Month: September 2013

Top 4 Content Marketing Mistakes—and How to Avoid Them


content marketing mistakeEverybody’s talking about content marketing—but how many brands are actually doing it right? From an inconsistent brand voice to a lack of momentum, here are 4 all-too-common content marketing mistakes you must avoid:

1. Not Setting Clear Goals

Attempting content marketing without clear goals is like starting a business without a product: pointless. Your content can’t achieve what you want it to when you don’t know what exactly that is. So to reduce the amount of wasted time and energy expended in your efforts, take the time to determine what you need to do. Your content marketing goals might be:

  • Generating new leads
  • Increasing website traffic
  • Generating referrals
  • Bringing in new business
  • Building brand awareness

Once you’ve established your specific goal(s), break them down into subgoals that you can take steps to achieve. Set timelines in order to keep yourself accountable. Then, use those steps to guide your content marketing efforts. RELATED CLASS: Measuring Your Content Marketing Success

2. Losing Momentum

It’s common for brands to start out fast and furious in their content efforts but then lose steam over time. Has this happened to your brand? Did you launch a blog and then let it grow stagnant? Did you start an email newsletter and then quit sending it? If so, it’s time to regroup and return to your goals. One reason brands lose momentum is because they are trying to bite off more than they can chew—when the pace gets overwhelming, they back off. If this sounds like you, return to your specific goals, break those goals down, and tackle one step at a time. RELATED CLASS: Real Time or Die: Feeding the Content Beast

3. Talking and Never Listening

Nothing’s worse online than a brand that’s a loudspeaker. Does this describe you on your social networks? Is your blog just one sales pitch after another? If so, you’re missing valuable opportunities to learn about your audience and engage with your fans. Rather than only talking online, make it part of your strategy to listen. When you pay attention to what your audience is saying on social networks, both about you and about other interests, you learn more about them. Likewise, you’re able to respond to relevant concerns and to engage your followers. Here are a few ideas for engaging your followers and protecting yourself from becoming a blowhard:

  • Ask questions (and respond to answers!)
  • Respond to readers’ questions and comments
  • Respond to relevant content on other blogs and from connections on social networks
  • Retweet interesting and relevant posts from others on Twitter
  • Post more than your own content on social networks—link to others, too

4. Multiple Personality Disorder

Here’s a big one. If one week you’re the formal brand that talks about stats and data, but the next you’re the funny brand cracking jokes and posting cartoons, you are the online equivalent of someone with multiple personality disorder. Better to know who you are and to stick to it—this ensures you communicate a clear, cohesive message to your fans. Do you know who you want your brand to be online? Nail down a clear, specific outline of your voice, tone, mission, and goals—and use it to guide your communication both online and off.

Do you want to nurture more leads to revenue with relevant content?

Watch Creating Content That Converts: Lean Content Marketing for Lead Generation, and in just 30 minutes, you'll learn how to create a high-impact content marketing plan and put it into action immediately. Plus, you'll learn lean content marketing techniques to save time and resources, and how to build your content program around themes and personas. This class is available with a FREE trial to the Online Marketing Institute. Get instant access now.

Content That Converts


10 Annoying Stock Photos I Never Want to See Again


Most businesses today use stock photography in their digital marketing. From home pages, to landing pages, to blog posts and more—headset hotties and the teams they work with are everywhere.

But are we selling ourselves short by taking the easy way out and selecting a stock photo to support our message and enhance our brand, when instead we could create truly meaningful visual content that differentiates us, humanizes us, and increases credibility? I think we are.

So let's aim higher, and start by committing to never using one of these downloaded-more-than-9000 times, seen-it-all-over-the-internet, generic stock photos in our marketing, ever again.

1. Benjamin, the child superhero

Kids are cute. Superheroes? Eh. But superhero kids? Definitely cute the first time. And maybe the second time. But not the 10 millionth time. I've seen at least a dozen "Be a [insert word] hero" campaigns with little Ben, so I think it would be a good time for him to retire and experience childhood, or at least score some better gigs modeling for Flintstones vitamins.

Hopefully, Benjamin's parents won't pull a Macaulay Culkin on him and wipe out all the money he earned while fighting evil in his underwear, and they'll put it towards his college education instead.

2. Ken, the corporate superhero

So if there's a "Be a [insert word] hero" campaign that doesn't star little Ben, it's because his dad is in it—let's call him Ken.

C'mon B2B marketers—the "be a [insert word] hero" concept is so vague and overdone. Couple that generic message with a photo of Ken and I'm definitely not converting on your landing page. Unless, of course, Ken finally rips his shirt off.  Then it's okay.

3. The bulls eye

Does your organization help clients reach their targets? You've probably used this stock photo in a presentation or two. Yawn. (I'm guessing you didn't win the new business, either.)

4. The running businessman

Excuse me sir, but where are you going? Running away from all the display campaigns that you're in? Yeah, I thought so.

5. Any variation of a "SEO" image

If a search marketing firm guarantees they can get you to the #1 spot in Google, chances are they have one of these SEO graphics on their website. You're probably safer hiring a search firm without a website, than you are hiring these guys.

6. Rebecca, the sexy business hottie

I've run into this woman so many times, I feel like I know her. Often found wearing a headset and a black blazer while working for thousands of different companies across the globe, Rebecca is always smiling (sometimes seductively), her desk is always neat and organized, and she never blinks, eats lunch, or takes bathroom breaks.

I'm not sure exactly what her area of expertise is, but man, can this woman do it all. I've seen her answer phones for companies in the Middle East, peddle nutritional supplements online, work the front desk at a moving company—even serve as an enrollment advisor for a leading online university. Kelly Ripa, watch out! You're not the only woman that can do it all.

hey baby. call me!

Rebecca is also very popular. In fact, 16 of my LinkedIn connections know her. Let's just hope she doesn't start showing up in the SERPs for Google Authorship. We can only hope that the latest algorithmic update included penalizing Google Plus accounts with headset hottie profile photos.

("Rebecca" is actually a real person—her name is supposedly "Anne Sofie" and you can find an entire lightbox dedicated to her over on iStockphoto.)

7. The transparent dry erase board

We all know the best ideas come to us while writing diagrams on a transparent dry erase board. And wearing a suit.

8. The confusing business metaphor

If it confuses you, just think how much it confuses your target audience.


9. The generic business graph

Does you company help other businesses increase productivity and grow? Well, why not demonstrate that with actual results, and not a stock photo that's been downloaded over 10,000 times?

increase productivity


10. The faceless corporate robots

If "soulless, generic, corporation without real people" are some of your brand attributes and your messaging guidelines are straight from the corporate BS generator, definitely use one of these images.

go team

Okay, I admit it. I am guilty of using many popular stock photos, too. Most marketers are. When juggling so many different priorities, it's far too easy to just take a photo of Rebecca and slap her onto a blog post, banner ad, landing page, or white paper.

In an ideal world, we'd all have the resources and time to make every campaign and every piece of content truly unique and remarkable. However, we know that's not always possible, and sometimes, a stock photo is just the visual we need to help us achieve our desired result within our budget.

But as marketers, we can do better. 

We can leverage visual content and imagery to humanize our brand, differentiate it from competitors, make it more credible, and make it more trustworthy.

  • Instead of showing a photo of Rebecca, the corporate hottie, why not show an actual photo of an employee, including their title, and what they do?
  • Instead of using the transparent dry erase board to represent your creativity/strategy etc., why not create an actual graphic with one of your unique ideas?
  • Instead of the cliche corporate team photo, why not introduce your visitors to your actual team?
  • Instead of showing the generic performance increase chart, why not show a real statistic that makes your offering more compelling?

These things might take more resources and a bit longer to create, but the results will make it well worth it.

Learn how to engage your audience with visual storytelling.

Watch B2B Visual Storytelling, and discover proven strategies and tactics to visually engage a B2B audience using platforms such as Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr. You'll learn how to create effective visual content, including memes, infographics and photos, and then get that content to spread like wildfire through social channels. If you want to build your brand and drive more traffic, you need to watch this class. Get instant access now.


6 Rules for Epic Content Marketing


epic content marketingMy newest book, Epic Content Marketing, was just released this week. Naturally, the title has prompted many marketers to ask me, “What exactly does epic content marketing entail?”

To start, take a look at the content you already have. Most likely, your organization has plenty of feature- and benefit-related content, as most brands are quite adept at talking about themselves. We clearly don’t need more of that kind of content, especially when that type of information is only useful for a very small part of a buyer’s journey.

What brands lack are stories that engage their customers — and drive customers and prospects to take a desired action.

The ultimate goal of our content marketing efforts is to “move” the customer in some way.

We need to positively affect them, engage them, and do whatever is necessary to play a useful role in their lives and their conversations. With that, here the six key principles of epic content marketing.

1. Epic content fills a need.

Your content should address some unmet need or answer a question your customers have. It needs to be useful to them in some way — above and beyond what you offer in the way of products and/or services. In some cases, it may fill an emotional need (like Coca-Cola’s content and Red Bull’s storytelling efforts aim to do).

2. It communicates consistently.

The primary hallmark of a successful publisher is consistency, both in terms of quality and delivery. Epic content reliably delivers on the promises your brand makes. Whether you are asking your audience to subscribe to a monthly magazine or daily email newsletter, you must ensure that they receive what they signed up for and that it always arrives on time and as expected. This is where so many companies fall down.

Check out "Epic Content Marketing"—available now!

3. It requires you to find your unique, and human, voice.

The benefits of not being a journalistic entity is that you have nothing to hold you back from being… well… you. Find what your voice is and share it. If your company’s story is all about humor, share that. If it’s a bit sarcastic, that’s okay too.

4. It expresses a point of view.

This is not encyclopedia content. You are not giving a history report. Don’t be afraid to take sides on matters that can position you and your company as an expert. Chipotle’s runaway viral hit The Scarecrow clearly has a point of view — that locally sourced and responsibly produced food is, well, superior to how most food is processed today. Don’t be afraid to take stances like this.

5. It is devoid of “sales speak”.

At Content Marketing Institute, when we create a piece of content that is about us vs. an educational post, it only garners 25 percent of the average page views and social shares our content normally drives. The more you talk about yourself, the less people will share and spread your story. It’s that simple.

6. It’s considered to be the best in its class.

Though you might not be able to achieve this at the very beginning, the ultimate goal for your content is to be considered the best in its class. I know it may sound overly simplified, but if you expect your customers to spend time with your content, you must deliver amazing value to them, and nothing less.

Take some time to look at your content marketing strategy. How many of these six principles are you achieving in your content efforts?

As a business, your content marketing goal is to become part of the fabric of your customers’ lives. Once you can do that, selling to them becomes relatively easy. The good news is that we can all be epic — if we follow these six principles. Good luck!

Learn how to execute a winning content marketing program.

Watch Content Marketing Implementation: Executing Winning Content with Joe Pulizzi, and get into the nitty-gritty of what it takes to execute engaging content marketing that turns prospects into buyers. Plus, he shares 42 winning content marketing tactics, and a proven social media publishing plan to make your content take off—fast. Get instant access now.


3 Reasons You Need to Implement Google Authorship Now


If you're creating content online, you need to use Google Authorship and Google Plus.

Google Authorship makes it easy to identify the author of a result in the SERPs (see example below). It ties a Google Plus account (right now, only personal accounts) to a web page. Google created the Authorship markup as a way to help combat low quality content and websites in search results. With Authorship, authors can build authority and trust, and this signals to Google (and users, too!) that a web page is highly credible.

Example of Google Plus Authorship on our website and Marketo's. Which results would you be most likely to click?

Our new class with Janet Driscoll Miller dives deep into why businesses should use Google Authorship, and how to implement it. Here's a quick preview of the class—3 key reasons you MUST implement Google Authorship now:

1. Maximize search visibility

Google users rarely spend more than a few seconds scanning the results from their search. Most click the top result because it requires least amount of effort. How do you stop users from simply clicking that first result? Draw attention with Google Authorship.

A recent eye tracking study by Justin Briggs proved that when search results have an Authorship profile, user’s eyes wandered further down the Google results page to a lower ranked link. In the heatmap to the right, you can see where eyes wandered on the results page. The dark red areas are where the most people looked. Notice how lower ranked results get more eye views than the high results? It's because they have Authorship. More importantly, notice that the #4 result gets more views than the top entry, effectively taking the spotlight from the top ranked result.

2. Increase click through rates

Without authorship, more than two-thirds of Google searchers click the top ranked search result. No surprise there.

When a lower-ranked result had Authorship, less than half of users click the top ranked result. Not only do you get a higher click through rate, but your competitors get a lower click-through rate, giving you a chance to capture more clicks, even with a lower ranking. The third and fourth ranking Google results saw the most benefit. With some instances, authorship has even doubled click through rates. Success!

3. It's a competitive advantage

While many leaders in search and digital marketing have been stressing the importance of Google Plus and Authorship for years, according to research by BlueGlass, only 3.5% of the Fortune 100 actively use it. Lame. If you work for a large organization, I understand may have internal hurdles to overcome in order to get Authorship implemented, but beyond that, there are no excuses. Get your strategy set now. The sooner you develop your strategy and start implementing it, the longer it will take for your competitors to catch up. And don't forget that point on increasing click-through rates—the more likely visitors are to click your website, the less likely they will be to click your competitors' sites. I know that may seem obvious to digital marketers like us, but make sure to point that out to senior management when you're selling them your Google Authorship and Google Plus strategy.

Learn how to implement Google Authorship (and a few more critical reasons why you need to).

Watch Google Authorship: Why You Need It and How to Implement It, and get step-by-step advice and instructions for adding the Google Authorship rich-snippet to your search results. Learn common pitfalls and mistakes to avoid, and why Google Authorship is not just important for content-creating brands, but the authors that write for them, too. Get instant access now.


7 Awesome Tools for Landing Page Optimization


According to independent research by Compete, there is no faster, more efficient way to improve your return on digital advertising spend than by improving your landing pages. In fact, it is possible that your competitors could be generating five times the ROI as you are with comparable messaging and spending. The only difference? The post-click experience.

Okay, so I sold you, right? Landing page optimization is important. Once you have the right tactics and strategy down (take our Conversion Optimization Crash Course with Brian Massey for that), consider adding these great tools for landing page optimization to your marketing arsenal. Are there any other ones you would include? Leave a comment below.

1. CrazyEgg

Landing Page Analytics

We use CrazyEgg here at OMI, and I love geeking out over the eye tracking reports. I can easily see which parts of our website visitors are engaging with, and which parts just fall flat. We've used this data to improve our navigation, layout, copy, and more. Sure, a lot of this data is also in Google Analytics, but the visual format really changes the way we look at and interpret the data. Instead of simply presenting numbers or graphs, the eye tracking reports clearly tie metrics back to content and design, so you can better see and understand what is happening on your website, and hopefully figure out why. Because remember—it's not the size of the data, it's how you use (and interpret) it.

2. PPC Advisor: Landing Pages and Leads by Wordstream

Landing Page Creation

The brilliant team over at Wordstream just released their new tool for landing page creation. It's a smart move, as your landing pages can make or break your PPC results. While I haven't had a chance to test drive it yet, I have used Wordstream's keyword tools before, and they're very intuitive and smart. As far as I can tell, it's the only platform that enables you to manage your PPC efforts and create landing pages, all in one complete solution. Definitely add this tool to your list to check out.

3. the ion landing page platform

Landing Page Creation, Analytics, Testing

I was lucky enough to be an ion customer when I was Online Marketing Manager in a previous role. We used the ion platform (also  known as LiveBall, for those in the know) to create and test landing pages across different business units and teams, including paid membership, sponsorships (lead generation), and in-person events. The platform enabled us to quickly create effective AND beautiful landing pages in just minutes, with some converting at over 50%, depending on the stream of traffic (read the case study here). Since analytics, creation, and testing are all part of the interface, you can quickly launch campaigns in the morning and monitor your results throughout the day. Now, if you're like me and always strive to knock each campaign out of the park, definitely check out the ion platform. It makes achieving big wins a daily occurrence. And really, there's no better feeling as a marketer than achieving something great... every single day.

4. Unbounce

Landing Page Creation and Testing

So if you like to achieve big wins but your budget is small, Unbounce might be the perfect solution for you. It comes ready-baked with dozens of pre-designed landing page templates. (And yes, I inquired—you can create your own templates, too.) Plus, it integrates with popular tools like HubSpot and MailChimp, so you can create a page, launch a test, and push all the new leads you captured right into your email marketing solution.

5. Google Analytics and Content Experiments

Landing Page Analytics and Testing

Our own Google Content Experiment TestI love Google Analytics. I can easily spend hours creating custom reports and segments, slicing and dicing data, until I know exactly how many days it took transaction 5234 to finally convert after she typed in "email marketing best practices" into Google from her iPhone in Washington state, landed on a course topics page, navigated to a class page on "Email Marketing Copy", followed us on Twitter, clicked a link from our Twitter account, and came back to our website (again).

Okay, so that's getting a bit into the minutia. But if you haven't already set up conversion tracking and goals for your landing pages, get on that, ASAP. We all know that you can't improve what you don't measure, and even if you have a specialized tool for landing page analytics, you should still set up conversion tracking in Google Analytics to get a holistic view of your marketing performance.

RELATED CLASS: Strategic Framework for a Great Web Analytics Strategy—The ZMOT Google Perspective

As far as their testing solution, I like how Google integrated Website Optimizer (now Content Experiments) into Google Analytics, but it still requires development resources to launch tests, and you have to create separate URLs for the pages you want to test against each other. Given the time and resources required to launch a landing page test with Content Experiments, I'd recommend one of the paid testing solutions, instead.

6. Visual Website Optimizer

Landing Page Testing

Unlike Google Content Experiments, Visual Website Optimizer enables you to launch A/B tests on your landing pages and website without any coding or development resources (awesome!). It starts at about $49 a month, so if you save even 10 minutes a month on your landing page testing (vs. using Google Content Experiments), the solution pays for itself—and that's not even taking into account conversion lift!

7. Optimizely

Landing Page Testing

Optimizely was co-founded by Dan Siroker, who was Director of Analytics for the 2008 Obama campaign. Testing was a big part of the Obama Campaign's digital strategy—they continuously tested emails, landing pages, etc. to find out which ones drove the highest donations and open rates. Remember all those emails from Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama with the subject line, "hey."? We have Dan to thank.

Anyways, I haven't used the tool myself, but it's similar to Visual Website Optimizer, with plans starting at $17 a month. Both Visual Website Optimizer and Optimizely have free trials, so I'll let you decide which testing platform makes the most sense for you.

Learn how to convert more visitors into leads and paying customers.

Take our Conversion Optimization Crash Course, and get proven advice for driving more business from your website and landing pages. Instructor Brian Massey will teach you how the brain is designed to ignore most messages and what to do about it. And you’ll be given the chemical formula for successful landing pages that will free you to be creative, persuasive and successful. All in just three hours. Sign up now.


The 5 Critical Steps Before a Website Redesign


You have less than five seconds to capture the attention of a visitor on your website. And if you are lucky enough to capture their attention, you then have to persuade them to join your email list, become a sales lead, purchase a product, or whatever other conversion is key for your business.

Before you jump into the process of revamping your site, you have to start with a solid foundation. A site redesign is a big investment in the future success of your company, making it worth your while to approach such a project in a thoughtful, strategic manner.

1. Determine Positioning

Approach a website redesign as if you were creating a marketing plan.  Before you begin a redesign project, answer the following questions to learn if there may be something that could enhance the direction of the project:

  • Why do your business and products or services matter? Consider how your business benefits the lives of its customers.
  • Who are your competitors? List at least four direct competitors. Identify how your company is similar and what sets you apart from them.

2. Develop Customer Personas

customer personasIn order to appeal to your target consumer, you must know who your target consumer is. Rather than appealing to different audiences, make your web design more efficient and productive by targeting those who are most likely to make a purchase.

A persona is a picture of your ideal customer. Their outstanding feature is that, as opposed to customer demographics, they allow you and your marketing team to empathize with your prospective buyers.  To this end, they often have memorable names like “Overworked Oliver,” or “Loyal Lisa.”

We have found that having more than four personas dramatically reduces their effectiveness.  You can almost always get a company’s personas down to three or four by identifying them by the truly important characteristics of the buyer types.  Note that these are almost always psychographics (how they think) instead of demographics. RELATED CLASS: How to Understand Your Buyers: 5 Insights for Better Marketing

For each major group, it helps to know characteristics such as:

  • Geographic location
  • Gender
  • Marital status
  • Number of children
  • Age range
  • Profession
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Level of comfort on the web
  • Average sales size and lifetime value

In a B2B context, you will want to know additional information about the business, and your persona’s role inside of that business.

3. Find Your Brand's Personality

The look of your site should be consistent with the message that you want to project. Answering the following questions can help ensure brand cohesion:

  • What is the tone of your brand? Use one or two words to describe your business, like “luxury,” “casual,” “hip” or “approachable.”
  • What words or phrases describe the look and feel that you want present in the new site?
  • What websites offer the look and type of customer experience that you seek for your own site? What do you like about these sites?
  • Do you have a branding style guide or specific colors and typography that you use in your marketing materials?  If you are unhappy with your logo and visual identity, it will be far more cost effective to address it before you redesign your website.

4. Review Technology

By identifying the current technologies that your company possesses, you will give the website redesign company that you choose a better picture of your needs.

  • Are you going to use the same domain name or a new one? If you want to use a new one, is the domain name available?
  • Where is your current domain name registered? Who has access to this account?
  • Where is your current website hosted?  Are you happy with this service?
  • Does your email address match your domain name? Are you satisfied with your current email provider?
  • What is your CRM platform?  Will it integrate with your website?
  • Do you have any third-party tools you will integrate with, such as inventory management, web analytics, or some other kind of database?

5. Create Conversion Goals

It’s not enough to implement a website redesign because you think the site could look better. Create goals that are in line with your company’s marketing objectives so your project has a focus, and make sure to benchmark your current site so you can see the change and have a baseline to improve. RELATED CLASS: 5 Fundamental Web Analytics Truths for a Data-Driven World

Identify your goals for:

  • Primary conversion: This is typically new leads, product sales or free trial sign-ups.  You want to measure the number of conversions a month, as well as the percentage of visitors who convert (your conversion rate).
  • Secondary conversion: This is typically something like resource downloads or email signups.
  • Search engine optimization: How much new traffic do you want from search engines each month?

A successful web design takes thoughtful planning, as well as a good understanding of what your company offers and your customers’ needs. Taking shortcuts before the redesign process even begins can lead to project delays, budget overages and decreased leads. Avoid these pitfalls by truly knowing what you seek in a redesign before partnering with a web designer.

Learn how to redesign your website for better performance. 

Watch B2B Website Redesignand learn how to provide an easy, intuitive way for visitors to engage with your content. After watching, you'll be able to create a concrete, sure-fire plan for improving your website. Access it now with a FREE trial to the Online Marketing Institute. Get instant access now.


Real-Time Content Marketing Strategy: Act in the Moment, Plan in Advance


real-time contentSome of the most compelling social media and content marketing stories are those that happen in real time. They seize the opportunity to be part of conversations at the peak of their energy and relevance. In the age of 24/7 news cycles, instant mobile internet access and quick and dirty social sharing via Twitter and Instagram, being first—but also clever—wins.

As Jonathan Mildenhall, Coca Cola's VP of Advertising Strategy and Content Excellence put it in his recent Content Marketing World keynote: "Real time marketing is the holy grail of all the marketing we do so that we can produce content that reflects what's going on in the world."

Of course, Coca Cola, is a big consumer brand, but the same realities—and benefits—come into play for B2B marketers (albeit on a much more targeted scale, typically). Whether B2B or B2C, real-time content marketing falls into three main categories that your content strategy should account for. RELATED CLASS: Real Time or Die: Feeding the Content Beast

1. Now: unexpected opportunities

Breaking news and live events provide great opportunities for true real-time marketing, or "newsjacking," a term coined by David Meerman Scott. One of the most popular recent examples is Oreo's sweet "You can still dunk in the dark" tweet, which delivered double-stuffed Super Bowl buzz during an unexpected power outage.

Or this inspired response from Smart Car to a hilarious tweet about a bird, um, crapping on one of their cars:

smart car twitter example

The Smart Car folks not only responded in a witty way, but also created an infographic to illustrate their point in a fun way.

A word of caution here, though: By their nature breaking news events are moving fast. It's all too easy for your "clever" content to strike the wrong chord and stoke a real-time media crisis, as when Kenneth Cole stepped in it big time with his unfortunate real-time tweet suggesting that 2011 unrest in Egypt was in response to his new spring collection.

2. Near now: expected opportunities

This is news you know is going to happen, even if you don't know the exact moment it will hit. For example, we all knew a royal baby was due in London over the summer. And Oreo, once again, was ready.

oreo bottle service tweet

Newspapers and other traditional media have done this forever, writing obituaries for world leaders, celebrities and other newsworthy people before they die. Or writing multiple stories in advance for different outcomes to sports or political events.

“Scheduled news,” such as the release of research or other valuable data is especially fertile ground for B2B companies. For example, the business community always anxiously awaits Mary Meeker's annual Internet Trends Report. And industry events such as trade shows and conferences provide great opportunities to report on newsy announcements, review new product releases and live blog or tweet keynotes and other presentations.

3. Future now: created opportunities

Finally, there's the news you make yourself. It could be something big—like your own industry event—or something as small as a regular meme on your Facebook page, like #ThrowbackThursday or #PhotoBombFriday. Either way, you can build these planned events into your editorial or social content calendar so you're ready to roll when the time comes.

Key Takeaway: To act in the moment, plan in advance.

It can be a challenge to get your content marketing produced in a timely way, much less approved by your company’s legal and brand police. To pull it off, you need sound strategy, proactive policies and processes, the right tools, and a nimble team of creative content producers.

Learn how to incorporate real-time content into your marketing strategy.

Watch Real Time or Die: Feeding the Content Beast and see how top brands, bloggers and media outlets are producing high-impact content at higher velocity. You’ll also get expert tips to plan for and produce real-time content—and feed your own content beast. Access it now with a FREE trial to the Online Marketing Institute. Get instant access now.


How to Use Instagram for Content Marketing


Use Instagram to Tell Your Brand’s Story

What are you trying to communicate with your overall content marketing strategy? If you don’t know, you can bet your followers won’t. Whether you’re the generous brand focused on raising awareness for homelessness or the funny brand that makes videos to make people laugh, you want to use Instagram to reinforce that message. Look at how the following brands do it:

Whole Foods Market: Known for a focus on natural groceries and a beautiful aesthetic, Whole Foods posts attractive images of ingredients like fresh cherry tomatoes.

Whole Foods Instagram Example

Folk Magazine: As a magazine focused on America and American-made products, Folk Magazine regularly shares images of beautiful American scenes like this one.

Folk magazine Instagram Marketing Example

Practice Good Instagram Habits

All business processes have overall best practices to keep in mind, and the same is true of using social channels like Instagram. Here are a few general habits that will improve your marketing efforts:

  • Write Captions: A picture is worth a thousand words, but a relevant caption only enhances your communication. Use captions to explain to your audience what you’re posting and/or to explain how what you’re posting relates to your overall branding.

Better Homes and Gardens Instagram Marketing Example

  • Use Hashtags: Make it easy for other users to find you by tagging your content with relevant keywords. 
  • Post the Best Pictures You Can: Not only does Instagram have filters and features to make your pictures better, but also there are a variety of sister apps that allow you to take your pictures to the next level. One of the most popular is the now-free VSCO app, which expands filters, allows for all kinds of photo-editing capabilities, and easily allows you to post to Instagram

Visit Boston Instagram Marketing Example

  • Post Often: You don’t have to post every hour of the day, but, generally speaking, you do have to post regularly in order to gain a following. Taking a picture and posting it only takes a few moments, so really there’s no reason not to post often.
  • Be Promotional, but Don’t Just Be Promotional: It’s perfectly acceptable to post a photo from your latest blog post with a “New post live at the blog now! (Link in profile!)” but make sure that’s not all you do. Nobody wants to follow a blowhard, and when you’re constantly shouting “Me, me, me!” that’s exactly what you become.

Look at Instagram as a Community

As is true of all social channels, you’ll gain more from Instagram when you look at it less like an advertising opportunity and more like a community. People don’t connect with brands; they connect with people. So to make the most of Instagram, make the most of connections. RELATED CLASS: Marketing on Instagram: How to Use Visual Storytelling to Build Your Brand

According to blogger Mary Beth at Annapolis & Company,  “The bottom line is to build a following of genuine people who care about your contribution to the online world, and for you to follow people with whom you resonate. You’ll go way further than just commenting on feeds who have a large following but have no real interest in, or stalking people saying, ‘please follow me,’ or ‘give me a shout-out.’” So with that in mind, here are some tips for making the most of this community:

1. Tag People in Photos: When a new book is inspiring you and you’re posting a shot of it on Instagram, tag the author in the caption. When you have a company event where several of your team members have Instagram accounts, tag them in the pictures you post. Doing so is the Instagram version of saying “hi” to friends at a party or introducing one group of friends to another. You not only shout-out to the users you tag, but you also expose them to your audience, which everybody appreciates.
Instagram Marketing Example Comment

2. Like Photos and Leave Friendly Comments: Engagement is key on social media. Follow relevant users and regularly scroll through your feed, liking photos and leaving relevant comments as you can. This often leads to interaction between you and other users, which builds relationships over time.
3. Don’t Leave Nasty Comments: It should go without saying, but leaving unkind, unhelpful, critical, and otherwise nasty comments hurts your brand. Don’t do it.
4. Respond to Questions: When your followers ask you questions on your photos, respond to them, tagging those users when you do. People appreciate having their questions answered, and afterwards they’re much more likely to pay attention to you in the future.


Instagram Commenting Example


The Bottom Line

Ultimately the name of the game with Instagram is no different than the name of the game with other social networks: Engagement, engagement, engagement. Your goal with Instagram is to reinforce your brand message and build relationships with your audience as you do. The better you build a network on Instagram, the more opportunities you create to promote your products and brand—and with an audience receptive to what you have to say.

Learn how to use visual storytelling on Instagram to build your brand.

Watch Marketing on Instagram: How to Use Visual Storytelling to Build Your Brand, and learn mow leading brands are successfully integrating Instagram as part of their digital marketing mix, and how you can, too. You'll see how to setup, optimize and use your Instagram account to its full potential, and take a guided tour through the top 3rd party tools for management, analysis, desktop presence, and more. Access it now with a FREE trial to the Online Marketing Institute. Get instant access now.


6 Steps To Optimize SEO with Keyword Research


Any good search engine optimization audit for your site requires doing in-depth keyword research. The keywords—really key phrases that you eventually want to select—use the actual language that your potential site visitors use when looking for information on what your site offers. Remember that most people use a search engine because they are looking for a specific answer to a question or a solution to a problem, so finding a site they already know about is generally a secondary concern. Keep this in mind as you begin the keyword discovery process.

Step 1: Leave Your Pre-Conceptions at the Door

Yes, you are the expert on your site and what it contains, but remember that the rest of the world does not necessarily speak your internal language when discussing your products and services.

Step 2: The Storm of Brains

Sit your communications, marketing, sales and support team around a table and start throwing out ideas. Each group will bring its own unique insights into how people discuss your products and services, some of which will be a surprise to the rest of the table. At this point, there are no wrong ideas; encourage the outlandish and crazy to come up with the gems that will drive the traffic to your site.

Step 3: Mix It Up and See What Else Comes Out

You have your base keyword list. Now start pouring it into various online tools to see what you may have missed and to garner some potential traffic and competitive data. There are a number of excellent tools online that can help you with this. Most of these will come up with suggested keywords and keyword variations, as well as give you the traffic competition data.

Our favorites at Beasley Direct are, Google's AdWords Keyword Planner (requires an AdWords account), Keyword Discovery, Google Suggest (those fun little suggestions that drop down when entering a new search term in Google and Google Trends) for the latest hot searches and comparative data on your potential keywords.

Enter your base list of keywords into these tools and harvest the results. Use this data to compare the traffic potential to the number of other sites competing to appear for this word. The ideal is a highly relevant word to your product or service that has limited competition and good traffic. Remember the more sites with which you compete for a key word, the harder it is to achieve that rank.  RELATED CLASS: A Step-By-Step Guide to Keyword Research

Step 4: Time for a Haircut

Once you have the data in hand, you need to select  the top 20 to 30 keywords for your site and start to assign them to individual pages and sections of the site, ideally selecting three to six keywords per page.

Step 5: Putting the Right Word in the Right Place

Now look at the pages, the file title, the page titles, headlines, picture/video captions and meta descriptions and start to work your selected keywords into the copy. Remember that well-written copy is essential to any successful site and you need to prevent your keywords from overwhelming your copy. People like copy that reads naturally; "keyword stuffing" just to get the keywords on the page can hurt your site more than help. See Figure 1. for examples on where your key words should appear on every page.

Step 6: Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Keyword development is an ongoing process that reflects changes in your marketplace and the larger web as a whole. You cannot just set it and forget it. Set aside time on a quarterly or bi-annual basis to re-examine your assumptions and perform fresh research.

Figure 1: Using Keywords on a Page

SEO Keywords on Page Examples

Remember that any page on your site is a “landing page,” depending on the search engine results the user has received. That means every page on your site needs to be rich in “spider food,” e.g., key words and phrases. Your navigation bar should contain these and appear on every page, along with keyword-rich links and copy.

Evaluate how results show up on search engines (especially Google). Figure 2 shows an example of an organic result that has everything: benefit-based title and subtitle, a description with a benefit statement, and lots of keywords.

Figure 2: Organic Search Results Should Be Rich in Benefits Statements and Key Words and Phrases That Are Contained in a Well-Written Page Title and META Description Tag

SEO Keywords in Google SERPs

Do you have a site map? If not, you’re missing another opportunity to improve SEO. A site map is like Google Maps for search spiders, and provides another opportunity to use links and keywords. An added benefit is that site maps also improve site usability for humans, which is always a plus. For more detailed information about SEO, download our free white paper, “Boosting SEO with an Organic Site Review.”

Learn 9 critical SEO skills you need to succeed in the future.

Watch Tomorrow's SEO: 9 Critical SEO Skills You Need to Succeed, and get a behind-the-scenes look at how search itself is changing, and what you need to know to align with those changes. Learn how to prioritize your SEO site changes, proven tips for content development, and how to encourage social sharing. Get instant access now.


4 Ways to Improve Your B2B Marketing Results in Q4 and Beyond


The B2B sales process continues to evolve. Buyers are taking the process into their own hands, and engaging much later in the sales cycle. In fact, according the Corporate Executive Board, 60% of the B2B buying process now happens before a prospect ever talks to a salesperson.

The marketing organizations that are adapting quickly have a distinct competitive advantage—they generate more leads, win more deals, and drive more revenue. You can too. Here's how.

1. Create real-time content that is useful and relevant.

With so many different touch points in today's buying process, it's critical for brands to create and deliver exactly the right piece of content at the right time. Platforms like Google+ Hangouts, Instagram, and YouTube are empowering just about anyone to create content in a matter of minutes, so there's more noise and higher expectations, but also more opportunity—if you have a smart marketing strategy and can break free of bureaucratic barriers and outmoded processes. Carmen Hill of leading B2B marketing firm Babcock & Jenkins explains how to start creating timely content within minutes or hours (instead of days or weeks) in Real-Time Content: Feeding the Content Beast.

B2B landing page examples

Example courtesy of ion interactive

2. Boost lead volume by improving your landing pages.

You can't nurture what you don't convert. According to a survey by BtoB Magazine, 59% of B2B marketers say email is the most effective channel for generating revenue. However, more than 60% of B2B marketers report that their greatest marketing challenge for 2012 was generating more leads. Cast a wider net by increasing landing page conversion rates with better layouts, headlines, and calls-to-action. As a rule of thumb, make sure your headlines have a benefit, your forms are short, and your copy is simple. See how brands like Citrix and Iron Mountain boosted performance by up to 500% in B2B Landing Page Optimization.

3. Engage your audience with video and YouTube.

85% of the US audience is now viewing video online on a weekly basis, and 37% of B2B customers access videos via mobile devices to research products and services. It’s more important than ever to refine your video strategy to adjust to changing technology and available marketing techniques. And don't worry if your budget is small but your goals are big—effective video marketing doesn't require  heavy production—just a smart message that's relevant to your target audience. Watch B2B Video: Best Practices and Techniques to see how Cisco uses video to reach their target audiences.

4. Adopt social selling and monitor buying signals.

According to a study by IBM, 75% of buyers are likely to use social media in the purchase process, and when IBM adopted a social selling pilot program, they saw a 400% increase in sales. Wow! But what is "social selling", at least in the context of digital?  It's pretty simple—leveraging social networks, content, and the entire digital ecosystem to build meaningful connections, nurture relationships, share expertise, and position yourself as credible and trustworthy—all critical parts of the sales process, whether offline or online. (I like Jill Rowley's deep dive into the topic.)

If you're not ready to take charge and work with your sales team on a social selling strategy, start by monitoring buying signals, and go from there. There's a big chance that your hottest prospects are qualifying themselves through social media. Use this information to your advantage with a smart listening and engagement program. Learn more about buying signals and how to find them in Buying Signals: the Key to B2B Social Media Success.