epiphany and drive them to buy a product or service.

The basic idea is this: Most of us, at some point in our lives, have thought “Wow! I just need to have this thing/product/service!”

Rather than mulling over a ton of options, we are instantly struck with the epiphany that this thing is perfect for us and we just gotta have it.

That’s because we came to the decision emotionally, not logically. There was something within us that was triggered and made us say “this product is for me”.

Ditch the Techno-Babble, Trigger Emotions

Unfortunately, many marketers and brands forget that this happens. We approach marketing logically, explaining the x, y, and z of what we offer, why it’s great, and why our audience should care.

But sometimes they don’t care. That’s because oftentimes what they are looking for isn’t “features”, but something that will strike them to their core and way “This product/service was meant for YOU”.

Instead, our approach just comes out as techno-babble.

It offends them. It annoys them. It doesn’t work.

Inspiring the Epiphany

Epiphany storytelling takes an entirely different approach.

It involves giving our audience the same epiphany we had when it came to launching our business, product, or service. Instead of throwing a bunch of jargon their way, you get real with them.

Here’s an example:

Say you offer pay-per-click advertising services to law firms.

After a few conversations with law firm owners about how they aren’t sure if Google Ads is a good investment for them, you feel like you are hitting your head against the wall trying to explain why PPC could be so effective for them.

So you think back to when you first discovered PPC.

You remember thinking, “Wow! I’m tired to slaving away over this SEO stuff. I have the money – now I know that I can get leads super fast with PPC!”

With this in mind, the next time you go into the conversation with a prospective client, you ditch the talk about “click-through rate” and “negative keywords” and tell them this story instead:

“You know, I understand your resistance to PPC. I used to be in your shoes. Thing was, I was struggling with getting quick wins from SEO and social media marketing. I decided to test PPC for myself. I was amazed! With $x, I was able to get y leads in only a week! I remember thinking, ‘Why have I been spending all this time on other marketing methods?’ It may not be the cheapest method, but it is definitely the fastest. I feel like you are in the same boat. What would you say if I could get you z new leads this week?”

With epiphany storytelling, you are speaking to a perspective in the language they understand: their own experience.

Hitting on the benefits of your services after the fact can only do so much, especially if they haven’t had that big epiphany yet.

With storytelling, you can help take them there. You can cause that light bulb to come on.

You can do this turning your sales conversations, in your copywriting, and in your website and social media content. You have multiple opportunities to inspire your audience to have an epiphany just like the one you had.

Something to note here: Your story needs to be realistic. It can’t be corny or made-up. The best approach is to speak from your own experience and drive home the emotion.

Authenticity makes it easier for your audience to relate to and trust you.

4. ‘David and Goliath’ Stories

Everyone loves a good “underdog” story.

In fact, this is so evidently true that marketers have been using the concept of “David and Goliath” for quite some time. However, the application of storytelling isn’t always obvious.

What Is a ‘David and Goliath’ Story?

The Biblical story of David and Goliath is about a young shepherd boy that takes down a huge giant with only a stone and a sling.

It’s an inspiring story to many because small brands and entrepreneurs often identify with being the “little guy” up against their larger, more established competitors.

Brands apply this concept to their marketing all the time, speaking to their audience’s emotions through taglines like “we stick up for the little guy!” or “Small, family-owned, trusted” and the like.

Underdog Storytelling in Action

Brands that are new to their industry and/or are up against some major brands may feel like they are little David facing many large Goliaths.

They struggle to stand out because they have limited resources, a small customer base, and perhaps no social proof or reviews.

What’s a brand to do?

Well, being the “little guy” – and really owning it – can be a great positioning tactic. It can be a unique selling point for small brands that can’t (or don’t want to) compete with the “big guys”.

Brands and the marketers that represent them can incorporate this type of storytelling into their brand messaging and marketing content.

Rather than trying to puff up to meet the competition, they can take advantage of the fact that being smaller means offering customers with better customer service, more one-on-one interaction, faster turnaround times, more affordable prices, etc.

A great way to incorporate this messaging is in the web copy and About page.

A brand can draw in their audience with a story like:

“Our client, Joe Johnson, had made his rounds through a lot of SEO agencies already. All of them just treated him like a number. They never took the time to understand the core of his business or his hopes for the future. He came to us knowing that we treat our clients like family with top-notch customer service and a custom-tailored strategy, but that we would also work tirelessly to get him the best results for his marketing budget.”

Many customers are attracted to the idea of a “down-home”, small, family-focused brand.

Dive deep into your market research to see what inspires people to work with your brand or your client’s brand. Then, use that “little guy” status to your advantage.

Bonus: This kind of storytelling can also be inspiring when it comes to sharing testimonials and case studies. Tell a story of when you represented “the little guy” and the right audience will see your brand and compassionate, authentic, and willing to help people no matter their size or budget.

5. Email Stories

When most brands and marketers think of storytelling, they probably think of things like social media posts, blog posts, and website copy.

At the same time, many underestimate the potential of email marketing and use it simply as a way to send business updates and promotions.

But have you considered using storytelling in your email marketing?

How it Works – The Case of the Exploding Toilet

Rather than sending your list standalone emails (like a monthly newsletter or a summary of a recent blog post), you can actually send subscribers on an adventure through sequential story emails.

This involves thinking up a story that would resonate with your list and that somehow ties into the content or offer you are trying to promote.

Then, you break the story up into “chunks” to be used in separate emails that entice a reader to want to read more, day after day.

For example, say you are an SEO agency that serves local plumbing companies.

Your goal is to promote your done-for-you SEO services to help plumbers get more organic traffic.

You think up a story – let’s call it “The Case of the Exploding Toilet” – and figure out how to tie it into your offer seamlessly.

You then plan out your emails.

  • You introduce the story. There’s this mystery of the exploding toilet that a bunch of plumbers are trying to solve. The call-to-action is for subscribers to check their inbox tomorrow to read more.
  • You reveal more details: “here are the clues”. You give subscribers info so they can start thinking of why the toilet is exploding. Again, you tell them to tune in the next day. You also include a sneaky link to a blog post about “15 Clues that Your Website Isn’t SEO-Friendly”.
  • You ask for help. You tell subscribers that you really just don’t know what to do. What do they think is going on? Your CTA is for them to reply with their ideas. This improves your email response rate.
  • Next, you tell them that the answer is going to be revealed in an exclusive video. The CTA is for them to sign up to receive the video, which is, in fact, a webinar. Tell them that in addition to the answer, they will also learn 5 ways to make their plumbing business “explode”.
  • Finally, you send all those that opted in access to the webinar. You tell them the answer to the mystery, but only after painting the picture of the “mystery” of digital marketing for plumbers. The answer to that mystery is SEO. Then you prompt them to schedule a strategy call with you to hear their options.

This is a pretty elaborate example, but it shows how creative you can get with storytelling. But, what’s great is that doing this through email serves many purposes.

You can improve response rate by including CTAs, drive users to other content, get them to opt-in for other offers, and finally get the opportunity to pitch your services – all without coming across as a skeezy salesperson.

With storytelling, you can make things fun, data-fueled, and engaging. Don’t let your email list just sit there. By telling stories, you can bring even the deadest list back to life.

More Resources:

The Case for the Full Stack Digital Writer by @Kammie_Jenkins

You’re scrolling through your feed and stop at an article title that piques your interest.

“How to Create Great Digital Content”

What would you expect to find if you clicked on it?

You probably fell into one of two camps:

  • The “writing for ranking” camp
  • The “writing for engagement” camp

Let me explain.

Think of a spectrum. On one end, you have the more SEO-minded content creators who are hyper-focused on getting Google to surface their content in the top positions of search results.

On the other, you have the copywriters and conversion optimization specialists who are hyper-focused on creating engaging, interesting content that readers will enjoy.

The first camp takes an approach to content creation that centers on strategies like keyword research, n-gram analysis, and TF-IDF.

This method asks, “What are people searching for in Google, and how does Google understand this topic?” Content is then created on the foundation of this research.

The second camp approaches content creation with the question, “What will resonate with our audience?”

Their focus is first on psychographics, using proven copywriting formulas, and getting to know their audience through things like forums, reviews, and surveys.

They want to create enticing content that gets read, shared, and either converts or assists conversions.

So who’s right?

SEO vs. Content Marketing vs. CRO vs. Copywriting…

If you’ve done keyword research around the topics of SEO, content marketing, conversion rate optimization (CRO), or copywriting, you’ll know that they’re often pitted against each other.

  • “SEO vs. Content Marketing”
  • “What’s the difference between SEO and copywriting?”
  • “Which generates higher ROI: CRO or SEO?”

Can’t we all just get along?

To a certain degree, I get it. These searches stem from:

  • People who are confused about the differences between each discipline.
  • And/or marketers who only have the budget for one and need to make the highest-impact choice.

So what is the difference? If I had to boil it down, here are the fundamental questions I believe each discipline seeks to answer:

  • SEO: How can I get Google to find, index, and rank this content?
  • Content marketing: How can I create content that the target audience will find valuable?
  • Conversion rate optimization: How can I get the people reading this page to call, fill out an interest form, sign up for our email list, etc.?
  • Copywriting: How can I write in a way that sells?

But what if you had all four in mind when writing your content?

Introducing: The ‘Full Stack’ Writer

“Full stack” has been primarily popularized to describe a developer who can handle both the front end and the back end of a system or application, but I’m going to borrow from them and use it for writers.

Here’s how I’d define it:

Full-stack writer

noun

Someone who can handle the full spectrum of digital content, able to consider how their content will be perceived by both algorithms and audience.

A full stack writer is:

  • Search engine mindful: Aware of how the content they write will be perceived by search engines, crafting their message around well-researched keywords, and incorporating SEO best practices for things like title tags and headings.
  • Questions driven: Dedicated to creating content that answers real questions and solves actual pain points.
  • Conversion focused: Cognizant of the fact that their content should fulfill a business purpose, and either convert or assist conversions.
  • Engagement forward: Focused on crafting content that the audience will find interesting enough to read, comment on, and share.

The Full-Stack Writer

The Full-Stack Writer

Content Specialists vs. Content Generalists

“But wait a minute… isn’t it good to be a specialist? What if I’m great at getting content to rank but I’m not a great copywriter?”

That’s 100 percent fair. No one should feel pressure to risk their mastery of a discipline to become a jack-of-all-trades. So what’s a content writer to do?

I think this all comes down to the saying Whatever you are, be a good one.

That means if you want to stick solely to conversion copywriting or solely to long-form content, that’s fine! Where I think we need to get better is considering the big picture of whatever type of content we’re producing.

Being responsible writers means we always consider every possible angle of our content, asking whether the intended audience will:

  • Respond to this if shared on social media?
  • Be able to find this content in search engines?
  • Find what they came to learn in the article easily?
  • Be persuaded to convert or make a return visit?

No more pitting ranking against engagement, computational linguistics against psychographics, keyword density against content Kondo-ness (yes, that is my totally made up descriptor for content that “sparks joy”).

We’re all on the same team – the team tasked with using content to get our clients more business!

Humans vs. Machines: The Content Creator’s Dilemma

The reason phrases like “SEO content” (*shudder*) were even introduced into the digital marketer’s vernacular is because we know that we not only have to make our readers happy, but we also have to write in a way that machines will understand and reward.

If we want our content to rank in search engines (and we should!), we have to play by the search engine’s rules. That means writing content in a way that a machine can understand.

But here’s where it gets interesting.

Algorithms like Google’s are trying to emulate what a real human searcher would pick as the best result. So if Google is just trying to pick what a human would pick, shouldn’t we just focus on humans?

Bypass the middleman and just go straight to the destination?

Sort of.

Why Both Matter

Google may be trying to emulate humans, but it’s still a machine. As a machine, it faces the limits of a machine. It relies on programming to act like a human.

That’s why I fully believe there’s value in popular SEO methods of content creation like TF-IDF. It doesn’t just matter what humans want. It matters what search engines think humans want.

But we do our audience and our clients a disservice if we stop there.

As someone who’s both an SEO and a content creator, I have a foot in both the “writing for SEO” and “writing for engagement” worlds. Let me just say, it can get downright confusing.

One minute someone is telling me to intro my articles with an interesting story and the next minute someone is telling me to avoid burying the lede and get straight to the answer.

One is telling me to incorporate important keywords into my headings and the other is telling me to avoid giving everything away in the headings to make it more intriguing.

Why do engagement and rankings have to conflict? Why are we delegating each of these aspects of content to different specialists?

I don’t know about you, but I want to be both!

Writing Content That Ranks, Engages & Converts

The goal of digital content should be to rank, engage, and convert (or assist conversions). After all, what’s a keyword ranking if you don’t win the click? What’s traffic if you don’t win the conversion?

We make an odd delineation when we place content into separate buckets for rankings and engagement.

When we do this, we’re not only doing more work than we have to (at weaker impact), but it also creates an incredibly inconsistent brand voice. I’m sure we’ve all seen the brands who project a fun, lighthearted vibe in the content they share on social media and a mechanical, all-business vibe in the content that ranks in search engines.

But instead of changing voice & tone for every platform and channel, what if we married the two?

Ranking content that’s also engaging.

Engaging content that’s also strong enough to rank organically in search engines.

It’s possible!

Put Yourself in a Reader’s Shoes

You may be an SEO or a content creator, but you’re also a reader.

Think about how you interact with content in your free time. What do you:

  • Engage with?
  • Find helpful?
  • Find compelling enough to take action?

I think my answer to that question is probably similar to your own.

I want the articles I read to be concise, to the point, and clearly answer my questions, but I also want to enjoy reading them. I probably won’t even get the chance to read them if the title isn’t appealing enough to earn my fickle attention.

We may find our content in different ways (search engines, social media, newsletters, etc.), but I think we can all agree that we want to read content that’s both informative and interesting.

There’s got to be some middle ground between an Encyclopedia and Hemingway when it comes to digital content.

Let’s Bridge the Gap

SEO professionals: We’re doing businesses a disservice when we do all the work to get our clients’ pages ranking but fail to focus on getting people to click on our results, and once they click, getting them to convert.

Don’t waste the traffic you worked so hard to earn!

Writers: You’re spending your valuable time (and your clients’ valuable budget) on creating content, so make sure you create it for maximum impact!

Don’t spend your time creating content that only gets attention the day it’s posted and then dies. Focus on creating content that gets sustained traffic that lowers your client’s customer acquisition costs.

This isn’t a call to become jacks-of-all-trades. It’s a call to start taking a more holistic view of the content we produce. Start thinking about your content’s entire journey.

It won’t be easy, and it’ll never be perfect, but I think there’s room for every content creator to adopt a “full stack” mentality.

Let’s bridge that gap. Who’s with me?

More Resources:

7 Steps to Drive More Conversions with a User-Focused Content Matrix by @Carolyn_Lyden

Topic clusters are based on the idea that marketers create a single page to serve as the “hub” for a particular subject.

From there, all the sub-topic posts related to that subject hub are linked from that main topic page – almost like a wheel.

Topic Cluster Hub

Topic Cluster Hub

If you’ve been in marketing for at least a minute, chances are you’ve heard about topic clusters or hubs.

This model is great for SEO. It ensures that pages on our site are all internally linked, related to the overall brand identity, and structured well for users to find what they need.

But there’s something missing from this model: figuring out what the user actually needs.

Targeting the ‘Imaginary Audience’

In digital marketing, it’s easy to become detached from our target audience. We end up optimizing our sites for ourselves, our peers and who we think our target audiences are.

Senior Conversion Optimizer at Unbounce, Michael Aagaard calls this optimizing for an “imaginary target audience.”

We think our product or service is amazing. We know the ins and outs. We know how it could change our audience’s lives.

And we make the mistake of peddling the drill – when the buyer just wants a hole in the wall.

Creating a User-Focused Topic Matrix

To remedy this inward-looking content generation method, I propose a user-focused content matrix.

Bonus: Read to the end to get your copy of the content planning matrix.

Anyone can create it in a spreadsheet, and the idea is that you create pillars of content around your target audience.

The “hub page” can be focused around the main target-user or the target user’s pain points. The spokes are the content related to each.

You can create multiple matrices per quarter or whatever time period you use for each user type you’d like to address.

This method ensures that our content isn’t just a self-congratulatory pat on the back – but actually gives users what they’re looking for online and helps move them down our sales and marketing cycle funnel.

Marketing Content Matrix for Conversion

Marketing Content Matrix for Conversion

1. Set Themes Around Company Targets

The first step in the content matrix for topic clusters is to tie your quarterly (or whatever time period makes sense for your business) theme to your business goals.

For the example in this article, I chose to create a matrix for accounting software. One of their goals for this quarter is to increase subscriptions to their small business accounting suite.

By setting a quarterly theme that’s based on company objectives, you’re helping create measurable content.

With tools like Google Analytics, you can easily tell how many people are coming to each of these pieces of content, flowing to the next stage of the funnel, and converting from the CTAs on your Bottom of Funnel content pieces.

Quarterly Theme Tied to Company Goals

Quarterly Theme Tied to Company Goals

2. Choose a Target Audience

Each matrix should have its own specific target audience. The spreadsheet model means you can have multiple tabs for one quarter that plan out your content per target audience.

If your business type generally has a single target audience, think of ways to subdivide them into categories and get as granular as possible about their needs and pain points. The deeper the dive, the more tailored and useful your content will be.

This can also be a way to test out new target audiences or delve into smaller audiences that you want to grow.

By choosing to focus your content ideation around a specific audience (instead of all audiences at once), you can tailor your messaging, content flow, CTAs, and more.

3. Discover 4 Pain Points

What are pain points?

A pain point is an explicit or implicit issue or obstacle your target audience is experiencing. This part is truly key to the whole matrix’s effectiveness and measurability.

The key to the most compelling content is figuring out what users are searching when they don’t know your product or service will solve their problem (a.k.a., mind reading and magic).

WordStream names four different types of pain points that consumers face:

  • Financial: Something isn’t as cost-effective as the user needs it to be.
  • Productivity: Prospects are wasting time with unproductive and wasteful operations.
  • Process: Their business procedures waste time or are ineffective.
  • Support: Your customers need help in key stages of business change.

Target Audience Pain Points

Target Audience Pain Points
How do I figure out my customer pain points?

Talk to them

The easiest way to determine your customers’ pain points is to just talk to them.

Either find time to interview your existing customers in that target audience or ask to meet with some prospective customers in exchange for some type of compensation.

(Check “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug for a quick intro to user-testing and audience interviews when you don’t have a huge budget.)

At a prior job, the product marketing team interviewed tons of existing and potential customers in a certain group for a company project. I was amazed when we found out that all the problems we thought this group had were actually inconsequential to them. It changed the scope of the whole project.

Survey them

If you can’t find the time or money to talk one-on-one with your target audience, a survey would be the next best choice.

Make sure you phrase your questions in a way that doesn’t influence answers, and your research and examine their issues beforehand.

You can pay to distribute this survey to a targeted group or email list. Or you can just put it out there to everyone and take the good with the bad – sorting through potentially extraneous data. It’s better than no data.

Google them

As an introvert, this is my go-to strategy. But I put it last here because there is benefit in talking to actual people first.

The internet is full of articles, forum complaints, Twitter threads, and more related to your prospects’ pain points. You just have to do the digging to find them.

4. Address Pain Points Corresponding with Funnel Stage

Once you have your list of pain points for this specific cycle of content, plan out how you will address them at each stage of the funnel.

Too often, content creators write top of funnel content and make the mistake of trying to force people down the funnel too quickly.

“Trying to find out which running shoe is best for you? BUY THIS ONE NOW OR ELSE!”

We have to recognize that there’s a natural flow to the research and buying cycle, and it behooves us to cater to it instead of trying to circumvent it.

Here are my tips for approaching each stage of the funnel:

  • Top of funnel – Awareness: The user is just figuring out that they might have an issue. Tell them why that’s a problem for them and that they should research solutions.
  • Middle of funnel – Consideration: Now that they know they have an issue and should be looking for a solution, tell them how your genre or product or service is the step in the right direction.
  • Bottom of funnel – Decision: Convince the user that your specific product or service is the one they need to resolve their pain points.
  • Post-sale – Delight: Too many content strategies forget this one. Make sure to delight your existing users. Make it easy for them to refer more clients to you. Think about what this type of content looks like for your business.

In the matrix, you’ll put the funnel-focused solutions to the audience’s pain points in the corresponding Solution cell.

From that solution, you’ll create a content topic idea that corresponds to that funnel-stage solution:

Creating Solutions and Content Assets

Creating Solutions and Content Assets

5. Use Thoughtful CTAs to Move Users to the Next Stage

Once you have the pain points, solutions, and content assets mapped out for each stage of the funnel, it’ll be easy to see what calls to action you need to use to move your audience from one stage to the next for each specific issue.

Don’t try to skip from 0 to 100.

Each row color corresponds with the same row color in the next funnel stage. This means that if one pain point resonates with a reader, you can point them to the content in the next funnel stage for the same pain point.

Creating CTAs per Pain Point

Creating CTAs per Pain Point

6. But What about the Delight Rows in the Content Matrix Sheet?

Once your reader has converted into a customer, the Delight phase of content gives them tools to actually iron out those pain points with your solution.

And when they’re so pleased with how you’ve made their lives and work easier, you can ask for reviews or referrals as the CTA.

Delight Customers

Delight Customers

7. Now Get to the ABCs (Always Be Converting)

Ready to get started?

Here’s the content matrix template.

Now that you’ve spent all this time mapping your content matrix, don’t just plow through the actual content creation like it’s already done for you.

  • Be thoughtful and thorough.
  • Create links to your existing content.
  • Reference data and outside sources.
  • Be mindful of the funnel stage so you’re not trying to cram people down when they’re not ready to buy.
  • Write the content that actually serves your users’ needs – not your idea of their needs.
  • Be selfless in the giving away of ideas.

And reap the conversions!

More Resources:


Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, March 2019

Use Content Intelligence to Uncover Insights That Matter by @Atomic_Reach

This is a sponsored post written by Atomic Reach. The opinions expressed in this article are the sponsor’s own.

In 1996, Bill Gates made a bold statement.

He declared that “Content is King.” He foresaw the internet evolving into a marketplace for content.

Now, more than 20 years later, Gates premonition is proving right.

So, how far have we come concerning the production and consumption of content? This collection of stats reveals the amount of content shared and consumed every minute:

  • 400 hours of video content is shared.
  • 347,222 tweets are sent.
  • Facebook users like posts 4,166,667 times.
  • Instagram users like posts 2,430,555 times.

While the volume is high, what is the outcome?

Savvy marketers are moving past the “more is better” mentality to focus on quality.

Is this content actually helping marketers and businesses meet their goals?

This is where Content Intelligence comes into play.

What Is Content Intelligence?

Content Intelligence is the intersection of artificial intelligence and content strategy.

Defined as, “technology that helps content understand itself — what it’s about, how it speaks, how effective it is at accomplishing certain goals, what emotions it calls to mind, etc.”

Content Intelligence offers marketers a holistic view into the language of their content and allows them to make better decisions about the context of their content.

anticipated-benefits-ai-marketing

anticipated-benefits-ai-marketing

It can help marketers better understand the type of content they should share, how they should promote it, and which content needs updating.

It dives deeper than just pageviews and social shares, focusing on the actual data associated with the content.

Software options like Marketo and Atomic Reach are allowing marketers to go deeper with data to make even better content marketing decisions.

So, how else does content intelligence impact content marketing?

content-intelligence-elements

content-intelligence-elements

Properly Identifying & Targeting Audiences

According to Curata, 67 percent of marketers list audience identification and targeting as a top need from a content marketing perspective.

Instead of just relying on surveys, Google Analytics, or CRMs, a content intelligence platform uses all of them.

It drills down into your data related to demographics, customer preferences, and insights from historical content to help you produce content your audience will resonate with.

Guiding Customers Through the Journey

To say that competition is fierce would be an understatement.

Today, marketers are challenged with moving past guesswork to produce the right content for the right audience.

A thoughtful marketing strategy that uses content intelligence ensures this happens.

It can help you create content that cultivates customers throughout each part of the buyer journey.

content-stages

content-stages

You can then send targeted email messages that invite them to come in for scheduled maintenance with an attached blog post on the importance of car upkeep.

Efforts like this reveal that content intelligence helps you to produce content that is valuable to your customers.

Knowing the Best Content to Create for Your Audience

As enticing as content brainstorming sessions are, it is inefficient to rely on these sessions.

You need a platform that can help you quickly and efficiently understand the type of content your audience is looking for.

If you have set goals and are funneling the right data to your content intelligence platform, then it can help you overcome this obstacle.

It can take your goals and data and look at content in your industry that is popular with customers. From there, it can also examine what competitors are doing to provide you with helpful insights into the topics you should be covering.

While there will always be a need for the human element of creating content that adequately appeals to emotions and logic, machine learning and AI can help you reach the first step of where to start.

Determining the Best Time to Distribute & Promote Your Content

According to Curata, 53 percent of marketers say distribution is a top need related to content marketing.

In a world of ever-evolving consumer preferences, and a never-ending option of social media platforms, it is challenging to know where and when your audience wants to see your content.

Is half your audience on Twitter, while your most dedicated buyers are on LinkedIn?

Many marketers still rely on dated methods for discovering this information, rather than using data.

data-decision-making

data-decision-making

Content Intelligence can help you by using data to ensure your audience actually sees what you are producing.

It looks at historical content and uses data to determine the best time and where to promote your content.

Identify How to Improve Your Content

There is no silver bullet when it comes to content marketing.

The data sources can always be better, the content can be even more targeted, and the topics can be even more relevant.

In short, there is room to improve your content marketing strategy.

That being said, it is difficult to prioritize.

Content Intelligence allows you not only to see what needs to be improved but also to decide what you should tackle first.

Maybe through tracking competitors, you discover that you need more images or infographics in your blogs, or that videos under 15 seconds receive more shares than those over 20.

Having a robust content intelligence platform allows you to identify problem areas and act on them quickly.

Knowing Which Content to Update

How many times have you created an excellent piece of content, but forgot about it over time?

It was a hit with your audience, and you need reminders to update it. Luckily, a content intelligence platform can assist you.

Instead of combing through a content calendar created on Excel or Google Sheets, a content intelligence platform automatically reminds you of when it is time to update your evergreen content.

This tactic ensures that you are efficiently repurposing older content that can still be of value to your audience.

Content Intelligence in Action

We have evolved from merely tracking page views, click-throughs, and general audience data to using big data to produce personalized and timely content.

While this extends to many industries and sectors, content intelligence is the formula you need to propel your content to the next level.

Get a Free Content Audit

Get a Free Content Audit


Image Credits

Featured Image: Image by Atomic Reach. Used with permission. 
In-Post Photos: Images by Atomic Reach. Used with permission.

A Guide to Creating Amazing Content: 5 Tips for Crafting Useful Content by @JuliaEMcCoy

Useful, valuable content for your readers is the keystone of any content marketing strategy. Without content that has worth in your audience’s eyes, you’ll be publishing fluff that no one will care about.

The factor here to keep top-of-mind is, of course, your audience. Unless your content is useful to them, it’s not useful at all.

With that golden rule in mind, here are some other guidelines for creating useful content that people will want to read and share.

5 Tips for Power-Packed Value Content (That Earns Leads, Satisfies Readers & Even Brings in Sales)

1. Map Your Content to Clear Goals

To start, always map your content to clear goals. If your content piece does not advance your content marketing goals in some way, it’s not worth the effort it will take to create, publish, and distribute.

For example, say one of your content goals is to rank at least five pieces of content in the top 10 of Google within the next year. That means you need to write targeted SEO content around great keywords.

Now, say you come up with a random blog idea – some big SEO news just hit and you want to write about it. However, the topic doesn’t relate to your audience or their search intent, and the possible keyword you could use is too hard to rank for in one year.

What do you do?

Toss that idea and try again.

It will not help you reach your main content goal, and it won’t be useful to your audience. You need to check both boxes to create truly useful content.

I personally use this concept to vet all of my blog ideas (I call it my three-bucket topic strategy). This diagram illustrates exactly how the process works:

A Guide to Creating Amazing Content: 5 Tips for Crafting Useful Content

A Guide to Creating Amazing Content: 5 Tips for Crafting Useful Content
Let’s look at the HubSpot blog as a good example of goals tied to content. On their About page, the company talks about their mission to “[transform] the way businesses market and sell” with inbound strategies.

A Guide to Creating Amazing Content: 5 Tips for Crafting Useful Content

A Guide to Creating Amazing Content: 5 Tips for Crafting Useful Content

A Guide to Creating Amazing Content: 5 Tips for Crafting Useful Content

A Guide to Creating Amazing Content: 5 Tips for Crafting Useful Content
This is a broad example, but even your mission statement can drive your content goals and inform what type of content you put out into the world. This blog about authentic leadership ties directly to HubSpot’s larger mission:

A Guide to Creating Amazing Content: 5 Tips for Crafting Useful Content

A Guide to Creating Amazing Content: 5 Tips for Crafting Useful Content

2. Focus on SEO Cornerstone Content

Cornerstone content includes the most important content pieces you will create. These blogs and articles are the ones you want ranking #1 in SERPs.

If you take the time to make these pieces your highest-quality, most in-depth content, they’ll take you a long, long way toward your goals and ROI.

Here are a few tips for creating cornerstone content:

  • To get the most strategic growth out of your cornerstone content, you should preferably write each piece around a strong keyword that could potentially bring in loads of site traffic from Google.
  • If you have lots of different blogs that touch on angles of a single topic, choose the best one to become your cornerstone. Update the post to make sure it’s as in-depth as possible, then link to that post from all related posts (this signals to Google that it’s more important!).
  • Create content that lends itself to cornerstone status:
    • Ultimate guides
    • Topic overviews and explanations
    • Comprehensive how-to posts

This blog post from Yoast is a good example of cornerstone content (SEO Copywriting: The Ultimate Guide). It’s long-form, centered around a strong keyword, and goes deep into the process of keyword-optimizing blogs:

A Guide to Creating Amazing Content: 5 Tips for Crafting Useful Content

A Guide to Creating Amazing Content: 5 Tips for Crafting Useful Content

A Guide to Creating Amazing Content: 5 Tips for Crafting Useful Content

A Guide to Creating Amazing Content: 5 Tips for Crafting Useful Content
It also links out to related content that Yoast has created on the same topic. These pieces are less important, but still worth reading for anyone exploring this subject.

A Guide to Creating Amazing Content: 5 Tips for Crafting Useful Content

A Guide to Creating Amazing Content: 5 Tips for Crafting Useful Content

3. Recycle One Strong Content Piece Multiple Ways

Once you have created strong content, you can recycle it and develop more useful pieces from that one post. This technique capitalizes on the work you already put into that content piece and gives it increased usefulness beyond the original blog format.

Create Quote Cards

For instance, you could pull important quotes from the blog and design quote cards in Canva. You can use these to add visual interest to your content and break up the text and offer them bundled together as a SlideShare or PowerPoint presentation.

Just log into Canva (creating an account is free) and search for “presentation” to find pre-designed, professional templates you can use.

A Guide to Creating Amazing Content: 5 Tips for Crafting Useful Content

A Guide to Creating Amazing Content: 5 Tips for Crafting Useful Content

A Guide to Creating Amazing Content: 5 Tips for Crafting Useful Content

A Guide to Creating Amazing Content: 5 Tips for Crafting Useful Content
Once you’ve created your slides, it’s easy to upload them into a PowerPoint file or SlideShare presentation.

Put Together a PDF

Another great way to repurpose useful content is to create a PDF version of the blog your readers can download and save for later.

Lots of programs provide the option to create PDFs from documents, including Microsoft Word and Google Docs. Copy and paste your blog into your program of choice, format and design the text as desired, and then export it.

In Google Docs, go to File > Download as > PDF Document (.pdf).

A Guide to Creating Amazing Content: 5 Tips for Crafting Useful Content

A Guide to Creating Amazing Content: 5 Tips for Crafting Useful Content
In Microsoft Word, go to File > Save As. Choose the location where you want to export the document, then under Save as type choose PDF.

A Guide to Creating Amazing Content: 5 Tips for Crafting Useful Content

A Guide to Creating Amazing Content: 5 Tips for Crafting Useful Content
Once you have slides or a PDF, you can offer these extras as lead magnets. Or, you can post individual slides on social media with a link to the original blog.

These extras are useful for your audience and for you, too.

Ann Handley used the recycling technique to good effect – she had the team at Visual.ly create an infographic based on the 12-step writing GPS she covers in her book, “Everybody Writes”. (Proving that even your longest-form content can be repurposed in a useful way.)

A Guide to Creating Amazing Content: 5 Tips for Crafting Useful Content

A Guide to Creating Amazing Content: 5 Tips for Crafting Useful Content

4. Create Brand Awareness Content

Another useful type of content to create (of which many bloggers and marketers don’t take full advantage) is brand awareness content.

This type of content is – you guessed it – all about making sure your audience can get to know you, like you, and trust you. Generally, it tends to be a little more personal than guides, how-to posts, or articles.

The usefulness of brand awareness content is not due to its informational value – it’s more about the entertainment or interest it offers.

Transparency, honesty, authenticity, and storytelling are all good components to keep in mind when creating brand awareness content. As for types of content, consider:

  • Seasonally flavored posts.
  • Fun infographics and videos.
  • Product/team updates (announcements, behind-the-scenes, interviews, etc.).
  • Stories (successes, failures, reports from conferences, etc.).

This is a great example of brand awareness content from CoSchedule: The Ultimate Holiday Gift List for Marketers.

A Guide to Creating Amazing Content: 5 Tips for Crafting Useful Content

A Guide to Creating Amazing Content: 5 Tips for Crafting Useful Content
This one checks a few boxes: It’s seasonal, fun, includes a touch of storytelling, and actually offers some useful ideas.

A Guide to Creating Amazing Content: 5 Tips for Crafting Useful Content

A Guide to Creating Amazing Content: 5 Tips for Crafting Useful Content
The plus side of this type of content is it’s generally easy to put together and fun to do.

5. Avoid Creating Content for the Sake of Creating Content

The final major tip for creating useful content:

Don’t create content just to push it out there.

Any type of content you rush, fudge, or slack on when it comes to creation won’t be useful. I guarantee it.

Throwing together a blog post without researching keywords and topics, without connecting it to your goals, or without making sure it aligns with what your audience wants to read = D.O.A.

Dead on arrival.

Useful content is always vetted, first. It has a better chance of actually going somewhere (traffic, leads, engagement, ROI!) because you put in the research and grunt-work to make it so.

Random, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, I-came-up-with-this-idea-30-minutes-ago content is here today, gone tomorrow. No one will remember it a week from now because you didn’t give it its best chance at succeeding.

Useful Content Is Strategically Researched & Planned Content

Want to create useful content that people actually care about?

To put it simply, if you want people to care, you need to care, first. Put in the strategic research, planning, and forethought that useful content requires, and you’ll get there.

More Resources:


Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, February 2019

How to Align Your Content & Social Media Efforts for Link Building Success by @kristen_vaughn

Link building. What is it good for? Absolutely everything.

But, seriously. Generating high-quality links to your website is not only valuable to build authority, it also helps:

  • Drive referral traffic.
  • Increase brand visibility.
  • Reach new audiences.

While the many benefits of link building are clear, SEO professionals are challenged to select the tactics that will have the biggest impact.

It might seem overwhelming. There are so many potential strategies to execute, including:

Keep in mind that backlinks are just one many factors that search engine algorithms use to rank a website.

You also need to focus on technical site elements, on-page content optimizations, new content development, and the list goes on.

Leveraging Content & Social to Support Link Building

There are two essential parts of naturally generating authoritative backlinks to a website:

For this reason, aligning content and social media efforts with your link building initiatives is crucial. In this article, I’ll be providing a variety of tactics to do just that.

Creating Link-Worthy Content

Let’s start with the first part of generating authoritative backlinks to your site – producing high-quality content.

It’s important that content and link building efforts are aligned from the very start, before the content creation process even begins.

Not only will this ensure that you’re creating the write type of content, but it will also help you reach and engage key targets when possible, whether that includes specific influencers, industry publications or other third-party websites.

When it comes to creating valuable and link-worthy content, here are some of the tactics that I’ve found to be successful.

Influencer Insights

Create content around industry influencers or experts by sharing their unique insights.

This will offer valuable content to your readers, further position you as a thought leader in the space, and encourage these influencers/experts to share the asset with their highly targeted audiences.

This content could include:

  • Interview-style articles.
  • Roundups.
  • Lists of predictions or trends.
  • Quotes.

Get creative based on the type of content that you know your audiences is most receptive too.

The best place to start with identifying influencers? Your link building targets.

If you don’t already have a list established, use FollowerWonk to determine credible profiles that are related to the topic.

For example, if you are writing a piece about The Top Artificial Intelligence Predictions for 2019, you can use FollowerWonk to search Twitter bios that reference “artificial intelligence” or “AI”.

Then, sort by Social Authority and Followers to find the best opportunities.

FollowerWonk for Link Opportunities

FollowerWonk for Link Opportunities

Once the asset is published, be sure to reach out to the people/websites directly, and let them know that you’ve mentioned them in the article.

Depending on your relationship with them, you could even directly ask them to link to it.

Research

No matter what industry you’re in, research is valuable, which makes it link-worthy.

What common questions are you hearing from customers or clients?

It’s likely that other people within the industry have already been asked, or will be asked, similar questions. These types of considerations should help spike ideas for research-based content assets.

People love to reference statistics that prove the value of their jobs, or research that backs initiatives that are typically more difficult to get buy-in from leadership.

Once you distribute this research across social media (and, I’ll get to that shortly), this extremely valuable asset will naturally generate links.

You should consider ways to further align this with link building initiatives from the beginning.

If you have a list of specific link targets related to the topic, be sure to share the article once it’s live. If you don’t have a list already built out, again – you can use FollowerWonk for this.

Or, BuzzSumo also allows you to search for a topic/keyword to determine profiles that are sharing similar content.

BuzzSumo Link Opportunities

BuzzSumo Link Opportunities

Resources

By sharing resources and tools throughout your content, you are making the piece more actionable for readers and creating the opportunity to share the asset with those you are promoting.

To improve your chances of acquiring a link, it’s important to put yourself in the shoes of both your blog subscribers and link building targets.

What would make this asset more valuable for readers?

An outline of not only tactics, but also:

  • The specific tools they can use.
  • How they can use the tools.
  • Insights on what other experts have to say.
  • Other resources and guides around the topic.

Bonus: Each of these elements also presents the opportunity to reach out to the sites mentioned, and encourage them to share the asset and link to it.

What would make this asset link-worthy for the targets mentioned?

If you’re referencing a tool, provide an explanation of what exactly it is, why it’s so helpful, key features, how they can use the tool, and screenshots of what the tools look like.

If your content includes insights or other resources/guides, call out why the guide is unique, what it has to offer, and what makes the resource so credible.

Promoting Content Strategically

OK, so you’ve created all of this amazing content. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s really only half the battle. Now, you need to promote it appropriately and strategically.

One of the most effective ways to do this is via social media.

Here are some specific ways you can use social media to support your link building campaigns. 

Post Sharing

How you’re sharing content across social media can be a make or break when it comes to link building.

With the number of automated messages going out on social media, you need to figure out a way to stand out to your targets.

My advice is to share individualized, customized and engaging messages – always.

For example, instead of tagging every person/website in one tweet, send out individual tweets that are engaging and won’t come off as automated.

Use their name, say something that shows you know them, consider using custom graphics, or quoting them in separate social updates.

Direct Outreach

It’s important that you reach out to the people and websites mentioned in your content directly, whether via direct message on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or email.

Automated messages also won’t cut it when it comes to direct outreach. Here, it’s especially important to create personalized messages that stand out to your targets.

In addition to reaching out directly to those mentioned in the asset, look for other opportunities to distribute across the community.

Leverage some of the tools mentioned above (FollowerWonk and BuzzSumo) to figure out who has shared your content in the past, and may be interested in the topic at hand.

Or, aim to turn sharers into linkers by analyzing the users who have shared your asset on social media that may be an applicable link building opportunity.

You can even set up Google Alerts using related keywords to determine specific articles or websites that would benefit from linking to the asset. 

Google Alerts for Link Opportunities

Google Alerts for Link Opportunities

Advertising 

Don’t underestimate the power of paid advertising on social media.

Now that you’ve created this extremely link-worthy asset, make sure it gets in front of your key targets.

There are numerous targeting options that could be successful here; however, the most refined approach would be to create Tailored Audiences using the list of link building targets that you’ve gathered and/or those mentioned in the article.

You can target those specific profiles, as well as their followers.

Final Thoughts 

Integrating and aligning your link building tactics with content marketing and social media efforts can help move the needle. All this while making your digital marketing campaigns more efficient.

Remember, high-quality content is essential, especially when your goal is to build links back to a website.

Distributing engaging and personalized messages on social media is also key. These principles should remain at the foundation of your digital marketing strategy.

Hopefully this article has given you some actionable ways to align your content and social media efforts, in order to drive link building success.

More Resources:


Image Credits

Featured Image: Created by author, February 2019
All screenshots taken by author, February 2019

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