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Voices of Search Podcast: Educating your audience through mid-funnel content

Episode 39 Overview

Content Optimization Week continues with a focus on how you can educate prospective clients with mid-funnel content during this critical phase of the consideration and buying cycle. Join Ben Shapiro and Marlon Glover, the Searchmetrics Content Services Team lead,  as they dig into the strategy behind development and optimization of educational content.

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Episode Transcript

Ben:                 Welcome back to content optimization week on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro, and this week we’re going to publish an episode every day, covering what you need to know to optimize every stage of your content marketing funnel. Joining us for content optimization week is Marlon Glover, who is the content services team lead, here at Searchmetrics. He is responsible for shepherding Searchmetrics’ largest and most strategic clients into content marketing success.

Ben:                 Today, we’re going to continue our conversation with Marlon, and discuss how to optimize your middle of funnel content. But before we get started, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. We’re an SEO and content and marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses, monitor their online presence, and make data-driven decisions. To support you, our loyal podcast listeners, we’re offering a complimentary digital diagnostic. A member of our digital strategies group will provide you with a consultation that reviews how your website, content, and SEO strategies can be optimized. To schedule your free digital diagnostic, go to SearchMetrics.com/diagnostic.

Ben:                 Here is the second installment of Content Optimization Week with Mr. Marlon Glover, Searchmetrics’ Content Services Team Lead. Marlon, welcome back to the Voices of Search Podcast.

Marlon:            Ben, thank you for having me again.

Ben:                 Of course, of course. Glad to have you here. Yesterday we talked about building awareness, casting a wide net, understanding who your customers are, and building just content, doing some keyword research, looking at your industry, but just generally, trying to build something that’s going to get in front of them and be tangentially related to the products or services you’re selling.

Ben:                 Today, we’re going to talk a little bit about the middle of the funnel, which is what I called, educational content. I think you’d call it, consideration. Talk to me a little bit about the dividing line between building awareness, and improving consideration.

Marlon:            Yeah, Ben. I’m rubbing my hands together because this is actually my favorite part of the funnel. This is where the rubber really meets the road, with a customer truly teaching their perspective buyers, throughout their buying process. The dividing line that you mentioned, is between awareness and a potential buyer as a need that’s so significant that they want to find a solution for it.

Marlon:            An example may be, let’s say, I’m a content marketer. Let’s say I’m a content marketer and I’m looking to do a content gap analysis, but I don’t necessarily have the tools to do it. My issue is, and my need is, that I need to do a content gap analysis. I may be a new marketer, or maybe I’m not up to speed with the new technology out there. First, I want to understand how to conduct a content audit. Right? That may be an example of the first search I take. Now, we do understand and recent data has shown from Google, that the consumer journey may be different for different types of products and solutions. Maybe someone will start with knowledge of a specific product, or a service provider and they start their search there.

Marlon:            It’s not necessarily linear in all cases, but there still is a need to educate and to provide individuals with these teaching moments in this research phase, so it’s important that we understand the demands for these questions in looking at the data.

Ben:                 I’ll use an example that you brought up in our last podcast where we were talking about a company that’s selling blenders, an ecommerce product. You mentioned that building awareness, that that company can create recipe pages. They’re trying to understand and build and audience of people that are active and avid chefs. To me, the dividing line between building awareness and just getting your brand in front of someone and then improving their considerations, when you start talking about what makes a good product, so this comparison sites between all of the different blenders, or content that talks about, what are the most important tools to have in your kitchen? When you’re actually educating someone on not only what your product specifically does, but why it’s important to have a product in that class. It’s basically working your way down to why our product is the best.

Marlon:            Yeah. I think what we’re looking to do with our content strategy is, I come from a school of thought around this idea of challenger selling. Teaching, tailoring that’s already controlled throughout the buying process is really a sales methodology. But I think there’s overlap with our content strategy. Typically, at this stage of the buying process, buyers are looking for how much or how little they need. Right? Looking for the important elements that they should be considering when they’re looking to solve that problem.

Marlon:            Now, it’s up to the solution provider, the manufacturer, or whoever may be that’s looking to solve that problem with their products, to help customers understand what they should be considering, and if they’re doing it well, then they should be leading to their unique value proposition. At this moment where they’re educating them about the things that make not only them unique, but the things that their customers should be considering, and then ideally helping them overcome some potential challenges, as they consider other stages of that purchasing decision, as well.

Ben:                 To me, the questions you’re answering with these types of content is, what is it, and do I need it? Right? Like, hey, I’ve been exposed to this brand. I understand that they have these products. That’s the awareness stage. Getting into consideration is, what is the product? Does it have value in my life? And then down the road, when we get into tomorrow’s episode and we’re talking about actually getting into the purchases, what are the things that I need to understand to feel comfortable making a purchase? Is it right for me?

Marlon:            Yeah. The only thing that I would change there, in your language is, at this stage it’s not so much about the product. It’s about the solution. It’s important for every organization to truly understand what problems they’re solving for their buyers. When you look at different types of products, we can find different needs and solutions within a single product. An example of that is again, a search metrics. Searchmetrics has a product that can solve the needs of both SEOs and content. Maybe an SEO needs to do an SEO technical audit. This solution solves that problem. A content marketer could also use this to develop their content plan.

Marlon:            I think it’s important for us to think about the consideration stage as not necessarily building a significant value in our products, and this is where a lot of organizations make that mistake. It’s about teaching them around the things that they should be considering when they’re looking to solve that problem. It’s not until we start getting towards the later stages of the consideration, moving into the purchase stage, is when we’re really talking about the unique value proposition of our individual products and solutions, and we’re peppering-in brand deterrents in their way.

Marlon:            I just wanted to make one clarification there, and this is where we see a lot of organizations tend to overemphasize on product and brand, and feature-specific content, is because they think they’re truly answering those questions at the earlier stage, when indeed, they’re not effectively teaching and educating their customers at the consideration stage.

Ben:                 It’s not necessarily, do I need this product? It is, what is the solution to my problem? Which to me, when we talk about the format, it seems like a lot of this type of, middle of funnel consideration content is really answering questions, as opposed to, we talked before about blog posts and just tangentially related to your brand, the content. This is answering questions about the overall industry product class and set.

Marlon:            That’s exactly right. When we do that initial keyword research, typically what I’m doing next is, within our research cloud we have a keyword discovery tool that allows me to type-in question modifiers. I may take a single keyword, and do a phrase match, or for the what, when, why, how, which, attached to the keyword to understand the questions that folks may be asking, potential buyers may be asking that’s associated with those keywords. That’s what I’m starting to think about, exactly the questions that buyers are asking at this stage.

Marlon:            Consideration to me, doesn’t mean consideration of our products and solutions. Considerations to me means, what should I be considering when I’m looking to solve my unique problem?

Ben:                 I think one of the things that if you do this content right is, you end up building a lot of credibility. If you’re able to clearly communicate an answer, a customer’s question and they can see a direct path between, hey, I’m aware of this brand. I’m aware that this company makes blenders. Now I’m starting to think about whether I need a blender, and they are giving me the information that helps me make that decision. There is naturally inferred credibility that if you can communicate and help them with the decision, that you understand the problems that they’re having, so your products will be valuable.

Marlon:            That’s exactly right. Again, I think there’s a very close parallel to the sales process. It used to be, you would walk into a car dealership, or maybe even walk into a Best Buy and you’ll quickly get annoyed with the overly aggressive sales rep, telling you about all the features and specs of a specific product. Like, hey guy, I’m just in here browsing, want to learn. But, I think what we find is, the folks that we tend to not get so annoyed with are the ones that aren’t so focused on the features and specs, but they may be helping us think about understanding what it is we’re looking to again … I hate being repetitive and using this term but, solve for. But they’re really teaching us and educating us, and helping us uncover things that we may not have previously considered.

Marlon:            This is what we’re hoping to achieve with content at this stage is, we want to focus on building that credibility and using this term that is again, in this challenging methodology, but is commercially teaching. Is teaching, but you’re not teaching and leading them to a competitor. You’re teaching them and leading them to what it is uniquely solve.

Ben:                 I think going back to your sales metaphor, when I’m thinking about the sales process, the best salesmen try to understand what problem the customer is trying to solve first, before actually making product suggestions.

Marlon:            Yeah.

Ben:                 To me, that is very much what this middle class of content is about, education, understanding the customer, building relationships, building credibility. In terms of doing the research for understanding what types of questions or what content to build here, we mentioned that a lot of these are going to be questions, so you’re looking for who, where, when, what, why related to specific keywords relative to your brand. Are there any other ways that you suggest companies think about building their middle of funnel, their educational, their consideration content lists?

Marlon:            Yeah, sure. The data can help give us direction in our content strategy. I oftentimes would like to speak to the people that are having these conversations with customers, every day. Even if we’re talking about products that are sold online, if you’re a manufacturer and you have an online store, then I want to understand from the folks that are out there doing this research, they’re talking to customers, product teams, sales teams, anyone that has direct connections with the prospective buyers and current customers, I want to hear from them. I want to understand what’s happening on the ground.

Marlon:            Then, I think it’s important for us to always tap into the trends and the different types of content that is resonating. I use Google’s research. I’m a big fan of Think with Google. I’m a big fan of search in general. I’m big fan of some of these other resources out there that help me understand what’s happening in trends in the marketplace. But again, I think that our technology also allows us to understand what Google is rewarding in terms of search. Our search integration features and our technology allow us to get really clear direction in terms of the type of content that makes the most sense for a specific topic.

Ben:                 Obvious answer, Searchmetrics can help you with that, but the other takeaway from what you’re saying is that there are other people that are influenced or communicating with your customers and leads on a regular basis. They have a great understanding of what the frequently asked questions are going to be. Whether it’s your sales team, whether it’s your customer service arm, whether it’s your manufacturers, go around the rest of the organizations and ask them, what questions their customers are asking, and answer those in a format that is question-based, whether it’s your FAQs, whether it’s somewhere on your site, even if it’s in your blog.

Ben:                 Building consideration and building credibility shows that you have an understanding of what the customer’s problems are. If you’re able to build credibility by answering those questions clearly and articulately, you’ll get that inferred credibility and you’ll get more people coming into your purchase cycle, which is what we’re going to talk about tomorrow.

Marlon:            That’s exactly right.

Ben:                 Great. Well, we covered a lot of ground today. I think that’s a great place for us to stop, so that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Marlon Glover, Searchmetrics’ Content Services Team Lead. We’d love to continue the conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Marlon, you can find a link to his bio on our show notes, or you can send him a tweet. His handle is Marlon_Glover. If you have general marketing questions, or if you’d like to talk about this podcast, you can find my contact information on our show notes, or you can send me a tweet @BenJShap.

Ben:                 If you’re interested in learning more about how to use search data to boost your organic traffic, online visibility or to gain competitive insights, head over to Searchmetrics.com/diagnostic, for your complimentary advisory session with our digital strategies team. If you like this podcast, and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, hit the subscribe button in your podcast in your app, and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning to discuss Marlon’s tip for optimizing your bottom of funnel purchase related content.

Ben:                 Lastly, if you’ve enjoyed this podcast, and you’re feeling generous, we’d love for you to leave us your review in the Apple iTunes store. That’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.