From search to site through what you say

So I’m getting back into RSS browsing. I dropped it when Google Reader died, thinking that Twitter was really the only game in town for monitoring. But there’s a difference. Twitter is really, really fast and for that reason, I tend to use it for quickly getting an idea of what’s going on. I might retweet or favourite but honestly, do I read much of what flashes by? Not really.

It’s nice getting into RSS again, building up my feeds, this time in Feedly. Feedly’s pretty good with a nice interface but still doesn’t have keyword filters. Not to worry. I liken it to sitting down with a trade magazine and spending time going through what really matters. Flipboard and Google Newsstand are good, but you really do build your own Feedly from the bottom up.

Straight up, solid gold: Econsultancy, ever the publisher of sage advice, features a piece by the wonderfully named Lyndon Antcliff, explaining why an SEO should think more like a publisher. He defines an SEO as someone who gets as many people from a web search to a web page as efficiently as possible. The key to this is links. And the key to getting links? Content.

He then discusses attention, attraction, delivery, response. This is yet another variant of the marketing funnel (awareness, interest, desire, action) which I’ve used many times to illustrate content strategy.

Some people think the marketing funnel is dead. Others think it’s well and truly alive. Then again some people think PR is dead, while others think it’s thriving. Still others think Elvis is dead, the poor deluded fools.

I don’t think you can prove it either way but what I do believe is that it’s a great way to formalise your knowledge. I’m a fan of structured thinking, mainly because I find it hard. If it’s hard, it’s usually worthwhile and then, when you get the hang of it, the other stuff becomes easier.

So, looking at content through this structure you start to see that awareness is really about going to where other people live, so that you interact with them on their home turf. They’re not going to come to yours until/unless they’re aware of you. So awareness is about earned content, and you measure it by the amount of conversation you’re having with people out there. You make this work for you by identifying influencers in key topic areas and building structures through Twitter lists, Feedly lists and so on, making sure you interact with the people that matter.

Interest, then, is when people are curious enough about you to come and pay you a visit. Have a nice sit down and a cup of tea. Maybe a scone or two (yes, I’m British, it shows). This is where your owned channels are important, and you measure this by engagement. If you’ve made the right noises abroad, about the right topics, to the right people, then, when they come to you, if you continue to make the right noises, they might just shortlist you.

What of desire and action? Well, my take on this is that they’re really where your website works hardest. Visitors have surfed through the stratosphere of awareness and the atmosphere of awareness, and now they’ve landed on Planet You. This is your chance to validate their suspicion that you’re the person/team/agency/company for them, and where your case studies, awards and recommendations come into play. And action is really about conversion, so make it as easy as possible for them to get in touch.

Some people reckon the marketing funnel is circular now, with ‘retention’ feeding back from the bottom to the top, like the self-consuming serpent. I see that as a by-product of everything else you do, with maybe some specialist activities such as newsletters so they feel part of the club.

To get back to Mr Antcliff’s point, if you really want to make your content work hard to pull people from search to site, you need to think about publishing. And this is why you need to think about how your content can work for you. I remember in my early days I told people that really, I was a publisher. This blog is a publication. And as we all know, everyone is a publisher now.

Anyway, go and read his post on Econsultancy. He has, I think, a different take on the funnel but it’s broadly similar. Well worth a read.

Advertisements

Nail your content strategy with the marketing funnel

There are many takes on the marketing funnel. They go from simple – Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action, the classic AIDA model – to very complicated. Some people swear by them. Others swear at them. Still others think the funnel is actually banana-shaped. Not really, I just couldn’t resist putting that in.

The idea is that people move from not knowing about you, on a journey that gets closer to investing in you. After becoming aware, if they like what they see then they’re interested. If they’re interested enough, they put you on a shortlist. And if you’re still a candidate, they’ll act – whether actually buying, or just getting in touch.

I quite like it because it makes sense to me and I use that as a litmus test. If I understand it, then my clients probably will too. I like the simplest version, the AIDA model, but I like putting something underneath the funnel for digital marketing in particular: retention.

I also like the funnel because it enables me to do two important things: figure out which kinds of content work for each stage of the funnel; and measure effectiveness.

Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action, Retention. What on earth am I talking about? Read on and, if you disagree, let me know below. No, really, I want to be told I’m wrong because that’s how I learn…

Awareness: I’m looking for X

This is where you need to move from people not knowing about you, to people becoming aware of you. They will be looking for something and will use fairly generic, industry- or sector-wide terms to do this, such as mousetraps, washing machines, digital marketing.

This is mostly the domain of Google. Sure, there are other search engines, but Google is it. So to make sure you’re top of Google, you need to embark on an awareness programme.

My feeling on awareness? Don’t use social media for it. There is no proven link between social and SEO, with the sole exception of Google+ which is plugged into Google’s results. So when people say they want to use social media to raise awareness, they’re using the wrong tool.

Awareness is all about what happens away from your site. You need to spread your tentacles across the web and make sure people are as likely to find you as possible using those generic search terms. So, for awareness, you need to think about getting as much word-of-mouth out there as possible. This is where PR comes in, with placed articles, bylines and advertorials raising awareness offline.

For online awareness, you need to think about establishing a presence on sites other than your own. Here are some ways to do this:

  • Blogs – Comment on influencers who mention you, our your issues, or any of your content. Also consider blog exchange programmes, where you post on influencer blog and they post on yours
  • Twitter: Retweet influencers who mention you
  • LinkedIn: Interact with industry groups
  • Facebook: Like or comment on pages that mention you

Everything here is designed to establish your voice on third-party sites. In other words, to raise awareness.

How do you measure this? Well given that most of this is off-site activity, you’re looking at how much earned conversation you’re stimulating, that is, how much are people talking about you other than yourself. There are ways of doing this, mainly by building dashboards through APIs.

You can also look at your Google Analytics and see how much search engine traffic is coming to your site. This gives you an idea of how successful your content strategy is in grabbing Google’s attention.

Interest: I’ve heard about you and I’d like to know more

So people know about you, because you’ve raised awareness through PR and canny use of third-party sites. Now it’s time to stimulate their interest and this is really where you can start using your social media. Think about how each of your channels can work with each of these types of content:

  • Events – are bread and butter to social media. Blog before, during and after them. Use Twitter, Instagram and Vine during them. Put your video together for more in-depth coverage on YouTube during and after. There’s plenty you can be doing with events that will make people think you’ve got your finger on the pulse.
  • White papers – are something of a dreadnought of communications, but this content can be great for ‘slicing and dicing’, that is, releasing a small amount at a time, linking to a dedicated web page or microsite. Go one step further and ask for people’s email addresses in return for this premium content and you’re right into the retention level.
  • Press releases – should always be on your Twitter feed and LinkedIn company page at the very least. Consider repackaging them for the blog but remember that your blog should on the whole talk about industry issues rather than shouting about yourself.
  • Educational series – are where you show that you know what you’re talking about, so talk about it on your blog. Even if you think something’s obvious, other people won’t.

To measure this, you’re now looking at how engaged people are with your owned channels. How often do people retweet you? How many comments does your YouTube channel have? How many people are talking about your Facebook page? And so on.

Again, Google Analytics is important. If you’re hosting in-depth content with serious amounts of investment behind them such as white papers, then you need to know how many people are visiting those pages, and how many are downloading them.

You can also use the dedicated dashboards for each channel but I’m not a fan of them. I like metrics that I can compare across channels and competitors, such as reach and engagement.

Desire: You’re on my shortlist

Having gone from awareness out there on the wild web, to interest from what you’re saying, the customer journey is now about desire. They know about you and they like you, and you’re on their shorlist. Now it’s your job to validate their decision to opt for you.

There are three kinds of content that work really well for this:

  • Case studies – are absolutely what you need to convince people that you know what you’re talking about. Prove to them that you understood the challenge, employed the right tactics, and got results.
  • Third-party articles – by which I mean all mentions of you whether bylines, features, blog posts or news. People want to know that you’re being talked about.
  • Awards – as with the funnel itself, some people love them and others hate them. I think they’re very compelling. Whatever the politics behind them (ie a stunning correlation between the companies that win and the companies that pay sponsorship), I think most people regard them as strong endorsement from the industry.

There’s a fourth kind here which can be controversial: comparison tables. They might work well for FMCG brands – “Hey look, you can wipe your bum much more quickly with our Bum-away toilet roll” – but sometimes slagging your competitors off can reflect poorly on your shiny brands.

To measure this you’re looking at metrics such as specific engagement from known influencers – retweets, replies, comments, subscribers. On your site you should also look for downloads of content and visits to pages that host it.

Action: Where do I sign?

This is It. There’s very little you can do with social media here. People have gone from the outer space of non-awareness, to the atmosphere of interest, and have landed on your planet because they have desire. But you can’t make them sign the dotted line. The best you can do here is make sure you have plenty of calls to action. Make it as easy as possible for people to buy, or to call you, email you, get in touch in any way. Marketing’s job is to get people as far down the funnel as Action. From now on, it’s about converting, and this is where marketing hands over to sales.

For measurement, this is absolutely the domain of the website. You should monitor specific page accesses to ‘hot’ conversion pages such as Contact Us or registration pages. And, of course, if you’re selling directly via your site, you need to monitor conversion rates: how many people pressed the Buy button?

Retention: Welcome to the club

Now you’ve got people on board, it’s time to keep them there. Sure, you’ve got your social media channels chugging away happily but everyone can read them. For people who have invested in you, give some of that investment back. This is where you embark on a client comms programme, giving them the inside track on product development, special offers, invites to events and so on. And to measure this, look at the metrics your email system supports such as numbers of emails opened or unsubscription rates.

And that’s it. That’s my take on the funnel, how to match content to each stage, and how to measure each stage. Please tell me that you disagree below, because I like finding stuff out from smart people.