Outline Marketing Strategy

Outline Marketing Strategy plan

The marketing strategy and plan outlines how you intend to attract customers, what you consider to be success and the steps you will take to implement the plan.

As with all plans it needs to be flexible as each strategy will be different.

In addition, it should create a framework which allows for an iterative approach to testing and implementation. There is nothing worse than trying to stick with a plan that isn’t working exactly as expected, so each step should be seen as a hypothesis that needs to be tested rather than a prescription carved in stone.

Most importantly, this is about the customer and what is the best way to communicate with and influence them to demonstrate how you are the best solution to their problems. It should not be a justification of your favourite marketing technique or spend that you have already committed to.

Similarly, don’t stress about the language or the text, it needs to express how you understand the problem and what you intend to do about it, rather than be consistent with the current buzzwords and trends. It just has to work for you.

This document will outline the sections involved, offer some insight into what the section is supposed to include and an example to illustrate how this might work in practice.

Where specific content needs to be expanded on, this will either be included as a sidebar in Italics, reference Appendices or separate documentation.

Section 1. Who is the customer

At the heart of your marketing strategy is the customer. This is the entity that benefits from the work that you do. They have a problem that needs to be solved or a goal that needs to be reached and will seek mechanisms to achieve this goal. The size of the benefit will define how actively they search and how much value they place on the solution.

Your marketing objective will be to influence this entity to act in a certain way, so you need to understand how they benefit and how they search for a solution if you are to craft an effective marketing communications strategy.

In a business to business context, there may be different decision-makers, such as accountants, Boards etc, and these may have different requirements and it can be important to influence these decision makers. However, it is important to focus on the person or role that benefits at this stage as they will be the active buyer and will lead any search activities.

Example

In my case, the customer is a small business owner who is either in the start-up phase or whose business is not growing quickly enough or has stalled. I am not looking to speak to large companies, their needs are different and they have the ability to bring skills into the business. They are local, they are likely to be marketing a service or relatively complex product and probably don’t come from a marketing background.

They are motivated but, being entrepreneurs, their first instinct is to do the work themselves, only going to external service providers once they have run out of ideas or most likely resources and knowledge.

They are independent and have personal objectives which drive the business as much as the normal financial objectives

Section 2. How does the customer benefit from your product or service

Consumer decision making is based on an exchange of values, where a customer gets something they want in exchange for something that you want. In most cases this is a product or service that the customer values in return for money, but in all cases, the perception of the value of the product or service is based on how much the customer feels they will benefit from the exchange.

It is essential therefore for you to understand and communicate how the customer will benefit from the transaction. This is not what you do, it is the outcomes in relation to the goals, benefits and solutions that the customer is seeking.

As an example, if your service saves the customer money, the focus of this section is to communicate how much money the customer is likely to save, not what you do to save them money. To communicate this may require you to offer examples that set an expectation in the mind of the consumer along with social proof.

Think of this as a before and after section, briefly describe the customers situation, desires and goals, and how these will be resolved after the interaction in general terms and in the customer’s language.

This is not the functional characteristics of the product, just the benefits and outcomes.

Example

In my business, the customer is seeking advice, guidance and access to skills that they don’t have in the business. The benefit is assistance in understanding how to create a marketing and sales strategy which will grow their business.

Many small business owners have worked with agencies in the past and found the process to be frustrating. They have seen adwords campaigns generate a lot of cost but little traffic, invested in SEO with no tactical response or create a lot of content with no lead generation. Much of this is because the tactics drove the strategy rather than being part of a consistent and integrated plan.

By working with me the customer creates a plan that they are in control of. they understand why each step is being taken, how it will benefit them and influence their customer and how to measure and improve the plan as we go along.

Most importantly, as they have been at the heart of the planning process they feel confident in its potential outcomes, that it is relevant to their business and that they are not dependent on a third party to do expensive work to make the most of the plan.

Section 3. What do I do for the customer

This is a functional description of the product or service that is provided and the mechanisms that are used to provide it.

  • Is it a product or service.
  • What are the main features that directly deliver the value

This a good opportunity to assess the features and benefits of your product against the customer’s goals and core benefit. Are you communicating products which actually add value or simply reduce a barrier or sales block?

It is also useful at this stage to define what you are not. Feature creep is an inevitable drive, especially in small businesses who feel that they need to meet all of the needs their customers have, but this generally bloats a product and can lead to a suboptimal experience for the customer and inflated prices to cover the cost of product aspects which may not add value to a specific customer.

Example.

In my business I act as a mentor and advisor to help the business owner define and refine their marketing strategy and consider new approaches. During mentoring sessions and workshops we will define who the customer is, how the company delivers value to these clients and how we can convert general interest in a subject into sales through and integrated, online marketing strategy.

Where clients are interested in developing a skill that I have, I will provide access to training.

Section 4. Customer journey and relevant channels

The tactical detail will be outlined later, this is a general outline of how the sales and marketing funnel will be outlined.

Communications channels will be broad, such as social media, display/adword advertising and search marketing but should all aim at providing interested and motivated prospects access to a resource that you control and where they have opted into receiving more detailed, specific and sales focussed information.

This may be following on social media, connecting on LinkedIn, subscribing to Youtube channel or website, where you have the ability to target them with individualised messages.

Customer journey

A potential customer will move from an entity that has a rough outline of a need or problem but no idea how to solve it, through a series of steps until they have found and successfully implemented a solution and is satisfied. This is the customer journey and will be different in each case.

For example, for food shopping it may be as simple as visiting a supermarket and choosing staple products. However, for a more complex product it may be a search for information followed by structured decision making around potential solutions and suppliers, followed by a visit to a website to make an online purchase.

Different customer journeys will impact on how you market, do you want them to call? Leave their details? Visit your retail partners? It all depends on your business model.

Channels

This needs to consider what channels are going to be important in the sales process ( online, shops, referrals, social media etc), what the search intent is, and what your influence should be.

Leads can come from Search, Email, or Social sources with decreasing levels of involvement and engagement. Leads generated by the search will always convert better than other sources as the client is actively seeking a solution rather than responding to a marketing message. Referrals are obviously the strongest, but should be considered as search as they are actively looking for information on a specific subject from a reliable source of information.

Ideally, all of your communications should be routed to and through your website, as this will boost your Search engine rankings and increasing the number of search-based leads.

Buyer intent

Depending on the complexity and competitiveness of the service offering, the intention of the buyer will dictate how you approach your communications at different stages of the journey.

This is where buyer intention comes in. Buyers can be looking for information, to compare products and suppliers or to make a purchase, and how you approach communications is going to change based on this.

At each stage of this process they will require different information and make different decisions, and it is important to understand what those needs are, and how you are going to address those needs and how you wish to influence the customer to move to the next step in a way which is beneficial to both parties.

Example.

In my case I know that the majority of motivated clients are in search mode, and I can use this fact to provide information that will help them identify and solve their problems. I know that most of the searches will be done online, so it’s important to rank well for specific search terms and subjects, so domain authority and backlinks are important. I foster this by creating content that meets their search goals and guides them to more detailed, relevant information within my website.

Where and how this happens is dependent on the audience and where the search is likely to happen.

I also know that, as clients may be looking for practical advice on a subject, that video and how to articles are going to be an important tool.

I might produce an article on how to increase revenue, for example as this is the basic requirement my customer has. This will cover a range of solutions, such as avoiding discounting, increasing conversions, increasing leads, Up-sales and cross-sales, widening the product range etc.

I will host this on my site where it will help drive Search engine ranking, but I will promote the article through relevant social channels, often with a cut-down version of the article, and a link to more detailed information on my site. This may be shared on relevant sites like Quora, Linkedin, Warrior forum, small business marketing forums etc.

However, this is not a teaser, there is enough information in the cut-down post to answer the question for a casual reader, leaving the more interested to follow the link to a more detailed answer.

On my site, I can follow several routes. Firstly, I can link to more detailed information, for example, How to avoid discounting, which will keep people on my site longer, and increase the possibility that search engines will crawl my site.

I may also have more detailed information behind an email subscription wall. This is only likely to attract the most interested buyer, and gives me the opportunity to build a relationship that will progress into a lead over time.

Section 5. Messaging

There are two parts of messaging, one relates to the subject matter you intend to produce content or ads relating to and the other relates to how you want to be perceived.

Subject area.

Subject matter research will be a big part of the implementation phase, but you should already have an idea of the kinds of phrases, questions and queries that are common with your customers. Regardless of what you do, you solve a problem, and want to be found by people who want that problem solved. That means you need to think in terms of the questions they ask, not the way you answer them.

The classic demonstration of this is Holes Not Drills. Someone who is putting up a shelf isn’t looking for a 1200w twin speed drill with tungsten carbide bits. They are looking for “How to put up a shelf”. IF your marketing is focussed on the former, they aren’t even going to come across your messaging!

Outline the main subject matter that you want to communicate about, as this will form the basis of your keyword research later, not matter what approach you take.

What do you want people to think about you?

The word positioning is overused, but it essentially means how your customer sees you relative to competing offerings. This is important as it will help you decide what and how you want to communicate.

Do you want to be seen as cheap and cheerful? Fast and efficient? Knowledgeable and credible? Fun and frivolous? Your communications need to be consistent both in terms of approach, content, voice and channel.

Section 6. Communications objectives – how I plan to influence the customer

This is the broad brush communications objectives

Awareness vs engagement vs action.

Depending on the complexity of your product and your target market, your objective may range from name recognition through understanding more about how you are relevant to the customer and to driving a specific course of action. It may also need to cover all three in a specific order.

Buyer intent.

Where do you think most of your buyers are? is the product simple and commoditised meaning searches are predominantly buyers, or are there many possible solutions to the problem, meaning you need to position your approach compared with others? This will also affect the type of keywords that are relevant to your content work and whether advertising is a viable option.

Actions and Metrics.

What is your preferred outcome? Are you aiming to increase your following on Instagram or Linkedin or do you need to drive specific lead flow? how are you going to measure this and what do you want to achieve?

Approach

What tools and channels do I want to use?

Example.

In my case, I am seeking to increase awareness of my knowledge and experience as an authority on specific aspects of start up marketing.

As my buyers understand that they want to improve their profitability by growing their revenue, but don’t know how to do this, providing Information relating to possible options will best meet their needs.

I will create content that is hosted on my site and promoted via youtube, LinkedIn and Forums to boost my domain authority and traffic to my site and will measure this using Google analytics.

Section 7. Project plan

This is the plan that you need to follow which will lead to achieving your objectives.

This is obviously going to be dependent on what you are doing but needs to start with:

What do I need to have in place to achieve these results and what time frame will I need to follow.

This might be to have a google ad campaign in place by the end of the month which drive traffic to a landing page which can capture lead information on a CRM

What resources do I need

This is a list of the assets and skills that are needed to fulfil the plan. It could be content, writing skills, keyword research, content ideas, etc.

I will need:

  • A list of relevant keywords that I can use for advertising and ad copy
  • Access to a google adwords account
  • A landing page on the website that can capture the lead and send it to me in a way that I can use to action contact with the customers
  • Access to funds to pay for the AdWords
  • Access to a google analytics account to collect statistics and measure success
  • A website
  • A way to respond to the customer that fills in the lead capture form
  • Access to my site to amend the lead capture form if it is not working

If I don’t have access to these resources, what steps do I need to take to acquire them?

This could involve steps to learn or to access external resources for a specific skillset.

1. I don’t know what keywords are going to work, I will research them by doing X, Y, and Z

2. I don’t have the time and energy to learn this so I will work with call google’s sales team and get them to help me

3. My web developer needs to add a page to capture the lead, I need to supply content.

This can then be parsed into a timeline and project plan.

Transactional marketing is dead! 8 expert tips to build strong relationships with your base

Transactional marketing is dead! 8 expert tips to build strong relationships with your base

In a highly fragmented media world, where engagement rates on social media are measured in fractions of a per cent, it’s becoming increasingly important to nurture your clients and leverage existing relationships, especially in traditionally transactional industries.

Lead generation is also getting tougher. Banner blindness has drastically reduced the effectiveness of paid advertising on social media and online channels, whilst increased competition is driving up the CPC of the more effective keywords.

Banner blindness relationship marketing
Eye-tracking heatmap illustrating banner blindness -Viewers no longer look at the ads

Ask any small business where they get their sales from and the holy grail is always word of mouth. 84% of consumers cite recommendation as to the reason for buying from a company.

Word of mouth leads are stronger, more engaged, convert higher and are presold, because they already know who you are and what you can do for them.

Nurturing leads and previous customers also have a significant impact on profitability, by reducing the cost of acquisition for new business

But this doesn’t happen by accident, its a reaction to a relationship that you have nurtured with another client, and based on their experience or dealing with you. And it’s this third party trust that you benefit from as their credibility adds value to your perceived value.

It doesn’t just work for service businesses though, with many of the techniques being adopted further up the funnel, as businesses seek to nurture and cultivate their leads and tie potential leads in before they even make the decision to buy.

This is especially true in the Real estate market, where businesses like Keller Williams are seeking to offer value-added content and services to potential homebuyers regardless of where they are in there buying cycle.

Gary Keller advocates a 33 touch campaign, which seeks to maintain regular, meaningful contact with a database to position yourself top of mind with homebuyers when they decide to buy or sell.

Keller Williams 33 touch campaign relationship marketing

This could be personal, text, phone or email content, but the key is “meaningful” – the content has to achieve two things. It needs to add value to the recipient, such that they want to receive the contact and it needs to clearly position the agent as trustworthy, experienced and professionally competent.

Keller Williams has gone a step further, viewing it’s subscribers as a tribe with specific needs outside of the core real estate products and services, leveraging big data to offer personalised financial products along with home maintenance and design services.

Have a clear brand identity

Before you run off and start blogging, remember that you are building your reputation, so your messaging needs to be consistent with what you want to be known for. Keller Williams Ireland, for example, promotes a two-pronged approach, which positions its agents as being expert both professionally and “Hyperlocally” so that the audience knows that the agent is the authority in selling in a target market.

Marketing content is split equally between building these two facets of the personal brand.

personal branding relationship marketing

Even in large businesses, there is an opportunity to strengthen corporate reputations by building up personal brands. The messaging from a CTO or CMO on LinkedIn will have more credibility on certain subjects than the Sales team for example and can be used to create a much richer picture of the brand and it’s offering that the standard marketing media.

Build a relationship – listen to their feedback and comments

Relationships are built on dialogue, to monologue, you don’t get to understand what your customer’s need or want by talking, and this is doubly so in a highly competitive market place.

From Facebook to email, attention heat maps are constantly demonstrating that we’re blind to banners and other ads, as we seek out relevant answers to our own problems. Voice search is now over 50% globally, and questions are now the major search terms used on youtube and Google.

If you’re not answering the questions that your customers are asking, someone else will be, so you have to constantly adjust your messaging based on customer feedback. Forums’ subscriber groups, comment sections and regular keyword reviews are essential to make sure that you continue to be the solution to your audience’s problems.

Keep regular contact but make it meaningful. People expect it and are willing to accept it.

There is a psychological theory called the “mere exposure theory’ which suggests that we automatically accept and feel comfortable around things we are used too. It’s the reason why certain Christmas songs remain popular even though you’ve heard them 500 times!

Similarly, familiarity with your content will increase the open rate and ensure that people will be open to your messages, which is essential when you start to add more sales-focused CTA’s further down the funnel.

Add value! This is not about you.

This is the key difference between inbound and outbound marketing. Outbound marketing bombards people with messages they don’t want to see, shouting the advertiser’s message to a wide audience in the hope that it might be heard.

Inbound marketing and content, in particular, aim to influence people by providing content that the viewer wants to see.

content marketing influencer marketing relationship marketing

The main difference is the message. Good inbound marketing adds value to the viewer’s life, by providing a solution to a problem. It answers the questions that the consumer is asking, in an engaging and entertaining way, as this ensures that, not only will the recipient get to the end fo the message, but they will remain engaged and are likely to retain 10 times as much of the message

There are multiple markets and make content relevant to them

Regardless of your industry, it’s likely that your customers are not the only people referring you. There is a range of affiliated but non-competing companies that can be nurtured for referrals, but their needs are different, so you might want to communicate with them specifically.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a small commission will drive referrals, most businesses will generate significantly more from their repeat customers than they will ever earn in commissions, so you need to communicate how they will benefit from being associated with your business, how it will enhance their offering with no risk to their reputation.

Grow your list, not facebooks!

Social Media is a great way to communicate a simple message to a lot of people, but it’s not a great place to communicate a complex and lengthy series of messages.

You want to be in control of your audience and how you communicate with them. A Facebook follower is not a lead, it’s an opportunity to see, and the level of engagement is very low. Social media is another media platform, now more or less so than TV, Radio or the internet, and as a business, you need to be able to pull your potential users closer and closer with time.

An email subscriber is an engaged potential lead, so your aim should be to create online content on your site and promote it via social media, rather than placing the content on the media platform itself, and coupled with lead capture as applicable. Ideally, you want your viewers to subscribe to your site or at least to email.

Reward loyalty and treat your subscribers differently

Your subscribers have indicated that they want a relationship with you, to be more than just a casual visitor. You need to respect and recognise that and treat them better than the norm.

Content should be stratified, dependent upon the level of engagement, from short intro pieces on Facebook and Linkedin to more detailed onsite content, and finally exclusive content for subscribers.

This could be a more in-depth article or a different format, such as a webinar or video content. Ideally, you want to create content that is exclusive to the subscribers, as this recognises that they are more engaged.

This is common in the online marketing services space, where freelancers and consultants offer free one to one consulting to their subscribers, which adds significant value ( and obviously increases the potential for lead generation!) but can work in other segments, especially where knowledge is the commodity.

Make sure this can transfer to a lead flow

Ultimately, this is a business, and your marketing has to work for you.

Don’t forget that this is a process, and its function is to provide selling opportunities in the future, in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible, so you need to pull people down the funnel.

Marketing funnel stages
relationship marketing

Whilst your top of funnel content needs to be highly customer focussed, with limited overt CTAs, you should give them the opportunity to drive the engagement further at their pace. This can be as simple as links to relevant, more sales focussed information, more detailed information on applications or more in-depth lead capture.

As your audience comes more engaged, they are more informed and looking to have a closer relationship, CTA’s can be more overt, and more personal contact.

Why spend time on researching keywords and Phrases

Search Keywords and phrases

Whether you are writing content, creating a search friendly website or planning on investing in adwords, picking the right words and phrases is essential if you want your content to be seen.

It’s not an easy task, but if you are a small business operating in a relatively small niche and have a bit of patience and creativity you should be able to quickly pinpoint those phrases that will help you stand out.

Before we look at the process you need to follow, lets look at the reasons why keywords and phrases are so important.

How do people find information

For the vast majority of people, their main source of information is the internet.

They will either specifically search for the information they seek or notice relevant and interesting posts or ads on social media because they have expressed an interest in a subject through hashtags, follow thought leaders, or are parts of specific groups.

In any event, the information they seek will be presented to them, not by advertisers or writers, but by algorithms and expert systems that assess their informational needs and try to match them to content that expressly meets their needs.

So, if you want your content to be seen, you need to understand how this works.

Expert systems

Most algorithms are expert systems that look at pages and assess whether they meet certain characteristics. These are learning systems that use feedback from real people to fine-tune the criteria that they use to rank the pages based on a hierarchy of relevance.

Whilst they are all proprietary and different, most follow the basic model that Google uses in its mission to “Organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Even Twitter and Facebook try to present posts that are relevant, not just new.

Building a strategy based on providing information that people see will increase visitors to your site. It’s a bit like opening a shop, you want it to be at the front door and looking inviting rather than being round the back near the bins!

Example.

If you search for Private Dentists for children on Google, the system will aim to provide you with a page that is

  1. Close to you. Make sure that you have claimed your site on Google Business.
  2. Offers the most relevant information based on your query. It will try to match pages that specifically match the search term, then, if it cannot find these, for specific keywords like “dentist”. This is why your content needs to have a consistent keyword strategy.
  3. Try to assess why you are looking for information and match content that meets your intentions. In this case, it is likely that you are looking to visit a dentist not learn about dentistry, so it will present Surgeries rather than an outline of why kids should wash their teeth
  4. Authority. Google will seek to present information from sites with High Authority, where the information is credible and has been found to be useful by other people and sites in the past. This is where backlinks come in, it’s part of the way Google scores how good the web thinks your content is. Links from the Irish dental authority, or articles you’ve written for A children’s health website will work here, giving you traffic and authority.
  5. User experience. This is a rank of how closely the experience of clicking on a link matches what the average user is looking for. An example is pop-ups and sales messages on a landing page. If the user is searching for the top ten plants for a south-facing garden and the landing page is just a sales message for a garden centre, or if the content is covered by a pop-up ad, this doesn’t match the search intent and therefore will be ranked badly.

Where online communications are used, your need ensure that

1. the content you are providing meets the needs of the searcher

2. you understand how important it is to promote your content and how to do so as this will increase your ranking and pull in visitors

3. you understand what your customers are searching for and how keyword searches can help you boost SEO, but, more importantly, create content which is readable, relevant and enjoyable

 

 

 

 

 

What is search intent and why is it important

What is search intent and why is it important

When people search they are not always looking to buy. most often they are just looking for information, in order to better understand a subject or issue, before looking for more detailed information at a later date.

This is important for two reasons

1. if a customer is just looking for information, bombarding them with sales messages is not answering their question and is going to put them off.

2. google actively assesses user intent and uses this to present pages which have the most relevant answer

4 types of buyer intention

Informational Search intent.

At this point the customer is doing general research about an issue or subject, they are trying to understand their context and situation better, seeking to understand what options are available to them, rather than making a decision. Content marketing helps to position you as an authority at this stage and so you are looking for long tail keywords and questions you can build content around.

Commercial investigation.

At this point, the customer is seeking to compare alternative decisions. Reviews, case studies, and comparisons work well here. Again, this is a content focussed area, but, if the product is relatively generic, ad words will fit well. Top tens, best XYZ or comparison articles go well here.

Transactional.

At this point the customer is making a decision. they are looking for the cheapest, best, discounts, Where can I. buy or Near me types of investigations. At this point, you are looking at Adwords.

Navigational.

This is where they are looking for a specific site, so are using the title, brand or company name to find the site rather than adding the URL into the navigation bar.

If you don’t know what sort of search it is, look at what sort of content Google is displaying as this will often give you a clue.

Why are you researching?

Keyword research is iterative and, to a certain extent, non linear. As you search for the keywords it will spark ideas of content etc. so it’s not a step by step approach necessarily.

As you research you will identify thousands of words and phrases that could be used, so it’s important to understand what you are using them for. Be clear about your objectives before you start.

For AdWords

The intention here is to target searchers who are in buying mode. Your objective is to identify words that signal buyer intent and have sufficient volume and are cost-effective enough to generate actions conducive to buying.

For content writing.

Here you are looking for interesting and relevant ideas which are going to entertain and educate searchers about a specific subject, allowing you to position yourself as a trusted authority. Here you want relevance and interest and are seeking informational buyer intent. you are looking for questions and phrases, not buying words, products or brands. Subjects for youtube videos or Blog articles are a good example

For on-page SEO.

Keywords are still an essential part of search ranking, so if you want to be high on the list, you need the right keywords for on-page SEO and the right links of Off-page. The key here is relevance and competition. If Accounting is your area and the first 20 entries on google are Colleges and National bodies, it will be almost impossible to rank for, so you need to find phrases where there is less competition and a good volume.

For off-page SEO.

Here you want to find sites that carry content that is relevant to your subject area, and the kinds of content they carry, as this will allow you to write content that they might carry, or where to promote existing content.

 

What tools can I use for Keyword research

What tools can I use for Keyword research?

Keyword research can be as limited or as detailed as time and budget allows. youtube, facebook and google all contain information that will point you in the right direction, but there are also free and paid tools which can give you more insight, depending on your needs.

Google is the heart of search. It’s the most common search engine and is the leader in search technology, so many of the main social and content channels follow the same methodologies, so it will always be the place to start.

It is also well worth using chrome as your browser, as there are a range of extensions that can help, and are exclusive to chrome.

Most of these tools work by scraping google’s auto suggest or related search terms, so they are acting to automate what you can do manually.

Keyword search tools

SEOStack

This is a chrome extension for brainstorming. It takes a keyword and searches for the top ten most popular searches on a range of platforms, returning literally hundreds of statements, questions, keywords and phrases. There is no detail on volumes, but it’s great for idea generation

KWsurfer

This is another chrome extension that lets you look at how popular a keyword or search term is. As you enter a search term it displays estimated search volumes and CPC rates for the territory you specify within the search bar, a list of similar terms ranked by search volume and similarity. it also gives some limited information on the top 10 web results.

Moz Bar

Moz bar gives you a bit more information on each site, and is more related to off pages SEO. the extension adds detail to about page and domain authority to each web result, plus access to details on backlinks, but this is limited without paying for Moz

Text optimizer

This extension is designed to help you improve your content writing by offering suggested words or phrases that can help you broaden out your writing, both from a readability and SEO perspective. However, it can be effective for keyword research. If you find an article that you like, it can identify the most common keywords on the page. you can use this to analyse the most popular searches on a page for example

Tube buddy

This extension gives details about videos and channels on Youtube, like number of and trends in subscribers and views. It also exposes the tags on each video and channel which can give you a read on what keywords are attached to popular videos. Going deeper , there is a suite of additional tools like keyword explorer which will assess specific words, but you may need to pay.

Keywordfinder.io

This is a good research tool, which gives you monthly search volumes, trends, estimated CPC rates, and a rank of the competitiveness of the word. It’s a bit clunky and you can’t specify a region, but it’s generally a good tool.

Keywordtool.io

this is a great tool if you want to see details about youtube, twitter or instagram. It also tracks keywords popular on ebay and amazon. say you want to come up with thought leaders on instagram for Accounting? this tool will list the most popular people and hashtags. the down side is that it doesn’t give you volumes for free, and I am not sure that the lists are ranked. However, from a pure ideation perspective, it works very well

Competitor and site activities

Analysing popular and competing sites can be exceptionally powerful to assess where they get their content from, what they rank for, who links to them etc. and these range from the free to the exceptionally expensive enterprise-level tools.

Just a word of caution. Information costs money, free tools will have limited info, detailed sites will be expensive. it;s also worth noting that Google doesn’t give out this kind of information, so these sites provide data based on their own databases and estimations, so there will be discrepancies between each tool.

Ubersuggest

This is a great place to start as it will give you basic information on a range of criteria using either a domain or keyword as a source. This can give you detail on which keywords a particular site ranks for, which pages are the most popular, where they get backlinks from and what content is popular for a particular subject.

It’s increasingly being pulled behind a paywall as user numbers increase, but it’s a good place to start.

Moz vs Ahrefs vs Semrush

These are the pro level tools, and are exceptionally good for managing your own site, running keyword and competitor research and a whole host of arcane and specialised tasks. They tend to be very close approximations of google, and can give you exceptional insights on keywords, competitors and popular sites.

But they aren’t cheap. expect to pay 100 per month minimum for access, with more complex tasks and tools adding significantly to this. Competitor analysis on Semrush will set you back at least 300 per month for example!!!

Unless your business is online marketing or you have a high ad spend, it’s debatable whether you will get the value from it. However, if this is a one off project, Moz and Semrush give limited time trials, during which you should be able to capture a lot of information.

Customers

Customers sit at the heart of keyword research because you are looking to identify what they want to know and how they search for it. Conversations with customers will highlight phrases and words that commonly come up. If your customers are using the same words and phrases over and over, chances are they are going to use the same lexicon when they search.

 

Finding keywords to create powerful, customer-centric content

Keywords

Keywords and hashtags are key to online and social marketing and it’s really important to make sure the keywords we are using are those our customers are using, not just the marketing department!

Why are Keywords Important

Demand and lead generation strategies are supposed to flag our site or business to customers by presenting them with information that makes them want to learn more about how we can help them, so it’s essential that we speak in their language.

We have to build content around subjects and topics that our customers are searching for, so research is key if our outcomes are to attract readers not just to hit page or post creation targets.

Search engine optimisation has become much more sophisticated over the past few years and ranks sites as much on the relevance and effectiveness of its content, so SEO tools are now useful in the creation of relevant content in the wider context.

How do I start looking for the right keywords

One approach is to look at the words your competitors are using, especially if they rank much higher than you or generate better coverage in social media.

A great tool for this is Ubersuggest from Neil Patel, which looks at what’s popular on a site, which sites are backlinking, and which keywords are the most important.

For any given site, keywords are listed and the site illustrates:

  • How many people searched for the keyword
  • How the site  ranked on google
  • How many Visits this would lead to
  • The SEO difficulty ( how competitive the keyword is)

The site also has a very good keyword analysis function, which lets you research specific keywords, suggests alternatives and also shows which sites are ranked highest for that specific keyword.

Google Keyword planner is another option, but now you need to have an active ad, which limits its use as a research tool, and there are other options out there.

How to find keywords

Regardless of whether you’re creating content or buying keywords, you will follow a three stage process. Firstly you will compile a list of seedwords which could be used, then prioritise those words based on your chosen criteria.

Create a database of relevant seedwords

If you have an active website or YouTube account, you will be able to see what words you rank for. Tools like ubersuggest or tube buddy are good for this but be careful not to be too focussed on your own words. Just because you rank for a word or phrase doesn’t mean it’s the best, but it does give you a place to start. 

Ubersuggest, for example, allows you to see which words are most commonly used to find your site and will show you which words have the most search volume, where you rank for that word and the number of visits.

A low rank and a high volume suggests you need to build your domain authority. 

  • What words do I rank for? Run a tool such as ubersuggest on your site and find out what words are most commonly associated with your site
  • Look at direct competitors sites, are there words there that either they rank better for or that drive traffic that you don’t get?
  • Identify thought leaders and repeat for their sites and social content
  • Look at the content of thought leaders or the most common videos about your chosen subject and see what words come up most commonly in their tags. Installing Tube buddy on chrome will allow you to see this content. 
  • From the above, create a list of the words and phrases that outline your business and its competitors online currently
  • What are the top 5-10 words or phrases that come up?
  • Make 5-10 word buckets based on the above, and use these as seeds for further analysis. The steps you take next will depend on what type of advertising you do.

Identifying keywords for advertising

PPC advertising seeks to position your pages at the top of the page when they are searching with buying or commercial intent. The point here is to find a sweet spot which balances volume, competition and cost. High volume keywords with buying intent tend to be very competitive and expensive, but can be effective if your website is weak. 

Keywords that your website is already strong for, i.e. you rank in the top 5 pages are not really worth spending on as you are already top of the page. 30% of people click on the number 1 ranked page for a search term, dropping to below 10% for position 2, dropping down to 3% at the bottom of page 1. 

Less than 10% of people click on paid ads, and as it’s a competitive space you are not guaranteed to be presented during a search, so you are much more likely to be clicked on if you are ranked 5th than if you pay fo advertising, so regardless, you should ensure that your page ranks for the same keywords as you advertise for. 

Tools like Ubersuggest, KWsurfer and Wordstream‘s free tool are great for this, they will display estimated volume, CPC and competition for a range of variations for your keywords which will allow you to assess what to test for. Once you have created a list, the best way to assess the best words is to test them out.

High volume low competition words are the sweet spot, especially for on page SEO ( which will boost your page ranking in the long term, and if you aren’t doing SEO, the only thing you can guarantee is that your ranking will slip!)

Identify keywords and phrases for content or advertising.

Conduct searches for each of these words and collate ideas and better words depending on your needs. The following list of sources of information will help you, and assumes you have access to the tools listed above. Make a note of ideas or relevant information as you go. 

  • As you type in the keyword, Google will try to autocomplete the phrase for you. This gives you an idea of the sort of terms that are commonly searched for. Any in purple are ones that you have searched for before.
  • Once you have started the search, google will display related searches at the bottom of the page
  • Google will also provide two other search options, one called “people also search for” and the other “People also ask”. The former is similar to the autocomplete and related searches, but the latter is a good source of content ideas as it offers questions asked rather than just phrases.
  • Look at the kind of content that is being presented back to the user. this will give you a good idea as to the search intent that google attaches to the search phrase. if you are getting shopping or featured snippets, it means google thinks these searches indicate a degree of purchase intent. High levels of ads will also indicate these are buying words or phrases, so searchers would expect a page that helps them complete the transaction. Videos, blog articles, and How to type content infer informational intent, and therefore you should be seeking to inform rather than sell to these customers as they are looking for answers.
  • If you have KWsurfer installed, it will tell you the average search volume for your chosen territory and the likely CPC estimate for that phrase. It will also display a list of alternative phrases based on similarity and volume. Remember, high volumes generally mean more competition, and are difficult to rank for.

Where else can I find Keywords and phrases?

At this stage you should have identified one of two things either:

  • Your seedwords are the best ones out there. 
  • There are more effective seedwords than those you had already picked and have replaced some of the words. 

It is likely that you will also have picked up some ideas for content that you want to use to move forward from the automatic suggestions Google makes. If not, there are a couple of other places you can go for ideas. For each one, search using your preferred key words and look at what content is returned

YouTube

Searching for your seedword on youtube will tell you what sort of content is popular. Make a list of the most popular and or interesting titles.

Quora and similar sites.

Searching for a seedword on Quora will give you two things. It will give you a list of popular answers and a list of questions that have been asked and not yet answered. This is both a very rich source of content ideas and a great place to promote them

Forums and groups.

This includes Groups on Linkedin. If you are a member of any industry forums, have a look around for the most asked questions for inspiration.

Answer the Public.

Answer the Public is a great site, as it returns a vast array of long and short tail keywords and phrases that are relevant to a seed word and you can use it to expand on to create content ideas. it returns relevant phrases, questions, and comparisons in a pleasant graphical format.

Content type.

Google search intent has another useful feature, in that it prioritises the type of content and format that is most popular. The top search results can tell you a lot.

  • Are they socially active? if the majority of your search results are on social media rather than websites, then marketing you content on social media would be effective
  • Is the most popular content on video, audio, images or text? this might suggest one format will work best for this audience
  • What are the most popular pages? Is it top tens or product pages? 

Using Instagram marketing to communicate your brand’s Unique Voice

Small Business instagram marketing

Is Instagram Marketing going to work for my business?

Social media marketing is an essential part of the marketing mix, but needs to be used correctly and be relevant to your audience and business model. As part of a wider series on social media platforms, lets look at whether instagram is right for you, and if so, how best to use it.

What makes Instagram different.

Let’s start by saying that each social media platform has its strengths and weaknesses and you need to be clear on which one is right for your business. Facebook’s audience is still substantially bigger ( 3-4 times bigger) than instagrams, but Facebook wouldn’t have spent $1bn on the platform if it didn’t see some benefits!

Instagrams strengths relate to the use of video and imagery to create a story and convey a message more effectively than other platforms. Other platforms may also have the ability to add images, but instagram is built around this so it just does it more easily and quickly. 

Messages are small, which while it limits the depth that you can go into, does lend itself to the low attention spans of modern audiences, and means you need to be focussed on your communications objectives. It also means that text heavy content doesn’t work too well, and facebook users are much more likely to engage with text based content than instagram users.

This has led to Instagram being a highly effective microblogging tool, allowing brands to keep in regular, easy to digest contact with its audience, building a broader picture over time and acting as a staging point for more in depth web content. 

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Keywords

Obviously, like other social platforms, it is reactive, allowing viewers to like, comment and share, and the extensive use of hashtags allows better categorisation that other social platforms, increasing the potential to reach a wider, related audience. 

It’s more open than facebook and linkedin, allowing people to engage with your brand much easier, and increasing range.

This makes it effective in conveying complex or esoteric messages and building engagement with brands. However, it’s more internalised than other platforms, and it’s less effective in promoting web content for example, as it doesn’t allow promotion of URLs other than in the Bio section.

What makes instagram better

This obviously depends on what you are trying to do, your audience demographic, your business and content type, and a whole host of other things, but, making it simple, Instagram is effective if your business is involved in one of the following areas:

Younger demographic

As with all marketing tools and business decisions, you need to start by understanding your audience, and picking tools that will help you reach and engage with them rather than finding an audience which is active on your tool of choice. 

That being said, if your audience is in the 18-30 age bracket and are active on mobile, then there is a high chance that they have an active Instagram account, and are more likely to be active on this than on Facebook, which tends to be more relevant to an older age segment

Instagram Users are active

Research demonstrates that instagram users are more active, with users being 60% more likely to like and share on Instagram than facebook. Whether this relates to the demographics or the platform is open to debate, but it’s clear that increasing reach is easier on instagram. As mentioned above, Instagram users are more likely to react to imagery than text, so the type of content you create will have a bearing

Instagram users are buyers.

Instagram marketing has proved very effective in driving buyer behaviour in consumer markets, especially where the product’s value is intangible and easy to transact. 87% of people surveyed in a facebook survey  said they took action after seeing a product’s information on Instagram, so it’s worth looking into more, especially if you have eCommerce capabilities.

Instagram marketing is better at communicating visual characteristics

If your business’s brand or product identity is visual in nature, then the availability of strong, built in video and image tools, makes Instagram a strong marketing choice, as it allows you to communicate more effectively.

This makes instagram marketing especially strong for design led brands such as clothing, make up and tourism, but also for more mobility based brands such as sporting goods and teams or trainers and instructors. Yoga and alternative therapies work well here especially.

Instagram is better suited to mobile.

As the majority of online activity is now mobile based, with more searches happening on mobile than on desktop, mobile optimisation is key. Google is now more interested with how a site performs on mobile than desktop for example, so it’s important to get this right for your users. 

Instagram is built around mobile use and offers a much better experience for mobile users than those on desktops, whether you are a content creator or consumer.

However, there is a downside. Video on instagram is optimised for mobiles hence the default format is portrait rather than landscape, which does affect the type of content that works well.

Instagram features and how to use them

Most social platforms offer similar functions, but call them different things, which can add to confusion and puts many people off using different platforms. What are the main features of Instagram and how can you benefit from using them

Posts

Posts are the core of the instagram experience and allow users to publish short content in test, image or video format to users. Images can have filters applied to optimise the content or make it more fun and users can tag people or locations in an image. 

Videos up to 60 seconds in length can also be posted, and are becoming more popular because people tend to engage more with video, which is doubly important as it can also boost your chance of being seen as the algorithm rewards higher levels of engagement.

Text content can be added to support the image, but you can’t add clickable links, which reduces the effectiveness of Instagram marketing as a blog promotion tool

Instagram Tourism Marketing

Hashtags

Hashtags are ubiquitous now across all social media, but used in slightly different ways. If you don’t know what they are, the best description is that they represent category tags, allowing users to easily see the latest and most relevant content on a specific subject. Think of them as the social media equivalent of keywords for SEO.

Instagram allows users to include a lot more hashtags on posts that other platforms, where 1 or 2 are best. Getting the right hashtags will obviously affect how many people outside of your current subscribers will see your posts and hence your ability to increase the size of your audience.

DM's (Direct messages)

Direct messages allow one to one contact with your audience in a private manner, similar to email or whatsapp, or most other platforms. This allows greater engagement and the ability to use Instagram as a lead generation or service delivery platform.

Live Instagram video and IGTV

Youtube is the second largest search engine after Google and for good reason. Video is a highly effective medium for communicating, as it combines the ability to impart  the density of information that you get with text, with the passive nature of audio and image based communications. 

Video posts are limited to 60 seconds on Instagram but the platform does provide two other options for longer content.

Live Video

Instagram live is similar to Facebook live in that it allows the creation of scheduled live video events that people can opt into and watch. These tend to be longer, and more persistent than video posts, forming part of the Stories functionality on instagram. These are very effective for webinars, classes and demonstrations, and offer some interaction from users via comment. 

One thing to remember though is that Live video is not permanently held on your page by default and will disappear after 24 hours unless you change the settings on the video. 

Live video used to be limited to 60 minutes but this has now been extended to 4 hours.

IGTV

IGTV is the youtube of Instagram allowing you to create and post longer content on your page. The big difference between this and live is the fact that content is created offline, and the expectation is that videos will be edited and optimised before upload hence needs to be more professionally created.

Instagram Stories

Instagram stories add snapchat like content to your feed. These are collections of posts and content that allow you to communicate a time limited set of images or videos about a subject that disappear after 24 hours. This can let you post about an event that is relevant today, but you don’t really want on your account forever.

Instagram Shops

As it’s focus is keeping people on the platform, it’s difficult to promote products that are sold via Amazon or ebay for example, and to support eCommerce, Instagram allows users to create Shops which offer the same basic eCommerce experience within the platform.

Facebook Integration

It’s also worth noting that facebook owns instagram, and therefore your facebook and instagram profiles can be linked, allowing you to promote on both platforms at the same time. This can be both a benefit or a curse, as you have to comply with the business rules of both sites, which can be very restrictive.

Is Instagram Marketing right for my business?

Instagram marketing isn’t for everyone, it requires a level of dedication to creating strong visual and video content that is relevant to your business needs, your product and your market. So, if you’re selling accountancy services, it’s probably not for you!

Boost your small business with simple content marketing ideas

Finding great content marketing ideas

If knowledge and skills are your business, demonstrating credibility and capability is essential, and well planned content marketing can significantly increase your authority and value to potential customers.

Why include content marketing in your strategy

Content marketing refers to any approach that seeks to educate and inform, leading from basic blogging and video content up to complex elearning strategies as part of a wider onboarding strategy. 

It incorporates Social content strategies, youtube channels and web content, and gives potential clients a much better sense of who you are and what value you can bring to them which increases your perceived value. 

However, with over a billion new pages being added to the internet each day, how can you hope to stand out?

It’s actually quite simple, as long as you understand how your customers learn, and how search engines like Google organise search results based on search intent.

Think in terms of questions not words

Long tail keywords have been a viable paid search strategy for a while, using smaller, more focussed groups of keywords where you trade lower search volume for disproportionately higher conversions, and therefore, potentially higher volumes of leads at a lower price per conversion. 

This is driven by increased specificity in searches as we all have to filter out irrelevant search results to get closer to the information we want. This has led to longer, more focussed search terms that seek to answer questions rather than just basic keywords

Long tail key words
Semrush's illustration of the value of Long-tail keywords

People aren’t just searching for “shoes” anymore, now we are more likely to search for “shoes near me” or “black trainers near me”, or even “ which shoes shops have the best discounts”, and each of these searches tells us about what kind of information people want to hear.

But, Google is not clever enough to make the connection between the question and the answer, so you need to be specific, telling google the question that you are answering with your content.

Understanding how people search online.

We tend to buy things that help solve a problem. Whether it’s as basic as buying food because we’re hungry, taking a bus to get to work, the size of the problem will tend to correlate to the value we put into the solution and the effort we are prepared to put into finding it.

For more complex problems, we often don’t have a ready-made solution at hand, and will seek information that allows us to understand our problem, it’s potential solutions and what we need to do to implement them.

Understanding this process, and providing guidance at an early stage helps you engage with potential customers earlier, increasing your value to them and potentially your conversion rates. 

However, it does require you to realise that you do more than just provide a service, and accept that there may be other solutions.

Imagine you’re a yoga instructor, is your value only in teaching someone a new position, or, are you really helping them solve their stress or pain problems?

Discovery - what is my problem

Keeping with the Yoga analogy, few people wake up in the morning thinking I must learn yoga!”.

Instead, they wake up after a restless night wondering why their neck hurts, or why they didn’t sleep well, and, if this continues, they are going to start looking for a solution, possibly googling “lack of sleep”, Causes of sleeplessness” etc. 

This will lead them to isolate a possible cause, and motivate them to find a solution.

Understanding - what's the root cause of my problem

Neck pain is often the cause, but what’s causing the next pain, is it a posture issue, a sports injury or something wrong with the pillow of bed? There are still loads of potential solutions, so our insomniac will likely search for more information to isolate the cause and get closer to a solution. 

Once they realise it’s a posture issue, they can then focus on a set of potential solutions, which might include a new chair, changing their working practices, learning some new stretches or getting a massage, but they are closer to finding a solution that will solve their particular problem.

Do it yourself

Most people will try to solve their own problems, before they spend money on a solution, so will seek out exercise videos, How-To’s etc, that let them try out a possible solution before they commit. 

It’s only once they have exhausted the free solutions that they will look to buy, so only at this point will the specific search terms that are traditionally used are relevant.

Be the solution provider

As this brief example demonstrates, most people will have gone through a comprehensive search process before they start looking for a specific provider online, and it’s likely that the earlier you engage with a client in the process, the more valuable they will see you and the more likely you are to be the provider of choice when they get to making their decision.

You’ve been there from the start and are demonstrably interested more in helping your client than taking their money.

How to find the right questions

There are millions of guides on the internet that tell you how to find the right keywords for your business, but most of these are internally focussed, identifying the words that describe you, not those that your customers are trying to find. 

So, rather than thinking about yourself, think about what language your audience uses, and what questions they ask.

Customers

Obviously your customers are the best people to listen too, and, assuming you’re a people centred business that engages with your clients, you’ll have a good sense of what motivated them to find a solution in the first place. 

The trick, however, is to look a bit deeper. You’re not interested in why they picked you, but what triggered the journey in the first place, what underlying need motivated them to seek answers and take action. 

We call these “pain points”, stressors in a person’s life that are bad enough to take action to remove, and therefore of great value. 

Understanding the pain point gets you closer to the root cause and the start of their journey, and allows you to reinforce how much value you add at a basic level. 

Understanding search intent and how Google uses this.

Sometimes this isn’t easy, or we operate too far from our clients, so how do we understand what people are searching for? Thankfully, Google is there to help us out. 

Google wants to be the researcher’s friend, seeking to give you the best possible answer to your question or query, and it starts by understanding the intent behind your search. You will have noticed how the search results page changes depending on the type of search you make, and this is because Google seeks to assess your search intent, deciding whether your goal is buying or information. 

This is important, because it will affect whether you’re placed highly or not, and if you’re not on page 1, you’re effectively nowhere! 

If Google thinks a search has an information intent, i.e. the reader is looking for information, it’s unlikely to present shopping or eCommerce responses, meaning that you will not be placed.

People also ask

Once Google decides on the type of search, it presents different content types, like featured snippets, that will highlight strong answers and help guide the searcher to the best content. It also presents a very useful tool called “ people also ask”, which highlights some of the most popular search queries related to the search term that you asked for.

This can help you refine your subject area and find interesting topics to write about.

Answer the public

There are a number of sites like Answer the Public, which collate potential questions and queries based on a seed phrase with the addition of a preposition. So, for example, they may start with “neck pain” and then use complex algorithms to create sentences, by adding “How” or “What” giving you a set of potential subjects to write about.

Quora

Forums are also a great source of questions. If there are any industry forums, try joining and searching these to get a better understanding of the kinds of queries your audience asks. It’s also a good place to start building connections and a presence, as you can also add your answers to the forums. 

More generic sites like Quora or Reddit can also be helpful, although Reddit is often not for the faint hearted!  Quora is a Q&A site, where people can ask specific questions to be answered by the general population. Searching for a subject will help you build a picture of the priority queries, and those in your industry who are also actively answering. You can find ideas for content marketing and obviously add your own answers.

Build a long term web presence with content marketing

Content on your website is permanent and the more credible and well written content you include the more likely you are to be found. Covering your subjects in more detail, aligning your content with the searches being made and improving your relevance increases your search ranking and therefore the number of people likely to see you. 

You can obviously use social media to promote your content, but remember, you are trying to make your site more visible, not Facebooks, so don’t waste your best content on post. Create valuable content for your site, then create shorter posts for Social media. That way you can build your audience amongst both groups and drive more traffic to your site.