[This is part three in a five-part series charting Outspoken Media's operational development process.]
It was only around 10:00 a.m. when Shem set the jar full of Twizzler nibs, M&Ms, and pistachios on a chair in the center of the room. For me, it’s never too early for sweets. So as he explained the next activity, I fixated on acquiring the contents of the jar.
“Take some time to describe what you see. Avoid naming the objects. Just jot down thoughts or words to describe it. Feel free to walk around, pick it up, and examine it.”
I, the queen of long-tail keywords, was going to win this one. I started at the 2,000 foot view. A glass object holding several small objects. A glass vessel containing red, green, brown, orange, and yellow edible objects. A small transparent container housing high-calorie, high-energy foods. My list went on and on like that until I had a list of twenty or so descriptive phrases that I believed captured the essence of this jar without explicitly stating the names of the items.
After about ten minutes, we regrouped and went around sharing our lists. I expected my teammates to have a similar list of phrases, but instead I heard one-word descriptors such as “tasty,” “crunchy,” “sweet,” and “delicious.” They described events and memories associated with snack food. Someone mentioned their dad. This activity had gone to a weird place for me.
The truth is, I tend to look at the world through this lens all day. The way these snacks might make me feel, memories associated with eating trail mix, the joyful mixture of colors and textures—all that was irrelevant. My descriptions of the jar are very much how I choose to view the world. Just the facts, please. Leave the fluff at the door.
And the winner? There was no competition. Everyone was welcome to take snacks from the jar after the activity was over. But that’s just me. I see a target. Ready, fire, aim.
But the world is not full of people like me. And in order to succeed at my job, I need to take into account the different ways people describe and view simple, everyday objects and events. I learned that, before I make assumptions about a goal, I need to slow down, plan, and execute.
But I’m not the only one guilty of getting sucked into my world view. How many of us have clients who go for highly-competitive head terms without assessing the impact of those keywords on revenue? Who among us isn’t guilty of making assumptions about the way our customers search for our products and services without due diligence? We’re not just missing out on great opportunities for exposure; we’re leaving money on the table. Going after the right keywords with a solid plan takes time and effort, but can lead to increased revenue and opportunities to build customer trust.
Don’t know where to start? Here’s what I learned from the simple exercise of describing objects in a jar:
Don’t Discount Emotions
I never would have associated a jar of snacks with memories, but that is a legitimate way of viewing the same object. When we try to think of the ways our audience views our product or service, we can use the same principle to cast a focused keyword net. Are you only optimizing for “wedding centerpieces,” or do you have content that supports “simple centerpieces for wedding receptions”? Instinctively, which keyword sounds more purchase-focused?
A whole resource section could be built around identifying these personae and finding the emotional or personality-based keywords that align with their search behavior. Become a resource for brides looking for minimalistic weddings. Feature do-it-yourself guides. Become an integral part of the wedding planning process through an opt-in, money saving tip-of-the-day e-mail. Once you understand the emotional characteristics of the persona you’re targeting, you can create more focused content around low-volume, high-converting keywords, and build customer trust.
Clarify Goals from the Start
Interest and inquiries from the C-level can prompt marketers to act and react in illogical ways. When your CEO asks why your company isn’t ranking for “widgets,” don’t go into keyword-stuffing overdrive. Take the opportunity to clarify and align your efforts with overarching corporate goals. The objective may be to promote a specific service segment and increase revenue to the department, not rank for the short-tail descriptor.
Emily has already given us a great resource to help us understand how to fold SEO into your marketing mix. Ensure that your optimization efforts align with other marketing efforts at your organization to deliver a consistent message and brand presence. When your boss corners you about highly competitive head terms, tie all other aspects of the corporate marketing plan back to your efforts.
Sometimes it takes the simplest of activities to help us identify our weaknesses and assumptions. For me, it was describing snacks in a jar. Or as I’d prefer to say, small edible objects in a transparent vessel.