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What Is Discord & How Can You Use It For Marketing?

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What Is Discord & How Can You Use It For Marketing?

Discord is an underrated gem of a community management and communications platform.

This VoIP-based chat platform enables users to communicate via voice, screen share, and text.

As a gamer, I am the biggest Discord fan and use it more than I use Slack, Skype, Teams, or Hangouts.

And from a marketing standpoint, I’m elated it’s becoming mainstream and more brands are incorporating it into their communication plans.

Not convinced? Let’s take a look at the following:

  • What is Discord?
  • Who uses it?
  • Strategic points of differentiation (or what makes Discord awesome).
  • Where Discord fits in your digital marketing strategy.
  • Using Discord for advertising.

What Is Discord?

Discord is a community-powered voice-over IP (VoIP) application on iOS, Mac, Android, and Windows.

Users can create their own public or private Discord server. Those private servers have unique invite links that expire in seven days. Servers can have public and private channels (denoted by the # sign) and threads within said channels.

As with several other communication platforms, users can send out alerts with @here or @everyone.

Where Discord shines (and we’ll get into this in greater detail in the next section) is in its user roles, which can grant users access to certain channels, as well as alert only people with that role.

Discord allows users to upload stickers, emojis, and gifs, and to use those the community has already shared.

Who Uses Discord?

As of February 2022, Discord says it has:

  • 150 million monthly active users
  • 19 million active servers per week
  • 4 billion server conversation minutes daily

Discord CEO Jason Citron told NPR in 2021:

“We surveyed 20,000 of our users and asked them questions like, ‘What is the biggest misconception that people have about Discord?’

The resounding answer was that the biggest misconception is that Discord is only used for gaming.”

Citron and co-founder Stan Vishnevskiy created Discord in 2015 to encourage a feeling of togetherness among gamers and a better way for them to communicate.

Today, Discord says it is “used by everyone from local hiking clubs, to art communities, to study groups. Discord has millions of people creating places for their friends and communities, talking for upwards of 4 hours per day on the platform.”

How Much Does Discord Cost?

Users can choose to use the free version or one of the Nitro upgrades.

The plans include the following:

Free

  • 30 FPS screen sharing (low video quality).
  • One server boost per server (paid add-on allowing you to unlock additional emoji slots and perks such as animated server icons).
  • Access to video chat, private servers, public servers, and voice chat.
  • Access to Discord Bots for your servers (AI that can monitor new members in your server and send automated messages).
  • Image shares and file uploads with limited bandwidth
  • Can belong to up to 100 servers.

Nitro Classic ($4.99 Per Month)

  • More customization options for profiles (animated avatar, custom tag, and Nitro Badge).
  • 30% off server boosts ($4.99 per month).
  • Custom/animated emoji can be used outside their original server.
  • 60 FPS screen sharing.

Nitro ($9.99 Per Month)

  • Multiple profiles, allowing you to keep personal and professional identities separate.
  • Customizable backgrounds for videos.
  • Unique stickers and emojis.
  • Two free server boosts ($119.76 per year value).
  • Uploads can be up to 100 MB.
  • Better quality streaming and longer posts (4000 character count).
  • Be part of more communities (up to 200).

Strategic Points Of Differentiation (Or What Makes Discord Awesome)

User roles are one of the biggest reasons I love Discord.

These roles allow you to alert only folks who have that role on important messages, as well as determine access to channels.

One of the biggest reasons for friction in Slack or Skype is the overuse of channel or server-wide pings.

By setting up roles in Discord, you can empower brand advocates, moderators, or any other specialized member, while not bombarding everyone else with alerts.

Screenshot from Discord, February 2022

In this case, my user profile denotes that I am an officer in the guild I belong to, as well as a clan lead (sub-group).

I also have the “Judge Chat Pass” which grants me access to the secret channel for events where we hold contests.

Discord video and audio settings are pretty fantastic compared to other communication platforms.

While there are some settings that can only be used by server admins, users can adjust:

  • Individual user volume.
  • Moving users to different voice channels.
  • Mute (either to help a person who might have left a mic on or across the server).
  • Invite users to other servers you have access to.
  • Set roles and notes.
  • Deafen the user to the server (this means they can’t hear content).

Animated backgrounds, gifs, and profile pictures are another big benefit.

While they’re mostly a paid feature (you need to have server boosts or be a Nitro subscriber), these add a lot more flexibility for users to define their online personality.

Where Discord Fits In Your Digital Marketing

Discord’s community-oriented ethos is the key to unlocking its full potential.

Your community – through streams, events, crowd-sourced content, and other collaboration opportunities – can give you product feedback in real-time, provide insights into ideal messaging, and help create new brand evangelists.

While there are many marketing applications for Discord, these represent some of the easiest ways to reach your target audience with minimal infrastructure effort:

Customer Community Groups

Whether you’re launching a new product or keeping a finger on the pulse of your customers/prospects’ feelings towards your service, Discord’s channels, threads, and roles provide great mechanisms to manage great customer marketing in a branded hub.

Unlike Facebook groups, LinkedIn communities, or Slack/Skype offerings, Discord allows for lots of flexibility and organization while remaining inside a branded experience.

Brands can identify highly engaged prospects/customers among Discord users and tag them for VIP events such as product feedback, discounts, etc.

A big reason brands may want to pivot to this is the decrease in reporting for email marketing, as well as the fluctuation in social network tagging.

Discord allows brands to create bespoke experiences with real-time pings, which is a big step up from Facebook or LinkedIn. And you can do this while side-stepping the reporting issues that can come from relying on open rates.

Building off of Twitter Spaces, Discord Events is great because it allows users to collaborate and share without being restricted on the device, as users can take the stage and share without needing to be on a mobile device.

Finally, the bots and integrations are first class. They allow for first-party data tracking along with lots of convenience features such as helping people standardize time zones, moderate content, and other automation.

Events And Live Streams

Discord’s event feature is a goldmine for livestreaming events.

Between the pop-out screen-share, user audio settings, and ability to pull folks into a new server or move channels on the fly, Discord outshines many webinar platforms.

While the resolution won’t be perfect unless the server is boosted to the third level (or you’re a full Nitro user), the amount of control at the moderator’s hands is far greater than virtual event tech.

Channels can serve as sponsor hubs and networking areas, and attendees can each get roles associated with their passes.

Livestreams can be baked into events or day-to-day communications.

Can You Advertise on Discord?

Discord does not currently offer a native advertising platform such as Facebook or Twitter.

However, there are already all kinds of servers marketing themselves as Discord Growth Experts and advertising channels for your server.

Takeaway

Discord is a powerful social community tool and a no-brainer to play within your marketing efforts.

Not every campaign or brand will need the paid version as you get most functionality on the free version.

Put Discord on your list to test out and enjoy the amount of control you’ll have in community management. See where it may fit into your own marketing strategy.

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Featured Image: Urbanscape/Shutterstock




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Keyword Mapping. A Practical Guide for the Curious

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Keyword Mapping. A Practical Guide for the Curious

Deciding whether a keyword should be targeted by a separate page or clustered with other keywords is a common problem in SEO. Keyword mapping is a process aimed at solving this.

Keyword mapping is popularly defined as assigning keywords to pages. But what you really need to solve the problem is assigning topics to content types

In this article, I’ll explain the benefits of this approach and, more importantly, I’ll show you the process. No templates required.

Benefits of keyword mapping (the alternative way) 

Fact 1. Google may see seemingly different keywords as the same topic.

For example, we rank for these keywords in the top 10 with a single page: 

  • seo basics”
  • how to use seo” 
  • beginner’s guide to seo”
  • getting started with seo”
  • seo knowledge”

Fact 2. Conversely, Google may see seemingly similar keywords as different topics. 

For example, let’s compare “digital marketing” with “online marketing.” I’d say those two keywords are pretty close to each other. Google disagrees. 

Low SERP similarity score signals potentially different topics
Everywhere you look, the same story. Top-ranking pages and our SERP similarity score (100-point scale; the more, the higher similarity) say that these are completely different topics SEO-wise.

The above two facts are also reasons why keyword mapping by just relying on keywords is not the optimal way. You won’t know whether you’re wasting your time targeting the same topic with different keywords or just “confusing” Google. 

But why content types instead of pages or even URLs? Because before you decide what page will be used to target the keyword, you’ll need to identify the search intent of the keyword. And a good starting point for that is identifying the dominating type of content on the first page of Google. 

To sum up, the benefits of keyword mapping using topics and content types are: 

  • Seeing keywords the same way Google sees them: as topics and subtopics. 
  • Incorporating search intent into the process. 
  • Keeping an organized list of topics, which also helps to prevent duplicating content.

Note

Keyword mapping can’t substitute keyword research. While keyword mapping is basically a form of organizing keywords, keyword research provides you the keywords and the confidence that: 

  • Your keywords have traffic potential.
  • You can match the search intent behind your keywords.
  • Your keywords will bring valuable traffic. 
  • You can rank for those keywords. 

Learn how to choose the right keywords with our full guide.

Going further, we’ll look at two levels of using this method: the fast lane and the more thorough one. 

Learn more: What Is Semantic Search? How It Impacts SEO 

Level 1 – Fast, reasonable job

You’ll need a keyword research tool that can do keyword grouping based on what’s on the SERP, such as Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer. In the case of this tool: 

  1. Enter your keywords
  2. Open Matching terms report
  3. Go to the Parent topics tab 
Three steps to find Parent Topics via Keywords Explorer

If you click on a Parent Topic, you will find separate topics “distilled” from your keywords. So for example, you will see keywords like “can babies get covid” and “babies and covid” grouped under the same topic. 

Keywords grouped under the same Parent Topic

Sidenote.

To identify the Parent Topic, we take the #1 ranking page for your keyword and find the keyword responsible for sending the most traffic to that page.

At this level of keyword mapping, your target keyword is the Parent Topic (not the keywords inside that Parent Topic). 

The next step is to identify the content type. The easiest way to do this is to see what kind of content dominates the first three to five results in Google. 

Typical content types are:

  • Articles
  • Videos
  • Product pages
  • Product category pages
  • Landing pages 
Top-ranking pages with a dominating content type
For example, the dominating content type for “teething symptoms” is the article.

As a result, assigning topics to content types will give you a super simple yet highly actionable database.

Topic Content type
Teething symptoms Article
When do babies roll over Article
Baby formula Mixed (product pages on top)
When can babies have water Article

Sidenote.

What about secondary keywords or supporting keywords? We recommend picking them in the content creation phase as subtopics needed to cover a topic in full. Learn a few ways you can find them here.

So this is the fast method. The great thing about it is that it automates keyword grouping by using real SERP data (and not just semantics). 

However, it has its downsides too. Sometimes, it “hides” less popular topics that could potentially be targeted with a separate page. Here’s why. 

The parent keyword is derived from the top-ranking page on the SERP. If Google thinks that the best answer to the query is found on a page that is targeting a broader topic, it will still use it. This may result in a confusing SERP like this one: 

Confusing SERP example
The top result is a featured snippet taken from a page with a broader topic. Hence, the Parent Topic (here seen as “Top keyword”) in Ahrefs. But pretty much every other page on the SERP targets the keywords directly.

This kind of situation probably won’t happen too often. But if you want to squeeze everything out of your keyword mapping process, you need to go to level 2. 

Level 2 – Thorough but time consuming

In level 2, we’re going to take a closer look at the Parent Topics to see what’s in them. 

  1. First, you should pick a Parent Topic.
  2. Sort keywords inside the topic by KD (Keyword Difficulty). Big differences in KD will be an indication of a different set of pages on the SERP.
  3. If you see a keyword with a significantly different KD than the Parent Topic, click on the SERP button.
  4. See if the top-ranking pages, excluding the first result, talk about the keyword instead of the Parent Topic. You can use the Compare with feature for a quick overview of the situation. The lower the SERP similarity score, the higher the probability you’re looking at two different topics. 
How to investigate Parent Topics

Let’s look at a couple of examples. 

In the first example, we’ve got a keyword with a KD score that’s 20 higher than the Parent Topic. Upon investigating, we see that we may be dealing with two separate topics: The SERP similarity is quite low. Also, there is only one common result, while other pages target the keyword directly. 

Keywords grouped under the same topic but have dissimilar SERPs

Next example. Here we have “teething symptoms” (KD 65) and “when do babies get molars” (KD 28). Looking at SERP similarity, we see that this, again, may be a case of two topics. 

Low SERP similarity between two keywords

But there’s more. Only the bottom results target the keyword directly. Others talk about teething timelines, stages, charts, etc. This is a hint for yet another way to rank for the keyword. 

Only bottom results target the keyword directly

Generally speaking, when you see that you’re dealing with a separate topic “in disguise,” the decision comes down to:

  1. Targeting the Parent Topic anyway. For example, if the top result is a featured snippet, you may be able to win it with a page on a relevant broader topic. 
  2. Marking the keyword as a separate topic and targeting it directly with a separate page. In this case, add that keyword as a topic to target and note down the content type. 
  3. Turning to SERP analysis in tougher cases (like our example above). 

Final thoughts 

Feel free to customize the process and add your own data points. If you feel like going a step further and assigning URLs, your website folders, or introducing some kind of prioritization (e.g., business potential), this won’t hurt. 

However, keep in mind that keyword mapping is not a good way to design your entire website structure. Most often than not, not all pages on your site should be search-based. 

What are the next steps after keyword mapping? 

Got comments or questions? Ping me on Twitter or Mastodon



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Everything You Need To Know

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Of all the many, many functions available in Google Ads, I have a few that are my favorites. And sitelink assets – previously known as sitelink extensions – are at the top of my list.

Why? Because they’re so versatile. You can do almost anything with them if you think through your strategy carefully.

For example, you can use the mighty sitelink in your advertising to:

  • Promote low search volume themes.
  • Push lagging products out the door.
  • Maximize hot sellers.
  • Highlight certain product categories.
  • Answer common questions.
  • Handle PR problems.

And that’s just a start! Sitelink assets can almost do it all.

Best Practices For Using Sitelink Assets Extensions

If you truly want to get the most out of your sitelinks, you need to think about your intention.

To help you with that, I’m going to lay out a few sitelink guidelines.

1. Get clear on your objectives. Before you start, you need to think about your goals. What are you trying to achieve with these assets? Are you advertising products or services? Will the asset work well with both branded and non-branded keywords? Your answers to these questions will help determine if your sitelinks are versatile and useful to the searcher.

2. Use sitelinks as part of your larger strategy. Don’t think of your sitelinks in isolation. You should also consider the accompanying ad, landing page, and other assets. Make sure they all work together in service to your overarching strategy.

3. Use a mix of sitelinks. Sitelinks can serve multiple purposes, so make sure you’re using a variety. For example, you don’t want to use every sitelink on an ad to promote on-sale products. Instead, use a mix. One could promote an on-sale product, one could generate leads, one could highlight a new product category, and one could direct prospective clients to useful information.

4. Create landing pages for your sitelinks. Ideally, you want to send users to landing pages that tightly correlate with your sitelink instead of just a regular page on your website.

5. Track sitelink performance and adjust. It’s not enough to set up sitelinks. You should also track them to see which links are getting traction and which ones are not. This doesn’t mean that all sitelinks should perform equally (more on this below), but it does mean they should perform well given their type and objectives.

Why it’s Better To Use A Mix Of Sitelink Assets

Let’s dive deeper into this idea of using a mix of sitelinks by looking at an example.

In a new client account, we created four different types of sitelinks:

  • Two sitelinks are product-focused (as requested by the client).
  • One sitelink connects users with an engineer to learn more about the product (“Speak to an Engineer”). It has more of a sales focus.
  • One sitelink allows users to learn more about the products without speaking to an engineer (“What is?”).

The “What is?” sitelink is outperforming the “Speak to an Engineer” sitelink when we measure by CTR. While we need more data before making any changes, I predict we’ll eventually swap out the sales-y “Speak to an Engineer” sitelink for something else.

The fact that the educational link (“What is?”) is performing better than the sales-y link (“Speak to an Engineer”) isn’t too surprising in this case. The product is a new, cutting-edge robot that not many people are aware of, yet. They want more info before talking to someone.

Screenshot by author, January 2023

By using a mix of sitelinks, and assessing the performance of each, we gained a lot of valuable information that is helping to guide our strategy for this account. So going with a mix of sitelinks is always a good idea. You never know what you’ll discover!

Sitelink Assets Examples

Now, let’s look at some specific examples of sitelink assets in Google Ads.

Example 1: Chromatography

Sitelinks extension - Chromatography exampleScreenshot from Google, January 2023

Application Search: This ad is for a highly technical product that can be used in a wide variety of applications. (Chromatography is a laboratory technique for separating mixtures.) So putting “application search” in a sitelink here might make sense. It helps prospective clients find what they’re looking for.

Sign up and Save Big: A good sitelink for lead generation and potential revenue.

Technical Support: I’m not a big fan of putting technical support in sitelinks. Tech support seems more targeted to current users rather than prospective users. But who knows, maybe they really do want to help current users get tech support via their advertising.

Guides and Posters: Again, this sitelink is a bit unusual, but it might be appropriate for this product. Perhaps people are downloading branded posters and posting them in their workplaces. If so, it’s a great way to build brand awareness.

Example 2: Neuroscience Courses

Sitelink Extensions - Nueroscience courses exampleScreenshot from Google, January 2023

I love everything about these sitelinks! The advertising is using them to reach people in all phases of the buyer journey.

For people not ready to commit:

  • Study Neuroscience: This sitelink is broad and informational. It’s helpful to people who have just started to explore their options for studying neuroscience.
  • Get Course Brochure: This sitelink is also great for people in the research phase. And while we mostly live in an online world, some people still prefer to consume hard-copy books, brochures, etc. With this sitelink, the school is covering its bases.

For people getting close to committing:

  • Online Short Course: This is the course the school offers. It’s a great sitelink for those almost ready to sign up.

For people ready to sign up:

  • Register Online Now: This is the strongest call to action for those ready to commit. It takes people directly to the signup page.

Example 3: Neuroscience Degrees

Let’s look at another example from the world of neuroscience education: this time for a neuroscience degree program.

Sitelink extensions - neuroscience degree exampleScreenshot from Google, January 2023

In contrast to the previous two examples, the sitelinks in this ad aren’t as strong.

Academics Overview: This sitelink seems more appropriate for a broad term search, such as a search on the school’s name. If the searcher is looking for a specific degree program (which seems like the intention based on the term and the ad), the sitelinks should be something specific to that particular degree program.

Scholarships: Just as with the above sitelink, “Scholarships” doesn’t seem very helpful either. The topic of scholarships is important—but probably doesn’t need to be addressed until the person determines that this school is a good fit.

Example 4: Code Security

Next, let’s look at two Google search ads for code security products.

Sitelink extensions - code security exampleScreenshot from Google, January 2023

 

The sitelinks in these two ads look like typical assets you’d find for SaaS, cloud-based, or tech companies. They click through to a lot of helpful information, such as product plans and success stories.

I particularly like the Most Common Risks sitelink in the second ad. It leads to a helpful article that would be great for engaging top-of-funnel leads.

On the flip side, I’m not a big fan of the Blog sitelink in the first ad. “Blog” simply isn’t very descriptive or helpful.

Still, there are no right or wrong sitelinks here. And it would be interesting to test my theory that blog content is not a top-performing asset!

Sitelink Assets Are More Than An Afterthought

I hope I’ve convinced you of the usefulness and versatility of sitelinks when created with specific objectives that align with your broader strategy.

So don’t create your sitelink assets as an afterthought.

Because if you give them the careful consideration they deserve, they’ll serve you well.

Note: Google sitelink assets were previously known as sitelink extensions and renamed in September 2022.

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Featured Image: Thaspol Sangsee/Shutterstock



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AI Content In Search Results

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AI Content In Search Results

Google has released a statement regarding its approach to AI-generated content in search results.

The company has a long-standing policy of rewarding high-quality content, regardless of whether humans or machines produce it.

Above all, Google’s ranking systems aim to identify content that demonstrates expertise, experience, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-E-A-T).

Google advises creators looking to succeed in search results to produce original, high-quality, people-first content that demonstrates E-E-A-T.

The company has updated its “Creating helpful, reliable, people-first content” help page with guidance on evaluating content in terms of “Who, How, and Why.”

Here’s how AI-generated content fits into Google’s approach to ranking high-quality content in search results.

Quality Over Production Method

Focusing on the quality of content rather than the production method has been a cornerstone of Google’s approach to ranking search results for many years.

A decade ago, there were concerns about the rise in mass-produced human-generated content.

Rather than banning all human-generated content, Google improved its systems to reward quality content.

Google’s focus on rewarding quality content, regardless of production method, continues to this day through its ranking systems and helpful content system introduced last year.

Automation & AI-Generated Content

Using automation, including AI, to generate content with the primary purpose of manipulating ranking in search results violates Google’s spam policies.

Google’s spam-fighting efforts, including its SpamBrain system, will continue to combat such practices.

However, Google realizes not all use of automation and AI-generated content is spam.

For example, publishers automate helpful content such as sports scores, weather forecasts, and transcripts.

Google says it will continue to take a responsible approach toward AI-generated content while maintaining a high bar for information quality and helpfulness in search results.

Google’s Advice For Publishers

For creators considering AI-generated content, here’s what Google advises.

Google’s concept of E-E-A-T is outlined in the “Creating helpful, reliable, people-first content” help page, which has been updated with additional guidance.

The updated help page asks publishers to think about “Who, How, and Why” concerning how content is produced.

“Who” refers to the person who created the content, and it’s important to make this clear by providing a byline or background information about the author.

“How” relates to the method used to create the content, and it’s helpful to readers to know if automation or AI was involved. If AI was involved in the content production process, Google wants you to be transparent and explain why it was used.

“Why” refers to the purpose of creating content, which should be to help people rather than to manipulate search rankings.

Evaluating your content in this way, regardless of whether AI-generated or not, will help you stay in line with what Google’s systems reward.


Featured Image: Alejandro Corral Mena/Shutterstock



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