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How to Do Keyword Research for SEO: A Beginner’s Guide

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How to Do Keyword Research for SEO: A Beginner's Guide

While Google keeps us on our toes with all the algorithm updates they keep rollin’ out, one thing has stayed pretty consistent for inbound marketers looking to optimize their websites for search: keyword research.

In this post, we’ll define what keyword research is, why it’s important, how to conduct your research for your SEO strategy, and choose the right keywords for your website.

Why is keyword research important?

Keyword research provides valuable insight into the queries that your target audience is actually searching on Google. The insight that you can get into these actual search terms can help inform content strategy as well as your larger marketing strategy.

People use keywords to find solutions when conducting research online. So if your content is successful in getting in front of our audience as they conduct searches, you stand to gain more traffic. Therefore, you should be targeting those searches.

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In addition, in the inbound methodology, we don’t create content around what we want to tell people; we should be creating content around what people want to discover. In other words, our audience is coming to us.

This all starts with keyword research.

For an inside look into how Arel=”noopener” target=”_blank” hrefs can aid you in your SEO keyword research, check out our case study and exclusive interview here.

Conducting keyword research has many benefits, the most popular reasons being:

Marketing Trend Insight

Conducting effective keyword research can provide you with insights into current marketing trends, and help you center your content on relevant topics and keywords your audience is in search of.

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Traffic Growth

When you identify the best fitting keywords for the content you publish, the higher ranking the it is in search engine results — the more traffic you’ll attract to your website.

Customer Acquisition

If your business has content that other business professionals are looking for, you can meet there need and provide them with a call to action that will lead them into the buyer journey from the awareness stage to the point of purchase.

By researching keywords for their popularity, search volume, and general intent, you can tackle the questions that most people in your audience want answers to.

However, keywords themselves because Google has evolved beyond exact-match algorithms.

Keywords vs. Topics

More and more, we hear how much SEO has evolved over just the last 10 years, and how unimportant keywords themselves have become to our ability to rank well for the searches people make every day.

And to some extent, this is true, but in the eyes of an SEO professional it’s a different approach. Rather, it’s the intent behind that keyword, and whether or not a piece of content solves for that intent (we’ll talk more about intent in just a minute).

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But that doesn’t mean keyword research is an outdated process. Let me explain:

Keyword research tells you what topics people care about and, assuming you use the right SEO tool, how popular those topics actually are among your audience. The operative term here is topics — by researching keywords that are getting a high volume of searches per month, you can identify and sort your content into topics that you want to create content on. Then, you can use these topics to dictate which keywords you look for and target.

Elements of Keyword Research

There are three main elements to pay attention to when conducting keyword research.

1. Relevance

Google ranks content for relevance. This is where the concept of search intent comes in. Your content will only rank for a keyword if it meets the searchers’ needs. In addition, your content must be the best resource out there for the query. After all, why would Google rank your content higher if it provides less value than other content that exists on the web?

2. Authority

Google will provide more weight to sources it deems authoritative. That means you must do all you can to become an authoritative source by enriching your site with helpful, information content and promoting that content to earn social signals and backlinks. If you’re not seen as authoritative in the space, or if a keyword’s SERPs are loaded with heavy sources you can’t compete with (like Forbes or The Mayo Clinic), you have a lower chance of ranking unless your content is exceptional.

3. Volume

You may end up ranking on the first page for a specific keyword, but if no one ever searches for it, it will not result in traffic to your site. Kind of like setting up shop in a ghost town.

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Volume is measured by MSV (monthly search volume), which means the number of times the keyword is searched per month across all audiences.

How to Research Keywords for Your SEO Strategy

I’m going to lay out a keyword research process you can follow to help you come up with a list of terms you should be targeting. That way, you’ll be able to establish and execute a strong keyword strategy that helps you get found for the search terms you actually care about.

Step 1: Make a list of important, relevant topics based on what you know about your business.

To kick off this process, think about the topics you want to rank for in terms of generic buckets. You’ll come up with about 5-10 topic buckets you think are important to your business, and then you’ll use those topic buckets to help come up with some specific keywords later in the process.

If you’re a regular blogger, these are probably the topics you blog about most frequently. Or perhaps they’re the topics that come up the most in sales conversations. Put yourself in the shoes of your buyer personas — what types of topics would your target audience search that you’d want your business to get found for? If you were a company like HubSpot, for example — selling marketing software (which happens to have some awesome SEO tools… but I digress), you might have general topic buckets like:

  • “inbound marketing” (21K)
  • “blogging” (19K)
  • “email marketing” (30K)
  • “lead generation” (17K)
  • “SEO” (214K)
  • “social media marketing” (71K)
  • “marketing analytics” (6.2K)
  • “marketing automation” (8.5K)

See those numbers in parentheses to the right of each keyword? That’s their monthly search volume. This data allows you to gauge how important these topics are to your audience, and how many different sub-topics you might need to create content on to be successful with that keyword. To learn more about these sub-topics, we move on to step 2 …

Step 2: Fill in those topic buckets with keywords.

Now that you have a few topic buckets you want to focus on, it’s time to identify some keywords that fall into those buckets. These are keyword phrases you think are important to rank for in the SERPs (search engine results pages) because your target customer is probably conducting searches for those specific terms.

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For instance, if I took that last topic bucket for an inbound marketing software company — “marketing automation” — I’d brainstorm some keyword phrases that I think people would type in related to that topic. Those might include:

  • marketing automation tools
  • how to use marketing automation software
  • what is marketing automation?
  • how to tell if I need marketing automation software
  • lead nurturing
  • email marketing automation
  • top automation tools

And so on and so on. The point of this step isn’t to come up with your final list of keyword phrases. You just want to end up with a brain dump of phrases you think potential customers might use to search for content related to that particular topic bucket. We’ll narrow the lists down later in the process so you don’t have something too unwieldy.

Although more and more keywords are getting encrypted by Google every day, another smart way to come up with keyword ideas is to figure out which keywords your website is already getting found for. To do this, you’ll need website analytics software like Google Analytics or HubSpot’s Sources report, available in the Traffic Analytics tool. Drill down into your website’s traffic sources, and sift through your organic search traffic bucket to identify the keywords people are using to arrive at your site.

Repeat this exercise for as many topic buckets as you have. And remember, if you’re having trouble coming up with relevant search terms, you can always head on over to your customer-facing colleagues — those who are in Sales or Service and ask them what types of terms their prospects and customers use, or common questions they have. Those are often great starting points for keyword research.

Here at HubSpot, we use the Search Insights Report in this part of the process. This template is designed to help you do the same and bucket your keywords into topic clusters, analyze MSV, and inform your editorial calendar and strategy.

Featured Resource: Search Insights Report Template

search insights report

Download the Template

Step 3: Understand How Intent Affects Keyword Research and Analyze Accordingly.

Like I said in the previous section, user intent is now one of the most pivotal factors in your ability to rank well on search engines like Google. Today, it’s more important that your web page addresses the problem a searcher intended to solve than simply carries the keyword the searcher used. So, how does this affect the keyword research you do?

It’s easy to take keywords for face value, and unfortunately, keywords can have many different meanings beneath the surface. Because the intent behind a search is so important to your ranking potential, you need to be extra-careful about how you interpret the keywords you target.

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Let’s say, for example, you’re researching the keyword “how to start a blog” for an article you want to create. “Blog” can mean a blog post or the blog website itself, and what a searcher’s intent is behind that keyword will influence the direction of your article. Does the searcher want to learn how to start an individual blog post? Or do they want to know how to actually launch a website domain for the purposes of blogging? If your content strategy is only targeting people interested in the latter, you’ll need to make sure of the keyword’s intent before committing to it.

To verify what a user’s intent is in a keyword, it’s a good idea to simply enter this keyword into a search engine yourself, and see what types of results come up. Make sure the type of content Google is closely related to what you’d intend to create for the keyword.

Step 4: Research related search terms.

This is a creative step you may have already thought of when doing keyword research. If not, it’s a great way to fill out those lists.

If you’re struggling to think of more keywords people might be searching about a specific topic, take a look at the related search terms that appear when you plug in a keyword into Google. When you type in your phrase and scroll to the bottom of Google’s results, you’ll notice some suggestions for searches related to your original input. These keywords can spark ideas for other keywords you may want to take into consideration.

Related searches at the bottom of Google SERP that reads "searches related to cute puppies" along with keyword suggestions

Want a bonus? Type in some of those related search terms and look at their related search terms.

Step 5: Use keyword research tools to your advantage.

Keyword research and SEO tools can help you come up with more keyword ideas based on exact match keywords and phrase match keywords based on the ideas you’ve generated up to this point. Some of the most popular ones include:

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How to Find and Choose Keywords for Your Website

Once you have an idea of the keywords that you want to rank for, now it’s time to refine your list based on the best ones for your strategy. Here’s how:

Step 1. Use Google Keyword Planner to cut down your keyword list.

In Google’s Keyword Planner, you can get search volume and traffic estimates for keywords you’re considering. Then, take the information you learn from Keyword Planner and use Google Trends to fill in some blanks.

Use the Keyword Planner to flag any terms on your list that have way too little (or way too much) search volume, and don’t help you maintain a healthy mix like we talked about above. But before you delete anything, check out their trend history and projections in Google Trends. You can see whether, say, some low-volume terms might actually be something you should invest in now — and reap the benefits for later.

Or perhaps you’re just looking at a list of terms that is way too unwieldy, and you have to narrow it down somehow … Google Trends can help you determine which terms are trending upward, and are therefore worth more of your focus.

Step 2: Prioritize low-hanging fruit.

What we mean by prioritizing low-hanging fruit is to prioritize keywords that you have a chance of ranking for based on your website’s authority.

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Large companies typically go after high search volume keywords, and since these brands are well established already, Google typically rewards them with authority over many topics.

You can also consider keywords that have little competition. Keywords that don’t already have multiple articles battling for the highest rank can afford you the spot by default — if there’s no one else trying to claim it.

Step 3: Check the monthly search volume (MSV) for keywords you’ve chosen.

You want to write content around what people want to discover, and checking MSV can help you do just that.

Monthly search volume is the number of times a search query or keyword is entered into search engines each monthly. Tools like searchvolume.io or Google Trends can help you find out the most searched keywords over related keyword clusters for free.

Step 4: Factor in SERP features as you choose keywords.

There’s several SERP feature snippets that Google will highlight if used correctly. An easy way to find out about them is to look up the keywords of your choosing and see what the first result looks like. But for a quick overview of the types of SERP featured snippets, we’ll summarize what they are here.

Image Packs

Image packs are search results displayed as a horizontal row of images that appear in an organic position. If there’s an image pack, you should write an image-heavy post to win placement in it.

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SERP features for keyword research: image packs

Paragraph Snippets

Featured snippets, or paragraph snippets, are short snippets of text that appear at the top of Google search results for quick answers to common search queries. Understanding the searcher’s intent and providing succinct, concise answers can help in winning the placement.

SERP features for keyword research: paragraph snippets

List Snippets

List snippets, or listicles, are snippets made for posts outlining steps to do something from start to finish — often for “How To” searches. Making posts with direct, clear instructions and formatting can assist in winning this placement.

SERP features for keyword research: list snippets

Video Snippets

Video snippets are short videos that Google will display at the top of a search query page in place of text featured snippets. Posting a video on both YouTube and your website can help you win this placement if tagged in the targeted keywords people are searching for.

SERP features for keyword research: video snippets

Step 5: Check for a mix of head terms and long-tail keywords in each bucket.

Head terms are keyword phrases that are generally shorter and more generic — they’re typically just one to three words in length, depending on who you talk to. Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, are longer keyword phrases usually containing three or more words.

It’s important to check that you have a mix of head terms and long-tail terms because it’ll give you a keyword strategy that’s well balanced with long-term goals and short-term wins. That’s because head terms are generally searched more frequently, making them often (not always, but often) much more competitive and harder to rank for than long-tail terms. Think about it: Without even looking up search volume or difficulty, which of the following terms do you think would be harder to rank for?

  1. how to write a great blog post
  2. blogging

If you answered #2, you’re absolutely right. But don’t get discouraged. While head terms generally boast the most search volume (meaning greater potential to send you traffic), frankly, the traffic you’ll get from the term “how to write a great blog post” is usually more desirable.

Why?

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Because someone who is looking for something that specific is probably a much more qualified searcher for your product or service (presuming you’re in the blogging space) than someone looking for something really generic. And because long-tail keywords tend to be more specific, it’s usually easier to tell what people who search for those keywords are really looking for. Someone searching for the head term “blogging,” on the other hand, could be searching it for a whole host of reasons unrelated to your business.

So check your keyword lists to make sure you have a healthy mix of head terms and long-tail keywords. You definitely want some quick wins that long-tail keywords will afford you, but you should also try to chip away at more difficult head terms over the long haul.

Step 6: See how competitors are ranking for these keywords.

Just because your competitor is doing something doesn’t mean you need to. The same goes for keywords. Just because a keyword is important to your competitor, doesn’t mean it’s important to you. However, understanding what keywords your competitors are trying to rank for is a great way to help you give your list of keywords another evaluation.

If your competitor is ranking for certain keywords that are on your list, too, it definitely makes sense to work on improving your ranking for those. However, don’t ignore the ones your competitors don’t seem to care about. This could be a great opportunity for you to own market share on important terms, too.

Understanding the balance of terms that might be a little more difficult due to competition, versus those terms that are a little more realistic, will help you maintain a similar balance that the mix of long-tail and head terms allows. Remember, the goal is to end up with a list of keywords that provide some quick wins but also helps you make progress toward bigger, more challenging SEO goals.

How do you figure out what keywords your competitors are ranking for, you ask? Aside from manually searching for keywords in an incognito browser and seeing what positions your competitors are in, Arel=”noopener” target=”_blank” hrefs allows you to run a number of free reports that show you the top keywords for the domain you enter. This is a quick way to get a sense of the types of terms your competitors are ranking for.

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Best Keywords for SEO

Understand that there’s no “best” keywords, just those that are highly searched by your audience. With this in mind, it’s up to you to craft a strategy that will help you rank pages and drive traffic.

The best keywords for your SEO strategy will take into account relevance, authority, and volume. You want to find highly searched keywords that you can reasonably compete for based on:

  1. The level of competition you’re up against.
  2. Your ability to produce content that exceeds in quality what’s currently ranking.

And You’ve Got the Right Keywords for Your Website SEO

You now have a list of keywords that’ll help you focus on the right topics for your business, and get you some short-term and long-term gains.

Be sure to re-evaluate these keywords every few months — once a quarter is a good benchmark, but some businesses like to do it even more often than that. As you gain even more authority in the SERPs, you’ll find that you can add more and more keywords to your lists to tackle as you work on maintaining your current presence, and then growing in new areas on top of that.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in May 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

SEO Starter Pack


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MARKETING

The power of program management in martech

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The power of program management in martech

As a supporter of the program perspective for initiatives, I recognize the value of managing related projects, products and activities as a unified entity. 

While one-off projects have their place, they often involve numerous moving parts and in my experience, using a project-based approach can lead to crucial elements being overlooked. This is particularly true when building a martech stack or developing content, for example, where a program-based approach can ensure that all aspects are considered and properly integrated. 

For many CMOs and marketing organizations, programs are becoming powerful tools for aligning diverse initiatives and driving strategic objectives. Let’s explore the essential role of programs in product management, project management and marketing operations, bridging technical details with business priorities. 

Programs in product management

Product management is a fascinating domain where programs operate as a strategic framework, coordinating related products or product lines to meet specific business objectives.

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Product managers are responsible for defining a product or product line’s strategy, roadmap and features. They work closely with program managers, who ensure alignment with market demands, customer needs and the company’s overall vision by managing offerings at a program level. 

Program managers optimize the product portfolio, make strategic decisions about resource allocation and ensure that each product contributes to the program’s goals. One key aspect of program management in product management is identifying synergies between products. 

Program managers can drive innovation and efficiency across the portfolio by leveraging shared technologies, customer insights, or market trends. This approach enables organizations to respond quickly to changing market conditions, seize emerging opportunities and maintain a competitive advantage. Product managers, in turn, use these insights to shape the direction of individual products.

Moreover, programs in product management facilitate cross-functional collaboration and knowledge sharing. Program managers foster a holistic understanding of customer needs and market dynamics by bringing together teams from various departments, such as engineering, marketing and sales.

Product managers also play a crucial role in this collaborative approach, ensuring that all stakeholders work towards common goals, ultimately leading to more successful product launches and enhanced customer satisfaction.

Dig deeper: Understanding different product roles in marketing technology acquisition

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Programs in project management

In project management, programs provide a structured approach for managing related projects as a unified entity, supporting broader strategic objectives. Project managers are responsible for planning, executing and closing individual projects within a program. They focus on specific deliverables, timelines and budgets. 

On the other hand, program managers oversee these projects’ coordination, dependencies and outcomes, ensuring they collectively deliver the desired benefits and align with the organization’s strategic goals.

A typical example of a program in project management is a martech stack optimization initiative. Such a program may involve integrating marketing technology tools and platforms, implementing customer data management systems and training employees on the updated technologies. Project managers would be responsible for the day-to-day management of each project. 

In contrast, the program manager ensures a cohesive approach, minimizes disruptions and realizes the full potential of the martech investments to improve marketing efficiency, personalization and ROI.

The benefits of program management in project management are numerous. Program managers help organizations prioritize initiatives that deliver the greatest value by aligning projects with strategic objectives. They also identify and mitigate risks that span multiple projects, ensuring that issues in one area don’t derail the entire program. Project managers, in turn, benefit from this oversight and guidance, as they can focus on successfully executing their projects.

Additionally, program management enables efficient resource allocation, as skills and expertise can be shared across projects, reducing duplication of effort and maximizing value. Project managers can leverage these resources and collaborate with other project teams to achieve their objectives more effectively.

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Dig deeper: Combining martech projects: 5 questions to ask

Programs in marketing operations

In marketing operations, programs play a vital role in integrating and managing various marketing activities to achieve overarching goals. Marketing programs encompass multiple initiatives, such as advertising, content marketing, social media and event planning. Organizations ensure consistent messaging, strategic alignment, and measurable results by managing these activities as a cohesive program.

In marketing operations, various roles, such as MOps managers, campaign managers, content managers, digital marketing managers and analytics managers, collaborate to develop and execute comprehensive marketing plans that support the organization’s business objectives. 

These professionals work closely with cross-functional teams, including creative, analytics and sales, to ensure that all marketing efforts are coordinated and optimized for maximum impact. This involves setting clear goals, defining key performance indicators (KPIs) and continuously monitoring and adjusting strategies based on data-driven insights.

One of the primary benefits of a programmatic approach in marketing operations is maintaining a consistent brand voice and message across all channels. By establishing guidelines and standards for content creation, visual design and customer interactions, marketing teams ensure that the brand’s identity remains cohesive and recognizable. This consistency builds customer trust, reinforces brand loyalty and drives business growth.

Programs in marketing operations enable organizations to take a holistic approach to customer engagement. By analyzing customer data and feedback across various touchpoints, marketing professionals can identify opportunities for improvement and develop targeted strategies to enhance the customer experience. This customer-centric approach leads to increased satisfaction, higher retention rates and more effective marketing investments.

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Dig deeper: Mastering the art of goal setting in marketing operations

Embracing the power of programs for long-term success

We’ve explored how programs enable marketing organizations to drive strategic success and create lasting impact by aligning diverse initiatives across product management, project management and marketing operations. 

  • Product management programs facilitate cross-functional collaboration and ensure alignment with market demands. 
  • In project management, they provide a structured approach for managing related projects and mitigating risks. 
  • In marketing operations, programs enable consistent messaging and a customer-centric approach to engagement.

Program managers play a vital role in maintaining strategic alignment, continuously assessing progress and adapting to changes in the business environment. Keeping programs aligned with long-term objectives maximizes ROI and drives sustainable growth.

Organizations that invest in developing strong program management capabilities will be better positioned to optimize resources, foster innovation and achieve their long-term goals.



As a CMO or marketing leader, it is important to recognize the strategic value of programs and champion their adoption across your organization. By aligning efforts across various domains, you can unlock the full potential of your initiatives and drive meaningful results. Try it, you’ll like it.

Fuel for your marketing strategy.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

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MARKETING

2 Ways to Take Back the Power in Your Business: Part 2

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2 Ways to Take Back the Power in Your Business: Part 2

2 Ways to Take Back the Power in Your Business

Before we dive into the second way to assume power in your business, let’s revisit Part 1. 

Who informs your marketing strategy? 

YOU, with your carefully curated strategy informed by data and deep knowledge of your brand and audience? Or any of the 3 Cs below? 

  • Competitors: Their advertising and digital presence and seemingly never-ending budgets consume the landscape.
  • Colleagues: Their tried-and-true proven tactics or lessons learned.
  • Customers: Their calls, requests, and ideas. 

Considering any of the above is not bad, in fact, it can be very wise! However, listening quickly becomes devastating if it lends to their running our business or marketing department. 

It’s time we move from defense to offense, sitting in the driver’s seat rather than allowing any of the 3 Cs to control. 

It is one thing to learn from and entirely another to be controlled by. 

In Part 1, we explored how knowing what we want is critical to regaining power.

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1) Knowing what you want protects the bottom line.

2) Knowing what you want protects you from the 3 Cs. 

3) Knowing what you want protects you from running on auto-pilot.

You can read Part 1 here; in the meantime, let’s dive in! 

How to Regain Control of Your Business: Knowing Who You Are

Vertical alignment is a favorite concept of mine, coined over the last two years throughout my personal journey of knowing self. 

Consider the diagram below.

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Vertical alignment is the state of internal being centered with who you are at your core. 

Horizontal alignment is the state of external doing engaged with the world around you.

In a state of vertical alignment, your business operates from its core center, predicated on its mission, values, and brand. It is authentic and confident and cuts through the noise because it is entirely unique from every competitor in the market. 

From this vertical alignment, your business is positioned for horizontal alignment to fulfill the integrity of its intended services, instituted processes, and promised results. 

A strong brand is not only differentiated in the market by its vertical alignment but delivers consistently and reliably in terms of its products, offerings, and services and also in terms of the customer experience by its horizontal alignment. 

Let’s examine what knowing who you are looks like in application, as well as some habits to implement with your team to strengthen vertical alignment. 

1) Knowing who You are Protects You from Horizontal Voices. 

The strength of “Who We Are” predicates the ability to maintain vertical alignment when something threatens your stability. When a colleague proposes a tactic that is not aligned with your values. When the customer comes calling with ideas that will knock you off course as bandwidth is limited or the budget is tight. 

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I was on a call with a gal from my Mastermind when I mentioned a retreat I am excited to launch in the coming months. 

I shared that I was considering its positioning, given its curriculum is rooted in emotional intelligence (EQ) to inform personal brand development. The retreat serves C-Suite, but as EQ is not a common conversation among this audience, I was considering the best positioning. 

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She advised, “Sell them solely on the business aspects, and then sneak attack with the EQ when they’re at the retreat!” 

At first blush, it sounds reasonable. After all, there’s a reason why the phrase, “Sell the people what they want, give them what they need,” is popular.

Horizontal advice and counsel can produce a wealth of knowledge. However, we must always approach the horizontal landscape – the external – powered by vertical alignment – centered internally with the core of who we are. 

Upon considering my values of who I am and the vision of what I want for this event, I realized the lack of transparency is not in alignment with my values nor setting the right expectations for the experience.

Sure, maybe I would get more sales; however, my bottom line — what I want — is not just sales. I want transformation on an emotional level. I want C-Suite execs to leave powered from a place of emotional intelligence to decrease decisions made out of alignment with who they are or executing tactics rooted in guilt, not vision. 

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Ultimately, one of my core values is authenticity, and I must make business decisions accordingly. 

2) Knowing who You are Protects You from Reactivity.

Operating from vertical alignment maintains focus on the bottom line and the strategy to achieve it. From this position, you are protected from reacting to the horizontal pressures of the 3 Cs: Competitors, Colleagues, and Customers. 

This does not mean you do not adjust tactics or learn. 

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However, your approach to adjustments is proactive direction, not reactive deviations. To do this, consider the following questions:

First: How does their (any one of the 3 Cs) tactic measure against my proven track record of success?

If your colleague promotes adding newsletters to your strategy, lean in and ask, “Why?” 

  • What are their outcomes? 
  • What metrics are they tracking for success? 
  • What is their bottom line against yours? 
  • How do newsletters fit into their strategy and stage(s) of the customer journey? 

Always consider your historical track record of success first and foremost. 

Have you tried newsletters in the past? Is their audience different from yours? Why are newsletters good for them when they did not prove profitable for you? 

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Operate with your head up and your eyes open. 

Maintain focus on your bottom line and ask questions. Revisit your data, and don’t just take their word for it. 

2. Am I allocating time in my schedule?

I had coffee with the former CEO of Jiffy Lube, who built the empire that it is today. 

He could not emphasize more how critical it is to allocate time for thinking. Just being — not doing — and thinking about your business or department. 

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Especially for senior leaders or business owners, but even still for junior staff. 

The time and space to be fosters creative thinking, new ideas, and energy. Some of my best campaigns are conjured on a walk or in the shower. 

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Kasim Aslam, founder of the world’s #1 Google Ads agency and a dear friend of mine, is a machine when it comes to hacks and habits. He encouraged me to take an audit of my calendar over the last 30 days to assess how I spend time. 

“Create three buckets,” he said. “Organize them by the following:

  • Tasks that Generate Revenue
  • Tasks that Cost Me Money
  • Tasks that Didn’t Earn Anything”

He and I chatted after I completed this exercise, and I added one to the list: Tasks that are Life-Giving. 

Friends — if we are running empty, exhausted, or emotionally depleted, our creative and strategic wherewithal will be significantly diminished. We are holistic creatures and, therefore, must nurture our mind, body, soul, and spirit to maintain optimum capacity for impact. 

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I shared this hack with a friend of mine. Not only did she identify meetings that were costing her money and thus needed to be eliminated, but she also identified that particular meetings could actually turn revenue-generating! She spent a good amount of time each month facilitating introductions; now, she is adding Strategic Partnerships to her suite of services. 


ACTION: Analyze your calendar’s last 30-60 days against the list above. 

Include what is life-giving! 

How are you spending your time? What is the data showing you? Are you on the path to achieving what you want and living in alignment with who you want to be?

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Share with your team or business partner for the purpose of accountability, and implement practical changes accordingly. 


Finally, remember: If you will not protect your time, no one else will. 

3) Knowing who You are Protects You from Lack. 

“What are you proud of?” someone asked me last year. 

“Nothing!” I reply too quickly. “I know I’m not living up to my potential or operating in the full capacity I could be.” 

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They looked at me in shock. “You need to read The Gap And The Gain.”

I silently rolled my eyes.

I already knew the premise of the book, or I thought I did. I mused: My vision is so big, and I have so much to accomplish. The thought of solely focusing on “my wins” sounded like an excuse to abdicate personal responsibility. 

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But I acquiesced. 

The premise of this book is to measure one’s self from where they started and the success from that place to where they are today — the gains — rather than from where they hope to get and the seemingly never-ending distance — the gap.

Ultimately, Dr. Benjamin Hardy and Dan Sullivan encourage changing perspectives to assign success, considering the starting point rather than the destination.

The book opens with the following story:

Dan Jensen was an Olympic speed skater, notably the fastest in the world. But in each game spanning a decade, Jansen could not catch a break. “Flukes” — even tragedy with the death of his sister in the early morning of the 1988 Olympics — continued to disrupt the prediction of him being favored as the winner. 

1713005767 257 2 Ways to Take Back the Power in Your Business1713005767 257 2 Ways to Take Back the Power in Your Business

The 1994 Olympics were the last of his career. He had one more shot.

Preceding his last Olympics in 1994, Jansen adjusted his mindset. He focused on every single person who invested in him, leading to this moment. He considered just how very lucky he was to even participate in the first place. He thought about his love for the sport itself, all of which led to an overwhelming realization of just how much he had gained throughout his life.

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He raced the 1994 Olympic games differently, as his mindset powering every stride was one of confidence and gratitude — predicated on the gains rather than the gap in his life. 

This race secured him his first and only gold medal and broke a world record, simultaneously proving one of the most emotional wins in Olympic history. 

Friends, knowing who we are on the personal and professional level, can protect us from those voices of shame or guilt that creep in. 


PERSONAL ACTION: Create two columns. On one side, create a list of where you were when you started your business or your position at your company. Include skills and networks and even feelings about where you were in life. On the other side, outline where you are today. 

Look at how far you’ve come. 

COMPANY ACTION: Implement a quarterly meeting to review the past three months. Where did you start? Where are you now? 

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Celebrate the gain!

Only from this place of gain mindset, can you create goals for the next quarter predicated on where you are today.


Ultimately, my hope for you is that you deliver exceptional and memorable experiences laced with empathy toward the customer (horizontally aligned) yet powered by the authenticity of the brand (vertically aligned). 

Aligning vertically maintains our focus on the bottom line and powers horizontal fulfillment. 

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Granted, there will be strategic times and seasons for adjustment; however, these changes are to be made on the heels of consulting who we are as a brand — not in reaction to the horizontal landscape of what is the latest and greatest in the industry. 

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In Conclusion…

Taking back control of your business and marketing strategies requires a conscious effort to resist external pressures and realign with what you want and who you are.

Final thoughts as we wrap up: 

First, identify the root issue(s).

Consider which of the 3 Cs holds the most power: be it competition, colleagues, or customers.

Second, align vertically.

Vertical alignment facilitates individuality in the market and ensures you — and I — stand out and shine while serving our customers well. 

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Third, keep the bottom line in view.

Implement a routine that keeps you and your team focused on what matters most, and then create the cascading strategy necessary to accomplish it. 

Fourth, maintain your mindsets.

Who You Are includes values for the internal culture. Guide your team in acknowledging the progress made along the way and embracing the gains to operate from a position of strength and confidence.

Fifth, maintain humility.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of humility and being open to what others are doing. However, horizontal alignment must come after vertical alignment. Otherwise, we will be at the mercy of the whims and fads of everyone around us. Humility allows us to be open to external inputs and vertically aligned at the same time.

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Buckle up, friends! It’s time to take back the wheel and drive our businesses forward. 

The power lies with you and me.


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MARKETING

Roundel Media Studio: What to Expect From Target’s New Self-Service Platform

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Commerce


By Tinuiti Team

Roundel™ Media Studio (RMS) has arrived, revolutionizing Target’s advertising game. This self-service platform offers seamless activation, management, and analysis of Target Product Ads, with more solutions on the horizon.

Powered by first-party data from both in-store and online shoppers, RMS provides new audience insights. Coupled with Target’s new loyalty program, Circle 360, advertisers gain precision targeting like never before.

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But Target isn’t stopping there. With the rollout of a paid membership program on April 7th, bundling Target Circle, the Circle Card, and Shipt delivery, Target is elevating its media and membership offerings to rival the likes of Walmart and Amazon.

Curious to learn more? We sat down with our experts at Tinuiti to dive deeper into the potential implications of this platform for brands and advertisers alike.

What is Roundel Media Studio?

Roundel™ Media Studio is an integrated platform that consolidates various solutions and tools offered by Roundel™. At its core, it kicks off with our sponsored product ads, known as Target Product Ads by Roundel™.

example of target roundel ad
Example of Target Product Ads by Roundel™
Image Source: Target.com

This comprehensive platform grants access to the complete range of Target Product Ad placements, featuring tailored slots like “More to Consider” and “Frequently Bought Together” to enhance relevance and personalization.

Moreover, Roundel™ Media Studio operates without any DSP or access fees for Target Product Ads, ensuring that your media budget is optimized to deliver greater efficiency, more clicks, and ultimately, increased sales.

“One of the larger benefits of the transition is that advertisers have an opportunity to capitalize on the additional dollars saved by switching to RMS. Without the 20% fee, brands can re-invest those funds to scale campaigns or optimize budgets, all without having to allocate more funds which drives better results. Roundel™ is putting more control in the hands of advertisers by introducing this new self-service platform.”

– Averie Lynch, Specialist, Strategic Services at Tinuiti

To summarize, key benefits of using RMS include:

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  • No Access or DSP Fees
  • All Target Product Ads Inventory
  • 1st Price Auction with Existing Floor Prices
  • Closed Loop Sales & Attribution
  • Billing via Criteo Insertion Order
  • Access Using Partners Online

How to access Roundel Media Studio 

According to Target, there’s 3 steps to access Roundel™ Media Studio:

Step 1. Check that you have a Partners Online (POL) account for access. Don’t have one? Reach out to your POL admin to get set up with an account (reach out if you need help locating your organization’s admin). 

Step 2. Once you have gotten access to POL, reach out to your Roundel representative who will grant you access to the platform. 

Step 3. Users can access Roundel™ Media Studio in 2 ways:

Roundel Media Studio Best Practices

Target offers a variety of tips on how to best leverage their latest offering to drive performance. 

Let’s take a look at the latest best practices for strategies such as maximizing efficiency or driving sales revenue. 

Recommended bidding tactics for maximizing efficiency:

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  • Set your line-item optimizer to Revenue for the highest return on ad spend (ROAS) or to Conversions for the lowest Cost per Order (CPO).
  • Since the Revenue and Conversions optimizers modulate the CPC you enter to maximize performance, it is useful to set a CPC cap to make sure that your bid will not exceed the maximum amount you wish to pay. The CPC cap should always remain at least 30% above the bid you enter to allow the engine to optimize effectively.
  • Set your bids competitively to balance scale and performance (ROAS or CPO) targets.
  • Optimize bids with respect to your CPO targets: lower CPCs slightly to increase efficiency, or raise them to increase scale

Recommended bidding tactics for maximizing sales revenue:

  • Set the line-item optimizer to Revenue.
  • Set bids to maximize scale and competitiveness while staying above KPI thresholds. Since the Revenue optimizer modulates the CPC you enter to maximize performance, it is useful to set a CPC cap to make sure that your bid will not exceed the maximum amount you wish to pay.
  • Adjust your bids progressively and preferably at the product level: filter the top products by Spend and then slightly reduce any bids that have a ROAS below your threshold.
  • In general, slightly lower CPC to increase efficiency or raise CPC to increase win rates and therefore increase sell-through.

Takeaways & Next Steps

This is just the start for RMS. In the future, Tinuiti will continue its partnership with Roundel to refine features and introduce additional ad types and functionalities.

When exploring any new advertising opportunity, the best results are typically realized when partnering with a performance marketing agency that understands the unique landscape. Our team boasts years of hands-on experience advertising in new and established marketplaces, including Amazon, Walmart, and Target. Working directly with Roundel, we ensure our clients’ ads harness the full functionality and features Target has to offer, with results-oriented scalability baked in.

Ready to learn more about how we can help your brand? Reach out to us today!

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