Content Marketing: 4 Tips for Creating B2B Content When You’re at a Loss for Words

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Content marketing has rapidly become an essential piece of the B2B marketing puzzle. Buyers are more connected and more self-directed than ever before, and informative, engaging content is key to making sure your organization becomes part of the buyer journey.

Creating a steady stream of quality content can be challenging for any marketer, but especially for those in B2B marketing, where buyers expect to be informed and entertained at the same time. So it’s no surprise that Content Marketing Institute’s latest report found that 54% of B2B Marketers rated producing engaging content as a top challenge, and 50% said producing content consistently is a challenge.

If you’re a B2B content marketer, sooner or later you’ll likely find yourself facing a blank screen with a head full of complex information that won’t move to the keyboard. So what do you write when you don’t know what to write? Here are a few strategies to remove the block between your brain and your fingertips:

#1 – Start with Structure

If you’re like me, you hated writing outlines for school assignments. I would always draft first, then reverse-engineer the outline.

But as a professional content creator, outlines are your new best friend. Take your complex topic and imagine what your sub-headings should be to discuss the topic. That way, you won’t get hung up on word choice or phrasing and can focus on the key information you want to get across. Once the structure is in place, it will be far easier to fill in the content.

#2 – Write the 5-Year-Old Version

Recently I was writing content for a client about the importance of balancing marketing efforts across the top, middle, and bottom of the sales funnel (sometimes called ToFu, MoFu, and BoFu marketing). I was having trouble explaining it in a clear and concise way. Finally, I thought, how would I explain this to my 5-year-old son? In a matter of minutes, I wrote the following little fairy tale:

“Once upon a time there were three little goats named Tofu, Mofu, and Bofu. Tofu trip-trapped happily through the meadow all day, blissfully unaware of the troll under the bridge nearby. Mofu knew the troll lived under the bridge, but wasn’t sure how the troll affected his day-to-day life and wasn’t ready to do anything about the monster. Only Bofu had seen across the bridge to a beautiful meadow of green grass, and was ready to take steps to get rid of the troll.

The local heroes who got rid of trolls focused their attention on Bofu exclusively. He knew he had a problem and wanted someone to solve it. The heroes didn’t see that it was important to offer their services to Tofu and Mofu, and so they missed out on getting the other two goats to start thinking about their troll problem. The heroes would have had better luck selling their services to all three goats.”

Obviously, I didn’t forward my fairy tale to the client. But writing it enabled me to lay out the argument for full-funnel marketing that I was trying to make, and I finished the client draft within the hour.

The “5-year-old-version” strategy helps you to explain what you’re trying to write to yourself, which makes the grown-up version far easier to write.

#3 – Write the Conversational Version

If you don’t have a 5-year-old in your life to use as an imaginary sounding board, write the way you would talk to an old friend. You don’t ever have writer’s block in a casual conversation, right? So write the way you would talk. Even better, exaggerate the tone—let yourself be silly. Try to make yourself smile.

For example, when I get stuck I’ll write something like: “Okay, so check it out bro, this new eBook is the bomb dot com. I know you’ve got some mad problems with your content marketing, but this book is gonna drop knowledge on you. Get it, yo!” After about a paragraph of that, I’m ready to reign it in and write the professional version.

#4 – Write the Garbage Version

Voltaire said, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” Sometimes the source of writer’s block is that perfect version of the content you see in your head. So you write a few lines, they don’t measure up to the standard, and you erase everything. It’s easy to convince yourself that the version in your head is so much better than anything you could put on the screen.

But the truth is, any version of the content that exists is better than something that isn’t real. So don’t let that imaginary ideal form of the content stop you from writing.

When you get stuck trying to write the perfect words, turn off your inner editor and just write garbage. Type with your eyes closed if you can, so you’re not tempted to edit. Whatever clumsy, error-riddled, clichéd garbage you put on the screen is still better than a non-existent perfect piece. And now you have a start, something you can edit and refine until it’s worth showing to the world.

Content marketing is a business function, but it’s also a creative endeavor. As such, it’s just as subject to writer’s block as any other form of writing. When you’re stuck with that blank screen, stop thinking about creating the perfect finished piece and try for a different perspective. Write an outline to make sure your structures solid, or write a simplified version to help organize your thoughts. Write a silly version, bro, for reals. Write absolute trash. Just write something. Even the messiest first draft is the start of creating an amazing piece of content.

What is your favorite way to get past a block in your writing?

Image: Shutterstock


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Joe Pulizzi (The Godfather) Discusses the Content Marketing Revolution #CMWorld

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Without anyone accusing me of exaggerating, I can safely say that Joe Pulizzi is a bona fide content marketing visionary. Joe started using the term “content marketing” in 2001, long before the rest of the industry caught on to its potential. In the past decade and a half, Joe has firmly established his thought leadership in the field, earning the nickname “The Godfather of Content Marketing.”

In 2007, Joe founded the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), which has grown into a vital resource for thousands of marketers worldwide. In addition to building a massive hub of marketing resources, classes, and training programs, CMI produces Content Marketing World, the world’s largest content marketing event.

I recently sat down with Joe for a sneak preview of his keynote address at the 2015 Content Marketing World. Read on for Joe’s thoughts on how content marketing is evolving, the strategies that led to CMI’s success, and how to become an “octopus of content love.”

If you focus on a subscriber approach to audience development, you can go deeper with your content and emphasize value.

Without giving too much away from your keynote, what are 3 exciting evolutions for content marketing that you see on the horizon?

  1. I’m really interested in the merger and acquisition scene. It’s going to hit people like a big surprise, especially in B2B. Particularly in tech, companies will see content factories already built and those will be attractive acquisitions when considering the time it takes to build.
  1. Only 30% of marketers have subscription growth as a key metric. It speaks to where we are with content marketing. The notion that we need to build content for the buyer’s journey and different stages has been overblown. It’s easier to simplify that idea and just become an ongoing guide and resource and we touch the customer with value – every day, every week. They’re going to create their own buyer’s journey anyways. If you focus on a subscriber approach to audience development, you can go deeper with your content and emphasize value. Instead of focusing on 57 segments and 5 stages, create an incredible experience for your customers and you’ll have an amazing outcome. Simplify and create more value.
  1. I’m excited about the field of journalism again. Marketers are bringing in professional journalists that have a nose for stories. The media business model is broken, but media itself is flourishing. There’s never been lower barriers to entry and easier ways for customers to access it. The more journalists in marketing, the better. If they want to tell great stories and have funding to do so, the opportunity is there.

Digital publishing has become more popular because we can, and not for the right reasons.

Based on your recent report at CMI, it appears that B2B and B2C marketers alike are continuing to struggle with measurement of content marketing activities. What do you believe are the biggest barriers to either collecting the data or focusing on the right metrics?

The clear majority of marketers have no documented content marketing strategy. If we can start with documenting the why, the business goal and audience, then you can begin to develop an action and execution plan that includes measurement. Digital publishing has become more popular because we can, and not for the right reasons.

People implementing content marketing do so because they’re told to, without understanding why. Content marketers need to ask the right questions relevant to achieving business goals.

We want to be an octopus of content love to provide them with options.

What are the biggest challenges that your own company faces when it comes to content creation, promotion and measurement?

Choosing the right activities – there are so many things we could do. Our key metric to everything is based on subscribers. I’m focused on creating a unique story that subscribers can’t get anywhere else. I’m focused on looking at subscribers and how we can improve.

Those people that engage with at least 3 different types of content, they are way more likely to attend CMI or buy something from us. We want to be an octopus of content love to provide them with options. The more we can do that the more positive results we’ll see.

Brands with huge budgets are struggling because they are so campaign focused.

What is the single most important thing you’ve learned in your journey from publishing to becoming the “Godfather of Content Marketing”?

If you build a loyal audience over time, you can sell them whatever you want. Focus on a content niche relevant to an area of business that you’re focused on, and develop an audience. As you build that audience, you can figure out what best to sell to your community.

Brands with huge budgets are struggling because they are so campaign focused.

There’s convergence – media companies are becoming product and product companies are becoming media companies. Soon you won’t be able to tell the difference.

What Content Marketing mix is CMI currently experiencing the most success with?

The podcast has been a pleasant surprise with a consistent flow of sponsorship that’s growing. In person events that I and Robert Rose speak at. The masterclass series of small workshops in different cities across the U.S. have been successful for driving registrations to the CMWorld event.

We have one person in charge of Internal content curation and repurposing that drives subscribers.

Do you believe that email marketing is dead or still very much alive? Why?

Not at all. It’s the most important thing we do. It’s harder to cut through the clutter but if you do, you get the lion’s share of attention.

Ready to Up Your Content Marketing Game?

Be sure to reserve your space at Content Marketing World for thought-provoking presentations from Joe and over 200 other luminaries in the content marketing industry.

Get a preview of Content Marketing World’s blockbuster lineup with Measuring Your Content Marketing Box Office Success, featuring advice from industry thought leaders Michael Brenner, Julie Fleischer, and of course, Joe Pulizzi.

Access All Three eBooks On-Demand

CMWorld 2015 eBooks

If you missed the premiere of any one of the eBooks in our triple feature, you are in luck! You can access all three of them anytime, anywhere. Select the links below, grab some Junior Mints and dig in.

The Big Picture of Content Marketing Strategy

Making Content Marketing the Star of Your Marketing

Measuring Content Marketing Box Office Success


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Blockbuster Content Marketing Success: Xerox Marketing VP Jeannine Rossignol #CMWorld

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Everything is bigger on the silver screen: hopes and dreams, heroes and villains, successes and failures. Simple human drama can become mythical when projected onto a giant movie screen. We go to the movies to laugh, cry, and gasp along with our fellow moviegoers, all of us sitting in the dark together sharing the experience. It’s a powerful example of how great content can create an experience that not only informs, but makes you feel. Creating those experiences is a whole crew of specialists, actors, director and producers, each playing their part.

Similarly, every successful content marketing program has a team of people working behind the scenes to create quality content that connects with customers. One trailblazing example of a marketing leader creating great content experiences is Jeannine Rossignol, VP of Marketing for Large Enterprise Organizations at Xerox.

Jeannine will be making her first appearance at Content Marketing World this year, discussing how senior marketers and CMOs can structure marketing around content. I connected with Jeannine to talk about content marketing strategy, top challenges facing content marketers, and content marketing lessons to be learned from Charlotte’s Web.

I work with amazingly talented people to tell stories that start conversations with the right people.

Can you share a little more about your role at Xerox and what you enjoy most about it?

At Xerox I lead demand gen, content marketing, digital, social and sales enablement globally for our Large Enterprise Operations division. I work with amazingly talented people to tell stories that start conversations with the right people. I get a rush when I think about all the changes that have happened to the practice over the past few years and can’t wait to see what the future holds… and maybe even help shape it a bit.

The key is that content provides insight, and valuable information they need.

How do you define content marketing?

Content marketing provides our clients and prospects with the insight they need to make a decision. It doesn’t have to be the decision to buy. The key is that the content – whatever form it takes – provides insight, and valuable information they need. Otherwise, we’d simply keep calling it marketing brochures (collateral). When you’re elbowing for position in the early stages of the consideration, good content marketing works hard. It creates brand awareness, differentiation and credibility.

When it comes to approach, never forget the customer is in charge.

It seems many brands’ approach to content marketing has focused mostly on creating more content with a recent emphasis on better quality content. What do you think are the major drivers for content marketing strategy and approach to content?

I have a hunch that the brands producing the most content are often the ones that lack a clear content marketing strategy. A clear strategy should include who you target, what their buyer’s journey looks like, and most importantly, what are the questions they need to answer to move from one stage in the journey to the next. Every piece of content should go back to that strategy.

When it comes to approach, never forget the customer is in charge. Be engaging. Add humanity.

Content is an integral component of every aspect of marketing.

How does content marketing relate to the overall marketing pie?

Content is the golden thread that brings marketing together, not just marketing but marketing and sales. It isn’t a separate program, but rather an integral component of every aspect of marketing.

Content marketing is growing for two reasons. 1) Many disparate marketing components are now taking roles within a larger content marketing strategy. With some adjustments and refocus on customer interest, they have become content marketing tools. 2) Content marketing is also taking on a bigger role because so much of it can be tied to measurable results.

We have to recognize that not everyone wants to consume information the same way.

How important are non-text content marketing assets to your marketing? For example: audio, video, and interactive.

Critical. We have to recognize that not everyone wants to consume information the same way. Just as important as understanding the type of content your audience wants, you also have to know what format they prefer it in. Added to that, we are a visual society. Memes. Instagram. Buzzfeed. Pinterest. Emoticons. They help us connect in ways that can often feel more real than words. Which is great news for international marketers, by the way.

What are some of your own content marketing examples that you’re proudest of?

In B2B marketing, especially for services, we talk to our clients about their challenges. We took a different angle with Optimism. One that is focused on the opportunities for that business … looking past the challenges and focusing on opportunities … We were excited about it, our management and sales organizations were excited, and the feedback we’ve received from customers demonstrates they like it as well.

We brought the idea of Optimism to life with a publication called Chief Optimist.   We needed to get in front of decisions makers with our content. The idea of the publication seemed like a great way to get past the gatekeeper and end up in the “to-read” pile. We partnered with Forbes to publish the magazine. We knew their name would add credibility to the magazine, and most of all it would help us supplement our original content with theirs. As it turns out by partnering we are more credible than trying to do it on our own.

Do you have any advice for marketers who feel overwhelmed by the challenge of consistently producing a variety of engaging content?

  • Don’t do it alone! Partner – internal SMEs, 3rd party experts, your agencies, trusted business resources, analysts, etc.
  • Editorial calendar – map it out for the year, it won’t seem as overwhelming
  • Remember at the end of the day it is a person reading your content. Make sure it is interesting and has a point.
  • Never be afraid to fail. In today’s digital world it is easy to make course corrections, but you can’t correct (or learn from) what was never done.

Great technology can’t fix bad content, nor can great content deliver results without technology.

What are some of the biggest content marketing challenges facing large companies today? Or the biggest misconceptions. What should they do about it?

Content marketing can expose your “ugly baby.” If you have a product or service that doesn’t have a unique value prop or truly meet the needs of the marketplace, coming up with insightful content will be near impossible.

Great technology can’t fix bad content, nor can great content deliver results without technology.

Data hygiene is critically important. The best content is highly targeted and relevant. But if you can’t trust your data, you can make some silly mistakes on a massive scale.

Forgetting the first rule of content marketing: take your brand out and put the customer in.

Companies seem to be most challenged by measuring content marketing performance and ROI. What advice can you share?

Marketing went from not being able to measure anything, to being able to measure everything. It is overwhelming, but pick a place to start… pick one question you want to answer and go from there. Get it roughly right, and keep refining.

What are you presenting on at Content Marketing World? What do you like best about the conference?

I’m on the panel discussing “How Senior Marketers and CMOs Are Structuring Around Content Marketing. This will be my first CMWorld. I’m beyond excited; it has been on my list to attend for years. I would love to hear from veteran attends, tweet to me what you like best about the conference.

In the spirit of the CMWorld conference theme of vintage Hollywood “Big Lights, Big Content”, what is your favorite movie?

There are so many to choose from… I’m the mother of 4 small children so bear with me; the only movies I see these days are children’s movies! Let me give you a favorite that is not only a great movie/story, but also a great example of content marketing in action: Charlotte’s Web. Charlotte’s content, the words she spun in her web were creative, powerful and beautifully targeted to save the life of Wilbur the pig. It perfectly showcases that content can deliver powerful results, or in this case, save lives!

Ready to Become the Star of Your Brand’s Content Marketing Movie?

Reserve your space at Content Marketing World 2015 to learn strategies from over 200 top experts in the industry.

For a preview of coming attractions before the conference, dim the lights, silence your electronic devices, and read our new eBook, Measuring Your Content Marketing Box Office Success.

Binge Read the Entire Content Marketing World Triple Feature!

eBook covers - cmw15

Sometimes when you get really into a series, there is nothing more tortuous than waiting for the next release. By clicking any of the links below, you’ll get immediate, on-demand access to each of the eBooks in our series.

The Big Picture of Content Marketing Strategy

Making Content Marketing the Star of Your Marketing

Measuring Content Marketing Box Office Success


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Marketing Superstars Tell All: Measuring Content Marketing Box Office Success

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“Show me the money. Show me the money!” – Jerry Maguire

In the summer of 2010, the Internet was abuzz about the upcoming movie Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World. It was based on a comic book with a rabid cult following and directed by the indie darling behind Sean of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. When the movie was released, the buzz intensified, dominating social media for its opening weekend. By almost every measurement, it was a blockbuster success. Unfortunately for the film, the one metric it missed was number of tickets sold. Scott Pilgrim was very good at generating excitement, but failed to deliver on the one metric that mattered.

In content marketing as in movies, it’s important to measure success with metrics relevant to business goals. But measuring the ROI of content marketing is no easy task. Content Marketing Institute found that fewer than 25% of B2B and B2C marketers say they are successful at tracking the ROI of their content marketing programs. The challenge for content marketers is to look past the vanity metrics and uncover what matters.

To help you separate the buzz from actual box office success, TopRank Online Marketing and Content Marketing Institute present the thrilling conclusion of our content marketing trilogy: Measuring Your Content Marketing Box Office Success. ‘

This final chapter combines Hollywood movie magic with no-nonsense advice from 13 content marketing superstars. It’s a feature-length collection of tools and tips, but it’s also a sneak preview of what you will see at Content Marketing World in 2015.

In this content marketing feature, you will discover:

  • Valuable metrics for measuring content marketing success
  • How to link content strategy to results
  • How to create content with measurability in mind
  • Tools for tracking and measuring effectiveness

In the grand tradition of Return of the Jedi, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the third and final installment of our trilogy wraps up the series on a high note (until the inevitable gritty reboot). Here are a few content marketing ROI tips from the marketing thought leaders in the eBook, in handy tweetable format:

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Joe Pulizzi – Content Marketing Institute

Want to better measure the value of content marketing? Create a subscription program. @joepulizzi tweet this

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Jeannine Rossignol – Xerox

When selecting metrics for content marketing, pick one question to answer & go from there. @j9rossingnol tweet this

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Rebecca Lieb – Altimeter Group

There is no content strategy without measurement. Understand what you want to achieve. @lieblink tweet this

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Julie Fleischer – Kraft Foods

Content marketing success starts by determining what critical measurements drive spending decisions. @jfly tweet this

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Todd Wheatland – King Content

Define real-time & long-term content marketing results that align w/ business objectives. @ToddWheatland tweet this

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Michael Brenner – NewsCred

Your content marketing has to generate real sales w/ real people to be successful. @brennermichael tweet this

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Andrew Davis – Author, Brandscraping

The two simplest ways to measure the value of content marketing: revenue by post & subscriber. @tpldrew tweet this

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Carla Johnson – Type A Communications

Monitor, learn & adjust your content marketing measurement strategy as you go. @carlajohnson tweet this

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Jason Miller – LinkedIn

If your content marketing is encouraging engagement, that’s a sign of relevance. @JasonMillerCA tweet this

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Lee Odden – TopRank Online Marketing

For marketing success, make content accountable & measurable to attract, engage & convert. @leeodden tweet this

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Heidi Cohen – Actionable Marketing Guide

Begin by stating your business goals & creating content to achieve those objectives. @heidicohen tweet this

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Ian Cleary – RazorSocial

Find your most linked-to and shared content and produce more of this. @IanCleary tweet this

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Chad Pollitt – Relevance

Identify baseline measurements for content marketing by researching audience, media & competitors. @chadpollitt tweet this

Here’s the full Content Marketing Measurement eBook:

View the Entire Content Marketing Triple Feature Whenever You Want!

eBook covers - cmw15

If you missed the first and second eBooks in the series, you can view the entire triple feature here: Developing a content marketing strategy, making content the star of your marketing and measuring content marketing ROI.

Be sure to visit the Content Marketing World website to learn more about the conference and to reserve your seat. You won’t want to miss it!


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Online Marketing News: Facebook Taking Time, More Moments, Google Unattributed

Improve Facebook Organic Reach

How to Improve Your Facebook’s Organic Reach [Infographic] – Since Facebook made the transition to pay-to-play, reports have shown consistent declines in organic reach for brands. A new infographic from Kissmetrics examines the problems brands are having on Facebook, and offers some possible solutions. Quick Sprout

Facebook Taking Into Account Time Spent on Stories – The goal of News Feed is to show you the content that matters to you. The actions people take on Facebook—liking, commenting or sharing a post—are historically some of the main factors we’ve considered to determine what to show at the top of your News Feed. But these factors don’t always tell us the whole story of what is most meaningful to you. Facebook

Google Links Mobile Ads to Desktop Purchases and Vice Versa – All of the devices people use to browse the web pose a problem for advertisers and the companies trying to sell them ads: They don’t know whether an ad someone saw on one device led to a product purchase made on another device. Ad Age

Google Search Update Rolling Out, Confirmed to Not Be Panda-Related – An update to Google’s search algorithm, acknowledged by Google’s John Mueller in today’s Webmaster Hangout, is currently rolling out. Despite speculation, Mueller confirmed this update is not Panda-related. Search Engine Journal

Report: 76 Percent of Job Seekers Browse Company Profiles on Twitter – Social networks increasingly have an impact on the job hiring process. 93 percent of recruiters use, or plan to use social media in their recruiting efforts and 73 percent have hired candidates via social media. However, the majority of these recruits come from LinkedIn. A new report from Software Advice outlines how recruiters and job seekers are using Twitter. SocialTimes

Facebook Introduces Moments – With a phone at everyone’s fingertips, the moments in our lives are captured by a new kind of photographer: our friends. It’s hard to get the photos your friends have taken of you, and everyone always insists on taking that same group shot with multiple phones to ensure they get a copy. Even if you do end up getting some of your friends’ photos, it’s difficult to keep them all organized in one place on your phone. Facebook

Google Takes on Twitch With a New YouTube App Built for Gamers – Google announced this week it will soon be releasing a new app built for gamers, called YouTube Gaming, which will put the company in direct competition with popular live streaming app Twitch. Search Engine Journal

Google Trends Now Tracking YouTube & Google News To Identify Trending Topics In Real-Time – In its biggest expansion since 2012, Google trends rolled out a number of new updates today, including real-time data and a redesigned homepage. Search Engine Land

Twitter Introduces Autoplay Videos – This week, it’s become even easier to enjoy video on Twitter. Now native videos, Vines and GIFs will begin to play back automatically. So you can keep up with the action without missing a Tweet and get a better sense of what’s been shared instantly. Twitter

Google Now Adds Quote Cards That Lack Attribution – The latest Google Now card displays quotes in the search results for famous people, though the quotes don’t link back to or attribute the source pages. Search Engine Watch

Pinterest Improves Search With Enhanced Suggestions, Trending Searches, and More – Pinterest has made it easier to find the pins and users you’re looking for with more streamlined search suggestions, the company stated in an announcement today. Search Engine Journal

Bing To Encrypt Searches By Default & Referrer Data To Go Not Provided This Summer – Not Provided is about to expand when Bing goes HTTPS over the summer, ultimately blocking query data in the referrer path. Search Engine Land

From our Online Marketing Community:

From Learn How to Land Your Content a Leading Role: Jay Acunzo of NextView Ventures #CMWorld, Connor Rickett said, “Interesting way of looking at. I like the idea of core content as the hub for advertising. It’s a very accessible model–not just for the people creating the content, but the sort of thing you can draw on a whiteboard while talking to clients, and get through to them. It’s also something you could expand into a good explanation of how and why evergreen content is necessary, rather than just popping out a buzzy article twice a week. Good post.”

And on 13 Experts Discuss Making Content Marketing the Star of Your Marketing, Neaneknea commented, “You can’t just rely on one form, mixing all the forms of marketing offers far much greater results’

What were the top online and digital marketing news stories for you this week?

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Infographic: Quick Sprout


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How to Create Oscar-Worthy Content Marketing: Ann Handley of MarketingProfs #CMWorld

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My pal Ann Handley has made it her life’s work to, in her words, “wage war on mediocrity in content.” Her best-selling book, Everybody Writes, is a practical guide to writing the kind of content that truly engages an audience.

As the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs (the world’s first Chief Content Officer, in fact), Ann advocates quality over quantity in all of her content ventures. She also spreads the gospel of good content at speaking engagements around the world, including the upcoming Content Marketing World conference September 8-11 in Cleveland.

To get a sneak preview of Ann’s Content Marketing World presentation, Good Content Vs. Good Enough Content: A Fight For Sore Eyes, I did my best to catch up with her during some pretty crazy travels. Along the way, she shared her journey on learning to write compelling content, the role of technology in content marketing, and the death of the marketing funnel.

My mission is always to make the complicated way simpler.

As the CCO of MarketingProfs, best-selling author, keynote speaker, lover of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and the most influential woman in Social Media (according to Forbes), when you look back on your journey throughout your career what are three things you never lost focus on that helped you get to where you are today?

  1. When I was in journalism school, my professor Charlie Ball used to tell me, “Remember: No one has to read this.” That perspective changed my writing from self-indulgent (all about me) to reader-centric (all about the audience). It’s been invaluable as a content-centric marketer and blogger and (frankly) as a person.

(Side note to parents — of either a human, dog, cat, ferret, lizard, llama, or otherwise: Parenting reaffirms this idea. Because nothing is about you. Ever again. And I say that in the best possible way.)

  1. Charlie also told me: “No one will complain that you made things too simple to understand.” Life is complicated. Business is messy. “Solutions” are multi-faceted. If I’m being honest, most things in life confuse me. My mission is always to make the complicated way simpler.
  1. Finally: Deliver. Seth Godin calls this: Ship.

When I was in high school, the Pope visited Boston. I went to Catholic high school, where I was the editor of the school paper. I told the school I’d cover it for us. (The nuns were thrilled!)

But then I changed my mind, and I blew off the Pope’s visit to go hang out with my local public school friends. And when I got home that day, my Mom was unusually annoyed at me. I didn’t understand why — who cares? The Pope’s visit was all over the news anyway.

And my mom said, lips pursed and on the verge of losing it, “Because you had a responsibility to your position, and you ignored it for your own pleasure.”

At the time, I thought she was being ridiculously prissy. (I still feel bad to this day about my eye roll in response.)

But now, I get it. I said I’d do something, and then I didn’t. That’s not cool.

How I internalize that now: If you say you’ll do something, do it. Your word is more important than you might imagine it is.

You can’t code creativity. And you can’t program publishing. And quality definitely trumps quantity.

Your session at Content Marketing World will focus on helping marketers nail the basics of creating good content. What do you anticipate are the primary challenges for marketers today in creating quality content versus a quantity of content?

I’ve been thinking lately about technology. Because increasingly it’s heralded as the savior (or legitimizer?) of marketing.

Robots can write your posts. Tools can optimize them. Solutions can amplify them.

Awesome. I heart technology. I built my career on it, too.

But guess what? Technology is only as good as our story.

You can’t code creativity. And you can’t program publishing. And quality definitely trumps quantity. Always has. Always will.

Your story is the thing that sets your apart. So the question is: What’s your story? And how do you tell it?

There’s a growing rumbling in the marketing industry about the death of the funnel. Yea or nay?

The funnel was never a funnel. It’s always been an ecosystem, because the people who buy (the people at the end of the “funnel”) have always had the capacity to influence the decision of others. Social tools and technology make that information way more accessible, is all.

Which makes your sales and marketing efforts like the song that never ends. It just goes on and on, my friend, to quote Lamb Chop. (Is this the first time Shari Lewis has been quoted in a marketing context?)

What are your favorite examples of B2B or B2C brands that are creating great content for marketing?

B2B

B2C

Nonprofit

Government

  • This was a failed attempt, because the candidate didn’t get elected. But I believe it was groundbreaking storytelling in political marketing – The Best Political Ad Ever

What’s ordinary to you isn’t often ordinary to others.

Incorporating storytelling into content marketing has always been a big focus of yours. What advice would you give to marketers to help uncover these stories, even if they think they might not have any worth sharing?

Every company has a story to tell, if you look at the world from your customer’s point of view. The designer Michael Wolff says, “What already exists is an inspiration.”

Train yourself to look at things differently. What’s ordinary to you isn’t often ordinary to others.

What is the best piece of marketing advice that you’ve ever received personally?

“The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing.” — Tom Fishburne (Marketoonist.com)

He didn’t say it to me personally — although he’s a friend, so he probably would if I asked him to. Regardless, I’ve internalized it as if he did. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I think of it every day.

Content Marketing World attendees, you are my people.

What do you like best about attending and speaking at Content Marketing World?

Content Marketing World attendees, you are my people. It’s not quite like being with family — but there’s a similar feel of a kind of posse.

“Community” is one of those words that’s overplayed in marketing. But CMW (and a few other select marketing events throughout the year) embody it for me.

Thanks, Ann!

Ready to Create Oscar-Caliber Content Marketing?

Reserve your space at Content Marketing World 2015 for inspiring and informative presentations from 200 superstars of marketing.

For a sneak preview of Ann and 13 other marketing matinee idols’ presentations, grab your popcorn and settle in with our new eBook, Making Content Marketing the Star of Your Marketing.

Stay Tuned For the Thrilling, Final Chapter in Our Triple Content Marketing Feature!

CMWorld 2015 eBooks

On June 22, we will premiere the final chapter in our content marketing triple feature: Measuring Your Content Marketing Box Office Success. Featuring content marketing stars such as Joe Pulizzi, Andrew Davis, Michael Brenner and many more, you’ll be able to connect the content marketing performance dots with the strategy and tactics shared in the first two eBooks.


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How to Create Oscar-Worthy Content Marketing: Ann Handley of MarketingProfs #CMWorld | http://www.toprankblog.com

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Essential SEO Considerations For Any Website Migration

Website Migration SEO Considerations

Sometimes implementing a website migration an essential part of doing business in a digital world. There are a variety of reasons why a company may choose to migrate from one site to another. Regardless of the reason, it’s important to remember that your website is your virtual calling card to prospective customers and sometimes a website migration is a necessary step in providing your customers the best possible user experience.

Like botched plastic surgery, a poorly executed website migration can bring a host of SEO problems, including making your site difficult to find in search engines, confusing to use or filled with errors that make the searchbots run away.

To ensure that your website migration goes smoothly and leads to improved business, follow these essential migration SEO recommendations:

Assess Visitor Behavior with Web Analytics

Assess Your Analytics

In order to improve the user experience of your website, it’s important to first understand how visitors use your website now. Your website analytics platform can be a treasure trove for insights into historic usage patterns that can be essential to identifying issues, opportunities and sticking points that can be improved with a strategic site redesign.

Make sure you’re putting all of that valuable data to use by reviewing:

  • Top-viewed website content – Make sure you aren’t cutting content your audience loves.
  • Least-viewed website content – Even the best sites have some junk, take this opportunity to drop it or improve it.
  • Click maps – Looking at where people are clicking (or trying to click) can help to design an intuitive and frustration free navigation interface.
  • Paths to conversion – Regardless of what your website goals are (i.e. build subscribers, generate leads), understanding the paths which your visitors are taking to key conversion points can help to optimize these paths to make it easier and more enticing for visitors to convert into customers.

Web analytics tools:

Website Migration 301 Redirect Mapping

Map Url Redirects

If your website has been around for any amount of time, there’s a good chance that you’ve built up search equity in the form of links and social shares. In addition to tight keyword optimization, these are the primary factors that help to increase the visibility of your content in search engines and since they are tied to the urls on your site, a migration in domain or url structure can snuff out the valuable search equity you’ve spent time and effort building.

To avoid starting from SEO square one with your new website, it’s important to strategically implement 301 redirects from your old page urls to the new ones, as this will effectively tell search engines where your new site pages are and that they are replacements for the old versions. In addition, it will ensure that people and bots who follow links to your old urls will end up in the right place rather than an error page.

In order to map redirects effectively, start by documenting for all your existing pages:

  • URL
  • Page topic
  • Target keyword
  • Organic search traffic (I recommend looking at a minimum 6 month time range)
  • Links to page
  • keyword rank

Also document for your planned new site pages:

  • URL
  • Page topic
  • Target keyword

Once you have these two lists compiled, the next step is to map each page on your current site to it’s planned new location on your soon-to-be launched site. Redirect mapping isn’t rocket science, but it does take some thought (when done correctly). Fortunately, the previous exercise should give you all the information you need.

Of primary concern is topic relevance, in particular for highly trafficked and linked-to pages. When planning redirects, always consider what the experience of a visitor would be if they ended up on the redirect page rather than the original. Would it serve their needs as well or better than the old page? Would it feel confusing? Ideally the new page should be such a seamless transition that people don’t even notice the switch.

Redirect mapping tools:

 

Consider Time of Year When Planning a Website Migration

Choose Ideal Timing

Even the best planned and executed website migrations come with some downtime and a temporary decrease in traffic (approx. 30%) and search rankings. It’s a price worth paying, as a new and improved website can drive significant improvements in business over an outdated and clunky site. However, it’s important to time the transition for when it’s likely to have the least amount of negative impact on your business.

The best time of year to implement a website migration is when business is likely to be the slowest. Companies vary in the degree of seasonality they experience, but most have a ‘slow season’. You probably already know when this is, but if not, take a look at your historic yearly web traffic or revenue patterns to determine when your slow season typically occurs.

As with time of year, it also makes sense to migrate your site on a slow day of the week during off hours. For many B2B focused websites, this is late on Friday or Saturday, but make sure to make the decision based on your own analytics, as every site and audience is different.

Post Website Migration

Post Migration

After making your new site live, it can be tempting to relax and celebrate, but hold off on breaking out the champagne just yet. In the period of time shortly following a website migration, it’s critical to keep a sharp eye out for issues or opportunities as well as monitor website traffic patterns to make sure it’s heading in a positive direction.

QA Like Your Site Depended on It (Spoiler: It Does)

In addition to checking your 301 redirects, it’s important to give a visual inspection of each page on your new site. For efficiency, you can check both simultaneously.

Make sure that each of your redirected pages:

  • Goes to the correct new destination page
  • Gives the correct server response (301)
  • Loads quickly
  • Directs to a page that renders correctly

Upload XML Sitemap

XML Sitemap and Robots.txt

Like moving a brick and mortar business to a new location, it’s important to let people know where you’ve gone or else they may not be able to find you. On the internet, this is primarily accomplished via an xml sitemap, which tells search engines all about your new site and what it contains.

While you should have a properly formatted (and ideally auto-generated) xml sitemap on your site from day one, it isn’t enough to simply have it there, as search engines may not immediately find it without a little prompting. To avoid unnecessary delays, upload your xml sitemap to Google Search Console (formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools) and Bing Webmaster Tools.

Once uploaded, check back to make sure your sitemap isn’t resulting in errors from either Google or Bing and that the majority of your submitted pages have been indexed.

Monitor Web Analytics After a Website Migration

Analytics

As mentioned earlier, a temporary decrease of approximately 30% in website search traffic and visibility can be expected in the period immediately following a migration, but it’s very important to monitor closely to make sure it is indeed temporary and that things are headed in the right direction.

Make sure to keep a close eye on:

  • Organic search traffic
  • Visit bounce rate
  • Conversion rates
  • Keyword rankings

Website Migration Crawl Test

Crawl Errors

Generally, crawl errors like broken links, 404 not found pages or duplicate content will be at their lowest levels on a brand new site, but it’s still important to check and fix any errors, especially as this can be an indicator of a mistake during the migration.

There are many good automated crawl tools available, but make sure you use one that can find:

  • Broken links and 400 error pages
  • 500 error pages
  • Duplicate content
  • Inaccessible content

A website migration may seem like a lot of work, and it most certainly is (when done correctly). But the potential payoffs in improved experience for your site visitors and increased business for you are more than worth the investment.

While none of this is exactly rocket science, it is important to get it right, as the risks of a poorly executed migration can be significant. If you don’t feel that you have the resources or knowledge to correctly implement your website migration, I strongly recommend enlisting the help of a skilled digital marketing agency or expert to help.

What are your best tips for a successful website migration?

Images from ShutterStock: First, Second, Third, Fourth


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13 Experts Discuss Making Content Marketing the Star of Your Marketing

CMW-The-Star-of-Your-Marketing-eBook

“Personality is the glitter that sends your little gleam across the footlights and the orchestra pit into that big black space where the audience is.” –Mae West

We may not know the names of actors like Sylvester Stallone, Mel Gibson and Jon Heder if it were not for their breakout roles in movies like Rocky, Mad Max and Napoleon Dynamite. Not only did these movies serve as a launching pad for major acting careers, but they also have something else in common. They were all low budget films that ended up being a phenomenal success.

In the same vein, many marketers are searching for a way to make content marketing the star of their digital marketing programs. Content marketing provides an excellent opportunity for marketers to tell their organization’s story with the personality and authenticity that engages an audience. Many times, though, marketers struggle to find a voice that expresses the brand, and the personality ends up on the cutting room floor.

To help you make your content marketing a box-office success, we proudly present the second eBook in our triple feature, Making Content Marketing the Star of Your Marketing. This feature combines the silver-screen glamour of old Hollywood with up-to-the-minute advice from some of the top names in the content marketing industry. Each of these marketing superstars will be presenting at Content Marketing World 2015 in September, but you can get a sneak preview now.

In this feature, you’ll discover strategies for:

  • Creating compelling content
  • Aligning content with your audience’s needs
  • Bringing B2C personality to B2B marketing
  • Publishing and promoting your content

Movies like The Godfather: Part II and Toy Story 2 prove that sometimes, the sequel is just as good as the original. Here are just a few memorable quotes from our second feature, in handy tweetable form:

AH0615

Ann Handley – MarketingProfs

“Be a content marketing star: Create quality content, find your brand voice & share results.” @annhandley tweet this

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Jeffrey Rohrs – Salesforce

“Scene stealing content marketing is sales activated, marketing promoted, optimized & reported.” @jkrohrs tweet this

JD0615

Juntae DeLane – University of Southern California

“To be a star in search, content marketers MUST consider SEO when developing content.” @juntaedelane tweet this

JL0615

Justin Levy – Citrix

“Always focus on measuring & communicating the business value of the content you’re creating.” @justinlevy tweet this

JAY0615

Jay Acunzo – NextView Ventures

“For star-making content, use a content marketing wheel “hub & spoke” for publishing & promotion.” @Jay_zo  tweet this

amyh0615

Amy Higgins – Zendesk

“Before publishing content, follow a launch plan checklist to make sure you haven’t left out steps.” @amywhiggins tweet this

MARK0615

Mark Wilson – Blackberry

“Good content marketing will appeal to customers’ rational & emotional sides.” Mark Wilson @BlackBerry tweet this

MITCH0615

Mitch Joel – Mirum

“In order for content marketing to be effective, distribution must be king. And queen.” @mitchjoel tweet this

AMANDA0615

Amanda Todorovich – Cleveland Clinic

“Earn support for content marketing resources by sharing metrics & data with stakeholders.” @amandatodo tweet this

MAGGIE0615

Maggie Burke – EMC Corporation

“To capture audience attention, combine real people, compelling stories & quality video content.” @maggieemctv tweet this

DOUG0615

Doug Kessler – Velocity

“Content marketers anthem: I promise to serve my audience with remarkable & strategic content!” @dougkessler tweet this

ARNIE0615

Arnie Kuenn – Vertical Measures

“For content success, create content that people are searching for, measure & explain the value.” @arniek tweet this

KEN0615

Ken Wincko – PR Newswire

“Successful content needs to be the 3 C’s: Credible, Compelling & Consistent.” @KenWincko tweet this

Catch the Full Feature Below:

CMWorld 2015 eBooks

If you missed the first featured eBook in this series on Content Marketing Strategy, you can view it on-demand now on SlideShare.

Also, remember to prepare yourself for the thrilling conclusion to this triple feature of content marketing awesome with, Measuring Your Content Marketing Box Office Success, coming June 22nd to computer or mobile phone screen near you (or in your pocket).

Be sure to visit the Content Marketing World website to learn more about the conference and reserve your seat for the big show.


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Learn How to Land Your Content a Leading Role: Jay Acunzo of NextView Ventures #CMWorld

JAcunzo---interview-header-

A talented movie director makes sure that actors give an authentic performance that will emotionally affect the intended audience. A good content marketing strategist has the same goal: authenticity that creates audience engagement. And just like a movie director, content marketers are expected to deliver on time, under budget, and follow up each hit with a fresh blockbuster.

Jay Acunzo, VP of Platform & Content at NextView Ventures, has built his career on getting star-making performances out of content. He began as a Digital Media Strategist at Google and has spent time managing content for Dailybreak Media and HubSpot. In his position at NextView, Jay helps startup entrepreneurs with education and business development including content marketing strategies that addresses tech startups’ unique marketing challenges.

In advance of his presentation at the 2015 Content Marketing World conference, I interviewed Jay about the importance of personality in content marketing, his “Content Marketing Wheel” strategy and the most-overlooked metric for measuring content marketing ROI.

Innovation in content marketing isn’t about inventing wild new things or new ways of doing something.

What are three lessons you’ve learned that you believe have made you a better content marketer in your journey from Digital Strategist at Google, to VP of Platform & Content at NextView Ventures?

  1. All content marketing is supposed to be solving the same problems for your customers that your product does.
  1. Innovation in content marketing isn’t about inventing wild new things or new ways of doing something. Instead, I take my cues from Ev Williams (founder of Medium, Twitter, and Blogger) who said about innovation: “Take a human desire … and use modern technology to remove steps.” If you line up all the steps your buyer takes to do something, you can suddenly see all kinds of creative ways your content can be helpful and relevant and stand out more than the competition’s.
  1. Have a strong point of view! Ever since I started inserting my voice more strongly into my personal blog, and using really unique tones, storytelling styles, and angles on NextView’s podcast, only good things have happened.

Drive traffic to that pillar piece, which again, is built to hit your KPIs and built to be the most educational or entertaining piece for your buyer.

Can you provide a high-level description of ‘The Content Marketing Wheel’ and share how you believe it helps marketers get the most value out of core content marketing assets?

In one sentence, the content marketing wheel is about creating a single pillar piece (the hub) and then orienting all your marketing activity around that piece (the spokes) to drive traffic to it.

More specifically, you first create a core resource — some call this a pillar piece. The topic of the piece is driven by your audience, while the format is driven by your goals. If your audience thinks blogging is difficult, then you can teach them to blog more easily through any type of content, format aside. But if your goals are, say, broad awareness, than an infographic trumps other formats, while a gated eBook might be better for lead-gen.

Second, with that piece as your “hub,” you then orient your marketing around that resource for a time. The “spokes” that make up your distribution are tactics that feel natural to a marketer, but they now have a purpose and all topically relate to the original resource. For instance, your blog pipeline is easier to fill with ideas based on that bigger, pillar piece (excerpts, topical tangents, related news, repackaging to new mediums, etc.). And other channels like email, social, paid distribution, search, and third parties (PR, co-marketing partners, and guest publishing) all focus on either distributing that core piece or smaller pieces that relate.

Lastly, all of those “spokes” exist for one reason: Drive traffic to that pillar piece, which again, is built to hit your KPIs and built to be the most educational or entertaining piece for your buyer.

The Content Marketing Wheel helps you codify your work and stay relevant, creative, organized, and prolific.

What are three actionable takeaways that you want arm your audience members with after your presentation “The Content Wheel: Sustaining Momentum with Greater ROI While Punching Unicorns in the Face” at CMW?

This playbook really helps with three core things that we’ll discuss together:

  1. How to be relevant to BOTH your audience’s needs or desires and your own goals.
  1. How to be sustainable with your publishing. It can be really hard to continually publish content, especially for folks who don’t wake up eager to write and create things in the morning.
  1. How to be lean about this. I work with startups and have run this playbook dozens of times with them. Ditto for larger companies at which I’ve worked. This Wheel idea helps you codify your work and stay relevant, creative, organized, and prolific — but you can easily launch and iterate on the exact execution as you learn from your work.

(Oh, and as a bonus, I will teach you how to punch a unicorn in the face. Like, right in their big dumb faces.)

Bring lead-gen data to open the discussion, but close your boss by demonstrating an understanding of your L2CC metrics.

What do you think are the most often overlooked KPIs in determining content marketing success?

If I had to pick just one KPI, I’d say we greatly overlook lead-to-customer conversion (L2CC) rates in B2B. At the time I was leaving HubSpot, where I was head of content for a time, the company was heavily focused on that and rightfully so. Knowing which pieces convert people from leads to MQLs or SQLs or from leads to customers is invaluable. Want more budget for B2B content? Bring lead-gen data to open the discussion, but close your boss by demonstrating an understanding of your L2CC metrics.

The “right” mentality is to view content as a means to more efficiently scale your marketing a few months down the road.

In your role at NextView Ventures you oversee education and business development for many of NextView’s portfolio companies. What content marketing challenges have you found to be unique to this group of startup companies?

My biggest two challenges are getting founders and startup marketers to think about content with the right mentality while also balancing the near-term, scrappy, non-scalable tactics they need to do that fall under “marketing” at a startup. The “right” mentality is to view content as a means to more efficiently scale your marketing a few months down the road, since it’s far more beneficial to create a collection of useful content that continues to get engagement, rather than try to publish one hit after another, each needing to “beat” the last one.

What resources do you rely on most to stay current with content marketing trends?

Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose’s podcast, This Old Marketing, is invaluable because of how they run down the big news in our industry.

I also use a personal, private Twitter list, subscribe to 8-10 blogs in Feedly, and receive Digiday’s newsletter.

Thanks, Jay!

Ready to Create Blockbuster Content Marketing?

Reserve your space at Content Marketing World 2015  for strategic presentations from 200 superstars in the marketing industry.

Get a sneak preview of Jay and 12 other marketing superstars’ presentations with our new eBook, Making Content Marketing the Star of Your Marketing.


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Online Marketing News: Less Filling Facebook, Organic Is Live & Well, Mobile Makes Modest Move

Evolution Of Twitter

The Evolution of Twitter – Twitter which was launched way back in 2006 has definitely gone a long way eversince it was created. To date, there are more than 288 million users who are active in sharing and sending tweets in a day. In using Twitter, you can now share and read tweets anytime and anywhere. Check out the full history of Twitter in this infographic. Tech & Science

STUDY: Facebook Pages’ Organic Reach Is Not Quite Dead – The conventional wisdom about Facebook pages is that organic reach is virtually nonexistent and posts with photos perform the best, but a study by social analytics and reporting firm Locowise poked holes in those theories. SocialTimes

Study: Searchers Use Question Formats 27% Of The Time – A new study analyzes how searchers type in queries by looking at the query format and query length. Search Engine Land

Marketing Departments to Move Majority of Apps to Cloud in 2 Years – Forty-seven percent of marketing departments will have 60 percent of their apps on a cloud platform within two years. Almost half of marketing departments will have two-thirds of their applications on a cloud platform in two years, a report from 451 Research has revealed. ClickZ

Facebook Partners With Shopify to Launch Its Own ‘Buy’ Button – It was announced today that Shopify and Facebook are teaming up to launch a ‘Buy’ button that will enable people to buy items found in the news feed without having to leave the world’s top social network. Search Engine Journal

Facebook Announces Facebook Lite – This week, Facebook introduced Facebook Lite, a new version of Facebook for Android that uses less data and works well across all network conditions. Facebook

Content Marketing Now Comprises 40% of LinkedIn’s Ad Revenue – LinkedIn generated revenue of $119 million selling ads during the first three months of 2015, a 38% increase over the year-earlier period, the company said Thursday. But the outlook for the second quarter and full year was weaker than expected, and headwinds for display ad sales meant a lot rides on the continued expansion of LinkedIn’s sponsored posts. Ad Age

STUDY: Envy of Friends, Family Can Make Facebook Use Depressing – All of these studies suggesting that Facebook use causes depression, are, well, depressing.The latest comes from University of Houston researcher Mai-Ly Steers, who found after conducting two separate studies that some Facebook users find themselves comparing their lives with the activities and accomplishments of their friends and family on the social network. SocialTimes

Report: YouTube Still Trumps Facebook Video For Brands Over The Long Haul – Visible Measures data shows Facebook with 35% of video views from a sample of March campaigns, but over time the balance shifts in YouTube’s favor. Marketing Land

Report: Mobile Search Queries 29 Percent Of Total But Growth Modest – comScore released its latest “Digital Future in Focus” compilation of key stats for the US market. Most of the material has been previously exposed in one form or another. However for the first time comScore released search volumes for mobile. Search Engine Land

Twitter Improves User Experience with New Block Tools – The platform is going to enable users to block multiple unwanted accounts at the same time and share lists of accounts they have blocked. ClickZ

REPORT: Page Likes Down 3% to 4% After Facebook Cuts Inactive Accounts – Social analytics provider Quintly broke up pages into two groups — those with fewer than and more than 1 million likes — and found that pages in the former group saw their like totals drop by an average of around 3 percent, while that figure was approximately 4 percent for the latter group. SocialTimes

What were the top online and digital marketing news stories for you this week?

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Infographic: Best Essay Tips


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