Self-serving content won’t serve ROI: How to put customers first #CZLNY

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by Brafton Editorial
ClickZ Live NY speakers explained why companies need to dig deeper into data to improve their search marketing strategies.

Around 93 percent of companies are creating content for SEO value in 2014. However, their efforts may be misdirected if they aren’t built around customers’ intentions.

At ClickZ Live NY, Back Azimuth Consulting‘s Bill Hunt talked about data deep dives, and identified a number of lost opportunities that can be recaptured with better information and common-sense approaches that start with the customer.

We’re not in the same sales cycle anymore

Content marketing goals were one the first things Hunt advised businesses to reconsider. Too many companies are still planning their strategies around the concept of a traditional sales funnel, with the expectation that people are taking a linear path all the way from unawareness to purchase confirmation. The reality is that the buying cycle is now in a state of chaos – a world without predictable patterns.

Hunt likens the new process to a Bingo board, wherein companies have a content matrix that connects people’s interests. (Sounds a little bit like Hummingbird)

Too many companies are still planning their strategies around the concept of a traditional sales funnel

The goals of web content

  1. Attract people, asking yourself: “Do I have content that connects me to a consumer’s needs, wants and interests?”
  2. Engage your audience: “Have I provided the best content so I can solve their problems and needs?”
  3. Retain them: “Is there content that rewards people for returning?”

Why your content isn’t necessarily serving your business goals:

Companies might assume the content they create matches their business goals, but there might actually be gaps if they aren’t attuned to searcher interest and search engines’ processes.

  • What does the searcher want?
  • Can the search engine understand this?

What businesses will find is that there is often an imperfect fit because their goals are actually self serving and not really designed for users. Hunt gave the example of companies exclusively targeting terms they want customers to use to find them, such as “supply chain management.” That may be the phrase the company prefers, but it may not be the words an individual would type into a search engine when they’re just starting their product search. That person may type, “How do I streamline distribution?”

There is often an imperfect fit because their goals are actually self serving and not really designed for users.

What was simple suddenly became a complex concept because they added brand terminology to it. Leads increased 2x when they used a word that was outside of the brand’s nomenclature. Once the company adjusted its keyword strategy, leads doubled.

Companies can increase that sweet spot between business goals and consumers’ behavior if they take a closer look at the search terms and conversations around core offerings.

Hunt advised:

  • Creating an audience profile: Look at target audience pain points and client needs.
    • What does the person want and what do we want
    • What type of content do we need to match that?
  • Throwing assumptions out the window: Leverage information from your site to learn who actually is coming to your site, rather than assuming you know and targeting the wrong people. 
    • Who is actually coming to the site? By looking at on-site data, and on-site search queries specifically, it became clear that the majority of the people visiting a company’s page were IT managers and consultants – not the CEOs it was aiming to attract. Businesses want to target CEOs only because they’re decision makers, but CEOs aren’t searching around the web looking for information, he pointed out. By creating content for the actual target audience, the company was better serving its users. 

When the question is “How?,” video is the answer

This is where Hummingbird comes in. Google is looking at the meaning behind a query, and it’s bigger than most people anticipate. Hummingbird affects about 90% of all searches, and it’s particularly helpful with “how to” questions.

Hummingbird affects about 90% of all searches, and it’s particularly helpful with “how to” questions.

Hunt pointed out that when people conduct a “How to” search, they receive radically different search results. Google will show you more videos because that’s one of the content types that best serves this question.

Hummingbird is about producing the best results, not more results. Brands that want to answer those kinds of questions need to focus on specific formats that matches that “how to” query.

Your site is a data goldmine if you’re willing to look for it

You don’t have to go to Google or Bing or Twitter for answers. Look at site search information to learn what people really want and then preemptively give it to them.

Marketers can look at site search questions for content:

  • What questions are people asking before they bounce off the page?
  • How can you better answer those?

One business came up with “monetizing questions” after looking at on-site search data. It ended up creating 200 new pieces of content for FAQ pages, adding key questions to social mining, creating 10 new videos and developing a stronger email campaign.

The point is that companies need to use the data at their disposal to really understand the buy cycle for products. Then, they must make sure they are ranking for all the ways people might look for certain products, from the first time someone realizes he wants an item, to the moment he enters the model number buy it. To succeed, brands need a presence at every stage.

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