If SEO were an Olympic sport, it would be race walking.
Everyone is after that first place slot – but it’s a long, slow, and strategic path to getting there.
By now, just about every marketer knows the basics of how to rank.
Find and target the right keywords.
Create high-quality content that your audience is looking for.
Prove time and time again that Google should value your content – and that it’s worth showing off to their users.
It’s a tedious and time-consuming process.
And if you do happen to make it to the top slot, it can be snatched away by a competitor at any moment.
Do you ever wish there was a shortcut that would allow you to breeze right past the competition and secure your slot at the front of the pack?
There is an underutilized market that might allow you to leapfrog your competition in a ranking list.
Featured snippets can act like your race track to first place.
By targeting this up-and-coming feature, snippets can help you rank highly in less time.
What are featured snippets?
When searching on Google, have you ever noticed the text boxes that jump out and answer your question before you ever even make it to a website?
Well, that is a featured snippet.
These descriptive boxes flip the traditional Google search result listing around.
Rather than giving you the headline, URL, and website first, you get the information, otherwise known as the “snippet.”
Featured snippets can come in many different forms.
First, we have the paragraph featured snippet.
Do a quick Google search of “why is the sky blue,” and you’ll be met with this result:
This box breaks down exactly what makes the sky blue is an example of a featured paragraph snippet.
The paragraph featured snippet is the most basic of all the snippet forms.
However, it’s the standard response to questions like “who is…” and “why is…”
For “how to” questions, you’re likely to get a list featured snippet.
Let’s say you clogged your drain and you’re looking for some help before calling the plumber.
You jump on to Google and search “how to unclog a drain.”
These are probably the results you’ll get…
Like the paragraph featured snippet, a list featured snippet provides the details first.
While less common, how to questions may also bring up a new kind of featured snippet – a video.
Let’s do a quick search for “how to braid hair.”
The featured snippet you’re given is taken straight from YouTube. You can watch the content right on the results page.
You’ll also notice that the snippet offers additional options to make your search more specific.
These are known as refinement bubbles.
Refinement bubbles help to narrow down your search without needing to start the search over.
Another popular type of featured snippet is the table.
You’re most likely to see a table featured snippet after searching for comparisons or statistics.
Here is the result when you search “biggest growth industries” in Google.
As you can see, the CollegeBoard table is pulled directly to the top of the SERP.
Featured snippets like these now appear in about 30% of Google results.
However, featured snippets can cause some complications when it comes time for Google users to go back to your site.
According to a study from Ahrefs, only about 8.6% of clicks go to the featured snippet.
Compared to 19.6% of clicks to the first natural search result, this is a major difference.
However, those 8.6% of clicks can still drive a massive wave of traffic to your website if you were previously struggling to reach the top of a SERP.
Featured snippets also have the added benefit of making your content competitive for voice searches.
With an estimated one billion voice searches each month, it’s an area you can’t afford to ignore.
When a user performs a voice search, the response played back to them is often a featured snippet.
In fact, Moz did a study to see how many featured snippet searches would deliver a voice response.
Pulling 1,000 searches that contained featured snippet results, they performed voice searches to see if the response matched.
71% of the time, the answer was yes.
However, they then broke down these results based on type.
Text snippets were 87% likely to be featured as a voice response.
List responses appeared about half the time, while tables only came up about a third of the time.
When we think about the nature of voice search, this isn’t too surprising.
While lists and tables make for great visual results on a traditional search engine, the ease of reading a snippet makes text much more practical for voice search.
As more and more individuals purchase voice-powered smart speakers, the need for appropriate responses will only become more important to brands.
However, there is no guarantee that you’ll land a featured snippet slot.
Like all things SEO, getting your content placed in a featured snippet slot takes some planning.
Here are the steps you need to follow to secure a featured snippet slot of your own.
1. Create content that answers a direct question
Featured snippets typically appear as a result of a direct question.
Moz posted a study on featured snippets where they compared results using the following question starters.
They found that most of these questions delivered paragraph featured snippets.
Questions beginning with “does,” “why,” and “are” resulted in paragraph featured snippets about 99.9% of the time.
“How” and “have” questions resulted in list featured snippets while “which” questions were the highest for table featured snippets.
Let’s take a look at the featured snippet that appears when you search “how to tie a tie.”
When you type this question into the search bar, you’re given a featured snippet.
However, let’s look what happens when you simply search “tie a tie.”
The results are much more basic.
Rather than the featured snippet, you’re given images and traditional results.
Simply targeting keywords associated with questions isn’t enough. To land the featured snippet placement, you need to be sure to include a direct question.
Let’s look at the way some other questions turn up on Google.
Say I want to learn more about who Mark Cuban is. I go to the search engine and just type in “Mark Cuban.”
This is my result.
While I’m able to pull some key information from this listing, the snippet isn’t the primary resource.
However, let’s turn my search into a question.
Here is my result for searching “Who is Mark Cuban.”
By simply adding the “who is” to my search, we get an entirely new featured snippet.
Again, you’ll notice that the source of the featured snippet is not the same resource from the first search.
To secure the featured snippet placement for yourself, you want to be sure you’re targeting direct questions – not just keywords that may appear within the question.
If you’re trying to secure a list featured snippet, focus on “how to” questions.
Use “which” when trying to target table featured snippets.
Stick to the basics. “Who,” “how,” “why,” “when,” and “where” are all great places to start.
One way to cover a number of questions at once is through an FAQ or Q&A page.
Moz was able to help an orthodontist increase organic sessions to their website by 46.10% by targeting featured snippets through a Q&A.
A FAQ or Q&A page can help you cover many questions without overwhelming your visitors.
By providing short, scannable responses to questions you get asked frequently, you can provide high-value content to your target audience while also increasing your chances of getting a featured snippet slot.
However, you want to be strategic about the questions you target.
Which brings us to our next point…
2. Find the ranking opportunities unique to your audience
What is one of the key best practices when doing SEO?
But what is one of the most important things to consider when doing keyword research?
If the keywords you target aren’t used by your audience, you may turn up in a search, but you’re not going to get any clicks.
Featured snippets work the same way.
Targeting just any slot is a waste of time and resources.
Instead, you want to get your featured snippets placed at the top of searches your audience is already looking for.
You can identify these ranking opportunities in a few different ways.
First, start with keyword research.
To rank for a featured snippet, you need to be among the Top 10 results for that keyword 99.58% of the time.
To identify snippets you may be able to be featured for, consider what keywords you’re already ranking highly for.
Next, think of a basic question that applies to your industry or business.
For this example, let’s use “what is AI.”
Here are our results.
While this doesn’t show a featured snippet, what we do get are some additional questions people are also searching for under “People Also Ask.”
Users can click one of the “People Also Ask” questions and get a short response.
These “People also ask” questions can be a great place to start learning about what your audience is looking for.
There are a few different ways you can find the questions your audience is asking.
One of the best places to look is on Quora.
Quora has 190 million monthly users, all asking questions, providing answers, and engaging in conversations.
Here is what you find when you search “what is AI” in Quora.
In addition to a response, you’re also shown a list of related questions.
Like the “People Also Ask” section from your Google search, these questions can give you an idea of what people want to know.
Another great place to generate potential questions is Answer the Public.
By typing in a keyword, Answer the Public will generate some question responses.
However, these questions are computer-generated without considering important metrics like search volume or popularity.
Based on these suggestions, you’ll want to do additional research to see what questions are actually being asked by your audience.
You can also use the SERPStat tool to pull some additional data about questions.
The content marketing section of the tool can break down different search questions associated with the keyword you’ve searched.
This can help you better understand which questions are actually being used and how frequently they’re appearing.
SERPStat also allows you to see which keywords are already displaying featured snippets.
Within the Keyword Selection tool under SEO Research, you can filter results to see only those already featuring snippets.
This can help you hone in even more on the keywords you should target.
Doing the proper research before determining which snippets you’d like to target can increase your chances.
However, you need to remember that you’re trying to connect with your target audience.
Pay close attention to their unique needs or search behavior.
In addition to knowing what keywords and questions are popular with search engines, take a minute to look through social media or other platforms that can give you direct access to your target audience.
The more you learn about your audience, the more likely you are to reach them through a featured snippet.
3. Maintain extremely high-quality content with the right formatting
If you’ve ever done SEO before, you know that keyword placement alone isn’t enough to rank in the top spot.
In fact, there are dozens of on-page, backlink, off-page, and domain factors that are considered in where a piece of content ranks.
On-site factors include everything from domain authority to affiliate links – and this is just the tip of the SEO iceberg.
However, each factor revolves around one thing – user experience.
When Google decides which results should make the top of the list, it looks at which pieces are most likely to help the user.
The same applies to featured snippets.
If you want your snippet to be featured, you need to produce the best response to the question.
As we mentioned in the first point, your response should be in answer form.
You’ll also want to make sure your response is clear, to the point, and your steps are not extremely detailed.
The results for “how to screenshot on a Mac” are a great example of how you can do this.
Within this featured snippet, we’re able to see the entire four-step process of how you can take a screenshot on a Mac computer.
Each instruction is direct and concise, allowing the user to get the full amount of information right within the SERP.
You’ll see that some steps have an ellipsis.
This indicates that there is additional information that goes with that step, but it isn’t necessary for the instructions.
Keep this in mind when writing out your instructions. Start each point with a sentence that is capable of standing alone.
When formatting this content on your website, you’ll also want to display it as the featured snippet type you’re trying to target.
Here’s what that same bit of information looks like on the Apple Support website.
While you’ll see there are some additional bits of information, it’s more or less formatted the same as the snippet.
This is particularly crucial for table snippets.
With paragraph snippets, you don’t need to have particular formatting to get featured.
You do, however, need to use concise writing.
Here is a featured paragraph snippet that appears when you search “who is Elon Musk.”
Within this one paragraph, you get his full biography.
If you’re hoping to target paragraph snippets, then try to fit all your information into two or three sentences.
To further increase your chances, use an H2 header containing the question you’re trying to rank for.
Then immediately after, provide a short and concise response that also contains your targeted keyword.
Structured data, sometimes just called Schema markup, can also help you rank for a featured snippet.
However, you don’t need to have structured data to be ranked.
Structured data just helps Google understand what your content is about. The easier it is for Google to see your value, the more likely you are to rank highly.
You can use the Google Structured Data Markup Helper to get started with your markups.
4. Know the other available answers, then do better.
So, you’ve landed the coveted featured snippet position.
You can finally relax, right?
Just like traditional SEO, a featured snippet can be snatched away from you before you even get comfortable.
With competitors making their own strategic movements to land that “0 placement,” you always need to be aware of what they’re doing.
Even if Google deems you the most worthy of that slot for a little while, they’ll constantly be searching the web trying to find someone who can answer the question better.
If you’re not paying attention to the responses your competitors are generating, they may surpass you.
However, SEO competitors aren’t necessarily your business competitors.
This is especially true when users are looking for questions.
Here’s an example.
When you search “content marketing,” you can select between two posts – one from my site and one from Wikipedia.
While Wikipedia may not be one of my direct business competitors, when it comes to fighting for SEO rankings, we might as well be enemies.
If you’re only monitoring your direct business competitors, more generic response or information pages may sneak up behind you.
There are a few ways you can identify and track these SEO competitors.
First, let’s go back to Google “People Also Ask” questions.
Here are some related questions when searching “what social media is most popular.”
While neither of these responses answers the question of the most popular social media, they’re still responding to the same audience and industry.
Both Small Biz Trends and Statista should be seen as competitors within this space – even if they’re not necessarily your business competitors.
Once you have a list of a few potential competitors, you’ll want to keep your eye on them.
Now, you don’t need to check every blog post they upload.
You don’t need to spend hours trying to scan their social media profiles.
Instead, you can set up alerts so you’ll be notified whenever there is new content on a particular topic.
Google Alerts is your best friend when it comes to tracking specific topics or individuals.
You might set up a Google Alert that looks a bit like this:
Every time a new post containing the phrase “how many users are on social media” is uploaded, Google will send you a message or deliver the content to an RSS feed.
Here is an example of some of the results you may get.
Google Alerts also gives you some options to create an alert that fits your unique needs.
If you’re looking for only results in a specific language, only blog posts, or even only posts coming from a certain region, you can narrow your alerts down.
You’ll want to create a few different alerts around the featured snippet questions you’re targeting.
In this case, you may also want to establish alerts for phrases like “social media users,” “number of Facebook users,” or “how many users on Twitter.”
Slow and steady may win the race when it comes to traditional SEO, but featured snippets are here to shake things up.
As snippets become more and more popular and new forms of featured snippets are rolled out, the competition will only grow.
By appealing to these newer areas of SERPs early on, you can leapfrog your competition – getting you more search engine traffic faster.
How have you used featured snippets to increase awareness or website traffic?
About the Author: Neil Patel is the cofounder of Neil Patel Digital.
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Every now and then, the overlords of the Internet decide to change things up in the digital marketing world.
And with how fast things change, it can sometimes be easy to miss a noteworthy tidbit of news.
One such tidbit recently came to light, and it’s definitely worth your attention.
Namely, Facebook has started taking steps to change the Organic Reach of pages on their platform.
And that has some implications for everyone.
It doesn’t matter if your Facebook Page shares memes, connects a community, or is a landing page for your brand.
You’re going to see some changes, and chances are they will come sooner rather than later.
To help cut through the clutter and keep a clear picture of the path ahead, I’m going to lay out what’s actually changing.
And at the end, we’ll give you some insightful ways to come out ahead.
Hopefully, you’ll be able to take action accordingly and still have a healthy Facebook presence.
But first, let’s talk a bit more about what Organic Reach actually is, and why it’s changing.
What is Facebook Organic Reach?
Organic Reach on Facebook is simply a measurement of how many people can find you on Facebook for free.
It’s much like organic rankings on a search engine, although in the case of Facebook it’s based on aspects like popularity, post frequency, and other contributing factors.
And when you think about the current state of Facebook, it seems logical that Facebook would be making some big changes.
With more and more content being generated and shared, plus with how the News Feeds curates the content you see, it’s natural that Facebook would need to fine-tune their system from time to time.
And so Facebook is making changes.
Specifically, they’re changing Organic Reach to look and feel a little more like the Paid Reach measurements.
The newer look really only changes a few minor elements, but the numbers will look bad nonetheless.
Previously, Facebook counted Organic Reach as any time an unpaid post appeared in someone’s News Feed.
Now, Organic Reach will only give you a hit if your unpaid post actually enters a person’s screen.
The changes don’t affect how your post is shown to anyone, nor does it really change anything about how posts are displayed at all.
It just affects how Organic Reach is tallied, but that makes a difference.
The seeming paradox then is that you can expect your Organic Search traffic to take a big hit, but that particular metric should be a lot more accurate.
According to Mark Zuckerberg, there’s a good reason for the death of Facebook’s Organic Reach:
He goes on to discuss how Facebook will be changing to mitigate this issue.
Specifically, Zuckerberg wants Facebook to be better geared to curate content that builds meaningful relationships.
And it’s worth mentioning that Zuckerberg himself lost about $3.3 billion because of this decision.
But what exactly is this “death” in terms anyone can understand?
More importantly for you, how might this affect your business?
To give you an idea, you have to look back a little bit.
Because as of June 2016, the Organic Reach of a Facebook Page had fallen to a mere 2%.
That’s a crazy drop from just four years prior, and Facebook and Zuckerberg still think that there’s too much Organic Reach for a Page.
So it’s pretty clear that if 2% reach is too much, we’re nearing the end of an era in terms of Organic Reach being the best viable option for spreading your brand on social media.
And the implication is pretty clear for business owners.
Your page is going to have less Organic Reach.
And with Reach dropping, you can fully expect that engagement is going to go with it.
So at this point, you’re probably wondering if there is any hope beyond the doomsday hype?
The answer is yes.
Because Organic Reach is not totally gone, and it probably won’t ever be.
The key here is to simply understand the changes taking place in the Organic Reach algorithms.
The consensus is that Facebook waging war against low-quality content, which means there are still avenues you can take that will help your Organic Reach.
You simply need a different strategy than saturation.
So now that you know what’s going on, let’s look at some ways you can use these changes to your advantage.
Tip #1: Focus on quality, not quantity
First and foremost, you need to understand that Facebook is changing to emphasize quality over quantity.
I’m going to repeat that for emphasis: Quality over quantity is the first place to start.
There’s been a long-running misconception that posting more or less on Facebook equates to more reach, but that’s as ludicrous as treating a “Like” as a useful metric.
You’re just making things worse for yourself if your goal is to post as frequently as possible, especially with the new changes.
And posting infrequently doesn’t do you any favors either.
Because the data points to a truth that couldn’t be further from a quantity-driven approach.
First of all, studies have shown that a moderate amount of posting seems to edge out posting too much or too little.
So when there are fewer posts, it becomes less likely that a post gets lost in your audience’s feed.
Which means your Organic Reach is going to do better with just a few, high-quality posts.
But don’t get carried away thinking high-quality posts can still be posted as often as possible.
Because the data still points in the opposite direction.
Buffer conducted some tests that help prove this point beyond any doubt.
They started by evaluating how many posts were being created per day on their Page.
As you can note, over the course of 2016 and into 2017 they say a fairly significant drop in how many times they posted.
To be precise, they were posting at half the peak rate by the middle of 2017.
And oddly enough, this trend helped them increase their Organic Reach:
They went from capping out with an Organic Reach of ~70,000 to a top reach of ~170,000.
That’s a 100,000 Reach spike that can be directly related to the frequency with which they posted on their Page.
And what’s more, they also saw a boost in direct engagement from this study as well:
This is a powerful illustration of how simply posting less and focusing on quality can improve your overall Organic performance on Facebook.
And this isn’t just a fluke.
It starts and ends with original and share-worthy content that will actually engage your audience.
Which means you need to focus less on pumping out content and focus more on crafting something that’s truly shareworthy.
You’ll see better Organic Reach, and you won’t regret it.
Tip #2: Know what your audience is looking for
A high-quality post isn’t just going to come from nowhere.
It starts with a more concerted effort to offer higher-quality content around your brand as a whole.
That means finding topics that are meaningful and then generating something that’s both shareworthy and relevant.
The more specifically targeted your approach, the better off you’ll be.
Small changes go a long way in improving quality, and the ultimate application is up to your unique brand.
The only way to truly know what “quality” means for your Page is to create some, test it, and then start making changes.
But that doesn’t mean you don’t have any other direction before you just start creating content.
One place you can start is simply by knowing which posts are right on Facebook, such as video.
Sharpie does a great job of creating interesting video that generates views and shares throughout their audience.
Here’s a recent example of one of their videos that partners Sharpie with NBA star Chris Paul:
Even if you can’t partner with a celebrity, you can use video to help boost your Organic Reach and increase engagement.
And success on Facebook through video isn’t just speculation either.
There are plenty of success stories, like this one from Audi:
Even in the highly competitive automotive industry, they were able to boost their lead generation by almost 12%.
And if that doesn’t convince you, I highly recommend you go check out more success stories.
It doesn’t even have to be long video either, as Facebook recently launched their own Boomerang application.
And whether you use video or not, just remember that high-performing and popular Facebook posts are a mixture of entertaining and educational.
Don’t mistake that as an either/or situation.
You need a mix of both if you want to succeed.
Most importantly, I recommend looking into what online audiences are actually consuming these days.
You might love creating and sharing your podcast for a blog post, but you’ll get more facetime with a sharp video or even just a simple photo.
And then there’s also the problem of engagement baiting, which Facebook has started to crack down on.
You might think it’s okay to ask for Likes, Shares, or “votes,” but the dark days of those posts are behind us.
Facebook now filters posts like these and gives them a lower priority than posts with more engaging content and imagery.
So all things considered, you have a lot to consider when you’re trying to pin down what your audience wants to see.
But if you put in the effort, you can develop a system that keeps your brand in the spotlight without dipping into your ad budget.
Tip #3: Consider your timing
You may have heard the news already, but there is such a thing as an “optimal time” when you’re posting to Facebook.
It just depends on a few essential elements.
The basics are pretty simple though.
Knowing when Facebook tends to be most active overall can help you time your posts accordingly.
Studies show that sharing at different times will affect Likes, Shares, and overall engagement statistics.
You can also try to take advantage of multiple spikes like this, but remember you want quality over quantity.
One or two posts per day will do just fine.
If you post at the right time, it’s more likely that your audience will actually be on to see your post.
That by itself could increase your Organic Reach and help you engage with your followers.
But keep in mind that performance can be industry specific as well, so do your homework before you simply start changing all of your posting times.
And once you check your own industry’s trends, make sure that the information you uncovered accurately matches your own audience by examining your own Facebook Page’s Insights tab.
Your goal here is to simply avoid posting at times when your audience is unlikely to see posts.
If there’s a verifiable time when engagement and Reach dips, you might not want to share your best content at those times.
And there are a lot more studies on this topic than just the ones above.
Kissmetrics has put together research that verifies the science of timing posts.
All of this research points to one thing in regard to Organic Reach.
Namely, that it’s best for you to let the Facebook algorithm focus on delivering one piece of content to your audience.
This approach mitigates the need for Facebook to filter and select your strongest content.
If you only ever share your best content at the best times, Facebook will still work well for you.
The trick is just to know when to post on Facebook.
Do your own research, and then use the results you find to your advantage.
Tip #4: Variety helps, so start curating
Curation can be a tricky topic.
Why would you want to put another brand’s content on your page?
Isn’t that counterintuitive?
You may be surprised, but it could actually help.
Recent studies suggest that the curating on Facebook can solve many common issues faced by marketers:
As long as you’re mindful of brands and companies that have a strong following or high brand loyalty, you can leverage a strategic tag to increase your own engagement.
So it’s a good idea to start sharing more curated content in addition to the content you create.
Curating content is the relatively simple process of finding great content from other sources on the Internet and then sharing it with your own audience.
As long as you know your audience, and find posts that match your target, you can provide supplemental content that still helps your brand’s Organic Reach on Facebook.
It’s also a good idea to add tags to posts like this when and where it’s appropriate.
In essence, this practice “signals” to Facebook that you have interesting content that needs to be shown more often.
As long as you’re following your analytics closely with this type of targeting, you’ll see good results over time.
Tip #5: Stop selling
One of the biggest toe-stubbing moves that can hurt your Organic Reach is trying to sell too much.
And with Facebook essentially turning the tables on solely commercial content, this is a bigger deal than ever.
But think of it in terms of volume alone.
Even in your own industry, you’ve likely found that there’s an increasingly saturated social media network that you have to wade through.
With Facebook focusing more on engagement, simply trying to route traffic to your website can be a mistake.
That means that Facebook is also evaluating intent when it filters content.
This particular trend isn’t exactly in your favor.
And when you tack on that Facebook users are savvy enough to filter out the content that they don’t want to see even if it makes it past the News Feed algorithms, you have a recipe for disaster.
That’s why understanding where social media fits into the sales funnel and focusing on brand awareness will serve you better for Organic Reach.
Social media is a top-of-the-funnel endeavor, and you have to treat it that way.
Going for a hard sell just isn’t going to work, and that type of content is just going to get filtered out by either Facebook or your audience.
There’s a greater need now more than ever to engage directly with your community.
That means instead of just posting random articles, you need to find ways to have discussions on your Page.
You need to spend more time being active and replying to comments on posts, even unhelpful ones.
Because your audience craves acknowledgement more than anything.
They just want to be heard.
Real-time engagement can help the Organic Reach of your brand more than a sales-oriented post ever could.
That’s why you need to ditch the old sales funnel approach to social media and adopt a more accurate idea of what social funnels look like.
Notice how the elements in the top part of this funnel are more relationship oriented.
That’s because your Organic Reach relies on audience building with Facebook, not sales.
And I can’t over-emphasize how important this shift is.
Because business are almost always affected by changes to social networks, which is why the idea is to share content users are interested in and will actually engage with.
You need to worry about sales a little later, preferably once your audience is established and loyal to your brand.
Which oddly enough means you need to be smarter about your Facebook Ads budget.
Because that’s one of the best ways to invest in building your audience with a longer funnel.
You need to embrace Facebook as a pay-to-play game, because it is for better or worse.
More and more marketers are coming to Facebook, and it’s already the top source of paid social media in the world by a long shot.
Which means the only way you can play, or win, is to start investing your money in it wisely.
Try boosting posts that have already proven to be strong performers, not just the posts you think will perform well.
That means you need to post content first, then check your engagement.
Then if your audience engagement is strong, boost that post so that it reaches even more people.
In sum, create and boost great content, not just any content.
Because if recent trends have shown us anything, it’s that we’re only going to see an increase in spending on paid digital advertising in the coming years.
So learning to couple the pay-to-play element with the other tactics in this post is the best way to move forward.
Since you can’t just rest on your laurels and coast off of Organic Reach anymore, you have to take action.
Tip #6: Consider an alternative route
The final piece of advice that I want to leave you with revolves around a rather unsung element of Facebook: Groups.
From a marketing point of view, Facebook Groups have been relatively incognito due to how a sort of risk-reward equation that always tipped more toward risk.
It was just easier to post on your Page, pay for your ads, and ignore Groups.
But now, they’re looking more attractive.
And this makes sense. A Group around your brand is one that consumers will have to opt into.
Which means they get notifications and engage with your brand at a deeper level.
Plus, they’re free, which can’t be beat.
And Facebook has been giving quite a bit of attention to Groups lately:
With more than one billion Facebook users involved in Groups, we may well be looking at a new frontier for social media marketers.
It may take time to lay the groundwork and build your community, but there’s no denying the potential power of your own Group.
They could be the ultimate answer to the Organic Search issue.
The truth of the matter is that Facebook Organic Reach is not dead.
It’s just different than what you’re used to.
Facebook has changed the game, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still play it well.
You just have to realize that your metrics only look different. In reality, your Organic Reach is more accurate than ever, which is a good thing.
But these changes require that you take a new approach to maintaining and improving your social engagement.
A simple change like focusing on quality over quantity is by far the best places to start.
But more than that, try to find the format that fits your audience. Use blog posts, images, and especially video to engage to the fullest.
Then take strides to post your best content at the right time on the right day of the week.
You can also start to curate content that your audience will be interested in, which tells Facebook that your content is shareworthy.
Overall, just focus on brand building, not sales.
And remember that Facebook is now a pay-to-play system for marketers. If you want to win, bring your checkbook.
Finally, start considering Groups as an alternative for opt-in engagement. You could be suprised by what you find.
At the end of the day, your Organic Reach rises and falls on how well you execute the strategies in this post.
All you have to do now is find a way to stick with these changes.
What methods have worked best for keeping Organic Reach up for your brand?
About the Author: Neil Patel is the cofounder of Neil Patel Digital.
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We all want to be “successful” marketers.
But what does success in marketing even mean?
Sure, we can track analytics.
We can count how many social followers we have.
We can watch our number of website visitors grow.
But how do we know what is really successful?
When it comes down to it, there is only one judge for a successful marketing campaign.
There are dozens of “how to” guides and “best practices” marketers can follow.
But the truth of the matter is, if your audience doesn’t connect with it, it doesn’t matter how successful it was for another company or brand.
To truly develop a “successful” marketing campaign, understanding your customers is the only thing you need to do.
What is a customer-centric marketing approach?
Customer-centric marketing uses personalized messages, products, content, and more to ensure the consumer is getting exactly what they’re looking for.
But a customer-centric approach needs to go beyond just your marketing.
It requires creating a “customer-centric organization, not just a customer-centric marketing department,” says IDC research analyst Gerry Murray.
Putting your customers’ needs first can help improve relationships with your audience and retain customers.
This is because customers like to feel like they’re being given special treatment.
In fact, 90% of consumers found personalization appealing, while 80% said they’d be more likely to do business with a company that offers personalized approaches.
With a customer-centric marketing approach, companies stop trying to tell their shoppers what they need.
This kind of traditional marketing has become unappealing and untrustworthy.
With 2 in 10 consumers stating they don’t like online ads, it can be complicated to reach shoppers with traditional marketing.
This is where a customer-centric strategy works a bit differently.
Instead of pushing products and hoping someone will buy, customer-centric businesses craft their messaging, products, and content around the unique needs of their target audience.
Let’s take a look at Southwest Airlines.
Airlines notoriously have a reputation for having poor customer service.
Southwest Airlines, however, has been able to remove themselves from this stereotype to provide a customer-centric marketing approach that their customers love.
They don’t stuff their planes full of TV screens, big seats, or fancy meals and then demand extreme prices for these unnecessary luxuries.
Instead, they offer affordable pricing and won’t charge you ridiculous fees for things like baggage or wanting to change your travel dates.
By giving them what they want – not what marketers think they want – they can gain more attention and see higher conversions.
This has put Southwest Airlines at the front of the airline industry when it comes to customer satisfaction.
Now, compare that to United Airlines – a company who hasn’t had the best year.
United Airlines has struggled to put their customer’s needs at the forefront of their business – and it’s definitely cost them.
Due to their scandals, 67.3% of customers feel at least somewhat negative about the airline with 53.7% feel less willing to purchase a ticket from United Airlines.
Because customers have other options and feel undervalued or even threatened by the company’s lack of attention, they’ll turn elsewhere.
The importance of knowing your customers well
There are over 82 million blog posts published each month – just on WordPress.
Month after month, more and more companies and individuals are taking advantage of blogging.
However, consumers don’t have time to waste on low-quality content they don’t connect with.
And they don’t have to.
If one article doesn’t fit their needs, there are dozens more they can turn to.
The best way to stand out is by creating unique content relevant to the needs of your target audience.
In fact, 58% of content marketers said audience relevance was the biggest contributor to success.
When you can create content that fits the unique needs of your target audience, they can develop trust and familiarity with your brand.
This can make them more loyal to your company and products.
Having loyal customers who make repeat purchases can be a major benefit to your bottom line.
And, there’s proof.
Loyal customers end up being worth ten times their original purchase.
This is because loyal customers are easier to sell to.
This dramatically reduces the amount of time that customer needs to spend being nurtured and convinced.
Instead, they can jump right back into the sales funnel.
In fact, past customers have a 65% chance of converting compared to a 13% chance for new prospects.
By paying attention to your customers’ needs, you can reduce your marketing costs while bringing in more sales and profit.
Loyal customers are also more likely to support you in getting new business.
When a customer is happy with their brand, they’ll want to share their experience with their friends and family.
These recommendations can help boost your trust with new leads and can get you more sales.
In fact, 82% of Americans say they look for recommendations from friends and family when they’re considering a purchase.
When you stop trying to guess what your customers are looking for and start listening to what they’re telling you, you increase revenue while creating long-term relationships.
It’s a win-win.
Take a look at Harley-Davidson.
When you buy a Harley, you’re doing more than just buying a motorcycle. You’re becoming part of a tribe.
This kind of cult brand goes beyond simple brand loyalty.
Harley-Davidson built its reputation as a brand for individuals who don’t play by the rules, but they went beyond that to make it their mission to bring like-minded individuals together.
By introducing their Harley Owners Group chapters, local Harley fanatics could get together for rides, charity events, and more.
At its peak, HOG had over 1 million members.
Harley-Davidson didn’t simply create a brand their customers loved.
They created a lifestyle.
How to get to know your customers better
You’re not going to get to know your customers overnight.
Your customers are dynamic people.
As their needs change, you change.
Amazon’s CEO and Founder, Jeff Bezos, describes his approach to customers like this:
“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”
As one of the most customer-centric companies in the world, it’s safe to say Amazon knows a thing or two about getting to know their audience.
To help you pull a page from Amazon’s book, here are five tips to get to know your customers better.
1. Build out your buyer persona.
A buyer persona is a guide to the individuals you are trying to attract.
Typically, a buyer persona would describe one ideal customer or client in great detail.
Here’s a pretty basic buyer persona template from HubSpot.
Within this persona, you can outline some pretty basic information about your target audience.
This includes their basic demographics and background, and some unique identifiers.
However, if you really want to make your customers the focus of your marketing, you’re going to want to get much deeper than this.
Compare HubSpot’s template to this example from Iron Spring Designs.
While it still covers a lot of the same information as the basic persona, it dives much deeper into who the character really is.
Once you’ve created your basic buyer persona, think of how you can take it a bit further.
What challenges does your customer face?
What are they scared of?
Who influences their choices and how they live their life?
A lot of this information may not seem relevant to your brand and business, but getting the full picture can allow you to establish deeper connections.
Here’s another great example of a persona you can pull from.
However, when creating your buyer personas, you can’t simply create a customer from thin air – especially if you already have a loyal customer base.
Think about Gap’s 2010 rebrand.
The clothing company, known for their basics and staples, decided to go for a younger, trendier crowd – all while neglecting their current customer base.
And people weren’t happy.
While you can use your customer persona to shape the direction you want your business to go, you can’t simply drop your old customers in favor of the new ideal clients you’ve thought up.
Instead, create multiple personas that can coexist.
Remember, creating personas shouldn’t be a one-and-done type deal.
To truly understand your target audience and who they are, you need to watch how they evolve.
Come back and revisit your buyer persona every few months, or after a major shift in your industry occurs.
2. Listen to them on social media.
Our customers’ social pages are a bit like their journals.
Except that they’re willing to display everything in public.
By properly listening to your audience on social, you can learn a lot about what they’re looking for and how they feel about your brand.
However, if you’re strictly looking at mentions, posts, and comments directed at your business, you’re missing out.
Social listening – which differs from simple social monitoring – provides businesses with insights about how they’re meeting (or missing) client expectations.
Let’s take a look at Chipotle.
The incredibly popular food chain has had a bit of a rough year, with multiple food safety scandals.
So, it’s no surprise that food safety is at the center of the majority of conversations about them on Twitter.
However, Chipotle can also see that their customers are just as concerned about things like guac and queso as they are about their food safety.
To get a real idea of who your target audience is and what they expect out of you, you need to go beyond simple mentions to do so.
You can start by simply searching your company name within social platforms.
Here’s a simple example of a Domino’s customer on Twitter.
Although the user didn’t post directly to Domino’s account, they can still find this information from the search bar.
However, social listening tools can give you stronger insights and faster results.
Mention, for example, is a great tool for monitoring your brand anywhere online.
The dashboard gives you insights about who is posting about your brand, as well as where they’re located and what kind of influence they have.
While it is important to pay close attention to the conversations you’re not directly involved with, it’s also crucial to connect when your audience comes to you.
42% of customers expect a brand to respond to them on social within an hour.
Actively watching for questions, comments, or feedback can give you insights into your customers while also getting a feel for the problems your audience may be experiencing.
Check out this response from Comcast, given not even a minute after the customer mentioned their problem.
Remember, social can act as a two-way street.
Don’t be afraid to get involved in conversations, ask questions, and follow users you think can teach you more about your audience.
3. Create and send out surveys.
If you want to know something from your target audience, why not ask?
Surveys can provide you with direct insights or opinions that you wouldn’t have otherwise been able to collect.
However, surveys aren’t the easiest things to get your audience to participate in.
Luckily, there are a few things you can do to improve your survey response rate.
First, keep your survey simple.
Check out this example from The Yard.
This survey is about as easy as it can get.
Recipients aren’t faced with a long survey that would take a serious time commitment to fill out.
Instead, all they need to do is click one button, and The Yard gets a better understanding of if their members are happy.
These kind of embedded surveys can improve survey engagement dramatically.
Take a look at this case study from Get Feedback.
Get Feedback decided to A/B test two similar email surveys, one containing a link to a web survey and another with embedded responses.
They found that the embedded survey actually increased starting engagement by 210% and saw 125% improvement in survey completion.
The embedded survey also had 66% fewer unsubscribers, indicating that users enjoyed this type of survey much more.
When creating your survey or quiz, you also want to humanize your messaging.
By saying things like “it would really help us” or “we’d love to hear your feedback,” you’re showing that there is a real purpose behind the survey results.
You can also improve responses by featuring a progress bar.
Here’s another example from SurveyMonkey.
Notice along the bottom how survey participants can see how close they are to being finished.
This progression bar lets them know when the survey will be over, making them more likely to finish it through.
However, Survey Monkey found that a progress bar doesn’t always help.
For longer surveys, a bottom visual scale, top number, or bottom percent improved completions while bottom numbers and top perfects hurt.
On the other hand, top percents and top numbers reduced completion for short surveys while all bottom placements helped.
If you’re going to use surveys as a way to get to know your target audience, you want to make the process as painless as possible for participants.
Keep questions short and to the point.
Also, be sure to analyze your results from surveys and how participants engage with them.
If you notice that participants are dropping out halfway through, consider what you can do to change this moving forward.
4. Look at the content they’re engaging with.
Whether it’s blog posts, videos, infographics, or images, customers are engaging with different forms of content consistently throughout the day.
In fact, U.S. adults are spending over 12 hours a day consuming media.
To better understand what they want and need, you need to be paying attention.
First, it’s important to see what kind of content of your own they’re connecting with.
The best way to do this is with your Google Analytics.
You can find your company’s top pages by logging into Google Analytics, selecting “Behavior,” then “Site Content” and “All Pages.”
Here’s an example from OptinMonster.
Knowing which pages are your most popular can help you understand what kind of content to create going forward.
Look for any particular patterns showing up in your popular pages.
Also, pay attention to the types of content they’re engaging with.
If your audience prefers infographics over blog posts, you may want to work more infographics into your content strategy.
Also, you can head over to a competitor’s social media page to see what posts are getting a lot of likes or shares.
Here’s an example from Thrive Market.
Using this information, you can include recipe posts into your own strategy.
However, you don’t want to copy competitors directly.
Instead, take what they provide and find a way to make it better.
Add new insights, create a better image or video, or go deeper into the subject to provide more value than your competitors did.
However you can, try to find a way to make your content more valuable than what is already out there.
5. Pay attention to the customers not converting.
There is no doubt there is a lot to learn from your customers.
However, there is probably a lot more you can learn from the leads who aren’t converting.
This process can be a bit more complicated than just getting to know the customers who do buy.
After all, you don’t have as much information on these leads as you do your customers.
To identify where you’re losing leads, you want to consider the traditional buyer’s journey.
Here’s an example from HubSpot.
First, customers become aware of their problem.
They next consider what options are available for solving that problem.
Finally, they decide how they’re going to get a solution.
Each buyer, regardless of industry, goes through this journey.
However, if you’re getting introduced to buyers in the consideration phase and losing them before they make a decision, you could be doing something wrong.
It isn’t likely that every individual that runs into your content is going to purchase from you.
In fact, conversion rates for content marketing are only about 3%.
But you still need to identify the leaks in your sales funnel.
You should be providing content for every stage of the buyer’s journey.
By ensuring you’re covering all your bases, you can guarantee each individual has the information they need to make it to the end.
You’ll also want to consider areas where you see engagements, but not conversions.
Social is a prime example of this.
If you’re constantly posting new content and getting hundreds of likes and comments, but don’t see any sales, it means there is a serious disconnect going on.
The same is true for your blog posts or videos.
Try to switch up your CTAs, social posts, or even introduce a new form of content.
And you don’t need to get too creative about what you add.
Take this dentist from Indiana, for example.
Dr. Sutor uses Facebook Live to talk about common dental problems – and gets thousands of views.
While these numbers aren’t extreme, they’re an easy way to bring in new potential leads and expand reach.
Make small changes that allow you to properly track how your audience is influenced and make a note of any improvements.
As you begin to learn what your target audience doesn’t like, you can give them more of what they do like.
When it comes to marketing, stop assuming you know best.
If you’re still trying to tell your audience what they need, you’re never going to sell products.
Today’s shopper understands their needs and the solutions available to them.
They’re well-researched, smart, and unwilling to fall for the traditional sales tactics.
But when you work with them to create and deliver the solutions they want, you can create a loyal following that wants to help you succeed.
How has getting to know your customers improved your sales and marketing?
About the Author: Neil Patel is the cofounder of Neil Patel Digital.
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