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Optimizing top of funnel & awareness content

Episode 38 Overview

Content Optimization Week kicks off with Marlon Glover, the Searchmetrics Content Services Team Lead and Ben Shapiro digging into the how to optimize top of funnel and awareness content. Join us for the first of five episodes focused exclusively on content creation and optimization and learn how to effectively develop and maximize the impact of your content.

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Episode Transcript

Ben:                 Welcome 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.

Ben:                 And today we’re going to start off Content Optimization Week, by talking about how you can optimize your top of funnel lead acquisition content.

Ben:                 But before we get started, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. We are an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses, monitor their online presence and make data driven decisions.

Ben:                 To support you, our loyal podcast listeners, we’re offering a complimentary consultation. A member of our digital services group, the team that Marlin works on, will provide you with a consultation that reviews how your website content and SEO strategies can be optimized. To schedule your free consultation, go to

Ben:                 Okay. Here’s the first installment of Content Optimization Week with Marlon glover, Searchmetrics’, content services team lead. Marlon, welcome to the Voices of Search podcast.

Marlon:            Ben, I’m excited to be here today. Thank you for inviting me.

Ben:                 It’s great to have you here and I’m psyched to talk more about content, and what SEOs need to know about optimizing their content to make sure that it has the maximum impact.

Ben:                 To start off the conversation offline, we talked a little bit about the different stages in the funnel and to me the traditional approach to content marketing is thinking about really four or five different stages, top of funnel, middle funnel, bottom of funnel, and then post purchase, and then there’s this other bucket. And at the top of the funnel you have your lead acquisition. Middle of the funnel is education. Bottom of the funnel is about conversion, and then retention is really everything else you’re focused on.

Ben:                 You have a little bit of a different approach. So, before we get going, we’re going to sort of break content down by the traditional methods are the traditional approach. But tell me a little bit about how you look at the content landscape and think about the stages.

Marlon:            I wouldn’t say that it is significantly different, right? I think there’s a lot of terminology that folks use out there when they talk about the different stages of the buying funnel. So for simplicity and consistency and I think terminology that will resonate with audiences, these common four stages are awareness, consideration, purchase, and retention.

Marlon:            Now what I do tend to lead with when I have conversations with SEOs, and we’re looking to bridge the gap between SEOs and content teams, is making some distinctions between specifically the awareness and the consideration stage. So, typically when I start those conversations, I’ll show a visual of those stages. I’ll draw a dotted line between awareness and consideration. And what that dotted line really represents is if the point where a buyer’s due diligence, or a buyer’s need is so significant, they want to seek out a solution for it. And to me and in a lot of our data, that’s how we think about categorizing and beginning the solution oriented, or research for unit content, that is the foundation of a lot of our clients’ websites.

Marlon:            So, I think the point that I like to make is that, I come from a school of thought in my prior experience in sales and marketing research and consulting firm, of the importance of customers throughout their buying process. And that teaching really begins, really starts to happen when an individual has a need that they want to solve for.

Ben:                 So, a couple things stick out to me with what you’re saying. Where, where I broke things out in top, middle, bottom of funnel, and that kind of signifies the customer journey is a linear approach. You’re laying it out in language that it feels less linear, where there is awareness, consideration and purchase. And The sense that I get is you’re saying that people are not necessarily going from awareness, to consideration, to purchase. They bounce back and forth between different types of content.

Marlon:            Yeah so, I may be conflating two points here. I may be conflating the content types, and the stages in the buyer’s journey, but the reason I do that is one. So, when I look at awareness content, traditionally that’s your topical content is the question that we’re answering and we’re solving for our potential buyers and it’s what’s happening in the world around me.

Marlon:            So, an example of that may be a Voices of Search podcast, or Searchmetrics ranking factors surveys. This is an area where progressive organizations are spending their time doing a persona based research. They’re really trying to understand their audience, so they can really tap into the things, that will engage them in the world around them. So, if I’m a content marketer, which I am. Every day, I’m looking for information that’s going to help me do my job better. Right? So, that’s the type of content that tends to sit at the beginning stages.

Marlon:            From there, we’re looking to bridge the gap from awareness to something that could uniquely solve, specifically solve a problem that they may be facing. Now if we’re lucky, we’re getting in front of a potential search that they make in the consideration stage.

Ben:                 Okay. So I understand what you’re talking about and I think let’s, let’s focus on specifically, for today on what makes good awareness content. We’re going to get into talking more about the consideration set in tomorrow’s episode. But when you’re looking at what I call, top of the funnel content earlier. Something that allows a perspective lead to be interested in your brand, or at least aware of it. You mentioned, you know, at Searchmetrics we do ranking factors. We have our Voices of Search podcasts, which we transcribe and we create blog posts about.

Ben:                 Tell me some of the other ways that you think about awareness content and what have you noticed in terms of making that effective?

Marlon:            Yes, sure. So the way we think about our, let’s say, just for the sake of letting folks know where I sit at Searchmetrics, I sit within our services solution team. So, for organizations that don’t have the resources to execute on our data and our technology offering, they typically come to our team. Myself and my team and content as well as my counterparts in the SEO consulting team, to help analyze, strategize and execute on some of the initiatives that they may have in their organizations.

Ben:                 So Marlon works on a team that creates content, for our clients. And so, we have multiple different services within our services organization. Some people are looking at your website to figure out what SEO optimizations on the technical side we can do. We also create content for people, and then we have content services which are strategies for how to evaluate and understand what’s happening on your website. We have a team that will come and advise you on your technical challenge. Then there’s Marlon’s team, which is actually going and creating content for our customers. So, just to sort of clarify some of the things that the services team does.

Ben:                 Marlon’s right, go on and tell us a little bit more about what makes great awareness content.

Marlon:            Sure. So, it’s important for us to first take a look at market trends. So, I don’t enter in engagement to solely look at awareness content and identify awareness topics. What I’m looking to do is to understand all of the key words, all the search terms that a potential buyer for a client solution may be searching for. And the way I do that is I’m actually using Searchmetrics technology of course, to compile a comprehensive list of search terms, or keywords, that our client may be already ranking for. Their competitors are ranking for. Specifically unique keywords and their competitors are ranking for, and then other benchmarks. So, what are other sources of other sites, other sources of information that could be answering and teaching a potential customer, around, again the world around them.

Marlon:            And from there we’re creating categories and subcategories for those subsets of keywords. Now, if we’re going to right way, then we’re creating categories that fall within each stage of that journey. So categories that aligns with the awareness stage, categories that align to the consideration stage, purchase station, so on.

Marlon:            So, what we’re doing in the onset of any type of engagement, any type of strategy is we’re really looking at the marketing, we’re trying to understand the demand. The search demand, the demand for our customers looking to be taught, what is happening around the world, around them. We’re isolating those keywords into those different stages. So, I would say that’s the first step then, is to do some pretty comprehensive research, keyword research in the marketplace to understand, and then segment those specific keywords into the different stages of the buying journey.

Ben:                 So, let me summarize some of the things that I am hearing from you. Is that, no matter what stage you’re in awareness, consideration, purchase retention, you’re doing some keyword research and you’re looking at the competitive set to understand what the keywords are. How much does the format of content matter? Are there specific lengths or subjects or keyword phrasing? Is everything that is awareness based, built in a question, or needs a video? Give me some of the tips for just getting someone’s attention and what you see. Are there rules of thumb for that top of funnel stuff, in terms of how to shape your content the right way outside of just making sure you’re writing about the right stuff?

Marlon:            Sure, yeah. I think some of that can be answered with technology, so may be biased here. I am using Searchmetrics technology as I mentioned before. So, the technology allows us to understand how other competitors, those direct competitors and digital competitors, the other sources of information that may not be a direct competitor of one of our clients, how they are answering those questions. So, within our content experience technology, in our research cloud specifically, we’re able to take a look at each keyword and understand the integrations that are associated with those key words. So, for a particular set, if I noticed that there’s a commonality within that segment of keywords, where videos are very prominent in the search engine results page for that set of keywords, then I may consider creating a video for that as well.

Marlon:            And then there’s some manual labor that’s involved, right? We need to go and take a look at some of those top performing videos, to understand what is it they’re doing that is unique. So for me, I think that quality doesn’t necessarily mean that it can’t be centered around data. We are still taking a look at the data, we’re looking at what Google is rewarding, in terms of the search result pages and then we’re drawing some conclusions from that. And then we want to pull in our creative teams to understand what is going to really drive engagement for the specific topics or keywords.

Ben:                 Okay. So, you’re looking at a very granular level to try to understand what’s driving awareness on the keyword level. Just rule of thumb, I’m thinking of the different industries. If you’re in e-commerce, what are some of the things that you’re seeing that have been effective at driving awareness? And is that different from what you’re seeing in the media space? Is it different from what you’re seeing in the SAS space?

Marlon:            Yes. I don’t know if it’s necessarily unique to e-commerce, but what we’re seeing is they’re utilizing their blog. Right? So, one challenge that we faced with a lot of our e-commerce clients is, they come to us and they want a content plan, but they have a very narrow approach to addressing content. And typically most of our e-commerce clients are limited to developing content, at least from an SEO standpoint, to their category and product pages. Right?

Marlon:            So, the intent of that content should be very different from the intent of awareness driven content. Those pages tend to sit more so on the later stage of the consideration, and more so in the purchase stage. So, where we see a lot of our more progressive clients that has better integrated teams between SEO and content, is leveraging SEO data to influence the content strategy on their blogs.

Marlon:            So, you may see a kitchen supply and appliance organization company developing recipes, which has been all the rave over the past four to five years, is these recipe type content, right? So again, it’s still answering that question, “What’s happening in the world around me?” Because typically folks that are … when they’re looking to buy a new blender, or they’re looking to a new kitchen appliances. You can tend to start developing a picture of who those individuals are. And we typically see content that fits that lifestyle and that world. And then they’re drawing a really clear bridge between a recipe and all the types of things that’s needed to develop this meal. They’re drawing a clear bridge between those elements and then their products that will ultimately drive them into the next stage of the funnel. But yeah Ben, so that’s an example of what I see in in e-commerce.

Ben:                 Yeah. I guess I’m putting on my general marketing hat, without going into every different industry, and how those industries create content that specifically addresses awareness. An understanding of who your customer is, is fundamental, right? Like understanding who you’re going after. And then when you’re thinking about awareness casting a wide net for things that are relevant to your brand, but not specifically focused on selling your product.

Ben:                 The example Marlon used, is creating recipe pages on your blog, if you are selling blenders and home appliances. You have a high probability of someone who is looking for recipes online, being the type of person that’s going to buy more expensive home appliances.

Ben:                 So you know, you’re basically casting a wide net and you’re using your other formats of content, and you’re retargeting those same customers once you have them pixeled, once you have them sort of in your website, in your net. To get them to understand what are some of the value propositions and differentiating points of your brand specifically.

Marlon:            That’s right.

Ben:                 Okay, Marlon, I think we covered a lot about awareness. Any last words you want to cover in terms of building awareness related content?

Marlon:            The only thing that I’d say is that, more so than any other stage of the buying journey. This is where buyer personas really, really come into play. Right? So, really understanding the real individuals that are most likely to buy your product, most likely to convert. Understanding who those individuals are what are their pains, task, goals? That’s where that really comes into play, and that should inform your content strategy at that stage.

Ben:                 Yeah. This is absolutely where you have to get creative got to, do a little digging, understand who your existing customers are. And try to create content that people that are like them or just going to be interested in, right? You’re just trying to get a first touch with your awareness, and introduce someone to your brand, so you don’t have to be in sales mode.

Ben:                 This is really about just getting in front of people and you’re looking for something that can cast a wide net to people, that are relatively interested in your subject matter.

Marlon:            That’s correct.

Ben:                 Okay. 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.

Ben:                 We’d love to continue this conversation with you. So, if you’re interested in contacting Marlon, you can find the link to his Linkedin profile in our show notes. You can send him tweet. His handle is @marlon_glover.

Ben:                 If you have any general marketing questions, or if you’d like to talk about this podcast, you can contact me. There’s a link to my Linkedin profile in our show notes, and my twitter handle is @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, for your complimentary advisory session with our digital strategies team.

Ben:                 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 App and move back in your feed tomorrow morning, to discuss Marlon’s tips on how to optimize the middle of your content funnel, specifically focusing on educational content. Lastly, if you’ve enjoyed this podcast and you’re feeling generous, we’d love for you to leave us a review in the iTunes store, or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Ben:                 Okay. That’s it for today. Until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.