Despite the occasional “death of blogging” pronouncements (often made, ironically, in blog posts), blogs remain the core of a robust social media strategy. The proliferation of themes, tools and plugins have transformed blogs from mere online text collections to powerful interactive, rich-media sites that can attract, engage and educate your potential buyers.
Particularly with Google’s emphasis in its recent Panda and Penguin algorithm updates on content that is fresh, compelling, unique, social, and naturally linked to, blogs have become even more essential to SEO strategies.
For those who still aren’t convinced of the value of business blogging (as well as those who need to convince others), the “why blog” posts below provide compelling evidence. Those getting started or already active in blogging will discover how to:
- • grow blog traffic,
- • make content more valuable to readers,
- • increase blogging productivity,
- • generate more comments and social shares,
- • find royalty-free images,
- • promote your blog, and
more here in 30 of the best business blogging guides and resources of the past year.
Why You Want To Be the Last Blog Standing by Outspoken Media
Reporting that “the number of Inc. 500 companies maintaining corporate blogs has dropped for the first time since 2007. Did you hear that? IT DROPPED! According to Dartmouth’s research, just 37 percent of companies interviewed said they had a corporate blog, down from 50 percent in 2010,” frequent best-of honoree Lisa Barone advises readers to “let your blog be the last blog standing because while sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn may be effective and sexy all in their own right, they don’t hold a candle to the sexiness and superpowers possessed by your blog,” and backs it up with 10 reasons and tactics to beat your competition through blogging.
Kristina Weis provides a baker’s dozen reasons for creating a corporate blog, from demonstrating your expertise (“If [prospective customers] can easily find some articles written by you and/or your staff that show your company’s expertise, they’re going to feel a lot more confident about spending their time or money [or both] with you”) and increasing website traffic to helping with customer support and generating new product ideas.
Past, Present and Future of Blogging: 3 Infographics by jeffbullas.com
Jeff Bullas shares a wealth of fascinating blogging facts and stats here, such as that 27 of the top 100 blogs are built on WordPress, with 16 on TypePad. 43% of U.S. companies now maintain blogs. And more than half of all social media-driven blog traffic comes from Facebook (28%) and Twitter (26%) combined.
7 Tips for Blogging – Maybe Your Most Important Social Media Activity for Business by SocialSteve’s Blog
Contending that “Everyone always jumps onto Facebook and Twitter as one of their first social media activities. I recommend you think about blogging first. No other endeavor can be better to promote you or your brand as a subject matter expert,” Steve Goldner offers seven tips for blogging success, such as utilizing your passion, speaking (writing) naturally, and posting on a consistent basis.
Dozens of reasons why corporate blogs still matter in B2B marketing by Content Marketing Experience
J-P De Clerck makes a comprehensive case for corporate blogging—as long as it isn’t done the “wrong” way: “It’s traditional PR in a new package: corporate blogs as a way to shout how great they are.” Done right, blogs serve as the hub of a company’s social media strategy, a magnet for search traffic, and an opportunity to speak to prospective customers on a more informal, human level. He points out that 57% of companies with blogs have acquired at least one customer through blogging; that blogs make it easy to share multiple types of information; and that they make it easy (and even inviting) for customers and prospects to provide feedback.
Blogging Tips and Guides
Frequent best-of author Heidi Cohen offers nearly three dozen ideas “to help you efficiently leverage resources in seven of the areas where many bloggers typically need support,” such as content block (one idea: “Answer customer questions…Collect the questions prospects and customers ask from sales and customer service; then answer them”), lack of creative resources, and disappointing blog traffic.
20 Ways to Improve Your Blog by TribalCafe
Reporting that “28% of brands that (didn’t previously) publish a blog (planned) to do so in 2012—bringing the percentage of brands that publish a blog to 85%,” Gary Fox lists 20 ways to attract more readers and generate better business results from blogging, among them using strong visuals, varying blog topics, and making your content SEO-friendly (“focus on a keyword [phrase] for each blog post and try to not venture too far” from it).
5 Tips to Becoming a Top Blog in Your Industry by Social Media Examiner
Michael Stelzner shares a handful of techniques he used to make Social Media Examiner a big success, such as surveying the interests of your audience (“When you know precisely what content your readers crave, it’s much easier to create posts that are widely read and shared on social channels”) and spinning a single hot topic into multiple posts from different perspectives (e.g., a beginner’s guide, biggest myths or misconceptions, case studies, etc.).
Five Tips to Make Company Blogs Worth Reading by Marketing Profs
Muhammad Yasin offers a handful of helpful recommendations for making your company blog a success, including focusing on expert tips: “If you are not an expert yourself in a particular field, find experts and learn from them. See what they are writing about, absorb their knowledge, and share their tips. Better yet, invite those experts to share their knowledge on your blog as guest bloggers. Allowing independent experts to write for your blog can provide a much needed fresh perspective and may result in their recommending your products or services.”
Fixing The Social Media Plateau by Soulati Media
The delightful Jayme Soulati identifies 10 signs that “may be an indication it’s time to step up your game, take it to the next level, and grow or remain complacent” in terms of your social media practices, such as “Learning new things becomes more rare; another 20 ways to use Pinterest blog post isn’t providing new insight over what you know now,” and tips to get un-stuck (e.g., “Reduce the time spent on the channels that don’t return much to you. That way, you’re not spread as thin”).
10 Valuable Ideas to Help You Find Time to Blog by MyBeak Social Media
Writing that “Creating content and finding the time to do it are the biggest obstacles entrepreneurs and small business owners face when marketing their business,” Laura-Lee Walker presents helpful ideas for generating more content in less time, among them inviting guest bloggers, repurposing existing material, and using mobile phone apps like Dragon Dictator: “You don’t have time to write down all your ideas or blog posts…simply use an application…that will translate your voice to text. (They are) not perfect but will give you a head start and reduce the time you spend on typing your blog articles.”
21 Business Blogging Tips From the Pros by Social Media Examiner
The impeccably discerning Cindy King curates an outstanding collection of blogging tips from pros like Leo Widrich (“A product is only useful if you know others want it. Validate an idea for a blog post in the same way”), Heidi Cohen (“Understand prospects, customers and the public are on your blog to get answers to their questions and accomplish their goals, not yours”), and Stephanie Sammons (“Work to develop a blogging style that is unique to you. What’s your angle? What’s your view? How can you differentiate yourself from others who are blogging in your niche?”).
Guest Blogging: Seven Tips for Success by Spin Sucks
PR expert and author Gini Dietrich offers several excellent tips for expanding your reach by publishing guest posts on other influential blogs. My favorite tip is her first, on how to gauge authority (and corresponding effort) of a blog: “Go to Open Site Explorer and type in the URL for the blog for which you’d like to submit content. I’ll do it for Wood Street…You’ll see the site authority is 48/100. If the authority is 40-70, it’s worth pursuing. If it’s higher than 70, you’ll have a tougher time getting your content on the site, so you’ll need to be extremely patient, but persistent. If it’s between 90 and 100, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get something placed there without the help of a communications professional.”
Noting that “the majority of blogs starting every year end up failing,” Wendy Marx offers 16 tips in this infographic to beating the odds, such as “Be consistent: Whether you keep an editorial calendar or not, it’s important to continue to publish content on your blog because that consistency brings in more traffic” (amen!) and (perhaps most importantly), “Have fun with it: Don’t take yourself too seriously. Have fun with the process and enjoy every minute as your grow your audience and build your business.”
Guest post: 7 powerful headline techniques to skyrocket your blog traffic by Creative Ramblings
Reminding us all that “in the online world, your headline is the single most important part of your content…instead of reading every blog post, people scan for information. They look for headlines that capture their interest, and only click on the ones they feel are worthy of their time,” Lillian Leon details seven techniques for crafting headlines that grab attention, including “Fear: Identify the one thing your readers fear the most, and you’ll have yourself a headline that’s pretty much impossible to ignore.”
10 Additional Ideas to Generate Comments and Shares by Spin Sucks
Following up on an earlier post on the same topic, Gini Dietrich (again) offers 10 more ideas to increase engagement on your blog, from writing book reviews and rants to covering the latest trends and answering questions commonly heard by your sales force or customer service reps.
Content Development and Writing Tips
26 Tips for Writing Great Blog Posts by Social Media Examiner
In her own unique and highly creative style, Debbie Hemley presents “26 tips, from A-Z, to help you create optimal blog posts every time you sit down to write,” beginning with A for Anatomically Correct: every blog post should contain the “six parts of the anatomy of a lead-generating blog post” such as an eye-catching title, calls to action, and social sharing buttons.
Peg Fitzpatrick passes along content curation tips from Guy Kawasaki in this post showcasing the top dozen places to find shareworthy content, starting with your own network and including both popular sharing sites (like StumbleUpon and AllTop) and less obvious choices (e.g., Futurity, TED and NPR).
How to find photos you can legally use anywhere by CBS MoneyWatch
Observing that “No matter what you publish — a blog, updates to the company website, project reports, or even the venerable tri-fold — you no doubt need artwork to complement it,” but just haphazardly reusing artwork found online can lead to legal troubles, Dave Johnson recommends two easy methods for finding photos that are usable under the Creative Commons license.
29 Free Blog Images Sources: Where to Get Royalty Free Photos by Directory Journal
***** 5 STARS
In case Dave’s recommendations above don’t quite meet your needs, Gail Gardner provides a massive list of sites where you can find free or reasonably priced images, as well as resources for comparing prices across different image sites, selling your photos, identifying trademarked images, adding images to blog posts, and more.
5 of the Most Important Content & Social Media Tips For A Successful Business Blog by TopRank Online Marketing Blog
Lee Odden writes that “If I were only to give 5 content marketing tips to a company that wanted to get the most for and from its customers through blogging, here are the tips I’d give.” Among his top five tips? Focus on the problems your audience faces—but don’t forget to tell them how you can solve those problems. Create an editorial plan. And measure results to support continual improvement.
How to Differentiate Your Content by Geoff Livingston’s Blog
Geoff Livingston lays out four steps to becoming an “A-list” blogger in your niche subject area. Given Geoff’s success, I won’t argue with his methodology—though it’s not for everyone. But if you’ve got the time, intestinal fortitude and financial backing or wherewithal to pursue his program, go for it.
The Nine Ingredients That Make Great Content by KISSmetrics
Contending that “In order to boost SEO rankings, gain traffic and/or leads, you need to have great content on your blog or website,” Zach Bulygo shares nine tips for producing stand-out content (such as making your content actionable: “The best content gives the user a sense of how to apply the information…Many times, just writing well about a topic will spark some ideas for readers,”) then follows up with half a dozen examples of sites that consistently provide remarkable content.
Blog Promotion Tips and Tactics
6 Tips For Building a High Quality Blog Following by Fearless Competitor
Shane Snow channels Jeff Ogden and Brian Clark in this post, providing “six tips to attracting readers who stick around longer than the click of a StumbleUpon button,” such as speaking to a specific audience, guest blogging and publishing guest bloggers, and encouraging loyalty through consistency: “taking an editorial stand for what you believe in, rather than watering things down to avoid offending anyone. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to try to be controversial. In this day and age, simply taking a position and standing behind it will bring people who agree, and people who don’t.”
Want Your Blog Noticed? (Hint: It’s Not Just Content!) by Heidi Cohen
Heidi Cohen (again) supplies 23 tips for growing awareness of your blog, such as integrating your blog’s brand into related content and activities (“As a media entity, your blog deserves its own brand. If it’s a corporate brand, it should be adapted for the blog”), referencing and linking to sources, and guest blogging.
Want to Increase Blog Traffic? Some Fab Tips for Success by Positively Peggy
The ebullient Peg Fitzpatrick (again) serves up five tips for growing blog traffic, such as sharing your content at optimal times: “Buffer App helps you not only share at the optimal times based on your followers being online but also evenly distributes your amazing content throughout the day so you don’t annoy your followers with a huge spurt of brilliance and then lose them with silence later.”
How Bloggers Can Grow Each Others Readership by The @Steveology Blog
Steve Farnsworth recommends Triberr as a tool for increasing the reach of your blog posts, and explains in detail how Triberr works and how to get the most out of it (e.g., by starting your own tribe, joining other tribes, and “dating around”). While the tool is a great concept and has potential, its ongoing technical issues are frustrating.
How to Effectively Promote Your Blog Posts by MyBeak Social Media
***** 5 STARS
Beyond the big social networks and Triberr, Laura-Lee Walker (again) presents an infographic illustrating 30 ways to promote your blog content using social media, social bookmarking sites (does anyone still use Digg?), your contacts, other blogs, and 10 top syndication sites.
5 ways to promote your blog by commenting on others by Creative Ramblings
Cendrine Marrouat explains why commenting on blogs is beneficial (chief among the rewards: “You get to connect and build relationships with other bloggers”) and how to do it well (e.g., add value to the conversation, share relevant links, and comment regularly on the same blogs).
30 Ways to Promote Your Blog Posts by Listly
***** 5 STARS
Ted Rubin shares a bookmark-worthy list of tactics for sharing and promoting blog posts, including Facebook (“Add it on your personal & business pages, groups and through ads”), Pinterest (“Create a board specifically for all your blog posts and pin each post to it”) and through AllTop.com (“syndicates content in every category, from autos and food to business and sports”).
With all of the hype surrounding inbound and content marketing, it’s easy to underrate the continued importance of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, a.k.a. search engine marketing. But as Rebecca Lieb recently noted, “Search, email, blogging, digital PR, and even (brace yourself) advertising have, and will continue to have a place at the table as content marketing grows in importance.”
As vital as natural optimization is, paid search offers three key advantages that make it complementary to organic search:
- • It’s instant. Organic search experiments can take weeks to show results. SEM changes take effect in a matter of minutes.
- • It’s flexible. You decide which keywords, and how many, you’d like to show up on page one for, including popular phrases for which it may be very difficult to rank organically. You can add and drop keywords on the fly.
- • It’s controllable. You decide exactly which landing page to send traffic to for each keyword–without worrying that a minor edit to the page, or Google’s next algorithm update, will annihilate your ranking. You choose exactly when and where your ads are seen.
Given that PPC advertising is likely to play an important role in your online marketing mix, how can you most effectively target your ads? Maximize the productivity of your ad spending? Design landing pages that most effectively convert? Properly test different creative components?
Find the answers to those questions and more, plus a rant from a PPC skeptic, here in (almost) a dozen of the best PPC guides of the past year.
ABC’s of PPC – A Guide for the Basics! by PPC Hero
Kayla Kurtz presents a creative alphabetical guide to PPC basics, from A for Ad Goups (“Your ad groups should always start out tightly themed, with keywords included that are similar to one another) through Z for Zero Impressions (“How long has that account element been active while seeing no action? Do some due diligence and try your hardest to make it work, but if you have a portion of your account with no impressions…cut bait and move on).
The 8 Questions That Create Perfect Landing Page Copy by KISSmetrics
Michael Lykke Aagaard offers “8 simple questions will kick start your writing and guide you through the process of crafting high impact landing page copy that converts,” starting with understanding the purpose of your landing page and creating a specific call to action and progressing through creating a design that supports the copy.
Display Advertising: Targeting Options 101 by RKG Blog
Michelle Ulizio explains the structure of display advertising, breaking down the options first into user targeting vs. site targeting; then defining three options for each targeting type (for example, Site Retargeting: “By placing special tracking tags on your website, you are able to show display ads across the web to users who visited your site, regardless of what site they are currently browsing”); and finally showing how the two high-level targeting methods can be used together.
How to Handle the AdWords Ad Rotation Changes by Search Engine Watch
Greg Habermann reports on Google’s decision to change AdWords ad rotation settings from “indefinite” to just 30 days, explains how this will screw up head-to-head ad testing (particularly for smaller advertisers with low impression volume and agencies managing multiple accounts), and then suggests some alternatives and workarounds to try until Google comes “to its senses and change this back.”
Sam Owen presents five tips for getting the most out of Google’s Auction Insights tool, from competitive research (“You can also start to try and learn a little about the strategy of your competitors. Perhaps someone is always showing in position 1, but only for 50% of the time—did you just discover a competitor who is day-parting?”) to avoiding underbidding by analyzing lost impression share at the keyword level.
Joe Castro suggests ten ideas for improving the productivity of PPC campaigns, among them filtering to “Pause off active ad groups and keywords with high cost-per- conversion rates or high costs and no conversions,” excluding geographic regions based on conversion rates, and segmenting ads by device type.
10 Quick Adwords Optimizations Tips for All PPC-ers by LunaMetrics
Noting that managing multiple paid search accounts involves substantial effort, but “if you tackle each optimization effort in stages, the work load won’t seem as daunting,” Sarah Peduzzi supplies 10 helpful tips including checking the Search Query Report weekly, continually testing ad copy, and using automated rules for bid adjustments.
5 Quick Ways to Increase Conversions in AdWords by Fathom Blog
Joe Castro (again) tosses out a handful of quick ways to bump up clicks and conversions, including loosening keyword match types, using sitelinks, and bidding on brand terms (“it’s really a no-brainer that your company should be bidding on its name and different variations. Branded keywords are by far your top converting, and you’re leaving money on the table if you’re not bidding on them”).
The Importance of A/B Testing: 24 Marketing Experts on Their Most Surprising A/B Test by The WordStream Blog
Elisa Gabbert shares the answers from 24 marketing experts to the question: “What is the most surprising or exciting result you’ve ever achieved in a multivariate A/B test?” Respondents included Aaron Levy, Brad Geddes, Brad Shorr, Megan Leap, Oli Gardner, and Todd Minz (“We decided to A B test using brand names in the headline [as variables in place of generic product names]…Overnight, this campaign generated so many conversions that I thought something broke in AdWords. It went from nearly zero to the highest performing campaign in the account by about 4-5x”).
Amanda West-Bookwalt busts a common myth about quality scores, writing that “CTR plays a part, but so does ad relevance and landing page experience…(aligning with) the campaign and account quality scores as well as any quality score limitations set on your industry, all of which also influence a particular keyword’s quality score.” She adds several ideas for boosting keyword quality scores.
Why Paid Search for B2B Companies is Dead (or Dying) by Search Engine Watch
As Mark Twain wrote that “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” so pronouncements of the the death of PPC should be met with skepticism. Talk about a myth that needs busting; though Uri Bar-Joseph quotes an impressive array of statistics in his morbid predictions for the future of PPC, the channel is likely to remain a key component of b2b web presence optimization frameworks for some time to come. Unlike SEO, PPC results (as noted above) are immediate, controllable, and highly flexible. Firms willing to commit investment, testing and experimentation are likely to find PPC campaigns a productive, supportive and cost-effective component of their overall online marketing mix.
How To Leverage PPC To Discover High-Converting Keywords For SEO by Conductor Blog
As an example of how PPC can support other online marketing efforts, Nathan Safran notes that “Finding out a keyword converts poorly after spending the effort to work your way up the organic search rankings can be a time consuming and frustrating process, but there is a way to shortcut the process and discover high converting keywords: Paid Search (PPC) data,” then explains how to use PPC data to help focus on the most productive keywords in SEO strategies.
HubSpot last week released its 2013 State of Inbound Marketing report, this year weighing in at a massive 175 pages. But as always, the report is crammed with useful facts, interesting stats, and vital tips, tools and techniques for inbound marketing success.
Given the report’s heft, no blog post (of any reasonable length) could it justice as a summary, but here are a sampling of the highlights. To get the full story, download the HubSpot report here.
Inbound marketing (a subset of though not to be confused with web presence optimization) is big, and growing.
- • 60% of companies will execute some form of inbound marketing strategies in 2013 (and that’s likely understated; another 19% of marketers weren’t sure if certain tactics they use qualify as “inbound”).
- • Companies spend, on average, about a third of overall marketing budgets on inbound tactics.
- • For the third straight year, nearly half of marketers plan to increase spending on inbound marketing activities in the coming 12 months.
And it works:
- • According to the report, “inbound delivers 54% more leads into the marketing funnel than traditional outbound leads.”
- • 82% of marketers who blog see positive ROI for their inbound marketing.
- • Inbound marketers double the average site conversion rate of non-inbound marketers, from 6% to 12% total.
Inbound marketing teams tend to be small—but realize the need to grow in order to scale.
- • Even at the enterprise level, 31% of marketing teams contain five or fewer full-time employees.
- • While marketing teams will begin 2013 with an average five or fewer people, most will at least double by the end of the year.
- • Inbound marketers plan to hire an average of 9.3 people this year, which is 125% more growth than teams not executing inbound marketing.
The report is careful in how it defines “inbound marketing,” noting that “Inbound marketing is not a channel or a technology, it’s a strategy” (much like web presence optimization, or WPO) and further stating that:
“While it’s easy to explain why direct mail and PPC banner ads are ‘outbound,’ it is more complicated to define more flexible online strategies as purely inbound versus outbound. At HubSpot, we see the distinguishing factor as how people are using a specific channel more than the definition of the channel itself.”
This further distinguishes WPO from inbound marketing, as tactics like media relations, SEM and banner ads are elements of the WPO framework (because they are key elements of overall online brand visibility) but would not be considered part of inbound marketing.
But the report also notes that despite its widespread and increasing adoption, “Executives and sales functions not quite buying in to inbound marketing…only 17% of sales teams and 11% of company executives lend their full support to inbound marketing efforts.” If inbound marketing truly is a “customer-centric” approach to the market as the report also contends, one would expect these numbers to increase in coming years. To encourage this shift, marketers will need to be able to tie their efforts to strategic business objectives (like market share and brand loyalty) beyond just lead generation.
There more—much more—in the report, covering topics ranging from ROI, metrics, and testing, to inbound marketing tools and tactics. The new HubSpot report is must-reading for anyone who needs to justify market-driven digital strategies, understand what competitors and peers are doing, and gain insights on how to generate more leads, of higher quality, at least cost than with traditional interruptive marketing methods.
Content marketing represents the most fundamental and widespread rethinking of marketing practices in decades. Unlike other modifiers attached to the discipline (consumer marketing, b2b marketing, trade show marketing, digital marketing), the term “content marketing” doesn’t describe an audience, tactic, or channel, but rather a completely different approach to marketing.
Content marketing turns the dominant paradigm of the last half-century—interruption-based mass marketing—on its head. Rather than interrupting prospective customers with content they generally didn’t want (product pitches) while they were consuming content they did (entertainment or news), content marketing entices targeted buyers with entertaining (consumer) or informative (b2b) content that also happens to reflect the company’s brand messages or product/service strengths.
Disruptive as it is, this philosophical shift has spread widely and quickly: according to recent research, “86 percent of companies serving consumers and 92 percent of ‘business to business’ companies now use content marketing.”
Since content marketing itself is no longer a differentiator, practitioners are asking questions like: how can I efficiently create a steady stream of fresh, relevant content? What types of content are most valuable to my sales prospects? How can content be optimized to support search engine optimization (SEO) efforts? What metrics are most helpful in measuring success and support continual improvement?
Discover the answers to these questions and many more here in more than 30 of the best content marketing articles and blog posts of the past year.
Content Marketing Guides, Tips and Tactics
5 Ways to Clone Great Social Media Content by SteamFeed
Helpfully pointing out that “You likely already have strong content on hand (either on-line somewhere or even stuck in a file cabinet in your office.) Instead of developing new stuff from scratch, riff on/reuse this stockpile of awesomesauce and use it more strategically,” Jennifer Kane proposes a handful of techniques to get more mileage out of existing content, such as “Drill down or spiral off on your content themes…if a piece of your preexisting content has resonated with your audience, consider using it as source material for a more in-depth examination of the topic or to jump off on a sub-topic tangent that will enable you to expand the perception your audience has of your brand.”
Digital Natives: How They Are Changing the Content Marketing Game by Content Marketing Institute
Patricia Redsicker presents six strategies content marketers need to embrace in order to address the information needs and wants of digital natives–those born “between the mid-1970s and the late 1990s, (who) have grown up during our current golden age of digital technology. Now in their mid-teens to mid-thirties, people in this generation came of age knowing how to interact with technology and are comfortable using it to their advantage.” Among her recommendations are focusing on content that builds trust, that efficiently answers simple questions quickly, and that makes content consumers feel valued.
Corporate Content Marketing for Best in Class Results by Creative Marketing Channel
Noting that “Best in class companies utilize content marketing for brand awareness, customer acquisition, lead generation, and customer retention” and that most companies plan to increase budgets in this area, Catherine Lockey answers six key questions about content marketing, such as “How do best in class companies create all of their great content?” The answer to that one is outsourcing; roughly half of all small companies and three-quarters of large firms outsource at least a portion of their content creation efforts.
Seeking Marketing Alpha by Propel Growth Blog
Though the panel discussion this post was written to promote is long past, the thoughts about content marketing shared here by Candyce Edelen are still well worth a read. “The Internet and email make it easier and cheaper to make noise, resulting in a virtual cacophony of marketing claims barraging customers every day – with everyone claiming to be ‘the leading, number-one, unique, value-added, trusted provider’ of ‘robust, innovative, cutting-edge, high-performance, ultra low-latency technology….’ Yawn. How can every vendor be the ‘leading provider’ anyway?”
Content Marketing in 6 Steps by Social Media Today
Steven Van Belleghem lays out “the 6 crucial steps to take in order to end up with a good content strategy,” starting with topic selection (determining what’s at the intersection of your company’s unique internal expertise and the information needs/wants of your market) and proceeding through measuring marketing performance (based on the content marketing objectives you’ve established).
Long Live Content Marketing by Rebelations
Rebel Brown offers practical guidance on how to avoid self-promotion and salesy content that “will send your audiences running” and instead focus on providing value: “For example, let’s say your audience is challenged by performance problems with their applications. Don’t send them a piece of content all about your faster processor, database, system or whatever. That’s obnoxious and pretty blatant self-promotion! Instead, share a piece of content about the key aspects of their infrastructure that they might want to check for problems. Share your expertise to guide them through the process to better understand their issues.”
5 CEO-Worthy Metrics for Demonstrating Inbound Marketing Success by Marketo B2B Marketing Blog
Jon Miller outlines five key inbound marketing metrics to measure and continually improve content marketing success, such as lead generation by content and channel: “Beyond core organic traffic and leads, track lead generation by content asset and source. What sources are driving the most traffic? What kinds of content drive the most leads? The most revenue? It can also be insightful to track how these vary by product line or business unit.”
Noting that two of the biggest challenges content marketers face are “producing sufficient content” and “having enough budget to cover the cost of content,” Heidi Cohen has compiled almost two dozen recommendations for developing content cost-effectively, from repurposing speeches delivered by company executives and soliciting employee contributions to reworking content from your distributors and suppliers.
What Tech Buyers Want From Content by Marketing Interactions
Ardath Albee reveals three key attributes that technology buyers value in marketing content, including freshness: “58% (of technology buyers in a UBM TechWeb survey) said they wanted content that was timely and current (while) only 11% said they’d consider content more than 18 moths old.” If you’ve got older content that is still relevant to buyers, refresh it to keep it current with the state of your industry.
Don’t Forget the ‘Marketing’ in Content Marketing by The Content Cocktail
Christina Pappas shares a seven-step checklist for making sure that your content contributes to company goals, without being too pushy or salesy, among them “Make sure there is an offer or connection to your product in every piece of content…every piece of content you publish should have some tie-back to your company and the solutions you provide to the market. This doesn’t have to be obvious and it doesn’t have to be smothered all over the thing, but it should be there somewhere,” such as links to white papers or other related assets at the end of a blog post or report.
Exploring the Five Cs of Content Marketing at Cisco by IT Services Marketing Association
Sherri Liebo identifies the “5 Cs” that Cisco Services looks at to better listen to customers when creating and sharing marketing content, including Customers (“What are customers looking for?”), Competition (“What is the competition doing? How does Cisco Services compare?”) and Collaborators (“What is happening with our channel and strategic partners?”).
Research: B2B Buyers Want Content by Social Marketing Forum
J-P De Clerck summarizes findings from Base One’s Buyersphere Survey regarding the content needs of business buyers. While the study focused on Europe, its findings are more broadly applicable, such as that “87% of…buyers look for advice before buying…The first source when doing so: Web searches. With 71% of respondents who look for information, searches are by far the main source of information.” Among other findings:
- • Business buyers are most active in sharing content on forums, LinkedIn and blogs;
- • Younger members of the buying team are most likely to read white papers and blogs, and attend webinars; and
- • Buyers “who are working in IT were more likely to have downloaded whitepapers (36%) or read blogs (28%)” than those in other industries.
J-P has also launched a blog, Content Marketing Experience, focused exclusively on content marketing issues and guidance. His post Five Reasons No One Shares Your Content is spot on and well worth a read.
Content Marketing: 3 tips for how to get started by MarketingSherpa
Daniel Burstein dispels three myths than hold content marketers back or prevent them from getting the support they need within the organization, such as “‘We don’t want to give away our secrets.’
If you can’t give potential customers enough information about how you do what you do (whether that is fixing plumbing leaks or improving marketing performance), then why should they trust you with their business?” And McDonald’s “secret sauce” is (shhhh)…Thousand Island dressing.
4 secrets to successful content marketing by iMedia Connection
Writing that “the digital world allows us to measure just about anything, including three factors that help marketers gauge the success of their content: click-through rates, time spent on content, and shares via social media,” Jacqueline McDermott Lisk outlines strategies for producing high-quality content that will both improve these statistics and drive business results.
Because not all “leads” are ready to turn immediately into buyers, Shelley Pringle outlines a four-step process for converting those leads into customers over time. The process starts with understanding your prospects’ buying cycle and creating content for the top, middle and bottom of the sales funnel.
Marty Weintraub presents “11 timeless content creation examples that have always worked,” among them demystifying myths (“Nearly every sales process is up against some level of customers’ misconceptions and other informational obstacles. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and address these sales impediments head on”), covering industry events in real time, excerpting white papers (a great content idea), and interviewing industry experts.
Content Marketing and SEO
10 Reasons Why You Need an Optimized Content Strategy Now by iMedia Connection
Krista LaRiviere, CEO of web presence optimization software vendor gShift Labs, explains how recent Google algorithm changes (including more emphasis on social signals, the clampdown on low-value backlinks, the Google +1 button, and freshness updates) now make optimized, user-focused content more important than ever for search rankings.
How to create search friendly content by Bing Blogs
This post explains how to create optimized content more efficiently by creating a template or repeatable process for content development, and presents seven tips for discovering tinely topics to write about, incorporating keywords, using hooks to capture readers’ attention, and more.
Noting that “From an SEO viewpoint, the interest in great content is to attract links, where as a lot of what Google is looking to eliminate are examples of where content is used to build links”—particularly in the wake of its Panda and Penguin updates—Kieran Flanagan steps through an approach that puts business objectives first, with links and shares tracked but not viewed as the primary goal.
Infographics, Images and Video
5 Content Marketing Ideas Worth Stealing by jeffbullas.com
Jeff Bullas recommends five content marketing techniques for obtaining and retaining the attention of your prospective buyers by going beyond text: “Sometimes you need some inspiration and you need to try some new ideas and different media that may provide a nudge to try something different and creative outside your comfort zone…Images and photos are much more likely to be shared than an article or a white paper. Videos or infographics will be shared at high velocity compared the the humble ‘written word’ that have been with us for millenia.”
Infographics can be great for generating re-posts and inbound linke—if done properly. Slavik Volinsky explains what works (e.g., start with a great idea and great distribution plan: “To create a great distribution plan, approach your industry’s ‘big minds’ and ask for their feedback with full intention of listening & improving the infographic”) and what doesn’t.
The History of Content Marketing [Infographic] – Corporate Storytelling is Not New by Content Marketing Institute
Content marketing guru Joe Pulizzi presents a fascinating history of content marketing, from cave paintings and 19th-century “customer magazines” through the emergence of corporate blogs, business video, microsites, and the proliferation of content marketing sites, books and resources.
Content Marketing and SEO: The world doesn’t need another blog post by MarketingSherpa
Advising marketers to “focus on the message, not the medium” Daniel Burstein (again) offers half a dozen suggestions for taking content beyond blog posts and white papers, like creating a mobile app or a useful online tool “Like the ESPinator from ClickMail Marketing, which helps email marketers choose an ESP that helps them best fit their needs.”
The future of content marketing by iMedia Connection
Rebecca Lieb reports on research showing that larger, more sophisticated content marketers are gradually “lessening their dependence on text-based channels” and focusing more on video and images. Interestingly, she also notes that “Search, email, blogging, digital PR, and even (brace yourself) advertising have, and will continue to have a place at the table as content marketing grows in importance,” or in other words, that web presence optimization will get more attention.
7 Rules For Writing Awesome Content by Small Business Trends
Lisa Barone presents seven writing rules to help in crafting content that will inspire customers to act, including telling stories (“If you want to improve your writing, stop lecturing to people and to start telling them stories”); experimenting (“Improve your writing by experimenting with new mediums [videos, infographics, contests, polls, Twitter chats] instead of getting caught in the same pattern of content”); and to avoid generic messages, “write as if you’re writing to one reader.”
Is Content Marketing The New Advertising? by Forbes
***** 5 STARS
Michael Brenner shares a highly bookmark-worthy infographic that positions 16 different content formats along the dimensions of attention required from the audience and ease of implementation. For example, social media generally requires little attention from the audience (being very short form), and also little effort, while something like an app, telecast or interactive game is at the other end of the spectrum on both dimensions.
How You Can Use Infographics to Tell a Story by Social Media Club
Mireille Massue offers six steps for creating a compelling infographic (such as making it sharable by submitting it to Infographic Directories); nine resources to learn more about infographics; and (of course), an infographic outlining eight steps to create an infographic.
The 6 Best Slideshare Decks on Content Marketing by B2B Marketing Insider
Michel Brenner (again) passes along half a dozen noteworthy slide decks about content marketing, from experts like Rand Fishkin, Joe Pulizzi, and Rebecca Lieb and Charlene Li, whose Winning Content Strategies presentation notes that “77% of Internet users do not engage with online advertising. A shift from ‘push’ to ‘pull’ marketing is imperative to brand survival.”
Expert Copywriting Tips
Harvard Lesson: Verbs Beat Adjectives by Neuromarketing
Roger Dooley, commenting on one of the toughest sales jobs of all—”selling” yourself to Harvard Business School, where nine out of 10 applicants are rejected—concludes that verbs sell more powerfully than adjectives. Verbs persuade more effectively because they “require actual examples of the behaviors or characteristics in question…These specifics will increase the credibility of the copy, in addition to providing more information than when the adjective-driven shortcut is taken.”
Using Great Storytelling To Grow Your Business by Fast Company
Former McKinsey consultant Kaihan Krippendorff outlines two approaches for producing more compelling content (or presentations): using LOTS (“language of the senses…When telling a story, share with us what you see, smell, feel, taste, and hear. When you trigger a sense in someone, you bring them into the story with you”) and building on your story spine–a structured approach to use in opening a presentation or throughout a longer document.
25-point Web copy checklist: How to write for Google by Success Works
***** 5 STARS
Heather Lloyd-Martin provides a remarkable checklist for creating content that will appeal to human readers and search engines alike, from starting with a customer persona and keyword/topic research to crafting a compelling title and meta description to effectively “sell the click” to searchers.
Copywriting: How to improve headlines on landing pages and blog posts by MarketingSherpa
Adam T. Sutton, noting that “people are busy. You need to write a headline that convinces them to ignore distractions and pay attention,” outlines four attributes of value to consider when crafting headlines along with five tips for writing attention-grabbing headlines, such as front-loading (start with the most valuable phrase, e.g. “Get Paid to Take Online Surveys” is a much better headline than “We Can Help You Get Paid to Take Online Surveys”).
Write the Best Titles for Content Marketing: A 10-Point Checklist by Content Marketing Institute
Roger C. Parker recommends 10 questions to ask when writing headlines, such as “Does your title clearly promise a desired benefit?,” “Did you emphasize your intended readers in your title?” (for example, “C. J. Hayden’s ‘Get Clients Now: A 28-day Marketing Program for Professionals, Coaches, & Consultants’ targets readers by occupation”), and “Does your title include the keywords readers use searching for information online?.”
Google’s Panda and Penguin updates have irreversibly changed the practice of SEO. Contrary to the most dire conclusions of some, these nasty-though-harmless-sounding pair of algorithmic updates named for monochromatic fauna have not “killed” SEO—but they have, rather, forced an evolution in thinking about web visibility.
At a high level, both updates are designed to clamp down on “artificially optimized” web pages (e.g., those with over-optimized content [written for search engines rather than humans], paid links, too many links from low-quality sources, too many links with the same anchor text, etc.) and reward pages with a more “natural” profile (relevant and high-quality links, fresh content, social signals, natural and well written content).
The effect of these changes is that it may be more difficult for commercial websites to rank highly for specific keyword phrases. Difficulty ranking does not mean, however, difficulty in being visible. Which is why SEO will evolve into the framework of web presence optimization (WPO).
WPO is about maximizing your brand’s visibility when people are searching for what you have to offer—no matter where they are searching. It’s broader than SEO because “being found” doesn’t necessarily mean that searchers find your website (at least not directly); they may find an article about your company, a product review, a guest post you’ve written for an industry blog, a tweet, a pin, your Facebook page, or something else; but the point is, they’ve found content that is about your brand and that (ultimately) leads back to your website.
WPO is fundamentally friendly to Google’s zoological algorithm collection, because it’s entirely “white hat.” It encompasses paid, owned and earned content, but there is no effort to deceive or to manipulate search results (which is fundamentally what the search engines are trying to penalize).
In a WPO strategy, different disciplines like public relations (PR), SEO, social media, content development, online advertising, analyst relations, and even trade show marketing are managed in a coordinated manner to maximize the total online visibility of a brand for key phrases. It uses high-level WPO metrics to guide overall strategy and continually improve results, while benchmarking activities against top competitors.
WPO Tactics for Panda and Penguin
Here are five WPO tactics that help improve online brand visibility in the Panda and Penguin era:
Blogging. An informative and consistently updated company blog serves as the core of a social media strategy, provides a natural outlet for keyword-rich fresh content, attracts links from diverse but relevant sources, and will likely rank well on its own as well as contributing “link juice” to your top-level domain. Blogging well is hard work; it requires originality, persistence and discipline. The content has to be seen as helpful, compelling and share-worthy, not just rehashed news releases or marketing brochures. But done well, a blog fosters social engagement, improves organic search results and generates leads.
Guest blogging. Writing thought-provoking or informative content for other industry blogs is one of the few ways to directly generate specific keyword links back to your own site that remains acceptable to Google. Beyond the SEO benefit, gust posting also increases brand recognition, helps you reach a new audience, and enhances your brand image and credibility in the market.
Industry marketing. Being active in your industry raises your brand’s online (and often offline) visibility as well as well as creating valuable backlinks for SEO, and includes activities ranging from analyst relations to association memberships to sponsoring and exhibiting at trade shows.
Public Relations. PR isn’t just “press releases” (and anyway, you should actually be writing optimized news releases, worthy of the attention of prospective buyers as well as journalists); it also includes citations and quotes in industry news stories, bylined articles, formal product reviews, customer stories, and speaking opportunities. Such content can and should also be shared socially, reprinted (where allowed and with permission), and repurposed in other formats such as white papers, blog posts, and online presentations.
Backlink categorization. Understanding your website’s backlink profile helps guide your overall WPO strategy and allocation of dollars and efforts. Are you maintaining momentum in press coverage? Gaining traction in social media engagement? Lagging in industry marketing efforts? Even more important, understanding the backlink profiles of competitors enables you to benchmark your performance and look for new opportunities–or just validate your current strategic direction. Success in the Panda/Penguin world isn’t about raw quantity of backlinks, but about diversity (links from a variety of top-level domains, not just lots of links from a single domain), quality, and relevance.
General SEO Tips for Panda and Penguin
Here are three more SEO best practices for maintaining and improving rankings as search engine algorithms continue to evolve.
Avoid duplicate content. Having the same content on two or more pages of your website causes those pages to “compete” with each other in search, with the result that both (or all) pages lose. If you must have duplicate content on your site for structural or navigation reasons, use the rel=canonical tag to tell the search engines which page is the “original” or most useful to searchers.
Be careful with anchor text links. In the old days (e.g. prior to 2012), exact match anchor text ruled, and the more exact match anchor links you had pointing at a page the better. For example, if you wanted to rank for on-page SEO tips, you worked at getting as many links s possible which used that exact phrase. But now, if Google sees too many exact-match keyword links pointed as a page, it may actually penalize the page with lower ranking—for having an “unnatural” link profile. Google won’t specify what qualifies as “too many” of such links, but the point is to diversify anchor text in order to reduce the appearance of artificiality.
Set up Google+ authorship. You can set up Google+ authorship on single and multi-author blogs, and establish authority and validity with Google. Benefits include more visual results that stand out in search, and (potentially at least) higher search rankings.
Pandas and penguins aren’t generally viewed as terrifying creatures in the natural world, and they don’t have to be frightening online either. With a few SEO best practices and implementation of a WPO strategy, you can tame these Google beasts and maximize online visibility for your brand.