How to Write SEO Friendly Content

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Editor's Note: Sarah Robinson is a blogger and SEO enthusiast. She joins us today to explain how SEO friendly content improves your website performance, and how to optimize your content for search engine exposure.

 

Whether you’re writing a landing page for your website, or a blog post, it’s important that all of your content is SEO friendly. SEO friendly content has a tremendous impact on your ranking in search engines (i.e, Google), and the better you follow the conventions of SEO, the higher your content will rank on search engines.

The higher your website is ranked by search engines, the more visible it will be. This also leads to more website traffic and conversions. Your content is also more likely to provoke reader engagement and shares on social media if it is highly visible. Bottom line: you can write amazing content, but unless people see it, there’s no point.

Thankfully, producing SEO friendly content is not as difficult as it may seem. By following the steps outlined below, your content will be more interesting, grab attention and rank higher in search engines without excessive effort. Let’s dive in!

1. Research

Individuals and SEO companies should do at least some research before writing anything. Even if you are an expert on an issue, you should not forego this step. Not only does research provide you with the data you need to make a well-reasoned point, but it also helps you to find the key terms that your audience is looking for. By incorporating these terms into your content, you make it much more SEO friendly for casual browsers.

The research step is especially important for the heading (title) of your content. The heading is the first thing readers encounter, and it therefore determines whether they will click away, or stay on to read more. Your title should be well structured, to-the-point and relevant to common search terms.

A high quality heading will help search engines understand what is on your page, and it will assist in gauging relevancy when a user searches for certain keywords. A headline will also determine whether your newsletter subscribers want to open and read your content.

How do you create a title that engages? To start, it’s a given that you should take a dive into SEO keyword research to find the terms which readers are looking up. But keeping your headlines short and catchy is also important. List articles (‘listicles’) attract attention by outlining the structure of an article in the title, so readers know what to expect before reading.Just take a look at recent BuzzFeed headlines to get a feel for what attracts readers. Here are some examples taken from the website:

2. Unique and original content

It is important that the content you produce is unique and original. This doesn’t mean you have to be a pioneer in your industry and propose something completely new or revolutionary. But if you say the exact same thing as everyone else, in the exact same way, content that is otherwise SEO friendly can still fail. Everyone has a unique spin or view on an issue, and in good content, you must be prepared to offer yours.

While this advice may or may not seem obvious, the point is worth stressing. For SEO-optimized content, it’s vitally important to avoid plagiarism. Plagiarism, in this case, means copying large chunks of text from existing websites or even entire articles without the right permission or HTML attribution. Not only is it unethical to do this, but your website can get penalized for these methods by search engines, which will bring down your site’s ranking considerably.

This doesn’t mean you can’t use sources to back up your argument and make your content more credible. In fact, you should be using other sources - but rather than offering extensive and direct quotes from existing content, summarize, and cite the important facts while providing a link. Being lazy will sink you like a brick - Google knows, and you will never get away with it.

If you are working hard to keep your content original, but have to use quotations, there are many places you can go to find out whether search engines will get suspicious. Copyscape is a great way to quickly check if there are any copies of your website content on other sites, or whether original content will trigger red flags to search engines. When in doubt, check first!

3. Images

Firstly, yes you should absolutely include relevant images with your content. And secondly, they can and should be optimized both for readability, and SEO.

Images are important to your content because they visually establish the context of an article, and give readers’ eyes a rest. Have you ever gone on to a webpage and there was just all text on the page? Was it inviting and enjoyable to read? Probably not: no one likes impenetrable chunks of text, so it is important to break it up with images. Images also help to make your content more shareable on social websites; if you use interesting images, you can quickly attract attention.

Images, like the text in your content, will also impact your search engine rankings. You can add keywords to an image’s file name, and captions, tags and alternative text when relevant. It is also important that you check the size of your image, and compress or resize them when appropriate. Images need to be big enough so they aren’t blurry, but not so big that they slow down the loading time of your webpages.

4. Make the text interesting

Just because you have added lots of images to your content doesn’t mean you are done making it attractive! You can (and should) make the actual text more interesting to read by formatting it elegantly.

There are multiple ways to make content pleasurable for reading, and it’s important to implement these methods whenever possible, because Google has quality guidelines, and it checks to see if sites are following them.

By changing up the size and style of font as well as underlining the right words, or putting them in bold/italics, you can direct a reader’s eye to the most important things; content is more interesting to look at when all words aren’t the same.

HTML subheadings to organize your content are also important. Not only do they help to give your content structure and improve readability, but they also show search engines that your web-pages are detailed and useful.

All this being said, it’s easy to go overboard changing up the look of your text. If you change too much, too often, the results can appear unprofessional and distracting. Remember, you want to draw readers attention to the most important parts of your text. Focus, and retain a balance between the mundane and the stylized.

5. Content length

The right length for content depends on your genre, audience, and how much you have to say. Follow common sense in this regard: a blog post should be long enough to be informative (anywhere between 500 and 2000 words). But depending on the subject, you may need a lot more, or a lot less.

Word count does not factor into SEO as much as people sometimes think. 300 is a good minimum, but beyond that, it is more important that you post content consistently. Realistically, if you make content-writing difficult, it will be difficult to read, and you will probably find excuses not to do it. By sticking to a reasonable word limit,content writing becomes more enjoyable, which increases the likelihood that you will continue to produce content in the future, which will also raise the ranking of your website.

Summary

Making your content SEO friendly is crucial if you want it to be seen. You may have great content but if you haven’t properly optimized it, you won’t get readers or leads. There’s no wrong way to start, so if your content isn’t SEO optimized yet, pick something that stands out, and get your site to the top of Google!

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Convert More Website Visitors into Customers: Best Practices for Usability and Analytics

Fundamentals of Social Media for SEO

Creating and Curating Content People Love

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.

Infographic: Content Marketing Strategy

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Editor’s note: To celebrate the launch of our New Content Marketing Certification, we've created an infographic to help you visualize the team, strategies, techniques and tactics you need to develop a successful Content Marketing strategy that will drive sales, engage consumers and improve ROI.

 

More than 3.5 billion pieces of content are shared each week on Facebook alone, and according to Technorati, 15% of bloggers spend ten or more hours each week blogging. With so much content on the web, it’s no wonder there is high demand for content marketing strategists.

The Online Marketing Institute is focused on providing you with the latest insights into digital marketing. Illustrations are a simple and exciting way to educate, so in the spirit of practicing what we preach, we've created an infographic to simplify the complex domain that is content marketing strategy.

Some key takeaways:

  • Content marketing is not limited to blog posts. Content can be published on micro-blogging networks, social media, apps for smartphones, or even in the form of audio podcasts. Wherever there's a crowd, there's a way to build your audience.
  • Channels to distribute content include your own website, forums or wikis, but it's beneficial to expand by strategically paying for spots on existing platforms. High quality content will end up on unaffiliated, third party sites, which is a massive boost to your brand.
  • Content marketing requires a diverse skillset. You should evaluate and utilize the talents that already exist in your company, and outsource where your workflow needs expanding.
  • Effective content marketing strategy requires an in-depth understanding of your target audience, which can be constructed using buyer personas. Combining data analysis with your company goals allows you to segment the group of people who will appreciate your content the most.
  • Almost all online content is found with the aid of Search Engines. SEO optimization is the most powerful way to build a widespread reach for content that lives on your own platform.

We hope you find this graphic useful and informative:

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Want to master content marketing? Get certified with OMI

How to Choose the Perfect Images to Improve Content Engagement

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Editor's Note: Jane Hurst is a business writer and regular OMI contributor. Today, she joins us to discuss how well-selected images can improve content engagement on your blog or website.

 

While text is the most prominent feature of long-form content, if you don’t use images effectively in your blog posts and marketing, you aren’t attracting nearly as much traffic as you could be. Images grab attention because humans are visual creatures: when they see a lot of text without visual stimuli, they will often click away pretty quickly. People need to see something that is visually appealing to capture their attention, but at the same time, you can’t haphazardly slap some photos on and be done with it. You need to research your target audience, and use visuals that will appeal to them in order to raise your content engagement. Here are some tips that will help you do this:

Use Images in Blogs

Studies show that blogs with featured images get a lot more attention than those without visual content. First, it is a fact that we tend to remember things in terms of visual rather than verbal memory. You must therefore utilize images that are tailored to the content you have prepared for your target audience to build a better connection with them. You want readers to read and digest a post, then comment, so you can interact with them and make conversions.

Bottom line: if you want to be remembered and make an impact on your readers, you need to use images that will really stand out in their minds.

Don’t Forget SEO

Many people don’t realize that images are an important part of search engine optimization. Photographs can be optimized so that search engines deliver your photos when the right keywords are searched. Optimizing your images for search engines is not hard. Basically, you just have to use the right keywords in the:

  • Image title
  • Description
  • File name, and
  • Alt text

It is also important to ensure that the dimensions of the image you upload are the same as the size used on your page, so that image searchers aren’t disappointed when they are forwarded to your website. Because a lot of people don’t realize this, many bloggers miss out on a great marketing opportunity. It only takes a few minutes to make sure that your images are properly sized, and coupled to the right keywords. Take advantage of this, and get more hits on your page.

Match Your Brand

When you are choosing images for anything, you need to think about some key factors, including your brand’s voice, mood, and style. Remember, you are trying to appeal to a specific audience, so you are marketing to them. Don’t choose images just because they appeal to you; they may not appeal to others, and that is what what matters. Be sure to study your target audience to find out what appeals to them most. Then, use imagery that will make them eager to visit your site and buy your products. This may take a bit of trial and error, but if you really pay attention to what your customers are saying and doing, you will get it right.

Use Relevant Images

If you are creating guides, you should use images that are relevant to what you are demonstrating in the guide. For instance, if your guide is about resumes, you don’t want to use photos of books: illustrate successful resume samples, add images of people writing resumes, as Uptowork did in their How to Write a Resume Guide:

Source

Before creating any type of guide, you need to think about the types of images that are going to get your message across most effectively. Pictures say so much, and if you are not using the right pictures, there is no sense in using images at all. Take the time and effort to do it well; you will be much happier with the results, and so will your visitors.

Let Images Stand Alone

Most people don’t like blogs that are heavy on text and low on visual content. In most cases, visual content is easier to understand, because it can be seen and apprehended in seconds, and doesn’t require reading time. Your visual elements should summarize what you are trying to say in the blog or on your selling page. For example, GadgetSalvation used two images to visualize the Sell Your Macbook page: when readers see the photo, they immediately understand the message, and read on to learn more.

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Imagery is one of the best ways to get information across quickly, so you can do more with less effort. The fewer characters you write between images in content and on product pages, the more engagement you are likely to receive from your audience.

Use People in Images

People connect with those who have the same tastes, desires, etc. as themselves. You need to build that connection with them, and to do this, you should feature images of human beings. You also need to know how to use people in images. For instance, a candid photo will generally attract more attention than one that is posed. Studies show that the majority of people prefer images that have just one person, and they also prefer to see subjects looking away from (rather than directly at) the camera. There is a reason why these shots are more popular: when all the factors are added together, viewers feel that the image could be of themselves.

Get Authorization before Using Images

It is vitally important that you have full authorization to use any of the images you display with your content. This doesn’t mean you have to produce the images yourself, but, you do need to gain the permission of those who produced the images or own them to use them for marketing purposes. Using stock photos is one popular option, in which you pay websites like Bigstock for the rights to use a particular image but this should not be your go-to for photos since stock images are often widely disseminated and sometimes overused. If you pull random images off the Internet, you will also need permission to share this content. If you share image content to social media, your audience should be able to share and use them, since this is a way of promoting content engagement and gaining exposure across a wide audience. Be sure to spell out the terms of these permissions in the “Terms and Conditions” page of your site or blog so your images can go viral.

Be Careful with Stock Photos

It is okay to use stock photos once in awhile when you need them. But they are not something you should rely on exclusively, since a lot of readers will easily be able to tell the difference between a stock photo and one that has been created or commissioned for a single campaign. While the stock photos may be excellent in quality, they could also end up turn some potential customers off. The more time and effort you put into your imagery, the more it will be noticed, improving your content engagement, and raising your bottom line.

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

B2B Social Visual Storytelling on Instagram, Pinterest & Tumblr

Turn Website Visitors into Customers via Conversation Optimization

How to Create a Content Segmentation Plan

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.

Five Customer Retention Strategies That Really Work

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Editor's Note: Samantha Prowell is a marketing strategist and educator, who joins us today to explain the importance of customer retention for your business, and how to implement customer retention strategies into a business plan.

 

Customer retention is an element that no online or traditional business can afford to ignore. Unfortunately, many business owners focus exclusively on customer acquisition, ignoring existing clients and reducing the chance of repeat sales. Good customer retention strategies build trust and loyalty, and customers who trust your business will improve your profitability by spreading the word about your brand. This builds in the long-term to a lasting fallback strategy should traditional acquisition methods ever fail. To help you retain customers and gain new ones through word of mouth, we’ve compiled five customer retention strategies that work every time they are tried. Let’s get started!

Know Your Customers

Forbes says that business associates who know their customers well succeed more often than those who treat them like any other client. According to behavioral psychologists, people tend to remember a particular service positively when they are not rushed or ignored. These studies demonstrate that you should get to know your customers better to enhance their loyalty. In a brick-and-mortar setting, ask your customers questions when possible to clarify needs. Let them tell you about what they want to build and accomplish. Tell your customer service representatives to spend a little bit more time with clients in order to understand them better.

It’s equally important not to make assumptions regarding customer preferences and beliefs. The behavior of consumers changes over time, so avoid judging your clients based on previous experiences.

For online businesses, getting to know customers better is more tricky, since it is impractical (but not impossible!) to communicate with all of them one-on-one. That being said, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are excellent ways to interact with your customers and get to know their preferences and personalities better.

Depending on your business, social media is not the only method of customer-interaction. For instance, Regions online mobile banking service invites experts to engage and retain their customers by using emails to touch base with clients on a monthly basis. This strategy has helped them to get quality engagements and build long-term relationships. While not everyone can use this method, it shows that being creative can build opportunities that your customers will appreciate.

Set Customer Expectations

Interacting with customers is a great way to build positive experiences, but it’s also important to avoid creating negative ones. Even if repeat clients have done business with you hundreds of times, one or two bad transactions will stand out in their memory like a sore thumb. It is therefore vital to set expectations for your customers early on so they are fully aware of your processes, and won’t undergo any nasty surprises. Everyone on your team should be aware of what your clients expect, and what you have promised to deliver. Prioritize the fulfillment of these expectations to minimize the chance of accidents or mistakes.

Your business should set expectations at every point in the sales funnel, from marketing, to product descriptions, to shipping terms, etc. A classic and highly effective strategy is to underpromise and overdeliver on the expectations you lay out. This streamlines your business plan by ensuring that customer retention is built into the very fabric of the way you do business, and helps to establish key performance indicators which can be used to judge the success of a particular period or campaign.

Be an Expert in Your Industry

Entrepreneur Magazine claims that nine out of ten customers will switch to competitors if they don’t get the right solution to their problems. Customers want to create long-term engagements with businesses they believe can provide long-term solutions that will last.

While it’s always nice to have a corner in your market, nobody starts there: you will always be competing with other businesses that do the same thing you do. As such, it’s important that you stand out among your competitors to prevent customers from going somewhere else for their needs. One effective way to do this is becoming an expert in your field, thereby giving customers value they cannot get anywhere else.

Become your customers’ most reliable adviser to build loyalty and trust. If you are selling electronic accessories, become the street smart equivalent of an MBA who knows the ins and outs of every electrical gadget in the market. Demonstrate this expertise by publishing content and advice that is relevant to your customers’ interests. Be ready to give your opinions when asked, and always be there when customers need support.

Give Discounts and Promotions

Customers always look for companies that reward them once in awhile. Regular promotions and discounts are primary reasons that people start to follow brands, especially online, and if your competitors don’t have special offers, a promotional program will grant you a tremendous and obvious advantage in the minds of consumers. It doesn’t hurt to occasionally give away free products and samples, or sell at discounted prices. Make sure to use the element of surprise rather than announcing special offers in advance, since this creates a lasting, positive impression on your clients: people will remember when you surprise them in a good way.

While giving away something of value may seem like a net loss for your business, research proves that it’s an investment - consumers are 30% more likely to shop with businesses that offer discounts, so this is a retention strategy you can’t afford to ignore.

Create Trust Through Shared Values

Building shared values entails developing an interest in your clients and their daily occupations. Do research to determine what your clients love to do as a demographic, what causes they support, and the media they consume. Using this information strategically in content, branding, and product development strengthens the image of your business tremendously for existing customers by tying your company with the things they care about.

Conclusion:

Customer retention should be a key goal for your business, whether online or traditional. It is the foundation for expanding sales volume in the long term, and acquiring more clients in the short term. Hopefully the information listed here will help you to create and implement an effective customer retention plan!

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Improve Relationship Marketing Using Social Media

Top of the Funnel Tactics for Inbound Marketing

Content Marketing Implementation: Executing a Winning Content Program

 

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.

How to Market to Affluent Buyers

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Editor's Note: Reach Analytics, where this article first appeared, specializes in predictive marketing for online businesses. Today, they've joined us to share advice on reaching affluent buyers through targeted marketing

As America’s demographics shift, the tastes and desires of affluent buyers change as well. The number and median income of affluent buyers, defined as Americans with more than $100,000 in annual income, is growing. Both millennials and older affluent buyers are interested in buying a home in the next three years, but not a McMansion. Neither uses cash, and both use streaming services in addition to social media. Some affluent buyers may also be less empathetic than their less-affluent counterparts, so there are also social differences to consider.

Depending on your industry, tapping into this high-income market segment is well worth the effort, and you can target your products or approaches to affluent buyers with improved advertising, payment options, choices and customer service. Here’s a little insight you can use to reach and serve your customers in both brick-and-mortar and digital environments.

Personalize Customer Profiles to Increase Interest and Retention

Many affluent buyers - also known as luxury shoppers - dislike the time it takes to fill out forms, preferences, or complex web searches to get results that are relevant to their needs. A lack of data collection at the right time and place can cause a buyer to receive too much or too little information, leading to indifference or even hostility towards your business. Rather than asking buyers to complete surveys or give responses, think of ways you can retain information as soon as it is obtained for use in future offers.

As examples, you can use the data you already have about your affluent customers to personalize their shopping experience by:

  • Greeting them by name when they visit your location
  • Being aware of their preferences based on past purchases
  • Mailing, emailing or texting offers and rewards based on their interests
  • Inviting them to VIP events based on their interests
  • Another great idea? Studies show that affluent customers crave exclusivity. You might think about directing your staff to ask affluent buyers if they would be interested in paying for a personalized experience. Train them to showcase the advantages of your existing system and changes you expect to make.

Advertise with Traditional and Digital Media, Gearing Digital Campaigns toward Millennials

Affluent buyers often access media through cell phones and computers, but also view media in many traditional ways, from television to magazines and newspapers. Consider a campaign that reaches across different outlets. TV ads remain the most influential medium across different age groups. Many affluent millennials are interested in interactive opportunities to connect with a business. Ideas include partnerships with apps like Snapchat, geo-location, digital coupons and loyalty apps. Both millennials and older audiences are also interested in digital tools; methods to invest and track their wealth that do not require them to interact with a person to make financial decisions are in very high demand.

Ratings and reviews are another way for merchants to reach out to affluent buyers. A customer who is excited about your product and engaged enough to start a conversation is a person who may provide good word of mouth through online posts and in-person conversations. Chatbots and A.I. that already have information about a customer and are prepared to collect more constitute great ways of reaching out to affluent buyers. You can enable chatbots on websites as well as in stores to suggest options, and gather data about customer preferences.

As you begin to understand this new breed of affluent buyers, you can benefit by creating a strategy that spans multiple channels, environments and preferences. Begin developing your advertising campaign by looking at the trends for your industry and meshing them with the data you collect. This will help you develop a better, more on-point approach to understanding what your customers need and how to serve them best.

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Marketing to Millennials

Metrics-Driven Demand Gen in a Multichannel World

Trending Social Apps: Pinterest, Vine & SnapChat

 

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.

How to Engage Your Customers with Sensory Branding

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Editor's Note: Anna Cruz works with LD Products to promote sensory branding through multi-sensory marketing. Today she joins us with an exciting overview of the reasons why businesses should take sensory marketing seriously, and how to do it.

 

Sensory branding involves curating a powerful physical connection to a product or brand by engaging the senses of prospective customers on every level. Since a growing number of consumers search for experiences and emotions that go beyond the mundane, more advertisers try to incorporate sensory cues on branded media with multisensory marketing.

According to research commissioned by brand consultant Martin Lindstrom, media that appeals to more than three senses can increase brand impact and engagement by over 70 percent. That may seem like a big number, but it makes a lot of sense when you consider how we're wired. In recent years, researchers studying the human brain discovered several new ways that senses - especially smell - are tied to memory and emotional experience. Harvard Business School cites research on pencils treated with tea-tree oil: respondents were given treated pencils and untreated pencils, and asked two weeks later to recollect specifics about each. The researchers found that,

"those given unscented pencils experienced a 73% decline in the information they could recall two weeks later, [while] subjects given tea-tree-scented pencils experienced a decline of only 8%."

There’s one important element that subjects tended to remember: brand name.

This evolution in media poses a challenge for marketing managers, especially those who don’t have the budget to build technology that makes multisensory marketing possible. What can you do? One channel that is both affordable and disarmingly low-tech is print. While print is often perceived as a static and strictly 2-dimensional medium, advancements in print technology have opened up doors to manipulate traditional print in fascinating ways that utilize senses besides sight. Let’s go over a few.

Touch

Readers often prefer physical books to virtual ones, because books have texture and weight. The sense of touch also has a big impact on consumers: we can identify luxury products by examining their weight and texture to judge their quality. This is especially true for paper - different kinds and characteristics are imbued with tradition and social significance. Heavy and lightly textured cardstock is associated with formal occasions like wedding invitations or other formal announcements. Smooth-textured cotton stock is associated with sophisticated affairs, and using it in advertisements endows your brand with prestige.

Beyond traditional paper stocks, printing options that were once out of reach for advertisers are now widely accessible and affordable thanks to the Internet. Print vendors like 4colorprint, Creator Print, and the Business Card Shoppe offer a wide range of specialty printing techniques like embossing, foil stamping, spot coatings, die cut, letterpress, and color edging. Each can be applied to standard or unconventional card stock such as silk, cold foil silk, suede, and cotton. For marketers who rely on cards to curate an image, this is a great way of bringing sensory branding to your efforts.

image001

Cold foil silk cardstock adds incredible visual depth and texture not common in typical business cards

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Letterpress combined with debossing on cotton cardstock results in a pillowy look that nobody can resist touching

When looking to accent the feel of your materials, don’t just stop at paper. Consider alternative print materials like fabric, plastics, or aluminum, which create a whole new sensation to pair with your aesthetic.

Sight

Believe it or not, sight is the most challenging of the five senses to grab and sustain for any amount of time. Competing with digital screens and the stimulus of the surrounding world is tough. Visual storytelling is one very effective way to draw the eye and engage the mind, as illustrated in Lisa Buyer’s B2B Social Visual Storytelling seminar.

While unique paper stock and production techniques have a lot to do with the success of your print, they will do much more when coupled with a well orchestrated visual hook, a strategic sense of hierarchy and smart use of typography. All visual and mental elements should come together if you want to keep a viewer intrigued. Canva, a resource-packed hub for everything design, is a great jump-off introduction to design concepts for marketers. Even if you are working with a professional graphic designer, learning the visual elements of style will help you to gauge the quality of your materials.

There’s also a very futuristic way to grab your viewer's eye: holograms. Several print companies can produce remarkable holograms at an affordable cost, and according to Petapixel, holograms can even be printed at home with a good old inkjet printer! Gizmodo pulled together some great examples of what you can create with nothing more than a commercial printer and a little creativity.

Smell

Graphic Arts Mag calls our sense of smell one of the most primitive and emotional senses, partly because of the way aromas are built into our neural pathways through our recollections of the past. Advertisers have already incorporated smell into print for years: we’ve all received catalogs with scratch and sniff perfume samples, for instance. But that was years ago, and today’s technology allows you to get more creative.

But before we jump on the tech, remember that successfully tapping into the power of smell starts with a well thought out strategy for utilizing a particular scent to enhance your message. How can you make your particular brand memorable through smell? The key may lie in the element of surprise, which usually comes when your readers don’t need to do anything (like scratch and sniff your ad).

Applying scent to paper is easy, but knowing what scent to use isn’t always. If you want to be remembered, you need to serve your readers something unexpected but still relevant to your message. If you’re printing cards to promote your spa, why not infuse the smell of pine trees to suggest forest-bathing, or infuse the smell of lemons and fresh cut grass onto print ads that are meant to evoke joy or positivity?

Once you’ve figured out what scent to use, how do you infuse aromas onto print? There are two common ways to do it: scented paper, or scented inks. ScentSational Technologies offers a wide range of options for infusing scents onto packaging and ads. They offer touch-activated scents and, scented inks/coatings to name a few. Sixth Scents is another scent marketing company with similar offerings.

Some printers have also started developing personalized smells for clients. Scent marketing companies can create new aromas, much in the way perfume designers do, or tweak a range of ready-made smells for custom purposes. Scents range from conventional fare like coffee and chocolate to less common scents like rotting flesh and vomit, presumably for those with...unusual enterprises.

Hearing

Paper naturally creates a broad range of sounds when ripped, folded or crumpled. Think of the sound that tissue paper makes coming out of a gift box, or the exciting sound of opening a package. People connect with these sounds, and unconsciously associate them with a feeling.

We’ve come a long way from the original singing birthday cards, which were clunky, and produced tinny sound. New technology allows us to manufacture affordable chips, speakers, and batteries that are small enough to integrate with print. Similar to incorporating the sense of smell in your print, think of how an element of sound can create a memorable experience to the reader. What kind of sound is relevant to your message and compliments your brand? Jingles are an old way to associate a pleasant tone with a brand name, but what other avenues are there for marketers?

When you let creativity take the wheel, technology will find a way. A great example are these printed Midi DJ Decks designed for DJ QBert. This perfectly demonstrates how incorporating sound with print can create truly wild interactive experiences.

Taste

Taste and smell are closely associated. Food and beverage advertisers in particular are wise to take advantage of the synaptic cross-traffic between these senses whenever possible. Anyone who crosses paths with a bakery during their walk to work can attest to the power smell has on drawing out taste memories (and tummy rumbles, too).

Finding creative ways to apply taste to paper are a gamble - chances are, no one will want to lick a direct mail flyer, just because it claims to taste like jerky. One workaround for justified consumer anxiety about licking strange objects is First Flavor’s Peel and Taste System, which involves removing a thin dissolving edible strip similar to Listerine’s Breath Strips.

Conclusion

When it comes to advertising, you can't underestimate the power of sensory branding. In future years, refinements in technology will further the perceptive dimension of products and advertisements to a more interactive experience. Associating your brand with sensory cues can bury your branding into the unconscious memory of consumers, where it can revive months or years down the road. While there is a lot of progress to be made in designing multi-sensory ad products, we’ve already come a long way, and brands should be prepared to take the opportunity seriously.

About the LD Products Team

The LD Products Team researches and writes about the ways individuals and businesses can cost-effectively utilize printer technology for improved efficiency at home and in the office. They also stay on top of the latest printing tech to provide insider information that may be valuable to consumers.

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

B2B Social Visual Storytelling on Instagram, Pinterest & Tumblr

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.

How to Succeed as a Small Business on Instagram

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Editor's Note: Matt Foster is a Content Strategist at Distinctly. Today he joins us to explain how a small business on Instagram can build their presence, and effectively engage with a diverse audience.

 

Since it was introduced in 2010, Instagram has become one of the most popular and widely used social media sites, competing with Twitter as a key platform for business users. So how can Instagram benefit you as a small business?

In December 2016, Instagram boasted over 600 million followers: a world of potential clients and customers for small businesses. This enormous market is often tapped by bigger brands looking to develop their social media marketing efforts, while smaller businesses sometimes assume it will not work for them; this simply is not true. In this article, we’ll show how to raise brand awareness and reach a larger customer base as a small business on Instagram. Let’s get started!

Target Your Content

After setting up an Instagram account, it’s time to post content. But where do you start? The key to success on Instagram is knowing the kind of content that will capture the attention of your audience. As a small business, it’s important that you know who your target users are, and tailor content to their interests. Begin by looking at your current customer base, and decide who they are in terms of age, location and gender. Once this information is clear, it’s easier to make an informed decision on content and hashtags.

Hashtags and trending topics are important on Instagram, and many will be relevant to you. When a hashtag relevant to your business blows up, it’s a great way to reach a wider audience beyond your followers. Adding hashtags to the content you post means it can be easily found, and posting content that is relevant to current trends can do the same. Both techniques are good ways to not only gain followers, but generate brand awareness in your target market.

Keeping your Instagram content related to your company brand is important, and this can be done by choosing a niche theme. When you have a theme, followers know what to expect, and will rely on you for similar posts down the road. It can take some experimentation to find something that is both unique and well-received, but once you’ve found something that works, you can focus on perfecting it.

A woodworking business based in Georgia, USA - Sons of Sawdust - reclaimed wood to create new products. By taking photos of their projects and posting them online, the company has created a popular online portfolio showcasing their work, and providing a behind-the-scenes demonstration of their processes. To make sure the right people see it, Sons of Sawdust uses relevant hashtags – #workshop, #oldwood, and #salvage, for example – so it will be found by a wide variety of users interested in woodworking.

A small business on Instagram

Engagement is Key

Being active and engaging your audience is vital to building a successful presence as a small business on Instagram. You can post great quality, relevant content, but if no one knows you have an online presence, you will struggle to grow it. Start by telling current customers that you have social media accounts by putting a link to your Instagram on your website, and advertise it on other mediums like Facebook and Twitter. Include all social media links in your email signatures to drive traffic.

Consistency is a tremendously important way to keep your audience engaged, so content should be uploaded on a frequent and regular basis. The more active a small business is on Instagram, the more engagement they will see in return.

There are optimum posting times for Instagram, so try to establish a routine and post when most of your audience is online. Social Insights and Iconosquare are tools that will help you find the best times to post for maximum engagement, and both use analytics to optimize for your unique follower-base.

Another way to gain a large Instagram presence is collaborating with another local business or organisation that has already established themselves on Instagram. Working together exposes you to a pre-existing audience, and expands your own base.

Instagram has become the social platform for influencer endorsements. Do research to identify an influencer who shares your product, service, or target audience on Instagram, and build the relationship through engaging, ultimately inquiring about them promoting your business.

You can approach and offer between $20 and $100 they will promote your product or brand to their followers. There are plenty of research tools you can use to target the right influences for the size of their following in set niches, although be aware this must be matched with high levels of engagement of their followers when they post content.
Alasdair Inglis – Marketing expert at We Are Grow

Be Unique and Stand Out

In order to create an engaging Instagram account, it is essential to stand out from the crowd. So where do you start in terms of generating unique content? Your business likely offers a product, service or experience that is sold to customers through a unique selling point (USP), and you can use this to attract followers.

The London Helicopter has special access to bird’s eye views of the London skyline every day. The company’s USP lies in offering an experience that many people want to see, and that very few get to see. As a visually oriented platform, Instagram is a perfect place for this company to showcase these experiences and share them with followers who are unlikely to forget the brand if they are ever on vacation.

The London Heli Instagram

Have a Consistent Style

As mentioned before, consistency is key to all forms of social media and Instagram is no exception. But while many companies remember to post consistently, they often neglect stylistic consistency. People follow a brand because they want to see more of whatever attracted them in the first place, so giving it to them is important.

A popular way of doing this is to concentrate on a branded color palette throughout your content. Oreo does this well by using the same house style and color scheme in each of their posts:

Oreo Instagram

Instagram is About More than Gaining Customers

While social media can absolutely help you to gain new customers, it isn’t just a quick way to boost your business and market your products. It also works to demonstrate excellent customer service, and the quality of people who work for your business.

There are many ways businesses and brands can benefit from this besides the acquisition of new customers:

Boosting Sales Among Existing Customers: Businesses who show great customer service on their social media accounts are likely to see a boost in sales and profits. Research by Aberdeen Group found that brands who are good at customer service benefit from an annual financial gain of 7.5%, against the typical 2.9%.

Creating Brand Advocates: Using social media turns your customers into brand advocates. If a customer has a good experience with a brand on social media, they are three times as likely to recommend that brand to a friend or family member. This is how word of mouth works in the digital age.

Creating a Positive Image: Social media platforms are a good way to show old and potential customers alike that you are interested in them, and this matters even if you aren’t getting direct sales from your content. 74% of shoppers list social platforms as a main influence on whether or not they made a purchase, so it is important for brands  to focus on customer care and maintaining a friendly, outgoing public image.

Like other social media platforms, Instagram gives your customers a space to interact with your company, a chance to retain old customers, and gain new ones. Using it effectively means appreciating the unique qualities of a visual medium, and being sincere in your efforts to build a positive image that your brand will be remembered for. Getting started isn't hard, and it's well worth it - hopefully the advice above will help you to build your presence on a platform that is teeming with opportunity.

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

B2B Social Visual Storytelling on Instagram, Pinterest & Tumblr

Creating and Curating Content People Love

Social Media Strategy for Business

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.

The Future of Content Marketing for Digital Marketers: Consumer Insight

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Editor’s note: Josh R Jackson is a contributing editor at BestMarketingDegrees.org.  To celebrate the launch of our New Content Marketing CertificationJosh joins us this month to discuss the most effective Content Marketing techniques for driving sales, engaging consumers and improving ROI.

There has been a growing trend in recent years for product-based companies to act like content companies, and content-based companies have started to create products. Why? Because brands that market both products and content are able to grip both handles of the holy grail of digital marketing: better consumer insight. Brands with the best consumer insight are those that collect qualitative and quantitative data to measure social engagement and sales results from their marketing strategies. They also tend to have the most successful digital marketing teams.

Generally speaking, it’s nearly impossible to predict the future of marketing with pinpoint accuracy. Nevertheless, we do know that brands who collect data on both content and products are able to develop consumer insight that allows for a higher degree of predictive accuracy when it comes to understanding consumer behavior. In this post, we'll give you three routes that digital marketers can go in order to explore content marketing as a way to develop insight into consumer behavior. All three routes follow the road of data analysis, which makes the prospect of conducting market research even more pressing (and more interesting) to digital marketers in the foreseeable future—especially those who intend to market both content and products.

1. Direct Consumer Interaction

Distilling a brand’s essence into a single unified message takes a fair amount of time and energy. Part of the distillation process should involve discovering how consumers react to your brand, a discovery that can take years of research and development. One of the fastest ways to make that discovery is going straight to the source: i.e., contacting the prospective consumers of your brand directly.

Young brands that don’t have unlimited resources but do have an idea about the kind of person who might like what they have to offer can accomplish this by following the Degrees of Separation Principle, which says that marketers should stick as close to their product or service as possible. Digital marketers can accomplish this by controlling content promotion down to the hour, monitoring content feedback by the notification, and responding directly to content questions on a regular basis.

Because this type of feedback comes straight from the source, interacting with consumers directly via simple media like email or instant messages can provide the best kind of consumer insight. Think of this as field work: a way of collecting qualitative data about who your customer base is, how they react to your brand, what they think about your brand’s place in relation to its competitors, and where they think it might go in the future.

2. Indirectly Express Brand Identity

For brands with slightly more resources, paying for and creating content that works to enlarge a brand’s ideas in the consumer’s mind is the next step towards building a brand identity. Part of this identity-building process should entail casting your ideological net far and wide, a task that can take years to accomplish, even with the the right kind of segmented prospecting and messaging. One of the best ways to accomplish this kind of growth is to follow the Don’t Be Literal Principle, which says that marketers shouldn’t be afraid to express brand identity more broadly and indirectly through sponsorship and metaphor. Digital marketers can accomplish this by writing online copy and developing brand content that can easily apply to our understanding of current cultural, political, or workplace issues at the same time as they advance the name of a brand itself.

Such content should be nonspecific and never advance an agenda too overtly, casting a net that is wide enough to capture prospective consumers’ attention and imaginations, while also working to establish your brand as a thought leader with a pulse on certain consumer preferences. Think of the web traffic, social engagement, backlinks, and other scalable metrics that follow sponsored content with metaphorical messaging as a distanced way to quantitatively measure the level of interest an audience has in some of the big ideas behind your brand.

3. Big Experimentation

For brands with the most resources, spending time and energy to develop large-scale social experiments that simultaneously attract an audience, interact with them, and engage their sense loyalty is the best route to go. Part of the process of testing the waters on such a large scale should involve pushing the limit of what your brand is capable of providing its consumers, as well as testing the limit of what consumers expect from you. One of the best ways to accomplish this kind of experimentation is by following The Wow Principle, which says that marketers should push the envelope of expectation by working to create new and amazing channels through that express brand identity in the most innovative way possible - ideally, in a way that makes consumers say “Wow.”

Digital marketers have the luxury of being able to achieve this level of audience reach, interaction, and engagement through innovative channels that are already available on the social web. All it takes for a brand to pull off this level of experimentation successfully is signing up for a content channel the brand wouldn’t normally be associated with, and mastering that channel’s method of expression. Denny’s did this with its Twitter profile, winning applause and renewed interest in its brand.

Think of the qualitative and quantitative data that result from such experimentation—whether it be social engagement, press coverage, or product sales—as valuable pieces of consumer insight that can be assembled to form new routes for your brand to take in the future.

Want to master content marketing? Get certified with OMI 

 

How to Choose the Right Hosting for Your Website

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Editor's Note: Jane Hurst is a business writer and regular OMI contributor. Today she joins us to explain the factors marketers should consider when picking the right hosting provider.

 

Having a great website is a very important step for any online business. However, choosing the right hosting is equally important: without it, your site will suffer from lag, crashes and downtime which can put a huge dent in your sales. In order to get the most out of your website, it’s vital that you find a great web host. So in this article, we’ll explain the different kinds of hosting plans you will come across, and how to choose wisely. Let’s get started!

Types of Web Hosting Platforms

There are three types of web hosting platforms:

  1. Individual Plans – Many companies will sell you a slot on servers they own and operate. This is the cheapest option, and it’s great for those who are just starting out on limited budgets. For example, an introductory package at HostGator is only $3.96 a month if you sign on for a three-year package. There are a few drawbacks: you can usually have only one domain, features may be limited, and bandwidth/data storage are lower than what you’d get on more expensive options.
  2. Dedicated Servers – These plans are much more expensive (they can be $139 or more each month), but if your business is growing, this may be a better option for you. Just make sure that your provider offers individual plans and dedicated servers so you have the option to switch if necessary.
  3. Reseller Accounts – Reseller accounts are way cheaper than dedicated servers, and in terms of functionality, they lie between individual plans and dedicated servers. With these, you can host multiple domains and websites on a single account. This is a good option for businesses that run a number of websites. You can expect to pay between $10 and $20 monthly.

What to Look for in a Hosting Plan

While you obviously need something affordable, price is not the only thing to consider when looking for a hosting plan. Free web hosts are never a good choice. Sure, they sound great, but you get a lot of on-site advertising, and not a lot of features. Other things to look for in a hosting plan include:

  • Customer Reviews – See what other users are saying about the host before you sign on and end up wasting your money. Look for multiple reviews from both current and past customers, and don’t base your judgment on a single review, positive or negative.
  • Customer Support – If the host doesn’t have great customer support, move on to one that does. You need to know that there is a dedicated staff you can depend on in case anything goes wrong. The best hosts will respond to queries 24/7, because the Internet never sleeps.
  • Storage and Bandwidth – Many plans offer unlimited disk space and bandwidth, so you probably don’t have to worry about this too much, but you still need to make sure that the host offers what you need.
  • Script Support – Make sure your host has built-in support for web scripts you will be using. For instance, if you plan on using WordPress, look for a host that makes installing the platform quick and easy. Some hosts limit MySQL databases which are necessary for running WordPress.

Know Your Hosting Needs

Once you have decided that you need a host, make sure you understand your requirements well. That way, you will know that you are not going to end up with features you will have to pay for but won’t ever use. If you don’t need WordPress, there’s no point dishing out extra money because a host will install it for you

Assess the following factors when making your decision:

  • The type of website you are building (entertainment, e-commerce, news?)
  • The need for WordPress or other common features
  • Whether you’d prefer a Linux or Windows based platform
  • Special software like Ruby, and up to date versions of special software like PHP
  • Anticipated traffic volume

Investigate Host Reliability and Uptime Guarantees

It is vital that your web host operates 24/7, and has a powerful server and stable network connection. If the score is less than 99%, you don’t want it. For obvious reasons, you should not trust what a server says about itself. You can get accurate uptime info by reading reviews, or tracking your web host with server monitor tools like Alertra.

Research Web Host Upgrading Options

Make sure that you research all of your upgrade options, because you may end up lacking what you need when you are ready to upgrade. You should have no problem using a shared web host which can handle a WordPress blog with up to 40,000 visitors monthly. But you may need more accommodation down the road, and you should have peace of mind that your host can manage the switch - if you expect to grow quickly, look for a web host that will grow with you.

Choose Hosting Based on the Site Engine

Unless you have a dedicated web design team, you’ll likely begin with a common site engine. Some hosts are better suited to these engines than others, so you can narrow down your selections by researching compatibility. For instance, WPBeginner has a great list of WordPress hosting providers, and HostingAdvice has a good list if you want to use Joombla.

Check Domain Options and Hosting Space

You should consider your host’s domain options and the size of its hosting space. Domains are cheap, and it can often be hard to have just one. In fact, a good number of site owners have more than five domains, and others have over 50. To manage this, you need more hosting space, so make sure that your hosting account will let you run multiple domains. Don’t make the mistake of signing up for a host that will only accommodate one domain.

Check Prices on Both Sign-Up and Renewal

Before you choose hosting, look at the prices for both sign-up and renewals. Sometimes web hosts suck you in with cheap sign-up rates, and then you are stuck with expensive renewal fees. This is a normal thing, but if you do your research, you can dodge this trick and avoid paying a small fortune in the long run.

Check Hosting Control Panel

A very important factor to consider before you choose a host is its control panel: it must be user-friendly and fully functional. You can use cPanel, Plesk, or a proprietary control panel such as the one used by GoDaddy. While IX Web Hosting is very inexpensive, the custom control panel is generally considered poor, and what you’ll save in money, you may pay for in the time it takes to get things done.

Conclusion:

The right web host takes a back seat to your website, runs consistently with little downtime, and adapts flexibly to your needs as your business expands. Hopefully this article has given you an idea what to look for, and what to take account of so you can find a host that will put your website first, and create a smooth experience for your company and visitors.

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Building Digital Destinations & Customer Experience

B2B Website Design

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.

Two Big Reasons a Content Marketing Strategy is Essential to Building Your Small Business

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Editor’s note: Josh R Jackson is a contributing editor at BestMarketingDegrees.org. To celebrate the launch of our New Content Marketing Certification, Josh joins us this month to discuss the most effective Content Marketing techniques for driving sales, engaging consumers and improving ROI.

 

Successful small businesses tend to have a common denominator in their marketing strategies, and that is content.

A well-planned content marketing strategy can mean the difference between a brand that’s perceived by consumers as a thought leader, and a brand that’s perceived as a thought follower. The current emphasis placed on thought leadership means that a vitally important part of conducting a business is developing a unique brand voice and brand mission: a scope that reaches beyond the realm of product sales and into the realm of touching hearts and challenging minds.

Having a scope that goes above and beyond consumers’ expectations is especially necessary for companies that cultivate an online presence and develop a broad-based content marketing strategy. As more and more companies venture online, such a strategy has become essential to small business brand-building. Here are two big reasons why:

1. Consumers Crave Intellectual Stimulation

Almost 9 out of 10 U.S. citizens have a high school education, while 4 in 10 U.S. citizens have a college degree or higher. Mounting levels of educational attainment have meant that a greater portion of American consumers is well-educated. As the bar has been raised for education, so too have the standards which consumers hold businesses to. Compound those rising buyer standards with the widespread availability of consumer rankings, reviews, and other data that can be found at the touch of a screen, and we see that consumers have been conditioned to crave intellectual stimulation by the wealth of information at their fingertips, which allows them to think big about small business.

The big implication is that the more educated consumers become, the more content they expect to satisfy their demand for quality information about what they buy. The essential task for small businesses is satisfying consumers’ growing demand for quality information, as well as their sense of intellectual curiosity by filling the online void surrounding their brand names with as much authoritative content as possible. Accomplishing this task with consistency of voice, quality control, and an ability to ignite audience passion is essential to the success of any content marketing strategy. This is best accomplished by publishing information that strikes a balance between education and entertainment.

16-OMI-0001_DigitalBanners_DigitalFundamentals_300x250_Optimize_CM_v1c02. Small Businesses Need Consumer Insight

The Metrics Principle states that while publishing content for consumers is great in principle, it’s even greater when that content can offer measured feedback about consumer preferences and behavior. While this level of consumer insight is easier to come by for big businesses who have the money to spend on market research, it’s not so easily attained by small businesses. When juggling the costs associated with starting a small business, marketing is usually (and sometimes rightly) the first cost to cut. Focusing effort on developing a product that "markets itself" is the more pragmatic route a small business can take early on, because it is more prudent to measure quantitative progress in terms of product sales than it is to measure the qualitative progress of increasing the space a small business occupies in popular imagination.

In the long run however, product sales alone don’t allow us to see the whole picture surrounding the success of a small business. In fact, many small business owners have weathered times when product sales were low by developing content marketing strategies that expanded not only the space their brand occupied in popular imagination, but also their customer bases. The additional consumer insight that such strategies afford via social media data, search engine rankings, and online consumer reviews also provides an ample window for prospecting future avenues of small business development. Because having qualified leads is absolutely essential to making decisions about the long run, small businesses need this kind of consumer insight in order to plan for the future.

These extra layers of consumer expectation can become a liability for small businesses who either refuse to develop a content marketing strategy or do so poorly. The good news is that developing an effective content marketing strategy is one of the easiest ways to build a small business.

Want to master content marketing? Get certified with OMI