When you’re thirsty, do you order a soda or ask for a Coke? If you have a cold, do you ask for a tissue or a Kleenex? Sometimes a product gets so popular that the brand name becomes synonymous with whatever it’s selling. This is brand awareness in action.
Brand awareness can seem like a vague force that’s hard to measure. But just because it’s trickier to track than a sale or a conversion doesn’t mean spreading awareness is without value. Building your brand through top-of-funnel content establishes a connection with a new audience. It can even change the way the existing audience perceives you.
Without that awareness foundation, it’s harder to achieve other goals down the marketing funnel. Why would someone buy something from you if they have no idea who you are?
At Contently, we wanted to get a better understanding of the biggest brand awareness challenges, so we turned to our own customers to find out more. When we set down to review the data, the same few challenges popped up over and over. Here’s how you can address them before they hurt your marketing efforts.
1. When your content ranks low on search
When you give SEO proper attention, you’ll see the effects on all of your content, old and new. Marketers trip up, however, when they plan branding and SEO efforts separately. By integrating the two, you effectively use organic traffic to increase brand reach.
The first step is identifying which keywords are right for your brand and realistically attainable. If you rank high for the wrong keywords or aim for keywords out of your reach, you’ll just continue to struggle.
Google Keyword Tool is a great (free!) tool that generates a list of keyword suggestions based on what users are searching. Simply click on “Search for a new keyword” and enter the main topics that you’re looking to cover. Once you have a target keyword list nailed down, you’re ready to take further steps and seed those keywords into your content.
We also have a content audit tool that provides recommendations for infusing the right SEO strategy into your content program. While many content marketers fall victim to keyword stuffing, we prefer to only use target keywords when they’re relevant—search engine “spiders” like to rank sites with content that sees consistent engagement. This verifies keyword relevancy. Auditing your existing library of content to identify high and low traffic keywords will help guide your keyword strategy.
When it comes to implementation, optimizing your website with technical SEO can help search engines access, crawl, interpret and index your website without any problems. By getting your front-end code in the right state, you’re effectively inviting Google to come in and look around to see what it likes.
Diagnosing and treating your site health can boost your brand’s reach with each small step. Optimizing title tag and meta description length is an easy fix—the earlier you can use a keyword in the title tag, the better, for example. Once you make those fixes, you’ll see your content start to climb up the rankings. And higher rankings will mean better reach.
2. When you have trouble getting the word out
It’s not enough to create great content—it has to be seen. Getting your content in front of the right people is important at any stage of your content program, but it’s especially important in the early days. That new infographic you created could be rich in information and beautifully designed, but you won’t see high ROI if no one knows where to find it.
To reach your audience on the right platforms, you have to understand their media habits. Blog posts and video, for example, are usually good fits for Facebook and Twitter because they tend to be quick and shareable. Guides and webinars, on the other hand, are better suited for LinkedIn’s audience of curious professionals.
When you analyze the interplay between these channels, it’s crucial to map them to different parts of the marketing funnel. The way you distribute content and connect with your audience should evolve down the funnel. If you choose the most opportune ways to distribute your content, then you’ll compel your audience to take the right action at the right time.
For Cardinal Health (a Contently customer), paid distribution has been incredibly helpful for learning more about what resonates. A/B testing across various channels with different formats is one reason why the company hit its primary awareness goals. Starting with a mix of social channels and content discovery platforms, such as Outbrain, Cardinal Health zeroed in on Facebook and LinkedIn as the top performing primary channels for their paid program.
3. When you aren’t reaching the right audience
Metrics like social shares get overlooked, but they can serve as a proxy for understanding audience preferences. They speak to how the audience engages with different content types. If your content under performs, it may be an indicator that you’re not getting it in front of the right people.
As a strategist, I use a suite of SEO and social listening tools to first define who you should be talking to and then evaluate that audience’s engagement through a combination of metrics. We use social shares, number of keywords, backlinks, and more.
Let’s say, for example, that infographics receive the most social shares from your audience, while long form articles get the lowest share. This data is an important indicator that your audience has an appetite for visual content that’s easy to digest. In this case, I’d recommend adjusting your strategy to prioritize more multimedia and short form content. It’s your responsibility to give the audience what they want.
Reaching a target audience can become extra challenging when you have regional and language considerations. For one international finance company, segmenting content in different global markets posed an additional obstacle. A good first step is finding what you can re-purpose. Look for similarities across your audience segments. What unites them? What makes them unique? This will help you identify the potential content pieces for transcreation.
4. When your brand isn’t perceived correctly
If you polled 100 prospects, how many would be aware of your brand? Remember that number. Now, how many of those people have an accurate idea of what your brand offers? Did your number change?
For one major electronics company, this discrepancy was a major obstacle. The marketing leaders noted, “we’re struggling to reach the right people at scale and to educate them, but it’s hard to make a real impact at scale [and] change their perception of the company.”
Although it may seem like a massive branding problem, there’s a content-driven solution for adjusting perception. Our strategy team measures tone to set a benchmark for the way the public feels about certain topics . Is your audience looking for more emotionally charged language and opinions? Do they want to read about topics that make them feel conscientious?
By going through this process, you can shifting that perception by adjusting your tone and/or the topics you choose to cover.
5. When you have low share of voice
Imagine someone hands megaphones to you and your competitors. These megaphones are fairly uniform, except each one has a volume setting that’s a bit higher than the next. You turn on your megaphone and begin to speak, but no matter how hard you try, the person next to you is so loud that it drowns out your voice. Annoying, right?
With so much great content out there, it’s important to track how you stack up against your competitors. You do this by monitoring your market share.
To get an idea of where you stand for organic reach, measure the total number of keywords you care about as well as the traffic being driven from those keywords.
The bad news is, moving the needle on market share doesn’t happen overnight. You’ll need to have a strong understanding of what your audience is hungry for, and you’ll have to identify opportunities to own corners of the market by developing a unique perspective. A good starting point is to do some quantitative research by visiting your competitor’s content hubs. Educate yourself on their mission statements and identify opportunities for future angles and topics.
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