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Why Keyword Research Is Useful for SEO & How To Rank

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Search engines have moved away from matching keywords in search queries to keywords on webpages, a process that accelerated in 2012 with the introduction of the Hummingbird update.

The impact on SEO has been a shift in keyword research toward a deeper understanding of what words mean in different contexts and especially as a part of an overall topic.

Keyword research is still important, but in a different way than has been practiced in the past.

The strategic choice of topics and word phrases continues to be important, and this guide will show you how to research keywords in a manner that is appropriate for the way search engines appear to rank webpages today.

Keyword Dimensions

The first step for keyword research is to define what kinds of keywords you want to target.

Most of us by now know about search intent and the different kinds of intent that keywords have, so I won’t bother with that.

I’ll only point out that the intent maps to a searcher’s reason for searching, to find information, to buy something, to research something, etc.

If you need a refresher, read this article about user search intent.

However, it is worth pointing out that choosing keywords by their search volume is not always a good approach.

There are additional keyword dimensions to consider beyond user search intents.

Keyword Dimensions

  1. Keyword Search Volume.
  2. Keyword Intent.
  3. Keyword Meaning.
  4. Keyword Latent Meaning.

There are at least six issues to consider regarding high search volume keywords:

  1. High-traffic keywords can have multiple search intents (not all of them your chosen intent).
  2. The People Also Ask feature encourages search query reformulation.
  3. High-traffic keywords don’t always convert.
  4. High-traffic keywords aren’t always relevant to the website’s goals.
  5. Google diverts some high-traffic keywords to local SERPs.
  6. Google reformulates vague queries.

The takeaway about high search volume keywords is that it’s important to research why people are searching with those search phrases and make decisions based on whether those keywords align with your goals, whether that’s to sell more products, get affiliate clicks, or more advertising revenue.

We can’t really know all the different reasons why searchers use specific high-volume keyword phrases unless we study the search results.

And once the different reasons are understood, we can begin to understand the keyword dimension of the latent meaning.

We can understand the hidden reasons why people use vague search queries because the search engines provide clues.

Clues To High Search Volume Keyword Phrases

The best keywords are those that communicate a user need that aligns with the solution a website offers.

A keyword phrase like [what’s the best home router 2022] expresses a very clear need and is a useful phrase for an electronics-related site.

A keyword phrase like [heart attack] is vague and does not express a precise need. Often, vague keyword phrases like [heart attack] express multiple needs.

Those multiple needs are what I call a latent meaning.

Latent means hidden or not immediately apparent.

Vague keyword phrases like [heart attack] contain latent meanings and express users’ needs that are hidden within the words used in search queries.

Let’s take a look at the search query, [heart attack], as an example.

Search engines provide clues as to what users mean when they use vague search queries.

So, if you want to rank for a high-volume search query, take a look at the clues that are hidden (in plain sight) within the search results.

Here’s a screenshot of the featured snippet for the keyword phrase, [heart attack]:

Screenshot from search for [heart attack], Google, March 2022Featured Snippet for Keyword Phrase Heart Attack

Google ranks a page about Heart Attack Symptoms for the search phrase, [heart attack]. The title of the page shows that the page is about Heart Attack Symptoms.

And here’s a really cool observation about that page.

A search for Heart Attack Symptoms shows the exact same page from CDC.gov ranking #1 for that phrase.

SERPs for Heart Attack SymptomsScreenshot from search for [heart attack symptoms], Google, March 2022SERPs for Heart Attack Symptoms

It’s clear that Google is ranking a page about Heart Attack Symptoms for the phrase [heart attack] because Google is understanding that when people search for this phrase, what people really mean is Heart Attack Symptoms.

Understand The Latent Meaning Of Keyword Phrases

Earlier in this article, I wrote that every keyword phrase has a latent meaning, a meaning that is hidden.

The above search results are an illustration of my observation.

When someone searches for [heart attack], most people are really searching for [heart attack symptoms].

What that means is that if you want to rank for the high traffic search phrase [heart attack], then what you should really optimize for is [heart attack symptoms] because according to what Google is ranking, that’s what most people mean when they search for [heart attack].

Now, let’s take a look at the rest of the SERPs and see what they tell us.

The next three top-ranked webpages (positions 2, 3, and 4) are about heart attack symptoms.

Screenshot of SERPs for Heart AttackScreenshot from search for [heart attack], Google, March 2022Screenshot of SERPs for Heart Attack

But if you look at the page ranked in position #5, it looks like the latent keyword phrase is [what is a heart attack].

Screenshot of a Search ResultScreenshot from search for [heart attack], Google, March 2022Screenshot of a Search Result
  • Q: What is a heart attack?
    A: Myocardial Infarction
  • Q: What is a heart attack?
    A: A heart attack happens when blood flow to the heart suddenly becomes blocked.

Google Ranked Positions 6, 7, 8, and 9 For [Heart Attack] Keyword

If we examine the next positions, six to nine (there is no position 10), we see something really interesting.

The next four positions have a meaning that corresponds to:

  • Symptoms of a Heart Attack.
  • What is a Heart Attack?
Google SERPs for keyword phrase, Heart AttackScreenshot from search for [heart attack], Google, March 2022Google SERPs for keyword phrase, Heart Attack

Keyword Research Should Include The Latent Meaning Research

Creating a list of keywords ranked from high volume to low volume is just a start.

High-volume keywords should be lumped together with their latent meanings, and those latent meanings should be ranked according to whether those latent meanings are top-ranked by Google or lower-ranked by Google.

For the example of the keyword phrase, [heart attack], the real keyword to chase is [heart attack symptoms] if you want to rank #1, because that’s what most people mean when they search for [heart attack], according to Google’s search results.

And the cool thing about this is that you can confirm this observation with Google Trends.

In the following screenshot, what’s notable is that the keyword phrase [heart attack symptoms] has significantly more search volume than the keyword phrase, [what is a heart attack] and also [what is heart attack].

Screenshot of Google TrendsScreenshot from Google Trends, March 2022Screenshot of Google Trends

What’s cool about the Google Trends for those two keywords is that the above trends match perfectly with what we saw in the search results for the keyword phrase, [heart attack].

The top result for the [heart attack] keyword phrase related to Heart Attack Symptoms clearly has more search volume than the secondary latent meaning, What is a Heart Attack.

Takeaways:

  • Understand all four keyword dimensions before making a decision on which keywords to create content for.
  • Search volume is just one dimension out of four for understanding the relative importance of keyword phrases for your project.
  • Traffic should not be the leading reason for choosing a keyword phrase target.

Awareness Building Phrases

There are several obvious kinds of keyword phrases that are defined by goals.

You can create lists and order those keywords by their goals.

Examples Of Typical Keyword Goals:

  • Sales (aka the money phrases).
  • Sales funnel segments.
  • Awareness building.

That last one, awareness building, can be fairly important.

It could help a site rank for competitive keywords and major keyword phrases in addition to driving direct sales. (More on this strategy a little later. Keep reading!)

Once you match keywords to keyword goals, you can then develop content topics to address those goals that can become the building blocks of a content strategy.

The first two categories are directly sales and potential customers related; they solve a business problem directly.

The last category can be seen as grooming searchers to become customers and building recognition as a trusted site for solving problems with products, reviews, and other forms of content.

Money Phrases

The sales category focuses on what some in the SEO industry call “money phrases.”

Money phrases are so-called because they tend to convert at a higher rate.

These are keyword phrases with a commercial intent that are associated with a high level of sales (e.g., “cheap widgets” and “where to buy widgets”).

Money phrases are important (and competitive!) because they almost always result in a sale.

They are also important to ad-supported sites because the site visitor, being predisposed to making a purchase, is also more likely to click an advertisement and earn revenue for the web publisher.

Advertisements that are associated with money phrases usually have a higher cost per click, resulting in higher advertising earnings.

That’s why these keywords are called money phrases!

The Problem With Money Phrases

Money phrases are highly competitive and difficult to rank for. That’s a given.

A more important consideration that many are unaware of is that pay-per-click (PPC) ads will siphon off traffic from the organic search results, with the rest of the traffic distributed to the organic results.

Let’s examine how to deal with this issue.

Anatomy Of Money Phrases

Aside from the obvious phrases containing words like “buy” in them, there are an additional set of (long-tail) keyword phrases that indicate a user’s intent to make an immediate purchase.

I have categorized long-tail money phrases into five categories.

Each category represents a multiplicity of keyword phrases and their variants (singular and product name variants).

5 Money Phrase Keyword Categories

  1. Competitor comparison.
  2. Discount price searches.
  3. Product reviews and ratings.
  4. Coupon code searches.
  5. Searches for sales.

Money Phrase Keywords & Site Architecture

It’s possible to build a site around different money phrases, and to use them as the basis of creating different sections of a site.

But that’s kind of one-sided and might not build lasting repeat traffic, yet that’s an option, just not one that I am comfortable with.

For some merchants, it’s important to create content that discusses the different qualities of a product and to help a consumer choose the most suitable product.

But for now, it’s worth considering that many top-ranked sites, even ecommerce sites, are not built with a site architecture that revolves exclusively around money phrases.

Google Trends For A Comprehensive Set Of Keywords

Google Trends: Seasonal Fluctuations

A site that is comprehensive can generally weather the ups and downs of search-related cycles.

Google Trends is a good keyword research tool for identifying seasonal cycles for keywords.

It’s useful to research keywords on Google Trends to identify regular dips and rises in order to maintain steady traffic throughout the year.

Google Trends can also identify keywords that are losing appeal.

Google Trends: Regional And Changing Trends

Understanding changing trends, as well as regional patterns, will better help you to know when to roll out certain kinds of content, whether to abandon a keyword phrase and even to help identify the best regions to focus your link building on.

This is an important insight!

Google Trends comparison Taxi vs Uber vs. Yellow cabScreenshot from Google TrendsGoogle Trends comparison Taxi vs Uber vs. Yellow cab

In the example above, it is clear that the search phrase [Uber] is wildly popular compared to the generic phrase [taxi].

The trend line also shows that the phrase taxi is trending downward.

Comparing keywords with brand names is highly useful to confirm suspicions of why a keyword phrase may change, trending up or down.

For example, the keyword trends for [digital cameras] trended downward with the introduction of the iPhone.

Another example is a comparison of the trends between the phrases [radio station] and the brand name “Spotify.”

The phrase [radio station] is trending downward while the brand name “Spotify” is trending upward.

There is no direct correlation between the two trends; the trend does not mean that Spotify is eating into the demand for radio.

But it does point to a change in how people are consuming music.

Insight: When you see a traffic decline even though your rankings are unchanged, it can sometimes mean there is a change in consumer behavior tied to the introduction of a new product or service.

Google Trends: Compare Known Keywords

Google Trends only shows relative traffic levels. It does not show the exact number of queries.

However, if you have an idea of keyword volume for one keyword phrase, then you can compare that keyword phrase to a target phrase in order to get a close estimate of what the actual search volume is.

Google publishes a daily list of trending searches that contain a rounded-up search volume.

It’s possible to use that list with actual search volume attached to search queries to compare with keywords that you’re researching and get a pretty close estimate of what the search volume is.

Google Trends: Related Queries

Google Trends has a feature called Related Queries that can be useful for teasing out possible latent meanings within vague keywords.

As can be seen in the screenshot below, the related query for the keyword phrase [heart attack] is the keywords [heart attack keywords].

Related QueriesScreenshot from Google Trends, March 2022Related Queries

That’s pretty interesting how the top “related query” ([heart attack symptoms]) exactly matches the latent meaning for the keyword [heart attack], which is what we saw in Google’s search results.

Using the Google Trends tool like this could be helpful for understanding which keywords to choose in order to rank for high search volume keyword phrases, or to help you decide to devote your time to better keywords (because traffic is not everything).

The Related Queries feature offers two settings within the drop-down menu:

Select Top to see what queries are related, including what appears to be latent meanings within vague keyword phrases.

Google Trends Related Queries Dropdown MenuScreenshot from Google Trends, March 2022Google Trends Related Queries Dropdown Menu

Lastly, select the most relevant category of the topic from the top dropdown menu.

Google Trends Default CategoryScreenshot from Google Trends, March 2022Google Trends Default Category

Because we’re searching for medical information, choose the Health Category:

Google Trends Search CategoriesScreenshot from Google Trends, March 2022Google Trends Search Categories

Should You Worry About Latent Semantic Indexing Or LSI Keywords?

In a word, no.

Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) is a very old technology, developed nearly 20 years ago.

While LSI may be in use in some form, perhaps to identify stop words in a document, it’s a super old technology, and we are in the age of Natural Language Processing and AI in search.

Background reading about Latent Semantic Indexing:

Google’s John Mueller is on record saying that LSI is not something that any competent SEO should be thinking about.

According to John Mueller:

“First of all, we have no concept of LSI keywords. So that’s something you can completely ignore.

I think it’s interesting to look at LSI when you’re thinking about understanding information retrieval as a theoretical or computer science topic.

But as an SEO you probably don’t need to worry about that.”

Should You Use Keyword Synonyms?

With the advent of the Hummingbird update, Google started using strategies like keyword expansion in order to select the best answer to a search query from a broader selection of webpages.

Query expansion can use synonyms to expand the original search query.

The goal for query expansion is to identify more webpages that are relevant.

The goal is not to rank webpages that contain the keyword phrase and synonyms. That’s not how it works.

So, the answer really is no, adding synonyms is not a way to rank better and this can be verified by looking at the search results.

Third-Party Keyword Tools

All third-party keyword tools use a proprietary source of keyword data that is used to calculate an estimate of actual keyword search inventory.

So, it’s not an exact count of keyword inventory, it’s an estimate.

Nevertheless, the tools provide excellent opportunities for speeding up the keyword research process and that is a significant value to investigate to see how it fits into your process.

Keyword Research Is More Than Search Volume

In the old days, researching keywords used to be an easy process of identifying the phrases with the highest search volume. That’s no longer the case.

Today, it’s important to cross-check the search results, and go deep into understanding what a keyword phrase means for a user and what they’re trying to accomplish.

It’s also important to think in terms of topics.

In 2018, Google added what it calls a Topic Layer in order to understand topics and subtopics from all the content on the internet and identify content that is evergreen (relevant year after year).

These are the kinds of challenges the modern SEO faces today, to expand the research process beyond search volume in order to keep up with how search engines rank content today.

More Resources:


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

All in-post images created by author, March 2022

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8 Content Writing Tips From Experts In 2023

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8 Content Writing Tips From Experts In 2023

The digital market is volatile and ever-changing.

Everyone is competing for popular keywords, and artificial intelligence is changing content creation.

It can be a bit daunting, especially if you’re new to content writing.

So, how can you cut through the noise and write more effective content in 2023?

We’ve asked 17 industry professionals to share the wisdom they’ve learned over the years, their advice to those trying to find their way into content marketing, and their favorite tools for writing and optimization.

Julia McCoy, VP of Marketing at Content at Scale, would have told her younger self to realize the opportunity.

“It was hard to see it back then since I was at ground zero,” recalls McCoy.

“But the industry of content marketing itself had ballooned by billions of dollars since when I started. This would have given me more hope and excitement that what I did truly mattered to building not just income, but a legacy.”

Without further ado, here are their top tips:

1. Focus On Your Audience

Jamie Press, Digital Marketing Specialist At Eurisko

The best tip I can give a copywriter is to think “audience first.” This advice is straight from Brian Clark, founder of Copyblogger.

Sometimes, we go straight for the keyword tools when we’re brainstorming a piece of content; however, if we don’t know who we’re writing for, our copy won’t resonate with the reader.

Dialing into our target audience and their pain points (specific problems our audience needs solving) is the first step.


Carlijn Postma, Brand Strategist, Speaker, and Author of “Binge Marketing”

Carlijn Postma, Brand Strategist, Speaker, and Author of

One: Start bingeing.

Really? Yes. The first educational go-to database is your streaming service.

The best writers and content creators are the creators of films and series. They know how to attract and retain an audience by creating a compelling story.

And bring your notebook.

Two: Know the difference between a target group and an audience.

In content marketing, your goal is to communicate through text, video, or audio. Therefore, you need readers, viewers, and listeners. That is an audience.

There is a huge difference between a target group and an audience.

A target group is pointed out by you as the sender of the content (whether this target group likes it or not).

An audience decides for itself if it wants to be your audience. I prefer to reach and engage an audience over a target group.

Focusing on an audience will make you a better writer.

infographic about target group vs. audienceImage credit: Carlijn Postma, January 2023

Three: Always create content in series.

Now, if your goal is to attract and retain a loyal audience, you have to start creating content in series.

With only one episode, one piece of content, you just won’t be able to build an audience.

And if you are creating a series, learn from the masters: use cliffhangers at the end, and recaps at the start of an episode.

Ask yourself: “What does my audience need to know about what I wrote in previous episodes to understand this one?” This signals your audience to consume the other episodes, too.


Linda Pophal, Founder At Strategic Communications, LLC

Linda Pophal, Founder At Strategic Communications, LLC

Focus on your audience and their needs and interests – that’s all that really matters.

If you write for your audience and work to address the questions they might have, you will automatically create SEO-friendly content, because that’s what SEO is all about.

Even when my clients have specific SEO requirements, I first write the copy as I had always written it, long before SEO existed – to meet my audiences’ needs.

Then I’ll go back and “retrofit” the keywords that clients have requested; often, they’re already there and may just need to be tweaked or added to a bit.


2. Choose Quality Over Optimization

Steph Andrusjak, SEO Consultant

Steph Andrusjak, SEO Consultant

Always write with the user in mind, even when optimizing for search engines.

You can optimize an article by using keyword tools, like KeywordTool.io or AlsoAsked, to find what queries people are searching to help you mold your article – but don’t let the quest for optimization undo the quality of your writing.

If you’re writing content to sell something, then embrace copywriting formulas to create compelling statements.

If you’re writing articles of interest, then write in a way that the end user can relate to and explain the subject as fully as possible.

Most of all, write for your audience.

If your end users are teenagers, write in a style that will appeal to them without sacrificing the image you want to present.

If the website’s main customers are business owners, then opt for a more professional, formal tone.

Making sure your content is search engine optimized doesn’t necessarily mean you have to write thousands of words.

The key is that it needs to be as long as required for you to explain your point clearly and comprehensively. This means that content can be just as effective by writing concisely.


3. Build Out Your Content With Search Intent In Mind

Rudy Mawer, CEO At Mawer Capital

Rudy Mawer, CEO At Mawer Capital

When you are just beginning your career in SEO writing, don’t forget that you write for both Google and the people who use it.

Keep these two equally important audiences in mind to maximize visibility and reach.

Quality content is essential, and Google knows this. It is pushing your content out to the world through its platform.

The better content that Google provides its users, the more likely people will use Google when they have a question.

It is essential to understand the keywords you are writing for and be able to talk about them dynamically.

You want your writing to be engaging, informative, and relevant for the reader.


Adam Berry, SEO Consultant At Adam Berry SEO Adam Berry, SEO Consultant At Adam Berry SEO

I would definitely urge my former self to write for humans, not robots!

I’ve learned that it’s important to take the time to craft meaningful sentences that are interesting and engaging to readers.

This means writing with more details and facts to provide context, as well as aiming for greater semantic richness.

For example, instead of simply stating a fact or opinion, try elaborating on why it’s true, or how others may feel about it, to draw readers in.

By taking this approach, I found that readers were more likely to connect with my content and leave feeling enriched by the experience.


Joe Karasin, CMO At CircleIt And Head Of Growth Marketing At DigitalWill.com

Joe Karasin, CMO At CircleIt And Head Of Growth Marketing At DigitalWill.com

One: Don’t let the new focus on AI-driven content deter you.

AI content may get technical points and be produced more quickly, but creating compelling content is something that is still a human endeavor.

At the end of the day, the search intent of most users will favor the content that holds interest, which as of right now, AI hasn’t shown it can do.

Two: Balance is key.

You might be able to craft a beautiful story with your content, but if it isn’t written with SEO in mind, it won’t rank.

However, if you write a bunch of SEO-friendly content that is boring, no one will want to read it, and it won’t rank.

Being focused on the balance is the way you will gain readers and traction in your career.

Three: Write about what people want to read.

If you are writing content for a company, you want to look at the real-life applications of the company’s products and services.

By putting the customer or reader in the central piece of your narrative, you will get others to read it and identify with the “hero” of your story.

For example, if you have created a new technology, don’t just write a post about the features. Talk about the users and how the features you want to write about are improving their lives.


Sherry Bonelli, Owner Of Early Bird Digital Marketing

8 Content Writing Tips From Experts In 2023

If you are just starting in the writing industry, I first recommend following Ann Handley and getting a copy of her “Everybody Writes” book.

Ann is an amazing writer that gives you writing tips that you can use whether you’re tasked with writing blog posts, website content, email newsletters, social media posts, ads – or anything in between. Plus, she has a great sense of humor – so she’ll make you laugh as you learn to be a better writer!

Now, when I began my writing career, I was very lucky to have a solid SEO foundation under my belt.

But looking back, I focused too much on writing for individual keywords when I should’ve spent more time writing about the topics people were searching for.

As a writer, create content about the topics people are searching for and then do more extensive keyword research about the questions people ask about the topic (and subtopics) you’re writing about.

Make sure you answer those questions thoroughly in your content. That’s the way to make your readers – and Google – happy!


4. Consider Using AI Writing Tools, But Use Them Wisely

Julia McCoy, VP Of Marketing At Content At Scale

Julia McCoy, VP Of Marketing At Content At Scale

We live in a completely new era versus the one I started in.

Today, the baseline of human content production can be assisted, if not nearly replaced, by AI tools built on top of OpenAI’s game-changing GPT language releases to write and create content.

With GPT4 on the horizon and about to launch, human content production will shift forever into an AI-assisted one.

That said, if you’re considering a writing career, don’t think there’s no need for the human. There’s a huge need for your writing skills.

It will just look different than when I started – when it was solely human-based.

My tips for you: Learn how to incorporate AI writing tools into your process. Learn how to edit, cut the fluff, and make the content that AI produces better. Learn strategy.

These skills will put you in a place where you cannot be replaced by AI.


Cai Ellis, SEO Manager At ToolTester

Cai Ellis, SEO Manager At ToolTester 

Now is not the time to completely move over to AI writing tools.

Although Google hasn’t come out and said that AI content is bad, we know that it prefers content that’s written by people for people.

With that said, it wouldn’t hurt to learn how to optimize AI content so that it’s a skill you can call on as and when needed.

We will likely see this as something that’s specifically needed from marketers in no time.

You could have a trial run of ChatGPT at home, focusing on the creation of content that’s helpful and user-first using the tool’s text as a starting point.

Other than that, the number one lesson for any new writer would have to be not to put themselves under too much pressure.

It takes time to learn how to craft the types of content that will engage and persuade.

It’s advisable to keep writing as a side hustle until you’re confident of meeting and exceeding client expectations.


Shubham Bajaj, Founder And SEO Scientist At Netsurge Technologies

Shubham Bajaj, Founder And SEO Scientist At Netsurge Technologies

With the onset of various AI writing tools and ChatGPT, it’s important for content writers who are just getting started to be able to write in a way that differentiates them from machines.

Adding your personality and character to your write-up and telling engaging stories that can keep the reader hooked are important aspects.

It is also important to note that, while it’s good to be quirky and conversational, make sure you have an NLP-friendly section that defines or provides an exact answer for the query in a format that Google or other search engines can directly use to display as a snippet.

5. Practice Writing Regularly

Jason Hennessey, Founder And CEO At Hennessey Digital

8 Content Writing Tips From Experts In 2023

Read widely and often to develop your writing skills and understand the various styles and forms of writing.

Then write every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes, to improve your writing discipline and practice your craft.

Lastly, seek feedback on your writing from others, and be open to constructive criticism.


Alex Valencia, President At We Do Web Content

Alex Valencia

If I could give my past self a piece of advice, it’d be to brush up on grammar and style rules.

For style, there’s nothing better than reading works by your favorite authors. How do they describe everyday things and situations? How do they craft sentences? What about their storytelling that hooks you in?

Then, practice, practice, practice.


Sam Hollingsworth, SEO Director At Moving Traffic Media

8 Content Writing Tips From Experts In 2023

Write more often and be less scared.

Like so many other things, we get better at writing the more that we do it (and reading).

It allows us to learn new things, experiment with new processes, and expand our skills for everything from creativity to accuracy and even speed and efficiency.


Dvir Ben-Aroya, Co-Founder And CEO At Spike

8 Content Writing Tips From Experts In 2023

For those just getting started in their writing careers, reading widely can help you develop a strong writing style.

By reading various authors and genres, you can learn about different writing techniques and styles and find inspiration for your own writing.

Practicing regularly is also important, as it allows you to improve your skills and become more proficient in your craft.

Networking with other writers can also be beneficial, as it can help you learn about the industry, find potential collaborators or mentors, and stay informed about new opportunities.

And it’s also important to be open to constructive criticism because it helps improve your writing.


Rudy Mawer, CEO At Mawer Capital

Rudy Mawer, CEO At Mawer Capital

If I could go back to the beginning of my writing career, I would tell myself that I need to spend more time reading and practicing different types of writing.

Even if you only write one specific style of writing, practicing different styles and formats of writing will strengthen your primary style by association.

It is a great mental exercise to sharpen and use the other “tools” in your writing toolbox.

For example, if you only write B2B long-form keyword-rich blog content, practicing creative writing every so often might be useful.

By doing so, you can combat writer’s block, gain additional perspectives, and have more engaging and dynamic content.


6. Find Your Rhythm And Style That Sparks Joy

Alex Valencia, President At We Do Web Content

Alex Valencia

When starting a career as a writer, it’s critical to uncover the type of writing that brings you joy.

The topics you cover should excite you, and crafting pieces should feel like a privilege.

It shows in your work when you have passion for the things you’re writing about. The energy is relaxed and confident.


Jason Hennessey, Founder And CEO At Hennessey Digital

Jason Hennessey

Focus on developing your own unique voice and style.

Writing is a highly personal and subjective endeavor, and it’s important to find your own way of expressing yourself and telling stories.

This will set your work apart and make it more likely to resonate with readers.


Sam Hollingsworth, SEO Director At Moving Traffic Media

Sam Hollingsworth

Never forget that writing is (seemingly) one of the most basic ways for humans to communicate.

Of course, like most everything in life, there are good and bad examples of it.

Be mindful of the foundational guidelines we’ve been told most of our lives but also do not lose out on creativity to do so.

I often think back to something one of my favorite journalism professors taught me (and of which he claimed one of his favorite professors taught him as a budding journalist): “Write like jazz.”

It should have rhythm, but also irregularities and improvisation that allow it to stand out. It should be enjoyable and digested with ease.


7. Learn To Overcome Setbacks And Imposter Syndrome

Kaitie Frank, Digital Marketing Copywriter At Page One Power

Kaitie Frank

Imposter syndrome is real. Kick it out the door and have confidence in your writing!

Read examples of great work, then put your spin on it.

Also, triple edit:

  • Edit on-screen.
  • Print it out and edit.
  • Have another set of eyes look at it.

Don’t let people bully you into submission. I spent too much time at a job where I was told I wasn’t good enough, and that made me lose confidence in my writing.

Instead, find a place where mentors help you grow and develop your skills, not knock you down because you don’t write exactly like them.


Dvir Ben-Aroya, Co-Founder And CEO At Spike

Dvir Ben-Aroya

If I could go back to the beginning of my writing career, I would advise myself to be more persistent.

Writing is a challenging and competitive field, and it can take a lot of time and effort to succeed.

It’s important not to give up too easily and to keep working towards your goals, even when faced with rejection or setbacks.


8. Grow Your Network And Portfolio

Monika Nozinic, Copywriter at Async Labs

8 Content Writing Tips From Experts In 2023

My advice to those who are just getting started in their writing careers would be:

  • Read and study as much as you can. Look at the work of famous copywriters and see what you can learn from them.
  • Write every day to develop your skills and build a writing routine. The more you write, the better you’ll get at it.
  • Get feedback. Show your work to other people and see what they think.
  • Learn SEO. Understanding SEO will help you to write copy that ranks well in search engines.
  • Network with other writers and industry professionals.
  • Know your audience. Understand who you’re writing for and what they need.
  • Be adaptable. Copywriting constantly evolves, so be prepared to learn new things and adapt to new trends.
  • Practice makes perfect. Keep practicing and experimenting until you find your voice and style.
  • Learn about the industry you’re writing for. This way, you’ll be able to understand their language and speak to their pain points and goals.
  • Be passionate. Copywriting is a creative field, so bring your passion for working, and it will shine through in your writing.

The advice I would now give myself at the start of my career would be to connect with other copywriters and content creators. Ask them to be my mentor for a week or two.

Also, I would tell myself to develop thicker skin and persistence, as rejection and criticism are a normal part of the writing process, which I learned, sometimes the hard way, along the way.


Adam Berry, SEO Consultant At Adam Berry SEO

Adam Berry, SEO Consultant At Adam Berry SEO

Take time to build your portfolio.

You’ll want to start collecting samples of your work as soon as possible; these will be invaluable when applying for jobs or searching for opportunities.

Make sure each piece is polished and showcases your best writing ability.


Experts’ Favorite Tools For Content Writing And Optimization

Grammarly And Hemmingway

Alex Valencia’s top writing tool is Grammarly, and he says that “every professional should use it (#notanad).”

“It’s taught me a lot about my writing style and how to improve it. For keyword research, I use Semrush,” Valencia shares.

Shubham Bajaj suggests Grammarly and Hemingway “for avoiding grammatical errors and ensuring that your content is structured properly, especially when starting and you have a low to zero budget to spend on tools.”

“Once you have some budget to spend, consider subscribing to advanced tools like ProWritingAid,” Bajaj recommends.

Surfer SEO

“When it comes to writing tools, there are oodles of SEO tools out there that have content tools built in. (Some are definitely better than others.) One of my favorite tools for optimizing content is Surfer SEO,” says Sherry Bonelli.

“Surfer SEO takes the keyword you’re trying to optimize your content for and analyzes your content against the top-ranking webpages.

Then it shows All words and Natural Language Process (NLP) words so you can see if you’re overusing some words – or not using words that you perhaps should use. (Like maybe you didn’t even think about including a word or topic in what you were writing!)

Surfer SEO can really take your writing optimization to the next level. I’d highly recommend you play around with it.”

8 Content Writing Tips From Experts In 2023Screenshot from Surfer SEO, modified by author, January 2023

“Don’t be afraid to use tools to your advantage,” advises Rudy Mawer.

“You are writing search engine-centric content; the internet has many resources and tools to help make your job easier and your writing more effective.”

Mawer loves using Surfer SEO as well. “Its content editor gives you a real-time score of your content’s strength for the keyword you are trying to rank for, NLP keyword suggestions, and a competitor analysis.”

Yoast SEO

Dvir Ben-Aroya’s favorite tools for content writing and optimization include Grammarly, Hemingway, Yoast SEO, and Google Analytics.

“Grammarly and Hemingway are writing tools that can help you improve your grammar, style, and readability.

Yoast SEO is a plugin that can help you optimize your content for search engines, and Google Analytics is a tool that allows you to track the performance of your content, including pageviews, bounce rate, and conversion rate.

These tools are very helpful in making your content more effective and engaging for your target audience,” explains Ben-Aroya.

Content At Scale

Julia McCoy saves up to seven hours per piece by using Content at Scale, “a long-form AI content writer that does everything for you – even SEO research and optimization.”

“It’s utterly insane to realize we’re here in an era where AI can replace hours and hours of grunt work at a fraction of the cost,” McCoy notes.

She also loves KWFinder for easy, simple, enjoyable keyword research and enjoys having ChatGPT for writing email outlines, topic ideas, and lists.

Otter.ai

Linda Pophal does a lot of interviews with subject matter experts and sources, and Otter.ai helps her accomplish the task.

“Otter.ai is great for recording and transcribing these interviews automatically so I can focus on what the sources are saying without worrying about missing anything,” says Pophal.

“I also like Grammarly, Hemingway App, and AP Styleguide online, and have begun experimenting a bit with ChatGPT, not to actually write my content but to help with outlining and getting a head start in fleshing out ideas,” she adds.

Reddit

Cai Ellis finds Answerthepublic and Reddit great for content inspiration.

“If you’re writing on a niche topic, diving into that Subreddit is the best way to get authentic and unique insight quickly,” Ellis recommends.

Joe Karasin also uses Reddit and Quora for topic research and to learn what people are talking about surrounding your topics.

“There are probably questions your audience has that you haven’t even considered. Write about those topics, and you’ll experience success,” Karasin advises.

Google Search And Suite

Jamie Press goes for a simple Google Doc for writing and collaborating with colleagues and clients.

Kaitie Frank uses good ol’ Google for research and optimization.

She believes that the “SERPs (search engine results pages) will tell you all you need to know about which headers to use and which information to include.”

Sam Hollingsworth shares a similar outlook.

“Like many old-school journalists, I don’t rely too heavily on many tools to help me optimize content or even come up with ideas to write about, but it’s nice to have them when needed.

It’s amazing how much direction and ideas we can get from free resources like Google Keyword Planner, as well as traditional Google Search.”

“For help optimizing content, MarketMuse and Frase are great tools to have available in your efforts,” Hollingsworth adds.

Editor’s note: All interviews have been lightly edited for clarity, brevity, and adherence to our Editorial Guidelines. The views expressed by the interviewees in this column are theirs alone and do not necessarily represent the view of Search Engine Journal.

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Sustaining A SaaS Brand & Organic Channel During A Recession

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Sustaining A SaaS Brand & Organic Channel During A Recession

During an economic recession, marketing budgets and ROAS typically comes under much more scrutiny.

You should read this article for reasons you should not cut your SEO spending during a recession.

The next question will be about ROI and what you can do to mitigate the oncoming issues.

During an economic downturn, the objectives of reducing churn are amplified. Your sales pipelines may see less activity, and the C-suite may focus more on MRR (monthly recurring revenue) and ARR (annual recurring revenue).

In this article, I will look at subscription-model-based businesses and some methods and strategies that can pivot their SEO efforts toward maintaining performance and SEO ROI (return on investment).

Understanding Why Accounts Cancel

Customers cancel their subscriptions for myriad reasons, but during an economic downturn, reasons tend to gravitate toward costs and perceived value.

Other reasons include not receiving enough value from the subscription, difficulty canceling their subscription, or feeling that customer support is unresponsive or unhelpful.

You can identify these issues before customers provide feedback on an exit survey. Create opportunities for conversations and feedback loops with the sales and customer service teams. This lets customers address concerns before they cancel.

Targeting Disengagement & Value Shortfalls

To show this value, we can pivot our content and messaging to demonstrate opportunity costs and how the upfront cost prevents a more significant shortfall in the long run.

Encountering usage friction with the software is an identifiable problem.

Within the organization, teams should be able to provide you access to DAU (daily active user) and MAU (monthly active user) data.

Companies often boast about having high numbers of each, but the data can also be used to identify accounts with below-average or spare login frequency, and these can then be collated and reached out to.

  • Put accounts on low and mid-tier subscriptions into an email gauntlet and reach out. Offer a consultation with an accounts person. You could also ask them to fill out a feedback form to identify pain points to help build a content strategy.
  • Reach out to accounts on high-tier subscriptions with existing account managers.

Addressing customer issues could be as simple as rewording elements of commercial product pages, adding additional sections, or reinforcing the value proposition with case studies.

You can also address these issues with traditional blog content. Add more support articles to your support center and build out existing ones with media such as video to address common friction points.

Developing Content Against Competitor Value Pitfalls

Price is likely the most challenging reason for leaving to predict and manage. Price is informed and dictated by other business needs and costs. While it might make sense to offer deals to high-value accounts, reducing the price on a wide scale likely isn’t an option.

Price and cost are subjective to the value your solution provides. So Demonstrating your benefits can help customers justify the expenditure.

Any solution’s cost must, at minimum, balance out the problem or provide additional value.

This is known as a cost-benefit analysis. A vital part of a cost-benefit analysis is comparing the costs of the solution versus the benefits and determining a net present value.

During this assessment, your messaging can leverage and demonstrate additional benefits, or benefit enhancements, against your competitors.

In SaaS, you could break this down as comparisons between both product elements and overall “package” elements:

  • Direct product features and performance of those features.
  • Indirect product features and “add ons” that supplement the core product.
  • The bandwidth of the solution on a monthly or annual basis.
  • The number of user seats/sub-accounts per main account.
  • Speed of customer support response (and level of customer support).

A typical approach to highlighting competitor pitfalls is with comparison tables and our-brand-v-competitor-brand URLs and blogs.

These pages will then compete with your competitors’ versions and independent websites, affiliates, and other reviews for clicks and to sway consumer opinion.

You must also explain these benefits and competitive advantages on the product pages themselves.

Bullet listing the product features is commonplace. But make sure the benefits are explained directly against your competitors. This can help these competitive advantages better resonate with your target audience.

Reinforcing Brand Solution Compounds

A brand compound search term is a term made up of two or more words and refers to a specific brand.

For example, the brand compound search term “Decathlon waterproofs” would highlight users wanting to find waterproofs specifically from the brand Decathlon.

Users performing searches like this also reaffirms the connection between topics and brands, helping Google further understand relationships and relevancy.

To optimize brand compound search terms, you need to understand the concept of semantic marketing. This means knowing how different words, phrases, and ideas relate in terms of meaning.

You should research how your target audience searches for information related to your product or service and use those search terms in your content.

Another strategy you can use is to add modifiers to your search terms.

These can be words like “best,” “how,” or any other qualifier that will make the search more specific. This will help you get more targeted traffic that will likely convert better than generic search terms.

Summary

While these are uncertain times and competition for users and recurring revenue becoming more fierce, pivoting your SEO and content strategy to focus on value propositions and addressing consumer friction points can help better qualify leads and provide objection questions that consumers will take to competitors.

In this strategy, the keyword search volumes and other values might not be high. When you’re addressing user friction points and concerns, the value is qualitative, not quantitative.

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Where Are The Advertisers Leaving Twitter Going For The Super Bowl?

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Where Are The Advertisers Leaving Twitter Going For The Super Bowl?

Since Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter last October 27, 2022, things at the social media company have gone from bad to worse.

You probably saw this coming from a mile away – especially if you had read about a study by Media Matters that was published on November 22, 2022, entitled, “In less than a month, Elon Musk has driven away half of Twitter’s top 100 advertisers.”

If you missed that, then you’ve probably read Matt G. Southern’s article in Search Engine Journal, which was entitled, “Twitter’s Revenue Down 40% As 500 Top Advertisers Pull Out.”

This mass exodus creates a challenge for digital advertising executives and their agencies. Where should they go long term?

And what should they do in the short term – with Super Bowl LVII coming up on Sunday, February 12, 2023?

Ideally, these advertisers would follow their audience. If they knew where Twitter users were going, their ad budgets could follow them.

But it isn’t clear where Twitter users are going – or if they’ve even left yet.

Fake Followers On Twitter And Brand Safety

According to the latest data from Similarweb, a digital intelligence platform, there were 6.9 billion monthly visits to Twitter worldwide during December 2022 – up slightly from 6.8 billion in November, and down slightly from 7.0 billion in October.

So, if a high-profile user like Boston Mayor Michelle Wu has taken a step back from the frequent posts on her Twitter account, @wutrain, which has more than 152,000 followers, then it appears that other users have stepped up their monthly visits.

This includes several accounts that had been banned previously for spreading disinformation, which Musk unbanned.

(Disinformation is defined as “deliberately misleading or biased information,” while misinformation may be spread without the sender having harmful intentions.)

It’s also worth noting that SparkToro, which provides audience research software, also has a free tool called Fake Follower Audit, which analyzes Twitter accounts.

This tool defines “fake followers” as ones that are unreachable and will not see the account’s tweets either because they’re spam, bots, and propaganda, or because they’re no longer active on Twitter.

On Jan. 24, 2023, I used this tool and found that 70.2% of the 126.5 million followers of the @elonmusk account were fake.

According to the tool, accounts with a similar-sized following to @elonmusk have a median of 41% fake followers. So, Elon Musk’s account has more fake followers than most.

Screenshot from SparkToro, January 2023

By comparison, 20.6% of the followers of the @wutreain account were fake. So, Michelle Wu’s account has fewer fake followers than accounts with a similar-sized following.

Sparktoro results for fake followersScreenshot from SparkToro, January 2023

In fact, most Twitter accounts have significant numbers of fake followers.

This underlines the brand safety concerns that many advertisers and media buyers have, but it doesn’t give them any guidance on where they should move their ad dollars.

Who Are Twitter’s Top Competitors And What Are Their Monthly Visits?

So, I asked Similarweb if they had more data that might help. And they sent me the monthly visits from desktop and mobile devices worldwide for Twitter and its top competitors:

  • YouTube.com: 34.6 billion in December 2022, down 2.8% from 35.6 billion in December 2021.
  • Facebook.com: 18.1 billion in December 2022, down 14.2% from 21.1 billion in December 2021.
  • Twitter.com: 6.9 billion in December 2022, up 1.5% from 6.8 billion in December 2021.
  • Instagram.com: 6.3 billion in December 2022, down 3.1% from 6.5 billion in December 2021.
  • TikTok.com: 1.9 billion in December 2022, up 26.7% from 1.5 billion in December 2021.
  • Reddit.com: 1.8 billion in December 2022, down 5.3% from 1.9 billion in December 2021.
  • LinkedIn.com: 1.5 billion in December 2022, up 7.1% from 1.4 billion in December 2021.
  • Pinterest.com: 1.0 billion in December 2022, up 11.1% from 0.9 billion in December 2021.

The most significant trends worth noting are monthly visits to TikTok are up 26.7% year over year from a smaller base, while monthly visits to Facebook are down 14.2% from a bigger base.

So, the short-term events at Twitter over the past 90 days may have taken the spotlight off the long-term trends at TikTok and Facebook over the past year for some industry observers.

But based on Southern’s article in Search Engine Journal, “Facebook Shifts Focus To Short-Form Video After Stock Plunge,” which was published on February 6, 2022, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is focused on these trends.

In a call with investors, Zuckerberg said back then:

“People have a lot of choices for how they want to spend their time, and apps like TikTok are growing very quickly. And this is why our focus on Reels is so important over the long term.”

Meanwhile, there were 91% more monthly visits to YouTube in December 2022 than there were to Facebook. And that only counts the visits that Similarweb tracks from mobile and desktop devices.

Similarweb doesn’t track visits from connected TVs (CTVs).

Measuring Data From Connected TVs (CTVs) And Co-Viewing

Why would I wish to draw your attention to CTVs?

First, global viewers watched a daily average of over 700 million hours of YouTube content on TV devices, according to YouTube internal data from January 2022.

And Insider Intelligence reported in 2022 that 36.4% of the U.S. share of average time spent per day with YouTube came from connected devices, including Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Roku, and Xfinity Flex, while 49.3% came from mobile devices, and 14.3% came from desktops or laptops.

Second, when people watch YouTube on a connected TV, they often watch it together with their friends, family, and colleagues – just like they did at Super Bowl parties before the pandemic.

There’s even a term for this behavior: Co-viewing.

And advertisers can now measure their total YouTube CTV audience using real-time and census-level surveys in over 100 countries and 70 languages.

This means Heineken and Marvel Studios can measure the co-viewing of their Super Bowl ad in more than 100 markets around the globe where Heineken 0.0 non-alcoholic beer is sold, and/or 26 countries where “Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania” is scheduled to be released three to five days after the Big Game.

It also enables Apple Music to measure the co-viewing of their Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show during Big Game parties worldwide (except Mainland China, Iran, North Korea, and Turkmenistan, where access to YouTube is currently blocked).

And, if FanDuel has already migrated to Google Analytics 4 (GA4), then the innovative sports-tech entertainment company can not only measure the co-viewing of their Big Game teasers on YouTube AdBlitz in 16 states where sports betting is legal, but also measure engaged-view conversions (EVCs) from YouTube within 3 days of viewing Rob Gronkowski’s attempt to kick a live field goal.

 

Advertisers couldn’t do that in 2022. But they could in a couple of weeks.

If advertisers want to follow their audience, then they should be moving some of their ad budgets out of Facebook, testing new tactics, and experimenting with new initiatives on YouTube in 2023.

Where should the advertisers leaving Twitter shift their budgets long term? And how will that change their Super Bowl strategies in the short term?

According to Similarweb, monthly visits to ads.twitter.com, the platform’s ad-buying portal dropped 15% worldwide from 2.5 million in December 2021 to 2.1 million in December 2022.

So, advertisers were heading for the exit weeks before they learned that 500 top advertisers had left the platform.

Where Did Their Ad Budgets Go?

Well, it’s hard to track YouTube advertising, which is buried in Google’s sprawling ad business.

And we can’t use business.facebook.com as a proxy for interest in advertising on that platform because it’s used by businesses for other purposes, such as managing organic content on their Facebook pages.

But monthly visits to ads.snapchat.com, that platform’s ad-buying portal, jumped 88.3% from 1.6 million in December 2021 to 3.0 million in December 2022.

Monthly visits to ads.tiktok.com are up 36.6% from 5.1 million in December 2021 to 7.0 million in December 2022.

Monthly visits to ads.pinterest.com are up 23.3% from 1.1 million in December 2021 to 1.4 million in December 2022.

And monthly visits to business.linkedin.com are up 14.6% from 5.7 million in December 2021 to 6.5 million in December 2022.

It appears that lots of advertisers are hedging their bets by spreading their money around.

Now, most of them should probably continue to move their ad budgets into Snapchat, TikTok, Pinterest, and LinkedIn – unless the “Chief Twit” can find a way to keep his microblogging service from becoming “a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!

How will advertisers leaving Twitter change their Super Bowl plan this year?

To double-check my analysis, I interviewed Joaquim Salguerio, who is the Paid Media Director at LINK Agency. He’s managed media budgets of over eight figures at multiple advertising agencies.

Below are my questions and his answers.

Greg Jarboe: “Which brands feel that Twitter has broken their trust since Musk bought the platform?”

Joaquim Salguerio: “I would say that several brands will have different reasonings for this break of trust.

First, if you’re an automaker, there’s suddenly a very tight relationship between Twitter and one of your competitors.

Second, advertisers that are quite averse to taking risks with their communications because of brand safety concerns might feel that they still need to be addressed.

Most of all, in a year where we’re seeing mass layoffs from several corporations, the Twitter troubles have given marketing teams a reason to re-evaluate its effectiveness during a time of budget cuts. That would be a more important factor than trust for most brands.

Obviously, there are some famous cases, such as the Lou Paskalis case, but it’s difficult to pinpoint a brand list that would have trust as their only concern.”

GJ: “Do you think it will be hard for Twitter to regain their trust before this year’s Super Bowl?”

JS: “It’s highly unlikely that any brand that has lost trust in Twitter will change its mind in the near future, and definitely not in time for the Super Bowl. Most marketing plans for the event will be finalized by now and recent communications by Twitter leadership haven’t signaled any change in direction.

If anything, from industry comments within my own network, I can say that comments from Musk recently (“Ads are too frequent on Twitter and too big. Taking steps to address both in coming weeks.”) were quite badly received. For any marketers that believe Twitter advertising isn’t sufficiently effective, this pushes them further away.

Brand communications should still occur on Twitter during Super Bowl though – it will have a peak in usage. And advertising verticals that should dominate the advertising space on Twitter are not the ones crossing the platform from their plans.”

GJ: “How do you think advertisers will change their Super Bowl plans around Twitter this year?”

JS: “The main change for advertising plans will likely be for brand comms amplification. As an example, the betting industry will likely be heavily present on Twitter during the game and I would expect little to no change in plans.”

In the FCMG category, though, time sensitivity won’t be as important, which means that social media teams will likely be making an attempt at virality without relying as much on paid dollars.

If budgets are to diverge, they will likely be moved within the social space and toward platforms that will have user discussion/engagement from the Super Bowl (TikTok, Reddit, etc.)”

GJ: “What trends will we see in advertising budget allocation for this year’s Super Bowl?”

Joaquim Salguerio: “We should see budget planning much in line with previous years in all honesty. TV is still the most important media channel on Super Bowl day.

Digital spend will likely go towards social platforms, we predict a growth in TikTok and Reddit advertising around the big day for most brands.

Twitter should still have a strong advertising budget allocated to the platform by the verticals aiming to get actions from users during the game (food delivery/betting/etc.).”

GJ: “Which platforms will benefit from this shift?”

JS: “Likely, we will see TikTok as the biggest winner from a shift in advertising dollars, as the growth numbers are making it harder to ignore the platform as a placement that needs to be in the plan.

Reddit can also capture some of this budget as it has the right characteristics marketers are looking for around the Super Bowl – it’s relevant to what’s happening at the moment and similar demographics.”

GJ: “Do you think advertisers that step away from Twitter for this year’s Big Game will stay away long term?”

JS: “That is impossible to know, as it’s completely dependent on how the platform evolves and the advertising solutions it will provide. Twitter’s proposition was always centered around brand marketing (their performance offering was always known to be sub-par).

Unless brand safety concerns are addressed by brands that decided to step away, it’s hard to foresee a change.

I would say that overall, Super Bowl ad spend on Twitter should not be as affected as it’s been portrayed – it makes sense to reach audiences where audiences are.

Especially if you know the mindset. The bigger issue is what happens when there isn’t a Super Bowl or a World Cup.”

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