Archive for the ‘SEO News’ Category

Winning the Content Marketing Game: 4 Types of Killer Content

Friday, October 26th, 2012

content marketing competitionImagine this: you’re a marketing manager tasked with increasing sales through digital channels. Your customer segments vary from VPs to mid-level managers. You have minimal resources for content creation and social media, but management expects a 30 percent increase in traffic and leads each quarter.

Doing more with less is the “MO” for most marketing departments, and with the increasing complexity of the search, social, and mobile web, many marketers are challenged to be efficient and effective.

The Solution Comes Down to Planning

When there are minimal resources and a demand for performance, there is no substitute for getting creative and being as efficient as possible. Smart planning enables high-performing implementation and scale. An editorial calendar is the ideal way to do that planning.

editorial calendar template

Click to download an Editorial Calendar Template

One way to achieve that efficiency and feed the social media and content beast is to organize content creation and promotion by considering the different types of content. Of course there’s a prerequisite to audit existing content and social media assets for an inventory of resources. Then you’d organize those assets according to their alignment with your editorial plan.

Guided by an understanding of organizational goals, unique selling propositions, and insight into the customer journey for each segment’s sales cycle, a content marketing strategy could factor these four types of content to help you create a killer content marketing plan.

Content Repurposing

A lot of content marketing plans start with original content creation, but it’s just more practical to inventory existing digital assets, content objects, and media first. Most companies are not that well organized with their content, and when viewed through a content marketing opportunist’s lens, it’s usually not hard to find many ways to repurpose existing content resources.

repurpose content

Reusing content provides efficiency benefits, but if there are performance metrics, the data can reveal insights to make repurposing even more effective.

Recently we conducted a series of interviews with industry thought leaders in a particular market segment important to our digital marketing agency. The questions included target search keywords and were designed to inspire practical answers to include actionable tips and advice.

After the original interviews were published and promoted through agency social channels and those of the industry thought leaders, the next step for repurposing the interviews involved taking the topically similar questions and answers from different people and aggregating them into a new content object like an ebook, long-form article, infographic, or blog post.

Following a format of “10 Brands (or Thought Leaders) Share Their Top Tips on Topic XYZ” the repurposed content would be unique in that it would not have existed together before. Insights from a few additional thought leaders could be added outside of the initial interview set for flavor.

A heads-up email to interviewees and your community could encourage social sharing, giving your initial content effort additional reach, hang time, and scale without additional resources.

Content Co-Creation

Another layer in your content plan that enables efficient and high-value content creation is to partner with others for creation. One might argue that conducting interviews like the example above is a form of co-creation.

Another co-creation example would be to reach out to clients, partners, employees, industry thought leaders, or even your brand’s social media community to participate in the creation of a new, remarkable content object.

A good example of this would be to work with clients to tell stories of successful or innovative use with your product or service. After collecting the client stories and advice in a way that’s easy for them to share, an ebook or guide could be created that aggregates the advice of multiple people into one resource.

The contributions or co-creation of the content invests participants in the success of the content object. Individual quotes from the client advice could be used to create tweets, images for Pinterest, and Facebook and LinkedIn updates for promoting the end product.

Along the lines of “Facts Tell, Stories Sell,” this kind of content object that’s co-created with clients about use of a product/service leverages a voice of the customer approach to provide useful information to inspire inquiries and social sharing.

Evergreen Content

The creation of original content that remains relevant over time is one of the toughest parts of online marketing. However, it’s essential for creating marketable assets that convey the key messages designed specifically to attract, engage, and convert new business. A layer of evergreen content can work in concert with your other content efforts on a less frequent basis. In fact, evergreen content can serve as a leader for a topic during a cycle of time with other types of content to support it.

Guide Content Marketing Optimization

One evergreen article per month supported by one to two co-created projects and the same number of repurposed content objects can provide a healthy footprint with a modest investment in time and resources.

Content Curation

Collecting interesting content on a regular basis and organizing it in a useful way can be a very efficient method for providing value with efficiency. Adding your own insight to curated content takes a little more time, but a lot less than creating new content or co-creation and repurposing projects. The weekly news posts we publish are an example of this:

content curation news

As with the other layers of content above, curated content can follow target topics of importance to your prospects during the sales funnel experience. The usefulness of collecting interesting and timely news, blog posts, and other resources provides community-building benefits and associates your brand as an authority on the topics being curated.

When a content marketing and social media promotion plan is architected using these four types of content, companies can achieve big results with modest resources. The key is to leverage customer insight to create an editorial calendar, smart planning/coordination, and creative execution.

A version of this post originally appeared in my Social Media Smarts column on ClickZ.

MMA Image Credit: Shutterstock


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Does Google Think Your Website Is Spam?

Friday, October 26th, 2012

no one likes webspamintroductory3

I think we can all agree: Spam sucks! Everyone who uses the web knows how frustrating it is to land on a page that sounds promising in the search results but ends up being useless when you visit it. That’s web spam. Okay, okay — I exaggerate. Not every awful website is web spam. Some companies just happen to have bad websites. However, unlike those bad sites, the creators of web spam deliberately (in most cases) manipulate search engines in order to get their content ranking in search results. Not cool.

Here’s the kicker: Let’s say you’re a sole proprietor who’s hired someone to do SEO for you. Or maybe you manage a marketing team, and SEO has always been one of those things you wish you had time for but decided to outsource instead. How do you know that the SEO you’re outsourcing is truly legitimate and won’t result in your website being considered spammy?

And we all know how Google hates spam. In fact, I’m sure you hate spam just as much. So, how do you know if your website is spammy? And what should you do to make sure it isn’t considered *GULP* web spam?

If you have concerns about your website being considered spammy, here is a list to review for yourself and/or with anyone doing SEO work for you. As you read through these items, ask yourself, “Do I or has anyone working on my website ever employed these practices? Does this describe my business — even if it’s wasn’t intentional?”

8 Qualities of a Search Engine Web Spammer (Who Only Their Mom Could Love)

1) They Rarely Use Social

It’s a fact. Granted, there are people who are spammers in social media, too, but those people are usually a different type of spammer — their end goal is not to get their website ranking higher in search results. Spammers simply don’t dedicate the time to build relationships with people and, thus, are rarely found in social networks. Help to distinguish your website and marketing from web spam by building relationships online in social media with prospects and customers.

2) They Over-Optimize

The repetitive use of keywords in content, where they unnaturally appear word after word … after word (you know what I’m talking about) — that’s referred to as keyword stuffing or, more innocently, over-optimization. Call it what you will; it’s not a good practice either way. Most frequently, you’ll see repetitive keywords in the following areas: page titles, on-page copy, and in domain names/URLs. To prevent keyword stuffing, follow best practices for optimizing your content, and aim to write as naturally as you would speak.

3) They Don’t Focus on Content

Spammers don’t care about creating quality content — or content that is unique in any way, for that metter. In fact, spammy sites will often consist of stolen content, content repeated again and again, or content that has been pulled in via RSS feeds from other websites. Avoid this type of spammy behavior by making sure all the content you publish is unique and compelling.

4) They Stuff Their Sites With Ads

Spammers create the type of websites where more than 50% of the content on any given page is advertisements. Remember, the spammer’s goal is to make a lot of money, and running a ton of ads will help get them to that goal. Don’t risk looking like a spammy site. Make sure to dedicate the top half of your web pages with quality content and calls-to-action. Don’t waste valuable website real estate with third-party advertisements that add no value to your business or its users. Google is not a fan of excessive ads on websites, and they’ll ding you for it.

5) Their Sites Have Lots of Dead Ends, Pages Not Found, and Broken Links

For a spammer, maintaining a legitimate website requires too much upkeep that they just let pages expire and neglect to make necessary updates and changes. As a marketer, make a commitment to keeping your website fresh and up to date. It pays to do some housekeeping, so don’t let the cobwebs build up.

6) They Attract Lots of Low-Quality Inbound Links

Unfortunately, there is such a thing as bad, low-quality inbound links. The good news is, if you’ve only ever participated in white-hat SEO practices, you’re most likely in the clear. But if you’ve gone a little black hat in your day (buying inbound links for instance), this one’s a no-brainer. After all, who links to spam, except for spam? Remember: A great source of high-quality inbound links is high-quality content you create that naturally entices other websites to link back to it. Another great way to attract high-quality inbound links is through guest blogging, so leverage your networks to help build a stronger reputation and more powerful influence online. And if you have attracted some subpar inbound links in the past, consider using Google’s new Disavow tool to help clean up your online reputation.

7) They Own Lots of Domains or Microsites

Spammers are notorious for not only purchasing lots of domains, but also setting up site after site that consist of just one page each and never gets updated. Of course, there are some exceptions to this, but as a best practice, try to keep all your content on one primary, authoritative domain/website.

8) They Employ Other Traditionally Black-Hat Tactics

These tactics include things like doorway pages, text that matches the page’s background color (so the human eye can’t catch it, but search engines can index it), and the use of misspelled content and keywords intentionally used wrong just to rank. Hidden text, meta-tag stuffing, scraping other websites for content — it’s all bad. As a marketer, just don’t do it. You know it’s bad, and if you’re unsure of whether a particular practice is black hat, do some research, or ask an SEO expert. Conduct your own sniff tests, and if something isn’t up to snuff, then don’t do it.

Yes, it is possible to innocently fall into the trap of some of these eight warning signs just because you didn’t know any better at the time — or maybe because you just haven’t monitored the SEO activities for your website. And while it sounds enticing to be on page one of the search results and generate a lot of traffic, you need to ask yourself: At what cost?

What Then, Does Google Care About?

SEO should mean optimizing for user experience! It’s no longer just about optimizing for on-page SEO (keywords) or off-page SEO (attracting inbound links). Google also wants you to create the best possible user experience for your site visitors. Imagine clicking on a search engine result and actually finding what you’d hoped. That’s exactly what Google wants to happen, so as a marketer, you need to focus your efforts on achieving that user experience!

The websites who succeed at doing this are the ones that get rewarded with good rankings, traffic, and ultimately, conversions. Those who fail or practice any of the spammy behaviors above either end up not showing up in search results (at best), or getting penalized by Google (at worst).

What Marketers Should Focus On

Essentially, you want to aim for consistent and quality content that delivers a clear value proposition and shows attention to detail. Create content (with “content” being more than just text — think images, video, rich text, reviews, comments, etc.) that is innovative, unique, and inspiring — in other words, compelling! 

Next, you should base your optimization decisions first and foremost on what’s best for the visitors of your website. They’re the main consumers of your content, and they’re using search engines to find your work. Rather than focusing hard on specific tweaks (AKA “gaming the system”) to gain ranking positions in the organic results of search engines, focus instead on putting your site’s best foot forward. In other words, aim to please your ultimate consumers: your users, customers, and prospects … not search engines.

Designing your site around your visitors’ needs while making sure it’s also easily accessible to search engines usually produces positive results. It helps users find the content they want faster, and ultimately convert. It’s a win-win situation.

How Do You Track All This?

To determine whether your SEO efforts are paying off and whether your content aligns with your users and creates that desired user experience, you’ll need to keep track of a few key metrics. Evaluate how users are consuming your content. Sure, you’ll want to look at pages visited, but think a little bit outside the box.

  • Time on Site: Keeping track of time on site using a web analytics tool like Google Analytics is a good way to get insight about whether people like consuming your content. Now, depending on your type of content, users may not be spending that much time per page. Depending on the nature of your site, your target duration for a visit will vary.
  • Bounce Rates: Google has publicly stated that bounce rate does not factor in as part of its ranking calculation; however, bounce rate (which a web analytics tool like Google Analytics can also report on) can give you some information about user experience. A healthy bounce rate for a site that produces a large volume of content is 70% or less. There are a few things to keep in mind when looking at this metric. Look at it on a page by page basis, and consider that each page will have its own unique bounce rate. Some pages will naturally have higher rates than others, and that’s okay. You would expect that especially from something like your ‘Contact Us’ page, for example. There are additional ways to measure bounce rate, as discussed by Avinash Kaushik here.
  • Clickthrough Rates (CTR): There are several different types of clickthrough rates you can look at, but I would recommend two types in particular. First, track the clickthrough rates of your search listings, which Google Analytics will provide to you if you have Webmaster Tools set up for your website. Generally speaking, you will have lower CTRs where you do a poor job of communicating what your site is about — meaning your Page Title, URL and description don’t align, or you have a poor site structure. Second, track the CTRs for your various calls-to-action (CTAs) on your web pages. Remember, one of the main goals for getting your web pages to rank well in search is to get people to click through to an offer. Therefore, your CTA clickthrough rates on those pages will tell you how effectively your traffic is getting routed to the landing pages for your offers.
  • Conversion Rates: Once you get people from search engines to your landing pages, they still need to fill out the form and convert! Conversion rates should be tied directly to your business goals. A conversion might be completing a purchase, signing up for a mailing list, or downloading a whitepaper.
  • Social Signals: Social media is about relationships, and your social signals are the metrics that help you determine whether your content is being shared in social media — and the impact it’s having. Beyond tracking the number of Likes and shares for your content, also consider the following (which you can track using a closed-loop marketing analytics tool like HubSpot): traffic from social media (and individual social networks), overall social media reach, and how many leads and customers you can attribute to your social media presence. Remember — social media influences SEO, so it’s important not to ignore that fact.

We have entire blog posts and ebooks dedicated to explaining and exploring SEO and marketing analytics, so you’ll excuse me if my explanations just scrape the surface. One way to improve your site is to look at it from the perspective of your users. What shows up in search results: is it enticing? Does it accurately represent the content of my website? Am I giving searchers a reason to click on my listings? And the same applies to content within your site, too. Give users the information they seek.

Let’s Say You Did Get Penalized. How Would You Know?

If you suspect you have been penalized in search engines for spammy behavior, there are a few things you can check. Start with the following:

  • Do you show up in the search results? You can start by simply doing a search for your site. Searching for your site with the following command (search:domain.com) will give you a sense of what’s indexed.
  • Check your traffic metrics — volume and sources. Has your traffic remained the same or at least steadily increased? If so, that’s good. If, however, your traffic shows any sudden drop-offs without a rebound, it’s an indication you may have been dinged.
  • What types of links come in to your website? Take a look at the type of inbound links you’ve attracted for your site. Do any of them look suspicious?
  • Are you still generating leads? Traffic alone isn’t the only factor to consider. If you’ve stopped getting conversions and leads without changing much or without reducing the volume of content and offers you produce, I would encourage you to look into it further.

While there are certain steps to take (like this one) if you feel you’ve been penalized by Google unecessarily, the best way to start reparing your search engine rankings is to clean up your black-hat SEO practices and move forward with a more white-hat approach.

In the end, you want to ask yourself, “What do my users care about?” If you can focus on creating content while keeping your users in mind, all of the above will be super simple. Do what’s in your audience’s best interest and write as though you’re having a conversation with that person. Use your website as a tool to communicate, engage, and build trust and authority. That’s all that Google expects of you. Web spammers, on the other hand, manipulate users and search engines, ultimately creating a less than optimal experience for them as a result. Don’t be that guy.

Are you optimizing your website and content with the user in mind?





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How to Create Content That Actually Resonates With Your Readers

Friday, October 26th, 2012

puppy with communication problemsintermediate

Most content creators have probably felt like that puppy to the right … you try so hard to get a point across, but your audience just doesn’t seem to “get it.” Or maybe they just don’t care.

What’s the deal, guys? Y U NO LIKE BLOG POST? (I won’t turn that into a meme; we’re on a strict 1-meme-per-post diet.)

The task of not just creating content, but creating content that resonates with your readers, is a critical but difficult task to master. In fact, MarketingProfs’ newly released B2B Content Marketing benchmarking report cites that 52% of marketers find producing the kind of content that engages is their biggest challenge — it was the most frequently cited challenge, second only to producing enough content.

But the content that tickles a reader’s fancy is the stuff that gets shared socially, forwarded, and linked to from other sites. It’s the stuff that keeps people reading ’til the end, driving conversions. It elevates your marketing from mediocre to monumental! We’ve got to create this kind of content, marketers.

But … how do we do it? This post is going to break down what seems like an art — connecting with readers through your content — and turn it into more of a science. Because there are certain elements that, if you infuse them into your content, will make it more relatable and impactful for your readers. Here’s what you can do to create content that resonates within the deepest, darkest recesses of your readers’ souls (or something a little less intense).

Develop Personas

The first step to creating content that resonates with readers is getting a better understanding of who your readers are, especially the ones you want to convert into leads and customers. That means if you haven’t developed personas yet, now’s the time. We’ve talked a lot in the past about how to create buyer personas — you can read a comprehensive guide to conducting the research here, and download a free template to fill in that research and actually compile your buyer personas here.

But in addition to buyer personas, consider also creating reader personas. Because while you probably care most about appealing to your readers who will convert into leads and customers, there’s also a segment of your readers who will probably never buy from your business, but will continue to read and share your content. In an ideal world, you can understand and appeal to both segments. Conducting that persona research now will give you the information you need to infuse the rest of the elements discussed in this blog post into your marketing content.

Deliver Content in the Right Format

You know how people get into debates about which is better — reading a book on a tablet, or reading a real-life book with pages you can actually flip through? That’s the kind of debate you should have about all of your marketing content. Whenever you set out to create a piece of marketing content, ask yourself:

1) What content format type is the best way to get this message across?

2) In what content format type will my audience most like to consume this content?

Here’s an example from just the other day that nicely demonstrates the importance of choosing the right content format for optimal reader experience. Yesterday, we published a blog post, “12 Revealing Charts to Help You Benchmark Your Business Blogging Performance.” The graphs came from a new ebook, Marketing Benchmarks From 7,000 Businesses, which contained benchmarking data about business blogging … as well as landing pages, social media, and website analytics. Why use a blog post to highlight 12 charts just about blogging, and an ebook to highlight the dozens and dozens of other charts about all those other areas of marketing?

Because a blog is better suited to short-form content, while an ebook — particularly because someone had to fill out a form with their personal information to redeem it — is going to have a more captive audience, interested in scrolling through dozens and dozens of charts. The right content format, for the right type of content.

Whether it’s deciding to create an infographic instead of a blog post, a video instead of an owner’s manual, or a blog post instead of a checklist, determine what content format will help you get your message across in 1) the clearest way, and 2) the way your audience will most enjoy to read it.

Paint a Picture

Let’s say you’re about to write a blog post about how you should optimize your marketing for mobile, and you want to write an introduction that’ll hook the reader. Which introductory line is more likely to grab readers’ attention?

Intro Line 1: Mobile devices are very important.

Intro Line 2: You know when your alarm goes off in the morning, and the first thing you do is fumble around all groggy-eyed for your cell phone?

Both statements get the point across — people are really into their mobile devices — but that second one paints a picture in the reader’s mind that he or she can relate to. “Yeah, I totally do that in the morning!” Or, “Yeah, my husband/wife totally does that and it drives me crazy.” When you find some common ground with the reader, and use that common ground to craft a story they can relate to, your reader becomes an active participant in the story you’re trying to tell through your content. Use words to paint a picture that tells your reader this piece of content was written just for them.

Literally, Paint a Picture

Or make a meme, embed some video, create charts and graphs … do something visual! There’s no person alive who looks at thousands of words of text and thinks, “Man, I’m so glad they didn’t include any pictures.”

Images not only break up the monotony of text; they also help you tell a story better than words often can. Or at the very least, more succinctly. Take this content visualization that explains how different types of offer content align with different stages in the sales cycle:

mapping marketing offers

Explaining this concept is a huge pain in the butt. I know, because the reason this visualization was created was due to several hours of struggling to explain this complicated concept in this very long blog post about content mapping. If visuals can tell your story better than the written word, then go for a visual format — or at least incorporate visuals alongside your written content. The easier you make it for readers to understand your content, the more impactful it is.

Plus, you know what they say about the picture to word conversion rate; I hear it’s somewhere in the thousands ;-)

Use Data to Show Impact

Sometimes content creators need a little help from their old friend (or foe) mathematics to convey the impact of a point. That’s one of the reasons I think infographics are so powerful … they combine words, numbers, and imagery to display just how monumental something is in terms everyone can easily understand. For instance, check out how this snippet from a GetResponse infographic displays data about the percentage of email marketers who include sharing links to a specific social network.

 

ig example resized 600

 

Way more impactful that just writing it out, right?

But data doesn’t necessarily need the backing of a designer to pack a powerful punch. Sometimes, the numbers just speak for themselves. Take one of our most successful blog posts of all time, “LinkedIn 277% More Effective for Lead Generation Than Facebook & Twitter.” That data point could have been positioned differently — but saying “LinkedIn Has a 2.74% Visit-to-Lead Conversion Rate” doesn’t exactly resonate as strongly. That’s because most people don’t really know what the benchmark is for an amazing visit-to-lead conversion rate. People do know, however, that 277% more effective is waaaaaay more effective. As such, it’s waaaaaay easier for people to care about the content.

Solicit Audience Opinion

When you actually ask readers to get involved with your content, they have a vested interest in it because they were a part of its creation. Ask your readers, commenters, social media followers, customers, the whole lot, to participate in the content creation process. For instance, in a blog post about overcoming crippling blogging challenges, I took to Twitter to ask people what their biggest challenges and solutions to those challenges are.

 

twitter outreach resized 600

 

Getting Kate involved in the brainstorm process got her inherently involved in the blog post — seeing whether her problem and solution was featured, and what problems and solutions were addressed in the post. If you take this approach, be sure to reach out to those who participated in your crowd-surfed content after it’s published to increase the likelihood that they share it with their networks, too.

Provide Real-life or Theoretical Examples

Examples not only make you a better teacher — and content that teaches something is often naturally more engaging — but it also helps you connect with the reader by bridging the gap between theory and application. I mean, how often has “theory” really razzled and dazzled someone, am I right?

After you explain a concept, bring it into the real world for your readers by providing an example of that theory in practice that they can relate to. These examples can be real-life examples, showing instances of real brands doing exactly what you’re talking about, or they can be theoretical examples, a la “imagine you’re a lawyer who’s trying to …”

To practice what we preach, here’s an example of this very thing. In a blog post about how to make your customers feel all exclusive and VIP, we suggested partnering with relevant businesses so you can offer exclusive deals to your customers. Instead of just … telling you that … we found a brand that does it, and showed that tactic being executed:

 

gym it example resized 600

 

Even if you can’t find a real-life example to help bridge the gap between theory and application, you can write out a “for instance” of your own that helps your reader understand how your suggestion would play out for them. Again, practicing what we preach, here’s an example of just that from a recent blog post about generating leads from your business blog:

 

unicorn example resized 600

 

We made up the example of a unicorn breeder trying to blog about his business, so that any reader could see him or herself in those shoes. An all-encompassing example like this resonates with everyone!

Use the Right Tone

This is probably the most nuanced element of creating impactful marketing content. It takes not only experimentation to get it just right, but also an in-depth knowledge of both your personas, and how writing elements like grammar, tone, and punctuation affect your persona. This includes things like:

  • Sentence structure
  • Sense of humor
  • Word choice
  • Punctuation usage
  • Content formatting

All of these elements can dramatically change the way a sentence reads. Here’s an example to demonstrate what I mean by this.

We recently published a blog post about how to prioritize your mobile optimization efforts if you don’t have the ability to optimize for everything — mobile website, mobile SEO, mobile emails, SMS, apps — all at once. Here’s what the first couple sentences of the post looked like:

 

mobile optimization

 

The flippant tone coupled with several short, abrupt sentences, one after another, help convey the feeling of annoyance many marketers face at constantly being told to optimize for mobile, even when doing so is a really overwhelming endeavor. Compare that to an introduction that reads like this:

You probably understand that mobile optimization is important.

It says the same thing; the reader knows mobile optimization is important. But it doesn’t really strike a chord. It doesn’t press that button with the readers who are sick and tired of being told to mobile optimize when they have no idea how to get started, and don’t have the resources to do it all. The first variation is tapping into both a fact, and a feeling. The second variation? Fact, with no feeling.

A content creator that makes purposeful stylistic choices is ensuring their content reads in a way that resonates with their readers, and makes it easy — even enjoyable — for them to consume that content.

What are your tricks to make your marketing content resonate with your readers?





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How to Sex Up Your Google Search Results With Authorship Info

Friday, October 26th, 2012

listings with shadowintermediate

Have you ever been cruising through Google’s search engine results pages to find that certain results are paired with a thumbnail-sized profile picture of the content’s author? Ever wonder how you could make it so your picture accompanies listings for the content you’ve authored? Then boy is this post for you!

Through Google Authorship, Google allows you to associate the content you’ve published with your Google+ profile, pulling your profile image and other information into the search engine results for the content you author. The catch? While the process for applying is relatively simple, there seems to be no clear rhyme or reason to whose authorship requests Google chooses to approve. That being said, the application process is easy enough that it’s worth applying. In this post, we’ll cover exactly why this new feature is beneficial to marketers, explain the simplest way to apply, and disclose some Google-related nuances you should know before embarking on the application process.

Why Apply for Authorship?

In a nutshell, having authorship benefits makes your search engine listings sexier — in addition to giving them a heightened sense of credibility, professionalism, and transparency. Let’s take a closer look at the screenshot shown at the top of this post, picturing a particular search engine results page (SERP):

 

pic stand out resized 600

 

Ask yourself — which results stand out? Probably the two with accompanying author images, right? And if your eyes did gravitate toward those two listings, it’s pretty easy to understand the benefits. In addition, listings with author images and information attached will likely benefit from a perception of credibility and appease any suspicions of spammy content.

Those two listings aren’t at the top of this particular SERP either. This means Authorship could give your content a much better fighting chance against other results that might organically rank higher. This is particularly noteworthy considering not many users have taken the opportunity to apply for Authorship, making it well worth it to apply sooner rather than later when, well … everybody’s doing it.

And while there haven’t been any data-driven reports to surface on the benefits of Authorship yet, we’ve anecdotally seen a noticeable improvement in the ranking of HubSpot’s content that has been associated with our various authors. In other words, it’s very possible that Google is rewarding Authorship users with improved search engine rankings. If you’re a content creator, that’s not a bad perk, huh?

Finally, achieving authorship status also entitles you to even more data and statistics about the performance of individual authors’ content in search results. You can read more about that from Google here.

How to Apply for Google+ Authorship

Convinced it’s worth taking a few minutes out of your day to apply for Authorship? Here’s how to do it:

  1. Make sure your Google+ profile page has a profile photo that is a recognizable headshot.
  2. Make sure you have an email address (for example, jdoe@hubspot.com) on the same domain as your content (hubspot.com). If you don’t have an email address on the same domain, Google has an alternative method for linking your content to your Google+ profile. Learn how here.
  3. In the “About” section of your Google+ profile, add that email address so it’s easier for Google to associate your Google+ account with your domain.
  4. In addition, make sure each article you publish on that domain has a clear byline identifying you as the author (for example, “By John Doe” or “Author: John Doe”).
  5. Furthermore, make sure that byline name matches the name on your Google+ profile.
  6. Visit Google’s Authorship page, and submit your email address to Google. Regardless of how many articles you publish on this domain, you’ll only need to go through this process once. 
  7. In the “About” section of your Google+ profile, make sure the profile discovery box, “Help others discover my profile in search” is checked.

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Once Google approves your Authorship request, your Google+ profile will update with the domain on which you’re a content contributor in the “Contributor to” section of your Google+ profile (as pictured below). By default, it will also automatically make your email address visible to the public. If you want to keep your email address private on your page, you can change its visibility here.

 

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You may also receive an email confirmation from Google once your request for Authorship has been approved. It took about six days for Google to confirm my Authorship request.

 

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That being said, it took longer for other members of HubSpot’s marketing team to receive Authorship status, and some still have yet to be approved, so it’s hard to know how Google is prioritizing approvals. And as we mentioned before, according to Google’s Authorship information page, “Google doesn’t guarantee to show author information in Google Web Search or Google News results,” which explains why some of our authors haven’t yet been approved.

If Google does grant your Authorship request, you’ll start noticing that the search engine listings for content you’ve authored will start to be accompanied by your Google+ profile image, as in the example below:

 

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Furthermore, you’ll notice that the “by [author name]” link called out above in red sends people to your Google+ profile page, and the “more by [author name]” link called out in blue directs visitors to a more detailed page that lists the various indexed content authored by you, as you can see in the example below:

 

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Remember — if your website/blog has multiple contributors, it would behoove you to encourage your various authors to apply for Authorship. This way, even more of the search engine listings for your website’s content will be associated with its individual author.

Some Notes About Google’s Nuances

Many of you are probably aware of Google’s various little nuances, and those of you out there who have ever undergone a name change (myself included) — or whose business uses Gmail for its employees’ corporate email accounts (again, myself included) — are probably all too familiar with the headaches involved in linking and merging multiple Google accounts. Be mindful that if you do suffer from the unfortunate problem of multiple accounts (in addition to content that has been published under different names), Google doesn’t exactly make it very easy to sync the Authorship of all your articles to one single Google+ account.

While Google has released a tool that enables you to transfer connections from one Google+ account to another and set it as the default destination, Google mentions that Authorship information and Google+ business pages that you manage with your source account will not get transferred to the destination account. In fact, I’ve personally come to refer to this particular scenario as “Multiple Google Account Hell.” My recommendation is to try to connect your Authorship with the Google+ account on which you have the most connections … and to cross your fingers that Google improves and streamlines this process in the future.

Furthermore, while this post explains the simplest way of applying for Authorship, there are other routes you can take. In fact, the folks over at Search Engine Land were kind enough to publish an extremely comprehensive and technical article about those other options here.

If you’ve applied for Authorship, have you noticed a boost in your search engine rankings?





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8 Dangerous (But Common) Misconceptions About Email Marketing

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

email marketing mythsintermediate

In terms of digital marketing channels, email marketing is one of the oldest. More than a decade counts as a long time in digital marketing, you know.

That means it’s had more than its fair share of time to accumulate plenty of misconceptions and myths about how it works. But the times, they are a’ changin’, guys.

Some of these myths make sense — perhaps they were once grounded in reality, but over time best practices have changed, yet the myths persisted. The other myths? They’re just a bunch of hulabaloo! But they’re the kind of misconceptions that, if marketers believe them, can really impact the effectiveness of email marketing campaigns. And nobody wants that.

So, this blog post will cover all of the common myths and misconceptions that plague the email marketing world, and debunk them once and for all. And of course, if you have any myths of your own you’d like debunked, submit them in the comments — perhaps we’ll even need a part two to this post!

8 Common Misconceptions About Email Marketing

1) Trigger Words Land You in the Spam Filter

There are a ton of words that email marketers have been trained to avoid like the plague in their email messages — particularly the subject line. Words like “Free,” “Cash,” “Quote,” and “Save.” These warnings come from the days when email inboxes were inundated by crap messages from email spammers. While the days of email spammers certainly aren’t over, spam filters have gotten far more sophisticated at identifying what kinds of messages — and more importantly, what kinds of email senders – are legitimate. Spam filters look at way, way, way more than just your email subject line to determine if your message is spam.

In fact, we conducted a test of our own to see if the word “Free” affected deliverability of our email message. The verdict? The inclusion of the word “Free” raised a red flag, but did not actually end up impacting the deliverability of the email message. That makes total sense — because it’s just one very minor indication that you may (or may not) be a spammer. Nowadays, if you’re a legitimate email sender with a great sender reputation, telling someone you have a free ebook for them in your email subject line isn’t going to shoot you into someone’s spam folder.

2) People on Your Opt-in List Want to Hear From You

You generate all of your email contacts through legitimate opt-ins. Good for you! That means people raised their hand and said, “Hey! You! I want you to email me!”

That’s true … ish. Not everyone that opts in to your emails actually wants to receive your emails. Two scenarios may occur after an opt-in:

  • Someone opted in thinking your emails would be something they aren’t. As a result, they see your first couple of emails, end up disappointed, but don’t necessarily get around to unsubscribing.
  • The contact reads your emails for a while, but eventually becomes disengaged. Perhaps they change jobs, move, get busy, abandon that email address, or just plain lose interest in your content. Whatever the reason, they don’t bother to unsubscribe from your emails.

In both of these scenarios, you have people on your opt-in list who, at one time or another, thought they wanted your content, but eventually decided they didn’t … and didn’t tell you, either. That’s why you can’t rely on unsubscribes as the only way to tell if your email contacts want to hear from you; you should look at email engagement too. That’s why it’s important to periodically monitor email engagement, attempt to re-engage those who have become dis-engaged, and then cleanse your list of those who don’t respond to your re-engagement campaign. We’ve written a blog post that walks you through that whole process in a way that will keep your sender reputation sterling — read it here.

3) Unsubscribes Are Bad

Unsubscribes are an indication that someone doesn’t want to receive email from you. Bad, right?

Not so fast. When people unsubscribe from your emails, it acts as a natural list cleanser. Like we just covered, there are plenty of people on your list who don’t really want to hear from you … they’re just not going to the trouble of opening your message and unsubscribing. If you have a healthy unsubscribe rate — under 1% — then don’t think of unsubscribes as a bad thing. Think of it as natural list cleansing that every email marketer needs to do to keep a healthy list, so you don’t end up with frustrated subscribers who huff and puff and, out of frustration, just mark you as spam (when you really aren’t).

4) Email Isn’t a Lead Generator

Email is a nurturing tool — it helps to convert leads into marketing qualified leads, but it doesn’t actually generate net new leads. Right?

Wrong. Thinking of email as just a nurturing tool is only half the story. First, remember that emails are heavily shared — to people not already on your email list. That means if you have a lead generating call-to-action in your email, and that email is forwarded to or shared with someone who’s not on your list, you have the opportunity to generate a brand new lead. So if you don’t already have forward and social sharing buttons in your email messages, add them stat!

The second scenario in which email is a lead generator is kind of a mashup between lead generation and nurturing — because you’re nurturing subscribers (sometimes referred to as prospects, depending on your internal nomenclature) into leads. For instance, if someone subscribes to our blog, they’re only subscribing to receive email notifications when we publish new blog posts. They’re not signing up to receive, say, invites to our next webinar. But when you send an email alerting these subscribers to a new blog post being published, that email could include a lead generating call-to-action, too. All the sudden, email has helped you upgrade subscribers to a lead in your database!

5) Emails Have to Be Highly Designed

Not at all. In fact, sometimes it’s better that your emails are really plain — like, so plain that they’re plain text, even. There are a couple potential benefits to sending plain text, or almost plain text emails:

  • The recipient doesn’t feel like he or she is being marketed to. A plain text email is what they’d receive from a friend or colleague, and it’s free from distracting bells and whistles. You’re free to just say what you want to say, and the reader can just … read it. This may not work for everyone, mind you. We’ve tested this on certain segments of our email list, and there are still some that response better to HTML messages. Like many email tests, your results will certainly vary, as well.
  • It’s easier for the email message to render. Emails with tons of design elements — big images or video, for example — could experience more hiccups than your basic HTML email with just a logo in the header and a small picture of, say, the product you’re promoting. Some of your recipients might have images turned off by default, so your email looks totally whacky when the meaning of the email rests on all of the images displaying. Or perhaps your recipients are reading the message on their mobile devices — are they really going to wait for that giant email to load? If they do, will it still look as great as it looked when you designed it on your desktop computer? It’s a long shot, to be sure.

Just because you have the ability to do some epic design work in your email marketing, doesn’t mean you should. Err on the side of simplicity, and test out more sophisticated design elements incrementally to see if they impact your conversion rates.

6) If You Abide by CAN-SPAM Laws, You’re Gravy

Nuh uh. If you abide by CAN-SPAM laws, it means you’re legally compliant. It doesn’t mean you’re going to get into inboxes, though. There’s simply a greater correlation between people who get into inboxes that are CAN-SPAM compliant because, well, spammers don’t get into inboxes as often as legit email marketers, and spammers aren’t CAN-SPAM compliant.

If you want to increase the likelihood that you get into inboxes, you have way more to work on — namely your sender reputation. I’d recommend reviewing this post, “How Marketers Can Avoid Those Dreaded Email Spam Traps” as a start. And, of course, remain CAN-SPAM compliant!

7) Open Rate Is an Important Email Marketing Metric

The email open rate metric many ESPs display is very misleading, because the name implies that it will tell you how much of your list opened your email.

It does not do this.

If you had a reliable open rate metric, email open rate would be an important metric to track. The problem is, email open rates are unreliable for a few reasons:

  • All your recipients using Outlook have images blocked by default, which means open rate isn’t tracked accurately … because an email being opened is indicated by an image in that email being downloaded. All images blocked means no opens being recorded.
  • This image blocking is becoming more common in other email clients as well. Do you have images blocked by default? I do. Some email marketers out there might think I really hate their emails … but I don’t. Usually.
  • Similarly, mobile devices often default to a text format for emails in which images aren’t automatically downloaded. Again, this will lead to a decrease in open rate.

Instead of looking at open rates to decide if your email send was successful, look at clickthrough rates on your email’s calls-to-action, and the leads generated from that email send. That’s what you care most about anyway, right?

8) Open Rate Is a Useless Email Marketing Metric

What the $&#@!? You just said …

I know, I said email open rate isn’t an important metric. But it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a use. Email open rates are still useful as a comparative metric. If you’re trying to see what subject line people are more likely to open, for instance, you can segment your send and compare the open rates — assuming they are each being affected relatively similarly by open rate metric “issues.” So while open rate isn’t a reliable email marketing metric to gauge how many people are opening your emails, it can still be used as an gauge when considered as a comparative metric.

What other email marketing myths and misconceptions are out there that you think should be debunked?

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8 Reasons Even YOU Can Be a Kick-Butt Business Blogger

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

business bloggerintroductory3

Without a doubt, the most common refrain I hear from businesses trying to adopt an inbound approach to their marketing is that they just can’t blog.

“I don’t know how. Blogging’s for young people. I’m not a good writer. I wouldn’t even know how to begin. It’s too hard.”

Wow. How self-defeating, right? Well the truth is, I know any one of you — yes, even you — can be an amazing business blogger. You have all the tools you need to do the job, you just have to recognize that you have them. That’s why I want to point them out to you. But I’ll warn you … once you read this post, you’re not going to have those excuses left. You’ll actually have to (gasp!) blog!

Are you ready for that? Alright, let me explain why you — and anyone else in your organization (seriously, the time for excuses is over) — has the capacity to not only blog, but to also blog like a rock star.

1) You are a subject matter expert.

You didn’t get where you are because of that pretty face of yours. You have your job because you know how to do your job. That means if your job is to provide customer support for an SEO software company, you have the subject matter expertise to write a blog post like, “3 Advanced Hacks for Finding New Keywords for Your SEO Strategy.” Or if your job was to sell that SEO software, you’d have the knowledge to write a post like, “How to Use Search Trends to Identify New Potential Markets.” Or, if your job was to market that SEO software, you’d have the knowledge to write a post like, “How Long-Tail Search Helps You Get Found Faster in Competitive Markets.”

See what I mean? Whatever it is you do for a living, you are good at it — better at it than a lot of other people out there. The world wants your expertise! Put it down on paper (or a computer, rather) so the rest of the world can benefit. You probably don’t think it’s that groundbreaking because the information is second nature to you, but if you have leads and customers asking you these questions day in and day out, there are hundreds — if not thousands — of people to whom your knowledge is groundbreaking. Do us a favor and blog it, won’t you?

2) You’re a good researcher.

Sometimes when you sit down to write a blog post — even if it’s about something you know a lot about — a tangential question might pop up in your mind. One that you don’t know the answer to. Some people see these questions as indicators they should stop blogging, because they must not be qualified enough to write on that topic. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

It’s also why Google was invented.

Okay, not exactly, but you know what? Most business bloggers can very rarely sit down to write a blog post without conducting some research along the way. I just scrolled back through the last five blog posts I wrote for this very blog, and guess what? I had to conduct research for each and every single one of them. In fact, there are some blog posts that I sit down to write specifically because they’re a challenge, forcing me to talk to subject matter experts in other departments within my organization.

Just because you don’t know the answer to everything doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be blogging — it means you’re like every other person in the world, and certainly every blogger on the internet. The difference between a good blogger and a bad blogger is, the good blogger recognizes an information deficiency, and researches the correct answer to fill in the knowledge gap. That’s also what makes their content the go-to in their industry!

3) You don’t actually have to write that much.

People often get extremely hung up on word count. Great blog content does not have to be long. In fact, it’s usually better that it’s brief — people don’t like to read, and are often just scanning your content, anyway. Give the people what they want! And, likely, what you want … namely, to be doing anything other than writing a blog post.

Now, this isn’t to say you can write 100-word blog posts. Your content still needs to be helpful, otherwise your readers (and Google’s crawlers) will stop showing you any love. Aim to keep most of your blog content at a 500-600 word minimum so you have enough space to develop some helpful advice. Of course, there will be occasional exceptions to this rule. That’s alright, as long as you keep up your reputation as a provider of valuable content, regardless of length.

4) Sometimes, you don’t even have to write at all.

Well, you need to have SOME words. But blogs are home to all sorts of content other than the written word! For example, you might make your blog posts more design focused if that’s your forte — one of our in-house designers contributes his blog content to us in the form of content visualizations, for instance.

Similarly, we have a fantastic “video guy” that, instead of writing blog content, creates helpful marketing videos. Perhaps you’d rather shoot a short video for your blog content, and then simply transcribe it so you can get some of that nice SEO juice and cater to people who prefer text, too?

But wait, there’s more. Let’s say you’re more of a math geek. Why not write content that focuses around the “mathy” (you might have figured out that I am not one of those math people by now) side of your business? For instance, our marketing operations folks use their super powers with numbers to create blog content about how to perform marketing calculations — you know, the kind of content that would take other people on the team twice as long to whip up. Take a look at Alison Savery’s blog post about how to calculate and track a leads goal each month, for example.

This is all to say that blog content creation doesn’t have to be all about writing, writing, writing. If you cringe at the thought of pounding out hundreds of words of blog content, remember that there are other forms of content with very minimal writing that you have the power to create — and that your audience will love.

5) You probably already have a lot of the content.

Sales and marketing collateral is everywhere. Whether it’s in various folders in your email, saved on your desktop, in printed brochures from that trade show you sponsored, in old whitepapers you haven’t promoted in years, case studies you never quite put the final touches on — for most businesses, the content’s there. It’s just up to you to either repurpose it, or if it’s already looking pretty fly, to excerpt and re-promote that content on your blog.

Here’s a perfect example of doing just that — and I know you can do the same. Several years ago, a HubSpotter created a calculator in Excel that helped people figure out what their monthly traffic and leads goals should be. We promoted it once upon a time, but then it kind of just … fell off our radar. Well, one day, for some reason, we uncovered it. And we decided to brush it off, give it a little makeover, and re-launch the offer. And of course, we promoted it on the blog, too! Now, we couldn’t excerpt a section of the content like we would with an ebook, so what did we write about in the blog post? We wrote about how to use the Excel template! Take a look at a snippet from the post:

 

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It was a piece of cake to write — you might notice it doesn’t have a boat load of text, all you writing-averse out there — and it provided helpful content. And it was all based off an Excel file from several years ago!

6) It doesn’t have to be Shakespeare.

In fact, it’s better if it’s not. Many marketers get caught up in the idea of being a writer, but blogging doesn’t have to be a creative exercise; it can simply be a documentation of information. Instead of trying to flower up your language, just focus on writing like you’d speak. You’ll find that content is not only easier to write that way — most people don’t have much trouble talking, after all — but it sounds more natural, too. That means your readers will enjoy reading it, because it isn’t some high falutin’ content that tries to sound all smart and fancy. It’s just straight-forward, easy-to-get-through blog content that answers their questions … and maybe converts them into a lead, while you’re at it ;-)

7) There are proofreaders and editors in the world.

Remember, you’re a subject matter expert — that’s the biggest value you bring to the role of business blogger. So if you’re worried that you can’t blog because you’re not good at figuring out where in the sentence a comma goes, don’t let that deter you; simply recruit a grammar-savvy friend or coworker to look over your content for you before it’s published. A quick proof of a blog post takes no more than 10-15 minutes! You might also even download our handy Internet Marketing Written Style Guide for some helpful reference.

If you’re less concerned with grammar and punctuation, and have more difficulty getting into “story-telling” mode, an editor might be for you. Again, you have the subject-matter expertise to write the blog post, you just might not have a knack for figuring out in what order your information should be presented. If your blog posts have a ton of juicy information, but they read a bit more like a brain dump, find a colleague — or even a freelance editor — to help you sort out your thoughts. You may also find that writing an outline before you start blogging helps you establish a good order. In fact, most HubSpot bloggers start with an outline before they begin writing (it’s usually the big, bold subheadings you see in the published blog post) to figure out what points should be hit in the post, and in what order. Then when it comes to writing, they just fill in the blanks!

8) There are freelance writers in the world, too.

If you’re really quite writing averse, your blog doesn’t need to go hungry. There are plenty of skilled freelance writers in the world who make their living wordsmithing! I recommend a content marketplace called Zerys — many HubSpot customers (and non-customers, for that matter) — have used them to keep their blog afloat. In fact, whether you’re a HubSpot customer or not, we have quite a few vendors listed in HubSpot’s Services Marketplace that can help you outsource quality content. Often, the best approach has been to seek out a writer with familiarity in the subject matter you want to write about on your blog, and combining that with an edit from you. Not for grammar, punctuation, or editorial guidance, but for your (say it again now) subject matter expertise.

For instance, if we were to commission a blog post for our blog about how email spam traps work from a freelance writer, I’d select a writer with familiarity in email marketing, sending them a specific blog post working title, like “How Email Spam Traps Work: A Guide for Marketers.” I’d also recommend a word count — say 600-700 words — and if I had any documentation that would be good to pull research from, I’d send that along, too. This all simply helps set the writer up for success, providing direction and context. Then when the blog post returned, I’d have one of the people at my company who knows the most about how email spam traps work review the content for accuracy, making any final tweaks or additions before publishing.

This kind of collaborative blogging approach typically yields the best content, anyway, and it’s an approach that’s appropriate for both small and enterprise level companies. There’s no one that can know everything about, well, everything. Write about what you know, and when you don’t know it, ask the person who does for their take on the subject. There should be a point-person, sure, or you’ll suffer from the ‘Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen’ syndrome, but if you stop blogging in a silo, I think you’ll find the whole endeavor is much more manageable, and your content is far more valuable, too.

Do you believe you can be a business blogger, even if it isn’t second nature to you yet? Have you conquered your writer’s block to become an awesome business blogger?

Image credit: Abhi Shinde





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7 Companies That Totally ‘Get’ Their Buyer Personas

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

i dont get itintermediate

One of the first things any marketer needs to figure out is who the heck they’re marketing to. That exercise has come to manifest itself in what we in the biz call a “persona,” and there are some companies who have done an excellent job at not just figuring out who their target customer is, but marketing to them in just the right way.

If you’ve ever seen a company’s marketing campaign and stopped to think, “Wow. They totally get me!” you’re looking at a company that gets their target audience, and how to market to them. (You’re also probably part of their target audience — but I digress.) It’s not easy to pull this kind of alignment off, so we thought it’d be good to give the marketers that are superb at it a shoutout. Plus, seeing how other companies match up their target personas’ proclivities with marketing activities should serve as guidance for those still trying to figure out how to create marketing their leads and customers will love. Let’s take a look at some companies that totally “get” their buyer personas!

Seventeen

Let’s start with a little bit of history, shall we? An article on The Awl about the history of Seventeen magazine — which was actually the inspiration for this blog post — highlighted the magazine’s target persona back in 1950. They created a persona named Teena based on survey data from teenage girls and their mothers during the mid 1940s. Here’s how they described Teena:

Teena the High School Girl has a peck of problems. She’s what older folks call an awkward adolescent — too tall, too plump, too shy — a little too much of a lot of little things. But they’re big things to Teena. And though she doesn’t always take her troubles to her mother, Teena writes her favorite magazine for the tip-off on the clothes she wears, the food she eats, the lipstick she wields, the room she bunks in, the budget she keeps, the boy she has a crush on.

Now, Seventeen has gone through many adaptations of who their prime buyer persona is — this is just who they were targeting in the 1950s. But just look how it manifested itself in their magazine:

 

seventeen cover

 

As you can see from the covers (or maybe not, it’s a little hard to read), there is a strong focus in their feature content on Teena’s insecurities and hang-ups — not that we endorse capitalizing on young girls’ insecurities, this is simply a demonstration, for better or worse, of personas aligning well with a brand’s marketing. For instance, they have content like “Diet with Ice Cream,” an entire “Boy-Girl Issue,” and a story called “Dates (how to get).” These are all things that high school girls are insecure about, and Seventeen channeled what was going on in high school girls’ minds to power their content strategy.

Apple

Apple is known for their outstanding marketing campaigns, but it always seemed a little more geared towards the consumer marketing. No longer. Apple has refocused some of their efforts on a new segment of the market — the business professional who wants to use devices that make their job more effective and efficient. Take a look at an instance of this new persona focus in action in this iPad 2 advertisement:

This ad shows the iPad 2 user looking at stock options, investment portfolios, and even images of the brain … a far cry from someone taking video of their family, or rocking out to a killer iTunes library. This commercial is far more akin to what a professional’s work routine might look like, and helps the business professional see how an Apple product might fit into their professional lives.

MySpace

MySpace is back guys!!! Hard to believe, I know, because they had a big problem when Facebook came out. Previously, they marketed to people of all ages who wanted to stay connected on social networks. But Facebook proved to be the better and more robust tool. So MySpace redid their strategy — starting with their target persona — and began focusing on a persona that would work better for them: musicians. Many musicians got their start by posting their songs on MySpace, and with a strategy that gave musicians a better tool to market themselves, MySpace was saved. Here, see for yourself:

The new redesign features “Listen Now” calls-to-action, thumbnails of album covers so people can immediately listen to their songs, even a feature that highlights events where the musicians are playing. The profiles also have a Pinterest-like set-up allowing viewers to see large pictures of the artist and all that they are doing, further promoting them and their music. This is much more like an interactive, shareable online record store — a site design that is much more appealing to that music-oriented persona.

Zipcar

Zipcar’s main buyer persona is the millennial urban dweller. Zipcar’s services are typically offered large cities around the world, with high populations of millennials who either can’t afford a car, or don’t see the need to own one in the city. With its sharing-focused business model, users pay hourly or daily rates for user of a communal car, without having to worry about paying for things like gas and insurance. What a nice, unburdened lifestyle!

When you look at the channels and tone that Zipcar uses in its marketing, it is obvious that this free-wheelin’ (pun intended) audience is who they’re targeting. Just look at this tweet aimed at the millennial world traveler, for instance:

 

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Or this tweet with the whimsical, and again, free wheelin’ hashtag, #thatswhereiroll:

 

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And the contests don’t end on Twitter — they carry them over to Facebook, too!

 

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In addition to being very responsive on their Twitter account, Zipcar uses it’s Facebook account to answer questions and host contests with its followers. Millennials in particular expect quick answers to their questions on social media, and Zipcar fulfills that expectation. To further appeal to this audience, they host weekly contests to give out fun stuff like free t-shirts and driving dollars. One of their current promotions even involves giving anyone half off Zipcar on Election Day to help millennials get to the voting polls easier. What makes Zipcar’s marketing effective for their persona is not only their responsiveness and tone of voice, but the channels they choose to focus on, too.

Goodbye Crutches

One of HubSpot’s customer, Goodbye Crutches, actually has four buyer personas! Andy the Athlete is an active 21-35 year old who has hurt themself in a sports related injury; Gerry the Grandparent is 55-75 years old, and worries about hurting themselves; Mary the Motivated Mom is 35-55 and has a full and active life, but has to worry about taking care of a family and kids; finally, Woody the Working Dad is concerned about being able to get things done around the house despite an injury. Take a look at how these different personas have manifested themselves in their blog content:

 

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This blog post, “Woman’s Guide to Dress For Success with Leg Cast,” is clearly directed at Mary the Motivated Mom — as is the CTA about how to have a great Halloween despite an injury you see on that sidebar to the right. If you keep reading their blog, you’ll find they have a fantastic mix of content that addresses the needs of all their different buyer personas, and they have the accompanying lead-gen content to back it up.

JetBlue 

JetBlue’s buyer persona is the low budget traveler that wants a comfortable yet affordable solution to flying. They are typically a younger audience that likes to be reached through social media channels and, similar to Zipcar, expects quick responses from the company. That audience comes through in their marketing in the medium they use (Twitter, in this instance), the words they use (flying like a “boss”), and even the name of the Twitter handle (@JetBlueCheeps).

 

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JetBlue doesn’t just rely on social media to reach their audience, either. They’re leveraging email marketing to keep those “like a boss” campaign multi-channel!

 

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Procter & Gamble

Procter & Gamble produces thousands of products for households, so one of their target personas is, naturally, the person in charge of buying these items. Often this turns into a parent — particularly a mom — that P&G is trying to reach with their marketing. They did a particularly spectacular job with their 2012 Olympics campaign. Take a look, and maybe grab a tissue.

In their “Raising an Olympian” campaign, P&G takes a look at the mother’s role in the olympian’s life, whether that’s bringing their child to practice early in the morning or helping them heal from sports injuries. P&G focuses the story more on the mother’s role in her child’s success, tugging on the heart strings of anyone who watches. Especially any mom who has ever gotten up at 5AM to rush their kid to practice. The ads end with “P&G: A proud sponsor of mothers” keeping the focus in the ad on their target persona — the mom who’s in charge of buying the household supplies.

What other companies do you think really “get” their buyer personas?





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3 Keys to Scaling Content Marketing Success

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012
Content Marketing Object

Is Your Content Findable, Engaging & Shareable?

“KISS” is probably the best advice when it comes to giving advice (Keep It Simple Stupid) and for that reason this post is short and sweet on the topic of how to ensure your great content attracts, engages and converts.

Whether your goals are narrowly focused on revenue or more strategic involving branding and community as well as growing the business, the scalability of effective content is essential in today’s competitive marketplace.

No matter how much you invest in content marketing strategy, planning, production, amplification or analytics, there are three key requirements that each content object should satisfy. Great content isn’t great until it’s discovered, consumed and shared.

Findability - A lot of our work involves content development and the way many organizations are structured, content discovery isn’t a driver, but more of an afterthought.

Effective content marketing is about creating information that’s useful for specific audiences and with certain outcomes in mind.  While intent and context are often satisfied, the question of findability is usually underestimated. In particular, I’m talking about optimizing for search or social discovery. There are also promotion channels such as email, cross linking from existing content, 3rd party editorial links, news release distribution, social promotions, pay per click advertising and social media advertising.

What good is the great content you’re creating if no one can find it? By ensuring findability through optimization and promotion, the reach and amplification for content can be extended dramatically and for a very long period of time.   If you set goals for social and organic search traffic for the content being produced, those involved might become as thoughtful about content optimization as they are about content quality. This isn’t either or, expect both.

Engaging- Competition is tough and as more brands employ content publishing in their mix, it’s important that the content being produced considers engagement. How? Relevance, context and experience are good starters.

Is your content object relevant for the audience that will discover it? Is the information useful? Does it provide utility? Is it thought provoking? Does the information help satisfy the reader’s goals and at the same time, help bring them closer along in the buyer journey?

The notion of engagement can be very subjective so be sure to identify goals for engagement whether it’s a combination of page views, comments and social shares or traffic and conversions. Monitor interactions with content to discern trends so you can optimize future content object performance.

Sharability – A lot of optimization for search and social media performance is about making it easy for buyers to do what you want them to do. Adding social share widgets is part of that. Writing compelling titles that work for short character counts in social sharing situations like Twitter is also a best practice. Content quality and relevance come in to play for sharing as well.

Are you creating content that’s so good, people will want to share it with others? Have you made it easy for them to share?  Sharing for sharing’s sake isn’t going to solve any business problems, so make sure you know: Does the act of sharing help fulfill your objectives for the content?

There’s a lot of great brand content and story out there that isn’t getting the exposure that it could, simply because content producers are not tasked or accountable to one or more of these three simple requirements: Findability, Engagement and Shareability. Ensuring these characteristics are present for each content object through a process is a sure way to scale content marketing effectiveness whether your goals are social, PR, customer service or marketing focused.

 

 


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Pinterest vs. Facebook: Which Is REALLY the Better Visual Social Network?

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

pinterest vs facebookintroductory3

Visual content has become one of the most desirable types of content — because it’s so darn easy to consume. But it’s not enough to just create beautiful, funny, engaging visual content … marketers are now wondering where the best place to promote that visual content is.

Just about every major social network allows marketers to share visual content in some capacity, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that particular network is the best medium for visual promotion. And in a world of hundreds of social networks, marketers need to optimize their time to promote the most appropriate types of content on the most appropriate channels.

Until now, it’s seemed like Pinterest really takes the cake in terms of the best social network for visual content promotion. But recently, Facebook launched a little something called Collections, which is a Pinterest-style feature that allows users to add products to a wishlist or curate them into a particular list. Sounds kind of like Pinterest, doesn’t it?

It did to us. So it got us thinking … which is the better social network for promoting visual content? Pinterest, or Facebook? I’m sure you’ll come up with your own opinion, but let’s evaluate both sides of the coin right now and see if we can’t figure this thing out, using some fascinating statistics as fodder for our debate.

98% of people surveyed with a Pinterest account said they also have a Facebook and/or Twitter account.

Facebook has over 900 million active users — 500 of whom are estimated to use Facebook daily. Meanwhile, Pinterest has over 10 million users, 98% of whom have a Facebook and/or Twitter account.

Clearly, Facebook has a much larger audience. And when it comes to sharing content online, you want it to reach as many people as possible. Duh. As such, Facebook’s larger active user base covers a wider spectrum of people, whereas Pinterest’s user base aligns with some really specific demographic and psychographic traits. I mean, sure, most business could be successful on Pinterest if they thought outside the box, but the fact remains the users there are certainly more apt to gravitate towards lifestyle-oriented products. 

If Pinterest is so targeted, wouldn’t it then be better for your diverse visual content to be on Facebook, where it can be seen by more people … and a wider variety of people? That way if you post something more data-driven, or perhaps targeted to a male audience, you’d see greater success. And even if you posted something that would do well on Pinterest, most of those users are likely already using Facebook! So you’ll still reach them.

Winner: Facebook

Publishers who use infographics grow in traffic an average of 12% more than those who don’t.

This AnsonAlex stat shouldn’t come as a surprise — infographics helped accelerate the visual content revolution. Content creators everywhere are finding ways to create and share infographics to help increase their reach and generate leads. One way to accelerate that reach is by sharing these infographics on social media.

But this actually presents a big problem when it comes to posting infographics on Facebook: Facebook is horizontal image friendly, and square image friendly. So any image you post on Facebook can either have a nice square look, or if you make it your cover photo or use the ‘Highlight’ tool, it can be a nice horizontal image. There’s no place, however, for a clean vertical image on your business page, or in your news feed. Therefore, when you upload an infographic, you quickly see how teeny weeny it publishes …

 

infographic small fb

 

… so teeny that you can’t read a darn thing! This has left marketers to post links or a cropped version of the infographic to help pull readers in on Facebook.

On Pinterest, however, one can upload boards and boards full of infographics — and you can see them beautifully! It’s a place where people can easily pin and re-pin amazing infographic creations without having to worry about sharing a link where the user can see the rest of the infographic … or buy a magnifying glass to see what the image is about. People love browsing infographics on Pinterest so much, in fact, there are entire boards dedicated to infographics!

Winner: Pinterest

On Facebook, photos perform best for Likes, comments, and shares.

This data comes to us via HubSpot’s social media scientist, Dan Zarrella. One of the major reasons you should be using visual content is because of the power images have on increasing your reach. The more your images are shared through social networks, the more people your brand becomes visible to.

How does this play into our Pinterest vs. Facebook faceoff? Well on Pinterest, you can Like content, but that doesn’t necessarily work its way into a news feed where people actively see that others are liking the pin. The way most content is seen on Pinterest is through repins.

On Facebook, however, content that is interacted with via likes, comments or shares directly impacts its visibility in user news feeds. And on Facebook, the world’s largest social network, photos perform best. Naturally, the more images you share — and the more they are interacted with, of course — the more people your visual content (and your brand) reach. Pinterest is unfortunately limited to repinning.

Winner: Facebook

Pinterest drives sales directly from its website — of people with Pinterest accounts, 21% have purchased an item after seeing it on Pinterest.

This information comes to us courtesy of ComScore and Nielsen. At the end of the day, the visuals you’re sharing on your social channels is a way to introduce people to your brand. Whether it’s through showing your product, or taking a more indirect route and publishing an image that simply gets a lot of shares, your visual content is a strategy for warming up users to your brand so they ultimately take some kind of transactional action.

Pinterest can directly lead to sales because users can be redirected to a business’ website by clicking on the image — right to, say, a product page? ;-) But now Facebook has its ‘Collections’ feature in beta, as mentioned earlier in this post. This new feature will allow users to easily bucket or “collect” products they like on Facebook business pages into wishlists for purchase. It’s essentially a shopping cart — something that Pinterest does not have.

The question now is, will the ability to save items into a wishlist for later prove a better way to purchase than clicking on a link and being sent directly to the site for purchase? For now, Pinterest clearly has the win with the impressive stat on correlation to sales … plus it’s available to all users. But as Facebook Collections is launched and perhaps adopted, it’ll be important to watch if this changes.

Winner: Pinterest

40% of people respond better to visual information than plain text.

This stat from Zabisco leaves us in a toss up between Pinterest and Facebook. When users browse on Pinterest, they already know that they’re looking at visual content. They have no choice to respond “better” or “worse” because all of the content is visual. But at the same time, perhaps the fact that Pinterest is all images creates more opportunity to respond well to the content!

Meanwhile, on Facebook, users are browsing a news feed full of both text and images. So when they see an image, they have the ability to respond “better” to that image because it’s capturing their interest in a sea of text and links.

So the question is … does Pinterest being comprised exclusively of images mean users are responding more positively all the time, or does Facebook see a more amplified positive response due to the intermittent images? Until we can figure that out more conclusively, we say …

Winner: Tie

Viewers are 85% more likely to purchase a product after watching a product video.

This stat comes courtesy of Internet Retailer. And it’s an excellent reminder that we shouldn’t forget that video is visual content, too! If viewers are 85% more likely to purchase a product after watching a video, your business sure as sugar better be creating video content.

Both Facebook and Pinterest allow you to upload video content. Even better, both allow users to view the video content right from that social network. There are small features that could work in each respective network’s favor, but for the most part, both networks provide the same option. On Facebook, you can have the video playing while navigating around the rest of that business page or news feed. But on Pinterest, the video pops open and is still on your screen — you can’t navigate without closing the video. On the other hand, when you click on the video on Pinterest, it merely pauses and plays; when you click on a video on Facebook a second time (after the initial to play), it redirects you to YouTube, interrupting the user’s experience.

Winner: Tie

So, Which Social Network is Better for Visual Content?

Here comes the answer that everyone hates to hear: it depends! Marketers should be evaluating what exactly they want to gain from sharing visual content, and then figuring out which social network helps them achieve that end. Perhaps your business is solely interested in sharing visuals for brand awareness and reach, for instance — in that case, you might want to focus your efforts more on Facebook. But if your business is trying to drive purchases of a product, you might see more luck on Pinterest … depending, of course, of your industry and target demographic. Continue to experiment with different social networks, and of course, let us know which one you think is better for promoting your visual content!





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A Simple Approach to Prioritizing Your Mobile Optimization Efforts

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

mobile optimizationintroductory3

I know, I know, mobile’s really important. Optimize and whatnot. I get it.

We all know mobile optimization is important, but even still, only 16% of marketers have developed a mobile strategy aimed at customer engagement, according to a CMO Council study. And only 14% said they were satisfied with the way their brands are accessing and leveraging mobile.

So … what gives? Well, mobile is relatively unchartered territory. As such, I think there are a lot of people out there who just plain don’t know how to do it, and so they’re too overwhelmed to even get started.

How do you get around that overwhelmed feeling? Set priorities. This post isn’t going to give you an exhaustive list of everything you need to do to be completely mobile optimized. Because if you haven’t done that already, this one blog post won’t convince you. It’ll probably just succeed at freaking you out. What might get you started on that path, however, is baby steps. This post will help you understand how to get started with mobile optimization by setting forth what the biggest mobile optimization priority is for your particular business.

Prioritize Mobile SEO If …

People are overwhelmingly using search engines to find information about your business (or the problem your business solves). One easy way to determine this is to look at the sources of your site traffic. Is organic search really high up on that list? What are the keywords people are looking for when they search for you? Are those keywords branded terms? Interrogative in nature? Transactional? Here, let’s take a fake pizza store, Mamma Mia’s Pizza Pie, as an example. (At least I think it’s fake).

  • Branded queries (like ‘mamma mia’s pizza pie hours’): This searcher knows your name; they just need a piece of information — whether you’re open or not — to push them over the transaction threshold.
  • Interrogative queries (like ‘best pizza in boston’): This searcher isn’t tied to your pizza store yet, but they definitely want some awesome pizza. You want to show up as the first instance in Google!
  • Transactional queries (like ‘tickets to pizza tasting fest’): This searcher heard about your pizza tasting event and needs to get tickets before popping in for some cheesy goodness. They know what they’re looking for, just not exactly where to find it.

These are huge opportunities to optimize your presence in the SERPs for your mobile searchers and shoppers. And it’s not a coincidence I used a location-based business in this example, either. These kind of queries naturally play into the hands of local businesses with a brick-and-mortar location. If this sounds like you, make sure you’re optimizing your organic presence, particularly your Google+ Local (previously Google Places) listing, to include the basic information searchers need … like address, directions, store hours, and contact information. You know, the kinds of things people look for when they’re out and about in the world and need just one nugget of information to let them make their final decision on where they’ll be spending their money.

Prioritize Mobile Site Optimization If …

You have a business where people visit your website frequently. How general. Let me explain. This might be important if your business is a(n):

  • Ecommerce company with a short sales cycle and low transaction amounts. Purchasers don’t need to invest in days, weeks, or months of research to make their decision to purchase from you — the kind of in-depth purchasing that typically happens on a desktop device with more maneuverability and with less sense of urgency than mobile browsers typically have.
  • Events based, selling tickets to something people might want to attend. Again, the lower your transaction amount, the more important this becomes, because it’s easier for someone to purchase tickets on the fly. For instance, if I walk by the Garden in Boston and I see Bruce Springsteen’s playing tonight, you can bet your buttons I’m whipping out my cell to check out Ticketmaster for available tickets. (Note: Check out the amount of direct traffic you get to your site. You might find people are Googling for tickets, like in the Mamma Mia’s Pizza Pie example from the first section of this post.)
  • Site that stores information. For instance, a bank where customers are checking balances (which, eMarketer reports, 77% of smartphone users cite as the most important task for mobile banking sites). Or a site that stores and protects passwords and logins. Or an airline where someone’s checking in on their flight information (78% of smartphone users from the same eMarketer report cited this as the most important task on airlines’ mobile sites). These types of businesses may not sell customers on mobile, but customer retention depends on their ability to create a user-friendly mobile site experience.

Again, I recommend checking out the amount of direct traffic that comes to your site; a high amount is a good indication that many people aren’t relying on search results to find you … they’re already intimately acquainted with your business and its website. So even if that mobile SEO section sounded like you — people need information like operating hours, location, directions, phone number — if people are finding you via direct traffic, you better be sure your website is mobile optimized to provide that type of information, as well.

Prioritize Mobile Email Optimization If …

So far we’ve talked a lot about the importance of mobile optimization for the “getting found” aspect of marketing. You know, the top of the funnel stuff. But if you’re focusing on your middle-of-the-funnel marketing — email marketing and lead nurturing — you might want to shift your mobile optimization priorities away from mobile site optimization and SEO, and onto mobile email optimization. That means your emails look good across all different email clients, your subject lines stay around 20 characters or fewer (and are incredibly clear and compelling), you’re sending both plain text and HTML versions of your email, your emails have limited images with clear anchor text, and your email doesn’t require lots of scrolling, particularly from left to right.

Note: If your emails are sending mobile readers to landing pages on your site, those pages should be well optimized for mobile so it’s easy for your recipient to read the content on the landing page, and fill out the form to redeem their offer. As such, there is a bit of overlap with the task of mobile site optimization here.

Prioritize Mobile Apps If …

You actually have a good idea for an app.

The CMO Council study referenced earlier in this post cited that 32% of marketers are shifting budget to mobile app development. But 1 in 4 apps, once downloaded, are never used again. Hmm.

So I’ll ask you again … do you actually have a good idea for a mobile app? If your mobile app is helping your current (or future) customers do something better — think things like putting through orders for recurring purchases, calculating common industry calculations, getting alerts for problems or opportunities — then it might be worth your time to invest in creating an app. If it’s just a “fun little idea you had for an app,” you might end up being in that 1/4-of-apps-that-are-never-used-once-downloaded bucket. If your app is ever even downloaded, that is.

If you do decide to launch a mobile app and you want to actually get those downloads, it’s critical you launch it correctly. So if you do have that game-changing app idea, reference this blog post, “A Marketer’s Complete Guide to Launching Mobile Apps,” to get the buzz your awesome app deserves.

Prioritize SMS If …

You’re primarily concerned with optimizing your current customers’ experience. That’s alright, too, by the way. Customer marketing is often neglected in the pursuit for new leads and business … but never forget that the cheapest customers to acquire are the ones you already have. We’ve written an entire blog post to help marketers decide if SMS is actually a good idea for your business; you can read that post here, but the short answer is, it’s often misused by marketers and ends up being a poor investment. If, however, you are in the business of providing service alerts, reminders, making service sign-up simpler and quicker, or trying to communicate with active customers, SMS campaigns might be right for you.

So, Which Scenario Sounds Like You?

In an ideal world, you get to do all of these things. But what marketer has the resources to do everything? Not many. If you want to jump on the mobile optimization bandwagon but don’t know where to start, try to identify which of these scenarios sound the most like your business right now, and aligns the best with where your marketing priorities lie. Yeah, there will probably be some overlap, but the one you align with the strongest is where you’ll get the most bang for your mobile optimization buck.

How much mobile optimization have you done? How are you prioritizing your mobile optimization efforts?

Image credit: rikkis_refuge