Last week, I spoke to a client in the health care industry whose team wanted to develop a new digital content customer experience. But they felt frustrated.
Five years ago, with help from a couple of ad agency consultants, they’d come up with the idea to launch a digital platform to provide easy access to facts. All they needed, they thought, was to set up a digital library that could answer every question existing clients might have.
They would “let the facts speak for themselves” and win the customer retention battle.
<Narrator>: “It didn’t work.”
You see, facts almost never speak for themselves (they’re bashful that way). And they almost never win an argument.
Think about the last time you presented a set of facts you thought would clinch your argument. Boom. You dropped the mic and the knowledge bombs. You won, right?
Nope. Presenting facts does nothing to correct a false belief, and it usually causes your opponents to double down on their beliefs.
A group of researchers actually have studied this so-called “backfire effect” and found that correcting someone “actually increases [emphasis mine] misperceptions among the group in question.”
The backfire effect indicates correcting someone actually increases misperceptions among the group in question, according to #research from @UMich and @GeorgiaStateU via @Robert_Rose @CMIContent. Click To Tweet
In a big data, deep fake world, we have more “facts” than ever before. The question is: Does anyone care what we have to say?
A few years ago, researchers at Wharton showed people various algorithms. Most people in the study found them interesting and valuable – until an algorithm made a mistake. Once people saw the mistake occur, they were “very, very unlikely to use it and didn’t like it anymore.” Study participants seemed to judge algorithms more harshly than they would people, one researcher noted.
But, if these people had input into the algorithm or were allowed to adjust the forecasts, they not only liked the algorithms more, they didn’t lose nearly as much confidence when an error occurred.
These findings bode well for preserving the role of human involvement in an increasingly automated world. But it also speaks volumes in terms of how delicate belief and trust are.
So, the content question in 2022 isn’t about how to present “just the facts.” The question is how to make people care about any of the facts. And this isn’t just a marketing question. It’s a fundamental communication question.
Increasingly, facts are a commodity. They’re easy to attain, so we don’t value them. And because we don’t value them, they can be assailed with … well … “alternative facts.”
As I told my health care client, companies have to give people something to believe in (to quote the classic Poison song). You have to give audiences something more than facts to care about.
If you don’t, you risk creating some version of this scene from the TV show The Simpsons: Lisa feels sad because one of her favorite teachers left. Her father, Homer, doesn’t get why. “I knew you wouldn’t understand,” she says. “Hey,” says Homer, “just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I don’t understand.”
Ultimately, with every piece of content, ask this: “Do we want people to care?”
If not, there’s no problem going with the cold corporate template and “let the facts speak for themselves.” If you do want people to care, you better give people more than content they can believe. You better give them content they can believe in – even if it means putting in more effort.
Creating belief is about understanding intent
So, how do you start creating content that goes beyond simple fact-based research, data, and information?
Go back to that argument you had on social media or with the colleague or boss who never seems to “get it.” Think about those customers you’re trying to convince to purchase from you or advocate for you.
You’re never going to win those battles with facts – you must understand why they are arguing, searching, or deciding. You must understand their intent.
To understand intent, you must first create mechanisms – content-driven experiences – that enable your brand to listen more effectively to the signals generated across their interactions.
As one might expect, this requires more effective use of data than is likely available for most businesses. A thorough content strategy is needed to provide data to help the business understand each piece of content’s type and purpose and how they apply contextually to each step of the customer’s journey.
What does that content strategy look like?
In my research and consulting practice, I’ve seen marketing organizations create a self-enablement process to create this level of capability. It typically involves a three-step process:
1. Arrange the data house
Create a dictionary or interpretation for understanding intent. Put simply, you need to discern the most appropriate response to the customer’s interaction with your content.
This is where a metadata structure and content tagging system to track behavioral context (or intent) come in. For example, a white paper called Discover How Digital Marketing Is a Good Thing for Your Business might be tagged with a “beginner” or “learning” intent. Someone who consumes this white paper would NOT be considered a lead but will be nurtured as an engaged audience.
2. Develop best next capability
Once you have an intent signal, you need to understand what’s the “best next” thing to make that customer understand and care about the answer.
Businesses need to create content-driven experiences to deliver a “best next” experience to content consumers. For example, that targeted messaging to the beginner or learning audience member should prompt them to want to read a how-to-change piece.
That’s overly simplistic, of course, but you can see how levels of nuance may need to be captured with more than just answers to a question. Through additional content consumption, a poll, or a survey, you can glean if this beginner is feeling confident or fearful about change. As you learn more about the nuanced aspects of the customer’s journey, you can automatically deliver the best next experience for that customer.
Similarly, it’s not all about technology and dynamic content. There’s a human element to this, too. You can share this information with others who can deliver additional experiences that fall outside the digital content realm. For example, you could share insights about the beginner prospect’s behavior with sales. Once sales understands what the prospect needs, their role can evolve from a persuader to a consultant helping the prospect understand the best way to move to the next step.
3. Connect the experiences
This step enables the most insight. Once you map your content to understand what you need to deliver based on intent, you must develop the capability to aggregate this data and serve up the content (and the intent) contextually across the different experiences. You need to find a way to connect the experiences into a singular view of the audience’s progression through their journey.
For example, if the beginner persona ultimately purchases your services, you might want to connect their profile to the onboarding or training module of a 101-level set of training classes. The insight gleaned from a more statistically relevant data set improves these activities or even makes them possible in the first place.
This third step may be the most difficult part of the process because it often means integrating multiple technologies to create a single view of the customer.
But you can start small. Even if you can just connect the intent upper/beginning part of the journey (awareness) to the mid part of the journey (sales), you are starting to get much better.
It’s the content, not the data, that makes people care
Data gives you the opportunity to make people care about what you have to say. To get beyond just “answers,” you must create compelling content that integrates those answers (facts, figures, data, information) into compelling experiences that appeal to the audience’s feelings.
One widespread marketing fallacy is that buyers want factual answers about the products and services they’re considering.
It’s not true. More often than not, the brand that supplies the least information, facts, data, etc., about a product and provides the most inspiration, belief, and emotional connection will be the chosen one.
You need to convince customers they are buying into a brand they can believe in. To do that, you need to give them an experience they believe in, too.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
Daily SEO Fix: Competitive Link Research
Link research is an essential pillar of an SEO strategy, but competitive link research can help you get a leg up. It’s vital for websites to not only know about their own link profile, but to also have an effective strategy in place to stay relevant against competitors.
Hopefully at this point, you know who your competitors are, and hey, that’s half the battle. If you still aren’t sure, check out our Competitive Research tool in Moz Pro. This tool can help you find out exactly who your competitors are, the keywords they rank for and what their top performing content is.
If you would like to understand our Competitive Research tool more, and learn how it can be used to your advantage, feel free to book a Moz Pro Kick Off Call with a member of Moz’s Onboarding Team below.
So, why do we want to conduct “competitive link research”?
Learning how others are performing can help guide your own linking strategy, and you may discover tactics that you haven’t considered before.
There may be opportunities and gaps in your competitor’s link profile, which you can identify and slot yourself into.
You will know what types of content perform well, and from there can make your content 10x better than your competitors!
Your analysis will help you understand more about the audience you are trying to speak to.
A comprehensive backlink strategy can aid you in ranking higher on the SERP.
If you’re seeking guidance on how to build an SEO competitive analysis framework, check out Moz Academy’s SEO Competitive Analysis Certification. This coursework covers everything you need to know to confidently implement an effective strategy, and you’ll earn your Moz Certification, which you can display on your LinkedIn profile!
In the following videos, the Moz team will show you workflows and other tips and tricks within the Moz Pro tool set that will help you with your competitive link research analysis.
Link Gap Analysis: Link Intersect
Link gap analysis is a popular tactic amongst SEOs. It involves comparing your own link profile to that of your competitors, and finding the gaps that exist. They could be getting backlinks from several websites that you aren’t receiving any from — this could be a golden opportunity — another way to compete with your top competitors.
In this video, Emilie will show you how to use Moz Pro’s Link Intersect tool to find out this information.
Discover Linking Domains with SERP Analysis
In the Moz Pro Keyword Research tool, there is a functionality where you can search a keyword, and the top ranking pages for that keyword will show. But, there is so much more to this function.
In this video, Varad will show you those ranking pages, as well as the domains that are linking to that particular page. Get ready to soar from there!
Use Page Optimization to Find Content Suggestions
Moz’s Page Optimization tool is primarily used to see what improvements may need to be made to a page, as well as keyword placement on a page. When you dive a bit deeper into this particular tool, you’ll find that Moz offers content suggestions to you, including URLs that are ranking for the keyword you first queried. Identifying these top ranking URLs is a great way to see what kind of content you should also be creating.
In this video, Rachel will show you what you can do with this new found information and how it can help your link research.
Find Backlinks to Competitor’s Broken Pages
Analyzing the backlinks on a competitor’s broken page is another tactic that SEOs are using, that you may not have been aware of. There are hidden opportunities within these broken pages that are just waiting to be discovered.
In this video, Arian will show you exactly how you can find those broken pages within Moz Pro’s Link Research tool.
Discovered & Lost Backlinks
Another gem within the Moz Pro Link Research tools is the ‘Discovered & Lost’ section. This section will show you all of the new backlinks that Moz has found linking to your competitor in the last 60 days, as well as backlinks that have been lost. This can be insightful information when working on your own backlink building.
In this video, Eoin shows you how you can use this functionality to up your Link Research game.
If you’d like to continue learning about Competitive Research, check out our previous Daily SEO Fix on Competitive Keyword Research for some great insights into a competitive keyword research strategy.
Other additional resources for learning continuation:
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Daily SEO Fix: Competitive Link Research
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