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3 Tactics To Help You Learn More About Your Audience

Who are your customers? Why are they your customers? What do you offer that your competitors do not? 

More importantly, what sort of content is your audience interested in? What do they enjoy, and what do they find compelling? What questions do they want you to answer, and what topics do they want to learn about? 

These are among the most important questions that you need to address. Understanding your audience is critical to your content marketing efforts. Without this knowledge, you cannot effectively target your content.

Let’s talk about where you can look to learn. 

Spend Some Time On Social

In addition to being among the most powerful marketing tools in your arsenal, social networks like Facebook are an incredibly valuable source of information on your audience. 

Examine who is interacting both with you and with your competitors. Take a look at their likes, their dislikes, the kind of language they use, and their primary demographics. Look at your social analytic data to see who’s currently engaged with your brand. 

There’s bound to be a fair bit of variance, of course. Your goal here isn’t to understand every single individual consumer, but rather to put together a picture of the common threads between each and every person. And as an added bonus, you can also get a more complete picture of what kind of content really resonates with people and generates the most engagement. 

Check Your Metrics

Although it may not always provide you with comprehensive information, your Google Search Console can nevertheless give you at least a partial picture of your website’s visitors. If you manage a digital storefront or use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, you can augment your search and traffic data with information from both of these platforms. You’re looking to learn a few things here.

First and foremost, obviously, is who is visiting your website, and why — what search terms they’re using, what platform they came from, and what they’re doing after they arrive. Second, when they’re visiting your site, what time of day do you generate the most traffic? Finally, what they do just before they leave, whether that’s purchasing a product, signing up for an email, or simply bouncing. 

Ask Your Customers Directly

Last but certainly not least, have you considered just talking to your customers? 

If there’s one type of audience research we see consistently overlooked, it’s surveys and interviews. Businesses either assume they don’t have the time and resources to handle survey data or else it just never occurs to them to ask their audience what they want. Done right, however, this can be one of the most valuable sources of information you’ll ever collect.

Note that in order for your surveys to be as effective as possible, you’ll need to offer some sort of incentive for people who answer. Maybe they’ll get a temporary discount code, or get information about an upcoming new product. Maybe they’ll be entered into a contest or raffle. 

The point is, you need to give them a reason to answer beyond “I want them to.” 

Listen. Learn. Grow. 

A thorough understanding of one’s audience is the foundation of a successful business. By understanding who your customers are, what they want, and what type of content interests them, you can execute a more focused, better-targeted, and ultimately more successful content marketing strategy. At the end of the day, it’s easier than you’d think to do that, too.

You simply need to know where to look, and how to listen. 

Will Google Always Remain The Dominant Search Engine?

When someone mentions search engine optimization (SEO), what’s the first thing you think about? Chances are good that if you’re like most people, it’s Google — or rather, its parent company, Alphabet. That’s not surprising.

While Google certainly didn’t invent the search engine market, it has, for more than a decade, defined it. Half of SEO amounts to trying to figure out what Google’s algorithms are doing, and what sort of content they want.  Other search engines rarely, if ever, even enter into the equation.

And if they do, they’re almost always playing second string to Google.

Will this always be the case, though? Today, we take the search giant’s dominance as a given. As history has shown us, however, dominance can vanish almost overnight.  

BlackBerry. Toys R Us. Blockbuster. Staples. Compaq. These were once household names. And while most of them are still operational, they operate in a smaller niche than anyone could have imagined in their heyday. 

According to research collected by statistics aggregator Statista, Google’s share of the search engine market has been on a steady decline for the past several years. It has, since April 2016, dropped from 63.8 percent … to 62 percent. Alright, admittedly, that’s not much of a decline.

That said, Microsoft’s share of the search engine has been climbing both consistently and significantly. Since 2012, the percentage of total search queries handled by Microsoft increased from 15.4 percent to 25.9 percent. Taken in tandem, these two statistics appear to suggest that Google’s position at the top of the search market may well be in jeopardy.

At the same time, looking at the data in its entirety paints a very different picture. Since 2008, Google has always hovered around the 60 percent mark. Although Microsoft’s climbing market share could, in the future, result in a shift, at the current juncture it’s still business as usual. 

And ultimately, it doesn’t really matter anyway. At the end of the day, all search engines ultimately have the same goal. Through their algorithms, they want to provide their audience with the most relevant, insightful, and valuable content possible. There are a limited number of ways in which one can do that.

They all boil down to intent. Understanding precisely what a user is looking for and providing that to them. This has always been the end goal of search engines (aside from generating advertising revenue, obviously). 

That isn’t to say you should ignore Google’s algorithmic updates, nor that you shouldn’t endeavor to understand the search engine. You still should. But at the same time, your focus should be on understanding your audience and using that understanding to create the best content and the most compelling brand image possible.

Do that, and everything else should follow.

How Embedded Video Can Improve Your Search Engine Optimization

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth ten times that. Modern audiences are intensely visual. It’s not surprising, then, that the streaming video market has grown positively titanic over the past few years. Per research aggregator Statista, digital advertising revenue is expected to top $11 billion by next year. 

On the video streaming front, meanwhile, marketing agency Allied Market Research reports that the video streaming market will reach $149.3 billion by 2026. With the massive shift towards digital and the upturn in streaming due to the coronavirus — news publication Variety reports a significant increase in video streaming subscriptions — the prominence of video will only increase. From a marketing perspective, this means that there’s a great deal of value in video, provided you can leverage it effectively.

This isn’t exactly secret knowledge, mind you. Video is memorable, easy to engage with, and easy to digest. It’s highly shareable, too, with a great deal of potential for bringing new traffic and generating brand awareness.

What you may not know is that video has a more direct connection with search engine optimization. Effective use of video has the potential to shoot your page up in the rankings. There are a few reasons for this. 

  • Increased website traffic. Just as Google’s image search can display properly-optimized photos on your website, Google video search provides another means by which users can come across your brand. Just make sure you follow Google’s video best practices.
    • Ensure there’s a high-quality thumbnail image.
    • The video must be publicly available in order to be searched.
    • The video’s content must specifically apply to the host page.
    • Don’t hide your video with a complicated script. 
    • Use structured data markup or a video sitemap to describe your video. 
    • Make sure your site is verified in the Google Search Console. 
    • Host the video in a supported format. 
  • Better engagement. Although we don’t know the exact weight, we do know that Google keeps a close eye on how long each visitor spends on your site. A video that’s engaging enough to keep people watching for a while will keep people on the page longer. And that, in turn, will improve your rankings.  
  • More backlinks. As we’ve already said, video tends to be shared with great frequency. Where embedded video is concerned, that means more backlinks to your website. Not only does that increase your traffic, but it’s also likely to improve your placement. 
  • Enhanced conversions. We saved the best for last. As mentioned, video can be an incredibly compelling marketing tool. Provided you’ve tailored your video content effectively and created it with a clear goal in mind, it can go a long way towards your conversion goals.

Used right, embedded video can be one of the most powerful tools in your marketing arsenal. It can increase both traffic and engagement, generate shares on social, and drive conversions to your site. It’s not a format that will work for every brand, nor every topic.

But for the topics that it does fit, it fits like a glove. 

3 Great Sources of Inspiration For Topic Research

Some people can turn creativity on and off like a faucet, accessing an endless well of inspiration and imagination with ease. We’d be lying if we said we weren’t at least a little jealous. See, for most of us, creativity tends to be a fickle, fleeting thing, coming and going more or less as it pleases.

Most often, this manifests as a lack of inspiration in the brainstorming phase, the inability to come up with compelling content even in spite of knowing what your readers are interested in. The bad news is that there’s no way to avoid this kind of thing entirely. The good news is that if you know where to look, you can overcome this roadblock when it surfaces.

Here are a few of our favorite sources of inspiration to help you more effectively research, brainstorm, and create compelling content. 

Quora

Quora is, beyond any shadow of a doubt, one of our favorite resources not just for topic research, but for audience research as well. This Q&A community hosts content on virtually anything you can think of — if it’s a question someone’s asked, you’re likely to find it here. Whether you’re stuck on how to address a particular search query or simply looking for new content ideas, it’s the perfect place to look. 

Other, similar resources include Yahoo! answers and Reddit. 

Competitor’s Blogs

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? As such, if you’re trying to figure out where you should focus your content marketing efforts, it may be worthwhile to have a look at the competition. Note that we are not in any way suggesting that you directly copy them — plagiarism is one of the worst things you possibly do as a writer and something to be avoided at all costs.

Rather, take a look at what sort of topics your competition covers, and think about whether or not there are certain areas you can improve upon when compared to them. In essence, approach content marketing in the same way as you approach every other area of your business. Do what your competitors do, only better.  

Friends and Colleagues

Last but certainly not least, never underestimate the value of your contacts, both personal and professional. Even if someone isn’t part of your target audience or working in your particular field, having someone to bounce ideas off can be incredibly valuable. They’ll likely bring a unique perspective to the table, with insights you hadn’t previously considered. 

A good brainstorming session is an incredible way to get the creative juices flowing. 

Writer’s Block is Only Temporary

Struggling with a creative block can be incredibly frustrating. But if you know where to look, inspiration is usually only a few clicks away. And if the above advice doesn’t help, there’s one more thing you can do to get the juices flowing.

Take a break. Get up from your computer and go for a walk. Do something relaxing, fun, and energizing.

When you return to your work, you might be surprised at how much better you’re able to focus.

What Marketing Might Look Like in 2021

To say that we’re living in a time of great cultural upheaval would be putting it lightly. From the coronavirus pandemic to the civil unrest surrounding George Floyd’s death, the world feels as though it’s existed on a razor’s edge for months. Not surprisingly, this has had a considerable impact on multiple industries, marketing included.

The current outlook for digital marketing now looks very different from what we all expected last year. This is understandable, though. There’s no way we could have predicted any of what’s transpired this year. 

What we can do, however, is consider how it will influence the marketing space moving forward. First, as reported by Forbes, we’ve seen a shift in consumer attitudes towards fully-digital marketing and social good. Expect to see an upturn in curated experiences supported by artificial intelligence. 

Consumers will also put a great deal more thought and deliberation into their purchase decisions, offering both capital and loyalty exclusively to businesses they feel they can trust.

In many ways, this is simply a ramping up of a trend we’ve already seen in the marketing space for quite some time. COVID-19 has simply supercharged it. For years, we’ve seen growing evidence that social responsibility and authenticity are critical cornerstones of effective branding. In the wake of the pandemic, their importance is now indisputable. 

Campaigns focused around self-love and body positivity will become more important as well, as noted by marketing agency Marvil56. Consumers were already growing tired of constant societal pressure to look flawless, to think, feel, and act a particular way.  By the time 2021 rolls around, it seems likely that these expectations and pressures will be a thing of the past.

Instead, people will be encouraged to take pride in who they are, to love both themselves and their imperfections while still striving to improve. Again, this is a marketing trend that is helped along by current events. Positivity is in short supply these days, and people are desperately seeking it wherever they can. 

Last, but not least, we’re going to see a greater focus on accuracy where marketing metrics are concerned, coupled with an emphasis on greater flexibility and foresight. The pandemic caught everyone off guard. None of us were prepared for it.

How could we? 

It’s been a strange year, and if current events are any indication, it will only get stranger before it ends. At this point, it seems safe to say that even the predictions we’ve made today may not still hold true in a few months. All we can do is ride out the storm, and hope we’ve made the right preparations. 

The Importance of Writing a Coronavirus Statement for Your Website

At this moment in time, no one is entirely certain when the coronavirus pandemic will end. Even as some regions look to reopen, businesses and people alike are still struggling with the isolation of remote work, the economic challenges of lockdown, and the emotional stress of the virus’s spread. It’s a difficult and trying situation for almost everyone involved.

That’s why it’s so important for customer-facing brands to engage with it.

People are exhausted right now. They’re tired, stressed, and afraid. They face an uncertain economic future, one marred by prolonged isolation and civil unrest.

Many of them are going to look at your business for comfort. They’re going to turn to you not just for a sense of normalcy, but for the assurance that things will ultimately turn out okay. It’s your job to give them that.

But what does that mean, exactly?

Per a Twitter survey released in April, a few things. 

First, 64 percent of consumers expressed the belief that brands should continue advertising products as normal. While it’s advisable to stay away from tone-deaf ad campaigns that involve travel or appeal to negative emotions, seeing products advertised as they usually would be offers some degree of comfort to 52 percent of users. There’s also one other caveat.

While people want the illusion of normalcy, they understand that our current situation is anything but normal. They expect businesses to acknowledge that. In that regard, you’ll want to take a more humanitarian approach in your business’s branding.

According to 82 percent of respondents, brands should look to support frontline health staff wherever possible, while 86 percent indicated that they should support vulnerable people within their communities. Reliability and authenticity are also extremely important, as is support for local communities and employees. 

This is where your website comes in. 

It’s highly advisable to publish a small statement on your frontpage about the novel coronavirus, and what measures your brand is taking to protect employees and customers from it. This statement, positioned at the top of each page on your site, only needs to be a few sentences at most. 

The initial statement should simply establish that you’re aware these are difficult times, and you’re doing everything you can to ease the impact on everyone. It should link to a page where you further explain your approach to COVID. On that page, you should explain the following. 

  • How COVID has impacted the customer experience. This could include changes in hours, changes in delivery times, or changes in pricing. 
  • What you’re doing to keep your employees safe.
  • What additional measures you’re taking to safeguard customers. 
  • How long you’ll be implementing all of the above measures.

These are difficult times for almost everyone. It’s up to you to do your part to ease everyone’s anxieties. And know that at the end of the day, we’ll get through this, and we’ll do it together. 

How to Talk About Mental Health in Your Marketing

Owing at least in part to the coronavirus pandemic, mental health is at the fore of everyone’s minds. It’s no secret that people are struggling right now. We are stressed, fearful, and worn down by all the chaos and civil unrest. 

It’s wearing on us. As reported by the World Health Organization, the coronavirus pandemic has created significant mental health fallout. And it’s only going to get worse.

“Mental health repercussions regarding what is happening during this pandemic for people, today and beyond, will really be a problem in general,” explains neurologist Dr. Konstantinos Petsanis, speaking to the WHO. “Unless we act now to address the mental health needs associated with the pandemic, there will be enormous long-term consequences for families, communities, and societies.” 

Your business plays an extremely important role in this response. First and foremost, it’s imperative that you destigmatize conversations around mental health as part of your organizational culture. Employees should feel comfortable discussing their struggles with mental illness in a work environment, and medication and treatment for these illnesses should be covered by their health plans. 

Beyond that, however, there’s another way you can contribute —through your marketing. 

Perhaps the best example of this in practice is Bell Let’s Talk. First created in 2011 by Canadian telecommunications corporation Bell, its premise is simple. One day each year, Bell donates five cents for every message and call that includes #BellLetsTalk. 

The initiative has, over the course of its lifetime, raised over $100 million for mental health. Perhaps more importantly, however, it kicked off a series of incredibly important conversations about mental health. Although it hasn’t single-handedly destigmatized mental illness in Canada, it’s gone a long way towards helping people open up to the ideas of talking about their struggles with issues like anxiety and depression. 

There are a few key things you can learn from Bell Let’s Talk to apply to your brand’s own mental health marketing efforts.

  • First, understand that this isn’t about you or your business. You are using your brand to promote a worthy cause. To help both customers and employees who may be struggling with mental illness. Don’t treat it as a sales opportunity, but instead focus on education. 
  • Second, your marketing materials should align with a mental-health-positive corporate culture. Mental illness should not be presented as something horrible or shameful, but rather a disability that many people struggle with. 
  • Finally, if you can find a way to wrap your campaign in with some sort of cause or nonprofit, do so. Awareness only goes so far. Action can go farther.

We’ve made great strides in eliminating the stigma around mental health. However, we still have a long way to go. Starting conversations around mental health via your marketing channels is one critical way your business can, and should, contribute.

Especially right now.  

What Is Wokewashing, and How Can Your Brand Avoid It?

Marketing and politics can no longer be kept separate from one another. Maybe they never could. Either way, brands have woken up to the fact that modern consumers desire more than simply a product.

They want a brand that actually has principles and values. In a recent report by PR agency 5WPR, 83 percent of millennial respondents want companies whose values align with their own, and 76 percent believe executives should speak out on issues they care about. 

Moreover, a further 65 percent said they have boycotted a brand that didn’t share their beliefs on an issue, while 62 percent favor products that allow them to show off these beliefs. 

Millennials now have the greatest buying power of any generation. Combined with Generation Z, which shares many of their values, the total spending power of millennials, according to real estate firm Coldwell Banker, will top $68 trillion by 2030. In short, it’s a generation you want to learn how to market to if your business is going to thrive.

However, you need to be careful that when you adopt a particular stance on an issue, your business’s behavior actually aligns with that stance. You cannot, for instance, support Pride Month if your business allows franchise owners to discriminate against transgender individuals. You cannot claim to support movements such as Black Lives Matter if your hiring practices and internal culture aren’t supportive of black people. 

There’s a term for this lack of alignment —for the cognitive dissonance created by a business that says one thing and does another. Wokewashing. At its most basic, it’s when a brand treats a sociopolitical issue as a marketing opportunity without actually supporting it. 

As reported by The Guardian, it happens a lot. We see it in major brands that release Pride-themed products one month of the year, and then promptly forget that the LGBTQIA+ community exists, even openly operating in markets that openly hate homosexuality. We see it in businesses that challenge misogyny while maintaining a toxic workplace culture that doesn’t provide paid maternity leave. 

The good news is that it’s relatively easy to avoid this pitfall. Simply fall the old adage practice what you preach. If you’re going to support a cause, actually do it. Don’t just treat it as a marketing opportunity or a singular advertising campaign.

Seek partnerships with charitable organizations. Have serious conversations with people within your business who have direct stakes in the cause you’re supporting. In other words, make an active effort to be better

At the end of the day, social good should never be treated solely as a means of selling more products and services. Your business and its people need to want to do good. Because if you don’t, every effort you make will come across as hollow. 

3 Things to Remember About Seasonal Marketing

Most businesses are impacted by changing seasons. People are less likely to buy products such as sunscreen during winter, for instance. There likely won’t be much interest in Christmas during Spring. 

For some organizations, however, the seasons almost entirely dictate their profits, and ultimately their success or failure. Airlines and hotels, for instance, see a significant boost during vacation times, and many tourist agencies are suffering greatly as a result of the novel coronavirus. It’s important to understand where you fall on this scale.

Are there certain times of the year during which you experience a huge boom, whilst others are much slower? Or do you manage to bring in plenty of business year-round? Armed with this understanding, you should create a marketing strategy that capitalizes on the time of year, leveraging imagery that resonates with your audience and tapping into your busiest seasons. 

Understand Peak Seasons

How does your business ebb and flow over the course of a fiscal year? You’re the only one who can predict when your business will likely experience the greatest upturn in customers and profits, based both on your own experience and your organization’s history. The more accurately you can predict the peaks and valleys in subscriptions or sales, the better.

Going back to our example of an airline company, the most essential detail in seasonal airline marketing is not, as one might expect, the date of travel. It’s the date at which a customer begins planning and booking their trip. This means that you might almost paradoxically see yourself marketing for a winter boom back in the summer months. 

The best advice we can give here is to study the trends and look at other businesses in your industry. When do their peaks and valleys seem to occur? How do they time and plan their marketing efforts? When do they tend to offer sales and host giveaways? 

Get Creative

Especially if you’re operating a seasonal business, you’re likely facing stiff competition, particularly during peak operating season. Black Friday for retail is an excellent example of this in practice. If everyone is offering massive deals and discounts, how exactly does your brand distinguish itself? 

Say you’re operating a gym. Obviously, you want to capitalize on the annual wave of New Year’s resolutions to inspire new signups. What if, however, you went back a bit further and offered a two-for-one Black Friday exclusive set to start in the New Year? 

Ask anyone who’s tried to get in shape in the past, and they’ll tell you it’s much easier to commit to a fitness goal if you have a friend or companion to keep you accountable. It’s incredibly easy to get discouraged or bored once you’ve hit a plateau, but the knowledge that there’s someone else working towards their goals with you can be incredibly helpful. 

Again, our best advice here is to spend a bit of time looking at what your competitors have said and done during their peak seasons. Figure out a way that you can offer something either similar or better than them, and brainstorm some way that you can stand out in your marketing in the process. 

Never Stop Strategizing

You shouldn’t be thinking about new marketing strategies when you’re elbow-deep in your busiest season. Instead, you should be using downtime to plot out a comprehensive marketing strategy, then adjust it as needed based on current events.  Always have a plan, and always understand that every plan and strategy must be flexible enough to change with the times.

This applies to scheduled social posts just as it does your overall marketing strategy. You should never be treating your social feeds as a ‘fire and forget’ medium. Instead, you should regularly take the time to revisit and re-evaluate before each post goes live. 

Basically, use your downtime to plan things out, then adjust and adapt as you keep moving forward.

3 Major Mistakes Businesses Make With Pay per Click Ads

In case you haven’t already heard of it, pay per click advertising is an ad model where a business only pays if a customer clicks on one of their ads. It’s most popularly known through the Google Ads platform, which distributes advertisements across Google’s myriad properties. How it works is fairly simple.

First, an advertiser determines what keywords they want to target, based on what’s likeliest to bring in qualified leads. They can also add negative keywords so they aren’t paying for clicks from people who aren’t sales prospects. You then bid against other competing advertisers on your keywords – whoever puts in more money per click gets a higher placement and, consequently, more clicks. 

It seems pretty simple, right? 

Unfortunately…it’s not. There’s actually a fairly steep learning curve in PPC advertising, a wealth of pitfalls that can see you wasting a ton of money for relatively little gain. 

Bad Bidding

Not every pay per click campaign receives the number of views you hope for. In part, this could be caused by disconnected, offensive, or simply bad advertising. However, you might also not be bidding effectively on your keywords.

If your ads seem to be reaching the correct audience but you’re not getting enough pageviews or clickthroughs, you might consider raising your bid. While this means you’ll be paying more per click, it might also bring in more traffic (and therefore more conversions).

Unfortunately, this isn’t an exact science. If raising your bid doesn’t seem to have an observable effect on your success rate, this may signify there’s some deeper problem at play. You may be making one of the other mistakes on the list. 

Failure to Split Test

A split test is a simple means of measuring the effectiveness of a particular advertisement. How it works is relatively simple. You take an ad, change one relatively small aspect of it, then target both the modified ad and the original to different segments of your audience. This allows you to track how much impact one small modification has on your ad’s success – better yet, if the modified ad performs better than the original, you’ve managed to further optimize your campaign.

Via split-testing, you can eliminate much of the guesswork involved in setting up a new campaign, instead of taking a more focused and data-driven approach. It helps you determine if a particular ad is worth the cost without losing too much money in the process, while also making and measuring small optimizations over the course of a campaign. Just be certain that leading platforms can sometimes make tracking clicks a bit difficult – and that you need to make sure ads are evenly-distributed and measured over a long enough period to ensure accuracy. 

Inaccurate Targeting

If you don’t know your audience, then you’re throwing money away. You need to know who your intended customer is before you even start doing keyword research. Who they are, what they’re interested in, and what style of advertisement will be most impactful to them.

Create a few simple buyer personas that allow you to reliably categorize each segment of your audience, including age, occupation, hobbies, general desires and values, and what influences them. You can shift to a more focused approach later.

For now, what’s important is that you know, in general terms, what will catch your audience’s attention.

You’ll also want to pay attention to what targeting options are available to you, and how they work for the various different PPC platforms. Different mediums require a different approach, after all, and offer you different tools for targeting and advertising. Take the time to learn each medium before you start bidding on ads in order to better-guarantee efficient spending. 

In Closing

A well-targeted PPC advertisement can be immensely beneficial to your organization. However, targeting is only the first step here. It’s important that, in addition to understanding the fundamentals of PPC, you also have a solid grasp of marketing and advertising’s other elements, particularly where psychology is concerned.

You need, in other words, to understand your audience, your industry, and your platform all at once – because if you don’t, then it doesn’t matter how well-targeted your ads are.