Learn How to Create a Better Customer Experience with Omni-Channel Marketing

omni-channel-marketing

In today’s world, the customer experience extends beyond the walls of a brick and mortar store. Customers engage with your brand through content that’s spread across multiple channels and accessed by multiple devices. And with so many possible touch points, it’s becoming increasingly important for brands to ensure consistency throughout–especially for their millennial audience.

A survey by SLD, a customer experience software and services provider, revealed that 44% of millennials surveyed expect their experience to be consistent across all devices. In addition, 60% said that they expect the same experience across all customer touch points–from phone service to in-store and digital interactions.

So how do you create that consistent customer experience? Through omni-channel marketing.

Defining Omni-Channel Marketing

Omni-channel marketing is a holistic, strategic marketing approach that aims to provide a seamless user experience across all channels and devices.

Every brand has a story to tell. A message that tells their audiences who they are, what they stand for and how they can be of service in a time of need. And an important part of successfully conveying that message is through creating a positive, consistent customer experience with your brand. How can you build a relationship with a customer if your message is inconsistent? How can you build that trust?

In addition, providing a consistent customer experience contributes to building brand recognition and awareness among your target audience. Remember, your marketing efforts aim to build and nurture your customer relationships.

Best Practices for Omni-Channel Marketing

At TopRank Marketing, we often talk about the importance of an integrated content marketing strategy. One that uses multiple tactics–across multiple mediums–to be the best answer, when and where people are searching for information. The key to all this? A focus on the customer and their journey–which is a natural connection to omni-channel marketing.

Content plays a major role in the customer experience. It’s product descriptions. It’s blog posts. It’s advertisements. It’s emails. It’s social media status updates. It’s a promotional sign hanging in a store’s window. Use omni-channel marketing as another layer to bolster your content marketing strategy–and really your overall marketing strategy.

Other best practices include:

  • Use consistent imagery. Humans are very visual beings. We process so much with our eyes. Using consistent imagery contributes to that brand recognition and awareness brands so desperately want.
  • Establish a consistent voice. This is your brand voice and it should be recognizable to your customers. Are you serious? More light-hearted? Silly? Educational?
  • Personalize. Remember that each channel likely has a distinct audience. Strike a balance between your brand standards and optimizing your message for each medium.
  • Put yourself in customers’ shoes. Take the time to regularly review the experience that your customers go through to research, buy and connect with your products and brand. When it comes to your digital interactions, use your analytical tools to identify barriers. Where are people dropping off the site? Which forms convert the best? Where is the most site traffic coming from? Which mediums get the most engagement? Now that you have this information, how can you improve the experience? Is it through new content or better calls-to-action?

Examples of Omni-Channel Marketing in Action

Disney

Disney Omni-Channel

Disney is an omni-channel rock star. From booking your trip on their mobile responsive website to securing fast passes through the My Disney Experience app to accessing your on-property hotel room with a Magic Band, the magic of Disney is consistent throughout.

Target

Target Omni-Channel 1

Target Omni-Channel 2

Another omni-channel heavy weight is one of my most beloved brands: Target. Whether you’re shopping from your PC, your mobile device or in-store, each medium works together to create a seamless, efficient shopping experience (even if you fall down the perusing rabbit hole). Your digital shopping cart can be saved and accessed from either a PC or mobile device, or you can opt to pick items up at your closest store.

Coca-Cola

Coca-cola omni-channel

Coca-Cola is one of the world’s most recognizable brands. It’s sold in hundreds of countries and it’s branded itself as a deliciously refreshing beverage that delivers happiness in a bottle. From allowing soda lovers to share the love by personalizing a bottle for a special someone to their rewards program to utilizing traditional media to remind customers just how tasty their drink is, their brand is all about customer experience.

What are some of your best practices for ensuring a seamless customer experience? Share with us in the comments section below.

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What is a Content Marketing Strategy (And Why Do I Need One?)

what-is-a-content-marketing-strategy

With traditional marketing tactics becoming less effective as the Internet breeds more self-guided buyers, content marketing has risen up to provide marketers with another way to engage with their target audience.

Rather than pushing out a one-size-fits-all message, content marketing allows you to give your audience tailored, relevant and meaningful information. It helps you build a trusting relationship with your audience–often times before they even become a customer.

But just because you do content marketing, doesn’t mean you’re doing it effectively. According to the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs annual research report, 55% of marketers said they didn’t know what content marketing success or effectiveness looked like. This is where a content marketing strategy can help you define a path to successful content creation.

But what is a content marketing strategy?

What is a Content Marketing Strategy?

A content marketing strategy provides you with answers to the why, who and how a content marketing program can achieve your business objectives. It’s your infrastructure. Your game plan. Your roadmap. It’s how you plan to help your customers solve their pain points through content marketing.

For example, your content marketing strategy will likely include some very important details about your customers, what you hope to accomplish with content marketing and how you plan on getting there. A successful content marketing strategy will be thoroughly integrated with your other digital marketing initiatives to create a cohesive experience for your customers across platforms. 

Why Do I Need a Content Marketing Strategy?

Without a content marketing strategy, you’re throwing content into the world and hoping it sticks somewhere. With a strategy in place, you’re able to plan, produce, promote and measure the effectiveness of your content, and use that information to propel your efforts forward.

In order for you to measure the effectiveness of your program, your content marketing strategy needs to be documented. In the same annual report mentioned above, marketers with a documented content marketing strategy said they got better results from the content marketing tactics, social platforms and paid methods of content distribution that they used.

7 Elements to Include in Your Content Marketing Strategy

#1 – Goals & Objectives 

The idea behind creating and implementing a content marketing strategy–and really any business strategy–is to achieve specific goals and objectives. Some of the most common goals include increasing website traffic, growing social audiences, and increasing contact form submissions or newsletter signups. We suggest making these goals smart goals–something that can be tracked and measured. For example, rather than your goal being to increase website traffic, your smart goal could be increasing organic website traffic by 15% year-over-year.

#2 – Audience Segmentation & Characteristics

This is where you need to get into the minds of your target audience. Understanding their motivations, their pain points and what they’re searching for will be key to building out your strategy. Keyword research and your own site’s analytics are good places to start. In addition, your sales teams can provide you with incredible customer insights.

#3 – Brand Messaging

As mentioned above, your content marketing strategy should help you tell your brand’s story. What message do you want to communicate to your audience? What sets you apart from your competition?

#4 – Multi-Channel Touch Points

Today’s customer journey involves multiple touch points on multiple channels (social media, search, digital ads, news posts, customer review sites, etc.). Define which channels you’ll use and how you’ll use them to reach your audience, and what your specific objectives for each channel are.

#5 – Content Types 

From blogs and infographics to podcasts and videos, outline which content types and tactics you plan to use. To do this, consider what types will be most effective with your audience and how they will work together to reach your objectives. Again, leverage your sales teams. Their insights can help you choose your content and map it to specific stages (attract, engage or convert) in the buying cycle.

#6 – Content Topics

Content marketing is all about providing the best answer to your audience, when and where they are searching for them. Use your customer insight and their pain points to guide some of your content topics. In addition, check out the current content landscape by performing some of your own searches for your top keywords and studying the top SERPs that are returned. What do those pages offer the user? What opportunities do you see for your own content?

#7 – Measurement

Your plan should include details on how you plan to measure the effectiveness of your content and the channels you use to promote it. This will allow you to know if you’re hitting your stated objectives so you can tweak your strategy moving forward.

Content Marketing Strategy Resources

If you’re hungry for more information on content marketing strategy, here are a few articles that you may find helpful:

What steps do you take to better understand your audience and inform your content marketing strategy? Tell us in the comments section below.

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Learn Where Influencer Marketing Fits in the B2B Customer Journey

influencer-marketing-b2b-customer-journey

When you lose a potential customer to a competitor it can leave you reeling with questions and wondering what they did to set themselves apart and how they did it. Companies that work hard to be the best answer wherever their customers are looking and build trust and credibility early in the sales cycle are typically those that win new business when it comes time for customers to make a decision.

One way that brands can begin building trust and credibility early on with prospects is to incorporate influencers into content meant to represent different stages of the buying cycle. In fact, recent research has found that 51% of marketers believe that incorporating influencers into their marketing helps them get better customers.

Before we jump into how to incorporate influencers into different types of content, it’s important to take a step back and recognize that the term “influencer” does not just apply to popular brandividuals that many companies are all chasing after to add to their marketing campaigns. True, there are many powerful brandividuals that can help advance your brand message but you also need to consider incorporating niche industry experts, experts from reputable brands, your own customers and even employees into these content campaigns.

Let’s dig in and discuss how to incorporate influencers to attract, engage and convert more B2B customers as well as a few ways to get started.

Incorporate Influencers to Attract Customers

When potential customers are not aware of your brand, incorporating influencers into early stage content meant to attract can be an incredibly effective way to stand out in a sea of content.

The correlation that prospects make between you and the influencers that you include in your content provide instant credibility and begins building necessary trust to move prospects to the next stage.

What type of influencers add value at the attract stage?

  • Brandividuals
  • Industry Experts From Reputable Brands

Incorporate Influencers to Engage Customers

Once a prospect reaches the engage stage of their buying journey, they are aware of your brand and frequently consume content that you create.

They may not be ready to purchase, but they consider you to be a reputable source for information and may often share your content within their organization and with their social networks.

When a prospect is at this stage in their journey, contributions from influencers on specific topics that provide a lot of value is the best way to incorporate influencers.

What type of influencers add value at the engage stage?

  • Niche Experts
  • Industry Experts for Reputable Brands
  • Internal Experts

Incorporate Influencers to Convert Customers

This is the final stage in the customer journey leading up to purchase. At this point, your prospect may be weighing their options between you and your competitors. An endorsement from an influencer at this stage can be incredibly impactful in determining whether you or another brand wins the business.

An example of the influencer content used in this stage often comes in the form of endorsements in working with your company, or testaments of the quality of your products or services.

What type of influencers add value at the convert stage?

  • Current Customers
  • Niche Experts
  • Industry Experts From Reputable Brands

4 Tips for Incorporating Influencers Into Your Content Marketing Strategy

#1 – Start Small

If it is the first time you’re working with one of these influencers and have just begun building the relationship, keep your asks simple and straightforward. Once you’re able to show influencers value from their initial collaboration, they’ll be more likely to work with you on more complex projects in the future.

#2 – Include The Right Mix of Influencers

As we discussed above, there are different types of influencers that you can work with to meet specific objectives. Depending on the stage of your content asset and overall goals for the program, you’ll want to include a good mix of influencer types that will best help you provide value to your prospects.

#3 – Always Strive for Authenticity

While it may be tempting to provide influencers with a laundry list of specifications for their contribution, you’ll be more successful if you allow influencers to add their own personal flavor to the content. Why? One of the reasons that influencer marketing can be so effective is that if done well, your influencers will be motivated to share the content with their community. They have worked hard to build their own followers that are used to receiving information in a particular way that they know and trust.

#4 – Make it Easy for Influencers to Amplify the Message

One of the biggest mistakes that we see many companies new to influencer making is failing to create a frictionless way for influencers to share their contribution. Let’s face it, putting together an influencer content marketing campaign can be a lot of work. It’d be a shame to go to all of that work only to have it not meet campaign goals because you missed an essential step.

Take the time to create social messages for each individual influencer and provide them with additional creative assets that feature their contribution so that they are proud to promote their involvement.

Incorporate Influencers to Skyrocket B2B Content Marketing Success

Each company will need to determine the exact mix of influencer types that will be the most impactful at the different purchasing stages. There is no one-size fits all solution for incorporating influencer marketing but there is a vast amount of opportunity that is being left on the table because many brands aren’t sure where to start.

To help you get the most out of your B2B influencer marketing program, we’ve created the helpful guide below to help you get started.

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Online Marketing News: Content Cocktails, Old School Email and 3D Printing in Space

mixology-of-content-marketing

The Mixology of Content Marketing [INFOGRAPHIC]

Content marketing is an art and a science, just like mixing a good cocktail. In this infographic, different types of content ‘cocktails’ are broken down into clear recipes for the marketing mixologist to follow. Each recipe also contains a measuring guide and a stat or helpful tip. My personal favorite is the White Paper Old Fashioned. Unbounce

This Study Shows Why Retailers Should Ramp Up Their Email Game for Millennials

Whether or not you agree that email is ‘old school’ aside, it is still one of the most effective digital marketing tactics in our collective tool kits. A new study from Epsilon shows that email is effective for Millennial shoppers in particular, with 43% saying they’ve been checking out retailers’ emails in the last 6 months. Millennial shoppers aren’t solely using social media to find what they’re looking for, this new research tells us that email needs to be in the mix. AdWeek

Majestic to print the internet in 3-D in outer space

You read that headline right. SEO toolkit Majestic is shooting for the stars in their newest venture: To 3D print the internet in space. What does that mean? The company is taking to the ISS to print a graphical representation of the internet in zero-gravity. Is this a marketing stunt? Most certainly. Is it awesome? Absolutely. Am I going to space next? Unfortunately, no. Search Engine Land

TrackMaven releases 2016 Social Media Inflation Index: Instagram growth is huge

TrackMaven just released a report stating that Instagram’s user base is growing by an incredible amount — 3 times the growth rate of Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. What’s more, across all social networks, brands reportedly saw a 42% year over year increase in follower count. Of course, it’s not on brands to engage those new followers in meaningful ways, or they’ll see their engagement rates start to drop, as reported in last week’s round up. Marketing Land

Technology Marketers Hold Steady With Content Marketing [Exclusive Research]

According to a new study from Content Marketing Institute, technology marketers have seen an increase in effectiveness in nearly all tactics and paid content marketing methods this year. More technology marketers claim to have a documented content marketing strategy vs. last year at 36% compared to 33%. In person events were cited as a top content marketing tactic, and LinkedIn was rated as the top social media platform. Content Marketing Institute

Digital Marketing News marketing automation

Google is making a keyboard for the iPhone

Google is about to release a third-party keyboard for the iPhone that will use swiping, gesture based typing, and predictive text. According to The Verge, “The keyboard, which has been in circulation among employees for months, is designed to boost the number of Google searches on iOS. While the company all but holds a monopoly on the global search market, there’s evidence that mobile search is proving much less lucrative for Google than the desktop.” The Verge

Facebook launches Delivery Insights to help advertisers make better ads

Facebook is planning to roll out Delivery Insights in Ads Manager to help advertisers understand how their ads are performing. According to Facebook, the rollout will be happening globally in a few weeks. In the same announcement blog post, Facebook offered tips for improving ad deliverability and “a refresher on total bid value (which determines which ad wins the auction) as a kickoff of Facebook’s new education initiative to help advertisers better understand how the ad auction works.” Marketing Land

What were your top digital marketing news stories for the week?

I’ll be back next week with more top marketing news (and possibly even a fun teaser video!). Keep an eye on the TopRank Marketing blog for helpful marketing information or follow us on Twitter @toprank. Have something to share? Tweet it to me @Tiffani_Allen!

Infographic via Unbounce


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What is Content Marketing? Definition, Examples & Resources for Learning More

what-is-content-marketing.jpg

Thanks to the rise of the Internet, today’s consumers are much more self-directed in their buying journey. With so much information at their fingertips, they’re taking the research reigns and using the information they discover to make their purchasing decisions. In fact, research shows that B2B buyers conduct an average of 12 searches before ever going to a brand’s site.

Of course, this means that traditional advertising and marketing techniques are becoming less effective, and many marketers are looking for another way to successfully reach their audiences. And that way is through content marketing.

What is content marketing?

Let’s dive in.

Definition of Content Marketing

Content marketing is a strategic marketing technique that aligns business and consumer information needs with relevant content.  Content can act as a means to attract, engage and convert a specific targeted audience. From blogging and social media to white papers and eBooks, marketers use a variety of content marketing tactics to consistently inform and persuade their customers–without trying to sell them something outright.

Content marketing can be used by small organizations and large companies. With so many different tactics, businesses of all sizes can tailor a mix that works for their product, their audience and the resources they have available.

The Purpose of Content Marketing

Content marketing is about nurturing the relationship with your audience, and arming them with the information that they need and seek. The content you create becomes a part of their self-guided buying journey. If you succeed, you can capture their business and loyalty.

At TopRank Marketing, we believe the key to content marketing is creating high-quality content that allows you to be the best answer for your audience, whenever and wherever they’re searching for information. And this can be done through an integrated approach that uses a mix of tactics to achieve your content marketing objectives.

For example, creating high-quality blog content is an excellent way to provide resources for your audience and make them more intelligent. But just publishing the post on your website won’t get you the ROI you’re looking for. That content can featured in a monthly newsletter, promoted on social media pages, or perhaps be repurposed into an infographic to be more visual and encourage more social shares.

Content Marketing Examples

As mentioned above, content marketing is not just one single tactic, but rather a mix of tactics that work together. Below are some examples.

Health & Style

Infographics provide a tool to educate and inform your primary target audience through rich visualization and storytelling. This infographic from Health & Style is a great example of content marketing because it represents a combination of blogging, content repurposing and social media tactics. The infographic was created by turning a lengthy blog post into something eye-catching and easily shareable. To date it’s received more than 26,000 social shares.

How to make a salad - Infographic.jpg

BuzzFeed

Content curation is a unique content marketing tactic because it doesn’t involve creating original content, but rather a finding and compiling some of the best posts on a particular topic and then sharing it with your audience. BuzzFeed is arguably one of the best content curation machines out there. Using public photos and videos, trending news events or popular pop culture topics, BuzzFeed is consistently delivering clickable and shareable curated posts.

Content Marketing Example from BuzzFeed

LinkedIn (client)

A great example of using influencer content as a content marketing tactic is The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn eBook. Influencers were included in the creation of the guide and it was promoted and repurposed through multiple channels. With both influencers and content communicating the value, LinkedIn was able to gain visibility of as a marketing solution, which resulted in major ROI for the program and millions in new revenue.

Sophisticated Marketers Guide

Content Marketing Resources

If you’re new to content marketing, here are a couple posts to get you started.

Are you an experienced content marketer looking for new inspiration? Then check out the following articles.

Are you a small business looking for some how-to help? Hopefully, these posts can help you out.

Are you a company that is considering an addition or expansion of your content marketing efforts? We have some resources for you, too!

What other questions do you have about content marketing? Ask them in the comments section below.

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How to Address Technical SEO Issues to Increase Content Visibility

technical-seo-issues

[Note From Ashley: Kevin is an SEO Analyst on the team at TopRank Marketing and has done an exceptional job uncovering and fixing technical issues for our clients. This is Kevin’s first post on TopRankBlog.com and we look forward to him sharing his technical expertise on an ongoing basis with our readers.]

Websites that don’t work and are hard to navigate can be an incredibly frustrating experience for any user. If they load slowly, have broken pages, or duplicate content it can deter visitors from coming back and make it less likely that the content that you’ve worked so hard on shows up in search results.

Self-directed buyers are getting well over 50% of the way through the buying cycle based on web experience alone, which means that a technically sound website is incredibly important. Not only do some technical SEO issues hurt user experience, but a large amount of issues leads to a decrease in performance.

Technical SEO issues often impact the entire site, but there are some cases that individual pages are impacted. Ensuring that these issues are addressed will help make your content more visible to your target audience. One way to solve common technical issues is to conduct a technical SEO audit on a regular basis. Below is some information to help you navigate through a technical SEO audit.

5 Common Technical SEO Issues

There are multiple issues that you should check for while running an audit. Checking for all technical SEO issues will take quite some time depending on the size of the website. For the sake of highlighting some of the most important issues, we will focus on 5 issues which include:

  1. Response codes
  2. Duplicate content
  3. URL structure
  4. XML sitemaps
  5. Site speed

#1 – Response Codes – 404: Heading tag not found!

Let’s start with the basics – response codes. You need to have a website that can be easily used by people and crawled by search engines. If search engines are having a hard time crawling your site then it will suffer in organic performance. One area to help a search engines crawl your website is by reducing the amount of 4xx and 3xx response codes within your site. More common 4xx and 3xx response codes that we see are 404, 301, and 302 codes.

The best way to fix these response codes is to update any pages that contain the link that either responds with a 404, 301, or 302 code to a live destination page on the website. By having a direct link to a live destination page, the authority will not be lost and it will provide a better user experience. Also, updating the internal redirects will help mitigate any potential redirect chains if a page happens to be changed again, and then is redirected to a different page. Redirect chains can cause a major headache for search engines when crawling and indexing a website.

#2 – Duplicate Content – If you see double, you’re in trouble

After resolving the response codes, it’s important to look at the on-page optimization of the website. Some of these issues can be related to general SEO tactics, but they are still important when conducting an audit. One area of on-page optimization that is often prevalent is duplicate content. I’m a pretty big stickler when it comes to duplicate content. An ultimate goal of a website is to offer a solution for users, and the best way to offer a solution is to provide unique content.

To fix duplicate content is to make sure that each page as a solid amount of unique content tailored to whatever the page is about. For eCommerce sites, make sure each product has a unique description or user generated reviews to differentiate the content. For other sites, make sure to write unique content for the topic of the page. Also, make sure that your CMS isn’t creating duplicate content by correctly configuring the settings.

Eliminating duplicate content will help a website and individual pages perform better for the targeted keywords/topics. By targeting a specific topic on individual pages content marketers can provide unique content that enhances the user experience. 

#3 – URL Structure – You wouldn’t build a house without a solid foundation

Now that you have a handle on your response codes and duplicate content, it is time to dig into the URL structure of a website. The URL structure of a website can play an important part in search visibility.

URLs should be concise and keyword rich as much as possible without keyword stuffing. A good way to make sure that a URL is concise with keywords is to use a static URL over a dynamic URL. The static URL should follow the pattern of the navigation and how people navigate throughout the website. By making the URL structure follow the navigation format, you will create a hierarchy that helps search engines associate certain pages together as opposed to a flat URL structure.

There are other situations that URLs should stray away from. For example, there shouldn’t be any underscores or uppercase letters in a URL structure as search engines handle them differently.

URL structure is an important aspect of technical SEO that should be taken into account early on to reduce any potential issues over time. One thing to note, do not change the URL structure of your website for the sake of SEO. Changing the URL structure is a strategy that should only be applied when appropriate.

#4 – XML Sitemaps – Give Google GPS instructions to your site

Next, you need to make it easy for search engines to crawl your pages. XML sitemaps help search engines crawl and index pages throughout a specific section or the entire website. It is important to include all the pages you want indexed within the XML sitemap. XML sitemaps are typically one of the first areas of the site that is crawled. Search engines will crawl the XML sitemap looking for any pages that are new or that have been updated. I recommend building out a XML sitemap index that contains individual sitemaps for videos, images, or other types of content instead of having one mega XML sitemap contain every page.

Sometimes we’ll uncover that a website has multiple XML sitemaps that contain pages that shouldn’t be there, which results in the pages being indexed. For example, you don’t want to include a thank you page containing a download link in Google’s search index so people can download your asset without filling out the information you are looking for (i.e. email address, name, etc.). XML sitemaps are an important part of any website, and auditing the pages included should be done continually.

#5 – Site Speed – Your website needs to be as fast as an Olympic sprinter

By completing the first four items that I have covered you are already making it much easier for search engines to uncover your content. To make your website perform even better it is time to address any site speed issues to make your great content load quickly for your readers. Faster websites help provide a better user experience and can lead to better performance for organic traffic. Google and other search engines are focusing more on providing websites that can load fast. It is especially important if you are running an eCommerce website, as a slower website can lead to lower sales/revenue.

Common ways to increase website speed for pages include:

  • enabling compression
  • minifying CSS, JavaScript, and HTML
  • leveraging browser caching
  • optimizing images

There are multiple other areas to focus on to improve website speed, but I recommend starting with the areas that can be easily implemented. Addressing your website speed is a little more technical than the other issues in a technical SEO audit, so work with your developer to solve any site load issues. Making your website load quickly will help your content be found easier and offers a great user experience.

Why is a Technical SEO Audit Important?

A technical SEO audit can help outline key issues that are holding a website back. Although there are many items to check while conducting an audit, the most important part is prioritizing each issue to align with company goals and how quick the impact will be once implemented. Each website will prioritize issues differently to achieve results fast especially since some tasks will require more resources.

If you need help running a technical audit on your website, contact us for a free consultation.

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Embody the Form: How to Master SEO & Influencer Marketing

mastering-SEO-and-Influencer-Marketing

Here’s a parable about SEO and influencer marketing mastery:

I can play the guitar. If there’s no one else in the room who knows anything about guitar, I can pass for a guitarist. Give me a chord sheet for your song of choice, and I can lead a sing-along like nobody’s business. Unless there are weird chords like C#m7, of course.

Stevie Ray Vaughan could also play guitar. In his hands, the guitar seemed like a living creature. It moaned; it wailed; it could sound happy or sad or righteously ticked off. Give him a backbeat and a bass line, and his fingers could fly up and down the fretboard, no chord sheet required.

So what’s the difference between my clumsy strumming and Stevie’s divine riffing? Mastery.

We’ve been working on a scrum transformation at TopRank marketing, so we’ve been learning about the concept of Shuhari, a description of the three stages of mastering any discipline:

  1. Shu: Learning the fundamentals and techniques
  2. Ha: Breaking from tradition to explore new forms
  3. Ri: Transcending the forms because you embody them – all your moves come from within

Stevie was all Ri. I’m a solid Shu with gusts up to lower Ha.

Which leads back to SEO and influencer marketing. Many marketers are stuck at Shu for SEO: research keywords, put them in the title tags and meta descriptions, link to the keyword in the first paragraph, use alt image tags… there’s nothing wrong with any of these practices. They’re just the basic forms.

It’s the same with influencer marketing. The basic form is contacting influencers for a specific piece of content, encouraging them to amplify the content, and then moving on. That’s a solid, strategic way to do it. But it’s still Shu.

When you embody the forms–when you hit Ri-level SEO–everything about you and your content draws readers to you. You become an influencer, you attract influencers, and content flows between you and your peers.

TopRank Marketing’s CEO Lee Odden recently sat in on the More Demand podcast with Lawrence Howlett. In the interview, Lee offered a holistic view of SEO and influencer marketing that sounds pretty Ri to me. Here are the basics, as he explained them: 

Mastery in Content: Content that IS SEO

Content creators tend to treat SEO like the final step in a manufacturing process. The content just came off the assembly line, now run it through the SEO sprayers and we’re good to go.

Say you sell tools for auto mechanics. You notice the word “wrench” has high search volume. So you write content, then you add in “wrench” throughout the title, content, and meta tags. You link to the content on Twitter with #wrench. Even if you somehow succeed in ranking for wrench, what percentage of your traffic are going to be auto mechanics looking to buy the specific wrenches you sell?

Ri-level content starts with questions that your current and potential customers need answered. You can find these questions in a number of places:

  • Google Webmaster Tools shows what queries surface page views for your site
  • Your site’s internal search engine logs queries
  • Question and answer sites like Quora show what people are asking
  • Reviews for products and services give insight into customer’s concerns
  • Top-performing content on your site indicates where customer interest is

On an ongoing basis you can pull in data from all these sources, corroborate to see what the most common questions are, and let those questions drive your content.

The content you create will still contain keywords—but not because you bolted them on at the end of the assembly line. The keywords and related phrases will be baked into the content. And the content will be specifically written to address what your customers are searching for. You will have the answers to their questions, expressed in a way that pulls them closer to becoming a customer.

Keep the title and meta tags best practices, for sure. But the real organic boost your content gets will come from within. It’s the difference between “Hey, Google, make people read this,” and “Hey, Google, we want to read this.”

Mastery in Link Building: Your Reputation Attracts Links

The same backwards strategy that leads to keyword-stuffing also applies to link building. Back in the bad old days, people thought, “Ah, search engines boost my content if I have backlinks. How can I trick the algorithm into thinking I have backlinks, or trick people into linking to my stuff?”

Which led to thin, uninformative content topping the SERP, and changes to the algorithm, and a lot of very expensive houses of cards crashing down. All because people were asking, “How do I get backlinks for SEO?” instead of, “how can I create content and a brand people want to link to?”

To master link building, Lee recommends becoming an active participant in your industry. Promote quality content to your audience and it will grow. Use your existing visibility to create opportunities off your own site:

  • Write contributed articles to industry magazines
  • Contribute to online and offline newsletters
  • Do interviews—the rise of podcasting is a wealth of interview possibilities

All of these offsite signals of credibility channel back to your site. The goal is to have exposure to a new audience. If that results in a link, that’s good; even if it doesn’t, you still get a boost in reputation.

On the other end of the value exchange, don’t hesitate to link to other people’s content that you deem worthy of your audience’s attention. When the TopRank blog was just starting out, Lee kept a list of top marketing blogs. Every few months he would publish a revised list, adding a few newcomers, and would notify everyone who made the list. He built a relationship with other content providers that resulted in far more credibility and link building than he could have got chasing links.

So instead of sweating link building: Create a reputation of providing content worth linking to, take every opportunity to promote off site, and be generous with links on your site. Build credibility, and links will build themselves.

Mastery in Influencer Marketing: Become the Influencer

Influencer marketing is a major trend in content marketing right now, and some of the influencer flirtation going on is clumsy at best. Imagine walking up to a stranger in a bar and asking them to marry you. Most of the time, that approach won’t work—and the one time it does, I advise you to run like heck in the opposite direction.

Becoming an influencer marketing master starts with the kind of mastery I covered in the first two subheads. You create content that is so good, so relevant it embodies SEO. You add so much value to your industry’s conversation that you embody link-building credibility.

That means you are an influencer. People know who you are, what you stand for, and how you solve people’s problems. So when you reach out to influencers to start a relationship, you’re never starting at zero. You can say, “You know I make cool things. You have great ideas. Let’s make something cool together.”

Then, instead of creating a single piece of content and calling it a day, cultivate relationships with your influencers. Ask them for tips on the topics your customers care about. Interview them with the questions your customers need answered. You will boost your authority by including them, and they will get a credibility boost from working with you, because your content so expertly addresses people’s needs.

When you embody influence, you can also ask potential clients to co-create content with you. Invite them to make something cool with you for the greater good. As with all influencer marketing, it’s a win for all involved—with the bonus that now you have a relationship with a potential client, and you got it through a positive mutual experience. No selling involved.

To Master Marketing Tactics, Stop Thinking about Marketing Tactics

Everyone’s looking for “silver bullet” marketing tactics—that magic formula that you can enter and watch the conversions come rolling in. But Ri-level marketers understand that you don’t start with tactics. It starts with really understanding your specific group of customers. Then you can write content that embodies the answers they’re searching for, build credibility because you deserve it, and attract influencers because you are influential.

That’s how you go from strumming Wonderwall in a coffee shop to shredding blues riffs at a stadium concert.

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7 Weird Social Media Marketing Habits All Marketers Need to Break NOW

7-weird-social-media-marketing-habits

We all have bad habits. Whether it’s biting our nails, constantly driving like we’re on a racetrack or something you’d rather not admit to, we’ve all got them. Some are easy to break while others quickly find their way back into our lives. The same can be said for social media marketing habits. Once you get in a routine, it can be hard to break habits that are helping, but may possibly be hurting your brand.

Within social media marketing there is a lot of opportunity for brands to create great experiences for their communities, create brand affinity and influence purchasing decisions. A recent study found that 84% of CEOs and VPs say that they use social media to make purchasing decisions.

If you want to be one of those companies that has a positive impact on your community and generates tremendous value for your brand, make sure you’re not following ANY of these 7 weird social media marketing habits.

7 Weird Social Media Marketing Habits to Break NOW

#1 – Automating EVERYTHING

When you sit down and look at the mountain of tasks in front of you each day it can be tempting to try and automate as many of your social media marketing tasks as possible. While many social media tools can be a marketer’s best friend, it’s best to use them in moderation.

Depending on the tools that you use to publish on social media platforms, you’ll find that there are often issues with the ways that images or messages post on different platforms. That means you’re not creating the best possible user experience for your followers. Plus, taking a short amount of time to customize your message depending on where you’re publishing can vastly improve the user experience.

#2 – Jumping on the WRONG Bandwagons

The concept of newsjacking is not new to marketing. When done appropriate, it can be an incredibly effective means of extending your reach to an already engaged audience. So, instead of having to create demand and seek out an audience, you have a group of people already discussing the topic at a large scale.

However, we’ve all seen what happens when companies try and jump on the wrong bandwagon. This happens most on Twitter that is constantly trending a series of hashtags about a variety of topics. Before trying to incorporate one of these trending items into your brand social media messaging, make sure that you have done the research to understand the source and meaning behind the topic.

The negative impact that many brands have experienced by not doing their homework has been significant, and easily avoidable.

#3 – Engaging Too INFREQUENTLY

This is another habit that is often the result of little time and attention paid to social media communities. There is simply no replacement for true human interaction on social media platforms. Your followers have the potential to be potential clients, current clients, influencers of decision makers, other savvy and credible professionals and yes, trolls.

If someone takes the time to follow and engage with your brand on social media then it is your responsibility to respond accordingly. Of course not every comment or share requires a response, but if you’re checking in on the heartbeat of your community frequently, then responding to those messages that do stand out can become a much more manageable task.

#4 – Focusing Only On YOURSELF

What do you think the purpose of social media is for brands? Is it solely to provide updates about everything happening at your company? Or, is it to help your followers solve their problems, open the door to conversations and provide helpful resources to begin building credibility?

I hope that the answer is obvious. If a brand is using social media platforms as a means to only push out content about the happenings at their company, they’re doing it wrong. Social media presents a unique and more personal opportunity to interact with your followers. Utilize this opportunity to the fullest by uncovering what your followers care about and providing them with insight on those items, and asking them enticing questions to gain their opinions as well.

#5 – ASSUMING All Audiences Are the Same

Sure, social media marketing would be easier if you could publish the same content on each platform and have it resonate with the audience on that platform. Unfortunately, we don’t have control over why and how people use each platform.

The type of message that resonates with your Facebook audience will likely not have the same impact with your Instagram followers. Take some time to analyze your audience for each platform (built-in social analytics make this very possible) and see what you can uncover about them. Then, create a plan for each individual platform that still maintains a similar message, but presented in a way that the audience for that platform will respond well to.

#6 – Ignoring the Importance of VISUALS

Everyone is busy and are often viewing content on social networks on the go. Additionally, the amount of content that brands are producing has become so overwhelming that it often numbs users. In order to stand out in a sea of content, it’s essential that you add visuals to your social media content.

A great mix of visual campaigns as well as great visuals to accompany links to content can be the difference between a user scrolling past your content entirely, and clicking to engage further. Each social media platform has their own specifications for social images shared in-stream, so make sure that you are optimizing these visuals for a better user experience.

#7 – PRETENDING Advertising Isn’t Important

Let’s face it, the increase in competition for consumer attention, and changes in algorithms on social networks has made social advertising an important part of a social media strategy. If you think that you can still organically reach 100% of your audience on social networks then you likely haven’t been looking at the data.

We are still fortunately in a situation where a little ad spend can still get you pretty good exposure. So don’t go dumping all of your marketing budget into social advertising, but do reserve a portion to boost posts that are important and ads that can have a big impact. Tools like Adsvise provide easy to understand specifications for different ad types (and in-stream visuals) for most social media platforms.

Let’s Face it, Today’s Customers Are SAVVY!

Shortcuts and weird habits that you used to be able to get away with have all gone down the drain as users have become more sophisticated and savvy in how they use social networks. There still exists a lot of opportunity to interact,  you just have to be more sophisticated in how you approach social media marketing for business.

Which of these weird habits have you been guilty of committing?

Looking for EVEN more social media marketing advice? Take a look at our top social media posts for 2015!

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Online Marketing News: Jaw-Dropping Stats, Instagram’s New Algorithm and Google Boosts Mobile

Facebook-as-a-country-with-mark-1

5 Jaw-Dropping Social Media Stats (in Infographics)

In 5 small infographics, author Justin Kerby summarizes facebook’s gigantic user base, the prevalence of employee advocacy programs, how auto-posting on Facebook leads to increased engagement, social media ad spend and how long we really spend watching videos online. I’ll give you a hint, it’s more than an hour. Social Media Today

Instagram Is Adding an Algorithm to Reorder Feeds Based on the Posts Users Like

Instagram announced this week that they are adding an algorithm that will reorder the photos users see in their feed. According to Instagram, the plans are “based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post.” As expected, this change will roll out to a small group of users first and scale up, though the platform hasn’t confirmed a roll-out date. AdWeek

Google to boost mobile-friendly algorithm this May

Google announced that beginning in May, they’ll be boosting the effects of the mobile-friendly algorithm they launched around this time last year. The roll-out is said to be gradual, so the impact won’t be as major right out of the gate. According to search engine land, the reason for the slow roll is: “The mobile-friendly algorithm is a page-by-page signal, so it can take time for Google to assess each page, and that may be why it will be a gradual rollout. And depending on how fast Google crawls and indexes all of the pages on your site, the impact can be slow to show up.” Search Engine Land

Companies Planning To Boost Mobile Ad Spend 38% This Year (Report)

For years, digital marketing spend has been allocated more and more of your average marketer’s traditional advertising budget. The onset of mobile adverstising has contributed to this trend. A new report from Outsell states: “Mobile marketing ad spend should grow 38 percent this year; social ad spend is expected to rise by 15 percent.” That’s a big change in advertising budget, telling us that we’d be wise to pay attention when it comes to allocating our own marketing spend. SocialTimes

From the @toprank Twitter Community

thought leadership over brand message

Instagram Interactions Plummet in 2015 (Study)

According to SocialTimes: “Interactions with Instagram posts from a group of 10,000 profiles studied by social analytics provider Quintly plummeted over the course of 2015.” The study found that average interactions fell by 1.86 in 2015, from an average of 4.96 to an average of 3.10. This was attributed to an increase of crowding on the platform, citing an inverse relationship between follower count and interactions — the larger the following, the fewer the interactions. SocialTimes

Apple News quietly opens up to smaller content publishers

In a reported effort to build up content and interest, Apple News has opened up its platform to smaller publishers — thus competing in the same realm as Facebook’s Instant Articles and Google Amp. This access will open small publishers up to a large audience, over 40 million, and the opportunity to measure and monetize their content through iAd. MarketingLand

Marketers Still Eager to Increase Spending on Facebook and Google, Study Finds

According to a new study from AdAge and RBC Capital Markets: “A record 57% of marketers and agencies are allocating 20% or more of budgets to digital advertising, including 23% who earmark more than half of their spending for digital.” This information supports my previously mentioned observation that budgets are shifting from more traditional means to digital. Respondents also said that Google provided the best ROI, with Facebook, YouTube and Twitter following behind. Of the ’emerging’ platforms included in the survey, the top three for planned spend were Instagram (71%), Snapchat (45%) and Spotify (34%). AdAge

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 using the hashtag #trnews!

Infographic via Social Media Today


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Book Review & Interview: 3 Marketing Lessons From The Big Data-Driven Business

Russell-Glass-and-Sean-Callahan-Book-Review

How many times have you made a purchase either online or in a store and found that you either received recommendations or coupons after your purchase that seemed to be exactly what you were looking for? That experience is one example of how companies are using big data to create a better experience and more effectively target buyers based on previous behaviors.

The sheer amount of trackable activity that exists today has begun to make data collection and analysis a much more manageable task, and the impact is in the numbers. Research has found that for a Fortune 1000 company, increasing data accessibility by just 10% has the potential to result in more than $65 million dollars in additional revenue.

To help companies understand how to use data more effectively, Russell Glass, Head of Marketing Products for LinkedIn and Sean Callahan, Senior Manager Content Marketing for LinkedIn Marketing Solutions (client) collaborated to write a book titled The Big Data-Driven Business. This book focuses on ways that brands can utilize big data to win more customers, outshine the competition and increase company profits.

As marketers, our ability to collect, synthesize and make decisions based on data is a necessity to compete in today’s marketplace. To make that transition easier, I’ve included some of the biggest data related marketing lessons I drew from this book as well as an interview with authors Russell and Sean on  the opportunities with big data.

#1 – Data & The New Buyer’s Journey

Customer relationships used to involve enthusiastic handshakes, and wining and dining prospects to make a sale. Today’s self-directed buyers often make it through a vast majority of the sales process before even speaking with a company representative. Therein lies the challenge and opportunity for marketers to use data informed marketing to be the best answer for customers, wherever they are searching.

“By the time a B2B buyer reaches out to the salesperson, there is often little to be learned. The salesperson is perhaps there to negotiate some terms and take the order.”

Customers are now armed with a great deal of information that helps them decide which company or product is the best fit for their needs. By analyzing how prospects interact with emails, move through the company website and interact on social channels are all signals of what they’re searching for.

#2 –  How to Use Data to Learn More About Your Customers

You can hire the most talented marketing team in the world, but if you have a crap product, your chances of developing a strong customer base goes out the window. Think of some of the products you use most as a consumer. Those could include things like Spotify streaming radio, Amazon or Netflix. One thing each of these companies have in common is that they “listen” to what it is that you like, and adjust recommendations accordingly.

“Data-driven, customer-focused companies use the data they amass as a matter of their daily business processes to understand their customers–both individually and en masse–better with every single transaction.”

Digital marketers can take a similar approach by finding opportunities to interact with customers and prospects to learn what their priorities are, what they care about and what their biggest problems are that your solution can solve.

#3 – Always Use Data Responsibly

Sometimes the lines can seem fuzzy in terms of how exactly marketers can use the data collected about their customers and prospects. While certain information can help you better target customers, you have to avoid creating a sense that you are being intrusive or manipulative for the end user.

“The best companies are embracing complete transparency when it comes to consumers’ privacy concerns.”

It is the responsibility of brands to  use the information gathered to improved customer experience while still respecting their privacy and security. Ensure that you’re fully aware of all the regulations that exist around privacy and understand how this may impact how you use data collected about your customers.

Author Interview With Russell Glass & Sean Callahan

Russell Glass

Russell Glass

Head of B2B Marketing Products, LinkedIn

Why should marketers be looking through a lens of big data to influence their marketing strategy?

Customers and prospects are online, and the buyer’s journey has moved online in so many ways. Forrester Research estimated that as much of 90 percent of the buyer’s journey has taken place before a prospect reaches out to a salesperson. These prospects are researching online, consulting their peers on social media, reading reviews, and (we hope) visiting our websites. Marketing, via the data that these prospects create when they surf the Web, has tremendous insight into who these prospects are and how they’re behaving. This data gives the marketing department the best picture of who their customers should be and what they want. This is the path to becoming what all businesses should strive to be: data-driven and customer focused.

What is the low hanging fruit of data collection that most marketers aren’t taking advantage of?

I would say there are two critical areas of low hanging fruit. One is the internal customer data that marketers have spread throughout the company in various departments: sales, accounts receivable, customer service. This internal data, when consolidated and analyzed properly, can reveal to marketers what characteristics their best customers share. Using this data, marketers should be able to create a picture of what kinds of prospects they should be going after and build an account-based marketing approach to going after prospects who match the characteristics of their best customers. The second area of low-hanging fruit for marketers is website visitors and email/blog subscribers. By analyzing these prospects, who have raised their hand to show their interest in your company, marketers should be able to use data to target very effective and efficient messages to prospects who are already poised to move through the funnel.  

In your experience, how has your journey using data informed marketing helped you in your current role at LinkedIn?

The biggest way data has helped is better understanding what our members are doing on our site and especially within our feed. Knowing what members are doing and the kinds of information they are consuming enables my team to build products that are going to deliver the best results for customers who are trying to reach those members at the right time with the right message.  So it becomes a win-win: members get more valuable and relevant content, and marketers get better results for their dollars spent.

Sean Callahan

Sean Callahan

Senior Manager Content Marketing, LinkedIn

Now that three martini lunches are a thing of the past, how can marketers use big data to take the same hands-on approach with customers that are self directed on their journey?

In the book, Russ and I write about what the three-martini lunch was really about. Salespeople took out their prospects to entertain them, to give them information about the industry as a whole, and ultimately to begin talking about selling them specific products and services. Now that the three-martini lunch is largely a thing of the past (even though martinis themselves have made a comeback), the relationship-building is now taking place online via content marketing and lead nurturing. Marketers use their content to entertain their prospects, to talk about industry trends and make their companies thought leaders, and finally talking specifically about products and services.

It says in the book that, “Speed delivers customer satisfaction and customer satisfaction delivers more searches.” How can companies use big data to create a better, speedier experience for customers?

When Google was analyzing data on how visitors used their search engine, they found that speed was essential to retaining the interest of these visitors. They discovered that even a few tenths of a seconds difference in delivering search results caused users to abandon their searches at a higher rate – which meant that fewer paid search advertisements were served. So Google focused on delivering their search results fast, because that’s what customers wanted. And it’s why there are 10 search results delivered on page 1, rather than, say, 20. I think the lesson of Google’s experience with the speed of search results isn’t about speed in and of itself; it’s about using data to give customers what they want and delivering an excellent customer experience. It’s all about becoming a data-driven, customer-focused business.

In your experience, why is it so important for marketers to embrace marketing technology?

It goes back to the buyer’s journey. So much of the buyer’s journey takes place online, and you need technology as night-vision goggles to have insight into how your customers and prospects are behaving online. With this insight (driven by data, which is in turn discovered by technology), you can understand your customer better and be a better marketer.

Are You Making Data Informed Marketing Decisions?

The need for data informed marketing decisions to become “the best answer” for your customers will become increasingly more important over the next few years. Get a leg up on your competition by committing to incorporating more data-driven insights about your customers into your digital marketing strategy.


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