Online Marketing News: Pinterest Matters, Google Loses Sidebar Ads and Facebook Reacts

Why Pinterest Matters to Marketing_600x350

Why Pinterest Matters to Marketing [Infographic]

Did you know that Pinterest is the third most popular social network in the US, behind Facebook and Twitter? That statistic came as a surprise to me. But what isn’t surprising is the rise in brands that are using Pinterest as part of their social and content marketing strategy. While the platform is easy to use and visually appealing, there’s more to using the platform effectively than meets the eye. This infographic details the demographics of the Pinterest audience, the best time to post, and even what post categories work best on which days. WebpageFX

Google Removes Right Hand Sidebar Ads

Starting on February 19th, Google began phasing out sidebar ads from their search engine results pages. They will now show one to four ads before the organic search results, and the rest will be pushed to the bottom of the page. The update – which is described as “global and permanent” will only apply to desktop searches, which may affect the traffic you see from desktop devices. According to Search Engine Journal: “High volume and general search terms have been most severely affected by the update so far. Long-tail and niche terms will begin to see their right hand ads disappear in the coming weeks.” This change hasn’t yet rolled out to mobile, so it remains to be seen if/when that will happen and what the results will be. Search Engine Journal

Facebook’s Reactions are Here – Here’s How They’ll Change Your Approach to Facebook Marketing

If you’re like me, you went on Facebook earlier this week and noticed something odd — in addition to the Like button, there were options for reactions as well: Love, Haha, Wow, Sad and Angry. Pretty cool, right? These alleviate the commonly expressed concerns about Liking sad or negative statuses in an effort to show support, and also allow users to express other emotions, even if they aren’t ready or willing to leave a comment at the time. If you haven’t seen them yet, go ahead an log into Facebook and take them for a spin. I’ll wait. My only complaint is that we still don’t have a ‘Dislike’ button – but maybe that will make it through phase two. Social Media Today

From the @toprank Twitter Community

content marketing storytelling

Instagram Now Has More Advertisers Than Twitter

According to Marketing Land: “Seemingly as a result of all those moves, Instagram now claims more than 200,000 active advertisers as of February 2016, the Facebook-owned photo-and-video-sharing service announced on Wednesday. That number may pale in comparison to Instagram’s parent company — Facebook claims more than 2.5 million advertisers — but it trumps Twitter, which had more than 130,000 active advertisers as of the fourth quarter of 2015.” Although Instagram has probably had some serious help ramping up their advertising platform from their parent company, Facebook, it still says a lot about the direction online advertising seems to be taking. The ability to easily purchase ads from anywhere, and in formats that can contain links or extended video, makes a difference for online marketers. Marketing Land

Here’s Why You’re Failing By Ignoring LinkedIn As a Content Platform (Study)

According to a recent study from Wibbitz, more people (28% vs 24%) prefer reading their news online than seeing it on TV. This could have quite a bit to do with the variety of sources to choose from online compared to the relatively limited amount available on TV. That same study found that 67% of LinkedIn users polled considered themselves “news junkies”. So what does that mean for digital marketers? If you have relevant industry news or content, especially for those brands in the B2B sector, it makes sense to include LinkedIn in your content marketing strategy. Read more on SocialTimes.

Google To Shut Down Google Compare Products In US And UK On March 23

In a letter from Google to Compare partners, Google wrote: “Beginning on February 23, 2016, we will start ramping down the Google Compare product, which is currently live in both the US and UK. We plan to terminate the service as of March 23, 2016.” Google cites lack of success as their primary reason for shutting down the lead generation product that serviced the credit card, auto insurance, mortgage and travel insurance industries. Search Engine Land reported: “A Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land that while searches on these queries remained high, the product didn’t get the traction it hoped for and revenue was minimal.” The next step, according to Google, is a focus on transitioning these partners to standard AdWords products. Search Engine Land

Adobe Launches App Creation & Management Tool For Marketers

Adobe is hoping to make app creation and management easier for marketers, according to Marketing Land. The new Experience Manager Mobile app, launched as part of Marking Cloud, is meant to simply app creation and management, making it almost as easy to manage your mobile app(s) as it is to manage your website(s). With the rising popularity of mobile web and app use for shopping, consuming content, and myriad other activities, it’s not surprise that an organization like Adobe would come up with a way to make the lives of marketers a bit easier. But, my prediction is that as we’ve seen with ‘do it yourself’ website development tools, is that while you can certainly create apps on your own, but at some point you’ll need to harness the knowledge of someone who knows more about mobile development for it to be successful. But, only time will tell.  Marketing Land

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

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend! I’ll be back next week with more online marketing news. Have something to share? Tweet me at @Tiffani_Allen or send it to @toprank!

Infographic – WebpageFX


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Is Your Digital Marketing Strategy Red Carpet Worthy?

red-carpet-worthy

The music. The movies. The stars. The glitz. The glam. And, of course, the flawless—or sometimes flawed—red carpet looks.

Oh yes. It’s Oscar Season.

What’s been dubbed as “Hollywood’s Biggest Night” is set for the eve of Sunday, Feb. 28. And while watching one of your favorite stars take home a golden statue can be exciting, it seems like the one thing people are most eager to see are the gorgeous looks stars are rocking on the red carpet.

But looking radiant on the red carpet isn’t just about finding the perfect shoes or the perfect dress or having every hair in place. It’s about the entire ensemble working together to pull off the perfection to make you unforgettable.

And the same goes for your integrated digital marketing strategy. Integration, using multiple types of content and marketing tactics, is the key to success.

An integrated approach to your digital marketing strategy allows you to reach your audience on a variety of platforms and at multiple touch points throughout the buying process. In fact, case studies reveal that integrated customer journeys provide a competitive advantage, in some cases doubling sales year over year.

An actress wouldn’t show up to the Academy Awards wearing an ill-fitting dress and mismatched shoes. So use some of the tips and best practices below to make sure your integrated digital marketing strategy is red carpet ready.

The Dress = Quality Content

The dress is the foundation of a stellar red carpet look. It’s often the most talked about and it serves as the starting point for any accessory selection. Get the dress right and you’re sure to steal the spotlight.

Similarly, quality content is the essential bedrock of your integrated digital marketing strategy. Quality content needs to provide value. Without quality content, you can’t engage your audience, create brand awareness or ensure that your content is even seen.

For the best foundation, do your research and create target personas. Understanding who you want to reach, the questions they’re asking, the searches they’re performing and the pain points they have will guide your content creation.

The Jewelry = SEO

The jewelry is what adds all the glam. It sparkles. It shines. It adds a touch of majesty. And that’s exactly what SEO does to that quality content. It dresses it all up and commands the attention of the audience—or search engines.

When it comes to SEO, remember that user experience and search engines need to be taken into consideration. Just like a piece of gaudy jewelry can draw negative attention on the red carpet, keyword stuffing can not only turn off your audience, but also send negative signals to search engines.

Also, don’t just focus on the keywords you want to rank for. Take some time to research the trends and topics that your ideal customers are searching for.

(Get more tips on optimizing for humans and search engines.)

The Shoes = Social Media Marketing

The shoes add serious support during the red carpet stroll. They carry you through the entire night as you meet new people and pose with old friends. Your social presence reinforces all your other efforts by amplifying your message to your biggest fans, while presenting opportunities to widen your audience.

Since the shoes have to match the dress, planning and coordination are musts. The same goes for your social media strategy. During the content planning process, determine how you will use social media to amplify content and how you will measure success.

When it comes to taking the red carpet walk on social media, one great way to ensure message amplification is to create pre-written messages. These messages make it easy for employees, influencers, customers and contributors to share the content.

The Purse = Digital Advertising

While some starlets go without, those who choose to accessorize with a purse are able to keep all the necessary tools to stay looking flawless. Digital Advertising allows you to touch up or add a nice boost all your other digital marketing efforts. You can take that optimized, quality content and put it in front of a targeted set of eyes. This results in better conversion rates, more brand awareness and compliments all your other efforts nicely.

One effective digital advertising option is remarketing. A remarketing program uses a specific group of ads to target people who have recently visited your website or digital property. Remarketing adds another touch-point on the customer journey, and helps keep your brand or product top-of-mind. The best part? It’s one of the easiest and most cost-effective way to re-engage and already engaged audience. It’s like that Oscar-nominated film …

The Date = Influencers

No red carpet walk would be complete without a stunning and well-respected date to lend you his or her arm, show you off and get some buzz going. Influencers do all that and more. They can co-create more quality content, introduce your brand to a new audience, and amplify your content by sharing it with their communities and followers. And like landing fabulous date to the Academy Awards generates buzz, influencers can add serious credibility to your brand.

Choosing the right influencers—like being escorted by the right date—is essential. Using recruiting tools like Traackr and search tools such as Buzzsumo can help you identify relevant influential people to reach out to. When you’ve identified your influencers, spend some time connecting with them on social platforms to build a foundation before you reach out.

The Total Package

The dress. The shoes. The jewelry. The purse. The date. They all work together to create the perfect look—the total package. And the same goes for your digital marketing strategy. It’s not just content. It’s not just SEO. It’s not just social. It’s all about integrating those tactics in a way that helps you reach your objectives and be a showstopper to your audience.

Now the question is: Is your digital marketing strategy red carpet worthy? If you’re looking for a stylist, TopRank Marketing would love to help. Get in touch with us today.

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Empathy in Content Marketing: Three Stories to Tell Your Audience

content-marketing-empathy

You are (presumably) a person. The people you are trying to reach with your brand’s message are, amazingly, people as well. Content works better when it comes from a place of empathy—that is, when you know your audience and can speak to them on a personal level.

For example, I can use my astounding powers of empathy to read your mind right now. “For crying out loud,” you’re saying, “tell me something I don’t know, Nite. I know what empathy is. I know it makes marketing better. Quit wasting my time!”

See? It’s like magic.

Empathy starts with a deep understanding of your audience, gained by social listening, interviews, and persona-building. But you can have a deep understanding of your audience and still fail to tell the stories that will engage them. When you use the insight you have to tell a story that resonates, that’s empathy in action.

Here are three types of empathetic stories you can tell in your content, complete with examples from brands who got it right. Note these types of stories all go beyond the intersection of person and brand—they consider people beyond the small data point where they become customers.

#1 – Tell them It’s Going to Be Okay

Let’s face it: No matter how mature you may be, no matter how many challenges you have faced and overcome in life, there’s a scared child curled up in a ball at the base of your brain. We have a primal human need to have someone say, “Hey, it’s going to be okay. I know things are bad right now, but we’re going to find a way through it.”

That’s why I love this ad from CVS. In 30 seconds, it clearly addresses a specific audience, tells them it’s going to be okay, and tells them why.

It may lean a little too heavily on the promotional side in those last few seconds, but it’s in the context of, “you’re going to be okay, because we’re going to help you.” As someone who is intimately familiar with the little days-of-the-week pill boxes, these 30 dialog-free seconds had me blinking back tears.

#2 – Tell them What they Need to Know (NOT What You Want to Say)

Speaking of blinking back tears, take a few minutes to watch this short video from Extra Space Storage.

I’ll wait while you grab a tissue. It sure is dusty in the office today, isn’t it? Makes your eyes water like crazy.

Extra Space Storage had a message about their brand they wanted to get across: “We have storage solutions for people starting a family.” That’s what they needed to say. But that’s not what their target audience needs to hear.

To get at the right story for their target audience of couples freaked out about having a baby, they brought in a multi-cultural, multi-generational cast of real-life parents to give their best advice. The result is a heartwarming, genuinely informative, funny, touching video. That also, by the way, conveys the message the brand wanted to get across in the first place.

#3 – Tell them the Hard Truth (with Humor)

After those first two videos, I’m sure some of my fellow B2B marketers are feeling a growing sense of despair. Sure, those B2C guys can make beautiful videos about health and babies and whatnot. But we’re talking about serious business things with serious business people.

Take IBM for example. Their research lab is addressing some of the most serious problems facing the planet today. Like the ultra-critical issue of our out-of-control agricultural system. You can’t convey that type of information with, say, a funny cartoon:

Or maybe you can. IBM doesn’t skimp on the hard facts in this brief video, but uses humor to keep it relatable and make the message easier to swallow. They let the URL at the end do the heavy lifting to keep the video short and zippy. Most importantly, they remember that behind every ‘B’ in B2B, there’s a person.

Put the “Path” in Empathy

Content marketing requires putting the empathy you have for your audience to a constructive purpose. When you empathetically tell the story they need to hear, you can help lead them to the place they need to go. And that place just happens to be—thanks to your smart targeting and thorough research—where your solution is the best answer.

How do you put empathy in action in your marketing efforts? Let me know in the comments.

Could your business use stellar content with solid strategy to back it up? We’re here to help.

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Heidi Bullock of Marketo Helps Uncover Ways to Engage Self-Directed Buyers

heidi-bullock-marketo

Last week at the Content2Conversion conference, Heidi Bullock, VP of Demand Generation at Marketo took the stage and covered a topic that is top of mind for all marketers. That is, how to create the right message at the right time to meet the needs of customers.

Today’s self-directed buyers typically go through up to 90% of their purchasing journey on their own. Which means that marketers need to find a way to build credibility, without even speaking with customers directly. Below we’ll discover some best practices for creating engaging to better meet the needs of self-directed buyers.

Content Marketing for Self-Directed Buyers

According to a 2016 report from MarketingProfs and Content Marketing Institute, B2B marketers list “producing engaging content” as their top challenge, followed closely by “measuring content effectiveness” and “producing content consistently”. To help with this top need, Heidi provided a formula for creating engaging content:

E = Relevant Content + Right Time +Personal

Let’s break down the different elements of that formula to see what changes can be made to your program to begin creating more engaging content.

Create Relevant Content

In the example Heidi provided, you’ll see how the team at Marketo creates different content for their different customer groups. That means, when someone in higher education is searching for a solution, they won’t find a generic message that is meant to apply to a bunch of different prospects across the board.

Create-Relevant-Content-Marketo

Additionally, you can follow these tips for creating more relevant and engaging content:

  • Address a Need: Create content that shows you understand what readers care about.
  • Be Relatable: Know your audience and speak in a language that they can connect with.
  • Make a Point: Use content to make a point, and get to it quickly.
  • Standout: Create content that differentiates you from your competition.
  • Listen to Input: Information can be gathered from sales teams, social media websites and customers to create more engaging content.

You can also create a better experience for your customers by providing them different content types to consume and share such as:

  • Webinars
  • SlideShare Presentations
  • Videos
  • Blog Posts
  • Podcasts
  • Infographics
  • Activity Books/Worksheets
  • Articles

Present Content at the Right Time

Different content types and whether they are gated or un-gated should be mapped to the customer journey. Below are examples of early, middle and late stage content types and whether they should be gated or not:

gated-and-un-gated-content-marketo

Marketers can implement lead scoring systems to rank leads in a way that helps determine sales-readiness. So, the type of content that your prospects are accessing can help shine a light on which stage of the buying cycle they are currently in.

Personalize the Content Experience

True execution and measurement of personalized content is still something that is very new to most marketers. However, a recent study from HubSpot found that personalized calls-to-action have a 42% higher conversion rate than those that are the same for all visitors.

Opportunities to personalize content exist in many places such as your website, video, social media, email and mobile. Other tactics such as retargeting have become increasingly popular, but results can be improved with the use of personalized retargeting as shown below.

personalized-retargeting-marketo

With the amount of information available, marketers can now begin to leverage the behaviors and profiles of both professionals and consumers by uncovering and incorporating the following information:

Professionals:

  • Industry
  • Organization
  • Target Account
  • Revenue/Size
  • Region
  • Persona
  • Buying Stage
  • Products Owned

Consumers:

  • Geo-location
  • Price Sensitivity
  • Purchase History
  • Buying Intent
  • Engagement
  • Customer Profile
  • Offers Accepted

The Importance of Measuring Marketing ROI

While anyone will tell you measuring conversions from your marketing efforts is key, many marketers still overlook the importance of measuring the multiple touch points that customers Go through before finally converting. It’s very rare that a prospect will see one piece of content and then immediately hire a company. There is credibility and trust that is built up over time, from multiple sources that typically encourages that type of action.

Below is an example of a conversion that could happen over 3 months, and many touch points:

multiple-content-touch-points-marketo

Each of these different steps should have a value attached to them so that marketers can track the potential in revenue for each piece of marketing material.

You can view Heidi’s full presentation below:

What Did We Learn?

In order for content marketing to be successful, you have to develop messages that are relevant to your audience, at the right time and in a way that is personalized to their needs. Using the tools available to listen across departments and directly with customers MUST inform your content strategy.

What have you found to be your biggest challenges in creating relevant engaging content for your audience?


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Lee Odden Educates B2B Marketers on SEO for Content Marketing

As content marketing professionals, most of us would consider SEO a highly technical domain. Best leave that to the real nerds, right? Wrong. Google, Bing and all the other search engines have significantly altered their algorithms in the pastfew years. And these changes continue to favor the highest quality content, often rewarding smart content marketers with first position rankings.

With a bit of SEO sweet sauce, your content marketing sandwich will taste much better to search engines, and users too.Below, I will explore 4 major themes from TopRank Marketing CEO,Lee Oddens recent Content2Conversion talk on SEO for Content Marketers, including:

  • The State of SEO in 2016
  • Understanding Self-Directed Buyer Behavior
  • How to, Be The Best Answer
  • How to Create Smarter Integrated SEO Content for The Web

First things First: Optimizing for Users

Lets start by getting one thing straight about optimization. As content marketers, we shouldnt be optimizing our content for search engines. As Lee often points out, Google doesnt pay the bills. Your buyers pay the bills. Therefore, optimize for users, not search engines.

Old SEO rules would have you stuffing websites with keywords, creating thousands of new pages, tagging YouTube videos with every keyword you can get your hands on, and hoping something sticks. We give you permission to stop doing most, if not all of those things.

Part I: The State of SEO in 2016

So, how are most content marketers utilizing SEO in 2016? And more importantly, does SEO even matter anymore? Yes it matters. But content marketers and even many SEOs are failing to take advantage of recent algorithm changes. So, heres a snapshot from the front lines of the industry on what most content marketers actually dowith SEO:

Content Marketers_SEO Tactics

  • Implement more than 1-2 tactics (10-20%).
  • Perform Tech SEO Audit (Maybe).
  • Make a list of keywords.
  • Use keywords in titles, links, copy etc.
  • Share on social and wish for links.
  • Review monthly rankings reports

The problem with the list above is it looks a lot like 2010. Things have changed, and you should too.

Can Tools Automate your SEO?

At TopRank Marketing, we get asked about tools all the time. With all the tools, plugins and software available, its easy to believe that SEO is an automated function. Its not. In fact, as Googles algorithms become more complicated, it can be increasingly difficult to optimize your content.

According to the most recent LinkedIn data, SEO and SEM ranks 4th among top skills companies seek (below).

Hottest Skiills LinkedIn

What this research doesnt uncover is content marketers and SEOs are adopting an increasingly hybrid skillset. This is largely due to the fact that search engines now require higher quality content and a variety of content types, in order for content efforts to be most effective.

Hummingbirds the Word

Starting in 2013, an algorithm update was rolled out from Google, dubbed Hummingbird. This algorithm completely replaced the original Google algorithm, fundamentally changing the nature of how search engines crawl and rank web content. All you need to know is content quality, a variety of content types, and social media are all more important than ever.

Advice From The Front Lines

But dont take it from us. Here are what some much smarter folks have to say about how SEO fits into their overall marketing in 2016:

Alison Herzog

SEO is a foundational element of digital marketing Alison Herzog, Director Global Social Business & Digital Strategy, Dell

Barbara Feinberg

As long as theres Google, SEO will be a staple in digital marketing. Barbara Feinberg, Senior Product Marketing, McKesson

Part II: Understanding Buyer-Directed Behavior

The first step to understanding your buyers is to accept that they are self-directed. Theyll go to Google, social media, their LinkedIn network, friends, or pick up the phone and ask for a reference long before they contact you, or consume any of your content. Understanding the nature of B2B self-directed buyers is crucial to the success of any SEO efforts tied to your content marketing.

And in 2016, all of your potential customers are self-directed. According to Pardot, 70% of the buyers journey is complete before a buyer ever reaches out to sales. Which is why developing fruitful relationships between your marketing and sales department is fundamental to the success of your content marketing.

A common mistake among B2B marketers is someone from sales will reach out to a self-directed buyer, completely unaware that this buyer may have already started their journey. The sales professional (or targeted content in many cases) often treats them like they know nothing, or misses the delivers the wrong message to the prospect, based on where they are at in their journey. Say goodbye to that lead!

Take a cue from Gartner, who has done some fascinating research on this topic. They uncovered that more than 60% of all buyers indicated they prefer a self-driven informational search at the exploration, evaluation, and engagement phase of their purchase cycle (see below).

Your Buyers Already Know_Gartner

The bottom line is your customer wants to be in the drivers seat. They dont want a sales pitch. They want information. They dont want your opinion. They want a third-party opinion of your product or service. They want information from Google, Bing, YouTube, industry reports, and third-party validations.

Think about things from their point of view. They dont know who to trust, what to believe, or who is trying to screw them over.So, what are your options? Be the best answer. Be a conduit for the information. Curate your third-party verifications, peer reviews, social media posts and other relevant content.

So at this point, you might be asking yourself, What does this have to do with SEO and content? Fair question. Search engine queries are an explicit indication of intent. And tapping into the needs, intentions, and desires of your search audience will give you a solid map for the length, type, and style of content you must produce to meet your B2B audiences needs.

Part III: How to Be The Best Answer

So, weve covered the state of SEO in 2016, weve accepted that our buyers are self-directed, and now we just need to create all that killer content that will make them fall in love with our brand. No pressure, right? Lets start by examining the following marketing funnel. Its a solid example of what NOT to do.

Marketoonist_Funnel

Instead of creating more useless content and barraging your leads with information, you should try to be the best answer in search engine results. Why? Because, by 2020 the world will have nearly 50 billion internet-connected devices. In addition, a full 90% of the worlds information has been created in the last 2 years alone. The bottom line is your prospects are overwhelmed.

The B2B Buyer Journey & Search

Before you can create content for your buyers, youll need to understand where search engines fit into your buyers journey. Start by talking to your customers. Ask them how they found out about you. Ask them what made them want to work with you, or buy your product. If your buyers are socially active, run a Twitter poll. If necessary, conduct some research to find out more about your audience. Most importantly, find out what types of content they are looking for via search engines, and where this fits in their journey.

Consider how many steps are on the following sample buyers journey, and how search engines and social media feed into nearly every step:

  1. They see your brand or meet a salesperson at an event
  2. They view the brand on Twitter or LinkedIn
  3. They run a Google search for the company
  4. Connect with someone on LinkedIn
  5. Subscribe to company newsletter
  6. Receive e-mail follow up from sales
  7. Google search sales professional
  8. Google search company
  9. Search the solutions and topic
  10. Download a guide via newsletter CTA
  11. Do in-depth topical Google search based on your guide
  12. They search for competitors
  13. They receive nurture messaging and emails
  14. The contact company for a demo
  15. They evaluate options
  16. They search for product or company reviews
  17. They make a decision

Granted, this list is a bit aggressive. Nonetheless, it illustrates the potential complexity of your buyers purchase process, and where search engines come in and out of the process.

Your Buyers are Complex, Are You?

Maybe you look at the list above and you think, Yeah I already know all that. Great. Maybe youve already identified the B2B content marketing tactic necessary to communicate with folks at different stages of their journey. Again, thats awesome. But, are these tactics integrated?

Lee often emphasizes the fact that content marketing efforts are rarely integrated. We find the most challenging aspect of content marketing is to plan for the ecosystem. Not just an infographic, or a one-off whitepaper, or a blog post. Rather, how do all of these channels and systems integrate? Thats where you really begin to be the best answer for your B2B audience. Consider the following chart, which displays the most common B2B content marketing tactics:

2016 COntent Marketing Trends Tactic Usage

On the surface, it looks like B2B marketers are using a variety of tactics. But when you consider that 65% of B2B buyers think vendors should, Curb their sales messaging, you start to wonder if this chart represents an over-usage of a variety of channels to barrage buyers with sales messaging.

How to Become the Best Integrated Search Engine Answer

Are They Integrated & Optimized.

Certain styles, flavors and tactics make sense in each potential customer touch-point. A LinkedIn connection message should not feel like an auto-generated corporate email. Likewise, an infographic shouldnt contain so much text that your buyers want to barf. Most of all, use common sense. Without further ado, the following is a checklist of tactics that will ensure you are the best, most integrated answer for your buyers in your content marketing and SEO efforts:

  • Create a constellation of ideas that makes you the BEST answer (see above)
  • Write title tags that inspire clicks
  • Go deep: provide comprehensive content on specific topics
  • Engage your networks for social sharing
  • Optimize for Google AND people
  • Mobile SEO is a must
  • Think about attraction AND promotion. Use paid, organic, and media relations to amplify your efforts
  • Always be customer- centric
  • Integrate and optimize
  • Go in-depth (not just length) & be uber-relevant
  • Do your research: if someone else has covered the topic, know about it and raise the bar

If you need TopRank Marketings helpto become the best answer for your customers, contact us today for a free consultation.


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Content Marketing Lessons from Netflix: 5 Steps for Feeding the Content Beast From David Bruno

content-marketing-lessons-netflix

With more than 25 years of experience on the front lines of creative campaign development, David Bruno knows that, “content marketing” has been around for a long time, in one form or another.

During his Content2Conversion session, “Feeding the Content Beast” this past Wednesday, he artfully explained how content marketers can apply lessons from Netflix to their marketing.

Is Netflix “Content Marketing?”

Let’s back up. Many marketers wouldn’t consider Netflix a tale of content marketing success. Content marketing, they would argue, is meant to produce leads – and business results. Netflix is entertainment, not content marketing. Or, so the logic goes.

David argued (and I agree), that Netflix is a content marketing powerhouse. They mine user data, produce original content for a clearly-defined audience, and definitely drive profitable customer action. Consider the relationship between original content production, subscriber growth, and most importantly company profit:

  • Subscribers have gone from 20 million in 2011 to 75 million in late 2015, significantly outpacing Hulu and Amazon (below):

Netflix Growth_Content Marketing Driven

  • Company revenue on the other hand, has spiked more dramatically, starting in 2011 (below):

Netflix Revenue_Driven By Content Marketing

So, why have profits spiked, while subscriber growth remains more steady? Two words: original content. In 2011, Netflix released their hit series House of Cards, effectively changing their business model forever. According to the latest reports, they plan to produce 600 hours of original content, yet this year.

Embrace the Binge Mentality

Before you run off and pitch your wild infotainment concepts to all your clients, let’s examine how you can apply the Netflix model to your content marketing in a scalable fashion.

As early as 2013, a McKinsey report announced we had entered an age of on-demand marketing. Your customers now want instant answers, delivered in their preferred channels. Take a cue from Netflix – they pioneered the “anytime, anywhere, any device” mentality in streaming services. They even customize suggested titles, based on viewing history. What if your B2B content marketing did the same? Do you know when, where and how your customers want information? Find out, and use this data to your advantage.

Be Data-oriented, Not Media-driven

Netflix is known for mining data. But data doesn’t present instant answers. It’s what you do with the data that matters.

Media companies follow big numbers. They want eyeballs, scale, massive adoption. But data-driven organizations understand that influencing behavior takes more than showing interesting content to massive audiences.

Take another cue from Netflix and tap into your passion communities. Netflix is famous for producing shows for niche communities. Take Hemlock Grove, Arrested Development, Weeds, and all of those niche documentaries I can’t stop watching as examples. All of these Netflix originals were produced because of data insights. Instead of focusing on broad ratings, the Netflix analytics team digs into completion rate stats, browsing and scrolling data, search usage, among many other factors. By adapting original content based on usage data, Netflix has closed the gap on entertainment desires. And each niche show secures a new community of dedicated fans.

In B2B markeing, these passionate customers might be a blip on your radar, or a tiny segment in your Google analytics dashboard. Use advanced analytics segments to identify these customers, and create custom content that answers their questions. Even if they are a small group of your users – this will pay off big time.

Do B2B Customers want More Content?

Yes. According to a recent study from Pardot, 76% of B2B buyers prefer different content at each stage of their research process. There’s no way around it. It’s time to feed the content beast.

hungry-content-marketing-monster

Image courtesy of Marketo

Without further delay, here’s a 5-step process for feeding the content beast and applying the lessons learned from Netflix’s content marketing. Apply these 5 steps to your B2B content development process to ensure your customers are getting the content they need:

#1 – Give the people what they want (not what we want them to want)

Too often, we assume we know what our B2B audience wants. Dig into the data. Find your passionate customers, and give them what they want.

#2 – Embrace creative thinking

B2B doesn’t have to be boring. Talk to your customers. Find out what sports, shows, and interests they have. Use those cues in your content development. We’re all human beings after all.

#3 – Obsess over quality (rate your content)

This is a hallmark of top publishers. The highest quality content is what gets surfaced to the top of search engine rankings. And it’s what users want. Obsess over quality!

#4 – Publish or Perish

If you don’t get your message out there, your competitors will. Produce content regularly. Find out where your audience is, and own it!

#5 – Hire a managing editor

All too often, content marketers try to do it all on their own. Find someone who can keep you accountable. Managing editors help in the following ways:

  1. Keep you on message
  2. Keep you on deadline
  3. Manage the content calendar for you
  4. Understand what the program goals are

We all stand to learn a great deal from the success of Netflix. B2B content marketers have a long way to go in order to close the gap. The good news is, utilizing some of the tips above will get you there faster than you ever expected.


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Marketing Strategy Secret Sauce: Exploring Nasdaq’s Brand + Content Marketing Overhaul

Nasdaq-Content

The financial sector is littered with marketing strategy failures. Don’t count Nasdaq them. First-time Content2Conversion speaker Jeremy Skule delivered a keynote that explored how Nasdaq used a combination of branding and content marketing to unlock an amazing marketing strategy (and results) for the brand. How did they do it? A well-timed one-two punch of brand overhaul and content marketing.

Below, I outline the secret sauce that made this amazing tale of B2B content marketing possible.

1. Using Vision, Voice & Visibility To Pivot the Brand

Just two years ago, Nasdaq was known primarily as a premium stock exchange listing brand. From a marketing perspective, the trouble was that less than 10% of company revenue came from their listing services. Nasdaq offered technology solutions, market performance tracking, market intelligence among many other services (which made up the other 90% of revenue).

Jeremy Skule knew they could do better. He re-aligned the company’s marketing efforts, by putting the following content marketing pillars in place.

  • Vision: As Jeremy explained, it doesn’t matter if you’re a 1-person shop, or a 100-person team. You have to develop a vision for where your organization is going, and exactly how your content marketing fits into that broader vision.
  • Voice: Tone-of-voice is crucial to content marketing (and social media) success. Understanding the language your customers use, cadence, level of humor, among many other factors is essential to an effective content marketing brand strategy.
  • Visibility: This is all about delivering the right message, at the right time, in the right place. Running some qualitative research around where your audience exists can help immensely. There’s plenty of free data floating around on the Internet about which channels customers prefer. Read it! Or, start with a Twitter poll. Or if you have to, conduct your own research.
nasdaq_logo

Old versus new Nasdaq logo

2. Igniting Internal Adoption

Before developing any external content marketing programs, Jeremy knew he had to get employees on board. As Jeremy explained, “Positioning ourselves for growth that fit with company culture was crucial to success.” Furthermore, he understood that developing an internal advocacy program across thousands of employees could have just as much amplification potential as any old-school advertising.

It was a smart move. According to a recent employee advocacy study from Kredible, employee advocacy programs involving 1,000+ employees can generate $1,900,000 in advertising value. And the cultural payoff is even bigger. If you’re looking to build your brand around employees, here’s how Nasdaq did it:

  • They took the pulse of employee sentiment at town halls and internal meetings
  • They surveyed clients to mine for employee strengths & weaknesses
  • They socialized the process with leadership
  • They developed a Nasdaq “brand journey”
  • They recruited employees to be featured in content (including the following video)

3. Thinking Big with Content Marketing

The next step in the process was to ignite their content marketing effectiveness. As a company with more than 3 billion in revenue, Nasdaq had no shortage of great minds producing outstanding content. The problem was, they had no central repository. So, they created a content hub. Nasdaq MarketInsite provided a stomping ground for their core content producers. Here’s how they ensured their content hub was a success:

  • They started with an internal cultural vision
  • They amplified that vision across their brand and content marketing
  • They recognized they couldn’t fix everything (at least, not quickly)
  • They reigned in social opportunities
  • They re-shaped the content experience
  • They embraced data visualization

View Nasdaq MarketInsite

marketinsite

Nasdaq’s Content Hub

Simply put, the content marketing team began to innovate. They began doing things no other exchange or financial services provider had ever done. They offered the world the first livestream of a market bell ceremony. They engaged directly with customers via Twitter. They amplified the brand with a Times Square takeover. They partnered with Elon Musk, Etsy and others. Out of these events they developed loads of real-time and ongoing content.

Etsy & Nasdaq

Nasdaq & Etsy Times Square Takeover

The Results?

  • 325% growth in social following
  • 10 million in revenue directly from MarketInsite
  • 30 million in the pipeline directly from MarketInsite
  • Significantly broadened their social reach and target awareness
  • Content Hub increased overall site traffic, ranking as top visited page

In conclusion, the Nasdaq case study forces us to rethink the relationship between brand and content marketing. Where does one end and the other begin?


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The New Rules & Realities of Sales & Marketing #C2C16

David Meerman Scott

“The biggest mistake I see with marketing is companies talk too much about their own products and services.”

As the author of 7 books, David Meerman Scott brings tremendous knowledge, real-world insights and infectious energy to the stage. As yesterday’s opening keynote at Content2Conversion in Scottsdale, David challenged the audience to set the bar higher with their content marketing efforts. In his own words, “B2B doesn’t have to stand for Be-Too-Boring.” I couldn’t agree more!

Below I share a few of Scott’s New Rules, including how the B2B buying process has changed, the importance of real-time engagement, and how content marketing just might land you on an Antarctic journey.

The Problem: Wrong Content, Wrong Message, Wrong Buyer

Customers don’t care about brands and services. At least, not as much as those same brands and services think they do. And they sure don’t like what content marketers are producing, on the whole. According to Forrester, 87% of B2B marketers struggle to produce content that engages their buyers. Let’s all pause there (and face palm). On the other side of the equation, 65% of B2B buyers report vendors should curb sales messages, and focus on improving the quality of their content. It certainly sounds like we’re all in agreement.

As David pointed out yesterday, “Many marketers steeped in the tradition of product advertising naturally feel drawn to prattle on and on about their products and services. But I have news for you. Nobody cares.”

If Nobody Cares, Why Do We Keep Producing the Same Content?

If content marketers know their content is ineffective, and the buyers want higher quality content, why do B2B marketers keep producing the same old stuff? David believes it all boils down to fear. Here are some key things that get in the way of change:

  • Culture is tough to change
  • Convincing superiors to take risks is tough
  • It’s hard to operationalize new techniques

But if you want to succeed, you’ll have to start producing content that speaks to your audience’s needs. Here’s how:

Rule #1: Understand That the Way People are Buying Has Changed

Sociaal Media Post

In the past decade, the way purchasing decisions happen has been completely changed by the web. According to Sirius Decisions, nearly 70% of the buyer’s journey is done digitally. Which means, the impression of your organization is likely made long before a sales professional makes contact with a customer. Consider how the following have become the norm:

  • We research someone online – before agreeing to go on a date
  • We check out someone’s LinkedIn profile before initial business meetings
  • We read a review of a film before watching it, and watch several trailers
  • We read restaurant reviews and browse menus before making a reservation

All of the above holds true in B2B marketing as well. So, where are your customers going to find information about your product or brand?

Rule #2: Educate and Inform

Instead of interrupt and sell, we must seek to educate and inform our buyers. If they are finding information about your organization before you have direct contact, you must ensure that the content they find is relevant and useful. Consider the following facts before developing your content plan (via Acquity Group):

  • 77% of B2B buyers use Google search
  • 84% check business websites
  • 34% visit third-party websites

The Solution? Content is The Bridge between Sales & Marketing

As B2B marketers, we must understand that marketing and sales perform different functions.

  • Marketing = Delivering content to many buyers at once
  • Sales = Delivering content to one buyer at a time

The best way to bridge the gap between sales and marketing is content. Your prospects don’t want to be sold to, they want to be educated! Consider some of the following examples of B2B content marketing.

Rule #3: Embrace Real-time Engagement

As of today, there are 7.2 billion people living on earth. According to a U.N. study, more of these people have mobile phones than functioning toilets. We’re living in an era of unprecedented change. And it’s literally happening overnight. So, what does this mean for B2B marketers? You have to give your buyers the information they seek the moment they ask for it. Otherwise, you face becoming obsolete.

David’s talk featured a recent and highly entertaining example of real-time content marketing, which came unexpectedly from the Central Intelligence Agency. If the CIA has embraced real-time content marketing, don’t you think it’s time for the rest of the B2B community to get on board?

CIA Tweet

A CIA Tweet in response to Shark Week.

CIA Tweet 2

CIA Tweet in response to Argo winning an academy award.

Rule #4: Give It Away

According to a 2014 study, a full 80% of B2B content is gated. As a marketer, how do you feel when you find the amazing whitepaper, eBook, or infographic you seek only to be faced with filling out 20 form fields in order to access the download? Yeah, it sucks. According to David, it’s time to put an end to forms, and it’s time to stop gating our content.

A Tip From the Grateful Dead

IMG_2634

In his keynote David featured insights from his 2010 book, “Marketing Lessons from The Grateful Dead”. In it, Scott outlines how the Grateful Dead became the biggest touring band in America. By adopting some of the following principles, you can apply the same rockstar mentality to your B2B content marketing. Here’s how they did it:

  1. Co-creation: They encouraged their fans to record shows and trade tapes
  2. Built relationships: Built a mailing list and sold concert tickets directly to fans
  3. Event marketing: They created buzz by focusing on their live act, and not caring about album sales

As Scott and co-author Brian Halligan explain, “By cultivating a dedicated, active community, collaborating with their audience to co-create the Deadhead lifestyle, and giving away “freemium” content, the Dead pioneered many social media and inbound marketing concepts successfully used by businesses across all industries today.”

But the key to unlocking their continued success was the fact that they allowed fans to tape, and share their music for free.

Manage Your Fear

Scott concluded his talk with a friendly reminder that we all have fears. Whether our fears are seasickness while crossing the Drake passage in Antarctica, or failing at B2B ontent marketing, facing these fears head-on is the only way we’ll overcome them.

Which rule above resonated most with you?


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Content Marketing: 5 Unexpected Places to Find Inspiration for Your Blog Content

content-marketing-inspiration

Creative inspiration is like a butterfly: It’s beautiful from a distance, but full of weird insect parts up close.

Sorry, let me try that again. Creative inspiration is like a butterfly: Sometimes it seems like no matter how far you stretch, it flutters above your head, beautiful but just out of reach. Sure, you could sit perfectly still and wait for it to land, but your editorial calendar beckons. Few marketers have the free time to truly find their creative space. At the same time, you know that content with that creative spark will be far more compelling.

The next time your creative butterfly just won’t sit still long enough for you to get a good look at it, grab your butterfly net of proactivity and go after it. Here are five ways to get inspired when you’re stuck.

#1 – Stock Photo Sites

When you’re looking for a metaphor that will make your blog post come alive, start with a compelling image and build from there. Fire up your favorite stock photo site–I like Pixabay and StockSnap–and take a look at the recently uploaded photos. Both sites present a grid of photos devoid of context, of widely varying subject matter. Even if you don’t find the header image for your post, odds are you will get the spark of an idea that will make your post more lively.

#2 – Twitter’s Front Page

Most of us hardly ever see Twitter‘s home page. If you elect to stay logged into the site, Twitter just drops you straight into your feed, where hours of distraction await. If you log out, though, you’ll see a dynamic grid of trending tweets that you can customize by topic. See what’s capturing people’s imagination in real time, and you can use the inspiration to write a topical post. For example, this Taylor Swift-themed post on MarketingProfs captured an of-the-moment metaphor to give sound marketing advice.

#3 – Mashable

Like the front page of Twitter, Mashable‘s home page is a direct line to the Internet’s subconscious. It’s like Reddit, only you won’t risk getting fired for clicking the wrong link. The three columns on the page show what’s most shared, what’s trending, and the most recent stories uploaded, giving you three vantage points for finding a creative angle. I spent just a few minutes on the site, and I’m already outlining my “5 Content Marketing Lessons from the Isle of Wight Triceratops” post.

#4 – Outside

The first three items in my list are designed to spark inspiration by data input. But sometimes, what you need is the opposite: less data, fewer screens, less fluorescent light. Sometimes you have to get up and go for a walk outside–even if, like me, you live in the frozen tundra of Minnesota. Leave your smartphone at your desk (unless your coworkers are exceptionally shifty) so you won’t be tempted to Facebook on your walk. Allow yourself to be a little bored, if need be; boredom is a rare and prized commodity in the age of distraction.

You don’t need to go on an epic vision quest, so save your PTO–a five minute stroll should be enough to clear your mind and get your creative juices flowing.

#5 – This Trippy App

All distractions aside, your butterfly of creativity really lives inside your own head. Sometimes all it takes to generate an idea is to put yourself in the right mindset for a few minutes and see what surfaces. My go-to tool for this kind of meditation is an app called Pulsate. Click the screen to create circles that expand and contract, playing gentle chimes when they touch. The simple, mesmerizing visuals and the random-but-pleasant sound can get you to your creative space post-haste.

Don’t Let Your Butterfly Flutter By

I can say from experience that when you feel uncreative, it’s tempting to dive into social media and vegetate. I mean, how can you do creative work when you’re not feeling creative? Surely that butterfly will land eventually…until then, I can take this quiz and see once and for all which Power Ranger I am.

The trouble with procrastination is that it leads to stress, and stress leads to feeling less creative, which leads back to procrastinating. It’s a vicious cycle, ugly as a close-up picture of a butterfly’s mouth (seriously). So instead of stagnating, use the tips in this article to catch your creativity and put it to work.

At TopRank Marketing, our team uses awesome content and killer strategy to get results for our clients. How can we help?

Header image via Shutterstock


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5 Steps to Perfecting Your Influencer Marketing Waltz

influencer-marketing-waltz

A well-performed waltz can move those watching it unfold on the dance floor. The audience can get caught up in the seemingly intricate steps and the flow with which the dancers move.

However, one small misstep can change the entire vibe for both the audiences and the dancers. As with dancing, influencer marketing can be both beautiful, and filled with stumbling blocks.

Influencer marketing has become a much larger part of the way that successful brands approach digital marketing. In fact, a recent study from McKinsey found that influencer marketing (which falls under Word of Mouth marketing) shows an average of a 37% higher retention rate and twice the amount of sales when compared to paid advertising on its own.

However, influencer something is not something you can simply dive into without knowing some of the basic steps. If you want to learn how you can avoid stumbling when working with influencers, follow the five steps below to ensure that your influencer marketing program is choreographed like a fine waltz.

Step 1: Find the Right Influencers

The first step in creating a successful influencer marketing program is finding the right influencers to collaborate with. Who you choose to collaborate with is incredibly important. These should be people that your customers are interested in hearing from, know of and respect.

We recommend utilizing a mix of brandividuals, niche industry experts, customers and other individuals inside and outside of your organization that can add value. Remember that these collaborators can help increase the reach of your message so it is important that they are invested in the outcome.

Step 2: Understand That a Warm Outreach Works Best

Email and social networks have largely taken over as the most used method of communication for business professionals. Because of that, their inboxes are often flooded with business communications, newsletters and more. Because of the overwhelming amount of communication received and consumed each day, it is getting harder and harder to get the attention of professionals you’d like to participate in your influencer marketing program.

To stand out in a sea of messages, your chances of success greatly increase if you have some sort of pre-existing relationship with the person you’re reaching out to. In our digital world, it’s not always the case that you will have met these people in real life and exchanged a handshake, but there are other ways to connect.

Social media and content provide great platforms for creating meaningful interactions. It can be as simple as commenting on their blog, mentioning them in a social media post or taking the first step to get connected.

Step 3: Make Reasonable Requests

Once you’ve put in the effort to build a relationship with influencers that can help create value, you’ll need to decide in what capacity you’d like their participation. I’d recommend starting with a simple request such as a quote or for them to provide insight on a particular topic.

Keep in mind these are busy people and especially for your first time collaborating, you need to ensure that you’re making it as easy as possible for them to respond. It can also be a good idea to share examples of other responses that you’ve received (if there are multiple influencers being used) so that they can get a sense of what you’re looking for and even the ideal length of their response.

Step 4: Always Show Value for the Influencer

Which scenario would you prefer:

  • An acquaintance asks you for a favor but offers nothing in return, or
  • An acquaintance asks for your help and shares how they can help you in return.

While it can be easy to get caught up in the marketing and business goals you’ve set forth for your influencer marketing program, you have to consider the needs of your influencers. Especially with the large number of requests they likely receive, your chances of getting a response will greatly increase if you offer them value.

Value can come in many different forms including exposure for their brand or business, help building their personal brand or even some sort of monetary reward for their contribution.

Step 5: Help Influencers Amplify Your Message

There are many benefits in working with influencers. They can add third party credibility to your brand message and depending on their own network size and publishing habits, they can skyrocket your exposure.

In addition to making reasonable requests when trying to convince influencers to participate in the first place, you have to make it easy for them to share the message as well.

When working with influencers on projects like eBooks or larger content assets, a few extra moments of your time preparing a personalized message for those that participated. This could include sharing the link to where the asset lives, an embed code for them to share on their blog or website (if applicable), pre-written social messages promoting their participation. These are only a few examples of simple things you can do to have your influencers help promote your message in a few simple clicks.

Learn the Steps & Remember to Practice

There are many opportunities to add your own special flare to the influencer marketing dance. However, following the steps above will help you cover the basics of a successful program. Once you learn these steps, you can begin to explore more complex influencer marketing opportunities that will help you achieve even greater success.

Need help launching a successful influencer marketing initiative? TopRank Marketing can help.

Header image via Shutterstock


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