Archive for the ‘Content Marketing’ Category
The 2014 B2B Content Marketing Report is out, and no doubt will spur a number of blog posts. As usual, this year’s findings are a mix of the obvious (lead generation is the top goal of content marketing – as it has been for the last 10,000 years or so) and the somewhat surprising. For example, having a documented strategy makes companies much more successful–but only 30% of firms have a formally documented content strategy. And content marketing ROI remains difficult to measure.
1. Current customers may be under-valued. As noted above, lead generation is the top goal (59%) of content marketers; no surprise there. However, just 17% of survey respondents identified “Customer loyalty/retention” as a goal. Yet existing customers can be a company’s most effective and valuable advocates.
2. Content marketing is not about revenue. Just 16% of respondents said revenue generation was a top goal. Not surprising, as it’s never been easy to tie most marketing activities directly to dollars in. There are simply too many variables in the equation: price, product features, sales processes and skills, and the fact it takes multiple brand exposures (you’ve likely heard of the advertising rule of seven) before a prospect will buy.
Those seven (or eight, or 12) brand exposures can come through a variety of channels—industry news sites, social networks, blogs, online ads, analyst reports, search—which is why content development forms the base of a web presence optimization strategy.
3. Having a documented content marketing strategy is vital. Companies with a documented strategy are three times as likely as those without to describe their content marketing as “very” or “extremely” effective–and only one-third as likely to say they are “not sure” of its effectiveness.
4. Strategy means money… Nearly two-thirds (64%) of companies that have a documented content marketing strategy also have a dedicated content marketing budget. But just 14% of companies without a documented strategy have a dedicated budget for content creation and distribution.
5. …though often not enough money… Despite the importance of content marketing, 43% of companies devote less than 20% of their total marketing budget to content creation and distribution. More than a quarter spend 10% or less. Just 10% spend in the ideal range of 25-30%. On the other hand, more than three-quarters (77%) of marketers plan to increase spending on content production in the next 12 months.
6. …and strategy (often) includes automation. More than two-thirds (69%) of companies that have a documented content marketing strategy also use marketing automation. But just 42% of firms without a written strategy use such tools.
7. Content marketing starts with blogging. Blogging is the most commonly used content marketing format, with nearly two-thirds of survey respondents maintaining blogs. Rounding out the top five tactics are:
- • Social media (64%)
- • Case studies (64%)
- • White papers (55%)
- • Press releases (51%)
On the other hand, webinars/webcasts are used by less than half of b2b marketers. And less than 10% report using tactics like branded apps, podcasts, printed books, or games.
8. The C-suite is asking for metrics… Consistent with recent years, the top two content marketing challenges remain a lack of time/resources to create content, and the inability to create enough content variety and volume. However, this year’s report notes, “Measuring the effectiveness of content marketing has risen from the number six spot last year (28%) to number four (38%) reflecting increasing pressure to demonstrate results and justify investment in content marketing.”
Responding to those demands will require CMOs and marketing leaders to investigate a new class of tools designed to measure multi-channel web and competitive metrics, rather that relying on point solutions (social media monitoring, web metrics) that provide limited, siloed views.
9. …but ROI measurement remains elusive. Just 39% of marketers believe they are “at least somewhat successful at tracking content marketing ROI.” Yet as noted above, there is increasing pressure to provide such measurement. Closing this gap will require marketers to embrace a new breed of metrics to support improved marketing decision making.
10. The connections aren’t always clear. Not surprisingly, the top metrics used to measure content marketing success are website traffic (63%) and downloads / conversions (59%). More surprisingly though, just a third of marketers identify “social media sharing” or “SEO / search engine ranking” as key metrics—even though these are vital in supporting those top two metrics.
And just 19% cited “inbound links” as key metric, despite the fact that link earning through content marketing is essential to maintaining strong organic search presence in the post-Penguin world.
11. Outside talent can help. As noted above, most marketers say they are resource-constrained in producing enough volume or variety of content. Yet more than half (53%) rely on corporate marketing for content production. 36% depend on internal subject matter experts (SMEs, who have content knowledge, but not format knowledge) and just 30% on external agencies or consultants (the flipside of internal SMEs, with expertise in format but not product or service knowledge).
Connecting external resources with internal SMEs enables companies to produce more high-value content with less corporate or product marketing effort. And yet—25% of marketers don’t outsource any content creation, and less than 1-in-5 (19%) outsource half or more of all content development.
In terms of what types of content creation are outsourced, it’s not surprising that the majority of companies keeping blogging (76%) and case study writing (78%) in-house. But it is surprising that less than a quarter of marketers outsource the production of content formats requiring specialized skills, such as white papers, videos, and infographics.
12. Outside sources can help, too. 92% of companies create content internally (no surprise). But just 38% report that they “curate or syndicate third-party content.” An ideal content marketing strategy should contain a mix of internally and externally produced content, both to maximize the value of content to the company’s target audience and make the most efficient use of content development resources.
13. LinkedIn rules, Facebook…not so much. Per the report, “LinkedIn tops the list of the most effective social media platforms to deliver content and engage audiences (82%).” Just 41% of B2B marketers, however, say that Facebook is effective for content delivery. That’s nearly a mirror image of the B2C content marketing world, where 90% of marketers rely on Facebook but just 51% use LinkedIn.
14. Weekly content updates are the norm. 40% of marketers say they publish new content either “weekly” or “multiple times per month” (i.e., roughly weekly). 30% publish just once per month or less, and 30% publish more than weekly (multiple times per week or daily).
There’s much more, so check out the complete 2014 B2B Content Marketing Report to review all of the findings.
Whether you’re the type of person who eagerly dashes off a proposal for every speaking opportunity that comes your way, or the type who avoids the spotlight as much as possible, public speaking—delivering presentations to our peers, customers, prospects, or other audiences—is a part of virtually every marketing and PR professional’s life. And something most of us could improve at.
How can you get and keep a roomful of people engaged with your presentation? Visually optimize the content you deliver? Effectively use humor? Tell a story that keeps listeners focused on you—instead of checking email on their phones?
Find the answers to those questions and more in these helpful guides from professional speakers. Some date back nearly two years, but all are still relevant and useful.
Jane Porter passes along five valuable tips from master storyteller Kevin Allison. Among them: realize you’re never up there alone (think of it as a conversation, not a monologue); decide where you want to end up and work backwards; and vary your pace (“the juicier moments in your story should take up proportionately more room”).
The Science Behind Storytelling — and Why It Matters by The Official SlideShare Blog
Noting that Pixar continually tells great stories in its movies, Gavin McMahon shares 22 rules for storytelling from Emma Coats, former story artist at Pixar. He highlights two rules in particular that are essential to telling a great story: tailor your content to the audience, and structure your story (think hook, meat, payoff).
Event Marketing – The One Secret To Killer Events by B2B Marketing Insider
Michael Brenner writes that the teams behind the best events think in terms of “multi-format, multi-channel and a steady and continuous promotion of great content. The event is seen more like a conversation that continues well before and long after the physical part.” He also shares specific tips from three professional event planners.
15 Presentation & Public Speaking Tips that Rock by Content Marketing Institute
Based on his extensive experience both delivering and listening to presentations at social media and marketing events, Joe Pulizzi lists 15 helpful tips for better presentations, such as putting your Twitter handle on every slide; walking around; smiling a lot (it’s contagious); and “switching the flow and telling a story every eight minutes.”
Erik Devaney provides advice for content creators on how to avoid getting stuck in the “mediocrity loop” and instead embrace the improvement loop when creating new content. His seven practical recommendations for continually creating better Slideshare decks include choosing the perfect fonts (“a bold, stylized font for headers, and…a simple, easy-to-read font for body text”); using contrasting colors; and placing text legibly on top of images using a semi-transparent overlay.
What You Don’t Know About Speaking by Communication Rebel
Public speaking rock star Michelle Mazur shares a video outlining a handful of tips from Darren LaCroix, a past winner of the Toastmasters Superbowl. Among Darren’s recommendations for being a more successful public speaker: let go of the ME mentality – “On that stage when you are focused on the me, you are not focused on the ‘you’ in the audience. It dampens your connection with the audience.”
How To Be Funny: Stand-Up Comic Takes Public Speakers to School by DIY Blogger NET
Dino Dogan presents a video interview with speaker, writer and standup comic Brendan Fitzgibbons about how to be funny (rather than intense) when presenting. It’s not easy (at least not for many us), but it is powerful. Brendan recommends starting off by showing vulnerability with some self-deprecating humor.
A 47-Point Guide for First-Time Webinar Success by MarketingProfs
In this timeless piece, Agnieszka Wilinska presents four dozen helpful tips covering all the bases for delivering a successful webinar, from focusing on providing value and setting goals (“If the webinar is designed to produce sales, set your expectations in units and in dollars and cents”) to polling participants, managing and concluding the meeting.
13 Ways to be an Awesome Guest Speaker by SlideShare
Barbara Nixon shares a baker’s dozen recommendations for delivering as a guest speaker. She recommends starting by learning about the audience and tailoring your presentation for them, as well as creating a presentation with the flexibility to expand or contract the content. She also suggests being prepared for the technology (including the Internet connection) to fail, with a backup plan to keep the show going on.
Given all of the changes Google has made affecting organic ranking factors (asking webmasters to disavow low-quality links, reducing the value of guest blogging, ignoring links in press releases, etc.), the practice of SEO—optimizing owned content for search—is no longer sufficient for maximizing a brand’s online visibility.
This is not to say “SEO is dead” or that it no longer has value, only that it can no longer stand on its own. It needs to be part of a larger, coordinated strategy encompassing owned, earned and paid media: web presence optimization (WPO).
The original WPO model focused on content-sharing to maximize organic brand visibility; as the WPO framework evolved, it incorporated paid and industry (e.g., event sponsorships, community outreach, analyst coverage, trade association membership) components.
Today’s WPO model emphasizes the importance of fusing a solid content strategy with a comprehensive online distribution strategy in order to maximize brand visibility and credibility.
Yet despite the analytical and strategic power of the model, WPO still largely remains the concept that everyone talks about, but no one names. It’s as if sportswriters constantly wrote about “contests in which opposing teams of five players attempt to shoot a round orange ball through a hoop with a net attached” instead of simply saying “basketball.” As indicated by the posts from Search Engine Watch and All Twitter highlighted below, that is starting to change, but only just.
How can social, PR, SEO, and online advertising efforts be coordinated to maximize brand visibility? How can paid, owned, and earned media be harmonized to achieve business goals? How can paid and organic content promotion channels be used together most effectively? What role does email play in extending online visibility?
Find the answers to those questions and many more here in 31 of the best blog posts and articles about WPO (even if they don’t call it that) of the past year.
Beyond Search & Social: Online Marketing in 2014 by Search Engine Journal
Marcela De Vivo covers a great deal of ground in this thought-provoking and wide-ranging post, from the impact of social signals on organic ranking to earning (vs. building) links, measuring key performance indicators (KPIs) based on your goals (e.g., “If your goal is organic visibility, your KPI’s will be based on increasing your rankings and organic traffic”), and the debate around paid, earned and owned media: all critical consideraations in a WPO strategy.
Hessie Jones contends that while marketing and PR have traditionally been separate disciplines, due to social media, “these roles are converging in a big way,” so today brands need “a combination of PR and Marketing to stay on top of the conversation, and be ready to develop compelling content to engage and build advocacy,” and furthermore to pair “mainstream and digital media experts with creative specialists like copywriters, digital designers and video producers to uncover storytelling opportunities in real time, deliver critical business insights, engage influencers and customers and create the content that shapes news and conversations.” Which is to day: they need to coordinate the efforts of everyone involved in maximizing a brand’s online visibility and relevance.
How to build a robust content program by iMedia Connection
Writing that “Today, superb, consistent content best serves your customers and leads to increased loyalty and bottom-line results,” Deborah Hanamura explores a baker’s dozen considerations for content marketing strategy, including social, SEO, PPC (“Great Pay-Per-Click advertising requires great content. Create an impression versus multiple impressions”), and events—in other words, most of the key elements of WPO.
Integrated Marketing: The Magic Formula for Success by Blue Kite Marketing
Laura Click (correctly) asserts there is no “one singular tactic that will help you achieve results” in digital marketing, but rather that achieving the objective of being everywhere your prospect look online requires an integrated marketing approach coordinating efforts across:
- • content marketing;
- • media relations;
- • advertising;
- • search engine marketing (actually, a form of online advertising);
- • social media; and
- • email marketing.
Add SEO to the list above and you’ve got WPO.
Integrating POEM: The Rhyme and Reason of Harmonizing the New Media Mix by iMedia Connection
Aaron Dubois explores the strengths and weaknesses of paid, owned and earned media (POEM), and advises marketers, “Throughout the planning process, take a step back and look at your brand’s overall marketing strategy. If the P, the O, and the E aren’t working in conjunction with each other – with a consistent brand voice across all communications – then it’s not likely you’re going to get as much out of your campaign as you hope to.” That’s another way of saying: adopt WPO, which coordinates efforts across these these three types of exposure.
Creating a Multi-Channel Content Marketing Strategy by BlueGlass
Kevin Gibbons illustrates the POEM concept and recommends that marketers “have a fully integrated strategy, where everyone is involved towards having success across all of your owned, earned and paid media channels” in order to properly plan and execute to achieve online business goals (or in other words, adopt a WPO approach). He then provides further guidance regarding content creation, measurement, and audience targeting.
6 Reasons Social Media Is Critical To Your SEO by Convince with Convert
Jason Clegg offers “six reasons social media needs to be an important part of your website marketing and SEO strategy for years to come,” such as that social media enables you to “crowd source” your link building; social links actually drive traffic to your website; and “Google hates link building.” Though the post goes a bit over the top in spots (“link building as a direct SEO tactic is completely dead”—not quite true), Jason’s overall points regarding the SEO value of social media are spot on.
The PR Strategies SEOs Haven’t Learned by Siege Media
A helpful companion to the post above, Ross Hudgens here focuses on the value of PR for SEO: “Many PR companies still blast releases out to publishers that have no reason to receive them. Many SEO companies do the same with their outreach to bloggers. The best of both worlds will find the intersection, combine agility with empathy, and make for an extremely potent content marketing package.”
Marketing Research Chart: Integrating email and search marketing tactics by MarketingSherpa
Daniel Burstein notes that the chart at right “highlights one of marketers’ key challenges. They’re doing a lot. Even the least used tactic — digital asset optimization — is being conducted by 45% of marketers.” He then explains three ways that marketers can be more efficient by “SEO and email tasks to get more done in less time.” This type of coordination between different types of content promotion efforts is also at the heart of WPO.
The Evolution of Content In A Big-Content World by MediaPost
Writing that “‘big content’ is the definition of what content marketing has become: unruly, amorphous, exponential and everywhere,” Steve Kerho suggests that marketers should “think of big content as branded content that exists in multiple channels, across devices and…is no longer controlled solely by the brand.” Indeed they should, and efforts should be coordinated across these different channels to optimize visibility and engagement while maintaining consistent brand messaging.
The Complete SMO / SEO Guide for Business & Brands in Social Media by REALSMO
***** 5 STARS
Joshua Berg provides an indispensible and comprehensive guide to how social media and search work together; the principles of social media optimization, aka SMO (“Focus on the user and all elSEO will follow”–spot on); and the (possible) future of search.
The Aftermath Of SEO’s Death This Summer by Forbes
Writing that Google’s Penguin and Hummingbird algorithm updates “mean no more hat tricks, keyword stuffing, comment spamming, backlink image stuffing…Finally, Google uncovered the secret to blocking SEO tricks used to get customers on the infamous PAGE 1,” Eris Poringer provides excellent guidance on implementing a “comprehensive plan” for maximizing online brand visibility, incorporating social media, email, content marketing, native advertising, and other tactics. This approach isn’t SEM (paid search) though SEM is a key component of a wider WPO strategy.
Social Media Should Not Be A Stand Alone Brand Tactic by Brand Cottage
The smart and engaging Patricia Wilson lists seven reasons why social media should not be a stand-alone brand tactic (such as, “Social Media is very hard to scale on its own”) and suggests that “social strategy works best as part of a larger integrated marketing and business plan.” Couldn’t agree more; it’s a vital component of a WPO strategy.
The B2B Marketing Guide to Paid Content Distribution by B2B Digital Marketing
***** 5 STARS
In this highly bookmark-worthy post, Eric Wittlake details almost two dozen options for paid content distribution, from advertising on the large social networks to content distribution services like Outbrain and Taboola to native advertising and sponsored posts on B2B publication sites. As long as you stick with reputable sites that keep up with Google’s latest guidelines, these are great avenues for extending the reach of your content and increasing overall online brand visibility.
How to Amplify Your Content Strategy with Social Media Advertising by Content Marketing Institute
Observing that tweets have an average half-life of 18 minutes, Facebook posts have a half-life of 30 minutes, and keeping up with algorithmic changes in organic search is getting increasingly difficult, Dan Stasiewski recommends “creating an advertising flow to your content ecosystem.” Excellent advice, though not either/or; successful content promotion requires coordinating all of the elements of WPO.
Roger Kay comes down rather hard on content marketing and SEO (“a rather polite term for another way to game the system”), but writes that he likes “the concept of inbound marketing because it relies on product quality…at bottom, inbound will only work if the product is good. Effectively, the Internet is a fantastic channel to give an idea a chance to make it in the wild, but the virus only spreads if the content justifies the buzz.” True, which is why content strategy forms the base of WPO. But as noted here previously, even the “most epic content will FAIL without content distribution,” which is why coordinated sharing and promotion across channels is just as important as creating high-quality content to begin with.
Rand Fishkin steps through a number of steps SEO practitioners can take to deal with the loss of organic keyword data from Google, such as using “keyword suggestion sources like Google Suggest, Ubersuggest, certainly AdWords’s own volume data, SEMRush, etc. to see the keyword expansions related to your brand or the content that’s very closely tied to your brand.” Running AdWords ads and examining keyword performance is another option.
Time for a New Definition of SEO by Search Engine Watch
Writing that “digital marketing tactics such as email marketing, paid search and search retargeting have very clear, undisputed definitions. The definition of SEO, on the other hand, seems to be just as unclear as the practice itself,” Krista LaRiviere suggests WPO (she actually uses the term) represents the evolution of SEO, and defines WPO as “an all-encompassing approach to optimizing an entire web presence for organic search including the website, social channels, blogs, articles and press releases.” Her ideas clearly resonated, as the post garnered 50 comments.
The Web Presence Optimization Cycle [INFOGRAPHIC] by All Twitter
Allison Stadd showcases a helpful infographic designed to help marketers visualize “the steps to web presence optimization with the goal of helping you reach organic search success.”
Getting less traffic from Google? Here’s why it may not matter soon by Jim’s Marketing Blog
Jim Connolly details three reasons marketers should diversify their efforts beyond just organic SEO, most importantly because “Google sends less traffic to sites than before…between August 2012 and March 2013, search traffic from Google nosedived an incredible 30%” to a collection of large publisher sites including The Huffington Post, The Daily Mail, Newsweek, Time, Sports Illustrated and Rolling Stone. It’s not that search isn’t still an important tactic, but that it’s only one of several important elements in a brand’s total online visibility (the focus of WPO).
Relying on organic SEO? You’re losing customers! by Digital Growth
Building on the arguments in Jim Connolly’s post above, Luke Chapman illustrates how ads and universal search elements continue to push organic listings further down on the typical search results page, making even a #1 organic ranking less valuable than it used to be. To combat this, he recommends using social media, email, PR, blogging and blog commenting, and industry/community marketing—pretty much the range of WPO elements. And investing in SEM also helps maintain search visibility.
Is SEO Dead — Or Decentralized? by MediaPost
Musing about the decline of traditional SEO and the rise of social media optimization and paid search, Ryan DeShazer concludes that “In today’s marketing communications organization, everyone is an SEO…creative teams (now) include content discoverability and SEO into their work streams; technologists are building sites and apps compliant with known onsite SEO best practices; and UX specialists are including keyword research before developing user personas and journeys.” Hmm, coordinating the efforts of multiple disciplines in order to optimize web visibility…sounds familiar.
The 4 SEO Trends Every Marketer Needs to Know by iMedia Connection
Tony Quin reveals what he believes are four key trends in SEO that marketers need to understand, the most relevant of which for WPO is number four, “Traditional marketing tactics will boost digital marketing initiatives…Press releases, for example, provide branded mentions and links that will increase the authority of your website while also increasing exposure. Despite what some might say, email is still extremely effective in creating opportunities for awareness and sharing.” Creating compelling content is vital, but that content then needs to be shared using social media alongside “traditional marketing tactics.”
Inbound Marketing: 15 tactics to help you earn attention organically by MarketingSherpa
Daniel Burstein (again) serves up a list of “quantitative metrics, case studies, how-to articles and other resources to help you improve your own inbound marketing efforts by learning more about how your peers are effectively using these tactics,” including SEO, PPC, email, events, PR, blogging, content marketing, and other aspects of WPO.
How to optimize your emails for search by iMedia Connection
Noting “It might sound like a strange idea to optimize your emails for search engines, but SEO is a skill that email marketers better start working on,” Michael Linthorst explores the ins and outs of Gmail Field Trial, an “experiment in which Google includes a user’s Gmail inbox in his or her search results.” Engagement, content, and relevancy are keys to “email SEO”—and a solid approach to email marketing regardless.
Laurie Sullivan reports on recent research showing that “Social signals continue to make their way into search results—making social search engine optimization the next major trend in organic listing. Enterprise SEO requires a search across traditional techniques and social media channels.” This integration is, of course, at the heart of WPO.
Andrew Delamarter describes how marketing departments can, and must, sop operating in “silos” and coordinate efforts across paid, earned, and owned media: “Now is the time to stop thinking SEO, media, content marketing, web analytics, and Facebook posts and start thinking holistically about inbound marketing that brings it all together.”
Must evolve to:
If you build it, they will come — maybe by iMedia Connection
The brilliant and prolific Rebecca Lieb believes “The winners in content marketing will create not just quality content, but distribution strategies that will get that content ‘out there'” (i.e., WPO). SEO, PR, advertising, and social all have their role to play, but so do media companies.
Six Ways Internet Marketing Meets PR Online by SteamFeed
Because “the online world of content marketing requires knowledge of Internet marketing which includes search marketing, key word designation, html coding, link building, and the other tools and tricks of the trade,” Jayme Soulati outlines half a dozen ways for PR professionals to work with their Internet marketing counterparts to maximize online brand visibility and impact.
The New SEO: Search Marketing Integration by Search Engine Watch
Brad Miller writes that while SEO isn’t dead, “the days of SEO as a distinct, independent discipline are certainly numbered. SEO is fast evolving into a more creative, diverse, and challenging profession.” He uses the term “search marketing integration” to describe the coordination of activities across social search, branding, PR, SEM, and others areas in order to integrate all your marketing efforts into “into one single, agile, engaging strategy.” That would be WPO.
2013 – Break the (Digital) Marketing Silos by The RKG Blog
As noted above in the introduction to this post, WPO is about coordinating the efforts of everyone on your team involved in content creation or digital marketing. As Todd McDonald writes here, “Imagine the insights available to those who successfully bring together PR, social, email, PPC, SEO, and other channels! Each one can feed the next, providing ever-deepening levels of data and connections that will drive data-driven strategic marketing decisions. SEO will be a cog in this machine and it will need the machine to work well in order to functional optimally.” He challenges marketers to smash their internal silos—a vital step (as noted above) in WPO, even if he doesn’t call it that.
Though the format is sometimes misused (i.e., documents are called white papers when they are really just extended marketing brochures), properly produced and promoted white papers remain an effective and vital marketing tool—particularly for b2b technology companies.
At their best, white papers accomplish two mutually beneficial goals:
- • They provide readers with valuable, actionable, vendor-agnostic (or at least mostly agnostic) information about a trend, concept or topic.
- • They provide vendors with a platform to showcase their subject matter expertise and thought leadership, thereby building brand credibility.
In the lead generation process, white papers can be extremely valuable because they identify prospective buyers while requiring a low level of commitment. In the hierarchy of lead generating assets and activities, white papers form the vital base, as illustrated below.
White papers are intended to provide value to a sophisticated audience, thereby enhancing the credibility and image of the brand behind them. Poorly crafted or overtly promotional white papers can actually have the opposite effect.
Here are six recommendations to help maximize the value of the (often considerable) investment in white papers, for both readers and vendors.
1. Solve a real problem. Too often, white papers topics are chosen by looking inward, reflecting subjects the vendor wants to talk about rather than trends and issues that matter to their sales prospects. There are many sources for identifying topics that matter to your market, including:
- • Search keywords used to find your website
- • Keywords and phrases used in site search on your website
- • Suggestions from your company’s consultants, customer service representatives, and sales people
- • Discussions with current and prospective customers
- • Social media (e.g., discussions in relevant LinkedIn groups, trending topics on Twitter)
- • Industry news sources and blogs
- • Industry analyst reports and briefings
- • Google Trends
To find the most impactful topics, triangulate input from multiple sources.
2. Do your research. It’s extraordinarily unlikely that your white paper will be the first ever written on a specific topic, so before diving in and writing, conduct some research to discover what’s already been written by analysts, journalists, bloggers, and competitors. Citing third-party sources that support your contentions is a great way to increase both the value of the white paper to the reader and your brand’s credibility.
Research also helps prevent potentially embarrassing mistakes. If your white paper adds nothing new to knowledge of the topic, it may not be worth writing. If it contradicts existing articles and reports, you’d better have strong evidence to back up your position. And most importantly, if you are going to cite statistics, try to verify figures between multiple, reliable sources first.
For example, this blog frequently publishes updated compilations of social media and digital marketing statistics. One particular statistic that’s been difficult to nail down is the percentage of companies that maintain corporate blogs. Part of the reason is wide variation between different industries and company sizes; another is the underlying survey methodology (e.g., a survey conducted via social media will inevitably produce a larger figure than one done via email).
But one infographic reported the figure at 95%—no qualification, no mention of who was surveyed or how. Just a cute little graphic showing that 95% of all businesses have blogs. That number is, of course, patent hogwash, and immediately destroyed the credibility of the source.
3. Promote white papers honestly. Use abstract text that is compelling and even creates a bit of intrigue, but keep it real. Don’t mislead potential downloaders or promise knowledge or insights the white paper doesn’t deliver.
Most of all, don’t promise a vendor-agnostic presentation of facts, then devote most of the copy to a product pitch.
There is a place for product information in white papers, of course. For example, one vendor of high-performance database software had developed an entirely new data model; to help prospective buyers understand how the software was different, the vendor produced a technical white paper describing the new data model and how it worked. There’s nothing inherently wrong with producing such product-oriented white papers, as long as the subject material is accurately disclosed on the download page.
4. Use graphics. Images not only add visual appeal and make copy more readable by breaking up long blocks of text, they are often a more concise and understandable way to communicate information.
For example, which gives the reader a more immediate and clear understanding of the trend in traffic growth on a b2b technology blog? A sentence like “after growing at a relatively modest pace, averaging about 8% per quarter for seven quarters starting early 2011, blog visits have increased substantially in past year, increasing by 218% since the final quarter of 2012″—or this graphic:
5. Publicize the white paper across a variety of media (blog posts, search ads, social, etc.). Creating high-quality white papers requires a significant investments of time, cost and effort. To maximize a white paper’s impact and ROI, a similar level of energy and resources should be devoted to promoting it.
White papers provide rich opportunities for repurposing content (and using these repurposed assets to promote downloads of the full white paper), into formats such as SlideShare presentations, infographics, blog posts, guest posts, and media articles. All of these assets, as well as the original white paper, can and should be shared through social channels like Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Facebook. Images and infographics can also be shared on visually-oriented networks like Pinterest and Scoop.It.
6. Think beyond the PDF. Most white papers are still produced in static PDF format. Not only do PDFs have a number of limitations (e.g., they offer very limited capabilities for SEO and aren’t mobile-friendly), but they typically force marketers to choose between two less-than-ideal options:
- • “gating” the white paper behind a contact form generates raw leads, but also greatly diminishes distribution, as only one of twenty (on average) visitors to the download page will complete the form (and even fewer with accurate information); or
- • allowing the white paper to be freely downloaded, which maximizes reach but provides no names to follow up with or way to measure the success and productivity of the asset.
Fortunately, marketers are no longer limited to these two alternatives, as new technologies expand the possibilities for white paper dissemination.
One example is Docalytics, an online platform which extends the utility of PDF documents by adding analytics capabilities (e.g., how long did the reader spend with the white paper? How many pages did he or she read?); one-click social sharing and other follow-on calls to action; and “inline progressive capture”–the ability to display a contact form only after the reader has read the first two or three pages, which can significantly increase conversion rates.
Another option for white paper distribution, which goes beyond the PDF format completely, is Readz, a tool that converts PDFs or articles into responsive, mobile-friendly web content. Like Docalytics, it improves conversion rates and offers rich analytics, but in addition, the Readz platform does away with the need for Acrobat Reader; adapts to display properly on any device; provides SEO benefits; and integrates to popular email and marketing automation systems, like MailChimp and Infusionsoftt–as well as to Google Analytics.
Content published by Readz can be directly shared through a URL. Your prospects or customers click the link or button, and the app opens. You can share the link on your website, blog or social network or in your inbound marketing campaign on a landing page or in email. The company’s goal is to “make it easy to create the kind of content that’s shareable, measurable and usable.”
Readz content is also interactive, unlike PDF files. For example, you can add “action points” that expand into pop-up text boxes when clicked on by a reader. You can imbed SlideShare presentations, videos, or other similar content into a Readz document.
To see Readz in action, check out their white paper The Insider’s Guide to White Papers that get Higher Conversions, which offers helpful tips for how to write a professional white paper, promote white papers, increase readership, improve conversion rates, and more.
Thought the Readz system drives visitors to content hosted on their site, not yours, it does provide flexible options for branding so visitors have a consistent experience, and an option to embed code on external websites is currently in the works.
Danny Brown has written a detailed review of the Readz product here, which notes that “Pricing starts at $25 per month for up to two content pieces/whitepapers 10,000 page views, going up to $300 per month for 50 whitepapers with 100,000 page views.” So, even a modest increase in conversion rate more than pays for the tool.
The bottom line is that while white papers remain a vital lead generation mechanism in a variety of industries, but particularly for b2b technology vendors, the bar has been raised. Users have become somewhat jaded due to the proliferation, and in many cases misuse, of the format.
To stand out today and get the maximum value for the (not insignificant) investment required to produce quality white papers, vendors need to provide high-quality, objective content, promote it broadly, and evaluate new tools that can improve conversion rates, provide advanced analytics, and improve the user experience across desktop and mobile devices.
This is a sponsored post on behalf of Readz. However, all opinions are my own.
A few months ago, the Webbiquity blog celebrated content marketing week—six posts in eight days showcasing the best content marketing insights and guides from the year, starting with 30 Remarkable Content Marketing Facts and Statistics and culminating with 14 Best Content Marketing Tips, Tactics and Techniques.
The burst of content marketing content (pardon the repetition) produced some interesting results in terms of traffic. Compared to a normal Tuesday-to-Tuesday period on the blog, Content Marketing Week had:
- • Twice the normal number of total visits;
- • Five times the normal referral traffic from LinkedIn;
- • Four times the typical number of visits driven by Twitter;
- • Two times the average weekly visits from Facebook; and
- • About the same number of Google search visits as a typical week (not surprising; one wouldn’t expect a short-term burst of traffic to have a significant immediate impact on search visits).
Content marketing remains a hot topic, as practitioners continue to ask questions, like: what are the hottest trends in content marketing for 2014? What impact are blogs having on corporate website traffic in search? Which content formats are most (and least) effective? How can marketers do better at creating “content with purpose”?
Find those answers and many more here in almost a dozen helpful content marketing guides.
Pam Dyer showcases a noteworthy infographic which illustrates seven steps for content marketing success, starting with defining your business goals (“There is a sense of urgency about content marketing, which is leading many brands to jump in without setting clear-cut goals — a recipe for failure”) and progressing through publishing, promotion, and analysis (“a key part of figuring out how to resonate with your audience”).
Leading Experts Predict The Content Marketing Trends for 2014 by Search Engine Journal
According to Murray Newlands, “As we look towards 2014, it’s obvious that content marketing has already become the hottest trend in the industry—the go-to strategy for most, if not all, Internet marketers.” He shares predictions from three experts, with ideas from the increased importance of strategy and “performance marketing” to moving “away from the cheap, clickbait content that inflates ‘vanity metrics,’ and move more towards creating niche-specific, high quality content that provides values to their followers.”
Well, no, corporate websites aren’t really dead of course (though the headline does grab attention), and this post deserves a more detailed response (forthcoming), but for the moment—Michael Brenner does provide some arresting statistics (e.g., “nearly 70% of Fortune 100 corporate websites experienced declines in traffic [in 2013], with an average drop of 23%!”) and worthy suggestions on how to replace the typical “online brochure” type website with something far more engaging and interactive.
Infographics Accelerating Online Marketing Efforts by iMedia Connection
Neal Leavitt notes that while infographics are hardly new, they do remain compelling and valuable for both social sharing and SEO, though going forward “With thousands of infographics going online every day, it’s essential that brands release infographics with high quality design and research to see any success – and to get this kind of quality, brands have to pay for experts.”
Better Content Marketing: Content with purpose by Sark eMedia
Sarah Arrow writes that too many business blogs contain helpful content, but lack purpose: “what’s the thing you would like the reader to do after reading your post?” She lists several potential purpose options (to drive traffic to a web page, improve SEO, boost credibility, build an opt-in list, etc.) then offers tips on how to create “purpose-filled content.”
The changing state of content marketing by iag.me
Ian Anderson Gray shares an infographic depicting the (potential) future of content marketing, full of facts and statistics such as that industry news and blogs are the second most-effective content types for social sharing (with visuals—such as photos, videos and infographics—being the most effective); three-fourths of marketers plan to spend more on content marketing in 2014; and emphasis on quality and originality in content creation will increase.
8 Steps To Become A Brand Publisher by B2B Marketing Insider
Michael Brenner (again) shares a presentation detailing the steps to becoming a “brand publisher” (replete with a lot of amusing photos), among them: creating an effective content strategy (e.g., “delivering the content your audience needs, in all the places they go”); building a content (creation) team; and answering customer questions.
This presentation from CMI steps through best practices for marketing with a wide variety of content types, from blogs (used by 76% of North American B2B vendors and viewed as “effective” by 62%), eNewsletters and case studies to mobile apps, print magazines and annual reports.
Six B2B tech video “worst practices” (including some of mine) by 2-Minute Explainer Blog
Bruce McKenzie helpfully details half a dozen “worst practices” in video to avoid, such as offering “wishy-washy calls to action,” using buttons that “don’t shout ‘video,'” and relying too much on the audio portion of the output (” Rule of thumb: if it would work as a podcast, you’re not getting your money’s worth in video”).
What Content Marketing Needs to Rule in the Post-Advertising Age by Content Marketing Institute
Staking out the position that “To wrest advertising from the cold, dead hands of the traditional agencies, the content industry is going to have to master and improve some basic brand management skills, including branding, strategic planning, media planning, and measurement,” Kirk Cheyfitz proposes a new entity which he refers to as the “content advertising agency” and identifies five critical elements and functions of such an organization.
Content Is The Top Priority For The Social Business by B2B Marketing Insider
Michael Brenner (yet again) reports on a study from Altimeter which revealed, among other findings, that “content marketing was listed as the top priority for social media activities” (though it didn’t even make the list of top priorities as recently as 2010); “only 17% of marketers are truly strategic in their social strategies across the enterprise;” and many organizations suffer from “‘social anarchy’ or uncoordinated social activity happening across organizations because of silos, a lack of leadership, and a clear social vision” (which demonstrates the importance of incorporating a web presence optimization framework into digital marketing strategy).