Posts Tagged ‘Content Marketing’
The phrase “content marketing” may well disappear at some point in the not-too-distant future. Not because the concept will fade away, but because it will be seen as redundant; there won’t be any marketing without content.
According to recent research, nearly 80% of CMOs see custom content as the future of marketing. And it’s not only marketing executives who are excited about content. The same study also showed that:
- • 90% of companies are already doing some form of content marketing.
- • 70% of customers said they “felt closer to a company as a result of content marketing.”
- • 70% of buyers would rather learn about a company through articles than through an advertisement.
- • 60% of people say they have been “inspired to seek out a product” after reading content about it.
And so it is that Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business has arrived at at opportune time. Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman have written the definitive guide to creating nearly any type of content, as well as adding life to traditional formats like customer case studies and FAQ pages. Content Rules is a must-read for anyone who wants to create compelling, useful information for their target audiences.
Creating relevant, quality, original content within a web presence optimization (WPO) strategy has become critical to marketing success because, as the authors note, “overwhelmingly, consumers depend on search engines to help them shop online.” They cite research showing that “three out of five shoppers said they always or often use search engines when shopping online…more consumers use search engines than they do coupon sites, retailer emails, consumer reviews, or shopping comparison sites.” The figure is even higher for b2b and high-value, considered-purchase consumer goods.
The book works well on several levels, and though it’s most valuable to practitioners—those who actually envision, specify, create, repurpose, and promote business content— it’s also helpful for senior executives charged with developing content strategy and coordinating creative efforts.
As the previous post here noted, Amazon.com has announced it will shut down its affiliate program in Minnesota at the end of this month. If this review, or any of the other book reviews here, inspire you to buy the book, please click on any of the book’s links within the post today to buy the book on Amazon. Thank you!
Divided into four sections, the book opens with the case for content (though that’s increasingly superfluous), the basic “rules” of content creation, and wisdom such as the importance of giving content both “roots” (ground it “solidly in your unique perspective, voice, and point of view”) and “wings” (distributed, promoted and shared across the social web).
It proceeds through sections devoted to the “how to” of content creation, success stories (“with ideas you can steal”), and finally a brief closing section with next steps and a helpful checklist to help content creators follow the “rules.”
Among the authors’ insights:
- • The benefits of content marketing compound over time. Jay Baer uses the phrase “information annuity” while Marcus Sheridan of River Pools calls content “the ultimate gift that keeps on giving.” This echoes the message that social media and content transform marketing from an expense to an investment.
- • “The more valuable the information you can give to others, the more you will become viewed as an expert and therefore gain their trust…the person with the abundance mentality wins.”
- • Stuck for a subject to write about? “Know your customers…and what keeps them up at night. What are their concerns and objectives? What do they care about? How will your brand help them in their daily lives?”
- • Getting high-quality backlinks to your website is crucial to achieving high rankings in search. But traditional link building is all but dead; so how do you get those links? “By creating compelling content. Every time someone shares a link to your site in some fashion (by blogging about you or sharing a link on Twitter, for example), it boosts your search ranking. Make a video that everyone is raving about or write a blog post that people can’t stop talking about, and you’ll see your site start appearing much higher on the results page when search for…the things you sell.” Which is pretty much what WPO is.
- • To differentiate their content, and companies, in a crowded market, content creators must “expand their traditional notions of corporate identity to include language, the words a company uses, and tone of voice. Branding, after all, is about differentiation. And describing a brand begins with words. Don’t rely on…worn-to-the-bone words and phrases and bland corporate tone.” Companies often struggle with this internally, particularly if the team has been in place for a while, but any decent consumer or b2b marketing agency should be able to assist in this effort.
- • A bit more on tone (love this): “In business, it’s tempting (and easier) to use the same boring words everyone else uses. But you’ll be far more approachable (and a whole lot more engaging) if you lighten up a little. I’d worry less about shocking customers than I would about boring them.”
- • “Literally speak the language of your customers. You want to appeal to them, certainly, but you also want your content to appear in search results when your would-be customers are looking for what you have to offer. How do your customers describe your product or service? What words do they use?” This is vital. Do keyword research, ask your sales force, and talk to your customers.
There’s much, much more on topics ranging from over-used buzzwords to avoid and methods for repurposing and re-using content to the six characteristics of great business storytelling and how to capitalize on events for content creation.
The authors provide such an effective and comprehensive overview of content development that it’s difficult to find fault with the book. A couple of minor quibbles regarding metrics though:
- • In the section titled “Set Your Metrics: What Does Success Look Like?,” the authors mention number of subscribers, inbound links, comments and “social validation” as key metrics, but don’t mention two other key measures to track: number of blog visitors who then visit other key areas on your website (such as product pages) and the number who take some conversion action (e.g., registering for a webinar, downloading a white paper, or subscribing to your newsletter). (One of our clients was generating, on average, 10% of all leads via referral traffic from their blog within one year of launching it.)
- • Similarly, on metrics for Ebooks and white papers, the authors cite number of downloads as a key metric—which it certainly is—but I’d add sources of traffic leading to these downloads as another vital piece of data to track.
All in all, this is an outstanding guide to creating, optimizing and sharing compelling, customer-focused information. Even if you’re an experienced content marketer, Content Rules will help you produce better content, produce content better, or both.
Anyone who’s been in the corporate world within the past decade-and-a-half has likely been exposed at some point to Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life, a slender allegory by Spencer Johnson about dealing with change, summarized by Wikipedia as a tale featuring:
“Four characters: two mice, ‘Sniff’ and ‘Scurry,’ and two littlepeople, miniature humans in essence, ‘Hem’ and ‘Haw.’ They live in a maze, a representation of one’s environment, and look for cheese, representative of happiness and success. Initially without cheese, each group, the mice and humans, paired off and traveled the lengthy corridors searching for cheese. One day both groups happen upon a cheese-filled corridor at ‘Cheese Station C.’ Content with their find, the humans establish routines around their daily intake of cheese, slowly becoming arrogant in the process.”
When the cheese eventually runs out, the mice and the miniature human characters deal with their new cheese-less situation in different ways. The mice, “Noticing the cheese supply dwindling… have mentally prepared beforehand for the arduous but inevitable task of finding more cheese.” The humans struggle more with their reality: “Angered and annoyed, Hem demands, ‘Who moved my cheese?’…Starting to realize the situation at hand, Haw thinks of a search for new cheese. But Hem is dead set in his victimized mindset and dismisses the proposal.” The point of the tale is to promote productive approaches to dealing with change.
With its Panda and Penguin algorithm updates over the past couple of years, and most notably the recent Penguin 2.0 update, Google has been busy moving the cheese for many marketers, webmasters and SEO professionals.
SEO practitioners who cling to outmoded tactics like keyword stuffing and link buying are likely to react like Hem, feeling victimized by their loss of cheese. Same goes for those SEO software and service providers still tout their ability to help create thousands of links through link exchange partners.
On the other hand, SEO pros who’ve always practiced white hat tactics are like the mice in the story; though they may still have a lot of work to do, they are well prepared to find new cheese. For the many who have seen their rankings and traffic devoured by Penguin, here are three places to look for new cheese.
Content marketing. This is where Matt Cutts officially says you should look for new SEO cheese. Produce great content, it will attract “natural” links, and your site will end up on page one of Google. The problem, of course, is that in highly competitive search term markets—like marketing automation, real estate, auto repair, social media monitoring, or SEO services—no matter how compelling or unique your content is, it’s unlikely to be seen (and therefore to attract links) if it doesn’t rank on page one of Google, and it’s unlikely to rank highly if it doesn’t have a lot of relevant, high-quality inbound links. Call this Catch-22 cheese.
The point isn’t that producing helpful content isn’t a fantastic idea, only that content marketing is not enough. In this way, Penguin seems to favor the same publications, A-list blogs, and name-brand websites that already dominate most searches.
AdWords. This is where Google would really like you to go, because it’s how the company makes money. There’s no question AdWords can be an effective component of online strategy—it’s controllable, immediate and finely measurable. But it’s also expensive. Call this gourmet cheese.
Web presence optimization. A web presence optimization (WPO) approach may be the most effective way to tame Penguin and Panda. By incorporating owned, earned and paid media, WPO optimizes your overall web presence, not just your website (though that remains the ultimate target destination). Cross-channel marketing metrics in WPO help to optimally allocate marketing and PR resources.
This is akin to the way grocery stores usually sell cheese: standard cheese varieties in the dairy aisle, exotic cheeses in the deli, organic cheese in the all-natural foods section, etc. Call this a distributed cheese strategy. Grocers do it because they sell more cheese by offering different varieties in multiple locations throughout the store than they would by stacking all of it in one area. The same approach can be effective in optimizing your company’s overall web visibility, regardless of Google’s ongoing algorithmic attacks on traditional SEO.
With all of the hype surrounding inbound and content marketing, it’s easy to underrate the continued importance of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, a.k.a. search engine marketing. But as Rebecca Lieb recently noted, “Search, email, blogging, digital PR, and even (brace yourself) advertising have, and will continue to have a place at the table as content marketing grows in importance.”
As vital as natural optimization is, paid search offers three key advantages that make it complementary to organic search:
- • It’s instant. Organic search experiments can take weeks to show results. SEM changes take effect in a matter of minutes.
- • It’s flexible. You decide which keywords, and how many, you’d like to show up on page one for, including popular phrases for which it may be very difficult to rank organically. You can add and drop keywords on the fly.
- • It’s controllable. You decide exactly which landing page to send traffic to for each keyword–without worrying that a minor edit to the page, or Google’s next algorithm update, will annihilate your ranking. You choose exactly when and where your ads are seen.
Given that PPC advertising is likely to play an important role in your online marketing mix, how can you most effectively target your ads? Maximize the productivity of your ad spending? Design landing pages that most effectively convert? Properly test different creative components?
Find the answers to those questions and more, plus a rant from a PPC skeptic, here in (almost) a dozen of the best PPC guides of the past year.
ABC’s of PPC – A Guide for the Basics! by PPC Hero
Kayla Kurtz presents a creative alphabetical guide to PPC basics, from A for Ad Goups (“Your ad groups should always start out tightly themed, with keywords included that are similar to one another) through Z for Zero Impressions (“How long has that account element been active while seeing no action? Do some due diligence and try your hardest to make it work, but if you have a portion of your account with no impressions…cut bait and move on).
The 8 Questions That Create Perfect Landing Page Copy by KISSmetrics
Michael Lykke Aagaard offers “8 simple questions will kick start your writing and guide you through the process of crafting high impact landing page copy that converts,” starting with understanding the purpose of your landing page and creating a specific call to action and progressing through creating a design that supports the copy.
Display Advertising: Targeting Options 101 by RKG Blog
Michelle Ulizio explains the structure of display advertising, breaking down the options first into user targeting vs. site targeting; then defining three options for each targeting type (for example, Site Retargeting: “By placing special tracking tags on your website, you are able to show display ads across the web to users who visited your site, regardless of what site they are currently browsing”); and finally showing how the two high-level targeting methods can be used together.
How to Handle the AdWords Ad Rotation Changes by Search Engine Watch
Greg Habermann reports on Google’s decision to change AdWords ad rotation settings from “indefinite” to just 30 days, explains how this will screw up head-to-head ad testing (particularly for smaller advertisers with low impression volume and agencies managing multiple accounts), and then suggests some alternatives and workarounds to try until Google comes “to its senses and change this back.”
Sam Owen presents five tips for getting the most out of Google’s Auction Insights tool, from competitive research (“You can also start to try and learn a little about the strategy of your competitors. Perhaps someone is always showing in position 1, but only for 50% of the time—did you just discover a competitor who is day-parting?”) to avoiding underbidding by analyzing lost impression share at the keyword level.
Joe Castro suggests ten ideas for improving the productivity of PPC campaigns, among them filtering to “Pause off active ad groups and keywords with high cost-per- conversion rates or high costs and no conversions,” excluding geographic regions based on conversion rates, and segmenting ads by device type.
10 Quick Adwords Optimizations Tips for All PPC-ers by LunaMetrics
Noting that managing multiple paid search accounts involves substantial effort, but “if you tackle each optimization effort in stages, the work load won’t seem as daunting,” Sarah Peduzzi supplies 10 helpful tips including checking the Search Query Report weekly, continually testing ad copy, and using automated rules for bid adjustments.
5 Quick Ways to Increase Conversions in AdWords by Fathom Blog
Joe Castro (again) tosses out a handful of quick ways to bump up clicks and conversions, including loosening keyword match types, using sitelinks, and bidding on brand terms (“it’s really a no-brainer that your company should be bidding on its name and different variations. Branded keywords are by far your top converting, and you’re leaving money on the table if you’re not bidding on them”).
The Importance of A/B Testing: 24 Marketing Experts on Their Most Surprising A/B Test by The WordStream Blog
Elisa Gabbert shares the answers from 24 marketing experts to the question: “What is the most surprising or exciting result you’ve ever achieved in a multivariate A/B test?” Respondents included Aaron Levy, Brad Geddes, Brad Shorr, Megan Leap, Oli Gardner, and Todd Minz (“We decided to A B test using brand names in the headline [as variables in place of generic product names]…Overnight, this campaign generated so many conversions that I thought something broke in AdWords. It went from nearly zero to the highest performing campaign in the account by about 4-5x”).
Amanda West-Bookwalt busts a common myth about quality scores, writing that “CTR plays a part, but so does ad relevance and landing page experience…(aligning with) the campaign and account quality scores as well as any quality score limitations set on your industry, all of which also influence a particular keyword’s quality score.” She adds several ideas for boosting keyword quality scores.
Why Paid Search for B2B Companies is Dead (or Dying) by Search Engine Watch
As Mark Twain wrote that “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” so pronouncements of the the death of PPC should be met with skepticism. Talk about a myth that needs busting; though Uri Bar-Joseph quotes an impressive array of statistics in his morbid predictions for the future of PPC, the channel is likely to remain a key component of b2b web presence optimization frameworks for some time to come. Unlike SEO, PPC results (as noted above) are immediate, controllable, and highly flexible. Firms willing to commit investment, testing and experimentation are likely to find PPC campaigns a productive, supportive and cost-effective component of their overall online marketing mix.
How To Leverage PPC To Discover High-Converting Keywords For SEO by Conductor Blog
As an example of how PPC can support other online marketing efforts, Nathan Safran notes that “Finding out a keyword converts poorly after spending the effort to work your way up the organic search rankings can be a time consuming and frustrating process, but there is a way to shortcut the process and discover high converting keywords: Paid Search (PPC) data,” then explains how to use PPC data to help focus on the most productive keywords in SEO strategies.
Content marketing represents the most fundamental and widespread rethinking of marketing practices in decades. Unlike other modifiers attached to the discipline (consumer marketing, b2b marketing, trade show marketing, digital marketing), the term “content marketing” doesn’t describe an audience, tactic, or channel, but rather a completely different approach to marketing.
Content marketing turns the dominant paradigm of the last half-century—interruption-based mass marketing—on its head. Rather than interrupting prospective customers with content they generally didn’t want (product pitches) while they were consuming content they did (entertainment or news), content marketing entices targeted buyers with entertaining (consumer) or informative (b2b) content that also happens to reflect the company’s brand messages or product/service strengths.
Disruptive as it is, this philosophical shift has spread widely and quickly: according to recent research, “86 percent of companies serving consumers and 92 percent of ‘business to business’ companies now use content marketing.”
Since content marketing itself is no longer a differentiator, practitioners are asking questions like: how can I efficiently create a steady stream of fresh, relevant content? What types of content are most valuable to my sales prospects? How can content be optimized to support search engine optimization (SEO) efforts? What metrics are most helpful in measuring success and support continual improvement?
Discover the answers to these questions and many more here in more than 30 of the best content marketing articles and blog posts of the past year.
Content Marketing Guides, Tips and Tactics
5 Ways to Clone Great Social Media Content by SteamFeed
Helpfully pointing out that “You likely already have strong content on hand (either on-line somewhere or even stuck in a file cabinet in your office.) Instead of developing new stuff from scratch, riff on/reuse this stockpile of awesomesauce and use it more strategically,” Jennifer Kane proposes a handful of techniques to get more mileage out of existing content, such as “Drill down or spiral off on your content themes…if a piece of your preexisting content has resonated with your audience, consider using it as source material for a more in-depth examination of the topic or to jump off on a sub-topic tangent that will enable you to expand the perception your audience has of your brand.”
Digital Natives: How They Are Changing the Content Marketing Game by Content Marketing Institute
Patricia Redsicker presents six strategies content marketers need to embrace in order to address the information needs and wants of digital natives–those born “between the mid-1970s and the late 1990s, (who) have grown up during our current golden age of digital technology. Now in their mid-teens to mid-thirties, people in this generation came of age knowing how to interact with technology and are comfortable using it to their advantage.” Among her recommendations are focusing on content that builds trust, that efficiently answers simple questions quickly, and that makes content consumers feel valued.
Corporate Content Marketing for Best in Class Results by Creative Marketing Channel
Noting that “Best in class companies utilize content marketing for brand awareness, customer acquisition, lead generation, and customer retention” and that most companies plan to increase budgets in this area, Catherine Lockey answers six key questions about content marketing, such as “How do best in class companies create all of their great content?” The answer to that one is outsourcing; roughly half of all small companies and three-quarters of large firms outsource at least a portion of their content creation efforts.
Seeking Marketing Alpha by Propel Growth Blog
Though the panel discussion this post was written to promote is long past, the thoughts about content marketing shared here by Candyce Edelen are still well worth a read. “The Internet and email make it easier and cheaper to make noise, resulting in a virtual cacophony of marketing claims barraging customers every day – with everyone claiming to be ‘the leading, number-one, unique, value-added, trusted provider’ of ‘robust, innovative, cutting-edge, high-performance, ultra low-latency technology….’ Yawn. How can every vendor be the ‘leading provider’ anyway?”
Content Marketing in 6 Steps by Social Media Today
Steven Van Belleghem lays out “the 6 crucial steps to take in order to end up with a good content strategy,” starting with topic selection (determining what’s at the intersection of your company’s unique internal expertise and the information needs/wants of your market) and proceeding through measuring marketing performance (based on the content marketing objectives you’ve established).
Long Live Content Marketing by Rebelations
Rebel Brown offers practical guidance on how to avoid self-promotion and salesy content that “will send your audiences running” and instead focus on providing value: “For example, let’s say your audience is challenged by performance problems with their applications. Don’t send them a piece of content all about your faster processor, database, system or whatever. That’s obnoxious and pretty blatant self-promotion! Instead, share a piece of content about the key aspects of their infrastructure that they might want to check for problems. Share your expertise to guide them through the process to better understand their issues.”
5 CEO-Worthy Metrics for Demonstrating Inbound Marketing Success by Marketo B2B Marketing Blog
Jon Miller outlines five key inbound marketing metrics to measure and continually improve content marketing success, such as lead generation by content and channel: “Beyond core organic traffic and leads, track lead generation by content asset and source. What sources are driving the most traffic? What kinds of content drive the most leads? The most revenue? It can also be insightful to track how these vary by product line or business unit.”
Noting that two of the biggest challenges content marketers face are “producing sufficient content” and “having enough budget to cover the cost of content,” Heidi Cohen has compiled almost two dozen recommendations for developing content cost-effectively, from repurposing speeches delivered by company executives and soliciting employee contributions to reworking content from your distributors and suppliers.
What Tech Buyers Want From Content by Marketing Interactions
Ardath Albee reveals three key attributes that technology buyers value in marketing content, including freshness: “58% (of technology buyers in a UBM TechWeb survey) said they wanted content that was timely and current (while) only 11% said they’d consider content more than 18 moths old.” If you’ve got older content that is still relevant to buyers, refresh it to keep it current with the state of your industry.
Don’t Forget the ‘Marketing’ in Content Marketing by The Content Cocktail
Christina Pappas shares a seven-step checklist for making sure that your content contributes to company goals, without being too pushy or salesy, among them “Make sure there is an offer or connection to your product in every piece of content…every piece of content you publish should have some tie-back to your company and the solutions you provide to the market. This doesn’t have to be obvious and it doesn’t have to be smothered all over the thing, but it should be there somewhere,” such as links to white papers or other related assets at the end of a blog post or report.
Exploring the Five Cs of Content Marketing at Cisco by IT Services Marketing Association
Sherri Liebo identifies the “5 Cs” that Cisco Services looks at to better listen to customers when creating and sharing marketing content, including Customers (“What are customers looking for?”), Competition (“What is the competition doing? How does Cisco Services compare?”) and Collaborators (“What is happening with our channel and strategic partners?”).
Research: B2B Buyers Want Content by Social Marketing Forum
J-P De Clerck summarizes findings from Base One’s Buyersphere Survey regarding the content needs of business buyers. While the study focused on Europe, its findings are more broadly applicable, such as that “87% of…buyers look for advice before buying…The first source when doing so: Web searches. With 71% of respondents who look for information, searches are by far the main source of information.” Among other findings:
- • Business buyers are most active in sharing content on forums, LinkedIn and blogs;
- • Younger members of the buying team are most likely to read white papers and blogs, and attend webinars; and
- • Buyers “who are working in IT were more likely to have downloaded whitepapers (36%) or read blogs (28%)” than those in other industries.
J-P has also launched a blog, Content Marketing Experience, focused exclusively on content marketing issues and guidance. His post Five Reasons No One Shares Your Content is spot on and well worth a read.
Content Marketing: 3 tips for how to get started by MarketingSherpa
Daniel Burstein dispels three myths than hold content marketers back or prevent them from getting the support they need within the organization, such as “‘We don’t want to give away our secrets.’
If you can’t give potential customers enough information about how you do what you do (whether that is fixing plumbing leaks or improving marketing performance), then why should they trust you with their business?” And McDonald’s “secret sauce” is (shhhh)…Thousand Island dressing.
4 secrets to successful content marketing by iMedia Connection
Writing that “the digital world allows us to measure just about anything, including three factors that help marketers gauge the success of their content: click-through rates, time spent on content, and shares via social media,” Jacqueline McDermott Lisk outlines strategies for producing high-quality content that will both improve these statistics and drive business results.
Because not all “leads” are ready to turn immediately into buyers, Shelley Pringle outlines a four-step process for converting those leads into customers over time. The process starts with understanding your prospects’ buying cycle and creating content for the top, middle and bottom of the sales funnel.
Marty Weintraub presents “11 timeless content creation examples that have always worked,” among them demystifying myths (“Nearly every sales process is up against some level of customers’ misconceptions and other informational obstacles. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and address these sales impediments head on”), covering industry events in real time, excerpting white papers (a great content idea), and interviewing industry experts.
Content Marketing and SEO
10 Reasons Why You Need an Optimized Content Strategy Now by iMedia Connection
Krista LaRiviere, CEO of web presence optimization software vendor gShift Labs, explains how recent Google algorithm changes (including more emphasis on social signals, the clampdown on low-value backlinks, the Google +1 button, and freshness updates) now make optimized, user-focused content more important than ever for search rankings.
How to create search friendly content by Bing Blogs
This post explains how to create optimized content more efficiently by creating a template or repeatable process for content development, and presents seven tips for discovering tinely topics to write about, incorporating keywords, using hooks to capture readers’ attention, and more.
Noting that “From an SEO viewpoint, the interest in great content is to attract links, where as a lot of what Google is looking to eliminate are examples of where content is used to build links”—particularly in the wake of its Panda and Penguin updates—Kieran Flanagan steps through an approach that puts business objectives first, with links and shares tracked but not viewed as the primary goal.
Infographics, Images and Video
5 Content Marketing Ideas Worth Stealing by jeffbullas.com
Jeff Bullas recommends five content marketing techniques for obtaining and retaining the attention of your prospective buyers by going beyond text: “Sometimes you need some inspiration and you need to try some new ideas and different media that may provide a nudge to try something different and creative outside your comfort zone…Images and photos are much more likely to be shared than an article or a white paper. Videos or infographics will be shared at high velocity compared the the humble ‘written word’ that have been with us for millenia.”
Infographics can be great for generating re-posts and inbound linke—if done properly. Slavik Volinsky explains what works (e.g., start with a great idea and great distribution plan: “To create a great distribution plan, approach your industry’s ‘big minds’ and ask for their feedback with full intention of listening & improving the infographic”) and what doesn’t.
The History of Content Marketing [Infographic] – Corporate Storytelling is Not New by Content Marketing Institute
Content marketing guru Joe Pulizzi presents a fascinating history of content marketing, from cave paintings and 19th-century “customer magazines” through the emergence of corporate blogs, business video, microsites, and the proliferation of content marketing sites, books and resources.
Content Marketing and SEO: The world doesn’t need another blog post by MarketingSherpa
Advising marketers to “focus on the message, not the medium” Daniel Burstein (again) offers half a dozen suggestions for taking content beyond blog posts and white papers, like creating a mobile app or a useful online tool “Like the ESPinator from ClickMail Marketing, which helps email marketers choose an ESP that helps them best fit their needs.”
The future of content marketing by iMedia Connection
Rebecca Lieb reports on research showing that larger, more sophisticated content marketers are gradually “lessening their dependence on text-based channels” and focusing more on video and images. Interestingly, she also notes that “Search, email, blogging, digital PR, and even (brace yourself) advertising have, and will continue to have a place at the table as content marketing grows in importance,” or in other words, that web presence optimization will get more attention.
7 Rules For Writing Awesome Content by Small Business Trends
Lisa Barone presents seven writing rules to help in crafting content that will inspire customers to act, including telling stories (“If you want to improve your writing, stop lecturing to people and to start telling them stories”); experimenting (“Improve your writing by experimenting with new mediums [videos, infographics, contests, polls, Twitter chats] instead of getting caught in the same pattern of content”); and to avoid generic messages, “write as if you’re writing to one reader.”
Is Content Marketing The New Advertising? by Forbes
***** 5 STARS
Michael Brenner shares a highly bookmark-worthy infographic that positions 16 different content formats along the dimensions of attention required from the audience and ease of implementation. For example, social media generally requires little attention from the audience (being very short form), and also little effort, while something like an app, telecast or interactive game is at the other end of the spectrum on both dimensions.
How You Can Use Infographics to Tell a Story by Social Media Club
Mireille Massue offers six steps for creating a compelling infographic (such as making it sharable by submitting it to Infographic Directories); nine resources to learn more about infographics; and (of course), an infographic outlining eight steps to create an infographic.
The 6 Best Slideshare Decks on Content Marketing by B2B Marketing Insider
Michel Brenner (again) passes along half a dozen noteworthy slide decks about content marketing, from experts like Rand Fishkin, Joe Pulizzi, and Rebecca Lieb and Charlene Li, whose Winning Content Strategies presentation notes that “77% of Internet users do not engage with online advertising. A shift from ‘push’ to ‘pull’ marketing is imperative to brand survival.”
Expert Copywriting Tips
Harvard Lesson: Verbs Beat Adjectives by Neuromarketing
Roger Dooley, commenting on one of the toughest sales jobs of all—”selling” yourself to Harvard Business School, where nine out of 10 applicants are rejected—concludes that verbs sell more powerfully than adjectives. Verbs persuade more effectively because they “require actual examples of the behaviors or characteristics in question…These specifics will increase the credibility of the copy, in addition to providing more information than when the adjective-driven shortcut is taken.”
Using Great Storytelling To Grow Your Business by Fast Company
Former McKinsey consultant Kaihan Krippendorff outlines two approaches for producing more compelling content (or presentations): using LOTS (“language of the senses…When telling a story, share with us what you see, smell, feel, taste, and hear. When you trigger a sense in someone, you bring them into the story with you”) and building on your story spine–a structured approach to use in opening a presentation or throughout a longer document.
25-point Web copy checklist: How to write for Google by Success Works
***** 5 STARS
Heather Lloyd-Martin provides a remarkable checklist for creating content that will appeal to human readers and search engines alike, from starting with a customer persona and keyword/topic research to crafting a compelling title and meta description to effectively “sell the click” to searchers.
Copywriting: How to improve headlines on landing pages and blog posts by MarketingSherpa
Adam T. Sutton, noting that “people are busy. You need to write a headline that convinces them to ignore distractions and pay attention,” outlines four attributes of value to consider when crafting headlines along with five tips for writing attention-grabbing headlines, such as front-loading (start with the most valuable phrase, e.g. “Get Paid to Take Online Surveys” is a much better headline than “We Can Help You Get Paid to Take Online Surveys”).
Write the Best Titles for Content Marketing: A 10-Point Checklist by Content Marketing Institute
Roger C. Parker recommends 10 questions to ask when writing headlines, such as “Does your title clearly promise a desired benefit?,” “Did you emphasize your intended readers in your title?” (for example, “C. J. Hayden’s ‘Get Clients Now: A 28-day Marketing Program for Professionals, Coaches, & Consultants’ targets readers by occupation”), and “Does your title include the keywords readers use searching for information online?.”
With more than 80% of b2b and high-value consumer purchasing decisions now starting with online research, content marketing is hot. Consider:
Buyers want content. According to J-P De Clerck, “87% of surveyed buyers look for advice before buying a product, service or solution. The first source when doing so: Web searches. With 71% of respondents who look for information, searches are by far the main source of information. Search and content are by definition very integrated.”
Marketers are producing more content. Recent research from MarketingProfs found:
- • On average, B2B content marketers are spending 33% of their marketing budgets on content marketing, up from 26% last year.
- • 54% plan to increase content marketing spending next year.
- • All content tactics are being used more frequently than they were last year, with the use of research reports, videos, and mobile content having increased the most.
Content is replacing advertising. Writing in Forbes, Michael Brenner explains how content (which buyers seek out) is more valuable than advertising (which many buyers ignore or even try to avoid): “Great content and engaging stories help your company’s content get found and get shared. When great content is shared, commented on or liked, it is no longer your content alone. It is their content. And user-generated content is trusted more than advertising or promotion.”
As content proliferates, standing out becomes more difficult. It requires originality, deep understanding of customer needs and motivations, and the cultivation of a network to share and amplify it. But most fundamentally, it has to flow well, to follow the basic rules of spelling, punctuation and grammar.
Faced with an overwhelming array of choices, buyers first prune their lists of any obvious “no” options. Vendors can be excluded out of hand for many possible reasons: their prices are too high, they lack expertise in the buyer’s industry, their products are missing critical features, or…their content is sloppy. It’s similar to a human resources manager reviewing a hundred resumes for a single open position: those with spelling, punctuation or grammatical errors get tossed in the first review cycle.
Though marketing content can come in a wide variety of forms—text, video, podcasts, infographics, animation—virtually all content starts with writing. Poor writing leads to ineffective content; content that doesn’t get shared, doesn’t get ranked, doesn’t get (widely) read, and doesn’t compel action.
So, the basis of producing interesting, shareable, actionable content is solid writing. To help make your content “must read” rather than “just toss,” avoid these xx unfortunate, grating and all-too-common writing mistakes.
1. “A lot of.” Granted, there are times when it’s okay to use this phrase (and a lot of people would agree with that), but in general, it’s abused. Avoid unless it’s really the best fit in context. It’s informal and imprecise, e.g., “a lot of marketers are embracing content marketing.” That’s true, but not helpful. Is 100 “a lot” of marketers? Is 72%? Or better yet, 72% of b2b marketers in small to midsized companies?
2. “Things.” Ugh. This is bad—rarely do we write about “things.” Features, attributes, concepts, attitudes, perspectives, capabilities, options, topics, specifications, qualities, and benefits yes, but “things” no. This is particularly awful when combined with #1 above. Which is better? “A lot of things make XYZ software stand out” or “Several unique features make XYZ software stand out.”
3. “Good.” Double ugh. This is one of the most overused words in the English language, despite a wealth of superior and more precise synonyms. A “good” meal may be delicious, tasty, scrumptious, satisfying, delightful, lip-smacking, or even extraordinary. A “good” writer may be brilliant, skilled, creative, original, capable, expert, talented, accomplished, prodigious, adroit, adept, widely published, often-quoted…you get the idea.
4. Misuse of “over” vs. “more than.” This one is somewhat subjective and tricky, but one general rule of thumb is to use “more than” before numbers and “over” before units, e.g., “We got more than 12 inches of snow” but “we got over a foot of snow.” Grammar Girl does an excellent job of describing the subtleties in this word choice:
“The AP Stylebook encourages you to look at your particular sentence and then pick whichever phrase sounds best…You always want to evaluate your phrasing for each specific sentence you’re writing…The AP guide suggests that ‘She is over 30′ sounds better than ‘She is more than 30.’ The AP’s second example is ‘Their salaries went up more than $20 a week.’ I do think it would sound odd to say ‘Their salaries went up over $20 a week.’ I would definitely pick ‘more than’ in that sentence. If you choose to agree with the majority of the style pros and use more than and over interchangeably, always read over your work and make sure the phrase you’ve chosen sounds right in your particular sentence…There’s ‘more than one opinion’ about this. I do think it would have sounded odd if I’d said, ‘There’s over one opinion.’ Don’t you agree?”
5. Misuse of hard / difficult / challenging. As the Oxford English Dictionary makes clear, as with “over” and “more than” above, the use of “hard,” “difficult” and “challenging” is subjective and depends to a degree upon author preference and which word sounds best in a given context. There are no hard and fast rules (though one would never speak of “difficult and fast” or “challenging and fast” rules).
Generally, “hard” is used with physical actions (e.g., “it’s hard to move a pile of rocks by hand”), “difficult” implies trickiness (“maneuvering a large boat through a narrow waterway is difficult”) and “challenging” is used in intellectual and sporting situations (“it’s challenging to out-coach Bill Belichick”). Ultimately though, this word choice requires judgment; it can be hard, difficult or challenging to select the right word at times.
6. Misuse or non-use of adjectives. Too often, writers skip needed adjectives or use fluffy, pointless descriptors in place of meaningful words. “XYZ provides the best service in the industry” is an example of both sins. First, “best” in this case is worthless puffery. Now, if XYZ won a Best Customer Service award from a recognized organization, then by all means, let people know! Otherwise, skip the self aggrandizement.
Second, the sentence above begs the question: the best what service? Dental service? Excavation service? Software implementation service? Prospective customers actually search for phrases like those, so including the most specific adjective is essential for search optimization. But no visitor worth attracting ever searches for “the best service.”
7. Incorrect subject/verb agreement. Skilled writers knows what this means. See the problem?
8. Improper use of single vs. double quotation marks. “Quotes are always set within double quotation marks.” Single quotation marks are used only for quotes within quotes, e.g., as Chris Smith wrote, “in my interview with Pat Jones, Pat insisted ‘Capable writers understand the proper use of quotation marks.’ I think that’s true.”
9. Mistaking your vs. you’re. This is elementary English, yet it’s disturbing how often the wrong term is used in place of the other. “Your” is possessive, “you’re” is a contraction for “you are.” You’re going to look like an idiot if your writing includes this mistake.
10. Improper hyphenation. Hyphenation is another practice that’s not that difficult but nevertheless often done wrong. Hyphenate terms when using them as adjectives (“she’s attending a high-level meeting”) but not when using them at nouns (“he is performing at a high level”).
11. Mixing first-, second-, and third-person voice. No writer should mix voices, writing from different perspectives within one piece. We don’t often use first-person voice on this blog. You should be consistent in your writing.
12. Using passive vs active voice. Is it improper for one to employ the passive voice, needlessly adding words to a sentence? Yes, so use the active voice.
13. Incorrectly spelling out (or not spelling out) numbers. Spell out numbers less than 10 (one, two, three) but use numerals for larger numbers (39, 139, 1,339, etc.).
14. Getting “you and me” vs. “you and I” wrong. This is another area of common confusion that should be easy. When in doubt, leave out the “you” and then see whether “I” or “me” fits the sentence. “You and I should go to the park” is correct because “I should go to the park” is correct. “She sent it to you and me” is right because otherwise she would have sent it to me, not sent it to I.
15. Improper use of “who” vs. “whom.” So many people find this situation so confusing that the use of “whom” is rapidly disappearing. Shame though, as it’s a perfectly fine word, and the rules for using “whom” vs. “who” are in general no more complex than those for the proper use of “you and me” versus “you and I” above.
In this case, determine whether the sentence in question would make more sense using he/she versus him/her. For example, “To whom should I mail this?” (I should mail it to him.) “Who will sign for the package?” (She will sign for it.)
16. The unnecessary use of “that.” Unnecessary “that”—let me assure you that we don’t make this mistake. Necessary “that”—we don’t use this word improperly because that would be annoying.
17. Repetitive word usage. Consider the following two examples:
Facebook is on a roll. Facebook now has more than one billion users. It’s hard to imagine any competitor overtaking Facebook.
Facebook is on a roll. The world’s largest social network now has more than one billion users. It’s hard to imagine any competitor overtaking Mark Zuckerberg’s creation.
Synonyms are a writer’s (and reader’s) friend. Use them. Sometimes it requires a bit of creativity, other times it’s as simple as checking thesaurus.com, which should be a prominent bookmark in every writer’s browser.
Proper writing alone won’t win every battle for business or search engine rank, but shoddy, sloppily produced clients will often guarantee a loss. Avoiding the sometimes simple but too-common mistakes above is a baseline for content marketing success.
For an expanded and far more amusing list of common writing mistakes to avoid, check out How to Write Good. Among their words of wisdom:
- • Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.
- • If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be by rereading and editing.
- • And always be sure to finish what