Growth marketing and growth hacking are terms you hear loosely thrown around.
There are even job titles and functions that specialize in “growth hacking.”
But, what does growth marketing actually mean?
Simply put, growth marketing is finding and driving the right customers to your business. These are the people who are most likely to purchase from your brand – whether they’re at the top of the funnel or the bottom of the funnel.
So, what’s the key to growth marketing in today’s world?
Three words: search engine marketing (SEM).
SEM is not a short-term effort: it’s an ongoing strategy to drive more qualified customers to conversion in the long term.
Below are six best practices for winning at SEM in today’s market.
1. Deliver Value Across The Decision Journey
As the behavior of your fragmented customers evolves, your growth marketing plan should as well.
Who are the customers behind all those clicks?
Research from Microsoft Ads allows us to better understand the five distinct stages of purchase intent all customers share:
- Awareness: Getting background information and buying landscape to become a more informed researcher.
- Consideration: Exploring buying guides, recommendations, and products that meet basic criteria. Comparing a handful of products that meet the customer’s criteria, including ratings, reviews, features, and cost.
- Conversion: Finding where to buy, then seeing pricing and promotions, availability, and local stores – eventually making a purchase.
- Maintain: While already having a relationship with a brand, they may come across products or services in different areas that you provide.
- Expand: The user is a satisfied customer and leaves reviews for your business, word of mouth to peers, etc. These people then go into the Awareness stage.
2. Align Your Campaign & Business Goals
Search can impact, and help you measure, your business goals.
Be sure to align your SEM strategy with your campaign objectives:
- Brand awareness and perception: Bid competitively on your non-brand, brand, and competitors’ keywords. Non-brand searches are the key to starting a journey: 69% of brand ad clicks are influenced by a non-brand search query. Searchers were 30% likelier to conduct a branded search after being exposed to a brand ad on a generic search query or a competitor’s branded query.
- Win new customers: Consumers rely on search to inform purchase decisions. SEM can help with every stage of the decision process.
- Drive sales: Search’s strength is driving conversions. It outperforms other marketing channels across devices in conversion rates.
- Enter new markets: The ubiquity of search allows you to activate a cross-border marketing strategy that drives foot traffic with Location Extensions, gets more phone calls with Call Extensions, and increases ad clicks with Sitelink Extensions.
3. Expand Your Marketing Funnel
As our constant companion, search is no longer just a product – it’s a behavior.
We turn to search at all times and in all places, whether on our desktops, laptops, tablets, or smartphones.
Understanding how people search at different points on their purchase journeys opens the door to engaging your brand with this new audience.
Having become an engine of insights, search now delivers influence throughout the five buying stages (awareness, consideration, conversion, maintain, and expand).
SEM also reinforces your conversion funnel and unifies disparate marketing activities.
4. Take Audience Targeting To The Next Level
Right-time, right-place engagement alone is no longer enough to compel potential customers.
You need to reach as many unique searchers as possible utilizing audience targeting.
Step 1: Build richer buyer personas that consider these factors:
- Behavioral: Past behaviors are useful for understanding consumers’ interests and their likelihood to purchase. To better measure user behavior, analyze activities across websites, searches, and content.
- Demographic: Buying preferences are influenced by elementary but important factors that include age, gender, and location.
- Contextual: Consumers often search at the moment. Analyzing where, when, and how they search can provide useful content for creating more impactful ad campaigns.
Step 2: Choose keywords that align with the key stages and mindsets of your target customers:
- Awareness: Keywords such as “What is” and “Benefits of” work best at this stage.
- Consideration: Keywords such as “Buying guide” and “Models” work best at this stage.
- Conversion: Keywords such as “Where” and “Coupon” work best at this stage.
- Maintain: Keywords such as “Support” and “Experience” work best at this stage.
- Experience: Keywords such as “Reviews” work best at this stage.
5. Lift Other Investments With Paid Search
Optimize your search efforts by combining organic search with a paid SEM strategy.
- Search and social: Customers who click your paid search and social ads are likelier to buy and spend more. Strengthen your keyword coverage to get more impressions, and tailor your bidding strategy for commercial-related PPC campaigns.
- Search and TV: Search volume spikes for days after a commercial airs. In a Catalyst Digital study, search volume spiked over 30% vs. the same day and times when a commercial did not run.
- Search and display: Running search and display simultaneously can allow you to make the best decision on which channel drives the best results, which may be both according to Investis Digital.
- Search and other channels: When Microsoft Ads is alone in the purchase path, purchases have a 27% higher order average order value than purchases not including Microsoft Ads, which also generate value when paired with other channels.
6. Fight & Win The Battle For Paid Search Budget Share
SEM still competes with other channels for a share of your marketing budget.
So, bring along hard data that connects the dots between search engine marketing and business benefits.
Your budget share battle plan involves three elements:
Pick The Right Metrics To Measure SEM Impact
Metrics provide an easy way to see what is and isn’t working.
Your team can test, change, and optimize your brand’s SEM strategy for better results.
Focus your reporting by identifying and tracking key performance indicators that reflect your business goals:
- Acquiring new customers.
- Driving foot traffic.
- Getting more phone calls.
- Increasing ad clicks.
- Building your brand trust.
- Expanding cross-border strategy.
Separate SEM Impacts From Other Channels
Know which channels drive your marketing results.
Each sale is the culmination of a series of marketing touches that may involve several channels over the course of days, weeks, or even months.
Attribution gets quite complex at times, so if you can prove campaigns with paid search delivers ROI and bottom-line results, you’ll unlock more budget and further optimize search performance.
If you are still looking at conversions through a last-click attribution model, you could be vastly underestimating how other channels and tactics contribute to the overall success.
Apply The Same Process To Allocate Budget Between Google Ads & Microsoft Ads
This last piece falls into place when you analyze the paid click share and query that each SEM option represents within your industry.
You’ll not only get your business in front of a large audience, but you’ll also be confident that your paid ads will lead to clicks.
SEM is the backbone of today’s marketing mix and is crucial for growth marketing.
An expansion of channel availability, and multiple devices per user, can create a more fragmented customer journey.
One of the biggest challenges is getting the right message to the right customer, at the right time, on the right device.
In addition to these challenges, arguably the biggest challenge is measuring the success due to user-privacy limitations.
You no longer can afford to put all of your marketing dollars into one search ad network. If you want to grow your marketing, you must enlist other channels to expand your addressable market.
Follow the best practices outlined here to maximize the reach, impact, and value of your paid search campaigns with bottom-line results.
Utilizing these best practices will equip you when trying to obtain marketing resources or budgets.
Featured Image: suphakit73/Shutterstock
10 Reasons You Need A Long-Term Content Strategy
It’s no secret that content is time-consuming.
However, some marketers are so focused on whittling down that time, on cutting corners just to “get something out,” that they ultimately end up losing out.
What do they lose?
The power inherent in high-quality content helps you:
Rushing content, meanwhile, gets you the opposite.
Marketers who view content marketing as a sprint rather than a marathon think they can write 20 short, low-quality blog posts, slap them online, and call it done.
Unfortunately, this is a recipe for major content failure.
For content to succeed – truly succeed, with the rankings, engaged readers, and conversions to prove it – you need to play the long game with your content marketing.
You need to come to terms with the realization that it may take anywhere from six months to a year (or even longer, according to one study) to get your content ranking well.
You need to understand that your target audience is comprised of humans who need to be nurtured and respected continually over time if you want their trust and, ultimately, their buy-in.
You need to fully own that good content cannot be created in a rush. Great content takes even longer, but great content gets results.
Let’s get deeper into why you should be playing the long game with content.
Why Focusing On A Content Marathon, Not A Sprint, Is A Good Thing For Your Marketing
Think about a footrace for a moment: It’s pretty brutal, right?
To win a footrace, you don’t necessarily need technique or style; you just need speed (at least until you become a professional track athlete, at which point style and form are critically important).
Because of this, the winner of a footrace isn’t necessarily the best runner in the group. Put that same winner into a 10 km and he’d likely burn out at the beginning, right? I bet you see where I’m going with this.
The same thing applies to content.
While anyone can sprint in a general direction towards the finish line with crappy content and poorly thought-out content strategies, not every marketer can devise an effective, long-term strategy for actually consistently ranking well with content.
This is the main reason that the long-term content strategy is so much better than a short-term content strategy.
In addition to being more sustainable, the long-term approach is also wiser and more fully thought out.
In the words of Tim Ferriss, “There will always be a need for high-quality, and there will always be a need for long-form.”
While short-term content strategies seek to produce instant and short-lived results, long-term content strategies allow marketers to bond with their audiences, build their voice, provide real value, and rank in an authentic and sustainable way.
Because of this, marketers who create long-term content strategies often publish more effective content, build bigger audiences, and garner more shares across the board.
10 Reasons Long-Term Content Strategy Is Better
1. It’s A Better Use Of Your Money And Resources
Imagine going on a diet to lose weight. For two weeks, you eat only whole, clean foods and you exercise for two hours a day.
You feel great and – hey! — you lose weight. At the end of that two weeks, however, you stop exercising and go right back to your old diet habits.
Of course, you gain all of the weight back, and your guise of physical fitness takes a nosedive.
Not surprisingly, the same thing happens with content. Regardless of what you’re doing, content marketing takes money and resources.
If you’re paying someone to flood your accounts with content for two weeks and then laying off your strategy entirely, you can bet not only will your strategy be ineffective, but it will also be a waste of your money and resources.
Instead, you’re much better off allocating your resources to a long-term content strategy that will build readers over time and help you maintain steady levels of traffic and clicks over months or years.
Instead of wasting your resources, this funnels them right back into your company and ensures that you’re building value while also establishing a solid foundation of lasting, relevant content.
2. Long-Term Content Engages Readers
To keep readers interested and engaged for an extended period, you need to offer them comprehensive, in-depth content that helps them address their concerns and solve problems.
And that means long content, in terms of word count per article.
Don’t think just because we live in an age where attention spans are short that long-form content won’t do well. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
An Orbit Media survey found that bloggers who write longer posts (anything over 1,500 words) get better results.
Why does long-form content perform so well as part of a long-term content strategy?
In addition to providing outstanding value for readers, long-form content also allows your company to build authority and establish dominance by showcasing your knowledge on relevant topics in your industry.
3. Content Changes All The Time
As search engines and readers progress, the demand for quality, informed, relevant content increases all the time. Because of this, a long-term content strategy is the best possible weapon.
Designed to insulate marketers against change and help them maintain their traffic and readership despite changing SEO, content, and marketing requirements, long-term content marketing allows space for the strategy to absorb and adapt to changing trends. This ensures more effective content and a more adaptive strategy that doesn’t have to scramble to keep up.
4. Long-Term Content Is Synonymous With Cornerstone Content
Every good house needs a solid foundation, and every good marketing strategy needs cornerstone content to provide long-lasting value and relevance to readers.
Cornerstone content is long-term content that might not draw a huge number of clicks right off the bat but remains valuable for months or years after the publishing date.
Think of it as a down payment toward your own business.
In fact, if you look at the aforementioned Tim Ferriss’s blog, you’ll notice most of his most popular blog posts were written up to two years ago. How’s that for an effective long-term strategy?
In contrast, short-term content strategies are largely aimed at ranking well for a specific keyword or phrase, so they all but neglect cornerstone content entirely.
Unfortunately, this leads to a less valuable and less relevant website for users of all types.
For attracting long-term clicks and ensuring that a website’s readers are engaged, entertained, and consuming value at all times, cornerstone content becomes more of an essential than a luxury.
5. Long-Term Content Doesn’t Turn Off With A Hard Sell
In today’s marketing environment, there is virtually nothing customers hate more than being hard-sold.
Nobody wants to know why they can’t live without your product or why it’s critical for them to “buy now!”
More often than not, these approaches simply alienate customers and make it harder for your company to sell products naturally.
Unfortunately, the hard-sell is often a tone taken by short-term content.
Because short-term content is insistent by nature, it’s tough to engineer it so it doesn’t push on your customers.
As a result, short-term content strategies run a high risk of alienating customers and making it more difficult to sell your products.
Long-term content strategies, on the other hand, do no such thing. Because they’re not designed to elicit an immediate response from readers, they seek to provide value and relevance rather than insistence and immediacy.
In other words, they succeed in explaining a problem, helping the audience handle the problem, and then inviting them to engage in a discussion about the problem.
This, in turn, is a fantastic way to nurture long-term customer relationships and ensure that your company continues to meet the needs of your clients.
6. Long-Term Content Strategy Is An Effective Way To Approach Current Events
Do you think writing about trending news and industry events makes you a short-term content strategist? Think again.
Trending content-focused blogs are extremely important, and it’s a mistake to think of this as only a short-term strategy.
In fact, trending news can be critical to your long-term strategy, and can help you establish your website as the source for up-to-date and relevant industry news.
When you focus on using trending, to-the-minute news pieces as a way to enhance and strengthen your long-term content strategy, it’s easy to see how you can improve your brand presence and boost your business overall.
7. Long-Term Content Promotes Itself
Failing to promote your content is one of the most dangerous mistakes in the entire content marketing industry and, unfortunately, it’s one many marketers make.
While short-term content needs aggressive promotion to succeed, long-term content essentially promotes itself.
When you create high-quality, in-depth, well-researched, long-term content and push it out to your followers, it’s easy to rank well for your chosen keyword.
Because long-term content is meant to garner clicks and shares over time, it’s a great way to build steady, long-term rankings that can boost your SERP placement and improve your standing over time.
8. Long-Term Content Is Good Content
One of the differences between long-term content and short-term content comes down to priority and intention.
As a general rule, people who commit to the pursuit and development of content for the long term are much more in love with content.
While all types of content are important, creating good long-term content requires a different mindset and series of priorities than creating short-term content.
Because of this, long-term content strategies often boast better content that caters more effectively to readers.
9. Long-Term Content Effectively Builds An Audience
When it comes to building an audience, you don’t want to aim for the largest audience possible. This will result in a massive but unengaged group of followers.
Instead, you want to build an audience of people who are genuinely interested in your concept and your content and will engage with it actively when it comes out.
This is one of the areas in which long-term content strategy is so powerful.
Fewer people have the attention span for long-term (or long-form) content today, and by making it a large part of your content strategy, you can build a better audience and earn more qualified leads.
10. Long-Term Content Is Best For SEO
In addition to optimizing content correctly, companies that want to use good SEO also need to ensure their content is high-quality, relevant, and useful to their readers.
While this can be difficult with a short-term content strategy, a long-term content strategy suits the goal quite nicely.
In addition to the fact that long-term content is written with the reader in mind, it’s easier to target a group of keywords with a long-term content strategy than it is a short-term content strategy.
Finally, every piece of content written in a long-term content strategy goes to boost and improve SEO, contributing to more online visibility and more clicks to your website.
The Case For Long-Form Content Strategy
Treating content as a sprint rather than a marathon may seem easier at the outset, but it’s really just a quick way to stall out with content that doesn’t move the needle.
Good, results-driving content takes thought, time, and effort. It takes commitment to a long-term strategy because, by nature, content doesn’t work in the short term.
Ultimately, the time and commitment you invest in your long-term goals and strategy will pay off with higher dividends and a higher ROI. And that adds up to time well spent.
Featured Image: alphaspirit.it/Shutterstock
10 Reasons You Need A Long-Term Content Strategy
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