Archive for February, 2012

17 (of the) Best Email Marketing Guides of 2011

Monday, February 27th, 2012

As figures below show, email marketing remains a vital element of modern B2B and B2C marketing programs. More than four out of five internet users check their email first when they go online for business each day, and nearly three-quarters check email six or more times per day. Email messages generate 15 to 20 times the response rate of traditional paper direct mail—while costing much less and being more environmentally friendly.

Email and social media play well together. 81% of marketers are now using social media to expand the reach of their email content, as businesses that combine their email and social media efforts see faster list growth and higher click-through rates than those using email alone.

With that in mind, what are the best practices for combining email with social media marketing? What are the most effective tactics for growing a relevant opt-in subscriber list? How can marketers determine the best frequency for their email campaigns? Write subject lines that increase open rates? Avoid common mistakes that make their messages less impactful?

Find the answers to these questions and many more here in some of the best email marketing guides, articles and blog posts of the past year.

Email Marketing Tips & Tactics

How Uncoordinated Emails Can Kill Off B2B Prospects by MarketingProfs

Ardath AlbeeFrequent best-of honoree Ardath Albee explains how email programs can go wrong when a customer or prospect receives email messages from multiple departments for different purposes, and the efforts are improperly (or not at all) coordinated–and how to avoid losing subscribers as a result.

Common HTML Email Design Mistakes by In The Box

Noting that “While HTML emails may appear to be miniature web pages, they possess a unique set of quirks and limitations,” Chelsea Rio details six common email html mistakes (e.g. over-reliance on images, particularly large images) and how to avoid them–assuring that what you intend is what your readers actually see.

20 Tips for developing a Successful Email Marketing Campaign by Web SEO Analytics

Dimitris ZotosDimitris Zotos provides 20 helpful email marketing tips here, from using A/B testing (to test styles, colors and fonts in order to optimize your subscription page) to having clear policies about privacy and sending frequency to adding sharing buttons to make it easy for readers to share your content.

5 cardinal rules of email etiquette by iMedia Connection

Writing that “businesses need to be mindful of a few best practices before engaging via email, as it is a very personal channel and one misstep can cause a customer to hit the unsubscribe button,” Craig Fitzgerald presents a few simple email etiquette rules such as respecting frequency: “You don’t want to over-saturate email inboxes, but you also don’t want consumers to forget about you.”

6 Tactics to Determine B2B Email Frequency by Mass Transit

Adam Holden-BacheAdam Q. Holden-Bache passes along six methods for determining the right email frequency for your audience, so that you maximize potential returns without over-communicating and alienating your subscribers. For example, check your metrics: “If you see open/click rate drop-off and lowering conversation metrics, that will tell you that recipients aren’t responding to your campaigns. If you see steady or increased activity from your emails, then its likely you’re campaign schedule is at worst at an acceptable level.”

5 Tips To Dive Into Email Metrics by MediaPost Online Media Daily

Reporting that “when trying to communicate with prospects, organizations are using e-newsletters most (72%) vs. social networks (48%) and blogs (46%),” Nathaniel Cramer advises email marketers on how to take action based on common email metrics list open rates, click-through rates and conversion rates.

The State of Email Marketing (Infographic) by Constant Contact
***** 5 STARS

Discover why email marketing remains popular, based on hard data: 74% of online adults say email is their preferred form of commercial communication. 83% report that email is the “first tool they check when going online for their business each day.” 72% say they check their email six or more times per day. And “even Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said that email is the first thing she checks in the morning and the last thing at night.”

How to Write Effective Email Subject Lines

How to Write Better Email Subject Lines by The Lunch Pail

Patti RennerPointing out that “Email marketing is only as strong as its open rates,” Patti Renner explains the “5 C’s” or great email subject lines and throws in some additional tips, such as keeping it short, avoiding redundancy (e.g., “If your From line includes your business name, your subject line doesn’t need to repeat it”) and using acronyms and jargon carefully.

The 4 Words That Will Get Your Email Opened by Copyblogger

Sean PlattSean Platt reveals what these four words are, what kind of results they can generate, why they are so effective, and how to support those words in the body of your email message, no matter what type of product or service you sell.

Best Practices for Integrating Email and Social Media Marketing

5 Email Marketing & Social Media Musts For 2011 by iMedia Connection

Curt KellerCurt Keller offers some outstanding guidance on how to integrate email and social media marketing activities, such as “Run through your social media presences with a magnet, grab every comment that praises your brand to the high heavens, and stuff them in your next email: either as a section or as the focus of an entire newsletter.”

Email Plus Facebook Marketing: Fresh ideas from FreshPair by MarketingSherpa Blog

Daniel BursteinDaniel Burstein interviews Lindsay Massey, Marketing Director at Freshpair about integrating Facebook and email marketing activities, because as Lindsay notes, “We look at email and social as great complements to each other, and we definitely don’t see email as ‘dead.’ After all, how does Facebook notify you that you have new comments or messages? Email!”

How to Grow and Manage an Opt-In Email Subscriber List

10 Effective Ways to Get More Email List Subscribers by KISSmetrics

Sherice JacobSherice Jacob provides 10 tips to maximize the quality of subscribers on your email list, not just the quantity. Included on her list: make your submit button interactive, encourage readers to forward your newsletter, and offer special deals to new subscribers. Not included (thankfully)–displaying an annoying pop-up box to new site visitors.

21 Awesome Ideas to Grow Your Email List by HubSpot Blog

Michael Redbord lists almost two dozen “ideas for offers that can help dramatically increase the size of your email list and lead conversion volume,” such as education (eBooks, whitepapers, buyer’s guides), free stuff, and online tools (e.g. ROI calculators, “grader” apps).

You Bought a List… Now What? by iMedia Connection

Gary HalliwellGary Halliwell shares five tips for effectively using and managing a purchased list for B2B marketing purposes, starting with effective planning: “List buying should be part of a larger strategic plan. Lay out the full plan on a whiteboard, and include everything from initial touch-point, to sales accepted lead, to closed deal. Define the metrics that help you track success of your campaign over a reasonable amount of time.”

The 7 High-Converting Places to Add Email Sign-Up Forms to Build Your List by Social Triggers

Derek HalpernDerek Halpern identifies seven places (well, six places plus, in Derek’s own words, “The Dreaded Lightbox Pop-up…The Lightbox sign up form is a GREAT way to grab emails. However, depending on your niche, it may not work. In some niches, the light box pop-up can KILL your conversions because it’s annoying.” Pop-up boxes suck.) to add an email signup form in order to maximize subscriptions.

Mobile Email Marketing Tips

Mobile Email Marketing – What You Need To Know by Modern B2B Blogs

Maria PergolinoContending that “Originally thought to be more effective for B2C markets, mobile email marketing is fast becoming an effective way to communicate with B2B prospects and boost lead generation,” Maria Pergolino outlines four key best-practice areas for mobile email marketing, including formatting (it’s “best to send critical email marketing messages as text instead of html allowing the email to be readable on any mobile email client”) and design considerations.

How to Create Mobile Friendly Emails by Site Reference

Misti SandefurMisti Sandefur reports that “31% of people view their personal emails on their mobile phones,” and that figure is increasing. She then provides seven tips for creating mobile-friendly emails, from creating a mobile-specific template and keeping subject lines short to sticking with single-column, left-aligned text.

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34 (of the) Best Google+ Tips, Tactics and Guides of 2011

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Google+ (or Google Plus) is many different things, depending on who you ask. It’s the fastest-growing social network ever. It’s the tool Google will use to beat Facebook. It will fundamentally change SEO. It’s a pain in the arse because it’s yet another social network to join. It’s Google’s latest attempt at social media, and they finally got it right. It’s mostly a playground for engineers and marketers. It’s appealing, but too late. It’s “the linchpin of Google’s plan to own the entire internet” (see below for the source of that quote).

Simon Cowell Approves of Google+

Image credit: SEOmoz

Most likely, it’s some combination of those things. What it’s clearly not, however, is a venue that businesses can afford to ignore.

So what do organizations need to know about Google’s latest foray into social media? How can they get the most out of it? What impact is it likely to have? What are Google’s future plans for the platform?

Learn all of that and more here in almost three dozen of the best Google+ reports, guides and insights of the past year.

Google Plus Tips, Tactics and How-To Guides

Getting Your Small Business Ready for Google+ by Blue Focus Marketing

Mark BurgessMark Burgess explains how small business can build trust and creatively use circles on Google+ (“This insight [that people prefer to share specific information with specific groups of friends or followers] led to the creation of Google+ circles, a major differentiator between Google+ and Facebook.  Circles enable you to ‘narrowcast’ messages…Suddenly, Google+ can enable micro-targeting via circles.”).

Google+ Pro Tips Round-Up: Week 1 by Business Insider

Simon LaustsenSimon Laustsen provides a Google+ “cheat sheet” for getting started with the network, covering account setup, tagging, commenting, managing your circles, finding hangouts, rejecting spammers, inviting people and more.

How to Migrate from Facebook to Google+ by How-To Geek

Justin Garrison details tools that can be used “to migrate pictures, videos, and friends” from Facebook to Google+ (assuming you want to connect with the same people on Google+). He walks through the migration process, including helpful screenshots to illustrate each step.

10 Simple Techniques for Google Profile Optimisation for Google+ and Beyond by SEOptimise

Tad ChefTad Chef details the most important considerations in optimizing your Google+ profile, from your profile image (“Make sure you use a bigger image than just the tiny thumb you’ll see elsewhere on Google+ (or) on your profile it will look awful. Google simply scales it up. It needs to be 200 x 200 pixels or bigger.”) to proper use of the “Other names” and “nicknames” fields.

HOW TO: Integrate Google+ Into Your WordPress Site by Mashable Tech

Kelli ShaverKelli Shaver shows how to display your Google+ profile information on a WordPress site/blog, add the +1 button, and even use a Google+-inspired WordPress theme, with details about and illustrations of three examples.

25 Google Plus Resources, Articles, and Reviews to Help You Get Started by Pamorama

Pam DyerFrequent best-of honoree Pam Dyer explores a bit of what’s behind the Google+ “project” then shares more than two dozen resources for getting started on and using the network, from using circles and hangouts to its impact on SEO, and from tips small businesses need to know to feature comparisons to Facebook.

There’s no need to wait for brand pages to do business communication on Google+ by Holtz Communication + Technology

Shel HoltzThe brilliant Shel Holtz explains how organizations can tap into the power of Google+ circles for content marketing, completely apart from brand pages, noting “I’m skeptical about brand pages, since research indicates most people connect with Facebook’s version only to learn about coupons, discounts and special offers.”

Google+ Tips, Tricks and Tidbits by The Search Agents

Erik FreemanErik Freeman compiles a list of posts featuring Google+ tips and tricks, guidance on inviting friends to circle you, an amazing use of video on Google+, the effort by Matthew Epstein to get hired using the social network, and notes about Google’s privacy policy (though of course this has changed, dramatically, recently).

The Ultimate Google+ Cheat Sheet by HubSpot Blog
***** 5 STARS

Kipp BodnarFrequent best-of honoree Kipp Bodnar shares all the basics you need to know about Google+, from the social network’s unique vocabulary (hangouts, circles, sparks) to shortcuts, user demographics, configuring privacy settings and more.

Who to follow on Google Plus? Google+ Suggested Users
***** 5 STARS

In one of the first, if not THE first, Google+ directories, you can find people to follow and add to your circles across a broad range of topic areas from bloggers, journalists and tech entrepreneurs to scientists, filmmakers and foodies.

Google Plus Tips & Best Practices by webbROI

Amit BanerjeeAmit Banerjee explains why you should sign up for yet another social network (“You use Gmail/Google Apps as your email provider, don’t you? You use Google as your search engine, Chrome as your browser, YouTube to watch videos, and Google Reader to read blogs. Plus, what about Google Maps, Google Translate and a plethora of other Google products?”), what’s behind circles and sharing attributes, how Google+ differs from Facebook (“No walls here!”) and more in this informative post.

12 Google+ Marketing Tips From the Pros by Social Media Examiner

Cindy KingCindy King shares tips for getting the most out of Google+ from 12 social media pros, including Mari Smith (“Craft an eye-catching mini-bio for your hovercard”), Kristi Hines (on optimizing your profile), Debbie Hemley (on promoting your Google+ page) and Jeff Korhan (on how to create a suggested circles list).

5 Top Google+ Plugins by Kim Garst

Kim GarstWriting that “Having fun with any new kind of social media like Google+ means you get to make it your own, and playing with the different plugins available can help you do just that,” Kim Garst reviews five of her favorite Google+ plugins for the Chrome browser, such as Helper for Google+, a multi-purpose plugin with functionality for notifications, translation and bookmarking.

SEO and the Google +1 Button

Google Explores Re-Ranking Search Results Using +1 Button Data by Wired Magazine

Ryan Singel takes a close look at how Google may use +1 data in search result rankings, and shares some interesting observations: “Google would love to get at its (Facebook’s) data — the way that Bing is already — but the two companies go together like toothpaste and orange juice. Facebook will likely never let Google anywhere near its data stream, which meant that Google had to build in its own social network. But therein lies the rub. If Google’s search results become heavily dependent on social signals from Google+, then there’s going to be heavy pressure on the net’s websites to embed the Google+ button. And depending on where you work — say, Facebook or the Justice Department — that could look like Google is unfairly using its search engine might to boost its Facebook alternative.”

How to Implement Google +1 Button for Social Sharing by Search Engine People

Joydeep DebJoydeep Deb explains how to add and customize a Google+1 sharing button on any website, as well as how to modify +Snippets “to customize the Title, Thumbnail Image and Description that appear when your content is shared.”

Google+ Brand Pages

Google+ Pages for Business: What You Need to Know by MediaPost Search Insider

Janet Driscoll MillerJanet Driscoll Miller points out that the main reason for businesses to create yet another social profile page, this time on Google+, is that “Profiles help your brand SEO and help your online reputation management (ORM) efforts.” She then steps through the process of how to create one.

13 Cool Examples of Google+ Brand Pages by DreamGrow Social Media

Mart PröömMart Prööm presents more than a dozen examples of cool, and pioneering, Google+ brand pages from companies like Pepsi, Toyota, Fox News, Yahoo! and Angry Birds. And that’s possibly the first time those five brands have been mentioned together in a single sentence.

Google+ Pages: The power of search is the game-changer by ZDNet

Sam DiazThis may be what Google+ is all about. Sam Diaz notes of brand pages that “On the surface, the new feature feels like Google’s version of Facebook fan pages, a place where companies, celebrities and other ‘brands’ can interact with their customers and followers by sharing news or engaging in discussions. But Google brings something extra, something that Facebook and Twitter can’t offer – the power of open Web search.”

Test Driving Google+ Brand Pages by iMedia Connection

The always insightful but socially oblivious Daniel Flamberg writes about what the Google+ platform is, what it means to marketers, how consumers are reacting (e.g. “Google+ has attracted almost 50 million users since launch (as of mid-November); 68% of Google+ users are men; The single biggest occupation is software engineer; Biggest company affiliations are IBM and Google; It looks like a technology-focused, early adopter crowd”) and predicts how professional marketers will react to the platform in the near term.

How to set up your Google+ Brand Page right by Biznology

Chris AbrahamChris Abraham walks readers through the process of “setting up your brand page right away in the right way. If you follow these steps, you’ll be as well-placed as possible,” from selecting a category and uploading an image through adding friends and optimizing your profile.

10 Guaranteed Ways to Get More Google+ Page Followers by HubSpot Blog

Pamela VaughanContending that “without an ample following, all the time and effort you put into your presence is ultimately a waste,” Pamela Vaughan provides 10 tactics to grow your following, such as promoting your Google+ page in other social networks, writing a blog post about your new page, and making yourself eligible for Direct Connect.

10 strategic benefits of Google+ brand pages by iMedia Connection

Tom EdwardsTom Edwards examines the similarities and differences between Google+ and Facebook company pages, and the benefits of Google+ brand pages for businesses, including search integration (“Google currently owns 68 percent of search market share. The fact that the Google +1 icon is now a part of every Google search result shows a glimpse of the level of integration Google has in store for users and brands alike”), using circles for audience segmentation, hangouts, and social gaming among others.

How to Create a Google+ Business Page by Practical eCommerce

Paul ChaneyPaul Chaney outlines how to create, use, and build a following for your Google+ business page. He concludes that “The features for Google+ business pages fall short of those available on Facebook, not the least of which is the ability to add custom apps. Google likely will add more features in time. Until then, the social network may serve as a second-tier channel through which you can build some brand equity and…improve search returns.”

11 Best Practices for Your Google+ Brand Page by Sexy Social Media

An excellent post outlining “ten things you should keep in mind when putting up your Google+ Business Page” such as looking at what’s working (and what’s not) for major brands already there; crafting a creative (and keyword rich, for web presence optimization purposes) tagline; and being “chatty, but never spammy.”

Google’s Holiday Gift to You: Google+ Adds Multiple Page Administrators Capability by MediaPost Search Insider

Janet Driscoll Miller (again) reports on Google’s decision to enable pages to have multiple administrators, why this functionality is important (e.g., “Allow multiple individuals to make updates…(and) Maintain personal account security”), and how to invite others to be administrators.

Google Plus Strategy, News and Commentary

What You Should Know About Google+ (Plus) by WP Blog Talk

Rob CubbonRob Cubbon reviews the basics of Google’s latest attempt at a social network, starting with Circles (a feature that sets Google+ apart from most other networks) and posting (along with helpful shortcuts) and moving through hangouts, the +1 button, privacy, Google’s philosophy behind Plus, and new features likely to be added in the not-too-distant future.

Google+ Creates Data Gold Mine For Advertisers by MediaPost Online Media Daily

Laurie SullivanLaurie Sullivan outlines the value of Google+ for advertisers (“‘”For advertisers, one of the biggest benefits from Google+ will become the user data they don’t have access to from Facebook,’” according to Debra Aho Williamson), the network’s rapid growth (“Google+ has become became the fastest-growing social site — hitting nearly 25 million visitors worldwide as of July 24, just four weeks after launch…It took MySpace 23 months, Twitter 33 months; and Facebook 37 months”) and its user demographics (“About 63% of Google+ users are male, compared with 37% female…the highest percentage of users falls between the ages of 25 and 34″).

Stop Calling Google+ a Facebook Killer by iMedia Connection

Jon ElvekrigJon Elvekrog expounds upon the unique strengths and drawbacks of Google+ as a social network, its benefits to brands and advertisers, and why he believes it is much more likely to coexist with Twitter and Facebook than to supplant either one.

Social Relevance: Google+’s Algorithmic Implications On Networks by MediaPost Search Insider

Rob GarnerRob Garner counters skeptics, demonstrating how Google+ may help the search giant not just catch up to but leapfrog Facebook and Twitter, who, Garner believes, are far behind “in terms of applying algorithmic relevancy to the social experience.” He recommends that organizations treat Google+ as a “primary top-tier social network” and notes the importance of creating content and sharing it through Google+ for search success.

Google+ – Too little, too late by Inside a Marketing Mind

Gareth CaseGareth Case likes Google+ and understands its appeal, he just thinks that Google may have “missed the boat… By about 5 years” in terms of building a viable social network. His post includes an excellent graphic illustrating the distribution of social media traffic across the major networks.

Can Google+ succeed among the common people? by iMedia Connection

Alejandro-Rivas-MicoudAlejandro Rivas-Micoud reports on results of a focus group test with Facebook users in various age groups test-driving Google Plus and providing feedback. These users liked the concept of circles, but found other aspects of Google’s social network confusing, and weren’t sure it offered any compelling differentiation or reason to switch from Facebook. The conclusion was that “simply improving upon the Facebook experience is probably not enough. Instead, to gain a meaningful market position…Google+ (needs) to either carve out a specific, complementary niche to Facebook” or just be flat-out better.

What Brands Need To Know About Google+ AdWords Social Extensions by Search Engine Land

Kelly GilleaseKelly Gillease explains what social extensions are, why they matter (“The main advantage for in-house marketers implementing the new Social Extension is to boost their +1 counts all around, AdWords ads and Google+ pages will receive boosts from each other’s increasing +1’s”), how they impact AdWords ads, and what companies need to do to complete the verification process with Google.

9 Facts About Google+ You Need To Know by Agile Marketing

Jim EwelJim Ewel presents “9 facts about Google+ that may help convince you that you need to add Google+ to your social media marketing in 2012,” among them that Google+ will affect search results, that it helps people to find your business, and that activities there are easy to track.

How Google+ Is Changing the Web, Even Though No One Wants It To by HubSpot Blog

Kipp Bodnar (again) contends that “Google+ isn’t about changing social networking. Google+ is the linchpin of Google’s plan to own the entire internet. The company with the platform that can give internet users EVERYTHING they want will win. This is why you’ve seen Facebook partnering with music providers, launching its own email service, and allowing users to make images and updates public to improve Facebook Search. These two internet giants are locked into the early stages of the business equivalent of a death match.” The logic is hard to argue with, but Google’s strength has always been that it’s not a walled garden (like Facebook now, or AOL before it). Going down that path would leave a clear opening for someone to become what Google was on its way to becoming before it decided it just wanted to be the next Facebook.

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The Two Core Elements of B2B Social Media Marketing Success

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

There have been numerous models proposed for social media and content marketing (including the Four C’s of Social Media Marketing model previously published here), but when all of the complexity is stripped away, social media marketing success comes down to two core elements: content and amplification.

There's no shortage of social marketing modelsContent is like singing a song. Amplification (done well) is like singing that song into a microphone. On American Idol. Late in the season.

Content can be produced in a wide variety of formats:

  • • White papers
  • • Case studies
  • • Video
  • • Podcasts
  • • Presentations
  • • Product data sheets / brochures
  • • eBooks / digital magazines
  • • Blog posts
  • • Webinars / webcasts
  • • Checklists
  • • Infographics
  • • Research reports / briefs
  • • Product reviews
  • • News releases
  • • Newsletters
  • • Online tools / apps
  • • FAQs
  • • Guides / toolkits
  • • Tutorials
  • • Microsites
  • • Bylined articles
  • • Virtual events
  • • Buyer’s guides
  • • Product comparison grids
  • • ROI / TCO calculators

But regardless of the format, the first key to getting your content amplified by others is to produce high-quality, share-worthy content. Of course, in the B2B realm, your content should be targeted at addressing a specific question or concern of a specific type of buyer at a specific stage of the buying cycle (e.g. research reports at the top of the funnel; webinars at mid-funnel; product comparisons near the bottom).

Truly “social” content will go beyond those basics, and also be:

  • Optimized: content is more likely to be found and spread if it contains the words and phrases your buyers are using, rather than jargon or internal company terminology. These can be discovered by using keyword research tools or by talking to your customer-facing employees. The use of keywords in content should never be forced; content that’s truly written for your target prospects will incorporate these words and phrases in a natural manner.
  • Remarkable: ask yourself—if I were on a buying team that was evaluating my product or service, is this a piece of content that I would feel inspired to pass along to other members of the team? To my boss?
  • Unique: people are most likely to pass along content that is new or different—information, a point of view, or a collection / presentation of data that they haven’t seen before. According to Google, there have been 77,400 blog posts, articles and guides written that contain “SEO basics” in the title tag. The world probably doesn’t need another article on SEO basics, and such a piece would be unlikely to be shared, unless it somehow stood out from the previous 77,400 writeups on the topic. Not easy.
  • Compelling: to be shareworthy from your standpoint, the content should compel the reader to take some sort of next step—download a white paper, register for a webinar, subscribe to your newsletter, contact your sales team—some type of action that makes the effort of developing the content worthwhile. Otherwise, it’s just entertainment.
  • Easy to share: encourage sharing and make it easy by including social sharing buttons on your content whenever practical. Recent research shows that incorporating social sharing buttons increases email sharing by 115% (and helps with all sorts of other content as well).

Amplification is the process of getting influential voices in your market to share your content with their friends and followers. It is not about creating a “viral video” or some such thing. What kind of videos go viral? Funny videos. Videos featuring animals doing cute things tend to do well also. Create a funny video of animals doing cute things and you’ve got an almost sure-fire viral hit. But unless you sell pet supplies, the value of drawing that traffic to your site will be virtually zilch.

The amplification process has three essential steps:

1. Build a network of influencers. There are several ways to find the key influencers in any industry. On LinkedIn, search for relevant groups, then connect with members of those groups. On Twitter, search for hashtags relevant to your industry, or peruse Twitter directories like Twellow and WeFollow. Identify the top blogs in any segment using AllTop, then note who those bloggers include in their blogrolls. If you’ve got the budget, search for influencers using a social media monitoring or PR management tool.

2. Develop relationships with those influencers. Follow them on Twitter. “Like” their Facebook pages. Join the same groups on LinkedIn. Read their blogs and leave thoughtful, value-added comments. Tweet / retweet their posts and other content, and ask questions. Take an interest in them and they’ll be likely to take an interest in your content as well.

3. Produce content that those influencers will want to share with their friends, fans and followers. Key influencers get into that position by staying on top of trends in their industries, and sharing valuable, interesting, relevant content with their followers. Help them to do that and you’ll end up helping everyone involved: those influencers will become even more influential, they will amplify your content (because of its high quality), and—most importantly—your prospective buyers will be more likely to see and respond to your helpful and informative content.

The bottom line? “Build it and they will come” only worked in Field of Dreams. Success in social media marketing requires both “building” it (creating great content that showcases your unique expertise and compels buyers to act) and amplifying it through a network of the key influencers in your particular industry segment or market niche.

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Seven Guides to Better Copywriting

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

In this age of inbound marketing, content is king. And all content, regardless of format—text, video, audio, presentation—begins with the written word. The ability to arrange words and phrases in ways that capture interest and compel action is a skill at a premium.

But good writing isn’t easy. As Eric Siu noted recently in Is Blogging Dying?, blogging is declining among Fortune 500 companies because “Most people don’t like hard work. Blogging (or any type of sustained writing for that matter) takes time and effort.” These companies are shifting efforts to “newer social media platforms.” But without a blog—a core place to create, store and curate in-depth thought leadership content—what exactly will these companies be tweeting about or sharing on Facebook or with LinkedIn groups?

Effective writing—crafting text that is easy on the eyes and stimulating to the brain—isn’t easy, but it is an extremely valuable skill that can be learned and honed over time, and a craft worth the time and effort required to master.

How can you write copy that keeps visitors engaged on your site? How can you measure the effectiveness of business copywriting? Which over-used (or often improperly used) words should you try to avoid in your writing? Find the answers to these questions and more here in some of the best guides to better copywriting of the past year.

Gaming the system with skim-proof content by iMedia Connection

Madhuri ShekarMadhuri Shekar shows content creators how to take advantage of the “F” pattern that web users most commonly use to skim, rather than actually read, content. How does the pattern work? “Readers will focus first (and often only) on the top paragraph of your content. They will then skip to the top of your second paragraph to see if content retains their interest. Then they will quickly skim through the rest of your content, not reading, but barely glancing at the beginnings of your sections and sentences.”

5 Reasons Copywriters Need to Get Data … Or Get Out of the Business by Copyblogger

Adam SingerAdam Singer contends that it’s no longer enough for copywriters to have a strong grasp of their subject matter and a flair for language; they now also need to understand and be able to apply analytics to their writing. “You are no longer a great copywriter so much because you’ve written for popular media brand X or esteemed company Y. You are a great copywriter because your content improved conversions on a client website by 52% or because you helped a blog boost its subscriber numbers from 2,367 to 10,464 in one year.”

10 Ideas for Crafting a Better ‘About’ Page by Baymard Institute

Noting that the “About Us” page is critical (“New visitors want to know who you are and why they should care”) but often under-prioritized, Christian Holst supplies 10 ideas to craft a better page telling readers about your organization, from making contact information prominent and easy to find to using real photos of your people (not boring stock photography—blegh) to explaining what your organization does—in plain English.

10 Super Easy SEO Copywriting Tips for Improved Link Building by The Daily SEO Blog
***** 5 STARS

Cyrus ShepardCyrus Shepard entertainingly shares 10 “secrets” to using copywriting for content organization, to attract more inbound links and more readers (and keep them on your site longer). Among the tips: write for skimmers (see Madhuri Shekar’s post above); use headline formulas, subheads and bulleted lists; and my favorite “Get 20% more with numbers. I made that number up. Why? (Because) numbers grab our attention.”

Words You Don’t Say by The New York Times

Rachel NolanRachel Nolan lists the words that New York Times readers have advised the publication to avoid, either because they are overused or just rarely used correctly. For example, “From RHayes of New York: ‘Proximity’ because no one uses it correctly — proximity means ‘closeness’ but is invariably (inexplicably) preceded by ‘close.’” Also on the list: actionable, addicting (when “addictive” would be correct), and words like “architect” or “champion” as verbs.

Five Strategies for Speaking to B2B Buyers’ Pain Points by MarketingProfs

Dan McDadeDan McDade details “five strategies that build stronger, more powerful offers that will help your sales team close more deals,” such as “WIIFM (what’s in it for me?). People buy things for their companies for business reasons, but also for personal reasons, such as…recognition, security (or) compensation…When marketing and selling to a buyer, you should understand not only why she might buy on behalf of the company but also what might motivate her to buy for personal reasons.”

5 Ways to Become a Better Writer in 2012 by TMG

Daniel FordDaniel Ford offers five tips for improving one’s writing skills, such as writing often, reading voraciously, and getting social: “Engage with people on social media as much as possible. These conversation or debates will generate new ideas for you, as well as making you better connected to this new age of media.”

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20 (More of the) Best SEO Guides, Tips and Insights of 2011

Monday, February 13th, 2012

SEO remains the most cost-effective way to drive website traffic. B2B websites often receive anywhere from 30%-60% from organic search, with 50% or more sometimes coming from Google alone.

But SEO is changing. Directory links are worth less, social links worth more, site performance is increasing in importance, site age is decreasing…how is a digital marketer to keep up?

Discover how to use Google Analytics data, technical tweaks, website audits, keyword research, fresh content, social media activities and more for SEO success here in 20 more of the best SEO guides of 2011, a follow-up to 40 of the Best SEO Guides, Tips and Insights of 2011 (So Far) published last November.

7 Sure-Fire Signs Your SEO Sucks by HubSpot Blog

Corey EridonCorey Eridon presents signs that your SEO efforts may be headed down the wrong path, along with guidance for fixing each issue. Example: “2.) Content sounds like it was written by an SEO expert from 1999. There are lots of things from the 90s that are still quite magical in 2011: alternative music, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, boy band choreography. 90s SEO is not on that list.”

Using Data to Drive SEO Results by Search Engine Watch

Ray ComstockRay “Catfish” Comstock explains how to divide the SEO data analytics process into three main phases–performance reporting, opportunity identification (e.g., identifying new keywords, internal and external linking opportunities) and prioritization–what data to consider in each phase, and what actions to take based on this analysis.

18 things you need to know about SEO by Bing Webmaster Center Blog

Duane ForresterDuane Forrester steps through the major search factors for Bing (though most apply more broadly), including crawlability (e.g., use a simple URL structure, avoid session variables or docIDs, include an XML sitemap and a robots.txt file), content hierarchy and on-page factors, as well as “black hat” tactics to avoid.

301 Redirects: Implementing Your SEO ‘Change of Address’ Card by MediaPost Search Insider

Janet Driscoll MillerExplaining that “301 redirects are like a ‘change of address’ card for the search engines — they indicate that an existing page URL has moved and where the search engine can find it,” Janet Driscoll Miller shows how to create these vital page redirects on Linux and IIS servers.

10 Concepts Critical for Aligning SEO to B2B Marketing Strategy by Search Engine Watch

Derek EdmondDerek Edmond asks 10 B2B marketers—including Dianna Huff, Stephanie Tilton, Elizabeth Sosnow (“SEOs have an opportunity to become better storytellers, instead of appearing to be simply ‘link-builders’ in the eyes of some of their clients”), and HubSpot’s Kipp Bodnar—for their thoughts on how “SEOs can better align with strategic marketing.”

Understanding Google’s new sitelinks by Pure Visibility

Eric WortmanEric Wortman explains what Google sitelinks are, how they work, when Google displays them, what this means for your company website, and what you can do to take advantage of this expanded real estate now available on page one of Google results.

Search Engine Speculation: Predicting Future Ranking Factors by SEOmoz

Daniel DeceusterUnderstanding key search engine ranking factors is vital for SEO success, and Google keeps this challenge interesting with its continual algorithm changes. Rather than focus on the current top ranking factors here though, Dan Deceuster speculates about the future and divides what he believes will become more critical ranking factors into six “v” categories: value, validity, variety, vision, volume and visitors.

The First 7 Items On Your SEO Audit To-Do List by Search Engine Watch

Eric EngeFrequent best-of honoree Eric Enge steps through the seven most important tasks for a one-day SEO site audit, starting with looking at Google Webmaster Tools information for the site and working through site stats, crawl issues and competitive backlink comparisons.

HOW TO: Guide to Performing Website Audits by Techipedia

Harrison Jones walks through a mix of art (content optimization, meta tags, website design) and science (canonicalization, microdata, website architecture, and use of the insidious nofollow tag) techniques for auditing and optimizing a website.

Bringing Down the House: How SEO is Like Blackjack by Content Marketing Institute

Brendan CournoyerBrendan Cournoyer compares SEO to blackjack, with Google as the dealer (the “house”) and SEO practitioners as the various players at the table, some relying on skill and others trying less savory tactics to win the game—tactics that sometimes produce short-term wins but at the risk large losses in the end.

10 SEO Metrics you can’t live without by SEO Takeaways

Himanshu SharmaIn solid thought though slightly broken English, Himanshu Sharma details the three most important dimensions and ten most critical metrics to track within Google Analytics for SEO purposes, concluding that “These are the only 10 metrics you need to quickly and accurately track the performance of any traffic source or dimension.”

An SEO Checklist for New Sites – Whiteboard Friday by The Daily SEO Blog

Rand FishkinFrequent best-of honoree Rand Fishkin steps through his recommended SEO checklist for optimizing new websites, beginning with accessibility and keyword targeting and progressing through considerations like content quality, design, usability and link building.

8 Durable SEO Elements by Search Engine Watch

Erez BarakHow should SEOs cope with Google’s constantly changing algorithms, which can cause wild short-term gyrations in rankings? (Other than with alcohol?) Erez Barak believes that these eight elements remain durable through the Google chaos, including basic on-page optimization, quality inbound links, positive user experience (e.g. page load speed) and content freshness.

Ten things you didn’t know about SEO by The Globe and Mail

Krista_LaRiviereNoting that SEO is more difficult to control than email marketing or paid search because “Tracking, measuring and reporting results has become increasingly complicated, especially since factors affecting SEO change on a daily basis,” Krista LaRiviere of gShift Labs identifies 10 key concepts to understand for SEO success, among them keyword research, legitimate backlinks, quality content and social signals.

Are you placing too big of a bet on social media’s direct impact on SEO rankings? by ZDNet Whistleblower Blog

Stephen ChapmanStephen Chapman contends that social signals don’t play as large a role in Google rankings many people believe they do, as they should, and as they likely eventually will. Using data on several well-regarded and unknown SEO companies, he shows that keyword links, even as part of an unnatural link profile, still play an outsized role in rankings.

The 10 Google Panda ranking factors by The Web Citizen

Elias ChelidonisIlias Chelidonis presents an infographic showing the key ranking factors post-Panda, such as overall website quality and trust, brand indicators and social signals, as well as a timeline of the Panda rollout and updates.

How to Optimize PDFs and Documents for Search by Link-Assistant.com

Olga GabdulkhakovaPDFs are a challenge for SEO: they are the ideal method to present certain types of content (e.g. long reports), but offer few options for optimization. Olga Gabdulkhakova identifies five tactics that can be used to improve search rankings for PDF documents, such as including keywords in titles, making sure the text is indexed, and building links just as one would to HTML content.

Beyond SEO: Retaining the Visitor by Search Engine Land

Josh McCoyJosh McCoy advises focusing on the user experience as much as SEO; it’s not enough just to get visitors to your site, what adds value is keeping them there and, ultimately, getting them to convert. Among his recommendations: quit using (or minimize the use of) PDFs; make sure links to external sites (e.g. your social profiles) open in a new window so you aren’t sending visitors away; and my favorite, “provide me with a main navigation that gives me a roadmap to an end goal that makes us both happy. There is nothing interesting about navigation queues like Home, Services, Careers, and About Us.”

Introducing the Controversial Theory of “Peak SEO” by Coconut Headphones

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Ted IvesTed Ives compares keywords to crude oil, an analogy that makes some sense as the supply of both is fixed. Beginning with “Each keyword is like a tiny oil well, that will always give up some oil, but only with increasing effort over time.  Eventually the keyword becomes too expensive to bother with, so you must move on. But what happens when there are no more keywords to move on to?” he notes that the situation is actually worse than that, as SERPS become increasingly cluttered with maps and the like, and more people try to get into the search field. Fortunately, Ted also notes several potential paths out of this conundrum.

Preparing For A New Era Of B2B SEO by Search Engine Land

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Brad NeelanWriting that “as we move into 2012 and beyond, quality SEO is about having your marketing assets findable when customers are searching across the dimensions of the pre-, present, and future stages of the purchase cycle,” Brad Neelan outlines SEO strategy and execution for B2B marketers, including an outstanding B2B SEO Framework diagram suitable for presentations and posting on cubicle walls.

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