Archive for the ‘Content Marketing’ Category

Six Best Practices for Marketing with White Papers

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

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.

The B2B Lead Generation Pyramid

 

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:

Technology Blog Visit Trend Graph

 

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.

Readz Content ExamplesContent 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.

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11 Thought-Provoking Guides to Content Marketing for 2014

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

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:

Content Marketing Week Traffic Impact

 

  • • 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.

7 Steps to Successful Content Marketing [Infographic] by Pamorama

Pam DyerPam 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

Murray NewlandsAccording 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.”

Content Is King And The Corporate Website Is Dead by Forbes

Michael BrennerWell, 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 LeavittNeal 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 ArrowSarah 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 GrayIan 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.

24 Epic Ideas for Connecting with Your Customers – Content Marketing Playbook by Content Marketing Institute by Cox Business BLUE

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 McKenzieBruce 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

Kirk CheyfitzStaking 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).

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How to Promote Blog Posts: 200+ Ideas from Eight Experts

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Company blogs have become virtually essential, and very powerful, component of digital marketing. In addition to their SEO benefits and role in maximizing web presence for brands, blogs produce sales and leads. According to recent research, more than half (52%) of consumers say blogs have impacted their purchase decisions; and 57% of marketers say they’ve acquired new customers with their blogs.

But creating and maintaining a successful blog takes more than just producing helpful and original content; as social media expert Heidi Cohen recently wrote, “The most epic content will FAIL without content distribution. If no one sees your content, what good is it?”

So, once you’ve created great content, how do you get it “out there”? Which content promotion tools are most useful? Which blog post promotion tactics are most effective? Is it still worthwhile to get listed in blog directories, and if so, which ones?

Find the answers to these questions and more here among hundreds of recommendations about tools, tactics and techniques to promote blog posts.

25 Easy Ways to Promote Your Blog by Kim Garst

Kim GarstKim Garst shares a list she’s compiled of “strategies that will help you promote your blog and drive traffic to your website,” such as promoting posts to your email list, commenting on other blogs, participating in industry forums, creating a Slideshare based on a post, and buying “cheap banner ads on niche sites.”

50 Experts Reveal How to Promote Your Blog with Just 3 Tools by clambr
***** 5 STARS

Richard MarriottRichard Marriott curates answers from 50 (actually 53) experts on which tools they would use to promote their blog content if they could only use three. Among the tools mentioned are Buffer, Triberr, Wistia, Facebook, and several others; but according to this group of experts, the three most helpful tools are…(read the post).

120 Marketing Tactics for Blogs [Infographic] by Customer Think
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Pam DyerPam Dyer outlines five steps for creating a successful blog—from understanding your goals to using marketing tactics to create visibility—then showcases an infographic illustrating 120 blog marketing tactics, from social networks to eBooks to PR to video, contests, “egobait” and forum posting.

How I promote my new blog posts by The Social Media Hat

Mike AltonMike Alton updates a detailed post about post promotion, helpfully advising readers not only how to promote their blog posts but also which tactics to avoid or drop, as they are no longer effective; for example, regarding social sharing sites, “The New MySpace no longer allows link sharing. And I have dropped Bebo and Diigo and Viadeo.”

25 Smart Ways to Promote Your Latest Blog Post by Rebekah Radice
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Rebekah RadicePinterest diva Rebekah Radice here outlines more than two dozen tactics for promoting posts, from social networks to blogger communities like Triberr, Social Buzz Club and Viral Content Buzz, to manual and automated social bookmarking sites.

25 Tactics to Promote Your Blog via Facebook and Twitter by Heidi Cohen

Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen serves up more than two dozen tips for promoting your blog through social media, among them: writing “regular features responding to your audience’s needs and interests;” including sidebar links that make it easy for readers to follow you on Facebook and Twitter (and other social networks, as applicable): and thanking people for sharing your posts.

50 Ways to Promote and Market your Blog Posts by jeffbullas.com
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Samuel PusteaGuest author Samuel Pustea suggests more than four dozen ways to promote blog posts, from the big social networks to newer tools like Pinterest, Triberr, Pligg and Scoop.it to RSS directory posting, infographics and guest blogging.

Active RSS and Blog Directories List by Buzzkeep

Arvid LindeAs Arvid Linde notes here, there were once hundreds of blog directories across the web—but most existed solely for “spam purposes.” This post provides a short list of 43 still-active, reasonably high-quality directories that can actually drive traffic, even if the links no longer have much SEO benefit.

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28 (of the) Best Business Blogging Guides and Tips of 2013

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Maintaining a company blog has numerous benefits for businesses of almost all shapes and sizes: blogging is an SEO best practice; it drives more website visitors lead conversions; it draws new visitors, expanding the reach of the company website; and it’s core element of a content marketing and online presence optimization strategy.

Best Business Blogging Guides of 2013So it’s not surprising that 76% of b2b companies and 72% of b2c enterprises now have corporate blogs.

Still—not every company that blogs realizes the medium’s full potential. And blogs require significant effort and resources, so even companies that have effective blogs want to assure they are maximizing results.

How can you attract more sales prospects to your blog? Get visitors to engage with your content? Become recognized as an industry thought leader? Optimize your blog for search? What common mistakes should you avoid? Which tools and plugins should you be using?

Find the answers to those questions and many others here in more than two dozen of the best business blogging guides of the past year.

Best Business Blogging Guides and Tips

7 Steps To Make Your Blog A Marketing Machine by Heidi Cohen

Heidi CohenTo make your blog a marketing machine rather than a me-me-me (or me-too) blog, Heidi Cohen advises focusing on your audience’s hot buttons, outlining a series of ongoing columns, branding your blog, and incorporating clear calls to action, among other tactics.

9 Ways To Get More Prospects To Discover Your B2B Blog by Business2Community

Douglas BurdettDouglas Burdett recommends “nine tactics (that) will get your blog discovered by more readers,” from looking for and capitalizing on trends in your blog analytics and publishing original data to being controversial by “taking a stand and backing it up with data.”

An Almost Effortless Way to “Get Your Name Out There” by The Un-Self-Help Blog

Stephan WiednerStephan Wiedner shares six reasons to write guest posts for other blogs, among them: “It builds relationships. If you write for someone else’s blog and their readers like what you share, they will be grateful, potentially ask you to write again, and who knows, maybe scratch your back in other ways some time in the future.” And despite some recent, widely misinterpreted comments by Google’s Matt Cutts, guest blogging is not dead.

30+ powerful adjectives and verbs for eye-catching headlines by Econsultancy

Chris LakeQuoting advertising legend David Ogilvy that “On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar,” Chris Lake offers guidance on choosing compelling blog post topics then grabbing attention by using key adjectives and verbs in the headline. Based on research over millions of page impressions, these adjectives include “best,” “brilliant,” “kickass,” “mindblowing” and “ultimate” among others.

5 Ways to Create a Deliciously Irresistible Blog Post Title by SteamFeed

Rebekah RadiceRebekah Radice explains why post titles are so important, the four objectives a post title should achieve, and a handful of tips to help craft compelling titles, such as keeping them concise: “It has been found that titles with eight words or less perform best.”

6 Ways To Go From Anonymous Hermit To Thought Leader by Fast Company

Wendy MarxContending that “Becoming a thought leader in your industry doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily the smartest kid on the block. It does mean that you’re the most receptive and understanding of your customers’ needs,” the brilliant Wendy Marx offers half a dozen tips for making the transition, including writing for trade publications and speaking at industry events.

How to Optimize Your Blog Content for Social Media by Maximize Social Business

Kristi HinesKristi Hines shares a handful of helpful tips for optimizing blog posts for social sharing, from adding social sharing buttons (a task done easily with tools like AddThis or ShareThis]) to including a social call to action (“let readers know that you want them to share your posts by adding a call to action at the end such as ‘If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with your friends’”).

33 Experts Share Their Secrets For Improving Reader Engagement by Blogging Wizard

Adam ConnellAdam Connell compiles advice from nearly three dozen seasoned bloggers on increasing reader engagement, including tips from Seth Godin (“The only thing I do to increase reader engagement is to write things worth sharing”), frequent Webbiquity best-of contributor Neil Patel, Dino Dogan, Anita Campbell, Ted Rubin, Lisa Buben, Joel Comm and more.

7 company blogs that build community by Ragan.com

Emma SiemaskoEmma Siemasko looks at “seven company blogs that do it right, along with some practical tips for getting the same success with your blog,” among them 37Signals: “Signal vs. Noise, 37 Signals’ blog, does a lot more than promote the company…The blog provides thoughtful, inquisitive, and truth-seeking articles about working from home, whether an iPhone camera is enough of a camera, and more.”

How to Generate More Leads With Your Blog: 5 Tips by Social Media Examiner

Kristi Hines (again) supplies a handful of helpful tips for generating leads via a blog, like placing opt-in forms around your blog content with “calls to action such as free trials, free consultations or a simple mailing list opt-in form.”

How to Contribute to a Blog and be Seen by Geekless Tech

Steve HughesNoting that contributing to other blogs “helps with reach, and exposes you to an audience you just don’t have with your own blog,” Steven Hughes shares a handful of tips for constructively contributing such as following directions: “Some sites will spell out exactly what they’re looking for and what you need to do to be considered,” and creating solid, original content.

20 ideas for content that people love to share on social media by Firebrand Ideas Ignition

Jeff BullasJeff Bullas provides 20 tips to help bloggers create a steady stream of fresh content, including creating lists, republishing infographics, curating content (kind of like this post), reporting news, analyzing research results, and reviewing tools or applications.

How to Make Your WordPress Blog to Stand Out by Themefuse

Karol KrolKarol Król presents five ideas to make your blog stand out from the crowd, from picking a new publication schedule (“you won’t know which posting frequency is the best for your blog until you try at least a couple of them”) to launching a contest (“Create a genuine task, or ask a genuine question…Then gather the entries and pick the winner”).

Best Tips for Beginning Bloggers

7 Content Writing Secrets Every Blogger Should Know by Basic Blog Tips

Glen AndrewsGlen Andrews details basic but helpful strategies for writing compelling blog posts, from crafting an attention-grabbing headline and opening through “giving it a rest”–”Before you publish that post – give it a rest. Why? Because, no matter how good we think our post is today, tomorrow never lies…Our posts will be more powerful and professional if we ‘let it rest’ and review it tomorrow with fresh eyes.”

5 Steps To A Successful Blog – A First-Time Blogger’s Business Plan by Viral Mom

Bernard ZarifovicBernard Zarifovic diagrams a first-time blogger’s business plan, starting with selecting a topic or niche and writing the first set of posts and progressing through social sharing, social engagement, and guest blogging.

7 reasons why a blog is vital to your social media strategy by Memeburn

Megan BersteinWhile most of the points here will be familiar to experienced bloggers, Megan Bernstein offers some interesting insights for corporate blog strategy, such as understanding the competitive landscape: “Your competitors in the online space are not always the same as those in ‘real life’.”

Top 10 Strategies to Successful B2B Blogging by TopTenWholesale.com

Naomi Ruth GanhinhinNaomi Ruth Ganhinhin offers 10 tips for blogging success, from setting clear objectives (“A clear set of objectives makes it easier to organize the type of content you publish. It also dictates the tone you are going to use and determine the right people to write your blog posts”) to including calls to action.

Best Guides to Blogging Mistakes and Pitfalls to Avoid

Are You Making These 20 Mistakes on Your Blog? by jeffbullas.com

Jeff Bullas (again) steps through 20 “common  mistakes that a lot of ‘newbie’ and other bloggers slip into,” such as not providing additional reading sources with each post, writing posts that are too long or too short (he recommends aiming for 500-800 words), and not using post categories to help readers find posts of interest.

Still Using Google Images for Your Blog Posts? Stop It! by She Owns It

Shelley WebbWriting that she has “seen too many people served with unexpected ‘bills’ and/or lawsuits for using images that held copyrights,” guest author Shelley Webb explains what types of actions and sources can get bloggers into trouble, and lists alternative / free image sources like Stock.XCHNG.

Blogging: 34 Things You’re Doing Wrong by Social Media Today

Yvonne LyonsYvonne Lyons reveals “34 things that could be keeping your posts from getting traction and making the jump from good to remarkable,” such as errors / lack of editing, choosing a topic that’s been “done to death,” and having no links within the post to your own site—and how to fix each problem.

Why Your Company Blog is Striking Out by Marketo Blog

K'Lee BanksGuest blogger K’Lee Banks offers advice on what to do “if you are spending time writing posts, but no one is listening,” for example: use interesting images (not just stock photos), always include social sharing buttons; and “Invite other professionals in your industry to guest post and connect with their readers.”

Best Blog SEO Guides and Tips

How To Move Your Blog Post Up In Search Results by V3 Integrated Marketing

Ian ClearyGuest author Ian Cleary outlines a half-dozen tactics to improve a blog’s search rankings, including the strategic use of internal and external links: “You don’t want to include a ton of internal links, as that looks spammy. Instead, make sure you’re directing your readers to the resources that they need (internal or external).”

How to Optimize Your Business Blog [Checklist] by Unbounce
***** 5 STARS

Lindsey KirchoffIn this highly bookmark-worthy post, Lindsey Kirchoff lays out a simple four-quadrant checklist for optimizing all aspects of a business blog: structure (e.g., navigation, search, categories); SEO (attributes like keyword use, internal links and Google authorship); CTAs; and social elements.

15 SEO Experts Give Their Best Tips For Blogging by Heidi Cohen

Heidi Cohen (again) shares blog SEO trips from experts like Kipp Bodnar and Jeffery L. Cohen (“The single biggest factor in SEO success for bloggers comes down to consistent publishing. Those who publish regularly receive more search traffic”), Eric Enge, Ron Jones, Rebecca Lieb and Charlie White.

Best Business Blogging Tools, WordPress Tips and Plugins

4 Useful Creative Commons Browser Plugins by Internet Marketing Ninjas

Ann SmartyOnline tools maven Ann Smarty reviews four browser plugins to help find free (creative commons) images for use in blog posts, including CC Search, a search plugin that provides “quick access to about 10 Creative Commons search engines (including flickr, spinxpress, wikimedia, fotopedia, etc). It’s a good search plugin when you need more options that just Flickr.”

How to Make WordPress Sites Load 72.7% Faster by CopyBlogger

Jerod MorrisIn an attempt to “cut the crap and turn down the hype” regarding how to create a faster WordPress site, Jerod Morris recommends staring by examining and optimizing the “core” of every WordPress site, which includes “hosting, theme, and plugins,” then offers a series of speed optimization tips. Not all are simple, but most bloggers should at least be able to find some helpful site speed-related takeaways here.

7 Emerging and Free WordPress Plugins of Fall 2013 by SteamFeed

Jesse AaronJesse Aaron reviews seven newer WordPress plugins, including WooSidebars (for creating custom sidebars by page), All In One Schema.org Rich Snippets (self-explanatory) and his favorite: the WordPress Calls to Action Plugin, which makes it “insanely easy” to do things like “create an effective call to action button, direct the call to action to a landing page, and direct the landing page to a conversion form.”

Easily Move Your WordPress Website to a New Host by Masterful Marketing

Debra MurphyThis is an instance where “easily” may be in the eyes of the reader, but nonetheless Debra Murphy does an exemplary job here of detailing the non-trivial process of moving an existing blog to a new web host as simple and understandable as possible.

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Guest Blogging is NOT Dead (And Matt Cutts Didn’t Say It Is)

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

The digital marketing blogs and media have lit up in the last couple of days with reports that “guest blogging is dead,” based on this post from Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Webspam team.

The post was widely misinterpreted to mean “stop doing guest blogging,” as even Matt acknowledged in a later addition to his original post:

Say no to spammy guest blogging outreach“I’m not trying to throw the baby out with the bath water. There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future. And there are absolutely some fantastic, high-quality guest bloggers out there. ..I just want to highlight that a bunch of low-quality or spam sites have latched on to ‘guest blogging’ as their link-building strategy, and we see a lot more spammy attempts to do guest blogging. Because of that, I’d recommend skepticism (or at least caution) when someone reaches out and offers you a guest blog article.”

The point is pretty clear. Guest posting done with the interest of the community and readers in mind still have value. But attempts at getting guest posts published in a manipulative manner, purely or primarily for the SEO benefit of the backlinks, are no longer going to be effective (and by implication, may even lead to penalties or ranking degradation).

And the gray area isn’t even that large; it’s generally fairly easy to separate legitimate guest post requests from the spammy ones.

Sender: legitimate guest post requests will generally come from people you know, or have heard of, or who at least seem to have a reputable online presence and can tell you exactly why they want to write for your blog (beyond just “Hey, I love your blog!”).

Relevance: a legitimate request will generally focus on one specific post, suitable for your audience and relevant to your typical topics and style. For example, this post on fascinating social media facts and statistics was a great fit for Jeff Bullas’ blog, because it meshes well both topically and stylistically with the kinds of posts Jeff often writes. But this style would not have worked as well on a site like Social Media Examiner.

Spammy guest posters, on the other hand, are often miraculously able to write a post on any topic from household cleaning tips to space travel—or a custom topic if you prefer! Ugh.

Compensation: Matt calls this out specifically in his post, noting that “email offering money to get links that pass PageRank (are) a clear violation of Google’s quality guidelines.” A legitimate guest blogger offers a post that has value to your blog in and of itself, and so would not propose monetary compensation.

Backlinks: virtually all guest posts include backlinks. Nothing wrong with that alone. The difference here between a legitimate and a spammy request is 1) the purpose of the links: do they appear to be there to guide the reader to additional, relevant information—or are they trying to sell something, or link to a page with little or no relevance to the post? (or worse, to something sketchy like an online pharmacy site); and 2) the author’s approach to the links. If he or she is comfortable with you changing, deleting, or no-following the links, then the guest post is clearly not just a spammy attempt at link building.

Comfort level: this is a bit amorphous, and will vary among individuals, but essentially: based on what you know about the person proposing the guest post, would you be open to connecting with him or her on various social media platforms? Possibly even to—under the right circumstances—write your own guest post for that person’s blog?

For example, there’s been some cross-posting over the years between Webbiquity and the Blue Focus Marketing blog. The cross-posting is decidedly non-spammy because both blogs focus on b2b marketing and branding; Cheryl and Mark Burgess are excellent writers and authors; and they are awesome people. It would make sense even in the absence of any SEO benefit (though there likely is, still, some).

Motivation: as Matt notes in the addition to his original post quoted above, “There are still many good reasons to do guest blogging.” It increases brand awareness, provides the opportunity to connect with a new audience, and helps increase overall web presence for a brand or product.

And Matt’s post doesn’t specifically say that no type of guest blogging still provides some SEO benefit—only that guest-blogging is no longer effective as a large scale link-building strategy, and that he would “recommend skepticism (or at least caution) when someone reaches out and offers you a guest blog article.”

While Google can’t look into a blogger’s heart to determine true motivation, it can and presumably will continue to look at characteristics like a site’s overall link profile (do guest post links make up an inordinate share of all backlinks?) and the quality of linking sites in determining rankings.

This latest development will also likely increase the importance of Google Authorship as a way to separate legitimate guest authors from spammers.

In short, guest blogging is not dead. Far from it. The only thing that has died is the practice of generating large numbers of backlinks through spammy email outreach for guest posts. And good riddance.

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