In digital marketing, some things change fast. That's doubly true during a global pandemic.
Businesses are investing more in digital, and customers are showing a preference toward increasingly digital and personalized experiences, as well as fast service that enables them to engage on their time.
These trends lend themselves perfectly to inbound marketing—inviting marketers to provide content and advertising that is increasingly tailored to individual consumers or accounts.
In this article, we’ve updated the advice we originally provided in 2019 and added new strategies to help you refresh your digital marketing efforts for 2021.
Table of Contents
Branding and Strategy
1. Segment your customers
What is customer segmentation?
Customer or Market Segmentation is the practice of separating your customers into groups based on certain characteristics, such as geographical location or business size.
It’s one of the key strategies that makes personalization possible.
Personalization is a strategy companies use to tailor offers and experiences to customers using data collected about them.
It’s a hot topic for 2021, since many customers have come to expect a certain degree of personalization, and it pays to give them what they want.
- “77% of consumers have chosen, recommended, or paid more for a brand that provides a personalized service or experience.” (Instapage)
- “Personalization can reduce acquisition costs by as much as 50%. It also lifts revenues by 5–15% and increases marketing spend efficiency by 10–30%.” (Adweek via Outgrow)
- “Not only do three-quarters of business buyers expect companies to send their company personalized offers, 74 percent agree that receiving these personalized offers has a major or moderate influence on their loyalty.” (Convince&Convert)
So how can segmentation help you personalize your marketing and sales strategies? In the B2B world, you can use segmentation to:
- Improve your buyer personas: identifying key segments of your target audience can help you put together in-depth profiles that help you tailor your messaging to their specific needs, wants, and challenges.
- Create content that satisfies the needs for your buyer personas: great content that answers the questions of your ideal customers at each stage of their buying process helps promote brand awareness and build relationships with potential clients.
- Create targeted ads: rather than creating big ad campaigns that target a wider audience, create smaller, niche ad campaigns designed to appeal to the segments of your audience that are most likely to buy, or have the potential to generate the most revenue.
- Segment email contacts: rather than sending the same email to your entire list, create emails that are customized for each segment or exclude contacts that won’t find the email helpful. For example, say you’re working for a small franchise in Wisconsin that wants to announce an event you’re holding at your Madison location. You wouldn’t want to send your Eau Claire location contacts this email, because they’re too far away. Instead, you would send it to only your Madison area contacts.
- Provide a more personal sales experience: As B2B International points out, B2B buyers tend to value personal attention. Organizing customers into categories based on their value to your company and creating buyer personas that help you remember what’s most important to each segment can help you decide how much personal attention to give particular segments and ensure that each of your customers’ sales experiences are tailored to meet their needs.
Types of segmentation
You can segment your customers based on many different characteristics, but some of primary types of segmentation are:
- Firmographic segmentation: based on the firmographic characteristics of a company, such as business size and industry.
- Behavioral segmentation: based on past and present behavior of a customer on your website or other interactions with your company, such as email and one-on-one communication
- Psychographic segmentation: based on the emotions and beliefs of customers, such as values and feelings.
- Tiering segmentation: based on the value to your business, such as the potential to create revenue and profit. This is closely related to account-based marketing, which we will get into later.
- Geographic segmentation: based on geographic location, such as the country or city the customer lives in.
- Needs-based segmentation: based on the perceived needs of the customer.
- Customer sophistication: based on the buyer’s journey (or sales funnel) stage of a customer; how aware they are of the problem they are trying to solve.
Certain types of segmentation are more helpful to B2Bs than others. As B2B International observes:
“Our experience of over 2,500 business-to-business studies shows that B2B markets typically have far fewer behavioral or needs-based segments than is the case with consumer markets. Whereas it is not uncommon for an FMCG market to boast 10, 12 or more segments, the average business-to-business study typically produces 3 or 4.”
Ari Soffer, on the other hand, details how needs-based and behavioral segmentation can be of use to B2Bs. Ultimately, which segmentation style you choose will depend on the target markets, limitations, and needs of your business.
2. Supplement inbound marketing with account-based marketing (ABM)
Businesses looking to take tiering segmentation a step further might want to invest in account-based marketing.
Account-based marketing is a whole approach to marketing onto itself, but it can also be used to supplement and accelerate inbound marketing. If you’re new to ABM, it’s an approach to marketing that targets the accounts of particularly qualified prospects.
This approach presents qualified prospects with offers that appeal to their specific needs and wants, rather than targeting a broad audience of potential customers who may or may not be good fits.
A hybrid inbound/ABM approach can be especially useful for B2Bs with long, complex buyer’s journeys that need to engage multiple decision-makers within an account. It’s also helpful for companies that appeal to a select niche of clients, or to a niche subgroup within a broader group of potential buyers.
The idea is to personalize your marketing strategy to nurture each of those people on their own, treating the account as a discrete campaign.
Since this can take a lot of work, it’s best to start with just a couple of “dream accounts” your sales team can highlight. Put together a free analysis or eGuide addressing a specific problem or challenge for the account and reach out to garner a personal connection with key contacts.
From there, you can use remarketing or a more personal outreach strategy to nudge decision-makers at your targeted accounts forward on their buyer’s journeys and track which pages and content they’re engaging with to inform each action you take – especially as you get closer to closing.
3. Invest in long-form content
If you want to use content marketing to attract leads to your business, you should definitely try long-form content.
If you’re unfamiliar, it’s content that is significantly longer than a traditional, 500-word blog post. BuzzSumo and Neil Patel define it as over 2,000 words. While video and podcasts are also popular right now, long-form content can be created on your website without expensive equipment.
Examples of long-form content include:
- Long-form blog posts: blog posts over 2,000 words long
- Pillar pages: in-depth guides and resource lists with links that connect to further reading
- Guides: in-depth overviews of a topic
- Whitepapers: in-depth guides or reports about issues and their possible solutions
When done right, long-form content has been proven to be highly effective for generating leads, getting good ROI, and doing well in search engine results.
Studies and experiments by thought leaders and companies over the last few years have indicated that:
- Blog posts over 3,000 words long tend to get more traffic (Neil Patel).
- 56% of bloggers get better ROI when they spend at least 6 hours on a blog post (SmallBizTrends).
- Longer content tends to get more backlinks (links from other sites to yours, which can potentially help you get seen in search) (Search Engine Land).
- People viewing long-form content typically spend a longer time on the page (Neil Patel).
- Longer content converts better (Search Engine Land).
- It’s more comprehensive, which readers find helpful (Backlinko).
- It outperforms shorter content in search results (Neil Patel).
- It performs well on social media (Neil Patel).
Why is this the case? I suspect most of it has to do with satisfying search intent, or giving people what they are trying to find online.
Comprehensive, higher quality content = more helpful to searchers = good SEO
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a set of strategies that help your website and other online profiles appear more often and higher up in search results, particularly Google.
To do this, SEO professionals try to be as helpful as possible to the people Googling things and the algorithms that produce results for the searchers. Most SEO practices boil down to one thing: giving searchers what they want.
One way to do this is to write web content that is like one-stop shopping. Rather than skimming five 500-word blog posts about a topic of interest, a searcher who wants a deep-dive of a specific topic or broad overview of a larger one can read one 3000+ word blog post that answers all or most of their questions.
Writers have time to make quality content
Plus, I speculate that blog posts with more time sunk into them may be better researched than posts that are slapped together, resulting in more originality, which readers also tend to appreciate.
Simply rehashing what everyone else has said without adding your own insights makes for poor-quality content that isn’t very helpful. Unfortunately, content writers often have to churn out content on a tight timetable, resulting in cut corners.
Engaging content holds people’s attention
John Lincoln pointed to two case studies of two companies (Highrise Marketing and Crazy Egg) that lengthened their content and saw increased conversion rates as a result, (over 37% on Highrise Marketing’s homepage, and over 30% in Crazy Egg’s pages).
He made a couple good points about this. First, salespeople have been writing long sales pitches for years, and wordier print pitches packed with useful facts often converted better, so why should it be different online?
Second, he quoted Crazy Egg, saying “you cannot have a page that’s too long — only one that’s too boring.”
And this seems to be the sticking point with long-form content. Length by itself does not make your content better. Adding more value makes it better.
Amanda Milligan over at the Content Marketing institute offers the following advice when deciding content length:
- How complex is the topic? The more complex, the longer the content will need to be to give a comprehensive answer.
- Do they need a fast answer or an in-depth answer? How much does your reader need to know about the topic? If the reader needs a fast answer, a short piece of content is generally better. If the reader needs a more in-depth answer, then long-form content is probably better.
According to one study by Quartz, content under 500 words or over 800 words typically performs better than content in the 500-800 word range. In other words, it’s best to go very short or very long to satisfy your reader’s needs.
Bonus tip: build pillar pages
One type of long-form content you can create is a pillar page. You’ve probably seen them around: ungated, in-depth pages about a particular topic that connect to many specific, related pages.
Pillar pages may be one of the best long-form content types to invest in, because they perform several functions at once.
A section of a pillar page
There are a few reasons pillar pages are popular among content marketers:
1. They gives order to chaotic blog feeds
The traditional blog feed isn’t ideal when you’re looking for an easy way to browse everything published on a given topic. Pillars solve this problem by centering around the root of a topic, then breaking it down into its subtopics in logical succession on one page.
The pillar page offers a summary of each subtopic with links to your blog posts for those who want to wade into the weeds where they choose.
2. It reflects changes in the way Google ranks search results
For years, Google has been tuning the dials on its search algorithm to better anticipate our intent when we search for stuff. This is called “semantic” search since Google is trying to connect semantic cues (associations between the words we use) to anticipate a searcher’s intent.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, here’s a more long-winded albeit well-stated explanation from Moz:
“Semantic search seeks to improve search accuracy by understanding a searcher’s intent through contextual meaning. Through concept matching, synonyms, and natural language algorithms, semantic search provides more interactive search results through transforming structured and unstructured data into an intuitive and responsive database. Semantic search brings about an enhanced understanding of searcher intent, the ability to extract answers, and delivers more personalized results.”
The article I pulled this from is one of the best resources for those who want to dive in and learn more about what semantic search is and how it works. Here's another article that's a little older but still gives a great explanation.
3. It enables you to see content gaps you might otherwise miss
Simply organizing your content into a cluster of subtopics surrounding a root topic can help you realize what you haven’t covered that may be relevant to your audience. This can be especially helpful for those who’ve been blogging for a while and are struggling to fill out their content calendar with compelling ideas.
So how do pillar pages fit into SEO?
A good pillar page's linking structure helps the search engine understand the relationship between different pages on a website, helping both your pillar page, and the pages it links to rank better in search results for a broader set of search terms.
As a result of their popularity, best practices have emerged surrounding the creation and optimization of pillar pages.
4. Add a chatbot to your website
One of the more exciting recent trends has been the rise of chatbots.These are programs that interact with humans using messages on websites, within messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, through personal assistants like Alexa, and more.
Chatbots are useful for many things, including:
- promoting content
- collecting contact information
- facilitating sales conversations
- answering visitor’s FAQ questions
And this just scratches the surface. Software companies are working on developing chatbots that have more sophisticated natural language processing and emotional intelligence which would enable them to understand human speech better, generate more natural-sounding replies to customers, and even detect emotion in customer’s language, enabling them to respond better in contexts when the customer is upset.
While this may sound like a sci-fi fad, chatbots look to become a fixture in businesses in the near future.
Chatbots can respond to customers 24/7 real time, on their schedule. Responding to customers within an hour, or even within a few minutes can be the difference between gaining or losing a high-quality lead, since 78% of customers buy from the first vendor who replies.
And, as HubSpot pointed out, lead value degrades over time as potential customers go to businesses that engage with them faster. While a chatbot can’t completely replace human interaction, it can get the ball rolling until a living person can make contact with the customer.
Plus, potential customers are sometimes more willing to give a chatbot information than submit a form.
For example, a bot can be programmed to ask customers questions that reveal their buyer’s journey stage or ones that might appear on a survey.
Bots can also ask visitors to fill out forms, provide the contact information of an employee who can help them, or suggest content for them to view.
Some chatbots require a programmer to install them on your website properly, while other companies offer template-style chatbots that do not require you to be an expert coder.
There are many website chatbot platforms to choose from, but a few options are:
If you want to learn more about chatbots, check out this guide by Drift.
5. Tweak your website for better conversion rates
If your list of most-trafficked blog posts isn’t identical to your list of blog posts that result in the most conversions, you’re probably missing opportunities to capture leads due to misaligned next actions.
Here’s what to do.
Provide a single, clear call-to-action
Note the posts that should be generating more conversions based on the relative traffic they receive. Then, optimize them one-by-one.
First, check to see if your post funnels readers toward a single, clear call-to-action. Add a CTA if you don’t have one.
If your page has multiple CTAs of equal weight, pick the one that matches the blog topic the best and leads the reader forward in their buyer's journey.
A primary CTA
Note: it can also be good to have in-text CTAs for relevant offers. These are links that lead to a useful resource or offer that is directly relevant to something you are discussing. They may be subtle links dropped into the flow of your writing, or more direct calls of action.
A subtle in-text CTA
An in-text CTA can also be more direct.
A direct, in-text CTA
In this case, the in-text CTA is set off on its own line, and the entire sentence is anchor text. However, the font is the same size and style as the text, so it calls less attention to itself than the main CTA.
If this call to action advice sounds contradictory, let’s put it in context.
Let’s say you’re a landscaper writing about the best hardy perennials for shady yards. You want readers to finish your post and click on your offer for a free consultation at the bottom of the page. That’s your primary CTA.
Your primary CTA should:
- Stand out
- Be a logical next step after reading your post
- Guide readers further down the buyer’s journey
In general, you don’t want to confuse readers with multiple CTAs that look equally important, because they won’t know what to click on. As a result, choose one CTA that sticks out and provides a logical next action for readers to take.
Let’s say that in the same blog post you explain how different plants like different amounts of sun, moisture, and soil types, so you link to a page on your website about the types of landscapes you install. That’s an in-text CTA.
You can think of this as a supplementary CTA. It’s helpful to the reader and is so subtle that it doesn’t compete with your primary CTA at the end.
In-text CTAs should:
- Not distract the reader from the primary CTA
- Be directly relevant to the topic you are discussing
- Be helpful to the reader
These sorts of CTAs act as asides that help the reader obtain more information if they want it, and potentially score you more leads with the opportunity to convert on an offer on the linked page once the reader has learned more about the topic.
Identify and fix CTA issues
Too many websites plaster the same offer across every page. This is not an effective strategy, because the CTA is generally irrelevant to a large portion of the audience.
For example, if the CTA on every page of a business’s website is “contact us” this is only interesting to decision-stage (low funnel) buyers. Plus, if your content has nothing to do with your offer, your CTA doesn’t provide a clear next action that makes sense.
Take a look at your primary CTA, and ask yourself:
Does this CTA lead the reader further down the buyer’s journey?
- No > Replace it with a CTA that leads the reader to the next stage of the buyer’s journey. For example, if your post is for someone at the consideration stage (mid-funnel), send them to decision stage (low-funnel) content.
You may find it helpful to make a spreadsheet of all your content and web pages, and identify which buyer’s journey stage each one targets.
Then, list all your offers and which buyer’s journey stage each one targets. For example, a free trial of your software would probably be a better fit for a lead who is closer to making a purchasing decision than a first-time visitor to your website.
Finally, make sure the CTA on each of your web pages leads to an offer providing a logical next step that takes readers one stage further down the buyer’s journey.
Is the CTA relevant to the reader?
- No > Replace it with a CTA that directly relates to the topic of the post or even picks up where the post left off. For example, if your post is about setting up a rain barrel system, but your CTA links to “How to create your own compost,” that CTA may not interest your prospect. Instead, link to a page where they can buy your rain barrel system.
Is the CTA annoying?
It may be annoying to the prospect if it: 1) implies that the reader is stupid for not buying your product, 2) is interruptive, or 3) forces the reader to convert or leave the site. In this case, the CTA might appear in a pop-up with no “x” button, or force the reader to take a next action regardless of whether they click “yes” or “no.”
Where's the "x"?
Is the CTA worn-out?
Your CTA may have lost its appeal if the design is outdated, or it’s been re-used on many different pages. If the design is old, give it a modern facelift. If it’s been re-used too many times, replace it with a new CTA.
Sometimes, a poor user experience is the culprit. If you find that your CTA is airtight. Ask yourself:
Does the page take longer than 3 seconds to load? Most visitors leave a site if the page won’t load within a few seconds.
- Are there other interruptive elements in the text or design that could be annoying the reader?
- Add a dose of social proof
Client logos on our homepage, a type of social proof
Social proof, or the “audience effect,” is the tendency for people to conform to the actions of others when they can assume those actions are good actions.
In other words, people are compelled to do things they see other people doing and enjoying. This third-party validation can be a very powerful motivator for site visitors and only requires a strong, resonant testimonial. Consider where you can add social proof to your marketing assets to drive conversions.
6. Perform A/B tests
A/B testing, or “split testing” is a way to test different versions of web pages, ads, landing pages, and emails in order to see which one users like better.
This is achieved by running two versions of your marketing material. One is a “control” and the other is an experimental page that differs from the control in one particular aspect, such as using a different image, color scheme, layout, or call to action button, for example.
It’s called A/B testing because half of your site users get element version A, and the other half get version B.
Rather than creating one design and hoping that it does what you want it to achieve, you can create two designs, run an A/B test, and pick the design that site visitors like best. In other words, you gather data and use it to help you make design decisions.
This helps you create more effective designs and layouts in the long run that get better results, such as more conversions.
A classic example (courtesy of Optimizely) of an A/B test is a company testing out two different call to action buttons. One is red. The other is green. Half the visitors to that web page see the red button, and half see the green button. Which button gets more clicks?
The green button gets 37% more clicks than the green button, so the company decides to use the red version on their page.
What you have here is a very simple experiment. Two identical pages, except for one different element: the color of the CTA. One is a “control” (maybe the color you are using now). The other is an experimental variation: the color you are trying to test.
To see real examples of this strategy in action, check out this blog post by VWO, an A/B software developer.
According to Invespcro, A/B testing is the “second most popular conversion rate optimization strategy after customer journey analysis,” however, only 44% of companies use A/B testing, even though “60% . . . believe that A/B testing is ‘highly valuable’ for conversion optimization.”
There are a number of A/B testing tools, or suites of tools that include A/B testing, on the market, such as Optimizely, VWO, Google Analytics, and HubSpot.
To learn more about A/B testing and similar strategies, check out this post.
7. Satisfy Google’s updates
When it comes to SEO, the bottom line is: how do you satisfy the searcher?
Google updated their search algorithms at least 7 times in 2020. This included major (Core) algorithm updates, bug fixes, and tweaking the appearance of certain types of search results.
Bottom line: they refined the algorithms that determine who ranks on the first page, causing some websites to appear lower in results.
As always, Google is tight-lipped about what tweaks they made to the algorithms. However, enterprising marketers are always trying to read the tea leaves, and sometimes Google will drop hints, confirm suspicions, or provide a little information.
We know, for example, that 2019’s BERT update improved Google’s ability to guess what searchers want based on context and how the addition of different words changes the meaning of a search query.
If your pages have dropped in search rank as a result of a recent update, perform an audit of your content to make sure you’re doing everything you can to give the searcher what they want. Here are three ways to do that.
Follow Google’s advice for quality content
According to Google, you should review your content and ask if it
- Provides new, original, compelling information
- Covers your chosen topic thoroughly
- Serves as a valuable resource to the searcher
- Is trustworthy and accurate
- Displays expertise and cites sources
- Has been copy edited for errors
- Doesn’t disrupt the reader’s experience with too many ads
- Looks great and performs well on a mobile device
- Is better than other content about this topic
- Feels like it was written for a human, not a search engine
Create content that gives straight answers
Check to see if you have content designed to answer potential customer’s questions. For example, if you know of certain FAQ questions customers ask about your business, products, or services, do you have content that answers them?
An FAQ question that requires a more detailed answer could be the perfect topic for a short but informative blog post.
Longer content, such as pillar pages or white papers, are useful for answering broad questions, or multiple questions about a particular topic.
However, prospects looking for a quick answer to a specific question may be delighted by short but sweet content like blog posts tailored to their needs.
Reputation, integrity, and honesty are essential ingredients for good content. Just like you wouldn’t recommend a restaurant with a dirty kitchen, Google doesn’t like to rank content by a disreputable source near the top of results. As a result, SEO experts talk about the importance of E-A-T for your website’s search rank.
While EAT is not an algorithmic ranking factor, it can affect your search rank. Human quality controllers at Google assign eat scores to double check that search engine results are providing the best information.
These days, Google evaluates the EAT of both the website and the writer who created the content. EAT stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
EAT for the website:
Expertise: Does this website have a deep knowledge of this topic?
Authoritativeness: is the website an authority on this topic?
Trustworthiness: is this website trustworthy?
EAT for the content writer:
Expertise: is the writer of the content an expert on the topic?
Authoritativeness: is the writer a known authority on the topic?
Trustworthiness: is the writer a trustworthy source of information?
Many factors can contribute to a website’s EAT.
One of the most important things to know before writing about a topic is whether it might be a YMYL subject. This is a topic that has a significant impact on a person’s well-being.
EAT weighs particularly heavily into ranking for these topics, because incorrect information could have major consequences on a person’s life. Google’s search quality evaluator guidelines list these broad categories as containing YMYL topics:
- News and current events (includes topics like politics, science, and technology. Note that entertainment, sports, and lifestyle stories are not considered YMYL).
- Civics, government, and law
- Health and safety
- Groups of people (information about groups of people, such as minorities)
- Other (anything that an evaluator decides requires additional accuracy)
Here’s a post by SEJ with tips for improving your EAT score.
Searchers want the information they seek immediately in a thorough, high-quality, trustworthy package with a good user experience.
If you provide this, you’ll satisfy many of the SEO content best practices.
8. Optimize your website for voice search
Voice search is growing in popularity. According to Neil Patel, “in his keynote, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced that one-fifth of the queries on Google are voice searches.”
Now is the time to optimize your website for it.
If you’re unfamiliar, voice search uses voice dictation from a device such as a smart speaker, phone, or computer to conduct a search.
For example, when you visit the Google Search homepage, you’ll see a little microphone in the far right corner of the search bar.
Clicking this will allow you to use your computer’s microphone to conduct a voice search.
People use voice search mostly because it is convenient. Often, they’re on the go, and it’s faster and easier to do a voice search on their phone rather than type out their question.
Other times, people don’t want to touch their phone, such as when they’re in the bathroom, cooking, exercising, or driving.
People often use their phone, but are also likely to use a smart speaker to conduct voice searches. According to reports in 2019, there were about 65 million smart speaker owners in the US at that time.
Here are some quick facts about voice search:
- Millennials and Digitals are the biggest users of voice search (SEJ)
- “58% of consumers have used voice search to find local business information in the last 12 months” (BrightLocal)
- “46% of voice search users look for a local business on a daily basis” (BrightLocal)
- 22% of voice queries are for local content. (Internet Trends Report 2016 via Neil Patel)
As you can see, voice search optimization is especially important for local businesses, since voice searches are often used to find local business information.
So what can you do to make your website more voice search friendly in 2021? Here’s the short version:
How to optimize for voice search
- Go after “conversational long-tail keywords”: Unlike normal keywords (words people use to search for things on the web) voice search keywords, called “conversational long-tail keywords” tend to be longer, more conversational, and more grammatically correct.
For example, if I were to search for steel manufacturers in Wisconsin on the web, I might type in something like “steel manufacturers wisconsin” into the search bar. However, If I were to use voice search, I might say something like, “okay Google, give me a list of steel manufacturers in Wisconsin.”
“Steel manufacturers wisconsin” does not use articles or prepositions like “a,” or “in” but “okay Google, give me a list of steel manufacturers in Wisconsin” does. The second phrase is also longer and more natural sounding than the first. These are the major differences between normal keywords and conversational long-tail keywords. Focus on the latter when you want to optimize your site for voice search.
- Answer the 5 W’s and an H: Answer what, where, why, who, when, and how questions. Many voice searches are trying to answer a simple question that uses one of these words.
- Create an FAQ page: FAQ pages concisely answer many common questions your existing and potential customers have about your business. As a result, they are a great place for Google to pull voice search answers. Backlinko speculates that one FAQ page can potentially rank for hundreds of different voice search keywords.
- Write blog posts that answer questions potential customers search for: Neil Patel argues for creating individual blog posts to answer individual questions.
- Use an inverted pyramid: SEJ recommends titling your page with the question you are trying to answer at the top, then using the first paragraph of your article to answer the question concisely, followed by more details as you go down the page. This is a classic strategy used by journalists, since many people abandon news stories and web pages alike before they’ve read the whole article. In the case of voice search, you may be more likely to rank for a “featured snippet” listing in Google search results if you offer a concise answer to the searcher’s question.
- Write concisely: According to SEMrush, “Backlinko’s study says Google prefers short, concise answers to voice search queries and the typical voice search result is only 29 words in length. The SEMrush voice search study for Google Assistant found "Text length of the answers returned was nearly the same for every device (around 41 words on average)." SEJ recommends writing “detailed answers to common questions, and concise answers to simple questions.”
- Write for an 8th grade reading level: Try to use simple words and sentence structures. This makes it easy for the average person to read and digest your content. According to Backlinko, “the average voice search result is written at a 9th grade reading level.” However, the general rule of thumb on the web is to write for a grade level lower.
- Optimize for local SEO: Ensure your site uses local keywords such as your city and state of operation and follows other local SEO best practices.
- Make your site mobile friendly: Ensure your site is designed so it looks nice on any device and is easy to read regardless of screen size, or create a separate mobile version of your site that is easier to use on a phone.
- Put your NAP in the site footer: Make sure the correct name of your business, address, and phone number are planted in the footer (bottom) of your site pages and are easily visible on mobile devices.
- Claim and optimize your GMB page: An accurate, up-to date, complete Google My Business listing is essential for local businesses, because it makes it easy for potential customers to find you when they conduct a search looking for businesses near them that offer your services.
- Write long-form content: Backlinko notes that the average voice search result is 2300 words—long-form content. They guess that this is because the longer the content, the more questions it answers. In other words, a piece of long-form content may rank for more than one result because it contains more information than a short blog post.
- Optimize your site speed: Site speed is a normal search ranking factor. However, SEMrush argues that it’s especially important for voice search optimization because people conducting a voice search expect an immediate answer to their question. If your site takes too long to load, Google will pick another web page.
For more details on the strategies above, check out these resources:
- Voice Search: The Definitive Guide
- How to Optimize for Voice Search: 4 Simple SEO Strategies
- How to Optimize for Voice Search: 6 SEO Strategies for Success
- Voice Search Optimization: 7 Ready-to-Use SEO Strategies to Rank Better
Social Media Advertising
9. Accelerate your inbound campaigns through targeted social ads
If you haven’t experimented with social ads yet, this should definitely be your year. Facebook and LinkedIn have incredibly strong ad platforms that let you push the fast forward button at every stage of your funnel by targeting a precise audience with relatively un-intrusive sponsored posts that appear in the newsfeed.
LinkedIn ads may be particularly helpful for placing your best converting content in front of a high-funnel B2B audience.
While LinkedIn is an obvious match for a professional audience, Facebook might feel like a strange fit. The numbers might surprise you. The median amount of time spent on Facebook by business decision makers each day was 74% higher than other people on the platform as of 2017.
What’s more, the stigma of Facebook being a poor fit for B2B might work to the advantage of those that go against the grain. A study by Hotwire Global found that 1 in 4 respondents cite Facebook as their preferred social media platform when seeking information on a purchasing decision, ranking it ahead of LinkedIn and Twitter.
The report also found that almost a third of marketers do not plan to use Facebook in their own B2B marketing, leaving a huge gap for those that take advantage of it.
Facebook ads have the added benefit of the lowest cost per click among other social networks and still have a massive breadth of data to help B2B marketers reach the right people.
For those planning their first social ad campaign, try using the basic targeting options that lend themselves particularly well to B2B:
- Industry: Find users who work in or have browsing habits that align with your industry
- Interest: Target people based on what they have expressed interest on while they’re online
- Business Size: Target people on LinkedIn most likely to need your B2B product or services based on their business size
- Job Titles and/or Seniority: Using job titles or seniority on LinkedIn can put your ad in front of a person with the power to buy or those who influence decision makers
You can also track your Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn ad leads by integrating your campaigns into HubSpot. This syncs your lead information with HubSpot’s CRM tools. You can then view more audience information, such as which contacts interacted with which ads, and identify the ads that are generating the most leads.
You can also use HubSpot to generate ad campaigns, create forms for capturing lead information, and retarget ads.
HubSpot has two targeting options that are especially useful for B2Bs:
- Lookalike audiences: this feature allows you to serve ads to a new audience that is similar to an existing one. For example, if you have an audience that targets a particular persona, you can create an audience of new potential customers that have a lot in common with the original audience. We’ve had good results from lookalike campaigns for several of our B2B clients.
- Visitors to particular pages: you can create an audience that includes only the people who visited particular page(s) on your website. For example, you can create an audience of just visitors to your “contact us” page, who may be more likely to be at the decision or consideration stage of their buyer’s journey.
Conclusion & Next Steps
Updating your website, leveling up your content strategy, and creating more targeted ads and personalized experiences for your highest value customers are all strategic steps you can take to sharpen your digital marketing strategy this year.