Archive for March, 2012

Online Marketing News: Facebook Timeline is Here, State of the News Media, Google Cracks Down

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

Small Businesses Increase Online Marketing Efforts

This video from AT&T Business provides great insight into online marketing trends for small businesses.  What you’ll learn:

  • User preferences
  • Network Growth
  • Online Marketing Tactics

News You Can Use

“Don’t Dread Tomorrow’s Mandatory Switch to Timeline, Study Shows It’s Good for 95% of Facebook Pages”  March 30 marks the official rollout of Timeline for Facebook business Pages.  This change has many business owners and brands up in arms.  However according to a recent study 95% of Pages who have switched to the Timeline have seen an increase of likes and buzz about their business.  Via TechCrunch.

“Google Cracking Down on “Unnatural” Links, Deindexing Blog Networks”  Falling from Google’s graces, a position that no company wants to see themselves in.  Recent shifts in Google’s policies include the way that Google perceives inbound links.  Via Search Engine Watch.

“The State of the News Media 2012 – Pew Research Center”  This recent study contained some interesting findings about the current state of media and customers.  Mobile is a driving force for customer experience with news information.  Social media is still maintaining popularity, but is not an overwhelming means of driving traffic.”  Via State of the Media.

“Pining for Pinterest”  Should Pinterest be a key piece to your Internet marketing strategy?  This post provides some great information that is not only focused on getting started, but ways to create meaningful interactions with your audience which drive results.  Via ClickZ.

“8 Creative Ways to Use Embeddable Tweets” Embedded tweets allow users to take information from a tweet and share it on their website or even a blog post.  This new feature from Twitter will enable users to share their information with an audience outside of their direct Twitter connections.  Via Social Media Examiner.

TopRank Team News

Brian Larson- Even with a #1 Organic Ranking, Paid Ads Provide 50% Incremental Clicks
Google released a study that found that those who invested paid search received material increases in the number of clicks to their site. But the online marketers world needed more proof. Now, Google has provided that proof and more. For those who see paid and organic as 2 different worlds, I encourage you to give this a read.  Via Search Engine Land.

Shawna Kenyon- Beyond Likes:  How Google and Adobe Aim to Measure Your True Social ROI
Social Media has muddied the waters in terms of measuring traditional ‘marketing spending’. It is no longer about sinking money into an ad campaign and then looking to see if sales increased. Now we measure success in ways that go beyond tangible impact. Did a campaign add an increase in Facebook likes? And if so is that an effective use of your budget?  Google and Adobe want to answer that question by releasing tools that let marketers track their marketing spend through social media.  Via Mashable.

Sam Giehll – Mind Control: Neuroscience in Marketing
This article addresses a new field out there: neuromarketing. The idea of neuromarketing is that knowledge of neuroscience and the way the brain works from a scientific viewpoint is something that can be beneficial to marketers. Neuromarketing practices include studying consumers’ sensimotor, cognitive and affective responses to different marketing stimuli.  Via Psychology Today.

Alexis Hall – Keyword Not Provided Percentage to Grow:  Firefox Adding Default Encryption for Google Searches
Mozilla announced last week that they are testing defaulting encrypted Google searches from their Firefox browser.  Currently, about 25% of all searches are done from Firefox, so this change could have a big impact on the percentage of keyword encrypted searches we are seeing within Google Analytics. As this percentage continues to increase it will become increasingly important to examine the data that you do have, such as top content.   Via Search Engine Journal.

Jolina Pettice – What Happens in an Internet Minute?
In the time it takes you to pour your next cup of coffee, consider this activity happening on the Internet: 204 Emails Sent, 47,000 apps downloaded, 2+ million Google Search Queries, 6 million Facebook views.  Check this infographic from Intel explaining What Happens in an Internet Minute.  Via Intel.

Time to Weigh In:  Have the recent shifts made by Google had a noticeable impact on your online visibility?  Do you believe that Twitters new embed option will really make a difference, and how do you see your organization using this information?

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The Top 10 Qualities of High-Quality List Posts

Friday, March 30th, 2012

grocery list intermediate

In an online world where the quality of your blog content is only increasing in importance, the fabled ‘list’ post commonly gets a bad rap. It’s unfortunate, but definitely understandable. You can easily drown in a sea of particularly low-quality, low-value lists posts.

But hey — not all list posts have to suck! While there are definitely some pretty awful ones out there, you can also find quite a few very valuable, high-quality list posts floating around the internet. So let’s not judge a list post by its title. I’m a firm believer that the list post does have a place in the world of high quality blog content. And to no surprise, this post about lists posts is largely a list post itself. You can be the judge of its quality, but I stand by my beliefs.

First, let’s talk a little bit about common misconceptions about list posts. Then we’ll dive into the characteristics of high quality ones so you can start squashing the myth that all list posts are subpar … by writing awesome ones!

Common Misconceptions About List Posts

Last week, Daily Blog Tips published an article highlighting some common misconceptions about list posts and explaining why it’s silly to think about list posts in those ways. Let’s quickly review the points the article made:

  1. “List posts are just for lazy writers.” Pish posh! In fact, when done well (meaning it’s not just three, sentence-long points slapped together), a list post can take just as long — if not longer — than any other type of post for bloggers to write.
  2. “List posts aren’t right for my style/niche.” Huh? Why are list posts — a type of post — conceived as fitting only certain industries? A list post could work for any industry, as long as the subject matter and quality fit the audience. 
  3. “List posts have to be really long.” Wrong, wrong, wrong. There’s no rule that your list post needs to be a laundry list of useless information or that it needs to include a minimum number of items. In fact, a super long, 100-point list runs the risk of sounding daunting to readers, deterring them from reading it and turning them away.

The thing is, people love the classic list post! They tell the reader exactly what — and how much of it — they’re going to get out of the post, plus they’re very shareable. They’re also easy to scan, and with so much content available on the web these days, being able to scan a post and still grasp a helpful nugget or two of information is highly valuable. Here are a few examples of the types of list posts we’ve published recently on this very blog, all of which we believe are high quality posts that have performed well in terms of traffic, leads, and inbound links:

Now for the meaty stuff. If you’re convinced that list posts can be a part of your blogging strategy, make sure the ones you publish include these top 10 qualities of high-quality list posts.

1) Includes Items That Stay True to the List Subject/Angle

Sometimes a blogger will start writing a list about one thing, and then when he/she is done, it turns out to be a list that takes on a completely different angle because their research revealed more information about a slightly different subject. The problem is, this new angle is no longer relevant to their audience. Don’t let this happen to you. If, after your initial research, you find that the points you’ve brainstormed don’t fit with the subject you intended, scrap it and move on.

Another common symptom of bad list posts are list items that don’t quite fit with the others. For example, if you notice in this very list post, all of the items on this list are qualities of awesome list post. If one of my points was, in itself, an example of a list post, that wouldn’t make sense, right?  Be consistent and parallel. If you’re writing a list of examples, they should all be examples. If you’re writing a list of best practices, they should all be best practices. It’s easy to stray off-topic when you’re trying to compile a hearty list, but you need to avoid it. Otherwise your list — and your writing — loses its integrity.

2) Dense With Valuable Takeaways (No Fluff!)

The biggest indicator of a lousy list post is one that contains a ton of fluff and no real, valuable takeaways for the reader. Here’s an example of what we mean:

3 Ways to Improve Your Social Media Marketing

  1. Be unique! Do something to stand out from your competitors.
  2. Take risks! Try out-of-the-box ideas.
  3. Measure results! Use your analytics to tell you what’s working.

What a fantastic list post! I’ve learned — absolutely nothing. No wonder list posts have a terrible reputation. That took me 60 seconds to write. Sure, on the surface, each of these list points sound valuable. You absolutely should do all these things in your social media marketing. But it doesn’t tell you exactly how to do those things. Your list shouldn’t just give readers a list of things to do and expect them to figure out how to do those things themselves. It should also walk them through the steps required to actually do those things.

A great list post nixes the fluff and concretely explains each item in detail. And while every point you make on your list might not be new to all your readers, if a reader walks away thinking, “Well, I already put numbers 3, 4, and 6, into practice, but I can’t believe I’ve been missing out on numbers 1, 2, and 5!” — then you’ve probably got yourself a high-quality list!

3) Links to More In-Depth Information When Necessary

One of the ways you can make sure you’re hitting on point #2 is to direct readers to other resources when necessary. Great list posts are comprehensive. It also means they can get pretty long and unwieldy, especially if you’re truly committed to point #2. That’s why sometimes it’s okay if you have to point your readers to another place for more in-depth information. 

For example, we recently wrote a list post entitled, “9 Ways to Make Your Marketing Analytics Actionable.” Number 8 on the list reads “Score & Prioritize Your Leads for Sales,” which could be a blog post in itself — and hey … it is! Giving our readers enough information for that section to be truly helpful would have involved copying and pasting the entirety of that post into our list post, and that wouldn’t exactly have been the most helpful choice. So what we did was explain the point in a moderate amount of detail, and then directed readers to the other post where they could find more in-depth information. 

post resource resized 600

Don’t be afraid to do this in your own list posts. And if you have to link to an external resource because you haven’t the written the post yourself — great! You’ve just passed off some link love, and you also now have another article idea for your blogging backlog

4) Explains List Items Using Relatable Examples

Piggybacking again on point #2, sometimes one of the best ways to adequately explain a point on your list is to use an example to support it. Real examples are ideal, but sometimes even a hypothetical works just as great. In fact, we’ve used each of these example types in the first 3 items on this list! The main thing to consider when selecting or concocting an example is to keep it as relatable to your readers as possible. If the audience of your blog is comprised of a variety of readers representing different industries or businesses (like ours), this can be tricky. The key here is to keep your examples general so that everyone can relate. Here comes a hypothetical example to explain what I mean about using hypothetical examples …

In our list post, “7 Keyword Research Mistakes That Stifle Your SEO Strategy,” for example, we use the broad, hypothetical (even mythical!) example of unicorn farms/breeders to more easily explain points 4 and 5 on our list so that everyone could relate.

unicorn examples resized 600

5) Numbered Items

This is an easy one. If you’re writing a list-style post — and especially when you use a number in the title of your list post — number your list items! This is particularly important when you have a longer list, because readers like to be able to gauge their progress as they’re reading through the list (i.e. “only halfway to go” or “I’m almost done!”). Readers may also like to reference certain points on a list later or share them with others, and being able to refer to a specific number rather than having to count themselves and say “it’s the 16th item on the list” is a much more user-friendly experience for your blog audience. Don’t make things difficult for your readers.

6) Includes an Appropriate Number of List Items

While we’re talking about numbers, let’s clear some misconceptions about them. Some list bloggers are of the camp that you should choose a number before you start writing your list and make sure you have enough points to fit that exact number. We are not. Sitting down and saying you’re going to write a list consisting of 14 items makes no sense. What if there really ends up being only 11 truly solid, valuable items that make up that list? Does that mean you should come up with 3 more forced or somewhat repetitive items just to achieve your goal of 14? We think not.

The rule of thumb is: just be comprehensive. This very list post includes 10 items because that’s how many I thought were individually valuable and indicative of a high-quality list post for this particular subject. Originally I had brainstormed 11, but as I started writing, I cut one out because it wasn’t that different from another point, and they could easily be represented as one.

As we mentioned before, list posts can easily become unwieldy. When you sit down to start drafting your list post, decide how granular you want to make your topic. This will help make your list more manageable. The title you craft can also help you stay focused. For example, if you’re a plumber writing a list post about the various ways you can unclog a drain, you might decide to stick to “The Top 4 Ways to Unclog a Drain,” rather than writing a lengthy list post covering “The 50 Different Ways to Unclog a Drain.”

Furthermore, do some testing and research if you want to glean some best practices for your list posts. An internal study of our own blog, for example, revealed that posts for which the title indicated 6 items or fewer didn’t perform as well as when the title indicated the list contained 7 or more items. The lesson? While we sometimes still write lists posts containing 6 or fewer items, we don’t include the number in the title for those posts. For example, our post, “Why Every Marketer Needs Closed-Loop Reporting” is essentially a list post, but it’s not framed that way in the title since it only includes 6 points. Do your own analysis to determine best practices for your business blog.

7) Uses Category Buckets (For Longer Lists)

list categoriesNow, if you had decided to write that list post of 50 different ways to unclog a drain, your list post would look pretty daunting, considering the sheer number of items it would include. In this case, a great practice is to use subheaders to break up your list into categories. This makes the list much more scanable (remember how people love to scan blogs?), and a lot less overwhelming at first glance.

For example, when we published “25 Eye-Popping Internet Marketing Statistics for 2012,” we broke up the statistics into 5 sections: “The Internet in 2012,” “Mobile in 2012,” “Social Media in 2012,” “Video in 2012,” and “Ecommerce in 2012.” If some of our readers didn’t give a squat about ecommerce, they could easily scan the post and avoid that section. Perfect!

8) Contains Logically Ordered List Items

Your list, like any other post you’d write, should flow and tell a story. How you do this will definitely depend on the subject and contents of your list, but here are some great organizational structures to choose from: alphabetical (great for glossaries), chronological (great for step-by-step guides), by popularity/importance — most to least or least to most (great for top 10/20/50 lists). Another best practice is to emphasize your strongest points in the beginning, middle, and end of your list to keep readers engaged throughout.

When I sat down and brainstormed this list, for example, it was just that — a brainstormed list. It was unorganized and all over the place. But once I’d identified all the points I wanted to include, I rearranged the furniture a bit. I realized how easily numbers 5 and 6 would flow into each other, and how number 5 would make sense after discussing points 2, 3 and 4. Number 1 was a great starting point, and number 10 made the most sense last, since that’s likely the last thing you’d tweak when writing a list post. Sometimes your list points will practically arrange themselves (e.g. “5 Steps to Do X”), and sometimes there won’t be as obvious a story (e.g. “20 Ways to Do Y”). Just put the time into figuring it out and ordering your items as logically as possible.

9) Parallel Formatting

I’m not as strict about this one as some list post purists, but in general, I agree that your list post should have a consistent and parallel look. Failing to do so only confuses readers, especially when they can’t tell that they’ve moved onto a new item on the list because the header style was inconsistent or under-emphasized.  

Here are some helpful guidelines to consider:

  • Try to keep sections similar in length.  
  • Use the same header style to highlight your individual list items, and make sure it stands out.
  • Make sure your list item headers are written in parallel fashion (i.e. if it’s a list of action items, each should be led with a verb)
  • Use images and bullet points to break up text when appropriate.

10) Clear and Catchy Title

As we mentioned in the beginning of this post, one of the reasons people have always loved list posts is because they know exactly what — and how much — they’ll get out of them. There is no guesswork involved, and expectations you’ve set for your readers are very clear. Make sure your title epitomizes that. An effective list post title should accomplish two things in order to entice readers to actually read the post: 1) capture the readers’ attention and 2) clearly indicate the value or what the reader will learn, and 3) indicate how much they will learn with a number.

For example, earlier this week, we published “The 7 Aspects of Inbound Marketing Most People Screw Up.” Do you have to wonder what this post will be about? No! You know that after reading this post, you’ll know which 7 parts of inbound marketing people tend to screw up so you can avoid screwing them up, too. And chances are, you probably don’t like to fail, right? So you’re probably kind of intrigued to learn if you’re one of “most people” and, if so, what you should stop screwing up.

What’s your take on list posts? What else would you add to our list of high-quality list post qualities? ;-)

Image Credit: MStewartPhotography



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Facebook Timeline: What Are the Changes for Brand Pages?

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Note from Lee: Please welcome this guest post from Sara Duane-Gladden, of TopRank Online Marketing’s copywriting team. 


Facebook is changing again. That never happens, right? For regular users like me, it seems as if there is something new happening at the social network every day. Facebook Timeline is probably one of the most significant, though, and it’s coming to a brand page near you soon. Very soon.

Timeline is the newest change from Facebook, a social media network renowned for making “enhancements” to its much-beloved product that result in mixed criticism and compliments from users. Timeline is no different, as it has been both praised and panned in the blogosphere. There doesn’t appear to be a consensus on Timeline, which is typical of Facebook changes. Love It or hate it, users and brands alike will adjust to Timeline in order to continue participating in the Facebook community – just like they have in the past.

Every one and every brand on Facebook will be adjusting to Timeline soon, too. Any profiles or pages that have not already been converted to Facebook Timeline by this weekend will automatically transform. According to messages displayed at the top of pages and profiles that have not implemented Timeline, brand and business pages will convert on March 30th, 2012, while personal profile pages will switch over on April 1, 2012.

If you’ve been avoiding making the switch, now is the time to accept the change and take control of how your Facebook Timeline appears by previewing it now. Until this weekend, you still have a chance to preview your business page or pages, make edits, then publish it on your own terms. Making the changes yourself instead of allowing Facebook’s automated process to publish your new page for you will ensure that it truly reflects your brands standards and messaging. These changes can be initiated by visiting the Page while logged in as an admin and finding the instructions near the top to preview Timeline.

Perhaps you’ve already seen Timeline in action and are not quite sure what to think of it. What can you actually expect to see when your Facebook Page or Profile is converted over to Timeline?

toprank facebook timeline

Cover Photo. A large banner image prominently displays at the top of a Timeline profile. There are some requirements and restrictions for the images: They must be at least 399 pixels wide and may not include price or purchase information, contact information, calls to action or even references to Facebook site features such as “Like” or “Share.” Covers also cannot be deceptive, misleading, or infringe on other copyrights. Wider images work better than narrow.

The cover photo feature is great because it offers the chance to customize the top of a Facebook page like never before. Prominently display a new product. Show a picture of your service in action. Splash your brand colors across it with a compelling image that makes Fans want to scroll down to see more. Within the restrictions listed above, there are vast opportunities for filling this newly available space.

jando fabrics facebookProfile Picture. While the Cover Photo display is rectangular in shape, the profile picture is changing to square. The acceptable size range for them is 180×180 to 32×32 pixels. That’s significantly smaller than the 4 MB photos allowed previously, but the cover photo size more than makes up for this change.

With the way they are arranged, the profile photo can be nicely coordinated to compliment the cover photo. The cover photo splashes across the top while the profile photo is an inset located on the left side. Some creative design here could tie the two images together for maximum visual effect.


Navigation and Applications. Directly below these two features is a navigation bar and section for apps. On the left side directly below the profile picture is the section for your profile or page that contains location, contact and other information. To the right of this section one can choose other data to display, such as photos, events, Likes or custom applications.

Photos are automatically displayed in this bar and cannot be removed. In addition to the usual Facebook features of photos, events and Likes, applications can be displayed in this area. This can include weekly ads, charitable apps, geo-location apps and more.

Facebook Public Statistics

Public Page Insights. One of the features on the Navigation Bar is “Likes,” which displays more than just the people who are Fans of the page. With the old layout, users were able to get a glimpse at how many people liked the page and how many were talking about it. Now they can see more, such as insights into what geographic areas most fans reside, the most popular age groups, and what week was the most popular for activity.

One advantage for brands is that you can visit the page of a competitor, view its analytic insights, and use the information gleaned to make the most of your own Facebook social media marketing plan. The flip-side of the coin is that your competitors can also see your insights. What value it provides for fans is unclear and remains to be seen. This Facebook Timeline feature is something that we’ll all be learning about together!

coca cola facebook timelineThe Timeline. Ah, the main feature for which all these changes receives its name, the Timeline. Status updates, Likes, shares and other posts are now displayed in a visual aggregation on the Timeline. The Timeline will extend all the way to the first day a brand page was established. Milestones in your brand’s history can also be added as well to extend the Timeline, all the way to when a business was founded.

Unlike the old Pages, Admins can highlight specific posts by starring them or pinning them to be more prominently displayed. Images also appear much larger with the new update. Furthermore, new apps are being created every day for use with Timeline to enhance its usefulness, with more than 3,000 available to users already.

Timeline and all of the new features that surround it is one of the biggest new changes Facebook has ever undertaken. Since it began rolling out to users at the end of last year, there have been many conversations on the topic – more than a few probably bordering on arguments. Some people and brands really like the new Timeline, while others are concerned that it will negatively affect the way users interact with their Pages. So far, though, that doesn’t seem to be the case, as one recently released study shows Timeline can drastically increase fan engagement an average of 46% and as much as 161% for Toyota.

So what are you waiting for? If you’ve been avoiding Facebook’s Timeline feature, the end is near and the change is inevitable. Make the necessary adjustments now to make certain that your Timeline looks the way you want it to when other people view it after April – not how Facebook makes it look with its automatic conversion. Grab the bull by the horns and make the change on your terms today!

If you’ve made the switch to Facebook Timeline, what has your experience been so far? If not, what is holding you back? Share your story in the comments!

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Facebook Timeline: What Are the Changes for Brand Pages? |

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Your Cheat Sheet for the New Facebook Page Timeline Design [INFOGRAPHIC]

Friday, March 30th, 2012

facebook timeline cheat sheetintroductory3

Are you ready for the transition? Time is almost up! According to Facebook, by the end of today, all business pages on Facebook will convert to the new page design, embracing the Timeline look whether you like it or not.

Some businesses are scared of the change. But you, the reader of this post, shouldn’t be! The new Timeline design will require you to make some changes to your Facebook business page, but acting quickly and optimizing your page specifically for the new design will give you an edge on your lagging competition. To help make your transition easier, we’ve created a 6-step cheat sheet infographic to highlight the key features of the new page design. Feel free to pin it, share it, or embed it on your own website or blog.

And if you’re looking for a more detailed guide to using the new page design, you can always download our free Step-by-Step Guide to New Facebook Business Page Timelines, which walks you through the different ways Facebook’s new page features can support your marketing and strengthen your lead generation efforts.

Facebook Business Page Timeline Cheat Sheet

Were you one of the earlier adopters of Facebook’s new business page design? What do you think of the new layout?


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How to Analyze Facebook Insights to Improve Your Content Strategy [With Video!]

Friday, March 30th, 2012

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Your Facebook business page is a haven for well-crafted status updates, photos, and links — it’s the ultimate content-sharing platform. But in order to understand which content you post is actually benefiting your business, you need to take the time to analyze your Facebook Insights (Facebook’s proprietary business page analytics tool) to capitalize on what works and wave au revoir to what doesn’t.

Trouble is, if you’ve ever exported data from Facebook Insights, you understand the overwhelming nature of what you receive. With multiple sheets and columns of never-ending data points, it can be hard to know what you’re looking at, let alone what the data means! Many of the data points are repetitive and/or provide no way to improve your marketing. This post will delve into exactly what you need to extract and analyze in order to learn how to improve your Facebook content strategy. Either follow along with the video tutorial, or read the steps below.

Let’s get started!

1) Export With the Right Settings

First, we need to export the data. Go to your Facebook Insights tool (you can access it through your Admin Panel in the new page design) and click the “Export Data” button above the graph and to the right. Choose the following settings, specifying the date range you want to analyze:

export insights data

2A) Trim the Useless Fat

As we mentioned before, Facebook provides you with an overwhelming amount of data. It’s no wonder we don’t see more people exporting and making important marketing decisions based off them — you don’t even know what you’re looking at! In fact, there are so many columns of different data points, that it goes beyond the alphabetically categorized columns in Excel, which must start marking columns using two letters.

Note: Each of the data points below are split into three separate data points in your exported insights: daily, weekly, and 28 days. We are focusing on daily — social media moves too fast to be focusing on the impact your content has on a weekly or monthly basis. According to StatCounter, the half-life of a shared link on Facebook is about 3.2 hours (the point in time when a link has garnered half of the engagement it will ever receive). Thus, it’s essentially a waste of your time to look past daily.

Now, let’s trim all the excess fat. Delete columns bolded in black, and keep columns bolded in orange below.

  • People Talking About This: DELETE. This is the number of people sharing stories about your page. At first glance, that sounds lovely. But this includes people who like your page, people who post on your wall, and even people who RSVP to one of your events. The action of liking (or unliking) a page or declining an event are not actions that show any sort of engagement with the brand — or even indicate that people are talking about you. 
  • Page Stories: DELETE. This metric is the “number of stories created by your page.” How is that different from above, or what makes it different? Facebook doesn’t tell us, and if you don’t know exactly what it means — cut it.
  • Lifetime Total Likes: KEEP. This is the number of people who have liked your page by that day. This is an important figure for observing how your content posting is translating into more attention and more people liking your page, letting you know they want to receive your content.
  • New Likes and Unlikes: DELETE. Spending your time tracking the increases and decreases in your page likes will only frustrate you. What’s more important is to focus on is how your overall number of lifetime likes is trending.
  • Friends of Fans: KEEP. This is the fans of all the lifetime likes listed above (AKA all the people who could possibly see your content). This is your pool of people who will potentially see what you’re posting. We’ll discuss this more in the next step.
  • Engaged Users: DELETE. Oooh that sounds nice! Don’t be fooled by the buzzword. Facebook tells us this is the “number of people engaged with your page.” This is as vague as page stories. If we don’t know how they’re engaging, we can’t use this metric.
  • Reach: DELETE. The endless reach numbers provided in your exported sheet — organic, paid or viral — focuses on the number of people who have seen your content. “Seeing” your content could mean a user scrolled past it in their feed, or it popped on their ticker. That doesn’t mean they actually looked at. There’s a big difference. Toss it.
  • Impressions: DELETE. Impressions is a measure of the number of times your content or page was seen. There’s no specificity as to who actually saw it, what they saw, or if there was any interaction with it. Who cares if they saw your page if they didn’t do something when they arrived?
  • Logged-In Users: DELETE. While your public page may be seen by users in search engine results, we can assume that most people who saw your content did so while logged into Facebook. Regardless, knowing whether they were logged in or not is not the focus of your analysis.
  • Page Consumers: DELETE. We’re getting warmer. This metric tells you the number of people who clicked on any of your content on your page. A link, a photo, a status. It even excludes useless clicks such as clicking your like button. This is what we want, but there’s a better metric coming next that we’ll use instead.
  • Page Consumption: KEEP. While this metric sounds exactly the same as the one above, it’s even better. This data point doesn’t focus on the number of people who consumed your content, but rather the number of total page consumption. One “consumer” could be consuming more than one post on your page, so this metric would count those two clicks as two clicks rather than one click from “one consumer” as in the metric above. This is what you want. You want to know that, of the content you are posting, how much of it is actually being consumed — actually being clicked.
  • Negative Feedback: DELETE. Having any social account means you’re ready to take the heat when things get negative and address them. You shouldn’t be focusing your time on analyzing how much of it you’re receiving, as it’s very difficult to measure how to prevent someone from having a negative experience. Sometimes it’s due to being in a bad mood and nothing to do with your actual brand. Facebook also doesn’t say how it determines if a comment is negative.
  • Check-Ins: DELETE. This is the number of check-ins at your business. Certain business pages don’t even allow users to “check-in” because the company page is not a brick and mortar type business. For businesses that do focus on people physically coming into their store, this could be interesting to look at, but for this particular content analysis, it serves no purpose in determining how it can benefit what you’re posting on your actual page.

Facebook also gives you other sheets of content which you can use for a deeper look into your analytics. But for the purposes of this tutorial, we’ll focus on the “key metrics” that will help you make better marketing content strategy decisions on Facebook.

2B) The Meaty Data

facebook insights icon resized 600After you’ve trimmed all the fat, you’re left with three data points: Lifetime Total Likes, Daily Friends of Fans, and Daily Page Consumption. This is the meat of your data; the figures that will help you understand how your content is performing on Facebook. Lifetime Total Likes tells you exactly how many people like your page, Daily Friends of Fans tells you how many friends of those total likes can be reached — your true total reach. Then, Daily Page Consumption tells you the number of people (out of the possible number of people who could have been reached) that were actually reached.

3) Fine-Tune the Metrics You Need

Now that we’ve narrowed down that massive sheet to three main data points, let’s insert a new column next to your “Daily Friends of Fans” column, and name it “Total Daily Reach.” Click the first row of your newly created column and start typing =SUM into the row. Then click on the first data point in your “Daily Friends of Fans” column, insert a plus sign, and click the first data point in your “Lifetime Total Likes” column. Hit enter, and you will have the sum of those two metrics. Then highlight the sum, hit copy, and drag the corner of the box down to populate the entire column with data (Check ~4:30 in the video above if you need more help with this step). You’ll see that Lifetime Total Likes and Daily Friends of Fans have now totaled to represent the Total Daily Reach your Facebook page has — every single person who could possibly see your content.

Now we have two key insights: 1) the total number of people who could have possibly consumed your content, and 2) the actual number of people who consumed it.

4) Make the Data Pretty

Now you can go ahead and create a visual representation of your two key metrics to understand the full picture of what is going on.

First, highlight the “Date” column as well as the “Daily Total Reach” column. Click Charts –> Line Chart –> Stacked Line. You should get something like this, which will indicate the growth of your total Facebook reach:

Chart A: Total Facebook Reach Growth

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Now repeat these steps, instead highlighting the “Date” column as well as the “Total Post Consumption” column. The resulting chart should be much more interesting, as it represents trends in how people are either increasingly or decreasingly clicking on and consuming the content you’re publishing to your Facebook page.

Chart B: Daily Post Consumption

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5) Extract Conclusions

While pretty charts can also help you impress your boss in marketing meetings, what you really need to do now to make this all worthwhile is to look at the data and correlate it with what you’re posting on Facebook. For example, analyze why there are instances of your line decreasing (this indicates a drop in engagement) on one day, and why is there a spike on another day (which indicates an increase in engagement)?

Using HubSpot’s Facebook page as an example, from Chart A we generated in step 4, we see that there is a constant increase in our total Facebook reach. We don’t have much to be concerned with since the reach number is steadily increasing, but if that chart was inconsistently jumping up and down, showing a decrease, or showing no change, then we would probably want to test new Facebook campaigns and try posting different types of content to figure out how we could positively impact our reach growth. Ultimately, the more expansive the reach you have, the more opportunities you’ll have to convert Facebook fans into leads and customers for your business. And isn’t that the ultimate goal?

This leads us to the “Daily Post Consumption” chart (Chart B) we also generated in step 4 — the actual number of people who were reached and are consuming our content. As you can see, something happened that led to a slow decrease in HubSpot’s click-through rates (CTR). As a result of this analysis, the HubSpot social media team looked through the content we published to Facebook on certain days to identify which content posts were not being clicked or engaged with on our page.

By taking the time to relate individual posts with their clicks, you can analyze which types of content perform well on your page. In HubSpot’s case, by doing so, we were able to get our act together, cut out what wasn’t working, and post more of what was working, helping us to spike up our engagement rate once more, as illustrated in the graph.

6) Constantly Analyze

Now you have a system in place that will allow you analyze your Facebook content strategy daily, weekly, or monthly — whenever you choose to check in on your metrics (we suggest often!). Save your original exported sheet, and add to that every time you update. By tracking your progress, you’ll never be caught off guard when you start noticing that traffic and leads from Facebook are suddenly on the decline. Remember, more engagement with your Facebook content leads to better potential for traffic and leads from Facebook.

There you have it! Hopefully the daunting task of understanding Facebook Insights to improve your content strategy is now a valuable process for your marketing team.

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If you need help figuring out what content you should be posting to increase engagement and how you can use that to reach those “Friends of Fans,” be sure to attend workshops three and four of our upcoming webinar series with Facebook, Facebook for Business: 4 Steps to Success. Then you’ll have a complete system in place to not only analyze, but to also make improvements to your Facebook content strategy!

How else are you using Facebook Insights to improve your Facebook marketing strategy?

Image credit: TabJuice


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Pinterest vs. Google+: Which New Social Network Is Worth Marketers’ Time?

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

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We’ve all gotten used to the idea of using Twitter, Facebook, and even YouTube for marketing — even if the platforms aren’t always as brand-friendly as they could be. And why should they be? They started as social networks meant for people to talk to people, not companies to talk to consumers. But in the struggle for monetization, they’ve had to adapt and continue offering ways for brands to market and make money using social media.

And we have! Many marketers have figured out how to generate leads via social media, start discussions with leads and customers, and even venture into the territory of social sales. And just when we got comfortable with this whole social media marketing thing — BOOM! — out comes Google+, followed shortly thereafter by Pinterest.

Great. Two more social networks brands need to figure out how to use for marketing. We all saw what happened with Facebook and Twitter; a small segment of savvy marketers figured out how to use the social networks for marketing successfully, and businesses that lagged were left playing catch-up years later. We’re not going to fall victim to that again with Google+ and Pinterest!

But do we need to figure out how to use them for marketing? Are either of them actually useful in that regard? Like most generic questions of this nature, the answer is … it depends. Pinterest and Google+ have their strengths and their weaknesses. And while in an ideal world you’d have the time to play around with both to see which, if either, is right for your business, we figure that you’re just trying to find enough time to write your next blog post.

So if you just can’t decide whether Pinterest or Google+ is really worth your time, here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of each social network. Hopefully the side by side comparison will help you prioritize whether you should pursue them as part of your internet marketing strategy.


Pinterest PrimaryLogo Red RGBFirst, a quick review. Pinterest is a social network where users share (or ‘pin’) images and videos of items that interest them. They are either their own images and videos, or ones they’ve found on others’ pinboards or on the web. The pins are aggregated on ‘boards’ that often follow a common theme. If you decide after reading this post that Pinterest might be a good fit for your business, reference this ebook about how to use Pinterest for business.

Why Pinterest Rocks

You don’t want to spend your time on a social network nobody is using, so let’s start by taking a look at Pinterest’s usage stats as an indication of its usefulness, courtesy of Media Bistro and comScore. As of February 2012, Pinterest had 10.4 million users. And in January, not only did Pinterest reach 11,716, 000 total unique visitors, but the average amount of time spent on the site per visitor was 97.8 minutes. Or in highly technical marketing terms – the site’s really sticky. Why does this make Pinterest a great potential social haven for marketers? It means that the site provides significant value to its users, enough so they’re willing to set aside a large chunk of their day to spend on it. And if those metrics continue to go up, it’s an indication that Pinterest is not just a passing fad.

One of the reasons Pinterest has probably taken off – and why marketers should be excited about it – is that it offers a value proposition that’s unique from the other social networks out there. If someone asked you to define what all the major social networks did – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube – it’s pretty easy to differentiate them from one another. And Pinterest is no different! None of the existing social networks do exactly what Pinterest does. Sure, you can share images on Facebook or via a Twitpic, but image-sharing is not those sites’ primary purpose as it is with Pinterest.

Pinterest has also made it very easy to share content on the web, something content-crazy (in a positive way!) inbound marketers should get excited about. Pinterest prompts users to download a pinmarklet (a Pinterest toolbar bookmarklet) that allows them to pin any content they find on the web that they want to share; it’s just that easy. No copying and pasting links or switching between tabs and browsers. If you’re investing in visual content – infographics, cartoons, videos, etc. – Pinterest just made it even easier for that content to be disseminated by your readers to a brand new audience.

Which brings us to one of the best parts of Pinterest – that it’s an image-driven site! And people love images, far more than they love words. In fact, images and videos are the most shared content on Facebook. If you’re a product-driven business, sharing beautiful images of your products on Pinterest is a simple way to leverage the tremendous power of visuals on a booming social network that is dedicated solely to sharing beautiful and interesting images.

Where Pinterest Falls Short

One of Pinterest’s biggest strengths, its emphasis on visual content, is also one of its biggest weaknesses for some businesses. Frankly, most people think of Pinterest as a place to look at things like clothes, hairstyles, furniture, crafts, and other visually stimulating images. If you’re not a B2C or product-oriented business – or you’re like HubSpot and your product is inbound marketing software — it’s a stretch to find a use for Pinterest. That’s not to say you can’t be successful on Pinterest; HubSpot got creative and combined pinboards of our visual content, like infographics, ebook covers, and inbound marketing graphs, with pinboards that reflect our brand, like “Fun Orange Things” and “Things With Spots.”

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And while relatively unsexy B2B businesses have found success on Pinterest, it has also resulted in some backlash from pinners about whether Pinterest should be a safe space from marketers. We wrote a blog post that discusses that debate in much more detail, but if you’re considering experimenting with Pinterest, it’s important to note that you very well may experience some backlash for it if you’re perceived as, well, marketing (even though Pinterest has wiped any warnings against using the site for marketing from its ‘Pin Etiquette‘ since we published that post).

It makes sense; one of the other weaknesses of Pinterest is the lack of dedicated brand pages. Google+, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn all eventually developed space specifically for companies, which helps alleviate some of the frustration consumers feel when they feel like they’re being marketed to in their personal social networks. The challenge marketers will face on Pinterest, then, is figuring out how to market without seeming like marketing. In other words, create visual content that’s so cool, people won’t care that it’s also driving referral traffic and inbound links to your website. Visual content creators out there know doing that is much harder than it looks.


google plus logoNow that we know Pinterest’s strengths and weaknesses, let’s do a quick review of Google+ before continuing our deep dive. Google+ is a social network many have described as similar to Facebook. It lets users — and since November, brands have dedicated pages for the same purpose — share status updates, links, images, and videos. These updates can be commented on, shared, or receive a +1, which shows up in search engine results pages. We also have a Google+ for business ebook for your reference if you decide it’s a worthwhile social network on which to spend your marketing time.

Why Google+ Rocks

While users don’t expect Pinterest to be used for business, marketers on Google+ aren’t met with any surprise from others on the social network. Even when Google+ initially launched without dedicated brand pages, it wasn’t strange to see businesses promoting their content – probably because the network worked so similarly to Facebook (more on that later) which has long since integrated brand conversations with personal updates. So if you’re concerned with being met with consumer backlash on Pinterest, Google+ is certainly a safer space to try out a new social media venture.

Google+ also allows for better targeting of content with its Circles functionality. You likely have several personas developed for your business, and if you’ve done any content mapping you know that while some content is ubiquitous, much of it needs to be tailored to the audience. Instead of blasting updates to your entire Google+ following, Circles allows marketers to let their followers identify the topics they’re most interested in. This is the kind of content targeting inbound marketers relish, because it leads to higher click-through rates and a more engaged social following.

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But perhaps the best argument for getting started on Google+ is its integration into search results. Google+ status updates and content people have given a +1 to now appear in the organic search engine results on So whether you simply have a +1 button on your blog or you’re actively publishing content to Google+, your content has a much greater chance of dominating search results than it did before your participation in Google+. If you’re interesting in seriously dominating organic search results with Google+, reference this blog post that will teach you the tricks of the trade.

Where Google+ Falls Short

Just like Pinterest, Google+’s strengths also contribute to its weaknesses. Namely, some people find it really confusing. What’s the difference between just posting to Google+, and +1’ing content? If I do either of them, does it mean I show up in search? How can I use Google+ to share content without making it indexable in search? These are all valid concerns that, as marketers, we understand, but we also easily take for granted that our target audience may not understand the intricacies of how Google+ works. And if they don’t get it, they won’t use it.

Perhaps that – plus a lack of clear value proposition – is why Google+ usage has leveled off after its initially skyrocketing adoption rate. While Pinterest has users on its site for over an hour at a time, eMarketer reports that users spent an average of just 3.3 minutes on Google+ in January. Ouch. So while Google+ has more users than Pinterest, those users aren’t actually spending time on the site each month; do marketers really want to spend time on a social network their users aren’t?

For Google+ to provide the same kind of value for its users as Pinterest, it needs to provide a unique value proposition like Pinterest has. Remember when I said it was easy to define the major social networks, like Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter? I have a confession. I had a difficult time coming up with the words to explain Google+ in the beginning of this section. All I could think to say was – it’s pretty much like Facebook. And until Google+ can differentiate itself further, it’s not likely users will spend more than a few minutes a month on there, either.

So, Which Should You Choose?

Pinterest has the opportunity to be extremely valuable for retail businesses, or anyone who sells an aesthetic-centered service — think hairdressers, for example. But it can also have a lot of value to businesses that are willing to put in the time to create visually stimulating content — we’ve written an entire post about how B2B organizations can thrive on Pinterest. But your time will be wasted if the only time you have to give, at this stage in the game, is sharing links to written content you and others are creating. Realistically, that’s what many businesses are doing on social media (and that’s okay!), and Google+ is a much more appropriate social network for such sharing.

But I would be remiss to close out this post without mentioning one key difference between Google+ and Pinterest that might affect your decision to participate in the networks: Pinterest users are mostly women, while Google+ users are largely men. Okay, let’s dive into some data and raging gender stereotypes for just a minute, courtesy of Remcolandia:

  • 83% of Pinterest users are females between 18 and 34.
  • Most Pinterest posts and photos are about design, fashion, and home decoration.
  • 63% of Google+ users are men, who tend to post about technology.
  • Two of the biggest user groups on Google+ are college students and software developers.

Does your business’ target audience have a similarly heavy skew in one of these directions — either by industry, job type, or gender? If so, this data may be key in deciding whether it’s worth your time to pursue marketing on Google+ or Pinterest.

All of this isn’t to say you should use Google+ or Pinterest, or that you should limit your usage to just one. If you have the bandwidth to experiment with both, finding opportunities to present your information both verablly and visually, take on the task! (And share the results with us, please!) But since we know how strapped for time and resources many marketers already are, hopefully this side by side comparison of the pros and cons of the two newest social networks makes your decision to participate just a little less agonizing.

Which social network — if either — do you find more helpful for your business, and why? Do you think one or both will fade into oblivion as a marketing tool?

Image credit: Louis K.


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Practical Tips to Make Your Blog More Useful & Interactive

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

blogging tipsIt’s amazing how a meme can turn into a stream of content when it resonates well with a community. Recently I was sent a set of interview questions and one of the questions asked about building blog community. I took my response to that one question and turned it into a blog post, “How to Increase Business Blog Readership, Traffic & Community” that was well received. In fact, that post prompted two different social media chats to ask if I’d be a guest host on the topic: #smchat and #nptalk. Thank you for inviting me!

Now I’m turning the questions from those chats and my answers into yet another (unique) blog post full of practical tips.

The questions and answers from those chats provide tips for bloggers that want to provide a more meaningful and measurable experience for their readers. These tips range from process and efficiency advice to ways of inspiring more user generate content, content repurposing and growing subscribers.

Q: Do you think blogs are influential in building community – in other words, if you build it, will they come?

A: Blogs as a hub surrounded by spokes of social participation are excellent for building community

A: The key is to empathize with what motivates people to discovery, engage & share content. Mesh that insight with your editorial & promotion

A: Great content isn’t great unless people read and share it. Blogs must promote content to grow community.

Q: How do you determine the niche solution your market needs to develop “go to” resources for that solution?

A: Developing resources for niche solutions can start by understanding audience pain points. Know your customer & make things that help them.

A: Monitor popular niche content in your category to see what topics are not being covered, problems not addressed, then make & solve for your niche.

A: Create a resource that you would want to use yourself & others will want to use it too. Be editorial not self promotional.

A: Niche list blog post resource example: 25 Women Who Rock Social Media (4,291 RTs)

A: Niche list blog post resource example: 22 Social Media Marketing Management Tools (2,599 RTs)

Q: A keyword glossary and editorial plan keep content on track, but does it create community?

A: Re: keywords and community – why make it hard for interested people to find your content?

A: Search keywords & social topics data come from real behaviors & conversations. They inspire editorial that resonates with readers & search engines alike

A: Bloggers writing purely for self expression with no monetization goals don’t need to bother with keyword glossaries and editorial plans

A: If bloggers have commercial & business accountability, then empathizing with desired audiences by creating editorial that speaks their language is good business

A: Two useful resources: SEO or Social for business blogging? & Dynamic Duo of Business Blog Marketing: Optimize & Socialize

Q: Is it better to gather a community on social media and drive to your blog or directly on your blog itself?

A: Where you gather community depends where they want to gather. Understand customers, implement & promote content accordingly. Adjust.

A: A hub and spoke mode allows both blog community & off blog community in social channels. Spoke communities help promote blog content.

Q: What other tips do you have for driving blog traffic/readership?

A: Create content people can’t find anywhere else

A Tips: Create comprehensive collections of resources – unique

A: Give to get. Praise others, give kudos and recognize others in your industry. Never underestimate the power of ego.

A: Engage – ask questions, respond quickly and qualitatively. Engage off your blog too – 10 min a day, every day

Q: What are some ways we can make their blogs more interactive for readers?

A: Interactions with blogs starts with interesting content. Empathize with audience interests, prompt them with ?s. Ask!

A: Collect the best comments and curate that into blog content. Spend time on other blogs too. 5-10 min a day.

A: Surface participation to recognize those who display desirable interaction behaviors. eg top commenters, top shares, etc

Q: What is the best way to go about sourcing user generated content?

A: To be efficient, I maintain 10-20 blog posts in development & add to them a few min at a time

A: As mentioned, guest posts work well. Create contests where content contribution is an outcome. Recognize “winners”.

A: Ask questions on social channels like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or G+ & compile the answers. Make it easy to answer.

Q: What is a good way to attract industry influentials to guest post on a blog?

A: Make valuable comments on their blogs, RT their tweets, get on the radar. Build your credibility & what you stand for.

A: Industry influentials tend to be BZ so make it EZ to contribute. If a guest post won’t work, offer an email interview.

A: Try asking 10 thought leaders 1 easy question and compile that into 1 post. Follow up with a guest post offer.

Q: Should you respond to all comments on your blog or only questions?

A: Responding to comments depends on opportunity to create value. Questions need answering. Adding to statements OK too.

A: I don’t think you need to reply to every “great post, thanks” comment, no. But when opportunity for opinion arises, take it.

Q: Do you find there is a difference in engagement if you ask more questions in your blog posts?

A: Asking questions does inspire more feedback in the comments – but only if natural & genuine vs. “gimmick”

A: A history of asking & answering questions with your blog community will create momentum, an expectation of conversation

Q: How can I get more social shares on my blog posts?

A: Make interesting content (defined by readers not just you), optimize for social share, promote it & shares will come.

A: It’s also worth asking “why” you want more social shares. Make a distinction between quantity (social proof) & quality.

Q: What types of posts typically get the most re-shares, comments, traffic, etc.

A: Reshares, comments, traffic are all different KPIs (key performance indicators) There’s no blanket “type” that hits all.

A: Start w/ content that solves a problem for readers, resonates with interests, trends & that’s easy to share.

A: People will rally around decisiveness, so take a stand. Be a leader on key points & your blog will attract shares & attention.

Many blog readers are bloggers themselves, so what are some of your best tips for creating a more meaningful and measurable experience for your blog audience?

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Practical Tips to Make Your Blog More Useful & Interactive |

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How to Breathe Life Into a Boring Email Newsletter

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

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If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of an email newsletter, you’ve likely been more bored than that shamelessly cute baby to the right. I get it — when you’re not sure what to write, but you feel like an email has to go out, why not send an update about products, services, and what’s going on at your company?

Unfortunately, the result is often a whole lot of generic, irrelevant content sent to a poorly segmented list — and that results in low open/click-through rates and lots of unsubscribes. That means best case scenario, your reputation is dinged in your subscribers’ eyes; worst case scenario, your reputation is dinged by Return Path and future email deliverability is negatively impacted.

But there are awesome email newsletters out there. So what separates the triumphs from the tragedies? And how do you ensure your email newsletter is successful? This blog post will break down why email newsletters fail, and how you can ensure your recipients love every newsletter you send!

Why Email Newsletters Often Fail, and How to Make Yours Succeed

First, let’s define what an email newsletter is, and what it isn’t. An email newsletter is an email from a business that communicates announcements about products, services, industry, or general company information. It includes a mix of content, like event reminders, surveys, educational information about your product, service, or industry, and promotions and other offers.

An email newsletter is not a dedicated promotional email that contains information about just one offer; a digest that simply summarizes a roundup of content you’ve published; a lead nurturing email (though a side effect certainly may be a better nurtured lead); or a transactional email that provides order information or prompts a shopper to complete a purchase. These other types of emails are important parts of your email marketing strategy, and you can learn more about them in this blog post.

Now that we’re all on the same page, let’s examine why email newsletters often fail, and what you can do to prevent said failure.

Poorly Segmented List

As with any email marketing, the content in your email newsletter should be relevant to your audience. And that doesn’t happen without list segmentation. The problem is, often email newsletters are sent as the catch-all content — it’s so generic, it can apply to everybody on your email list!

Or no one at all … because as we’ll discuss in more detail in the next section of this post, generic content doesn’t get you far. Your email newsletter should only go out to those recipients who are interested in the subject matter of the newsletter. I can tell you right now that there are people on HubSpot’s own email list that don’t give a whit (not a typo) about marketing automation, but are extremely interested in how to get leads from social media; and vice versa. If my newsletter focuses on the latest social media developments — is it wise to send that newsletter to subscribers who wanted to hear about marketing automation software? I think not.

There are two ways to remedy this. The first is to marry the interests of both list segments and write a newsletter about, say, social media marketing automation. The more list segments you have, however, the more difficult it will become to create newsletter content that applies to everyone. If you’re facing this problem, the better solution is to tailor content to each list segment. This means either segmenting lists yourself and creating newsletter content that is relevant to that list segment, or letting recipients opt in to newsletters about a specific subject matter.

Finally, whenever you create a call-to-action on your website for a visitor to sign up for your email newsletter, be as clear as possible about the content of that newsletter. Setting these expectations up front will help you capture those who truly want the content your newsletter will cover, and filter out those who will ultimately be disappointed with the content of your email.

When properly segmented, email newsletters have one of the highest click-through rates (CTRs) of all email types — far exceeding promotional or transactional messages. This is the first step you should take on your way to creating a successful email newsletter.

Information Overload

Email newsletters often suffer from a few types of information overload: either the breadth of information covered is too wide, the quantity of information is too overwhelming for any reader to actually consume, and/or the information is just plain not interesting. Let’s break down how to avoid each of these problems.

We’ll begin with the issue of covering too wide a breadth of information, which we touched on in the first section of this post. If you send an email about too many subjects, it’s too unfocused to be relevant to anyone. Let’s play a game of “one of these things is not like the other” to demonstrate the concept further. You run email marketing for a clown college, and for your next email newsletter, you want to touch on the following topics:

  • Clown financial aid application deadline
  • Clown work study programs
  • Clown intramural sports leagues
  • Student loan options for clowns

What would you leave out? The information about sports leagues, right? It’s not that some of your prospective and current clown students aren’t interested in sports clubs at the school, it’s just that not all of them will be — and doesn’t it make sense to talk about what that entire list segment does care about (paying for school) and save the sports talk for another list segment that does care about extracurriculars?

Just as you should provide your readers a focused subject matter in your emails, you should help them maintain that focus by limiting the amount of text in the email. Often email newsletters try to write an entire article about their subject matter — but is an email really the place to detail what options clowns have for student loans? If it requires more than a couple sentences of explanation, a web page is the more appropriate venue. Write a brief description of the content in your email newsletter, then include a link to read more on your website so your reader isn’t overwhelmed with text in the email. Not only is this easier to consume, but it also drives visitors to your website, provides opportunities for reconversion, and gets you more indexable pages filled with great content to improve your SEO!

Finally, newsletters often suffer from talking about information that no one cares about, which usually takes the form of self-promotional content. It’s not that you shouldn’t talk about your product, service, or company — that’s part of the definition of an email newsletter. But there’s a way to present that information that demonstrates value for the reader, instead of appearing like a relatively meaningless press release or announcement. Ask yourself the “so what?” of any announcement you’re making. For example, why does it matter to the reader that you’re launching a new product? Will it make them better at their jobs? If so, how? Announce the feature, and then explain the end benefit of that feature for your reader. If you can’t think of an end benefit, nix the content from your newsletter.

Competing Calls-to-Action

In most email marketing, with every new call-to-action you include, the effectiveness of each is diluted more and more. So in an email newsletter with so many different pieces of content contained therein — surveys, deadlines, offers, product launches, etc. — it’s easy to break one of the cardinal rules of email marketing: including only one call-to-action!

So how do you get past this? The first step is acceptance — there will be more than one call-to-action in your email newsletter. But that doesn’t mean they have to compete with one another. Take a step back, and ask yourself what you want your recipients to do when they read your newsletter. What’s the point?

Let’s revisit our clown financial aid example. Perhaps the email marketing manager decided the point of the newsletter is to show prospective students the options they have at their disposal to pay for school — financial aid, work study, and student loans. These may all point to different pages on the website when the reader clicks through on the story, but the call-to-action on each of those pages could point to one all-inclusive guide about paying for clown college. The end goal is the same: getting clowns to pay for school. Each of those pieces of content, the pages a reader lands on when they click through, and the calls-to-action available to them on those pages all contribute to that goal.

You can also use design to emphasize one particular story over others. For example, if the financial aid deadline is the most important part of the newsletter, it should act as a feature story and take up more room in the newsletter than the rest of the stories. In fact, let’s look at how else design can make or break your email newsletter.

Inconsistent Design and Layout

Because email newsletters are a compilation of stories, many businesses change the appearance of the emails from send to send to accommodate the ever-changing content. It makes sense — images could be different sizes from week to week, there might be an uneven balance of content, or you can’t decide which content should be prioritized. But instead of making the difficult choices, marketers often just adapt their newsletter design to accommodate that send’s specific needs.

Don’t do it! Not only does it take lots of time to edit your email template, but it confuses your regular readers. Use a standard format for every single newsletter so it is recognizable to your subscribers. That means the same layout, the same image alignment, and the same placement of links and calls-to-action so your reader can scan and find the information they want. For example, I get a weekly email from Urban Daddy called “The Weekender” that summarizes events going on around Boston that I might be interested in. Take a look.

email newsletter example

Notice how the format for each story follows the same structure, as does the overall email. First, I know I can scan the email for big, bold days; so if I want an activity for Saturday, I can scroll down to that day. And if I find one heading or picture that interests me, I know I can read a short blurb of copy, and find more information via the link in the story’s footer — along with date, time, location, and contact information. Following this consistency for every email means when I see it in my inbox, I know it won’t require a lot of my time to scan and consume the information I want.

Vague Subject Lines

This is an easy fix, but such a common email newsletter faux pas. Often, the subject of an email newsletter is something along the lines of Weekly [Company X] Newsletter or Monthly [Product Y] Update. What does this mean? What will the reader learn? The interesting part of the email isn’t the frequency at which the recipient receives it — it’s the juicy information you’re divulging!

Let’s continue to work off the Urban Daddy example above. The subject line of that email is:

UD | Waffles, $1 Oysters, and… Iceland

They don’t mention that this is the weekly digest I receive — I already know that’s what Urban Daddy sends me! Instead, they mention some of the best offers around Boston this weekend that prompt me to open the email. Just as you must demonstrate the “so what” within the email copy, so must you explain the value of the email with a descriptive and enticing subject line.

Email newsletters have the opportunity to be chock full of interesting content, and as such are a very useful inbound marketing tool. So it’s a shame when marketers put significant time and effort into compiling and sharing their best announcements, offers, and content in an email newsletter, only to have it fall on deaf ears. Use these tips to ensure your next email newsletter is a smashing success and leads to an ever-increasing, dedicated list of subscribers that look forward to reading your email content.

What components of email newsletters do you find valuable? Share your recommendations in the comments!

Image Credit: Big yawn



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Customer Centric Content Optimization (Say That 3 Times Fast) – Presented by Lee Odden

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

The final day of SES New York wrapped up with a series of the top rated sessions from other SES conferences. One of those sessions was a presentation on “Content & Customer Optimization” by my boss TopRank Online Marketing CEO Lee Odden (@leeodden).

I for one was impressed that on the final day of the conference and the last session of the day the room was packed and people were ready to learn.

Lee began by polling the audience to see what mix online marketing expertise was present in the room.  There were a smattering of SEO practitioners, copywriters, agency marketers (like myself), and those working client side.  Below I’ve included what I considered to be some of the highlights from Lee’s presentation.

What Would You Do if Google Disappeared Tomorrow?

If Google were to cease existing tomorrow do you know how it would affect your marketing and your business? Now many of you may say that’s ridiculous, Google is going to be around forever. However, should you allow Google dominate your marketing?

Lee recommends that Google should be used to empower marketers do what they really want which is to: attract, engage, and motive customers to purchase products or services.  So instead of focusing strictly on optimizing for Google what should you focus on?

Optimize for Customers, Experiences, & Outcomes

Taking a thoughtful approach to the wants and needs of a target audience will go a long way. Customer-centric content planning will inspire customers throughout the sale cycle and give you a leg up over the competition.

Key Questions All Marketers Should Ask:

How do my customers discover information?

  • What are their interests?
  • What needs and pain points are specific to my customers?
  • What search engine(s) are they using to find my company?

What means are used to consume information?

  • What are my customers content preferences?
  • What media sites do they read or follow?
  • Which social sites do they frequent?
  • What sort of device is being used to consume this information?

What are the sharing preferences of my customers?

  • How do they share information?
  • What is their referral process?
  • What steps do they take after purchase?

After determining more information about your customers it’s important that you focus on optimizing all of your content to meet their needs.  Examples of content that can be optimized include:

  • Products & Services
  • Corporate Info
  • News, PR
  • Help, FAQ
  • Knowledgebase
  • Job Listings
  • Landing Pages
  • Fulfillment Pieces
  • Curated/Aggregated
  • Media: Video, Audio, Images
  • Blogs
  • Tweets
  • Status Updates
  • Comments
  • Tags
  • MS Office Docs
  • PDF Files

Building an Optimized and Socialized Framework

Throughout the different stages of the buying cycle it is imperative that your strategy is aligned with your customers needs.  By creating an optimized and socialized framework optimizing for where your customers are at you can better pinpoint what they are “feeling or thinking” at that given stage.  What are the stages to consider?

Stage #1 – Building Awareness: research, customer segments

Stage #2 – Peeking Interest: keywords, topics, messaging

Stage #3 – Consideration to Purchase: content, promotion plan

Stage #4 – Purchase: optimize, socialize, promote

Remember, not everyone is ready to purchase your product or service.  However, they may be willing or happy to refer you to someone else who is in the purchasing stage of the sales cycle.  Every audience member that you interact with opens up an opportunity to network with additional audience members.

For those of you who are interested in learning more about creating an Optimized and Socialized online marketing strategy be sure to check out Lee’s new book “Optimize” which will be released on April 17, 2012.

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Customer Centric Content Optimization (Say That 3 Times Fast) – Presented by Lee Odden |

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The 7 Aspects of Inbound Marketing Most People Screw Up

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

bad marketingintermediate

Too often, marketing is just plain bad. The problem is that bad marketing often works better than no marketing at all. Inbound marketing is helping to change this by creating marketing that people love, which luckily also results in 61% lower lead costs.

In the transition to marketing that people actually like and use, too often there are still remnants from annoying, spammy, and interruptive marketing. But change is hard and doesn’t happen overnight. So let’s look at some aspects of your inbound marketing that might need to be refreshed to make the rest of your marketing more useful and likable. While these aren’t new and shiny like social media or mobile marketing, they are crucial to the foundation of your inbound marketing strategy.

7 Aspects of Inbound Marketing That People Usually Botch (And What to Do About Them)

1) Customer Testimonials

Does it sound like a robot wrote your customer testimonials? Do your customers sound so flattering that they must have been bribed endlessly to have ever said such kind words about your product or service? Contrived testimonials aren’t believable. Your customers aren’t stupid; they can spot fake or overblown reviews from a mile away. Don’t rely on short customer testimonials that read like someone on the public relations team whipped them up.

Instead, get inbound with your customer testimonials. Follow the lead of web hosting company A Small Orange, which rotates customer tweets on their homepage as testimonials instead of boring and generic quotes. 

customer testimonial example

Check out this blog post for a step-by-step guide on embedding tweets so you can put this technique into action on your own website. And if you’re looking for more guidance about how to generate quality online reviews, we have an online review guide, too!

2) Website Product Pages

Ask three strangers to read your website product pages. Then ask them to state what the products or services are, and what solutions they provide. Can they do it?

The following is an actual paragraph from a manufacturing company’s product page:

“Besides adding new and/or improved equipment, we have dedicated ourselves to continuous process improvement through our APEX (All People, All Process, All Product EXcellence) program. To improve our process and product quality on a continuing basis, the APEX system provides for continuous measurement of performance and continuous feedback from customers and vendors. At each plant, APEX has formal action plans that are continuously updated, to keep day-to-day processes in control, to reduce product variability, and to identify areas for quality improvement.”

Do you understand what this means? I don’t.

Be direct; tell people what they need to know. Take a look at an excerpt of the product page text from Global Plastic Sheeting, a B2B plastics company.

Do you need plastic sheeting that will hold up in the sun or survive harsh conditions? Look no further! We serve a multitude of industries, and are ready to serve you! The goal is to provide the most informative and comprehensive website thus providing great products and a great informational resource. We are leaders in this industry.

“Our products and shipping will save you time and money, and your reputation since you can count on our quality. Global Plastic Sheeting provides our customers with our exact shipping costs; including our significant discounts with NO HANDLING fees or other fees of any kind. No Surprises!”

This copy makes it very clear what they actually sell and why you should buy it from them as opposed to a competitor. It is practical and actionable copy. This type of copy should be on every product page.

You can accomplish this by getting your customers (and even better, complete strangers that aren’t oriented with your company) involved in the copy review process. When you undertake major updates to your website copy, conduct some user testing to get feedback on the content, and make sure that it is communicating the ideas you had intended.

3) Press Releases

Getting media coverage is hugely important, but most press releases are painfully boring. I mean really boring. They make those customer testimonials we talked about at the beginning of this post read like a Stephen King novel. Yes, sometimes you need to write and distribute a press release, but when that is the case, it is important to shape them in the form of the rest of your inbound marketing — as helpful, educational, shareable content.

So how do you stand out and maintain originality with your press releases? When HubSpot acquired oneforty a few months back, we wrote a press release that consisted of a series of tweets. Since oneforty as a company was based on Twitter, it made sense to do a twist on the traditional press release in this way. Great press releases are interesting and contextual in this way; tie the content and style of your release to the news you are announcing.

If a tweeted press release isn’t up your alley, here are a few tips for executing more press releases in a more inbound-friendly fashion:

  • Include visual data such as graphs and infographics to tell your story in a quick and powerful way.
  • Only include quotes that actually say something novel. When quoting executives, for example, make sure that the quote actually says something interesting and new as opposed to simply rubber-stamping the existing ideas within the release.
  • Make press release content reflective of the news sites you are targeting. If you are targeting a specific group of journalists and publications, then don’t follow a standard press release template. Instead, write in a style similar to those you are targeting to make it easier for them to include you in a story.
  • Search engine optimize your press release for the keywords you want to get found for, and direct readers back to a targeted page on your website; not your homepage.

4) Bad Stock Photography

Great inbound marketing is puts a huge emphasis on compelling content — and content doesn’t only mean text. It also encompasses things like videos, podcasts, content visualizations, and, unfortunately, those terrible stock photos of people who don’t work at your company analyzing a graph or collaborating around a white board. And it’s time for those stock photos to go far, far away.

Great photography makes a difference. When someone sees a person on your website, they want to know that those people actually work for your company. To solve this problem, make the investment in hiring a photographer to take a few custom shots to help bring your website to life and make it more personal.

For example, when conducting A/B testing for landing pages here at HubSpot, we’ve taken snapshots of employees and tested conversion rates based on the pictures of different HubSpotters (talk about pressure!). Taking your own photos gives you the ability to customize images for specific situations and landing page tests. If you have a good photographer on your team, you’re just some lighting equipment away from a website full of customized and engaging images.

5) Mounds of Meaningless Text

Kill the jargon. You don’t win a medal (or more customers) for using words no one outside of your office understands. Even worse is taking all that jargon and cramming it into a blog post or web page that would cause instant anxiety for anyone unfortunate enough to stumble across it.

The first step in fixing this problem is to clearly identify the key jargon terms in your industry that are largely unknown by your customers. Make a list of these words, and audit your website copy referencing this list, replacing the jargon with words and phrases used by your customers. To come up with these replacement words, you should actually talk to your customers. It is easy for Marketing to become disconnected from customers, but it’s crucial for maintaining meaningful personas and creating content that resonates with your audience. Keep hold of this list of industry jargon, add to it as new terms crop up, and refer to it when creating content to make sure nothing on the list creeps into blog posts or website content.

6) ‘About Us’ Page

Most ‘About Us’ pages are self indulgent, superficial, and read primarily by your executive’s parents. Let’s change that by making an ‘About Us’ page that is actually awesome. Take a look at Twitter’s ‘About Us’ page, for example:

about us page example

First and foremost, Twitter describes itself in one clear and bold sentence above all other page components, followed by brief but specific information about key aspects of its platform. Here’s how you can reinvent your ‘About Us’ page to be equally remarkable:

  • Include a clear pitch for what the company is all about. This pitch should come in two different forms: the first is a clear, one-sentence statement, and the second is through a 30-90 second video that explains the company’s product or service offering.
  • Next, identify the 3-5 key strategic business opportunities that your company is currently focused on. These could be recruiting, channel sales, increasing third-party development, etc. Once you have identified these strategic opportunities, make sure you have content on your ‘About Us’ page to drive visitors to the appropriate pages for each objective.
  • Create a clear subnavigation. Your ‘About Us’ page is merely a tool to give new visitors insight into your business and send them to the appropriate section of your website for information that is of interest to them. Having a clear navigation on the side of your ‘About Us’ page will provide a clear path for people to go deeper into your website and learn more.

7) Email Newsletter

People love email marketing when they get personalized and relevant offers, but often the worst offender of doing email the wrong way is the overused and under-planned email newsletter. The probem is that when it comes to email marketing, if you try to be everything to everyone, the result is apathy and plummeting numbers in your email analytics dashboard.

Don’t send the same newsletter to your entire email list. Instead, customize different content and newsletter sections based on the recipient’s interests. Segment your email list based on the content individuals have looked at or downloaded from your website, and align your content with their past consumption habits.

For example, if you are a a company that sells manufacturing ventilation equipment, you’d likely would want to send out different content in your email newsletter depending on the time of year; but that isn’t enough. Instead, start collecting information beyond just an email address for people subscribing to your newsletter. Something as simple as asking people the age of their ventilation equipment would allow you to create and send different newsletter content based on the maintenance needs of ventilation equipment at certain ages.

What aspects of inbound marketing do you think are frequently executed poorly, but have tremendous room for improvement?

Image credit: Italian voice


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