One of the least talked about, yet most critical, components of digital marketing is the lead generation. To be fair, it’s also one of the hardest things to do with any consistency. Effectively generating web leads requires a perfect mix of relevant web traffic and website optimization to flow visitors to your website and into your sales funnel.
To create this potent chemistry you need to think a little differently. Here are a few of my core philosophies on lead generation.
Looking for People, Not Traffic
Generating sales is about inspiring people to buy your products or service. This is makes people the necessary focal point of any lead generation strategy. This is also why it is important not to lose sight of the fact that we’re looking for people, not faceless web traffic.
That’s why I begin my web traffic planning by writing down descriptions of a few of my ideal customers–defined user personas.
This exercise gives me a clear picture of who I’m looking for and how to appeal to them. From this picture I begin to survey the Web for where these folks might hang out–websites they read, people they follow, and communities where they engage.
If I’m not familiar with the industry or niche, I begin my survey with a series of Google searches. I usually begin with some broad searches about the industry itself and then begin to follow the rabbit trails until I start uncovering what seems to be the most influential websites and blogs (often the ones that seem to keep popping up in searches) as well as the most prominent people in the niche, often the owners and authors of the blogs.
After exploring via Google searches, I typically begin diving into the more popular social media and community platforms–Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Feedly. This process, although using the same techniques of searching and following interesting paths, has a slightly different objective. When searching through social media and communities, I’m more focused on the people and their conversations as well as the content they are promoting, the behaviors and etiquette, and the activities that generate the best responses (i.e., positive comments, sharing, and promotion).
Often times, especially if I am doing this for my own business, I already know a lot about the industry and the most influential publishers and people. In these cases, I go straight to where I already know my audience and influencers are, but I approach with a different perspective. I try to observe more closely the content, the potential objectives of the publisher, and the strategies most likely being used by key people trying to influence the community.
As you can see this initial process is more akin to a sociologist doing research than a marketer analyzing web traffic.
There is a time to get focused in on the cold analytical side of digital marketing, but when starting a new lead generation project it’s important to have a firm grasp of the big picture– a clear vision of the overall online context in which your audience lives.
Keyword Research is About Language, Not Traffic
Ironically we’re generally looking for a significant amount of web traffic when we build a new lead generation program, but I rarely focus on traffic counts in my research. In my opinion, these numbers are really the by-product of the content in these channels and the behaviors triggered in the people when they experience this content.
That’s why I try to stay focused on the ‘why’ of how traffic is generated when I’m designing a lead generation campaign for any industry or client.
This philosophy guides my keyword research process, making it a bit different from what you might read from my other colleagues. When I dig into search keywords, similar to others, I’m looking for dominant clusters of keyword concepts and terms that most people use to look for things my business can help with, but I also want to know ‘why’ they use these words.
When looking for the ‘why’ of the keywords, I leave my keyword research tools and just start doing some Google searches.
During this process I carefully analyze what comes up in the search results and begin asking a few simple questions:
- Is it what I expected?
- Are all of these search results providing similar content and solutions or are the result highly diverse? Indicating one or more possible search objectives.
- If there is diversity in the results, why are they different? Might there be a logical second search people do to refine these results to get what they really want?
- What does Google think people using these keywords to search are looking for?
- Is that consistent with what my business provides? Could I logically fit into this list?
Based on this review I begin to make a list of the keyword searches that are the most likely to be done by my target audience, the people I can help. And then, next to each of my keywords I make very detailed notes as to what I think these people are thinking when they do these searches and what content that I think would be the most helpful to them.
(Notice that at this point I’m not thinking about Google. Trust me if you are thinking about what this audience is trying to accomplish with these searches and you create ideal content to satisfy that need…Google will reward you handsomely in the search engine results, without trying to figure out how to game their algorithms.)
At the conclusion of my keyword research I typically don’t have a lot of keywords.
Sure, I have the typical spreadsheets full of keywords that my SEO tools dump out for me, full of tons of data around each of these thousands of keywords, but I only use these spreadsheets to look for interesting patterns. When I’m ready to get down to the business of SEO my list becomes very short and intentional.
This simple and focused approach is effective for a few reasons:
- First, and probably most importantly, it will prevent you from getting overwhelmed with your strategy and executing poorly, or not at all.
- Second, it will discipline you to begin with a smaller project that can be easily managed, rigorously tested, and quickly iterate speeding your path to results.
- Finally, if you begin with a more manageable SEO project you will conserve resources during this initial testing and optimizing phase. Then as you begin to gain traction and your strategy begins to dial in, you’ll have the resources and budget to scale your success quickly and significantly.
When I’m doing my keyword research I always think of it as learning the language of my customer, not so much as a traffic generation exercise in and of itself. Thinking about keywords in this way prevents you from making the common mistake of putting all your effort and energy in meticulous keyword research, mistaking this research as what actually produces web traffic.
In all cases, remember when trying to generate lead producing traffic it is better to create content that talks to your customer, rather than devoting hours to SEO voodoo.
Once I have my short list of keywords, notes on what my customers are probably looking for when they’re doing these keyword searches, and the type of content I need to start creating and organizing.
I think organizing your website content is one of the secret arts of SEO.
Most websites and businesses just kind of slap content up on their website. This can make it frustrating for your visitors and Google to find your content, ultimately undermining your attempts to get people to inquire about your products and services.
When I begin to sort and organize my keyword concepts and the content that supports them, I like to think in terms of a grocery store. Have you ever noticed that although they are all laid out differently you can still find things in a pretty efficient way? This is because every grocery store tends to organize in a consistent way–fruits and vegetable at one end, milk and dairy at the other, and everything else neatly grouped together in between. Your website content should do a similar thing, logically clustering like content together and posting intuitive guideposts (navigation) as to how to get into the right aisle.
Organizing your content has several benefits to generating traffic and sales leads:
- Intuitive navigation provides your new visitors with clear directions on how to find what they’re looking for when they hit any of your web pages.
- Content that is clustered together in a relevant way allows visitors to dig deeper and get lost in researching their question, without ever leaving your website.
- The more helpful and complete your website is for visitors the greater likelihood you will have built sufficient trust and credibility to get their customer inquiry.
All of these same factors, promoted by good information architecture, influence Google to rank your content higher in their search engine and send you more web traffic.
Searcher satisfaction, and the signals that indicate that satisfaction, are important to your overall success in Google’s search ranking algorithms. Things like time on page, multiple page views, social sharing are all indications that people got what they were looking for and as a result your web pages should ranking higher.
Creating a Framework for Understanding
Ultimately online lead generation is about creating a website that creates a strong framework for understanding the problems you solve and the solutions you can provide. We can talk about all of the finer details (all important) of acquiring traffic and optimizing landing pages for conversion, but at the end of the day you are trying to help people understanding.
Therefore, my suggestion is that you begin your lead generation project with the promise of helping people understand a few concepts better. Then when they’re convinced they need professional help they’re going to call you first.
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