I see it but I can’t reach it: Connect with your target audience for SEO
I know what you’re thinking; here comes another evangelical SEO nonsense post which is only written about theory and never actually put into practice…..well it’s not, stay with me! It will however, be a useful insight into leveraging your business aims with your SEO, with a few bad jokes thrown in here and there for good measure.
There have been plenty of stories recently in the SEO industry about websites p-p-p-picking up a penalty (bad joke #1) and being punished by Google’s family of animal updates. However, I still find it amazing just how many brands fail when it comes to offering value to their consumers with outreach, and in turn, the number of brand managers who don’t seem to enforce their culture in any form of SEO work. Thirdly, and most shockingly, I’m bamboozled (panda – bamboo, get it?) by those ‘brands’ which seem totally unaware of who their consumers are.
“We want to rank number one for every term, because we’re greedy and we want loads of traffic”
“We want to be associated with ‘drills’, because our brand offers the best value for money in the DIY sector, we strive to strengthen our position as the destination DIY and home improvement store for DIYers.”
In my experience, the most effective and efficient search marketing strategy is one which views organic outreach as part of the overall marketing strategy; one which takes the consumer journey into account and so integrates with other forms of marketing communications, whilst staying true to the brand, culture and business in question.
From a marketing viewpoint, the absence of key marketing theory can partly explain why thanks to Penguin & Panda ‘SEO cheating’ is no longer viable. Let’s outline some definitions which relate to the key theories that I’m referring to here:
“The action or business of promoting and selling products or services” (Google, 2012)
“The practice of creating value for the mutual benefit of meeting consumer needs and business objectives. In action, that means knowing and meeting target audience/community information discovery, consumption and sharing behaviours with relevant and timely communications throughout the customer lifecycle. Engagement influence consumer behaviour to drive revenue outcomes and strengthen relationships.” (Top Rank Blog, 2011)
Search Marketing / SEO
“Search engine marketing, or SEM, is a form of Internet marketing that seeks to promote websites by increasing their visibility in search engine result pages (SERPs) through the use of search engine optimization, paid placement, contextual advertising, and paid inclusion.” (Wikipedia, 2012)
“SEO is the practice of improving and promoting a web site in order to increase the number of visitors the site receives from search engines.” (SEOmoz, 2012)
“A specific group of consumers at which a company aims its products and services.” (Entrepreneur, 2012)
How can we use this for outreach?
Essentially, search marketing involves reaching out to relevant audiences and developing or creating a relationship between consumer and brand. Let’s give this a definition:
“Outreach is a company’s involvement or activity in a community. This can take the form of proactive communication within a specific niche or identified commercially relevant audience.”
With this definition in mind let’s take another look at (and ‘drilldown’) our earlier example for ‘drills’: What themes and words can we pick out to aid us in our outreach?
Best value for money, DIY sector, home improvement store.
Already, we have a number of key themes to explore (although we’re not limited to these), and from this we should be able to identify key figures of authority within the niche.
We also need to understand at what point on the consumer journey our target audience are: If we know at what point the consumer is struggling then we know at what stage the brand can help.
- Do they own a drill?
- Is it broken?
- Are they upgrading?
- Do they have a model of drill in mind?
- Will they buy online?
…..become brand answers:
- What to look for when buying your 1st drill
- Complete guide to replacement drill parts
- The benefits of a cordless drill for home DIY
- Drill it right, reviews of all our drills and which products they work best with
- Print off guides to take in store, or click and collect service
THIS IS NOTHING NEW!
This is not a new idea, know your audience and give them what they ask for. With outreach, make sure your output/content is what people are looking for, and that it adds value for both the consumer and the brand. Regularly ask your audience for input so that you are prepared for media planning meetings to contribute real ideas and expertise, so that activity is coordinated from the outset.
Benefits to the brand
Historically, marketers have turned to offline media such as TV and print, and used banner ads to achieve their online brand development goals. Research carried out by Conductor shows that a brand stands to gain significant value from search rankings through increased, positive consumer perception.
The research cited increases in key values such as brand awareness, brand quality, and purchase consideration scores for both manufacturers and retailers when the brand appeared above the fold in search results.
Outreach is a key ingredient of obtaining search rankings, so taking marketing activity and brand messages into account is vital to successful, rounded outreach; and ultimately extending your brand’s online perception.
This approach has significant search and social benefits, both in terms of being natural, but also being newsworthy and appealing to bloggers and socialites alike.
More than this though, even if you don’t get an immediate return such as a follow or a link or a like, at least you’ve done the awkward ‘hard’ bit already by reaching out to a target audience.
The response you get will tell you a lot about your brand, and plenty about about your consumers too; this is definitely the way to go in my opinion for successful long term outreach and ultimately sustained SERPs performance.
Target your SEO
If you’re an in-house SEO-er (love that term) or brand manager, you should be nailing brand values and consistently reinforcing them to your external agencies to ensure they know your aims and understand your target audience. Equally, get agencies involved at an early stage in any planning process as this only serves to help both parties.
If you want to be THE port-of-call for drills and other DIY products in the SERPs; then showcase to your consumers, competing brands and Google exactly why you are the superior choice before, during, and after a consumer buys a drill; through planning in your SEO as part of your entire marketing process.
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