Search Intent: How to Analyze and Optimize Your Site

What answer is a searcher looking for? For sustainable, valuable search traffic, you’d better provide it. Satisfying search intent is Google’s fundamental goal. But algorithms haven’t always kept pace. Proxies like backlinks and keywords have long been—and still are—stand-ins for the likelihood that a web page will satisfy user intent. Optimizing for intent is the […]

The post Search Intent: How to Analyze and Optimize Your Site appeared first on CXL.

What answer is a searcher looking for? For sustainable, valuable search traffic, you’d better provide it.

Satisfying search intent is Google’s fundamental goal. But algorithms haven’t always kept pace. Proxies like backlinks and keywords have long been—and still are—stand-ins for the likelihood that a web page will satisfy user intent.

Optimizing for intent is the long play, for Google and your site. A page that’s well-matched for user intent can outperform those that optimize primarily for search engines—in search and after the click.

It’s an SEO strategy that focuses on making users happy rather than hitting a particular keyword density or winning exact-match anchor text.

Still, to translate the “make users happy” bromide into something executable, you need to know a few things:

  1. How Google (and others) define search intent;
  2. How to evaluate your target keywords for intent;
  3. What to do with search intent data.

1. How Google (and others) define search intent

For Google, understanding search intent is the key to returning useful search results. (And, by extension, the key to maintaining and growing its search market share, thus capturing more eyeballs for ads.)

The classic division of search intent offers three variations of queries:

  • Informational. Learn something (e.g. how to train for a marathon).
  • Transactional. Buy something (e.g. running shoes order online).
  • Navigational. Go to a specific site (e.g. runners world training plans).

Past studies have estimated that as many as 80% of queries are informational, with the remainder split equally between the other two types.

Google’s latest Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines identify four main types of intent:

  • Know. “The intent of a Know query is to find information on a topic. Users want to Know more about something.”
  • Do. “The intent of a Do query is to accomplish a goal or engage in an activity on a phone. The goal or activity may be to download, to buy, to obtain, to be entertained by, or to interact with a website or app.”
  • Website. “The intent of a Website query is to locate a specific website or webpage that users have requested.”
  • Visit-in-person. “Some queries clearly ‘ask’ for nearby information or nearby results (e.g., businesses, organizations, other nearby places).”
Know queries per Google's guidelines
Examples of Know queries from Google’s guidelines. These informational queries are the bulk of searches. (Image source)

The guidelines also identify two sub-types:

  • Know Simple. “Know Simple queries seek a very specific answer, like a fact, diagram, etc. This answer has to be correct and complete, and can be displayed in a relatively small amount of space: the size of a mobile phone screen. As a rule of thumb, if most people would agree on a correct answer, and it would fit in 1–2 sentences or a short list of items, the query can be called a Know Simple query.”
  • Device Action. “Device Action queries are a special kind of Do query. Users are asking their phone to do something for them. Users giving Device Action queries may be using phones in the hands-free mode, for example, while in a car [. . .] A Device Action query usually has a clear action word and intent.”

Many keywords fall clearly into one bucket or another. Some don’t.

What happens when search intent is ambiguous?

Over time, Google has gotten better at parsing search intent, particularly for ambiguous queries. (The 2013 Hummingbird update is often cited as a major improvement in Google’s understanding of search intent.)

Bill Slawski offers a simple example of a query with ambiguous intent:

If someone enters “new york pizza sunnyvale” (without the quotation marks) into a search box at Google or Yahoo or Bing, it’s not quite clear whether they are looking for: (1) pizza in New York, in a neighborhood or area referred to as Sunnyvale, (2) New York style pizza in a place called Sunnyvale, (3) a place called “New York Pizza,” in Sunnyvale, or (4) some other result.

As Kevin Indig notes, longer queries tend to be less ambiguous. (Voice search may also reduce ambiguity because voice queries are usually longer than text queries.)

Queries closer to a sale tend to be longer and less ambiguous, too. The initial consumer research that starts with “coffee grinder” may yield follow-up queries like “conical burr grinder reviews” as the searcher progresses toward a purchase.

Geography (i.e. IP address) can provide clues to search engines, as can search history, time of year, or time of day. For example, an ambiguous query like “flowers” may return different results on February 14 compared to July 14.

variable SERP for champions league

On the day of the quarterfinals, the query “champions league” returns a Google-provided list of results and fixtures, “Top Stories” listings, and a Twitter carousel. This SERP won’t look the same over the summer.   

Because some queries blend multiple types of intent, intent categories are best understood as “probabilistic.”

For site owners, ambiguity can be an advantage. For example, Justin Briggs suggests that forums and other sites full of user-generated content reveal “when Google is ‘reaching’ for a good result.” The imperative? If you can answer that query clearly, the traffic is up for grabs.

There are other methods of evaluating search intent, too, like active vs. passive intent.

Active vs. passive intent

Active intent,  A.J. Kohn notes, is “explicitly described by the query syntax.” It’s not the only intent of the query, however. And, Kohn continues, to satisfy users, you need to meet passive intent, too.

Passive intent is implicit in the query. It’s best identified by asking yourself “what the user would search for next … over and over again.”

In an example shared by Kohn, the query “bike trails in walnut creek” asks explicitly (i.e. active intent) for a list of bike trails. It also implicitly asks (i.e. passive intent) for other information like maps, trail reviews, and photos.

Satisfying passive intent, Kohn argues, is essential for user engagement and conversion. If active intent brings in users at the top of the funnel, passive intent engages and converts them. It’s “the way you build your brand, convert users and ween yourself from being overly dependent on search engine traffic.”

There is a caveat, according to Kohn, in addition to wider challenges:

One of the mistakes I see many making is addressing active and passive intent equally. Or simply not paying attention to query syntax and decoding intent properly. More than ever, your job as an SEO is to extract intents from query syntax.

So, how do you identify intent for the keywords you care about?

2. How to evaluate your target keywords for intent

For plenty of queries, the intent is obvious. For example, “portable phone charger reviews” is pretty straightforward.

Because bottom-of-funnel queries tend to offer more information (and less uncertainty), evaluating intent is more critical at earlier stages, with informational queries. Those informational queries are often the highest volume terms a site targets—key drivers of awareness and acquisition.

For smaller sites, intent evaluation is quick and easy. A manual process works. For larger sites, however, scaling that process is essential. Here’s how to do both.

How to evaluate search intent manually

Look at the search engine results page (SERP). What does it show? Do all results suggest a similar intent? Or do they satisfy a range of potential intents?

In SERPs, Google shows its hand. Top-ranking search results are ample evidence of what users want:

  • Which types of sites rank highly? Individual sites? Aggregators? Blogs? Government and university sites?
  • What type of content is on those pages? Long-form articles? Short explanations? Images? Videos?
  • What is the first question answered? What text is offset or included in headers? What subtopics are (or aren’t) covered?

The SERP for “best restaurants richmond va” tries to satisfy two different intents:

  • Local map listings with tons of five-star Google reviews. For searchers in Richmond who want to call or visit a local restaurant.
  • Blue links of aggregator sites with “Best Restaurants” lists. For searchers anywhere who want to browse options.
SERP with two intents
The lesson? Don’t expect to rank your restaurant’s homepage among the blue links.

One takeaway: If you run a restaurant, thinking that you can “optimize” your site to get listed among the blue links would be a lost cause.

While this process is simple and intuitive, it doesn’t scale. So what can you do when need to decode intent for thousands of pages?

How to scale intent evaluation

Several SEO tools—Ahrefs, Moz, SEMRush, and others—track SERP features for individual keywords. Those features are one way to map intent to queries at scale.

If you’re already tracking keywords in one of those tools, you can export the list and assign intent categories based on the type of search result. For example:

  • SERPs that return a featured snippet are more likely to be Know Simple queries.
  • SERPs with a high cost-per-click (data those tools also return) suggest a bottom-of-funnel or transactional query.
  • SERPs without any ads suggest top-of-funnel informational intent.
  • SERPs with map results suggest Visit-in-person intent, etc.

Depending on your industry, different features may hint at different intents. You can sample keywords with various SERP features and code the intent.

So, if you’re trying to assign intent to 10,000 keywords, manually review the intent for 50 keywords for each SERP feature, then programmatically assign intent to the remainder.

Another way to do it is to classify keyword modifiers by intent. (A lengthy list of modifiers is available here.) Research From STAT, now part of Moz, suggests where certain modifiers fall along the intent spectrum:

keyword modifiers that show search intent
Categorizing keyword modifiers by intent can help scale a classification effort. (Image source)

If you’re starting with a massive list of keywords, you can use an N-gram tool to identify common modifiers within your keyword data. The most common phrases can serve as a basis for classification (and help automate tagging in a spreadsheet).

Categorizing keyword modifiers is especially useful for sites that have hundreds or thousands of similar pages, like review sites with city-specific content or sites with hundreds of similar products.

Keyword modifiers are also an easy way to expand the set of keywords you track. After all, the goal of identifying intent is not just to see where you meet it but where you may need to expand content to do so (more on that later).

A Moz article offers an example of informational modifiers for products:

  • [product name]
  • what is [product name]
  • how does [product name] work
  • how do I use [product name]

The end result—for manual or automated tagging—is a spreadsheet that classifies keywords by intent:

Whether you choose Google’s four-intent model or another is up to you. You could, for example, map keywords based on your user journey. It’s one of several high-value things you can do with search intent data.

3. What to do with search intent data

Search intent data can support initial research, improve keyword tracking, or add a sharper business focus to reporting. It can also guide on-page content choices, content strategy, or web design.

Using search intent data for research and evaluation

1. Map content to the buyer journey.

A Think with Google report contends that

People turn to their devices to get immediate answers. And every time they do, they are expressing intent and reshaping the traditional marketing funnel along the way.

Customers use search engines from initial consideration through the purchase—and past it. You can map that intent to your funnel. The result is a framework for evaluating search performance based on larger business goals.

For example, while all of your blog posts may qualify as “Informational” in intent, some may serve users in different stages of awareness:

mapping search intent to the user journey
Fitting keywords into the customer journey is a better way to segment intent. (Image source)

A journey-based mapping of keyword intent pays dividends for competitor research, as well as keyword tracking and reporting.

2. Identify content gaps with competitor research.

Where in the user journey are you struggling? Which intent gaps are competitors filling? Tools like SEMRush and Ahrefs offer keyword-based domain comparisons.

You can enter your domain and several competitor domains. Then, filter for keyword modifiers that you’ve mapped to intent. For example, Ahrefs and Moz are outperforming SEMRush for several informational “how to” queries:

domain comparison for intent mapping

This analysis scales to compare performance at each stage of the funnel. At the same time, it provides a ready-made list of topics to try to close the gap.

Competitor analysis identifies keywords for which your site might reasonably rank. A blue-sky approach to keyword research often yields queries that you’d like to rank for but for which Google perceives an alternative intent (e.g. displays aggregators when you’re an individual site, or vice versa).

3. Track rankings based on intent.

Instead of reporting on keywords by topic (e.g. “We rank well for Product X but not Product Y”), you can measure performance in the context of your marketing funnel.

For example, you may do well for bottom-of-funnel queries (across several products) but struggle to rank for top-of-funnel informational content.

Tracking based on intent is a smarter way to prioritize content expansion, new page creation, or page design tweaks.

Using search intent data for page design and development

4. Add content to answer active and passive intent.

What else could you answer for users? What questions will they have next?

Google’s Knowledge Cards, Kohn offers, are a perfect example of aggregating intent—answering a query and providing valuable context. A restaurant name query, for example, answers so many more questions:

What type of restaurant is it? Is it expensive? Where is it? How do I get there? What’s their phone number? Can I make a reservation? What’s on the menu? Is the food good? Is it open now? What alternatives are nearby?

restaurant knowledge card fulfilling passive and active intent
An example of the myriad answers provided by a Knowledge Card—those answers often satisfy passive intent for ambiguous queries.

You may need to expand content on an existing page. Or you may want to create new pages to address unfulfilled user intent. The “Expand vs. Create” decision often hinges on search volume. If the subtopic has search volume, create a new page; if it doesn’t, expand the current one.

Briggs offers a framework for ongoing page development:

One method we’ve used is to write a broad, robust article first while trying to cover several aspects of the topic. We wait for it to start ranking well, then mine Google Search Console for the keywords where we’re 6 through 15. These are typically good candidates for longtail, specific follow-up posts.

Larger sites, he notes, may succeed by targeting high-volume, highly competitive terms first. Smaller sites, in contrast, benefit by targeting several long-tail queries, then attacking a top-level keyword after they’ve built topical authority.

5. Tailor content to win more clicks in the SERPs.

Google’s definition of a Know Simple query hints at several guidelines for featured snippets:

  • 1–2 sentences in length;
  • Short lists;
  • “Correct and complete” responses;
  • Fit neatly within a mobile phone screen.

Featured snippets are a common target of search engine optimizers. They generate in-SERP visibility and tons of clicks—but they can cannibalize them, too.

If the search intent is to get a quick answer and not click any link, optimizing for featured snippets may satisfy users (and Google) but ultimately erode organic traffic for all sites (a Prisoner’s Dilemma, according to Rand Fishkin).

It still makes sense to optimize for featured snippets. But the value may be limited to “URL awareness” as users, especially those on mobile, don’t click through.

Beyond featured snippets, there are other ways to try to improve click-through rates. Fishkin highlights an underused strategy: writing page titles and meta descriptions for intent, even at the expense of keyword targeting.

That strategy has risks, but it’s a potential pathway for “underdog” sites to compete against industry stalwarts. If you can get to the bottom of Page 1, a page title and meta description written for humans (rather than search engines) could help differentiate your site, earn more clicks, and (probably) send positive signals back to search engines.

6. Design pages to satisfy active intent first.

“It’s essential to understand the hierarchy of intent so you can deliver the right experience,” Kohn contends. “This is where content and design collide with ‘traditional’ search.”

For SEO, page design has two imperatives:

  • Answer active intent clearly and immediately;
  • Provide a logical hierarchy of information to satisfy passive intent.

For Know queries, is the answer clearly visible via header tags, larger font, or an offset block? Are follow-up questions answered with subheads? For Transactional queries, is the next click clear and easy to find?

These are basic principles of UX—but they also have an impact on search performance. Users who don’t find answers immediately are likely to bounce straight back to search results. The “UX is a ranking factor” argument has some truth—and controversy.

We all endure recipe sites that require a lengthy scroll to get to the recipe. That’s because the preceding text (usually a banal essay about the recipe’s origin) provides context for search engines. That context can help sites rank in a vertical like recipes, where search engines can’t differentiate a good chocolate chip cookie from a life-changing one.

Googlers like John Mueller continue to dissuade webmasters from producing content that serves search engines at the expense of the user experience. But the tension remains—those tactics still work.

The lesson, then, is to take the long view. Google would prefer not to value supporting text when it’s superfluous, though it may still reward sites for it now. Slowly, that need will decline. Periodically testing its removal—to see the impact on rankings and user behavior—is worthwhile.

Conclusion

“Target the keyword, optimize the intent.” Kohn’s maxim is the best summary of how search intent fits into an SEO effort. Keywords remain the starting point for a page. But intent should guide decision-making about what those pages should look like.

Creating a list of relevant keywords and categorizing them by intent—whether you target them now or not—can show you where in the user journey you enjoy visibility, and where you don’t.

That intent data can:

  • Prioritize content expansion on existing pages;
  • Identify the need for new pages;
  • Suggest a page design that quickly and clearly solves for active intent first.  

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6 PPC Tactics for Account-Based Marketing Campaigns

PPC campaigns continue to become increasingly well-targeted. More and more companies are using tactics like single-keyword ad groups (SKAGs) and single-product ad groups (SPAGs). While those tactics may have differentiated your campaigns in the past, they no longer do (or won’t soon). One way to stand out is to go beyond keyword targeting and create […]

The post 6 PPC Tactics for Account-Based Marketing Campaigns appeared first on CXL.

PPC campaigns continue to become increasingly well-targeted. More and more companies are using tactics like single-keyword ad groups (SKAGs) and single-product ad groups (SPAGs).

While those tactics may have differentiated your campaigns in the past, they no longer do (or won’t soon). One way to stand out is to go beyond keyword targeting and create PPC campaigns for specific targets—an account-based marketing (ABM) strategy.

This post gives you six tactics to help execute PPC campaigns as part of an ABM strategy. You can’t focus on paid channels alone, however. Other tactics that support paid campaigns—like company-specific content and strong social media profiles—are equally vital.

To get started, you first have to balance your ABM efforts with the always-on campaigns that drive consistent growth.

The Quota-Campaign approach

You can’t execute a smart, super-personalized ABM PPC campaign without first making sure your team is hitting their minimum quotas.

ABM campaigns dedicate resources and time toward only a few prospects, and enterprise-level leads often have long sales cycles. That makes an ABM-only approach risky. So how do you balance the allocation of resources between ABM and traditional campaigns?

The Quota-Campaign approach is one solution. The Quota-Campaign approach establishes minimum output levels while allotting the balance of time to projects—like ABM campaigns.

Your Quota project focuses on weekly (or monthly) minimums, like relaunching brand campaigns or optimizing existing product-focused campaigns. Once quotas maintain an undercurrent of growth, you can test more freely.

This is where Campaign projects (i.e. PPC for ABM) begin. These campaigns periodically spike growth by deploying tactics outlined below. Regardless of tactic, however, all ABM PPC campaigns start with one thing: ad creative and supporting content.

Ad creative and content for ABM PPC campaigns

With account-based content, you’re usually cutting out search engines and proactively reaching out to prospects. Content for paid advertising campaigns—ad copy, images, landing pages, downloadables, etc.—is all personalized for singular brands. (Or, at the very least, narrowly targeted verticals.)

So what content is essential to run an ABM-focused paid campaign? Below (on the right) are just a few examples of account-based content, most of which can be used in PPC campaigns. (There are more specific examples further below.)

ABM tries to surround singular targets with more content. (Image source)

The key is to customize content for specific targets and channels (e.g. Google Ads, Facebook retargeting). That task can quickly become expensive. To make content creation more sustainable:

  • Think of content production in terms of topics (e.g. Trends in Industry X), not outcomes (e.g. a blog post). You can repackage variants of the same information for multiple channels (blog, whitepaper, video, etc.).
  • Create industry-specific (rather than company-specific) downloadables that can be lightly redesigned for multiple targets.
  • Translate company research into competitive research—research on four prospects’ PPC campaigns, for example, can be offered to each as competitive research on the other three.

Ultimately, the array of offers and offer timing require the support of multiple channels. PPC campaigns for ABM don’t work well in isolation.

With that in mind, a few tactics detailed below have important supporting roles, even though they’re not “PPC” or “ABM” tactics per se. Each helps integrate PPC campaigns with a multi-channel ABM strategy.

1. Customer Match In Google Ads

As the Google Ads Support Center explains:

Customer Match lets you use your online and offline data to reach and re-engage with your customers across Search, Shopping, Gmail, and YouTube.

With ABM campaigns, this offline data (like prospect/lead information) can help you customize your ABM ads. Ideally, you’ll be using some form of lead management tool to keep track of how far your prospects have moved through your ABM funnel.

With Customer Match, you can target users based on their Google accounts (if you have their information), so only your ideal ABM prospect list sees your ads.

That’s what you call highly targeted. (Image source)

To set up Customer Match in Google Ads:

  1. Create a list in Google Ads of your ABM prospect list.
  2. Upload the data file containing user contact info.
  3. Create or update your new custom ABM ad campaign.
  4. Now, when these users are signed into their Google account, they see your ads.

And this is only getting started with targeted PPC campaigns for your ABM strategy.

2. Similar Audiences in Google Ads

Like their Facebook counterparts (Lookalike Audiences), Similar Audiences in Google Ads allow you to scale your Customer Match audiences by entrusting Google to identify similar users (potentially from the same company) to add to your list.

Similar Audiences let you gently expand your audience while ensuring it’s visible only to relevant eyes. Just be cautious that your ABM strategy doesn’t devolve into an old-fashioned spray-and-pray campaign.

Still, if you’re targeting a narrow vertical rather than a specific company (or don’t have the data for a true company- or target-specific ABM campaign), Similar Audiences can be useful.

Keep in mind, though, that just like Lookalike Audiences, you need at least 1,000 users in your Customer Match Audience to start scaling.

3. Radius Targeting in Google Ads

Radius Targeting in Google Ads is a cheeky way to get your ABM prospects to engage with your ads during work hours (when business decisions tend to be made).

If you know the address of your target company’s office (or simply Google it), you can isolate the geolocation of your ads to the radius of that company’s property.

This eliminates wasteful spend in siloed ABM campaigns and also enables you to focus your ad copy on the exact audience you’re targeting. If your highest value prospect company has one location, there’s no need to target an ABM Google Ads campaign to the entire city.

4. Promotion of account-based content via social media

Social media may be the most powerful ABM channel. Both paid and organic strategies engage directly with the decision-makers of the companies you’re targeting.

LinkedIn is the king of social media platforms for ABM. Success, however, is not just about running ads—it’s about building an authoritative presence that helps build a relationship with potential buyers after you capture their initial interest with, for example, a promoted post.

How do organic efforts connect to paid social campaigns? Let’s take a look at a brief ABM social promotion campaign that we ran recently.

First, we started off with a list of software companies we thought were a good fit for our agency—ideal prospects. We then created content just for them, based on the value they could instantly take home.

We decided to create a series of hyper-personalized videos that we called “Funnel Fixers.” Each was tailored to their specific needs and their brand and included:

  • Overall SERP analysis for their primary keywords;
  • Overview of their competitor ads;
  • Analysis of their ad copy;
  • Analysis of their landing pages and forms;
  • Prescriptive suggestions based on our findings;
  • Potential competitor analysis (1–3 examples per video).

To promote these videos across our paid social channels, we cut smaller, bite-sized snippets out of the original videos and promoted YouTube links across our branded channels on LinkedIn (as well as Facebook and Twitter).

For Facebook and Twitter, we even tagged our target prospect in direct social shoutouts:

This is also where LinkedIn is an ABM powerhouse for enterprise-level B2B marketers. For starters, boosting these videos was a must. We kept an eye on how these posts performed organically to decide when (and where) to boost them.

LinkedIn Pulse rewards a spike in engagement by raising the placement of your content in the feeds of LinkedIn channels you tag. On top of these boosts in LinkedIn visibility, you get to engage directly with your target decision-makers (which is why strong company and individual profiles are important—more below).

Because you can track down actual individuals based on which companies they work for, you can customize your LinkedIn social promotions by tagging decision-makers at the companies you’re targeting—starting a conversation with the person who will sign on the dotted line (with content made specifically for them).

LinkedIn also allows for scheduled content promotion to keep your brand top-of-mind during the long sales cycle. You can integrate LinkedIn posts with automated social management tools like Buffer.

By the time your scheduled Sponsored Content ads re-engage your LinkedIn audience, your content will have earned plenty of social proof.

But before you start spending thousands on LinkedIn Ads…

Make sure that your presence on LinkedIn reflects well on your brand. Many interactions with ABM prospects may take place organically, as comments on promoted content, for example.

That means optimizing your company page and getting individual reps to optimize their personal LinkedIn profiles.

Here’s a great example of a strong LinkedIn profile. (Image source)

“Optimizing profiles” means:

  • Consistently sharing branded content;
  • Sharing and tagging external content to boost authority;
  • Tagging prospects in relevant, helpful posts;
  • Posting about locations and events;
  • Not salesy at all;
  • Participating in conversations via comments;
  • Direct Messaging prospects while approaching conversion.

If this seems overwhelming, you may want to invest in the LinkedIn Sales Navigator to make engaging these prospects easier to manage.

Once you’ve developed a LinkedIn reputation that your prospects can trust as an authoritative voice (as opposed to obnoxious sales rep), your Linkedin Ads campaigns will be much more likely to generate a strong ROI.

5. Scaling ABM PPC campaigns with dynamic text insertion

As mentioned earlier, ABM has its drawbacks. It limits the scope of your campaigns to a much smaller audience. Dynamic text insertion can customize your broader marketing and promotion strategies to strengthen your brand presence and support ABM campaigns.

It’s a way to offer more tailored messaging to prospects at scale—somewhere between a traditional blanket approach and hyper-targeted ABM efforts. That effort can help maintain a consistent message after a prospect clicks on an ad or joins your email list.

Dynamic text matches the copy of your ad, landing page, and thank-you page with the exact words your prospects used to find you in the first place. Depending on where prospects are in the funnel, you can customize your CTAs as well.

Dynamic Text Insertion can generate more relevant landing pages, which, in turn, can lead to more relevant calls-to-action and content offers. (Image source)

If you’re a company or agency that offers multiple services (e.g. PPC and CRO), then you may want to segment your prospects based on the type of account-based content your traffic comes from.

If this is the case, dynamic text insertion is the perfect solution to continue message matching from externally facing content to the internal, customized user experience.

6. Account-based retargeting for ABM

ABM retargeting isn’t that different from ordinary retargeting. The key differences are the greater precision of targeting and customization—for the audience and the specific point in the funnel.

As Ed Fry details, running effective retargeting ads for ABM is a multi-step process. A reverse IP lookup (with the help of Clearbit or related tools) can reveal the associated company of site visitors.

But that list may still be too broad. The next level of refinement is to narrow the list to best-fit companies. You can do that with CRM data and lead-scoring software.

Real advancements, Fry continues, come when you enrich prospect information and create dynamic ad audiences—serving ads to the best prospects within the best-fit companies while avoiding tedious re-uploading lists.

(Image source)

Such well-targeted PPC campaigns for ABM, Fry notes, have two benefits:

1. Disengage ads after paid conversion – this prevents wasted ad spend and confusing offers. Not every prospect at an account will hit a burn pixel. Dynamic audiences ensure you’re only retargeting individuals before the conversion.

2. Saturate ads to stakeholders who are close to paid conversion – it pays to accelerate pipeline, and further down the funnel with a small, high value audience, it can make sense to outbid everyone else for the inventory amongst your target

When it comes to ABM and Facebook Retargeting, the biggest win is re-engaging the same users about the same offer based on their previous interest.

Facebook retargeting layers customer contact information over already highly custom-built audiences. This makes it the perfect ABM weapon for prospects who may be interested but are currently unavailable. This can be for a few reasons:

  • Currently with another vendor;
  • Don’t have the budget;
  • Are going through internal changes at the company, etc.

Facebook Dark Posts (i.e. posts that are not publicly visible) can help identify the most compelling offers, keep you engaged with unavailable prospects, and help you to gauge where they are in the ABM funnel.

Here are a few more ways to make sure your ABM retargeting doesn’t go to waste:

  • Keep your brand and messaging ever-present in the eyes of your prospects with display ads on competitive keywords.
  • Improve your organic and paid presence on branded keywords as your prospects move down funnel from research to consideration.
  • Use Facebook Dark Posts and Smoke Tests to identify new ABM offers to increase click-through and conversion rates.

Conclusion

The saturation of the PPC market with hyper-targeted campaigns has made it more difficult to stand out. ABM is a potential solution.

ABM focuses the list of target accounts to a select few or even one at a time. This cranks up the pressure to close. Using a Quota-Campaign approach can balance ongoing needs with ABM campaigns.

Successfully run ABM campaigns allow you to stand alone in your dedication to potential clients by creating ads and content just for them. It also helps you surround them on all sides with:

  • Customer Match, Similar Audiences, and Radius Targeting in Google Ads;
  • Strong profiles, tailored content, and boosted posts on social media, especially LinkedIn;
  • A focus on retargeting to keep prospects warm during the long sales cycle.

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How to Run a Successful Marketing Campaign on Product Hunt

A new product launch is never easy, even if you’re a well-known marketer or entrepreneur. Product Hunt, if used properly, can be an effective way to launch a new product in a crowded market. If you’ve chosen—or are thinking about choosing—Product Hunt as your platform, here are the steps to improve your chances of success. […]

The post How to Run a Successful Marketing Campaign on Product Hunt appeared first on CXL.

A new product launch is never easy, even if you’re a well-known marketer or entrepreneur. Product Hunt, if used properly, can be an effective way to launch a new product in a crowded market.

If you’ve chosen—or are thinking about choosing—Product Hunt as your platform, here are the steps to improve your chances of success.

What is Product Hunt and who should use it?

Product Hunt is a community-based website that allows makers and marketers to launch their products or services and get in touch with their first real users. The community can jump start products through votes and (honest) reviews, which are essential in the early stages of campaigns.

Product Hunt pairs people working in product development and people interested in testing new products in their infancy. Product Hunt is free, an added benefit for many startups.

Often, makers and influencers are happy to test your product, even if it’s in an MVP stage or has bugs. These early supporters form a base of users and provide valuable feedback regarding your product’s functionality.

Regular users can also discover and test new apps and tools first hand. They can contribute to the final development of their favorite apps and tools via reviews and comments, engage actively with makers, and learn technical details.

product hunt front page

One of the most successful stories for a Product Hunt launch is Robinhood, a cost-free and commission-free brokerage app that facilitates investments without additional costs for every closed deal.

robinhood app on product hunt

What were their numbers? Well, their campaign allowed them to raise $176 million in total funding and spread the word about their app across platforms. They recently hit 2 million users and have enjoyed 17% monthly growth for several months.

Few launches will hit those heights. But here are the keys to increasing your chances of success before, during, and after the launch.

Before the Launch

According to Jeroen Corthout, whose campaign on Product Hunt was a great success:

When you’re launching on Product Hunt, it’s important to understand that you will only get noticed if you manage to hit the front page. That’s why it’s important to build up some support for your launch upfront within the Product Hunt community.

That begs the larger question: What do you want to achieve with this Product Hunt launch?

Do you want your product to be featured on the front page? Do you want to get press coverage? Do you want to attract investors? Do you want 10,000 new users?

Whatever your objective, establish the metrics you want to track in advance to determine whether your launch is a success:

  • Comments and reviews received;
  • Number of upvotes;
  • Number of downloads/active installs;
  • Referral traffic from social media and Product Hunt;
  • Mentions in the media and on social media platforms.

Once you know what you want—and how you’ll measure it—you can begin preparing your product, site, and supporting materials to achieve your goals.  

1. Prepare your product/website for the launch

Product Hunt is ideal for a startup—it connects you with your first real community of users. However, before getting there, test your product with a close community of friends or peers outside the Product Hunt community. Let’s call this the “alpha” test. It’s the first stage of your campaign.

The key is to make sure that everything works before going public. Here are some things you check at this point:

  1. Your product is ready to be tested. This means that you’ve applied feedback from alpha testers and that your product has no major bugs for its core functionality. Your product is not going to be perfect. That’s perfectly fine. You want to find out which features are worth polishing. A few core features, basic onboarding, nice design, and an intuitive interface are the minimum requirements.  
  2. You have supporting materials to make your product easy to use. Prepare a full list of FAQ-type content for potential customers that covers every technical aspect of the product.
  3. Your social media profiles are up and running. Create dedicated social media pages and profiles, which can help with market research and spread the word about your product.
  4. Some aspect of your product is free. If you plan a future commercial/paid plan for your users, implement this option after the launch. You need people to come and test it, review it, and publish their comments on Product Hunt and other channels. Nobody will pay upfront for the privilege. Free trials and freemium models can work, as well as special offers to Product Hunt users (e.g. three months of free access).
  5. You have a dedicated Product Hunt page on your website. You can welcome Product Hunt users and deliver a custom offer. Here’s an example of such a page from Algolia, which offers two free months of access:
dedicated product hunt page on company website

The dedicated page is the go-to place for delivering more information about your product and company to new users. Here’s another example from Video Ask, a simple app launched through Product Hunt a while ago:

product page on company site

The page is easy to understand and gives the visitor an instant idea of what the product is about. You get links to the app, an explainer video and, of course, a link to try Video Ask.

Or, you can create an entirely new section on your website, one dedicated solely to your Product Hunt launch:

website section for product hunt users

2. Prepare yourself for the Product Hunt community

Create your own Product Hunt account and get added as a maker. Then, browse the website, see what pages look like, what people are talking about, and how makers respond to user comments and reviews.

Learn everything you can about the ecosystem. Be active:

  • Discover new tools that you may be interested in;
  • Upvote those that you find useful;
  • Leave comments and reviews.

Identify a few super-active Product Hunters and connect with them. These people will be able to paint an accurate picture of the community and how to approach it when you launch.

Read as much as you can about Product Hunt and study success stories of the best product launches (like this one or these).

3. Get your team to create Product Hunt accounts

Teach your team about Product Hunt. Inform them about the benefits and what you require from them post-launch. Advise them to create free hunter accounts (at least) one to two weeks before the actual launch.

create account product hunt

For your alpha testing community, prepare a newsletter explaining your plans to work with Product Hunt and encourage them to create hunter accounts as well. (Product Hunt is less than 5 years old. Not all your testers—or even members of your team—will know what it’s about.)

Many won’t sign up, but if you convince a few, you’ll gain a lot. Any existing community is better than none.

4. Prepare an article or FAQ page in which you explain your product in detail

A highly visual website alone may not convey enough information. Prepare an article and, if necessary, a press release. You don’t have to send it to the press but it should be there, available on your website, if your visitors want more information regarding your launch.

Prepare an FAQ page, too. Answer your alpha testers’ most common questions about your product. Teach people about what your product is good for, how it can help them, and so on.

If your product is better seen in action, you can include screenshots or videos (which can be used in other ways, too, as detailed below).

5. Create an entertaining explainer video or GIF

Almost all businesses use videos for their marketing campaigns, and 91% of marketers consider videos an important part of their strategy.

Share explainer videos on YouTube, on your website, and on other social media channels. You can also post videos on your Product Hunt page. Here’s an example of a Product Hunt page that features a video description:

explainer video for product hunt

GIF animations that show your product in action are a great addition to press releases and write-ups on third-party blogs and websites.

6. Prepare screenshots that show your product in action

You’ll need screenshots to present your product and to use for tutorials and related articles.

Screenshots also make great assets for your support team to aid text-based explanations to alpha testers, Product Hunt users, and, down the road, paying customers.

Here’s a solid example of screenshots for a dedicated Product Hunt page. It comes from Poker via Slack:

Here’s another example from Kony Quantum, which uses screenshots on its official Product Hunt launch page:

screenshots for product hunt page

7. Prepare visuals for a social media campaign

If the product launch goes well, you’ll support the Product Hunt campaign across all channels, social media included.

You’ll need attractive posts, banners, and designs to help persuade your target audience to try your product. Online design tools such as Bannersnack allow you to create full sets of visuals for all social media platforms at once.

Here are examples of social media posts on Facebook and Twitter that announced the start of a Product Hunt campaign:

facebook post for product hunt

A second example comes from Sunlight:

product hunt launch announcement on twitter

8. Prepare explainer text/short description about the product

You’ll need the following:

  • Title;
  • Tag Name;
  • Meta Tags;
  • Website URL;
  • Description (150–300 characters).

The description is an opportunity to provide more detailed information about your product and connect it to your unique value proposition. Try to keep it short (3–4 sentences) and avoid using buzzwords.

This will give you basic information to share about your product with third-party websites, blogs, and online digital catalogs.

product hunt description

It’ll also give you the details you need later to fill out the information for your Product Hunt launch:

product hunt details

As you can see, you need a name, a tagline, a couple of tags/keywords, a thumbnail, and, of course, a download link (for an app) or a link to the landing page dedicated to the Product Hunt launch.

9. Rest before the launch

Take at least a day or two to prepare yourself for launch day. It’s going to be stressful, and you’ll have a lot of work to do when you finally get to launch on Product Hunt.

The Launch Day

You’ve finally gotten to the big day. What steps should you take now?

For starters, make sure there’s no other activity planned for the day. It’s important to monitor the Product Hunt account and respond quickly and thoroughly to comments, reviews, and questions.

RealtimeBoard learned how easy it is to fail if you don’t pay attention to your Product Hunt campaign. I encourage you to read about their experience, but there were two key takeaways:

  1. Product Hunt is all about two-way communication.
  2. No one will mention your product (regardless of how good it is) if you don’t respond to the community.

Once you’re able to give the launch your full attention, here are the next steps.

1. Publish your product on Product Hunt

This is probably the most important step. You get only one chance, which leaves no room for error.

To post the product, you need a personal account on Product Hunt. (We’ve already covered this step.) Now, access the Submit page and post your link:

submit a product on product hunt

Add your primary link, whether it links to the product, website, or official blog. Later, you’ll get to post other links, such as links to the App Store or Google Play, if necessary.

The next step requires you to add a tagline. You get to describe your product in 60 characters or less. The tagline should clearly state what makes your product different and focus on the value it offers your audience.

Sheet2Site blends text and emojis—adding a bit of flair without undermining clarity:

tagline example for product hunt

Other things you need to take care of when you launch your product:

  • A thumbnail picture. A small visual description of your product. It can be a static image or an animated GIF.
  • A gallery of images. Here, you can add more visuals—describe your product or show it in action. If you have a video, you can add it to the gallery. It will show up first.
  • Media. Add a few links from around the web, if you have them (e.g. an early profile of your startup or founders).
product hunt post new product
  • Description. While the tagline is limited, you can a few more phrases to describe your product in this section.
  • Topics: Choose 3 or 4 topics for your product.
  • Social Links. Add your official Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts.
product hunt new product details

Here’s a simple yet effective example from Sublime’s new version launch, one of the most popular code editors:

explanation of details on product hunt page

2. Respond with high-quality comments

People who like your product will upvote it. Some will leave comments with questions or suggestions. Others will just congratulate you. You may get negative comments as well.

What’s important is how you respond to those comments. Be specific. Give details. Answer the questions as well as you can. If you receive negative comments, avoid being defensive.

Product Hunt is a community based on trust, where people help each other. Negative comments help you understand what you may have gotten wrong with your product (or how you’re marketing it).

Here’s an example of a great response from Buffer to a critical comment:

responding to negative comment on product hunt

Communication and dialogue are keys to a successful launch. As long as the feedback is honest and reciprocal, you’ll have a lot to gain from the community and better understand your product.

3. Shout out on social media that you’re on Product Hunt

Let everybody know of your Product Hunt launch. Engage with your community on social media. Let them know what Product Hunt is, why you chose it for your official launch, and how they can contribute if they’re not members.

Also, respond to all the comments, questions, and reviews you receive. Here’s an example of a simple social media callout that includes a Product Hunt link but also solicits feedback on social media:

tweet about product hunt launch

4. Don’t ask for upvotes

Do not ask for upvotes. Ask for feedback but never for upvotes. Feedback is honest and constructive. Upvotes should come only from those who like your product.

do not ask for upvotes on product hunt

Can you earn honest upvotes? According to Olga Smirnova, Product Marketing Manager at SEMrush, the system works:

We’ve surfed Product Hunt in advance to find products that target a similar audience. We’ve tried their products, wrote an honest review and connected with them. That helped us to get some useful tips, discuss cross-promotion options and get new connections.

The same thing we did on Facebook communities. Some companies run a Facebook group specifically for Product Hunt Campaign, so there you can also find your early adopters.

5. Add a widget on your site to highlight your live launch on Product Hunt

Some visitors will come to your website without knowing about your launch on Product Hunt.

A widget (or banner or other announcement) can drive traffic to your launch page and earn more comments, reviews, and upvotes.

Here’s a simple and effective upvote badge on Cleanmock’s website:

announcement widget for product hunt on website

You don’t need any special tools to create a similar button. You can embed it right from your Product Hunt account.

6. Send an email newsletter to your community

If you have an existing community or list of potential clients, you can announce your Product Hunt launch via an email newsletter. Later, if your product gets featured as the “Product of the Day” or “Product of the Week” on Product Hunt, you can send another update.

Make sure your email newsletter is worth reading. Include new product information and valuable articles or tips about your tool. Other elements that influence success for any email newsletter apply, too:

  • Create a compelling subject line. People receive dozens of emails each day. Most never get opened.
  • Show how your product can help them. Tell your audience what problem you’re solving and how. Include a couple of screenshots that show your product in action.
  • Give them something in return for their attention. A free subscription for testers can be a good idea. Choose your offers based on your strategy and product.

7. Send the link to your friends, family, and colleagues

Remember that we’ve talked about inviting your colleagues and friends to sign up for Product Hunt? Now, they can really help you with their upvotes and reviews.

Send them the link to your page—but don’t send it to all of them at the same time. It may seem suspicious to have instant upvotes and reviews from people who’ve never published anything else on Product Hunt.

What can they do for you?

  1. Upvote your product.
  2. Submit a well-written review with pros and cons.
  3. Leave a comment.
  4. Upvote comments and mark reviews as Helpful. (This is important especially for comments posted by the maker.)
  5. Reply to others’ comments and start a discussion.
product hunt announcement on facebook

As Smirnova detailed,

Our team members have reached their friends from the professional area (experts, writers, editors, digital or content marketers). We’ve told them about the tool and about our plans for Product Hunt. At the day X we’ve sent a reminder and a public invitation to check out page and leave their feedback.

Product Hunt values not only the number of upvotes but also the speed of collecting upvotes. So it is important to gain upvotes as fast as you can. And people that are doubting whether they want to upvote or not are more likely to upvote if the campaign already has many points. So our close friends from the professional area helped us to generate the initial push.

The initial push—often catalyzed by friends, family, and colleagues—helps make your campaign visible to the larger Product Hunt community.

After the Launch

Your product is published on Product Hunt. Is there anything else to do? Here are three things:

1. Show off your badge on your site or social media

If you get featured on Product Hunt or earn lots of good reviews, you can add that badge to your site and social media accounts to keep the momentum going.

Here’s an example from Bounce that serves as social proof long after the campaign ended. Their app got the “Product of the Day” badge:

product hunt badge for product of the day

You can also announce your campaign’s success on social media:

social media announcement for product hunt product of the day

2. Thank your community

Thank your community for their votes and comments. Let them know that they were helpful and important to you. Be sure to do it on social media, too, where these interactions can give added life to an ongoing, broader product launch campaign.

Here’s an example from Nevercode:

twitter thank you for product hunt support

3. Analyze your launch

Analyze your stats. Measure referral traffic from Product Hunt, newly acquired customers, number of comments received—all the metrics that you established in the pre-launch phase.

Web Traffic. How many referral visits did the Product Hunt launch generate? Launch day will spike traffic, but do you still see an increase in Direct visits in the days and weeks afterward? That may help let you know whether the launch was a one-time blip or if it’s generating real traction.

Social media mentions. How many new followers did you gain? Are they engaging with your social media posts after the launch? Can you use your larger following to build a better demographic profile of your core supporters.

twitter announcement for product of the day

Feedback received on Product Hunt. All the comments and reviews posted on your product page should give you the clues to improve your product or marketing strategy.

If you have lots of responses, you can code the qualitative comment data to categorize responses and prioritize product development.

The same data is also valuable for a voice of customer analysis to align marketing copy with how potential customers think and talk about your product.

mining comment data on product hunt

New users and conversions. This is also an important metric, especially if you launched an MVP version and want to see if there’s enough demand to continue to create something bigger and better.

Conclusion

Product Hunt can add momentum to your product launch, put you in touch with new customers, and earn feedback from others interested in what you do.

This article walked through the process to launch a campaign on Product Hunt. Here are five points to remember:

  1. Preparation is key. Launching on Product Hunt is not a walk in the park. Without a proper plan in place, you have little chance of success.
  2. Real-time communication is critical. Responding immediately to comments can greatly influence your success. Allocate a full day (you and your team) to be active and engaging.
  3. Product Hunt is a community. Product Hunt is full of like-minded people who are passionate about tech and startups. They can provide exceptionally valuable feedback.
  4. Know your why. Even though the platform is extremely popular in the tech market, you still need to ask yourself why it’s important for you to launch your product on Product Hunt and how it’s going to benefit you.
  5. Differentiate yourself. Dozens of products are launched every single day on Product Hunt, which is why you need supporting text and images that stand out from the crowd. Stay away from generic descriptions, buzzwords, or mediocre visuals.

The post How to Run a Successful Marketing Campaign on Product Hunt appeared first on CXL.