Everyone your content is designed to speak to is online for a reason. They have certain intentions— needs they’re trying to meet. When your content speaks to those needs, not only is that how you get found, it’s how you engage your audience and form relationships. Not speaking to the needs of your target audience means you’re not speaking to, well, anyone.
We discussed this point in-depth during a recent interview I did with Dr. Jane Karwoski and Jim Nico on The Social Network Show podcast. We hadn’t planned the interview with a particular agenda, but as we spoke beforehand, kicking around ideas, we kept coming back to concepts around audience.
Listen to the full podcast here:
Speaking to No One versus Speaking to Someone– In Search of Audience.
Too Long; Didn’t Listen Version:
Audience is the single most important factor in marketing decisions– content marketing, in particular. So regardless if your primary role is as a publisher or a brand, nothing happens without an audience.
User intent drives all online behavior.
People only pay attention to what they want to, which is why the web is such a fragmented place. We all govern our own internet experiences, actively seeking and engaging with content and ideas that matter to us, as opposed to passively consuming broadcast media.
The long tail embodies specific user intentions.
The more specific a search term, the less popular it is. That’s why they are called “long tail” searches or keywords, because if you graphed the distribution of popular terms, more specific ones would be way out on the right. People want to know billions of things every day. Billions. Which ones are you helping them with?
Your audience can only find you on the long tail.
Give up on trying to get found for the most popular terms. Not only are they too hard to fight for, they are too general to be of use to you. Popular searches don’t tell you enough about what users actually want, while specific ones can tell you everything.
Here’s a perfect example. Two days ago, I wrote a post titled, Sponsored Content Pricing: Are You Getting Ripped Off? As of today, it’s 5th in Google search for “sponsored content pricing.” Why does that matter if very few people Google such a term? Because anyone who cares about that topic is very likely someone we want to talk to– a brand or publisher attempting to solve problems they’re dealing with regarding sponsored content.
The long tail isn’t just about search, it’s about attraction.
Often, your target audience is actively consuming content through trusted sources that don’t begin with a Google search. They’re following links from Facebook, reading their LinkedIn group discussions or perusing their go-to batch of favorite blogs. The long tail of search is an analogue for the long tail of user behavior.
If you know exactly who you want to attract– the persona of your ideal client/user/reader– and your content helps to meet their pressing needs, suddenly, everything you write stands a good chance of mattering to the people who matter to you. You get let into the niche, to the influencers and the private places they frequent.
That’s why content marketing is such a powerful tool. Not because you said something, but because you said something meaningful that your target audience needed to read.