Archive for November, 2011

Will Google+ Overtake Facebook? [Data]

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

social network raceLast month, Google Co-Founder Larry Page noted that Google+ had amassed over 40 million users since its launch just 4 months prior. That’s a lot of growth! Then again, Google Buzz had 9 million posts within 56 hours of its release…and we all know what happened to Google Buzz.

At this point, we’re all keeping a close eye on Google+’s growth, wishing we had a crystal ball. Will it be another flop? Or will it take off, catch up to, and surpass the existing social networks like Facebook? Now that Google+ has business pages, it’s even more important for marketers to pay attention. If you’re still on the fence about whether or not your business will benefit from having a Google+ page, here is an interesting timeline of events and growth to consider:

google growth resized 600

This timeline of events illustrates some impressive growth. But if you take a step back, it’s apparent that Google+ still has a lot of catching up to do if it’s going to compete with Twitter or Facebook. Even at its peak, with all of the hype of the public launch, Google+’s 15 million visits accounted for less than 1% of social network traffic. Twitter attracted more than double the traffic in that time, and Facebook attracted over 100 times the traffic, with 1.76 billion visits.

In terms of membership, Google+’s community of 40 million is already almost one third of LinkedIn’s 135 million users. That’s impressive considering LinkedIn was launched back in May 2003. Facebook currently has over 800 million members, but back in April 2009 – over 2.5 years after it was expanded to everyone (not just schools) — it had grown to 200 million users. Google+ already has 20% of that total, thanks to Google’s other successful offerings.

Marketing Takeaway

This data is interesting, but what does it all mean for your business’ marketing strategy? Should you take the time to create and maintain your own Google+ business page? The answer is “Yes!” Based on the data points we’ve seen so far, Google+ looks promising right out of the gate. Even if Google+ turns out to fizzle, you don’t want to risk getting left in the dust. We all know Google is a search engine giant, and it’s likely there will be more benefits down the road (like valuable insights about your Circles). Already, there are SEO benefits to having a Google+ business page. So what are you waiting for?

google-ebook

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17 Eye-Opening Examples of Content Visualization

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

eyeballVisualized content is popping up all over the web lately, and it’s no surprise. Visual content is pleasing to the eye, stimulating, entertaining, and much more interesting than plain old text. Haven’t you noticed how much more frequently infographics seem to be making their way onto blogs and websites lately? There’s a very reasonable explanation: people love visual content.

But does every piece of visual content you produce have to be as complex as a full-blown infographic? No way. And does every piece of visual content even have to highlight data? Negative. Sometimes the concept you’re trying to explain just lends itself to a more visual representation, and these types of portrayals can often make the concept much easier to follow and understand by your audience. And the benefits of visual content are huge — because it tends to be much more shareable and interesting, visual content often gets spread more virally, allowing you to extend the reach and effectiveness of your content.

There are many ways you can make your content more visually appealing and effective. Some are simple, and some are more complex. Either way, visualized content is hot. Here are some awesome examples of content visualization to motivate you to start thinking more with your eyes.

1. Restaurant Social Media & Word of Mouth by Spork Media

spork media resized 6002. The Journey of a Tweet by Next Generation Online

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3. Social Media Strategy Transit Map by Intersection Consulting

 

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4. Real Estate Website Linking Matrix by Brad Carroll

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5. Functions of the Brain by 50 Watts

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6. Completed Transactions by Industry by SecondMarket

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7. Strategic Defaults on Upside-Down Homes (Men vs. Women) by Trulia & RealtyTrac

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8. SEO Speed Chart by Bruce Clay

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9. The Six G’s of Social Media Marketing by Nonprofit Marketing Guide

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10. Customer Service Is the New Marketing by Intersection Consulting

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11. Can’t Pay the Mortgage? by Trulia & RealtyTrac

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12. Demand by Industry by SecondMarket

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13. Traditional Societal “Push” Model by Zachary Jean Paradis

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14. 10 Levels of Intimacy in Today’s Communication by Emilie Ogez

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15. Social Media Brand Influence by Eyeflow Internet Marketing

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16. SEO Process by Parampaul Madra

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17. Tablet Data by HubSpot

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What do you think of these content visualization examples? Have they inspired you to start experimenting with visual content on your website, blog, and in social media?

Image Credit: Mikleman

25-website-must-haves

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When is Using Microsites a Good Idea

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Post image for When is Using Microsites a Good Idea

Microsites are often abused and looked down on as a tactic in the SEO world. They get used for the wrong situations, the wrong reasons, and to solve the wrong types of problems. In this post, I’ll talk about some of the bad ways Microsites get used and some of the ways you could use them to your advantage.

Link Pyramid

Creating an artificial link pyramid with the specific goal of creating fake link equity for your main website is never a good idea in the long term. While these types of projects get a lot of attention in the beginning, that attention and dedication of resources can wain after a number of years or months and, in the end, you end up with an outdated website that is of little value to any one. In the end, it becomes little more than an extra maintenance point, gets dropped, or gets forgotten. If you are going to use a Microsite as a link pyramid, you need to incorporate a content audit and update your plan every 6 or 12 months … FOREVER. You should also plan on a redesign every 3-4 years. Additionally, the project should grow by 10-20% with new content or pages every year. If you are going to go with this strategy, I strongly suggest a local or annual event, like a parade or town show. For maximum link building potential, find a subject that avoids looking commercially motivated, one that serves the public. If you want to include some monetization so it supports itself, that’s ok–just keep it low key. Using WordPress is a double edge sword: it’s easy to get up to speed but has a lot of maintenance, so understand what you are getting yourself into. If this website ever gets to be over 100 pages, unless there is a huge archive, it’s probably too big.

Reputation Management

Creating sites for reputation management is probably one of the best uses for Microsites. You create really small, tightly-focused sites about a person or aspect of a company. These sites are, by their very nature, low maintenance. Again, adding 10-20% new content is probably a good plan, as is a 2-3 year redesign to keep the place looking lived-in. A prime example of this in action appears for [McDonald's] and [Burger King]

Burger King SERP (click to enlarge)

McDonald's SERP (click to enlarge)

By creating Microsites for kids projects, jobs, and healthy content, they are able to displace negative content that exists about them off the first page. This may not work if you are a murderer or guilty of notorious crimes on the scale of Bernie Maddoff but, for most people and situations, it’s extremely powerful.

Charity and Educational

Does your community, local church, or sports program run a website? Do they need to? If so, Microsites are a good place to get in, roll up your sleeves, and test some low risk tactics.  They’re also a good place to network with local businesses owners you may need a favor from in the future. If you volunteer to run the website for the softball team, soccer team, and charity auto show, you will get to know some really connected people in your neighborhood who will owe you a favor. You can also get in contact with the tech people for other websites in the community who can help give those projects links and who can help you down the road with your local projects.

So what are the takeaways from this post:

  • Understand that Microsites have a purpose, but it’s a support and secondary role
  • Design them to be as low maintenance as possible–but understand there is no such thing as a zero maintenance project on the web
  • Use it as an opportunity to network and get to know people who can help you get links in the future

photo credit: Shutterstock/Sven Hoppe

tla starter kit

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This post originally came from Michael Gray who is an SEO Consultant. Be sure not to miss the Thesis WordPress Theme review.

When is Using Microsites a Good Idea


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5 Key Questions on Social Media, Content & SEO

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

audience social media seoA few weeks ago, @aknecht and @SocialMichelleR had me on their #socialchat and as I am prone to do, I ask for questions in advance and try to answer them so when the actual Twitter chat comes, I’m ready with robust content and links instead of thinking of everything on the fly. The result is a richer experience for all I think. It’s also a source of content that one can use for a blog post. Like this one :)

According to Hashtracking, that #socialchat was quite active, with 523 tweets, 76 contributors, a reach of 291,000 and 3.2 million impressions. It’s amazing how much potential reach is possible through a well attended chat on Twitter.  I did a #blogchat with @mackcollier before BlogWorld LA and we posted huge numbers: 4k tweets, 800+ contributors, reach of 3+ million and over 29 million impressions.  Twitter chats are growing in popularity and such scheduled gatherings have extended to other platforms like Facebook and Google+.

Julio Ojeda-Zapata of the St. Paul Pioneer Press newspaper recently covered the topic giving some great examples of how locally focused Twitter Chats are bridging online social media with real world connections. And that brings me back to the topic of this post – Social Media, Content and SEO: What do marketers need to know to bring those disciplines together and why?

I’ll dig into the topic in a Q/A format as used in #socialchat which I think is a great, practical example of this intersection.

In simple terms what is the connection between social content & SEO?

The simple answer is customers. People use search & social to discover content. Search engines & social platforms like content because it creates the basis for advertising opportunity. My favorite metaphor is Content = Bread, SEO = Peanut Butter, Social = Jelly. PBJ marketing. :)

social seo content

Customer-focused content is created w/ purpose. SEO & social are manifestations of what people care about to attract & engage. Customer needs, interests, pain points, motivations + brand goals feed an Optimize & Socialize content strategy. Anyone, heck everyone is a publisher now. Brands and consumers can easily create & share media 24/7. Search & social optimized content with a purpose attracts & engages customers to buy and share with other buyers. That’s in contrast to keyword list optimization that’s focused on top of funnel traffic to a website.

Stats:

  • 53% of time on the internet is content consumption. (AOL Nielsen)
  • 27 million pieces of content are shared per day (AOL Nielsen)
  • Content Creation was cited as the most effective SEO tactic (& the hardest) in MarketingSherpa’s 2011 SEM Benchmark Report

 

Do specific types of social content have a bigger impact on SEO?

Types of content that are good for SEO need to be good for people first (in my opinion).   Content & media that gets shared, linked & acted on most, has a bigger impact. People are savvier about what’s “good” vs. what’s mechanical. That’s the problem with how many companies are approaching their social participation. They’re focused on on scale with the least amount of resources. That often results in a more “mechanical” approach when it’s a “meaningful” approach that matters more in terms of building community, growing a network and engagement.

social content

Here’s a thought for you as you’re reading this post: What’s social content? Content that exists on social platforms or websites with social features?  I’ve always said great content isn’t great unless it gets consumed, shared & linked to. It’s the old, tree falls in the forest and no one’s there to hear it, does it make a sound? If a great infographic, video, blog post etc is created but no one (substantially) sees or shares it – is the content really great? I say no. Promotion is essential along with thoughtful creation.

What writing styles should copywriters implement to ensure maximum impact on SEO?

Always test what works with the community you’re trying to engage: Hypothesis, test, refine, repeat. If you’re optimizing for customers and outcomes, then that should influence your style first and foremost with SEO a close second. Keep in mind the potential impact of a social share vs. a link from another site as well as the relevance to different audiences. If your objective is thought leadership, then your audience for the content will be influencers in the industry. If your objective is lead nurturing or customer acquisition, then your audience will be buyers. Style of content should follow the objective and audience accordingly.

social content writing style

Attention spans online are short & even shorter with social content. Write scannable content, headlines, bold, bullets. Your reader should be able to discern the key points of your content in just a few seconds, then dig in for more if they want to.  Also, headlines are gold. Make sure your headlines are compelling to read AND share.

Create modular messages from short to long and media specific for a diversity of options that you can use in different situations and on different platforms. By ”modular” I mean: Short (like tweets, Facebook or G+ updates), Long (blogs, articles, press release) or something more media specific (video, infographic, audio).

What’s the most common mistake made when preparing copy for social & SEO?

Not understanding what motivates people to search & share & what that means for content style, format & promotion.  Another mistake is over emphasizing popular keywords straight from Google AdWords keyword tool – basically crappy writing. Yet another mistake is poor quality messaging, irrelevant incorporation of keyword targets in body copy and “filler” pages to look big.

How can an organization best leverage social & onsite content from maximum SEO effect?

Of course the Content Management System, web page templates, code, tags, feeds and other similar aspects of the site need to be optimized right along with content. A lot of SEO is about making things easy: For search engines & crawling.  Ease of sharing is also important: “social media friendly”. Connect the site with sharing features into Facebook, G+, Twitter & where the target audience shares. Leverage resources to create fresh (as in new and updated) content that’s sharable and promote to social networks and other channels of distribution.

How are you incorporating SEO, Social Media and Content in your online marketing mix?  If you are, what are is driving the effort? Is it Marketing, PR, Sales?

 

 

 

 


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YouTube Launches New and Improved YouTube Analytics

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

describe the imageIt looks like the marketer’s cry for more data has reached YouTube’s ears, and not too long after Facebook beefed up its analytics with new features for Facebook Insights.

While YouTube had previously offered an Insights tool that let you view data for videos on your channel, the Google-owned online video giant announced on its blog this morning that, over the course of today, it will be replacing your YouTube Insights with YouTube Analytics. Here are the four latest features YouTube Analytics will tack on to the almost-defunked Insights.

New Dashboard Overview

When you visit youtube.com/analytics, you’ll be greeted with a page that provides all your important data in one screenshot. You’ll still be able to see a summary of your views, videos demographics, and popularity by region (though it looks much prettier!), but now your dashboard will also display overall channel performance, engagement, and how people find and view your videos. You can click into each report to see more detailed information, which brings us to the next awesome YouTube Analytics update.

describe the image

More Detailed Reports

YouTube Analytics will offer more detailed statistics than Insights that are intended to give a more precise understanding of your audience and how well your content performs. Right from the overview page, you can access several reports from the left navigation. You also now have a data filter that lets you filter by content, geography, and custom date ranges.

youtube data filterCharts can display with data points in daily, weekly, or monthly increments, and it also lets you compare two metrics on one chart. You can even toggle between the Line Chart view and Map view on most reports. If your report has map functionality, you can hover over countries to see more detailed data for that area.

Once you run a report, download it…and show it to your boss to show what an analytical marketing superstar you are!

Audience Retention

Formerly called Hot Spots, this report will show you how far viewers watch through your video. This will be relevant for older videos with 600 views or more, or newer videos with 300 views or more, as YouTube has set these as the minimum number needed for statistical significance.

youtube analytics audience retention

YouTube measures your ability to retain your audience based on both absolute and relative retention. Absolute audience retention shows the views of every moment of the video as a percentage of the number of views at the beginning of the video. So if someone rewinds and re-watches your video, you’ll see your graph go up; if someone starts to fast forward, your graph will go down. Relative audience retention shows your video’s ability to retain viewers during playback relative to all YouTube videos of similar length. The higher the graph at any moment, the more viewers kept watching your video over other videos at that same moment in playback.

What all this fancy math allows you to do is see where in your video people get bored. YouTube has even made it possible to embed your video in the report so you can align the peaks and valleys in the report with the moments in the video people are most engaged, and least engaged, so you can adjust your content to capitalize on what people seem to enjoy.

Estimated Earnings

Some marketers are trying to monetize their YouTube presence. If that’s you, you’ll enjoy the Estimated Earnings tab of YouTube Analytics. Total Estimated Earnings tells you the net revenue from Google-sold advertising, AFV Earnings provides the estimated earnings from auction sold advertising via AdSense for Video, and YouTube Earnings shows the estimated earnings from Doubleclick advertising and any other YouTube-sold sources.

Why Marketers Should Measure Video Performance

If you didn’t spend much time in Insights, take these positive changes as an opportunity to reengage with your video marketing analytics. While video content is highly coveted by consumers, it is far more costly to produce than web content, in terms of both time and money. What goals do you have with your video marketing? Whether it’s driving engagement, ad revenue, subscribers, or a whole mix of metrics, having access to daily insights and reporting into your wins and losses will give you the data you need to make educated decisions about your video marketing investment.

The changes to YouTube account holders will roll out throughout the day, so if you haven’t noticed a change yet, hold steady. YouTube Analytics was launched to help marketers extend their reach and, straight out of YouTube’s mouth, “earn more money.” I’m sure we all hope these changes deliver on that!

Have you seen your Insights account replaced by YouTube Analytics? What do you think of the new features?

Image credit: Rego – d4u.hu

monitor-10-minutes-ebook

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5 Foolproof Ways to Prevent Landing Page Abandonment

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

landing page abandonmentDriving traffic to your site is all well and good, but how do you turn that traffic into customers? To make your growing web traffic worth something (ahem, money?), the first step is to convert those visitors into leads, and landing pages are an efficient, low cost way to get that done.

But if you’re noticing that some of your landing pages perform better than others, there are some logical explanations behind your underperformers. Let’s take a look at the 5 most common reasons your site visitors click through to your landing page and then abandon it in a flash.

5 Reasonable Explanations for Landing Page Abandonment

1.) Your landing page didn’t pass the blink test. The blink test refers to the first three seconds a visitor spends on any page of your website during which they orient themselves and glean what they can do on that page. The user clicked to your landing page with a vague idea of what they might find there, but in the first three seconds, it is your duty to make it abundantly clear what they will find on that page. You can do so by crafting a clear headline, call-to-action, and providing a form above the fold.

2.) Your landing page had too many distractions. If you only have three seconds to orient a new visitor, you need to let them focus! Remove all visual distractions such as Flash or animation, a navigation that lets them click away, and large and intimidating blocks of text. Instead, include a pleasant (but reasonably sized) image that is relevant to your offer, and make use of all those wonderful formatting tools like bullets, numbers, and bolded headlines to break up text.

3.) You didn’t use actionable language. It’s not that your readers aren’t smart; just don’t make them think too hard while they’re on your landing page. Tell them exactly what to do by using verbs and explanatory language in your headlines and on your ‘submit’ button. Let’s do a little compare and contrast. Which headline do you think will result in more conversions on a landing page?

Your How-To Guide

vs.

Download Your How-To Guide About Creating Content for the Holidays

If you guessed the second one, you’re right on the money! It tells visitors explicitly what they should do on the landing page, and what they’ll receive for doing it. Just be sure to explain the value of your offer with some brief copy after you write your awesomely actionable headline.

4.) Your form just wasn’t worth the work. There’s a delicate balance to strike between gathering enough qualifying information about your leads, and losing leads to excessively long forms. If you’re not sure how many form fields are too many, start small and build up. Through the magic of A/B testing, you’ll be able to find your sweet spot where neither leads nor information is compromised.

5.) Your offer didn’t match your call-to-action (CTA). If your call-to-action was enticing enough to get a visitor to click through to your landing page, make sure what you actually offer aligns with the original CTA. You can prevent visitor disappointment by being as specific as possible with your call-to-action. If you’re offering a how-to guide, mention what it’s about in both the call-to-action and on the landing page. Use the same language so continuity is maintained throughout the conversion process.

If you’re experiencing dismal conversion rates on your landing pages, do a quick check for these five common problems. Once all of your landing pages are in line with these best practices, you can fine-tune and A/B detailed aspects of your page like button color or page layout to get the best possible conversion rate from each landing page you produce.

Have you seen a lift in conversion rates from solving for landing page abandonment? What was your most common landing page offense?

Image credit: Post-Software

intro-to-landing-pages

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Optimize & Prosper: Discovery, Consumption & Engagement

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

discover consume engageA recent study “State of Digital Marketing Report” indicated that for both B2B (57%) and B2C (41%) websites, search engine optimization was the most effective marketing tactic for lead generation over paid search advertising and social media marketing. Keep in mind, the study was sponsored by a provider of SEO services and had a conservative sample size. Despite that, the findings are consistent with what many successful SEO practitioners have known for years.

There are a number of additional studies that have supported the notion that Search Marketing (PPC and SEO) are the most effective and efficient practices for improving website traffic, leads and sales. In fact, Google has compiled a number of case studies and examples of how online search has driven substantial offline sales. Earned, Owned, Paid and Shared Media all drive search as search drives both online and offline outcomes for business.

Different companies and industries may find some variation with the role of search optimization in their mix, but there’s no mistaking that optimizing content and social media for relevant visibility where customers are actively looking has tremendous benefits and cost efficiencies. But despite the benefits, many companies neglect to engage a proactive content optimization strategy and even fewer optimize social media and overall website content holistically.

For a better picture of how to think about holistic optimization (An Optimized State of Mind), I’m going to share one of the key models from the book I’m currently writing, Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing to be published by Wiley in 2012.

For effective optimization as a state of mind, I believe there are three key components of brand and customer interaction to optimize for. Focusing on these three areas can help companies become more relevant and effective in their ability provide meaningful customer experiences that inspire action.

Optimize for Discovery

Optimize Discovery

Customers arrive at the act of searching for a variety of reasons ranging from longer term research for larger or more complex purchases to solving an immediate problem or need.  People search for more reasons than to buy a product or service and companies publish more content online than things for sale. Any content brands publish online is an opportunity for optimization to make it easier and more relevant to connect with intended audiences whether they are prospective customers, existing customers, industry media, job candidates or company employees.

Optimizing for discovery goes beyond search though, since consumers use a variety of channels to find information online.  According to Cross Channel Commerce (pdf), a report from Oracle, “When purchasing a product or service, more than three-quarters of consumers use two or more channels to research and complete the transaction. Nearly one-third of consumers said they use three or more channels.” Optimizing for customer discovery means a 360 degree view of how people prefer to find content.  For search, it means keywords, content and links. For social media it means topics, networks and communities. Knowing how your audience prefers to find information relevant to your business will provide valuable insight for your content marketing, optimization and social media strategy.

Companies can get a good start on finding consumer discovery preferences by using a combination of CRM, web analytics, social media monitoring tools and competitive research tools. Data from those sources relevant to your desired audience and outcomes can fuel a more effective approach to Social SEO & Content Marketing. Monitoring and revisiting those sources can provide an ongoing source of insight for iterative improvements as you implement tactics that are more thoughtful about consumer behaviors.

Optimize for Consumption

Optimize Consumption

Search is just a start. Appearing high in search results or being mentioned as a resource within social media and networks is only part of the journey for customers as they navigate the kind of information that leads to a conclusion. It’s important to understand what content formats and media types a target audience prefers. There’s a lot of “one size fits all” when it comes to content creation and promotion because it’s tough to scale or be efficient otherwise.  But how useful is the exact same content format online as mobile or email? Congruency of message and branding can be important, but it’s not the same thing as using the exact same content in every channel.

Content needs to deliver on the search and social promise. In the way that we research how our customers and target audience prefer to discover content, it’s also effective to identify what formats they prefer for content consumption.  Do they respond best to long form articles (like this one) or a series of shorter form tips? Do they like images or video? Do they respond better to infographics or tabular data?  Are they inspired more by case studies and white papers or demos and webinars? What combination of these content formats and user experiences are most likely to resonate with your audience?

Make the case for better user experience as a content marketing tactic. Web developers and interactive media designers often create personas and use case scenarios for the applications and designs they create. Some of that same insight is appropriate with content marketing. If a brand expects the most effective and efficient outcomes form their online marketing investment, then some understanding of content formats and types is essential.

Optimize for Engagement

Optimize Engagement

High visibility in search is just an initial step in the consumer journey for a solution.  Consumers might perform multiple queries on a search engine as they refine their search and possible solutions. With the increase in consumer use of social media, customers increasingly expect to interact with what they find in search results. Most marketers are focused on the shortest route from discovery to revenue. In the SEO world that means optimizing content for keywords most likely to convert. Of course this assumes you’ve solved the attribution problem and then we have the whole Google encrypted search referrers issue.

Is this a date or the honeymoon? There’s nothing wrong with that but website marketing efforts that are solely focused on converting every visitor to a sale without realizing other consumer needs in the purchasing decision may very well be leaving a lot of money and goodwill for referrals on the table. Social engagement is an increasing influence on the decision to buy. eMarketer has reported that over 50% of Twitter followers are more likely to purchase from brands they follow and Coca-Cola has shared that Facebook fans are 2 times as likely to consume & 10 times more likely to purchase than non-fans.

Not every consumer that finds brand product and service content is ready to buy, but if there’s useful content provided to help them appreciate the value of the product/service, they might bookmark or share it. Some sales cycles involve a bit more “content romance” and education.  In the way that consumers expect to find a way to contact the company for a sales or customer service inquiry, they expect to find things like a company blog or social media presence. Engagement runs the spectrum from a Google+ share or blog comment to making a purchase, writing a review or making a specific social network recommendation about a product that was just purchased.

Be wise and optimize for great customer experience. Optimizing for engagement means conversion optimization as much as it means optimizing for a great user experience and social sharing. Engaging and useful content that tells brand stories about customer use of products and services is the kind of content that inspire both sharing and conversion outcomes.

A key question for marketers that want to better optimize for engagement is: What messages, topics and contexts motivate your community to interact, share and convert?

What Next?

Holistic optimization of content is relevant across the brand and customer relationship and lifecycle.  Most companies focus on content marketing optimization solely for customer acquisition and sales, which makes sense because the focus is on revenue and marketing departments are most likely to fund and implement such tactics. But it’s entirely possible for companies to realize additional revenue goals as well as improved reach, brand awareness and thought leadership with a holistic content optimization approach.  Additionally, companies can improve efficiency and effectiveness of other content publishing entities in the organization ranging from Public Relations to Customer Service to Human Resources by making sure their content is optimized for the target audiences that are looking (searching and socializing).

I’ve briefly mentioned the notion of optimizing for consumer content when it comes to Discovery, Consumption and Engagement in the past, through blog posts and industry conference presentations without having a dedicated post to link to. Now I’ve solved that problem and also provided more specific insight into these opportunities for readers to evolve their online marketing.

I know from first hand experience, the temptation to focus solely on popular keywords and popular social channels as a means to drive online sales and engagement is more the norm than an “old way” of doing things. But as more marketers realize the importance of content marketing and a more customer centric approach to connecting holistically to brand audiences, I think an effort to extend the notion of what can be optimized will broaden. At the same time, it will become more focused on customer lifecycle and not just the buying cycle.

What are you doing to optimize more holistically in your search, social media and content marketing mix?

Next Monday I will be publishing another glimpse at Optimize, focusing on a framework for Content Marketing and Social Media Optimization that carries through these principles of Discovery, Consumption and Engagement.

 


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5 Awesome Examples of Engaging Social Media Campaigns

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

twitter follower mosaicSo you want more Twitter followers, eh? You want to increase your ‘likes’ on your Facebook business page? Social media sites make great tools to engage prospects and customers as well as share content and messages about your brand. Since as a marketer, you’re primarily using these tools for promotional purposes, you need to make sure you’re attracting new fans and followers through content and campaigns that will attract the types of prospects your brand wants; followers that may be interested in what your business has to offer and will actually want to engage with your brand.

Below is a list of 5 awesome examples of brands that have effectively used social media to engage with their fans and followers in fun, unique, and brand-centric ways. What makes these examples noteworthy is not only the creative ways the brands interacted with their fans, but also their incorporation of clear calls-to-action and targeted links for potential customers to connect. They launched their unique campaigns so fans and followers could learn more about their company and brand, and in addition, created ways for them to become leads and potential customers.

1. Artist Vows to Sketch Every New Twitter Follower

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Artist @GregBurney vowed to sketch the first 3,000 new followers he gained. He started out with 70 followers, and by the end of the day, had attracted over 2,000. Today he has over 5,000 followers. Because of this awesome interaction showcasing his talent, Burney gained an 8,000% change in Twitter followers and possibly a few more people interested in his artistic work. 

2. Tweets Get Blockbuster Voiceover Treatment

British Telecommunications company Orange dramatized its Twitter followers’ summer plans by giving them the summer blockbuster voiceover treatment. All Twitter users had to do was include #thissummer in their tweet along with their plans, and Orange would capture it and give some the voiceover effect. Orange hosted the voiceovers on its blog, which helped generate more traffic to their site. Not only did this keep followers engaged with the brand, but it was fun, shareable, and in line with the brand’s communication image.

3. Wendy’s Gains 30K Twitter Followers in a Month for @GirlBehindSix

wendystwitter

Wendy’s introduced a game show revolving around the Twitter handle @GirlBehindSix, which referred to the open slot on Wendy’s menu. The campaign made @GirlBehindSix the host of a 140-character game show that gave prizes such as mopeds, espresso machines, and foosball tables. The game show challenges varied from taking a Twitpic of your old headphones to win new ones or coming up with a name for a moped gang to win a moped. @GirlBehindSix gained 30,000 Twitter followers in month with barely any ad support — just one promoted tweet and a huge amount of word of mouth marketing.

4. The “Resorter” and the BALSAMS Grand Resort Hotel

resorter

The BALSAMS Grand Resort Hotel used its “InnBedded Resorter” campaign to find the world’s first-ever “resorter,” a person who would live at the hotel for the months of July and August and use social media channels to share all of their experiences at the 8,000 acre resort. The “Resorter” blogged daily and posted social media updates, photos, and videos about all The BALSAMS had to offer. The campaign was a huge hit for the hotel, and they saw a 20% increase in bookings in August. They also worked with Canadian social media travel stars Alex and Luke, who simultaneously posted to their own social media accounts about the hotel.

5. Healthy Choice and the Growing Coupon

Healthy Choice

In addition to growing its Facebook fan base, Healthy Choice was looking to increase engagement and reinforce the brand’s value image. The brand knew its customers were social media savvy and that they were also extremely interested in coupons. Therefore, Healthy Choice introduced a progressive coupon on the Healthy Choice Facebook Page. The coupon began at a low value of $0.75 off and increased as people ‘liked’ the page and signed up for the coupon, ultimately reaching a “buy-one-get-one-free” deal. In just a few weeks, Healthy Choice’s fan count grew from just under 7,000 to over 60,000, and the Facebook ads they used generated over 11 million impressions. Most importantly, 60% of new fans also subscribed to Healthy Choice’s newsletter.

Marketing Takeaway

In the end, it’s not always about what you do, it’s how you do it. If your fans and followers are engaging with your campaign, that’s great, but make sure you give them a reason to be there that will help move the needle for your company as well. Set goals (do you want to increase reach, generate leads, etc.?), use calls-to-action, and make sure your campaign is engineered to achieve those goals. Use your social media campaigns as a tool to build interest in your business and ultimately generate new leads and future customers.

What are some creative ways you engage with your fans and followers in social media?

Image Credit: Matthew Johnson

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The 8 Best Link-Building Tactics to Boost Off-Page SEO

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

sun linksIn search engine optimization, inbound links are a marketer’s most powerful asset. Given that off-page SEO (as opposed to on-page SEO) accounts for the majority of a web page’s ability to rank for a particular keyword, building authoritative and relevant links into your website from external sites isn’t exactly something you should overlook in your SEO strategy.

But while link-building is critical, it’s also tricky, considering giving an inbound link is the decision of the website linking to you, which isn’t something you have complete control over. Therefore, it’s one of those inbound marketing tactics that requires dedication and the realization that success won’t happen overnight. So how can you take control of something that is seemingly out of your hands? Don’t worry; you’re not totally out of luck.

If you’re new to the concept of an inbound link, read this introductory article about inbound links before you move on. All set? Great! Now you’re ready to tackle 8 powerful link-building tactics to improve your business’ search engine optimization.

Link-Building Tactics to Boost Off-Page SEO

1. Submitting to Website Directories: This is one of the few link-building tactics you do have complete control over. That said, it’s also one of the tactics with the least SEO mojo. While inbound links from website directories may not have a ton of authority, the ease of submitting your website to them to jumpstart your link-building efforts makes it totally worth it, especially the free ones.

2. Content Creation (Link Bait): Another link-building tactic you have complete control over is your ability to create remarkable content that others naturally want to link to. This type of content historically gets a bad rap as ‘link bait,’ which can be defined as content specifically created with the goal of generating attention and encouraging others to link to the website. But that doesn’t mean all ‘link bait’ content is bad. As long as the content you’re creating has value to your target audience, why wouldn’t you want others to link to it? Content that typically makes great link bait content are types that get shared a lot, including original data and research, infographics, viral videos, and content about controversial topics. A business blog is the perfect platform for this content.

3. Networking & Building Relationships: While networking and relationship-building takes time, it’s a very effective way to keep your business and your content on the minds of people who might be interested in linking to you. Make a list of the bloggers in your industry who have authoritative and relevant websites. Then start building relationships with them. Follow and tweet with them on Twitter, and give them a little link love by linking to their content in your own blog articles. Once you’re on their radar, they may be more inclined to link back to you if you have content that’s relevant to their audience, too. Reciprocity is a beautiful thing!

4. Optimizing Your Social Media Presence: Okay, we were admittedly a little bit sneaky with this one. Yes, many social media sites use ‘nofollow’ tags, meaning you don’t get any SEO juice from links on your social media profiles or links you share through your social media updates. But even though these links may not benefit your search engine rankings, they’re still links from an external source into your website. Plus, search engines are increasingly using social cues to identify authoritative websites and content. Use the links in your social media profiles wisely; point them to your website to direct viewers of your profiles back to your website. After all, isn’t the ultimate goal to get them there, regardless of how they found you?

5. Asking (Politely): We’re not suggesting that you beg and bribe your way into generating inbound links. However, there are certain occasions when it’s okay to politely ask a fellow blogger to link back to you. For instance, say you got a great mention in a news article on a site with a good amount of authority. The website cited your data and mentioned your company’s name as the source, but where’s the link love? In these cases, it’s perfectly reasonable to politely email the author, thank them for mentioning your data, and ask them to please include a link back to your website as well. As a bonus, if you have a good relationship with this website owner or blogger (see tactic #3), you might even be able to leverage that relationship to request specific anchor text and the URL you want them to link back to. Chances are, they didn’t have your business’ specific SEO strategy in mind when they mentioned you, and they may be perfectly happy to grant your request.

6. Submitting News Releases to Distribution Services: Although news releases can be a great way to get the word out about your company’s product news and other important updates, they also have great SEO benefits. Every time your release gets distributed by a wire service and syndicated on a website…BAM!…an inbound link. Even better is when a website picks up and covers the news you’re promoting in an article of their own, generating an even more valuable inbound link. While most news release distribution services charge for their services, there are a few free ones you can leverage, as well. To get the best bang for your buck, use news releases to share news about content you create that is particularly link bait-friendly, such as new data and original industry research reports you might release.

7. Leveraging Co-Marketing Partnerships and Initiatives: Partnerships and co-marketing opportunities can be a great way to generate inbound links. Generally, co-marketing initiatives are conducted with partners that sell products or services that aren’t competing with your own, but are complementary. Consider leveraging those relationships in your link building efforts. You link to them. They link to you. Everyone’s happy.

8. Guest Blogging (External Content): We saved the best for last. Guest blogging is probably the most effective way to generate quality inbound links to your website. Yes, it requires more content creation on your part, but the results are lasting and powerful. Think about it: what business that understands the importance of inbound marketing isn’t trying to provide a steady flow of fresh content? If you were struggling to fill your blogging queue with valuable content, wouldn’t you jump at the opportunity to publish a guest post from a fellow qualified blogger? As a blog manager, they get fresh content with little effort. As a contributor, you get control over the anchor text and URLs for the keywords you’re targeting. Win-win! 

What are some other powerful link-building tactics you can use to boost your business’ off-page SEO?

Image Credit: Sudhamshu Hebbar

learning-seo-experts

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Blogging On A Budget: 3 Tips for Bigger Impact

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Blogging is one of the top sources of online content creation for many companies. Blogs are a great vehicle for interacting and engaging with current and prospective clients.  Blogs are also an effective way for prospects to associate stories, anecdotes, and personalities with a company or brand.

Taking on a blog can be a large undertaking.  There are many things that should be considered including cost, availability of resources, strategy creation, time commitment, and measurement.  Simply creating content and expecting instant success is not realistic.  If you have recently decided that you would like to start a business blog, or have started a blog and are not seeing the success you had anticipated then the tips below are for you.

Tip #1 – Become a Blog Follower

Starting in the mindset of a consumer is key in determining need.  I recommend you take a look at the list of blogs that you read and ask yourself some questions about why you read them.  If you aren’t currently following any blogs I suggest that you see if some of the newsletters, magazines, or newspapers that you are already reading have a blog.  This will help you kill a couple birds with one stone.  You are still consuming the information that you already enjoy but you are also doing some research for your own blog.  What are some questions you should ask if you are looking to start a blog?

  • What blogs do you follow?
  • Why do you enjoy them?
  • Do you believe they help solve a problem for you as an end user?
  • Does the blog have one or multiple voices?
  • How often do you read these blogs?

Tip #2 – Work Smarter Not Harder

In a tough economy marketers are being forced to do more with less.  The same strategy can be applied to business blogging.  If you have an understanding of content that works well and the mindset of your target audience you can easily create different forms of blog content to keep information updated regularly and efficiently.

Newsworthy items can be a great source of blog content.  You are presenting your audience with information that is important to their business while utilizing statistics and content that has already been created.  Reviewing current business blogs is also a great vehicle for creating content.  This allows you to create a scoring criteria and share with readers what you like and dislike about the blogs that are being reviewed.  Interviews and guest posts can also be a source of content curation for your blog. If you can convince others within your industry to participate in your blog they will be likely to share it with their audience as well.  Guest blogs also add some additional creativity and voice to a business blog.

Tip #3 – Tap Into Available Resources

There may be members of your team that could be a great addition to your company blog.  Contributors from different departments can position themselves subject matter experts and your readers may look forward to the variety that is being provided in the blog content.  While the overall responsibility of the blog may fall on the shoulders of one person or department, that doesn’t mean that other team members cannot contribute.  Multiple authors allows you to tap into multiple networks and is much more sustainable from a content creation perspective in the long run.

While business blogging is not always easy it can be a great project to inspire creativity, teamwork, engage your audience, and improve your brand visibility.  If you are interested in more tips on business blogging please take a look at some of the following posts from the TopRank Online Marketing blog.

I am curious to learn a little bit more about the experiences of our readers.  What are the biggest challenges that you have faced as an online marketer as it relates to business blogging.  What are some additional areas of blogging that you may not understand and would like TopRank to provide more information on?


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© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
Blogging On A Budget: 3 Tips for Bigger Impact | http://www.toprankblog.com


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