Through the Spyglass


Getting Heard Above the Noise: A Guide for Businesses to Be Noticed Online

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Do a quick search on your favorite search engine for a question related to your brand and you’ll quickly see competition fighting for the same search terms. If you’re having trouble ranking on the first page for terms that are important to you, and you already know about search engine optimization (SEO) and content marketing, you’re probably scratching your head wondering how your business can get heard above the noise.

The hard reality is that while digital marketing can be an exceptional tool for reaching your market in a cost effective way when compared to traditional marketing (think mailers, billboards, TV spots, etc.), the competition is tight. In order to be heard, there are some important things to remember.

1. Have a strong keyword strategy.

It’s hard enough to regularly produce content that speaks to your audience but you also need to think about search engines. Keywords are crucial to that effect. Search engines are a blessing and a curse to business owners and content marketers. They help people find your website on the Internet when they don’t know your web address or have a link from a referring site. But search engines also rank websites according to their specific algorithms, and you need to understand those algorithms for your website to perform. With 89 percent of consumers using search engines to make purchase decisions (, businesses cannot ignore them.

To make SEO more manageable, you should establish a keyword strategy. Use keyword building tools like Google’s Keyword Planner,, and to identify search volume and competitiveness. Whether or not you aim for more competitive keywords should be decision you make with your SEO advisor. 

In any case, these keywords will be the foundation of your content strategy. As you develop content, keep your end user in mind. The keywords can help flesh out your editorial calendar and shape individual content pieces like blog posts.

2. Remember to use hashtags.

Similar to keywords, hashtags are useful for Internet users to filter out less relevant content, specifically on social media. Not all social media platforms enable hashtag searches, but for the ones that do, you want to make sure you incorporate them into your social posts. 

As with keywords in search engines, not all hashtags are created equal. Fortunately, there are ways to identify which hashtags are more popular and, therefore, which ones will expose you to a larger audience.

Ritetag has free and paid versions that show you which hashtags are most popular using a color-coded legend. is a very robust and free tool that shows you related hashtags, best times to use hashtags, and top influencers who use certain hashtags. is a helpful tool for using hashtags online. is a helpful tool for using hashtags online.

For more hashtag tools along with tips on using hashtags, check out this Buffer blog post

3. Hone and utilize your unique brand voice.

This concept is harder to achieve than my first two tips. With those, you just plug in some letters and track variations. But developing your brand voice is an art. When your audience engages with you, it can be hard to determine whether people are responding to your tone, your content, or the time of your post, among other things. To really stand out online, however, you need to be different. 

Some brands take “different” to mean “controversial” and that might work for an individual, but not always for a business. On the other hand, humor is a great way to connect with your audience and make people pay a bit more attention to what you are saying. Charmin and Old Spice are great examples. Not only are they funny, but they think of creative ways to communicate, sometimes even making fun of themselves (Charmin does produce toilet paper after all).

4. Connect with influencers in your market.

It’s one thing to build your audience from scratch, but connecting with influencers is possibly the most efficient way to organically gain the attention of a large, targeted audience. You can pay for advertisements, of course, but working with influencers allows you to work off established, trusting relationships. Use influencer-finding tools like Buzzsumo and Little Bird to identify people with similar interests, large audiences, and influence over those audiences. Remember when you are reaching out to these individuals that they probably have lots of other companies trying to work with them, so you need to have a unique value proposition as to why they should work with you specifically.

5. There is no magic formula, just best practices and creativity.

While I’ve just provided a number of best practices to get heard above the noise, you must remember that they there is no magic formula to achieve things like the coveted “viral campaign.” You can find several studies showing things like “words most commonly found in headlines that turned viral,” but these are always a little shallow. You obviously can’t combine all the words on those lists and have your content go viral.

My recommendations are to be creative, find and hone your unique brand voice, and be consistent in your implementation of the above best practices. These efforts will help your marketing campaigns be successful. But also set realistic goals as to what success is for your business. A goal like achieving the “most viral YouTube video of all time” is likely not necessary for most companies because even if you achieve that, it doesn’t automatically mean you will have a good ROI.