There is your audience. There is the language. There are the words that they use. ~ Eugene Schwartz
Imagine that search engines didn’t exist. Would “optimizing” your content still matter for online marketing purposes?
The job of any smart marketer is to enter a conversation that’s already taking place in the mind of the prospect and channel the existing desire for solutions and benefits to a specific product or service.
The key to intimately understanding that conversation is to first understand how the people you want to reach think, feel, and view the world.
This is not an “Internet” concept; however, search engines and social media have given us the ability to glean this vital insight in ways that were impossible before.
Look back at the quote above. Eugene Schwartz is not a social media or online marketing expert. He’s no longer even alive.
For those of you who are not familiar with him, Schwartz was one of the most influential copywriters in the history of the craft. The quote above is an excerpt from a longer statement about the “Mad Men” era of the 1960s:
One hour a day, read. Read everything in the world except your business. Read junk. Very much junk. Read so that anything that interests you will stick in your memory. Just read, just read, just read… There is your audience. There is the language. There are the words that they use.
He’s making the very important point: In order to effectively communicate with an audience, you must learn how the audience speaks. This is vital for word choice, but also for understanding how they think, feel, and view the world.
Now, thanks to the Internet, we have unbelievable access to the language of our desired audience. Search engine data and social media listening tools make it all available… to anyone willing to do the necessary research.
Keyword research, at its essence, is vital market research. It tells you what people are interested in when they search in Google and converse in social channels.
Better yet, it reveals the actual language people are using when they think and talk about topics related to your products/services, which provides you with insight on how to frame your content.
That information is golden, if you know what to do with it.
The Return Of Audience Optimization
Take another look at the graphic at the top of the article. I like to call this the content marketing “circles of trust,” with an obvious nod to Robert De Niro’s character in Meet the Parents – except in this case, those outside the content marketing circle of trust don’t trust you!
There is your audience. These are the people who have, in one fashion or another, established a relationship with you that entails trusting you enough to follow you over time.
The idea is to constantly increase the level of trust the audience has in you, a process I call audience optimization. This, in turn, results in conversion optimization.
Social network fans and followers on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn are definitely part of your audience, but your relationship with them is the relative weakest in the concentric circles of trust. They perform a vital function, however, even if they never become customers and clients — they share your content.
The goal is to continually move your audience from the circle at which they entered into the deeper, stronger relationship circles. (For example, the focused email channel before conversion to customer/client is where an email auto-responder or other marketing automation will become your best friend.)
And don’t forget — your existing customers and clients are not only part of the audience, they’re vital members of it. Not only when it comes to repeat purchases and recurring lines of business, but also as sharers and evangelists.
Search Happens: But You’ve Got To Keep Them
The process of audience optimization naturally lends itself to SEO. Search rankings become a benefit of the content marketing process instead of an isolated tactic.
You’ll notice that search isn’t included in the ring of circles, because it’s only a source. Targeted search engine traffic is the most likely to enter your audience at a deeper level, perhaps even directly into the customer/client rings. But unless you optimize your site to actually make the conversion, that search traffic is lost, likely never to return.
Interestingly, the data show that converting search engine traffic into the focused email ring (rather than trying to sell to them directly), actually boosts ultimate sales conversion rates. Content wins over initial pitches in just about every context, and the companies with just a slight degree of patience ultimately achieve dominance over time.
Great content that generates social media and search traffic are vital aspects of any viable content marketing strategy. But all of this “optimization” you’re doing is really about building an audience that shares, evangelizes, converts, and most of all trusts.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.