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When lecturing on digital marketing and SEO to my students, or working with clients on their digital marketing strategies, the concept of reverse engineering the search always comes up. Over time, I have realized there is not much content (if any) out there addressing this concept.

Yes, there is information on approaching it individually per platform or for keyword research and content planning. However, this is something that applies to all your digital marketing planning, strategies and efforts, making it important that we unpack this concept not only by defining the term “reverse engineering the search,” but also helping you understand how it applies to your digital marketing efforts.

Think of it this way: How do your target consumers, stakeholders, or ideal customers find you online? The search in this case applies to your target audience actively or inactively looking for your product or service.

In digital marketing we often refer to the most basic forms of discovery as the “discovery paths.”

Five Discovery Paths of Consumers online:

If the five discovery paths are new to you read more about them here: Five Discovery Paths

The reverse engineering part is simply as it sounds: working backwards to discover how your target consumer might find you online.

How The Customer Journey Starts

Many consumers start their journey with a problem they are trying to address. When creating your digital marketing strategy, working from the “problems” consumers have and how your product or service provides the “solution” is a surefire way for connecting and helping reach your target audience online.

For example, if you are a small business looking for ways to use social and digital marketing to grow your business, you might start looking for the following: How to grow my small business online? Ways social media can grow by business. How can social media help my business? Where should I start on social media if I want to make more sales? —You get the drift.

Using search engines such as Google, YouTube, Pinterest, and other social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, you start with your business problem in mind, sometimes unaware of what the solution might be.

The problem for this is: Businesses unsure of how to start using social and digital media for growing their client base and improving their bottom line.

The solution is YOU! (Well in this case it is us, LHM Strategic).

Why this matters:

Your target audience will search the Internet and their social platforms for informational help on solving their problem. At the very least they have this problem on their mind, so when they are browsing content on the Internet, calling the problem to their attention with the lead of a solution (if done right) will grab their attention and lead them to your online offering, community, etc.

If your content and online presence provides the answers and solutions, then consumers will most likely convert into customers. This is done along their journey of consuming your media and opting into your online community by “following” your social media channels, subscribing to your newsletter or other lead generation strategies.

Connecting the dots:

What does this have to do with “reverse engineering the search”?

Well, depending on your digital marketing strategy this might look slightly different, but for the most part it should always start here. In the Research and Planning phase for a social media marketing plan or digital marketing strategy, you should always incorporate keyword and keyphrase research.

  1. Start with the consumer problem and your solution.
  2. Create a keyword/ keyphrase research document and organize it using the problems you identified as well as the solutions. What search phrases would your consumer use to discover the solutions?
  3. Once you have the initial document and list set out, sit on it for a day or so. This will give you a fresh perspective next time you work on uncovering ways your consumer might discover you online.
  4. When you are ready to start planning out your digital and social media content, refer to this document for content ideas.
  5. Revisit the document along the way! Use this process as a guide for what kind of content you create for your digital marketing efforts. Look at your insights and Google Search Console data when updating and modifying the keyphrases, based on what you discover from that external data.

Ongoing impact: This is not as simple as doing a one-time keyword research exercise. It requires ongoing awareness of your target audience; understanding how to reach them at each stage of their buyers’ journey; and how to continually optimize your efforts.

There is so much noise online. Reaching your target audience and grabbing their attention has become increasingly challenging. This process embodies the concept of providing valuable content to your consumers just as you would using a content marketing tactic in your overall strategy.

Marketers used to be able to decide whether content marketing was a part of their digital strategy or if they were going to take the more traditional paid advertising approach. Consumer behavior online has pushed us in a completely different direction, making it vital for all brands, individuals, and organizations alike to provide value through their online communities. This means creating content that provides solutions to their problems, whatever those might be.

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