Content Marketing

E-mail Marketing Still a Front Runner for Marketers, and Social Media Steals the Bronze from SEO


Social media concept with speech bubbles on smartphone

As marketers, we must choose, and prioritize, our marketing efforts. So what are most marketers up to? According to a new study by Oracle Marketing Cloud, Website, E-mail, and Social Media, are top priorities for the year to come. Website remains a front runner for obvious reasons. These days, as digital marketing continues to gain more and more traction, and consume at least 25% of marketing budgets, a website is the cornerstone from which marketers plan, strategize, and execute digital marketing efforts. Similarly, as the trend toward purchase via mobile increases at a lightning pace, a poorly optimized website can be an e-commerce disaster.

In second place we have e-mail, still, contrary to what some might believe, continues to offer huge ROI, about $44 for every $1 spent. And if you need more stats to back that up, check these out: 91% of consumers check their e-mail daily, and on a daily basis consumers interact with 11 brands on e-mail (compared to 9 on Facebook and 8 on Twitter), 48% of consumers say they prefer to communicate with brands via e-mail. And more on that RIO, 44% of consumers made at least one purchase based on a promotional e-mail they received, and 66% of consumers have made a purchase online as a result of an e-mail marketing message. You can’t argue with those numbers.

Interestingly, Social Media Marketing took third place, replacing SEO. Social allows a company to gain peer recommendations at the click of a like. A positive note on a social channel is free advertising, and, if you’re an e-commerce company, a free endorsement for your product. That endorsement becomes increasingly important as the buying trends become more and more dependent on peer recommendations vs. internet search and research. Social media also allows a company to respond to criticism in real time, buy your way in front of a target audience, and - an active social media community drives high quality traffic to your website. The majority of links that are built by SEO companies do not bring traffic to your website. These links may help increase the authority and power of your site, but in terms of traffic, it doesn’t do much. Social media also allows marketers a constant audience, and, interestingly, search engines are now taking into account social signals when ranking websites. The more social shares, interaction, or activity you have, the higher your search engine rankings. Assuming this doesn’t change anytime soon, you can understand why Social has snatched Bronze from SEO.



Digital Marketing Weekly Roundup: 5 Stories You Don’t Want to Miss (9/4/15)


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Every week we will scour the Internet for the most useful and interesting articles on digital marketing - so you don't have to. Here are our top picks for for the week, enjoy!

  1. What IS Digital Marketing Strategy?

This article provides great examples of the importance of a digital strategy.  The average person is exposed to over 5000 messages a day, and as a marketer, you need a developed digital strategy to ensure your message reaches your audience.

  1.  How to Implement a Killer Online-Marketing Strategy for $15 a Week

Online Marketing doesn't have to break the bank. Here are four ways you can maximize your lead generating efforts while staying on a $15 a week budget.

  1. Make a Monthly Content-Marketing Check-In a Must-Do

Here's a quick guide on how to measure your marketing plan.  By regularly measuring, you can develop a great content marketing strategy.

  1. Back To Basics: Why You Should Try A Minimalistic SEO Strategy

This article highlights the basics of SEO strategy. Although your business may be small, you can still take advantage of SEO with these tactics.

  1. 7 Twitter SEO Tips: Leverage Your Social Presence For Better Traffic!

With Google now being able to access Twitter's full stream of tweets, Twitter visitors have increased 10 times.  This article has 7 SEO tips to help you get ahead.


6 Reasons Why You’re Not Getting Conversions From Your Content


Content marketing has been the flavor of the season for a handful of “seasons” now. And by the looks of it, we’re going to enjoy its company for a long time to come.

A sure sign of its popularity is seeing every business, no matter how big or small, jump headfirst into the choppy waters of content marketing. A recent study by showed that about a quarter of all businesses allocate over 50% of their marketing budgets to content marketing. Nearly 60% of businesses have at least two people devoted to content marketing.

content marketing for conversions

However, not all of these content marketing efforts are actually paying off. If all content marketing was equal, every company engaged in content marketing today would be in the Fortune 500 list – but that doesn’t happen.

All too often the content created by businesses is well meaning but lacks the teeth required to cut through all the clutter on the web. Here are the top 6 ways content marketers go wrong, leading to content that never takes off.

1.  Content Not Relevant

Content marketing is all about creating valuable content that your target audience would not just appreciate, but seek out. When you create content that has little to do with your audience and all to do with your business and promoting it, you cease being relevant to them and drop off their radar like flies.

The answer – Research your audience thoroughly. Build psychographic profiles of your ideal customer and figure out what they would be interested in the most. Tools like Oktopost and SocialMention help you listen in on conversations between your users and determine the topics that truly interest them. Create content around those topics with your brand subtly inserted into the mix.

2.  Publishing on the Wrong Platforms

This one’s a real crime. After investing your time and money on creating good content, if you go and blow it all up by publishing the content on platforms your users don’t care about, you might as well give up on content marketing.

The answer – Refer to step 1. When you research your audience, also find out which platforms they prefer, what media they consume and create your content accordingly. Your users love original research, go create that for them. Is video their favorite type of content? Don’t waste time on tons of blog posts.

3.  Content Too Salesy

The whole idea of content marketing is to convince a potential user to try your product without making them feel like they are being sold to. Users have an inherent distrust of paid advertising. When you turn a stealth marketing tool like content marketing into a wall-to-wall billboard for your business, you lose credibility and turn off users.

content mistakes

The answer – Tone down the urge to sell, sell, sell. Try subtlety instead. Believe me, it works better than you’d think. If you can’t go without injecting a sales pitch into your messaging every now and then, keep your general vs. sales-y content ratio to an 80-20 mix.

4.  Content Not Good Enough

Why isn’t your content getting you results? It could be because it’s simply not good enough. By “good enough” I mean churning out any of the following types of content: plagiarized, poorly written, grammatically incorrect, uninteresting, factually incorrect – you get the drift. Google goes out of its way to punish “lifted” and duplicate content. Its Panda and recent Quality updates penalize sites with poor quality content and “thin content.”

The answer – Invest in good writers who can provide content that meets professional content standards in your industry. Strategize, strategize, strategize. And then monitor the execution closely. Too time consuming? Set up a collaboration tool like Wrike and get key members across departments to contribute pieces of content to your content marketing program based on their areas of expertise. Store all your in-house expert content in one place with the tool and co-ordinate with your expert contributors easily regarding content edits, deadlines and more.

5.  Ignoring On-Page SEO

Your content is only as strong as the environment in which it resides. A great piece of content that sits on a poorly optimized blog is doomed to a lifetime of invisibility. If your users can’t even find your content, how can you expect that content to get you conversions?

The answer – Don’t be in a hurry to publish your content. Take the time and first fix the SEO on your blog to make it visible to search engine spiders. With your content, spend time in crafting the perfect title – one that encapsulates your main keywords and conveys the gist of the content clearly. Title tags are probably the most important component of on-page SEO. Some of the easiest elements you can optimize on your content pages include

  • Meta description for the page
  • Alt tags, captions and descriptions for images
  • Header tags containing keywords
  • Including semantic variations of important keywords at the right places in the body of your content

6.  Not Enough Promotion

In the days of traditional marketing, all that marketers had to do was create ads, buy spots on media and blast their audiences with the ads across various platforms to get ahead of competition. On the other hand, content marketing is a more indirect method of promoting your business. For content marketing to do its job well, it needs to be spotted by consumers first.

The answer – Promote your promotion tools. Put your content in places where they’ll be easily found and consumed by your audience. Spend money on promoting your content so your users can “discover it themselves” across the various sites that they browse. Paid content promotion networks like Outbrain and Taboola are a great way to ensure visibility for your content. Tap into your email database and share your content with them. Publish it on the right social media platforms and promote it via paid advertising on social media. Reach out to influencers in your industry and get them to endorse your content.

solving content marketing mistakes

In Closing

Content marketing is an organic promotion strategy that builds relationships with your users instead of treating them purely like revenue sources. Steer clear of the content marketing misfires listed above and rest assured, your target audience will not just buy from you, but also grow to love your brand.


How to Use the Summer Dip to Boost your Lead Generation


If you’re like most B2B marketers, you’re probably thinking of dialing down your lead generation efforts for the summer. But here’s the undeniable truth: no matter the time of the year, your pipeline, big or small, is what fuels your business. So while you may find yourself scaling back, you can’t put all marketing on pause.  And since slow times are always followed by busier ones, why not use this time to sharpen your focus and stay ahead of the game? summer growthHere’s how, in 3 steps:

1.  Review Your SEO Strategy

If the thought of doing a competitive analysis makes you shudder, don’t worry. You don’t have to completely overhaul your SEO to make a greater impact. Two main tasks can significantly boost your page rankings over time: - Research your keywords to ensure their validity and find untapped opportunities to introduce new key phrases. - Optimize your page titles and Meta descriptions to do at least one of the following:

  • Align with the copy on the page, whether through current or new keywords and phrases
  • Leverage your USP and/or differentiators
  • Make benefit-rich statements that connect with prospects
  • Make a strong call-to-action

lead generation through SEO 2.  Revise Your Website CopyWith a refreshed SEO strategy, move on to your website:

  • Update your blog and social media.  They’re great traffic boosters, but blogs tend to fall quickly through the cracks in busier times. The summer slump gives you the time to update your editorial calendar and brainstorm new ideas. When you have a calendar ready, compile relevant free images to dress up your blog and social media posts.
  • Refresh your website photos, home page sliders and About Us staff photos. (Summer interns count too!)
  • Give your complete contact information and share all your social media handles. Incomplete contact information is a major deterrent to buyers, so make sure yours figures prominently on your Contact Us page and throughout your website, whether in headers or footers.
  • Check in on the competition. They may or may not be snoozing off the summer. Either way, it’s the perfect time to scope their website and identify what you can do better.

3.  Audit Your Content for Gaps

Slow periods are perfect for auditing your content and finding opportunities to bridge any gaps. First, ask these questions:

  • Does your content address each phase of your buying cycle, or lean heavily on one or two phases?
  • Does it answer questions and address objections, or rest on fluffy, generic company accolades?
  • Does your content engage, educate and entertain readers, or fall flat without a discernable voice?
  • Is your lead generation bait enduring, or out of touch with today’s current market realities?
  • Does your USP or value proposition figure prominently throughout your content, or sit inconspicuously on your About Us page?

Even this part needn’t be exhaustive. By enlisting other stakeholders to help, you’ll get a fresh perspective, with deeper insight into what’s not working well and how to make selling easier.

audit lead generation content

Summer is the ideal time to evaluate your marketing efforts and start shifting them accordingly. Follow these steps and start turning up the head on your lead generation. Before you know it, you’ll be armed and dangerous when fall kicks in.

Want to learn more about best practices for consistent growth through lead generation? Check out this OMI class: Increase Lead Generation Quality, Conversion & Velocity.


How to Get the Most Out of Video Content on YouTube


A certain video platform just celebrated its 10th anniversary, which means we’ve been hearing even more about this runaway success than usual. The first video clip (elephants, if you must know) was uploaded in April 2005, and YouTube’s beta version launched in May. To commemorate the anniversary, YouTube has announced a month-long Blogspot series called “From A-Z: A Letter a Day Throughout May,” highlighting everything we’ve come to associate with the platform (at the time of writing, that was A – animals and B – beauty).

youtube anniversary

But it’s not just a time for retrospective nostalgia about cat videos and David After Dentist (my guesses for C and D, obviously) – this is a great time to reflect on what your business is (or isn’t) doing on YouTube, and what you can do to squeeze more life, leads and value from your video content.

Content Is Still King, But Video Is the Imperial Overlord

I most likely do not need to tell you that people today want, and have even come to expect, video content. This has been the marketing trend for some time, and everything from search results to social media algorithms are adjusting to make way for the true marketing trump card, great video content.

Related Class: B2B Video: Expert Tactics and Tricks

No matter how specific or niche your audience, it’s likely that they’ll reward you for creating and sharing great videos. And it’s a guarantee that social platforms like Facebook will reward you for native video content (with exponentially better reach, autoplay functionality, and more – read it all here). But did you know that even Google rewards video content these days?

The YouTube Boost in Search Results

We all know Google works to prioritize the content that it thinks searchers are most likely to want, so it shouldn’t be too surprising the videos get some preferential treatment in search results. It also probably doesn’t hurt that Google owns YouTube (bought in 2006 for $1.65 billion). All in all, it’s generally easier to get your YouTube video onto the first page of Google search results than it is to get a webpage or blog post up there.

The other major benefit of creating YouTube videos is that Google allows rich snippets for video content in the search listings. So instead of just the usual title-URL-date-text line, you get a thumbnail of the video and a credit for your YouTube channel:

youtube search results

The battle for top of the page search rankings can be cutthroat, but you can do well with snippets that stand out in a page full of text listings, even if you’re not at the top.

Can Your Video Rank in Google’s Search Results?

Google does not always show video results; a great video is far from a guarantee of good listing in the search engine result pages. This depends a lot on the keywords you’ve used for the YouTube video. Only so-called “video keywords” will trigger video results – depending on whether Google believes that searchers using those keywords would prefer text/reading to video/watching. For example, searching for words like “how to” or “demonstration,” or a musician or movie, will likely yield some video results along with typical text-only listings, whereas a product keyword is more likely to bring up Google Shopping results and then regular listings.

The easiest way to figure out if a potential keyword might help your video rank is to Google that keyword and see what you find – if no videos appear on the first page, you’re probably better off trying a different keyword. You can read more about this on Search Engine Watch.

There’s a lot more that goes into optimizing your videos for top performance. For now, check out this class from SEO expert Liana Evans: Video Marketing and YouTube. You’ll learn everything you need to know about getting the most from the platform, and get advice on YouTube advertising, featured videos and more.



Wouldn’t You Like to Optimize Your Content Quickly for More Traffic and Engagement?


content marketing

Who wouldn’t like more website traffic and engagement? If you’re looking for tips that you can apply today for making your quality Web pages perform even better, you’ve come to the right place.

In my last post, I shared with you some foundational steps for making your content stand the test of quality both by Google and your target audience. In this post, I’m going to show you the basics of formatting and optimization so that:

  • Your Web pages can be crawled, understood and indexed with ease by the search engine bots
  • Your content is presented in a way that makes it effortless for your visitors to engage with

Ready to get started? OK, let’s go!

Mind the Functionality of Your Web Pages

You may have never thought about the impact that the layout of your content has on the reader or that a Title tag has on a search engine bot – that’s OK, because that’s what we’ll talk about here.

Beyond the art of content writing, you have the science of layout, formatting and optimization.

Here, I’m referring to laying out Web pages in a way that’s easy for your audience to navigate, and offers something engaging for everyone. I’m also referring to making pages structurally sound in a way that the search engine spiders can crawl and index easily.

In general, here are some of the things you want to consider with your individual Web pages …

For your audience:

  • Does it cater to the way different people like to consume information with a mix of video, audio and text?
  • Is it easy to read? What about on different devices? Remember that long walls of text with no formatting can turn readers off; make the experience effortless.
  • Does it offer suggestions for additional content on your site where people can learn more information? You want to keep visitors as long as possible by continuing to answer their demand for information.

Two oldie-but-goodie articles I wrote on these topics are worth a read over on the Bruce Clay blog and in their newsletter:

For the search engines:

Meta Information

Ensure the page’s Meta information has unique titles and descriptions. Meta information is found on the code side of the page and helps the bots understand what the page is about; it also serves as the title and description in the search engine results pages – so you want it to be compelling.

Here are a few guidelines:

  • If you have a WordPress site, install the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin that allows you to easily input Meta titles and Meta descriptions
  • Depending on the content management system you use, you may not be able to easily update the Meta information on your website; check into this and look for an SEO-friendly CMS if it’s giving you a problem (chances are, it’ll be giving you more problems from an SEO perspective than just that)
  • Meta titles should be around 55 characters including spaces, and each Meta title should be unique on your site
  • Meta descriptions should be 156 characters including spaces, and offer a compelling and straightforward description of the page. You want to entice clicks from the search engine results but easily communicate to the search engine bots what the page is about.
  • If you are targeting specific keywords, ensure the main keyword for the page shows up in the Title tag and Description tag once.
content optimization

Heading Tags

You want to use Heading tags for your headline and subheads on the page. This helps to organize the content both for the readers visually (as Heading tags have formatting associated with them) and for the search engine bots so they can better understand the main points and secondary points in the page.

We typically refer to these tags as H1 (main headline), H2 (sub-headline), H3 (sub-sub-headline) and so on. On the code side of the page, these look like the following:

<h1>Main Headline Here</h1>

<h2>Subhead Here</h2>

<h3>Subhead of H2 Here</h3>

An H2 tag always comes after an H1 (of which there should only be one H1 tag). And H3 comes in as a sub-point of H2, and so on. When it fits naturally, include your main keyword in the Header tags.

Site Speed and Mobile Responsiveness

Site speed is a signal in Google’s ranking algorithm and for good reason: nobody wants to have to wait for his or her content to load. Being mobile friendly is now more important than ever, too, as mobile devices continue to rise as the device of choice for both research and purchasing online.

Improving both of these areas when it comes to your Web pages improves your chance of being found in the search results and keeping visitors on your site. In fact, Google just recently launched an update to its algorithm that expands the use of its mobile-friendly signal.

What that means to you is that if you’re not mobile responsive, you could be losing traffic as of April 21. To learn more about that, check out my blog post over at bizbuzzcontent on the algorithm update and mobile content.

The good news is: you can improve at any time. Use some of the tools I mentioned in the article I just linked to for mobile, and you an also dig into the page speed metrics on your site via Google Analytics to see how specific Web pages are performing, and what you can do to improve them.

Great functionality on your site not only allows the search engines to better do their job of crawling and indexing your site so that it can be served in a search result, but also boosts user experience.

For more information on basic optimization techniques, refer to Google’s “Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.”

I hope this two-part series on creating quality content that drives traffic and engagement helps take the anxiety out of content creation and gives you what you need to optimize your content in a way that drives more traffic to your site, and keeps your visitors longer.

Now go forth, and create quality Web content!


Create Web Content Like a Pro with These Proven Steps to Drive Traffic and Keep People Engaged


So the time has come for you to create content for your website because you want to drive more traffic, but the thought of it gives you (and your team) the sweats – what will you even write about?

content writing

Never fear: with the right plan, you can ensure your website content is set up with search engine optimization in mind, addresses your audience’s intent, speaks to your personas and offers something useful.

The tips I’ll share in my two-part series will help drive website traffic, keep your visitors on your Web pages longer, and leave them feeling satisfied that they found what they were searching for.

The first post in this two-part series will discuss the foundations of Web content quality using Google’s criteria when evaluating Web pages, in addition to how to create content that speaks to the intent of your target personas. To learn more about crafting content that brings in real results, join OMI's Digital All Stars Virtual Summit on May 13th, for my session - Web Content Playbook.

First, Take Notice of Google’s Quality Guidelines

You may or may not remember when Google’s search quality evaluation guide was leaked back in 2012 and then again in 2014. Google then made the 2012 edition publicly available; now you can find the cached copy here.

These guides serve Google’s “human rater” staff – people who would spot-check the quality of Web pages against specific criteria. This data then serves as a feedback loop for engineers at Google testing algorithm tweaks. 

content handbook

One theme in these guidebooks is the idea of delivering on the purpose of the page. So whatever that page is meant to do, make it the best that it can be at that.

If you’re an entertainment site, make that blog post the most entertaining and engaging it can be. If you’re a medical site, ensure you have the most factual and up-to-date Web pages as possible, and so on.

The purpose of the page may vary simply by the nature of the topic. For example, if you are discussing services, the purpose of the page would be to clearly communicate what those services are about. On the other hand, the purpose of your in-depth blog post on an important issue may be to educate.

As we’re all playing in Google’s sandbox, it’s wise to understand and deliver on what it believes to be quality at bare minimum. And then of course you layer your own quality standards on top of that.

So Rule No. 1: Define the purpose of the page, and then deliver on that. How? I’ll share with you two ways to help you do so.

Next, Create Content That Fulfills Intent and Speaks to Your Personas

The first piece in having a relevant Web page is examining intent. Let’s look at that next, followed by understanding personas …

1. The Intent

What was the intent of the person who typed in that query into Google’s search engine? What did they expect to find?

The traditional way of understanding keyword intent is by bucketing it into categories like “these keywords are related to general research” and “these keywords are related to shopping and buying.”

More general terms, for example, “Yorkshire Terriers” typically mean that people are just learning about the subject, as they are searching in very broad terms. More specific, for example, “Yorkies for adoption” would indicate where in the buying journey this person is.

And so your content approach – what you write – changes from page to page based on the search terms your website is targeting and where in the cycle the user is.

So when examining the page you are about to write or have written, the question is: does the content on the page help them facilitate which place they are in the search journey?

Better intent targeting on your website = less occurrences of people coming to the page from organic search only to leave quickly when they don’t see what they are looking for.

2. The Persona

Your personas are archetypes of your target audience, whether it’s a client, an industry influencer, a certain type of prospect or someone else. Basically any person that matters to the success of your business is someone you want to create a persona for.

Once you understand whom you are creating content for, the angle of your content changes based on what’s important to them. Whereas the intent helps drive the overall approach to the topic of the page, the persona refines what you say.

To create your personas, you want to start brainstorming a list of all possible people who matter to your business.

You can start by examining what you know – your current customer base. As you ask questions about these people, distinct patterns will emerge that will give way to perhaps more than just one typical customer. But it’s perfectly OK to start with just one.

You may also find “hidden” customers during this process that you don’t interact with but who are ultimately the decision-makers.

Questions you’ll want to explore for each persona are things like:

  • Age and gender
  • What matters to them in their daily lives?
  • What problems are they having?
  • How does your brand become a part of the solution for them?
  • How do they make decisions about what you have to offer?
  • What are the barriers to entry?
  • Why do they choose you? Why do they choose the competition?

If you have the ability to gather quantitative data about who your target audience is, grab as much as you can during research.

  • You can look at things like your Google Analytics “Demographics” and “Interests” reports if they are enabled
  • Dig into your customer relationship management system to see what you can find
  • Mine the data you can on Twitter, for example, who are the influencers that matter to your brand? Followerwonk is a nifty tool to use.
  • What does your Facebook page have to say about your demographics in its Insights analytics?

Then, qualitative data helps provide even more insight, as numbers can only tell you so much. Consider things like:

  • Interviewing those who are closest to the customer base, like the sales people
  • Interviewing those who hold the vastest or most historical knowledge of the industry like the owner, CEO or someone similar
  • Reaching out to past and current customers on the phone to ask key questions
  • Sending out surveys to all stakeholders
  • Conducting remote video-capture interviews with a panel that represents your target market. YouEye Inc. is one qualitative research company in this space that offers this (full disclosure: they are a client)

When you’re done, you’ll write up profiles about these folks, add a picture that is representative of them and give them a name. Then, your content creators will have a “real” person with real needs to write directly to.

For example …

“Miranda the Mid-Level Marketer”

content personaProfile:

  • Age: Late 20s
  • Company type: Mid-size B2B corporation
  • Career: Mid-level
  • Has decision-making capabilities but collaborates with direct report for approvals
  • Spends between $10,000 and $60,000 on Web marketing per month
  • Is digital marketing savvy, and has been doing it in house for years
  • Believes in ethical Web marketing and following Google’s rules
  • Lacking knowledge of how to create a Web content strategy from the ground up that aligns with business goals
  • Doesn't have a clear grasp on the ins and outs of Google’s ranking algorithm and how quality content factors

Personas not only help you decide which topics to write about, but how to frame up the message in a way that your target audience can relate to, making your Web pages that much more relevant.

More relevance = more time on your website engaging with your brand.

The overall goal of your Web content strategy is to create relevancy by balancing information that is of interest to your target audience, and presenting it in a way that makes it simple for your target audience to get what it needs.

Of course, building relevancy also helps those Web pages be the best “answer” to a person’s query within the search engine results. In my next post tomorrow, I’ll show you how to optimize your pages to get maximum visibility online.

Want to learn more about creating Web content that drives traffic and engages with your audience? Join Jessica's session "Web Content Playbook" on May 13th as part of OMI's Digital All Stars Virtual Summit, a one-day event with sessions led by digital marketing experts.


How to Hit a Home Run With Your Content


It’s every content marketer’s worst nightmare…

You pour all your resources into creating a major piece of content, such as a white paper or webinar. You think the topic will resonate with your audience. The production quality is excellent. Your message is clear and concise.

B2B content marketing

But then you press, “publish” and nothing happens. No downloads…no registrations…no rush of customers calling your sales reps.

So, what happened?

You might have picked a topic that doesn’t interest your target audience. Many B2B marketers have a disconnect between the content they publish and what their customers want. If your content doesn’t hit the mark, buyers won’t respond.

Here are five steps you can take to pick the right topics and hit a home run with your content:

1.  Look for trends.

One way to bring more people to your content is by writing about trending topics. And no, you don’t need to blog about what the Kardashians are up to this week. Here are three tools – other than Google Analytics – that will help you find trending topics and keywords:

  • helps you find trending hashtags. Simply enter a hashtag, and the service will tell you how popular it is. It will also recommend related hashtags that can help you reach a wider audience.
  • BuzzSumo gives you insight into top-performing content. When you enter your key phrase, BuzzSumo will display the most-shared content containing those words. This helps you see if your key phrase will attract readers.
  • Google Trends shows you how searches for a key phrase have increased or decreased over time. You can narrow your results by country or time period. For example, you can see how searches for “cloud computing” have changed over the past year or 90 days.

2. Get to know your target audience.

If you haven’t updated your buyer personas since the first season of Breaking Bad, it’s time for a refresh. Updating your personas will give you insights into your audience’s top challenges and goals, so you can create content that speaks directly to their needs. Here are some questions to ask about your buyers:

  • What are their roles?
  • What industries do they work in?
  • What is their typical day like?
  • What are their top challenges?
  • What are their biggest goals?
  • How have their goals, needs and challenges changed from the last time you updated your buyer personas?
  • What stage(s) of the sales cycle do they influence?
  • Where do they get information about your products or services?

3. Speak to each stage of the sales cycle.

In Demand Gen Report’s 2014 B2B Buyer Behavior Survey, 61% of respondents said they selected vendors who delivered a mix of content that was appropriate for each stage of their buying process. Reviewing your buyer personas will help you see what topics will engage them during each stage of the sales cycle. Provide them with the information that they need when they move through the following stages:

  • Awareness
  • Investigation
  • Evaluation
  • Decision
  • Loyalty/advocacy

4. Learn some new tricks.

Many B2B marketers create the same type of content all the time. For example, they might publish only sales materials or educational content. However, varying your topics will keep your audience more engaged. Mix it up by creating the following types of content:

  • Fun
  • Educational
  • Persuasive

5. Answer customer questions.

Your customer’s questions are a treasure trove of potential content. When you find a question, save it in a spreadsheet. Then, you can decide if you want to answer it in a new piece of content. What questions are customers asking in your forums? What are they emailing your sales and customer success reps about? What are they asking you on social media?

content strategy

When you go through these steps, you’ll find a lot of great topic ideas. Which of these topics will your audience find the most compelling? Which topics will help you get the biggest bang from your content investment? Add these topics to your editorial calendar.

Want to learn more about how to fill your content calendar with topics that engage your target audience? Register for my session, “How to Plan Your B2B Content Calendar,” part of the Digital All Stars Virtual Summit on May 13th.


4 Steps to an Airtight Partnership With Your Content Firm


Content marketing is no small undertaking. You need multiple people to orchestrate content tactics for strategy, execution, publishing and distribution. And if you’re tackling this in-house, it requires more time, money and emotional bandwidth to get the right team in place.

content agency

So it’s understandable that content writing and design are the two most commonly outsourced content marketing activities. Companies of all shapes and sizes are forking over more dollars to regularly get content placed in front of their audiences. And partnering with a team of experts is an efficient way to grow your online presence.

But before handing over the reins to a content firm, there are a few things you need to know in order to make the relationship — and your investment — worthwhile.

1.  Find the Right Fit.

To set the stage for a healthy partnership, you need to do some self-exploration first. Dig deep into your company’s core competencies, and address your strengths and weaknesses so you can identify a firm that complements them.

The firm you hire should have a history of helping companies with similar competencies and a plan for preserving your company’s voice, tone, message and expertise.

2.  Set Clear Expectations for Both Parties.

Finding a firm that can execute your content marketing needs is exciting, but too often, marketers move forward without setting clear expectations from the start. After a few months, they realize it’s either not a good fit or the execution plan has a hole or two.

Related Class: Justifying the Budget: Why Content is Gold

Instead of diving right in, establish an agreement upfront that clearly communicates your and the firm’s expectations. You need to be on the same page about goals, expectations and deliverables to properly execute your strategy and see results.

3.  Communicate Openly and Frequently.

In the outsourcing dynamic, communication is often steady in the beginning. Then, as marketers get comfortable in the relationship, it trails off.

Related Class: The Content Marketing Landscape

You don’t need to chat daily, but you should regularly update the firm on what’s going on internally and vice versa. Otherwise, the firm can’t fine-tune your strategy and execution plan to meet your ongoing needs, and you can’t be as responsive to theirs. Schedule regular meetings to discuss any changes in target markets and obstacles, and key wins on both sides.

 4.  Go the Extra Mile.

Your content firm is essentially an extension of your team; don’t be passive with the relationship. Ask, “What’s going to make me a great client?” and counter that with the question, “What’s going to make me a bad one?” Understanding the difference will help you maximize the relationship and give the firm what it needs to produce results. Expressing genuine interest in making the relationship run smoothly will make the firm want to work harder for your business. While you may be paying someone to do a job, going the extra mile will always yield higher results.

content agency

By outsourcing your content marketing, you can continue to focus on what you do best. You also gain access to teams that understand each phase of the content marketing process, which is often much cheaper (and less time intensive) than building your own in-house team.

Although you’re hiring an outside company, you should view your external team as an arm of your marketing team. The more seamless you can make the partnership, the more authentic your content will come across and the more your audience will trust what you have to say.


Are Your Marketing Efforts Focused on Business Results?


Each year we are exposed to stories that sound something like “The Top 10 ______ You Need to Do in 20__.

This is not one of those stories.

Are Your Marketing Efforts Focused on Business Results? Bernie Borges

Rather than provide a list of things you should consider doing with your business this year, I’m only going to suggest one thing. This one thing is in the context of how you approach digital marketing and social media in 2015. For that matter, it's how you approach your overall marketing plans this year.

Related Class: Digital Marketing Strategy & Planning Framework

Since about 2005 (10 years now), everyone has been following the shiny objects of the digital world. From Twitter to Instagram, people and brands have flocked to these shiny objects mostly with a FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) strategy. This is reactive, not proactive. Which means they're largely lacking a true strategy.

Even the largest brands have been fearful of missing out by not participating in social media. No wonder the focus has long been on measuring vanity numbers such as fans, followers, retweets, click throughs, share of voice, etc.

Are Your Marketing Efforts Focused on Business Results? Social Media Strategy

In 2015 it’s time we focus on just one thing….business results. Here’s an example. One of our clients experienced a decrease in inbound traffic to their website and a decrease in leads. Sounds terrible, doesn’t it. Oh contraire! The business result was higher quality leads that resulted in more sales opportunities and closed sales.

The tactics that impacted these results are too detailed for this article. Suffice it to say, we took a dramatic shift in the content strategy, which had better business results. But, if you study just the surface numbers, it doesn’t look good. The traffic line and leads line both declined. But, with true business results improving, that’s the only thing that matters.

Related Class: How to Create a Winning Content Strategy

Every business is unique. Ask yourself what’s not producing business results and what is. Don’t be influenced by trends. Heck, if direct mail produces business results, keep doing direct mail. In 2015, resolve to focus on doing the things that generate business results without the temptation to chase shiny objects.

It’s okay to experiment with your marketing efforts. I encourage it. But, acknowledge what is an experiment and limit it to about 10% of your efforts. Channel 90% of your efforts into those marketing tactics that create real, measurable and relevant business results. Your C-Suite will thank you for it.