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Use SEO to Fuel Your Brand’s Community Flywheel

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Use SEO to Fuel Your Brand's Community Flywheel

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.

I don’t typically wear jewelry. However, when I heard a friend rave about the ring and necklace he bought from Automic Gold, it piqued my interest. As I scrolled through the site, I found myself very engaged by the approachable content, fun styles, and lifestyle photos showing inclusive genders. After several site visits, I made a purchase.

This experience is a prime example of how a brand can influence purchasing decisions through community marketing. No ad was seen. No ad was clicked. I not only became a customer, but I also became a fan of this brand—all driven by my friend’s recommendation alone.

We live in an era of community marketing, and community marketing is built through brand stories. Performance marketing efforts are still a fundamental component of marketing, but they become far more effective with a personal endorsement from a friend. After all, social proof is one of the most powerful marketing engines. In fact, according to a Nielsen Harris Poll study, 82% of Americans say they seek recommendations from friends and family when considering a purchase. Today’s most successful brands have built followings that not only return to purchase again, but also promote their products or services loyally — think of LEGO (85% loyalty rate), Apple (with 90% loyalty rates), and REI (50M+ lifetime members), to name a few. Airbnb just posted its stunning results after shifting focus to brand marketing rather than performance marketing.

Introducing the community flywheel

The community flywheel is an approach that easily marries brand and performance marketing efforts. You don’t have to be a big-name brand to see results from this strategy. No matter how niche your audience is, by leveraging your digital assets, you can cultivate an inviting community space. The key to success is building a community you own.

Brands typically think of social platforms like Instagram or Twitter as the gathering place for their community. While these platforms play an important role in amplification and social proof, your website should be a communal gathering place for your brand. It can and should be a place to educate, engage, and entertain your audience. Owning first-party data and the platform where engagement occurs is worth far more in the long run and eliminates risk outside of your brand’s control.

SEO has a pivotal role in the success of a website, and thus SEO also plays a pivotal role in the community flywheel’s success. In this article, I will explain the community flywheel and outline how SEO fits into each step of the community flywheel.

What is the community flywheel?

The community flywheel outline by McKinsey & Company succinctly explains how brands can build better communities, which in turn builds a better brand. It’s a five-step process underpinned by technology that enables scale and a test-and-learn approach that delivers consistent improvement. To align SEO initiatives for each of the 5 steps, I’ve created this graphic showing how initiatives apply to each step.

Let’s unpack each of the steps in the community flywheel. I’ll explain what each step is, how to implement it, and how SEO applies. I’ve provided common SEO deliverables that support each of these steps; however, this is by no means an exhaustive list. I hope this inspires you to integrate even more SEO initiatives—some possibly even more applicable to your brand—into your community marketing efforts.

1. Community Focus: Find the right audience

What it is

Identify communities of shared interest and, in marketing efforts, find ways to help them identify with and have an emotional response to the communities they belong to. Understanding the core target audiences beyond demographics is the key to knowing how the audience interacts. As noted in the McKinsey article, “This is an evolution from targeting consumer segments, which are anchored in demographics or individual need states, to targeting communities of people who share similar interests and values—communities of ‘shared relevance.’”

How to do it

Once you know the community(ies) you’re trying to target, build campaigns that speak to the group as opposed to the individual. Community marketing connects emotional marketing to a group that bonds together.

How SEO plugs in

Audience research is your key to understanding the cohort(s) that interact with the site. Using a tool like Sparktoro can lend insight into how your audience interacts with a particular topic. After audience research is complete, begin SEO initiatives that bolster community engagement so you can build a strategy that targets each community where they’re at in their search journey.

  1. Holistic Search Analysis: It’s vital to understand how the audience is interacting throughout the purchase journey within SERPs, your site, and even third-party sites like Amazon. Conducting a holistic search analysis to understand where searches happen across Google, Amazon, YouTube, and other sites is key to knowing where to prioritize your SEO efforts.

  2. Regional Strategy: If you have a site that covers multiple regions, creating transcreated content — content that speaks to the audience the way the audience would speak — is a must for ensuring you have a community focus.

  3. YouTube Strategy: If your brand has an active YouTube presence, it’s worthwhile to explore which keywords populate video results in the SERPs and which keywords are most commonly searched within YouTube so you can build this into your SEO strategy and conduct YouTube SEO.

2. Hero Products: Simplify the brand & boost average order value (AOV)

What it is

Shopping online can require much more thought than shopping in a store. You’re faced with many more options, including figuring out the shipping costs, timelines, etc. It’s cumbersome. Leveraging your brand’s best hero products to define your brand simplifies the brand message to your community.

How to do it

This doesn’t mean leaving hero products on the back burner to evaporate — it means reinvesting in new and interesting campaigns to bring them to light again. This can be done through collaboration campaigns, reinvigorated marketing campaigns, or even repositioning to new communities.

How SEO plugs in

While UX and site hierarchy certainly play an important role in hero product advancement, SEO can support hero product advancement by taking that type of analysis one step further: how are people interacting with hero products off-site, in the SERP, and on the site?

  1. SERP mapping: Identifying which hero product keywords trigger competitors, resellers, SERP features, etc., is a great way to ensure that hero products are shown as you desire within the SERP.

  2. Site journey analysis: Understanding how folks navigate the site allows you to boost average order value by highlighting hero products or boosting less well-known products by leveraging hero product traffic.

  3. Internal linking: Using hero products to acquire backlinks and then creating internal links to less-linked pages can boost keyword ranking for other pages/products.

  4. Content strategy: Understanding how to incorporate hero products into the entire content funnel—from awareness tactics like user guides to post-conversion tactics like return policies or help center content—can boost conversion rates and customer sentiment.

3. Brand Story: Give people something to relate to & be proud of

What it is

Few want to buy from a brand that doesn’t align with their values. In fact, we see that the majority of shoppers under the age of 56 have favorable attitudes toward brands that have clear involvement in social and political issues.

Make it an easy decision for your community to purchase from you by outwardly communicating your brand values in a way that your audience would understand. This is especially true for brands with an international presence—after all, what may be sneakers in the US are trainers in the UK.

Here is an example from Automic Gold of communicating clear brand values:

How to do it

Communicating clear brand values on the site, in brand messaging, and amplifying those tactics through media pushes is a fantastic way to communicate the brand values across the community(ies).

How SEO plugs in

Most brand stories are typically left to the PR and/or brand teams to own, but SEO can play a pivotal role in amplifying those efforts and even fueling their expansion.

  1. Listing Analysis – Understanding what is showing up in the SERPs for various search terms allows us to know what efforts to focus on—e.g., if we know publishers appear in top positions, then we should relay that information to the PR team to focus on getting placement in those publications.

  2. Schema – Schema impacts how the listing appears in the SERPs, which leaves plenty of room for a brand to utilize schema to own more real estate in the SERP.
    1. FAQ schema – FAQ pages and schema are an easy way to answer questions related to the brand—e.g., “Who is the CEO of [brand]” etc.?

    2. Help Center schema – Usually, help centers are the last thing to be optimized for SEO, but building a community means ensuring a great experience from start to finish. Optimizing the help center—inclusive of schema—is an easy way to help people get easy access to information related to their search queries directly within the SERP.

  3. E-A-T efforts – The more the brand story is consistent and amplified across channels, the better the expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) will be because Google will be able to understand the brand entity better.

4. Fuel Community: Build a gathering place

What it is

The end goal is to build a community space where your community(ies) can interact and create user-generated content that can then be used to amplify your brand message. Nevertheless, a car won’t move forward without fuel. Building a consistent content strategy that communities can latch onto and use as their own provides the fuel to generate community engagement.

How to do it

Investing in tactics that can enable brand marketing teams and bring the community together on your site is the best way to fuel community. We typically think of “community engagement” happening on social media platforms, but who says that your website can’t create its own community with regularly engaged and recurring community members? Some excellent examples include LEGO IDEAS, Sphero Edu, Sephora’s Beauty Insider, and F5’s DevCentral community. No matter the industry, you can find unique ways to create a community space on your website.

How SEO plugs in

SEO alone can’t fuel community. Much of this has to be done across channels, including email campaigns, packaging, etc., but SEO supports these efforts in some key ways:

  1. Blog strategy – One of the best ways to engage with your audience and build community is through a compelling and consistent blog strategy that educates, entertains, and/or engages the community in a unique way. I’d encourage easy share buttons, simple call-to-actions, and an engaged comments section.

  2. Forum strategy – Forums are a great way to engage with your community and allow the community to bond with others.

  3. Review strategy – Reviews help bolster social proof and support the community flywheel by allowing folks an outlet to share their experience with your brand.

  4. Keyword listening – When new products are launched, or a brand evolves, related search trends may also change. Using keyword listening is your way to stay ahead of trends and use user-generated search queries to inform new site content generation.

  5. User-generated content – While we typically think of UGC as social media content, we can absolutely use UGC on the site by fueling content strategy, or even by allowing noteworthy guest contributors on your site.

5. Effortless Transactions: Make it easy to engage

What it is

Transactions look different throughout the entire marketing funnel. At the top of the funnel, it might be a cookie drop for retargeting. In the middle of the funnel, it might be email or phone data capture. At the bottom of the funnel, it might be purchase or lead form submission. Regardless, it should be seamless for customers to transact at any place in the funnel. This allows the community to have a pleasant experience throughout.

How to do it

Investing in conversion rate optimization efforts to smooth the path to site conversion, technical SEO to ensure the site experience is seamless, and on-site SEO to ensure that the right pages for the right search query are your way to make transactions easy.

How SEO plugs in:

Effortless transactions also include things like digital wallets and using pay-later tools, but SEO efforts—inclusive of technical site performance—can certainly impact transactions more than most other efforts.

  1. Technical SEO – Focusing on things that allow for better page indexation and page experience (like site speed) boosts the likelihood of a user landing on the right page and not bouncing from poor UX.

  2. On-site SEO – Content and internal links on the page can help the user navigate from discovery to purchase without confusing them.

  3. YouTube CTA optimizations – For search results that have video results, including CTAs in the videos and ensuring the links are up to date is an easy way to smooth the path to conversion.

  4. YouTube video chapters – Including video chapters—or even auto-enabling them—allows Google to highlight the correct section in a video for a user, which gets them their answer even faster.

Make the wheel spin faster with technology

Finding the right tech stack to get data faster and validate strategy more quickly is the difference between doing good SEO and great SEO. Data capture and measurement have to be a priority in SEO efforts so you can perform analysis faster than ever before. Using your CRM database to analyze existing customer information and pairing that with a purchase journey analysis can inform how your existing community interacts with your site.

Additionally, SEO A/B testing tools like SearchPilot are a great way to understand the impact of SEO and CRO tests on net new traffic and conversions without bogging down development teams.

Validate the community flywheel with a test-and-learn approach

At Brainlabs, we use a test, learn, and earn approach to guide our initiatives. This model fits nicely into community marketing because we’re constantly testing new methods to engage with a brand’s community. We know that a customer interacts with various digital channels as their needs evolve over time. While SEO can be utilized to enable the community flywheel, it’s imperative to use a test-and-learn strategy so you can continue to find the right media mix to reach your goals.

Leverage SEO to make the community flywheel spin

Community marketing is here to stay. It’s been the most effective marketing tactic since the beginning of marketing. Building a community doesn’t happen overnight, but integrating these SEO strategies within each step of the community flywheel is a great way to improve your CPAs, increase your AOVs and LTVs, and build a brand that stands the test of time.

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3 Smart Bidding Strategies To Help You Get the Most Out of Your Google Ads

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3 Smart Bidding Strategies To Help You Get the Most Out of Your Google Ads

Now that we’ve officially settled into the new year, it’s important to reiterate that among the most effective ways to promote your business are Google Ads. Not only do Google Ads increase your brand visibility, but they also make it easier for you to sell your services and products while generating more traffic to your website.

The thing about Google Ads, though, is that setting up (and running) a Google Ads campaign isn’t easy – in fact, it’s pretty beginner-unfriendly and time-consuming. And yet, statistically speaking, no platform does what Google Ads can do when it comes to audience engagement and outreach. Therefore, it will be beneficial to learn about and adopt some smart bidding strategies that can help you get the most out of your Google Ads.

To that end, let’s check out a few different bidding strategies you can put behind your Google Ads campaigns, how these strategies can maximize the results of your Google Ads, and the biggest benefits of each strategy.

Smart bidding in Google Ads: what does it mean, anyway?

Before we cover the bidding strategies that can get the most out of your Google Ads, let’s define what smart bidding means. Basically, it lets Google Ads optimize your bids for you. That doesn’t mean that Google replaces you when you leverage smart bidding, but it does let you free up time otherwise spent on keeping track of the when, how, and how much when bidding on keywords.

The bidding market is simply too big – and changing too rapidly – for any one person to keep constant tabs on it. There are more than 5.5 billion searches that Google handles every day, and most of those searches are subject to behind-the-scenes auctions that determine which ads display based on certain searches, all in a particular order.

That’s where smart bidding strategies come in: they’re a type of automated bidding strategy to generate more conversions and bring in more money, increasing your profits and cash flow. Smart bidding is your way of letting Google Ads know what your goals are (a greater number of conversions, a goal cost per conversion, more revenue, or a better ROAS), after which Google checks what it’s got on file for your current conversion data and then applies that data to the signals it gets from its auctions.

Types of smart bidding strategies

Now that you know what smart bidding in Google Ads is and why it’s important, let’s cover the best smart bidding strategies you can use to your advantage.

Maximize your conversions

The goal of this strategy is pretty straightforward: maximize your conversions and get the most out of your budget’s allocation toward said conversions. Your conversions, be they a form submission, a customer transaction, or a simple phone call, are something valuable that you want to track and, of course, maximize.

The bottom line here is simply generating the greatest possible number of conversions for your budget. This strategy can potentially become costly, so remember to keep an eye on your cost-per-click and how well your spending is staying inside your budget.

If you want to be extra vigilant about keeping conversion costs in a comfy range, you can define a CPA goal for your maximize conversions strategy (assuming you’ve got this feature available).

Target cost per acquisition

The purpose behind this strategy is to meet or surpass your cost-per-acquisition objective that’s tied to your daily budget. When it comes to this strategy, it’s important to determine what your cost-per-acquisition goal is for the strategy you’re pursuing.

In most cases, your target cost per acquisition goal will be similar to the 30-day average you’ve set for your Google Ads campaign. Even if this isn’t going to be your end-all-be-all CPA goal, you’ll want to use this as a starting point.

You’ll have lots of success by simply leveraging target cost per acquisition on a campaign-by-campaign basis, but you can take this one step further by creating a single tCPA bid strategy that you share between every single one of your campaigns. This makes the most sense when running campaigns with identical CPA objectives. That’s because you’ll be engaging with a bidding strategy that’s fortified with a lot of aggregate data from which Google’s algorithm can draw, subsequently endowing all of your campaigns with some much-needed experience.

Maximize clicks

As its name implies, this strategy centers around ad optimization to gain as many clicks as possible based on your budget. We recommend using the maximize clicks strategy if you’re trying to drive more traffic to your website. The best part? Getting this strategy off the ground is about as easy as it gets.

All you need to do to get started with maximizing clicks is settle on a maximum cost-per-click that you then earmark. Once that’s done, you can decide how much money you want to shell out every time you pay for a bid. You don’t actually even need to specify an amount per bid since Google will modify your bids for you to maximize your clicks automatically.

Picture this: you’ve got a website you’re running and want to drive more traffic to it. You decide to set your maximum bid per click at $2.5. Google looks at your ad, adjusts it to $3, and automatically starts driving more clicks per ad (and more traffic to your site), all without ever going over the budget you set for your Google Ads campaign.

Conclusion

If you’ve been using manual bidding until now, you probably can’t help but admit that you spend way too much time wrangling with it. There are plenty of other things you’d rather be – and should be – spending your time on. Plus, bids change so quickly that trying to keep up with them manually isn’t even worth it anymore.

Thankfully, you’ve now got a better grasp on automated and smart bidding after having read through this article, and you’re aware of some important options you have when it comes to strategies for automated bidding. Now’s a good time to explore even more Google Ads bidding strategies and see which ones make the most sense when it comes to your unique and long-term business objectives. Settle on a strategy and then give it a whirl – you’ll only know whether a strategy is right for you after you’ve tested it time and time again. Good luck!

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Is Twitter Still a Thing for Content Marketers in 2023?

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Is Twitter Still a Thing for Content Marketers in 2023?

The world survived the first three months of Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover.

But what are marketers doing now? Did your brand follow the shift Dennis Shiao made for his personal brand? As he recently shared, he switched his primary platform from Twitter to LinkedIn after the 2022 ownership change. (He still uses Twitter but posts less frequently.)

Are those brands that altered their strategy after the new ownership maintaining that plan? What impact do Twitter’s service changes (think Twitter Blue subscriptions) have?

We took those questions to the marketing community. No big surprise? Most still use Twitter. But from there, their responses vary from doing nothing to moving away from the platform.

Lowest points

At the beginning of the Elon era, more than 500 big-name advertisers stopped buying from the platform. Some (like Amazon and Apple) resumed their buys before the end of 2022. Brand accounts’ organic activity seems similar.

In November, Emplifi research found a 26% dip in organic posting behavior by U.S. and Canadian brands the week following a significant spike in the negative sentiment of an Elon tweet. But that drop in posting wasn’t a one-time thing.

Kyle Wong, chief strategy officer at Emplifi, shares a longer analysis of well-known fast-food brands. When comparing December 2021 to December 2022 activity, the brands posted 74% less, and December was the least active month of 2022.

Fast-food brands posted 74% less on @Twitter in December 2022 than they did in December 2021, according to @emplifi_io analysis via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

When Emplifi analyzed brand accounts across industries (2,330 from U.S. and Canada and 6,991 elsewhere in the world), their weekly Twitter activity also fell to low points in November and December. But by the end of the year, their activity was inching up.

“While the percentage of brands posting weekly is on the rise once again, the number is still lower than the consistent posting seen in earlier months,” Kyle says.

Quiet-quitting Twitter

Lacey Reichwald, marketing manager at Aha Media Group, says the company has been quiet-quitting Twitter for two months, simply monitoring and posting the occasional link. “It seems like the turmoil has settled down, but the overall impact of Twitter for brands has not recovered,” she says.

@ahamediagroup quietly quit @Twitter for two months and saw their follower count go up, says Lacey Reichwald via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

She points to their firm’s experience as a potential explanation. Though they haven’t been posting, their follower count has gone up, and many of those new follower accounts don’t seem relevant to their topic or botty. At the same time, Aha Media saw engagement and follows from active accounts in the customer segment drop.

Blue bonus

One change at Twitter has piqued some brands’ interest in the platform, says Dan Gray, CEO of Vendry, a platform for helping companies find agency partners to help them scale.

“Now that getting a blue checkmark is as easy as paying a monthly fee, brands are seeing this as an opportunity to build thought leadership quickly,” he says.

Though it remains to be seen if that strategy is viable in the long term, some companies, particularly those in the SaaS and tech space, are reallocating resources to energize their previously dormant accounts.

Automatic verification for @TwitterBlue subscribers led some brands to renew their interest in the platform, says Dan Gray of Vendry via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

These reenergized accounts also are seeing an increase in followers, though Dan says it’s difficult to tell if it’s an effect of the blue checkmark or their renewed emphasis on content. “Engagement is definitely up, and clients and agencies have both noted the algorithm seems to be favoring their content more,” he says.

New horizon

Faizan Fahim, marketing manager at Breeze, is focused on the future. They’re producing videos for small screens as part of their Twitter strategy. “We are guessing soon Elon Musk is going to turn Twitter into TikTok/YouTube to create more buzz,” he says. “We would get the first moving advantage in our niche.”

He’s not the only one who thinks video is Twitter’s next bet. Bradley Thompson, director of marketing at DigiHype Media and marketing professor at Conestoga College, thinks video content will be the next big thing. Until then, text remains king.

“The approach is the same, which is a focus on creating and sharing high-quality content relevant to the industry,” Bradley says. “Until Twitter comes out with drastically new features, then marketing and managing brands on Twitter will remain the same.

James Coulter, digital marketing director at Sole Strategies, says, “Twitter definitely still has a space in the game. The question is can they keep it, or will they be phased out in favor of a more reliable platform.”

Interestingly given the thoughts of Faizan and Bradley, James sees businesses turning to video as they limit their reliance on Twitter and diversify their social media platforms. They are now willing to invest in the resource-intensive format given the exploding popularity of TikTok, Instagram Reels, and other short-form video content.

“We’ve seen a really big push on getting vendors to help curate video content with the help of staff. Requesting so much media requires building a new (social media) infrastructure, but once the expectations and deliverables are in place, it quickly becomes engrained in the weekly workflow,” James says.

What now

“We are waiting to see what happens before making any strong decisions,” says Baruch Labunski, CEO at Rank Secure. But they aren’t sitting idly by. “We’ve moved a lot of our social media efforts to other platforms while some of these things iron themselves out.”

What is your brand doing with Twitter? Are you stepping up, stepping out, or standing still? I’d love to know. Please share in the comments.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]

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45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]

Creating content isn’t always a walk in the park. (In fact, it can sometimes feel more like trying to swim against the current.)

While other parts of business and marketing are becoming increasingly automated, content creation is still a very manual job. (more…)

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