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When Hubspot, a leading developer of inbound sales and marketing software, unveiled pillar pages and topic clusters as the new best model for SEO in blogging I was admittedly confused. However, as I started putting the model into practice on my blog, it made sense. It was similar to how I’d practised as a journalist and news producer for many years.

There’s a strategy news outlets follow when a major story breaks to ensure thorough coverage. We have a meeting where journalists will be assigned to cover different aspects of the story. A longer story will give a complete overview of the event with shorter relatable breakaway stories.

Here’s an example of the strategy in practice.

The facts

  • Major bushfires have broken out in the Adelaide Hills.
  • Authorities are evacuating homes and warning people to take refuge in designated areas.
  • The fire has destroyed several houses while there are fears for missing people.
  • There are also concerns for native, farm and domestic animals.
  • Temperatures have been exceptionally high for a week and conditions have been like a tinderbox.
  • The weather bureau is forecasting further high temperatures for several days.
  • Firefighters have been flown in from interstate to assist exhausted firefighters who have been battling the blaze for up to 20 hours without a break.
  • There is a number to call if you are worried about the safety of loved ones.
  • Charity organisations like the Salvation Army are working to raise funds and supplies for people affected.
  • The local Country Women’s League (CWL) is making sandwiches and cooking meals for emergency services.
  • Health authorities are helping victims deal with fallout and stress of the disaster along with warning people at risk to take precautions with the smoke.

The story structure

For television, online and print news outlets covering this bushfire story, the structure would be similar.

A main, longer story will give an update touching on most, if not all, of the above facts. Shorter stories will focus on one or two key topics for example:

  • Buildings destroyed and homes lost.
  • Forecasted weather conditions.
  • CWL preparing food and interstate firefighters arriving to help.
  • Health authorities are helping victims etc. and who to contact if you are worried about loved ones.

I’ve always liked this structured, ordered approach to dealing with a story. Good textbooks follow a similar orderly structure. They will have an introduction giving an overview of the book and then individual chapters covering various topics.

But most blogs have never had a clear structure. A preoccupation with keyword rankings resulted in blogs with a seriously disorganised structure with posts which were disconnected and often doubled up on content.

However, Hubspot’s pillar pages and topic cluster model as a strategy for blog content curation is based very much on the mainstream media model or that of a good textbook.

Introduction to Pillar Pages and Topic Clusters

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(photo courtesy of Elissa Hudson of Hubspot)

Hubspot director of Acquisition and one of the world’s leading experts in SEO, Matthew Barby came up with pillar pages and topic clusters as a way to organise blog content.

Matthew was working to enhance the experience for searchers to find content, along with ensuring blogs would rank more effectively on Search Engine Result Pages (SERPS).

Matthew realised it made more sense to ditch the obsession with keywords variants and work to become an authority on topics because how people search online had changed, while search engines algorithms had also improved.

Google’s has been consistently focusing on better organising and showcasing content they think is helpful to their searchers. Algorithm updates like the Hummingbird update in 2013 focused on better understanding the intent of searchers. The Rankbrain update, which is Google’s artificial intelligence system, interprets search queries to find pages which may not have the exact words they searched for but are still relevant.

Hubspot’s content and campaign manager Elissa Hudson improvements in technology meant the obsession over keywords had to change.

“You can write conversationally with questions in the search bar or use voice search and get back what you wanted to know most of the time,” Elissa says.

“Google reports around 15 per cent of searches are new, never even entered into the search engine.”

Personal search results, based not only your location but search history, the sites you visit frequently and device you are using means people in the same room typing in the same search query could end up with different results.

“You may be under the impression you’re ranking well for a keyword and it may sound good to say you’re ranking number one for a certain keyword but it’s probably not true,” Elissa says.

“That’s why it’s better to focus on monopolising topics in industries rather than keywords.”

How Pillar Pages and Topic Clusters work

While you can’t completely abandon keyword research, being across all keywords is getting harder. Under the pillar page and topic cluster structure, instead of creating blog posts designed to rank for specific, long-tail keywords, posts cover specific topic areas related to an overall topic and are known as topic cluster posts. These topic cluster posts are anchored together by the pillar page, providing a longer, broad overview of the main topic. The pillar page includes hyperlinks to these more specific posts and so they’re all joined together designed to monopolise a topic.

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This post is a cluster topic on pillar pages and topic clusters related to the pillar page Search Engine Optimisation (SEO): Your guide to the best strategy for 2018 & beyond.

There are a series of around 10 posts, often many more, taking a deep dive into topics briefly covered in the pillar page. Each of these posts links back to the pillar page, which in turn links out to the posts. It’s just like my old TV reporting days where the news anchor would say:”We cross now to Nadine McGrath with the latest from the weather bureau to find out if there’s any reprieve in sight from these harsh bushfire conditions.”

Elissa’s pillar pages and topic cluster tips  (in her words)

How do you choose a pillar page topic?

Determine who your audience is by conducting thorough buyer persona research, then figure out what they’re searching for, which will determine how broad to make your pillar page.

The topic of a pillar page should be broad enough to enable you to write an in-depth overview of that topic and come up with several more specific keywords related to the broader topic (those will be your topic cluster blog posts).

How long should a pillar page be?

There are no rules about word count, but you should try to make it as comprehensive as possible. Your pillar page should be an in-depth overview of your broad topic. If you’ve already been producing content, you might already have an in-depth blog post that you can adapt to a pillar page.

What should be on your pillar page?

There are a few elements you should include:

· A definition of the topic/term you’re covering somewhere in the first section.

· A bulleted or numbered table of contents.

· A more specific topic-related keyword in each of your subheadings.

· Content that provides an overview (but not an exhaustive one) of the subtopics discussed on the pillar page (those will make up new blog posts later)

How do you go about deciding cluster topics?

Conduct keyword research related to your pillar page topic to identify keywords and terms that dive deeper into that topic and look at more specific aspects of it. For example, if Instagram marketing is the topic for your pillar page, then Instagram captions is a more narrow keyword that you might write a blog post about within the topic cluster.

How long should a topic cluster blog be?

Again, there are no rules here. Your blog post should aim to provide all the information the title suggests it would. Aiming for at least 400 words is a good place to start as you’d probably struggle to write anything that’s informative enough to serve the needs of your reader with a smaller word count.

How do you link cluster topic blogs to pillar pages?

Your pillar page should link to cluster blog posts. For example, the Instagram marketing pillar page links out to the Instagram captions blog post. Then make sure your cluster blog posts link back to the pillar page. Use the anchor text of the broad topic to help the pillar page rank higher in a search.

Conclusion

The pillar page and topic cluster model just makes good sense. The model provides a structure for your blog and ensures posts are part of a plan to provide valuable content on an overall topic for your target audience. It will make your blog easy to navigate and improve readability. I’ve found this model makes writing blogs easier because you have a game plan. You can brainstorm, then research good topics for pillar pages and topic clusters and then start writing. The fun part is linking them all together and when you’ve finished all the posts, you can even turn them into an ebook. You could offer this ebook in a call-to-action (CTA) at the end of the posts to capture leads. What will your first pillar page and topic cluster project be about?

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When it comes to inbound marketing one consistency among inbound marketers and SEO consultants appears to be clear – quality content will win out. However, to make an impact that content has got to be found by your target audience, which is where SEO keyword research is critical.

I’ve often mentioned how I like to imagine crawlers or bots, which are programs search engines use to scan websites to determine their importance, as librarians cataloging information.

Keywords are an important component of algorithms the crawlers (or my imaginary librarians) use to catalogue information on search engines. Keywords work to ensure when you type in a search query you’ll receive only relevant answers.

Your aim is drive traffic from the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP’s) to your website. Simply put, a lack of adequate SEO keyword research or targeting the wrong keyword can mean the crawlers and your target audience won’t easily find your website and content – it will end up lost at sea.

What exactly are keywords?

Hubdo co-founder Helen Nicholls, who has vast experience with SEO, describes Keywords as the “bloodline to your online success”.

“They define the standing of a website on Google and can make or break a business’s online strategy,” Helen says.

“Keywords are the words your ideal customers use when searching online for you and your business services.”

“As a business owner, it’s vital you understand which keywords customers use regularly and how to use these keywords effectively on your website and online tools.”

What’s the difference between short and long-tail keywords?

Keywords Research and Analysis through Loupe on Old Paper with Blue Vertical Line Background..jpegHelen explains short tail keywords as being typically non-conversational and sometimes difficult to use within your page content.

“They’re 1 to 3 words in length and may contain a local area such as ‘PR Brisbane’, as a simple example,” she says.

“In some industries, it’s difficult to gain traction with ‘short keyword’ optimisation. Short keyword terms can be highly ‘generic’ and therefore compete with articles of interest, and general knowledge sites such as Wikipedia.”

“Short tail keywords often attract a large amount of traffic, but this traffic doesn’t always convert to solid leads,” she says.

By having a clear understanding of your target market, goals and unique selling points there is a way to start ranking well and even close the SEO dominance of larger companies in your industry.

“Long tail keywords can have five or more words in a string and are conversational. Generally, long tail keywords get less search traffic than short keywords but usually have a higher conversion rate, as they are much more specific and relevant,” Helen says.

“Building on our earlier example instead of using ‘PR Brisbane’ as a short tail keyword you could try ‘Can PR services help to grow my business in Brisbane?’ as a long-tail keyword.

Helen’s Tips for keywords research

Undertaking keyword research takes time, but if done thoroughly the results can be well worth the effort.

  • Start by reviewing your services and products on your website.
  • Use Google Search autofill terms as potential keyword:

“Do this by going to Google and type in a keyword to search for your type of business. Google will display numerous ‘auto fill’ keywords. These are the most popular keywords used in the search requests on Google.” Helen says.

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  • Review your Google Analytics and Search Console accounts if you have them > Go to Search Traffic > Search Analytics – check Clicks, Impressions and Positions.
  • Review the websites of your competitors. Note the main page’s, header titles etcetera for keywords.
  • Use the Google Keyword Tool in Adwords if you have an account or keywords tool in Hubspot if you are a user of the platform.
  • Substitute in synonyms – Thesaurus.com – test different words.
  • Get keywords from the Wikipedia article on the topic/s.
  • Search in Quora – needs an account – similar to asking an audience www.quora.com.
  • Use UberSuggest to generate variations –www.ubersuggest.io.
  • Use ‘Keyword Shitter’ to create long tail keywords – YES! It’s spelt correctly keywordshitter.com
  • Add all the keywords to a list and then work through the most searched terms (data from Adwords keyword tool).
  • Remove duplicate and irrelevant keywords from your list.

How to use your chosen keywords

It’s tempting to try to fit as many keywords as possible onto one page. Unfortunately, this tactic, known as keyword stuffing, will only work against you and may be considered by Google as ‘black hat’ or bad SEO.

Using your keyword spreadsheet list, apply one specific keyword to each of the pages of your website. For example, if you have a page about ‘services’ and you’re a public relations company, use the keyword ‘Public Relations Services’ for this page.

Add the chosen keyword in the meta (SEO) title, meta description, H1 header and in the body of the page. Remember, you’re writing for a human, so it needs to make sense – you’re not writing to appease the Google bots. If possible, add the same keyword to the image title and ALT tag.

Some final points on keyword research

SEO Keyword research is not always that simple. Google processes trillions of search queries on an annual basis with many of these new and never before seen by the search engine.

With the move to ‘AI’ and Google’s desire to make searching online more ‘conversational’, there’s a move to more ‘topic-based’ content searches.  A new generation of consumers research online for more ‘focused content’ so Google has changed their algorithms to favour this ‘topic’ approach. For more information read research.hubspot.com/reports/topic-clusters-seo.

“Topic Clusters are a new approach to writing and a great way to increase author authority within your field of expertise. ‘Clusters’, are a number of smaller blogs written to complement a larger ‘pillar page’ topic, is also an opportunity to rank well for specific keywords which are competitive but achievable,” Helen says.

“Find highly relevant keywords for what you offer, popular enough that they’ll result in good traffic numbers to your site, but not so competitive that ranking well for them will be nearly impossible.

“There is nothing more satisfying than achieving a ranking result for a blog post”, Helen says. “Be sure to set your ‘SMART’ goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely) for each cluster. You’ll see the results in your data and your rankings will work for you over time.”

We can’t all be experts in every aspect of our business. If you’re struggling with your keyword research, reach out to us to be put in contact with experienced SEO consultants.

One of my favourite journalists of all time doesn’t work on a large, metropolitan paper. He was not an award chaser but would get my vote for developing a loyal base of followers for more than half a century. My dad’s best childhood mate Gary (Gus) Underwood was the editor of Kyabram Free Press, in rural Victoria. He inspired me to be a journalist with his witty, opinionated columns and for building up a paper, treasured among the locals and offers some great blogging tips.

In rural communities, local news outlets are deeply valued but sadly these days on the decline. As a journalist, if you write a good story people will buy you a beer in the pub and give you leads on another. On the contrary, if you produce a misleading or offensive story, even one which is grammatically incorrect you will feel their wrath and have to work hard to build up trust again.

Speaking of trust, did you notice errors in the title of this post? Content may be ‘king’, but correct spelling and grammar are still one of the most powerful tools a communicator can use to connect with their audiences. It may not have been wise to include mistakes in the headline, probably already turning off readers.

One of the best quotes I’ve seen on grammar is from US Author and Business Trainer Jeffrey Gitomer. 

Your grammar is a reflection of your image. Good or bad, you have made an impression and like all impressions, you are in total control.’

Building a loyal following through content marketing is much like being a journalist on a country newspaper so while Gus doesn’t have a blog at age 72 he still tells a good story and offers sound advice for blog writing. 

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Firstly, I would like to make it clear I’m from the old school. To be more precise the old, old school.  I got a job as a cadet reporter at Kyabram Free Press in northern Victoria when I was 17-years-old in 1961. Some 55 years later and at the age of 72 I’m still providing articles for the same paper and its parent company, Shepparton Newspapers.

I got my start in journalism because my uncle was a good mate of the then editor of the Kyabram Free Press, Paul Easton. Producing some sporting articles for the paper on outstanding feats of some of my schoolmates while attending Kyabram High School in the 1950s, probably helped in securing the position.

Apart from a hidden passion of always wanting to get into journalism that was about it for me as far as credentials to the do the job were concerned. I’ll also admit I didn’t dare mention in my job interview that I had failed English Grammar in my Intermediate Certificate school year.

Reflecting back on some of my earlier efforts as a cadet journalist, Mr Easton would have got the message very early I wasn’t a super speller. He was very diplomatic whenever this happened. He would tell me people with the ability to write and capture an audience in those writings are not always grammatically savvy or a spelling wizard.  Mr Easton also made a point that would-be journalists who were faultless spellers may have no idea about producing a story to capture an audience. In other words, some good journalists can’t spell and often those who can spell can’t write to inform or entertain. Personally, I interpreted this as Mr Easton seeing some talent in me as a journalist. I have worked hard on building up my word power and spelling over the years.

When I became editor of the Free Press, a position I held for 24 years, there was a lot more pressure to spell correctly and be grammatically correct because the buck stopped with me if errors made it to print.  Anyone in the newspaper game will tell you that you get nasty and uncomplimentary feedback more often when you get it wrong than complimentary if you get it right.

When I first started in this game mistakes which got to print were extremely rare. A professional proofreader,  sub-editor, then the editor would read every bit of copy before it went to the press.

Unfortunately, in today’s digital age with increasing online competition manpower associated with producing many newspapers and publications has been reduced to try and remain economically viable. Many newspapers, particularly the country ‘local rags’ often go to print verbatim without adequate subbing.

Mr Easton also stressed to execute my writings in a manner in readers didn’t need to have a dictionary at the ready to check what some of the words I was employing meant. He said this was a sure way of turning off your readers. He also stressed all articles or stories needed to connect with people from age six to 106.

‘‘You are not writing exclusively for academics but for everyone who can read,” was his sound advice so many years ago.

“People who can understand exactly what you are writing about will continue to read it if it’s interesting enough.”  

 I’m sure his advice still rings true today. 

 

People often ask me what’s the ideal blog post length? There has been plenty written on the subject with some people saying 500 words, others 1000. But before we go into what exactly is the best blog post length let me share a bit about my experience with writing and numbers.

Throughout my career, I’ve had to follow many rules concerning the length of articles and stories. In the early days as a television journalist, I would write a script that would go for almost three minutes only to be reprimanded by editors.

“Even the top story of the day doesn’t get three minutes Nadine so go and halve it,” they would shout.

In print newsrooms, it was a similar scenario. The editors would just cut the story from the bottom, which taught me very quickly to ensure all relevant information is in the first few paragraphs. What I would consider an award-winning 2000-word article would be cut back to about 500 even less.

“We didn’t ask you to write a feature Nadine,” the editor would shout as I protested the butchering of my story. “There’s a lot of waffle in there so go and sit with the sub and watch him cut it.”

Holding back the tears and my confidence guttered, I would make my way over to the subs desk to learn how to write a story succinctly and to the point.

In PR I aim to write a press release no longer than one page and it’s straight to the point. Quite simply journalists want to know your pitch in the first paragraph and don’t have time to read waffle.

My ability to write succinctly has its good points and bad however when it comes to writing for SEO. Yoast, regarded as the leading SEO plugin for website creation tool WordPress, recommends each blog post and content on a webpage should contain at least 300 words to rank well in search engines.

Yoast still has a red dot on some of our pages because there’s not enough content. While a proponent of writing succinctly, it appears from research, interviewing SEO consultants and successful bloggers posts anything shorter than Yoast’s magic 300 words will struggle. Many bloggers have attributed their longer posts with growing organic traffic.

Why word count is important to increase Google ranking?

So just why was Yoast picking up on us for not writing enough words on some of our web pages and why do they say blog length is important for SEO?

According to a post by Yoast partner Marieke van de Rakt on blog post length, longer is better for numerous reasons, including Google crawlers just have more clues to decipher what your text is about and rank accordingly.

“You’ll probably have more headings, more links, and more pictures, in which the keyword will be mentioned,” Marieke writes.

She says you’ll also probably rank long-tail variants of the keyword for which you optimised your post, further giving you the chance to boost your organic rankings.

What is the ideal blog post length?

Content marketing strategist Robert Rose.pngA few years ago, while relatively new to inbound marketing, I interviewed Robert Rose, an early pioneer and one of the true thought-leaders in the field.

I naively asked Robert so how long should I tell my clients to write their blog posts? His answer reminded me very much of the old sub-editor who guided me with the length of a story.

“The answer is frankly as long as it needs to be,” Robert says.

“There is no template answer to this as short content works, long content works and both are appropriate for mobile.

“The real answer is understanding the context for where our audience will consume the content and providing the length as a contextual attribute to our strategy.

“For example, if we’re reaching our target market through a channel on their mobile device and are catching them in transit then snackable, short pieces are probably optimal.

“But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t also create the 1500 essay blog post to pay off that short content because the answer is truly in understanding our audiences.”

A colleague of mine Genroe founder Adam Ramshaw has been blogging for about 15 years. Genroe’s expertise is in customer feedback and experience management. The amount of input and interaction on their blog posts is impressive.

Adam says his company aims to write a blog post of about 800-1000 words.

“It should be long enough to give a good response but not too long that people never get to the end,” Adams says.

“We’ve tried very long posts of 3,000-4,000 words, but these seem to lack engagement as it’s too much to read which I think impacts on the search engine ranking.

“Also, short posts can be great, if they are targeted and answer the customer question, but that is more uncommon.”

Leading Inbound marketing platform Hubspot’s new pillar page and subtopic cluster model for writing blogs, pillar pages can be up to a few thousand words covering topics on a whole subject matter. In supporting subtopics, the word count is much less as only a single topic from the pillar page is being covered.

Writing, Readability and blog post length

Blog posts that are more than 1000 words can be more time consuming and difficult to read. To keep your target audience engaged takes skill. We will tackle effective writing techniques in future articles.

Written poorly they will probably not be read through, people may click away, chances of sharing will diminish and poor user experience will mean they probably won’t rank well in the search engines either.

If you are going to write a successful lengthy blog post then don’t just waffle. My teenage children often have strict word counts on assignments and nearly always write substantially over before coming to me for pruning help.

Like the skilled sub-editors who taught me I help get rid of the waffle and make every word earn its place.

If you’re writing a long post, then make sure it is well-structured and readable. Break up the text with sub-headings and images or even add an index. Keep your sentences and paragraphs short and to the point.

So, what exactly is the ideal blog post length?
My apologies, you’ve got to the end of this article and just like Robert Rose I’m not giving you a definitive ideal blog post length.

We learned from Yoast it should be more than 300 words, otherwise, your post will have too few words to rank in the search engines. There is no right or wrong answer for the length of a blog post.

Remember, you should always be writing for humans not just the search engines and your blog should be long enough to explain a concept, attract new leads to your site of offer some thought leadership on a subject.

Recently, I’ve been researching a lot of women business groups on social media. One thing that keeps coming up by members is whether or not to do Facebook or LinkedIn live video.  Lives have become increasingly popular while statistics show the success of video as a marketing tool, further increasing pressure on women to do Facebook Lives.

I have undertaken a couple of Facebook Lives. I’m a trained broadcast journalist but still felt nervous and while I got positive feedback some people thought they should be more relaxed or jovial. I’ve been a journalist for many years so naturally inclined to sound more professional in front of a camera. I became a journalist in the days when elocution lessons were a standard part of our training. Where seeing the rise now of amateur journalism, which in many ways is very exciting as news is reported on the spot by eye-witnesses.

Everyone will have their view on how to do a Live. I’ve seen some overly relaxed Facebook Lives by people. I’ve asked branding and presentation experts what their views are on Facebook Lives. While some love the idea and say as long as you come across authentic that’s great, others advise their clients against Lives and say they can diminish their brand’s value.

For those considering doing live video, I thought these tips from my Facebook course might be useful.

– Journalists should keep in mind that they are professionals and follow ethical and technical guidelines when using Live. (I think this is the same for all service providers).

– Every stream should have a point and offer audiences a unique experience.

– Pay attention to the details: the camera should be stable, the audio should be clear, and you should come across as a professional.

– Interact with audience questions and comments, frequently reminding them to chime into the discussion.

– Explain what you’re doing and offer recaps intermittently.

Remember, don’t feel pressure to do Facebook Lives just because everyone else seems to be doing them or telling you to do them. I have a colleague and friend who has a podcast and is an excellent presenter. She’s even given a TEDx talk. However, she feels uncomfortable doing FB lives. She records webinars her clients can watch back with lots of graphics.

There’s a reason as journalists we have those specialising in print, radio and broadcast. Different personalities suit the various mediums. I’ll no doubt do more live videos, but today I just didn’t feel like it was for me so instead I’ve just written a post and there’s nothing wrong with my no pressure approach.

Child's written out story

At the end of each school year, my children bring home a pile of used exercise books. While in the spirit of being a minimalist, most of these get thrown out. However, their journals or creative story writing books I cherish and love to read. I can tell what they were thinking through their stories. My son Scott wrote a story about a wicked witch named Kate (his sister). At another time, my son Jack wrote a story about a family’s holiday adventure based very much on one of ours.

We are naturally all storytellers but somehow lose faith in our ability to connect with people through story and instead fall into what I term PowerPoint or marketing language. I’ve worked in marketing but now run a program where I use my background in journalism and PR to help women leaders clarify their story and get media exposure for impact. I always say to clients drop your PowerPoint and marketing language, instead start with your story.

We naturally tell stories every day to our friends, in coffee shops, to our family members. We’ll talk about what has been bothering us or something interesting that has happened in our daily lives. A story has a power to connect us as human beings.

Stories also have a power of making the complex clear. My kids and husband are a fan of the scientist Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, who uses storytelling principles such as anecdote, analogy and metaphor to explain complex scientific principles.

He speaks in simple, relatable terms and yet in no way makes his audience feels like he is dumbing science down. Almost every leader has a vision, but the challenge is to relate and connect with people, so your vision resonates with others and comes to life. Think of the great leaders who stick in your mind – they’re usually the ones who humanise their message and deliver it in ways that connect with everyone at some level. Leading author and researcher into shame, courage and vulnerability Brene` Brown is a great example.

Through her stories about herself and others, she is about to turn complex psychological concepts into relatable messages that help and inspire others. Her vision, in turn, becomes clear.

When you’re thinking about your vision and purpose, don’t get caught up in the vanity metrics of marketing such as social media likes, logos and websites. The stories you tell and messaging is what will connect you with your target audience to build trust and grow your business. Reach out to learn how to clarify your story and get exposure for greater impact.

I stuffed up one of my first stories as a young television journalist because I didn’t know my target market. At the time I thought it was a good story, but after it went to air, my news director called me into his office to discuss where I’d gone wrong. Full of ambition and even “cocky” I had plans of being the next news anchor within a few months.

I remember my excitement at buying new jackets to wear on air along with getting a hairstyle to look the part. When I came back down to earth from having my head in the stars and landing a coveted television job, it was with a thump.

My story was about lamb prices going up and was along the angle that this was positive for farmers. My mistake was I ASSUMED and got it wrong that all of our target market would like that lamb prices were going up. However, while I could’ve made mention that the rising price was a win for farmers, the majority of our audience – the mums and dads in middle-class Australia and butchers onselling lamb wouldn’t be as pleased. (I was clearly not a parent with teens to feed at this time.)

The news director told me my story angle should’ve been that Sunday’s roast lamb dinner just got a whole lot more expensive, maybe even unaffordable. As a consequence to understand my audience, I was sent around with an experienced journalist for a few weeks. I went on stories with him, to the pub, coffee shops, local shopping centers, council and community meetings, to watch how he would connect with our target audience.

I was reminded of the lamb story this week while listening to the latest podcast episode by leading coach for women in business Sonya Stattmann. Her episode was on can you bypass the hardship of setting up a business and still have it sustainable. Sonya was talking about how women must validate their offer and get to know their target market before starting fancy marketing campaigns.

Sonya constantly reminds women you may have a service or offer you think your target market wants but until really talking and connecting with them it’s all just assumption. Both Sonya and I have seen many women preoccupied with fancy marketing campaigns, websites, logos and social media followings but failing to get clients. Simply put, they’re focused on vanity metrics and not truly connecting with their target client.

I have pivoted my career this year with the help of Sonya and am now helping women leaders clarify their story and get exposure for impact. However, if you looked at my website you wouldn’t know this is my new focus. Why? Because I’m still validating my offer and while I desperately want to go and make it all pretty and update my story – it’s simply premature.

I still need to connect more and talk with my target market one on one, work with them to get the message right. Business isn’t about you but the people you serve. Do yourself a favour and take time to listen to Sonya’s podcast so you don’t end up writing a lamb story. If you want help with crafting your story or getting to know your audience, then reach out.