When was the last time you talked to your customers?
I’m talking about real conversations with customers, where you actually listen — not just slapping a chatbot on your website with some predefined responses, or sending out an NPS survey via email.
If you’re like most companies, it probably wasn’t recently enough. That’s because talking to customers has become a lost art.
Marketers forget that marketing is about people. We hide behind our demographics, psychographics, segmentation analysis, and other tactics to distance ourselves from the very people we aim to serve.
It’s time to surrender the tactics, forgo our excuses, and begin authentic conversations with customers so that we can serve them better, create meaningful connections, and drive tangible business results.
Your customers are waiting
Since no one is talking to their customers as often as they should be, your customers are waiting to hear from you. They want your help, and they want to be helpful to you.
Is that surprising? It shouldn’t be. People love to share their opinions and give feedback; all it takes is asking them for it.
Including users in creating your marketing is the fastest way to guarantee success. Whether you’re launching a campaign or optimizing the performance of an existing experience, make your customers a part of the process.
Not only will it increase your clarity and improve your performance, but it also increases customer loyalty and makes your customers feel like a VIP who gets to see behind the scenes.
The soft side of marketing: look at the big picture
As marketers, we love to measure tangible, quantitative metrics. It’s why we love our KPIs and dashboards so much. But real insights come from understanding, and quantitative measures don’t often answer the question of “why.”
Disciplined marketers should always be asking “why?” but experienced marketers are the ones who have the tools to answer the question.
Analytics tools like Google Analytics, heatmaps, eye-tracking, and NPS surveys are insufficient. They often raise more questions than they answer and fail to deliver fundamental insights.
It’s not that these tools aren’t useful — they’re essential. But they’re only half of the insights equation. Talking to your customers and using qualitative analysis is the missing link to transform analytics into actionable insights.
Measuring the intangible
As data privacy becomes more prevalent and important, marketing attribution becomes more complex and ambiguous. Instead of investing in expensive and complex solutions, start by going to the only source that matters — your customers.
This six-word question and its variations are perhaps the most powerful, yet often underutilized, in all of marketing: “How did you hear about us?”
The answers to this question provide tremendous insight into the customer journey and their perception of the discovery process. And it’s another source of truth that can be used to validate or influence your marketing investments.
Despite the simplicity and ease of effort required, few companies ask customers this powerful question. Yet asking it can lead to some profound observations and insights.
Reading your customer’s mind
If you want the power to read your customer’s mind, usability testing is the simplest and most effective way. And — no surprise — it requires talking to your customers.
Usability testing involves recruiting a handful of users and giving them a series of tasks to complete. They are observed as they navigate the experience and “think out loud” to explain their thought process and the rationale behind their actions.
The usability testing process is fairly straightforward, extremely inexpensive, and yields ground-breaking insights in record time. It’s an ideal way to talk to customers and learn how to improve perception and performance.
It doesn’t require many users, either. Often interviewing fewer than ten users is sufficient to gain an abundance of valuable insights that can be prioritized and addressed. And then you can repeat the process, ideally at least every quarter.
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Fueling insights with technology
Gathering insights at scale is a challenge that grows with the size of the company and the number of customers. Fortunately, technology advancements have given us tools to engage and capture insights in large quantities with relative ease.
Tools like UsabilityHub and dscout are great examples of usability testing and customer research tools that leverage a massive audience of eager participants who can provide valuable insights. In addition, these platforms, and others, allow you to BYOA (bring your own audience) by inviting customers of your choice to participate.
Extracting and surfacing insights is another challenge that technology, particularly artificial intelligence, can help marketers solve. GoBright.ai is another research platform that uses AI-powered virtual assistants who engage with customers conversationally. Artificial intelligence allows for natural language processing which can be used to enrich customer data and identify trends among the insights captured.
Although the landscape of tools is constantly evolving, as is the technology itself, marketers must embrace both to communicate with customers effectively and at scale.
The customer isn’t always right
Henry Ford allegedly said that if he had asked customers what they wanted, they would’ve asked for a faster horse.
When you talk and listen to customers, you will certainly hear lots of crazy things. The marketing idiom that “the customer is always right” isn’t true. But don’t let that deter you from talking—and listening—to them.
The more you engage your customers, and the more you make them a part of the marketing process, the more successful your marketing will be.
It’s undeniable that your customers are talking. The only question that really matters is: are they talking to you?
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.
About The Author
Tim Parkin is a consultant, advisor, and coach to marketing executives globally. He specializes in helping marketing teams optimize performance, accelerate growth, and maximize their results.
By applying more than 20 years of experience merging behavioral psychology and technology, Tim has unlocked rapid and dramatic growth for global brands and award-winning agencies alike.
He is a speaker, author, and thought leader who has been featured in AdAge, AdWeek, Inc, TechCrunch, Forbes, and many other major industry publications. Tim is also a member of the American Marketing Association, Society for the Advancement of Consulting, and an inductee to the Million Dollar Consulting Hall of Fame.
The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.
Content marketing is an essential part of any SEO strategy. Without it, how are you going to attract customers looking for answers to their questions, and who are potentially in the market for your products or services?
At Tao Digital Marketing, we’ve recently generated some great results for one of our clients operating in the business financial space, The Insolvency Experts, mainly by focusing on just one “cluster topic” that was a huge money maker for them.
When looking at six month comparison stats (August 2021-January 2022 to February-July 2022), we’ve achieved the following:
Leads: 95 to 460 (384%)
Clicks: 4,503 to 23,013 (411%)
Impressions: 856,683 to 2,033,355 (137%)
Average position: 33.4 to 23.6 (increased almost 10 spots)
This was mostly achieved by absolutely hammering one topic area: company liquidation. In this case study, we’re going to explain how we did this step by step, so that hopefully you can generate similar results for your own business!
If you really break it down, the objective of all SEO consultancy work is essentially the same: increase the number of leads for a business. This was our ultimate goal.
It’s not just as simple as that, though. We all know you can’t get to number one on Google overnight. So, like other SEO geeks out there, we tracked our successes through additional factors such as clicks, impressions, and average position, to show our efforts were worthwhile.
In January this year (2022) our goals for the next six months were as follows:
Leads: Just over double from 95 to 200 (110%)
Clicks: 4,503 to 13,500 (around 200%)
Impressions: 856,683 to 1,700,000 (around 100%)
Average position: 33.4 to 25 (around eight spots)
Insolvency Experts’ audience is primarily directors of UK businesses that are going insolvent, closely followed by business owners looking for financial advice. The majority of Insolvency Expert’s cash flow comes from formal insolvency processes, such as liquidation, administration, and CVAs (Company Voluntary Agreements), so it was really important for us to push these areas.
1. Research “company liquidation” search volume and related queries
We first picked this client up in November 2020. Initially, our focus was on the basics: updating all the top level pages (such as service pages and guides) to make sure they fit the intention of the user and clearly explained the services that Insolvency Experts offer.
Researching what works well at present
One of the pages that our content team updated was their company liquidation guide. After updating, the page started to perform very well in the SERP, and ranked at position #4 for “company liquidation”. Clearly, this sort of content was working, and we wanted to hit it even more.
After pulling some research together, one of our strategists proposed the idea of a “Company Liquidation Content Hub”, as the company liquidation guide was ranking for a lot of long tail questions:
After cross referencing with the monthly search volume for these questions, she added some of these as H3s within the guide to see how they would perform. They resulted in so much more traffic that she decided they warranted their own individual guides, hence the idea for the hub. This would mean we weren’t putting all of our eggs into one basket, and that we could also internally link all of them together for users wanting to read more.
Users that are further down the marketing funnel don’t want to scroll down a huge guide to find the answer to their specific question, and we were certain that this would positively affect bounce rate. We therefore made sure that nine times out of 10, the H1 contained the question that was being answered.
In order to further target those at the bottom of the marketing funnel who want to speak to someone quickly, we placed regular “Contact Us” CTAs throughout the content so that they don’t have to scroll right to the bottom of the page to get in touch with Insolvency Experts.
Undertaking a competitor analysis
We also conducted a competitor analysis on this topic, focusing on three key players in the industry that were all ranking well for the phrase “company liquidation”. We found that the key competitors had the following:
Competitor A – 38 indexed articles on liquidation
Competitor B – 23 indexed articles on liquidation
Competitor C – 47 indexed articles on liquidation
Insolvency Experts only had six indexed articles on liquidation at the time, so it was clear we needed to be on their level – this was an obvious content gap.
Pitching the content hub to the client
We suggested this idea to the client alongside a forecasting spreadsheet created by our founder, in order to justify the resource that was needed to push the client as high as possible in the rankings for company liquidation.
This spreadsheet broke down a huge list of keywords alongside monthly search volume, average click through rate for positions 1-10 on the SERP, domain authority of competitors who are currently ranking for these keywords, and average conversion rate on the site at the moment.
This unique formula would then allow us to explain to the client that for X amount of work, we predict we can get you to position X in X timeframe, and this would result in approximately X annual revenue. After pitching this to the client alongside infographics and current performance statistics, they told us they loved our ideas and agreed to let us go ahead.
2. Plan the content after client approval
After the client gave us the go-ahead, the next step was to plan all of this work based on search volume, and therefore priority order.
In order to orchestrate clear communication between ourselves and our clients, we create a Traffic Light Report, which is a live Google Sheets document detailing all work to be undertaken for the current and next quarter. This is split into sections for technical SEO, content, and digital PR/link building (the three pillars of SEO).
This includes justification for each change we make, as well as a link to any live changes or documents. It also details when this will be done and if the action is with us or the client. The tasks are coloured in green for live changes, yellow for action needed, orange for in progress, red for anything on hold and clear for not started.
Here’s an example of what the content section of Insolvency Expert’s traffic light report looks like for their current quarter (July-September 2022):
Scheduling the tasks
We then scheduled these topics for our various content writers to work on using our project management software, ClickUp. Within each task we placed a link to a skeleton document consisting of H1s, H2s, and H3s, as well as a title, meta description and keywords to include.
3. Write the content while implementing technical SEO
By this time it was around April 2022, and it was time for us to fully attack the content portion of our task list. Since then, we’ve written 18 pieces of content around company liquidation, and still have quite a few left to go before we consider this area of focus complete.
As part of our uploads, our technical SEO adds FAQ schema, which has helped Insolvency Experts showing up for several featured snippets (more details in results section).
Analyzing as we go along
Once we covered the big topics in the first couple of months of writing, we started to use Low Fruits to find smaller queries which are estimated at around 10 or fewer monthly searches. We’ve had a lot of success targeting lower search volume phrases, as these users seem to be more focused and lower down the sales funnel, so are more likely to be better engaged and convert better. A lot of the time they are pleased that you have answered their very niche question!
The below is a screenshot from a keyword analysis. We trawled through hundreds of keywords to pull out the ones relevant to the client.
We then used Low Fruit’s Keyword Extraction and SERP Analysis tool to give us further details on a select few key terms.
These terms are shown as having a search volume of either 10, less than 10 or 0. Of course, we know that this is still hugely important to cover, and targeting these will bring in a very niche reader who is much more likely to convert due to the nature of the long-tail queries.
Finalizing the hub
Our plan is to finalize the hub this fall, and ensure that everything is internally linked. There will also be a menu change to make the addition of the hub very clear. See screenshots below for the current hub vs. how it will be presented once all content is ready (screenshot taken from their staging site in Kinsta, our hosting platform where we make design changes so that the client can approve them before they go live).
Current ‘hub’ in the menu:
How the hub will look once all content is complete:
As part of our content process within ClickUp, we have a recurring task to check a new URL in Google Search Console two weeks after upload. This allows us to see if we have the “Google Spike of Acceptance”, which is a sharp incline of impressions/traffic indicating that the content will do well, before it falls then slowly rises again.
If we don’t see this spike, we carry out multiple checks, including: Is it an orphan page? Are there any technical errors? Is it indexed? If it is not indexed, we push the URL through Index Me Now.
If the issue is just that the piece isn’t getting picked up, we will take another look at the content to see if there is something else we can do to improve it, e.g. tweak the H1 or expand the content.
4. Build links to the relevant pages and homepage
Once we’d uploaded the content, it was time to build links to the priority pages and homepage in order to build the domain authority.
We wanted to really hone in on generating links for our company liquidation page. The page has 36 backlinks, many of which were built through link building efforts. This was largely done by working with business site publications and creating natural anchor text that would help with certain keyword rankings.
As well as building links specifically to the company liquidation page, we also built links to the main URL in order to boost overall domain authority. This was done through answering queries through platforms such as HARO and Response Source, as well as working with the client to create relevant, time-specific thought leadership pieces. Here’s an example of a HARO request we responded to, the topic being “Recession-proofing tips for small businesses”:
Although the site’s domain authority tends to fluctuate between 30-33 depending on links lost and general algorithm updates, the links to specific pages have still resulted in an increase in rankings, detailed further below.
Results compared to objectives
Although we knew that our strategy was going to work well based on our experience with our other clients, we were very pleasantly surprised by the huge positive effect our work has made, which enabled us to smash the targets we set!
Goal: Increase from 95 to 200 (110%)
Result: Increased from 95 to 460 (384%)
As a result of creating incredibly useful, lengthy content and placing regular CTAs throughout the content, we managed to almost quadruple the amount of leads coming through to the client in the space of just six months.
In the six months before our liquidation project began, our Leads Dashboard within WhatConverts shows that Insolvency Experts had five liquidation leads via phone call and 10 leads via their contact form on a liquidation-focused page.
In the six-month period since we’ve been working on the content hub, they have had 38 liquidation leads via phone call and 52 leads via contact form on a liquidation-focused page.
Result: 660% increase in phone call leads and 420% increase in contact form leads.
Previous six months:
Goal: Increase from 4,503 to 13,500 (around 200%)
Result: Increased from 4,503 to 23,013 (411%)
By creating highly relevant content that matched the user’s search intent, we managed to almost quadruple the clicks over the space of six months, doubling our original 200% goal.
The site has received 29,400 clicks overall across the past 12 months. Below, you can see the huge spike in clicks and impressions from January onwards when we really started to focus on the liquidation content.
Goal: Increase from 856,683 to 1,700,000 (around 100%)
Result: Increased from 856,683 to 2,033,355 (137%)
Again, by creating highly relevant blogs, Google started to understand the relevancy of our content, so the number of impressions hugely increased. Along with the 137% increase above, over the past 12 months (August 2021-August 2022) the site has received 485,000 impressions for the query ‘liquidation’ alone.
The main company liquidation guide that we updated had a total of 732K impressions over the past 12 months, too, with a huge spike from February onwards, when we updated the guide.
Goal: Increase from 33.4 to 25 (around 8 spots)
Result: Increased from 33.4 to 23.6 (increased 10 spots)
This increase is due to the relevancy of our content and the amount of keywords each piece ranked for. As mentioned, the main company liquidation guide has worked incredibly well, ranking for 181 keywords, 67 of which are page one (37%). It now has the number one spot for the term “company liquidation”. See below for an example of queries the page is showing up for.
The page also shows up for six featured snippets as a result of us implementing FAQ schema.
335 clicks and 93,663 impressions have come from the FAQ rich results alone.
In the six months before we updated the guide, it pulled in around 650 clicks and 227K impressions. In the six months following, it brought in around 1,180 clicks and 382K impressions. We’ve practically doubled clicks on one single guide.
As mentioned, this particular piece of content has 36 backlinks, and actually ranks ABOVE the official UK government company liquidation guide, which has a domain authority of 93 (about 60 higher than ours). Clearly, we’re meeting the searcher’s intent and giving them what they are looking for.
In the six month period before we started work on liquidation, Insolvency Experts had an average click through rate of 0.5%. Over a six month period of us working with them, this more than doubled to 1.2%.
Another success worth noting is that 3 out of 6 of our latest articles have an average page view duration of between 9 and 10 minutes! The other half are averaging around 5 to 6 minutes, which is still very good. Clearly, users are wanting in-depth information on this topic.