A Complete Guide to Social Media Customer Service by @anna_bredava


Social media was created with the idea of dialogue in mind, so it’s not surprising that more and more users choose it as the main channel of communication with brands.

According to a study by J.D. Power, 67 percent of consumers have used a company’s social media site for servicing; therefore, having a social customer support strategy is not just a matter of preference, it’s a must.

Successful businesses meet their customers where they are, and there is a very high chance that they are on social media, trying to contact your company.

Nevertheless, social media customer care is oftentimes overlooked and neglected.

Many businesses leave handling complaints on social media to social media managers, which may lead to throwing a client in the “I’ll-pass-you-to-our-customer-service” hell cycle.

There’s nothing inherently bad in letting your social media team manage customer service on social, but they will need some training to be able to manage customer care issues correctly.

The important caveat that makes social customer support stand out is that it is never just that.

Many times it’s happening in the public eye, therefore, your social customer service strategy affects your brand image more than ever.

In that sense, social customer service gives you opportunities for community building and raising brand awareness. And it would be a mistake to miss out on it!

When the former football star and the hero of ‘Gleason’ documentary Steve Gleason called out Southwest Airlines on the lack of training in dealing with people with disabilities, they responded immediately. Gleason’s followers took notice of their reply.

The process of setting up social support channels involves two stages: preparation and the workflow itself.

In this article, we’ll go through all the steps of building a social customer service strategy from scratch and answer the frequently asked questions about social customer support.

Step 1: Analyze the Past Experience

Any great strategy starts with research. Analyzing your current customer care activity can help you identify pain points, “rush hours,” and your clients’ demands and expectations.

Moreover, your social media team can also give you valuable insights: do you already have established communication channels with your audience that are used for support issues (Instagram DMs, Twitter)?

Is there a need for a separate social media community designated to customer care? These and other questions can only be answered by the people who manage social media for your brand.

Step 2: Determine the Channel & the Team

Decide if you want to involve a person from your customer support team or a social media manager.

The answer will depend on the training process: will it be easier and faster to train your social media manager to handle customer service issues or vice versa?

Enterprise-level companies typically have a designated social support team which often works from a separate social media handle: for instance, @SpotifyCares or Apple Support.

However, for a smaller business, it might not be the strategy that makes sense.

Unless you’re constantly getting an influx of queries from customers on social media, I don’t recommend setting up separate profiles for customer care. Multiple profiles can be confusing to customers; besides, using your main profile to engage with customers helps raise brand awareness.

A great alternative would be creating a place for a community to interact with a brand and each other (for instance, a Facebook or a LinkedIn group) and checking up on it regularly.

Facebook Group

Facebook Group

Step 3: Create Guidelines

Once you have the team and insights in place, it’s time to create customer service guidelines (i.e., the rules that will guide your social customer support specialist(s)).

Here are some of the questions that you might want to address:

  • What is your desired response time?
  • What tone of voice should you take?
  • What constitutes a social media crisis and when should managers be alerted?
  • Will you respond to positive feedback and how (liking, commenting, reposting)?

You can even go further and create a template with answers to common queries — or borrow them from your customer support team. Just make sure that the tone of the response is consistent with your brand image.

Fashion Nova took on a playful and informal manner of communication.

Step 4: Choose What to Automate

It can be quite challenging to stay on top of all the social inquiries and respond to them in due time. That’s why many social support reps use tools and bots.

There are two major issues that automation can tackle:

Making Sure You Respond to Every Mention

Negative reviews and customer care issues can be scattered all over social media, from Twitter to various subreddits.

Sometimes, they are not directed at your brand, but even when they are, people might misspell your social media handle or simply forget to tag you.

Even though this customer tried to tag Tesco, they misspelled the brand name, so Tesco never saw her tweet.

In fact, research shows that only 3 percent of brand mentions actually use a Twitter handle, opting for the company or product name instead.

Monitoring your brand name and including misspellings can help you with that. You can use Tweetdeck and Google Alerts or a social listening tool like Mention, Hootsuite, or Awario (disclosure: I work at Awario).

These tools will organize all the mentions of your brand across multiple social networks in an easy-to-navigate feed, so you can take care of them one by one.

Respond to Mentions Quickly

According to Conversocial’s report ‘The State of Digital Care in 2018’, one-third of customers expect brands to respond in less than 30 minutes.

Salesforce also reported that 80 percent of consumers felt that an instant reply to their queries had a moderate to major influence on their loyalty to the brand.

Obviously, it’s not possible for a human to stay alert 24/7. You can use a social listening tool to get mentions from several platforms in one feed in real time, but there are still weekends and after-work hours.

Luckily, there are robots which don’t need to sleep and can work all the time!

Facebook already offers automated responses for when you’re out of the office: they notify your customers when you’ll be back online.

Moreover, you can automate any part of your communication – Facebook comments, Facebook mentions, Twitter mentions, DMs on Twitter and Instagram – with the help of bots.

There are a lot of ways to automate your communication: go with an integration tool like IFTTT or Zapier, choose a tool that specializes in one platform, or create your own bot.

However, don’t automate beyond what’s absolutely necessary: customers are not always happy to get a message from a robot.

Step 5: Analyze Complaints

This step is sometimes omitted from brands’ social service strategies, even though it is extremely important. Understanding where customer dissatisfaction comes from enables you to improve your product.

For example, Samsung uses social listening not only to directly assist their customers but also to monitor all the new product launches to identify weak points.

“When we first launched the S8, I was asked in a meeting whether the red tint on the display was a ‘thing’. I typed in “Samsung red tint” [on Crimson Hexagon’s platform] and confirmed that yes it was, and we were soon able to deploy a software update that got rid of it.” says Amy Vetter, Senior European Digital Insights Manager at Samsung.

Social Customer Support: Frequently Asked Questions

Should I Answer ALL the Mentions?

That depends on your brand! If you work for a huge company, it’s an unrealistic goal to reply to every single mention of your brand.

However, if you’re a smaller brand, responding even to positive mentions can raise your visibility and help with community building.

The customer didn’t have a support query, however, HelloFresh still responded.

Besides, customers that receive responses from brands on Twitter are willing to spend up to 20 percent more and are 30 percent more likely to recommend the brand.

Here’s the standard workflow for replying to customers:

  • Reply to DMs.
  • Reply to negative mentions (assuming you use a social listening tool to analyze sentiment).
  • Reply to inquiries about the company/product.
  • Reply to other mentions (compliments, showing off the product, etc.).
  • Check the community platform (a Facebook/LinkedIn group or a subreddit).
  • Repeat.

When Should I Ask Customers to PM/DM Me?

Not every conversation on social media has to be public: a lot of customer support interaction happens in private messages of a brand’s social media accounts.

However, it’s always better to minimize the hustle for your customer, so changing the communication channel should be both necessary and easy.

Pivoting to private messages works best when you need customer’s personal information (email, order number) or a thorough explanation of the issue they are experiencing to assist them.

Make sure you notify a customer publicly after sending them a private message. This will also show anyone else who stumbles upon the conversation that you didn’t just ignore the request. A simple “we sent you a message with more details, please check” will do.

Note that you should put all the effort into avoiding changing the platform completely: it’s social support after all, so you should be able to help your customer on social media.

When customers use social media to complain, it’s often because a company has already failed to assist them through conventional customer service channels, so directing them back to email will only annoy them even more.

Should I Introduce Myself?

Nobody likes talking to an anonymous brand or Twitter handle.

According to the report from Salesforce, 69 percent of respondents pointed out the importance of personalized customer care, and how can you be personal without introducing yourself?

Admittedly, replying to every message and mention you get with “Hi, I’m Jared!” might get a little bit annoying. A good tactic is to add your initials or a first name at the end of a message.

Should I Follow Up?

This might seem like a redundant question, but I wanted to remind you once again: always follow up if the problem isn’t completely solved.

When you can’t assist a customer right away, the best practice is to set a deadline for following up with updates, depending on the urgency of the problem.

It’s also a good idea to follow up if a customer didn’t respond initially: some brands will move on after sending one reply. However, in the rapid stream of social media it’s quite easy to miss one notification, so it’s better to message them once again.

A Complete Guide to Social Media Customer Service

A Complete Guide to Social Media Customer Service


Social media has become one of the most popular platforms for customer care – whether you like it or not.

To make your customers happy and get additional bonuses of raising brand awareness, you need to quickly respond to all the mentions and messages you get in a manner that complies with your branding.

More Resources:

Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, March 2019

Optimizing for Searcher Intent Explained in 7 Visuals

Posted by randfish

Ever get that spooky feeling that Google somehow knows exactly what you mean, even when you put a barely-coherent set of words in the search box? You’re not alone. The search giant has an uncanny ability to un-focus on the keywords in the search query and apply behavioral, content, context, and temporal/historical signals to give you exactly the answer you want.

For marketers and SEOs, this poses a frustrating challenge. Do we still optimize for keywords? The answer is “sort of.” But I think I can show you how to best think about this in a few quick visuals, using a single search query.

First… A short story.

I sent a tweet over the weekend about an old Whiteboard Friday video. Emily Grossman, longtime friend, all-around marketing genius, and official-introducer-of-millenial-speak-to-GenXers-like-me replied.

Emily makes fun of Rand's mustache on Twitter

Ha ha Emily. I already made fun of my own mustache so…

Anywho, I searched Google for “soz.” Not because I didn’t know what it means. I can read between lines. I’m hip. But, you know, sometimes a Gen-Xer wants to make sure.

The results confirm my guess, but they also helped illustrate a point of frequent frustration I have when trying to explain modern vs. classic SEO. I threw together these seven visuals to illustrate.

There you have it friends. Classic SEO ranking inputs still matter. They can still help. They’re often the difference between making it to the top 10 vs. having no shot. But too many SEOs get locked into the idea that rankings are made up of a combination of the “Old School Five”:

  1. Keyword use
  2. Links to the page
  3. Domain authority
  4. Anchor text
  5. Freshness

Don’t get me wrong — sometimes, these signals in a powerful enough combination can overwhelm Google’s other inputs. But those examples are getting harder to find.

The three big takeaways for every marketer should be:

  1. Google is working hard to keep searchers on Google. If you help them do that, they’ll often help you rank (whether this is a worthwhile endeavor or a Prisoner’s Dilemma is another matter)
  2. When trying to reverse why something ranks in Google, add the element of “how well does this solve the searcher’s query”
  3. If you’re trying to outrank a competitor, how you align your title, meta description, first few sentences of text, and content around what the searcher truly wants can make the difference… even if you don’t win on links 😉

Related: if you want to see how hard Google’s working to keep searchers on their site vs. clicking results, I’ve got some research on SparkToro showing precisely that.

P.S. I don’t actually believe in arbitrary birth year ranges for segmenting cohorts of people. The differences between two individuals born in 1981 can be vastly wider than for two people born in 1979 and 1985. Boomer vs. Gen X vs. Millenial vs. Gen Z is crappy pseudoscience rooted in our unhealthy desire to categorize and pigeonhole others. Reject that ish.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Five ways SEOs can utilize data with insights, automation, and personalization

Five ways SEOs can utilize data with insights, automation, and personalization.

Constantly evolving search results driven by Google’s increasing implementation of AI are challenging SEOs to keep pace. Search is more dynamic, competitive, and faster than ever before.

Where SEOs used to focus almost exclusively on what Google and other search engines were looking for in their site structure, links, and content, digital marketing now revolves solidly around the needs and intent of consumers.

This past year was perhaps the most transformative in SEO, an industry expected to top $80 billion in spending by 2020. AI is creating entirely new engagement possibilities across multiple channels and devices. Consumers are choosing to find and interact with information by voice search, or even on connected IoT appliances, and other devices. Brands are being challenged to reimagine the entire customer journey and how they optimize content for search, as a result.

How do you even begin to prioritize when your to-do list and the data available to you are growing at such a rapid pace? The points shared below intend to help you with that.

From analysis to activation, data is key

SEO is becoming less a matter of simply optimizing for search. Today, SEO success hinges on our ability to seize every opportunity. Research from my company’s Future of Marketing and AI Study highlights current opportunities in five important areas.

1. Data cleanliness and structure

As the volume of data consumers are producing in their searches and interactions increases, it’s critically important that SEOs properly tag and structure the information we want search engines to match to those queries. Google offers rich snippets and cards that enable you to expand and enhance your search results, making them more visually appealing but also adding functionality and opportunities to engage.

Example of structured data on Google

Google has experimented with a wide variety of rich results, and you can expect them to continue evolving. Therefore, it’s best practice to properly mark up all content so that when a rich search feature becomes available, your content is in place to capitalize on the opportunity.

You can use the Google Developers “Understand how structured data works” guide to get started and test your structured data for syntax errors here.

2. Increasingly automated actionable insights

While Google is using AI to interpret queries and understand results, marketers are deploying AI to analyze data, recognize patterns and deliver insights as output at rates humans simply cannot achieve. AI is helping SEOs in interpreting market trends, analyzing site performance, gathering and understanding competitor performance, and more.

It’s not just that we’re able to get insights faster, though. The insights available to us now may have gone unnoticed, if not for the in-depth analysis we can accomplish with AI.

Machines are helping us analyze different types of media to understand the content and context of millions of images at a time and it goes beyond images and video. With Google Lens, for example, augmented reality will be used to glean query intent from objects rather than expressed words.

Opportunities for SEOs include:

  • Greater ability to define opportunity space more precisely in a competitive context. Understand underlying need in a customer journey
  • Deploying longer-tail content informed by advanced search insights
  • Better content mapping to specific expressions of consumer intent across the buying journey

3. Real-time response and interactions

In a recent “State of Chatbots” report, researchers asked consumers to identify problems with traditional online experiences by posing the question, “What frustrations have you experienced in the past month?”

Screenshot of users' feedback on website usage experiences

As you can see, at least seven of the top consumer frustrations listed above can be solved with properly programmed chatbots. It’s no wonder that they also found that 69% of consumers prefer chatbots for quick communication with brands.

Search query and online behavior data can make smart bots so compelling and efficient in delivering on consumer needs that in some cases, the visitor may not even realize it’s an automated tool they’re dealing with. It’s a win for the consumer, who probably isn’t there for a social visit anyway as well as for the brand that seeks to deliver an exceptional experience even while improving operational efficiency.

SEOs have an opportunity to:

  • Facilitate more productive online store consumer experiences with smart chatbots.
  • Redesign websites to support visual and voice search.
  • Deploy deep learning, where possible, to empower machines to make decisions, and respond in real-time.

4. Smart automation

SEOs have been pretty ingenious at automating repetitive, time-consuming tasks such as pulling rankings reports, backlink monitoring, and keyword research. In fact, a lot of quality digital marketing software was born out of SEOs automating their own client work.

Now, AI is enabling us to make automation smarter by moving beyond simple task completion to prioritization, decision-making, and executing new tasks based on those data-backed decisions.

Survey on content development using AI

Content marketing is one area where AI can have a massive impact, and marketers are on board. We found that just four percent of respondents felt they were unlikely to use AI/deep learning in their content strategy in 2018, and over 42% had already implemented it.

In content marketing, AI can help us quickly analyze consumer behavior and data, in order to:

  • Identify content opportunities
  • Build optimized content
  • Promote the right content to the most motivated audience segments and individuals

5. Personalizations that drive business results

Personalization was identified as the top trend in marketing at the time of our survey, followed closely by AI (which certainly drives more accurate personalizations). In fact, you could argue that the top four trends namely, personalization, AI, voice search, and mobile optimization are closely connected if not overlapping in places.

Across emails, landing pages, paid advertising campaigns, and more, search insights are being injected into and utilized across multiple channels. These intend to help us better connect content to consumer needs.

Each piece of content produced must be purposeful. It needs to be optimized for discovery, a process that begins in content planning as you identify where consumers are going to find and engage with each piece. Smart content is personalized in such a way that it meets a specific consumer’s need, but it must deliver on the monetary needs of the business, as well.

Check out these 5 steps for making your content smarter from a previous column for more.

How SEOs are uniquely positioned to drive smarter digital marketing forward

As the marketing professionals have one foot in analysis and the other solidly planted in creative, SEOs have a unique opportunity to lead smart utilization and activation of all manners of consumer data.

You understand the critical importance of clean data input (or intelligent systems that can clean and make sense of unstructured data) and differentiating between first and third-party data. You understand economies of scale in SEO and the value in building that scalability into systems from the ground up.

SEOs have long nurtured a deep understanding of how people search for and discover information, and how technology delivers. Make the most of your current opportunities by picking your low-hanging fruit opportunities for quick wins. Focus your efforts on putting the scalable, smart systems in place that will allow you to anticipate consumer needs, react quickly, report SEO appropriately, and convey business results to the stakeholders who will determine budgets in future.

Jim Yu is the founder and CEO of leading enterprise SEO and content performance platform BrightEdge. He can be found on Twitter .

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A new app to map and monitor the world’s freshwater supplyA new app to map and monitor the world’s freshwater supply

Today, on World Water Day, we’re proud to showcase a new platform enabling all countries to freely measure and monitor when and where water is changing: UN’s Water-Related Ecosystems, or sdg661.app. Released last week in Nairobi at the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA), the app provides statistics for every country’s annual surface water (like lakes and rivers). It also shows changes from 1984 through 2018 through interactive maps, graphs and full-data downloads.

This project is only possible because of the unique partnerships between three very different organizations. In 2016, European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) and Google released the Global Surface Water Explorer in tandem with a publication in “Nature.” An algorithm developed by the JRC to map water was run on Google Earth Engine. The process took more than 10 million hours of computing time, spread across more than 10,000 computers in parallel, a feat that would have taken 600 years if run on a modern desktop computer. But the sheer magnitude of the high resolution global data product tended to limit analysis to only the most tech savvy users and countries.

The new app, created in partnership with United Nations Environment, aims to make this water data available to everyone. Working with member countries to understand their needs, it features smaller, more easily manageable tables and maps at national and water body levels. Countries can compare data with one another, and for the first time gain greater understanding of the effects of water policy, and infrastructure like dams, diversions, and irrigation practices on water bodies that are shared across borders.

Ask a Techspert: Why am I getting so many spam calls?Ask a Techspert: Why am I getting so many spam calls?

Editor’s Note: Do you ever feel like a fish out of water? Try being a tech novice and talking to an engineer at a place like Google. Ask a Techspert is a new series on the Keyword asking Googler experts to explain complicated technology for the rest of us. This isn’t meant to be comprehensive, but just enough to make you sound smart at a dinner party.

Growing up, I was taught to say “Schottenfels residence” when answering the phone. It was the polite way of doing things. When the phone rang, it was usually family, friends and, yes, the occasional telemarketer on the other side of the line. Then things changed. Personal calls moved to mobile phones, and the landline became the domain of robocalls. My cell was a sanctuary, free of the pesky automated dialers that plague the landlines of yore. Until recently.

Today, it feels like the only phone calls I get are spam calls. And I know I’m not alone. According to a recent Google survey, half of respondents received at least one spam call per day, and one third received two or more per day.

And people are answering those calls. More than one third of respondents worry that a call from an unknown number is a call about a loved one, and another third think it could be a call from a potential loved one, so they pick up. And almost everyone agrees: Spam calls are the worst. In fact, 75 percent of those surveyed think spam calls are more annoying than spam texts or emails.

So what’s the deal with spam calls? And how can we stop them from happening? For the latest edition of Ask a Techspert, I spoke to Paul Dunlop, the product manager for the Google Phone App, to better understand why, all of the sudden, spam calls are happening so frequently, and what tools, like Pixel’s Call Screen feature, you can use  to avoid the headache.

Why spam calls are more common lately

According to Paul, voice-over IP (VoIP) is the culprit. These are phone calls made using the web instead of a traditional telephone line, and today they’re cheaper and easier than ever to use. “Using VoIP technology, spammers place phone calls over the Internet and imitate a different phone number,” Paul says. “It used to be that they had a fixed number, and you could block that number. Now with VoIP, spammers have the ability to imitate any phone number.” Paul says this became possible when companies, which wanted to call customers from call centers, made it so one general 1-800 number for a business showed up on caller IDs. So what started as a common-sense solution ended up becoming an easy loophole for spammers.

This is called spoofing, and there’s nothing in phone systems—the infrastructure of telephones—that can prevent spam callers from imitating numbers. “You can actually be spammed by your own phone number,” Paul says. “But the most common is neighborhood spam, using your area code and the first three digits of your phone number, which increases the likelihood you’ll answer.”

How Pixel can help you avoid picking up spam calls

Social listening 101: Six crucial keywords to track

Social listening 101 Six crucial keywords to track

Social listening is a tactic that’s not unheard of. Quite a number of brands use it these days and even more consider trying it out in the near future. However, for many, the step-by-step process of social listening remains unclear.

This article aims to answer the most burning questions about social listening:

  • What is a keyword?
  • Which keywords should you monitor?
  • How do you get relevant and comprehensive results instead of all the noise that the Internet is filled with?

What is a keyword?

As we know, social listening is a process that requires a social media listening/social media monitoring tool (e.g., Awario, Mention, Brandwatch). The first thing you do when you open the app is entering keywords to monitor.

Keywords are the words that describe best what you want to find on social media platforms and the web. A keyword can be one word (e.g. “Philips”), two words (e.g. “Aleh Barysevich”), four words (e.g. “search engine optimization tool”), etc. Each one of these examples presents one keyword. After you typed in your keyword(s), the tool will search for mentions of these keywords and collect them in a single place.

Screenshot of mentions for a specific keyword

Which keywords should you monitor?

You can monitor absolutely anything. You can monitor the keywords “Brexit” or “let’s dance” or “hello, is it me you’re looking for”. However, in terms of marketing purposes, there are six main types of keywords that you are most likely to monitor. They are:

1. Brand/company
2. Competitors
3. Person
4. Campaign
5. Industry
6. URL

Now let’s go through each type together to make sure you understand the goals behind monitoring these keywords and how to get the most out of them.

1. Brand/Company

Monitoring your brand/your company is essential in most cases. While the goals of social listening can be very diverse (reputation management, brand awareness, influencer marketing, customer service), most of these goals require listening to what people say about your brand.

To make sure you don’t miss any valuable mentions, include common misspellings and abbreviations of your brand name as well.

In case your brand name is a common word (e.g. “Apple” or “Orange”) make sure to choose a tool that gives you an option to introduce “negative” keywords. These would be keywords such as “apple tree”, “apple juice”, “apple pie”. Excluding them from your search will help get mentions of Apple the brand only. Any tool that has a boolean search option will also save you from tons of such irrelevant mentions.

2. Competitors

Pick a couple of your main competitors (or even just one), and enter their brand/company name as a separate project. There’s a good reason for that: Questions and complaints directed at your competitors can be replied by your social media manager first. They could explain why your brand is better/doesn’t have specific problems that your competitor does. This is social selling, a process of finding hot leads on social media.

Most social media monitoring tools also let you compare how your brand is doing on social media against your competitor’s brand. This can be useful for tracking your progress and discovering new ideas.

For example, knowing which social networks, which locations, and what time slots get your competitor more attention could help you upgrade your social media strategy. Knowing how their campaigns, social media posts, and product releases perform could help you improve your own plans, and avoid some mishaps.

3. Person

The CEO of your company might not necessarily be the company’s face or even a public persona at all. However, if reputation management is one of your goals, monitoring mentions of the CEO are important. Their actions on social media could easily attract attention and cause a social media crisis. Also, you’ll know straight away about any publications that mention your company’s CEO.

Same, of course, goes for any other people in the company.

4. Campaign

It’s crucial to monitor marketing (and other) campaigns as well as product launches. Reactions on social media happen very quickly. Only by monitoring such events in real time, you’ll know straight away if it’s going well or not, if it’s working at all, and if there are problems that you might’ve not noticed while creating the campaign. The earlier you know how the reality is unfolding, the better. To monitor a campaign, enter its name if it has one, its slogan, and/or its hashtag as a keyword.

Example of how social media activities could go wrong

It’s important to understand that there are loads of marketing campaigns that have caused serious problems for the companies. Something that could’ve been avoided with social media monitoring.

5. Industry

Not in every industry can you monitor the so-called “industry keywords”. However, if you can, these are the source of endless opportunities. Most of these are in the realms of social selling, brand awareness, and influencer marketing.

For example, if your product is a productivity app, this would be your keyword “productivity app”. Include a couple of synonyms and words such as “looking for”, or “can anyone recommend” and you’ll get mentions from people that look for a product like yours. Specify the language and the location to get more relevant results.

With a social media monitoring tool that finds influencers, you can go to the list of influencers that is built around your industry keywords and choose the ones to work with.

Example of finding influencers using social listening keywords

6. URL

Monitoring your brand by excluding your brand’s URL (which is possible with a social media monitoring tool) is important for SEO purposes. It’s a big part of link-building. All you have to do is find mentions of your brand that don’t link to your brand, reach out to the author, and ask for a link. In most cases, the authors wouldn’t mind adding the link to your site.

Besides, you can monitor competitors’ URLs. This will give you a list of sources where they get links from. It’s only logical that if the author is interested in the niche and is willing to write about your competitor, they probably wouldn’t mind reviewing your product as well.


There’s a lot you can do with social media monitoring. All you have to do is start. Starting is the hardest part. Then, appetite, ideas, and knowledge come with eating. Hopefully, this article gave you a clear idea of where to start.

Aleh is the Founder and CMO at SEO PowerSuite and Awario. He can be found on Twitter at .

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The Rise of On-Page SEO Tools: Pushing the Frontiers of SEO & Content

Let’s talk content and on-page SEO — on steroids. Let’s talk about cutting-edge SEO research that can truly transform your ranking success.

Our discussions over the last few years have been focused on editorial plans, query intent, and user engagement.

While they are surely a part of the equation (and I am a deep believer of content quality, avoiding SEO spam and creating useful answers), we have forgotten an important part of getting content right: data-driven decisions.

I want to reinvent your definition of keyword difficulty. I want to reinvent your understanding of competitive analysis. It is time to truly leverage the latest SEO tools for your content creation.

Understanding Page 1 Is the Most Important Ingredient of SEO

Not all keywords are created equal.

Creating a blog post of 1,000 words is certainly a good SOP and an efficient way to brief your content writers. However, it is most likely not the right advice for the keyword for which you are trying to rank.

Different query types need different content. This means that Page 1 will look radically different whether you are looking for “SEO blog”, “buy CBD oil online” or “underground techno club Berlin”.

I want to invite you to study Page 1 and truly understand what content type, content length, and keyword frequency Google would like to see.

To achieve SEO success, your keyword research and content planning need an update.

Using Statistical Relevance to Understand Successful Websites

The last two years have seen a rise of tools that are doing keyword specific competitive research for you. Statistical analysis has never been easier — or faster.

New SEO tools use statistical analysis to understand what all those websites on Page 1 have in common – and for which ranking factors your website is deficient. You now get a list of statistical relevant optimizations to make.

The difference to a normal crawler (like Screaming Frog) is that the correlational SEO tools do not display a fixed set of hard-coded recommendations.

Their recommendations are based on the statistical relevance of a factor for your target keywords. It is specific, instead of the “one-size-fits-all” approach of most crawlers.


pop1Page Optimizer Pro

Instead of telling your team “extend this blog post”, you can now tell them: “Extend this piece by 383 words, two images and one video. Make sure to use the exact match keyword twice in H3 and add the following keywords…” – knowing that it will move the needle, because this is what those websites on Page 1 have in common.

The New Kids on the Blog: The Rise of On-Page SEO Tools

The tools rising in popularity include:

  • CORA
  • Page Optimizer Pro
  • Website Auditor by SEO Power Suite
  • SurferSEO

I am not an affiliate of any of these tools, and this analysis is based on my practice of using these tools in my agency work throughout the last two years.

These tools vary on the amount of search results and ranking factors they measure. Some measure a handful of on-page SEO factors, some review LSI keywords with TF-IDF analysis, others up to 600 ranking factors, including backlinks.

What to Consider When Implementing a New On-Page SEO Tool

There are three factors I like to consider when implementing a new tool to my workflow.

For correlational SEO, they are:

  • Data and transparency
  • Recommendation quality
  • Usability

Think of all these tools as your most sophisticated keyword difficulty analysis ever.

If you believed in keyword density (percentage of keyword to total words within a page), it used to tell you “use the keyword more.”

Today’s tools not only tell you which specific ranking factors (headlines, images, bold, italics or lists) to optimize – they also tell you that those factors are most likely to have a positive impact on your rankings.

Data & Transparency

Firstly, CORA is the only tool that will not only review the first 100 search results (and therefore provide the deepest analysis of search results) but also show you the complete analysis. This includes every single website and the status of its optimization.

According to the SurferSEO website, they crawl the first 40 search results to make their on-page analysis.

SurferSEO and other tools will provide you with the recommendations but not the detailed report of your competitors. This means you won’t be able to reverse-engineer their math – and you will have to trust their recommendations without knowing the underlying data set.

CORA is also the only tool that measures more than 600 ranking factors. With CORA, you can even use APIs (e.g., to Ahrefs) and factor in backlinks (while the others are pure on-page SEO tools). It includes a unique in-depth task list which prioritizes the factors that appear to influence rankings the most.

The Rise of On-Page SEO Tools: Pushing the Frontiers of SEO & Content

The Rise of On-Page SEO Tools: Pushing the Frontiers of SEO & ContentCORA

CORA is the clear winner when it comes to data provided and the number of ranking factors measured.

All other tools focus on on-page SEO factors only. Mainly, they are reviewing the term frequency of:

  • The exact match keyword.
  • Variations of the target keywords.

But unlike keyword density, they measure the term frequency per relevant ranking factor such as headlines, paragraphs, bold, italics, lists, etc.

SurferSEO uses around 10 factor types and operates more like a classic crawler with a fixed list of factors for which they are publishing recommendations.

It’s similar to this: Website Auditor reviews 17 on-page factors.

Page Optimizer Pro correlates 29 factors that are chosen based on SEO research and single variable testing. You can review the tests behind their displayed factors in their blog. It also includes functionalities to review page layout, media types, and schema markup.

All tools offer a solution for contextual keywords as well. Page Optimizer offers a TF-IDF analysis, as does Website Auditor. SurferSEO calls them “prominent words”.

Using semantically-related keywords will help to increase topical relevance and make it easier for other natural language processing tools (and therefore, most likely, also Google) to understand the intent, topic, and concepts of your content.

Many SEO professionals have seen an increase in rankings from using keyword variations and semantically-related keywords appropriately.

Recommendation Quality

When comparing the recommendations of several tools, you will realize that they never return the exact same recommendations.

Some will tell you to add a keyword 2x to an H3, and the others will tell you 3x. How can that be, and what does it mean for your optimization?

Disclaimer: Perfect is the enemy of done. We are aiming for “good enough.”

Correlation is not proof. However, it allows us to understand those factors that have the highest probability of making us successful.

The goal is not to get an “A” or 100 percent in all of the tools. The goal is to knock out those optimizations that will easily put us ahead of the curve.

The Rise of On-Page SEO Tools: Pushing the Frontiers of SEO & Content

The Rise of On-Page SEO Tools: Pushing the Frontiers of SEO & Content

The first reason for different recommendations across tools is word count per page – and how it is calculated by the crawlers collecting HTML.

Crawlers such as Google (and these tools) review the source code of a website, not the visual front end that we enjoy as users.

This source code includes header, footer, body content, etc. The tools have different capacities of understanding raw HTML source code vs. rendering HTML.

Google indexes rendered content, so rendered solutions are more likely to be closer to what the Google crawlers are seeing, too.

CORA, for example, factors in all content, including header, footer and even developer comments by rendering HTML with embedded Chrome.

However, Page Optimizer Pro determines the word count per page by rendering HTML with a simple browser. Their word count result is similar to the results of SEOquake by SEMrush.

Other tools might be using raw HTML only.

Keep in mind that all the tools also calculate variations of your keywords and synonyms, as well as match words differently. Comparing the variations across tools is often like comparing apples and oranges.

Secondly, the recommendations are based on the data set with which you are comparing your website.

When using Page Optimizer Pro or Website Auditor (as well as the creators), the recommendation is to compare against pages of the same type. Compare inner pages with inner pages (not homepages), and product pages with product pages (not categories) and so on.

This means that you are comparing your page against 5 to 10 competitors of the same page type that are more successful than you.

In contrast, CORA factors in the first 100 search results of all page types, SurferSEO compares 40 search results, and thus the recommendations are normalized across content types by the size of the data set.

This is especially interesting for the TF-IDF analysis. TF-IDF allows us to understand how to use contextual keywords (LSI). TF-IDF is term frequency (keyword count) in a document times the keywords used in the entire set.

In Website Auditor’s TF-IDF and Page Optimizer Pro, we are manually choosing the competitors that we want to compare our website against. Our manual decisions may negatively affect the result calculated.

Website Auditor

Website AuditorWebsite Auditor

Thirdly, the quality of recommendations is based on the factors that are included in the tool and how they are prioritized.

Most importantly, the recommendations differ across the tools based on the underlying assumptions that the creators made about the importance of certain ranking factors.

Using the different tools, we are buying into the different SEO philosophies of the creators:

Which ranking factors should be included in the tool? Which ones are relevant for SEO?

SurferSEO and Website Auditor hard-code their recommendations (more like most crawlers and SEO plugins would do) and thus will return the same set of factors no matter which keywords are entered. We are not aware of the reasoning behind the included factors.

Page Optimizer Pro also has a fixed set of recommendations. However, they were chosen based on years of single-variable testing by the creators and are updated regularly to reflect the importance of them based on the latest research.

CORA includes more than 600 ranking factors, even hypothetical ones, and has no preference on the importance of them. This means the recommendations are solely based on the statistical relevance and will change for every keyword.

On a continuum from personal preference of ranking factors to statistical analysis, we would find: Website Auditor and Surfer SEO first, then Page Optimizer Pro and then CORA.


CORA is processing heavy and thus is a desktop application – as is Website Auditor (which is a website crawler with some great content tools). Page Optimizer Pro and SurferSEO are browser applications.

Website Auditor is my personal usability winner. It is fast, easy to use and intuitive. I can just plug in my domain, then the URL of the target page and keyword, and I will receive all the recommendations.


websiteauditorWebsite Auditor

It is easy to see which competitors are being pulled in and include/exclude them from the analysis if needed (e.g., if they don’t have the same page type). I can plug several target keywords into the tool to get the complete analysis.

I work mostly with Website Auditor because I enjoy the process most.



The second best tool in terms of usability, I would say, is SurferSEO. It is the flat white of SEO tools – a sexy browser version, minimalistic and slick.

It allows for a quick high-level analysis and understanding what a page would need. It also looks good on a screen share with clients because it does not have the nerdy SEO feel that some of the crawlers have.

SurferSEO is competing with Page Optimizer Pro for the second place in my personal usability preference. I like how Page Optimizer Pro gives an overall score that we can track over time and see improvements.


pop2Page Optimizer Pro

I also find Page Optimizer Pro most handy and useful to brief my content writers. It returns a list of recommendations, including word count, media items to use and how to optimize on-page SEO factors.

I can see how, with a bit of training, this tool can be used on a day-to-day basis by a content writer team with low to intermediate SEO knowledge.

While CORA offers the most insights, it will need a detailed-focused SEO expert to interpret the output. Many functions are not self-explanatory, and the huge Excel files can be overwhelming at first.



And the Winner Is…

We have looked at:

  • Data and accuracy
  • Quality of recommendations
  • Usability

So, which one is the best on-page SEO tool?

The answer depends on your personal preferences, your role in the team, and for which part of your SEO process you are planning to use the tool.

It depends on your preference for:

  • Detailed data vs. overview
  • Statistical relevant recommendations vs. best case practices
  • Complex in-depth reports vs. easy usage and practical implementation

For a high-level overview, screen shares on a client call and live presentations to the team or other stakeholders, I recommend SurferSEO or Website Auditor.

They will make you look good. You will be able to justify a data-driven strategy – without looking like a complete nerd. Those tools make it easy to sell your recommendations – because you want to believe them.

But don’t forget that we don’t have any insight into their data collection or the priority they assign to the displayed rankings factors.

They are correlational SEO for beginners (at least for now) or sales/marketing people who don’t want to dig into every detail.

If you want your SEO and content team to make data-driven decisions, precise on-page SEO updates and use contextual keywords efficiently, teach them how to use Website Auditor or Page Optimizer Pro.

Working with Page Optimizer Pro will allow you to future-proof your keyword research and content planning. Your content briefings and content upgrades will be more specific than ever before, leveraging ranking factors that have proven their relevance in a series of in-depth SEO testing.

Page Optimizer Pro (or POP as insiders call it) makes your content creation truly data-driven and helps you to understand what successful websites are doing right.

If you are working on complex SEO campaigns in competitive niches, or if you simply want to really geek out on ranking success in 2019, CORA is your best bet.

While it is hard to use, it offers by far the best data and deepest insight. It is the only tool that is fully transparent and creates a fluid task list based on statistical relevance only.

So, are you…

  • An overview person trying to get an overview of the optimization needed for a page?
  • An SEO pro creating detailed content plans?
  • A writer looking to do on-page SEO right?
  • Or an SEO expert trying to dive in deep?

In any case, I highly recommend that you rethink your keyword research, content planning, and content creation. SEO professionals are studying Page 1, identifying winning strategies, and using them to their advantage. You should be, too!

Correlational SEO and the testing community has been busting many SEO myths in the last few years.

Using tools like Page Optimizer Pro and CORA will teach you to take nothing for granted – until you have some data to back it up. You are learning to understand what is working, no matter how controversial it may seem.

Use the power of these new on-page SEO tools and create truly data-driven content.

Happy ranking!

More Resources:

Image Credits

In-post Photo #1: Pexels.com
In-post Photo#2: Pexels.com
All screenshots taken by author, March 2019

Hot off the press: Talking media with Google News Lab’s directorHot off the press: Talking media with Google News Lab’s director

When I was growing up, reading the news meant thumbing through the local paper every week on my way to the Sunday comics section. These days, staying up-to-date on world events looks a little different: I skim email newsletters, scroll through social media feeds, occasionally pick up a magazine, and of course, read Google News.

As newsrooms around the world keep up with these changes, there’s one team at Google thinking about how technology can help build the future of media: the News Lab. To mark the one-year anniversary of the Google News Initiative, I sat down with News Lab’s director and cofounder, Olivia Ma, for today’s She Word interview. Here’s what I learned—straight from the source—about why Olivia set out on this career path, how she stays focused in a world where the news never sleeps and what she’s reading outside of the office.

How do you explain your job at a dinner party?

As the mother of two young kids, I don’t make it to that many dinner parties these days. But if I find myself at a table filled with adults, I’d tell them this: I lead a team at Google called News Lab that works with newsrooms across the globe to help them navigate the transition to a digital future. 

In the early days of News Lab, we focused on training journalists to use our products that helped them tell stories, such as Google Trends and Google Earth. Now, we immerse ourselves in the needs of journalists, publishers and news consumers so that our engineering teams can build better products. Every day we work to answer the question: How can technology play a role in helping newsrooms grow their audiences and build sustainable businesses?

What initially drew you to journalism?  

My dad spent his career working as a journalist at publications like Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report and The Washington Post. As a kid, my class would visit my his office to learn about how magazines and newspapers were printed—the old fashioned way, with ink and paper.

It wasn’t until college that I also caught the journalism bug, and I decided to dedicate my career to tackling the tricky challenges facing the news industry. By that time, my dad had started working at The Washington Post where he helped transition the newspaper online. Up until he passed away in 2011 we’d talk about what we thought journalism would look like in the digital age. I’m honored to continue his legacy—albeit from a different vantage point.

How to Do PPC Keyword Research in 2019 by @amyppc

If you’re looking for the latest strategies in PPC keyword research, there’s something you should know: Google was never designed to be about keywords.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin said:

“My vision when we started Google… was that eventually you wouldn’t have to have a search query at all – the information would just come to you as you needed it.”

Google’s getting closer to that mission, and in 2018 it rebranded AdWords as Google Ads, dropping the “words” entirely. Many older keyword building methods are now outdated or defunct.

Today, there’s a new and easier way to handle PPC keywords, and it starts with a focus on users. To understand this new strategy and why it works better, it will help to know what’s different about the current search landscape.

Google’s Giving Less Weight to Keywords

Once upon a time, many algorithm updates ago, Google’s best chance of serving up relevant results was to match a user’s search terms with keywords on a page (or, in the case of paid ads, keywords in a list). A lot has changed.

Natural Language Processing Advancements

Last week, I did a Google search for a podcast episode. I couldn’t recall the episode number or name. But I remembered the gist of it, and Google knew what I meant.

Google matches a query to a listing that doesn't share words, but has the same meaning.

Google matches a query to a listing that doesn't share words, but has the same meaning.

Five years ago, Google wouldn’t have been able to deliver this result, but today Google’s natural language processing and AI have advanced far beyond simple word matching.

Google can now understand syntax, entities, sentiment, conversation, and context. Neural matching is being used for 30 percent of search queries. This makes it easier for people to get answers based on what they mean, not what they type or speak.

Personalization & Implicit Signals

Search for “dentist” and you’ll probably get a list of nearby dental offices. How does Google know to deliver those results (and not articles or definitions) without you even entering your city?

Google uses implicit queries (such as your location, search history, behavior, and demographics) to personalize the results you’ll see.

Combining your explicit queries (what you type or say) with implicit signals (who you are, where you are and what you’re doing) lets Google tailor the SERP with the most relevant answers, listings, and ads.

Taking the Keyword out of the Ad Serving Process

One of the driving forces behind Google Ads’ auction model is Ad Rank, which is based on factors like a keyword’s ad relevance.

But today, many ad formats that appear on Google Search don’t even have the option of bidding on keywords.

Campaigns for Dynamic Search Ads (DSA), AdWords Express / Smart Campaigns, Local Service Ads and Shopping Ads are completely keyword-less. They rely on your business type, products, or website to control when ads are served.

How to Do PPC Keyword Research in 2019

How to Do PPC Keyword Research in 2019

Google Changed How Match Types Work (or Don’t)

Google’s always been out to expand keyword coverage beyond the lists uploaded by advertisers. Here’s their official explanation for casting a wider net:

“There’s a good chance people are searching for your products or services with terms you haven’t discovered. Take deodorant, for example. Last year, we saw people search for deodorant in more than 150,000 unique ways. That’s a lot of different ways to say the same thing. But you shouldn’t have to manage an exhaustive list of keywords to reach these hygiene-conscious consumers.”

For more than a decade, Google let advertisers use broad match keywords to catch misspells and relevant variations of queries, while keeping tighter bid control with phrase and exact match types. This option has slowly been retired.

In the last few years, Google changed the function of exact match to include abbreviations, stemming, reordered words, function words, implied words, synonyms, and search intent:

screenshot of Google's table of exact match ad triggers

screenshot of Google's table of exact match ad triggers

Advertisers can no longer opt out of this coverage.

Now that exact match is behaving more like broad match, true exact coverage is lost. As the above Google quote implies, to show only for the exact query [deodorant], you’d have to add thousands of negative keywords.

With expanded keyword coverage implicit in every match type (like it or not), precise keyword control is no longer an option. Bloated keyword lists just add needless management complexity.

Google Lets Fewer Keywords Trigger Your Ads

Here’s a real screenshot from a keyword I created in June 2007:

Screenshot of Google Ads interface. The keyword [dr amy's dad] has 1 click, 1 impression, and spent $0.20.

Screenshot of Google Ads interface. The keyword [dr amy's dad] has 1 click, 1 impression, and spent $0.20.

The only impression came from my dad (it was part of a Father’s Day present), and he clicked the ad that led to a landing page with his gift.

Obviously, this keyword doesn’t work in 2019. Let’s look at why:

Low Search Volume = Inactive Keywords

Google marks keywords with few searches as “Low search volume,” which means they’re inactive and won’t trigger ads. According to Google:

“Keeping these keywords out of the ad auction helps Google Ads serve ads more efficiently and reduces the volume of keywords on our system.”

No Commercial Intent = No Ad

Around the time Google changed its Ad Rank calculation to weigh bids more heavily, it also updated Ad Rank to take into consideration the meaning of the query.

If this sounds complicated, think of it like this: Google’s trying to avoid delivering SERP experiences that feel spammy to users by restricting how often (and when) ads can show.

Even if advertisers are bidding on keywords, Google is less likely to serve ads if it believes the searcher is looking for information rather than a product or service.

Want to show your football t-shirt ads when someone searches “super bowl”? That’s not an option anymore. But you can show for “super bowl t-shirt” searches all day long:

Super bowl winner does not trigger ads in SERP. Super bowl t-shirts triggers 6 ads

Super bowl winner does not trigger ads in SERP. Super bowl t-shirts triggers 6 ads

Keywords that are unlikely to trigger a click (generating revenue for Google) aren’t worth its processing power. “Just in case” keywords are no longer eligible to serve ads and don’t benefit your account.

New & Improved Keyword List Building

All these changes add up, and Google Ads marketers now find themselves in unchartered waters. Today:

  • Fewer keywords trigger ads: keywords with low search volume or low commercial intent are DOA.
  • Fewer keywords are needed for coverage: by design, precise keyword control is gone.
  • Keywords are a smaller signal: Google uses search intent and implicit queries in selecting which ads to serve.

So how can we take advantage of the new keyword landscape?

There’s good news. While keyword research may be getting increasingly complex for SEO, it’s actually easier and faster now for PPC.

Here’s a user-first keyword research strategy that will improve your paid search campaigns and save you both time and money.

1. Define Your Goal for Paid Search

Don’t invest in PPC unless you know exactly how it will help to grow your business. I always like to remind advertisers:

“Paid search puts your best offer in front of your ideal audience when they’re most ready to take action.”

You’re not “buying traffic” or “buying keywords.”

You’re paying a premium to put your offer directly in front of people who are looking for it. What’s the offer your market is ready to say “yes” to (and take out their wallets for)?

2. Start with What’s Closest to the Money

Once you’ve defined the action your audience takes that drives leads and sales, you’ll identify who’s most ready to take that action.

We’re not making decisions about keywords yet, we’re making decisions about our audience and prospects.

In Breakthrough Advertising, Eugene Schwartz breaks out prospect awareness into five separate stages.

Applying stages of awareness to paid search, we can think of each stage as an electron shell – a nerdy analogy, but the best I could think of – with audiences increasing in size as we get further from the goal:

stages of awareness placed in electron shells to show volume and intent

stages of awareness placed in electron shells to show volume and intent

You can typically expect higher conversion rates and better performance from the “most aware” audience, so you’ll want to focus your efforts there first.

But you’ll eventually want to branch out – either because there’s not enough search volume for “most aware,” or you want to fill your customer pipeline.

3. Create Your Keyword Categories

Your next step is to start filling in keyword themes that support your audience’s stage of awareness.

This is not a one-size-fits-all exercise; you’ll bookend your categories based on the search volume, value, and specificity of your own products and services.

For example, “freelance copywriter” could be a product-aware term for a marketplace offering freelance copywriting services, but a problem-aware term for a copywriter specializing in long-form sales copy.

Most Aware

Your prospect already knows and wants your offer, and is ready to take action

  • Keyword types: your brand name, names of your products and services
  • Examples: verizon, cascade kennels, moto g5 plus, uber eats
  • Consider: If your audience is completely brand loyal or you have no PPC competition, being #1 organically may be enough. But if competitor ads appear above your organic listing, defensive brand bidding can keep you from losing sales and customers.

Product Aware

Your prospect knows what you sell, but hasn’t decided who to buy it from

  • Keyword types: your competitors, descriptions of product and services
  • Examples: airtable bidding on “smartsheet alternative,” samsung bidding on “moto g5,” emergency flood restoration
  • Consider: Competitor bidding can be expensive because your ad is less relevant to the query. It can still be effective, especially if your competitor’s brand has become genericized (i.e., jacuzzi, super shuttle). If the market is looking for products your competitor offers that you don’t, or they aren’t considering an alternative (i.e., Facebook), it makes less sense to bid on those brands.

Solution Aware

Your prospect is looking for a result, but isn’t aware of specific brands or services

  • Keyword types: features, outcomes, results
  • Examples:  shoes for heel pain, online guitar lessons,  reverse mortgage, sleep aids
  • Consider: There’s no hard line between product, solution and problem aware. You’re just grouping intent as it relates to your business.

Pain / Problem Aware

Your prospect is trying to solve a problem, and either doesn’t know how or is considering many solution categories

  • Keyword types: high-level problems, symptoms, desires or goals
  • Examples: kubernetes management, sell my house, joint pain, flight to denver, learn guitar
  • Consider: Problem aware keywords that don’t tie directly to your offer and don’t have “commercial intent” are less likely to trigger ads or drive sales. Stay anchored to your goal.

Table with stages of awareness and goals for paid search

Table with stages of awareness and goals for paid search

4. Define the Right Keywords & Research Questions

Now that you’ve got a general idea of the keyword themes to target and you know who’s most likely to take action, what’s left to research?


But the best research doesn’t come from blindly auto-generating or “stealing” large keyword lists. It comes from listening to your prospects and digging deep into your own offer.

Mine Your Customers’ Language

Google can solve for a lot of synonyms, but you need to know how your market is thinking about your services. Especially if they are in the problem-aware stage, they may not have the vocabulary to describe your offer the way you do.

Zero in on the exact language your audience is using with review mining. You can use review sites (Amazon, Yelp, G2Crowd, etc.) and your own user data (Hotjar, surveys, chats, transcriptions) to add to your keyword list and find new terms for each stage of the funnel.

Get Clarity on the Offer

It can be tough to get a clear understanding of the products you’re marketing, especially when the industry is highly specialized.

Landing pages can be vague or full of jargon, making it hard to know what problems the product or service solves.

To get a better handle on what the offer is about, try these sources for neutral, non-branded language and keyword themes:

  • Look up the company or product on Wikipedia or a comparison site (like CrunchBase). How do third parties describe the solution?
  • Enter the landing page or site URL into Google’s Keyword Planner. What does Google think the page is about? How can that inform your keyword strategy?
  • Use the SERPs (paid and organic listings) to see how publishers and competitors are describing key points about the offer.

Google's keyword planner shows keyword ideas for a website (hubpsot)

Google's keyword planner shows keyword ideas for a website (hubpsot)

Once you’ve got clarity on your offer and stages of awareness, you can also use keyword research tools to identify and fill in gaps in your coverage.

Beware of the ‘Buyer Intent’ Party Trick

You may have heard that there are keyword modifiers that signal buyer intent (or lack thereof).

For instance, terms like “how to open a bank account” or “best running shoes” are informational/consideration terms, while “open a bank account” or “buy running shoes” are decision/transaction terms.

The truth is that most of the time, people don’t explicitly state their intent with boilerplate modifiers.

Remember our super bowl example above?

Google used the words “winner” and “t-shirts” (not “learn” and “purchase”) to determine intent. Building keyword lists around standard “intent” modifiers only catches the outliers.

More importantly, the customer journey isn’t so binary.

If you search “luggage reviews,” read an article comparing luggage brands and find one you like, what’s your next step? You’d probably:

  • Click the brand’s link from within the article.
  • Start a new search with the name of the luggage brand (product/most aware).
  • Or visit the brand’s site directly.

You wouldn’t start your search completely over with “buy luggage” and click an unrelated ad.

Putting It All Together

Let’s see how our PPC keyword research strategy works from start to finish. We’ll use a (made up) massage therapy school in Utah as an example:

step by step progression of keyword research process

step by step progression of keyword research process

Doing keyword research this way speeds up your process and helps you reach your audience when they’re most likely to take action.

A Few Final Tips

  • Don’t use plain broad match keywords! Use advanced match types like modified broad match, phrase, or exact match to avoid wasting money on searches that are too irrelevant.
  • Group your keywords in tight themes. Google can match any ad with any keyword in the same ad group – it doesn’t automatically pick the best match! – so each ad group should be about one primary topic.

If you thought PPC keyword research meant you had to find 100,000 keywords to reach your audience: congratulations!

You can now let machine learning take over the grunt work of intent and keyword coverage, while you focus on strategy and searchers.

Coming Soon: Keyword Optimization

Once your keywords are live, the real fun begins. You can use the search term report to see the detailed performance of the actual search terms your audience is using (not just the keywords in your list).

The search term report will help you improve and curate your keyword list. But if you’re starting from scratch with keyword research, it’s unfair to suggest using a resource that doesn’t exist for you yet.

Use the steps from this article to build out your audience-focused PPC keyword list today. Then be sure to catch the companion article, How to Optimize Your Paid Search Keyword List, in May 2019.

More Resources:

Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, March 2019

4 Deep Thoughts on Being a Provider & Partner by @navahf


When I was younger, I had a plan in place for how my life would go:

  • I’d have my first kid by 25. That didn’t happen.
  • I’d be an English teacher with a partner who could handle the bills. Nope.
  • I’d have a big house with a maid who would do all the cleaning. I wish!

In short, I planned on being provided for and choosing dependence on someone else so that I could have things I thought I wanted.

Life has a funny way of taking unexpected turns – and I am blessed in the life I am leading. Here’s what actually happened:

  • I’m 30 with two ocicats and an adorable rescue pup (Chinook, Kiowa, and HK) – my husband and I will eventually adopt.
  • I’m a digital marketer who is responsible for most of the bills.
  • We live in a comfy house with a large yard, and my husband and I share household responsibilities (he’s the better cleaner, I own trash, laundry, and dishes).

There are several reasons why my “plan” didn’t work out, and I couldn’t be happier that my life took a different path.

Yet the shift from planned dependence to owned star power didn’t come overnight, nor is the life of a provider without trials and tribulations.

I had to shift my perspective to understand and appreciate my value.

This was a monumental task and I couldn’t have completed it as successfully without the many mentors who helped me unlock my potential. Chief among them is my husband who empowers me in all that I do.

These were the four major mindshifts that helped me appreciate where I am (instead of pining for where I thought I wanted to go).

Mindshift 1: Owning My Survival Instincts & Who/What Makes My Life Worth Living

Being a provider first and foremost means being a survivor and helping those you provide for survive.

Every hero’s journey includes a trip through hell, and emerging from whatever pain life has in store can empower you to even greater heights.

My hell came from having a forced medical withdrawal from my education degree and having to return home. I had to be provided for and I felt weak, useless, and alone.

Then I had a life-changing conversation with a relative in the PR industry. She asked me why I wasn’t in marketing. She saw in me what I had forgotten in myself: a creative, analytical, and mercantile mind.

I made the move to Boston 12 years ago, emerging from hell into confidence, pragmatism, and independence.

Survival often gets associated with self-preservation instincts (and in turn selfishness). I see survival as not only a preservation of the self but also preserving aspects of your life that make it worth living.

My husband may not contribute as much financially, yet what he does provide transcends monetary value. He’s my support system and provides stability in an otherwise stressful and chaotic world. He helped me find myself when I was lost, and is my partner in all things.

I provide for our household. He provides for our overall well-being.

Survival, ultimately, meant choosing to see my value and embracing how much I mean to those around me. These instincts took time to hone, but once achieved, the “burden” of being the main provider turns into a game of survival.

I believe in our ability to win.

Mindshift 2: Compromise Where I Can & Own What I Need

Being a provider means taking care of people. Being a survivor means taking care of yourself.

One of the hardest parts of being a provider for me is knowing where to draw lines so I can continue to provide for my family.

My job is empowering businesses to achieve the most profit possible.

Sometimes this requires a strategic data-driven touch. Sometimes it requires an empathetic friend who can help them transition from overwhelmed and underappreciated, to the celebrated hero of their brand.

My role also elevates trends in clients to our product, customer success, and leadership teams so we can provide better experiences and anticipate client needs.

I could not be more blessed in my career or the brand I serve.

I also acknowledge how draining it is to have so many relying on me at work, and how much I treasure that my husband owns most of the household items.

Yet that wasn’t always the case – there was a two-year period when he was struggling with his career and confidence. This knocked the energy out of him and despite knowing he should and wanting to, he wasn’t able to contribute to household tasks or income.

I thought I was serving him best by giving him the runway to find himself on his own. Yet as weeks dragged into months (and eventually years), I began to resent how much responsibility I had to own.

Eventually, I snapped and all the built-up frustration came flooding out in an unproductive tidal wave of rage and sadness.

We had stopped taking care of ourselves, so we couldn’t be good for each other or achieve what we needed to.

The conversation that followed put us back on a productive path. We worked together to purge the house of the clutter, filth, and junk that got in the way of our self-preservation tools (my workout equipment and his workshop).

This episode taught me the most valuable lesson of all: just because I’m the main financial provider, doesn’t mean I rule the house.

It does mean I’m entitled to call out when I feel overwhelmed and when I need my partner to help in other ways. It’s on me to let him know what I need, just like it’s on him to vocalize his needs.

True love and partnership happen when compromises on details are commonplace, and neither partner asks the other to compromise the self.

Mindshift 3: I Am Worth More Than My Paycheck

I come from a very financially driven family and used to equate my self-worth with how much money I made.

This is obviously a terrible attitude, but it’s seductive and incredibly hard to shake once it’s woven its way into your perspective.

These insecurities are amplified when you’re the main provider:

  • “How could I fail my family?”
  • “Why couldn’t I see that bill coming?”
  • “I’m an idiot, now what are we going to do?”

It’s easy to see this way of thinking is terrible when you’re not in the heat of a financial obstacle. Yet we seem to forget how much good we’re capable of achieving at the moment.

The first time I “beat” a financial pitfall, it became easier to free myself from those toxic thoughts.

My moment was overcoming an unfortunate misfiling of taxes that threatened to ruin our family.

As someone who never had a penny of debt, this was horrifying to me (especially because we only had my income at the time and were just able to cover regular expenses).

Then we learned about offers in compromise. We achieved salvation. We won.

Every time my mind tries to go back to feelings of inadequacy, I have this data point to hold onto. This “win” where the outcome could have significant negative repercussions, gives me the confidence to meet future challenges (instead of giving into despair and anxiety).

My feelings on financial success being directly tied to self-worth are a lot like my feelings on Quality Score (PPC joke): how well you’re doing financially can point to areas of your life that you may want to “optimize”, but ultimately the most important metric of your life is your happiness and your positive impact on people blessed to know you.

While it’s true every financial hiccup is stressful, it’s also a chance to “play the game of survival.”

If you’re the type of person who thrives under pressure, own that and revel in your ingenuity to get out of any bind.

If you’re risk averse and need plans in place, own your process and revel in the serenity that comes from stability.

The actual amount of money I earn and save is inconsequential – what matters is I am setting myself up to live a life predisposed to bring me happiness.

Sometimes that means sacrificing wants for needs, but it never means equating the value I bring to my paycheck.

Mindshift 4: I May Be A Provider, But That Does Not Define Me

I am more than the tasks I complete.

Being a provider isn’t an all-defining attribute, nor is it a badge to show off. It’s simply something I do among the many other things I do.

I like taking care of people and the “provider” tasks and skills bring me joy, but at my core, I love luxury and crave pampering.

Reveling in all that makes me function, as opposed to compartmentalizing certain parts as guilty pleasures, is the kindest thing I’ve ever done for myself.

I really appreciate the opportunity to share what being a provider means to me, and the opportunity to learn from others. If you ever want to chat – the door’s always open!

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