Monday, March 24, 2014

Digital Content Strategy -- What's Your Story?

Digital content strategy is the third leg of the digital marketing table, along with search and social. Content quality is the key to the success of a business in the online space. This has been said countless times and by now, pretty much everyone has heard it. But the question do you define quality? And what is the strategy for creating quality content?

The first is really a user experience question and the short answer is:
Digital Content Strategy
Quality content is content that meets the needs of your audience in the way they expect it to.  That is -- content that provides the answers that they are seeking with their search queries -- in concise, scannable, honest and easily understood language. This is content that is VALUABLE to your audience. 

So, how do you create content that meets that high standard? Simple. Understand your audience and their needs! OK, maybe it's not so simple, it requires some work. But it is pretty straightforward process.

Keywords First
93% of online experiences start with a search engine. So the ideal content creation process starts with keyword discovery. The details are in the link, but in short, keyword discovery is a research project where you learn...
1. What relevant words and phrases actual people are actually typing into search engines 
2. How often each of these keystrings are searched and 
3. How much competition there is for them among other Web sites

For your content to be effective...

1. It should be based on these words and phrases from this list that have a good balance of high relevance and low competition
2. It should effectively answer the question posed by the search
3. It should include a registrable offer or other call to action to allow the visitor to engage with you

Keyword discovery and social listening insights are a sound basis for high-quality content.
Listen and Learn
If you build your content strategy based on the keywords people are searching for, you're off to a good start. But if you have time, there's another key source of insight you should tap before you start writing. That's social listening. Again, you can learn the details in the blog post behind that link, but basically, you query the vast social mediasphere to discover how the potential customers and influencers in your market talk about the challenges that your products and services solve...

1. The words they use to describe the issues, products and features in the competitive space -- perhaps even new keywords that you weren't aware of
2. How you measure up to the competition and 
3. What kinds of information they need to help them make their decisions and even
4. Needs they have that no products or services are addressing yet

You can easily see how this kind of insight would be valuable to the creation of quality content.

Keyword discovery and social listening insights are a sound basis for high-quality content. These practices allow you to build a page of content around each keyword, and deliver the answers the market is looking for. By building pages around the keywords your audience is searching for, you'll draw more organic search traffic. If you couple that with an effective call to action, on each page, which offers the visitor a next step in their learning or engagement that promises value to them, you'll start to generate responses that can turn into leads. 

The knowledge you've gained through listening tells you where relevant conversations are taking place in the social space, and who leads those conversations. You can use your social media presence to syndicate your socially-influenced content into these conversations to build your brand's social reputation and credibility.

Nothing Engages Like a Good Story
OK, but there's one more element that really puts the icing on the cake. That element is storytelling.
If you can weave your content into a compelling storyline, where your audience can see themselves as the hero, your content will be all the more effective. Humans are wired to remember and pass on stories. So if your story is good enough, your content will be memorable and will be shared.

How do you tell a story? The best way is to start with your customer. Talk about them rather than talking about you. Only talk about yourself (your company) in the context of how you help your customers solve their problems. Let them see themselves in your Web site.

Talk about why you do what you do, about how your customers inspired you to create your company or your product. Give your customers the credit for your success.

Metrics, Audience, Voice and Freshness
Content is King! Content is Key! Content is the Killer App! But there's more to content strategy than just the content. Like any strategy, it starts with your business goals. What are you expecting of your content? How will your content get you there and what does success look like? What will you measure? Be sure you start with a baseline as soon as you launch your site or before you redesign it.

For instance, if your goal is simply awareness of your company, products and services, then you will be measuring simple things like page views and visitors, time on site, social likes and mentions. You'll want to track how many times each piece of content is reused and shared, how many people it touches throughout it's lifecycle.

There's more to content strategy than just the content. Like any strategy, it starts with your business goals.
your goal is to generate demand, then in addition to the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) above, which are the top of the marketing funnel, you'll also want to add downloads, subscriptions, responses, leads and probably lead revenue.

Of course, you'll want to grow each of these metrics, but also accelerate their growth over time. You'll want to know which pieces of content are most effective for which audiences for each metric, so that you can create more successful content.

Speaking of audiences, an effective content strategy consider the key audiences to target and tailor content to each. Different roles, different demographics, different locations, even different points in the buying cycle will have different needs. (often, the keywords used in a search can convey quite a bit of information about these characteristics of the searcher, this is called Consumer Intent Modeling and it can be a very powerful tool in content strategy).

In order to allow the audience to connect with the brand, the content strategy must set and monitor the voice of the brand. Voice should be consistent across all channels and includes elements such as style (serious vs. witty, cool vs. warm, lyrical vs. punchy), tone (colloquial vs. formal, technical vs. non-tech), and word choices (short vs. long, familiar vs. esoteric)

Finally, there must be a strategy in place to keep the content fresh. What discovery cadence should be followed to identify new keywords, add new pages, sunset unpopular pages and refresh popular ones?
An editorial calendar that outlines weekly or monthly themes for the next 3-6 months is crucial. Will there be a blog or content curation and aggregation so that there's always something new on the site? How will content be syndicated, repurposed as Social Media, as downloadable offers or emails to subscribers.

At its core, effective content strategy is mostly about putting yourself in the visitors' shoes, using search and social insights to build a content strategy that meets and exceeds the visitors needs, and storytelling to help them relate to your content, remember it and pass it along.

Content that attracts search queries is good. Content that answers the visitors' questions and engages is better. Content that is memorable and sharable is best. Content that is all of these is Quality.

Let us know if we can help 914 715 6715.

Visit for more Digital Marketing Intuition.

Next week: Information Architecture

Ken Godfrey

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Social Listening -- Limitless Insight

Social listening is probably the second most valuable source of insight necessary for creating user-centered content, right after search keyword discovery. Many marketers think of listening as a way of knowing what the market is saying about you -- positive or negative -- and of course, that's important, but there's so much more to it than that.

No matter how good your products and services are, no matter how relevant your white papers and commentary, there will always be
Social Listening
conversations that are relevant to your business happening outside the web space you own. Mostly, these take place in the social mediasphere. Around Twitter Accounts, blogs and forums, Linked In and Facebook groups, among people who have strong opinions about your market environment, the business you're in, the products and services you sell, the features you promote.

Monitor and Understand
It is in your business's best interest -- and the best interest of your customers and visitors -- for you to be aware of these discussions. Social listening enables you monitor these conversations, and gain 4 key types of valuable insight.

1. Understand who's taking part in these relevant but far-flung conversations.
2. Understand who's leading the conversations.
3. Understand what their issues and concerns are that are relevant to your business.
4. Understand the words and language the market uses to discuss these topics.

The people taking part in these relevant conversations by commenting on a blog, discussing in a forum or a group, or responding to tweets are likely potential customers for your product or service. They're engaged for a reason. The people who own the blog, or moderate the group or forum, or the ones who post or tweet most frequently are influencers. If you can engage with them and win them over, they can become powerful advocates for your brand, product or service.

There will always be conversations that are relevant to your business happening outside the web space you own.
The discussions they are taking part in give you valuable information about the needs of your market, what people think of your company, your competitors and individual offerings. You can learn what's important to them, what keeps them up at night, what challenges they need solutions to. You can take advantage of this information to inform your thinking about new products, services and features, new areas of content marketing for your digital presence, how to solve user experience issues, even how best to communicate to these potential customers.

Moreover, discovering these relevant conversations gives your business the opportunity to participate in them. You or your social team should do this subtly at first, by subscribing, making positive comments and following other members of the community. Once people are familiar with your contributions, you can engage more deeply by suggesting relevant links to your own or other social properties, and eventually, by making contact with the influencers in the group who you think may be amenable to sharing your company's information about your launches, events and other content. This is advocacy, the digital marketing holy grail.

Keyword Insights from Listening
Finally, social listening reveals the words and phrases the actual market uses to describe their needs and the solutions to those needs. This first person narrative is an important source of keyword discovery, suggesting words you should be optimizing your pages for and building content around. It also gives you key insight into how to name and communicate about your brands, products, services and features.

There is no substitute for this kind of data because if you optimize around the words your market is searching for and build your content based on those words, then...

1. You'll get more visits to your site because people are actually searching for those words.
2. When searchers for those words arrive at your site, they're more likely to find the answers they're looking for.

If your product, service and feature names and your marketing communications take this data into account, then it'll be easier for your customers to find you.

Social Listening How-To
Social listening techniques can run the gamut from a simple, free approach using a dashboarding app combined with various searches such as Icerocket social search and Google Alerts, to paid approaches involving full-fledged social listening suites, which can run from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

You can have your own people do this in-house using the tools, or most of the search tool vendors will also contract with you to do the listening for you and add expert consulting, reporting and recommendations to the service. Many agencies also offer this service.

You can arrange to do listening in real time continuously or on some set cadence, monthly, quarterly, etc.

Depending on the size of your business and your available resources, you choose the combination of these that fits your budget. But I'd recommend starting small and free, learning how to use the insight, then expanding.

At the very least, every company should set up some Google Alerts for their company name and the names of their products and key people and check those alerts at least once a day. That way, you're sure to pick up any negative comments that are specifically directed at your company. It's best to know about this type of comment at the outset and respond to it as quickly as possible in as engaging a manner as possible to prevent it from escalating into a serious PR problem.

Of course you'll also be able to catch positive comments about your company and expand their effect by retweeting or tweeting about them and using them on your Web site and in your marketing materials.

Any way you do it, social listening is empowering for a company. The market is speaking whether you're listening or not. If you are, you can reap the benefits.

Let us know if we can help. 914 715 6715.

Visit for more Digital Marketing Intuition.

Next week: Content Strategy

Ken Godfrey

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Search Keyword Discovery - The Foundation of Digital Marketing

Search Keyword Discovery is the first and foremost action a business needs to take before they build a Web site, or before redesigning the one they have. Not surprisingly then, it's also the way most digital marketing consulting engagements begin. In fact, it's really the foundation of all Digital Marketing.

Why is this? Because the words you optimize your pages for matter. Search Keyword Discovery
The right keywords are probably not words that are about you or your company. They probably won't include the name of your product, service or business. Nor should you optimize for the name of one of the divisions of your company or your CEO's favorite word. It's about understanding what audience problem your business solves and discovering the words that your visitors will search for to solve that problem. When you have that insight, then you create pages of quality content around each of those words. One keyword, one page.

Because to create quality content that your audience can find, you need to start with the keywords they will use to find it. As prevalent as SEO has become, when most companies think about 'optimizing' pages for search, they think: Put the terms you want your pages to score for in the right places on the page and in the code so that the search engine ranks your page highly for those words. But it's not that simple anymore.

This 'paste it on' approach to SEO would probably have been pretty effective 3-5 years ago, but since Google's most recent updates have focused on content quality, the content on your page needs to truly be based on those keywords to score highly. And if you're going to be writing pages about a set of keywords, it's best to be sure those keywords are the ones your audiences are searching for.

It's more trouble to do it this way, but the upside is that if you do this right, your audience will find your page and the content you present to them will be what they're looking for. So they'll stay. And if you give them the opportunity to engage with you on that page, such as a registerable offer, they'll engage

Effective Keyword Discovery - How it's Done
As I mentioned, most digital consulting engagements start with Keyword discovery because businesses know they don't have the traffic they need and many have heard that SEO is the solution to that problem. So that's what they come to us for. We start with brainstorming. We work with our client to come up with a list of keywords to start with.

To create quality content that your audience can find, you need to start with the keywords they will use to find it.
Sometimes, depending upon the client's resources, we'll also use social listening to identify words that the market is using to talk about subjects that are relevant to the client's business. We'll add these words to the seed list too.

The next step in the discovery process is to put these seed words into a tool that will give us a larger list of related words, along with the search opportunity (the number of searches for a word per month) and the level of competition (expressed as a percentage) for each word. The art is in finding keywords that are most relevant to the customer's business which have a good balance of higher opportunity and lower competition. Only trial and error -- and experience -- can help with this.

Once we've identified the words, it's time to start building a page of content around each of them. Now the old SEO rules come back into play. The keyword needs to appear in a number of specific places and a sufficient number of times on the page to get the highest google rank. We run tests on the pages to validate the SEO, make any necessary adjustments, make sure we have a good set of metrics on the existing site for the last few months as a benchmark, then the new pages are ready to go live.

On a regular cadence (monthly, quarterly, half yearly) We'll re-assess the metrics, run the SEO tools against the pages to check their progress and run the keyword discovery tools to determine if there are any new words we need to include or old ones we need to retire.

If you follow this process closely, and keep your pages fresh, you should see an immediate improvement, then a steady climb in search rank for your pages over time. There will also be an accompanying increase in traffic, time on site and - if you provide visitors a way to engage, such as offers they can register for, live chat assistance, etc, you'll also see an increase in engagement.

Let us know if we can help. 914 715 6715.

Visit for more Digital Marketing Intuition

Next week: Social Listening

Ken Godfrey

Visit for more Digital Marketing Intuition.