Six Best Practices for Marketing with White Papers

March 25, 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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Eight Experts Explain (Almost) Everything You Need to Know about Google Authorship and Author Rank

March 19, 2014

Over the past decade and a half, Google has continually updated its core search ranking algorithm to incorporate an increasingly complex set of “quality signals” and indicators of subject-matter authority.

At first, it was just links. Then it was links from certain types of websites. Then links from certain types of websites with specific anchor text. Now it’s links from certain types of websites, but not others, with specific anchor text, but not too many with anchor text that is too similar, along with other trust signals like domain age, domain registration length, bounce rate, and—starting around the middle of 2011 (or so it is speculated)—page authorship. Simple, really.

Expert Guides to Google Authorship and Author RankGoogle figures that if authorship of a web page can be ascribed to a real person, with a real Google+ profile, then that makes a statement about its quality (though precisely what kind of statement relies on the particular individual).

So, how exactly does Google Authorship work? How does one implement it? How does Authorship relate to Author Rank? Does Author Rank even exist? What impact does Authorship (or Author Rank, if it’s real) have on search rankings?

Find the answers to these questions and more in these articles and blog posts from eight experts.

Rel=author: The basics explained [infographic] by iMedia Connection

Deborah BatesThough there’s been no shortage of blog posts about Google’s authorship tag, Deborah Bates notes that many of them are “a little too [ITALICS] in-depth…All we need to know is what it is, why it’s useful and how to implement it.” And that’s just what she shares here in a compact but useful infographic.

WordPress SEO: The Easy Way to Set Up Google Authorship by Social Media Today

Craig FitfieldCraig Fifield explains how to configure the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin “for a single author blog since all blogs need those settings” and progresses to “the specifics for businesses and multi-author blogs, both of which have specific configuration options.”

Can We Build Our Trust With Google Plus by newraycom

Ray HiltzReporting that “A Forrester Research study revealed that 70% of consumers trust brand recommendations from friends, only 10% trust advertising,” Ray Hiltz notes that still, “the majority of companies remain in their Mad Men rut and give no serious attention to building relationships with their market.” He then explores how authorship and Google+ features like Hangouts can be used to build trust.

Want to Rank in Google? Build Your Author Rank Now by Search Engine Watch

Eric EngeEric Enge explores half a dozen factors Google can potentially use in calculating author rank, including average article velocity (“the tweets, +1s, shares, Likes per day, per hour, or even per minute…consider the concept that search engines can track your average performance in this area over time”) and authority of publishing sites, and concludes that content teams need a subject-matter expert “on whatever your topic matter is – passionate about it, and personable. Your content won’t sell without this.”

Google+ Identifies Experts in Google’s Search Engine Result Pages by Relevanza

Birgit Pauli-HaackIn this short but very helpful post, Birgit Pauli-Haack provides “details on how to connect your Google+ profile with your blog/website, claim authorship and appear on relevant Key word searches,” complete with essential links, useful examples, and technical instructions.

Google AuthorRank: Fact or Fiction? by Social Media Today

Mike AltonMike Alton steps through what Google Author Rank is, how one gets authorship credit, why it’s important, and how it differs from search personalization: “as a verified author, your content can rise to the top of a search result without having any connection to the individual doing the searching.”

How Google Author Rank could change content marketing… and journalism by PandoDaily

Erin GriffithExplaining that “Google is using Google+ to influence search results in a big way, and…Author Rank could have an even bigger effect on search results…it’s clearly the way forward for Google results,” Erin Griffith delves into how author rank works, and how it affect search results and click-throughs, concluding “With Author Rank, (Google is) outsmarting SEO spammers while forcing content producers to use Google+.”

How To Get Your Picture In Google Search Results by Mannix Marketing

Bill BouchardNo theory, no eloquent digressions on the impacts and implications of Google Authorship, just a concise how-to post from Bill Bouchard on “putting a name and face with content” in three steps, including two options for linking your content to your Google+ profile.

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11 Thought-Provoking Guides to Content Marketing for 2014

March 11, 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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Book Review: The Social Employee

March 4, 2014

One of the most powerful impacts of social media is the way it has democratized brands. No longer is the brand, or corporate image, tightly controlled by a few senior executives, marketing communications specialists, and PR spokespersons. Every stakeholder in an enterprise—every customer, prospective customer, supplier, channel partner, employee, industry blogger, shareholder—has a voice. Those voices collectively shape the brand.

This reality can be scary as hell for brands, but it also creates new opportunities. Treating customers well produces an army of advocates, with far greater credibility and at far lower cost than traditional advertising. Invite bloggers to your company events, give them a peak “under the hood,” and the collective “media coverage” generated can be tremendous.

The Social Employee - book by Cheryl Burgess and Mark BurgessThe most natural and knowledgeable group of brand ambassadors would seem though to be employees. They know the company’s products, people, policies and procedures from the inside. They (presumably) want the company to do well, as their livelihoods depend on its success. Those on the front lines, in areas like consulting and customer support, have a unique perspective and level of credibility. And collectively, particularly in large organizations, they can be a powerful amplifier of brand messages and values.

Yet companies big and small have struggled to capitalize on this potential. Asking employees to use social platforms on a brand’s behalf can easily feel awkward, or forced. Employees may not want to talk about the company on social media, or may not know how, or may want to expose too much, or may even use it in ways that damage the brand.

Of course, most organizations of any size now have social media policies in place; but these often only set the basic ground rules for discussing the company in social media (e.g., don’t discuss financial details, don’t disclose customer data, don’t talk about products in development). They don’t turn employees into effective and impactful brand advocates any more than merely knowing the traffic laws makes one an expert driver.

Into this milieu have stepped Cheryl and Mark Burgess with their book, The Social Employee: Success Lessons from IBM, AT&T, Dell, and Cisco on Building a Social Culture. A must-read for any executive or manager who wants to understand how to unleash the social power of a properly trained, motivated and incentivized workforce, this book goes far beyond the do’s and don’ts of social media policy. The authors have gone inside some of the most respected brands to discover and reveal how these companies have made social media work by enabling and empowering their employees.

In today’s social online world, the linear model of brand engagement (awareness, interest, desire, action) is obsolete. Rather than being the end goal, the sale is often the beginning of the true relationship between customers and brands. It isn’t just the product that matters, but the entire customer experience with the product, with post-sale support, even with a company’s values, that shape the brand image in the social realm.

The Mobius Strip Model of the Social EmployeeTo introduce their concept of a non-linear model of customer engagement, the authors invoke the image of a Möbius strip: a geometric shape that is “somewhat unique in the physical world. While the Möbius strip appears to be a closed band like a bracelet, because of a twist in the band itself the object technically has only one side—although it appears to have two…

“We like the metaphor implied in this famous mathematical conundrum: here is an object that is easy to understand by experiencing it, but incredibly difficult to produce through attempts to quantify it. Such a riddle creates an unmistakable parallel with the nature of social employee engagement. Any brand can see the value of social of social collaboration once they’ve jumped into the fray, but it’s much more challenging to try to define the precise formula for why it works…Each of us behaves as an employee, brand, and customer—sometimes simultaneously—throughout the course of a single day.”

Later in the book’s opening section, the authors quote a McKinsey Quarterly article which argues that “senior leaders can harness social media to shape consumer decision making in a predictable way…(social media) is much more than simply another form of paid marketing, and it demands more too: a clear framework to help CEOs and other top executives evaluate investments in it, a plan for building support infrastructure, and performance management systems to help leaders smartly scale their social presence. Companies that have these three elements in place can create critical new brand assets (such as content from customers or insights from their feedback), open up new channels for interactions (Twitter-based customer service, Facebook news feeds), and completely reposition a brand through the way its employees interact with customers or other parties.”

Social media is fundamentally changing the nature of marketing, and employees are crucial to successfully navigating this transition. In the sections titled Employees Already Own Your Brand and Marketing is Everyone’s Job, the authors contend that “strong Business-to-Business (B2) or Business-to-Consumer (B2C) communication outside of the brand’s walls begins with strong internal employee collaboration…Because of the many new demands that social media has created for internal organization as well as B2B and B2C interactions, brands are quickly coming to the realization that the act of marketing is no longer just the responsibility of the marketing department…This isn’t to say that each member of each department has to be on the frontlines of branding, just that everybody should have a role in spreading the brand’s message.

“The only thing preventing organizations from connecting employees with the necessary information and resources to drive real change is the willingness to develop a proper infrastructure…Many companies simply don’t know how to handle the changes in the work styles and attitudes that are emerging within the workforce.”

And that is what sets up the core of this book: lessons the authors share from seven leading companies in how to harness the power of social employees. Among them:

  • • IBM: let employees develop the company’s social media guidelines. “In trying to determine the best way to address questions regarding the proper protocols of a social business, IBM struck on a novel idea: rather than confining a small group of people to a conference room to hammer out social policy, why not take the question to the people? IBM quickly set up an open wiki accessible to the entire network that would allow IBMers to establish their own computing guidelines…The results of the wiki experiment were quickly adapted as the company’s official social media guidelines. According to (IBM executive Ethan) McCarty, everything is still holding up quite well. ‘IBMers treat it like their Magna Carta’…The guidelines, which McCarty affectionately refers to as IBM’s social media Woodstock, have become so renowned in the business world that hundreds of other organizations have contacted IBM seeking permission to adopt them as their own.”
  • • Adobe: promote social media policies and best practices as “guardrails” for employees, not straightjackets. Adobe’s Corporate Social Media team knows it can’t control or dictate every social media interaction, so it has instead “adopted a policy of `influence without authority’ in order to spread the brand’s social message…Larger brands simply don’t have the resources to micromanage social adoption practices for an entire enterprise. `We had little to no authority over (other internal) teams to mandate change,” (Senior Director of Social Media and Public Relations Maria) Poveromo said. ‘So instead, we had to learn ways to encourage these stakeholders to see the value of working together.’”
  • • Dell: use tools and structure to monitor and address the torrent of social media activity happening outside the brand’s direct sphere of influence. “Listening to over 25,000 conversations daily produced a wealth of data, but the brand has had to be creative in how it sorts and utilizes this information. In 2010, Dell established the Social Media Listening Command Center (SMLCC) Led by Maribel Sierra. The brand has since designed over 300 monitoring categories in order to aggregate information by product line, customer segments, and various business functions. The SMLCC is able to sort data by criteria such as location/geography, basic demographics, reach, sentiment, subject matter, and social platform. To accomplish this kind of sorting, the SMLCC team uses Saleforce’s Radian6 technology to assess and report on the trending social media topics related to Dell.”

There’s much more, from Cisco (representing leader authentically builds tremendous credibility); Southwest Airlines (founder Herb Kelleher: “If the employee comes first, then they’re happy…A motivated employee treats the customer well”); AT&T (use social media to humanize the brand: “A fundamental trait of the social age is the fact that people expect information to come from a trusted resource with a human face”); and Acxiom (create a social employee “PACT”—short for passion, accountability, creativity and teamwork).

While the book showcases examples and practices from large organizations, many of the lessons are applicable to companies of any size—such as the importance of executive involvement on social platforms on behalf of the brand.

I’m thrilled and honored to have worked with Cheryl Burgess for the past three years honoring the #Nifty50 top women and men on Twitter. Cheryl and Mark have written an outstanding book for any leader seeking a roadmap to building and optimizing employee engagement on behalf of the brand in social media. As legendary management guru Tom Peters said of the book, “Social media is wasted without social employees…my social business favorite books #1: The Social Employee.”

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18 Expert Guides to Using Google+ for Business

February 25, 2014

Despite the reputation Google+ has in some circles for being the social network that everyone has joined but no one uses, marketers are increasing viewing it as a vital platform for branding and engagement.

After all, Google+ is now the second-largest social network; it’s more business-oriented (and less about sharing pictures of friends and grandkids) than Facebook, and more flexible than Twitter; it’s important for SEO (though not in the way you may think–see below); and it’s connected to everything else Google (Gmail, YouTube, Maps, News, etc.), making it a critical component in an overall web visibility strategy.

Best Guides to Google Plus for BusinessAs further evidence of the network’s increasing importance, as noted below, 60% of Google+ users log in every day (compared to 50% on Twitter); sites linked on Google+ tend to be indexed in search quickly; Google+ is aiming to become the “social platform of the future,” for example, by using its technology to replace other services like Yammer, Skype, and EventBrite; and it may well become the dominant source of business ratings (not good news for sites like Yelp and Epinions).

So what are the best practices for posting and sharing content on Google+? Building an audience and networking? Using Hangouts? What are the secrets to making your posts stand out? What are the best tools for analyzing Google+ activity and results? And how exactly does Google+ impact search results?

Find the answers to these questions and many others here in 18 Google+ marketing tips and guides from more than a dozen experts.

Effective Content Marketing on Google Plus: 5 Tools to Measure Success by Content Marketing Institute

Brittany KlontzBritt Klontz specifies nine key metrics “that really matter when it comes to understanding how effective your content marketing presence on G+ is,” then reviews five tools to help track those metrics, including All My + Statistics, which she says “may just be Google+ Nirvana for marketers who want to understand how their content, as well as that of their competitors, is being received on Google+.” And it’s free.

Are You Pumping Up Your Google Plus Strategy in 2014? by SteamFeed

Ray HiltzNoting that “In just over two years, Google Plus has become the second most widely used social network with approximately 350 million active users,” Ray Hiltz (who is to Google+ what Rebekah Radice is to Pinterest) states “2014 is the year to take the Google+ plunge if you haven’t already,” then delves into strategies for producing content, using new features in Hangouts, and networking on Google+.

Beginner’s Guide to Understanding Google Plus by ScottBuehler.com
***** 5 STARS

Scott BuehlerFor those who are new to Google+ (or who struggle to see results with it), Scott Buehler provides an excellent 10-step guide to understanding circles, generating activity, formatting posts, using hashtags, hosting hangouts, creating company pages and more.

5 Big Reasons Why You Should Consider Google Plus Marketing by Jeffbullas’s Blog

Allison RiceGuest author Allison Rice contends that “Google+ is quickly becoming a significant player in the social media marketing world because it has one thing going for it that no other social site has: Google,” and backs that up with five specific reasons, including “the coveted right hand space…Google search is constantly updating with new information, and the most recent and relevant information posted in Google+ that’s related to your search is likely to appear in that right hand space. If you’re regularly posting on topics relevant to your industry and your Google+ site shows consistent updated content, then your Google+ page — and articles you’ve posted that are relevant to someone’s search — are much more likely to appear in that space.”

Google+ Launches Embeds, Starts To Highlight WordPress.com And TypePad Authors Who Sign In With Google+ In Search Results by TechCrunch

Frederic LardinoisFrederic Lardinois reports on the details and impact of two announcements regarding Google+: the embed feature (“millions of people already produce lots of content on Google+. Until now, that content was locked up in the platform, however. The embed feature will…be available on public posts”) and authorship results through WordPress and TypePad connections (“the select number of sites that currently support this will automatically assign the right kind of markup to authors on their service, and Google will highlight their Google+ profiles on search results that include their posts”).

The Anatomy of a Perfect Google+ Post by dustn.tv
***** 5 STARS

Dustin W. StoutDustin W. Stout shares a number of unique and helpful tips here for making your Google+ posts stand out, such as using and asterisk before and after your post title to make it bold; writing a meaty summary (“This isn’t Twitter, so don’t worry about it being less than 140 characters. Google+ers like substance”); and using hashtags (three or less, directly relevant to the post).

7 Point Checklist to Dominate Your Personal Brand Using Google Plus by Rebekah Radice

Rebekah RadiceCalling Google+ “a key component to your marketing strategy,” Rebekah Radice offers seven tips for optimizing results there, from making the most of your profile (“Do you know what search terms people are using when looking for your business? Google is eager to tell your story, but without your keywords you could create a situation where consumers have to hunt and peck to find you”) and creating great content to joining niche communities and paying attention to your ripples.

9 Tips for Getting Started on Google+ by NewRayCom

Ray Hiltz (again) lays out “the basics along with some tips to optimize your Google+ experience,” starting with identifying your goals (SEO, building brand authority, generating leads, etc.) and progressing through setting up your profile, engaging, organizing your circles, and using Hangouts.

Infographic: Google+ for Business by Chris Brogan

Chris BroganChris Brogan shares an infographic stuffed with “all kinds of factoids and thoughts” about Google+ and its value for business, such as that 60% of Google+ users log in every day (compared to 50% on Twitter); sites linked on Google+ tend to be indexed quickly; and one key to success is approaching your Google+ presence as creating a magazine.

The 2013 Google+ Marketing Guide by KISSmetrics
***** 5 STARS

Kristi HinesThe insightful and prolific Kristi Hines presents “everything you need in order to have a successful Google+ experience,” from setting up your profile in an optimal fashion to building authorship authority (“You do this by linking your Google+ personal profile to the content you create throughout the web, from your own site to other blogs and online media outlets”) to planning your content strategy, building an audience, “hanging out,” analyzing results and more.

Google+: It’s Bigger On the Inside by SteamFeed

Like Doctor Who’s TARDIS, Google+ is “bigger on inside” according to Ray Hiltz (yet again), who details both the SEO benefits (“Search and influence is increasingly being affected by ‘authority.’ It’s the quality of friends and not the number that count. Just like in real life.”) and the social networking opportunities afforded by Google’s social platform.

4 Steps To Improve Your Google Plus Profile for Business by Small Business Trends

Timothy CarterTimothy Carter outlines “four easy changes to your Google Plus profile” that will lead to “better local search engine rankings and…more action on your site.,” starting with the obvious (professional photo, strong tagline) and progressing through getting your visibility settings right, as “Google Plus more emphasis on protecting personal privacy than Facebook and some of the other social networking sites. The defaults are private and you have to manually set them as public.”

Finally…the mainstream starts to catch on to GooglePlus! by Relevanza

Steve HartSteve Hart makes the case that Google+ will be the “social platform of the future,” for example, by using its technology to replace other services like Yammer, Skype, and EventBrite; by becoming the dominant source of business ratings (not good news for Yelp); and through Google Hangouts, which he says “may be the most powerful tool, yet.”

How to Use Google Plus Ripples to Build Momentum by New England Multimedia

Ed KingPhotographer Ed King shares his strategy for using Google Plus “Ripples” to recognize brand advocates, starting with what Ripples are (a little-known feature of Google’s social network) and how they work, and proceeding through a detailed yet easy to follow six-minute video tutorial.

3 Reasons to Dust Off Your Google Plus Business Page by SteamFeed

Writing that he’s “now paying serious attention to my Google Plus page and here’s 3 reasons why you should too,” Ray Hiltz (one more time) details developments that make Google+ a more attractive and productive platform for businesses, such as that “Google+ Pages are people too. Unlike Facebook, Google+ Brand Pages will have the ability to interact and engage with any  Google+ user. This will open up more engagement opportunities and increase chances that users will add business pages to their Circles.”

Google+ and SEO

Matt Cutts: Google +1s Don’t Lead to Higher Ranking by Search Engine Watch

Jennifer SleggJennifer Slegg reports that while it isn’t often “Matt Cutts comes right out to debunk a highly publicized blog post regarding something to do with ranking in Google,” the head of Google’s Webspam team did so in response to post on the SEOmoz blog which claimed that “Google +1s had a direct correlation with higher search rankings in Google – and that it was higher than any other ranking factor.” According to Matt, “If you make compelling content, people will link to it, like it, share it on Facebook, +1 it, etc. But that doesn’t mean that Google is using those signals in our ranking…+1s and rankings are not related.” Hmm. Maybe.

Direct Measurement of Google Plus Impact on Search Rankings by Stone Temple Consulting

Eric EngeEric Enge details the results of an exhaustive study of the causation–not just correlation–of Google+ shares on search ranking. So does his research jibe with the statements from Matt Cutts reported above? Pretty much. After extensive study, Eric concludes that while Google + shares do drive discovery, and “probably” drive indexing as well, “We saw no evidence of Google+ shares driving ranking.”

Using Google+ to Appear in the Top Results Every Time – Whiteboard Friday by The Moz Blog

Rand FishkinWell…it turns out that while Google+ shares may not boost search rankings universally, a person’s (or brand’s) following on Google+ can certainly affect personalized search results. Rand Fishkin walks through several examples of how the search results one sees when logged in can differ dramatically from general results, even for short, high-volume, head-type search phrases like “data science,” “Patrick Stewart” and “happy Halloween,” based on which brands and individuals that person follows in Google+.

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