Book Review & Interview: Content Inc. by Joe Pulizzi


The Godfather of Content Marketing has struck gold again. Content Marketing Institute founder Joe Pulizzi has a new book that will hit shelves and Amazon carts this September.

His newest book, Content Inc.: How Entrepreneurs Use Content to Build Massive Audiences and Create Radically Successful Businesses is a delightful blend of inspiration from Joe’s personal experiences building Content Marketing Institute and advice businesses can follow to create an actionable content business model.

Content Inc. takes readers down the logical path from starting their journey, to monetization and creating next-level content.

When the Godfather releases a new piece of content it is always worth a read. If you don’t, you may have to answer to his loyal base of subscribers and followers. Below are some highlights of Content Inc. as well as an exclusive interview with Joe on his new book.

What You’ll Learn in Content Inc.

By focusing on building an audience first and defining products and services second, an entrepreneur can change the rules of the game and significantly increase the odds of financial and personal success.

– Joe Pulizzi

How to Lead with Goal Setting

There is a big difference between inherently having an idea of what your goals might be, and actually getting them down on paper and persistently working to achieve them. Even though this book is largely about content, Joe makes sure to emphasize that you should document all goals, personal and professional in order to be successful. This approach can help you prioritize and scale your business model.

The 6 Step Content Inc. Model

This book is built around what Joe calls the “Content Inc. Model” which is a six step process marketers can follow to efficiently and effectively develop a winning content marketing program. What are the steps?

  1. The Sweet Spot: A blend of your  core knowledge and passion.
  2. Content Tilt: Defining what makes you different from your competition.
  3. Building the Base: Determining which content distribution channels will be your foundation for publishing.
  4. Harvesting Audience: Leveraging different methods to draw in new audience members.
  5. Diversification: How to break out from your base distribution channels and build additional streams.
  6. Monetization: Once you’ve scaled your model, how will you use it to generate revenue?

Real-Life Examples of Why Content Inc. Works

Content Inc. has a high impact ending. After we’ve been instructed on the six steps, given prompts for action and resources for more information, we have the best part; examples. Readers can gain inspiration from hearing more about how companies like Razor Social, Lego, Marriott and more have found success from following the Content Inc. Model.

From the Mouth of the Godfather of Content Marketing

This book review wouldn’t be complete without some additional insight from the author, Joe Pulizzi. Here is how Joe describes the notion of Content Inc. in his own words:

Who is Content, Inc. for?

The book is perfect for two audiences.  First, for startups and small businesses, Content Inc. can serve as the underlying business model for long-term growth.  Build a loyal audience and sell them whatever you want.  Second, the book can really help marketers in larger companies who need to be change agents.  Marketers looking to build a valuable audience in a specific content niche – that ultimately will help them drive more leads, more sales or new lines of revenue.

In chapter one you talk about “Beginning with the end in mind”. What impact has goal setting had your own career?

My life changed for the better when I started to do two things.  First, write down my goals (with actual pen and paper).  Second, review those goals daily.  You have no idea what kind of impact this can make on your life.  It’s such an easy thing to do that no-one does.

Another concept you reference is about “Unleashing Your Passion”. How did you find your passion for content marketing?

I don’t like the idea that marketers only sell and don’t make positive change happen.  That’s why I love content marketing.  You can increase the bottom line while, at the same time, help your customers live better lives or get better jobs.  Content marketing is the only kind of marketing that provides ongoing value, whether you purchase the product or not.  Isn’t that what all marketers want to do?  Provide real value?

What are three things you want people who read Content, Inc. to walk away understanding?

  1. That the way we’ve been launching and growing businesses is not right anymore for how people consume information.  Building an audience around valuable content is the absolute best way to start and grow a business for the long-term.
  2. That even though Content Inc. is not a get-rich quick scheme or will make immediate impact in your business, if you follow the six steps and consistently execute on the idea, you will be successful.  Any sized company can do this.  Any company or person can follow the six steps.  I love it because it’s democratic.  Bigger budgets don’t necessarily win.
  3. The competition can copy everything we do as companies except for one thing – how we communicate.  That means delivering an amazing content experience to our customers on a regular basis is THE most critical thing we should be doing as marketers, business owners and communication professionals.

What Should You Do Next?

The way that Joe structured Content Inc. is incredibly powerful. He provides enough information to make the content actionable, without creating paralysis from information overload. If you’re looking for a content model to follow, enjoy a good story, or just want to know more about the man behind Content Marketing Institute, I would strongly recommend pre-ordering a copy of Content Inc. on Amazon.

The book will be released on September 8, 2015 to coincide with the annual Content Marketing World event hosted by Joe’s team in Cleveland, OH.  

The TopRank Marketing team will be in attendance, and our CEO Lee Odden will be speaking on the topic of Participation Marketing: How to Co-Create, Optimize & Socialize Content With Influencers.

We are very excited about Content Marketing World and look forward to learning from some of today’s top content marketing experts and connecting with other passionate content marketing individuals. See you there!

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3 Examples of How Partnering with Influencers on Content Creates a Winning Combination


“Influencer Marketing” is a phrase that has gained momentum over the past few years. It seems that everywhere you turn, marketers are telling you that you need to incorporate influencers as part of your integrated digital marketing strategy. But the question is, does it really work?

Many companies may not have the staff or resources to run a full-fledged influencer marketing strategy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t begin dabbling in influencer marketing campaigns to help meet marketing and business objectives. A successful approach to influencer marketing provides value for both the company, and the influencers that participate. 

One ripe opportunity for building awareness and integrating influencer marketing into your marketing mix is to use it as a means to help promote events. 

Below are three stories of how TopRank Marketing helped three companies incorporate content and influencer marketing to create a winning combination for event promotion.

#1 – Collaborating with Influencers on a Blog Post to  Increase Target Conversion Pageviews

A leading genealogy research company wanted to leverage their involvement in the annual RootsTech event that averages around 20,000 attendees. In order to take advantage of a clearly identified and qualified audience, this company worked with TopRank Marketing to develop a content and social amplification plan that included contributions from industry influencers.

Objective: Collaborate with influencers to drive traffic to a specific high priority page on the business website.

Campaign elements included:

  • Content that included tips from influencers on how to best create a genealogy project
  • Thought leader outreach for contribution
  • Social message development to encourage amplification of the content
  • Cross promotion of influencers within social messages to increase reach

Results: Visits to the landing page increased significantly and the social reach exceeded all predictions and expectations. 


#2 – Using Influencers to Create Evergreen Content to Build Credibility

One of the largest healthcare technology companies in the United States participates in an annual event managed by Healthcare Information and Management Systems (HIMSS). Healthcare technology is an incredibly competitive field and marketing is heavily regulated. That means that companies in this industry have a unique opportunity to get creative with their approach.

Objective: Partner with influencers to create awareness at the event and develop evergreen content that is still promotable post-event.

Campaign elements included:

  • eBook including contributions from top healthcare experts
  • Gated landing page of the eBook on the company website
  • Optimization of the content for search
  • Paid and organic social amplification
  • Banner advertisement on the company blog
  • Supporting blog content

Results: This co-created campaign generated 22x the typical page views of previous landing pages and 3x as many downloads compared to other recent fulfillment pieces. 


#3 – Increasing Event Awareness with Co-Creation

Content Marketing World is the largest content marketing event in the world. But, competition in the digital marketing industry is becoming increasingly fierce, which means they need to find a creative way to provide valuable content for marketers. Content Marketing World partnered with TopRank Online Marketing to create a series of four eBooks (and supporting content) to provide attendees and potential attendees with tips from some of today’s top content marketers.

Objective: Develop an opportunity for influential speakers to participate in content creation that would promote their presentations, the CMWorld conference and create a useful and infotaining resource for all marketers interested in content marketing.

Campaign elements included:

  • 4 Alice in Wonderland themed eBooks co-created with conference speakers
  • 4 infographics that included tips from the speakers
  • Long form interviews to promote speaker sessions and expertise
  • Tweetable quotes to encourage social sharing
  • Paid and organic social amplification

Results: The campaign eBooks have garnered over 200,000 views on SlideShare and captured more than 1,000 leads.


Ready to Embark on Your Own Influencer Marketing Initiative?

These examples only provide a glimpse into the possibilities you can uncover with an influencer marketing program. Over the next few months, TopRank Marketing’s CEO Lee Odden will be speaking at some of the largest national and virtual conferences in the United States on the topic of influencer marketing and how to incorporate it into your digital marketing mix. 

If you’re interested to learn more about the benefits of adding influencer marketing to your integrated digital marketing strategy, please visit our website and learn more about our influencer marketing programs.

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How 3 Mega E-Commerce Websites Approach Title Tag & Meta Description Optimization


Here’s a test: Google “fairy wings” right now. Your job is to quickly find which result will sell you a set of glitter fairy wings and preferably include free shipping.

Now that you’ve begun your search, how do you know which result will bring you to the most qualified products? One way is to visually scan the title and description snippets in your search results.

There are nearly 12 billion Google searches per month. Consumers conduct searches for products or services they need, and often use the snippets in search results as deciding factor on whether to click, or keep scrolling.

The examples below show how three mega e-commerce sites approach title tags and meta descriptions, what they’re doing right and some additional opportunities.

alibaba logo takes a keyword-heavy approach to title tags and meta descriptions. Jam-packed with keywords, their title tags and meta descriptions often exceed recommended character counts and do not create compelling arguments for click-throughs.

What they’re doing right

  • Specifying title tags and meta descriptions on every page
  • Including keywords in title tags and meta descriptions
  • Using action-oriented meta descriptions to call readers to “Find quality [product name here]”

Strategic recommendations

  • Reduce title tag length: Lengths are consistently over 100 characters. Limiting the character count to 50-60 will reduce truncation in search results and allow to reign in their optimization strategy to focus on 1-2 top priority keywords per page.
  • Reduce meta description length: Descriptions tend to be upwards of 200 characters on this site. Limiting the character length to 160 characters or less will allow to lead with a complete, cohesive sentence in search results.
  • Draft unique and compelling meta descriptions: Meta descriptions on this site’s product pages simply reorder keywords listed in title tag and tend to trail off into lists of keywords for the bots to read. Draft descriptions for readers instead of search bots to improve click-through rates with concise, actionable language that emphasizes’s value proposition.

alibaba meta example


amazon logo

Amazon appears to take a minimalistic approach to title tags and meta descriptions. Template-style descriptions leave room for improvement in terms of providing useful and compelling reasons to click.

What they’re doing right

  • Specifying title tags and meta descriptions on every page
  • Not exceeding character limitations in most cases

Strategic recommendations

  • Draft more robust meta descriptions: Second level category pages such as Toys & Games or Electronics appear to have effortless, default meta titles and descriptions. Due to the incomplete description provided by Amazon in the example below, Google has opted to feed additional copy from the page that it feels better represents the content of the page. Amazon could take control of this lost meta description real estate by providing a detailed and compelling description.
  • Draft compelling title tags: Although “Toys & Games” may be the actual page title, this title tag does not compel a reader to click. It does not evoke interest, or curiosity, or excitement. We recommend drafting a title that highlights the value proposition or ties into an overarching brand voice.

Amazon meta example

Best Buy

best buy logo

Best Buy’s approach to meta titles and descriptions is the perfect mix of taglines, keywords and marketing objectives to provide attractive page snippets you can’t help but click.

What they’re doing right

  • Concise language that defines the benefit of shopping with them: In-store pickup, free shipping on thousands of products, expert service.
  • Appropriate lengths to avoid truncation in search results
  • Unique title tags and meta descriptions on every page

Strategic Recommendations

  • Keep rocking your mad meta skills!

best buy meta example

For years, optimization experts have been told that keywords within meta titles and descriptions do not effect organic ranking – and while Google’s ranking algorithm may not be reading these keywords, users are. They’re deciding which search result to click on based on their perception of the relevance of each result page.

How compelling are your title tags and meta descriptions? Ensure they follow recommended character limits, include 1-2 keywords most relevant to the page’s content and concisely pitch your value proposition. If you do, your glittery fairy wings should be flying off the shelves in no time.

For more real-life examples of search engine optimization strategies and results, check out TopRank Marketing’s integrated marketing case studies.

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The Future of Content Marketing: Integration, Optimization and Participation


In 2015 the world celebrated the 126th birthday of Paris’ iconic Eiffel Tower. This important piece of history is comprised of over 18,000 individual pieces and was built by nearly 300 people participating in the project.

Developing content for content marketing programs can be approached with a similarly participative framework and in a way that satisfies some marketers’ top needs. According to Altimeter Group, 60% of surveyed marketers said that content creation was a top need while 53% named distribution. That means it’s time for organizations to begin looking outside of their marketing teams for content co-creation partners and to improve content promotion at the same time.

But how does an optimized, socialized and co-created content program work?

CMW Lee OddenHere’s the good news! In September, TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden will be presenting at Content Marketing World on the the benefits of using a participative and integrated approach to content creation and promotion.  As a preview, I interviewed Lee to get his insight into the future of content marketing as well as some sage advice for marketers that want to explore the benefits of participation marketing with content.

[Be sure to stay tuned at the end of this post for an opportunity to win a free pass to Content Marketing World]

#1 – What are some important changes on the horizon for content marketing, and what can marketers begin doing today to prepare?

To prepare an effective content experience, marketers will need to emphasize their ability to understand customers.

Mobile – Google says if you only have one site and that site is mobile, you should do fine in both mobile and desktop search results. 61% of US consumers search and 56% use social networks on Smartphones daily (Google – Our Mobile Planet).

To prepare, it’s essential that content marketers plan, create, promote and optimize performance specifically for the mobile experience, because that is where customers are discovering, consuming and acting on content.

Focus on Content Experiences – From personalization to omnichannel coordination of content and visual assets on and offline, marketers will need to focus on content as an experience vs. simply providing information.

To prepare an effective content experience, marketers will need to emphasize their ability to understand customers. Brands need to forego lip service to customer segmentation and use of personas as tools to represent true customer interests. It’s more important now than ever to evolve understanding of what really makes customers tick – their goals, their aspirations, their pain and what role content can contribute to the best possible solution experience.

Importance of Influencers – Working with industry influencers will increase significantly as companies learn how to attract, engage and activate relationships with authoritative “brandividuals” and niche influencers alike.

Everyone is influential about something and people are now empowered with technology to discover, consume, interact and publish anytime, anywhere. Anyone with an internet connection and an active passion for a topic can become influential.

To prepare, brands need to understand that influencer marketing will be as much about working with established influencers as it is about helping up and coming talent become influential will hold a competitive advantage. The time to start growing an influencer network is long before you actually need them, so it’s important for brands to start nurturing relationships immediately – but guided with a solid long term strategy.

Participation Marketing – Democratization of content creation across organizations and communities will increase as more companies implement targeted crowdsourcing of content and user generated content (UGC) programs.

Preparation for participation marketing means breaking free of siloed content development within marketing and creating the framework for an ecosystem of content creation amongst internal and external sources. Guided by a solid strategy, content co-creation with internal and external audiences supports numerous marketing and PR goals as well as reinforcing and growing relationships with current and emerging influencers.

#2 – Do you have some examples of some of your favorite and impactful participation marketing programs?

Parents are always proudest of their own children and I am very proud of the work we’ve produced at TopRank Marketing when it comes to co-creating content for marketing.

Content Marketing Wonderland eBooks

In fact, the “Content Marketing in Wonderland” campaign we co-created with industry influencers to promote Content Marketing Institute’s Content Marketing World conference last year won a DGR Killer Content Award and is a finalist in MarketingProfs Bright Bulb Awards.

View the full case study here.

#3 – How do you think that your experience in SEO has helped you become a more effective content marketer?

When innovation and adaptability are the norm for a marketer, it creates a great foundation for being competitive in today’s fast-changing digital marketing environment.

Great SEOs are out-of-the-box lateral thinkers. They are capable of both left and right brain solutions to moving target problems presented by changing search engine algorithms. When innovation and adaptability are the norm for a marketer, it creates a great foundation for being competitive in today’s fast-changing digital marketing environment.

SEOs are also driven by observable results and data informed strategies – characteristics that are highly valuable with scalable digital marketing programs that need to integrate across tactics.

I think those perspectives have been highly transferable for me and have contributed to being more effective.

#4 – What are some of your go-to tools for influencer discovery?

  • BuzzSumo alerts and trends
  • Influencer tracking with Traackr
  • Several niche email newsletters about content, social, PR and search marketing
  • Bookmarked queries on Google News for various marketing topics
  • Various bookmarked digital marketing resources ranging from to the very funny

#5 – Your Book “Optimize” is still regarded as one of the top books for digital marketers. What do you think has made this book stand the test of time in a quickly evolving industry?

Optimize is about empathizing with customers and creating a great experience through integrated content, search and social media.

While the name “Optimize” makes the book seem to be about SEO, it’s really about empathizing with customers and creating a great experience through integrated content, search and social media. I think the book continues to be popular because the importance of buyers in marketing will never expire.

Optimize takes a strategic approach to understanding a target audience and use insight about how content is discovered, consumed and acted on to inform a digital marketing strategy.

#6 – Your session at Content Marketing World is titled “Participation Marketing: How to Co-Create, Optimize & Socialize Content with Influencers”. What are three things you want the audience from your session to walk away understanding about participation marketing?

  1. What brand & customer interests can you align with co-creators in your network?
  2. Incorporate search & social topics into the fabric of your co-created content
  3. Make content creation, promotion and success a community effort

Enter to Win a Ticket to Content Marketing World 2015


Content Marketing World will be here before we know it. If you’re pining for a spot at the conference but haven’t been able to make it work, we’ve got something special for you. TopRank Marketing is giving away a pass for Content Marketing World’s Main Conference and Industry Lab.

In the spirit of participation marketing, we’re asking that you submit your most pressing participation marketing question to to enter to win your free Content Marketing World conference pass. Please include your name, best email address to reach you, twitter handle and question in your submission. We only have one to give away, so make your question count. We will announce the winner just one week from today on Monday August 31st, so send your submission soon.

We look forward to seeing you there!

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Online Marketing News: Less Are LOLing, Move Over Non-Mobile-Friendly, LinkedIn Gets Lookedup

How To Engage Instagram With The Right Content

Engage Your Instagram Following with the Right Content [Infographic] – If you focus on one social channel in 2015 it better be Instagram. With over 300 million active users and 3x more engagement than Twitter, it offers the richest opportunity for exposure and conversation around your brand. Learn how you can engage your Instagram audience from this great infographic. Social Media Explorer

Instagram Tops Snapchat, Vine in Satisfaction, Buzz (Report) – Consumer satisfaction and buzz is trending as follows, according to YouGov BrandIndex: Instagram up, Snapchat steady, Vine down. SocialTimes

Only 21% of Marketers Include SEO in Their Budgets [Study] – Nearly 80 percent of marketing decision-makers fail to include SEO in their budgets, according to new research from global tech public relations agency Hotwire. Search Engine Watch

Instagram Mobile Ad Revenues to Reach $2.81 Billion Worldwide in 2017 – Instagram will bring in $595 million in mobile ad revenues worldwide this year, according to eMarketer’s first-ever forecast of how much advertisers will spend on the social network. eMarketer

Study: Non-Mobile-Friendly Sites Disappearing From Top Google Results – Remarkably there are many brands and companies that still don’t have mobile-friendly sites. According to a new study from Moovweb there are clear visibility and ranking consequences, in addition to usability consequences. Search Engine Land

Facebook Thrives, Pinterest Lags As Driver Of E-Commerce Sales Conversions [Survey] – Facebook was the top converting channel for 64% of online retailers in the US and UK, according to a survey by ChannelAdvisors. Only 5% said the same about Pinterest. Marketing Land

Report: Digital Natives Do Everything From Mobile Devices – A study from Refuel Agency, a marketing agency specializing in teen and niche marketing, examines current trends among millennial teens. SocialTimes

Facebook Study Proves ‘lol’ Is Dying Out Online – Facebook analyzed its users’ posts (private messages were not included in this study) and determined that only 1.9 percent of internet gigglers most commonly used “lol.” Just over half of people preferred the classic “haha,” a third turn to emoji, and the remaining 13 percent is rounded out by “hehe” lovers. The Week

Survey: 71 Percent Browse Retail Apps Before Buying In-Stores – Retailers as a group haven’t figured out how apps fit into their larger strategies, despite all the “omnichannel” rhetoric to the contrary. To date, retail apps have mostly been treated as small-screen versions of e-commerce desktop sites with some “circular” content (e.g., offers) thrown in. Marketing Land

Introducing LinkedIn Lookup: Easily Find, Learn About, and Contact Your Coworkers – A new LinkedIn app that makes professionals more productive and successful by helping them easily find, learn about, and contact their coworkers. LinkedIn [client]

Facebook Pulls Ahead of Google In Referral Traffic – Google may be synonymous with web traffic to many people, but Facebook refers more traffic to news sites, according to recent data from traffic analytics firm Search Engine Watch

Pinterest and Instagram Users on the Rise – LinkedIn and Twitter, not so Much [Report] – New data from Pew Research has found that the proportion of online Americans who use Pinterest and Instagram has doubled since Pew first started tracking social media platform adoption in 2012. Use of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, on the other hand, while it’s also grown steadily over the years, is now starting to slow. Social Media Today

From our Online Marketing Community:

In response to Learn How to Harness the Power of Millennial Employees, Laith Marmash said, “Really interesting article Ashley. Love your view on failure, and how it should be celebrated as it means an attempt was made to try something new.”

On The New Era of SEO: Optimize for People Before Searchbots, Escapevidya commented, “Thanks for sharing. I have always wondered if I can follow the natural instinct of an user.”

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

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Infographic: Spredfast

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25 Inspiring & Actionable Content Marketing Tips For (Almost) Any Situation


The dreaded content marketing rut, we’ve all been there. Everyone from copywriter to CMO has experienced content marketing fatigue at one point or another. Sometimes it feels like no matter how hard you try you can’t quite seem to:

  • Create enough content
  • Get the engagement you need
  • Find interesting ways to innovate

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Recent research has found that, 70% of B2B marketers are creating more content than they were a year ago and 54% find producing engaging content to be a challenge.

If only there were a list of tips that you could reference from time to time when you need a content marketing pick-me-up.

Well, look at what we have here! Keep this list of 25 content marketing tips handy for whenever the need strikes.

Want to Make Your Blog More Impactful?


  • Stand for something specific – Being focused and opinionated attracts attention. It builds authority and credibility.
  • Human recognition – Curate responses to opinions into content that recognizes contributors
  • Know your audience – Understand how your blog readers prefer to discover, consume and act on content.
  • Look beyond yourself for blog topics and writing – Connect with your community for inspiration – crowdsource topics through analysis of blog engagement.
  • Review the content type and buying cycle – What is to be accomplished? Who is it for and where in the buying cycle does the focus need to be?
  • Examine your objective – The individual pieces of content need to match the objective of the content marketing strategy as a whole.
  • Make your audience feel something – Many resources specialize in photography that expresses specific emotions, but the image must mesh with the overall content message

Experiencing Writer’s Block?


  • Draft first – If you’re having trouble creating an outline, do your draft first, then reverse engineer the outline.
  • Be conversational – Write as if you’re having a conversation with an old friend. Write the way that you would talk, maybe even exaggerate the tone.
  • Forget perfection – When you’re stuck trying to write perfection, turn off your inner editor and just write garbage. Try even typing with your eyes closed so that you’re not tempted to edit. Then look at it and edit and refine it until it’s worth showing.
  • Find an ideal time – Everyone’s brain works in different ways. Find the time of day that works best for you to be creative with your copywriting and try to set aside a time slot each day to focus on writing.  

Not Sure How to Repurpose Existing Content?


  • Repurposing basics – Customize and deconstruct – Take an eBook and structure it to be industry specific so you can create different versions for distinctive industries.
  • Make lists – Collect disparate resources relevant to your target audiences and rank them.
  • Interview famous and soon to be famous, industry leaders – Create a library of quotes for social shares to a specific audience. Use tips and quotes to create an infographic.
  • Capture live or recorded content aka “Live blogging” – Find events offline or online, live or recorded that contain content and influencers relevant to your target audience.

Struggling with Your Influencer Marketing Strategy?


  • Defining influence – Take into account their ability and willingness to affect action – not just achievement of high fan, friend and follower counts.
  • Don’t get distracted – Don’t be blinded by the prospect of fame by association. Popular influencers  won’t necessarily create positive effects for brand marketing and PR goals..
  • Validate influencers – Narrow down a short list of influencers by finding correlations across multiple influencer discovery tools and then validating through manual inspection of their work.
  • Share a game plan – Provide examples of a thought leader who is already speaking to your target audience. Share steps for how you might attract, engage and partner with those influencers.
  • Be the expert – Help your boss & constituents understand what influencer marketing is and isn’t.
  • Be mindful of results – Focusing on social shares vs clickthroughs and actions creates fuzzy influencer results.

Need to Weave More Storytelling into Your Content?


  • Develop and advance the narrative – Strong brand stories are told through anecdotes, strung together to advance the narrative.
  • Customer-centric value – Use statistics & percentages. Try sharing customer feedback.directly.
  • Address human needs – B2B content should elevate the product or service to address the human needs of the audience.
  • Visualize the message – Convey emotion through visual stimulation, and use a variety of visual elements such as videos, infographics, memes, comics, SlideShares and quotes.

Hopefully this list provides you with some inspiration when you’re struggling to make your content marketing program shine. What have you found works best for you when you’re in a content marketing slump?

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Digital Marketing Spotlight: Tami Cannizzaro, Senior Director at eBay

Digital Marketing SpotlightToday we begin a new series of interviews with digital marketing professionals from the front lines of marketing to executives in the C-Suite. Our goal? To shine a light on the secrets to digital marketing success through strategy and tactics, challenges and wins, technology, operations, best practices and a little social media fun.

Starting off the series is Tami Cannizzaro (@tamicann) Senior Director of Marketing at eBay where she is responsible for global demand generation and driving lead targets across four major business units. In this interview, Tami talks about what she’s learned from her years at IBM in her new role at eBay, tips on choosing marketing technology, outsourcing vs. insourcing, the convergence of earned, owned and paid media and insightful career advice for rising digital marketers. Plus we learn what she really thinks about the top social networks.

Tami CannizzaroYou recently joined eBay as Senior Director, Global Demand Generation (congrats!) after many years at IBM. What prompted the change and what’s your focus now?

During my time at IBM, I integrated new acquisitions and built our leadership in product categories – SOA, Social Business, Smarter Commerce, Smarter Marketing and finally, Cloud computing. I had done almost every job and was ready for the challenge of working for a smaller, high-growth company.

At a larger B2B brand, the sales force can rely more heavily on the brand name to drive new business. At a mid-sized company, every dollar spent in driving demand needs to drive leads and impact the bottom line. In my new role, I run the demand generation program for eBay’s Enterprise unit. Our company helps companies to grow and scale their ecommerce and in store business. I’m on the hook to drive new leads in support of sales growth.

What lessons have you learned from your experience as a technology marketer that translate to your responsibilities at eBay?

I have worked with many different marketing organizations in the past 10 years and I find that the most successful ones operate with a single focus – driving top line revenue growth. This mission aligns the entire organization to become results driven.

To rise above the noise, you need to increase your touchpoints by 10x if not more to reach a prospect.

In B2B, there’s a shift from product to category marketing. I have found the most success when aligning the entire organization to go after a new market. That means PR, AR, DG, partner marketing, social media, all coming together and aligning to drive a leadership message. Gone are the days when a single message or one way advertising campaign can break through. Tech has become incredibly saturated with new entrants given the low cost of entry caused by the onslaught of applications and rapid pace of innovation. To rise above the noise, you need to increase your touchpoints by 10x if not more to reach a prospect.

One of the biggest observations I’ve made in the last year or so is that the customer, the technology and the techniques to prospect are changing at a rapid pace. I work to embrace new techniques and pilot new programs all the time. I consider myself a student of marketing and I am learning something new every day. The reality is that If you aren’t evolving as a marketer in this landscape, you’re falling behind.

When you enter into a new marketing leadership role, what is your approach to getting things up to speed? How do you balance hiring more staff vs. using outside vendors and agencies?

I am not married to any particular agency or staffing model. Designing a team and hiring agencies all depends on your budget, the skills at hand and the agencies you have at your disposal. I love working with smaller agencies who can partner with you on driving business results.

There’s huge upside with the right investment in digital – most B2B companies are just scratching the surface.

For digital demand generation, it’s critical to have resources on your team dedicated to lead development. I learned about digital conversion from two companies I had the opportunity to work with very closely – Coremetrics and Softlayer. They both had models which depended almost entirely on digital for lead flow. Most B2B companies still use digital as a supporting function to their business versus an engine to drive the business. I personally think most B2B companies are underinvested in terms of skills, budget and digital programs. There’s huge upside with the right investment in digital. Most B2B companies are just scratching the surface.

Companies are maturing in their use of content, especially with the flurry of content hubs that are meant to support demand generation objectives. What do you think is the most important criteria for an established brand to be a “brand publisher”?

Producing sufficient content is the topic that keeps me up at night. Today, the first brand impressions are less likely to be advertising and more likely to be an article or a blog or piece of content. Take Salesforce for example. They do a great job of creating content to help a B2B marketer with CRM strategy. They have become the go-to brand for CRM by building their authority and giving prospects the confidence they are the right platform choice.

For my money, I suggest turning traditional ad dollars into a content engine.

You can hire agencies to help deliver content at scale – like NewsCred – hire external contractors, or turn your traditional product marketing team into a team of journalists. Many agencies these days will white label your content. It really depends on your business model.

For my money, I suggest turning those traditional ad dollars into a content engine. It’s more effective and works harder for you. You can hire an agency to do this, which is easier, or hire internally, which is more efficient.

Marketing Technology Scott Brinker

There are more marketing technology options available now than ever. I think Scott Brinker’s diagram is up to 1,800 different platforms and SaaS offerings. How do you make marketing technology choices? Do business units have autonomy or is it led by corporate marketing?

In my group, the technology choices are led by the demand generation team together with our operations and CIOs office. I agree it can be an overwhelming process. Integration of systems is key or you lose your view of the funnel. Simplicity and robustness are two trade-offs that also need to be made. Some tools are simple and easy to use but don’t have the functionality. I’ve often seen technology go unused or misused because it’s too complicated.

Corporate marketing has chosen the Marketo and Salesforce platforms for our business. At a unit level, we’re free to augment with analytics, custom dashboards, social media, re-targeting solutions etc. I’m leading that process now for our group. We’re actively shopping several technology ad-ons to augment the basic functions of marketing automation.

Marketing and communications roles are converging within many organizations as owned, earned, paid and social media intertwine. For example, PR is increasingly running ads as sponsored content, marketing is using social networks to connect with influencers and advertisers are creating content hubs. What does the modern marketing and PR entity look like? Are they converged, independent or something new?

I started working with a new head of communications recently who is very evolved in his thinking. A legacy PR person will try to land grab and own all communications, including social. They can feel threatened by an organization broadly engaged in social media.

An evolved PR person will understand marketing and PR need to support and amplify one another. Successful social takes engagement from across the organization.

There needs to be seamless collaboration (between marketing and PR) or it doesn’t work.

On balance, I would say it needs to converge and move from a command and control traditional PR model to shared ownership. For instance, a Brand Channel on Forbes is a marketing buy. I will make the buy and work with my PR team on the right story/placement. My team may apply paid against that channel to amplify something the PR team has done. There needs to be seamless collaboration or it doesn’t work.

What career advice would you give to rising digital marketing executives on skills and advancing their career?

My advice is to get in the mindset that you always need to be in learning mode and evolving as a marketer. The biggest mistake I see executives make is that they haven’t changed their game up in the last 5 years. Consumer behavior is changing rapidly. Every day new social platforms are being introduced. Every day traditional marketing programs are becoming less effective and so you need to be ready to try new things.

You always need to be in learning mode and evolving as a marketer.

I would also advise to embrace the next generation. I’ve worked with execs who find millennial colleagues very threatening in terms of their ability to question the traditional way of doing things. My advice is to learn from them and be humble enough to learn form the intern on your team who will likely bring the freshest perspective!

Finally, I would suggest building your public persona. Headhunters and brands are looking for someone who can bring credibility to their brand. Having industry credibility can only help to position you as a standout candidate and forward thinking marketer.

How do you deal with information overload in the marketing world and what marketing and technology information resources do you rely on to stay current?

I read my twitter feed every day – #Marketing #CMO #Digital.  I follow a number of people regularly who I respect in the industry. I have a must read list for certain thought leaders like yourself including:

These industry experts keep me current and I often learn about trends from their news feeds.

I also read several marketing and digital magazines on Flipboard. I search which combs for the most shared social content to find new trends or topics.

Let’s play social media word association. I’ll list social networks and media sites and you reply with what comes to mind first:

Facebook – Personal Network

Vine – Video Shorts

LinkedIn – Professional Network

Twitter – Industry Network

Meerkat or Periscope – Real Time Video

Google+ – Search engine ranking

Snapchat – Teen platform

YouTube – Video platform

Instagram – High impact visuals

Flickr – Photo sharing

Pinterest – Mommy site

My Space – Is it still around?

Thanks Tami! 

You can find Tami on Twitter, LinkedIn and on her site, Digital Age of Marketing.

Be sure to check in for our next Digital Marketing Spotlight interview with Jeff Marcoux, CMO Lead, Worldwide Enterprise Marketing at Microsoft.

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Digital Marketing Spotlight: Tami Cannizzaro, Senior Director at eBay |

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Learn How to Harness the Power of Millennial Employees


The dynamic in today’s workforce has changed, and some employers aren’t quite sure how to handle the shift. Millennials are different than any generation that has come before them and sometimes get a bad rap in the professional world.

As a millennial myself (yes, 1985 makes the cut), I can confidently say that we are a largely misunderstood generation. Drive is often mistaken for entitlement, and savviness mistaken for pompousness. While there are undoubtedly some millennials that have been protected from the harsh realities of life, the vast majority do not fall into that category. We’ve grown up with technology at our fingertips, move at a quick pace and learn differently than the generations preceding us.

Millennials have taken over as the largest generation in the labor force today and are projected to make up 75% of the workforce by 2030. Based on those cold, hard statistics, millennials aren’t going away.

Understanding how millennials tick and what drives them will enable you to better harness their power within your own workforce.

Know The Numbers


Below is just a small sample of the research that has been done on millennials in recent years. This data helps provide insight into millennial priorities:

  • 74% of Millennials say confidence in their leadership is a key driver of engagement (Culture Amp)
  • 33% of Millennials would choose social media freedom and device flexibility over a higher salary (Cisco)
  • 15% of Millennials are already in management positions. (PayScale)
  • 60% of Millennials recognize their current position as a mere stepping-stone. (Time)

Millennials have high expectations of themselves, and the people that they work with. They crave feedback and want someone to address their wants and needs. While that may sound “needy”, many just want to know how they’re doing and if they’re on the right path.

From the Mouth of TopRank Marketing’s Millennials

TopRank Marketing has a diverse culture which includes millennial employees. I was able to ask a few of our own team members for their insight on what makes them tick as it relates to their professional goals, aspirations and learning style.


Emily Paulson

Content Marketing Manager

How important do you think it is to have the opportunity to grow and learn in any position?

This is one of a position’s “must-haves” for me. Stagnancy is one of my greatest fears, so being in a position where I’ll always be stretching and evolving, and that offers room for vertical advancement, couldn’t be more important. The more we grow as people and professionals, the greater our ability becomes to contribute to the world.


Evan Prokop

Digital Marketing Manager

Do you prefer to wait for someone to help you with a problem, or try and find a solution on your own?

I’m wired to be a problem solver, so I definitely prefer to figure things out on my own. Often I will research to see if others have solved similar problems, but I always have at the back of my mind “ok, but how can I do it better?”.


Alexis Hall

Director of Client Accounts

What is one of your “must-haves” when it comes to working as part of a team?

One of my must haves for working with a team is creating a balanced team. Each team member brings unique skills and experiences to the team, so it’s important to weigh each perspective.  Hone on team members strengths and ask them to work on those tasks which make the most sense for their skill set and personality.


Shaya Clark

Operations Coordinator

Do you think it’s more important to love what you do and make a decent wage, or dislike what you do and make a large salary?

This is easy. It’s so much more important to love what you do. We will always do better work when we enjoy and care about what we’re doing. For me at least, that’s a lot more important than driving a brand new car or having all the best new things.

[Shaya Clark is responsible for finding talented new employees to join our team. Here are our current openings: TopRank Careers]


Kevin Cotch

SEO Analyst

How would you describe your learning style?

My learning style would be best described as hands-on and research driven. I enjoy reading industry blogs and following thought leaders about new concepts to test and try.


Emily Bacheller

SEO Lead

What is your favorite part about working as part of a team?

My favorite part about working on a team is being able to benefit from everyone’s unique perspective and skill set. No one can be an expert at everything, so it’s important to be able to identify and capitalize on the unique skills and perspectives that you bring to the table. A diverse workplace is a happy workplace, so don’t be afraid to differentiate your skills from those of your co-workers. Conversely, take time to understand the unique skills and qualifications of your co-workers, so that they can help you find answers to challenges that are too difficult for you to decipher on your own, or outside of your understanding.

4 Steps for Harnessing the Power of Millennials

Step 1: Provide Transparency Whenever Possible

Millennials are a very curious generation. Being aware of “what” something is, often isn’t enough. Most important to this generation is understanding “why”.

This curiosity comes from wanting to understand why a particular process exists or action is taken so that they can learn how to apply the information to future situations. Because of the pace that millennials move at, they are also very interested in creating efficiencies wherever possible.

Step 2: Help Them Develop & Elevate Their Skills

One of the largest reasons that millennials leave their current job is because they are not learning. A stagnant position that does not offer further development or growth is many millennials worst fear.

That doesn’t mean that all of the responsibility falls on you their employer to make sure that they are learning. However, making them aware of the resources available for professional development can help keep millennials engaged and invigorated to succeed within your organization.

Step 3: Encourage Their Creative Side

Creativity is no longer only used just to describe “creative types” in advertising, design, etc.. Creating an environment that fosters creative expression is absolutely critical for lasting professional satisfaction. Creative expression can take on many forms including:

  • Improving a team workflow or process
  • Finding innovative ways to service clients and customers
  • Bringing team members together for collaborative brainstorming

Step 4: Celebrate Failure

Ok, upon first glance you may be wondering why you would ever want to encourage your employees to fail. However, failure means that an attempt was made to try something new.

Many of today’s wealthiest entrepreneurs had many failures prior to sticking their landing. Use millennials tenacious, eager attitudes to innovate within your organization. Provide them with a level of responsibility and accountability (both essential) and challenge them to come up with what they believe is a better approach.

As with any employee you will sometimes get magic right out of the gate, while sometimes it means going back to the drawing board.

What is Your Experience?

  • If you’re a business owner or manager: What has been your experience (both positive and negative) working with millennial employees?
  • If you’re a millennial: What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned thus far in your career?

Images via Shutterstock: Image 1, Image 2

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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2015. |
Learn How to Harness the Power of Millennial Employees |

The post Learn How to Harness the Power of Millennial Employees appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

The New Era of SEO: Optimize for People Before Searchbots

Human shaking hands with a robot

Dating back to when the first mainstream consumer search engines became available in the mid-nineties, digital marketers have desired to see their businesses succeed in the lucrative but often confusing search marketing landscape. And thus search engine optimization (SEO) was born.

Twenty years later, we’ve certainly come a long way, both in terms of the capabilities of search engines and in the strategies that SEO professionals implement in their attempts to master them. Given the complexity of modern search engine algorithms, it takes a lot more than just sticking keywords on your website in order to achieve prominent search rankings.

So, what does it take to win in search in 2015 and beyond? With hundreds of complex algorithms working 24 / 7 to serve up answers for over 5 billion Google search queries per day, that’s a question that can get very complex, very quickly.

But it doesn’t have to be so complex. Rather than trying to understand and react to the intricacies of every search engine algorithm that rolls out, it’s much more productive and sustainable to think in terms of the core objective of search engines, which is actually pretty simple: to connect users with great search results. Great results make people happy and happy people are likely to keep searching. If your website content makes for great search results, the search engines will be happy to serve them up.

Below are five attributes that you can incorporate into your website and content to make sure you’re providing the kind of great search results that will help you succeed in SEO both now and in the future.

Technically Sound

Remember when you found that excellent article, but the experience was dampened by the fact that it took 20 seconds for the page to load, the images were poor quality, the embedded video never loaded at all and several of the in-text links were broken?

Me neither. I clicked away after waiting 5 seconds for the page to load and never came back, and I’m betting you would have too if this wasn’t a hypothetical question.

Search engines reward technically sound sites that work well because they know that it’s essential for good user experience in additional to helping bots to effectively crawl and index.

Make sure your site is in tip top shape by:

• Improving page load speed

• Fixing broken links

• Optimizing images and media assets

Answers Questions

‘Where is the best wood-fired pizza in my neighborhood?’ ‘What’s the quickest way to get rid of the flu?’ ‘How can I get a better ROI from my company’s content marketing investment?’

Whether stated implicitly or implied, every search query is a question and every search result is an answer. Of course, not all answers are created equally and Google only wants to show the best answers.

In order to be the best answer, the critical first step is to understand the questions your customers are asking. Persona based keyword research plus solid content planning, creation and promotion are essential.

Works on All Devices

Mobile devices are practically ubiquitous today and the search engines know it. In fact, more Google searches take place on mobile devices than desktop computers today.

Smartphones and tablets have already taken the internet by storm and all signs point to an increasingly mobile future. This means that a mobile optimized website is no longer a ‘nice to have’, it’s an essential.

Easy to Share

Whether the effect is directly causal or not (the jury is still deliberating), research demonstrates a strong correlation between social signals (shares, comments, etc.) and prominent organic search rankings. Similar to links, social signals are a good indicator of the value of web content to users, so it makes sense that search engines would take these factors into account.

To make sure your content is easy to share socially, make sure you have prominent share buttons built into the template of your website and external digital assets. For extra credit, implement social schema markup like OpenGraph and Twitter Cards to help your content look great and have added functionality when shared.

Optimized Across the Customer Journey

As previously mentioned, every search query is a question and every search result is an answer. In addition, every search query has context and intent behind it. The best answers take this into account.

For example, somebody searching for pizza in Minnesota probably isn’t going to be satisfied with the same results as somebody performing the same search from New York. Similarly, someone looking to contact a sales rep at your company probably isn’t going to be happy going to your FAQ page, whereas someone who is in the process of evaluating your solution against your competitors would probably be quite happy to land there.

Especially if you have a longer sales cycle, there’s a good chance that prospects will interact with your content multiple times before converting into customers and will search differently along the way. In the exploratory phase, people may search broadly for information on a topic or industry, and can be attracted by easy to digest content like blog posts or videos. Further along the journey, people are likely to narrow their searches a bit to seek out specific information or drill in on topics in more detail. Termed the engagement phase, longer form content like ebooks or whitepapers can be the perfect answers for these searchers. When they are ready to convert into customers, users are well served by content that helps them to make the decision. Case studies, feature comparisons and testimonials may provide them with the evidence they (and their bosses) need to feel confident that they are making the right choice.

Optimizing for the context and intent behind the search keywords you’re targeting means that your content has a better chance of reaching searchers when it’s going to be the most valuable, which is directly in line with what the search engines want too. See how that works out?

Need help getting your SEO program firing on all cylinders? Check out TopRank’s full range of strategic SEO services.

Image via ShutterStock.

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The New Era of SEO: Optimize for People Before Searchbots |

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Online Marketing News: Google Goes ABC.XYZ, Twitter Without Limits, Search Factor Findings

Effectively Use Visual Storytelling

How to Effectively Use Visual Storytelling for Your Brand (Infographic) – According to a new infographic from Widen, you only have 8 seconds to capture the reader’s attention with great creative before they scroll away. Check out the infographic to learn more ways to integrate visual storytelling into your brand’s marketing. Widen

The Moz 2015 Search Engine Ranking Factors Study – Moz announces the results of their biannual Search Engine Ranking Correlation Study and Expert Survey, a.k.a. Ranking Factors. Moz

Google Moves Under Umbrella Company Alphabet – Google is listening to Wall Street, while also trying to keep its innovation going. The Silicon Valley behemoth is reorganizing under a new name — Alphabet — and separating its moneymaking businesses from the moonshot ones. Google

Survey: 80 Percent Of Mobile Marketers Using Location, Mostly As Audience Proxy – Most mobile marketers today are using location-based advertising. That’s a key finding from a new survey of marketers from mobile ad platform xAd. However uncertainty about ROI and campaign performance is holding back more enthusiastic adoption. Marketing Land

Smartphones Now Account For Half of US Adults’ Digital Media Time – Connected adults in the US spent 49% of their digital time in March 2015 using smartphone applications (43%) or browsers (6%), reports comScore in a new study. MarketingCharts

Only 2% of Marketers Have ‘Very Effective’ Content Strategy [Study] – According to a new study by the CMO Council, content marketing is on the rise – but less than half of B2B marketers think their strategies are at least somewhat effective. ClickZ

Pre- or Post-Sale, LinkedIn Is Tops for B2B Customer Engagement – LinkedIn is business-to-business (B2B) firms’ social go-to for product launches, and recent research indicates that it’s also huge for engaging customers throughout the sales process. eMarketer

Twitter Launches Full Archive Search API To Give Enterprises Instant Access To Every Tweet – Expanding on historical products offered by its Gnip service, Twitter is now offering social management platforms real-time access to full Twitter stream. Marketing Land

Facebook Extends Autoplay Video Ads, E-Commerce Ads to Others’ Apps – Facebook is bringing its autoplay video ads to third-party mobile apps that sell ad space through Facebook’s mobile ad network Audience Network, the company announced on Tuesday. Advertisers aren’t able to buy ads specifically to run on the mobile ad network; instead it’s like an overflow room, where Facebook takes the ads that run on the social network and syndicates them to others’ apps based on the advertiser’s defined targeting parameters. Ad Age

Twitter Removes 140-Character Limit From Direct Messages – If you’ve checked your Direct Messages today, you may have noticed that something’s missing: the limitation of 140 characters. You can now chat on (and on) in a single Direct Message, and likely still have some characters left over. Twitter

Periscope Users Watch 40 Years’ Worth Of Video Per Day – Periscope has released its first company report since launching in March, and the numbers are impressive: The streaming video service boasts more than 10 million accounts, and says its users watch the equivalent of 40 years’ worth of video every day. Back in April, Twitter shared that Periscope had reached 1 million users just 10 days after launch. Fast Company

Facebook Adds High Performing Ad Units To Audience Network – The social network is now offering autoplay video in native app advertising and dynamic product and carousel ads in full-screen interstitials. Marketing Land

From our Online Marketing Community:

In response to Study: Content Marketing Inefficiencies Cost BtoB Companies Nearly $1 Billion, Olivia Smith commented, “Nice article.Content management is of course very important , it was really shocking to hear one had to shed 1 billion for this…”

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

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Infographic: Widen

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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2015. |
Online Marketing News: Google Goes ABC.XYZ, Twitter Without Limits, Search Factor Findings |

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