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The CORE Methodology: How to Build Traffic and Revenue Beyond Google — Part 2 (Thinks Out Loud Episode 425)

Illustration featuring the Hub and Spoke model and its relationship to the CORE Methodology

In a recent episode, we looked at how Google is using artificial intelligence to change the search experience and why that’s ultimately a risk to your business. To offset that risk, we started a brief series on how to build traffic and revenue beyond Google. Today, we’re expanding that series by introducing you to our CORE Methodology, a framework for choosing the right channels to market your company.

What is the CORE Methodology? How does it help you? And how do you put it to work to build traffic and revenue for your business? That’s what this episode of Thinks Out Loud is all about.

Want to learn more? Here are the show notes for you.

The CORE Methodology: How to Build Traffic and Revenue Beyond Google — Part 2 (Thinks Out Loud Episode 425) — Headlines and Show Notes

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You might also enjoy this webinar I recently participated in with Miles Partnership that looked at "The Power of Generative AI and ChatGPT: What It Means for Tourism & Hospitality" here:

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Transcript: The CORE Methodology: How to Build Traffic and Revenue Beyond Google — Part 2

Well hello again everybody and welcome back to Thinks Out Loud, your source for all the digital expertise your business needs. My name is Tim Peter, this is episode 425 of the Big Show and thank you so much for tuning in.

You may recall, if you were listening to our last episode, that this is part two of a two parter where we’re talking about how you diversify your traffic, how you grow your traffic beyond Google. I don’t want to recap all of last week’s episodes, so if you haven’t had a chance to listen, I would encourage you to go find episode 424 at or wherever you get your favorite podcasts.

I closed out that episode by saying there are four ways to succeed:

  1. You either get more new customers, you know, reach people you haven’t reached before.
  2. You get your existing customers to spend more per purchase. Now, as I said last time, that’s more from a revenue perspective. From a traffic perspective, it might be that you get them to engage with more content each time they interact with your brand. Obviously, though, you only really care if they do that, if that’s going to lead to them spending more with you each time they purchase.
  3. You can get existing customers to buy more often. And again, if you think about the traffic side, it could be that you get them to interact with you more often.
  4. And of course you can do a combination of the other three. Get more new people who come to you and spend more each time, who come to you more often, and obviously that becomes, you know, a wind piled on top of a wind piled on top of a wind, and that’s a really, really good thing.

If, though, you are worried about where you find these folks and how you reach these folks and you get them to do this, I always like to start with where you are first. Where does your traffic and revenue come from today? I assume that you’re using Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics or something along those lines to understand your traffic and revenue sources.

Whenever I start with a new client, whenever we start with a new client, we tend to look at the last 13 to 18 months of traffic and revenue. Then, we might look at a shorter period like the last two or three months, and then we might look at the last few weeks, a week at a time, to get a sense of what’s going on.

Looking at the longer periods helps you to understand if there’s any seasonality. You know, does your company get more business some times of the year than others? That can help you understand if there are different demand patterns or if there’s something that you can do differently to get more traffic and business at some points in the year.

If you’re not accustomed to seasonality, if your business doesn’t have it, it’s pretty common in many businesses. I talk about hospitality a lot. Hospitality tends to have very well defined peak seasons, off seasons, and what are known as “shoulder seasons,” between the peak and off season. We also see it in B2B a lot more than you think, too, based on budget cycles, you know, things like quarter end, year end, start of the new year, that sort of thing.

Getting a sense of that picture is really important because it can point you to traffic sources that you can build on, or revenue sources that you can build on.

It is sometimes easier to increase the traffic you get from existing sources, than it is to find or create entirely new sources of traffic and revenue. If you’re already getting traffic and revenue from a specific source, that’s a pretty good sign it’s something that works for your customers. And then it becomes more a question of how do we grow that source rather than “Oh my gosh, we don’t get any traffic outside of Google. Where do we go?” So it’s always a good place to start to look at the reality and understand are there any seasonal patterns that play into that. Are there times where you can expect more traffic or less traffic just as a natural consequence of where that comes from and of your customer’s natural behaviors?

The next thing that you want to do is ensure that you have a content calendar. Now, I talked in the last episode quite a bit about understanding your customers as well as you possibly can and what your customers pain points are.

We love doing this because it allows us to line up specific messages with specific seasonality where it exists. Again, if you don’t have seasonality, don’t worry about it, but there are natural things that occur during the course of your business year or occur in the natural course of your customers lives that might lead them to look for your product and service more often.

That’s really important then that you have a calendar that aligns with that. And we always think in terms of a “rock/pebbles/sand” approach.

Your rocks are the big items, the things that you know will happen, and you can plan those out weeks or months or maybe even a year in advance. You know, again, if I’m going to use the hospitality example, summer is a peak period for many, many companies, for many, many resorts, for many, many hotels. If you’re a ski resort, we know ski season is a big peak period. Well, we can put a rock saying, we need to start talking about this X weeks before, months in advance, even a year in advance.

If you’re a B2B company, maybe it’s a big trade show that occurs every year. We worked with a software company for years that went to Dreamforce every year, and that was a rock, because they knew when it occurred. If you’re, I don’t know, a restaurant, and you know the Super Bowl is going to be in your town next year, you can start planning your content for that.

Now, because we already know when that’s going to occur, we already know when there’s going to be more demand in your market. You then start to fill the calendar with pebbles.

And the pebbles are little things, smaller things, more tactical, but messages that you want to dribble out over the course of the year, that fill in some of the spaces between the rocks, right? If you think about we’re putting rocks, pebbles, and sand in a jar, you put the rocks in first, and then there’s spaces between them, and that’s where the pebbles go.

And you can plan those weeks, or even a couple of months in advance. Usually about 90 days is pretty typical.

And then the sand is small little tactical stuff. Maybe they’re social media posts. Maybe they are little blog posts or quick little videos that you’re going to put up on your website. And those get sprinkled in where there’s space.

It’s okay if you have a period where you don’t have anything to say. Just make sure that you’re doing that intentionally, you’re choosing not to speak there, you’re choosing not to create content and put it out there because it doesn’t work for your customer at that time of year. It’s only a mistake if you completely ignore your customer’s behaviors and you’re not taking advantage of it.

Now, one of the reasons that search has worked for so long is because everyone searches and they’re literally telling you what’s most important to them. Google didn’t get to an $80 billion per quarter revenue company, a $300-plus billion annual company in revenue, by ignoring what people typed into the search box every day.

Instead, they listened to those, they interpreted those searches, and they gave customers what they were looking for both in the search results and in the way they’ve modified the search results over the years to put the information in front of customers quickly and easily. That’s how we’ve ended up in this place in the first place.

Look at your site search, if you have it, as well as the terms that are driving traffic to you because those are the things that customers are saying are important. You can use tools like Google Search Console, you can use tools like Google Analytics to look at your site search. You can use tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs to look at the types of terms that your company and your competitors rank for to get a sense of the kinds of messages and the kinds of information that your customers are looking for.

Now you’ll note, in all of this, we haven’t talked about channels yet. We’ve always been talking about how do we understand our customer, how do we understand our objectives, how do we understand our content. And the reason is because the channel and the format come last.

First, you have to understand who are you talking to and what do they need to hear you say? Then you can think about “Where do I say this and in what form do I say this?”

We have always used a framework called “Hub and Spoke,” where the hub are things you control, and the spokes are things other people control.

One way to think of it is, your audience is the hub, and the spokes are other people’s audiences, you’re leveraging other people to help you reach those folks.

The hub is your audience. It’s the people who are actively seeking you out. It’s your website. It’s your app. It’s your email list or your CRM. And I’m going to come back to that in more detail in a minute.

But I want to start in detail talking about the spokes. The spokes are other people’s audience. And the job of the spokes is to grow the hub. You don’t just go out on the spokes for no reason. Ideally, you turn those spokes into customers. But when you turn them into customers, even if they buy on a spoke, you should have some contact information for them that goes into your CRM, which allows them to come back to your website or your app the next time directly without being on a spoke.

So the spoke is where we’re working with other people’s audiences. Google, obviously, has long been the biggest. It’s the whole reason we’re having this conversation.

Obviously, social is huge too. So that could be Instagram, it could be Facebook, it could be TikTok if you’re B2C, if you’re selling directly to consumers. It might be LinkedIn if you’re a B2B company, selling to businesses. You know, LinkedIn is my go to social network, but they are places where you connect with other people through other people.

It also doesn’t mean you’re creating your own content. You may be partnering with creators who have a big audience, or have, I shouldn’t even say “a big audience;” they have “the right audience.” They’re talking to your customers.

So you might partner with creators. You might work with them to say, “Hey, can you help us craft a good message for our customers who you also happen to be talking with?” That could be a partnership. It could be something where you’re paying them. It could be where you’re commenting and engaging with others content, but to be a valuable member of the community first. You’re not just going in there and saying, “Hey, let me jump into your conversation and promote me.” It could be you’re engaging with them in a really effective way by being a member of their community and then letting that organically grow into people knowing about you from that over time.

I wrote a piece of research for meta platforms and HSMAI a few years ago during the pandemic on how you can research your other creators and learn about other creators and work with other creators over time. I definitely recommend you checking that out. I’ll have the link in the show notes. But the point is that you’re letting the creators help tell a positive story on your brand’s behalf.

Another type of creator you might want to think about are your employees. I’ve worked with many companies who’ve had great success with an employee engagement program where you’re leveraging your employees social networks to talk about your products and services. You help your team understand what they should be talking about, you provide them some guidelines, you provide them some content assets, and you provide them some recognition for the work that they do. Could be a thank you, could be they win an internal contest, it could be that they get a, you know, a bonus or something along those lines. But it’s all about engaging the employees in telling a positive story.

I will be very clear, this works better for some companies than others because sometimes your employees are very representative of your company and sometimes they’re not, so you have to be clear about that. But when it works, it can work tremendously well and you’re increasing your network by the size of your total employees times the size of their network.

The other great form of engagement that you can work with as creators are your customers. Your secret sales forces, I call them, when they talk on ratings and review sites. You’ve heard me say a billion times on this show that customer experience is queen. And the reason that’s so is you want to create an experience that your customers want to talk about, that they want to talk about positively to their network.

The average person on social, whether it’s your employee, whether it’s your customer, has about 200 friends and family and fans and followers on social. So, how are you engaging them to tell a really positive story about your company and about your business? Well, you’re doing that through the experience that they get.

You also can look to PR. Are there, you know, and when I say PR, we can talk about traditional journalists or we can talk about people who are, you know, creators and what they’re doing. How are you creating a great experience that they want to share, that they want to talk about? Your goal is to build a community of people who want to tell a positive story on your behalf, whether that’s journalists, whether that’s creators, whether that’s employees, whether that’s customers.

All of these are people who have an audience that you can build off of. And of course, there’s all sorts of other things you can do. Direct mail, loyalty programs, conferences and trade shows, trade organizations, traditional advertising, paid media, etc. But the point is, you’re looking for the ones that work for your business and help you connect to your customers.

Another thing you might want to look at is what types of content do your customers engage with? Are they engaging with written articles either on your own site like a blog or on using other people’s audiences like a spoke? Are you writing in a trade journal if you’re a B2B company? Are you writing it, you know, are you getting coverage in a An online magazine if you are a B2C company.

You can do things like polls. You can do things like video and images and audio, like, I don’t know, podcasts. Now, I want to be very clear. You don’t necessarily need to do the video. You don’t necessarily need to do the audio. You don’t necessarily need to do the poll. Those can be great places to partner with creators who do that well.

The reality, though, is you want to give the people who create those something worth talking about. So, for instance, if you’re doing a podcast, why are you a good podcast guest? You find somebody who is a podcaster who speaks to your audience. What makes you a good guest?

I get pitches every day from people who say, Oh, we’ve got somebody who’d be a terrific guest for your podcast. And it’s clear they’ve never listened to the show once. Not at all. They don’t understand the show. They don’t get the show. And they’re saying, we’ve got somebody who wants to come on and talk about, you know I don’t know, women’s fashion. Nothing against women’s fashion, but it’s clearly not something we have anything to do with. They’re not being a good part of the community.

Another thing you can do is think about images. Think about things on Pinterest or Instagram. Now, the term infographics? Nobody uses any longer, but the idea of beautiful data visualizations still always works as a content mechanism. I have clients who have tremendous success with this. If you have research that’s important to your customer and you can package it in a way that’s beautiful, folks will share it on your behalf. You could do this in B2B with “Here’s something you want to know about the market today.” You can do it in B2C. You know, “Here’s a hot trend in—I don’t know—women’s fashion that you really should know about.” Right?

But the point is you’re trying to engage other people’s audience. And the way you’re going to do that is engage those people to want to share your story. You have to give them something. You have to give them a hook that’s going to be interesting to them.

The thing that you want to remember is the point is to get it to grow your audience, your hub. That’s the job of any of these spokes. And there’s a model we use for picking these. You’re not going to do every single one of these. I’m just giving you, you know, ten different high level ideas. The reality is you don’t have the resources to do all ten. So keep in mind what we call “Core and Explore.”

Remember when I talked about where your traffic and business comes from today, where’s 80% of that? What’s the 80% that’s most important to you? That’s where you should be putting most of your efforts. That’s your “Core.”

Then spend maybe 20% of your time on “Explore,” finding new channels, finding new opportunities. You’re not exploring for its own sake, though. You want to find things that can become part of your core over time.

And we use a framework that I call CORE to choose those:

  • Customers
  • Outcomes
  • Resources
  • Execution.

So, Customers. Are your customers on that channel? Do they use or interact with that channel regularly?

Outcomes. Is this an effective platform for delivering your key message? Can it help you reach more of the people you want to reach and drive more business? And most importantly, does it actually drive more business? As you test it, are you seeing positive business results from it?

Resources. Do you have the knowledge and the skills needed to use this platform effectively? If not, how will you close those gaps? That’s a great place where working with a creator can work for you because they already know how to close those gaps.

And of course, Execution. What is your plan? What are your next steps to get started?

So as you evaluate potential channels, look at “Customers, Outcomes, Resources, Execution (CORE),” and determine which ones work best for you.

Once you’ve answered those questions, take your plan out and test it. And as you learn, see if you can make it part of your core activities. Ultimately, that’s where we’re going to go.

Now you’ll note in all this I haven’t talked about search because my concern is how Google is going to change search over time. I also want to be clear, search isn’t completely going away.

What’s also true is that the best way to beat Google at its own game is to have customers search for you by name. Every single one of these activities that I’ve mentioned could actually increase your search traffic. The difference is, customers won’t be looking for, you know, “generic service near me,” “hotels near…,” or, “restaurants near…,” or “businesses who solve X problem.” They’ll be searching for you by name. And that’s the long game.

Because then no matter what Google does, you win:

  • If search clicks, if search traffic starts to decline because of the changes Google makes to the user experience, you’ll be building long term brand equity and social connections and your email and CRM capabilities and your community that allows you to connect with customers through other people’s audiences and through your own hub.
  • And if search continues to drive lots of traffic, well, you’ll get more of that too. So you win no matter how you slice it. Which is ultimately the goal we’re looking for.

So to recap everything we’ve talked about the last two weeks

  • Think in terms of do we understand our customers?
  • Do we understand where our traffic and revenue come from and can we build on those?
  • Do we have a content calendar that works?
  • Are we working on using the Spokes to grow our Hub?
  • Are we testing about 20% of the time using a “Core and Explore “approach and looking to move those channels into the core by evaluating them from a Customers perspective, from an Outcomes perspective, from a Resources perspective, and from an Execution perspective?
  • And remember, finally, that it’s okay if people keep searching for you, and you keep turning up in search, especially if they search for you by name, because then you win no matter what Google does.

And that’s the whole point of this, is to make sure that no matter what anybody does, you’re still in a position to succeed. I can’t wait to see what you do.

If you think I missed something, if you think there’s something else people ought to do, please tell me about it in the comments or drop me an email or drop me a message on LinkedIn. I would love to hear from you.

Show Wrap-Up and Credits

Now, looking at the clock on the wall, we are out of time for this week.

I want to remind you again that you can find the show notes for this episode. As well as an archive of all past episodes by going to Again, that’s Just look for episode 425.

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Show Outro

Finally, and I know I say this a lot But I want you to know how thrilled I am that you keep listening to what we do here.

It means so much to me. You’re the reason we do this show. You’re the reason that Thinks Out Loud happens every single week. So please, keep your messages coming on LinkedIn, keep hitting me up on Twitter, sending things via email. I love getting a chance to talk with you, to hear what’s going on in your world, and to learn how we can do a better job of building the kinds of information and insights and content and community that work for you and work for your business.

So with all of that said, I hope you have a fantastic rest of your day. I hope you have a wonderful week ahead. And I will look forward to speaking with you here on Thinks Out Loud next time. Until then, please be well, be safe, and as always, take care everybody.

Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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