Spoiler Alert: How to Resist Falling to the Dark Side of Digital Marketing


“Fear is the path to the dark side.” – Yoda

On December 18th, Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits the big screen. Throughout the entire series we have cheered for our heroes and heroines to resist the dark side.

We’ve seen them face temptation, make the right (and sometimes wrong) choice, but at the end of the day, we’re rooting for their success. Similarly, digital marketers have faced some familiar and sometimes devastating challenges. But what can we do to avoid the path to the dark side and instead come out as heroes to our customers?

Spoiler alert, just kidding, this is a different type of spoiler. In this post we will explore avoidable mistakes in the galaxy of options available to us today. Arm yourself with your lightsaber and get ready to start building your digital marketing empire.

Avoid Being A Storm Trooper on Social Media

In 2015, we’ve seen the rise of more than one new force in social media. Things are not as they once were, even a year ago. No matter how hard you’ve worked to build up your social media audience, it is now virtually impossible to reach them all with a 100% organic strategy.

This shift (or should I say Sith) has made it much more difficult to break through the barriers and serve your customers using social platforms. However, the task is not impossible.

Begin focusing your attention on the social media platforms that are best for engaging with your audience and utilize a combination of creative content, awesome visuals, customer focused information and combine that with targeted boosted posts and social ads to get your content in front of the right people.

Have Your Paid Search Goals & Targets In-Sight

Online Advertising can be an incredibly successful tool in driving digital marketing results. However, If not managed appropriately budgets can quickly get out of control and results can plummet.

Before embarking on a paid search initiative you need to define your goals. Different types of online advertising can be suited for specific goals. For example, if you want to drive online sales or conversions, remarketing might be a good fit. If however, you’re focused on building brand awareness or amplifying the reach of your content, Native Advertising might be your selection.

After you’ve determined which paid search services will best align with your goals, it’s important to specifically target the right audience for each ad type, campaign and ad. The extensivity of targeting within many of today’s platforms make for the opportunity to target the exact right person for your products or services.

Every Rebel Force Needs A (Content) Strategy

Do you think Luke Skywalker and the rebel forces could have destroyed the death star without a plan?

To assume that you can beat out your competitors without a sound content strategy is setting yourself up for failure. In today’s world every brand has become a publisher which has made it increasingly difficult to capture and keep the attention of customers. In fact, many customers have almost become numb due to the mass amount of content produced.

In order to stand out it is key to create a content marketing strategy that is aligned with marketing KPI’s and business objectives. Also, instead of focusing just on the quantity of content, spend efforts creating quality content that will differentiate you from your competitors.  

Your Customer’s Weapon of Choice is Likely A Mobile Device

What sort of experience are you creating for customers if you’re optimizing for a lightsaber while they prefer blasters? Understanding how your audience consumes information should significantly impact your digital marketing strategy. This includes everything from:

  • Building a responsive website
  • Creating content that is visual and easily consumed on a mobile device
  • Making it easy to complete Calls to Action (CTAs) from a smartphone

Information about the types of devices your audience uses to consume information is readily available for your web content through Google Analytics. Many email marketing platforms will also provide reporting on device usage.

Influencers Can Help You Build An Empire

Everyone knows that by surrounding yourself with influential people can help build your credibility. When it comes to digital marketing, incorporating influencers into your strategy can extend your reach, engage your audience and provide 3rd party validation of your message.

In order to work with the type of influencers that you want, it’s important that there is mutual value created. Simply reaching out to an influencer cold and making a request does not build the foundation for a good ongoing relationship.

Always make a point to express to your influencers what value is in the interaction for them and make it as easy as possible for them to participate and amplify your message.

May The Force Be With You

There will inevitably be times where you’re tempted to give into the dark side and make one of the blunders above. When that time comes, keep in mind the best practices in this post and find a way to harness the force for good.

What do you think are the biggest blunders that most marketers make without even realizing that they’ve done it?

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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2015. | Spoiler Alert: How to Resist Falling to the Dark Side of Digital Marketing | http://www.toprankblog.com

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TopRank Marketing’s 2016 Social Media Marketing Predictions


This year was a rollercoaster for social media marketers.

Let’s take a look at what changed in 2015 alone:

  • Facebook Pages took a big hit on organic views. In order to increase reach to just your existing audience, it is now a pay to play model.
  • Meerkat, Periscope and Blab all launched this year, making real-time video streaming and interaction a reality.
  • Twitter announced late this year that share counts would no longer be available through 3rd party applications, forcing marketers to find other ways to determine how much love their Twitter content was really getting.

There is no doubt that 2016 will undoubtedly be filled with it’s own social media marketing opportunities and challenges, but we’ve “gone to the streets” to get advice from our own internal social media marketing staff, as well as experts from big brands outside of our organization to give you an idea of what you can expect in the coming year.

Kevin Hunt


Social Media Manager, General Mills


Audience development will continue to be a key focus area for any ongoing content marketing effort, such as what we’re doing with our company blog at General Mills. Of course, brands and companies have always been focused on reaching as many people as we can, whether we’re trying to raise visibility of a blog post, video or campaign of some kind. But I think it’s more important than ever to better understand not just who is seeing our stuff and who signs up to be notified about our latest content, but also who is then taking the next step and sharing it.

We need to learn even more about the top sharers of our content, why and what they share and how we can build or strengthen a connection with them to keep them in the know.

Debbie Friez


Social Media Lead, TopRank Online Marketing


Facebook is NOT going away. And as marketers we need to pay attention to it. We need to keep up on their latest changes and realize it’s becoming a platform that requires some element of investment. Incorporating a paid strategy for Facebook to your social media marketing plan will boost results.

This past year, Facebook announced new publishing tools for publishers, giving them more insights. The social network is moving toward adding options for monetizing content and rewarding people for spending time on content. Marketers will need to think about how they are utilizing these tools for their brands. The traditional thought of leading followers back to your main company website may need to change.

Konnie Brown


Corporate Social Influencer Relations Manager, Dell


My prediction Social Media Marketing for 2016 will be the powerful emergence of the Intelligent Knowledge Curator and Facilitator, a very exclusive group of what the press likes to call Social Media Influencers.

The term “Social Media Influencers” emphasizes all the wrong terms and is cast way too wide and loosely to form a cohesive group. When I think about the influential individuals with whom I work on behalf of my brand, Dell, I think of extraordinary subject matter experts first, not about the technology platform they might have conquered (that can change tomorrow). I think of individuals whose business and personal values align with Dell’s purpose as a company, not the flavor of the day that will get out-tasted tomorrow. Additionally, they are intelligent knowledge curators and facilitators with the ability to communicate (which happens to be a digital channel), the willingness to share and ability to help with insights they have gained over years with experience, not by producing a digital traffic spike.

To be successful, brands need to build deep, long-term relationships with carefully selected individuals, with mutual value creation in mind that empowers them with knowledge that helps them help their online (and off-line) audiences and underlines the value my brand provides.  My brand’s value with this approach resides in their independent assessment as inspirational, trusted subject matter experts who care as much about their audience as I care about my customers. 2016 will be the year for brands to get this right. (Dell is a TopRank Marketing Client)

Joel Carlson


Social Media Lead, TopRank Online Marketing


There has been speculation that Twitter is dying or that the #FailWhale needs to be revived as a way to represent the health of the platform. But it’s just too strong to see it fly off into the sunset.

Twitter is still a highly used social media platform for individuals and businesses, posting 307 million monthly active users in the 3rd quarter of 2015. In 2015 Twitter brought back their original co-founder, Jack Dorsey as CEO, and has also made some changes to the platform to better appeal to the user base. This includes removing the 140-character limit for Direct Messages, and it no longer crops images that are Tweeted. Don’t give up on the blue bird; it’s still going to be flying high in 2016.

Kate (Dickman) Porter


Senior Social Media Program Manager, Office Depot


I think one of the biggest opportunities for social marketers in 2016 is really understanding and utilizing the new advanced targeting, ad-buying and direct response capabilities social has to offer.  We now have a massive opportunity as marketers to be able to truly drive company-wide KPI’s with these new tools; further strengthening the importance and adoption of social media at large organizations.

At one point, social marketers struggled to justify social media as a worthy contender for marketing dollars.  With new capabilities and integrations available (i.e Facebook pixel, dynamic product ads, Nielsen TV-integrated ad buying etc.), that has all changed.  Next year is really about testing these new offerings, honing our skills in these areas and collaborating with right teams in order to see big results.

Ben Brausen


Social Media Lead, TopRank Online Marketing


I believe that 2016 will bring a better understanding of how different content and tactics drive different actions. Right now it seems that many marketers hear that video is driving big viewership and engagement and conclude that means it will drive website traffic and sales too. Video may be driving big engagement but that engagement is generally light and includes views and Likes, not necessarily link clicks.

In 2016, social media marketers will begin to understand more about which tactics drive desired behaviors.

Carlos Gil


Head of Global Social Media, BMC Software


If 2015 taught us anything about social media, it should be that marketers and the brands that they represent need to be willing to pivot and evolve as fast as the channels which they – and their customers – are using.  The biggest opportunity for social media marketers in 2016 is through short form, micro-content storytelling, including live streaming, to connect their brands with younger, yet engaged, audiences.

Snapchat, a social network used by 60% of 13-34 year olds in the U.S., will continue to outpace rivals such as Instagram and Twitter in adoption by Millennial users which presents the biggest opportunity for any brand looking to engage this demographic which is expected to outspend Baby Boomers by 2017.

What Are Your Social Media Marketing Predictions for 2016?

There is no doubt that 2016 will be another very active year for social media marketing. New platforms, tools and strategies will be developed and used. Which ones will lead the charge and which will fade, only time will tell.

What do you foresee as the biggest opportunity for social media marketing in 2016?

Looking for help with your social media marketing strategy? Learn more about our social media marketing services.

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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2015. | TopRank Marketing’s 2016 Social Media Marketing Predictions | http://www.toprankblog.com

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3 Remarketing Campaign Tips to Help You Engage Your Online Audience


As technology advances we are provided even more tools and opportunities to deliver better information to our customers, no matter where they are searching. In today’s world, a prospect that visits your website and doesn’t convert isn’t always a lost customer.

Online advertising offers an opportunity to re-engage and capture the attention of those prospects, even after they’ve left your website. Incorporating remarketing into your online advertising strategy can help keep your business top of mind, for those customers that you want to target the most.

If you’re using Google Display Network (GDN) and building your marketing audiences from scratch, the opportunities are endless. Google Display network serves more than a trillion impressions are to over 1 billion users every month.

Within GDN’s Audience Builder you can begin to micro-target your audience. Say for example you’re looking to target the following: Women, ages 35-44, who speak Spanish, located in Milbank, SD, shop on Yahoo between 9am-2pm, use a Samsung Galaxy phone, have visited page X, Y and Z on your site within the last 2 days, spent 7 minutes, 10 seconds on your site and looked at the reviews for product A on your site but didn’t look at the reviews for product.

The options above can quickly become confusing and are enough to give you a digital marketing headache. This post will serve as your audience Ibuprofen, and help alleviate some of the mystery when creating your initial remarketing audiences.

Tip #1 – Let your Goal be your Guide

As with any marketing program, you want to have a clearly defined goal and that goal should take the mystery out of creating your first audience.

The goal should dictate either the pages, visitors, goals and events you’d like to incorporate into your audience. If you want people to take a look at your latest whitepaper or case study, have a broader audience by using all pages on your site. If you want to focus on people that haven’t made a purchase in 2 months, let your goals be the focus.

As long as the campaign goal is front and center, you’re on the road to success.

Tip #2 – Create An audience of Engaged New Users

No mater what you’re goal is, you want that audience to be engageed. Many marketers forget to ask one important question, do these new visitors actually care? Take a look at the bounce rate for your pages or how your visitors are funneling through your site.

There is no point in remarketing to people simply because they land a page. It is important to layer additional filters around engagement with your audiences, i.e. Session Duration or Pages per Session are a great place to start.

This is ensures that you’re remarketing to individuals that are actually interested in what you have to say.

To create this group focuse on the following:

  1. New User
  2. They have spent X amount of time on-site or have visited X number of pages


The audience above will isolate New Users who’ve spent at least 60 seconds on the site and looked at 3+ pages.

Google Analytics will give you options for recommended audiences for remarketing, including New Users. We recommend selecting New Users and then layering in additional “engagement focused” custom filters.

Tip #3 – Create a Late Funnel/Nurture Audience

We’ve seen tremdous success by creating audiences focused on consumers that have taken specific actions within a website but haven’t converted.

A good example might be a group of indivduals that have viewed videos, and downloaded a whitepaper but haven’t requested a demo. Perhaps you also have people that have signed-up for a free trial or placed items in their cart but haven’t completed the purchase.

Campaigns that continue to nurture these prospects based on their interests typically have the most success.

For example, the audience below targets consumers that have completed two goals/events on a website but have yet to submit a contact request. It is clear that they have an interest, so now is the time to deploy a remarketing campaign to convert them to contacting our company via phone or a web form.


Here are a couple of other pointers to keep in mind when building out your audience.

  1. Build your audiences out of Google Analytics, not AdWords . This will provide you with more options and flexibility, for your campaign.
  2. Use Google Analytics’ pre-defined audiences as the starting point and then begin to customize. There is never a one-size-fits-all solution so make sure that you tailor each campaign for your audience.
  3. Make sure you have enough people to remarket to. You need at least 100 people in your audience to start serving ads. Micro-level targeting is great; just make sure you’re reaching enough people to make it worth your while. If there are less than 500 people in an audience, begin removing filters and then add in additional filter layers based on performance.
  4. Let your sales cycle help determine membership duration. The Membership Duration will indicate how many days GA includes a qualified member of the audience in the remarketing group. The longer the duration, the larger your audience. You might want to vary the duration depending on your goal and group but it’s typically to set that anywhere between 14-30 days, with 30 days being the default. If you’re business has a longer sales cycle, you may want a longer duration period. If you’re eComm go with a shorter duration period.

Put These Remarking Tips Into Action

Now it’s time to get that audience engaged and on their feet! If you believe that your organization could benefit from a remarketing or any other sort of online advertising program, contact us for more information.

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Back to the Lab: Our Top 5 Social Media Marketing Posts of 2015


Marketing is a science as much as an art, and the TopRank Online Marketing blog is an ongoing experiment. We’re constantly going back to the lab to try new approaches, research new topics, and refine our writing skills. As 2015 draws to a close, we’re taking a look at our most popular posts to see which ones you thought were the most shareworthy.

Social media marketing was a big topic for marketers this year. Facebook changed its algorithm to limit organic reach to as little as two percent. Twitter removed share counts from its API, taking away a powerful tool for marketers to provide social proof to their audience.

Despite these controversial decisions, social media remains a powerful way to build brand awareness and interact with our audience. Social drives over 30% of all traffic to websites, and social media spending is expected to top $12.3 billion this year.

To help you improve your social media experiments in the coming year, here are our five most-shared social media marketing posts for 2015.

#1 – Social Media Marketing for Business: Expectation Vs. Reality

Social Media For Business

After taking a few years to explore other opportunities, Ashley Zeckman came back to the TopRank team mid-year and quickly became a blogging force to be reckoned with. This post cuts through the social media myths to give solid advice for new and veteran marketers.

#2 – New Report Reveals the Impact of Social Media Marketing for Business

Impact of Social Media

Ashley delivers the goods again with this exhaustive round-up of the 2015 Social Media Marketing Industry report. There are quality takeaways a-plenty here, supported with informative infographics.

#3 – Three Ways to Measure the Value of Your Social Media Marketing Program

Measure Your SOcial Media Marketing

Evaluating outcomes and proving ROI are constant concerns for social media marketers. Debbie Friez, an MVP of our social media team, outlines a three-step process for creating social media programs with measurement built in.

#4 – 5 Ways to Woo Your B2B Social Media Audience & 3 Brands That Are Doing it Well

Woo Social Media Audience

Social media marketing is tricky for B2B: It’s important to give your brand personality, but challenging to preserve the professionalism and authority B2B buyers need. Ashley backs up her tips in this post with inspiring examples from HP, FedEx, and GE.

#5 – 9 Step Social Media Audit for Improving LinkedIn Business Page Results

Social Media Audit

While Facebook is still the most popular platform for B2C marketing, LinkedIn dominates the B2B space—and B2C brands are starting to take notice, too. Emily Bacheller brings her social media strategy expertise to this post.

Bonus! 3 Great Social Media Marketing Posts from Other Sources

We’ve Been Failing on Social Media for 2 Years. Here’s What We Think it Means

This SlideShare from social media giant Buffer is everything good content should be. It’s brutally honest, authentic, has a genuine human voice, and addresses a real problem many marketers face with humor and determination. It couldn’t have been easy to write, but it’s a great read.

New Data: What Types of Content Perform Best on Social Media?

This blog post and infographic present the results of a 220,000-post analysis of social media shares. Fractl’s Andrea Lehr distils the massive amount of data into takeaways any social media marketer can use.

The Hierarchy of Needs for an Engaged Social Media Audience

Hootsuite’s Olsy Sorokina applies sociological concepts to get at the basic principles underlying social media success in this brief but thought-provoking piece. Olsy’s conclusions are both surprising and obvious in retrospect—one of those where you think, “Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?”

Thanks to our stellar blogging team for generously sharing their knowledge in these posts. And thanks to our readers for writing, commenting, and sharing this year. We’ll use your feedback to make the blog an even better resource in 2016.

Are there any posts you loved that didn’t make the list? Are there any social media topics you would like to see us cover more? Let us know in the comments.

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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2015. | Back to the Lab: Our Top 5 Social Media Marketing Posts of 2015 | http://www.toprankblog.com

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5 Opportunities to use BLAB for Digital Marketing


This year may very well go down as the year that live streaming video became a marketable asset. It began with the launch of Meerkat in February of 2015, then the launch of Periscope in March and BLAB in April. Unlike Meerkat and Periscope, a BLAB can feature up to 4 people live streaming at one time, and allow followers to comment and give “digital love” to the participants.

Just by its name, BLAB sounds like it could be an ongoing live-chat discussion that goes on and on without any end in sight. That could work if you’re wanting to kill some time on a Friday night or over the weekend, but that application wouldn’t work well for marketing most products or services. There has to be some kind of structure or outline in order to achieve success with this platform.

Like any form of marketing, a good plan has to be laid out ahead of time to get the most benefit from the effort that’s invested. This is especially true when laying out a live streaming strategy. So where to begin? The first thing to remember is that not only can BLAB help you connect with customers or potential customers that watch the video stream “live”, but it can also be turned into a video or be edited into several videos, in which case it then becomes a reusable piece of content for your business.

5 Ways to Use BLAB to Market Your Business

#1 – Provide Live Customer Service

One option is to host a session where a company representative answer some of the most common questions asked by your customers. After the live BLAB, the video can be edited and repurposed as content for social media posts or on FAQ pages.

You can also host a Q&A session where you company spokesperson answers questions that prospects and customers submit either via messaging while the BLAB is going on, or as participants in the video-feed on the BLAB.

#2 – Feature New Products & Services

Video provides an excellent way to showcase a new product or service. Because BLAB has the capability to combine up to 4 video feeds at 1 time, one feed could be the narrator, another can be showing the product or service, and another could be a brand influencer or customer sharing their comments while the presentation is That way you are providing valuable product information while showing practical use or best practices to your audience.

#3 – Incorporate Customers in the Process

It’s very rare that organizations make customers a part of the process when determining how to streamline their products/services or add new ones to the mix. A BLAB can be used as a tool to get real-time feedback about what your customers would like to see more or less of as well as things they’d like to see made available in the future.

There is a risk involved with collecting this feedback in real-time, but think of the impact that this type of content could have for your business.

#4 Share Company Insights

A BLAB can be used to create a series that updates prospects and customers on the latest wins within your organization as well as the top business trends within their industry to keep an eye on.

You can also conduct interviews of company employees or loyal customers or provide value and usable content to promote your business.

#5 – Test Replacing Other Forms of Digital Marketing

You can also test replacing some of your more traditional digital marketing methods with a BLAB. Examples include:

  • Use BLAB as your platform for the next webinar that you plan to conduct.
  • Run your BLAB as you would one of your podcasts, and then use the unique embedded code to upload the file to a podcasting host service
  • Convert your blog post ideas into a BLAB. Then you can just embed the file onto your blog post, which can be a big help if you’re a better visual presenter, rather than typing out your thoughts for a blog post.
  • In addition to embedding your file onto a blog post, it can also be edited and repurposed as an Instagram video, or it can be left untouched and uploaded directly to your YouTube channel.

Questions to Ask Before Adding Live Streaming to Your Marketing

Once you’ve determined how you want to use BLAB, the next thing to do is to put together your strategy for how you will approach live streaming to augment your existing marketing strategy. Answer the following questions to help your approach to using BLAB be successful:


  • Should there be a more serious tone, like a professional broadcaster or a serious infomercial, or instead go with a lighter more casual tone that’s less structured?
  • Since its video, what should you or the company spokesperson wear while presenting on BLAB? The clothes can affect the presentation.
  • Lighting, should there be primarily natural light, is there enough light in the space to be used or does additional light need to be installed or temporarily brought into the space?

Length of BLAB

  • Does a set time need to be set firmly, or is a rough idea of 30 minutes or an hour good enough?
  • How much time should you or the company spokesperson speak, and how much time should be set aside for other contributors, and for comments and input from other followers of the BLAB?
  • Will questions be answered throughout the BLAB, or will they be addressed at the end of the discussion/presentation?

Script / Outline

  • What should the title be? In the form of a question or a tease as to what is going to be considered?
  • Are bullet points as to what needs to be considered enough, or should it be more scripted so that key points are covered in a specific way?

BLAB is another form of social media in the marketing toolbox full of options, but it also can be a form of usable content that can highlight various aspects about you and your company. Video can break through a lot of messaging and present the most authentic view of you and your business to your audience, while engaging your prospects and customers in the process.

If you’ve participated on a BLAB or other sort of live streaming platform, what did you find to be the most interesting about this new form of interactive marketing?

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TopRank Marketing’s Online Advertising Predictions for 2016


As 2015 draws to a close, it’s time to begin thinking about what is on the digital marketing horizon in the coming year. Marketers with budgets large and small are often unsure of which investments will reap the biggest benefits.

To help inform you of the options available, we’ll be publishing a series of prediction posts for different areas of digital marketing. Starting off the series is this post, stock full of paid advertising predictions for the coming year. Below you’ll find insight into some of the key topics and trends that are building steam at TopRank Marketing and will only continue to increase in 2016.

Social Advertising

Worldwide, social media advertising spend is projected to reach $29.9 billion in 2016, that’s a 69% increase since 2014. While the final numbers for 2015 hasn’t been calculated yet, social commerce was projected to drive $30 billion in revenue in 2015, a 50% increase over 2014.

Social media advertising has many benefits for B2B and B2C advertisers alike. We can all expect to see more opportunities surrounding ad formats across all platforms in 2016. From Snapchat’s Two Cent Video Ads, Pinterest’s Motion-Based Ads, Twitter’s Promoted Moments and Facebook’s Dynamic Product Ads, every platform is in a mad dash to out-monetize and the race has only begun.

This means more opportunities, which can often lead to confusion. One of the biggest challenges facing marketers is trying to figure out which social advertising opportunity will be the best fit for their business. Budget will still be a major factor in determining which social platform makes the most sense. Social media sites like Snapchat are extremely popular for advertising, but the entry fee is amazingly high. As competition heats up for advertising dollars, I expect to see some of the cost barriers to some of the “It” social properties start to fall and become more accessible.

While social media as a sales channel is increasing, we’re also seeing it similar growth from a lead generation and nurturing standpoint. We’ve had on-going amplification programs running for the past two years on several channels, primarily LinkedIn and performance keeps getting improving. If you have news, paid social is the best bull horn for your dollars.

Video Advertising

It is estimated that 74% of internet traffic in 2017 will be video. In 2016, companies should begin planning on increasing video advertising whether they’re looking at promoting videos via native advertising on Instagram or Vine, or in-stream/in-display video ads on YouTube. We’ve already started to see budgets shifting from standard search to video based advertising for several clients and it’s a trend that is only going to keep growing.

Video can be a hard nut to crack for marketers. Not all videos are alike and creating a video, especially for B2B companies can create some unique challenges. Video is a relatively young channel and so is the audience. We’ve had many clients produce videos and come to us for amplification thinking this would be great fit for YouTube but are disappointed when their in-search numbers are low. For B2B advertisers it’s time to start looking at layering in big data.

Micro-Level Advertising

Account or persona-based marketing creates for a better level of targeting. All major platforms have increased their targeting options this year which is fantastic. But the real shift I’m seeing is clients starting to embrace Demind-Side Platform (DSP) and automation. From Native DSPs like Taboola to old standbys like Rocket Fuel and emerging Account-Based Marketing (ABM) platforms like Terminus and Marketo’s new offering around ABM are making big waves but micro targeting needs micro content for it to successful.

Especially for B2B’s we’ll begin to see more advertising dollars invested in big-data and DSP’s that deliver content to specific personas. However, without a solid content marketing strategy and content execution, these are dollars wasted.)

Expect to spend more money in 2016 for increased targeting and automation. But always make sure that you have the content to make the media expenditure worth your while.

Keywords & Integration

Every so often I hear or read someone saying that keywords are dead. However, AdWords has been beefing up their dynamic search capabilities and if it’s on their radar, others will be following shortly.

With better indexing and new sub-categories, dynamic search is become less of a guessing game more predictable. Dynamic search requires a technically, well structured website and high quality content.

All marketers should have an eye on integration but it appears as though Google is going to start forcing our hand. With Google controlling 65% of the search share, now is the time to ensure that you are deploying an integrated digital marketing strategy.

What Are Your Paid Advertising Predictions For 2016?

Based on our predictions, social and video advertising, targeting and an integrated strategy will be essential parts of a successful paid advertising strategy in 2016. If you need help creating a successful paid strategy for 2016, contact us for more information.

What trends are you most excited to explore in the coming year?

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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2015. | TopRank Marketing’s Online Advertising Predictions for 2016 | http://www.toprankblog.com

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Online Marketing News: Snapchat Gets LinkedOut, LinkedIn Gets Lifted, Facebook Progresses Page Plugin

Google’s On Page Ranking Factors: Are They Fact Or Myth?

Google’s On Page Ranking Factors: Are They Fact Or Myth? [Infographic] – If you’re a website owner, one of your primary goals will be to optimize your site to ensure it ranks high on Google in order to increase organic traffic. When it comes to optimising your website content and other on page factors, it’s important to not only understand what can positively affect your rankings, but also what can harm them. Social Media Today

Report: Fake User Accounts Cost Businesses Millions of Dollars a Year – A report released today from mobile identity solutions provider Telesign examines the impact of fake users on business, and notes the complex problem of finding solutions. SocialTimes

One-Quarter of US E-Commerce Traffic Came From Smartphones in Q3 – A growing share of US e-commerce traffic is coming from smartphones, reports Monetate in its latest quarterly study. During this past quarter, smartphones comprised 24.8% of traffic for the e-commerce sites analyzed, up from 17.9% during the year-earlier period. Monetate

YouTube Opens Voting For 2015’s Most Iconic Ads With Launch Of #TheYouTubeAd Of 2015 Contest – Voters can choose their favorite ads from five different categories – from the one that “Gives You Feels” to the ad that “Gets You Going.” Marketing Land

Snapchat Allows Publishers to Link to Their Content Outside the App – Snapchat has introduced the ability for its publishing partners to share their Discover Channels on Facebook and Twitter with links directly to their content, according to Digiday. Digiday

Facebook, Twitter Remain Top Social Networks Used by US Companies – According to a new eMarketer report, “US Social Trends for 2016: eMarketer Predictions for Video, Viewability, Buy Buttons, Messaging and More” Facebook and Twitter will remain the top social networks used by US companies in 2016, but Instagram will see rapid growth. eMarketer

Google Drops Change Location Search Filter From Search Results – Google has quietly dropped the ability to filter your search results by changing your location. In the past, you would be able to click on the “Search Tools” option and set a location. This would give you search results as if you were in that location. Search Engine Land

LinkedIn Launched Newly Designed Mobile App – The wait is over. Our much anticipated new LinkedIn mobile experience is now available globally. We’ve not only rebuilt the new Flagship app from scratch but we have taken everything you love and more to develop a mobile experience that is more intuitive, smarter and dramatically simplifies your LinkedIn experience. LinkedIn

Facebook Updates Website Page Plugin, Offers New Ways to Connect People and Events – Earlier this year, Facebook launched its updated Page plugin tool, giving website owners a new way to showcase their Facebook presence and connect with site visitors. Now, Facebook’s adding in some new features to make the plugin more valuable, with the ability to send a Facebook message via the plug-in (i.e. without leaving your site) as well as a new way to showcase events. Facebook

Study: Mobile “Showroomers” Generally Buy In Stores, 18–34-Year-Olds Most Active – In a new mobile shopping study, using Prosper Insight survey data, the IAB examined the attitudes and self-reported behaviors of different age groups. It found shopping activity that was broadly consistent but varied somewhat by age category, with 18–34-year- olds emerging as the most aggressive group when it comes to mobile “showrooming.” Marketing Land

From our Online Marketing Community:

In response to 4 B2B Social Media Marketing Lessons Marketers Can Learn From Their B2C Counterparts, Debi Burrows shared, “Great article. Thanks for the info. Good to see that I am giving the right information to my clients.”

Hansoftech said, “Great article!You are right social media has become most useful platforms for today’s business.”

And on Content Marketing Tactics: Webinar Pros, Cons, Examples & Best PracticesEayana offered, “Promoting Business Brand Awareness through LinkedIn and Google Plus Google Plus one of the one the best example. Anyways thanks for sharing your blog.”

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

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Infographic: Northcutt

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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2015. | Online Marketing News: Snapchat Gets LinkedOut, LinkedIn Gets Lifted, Facebook Progresses Page Plugin | http://www.toprankblog.com

The post Online Marketing News: Snapchat Gets LinkedOut, LinkedIn Gets Lifted, Facebook Progresses Page Plugin appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Want Better Leads? 7 Tips to Achieve Sales & Marketing Alignment


There is often a struggle between sales teams and marketing teams to prove who is most valuable. However, when marketing and sales combine their efforts, that is when they can be the most effective and powerful.

Recent research has found that nearly 60% of the sales cycle completed before prospects even speaking to a salesperson. That means, now more than ever, marketing has become an even more integral part of the sales process.

Below are some tips to help sales and marketing teams collaborate in a meaningful way that meets both business objectives and marketing KPIs.

#1 – Communicate Well & Often

One of the biggest causes of misalignment between departments is infrequent communication. Some simple ways to begin collaborating more frequently include:

  • Meet monthly to review lead quality.
  • Encourage the sales team to share questions, feedback, requests that they receive from prospects and utilize that information for marketing intiatives.
  • Have the marketing team participate (silently) in a few sales calls. It may spark something they didn’t consider previously.

#2 – Set & Align Goals & Objectives

Teams that operate independently are far less likely to be successful. Instead work together to align business objectives with marketing goals and determine a set set of metrics and criteria that will be used for reporting.

#4 – Optimize For the Customer Sales Cycle

Digital marketing can be an incredibly useful tool in helping to move prospects through the sales cycle. Today’s buyers are savvy and spend time self-educating on the web. In order to best meet their needs, marketers need to create integrated digital strategies that account for the following phases:

  • Attract: These tactics and topics will draw the prospect in.
  • Engage: Here you will begin to build credibility and loyalty.
  • Convert: When the need is present, you will be top of mind.

While you do want to create a strategy that is well optimized for search engines, your first priority should always be to optimize for customers.

#4 – Collect, Analyze & Act on Data

The truth is, data doesn’t lie. It can be easy for sales and marketing teams alike to have a bias for a particular process, topic or initiative. If both teams are relying on the same set of data then it will remove barriers that may cause tension.

Review the data as a team and determine:

  • Did the marketing initiatives create a conversion?
  • What path are prospects taking to contact?
  • Which tactics and strategies are performing well and which ones need to be altered?

#5 – Create Mutual Accountability

Sales teams are often given sales metrics for success, as well as benchmarks that need to be achieved each month. Similarly, the marketing team should have a certain standard that is maintained and goals for growth.

When the two teams work together, both will be better informed and have an increased chance of success.

#6 – Nurture Leads

The amount of effort that goes into marketing and sales departments generating leads is no small task. However, what are you doing to nurture these leads once they’ve converted in some way (newsletter subscription, asset download, contact form, etc.)?

Always know what you hope to achieve before embarking on any digital marketing initiative. This will help all parties understand what is expected as well as the business goals that these campaigns help support.

#7 – Bring In Reinforcements

Sometimes you may not have the manpower or expertise in-house to accomplish complete sales and marketing alignment. When that happens, consider engaging a company like TopRank Marketing to help develop an integrated digital marketing strategy that aligns with business objectives and marketing KPI’s.

While this post may only scratch the surface for some, hopefully it helps you understand the necessity for alignment between sales and marketing, and how it ultimately impacts business objectives. As a sales or marketing person, what have you found to be the biggest benefit to aligning with your counterparts?

Image via Shutterstock

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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2015. | Want Better Leads? 7 Tips to Achieve Sales & Marketing Alignment | http://www.toprankblog.com

The post Want Better Leads? 7 Tips to Achieve Sales & Marketing Alignment appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

A Visual Guide to Influencer Marketing

Influencer Marketing

In 2016 there will be a significant push towards influencer marketing from all areas of digital marketing: from content marketers to public relations to SEOs.

Companies considering the role of influencers in their marketing efforts will come at it from as many different perspectives as there are benefits. Luckily, there are a growing number of useful resources on the topic, including this blog.

But there’s more to the topic than what we’ve covered here, so I’ve curated a collection of influencer marketing infographics that present a mix of statistics, best practices, research and models for planning, implementing and measuring the performance of influencer marketing. Take a look, click, download and enjoy!

Traackr Infographic

Traackr: The Many Faces of Influence also Content and Influence Framework.

the shelf infographic

the shelf40 Tips from PR Pros on Influencer Marketing also Influencer Marketing is the New King of Content

Webfluential Infographic

Webfluent: The Results of Analyzing Over 100 Influencer Marketing Campaigns

Onalytica Infographic

Onalytica: Influencer Marketing Survey

Unfunnel Infographic

unfunnel: The Marketing Influencer Lifecycle

Augure infographic

Augure: The Influencers Marketing Guide

Once you check out this collection of influencer marketing insight, you should be much better prepared to tackle the big questions about influencer marketing. Whether you’re simply trying to define what influencer marketing is, relevant to your marketing mix, to determining how to take your existing influencer relationships to the next level, there’s plenty of infotaining advice in these infographics.

Join Me for an Influencer Marketing Blab

If you would like to participate in a live Q and A with me and two other marketers involved in the influencer marketing game (Neal Shaffer and Doug Kessler), be sure to check out the Brandwatch Influencer Marketing Blab today at 11am CT.

Top image: Shutterstock

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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2015. | A Visual Guide to Influencer Marketing | http://www.toprankblog.com

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Content Marketing Tactics: Webinar Pros, Cons, Examples & Best Practices


Quality, useful, and engaging content is the foundation of a marketing strategy. However, content is much more than just words on a page.

Humans are visual learners by nature—and we crave visual, interactive content in reality and online. As a result, in today’s digital world, marketers are using webinars to connect and engage with their target audiences. Additionally, webinars create a great opportunity for co-creation and collaboration as well as content repurposing. 

In fact, 66 percent of B2B marketers said webinars are one of the most effective content marketing strategies around, according to as recent report from Content Marketing Institute. In addition, 51 percent of marketers said visual content will be a top priority for their campaigns in 2016.

Definition: Webinars

A webinar is a live meeting, presentation, discussion, educational session, or demonstration that takes place online. As a content marketing technique, webinars use various forms of content such as blogs, audio interviews, and video to promote and execute the event. In addition, the webinar as a whole can be saved and archived for future viewing.

Webinars aim to provide helpful, interesting, or compelling content and instruction, and ultimately encourage participants to take action (e.g. buy a product, sign up for a newsletter, become a member, etc.) on what they learned. They can also be great ways to build recognition as a thought leader, which some consider to be the ultimate content marketing tactic.

Webinars are often confused with virtual conferences—and while they’re both online meeting events—virtual conferences are far more elaborate affairs that attempt to mimic a real-world event online. Webinars generally focus on just one topic and are much shorter (generally running an hour to two hours) than virtual events.


Webinars are convenient, cost-effective, and allow businesses to market their content in real-time to a wide audience. Here are some more benefits as a content marketing tactic:

  • Businesses find they’re able to attract customers earlier in the buying cycle, as well as target various stages throughout the buying cycle.
  • Excitement is created for a topic, especially when a well-known expert delivers the presentation.
  • There are a variety of content repurposing options such as live blogging the event or using participant questions to create new blog posts.
  • Since webinars require registration, they can serve as an excellent lead generation tool where content can be provided as the lead is nurtured afterwards.
  • Webinars can be archived to the web and will attract views indefinitely.


While webinars can be a powerful content marketing tool, the may not be practical for every brand. Disadvantages of webinars include:

  • Unique skills and technology such as a registration platform that ties into your CRM or a presentation hosting platform are needed to produce an event.
  • Archived webinars can become outdated, and need to be monitored and removed when appropriate.
  • Like all online events, the general low cost of entry makes it easier for people to skip the event or bow out early.

What Industry Experts Say About Webinars

Signing up for a webinar is much like scheduling an appointment. Your audience can make room for the webinar in their schedule ahead of time, making it much more likely for them to give undivided attention and participate. A live webinar creates more of a one-to-one engagement than many other types of content and encourages participants to ask questions and interact on the spot.

Ashley Zeckman, Director of Digital Marketing, TopRank Marketing

“With over 60% of marketers using webinars as part of their content marketing programs and 76% of the 17 largest SaaS companies in the world using marketing automation, it’s clear that these tools are becoming increasingly essential to today’s marketers.”

American Marketing Association (Source: ama.org)

“They are the next best thing to being face to face, in-person with your target market. If you want to leverage yourself and scale your business, webinars are key. By being the person at the helm you set yourself as an expert, it’s your virtual stage.”

Nick Unsworth, Facebook marketing expert. (Source: The Huffington Post)

How Brands Use Webinars for Content Marketing

McKesson (client)

Revered as a leading healthcare technology company, McKesson provides a series of educational webinars for many of their different business units. For the Medical-Surgical division, users can register for upcoming webinars or access their library of previously aired webinars on a whole host of topics that cover everything from reimbursement to preventing infection in patients.

McKesson Webinar

Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD)

ASDC is a global network of educators and advocates that develops programs and services to help educators continually improve how they support their students. Through webinars, the organization offers numerous professional development opportunities to support their mission, while also encouraging new membership and more participation from current members.

ASCD Webinar

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

Yes. Even the IRS offers webinars for individuals, businesses, and tax professionals.

IRS Webinar

Webinar Best Practices

  • Choose a topic and headline that is searchable. SEO best practices should always be part of your content marketing efforts, and you want to entice your target audience.
  • Create a list of content marketing tactics you’ll be using. Your list should include tactics such as emails, social messaging, blogs, video, and press releases to promote the event, run the event, and repurpose content after the event.
  • Get organized. Create an agenda, make sure all your visuals are ready to go, confirm your platform is working, and communicate regularly with any speakers you’ve lined up.
  • Practice makes perfect. Schedule a dry run with any presenters or if you’re doing the talking, set aside some time to go through your full presentation.
  • Promote, Promote Promote. Promotion is important to any event you put on, but digital events don’t require the commitment of real-world events. Use that list of tactics you’ve created to get the word out and keep your event top of mind.

Webinar Software and Resources

There are a number of different webinar software companies to choose from. Some of the most popular options include:

  • AnyMeeting
  • CiscoWebEx
  • GoToWebinar
  • Skype
  • Adobe Connect
  • ClickWebinar
  • MegaMeeting

People are visual by nature. So, it’s no wonder that interactive, visual content like webinars is a powerful tool for brands. If you’re not afraid of getting your hands dirty with some of the technical demands, consider weaving webinars into your content marketing strategy. The demand for visual content is only getting stronger, so brands need to consider other content marketing solutions to stay competitive and achieve their goals.

How have you used webinars as part of your content marketing strategy? What are your best practices for pulling off a successful webinar? Share in the comments section below.

If you liked this post, check out our content marketing tactics index page with links to more than 25 helpful posts just like this one.

Header image via Shutterstock

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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2015. | Content Marketing Tactics: Webinar Pros, Cons, Examples & Best Practices | http://www.toprankblog.com

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