Content Marketing

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:

omi_content_marketin_qpbn9

Want to master content marketing? Get certified with OMI

 


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 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 

 

 


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

 


Infographic: Boost Your Social Media Presence Without Ads

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Editor's note: Belle Balace is a social media strategist with Visme. Today, she joins us to explain how companies can maintain a social media presence with limited resources. A version of this article first appeared on The Blog Herald.

 

While social media should never be an afterthought for online businesses, remaining active can be a struggle without the resources to maintain a paid manager, or launch paid ad campaigns.

Good news! There are ways to boost traffic to your site and increase your social media presence without paying a dime. By launching a social media employee advocacy program, you don't have to find new talents or overload your staff with extra responsibilities.

Social media employee advocacy reasonably assumes that almost everyone uses social media on a day-to-day basis, and if everyone in your company pitches in a little by sharing the latest content from your brand, you can boost your social media presence quickly and organically.

In this infographic, we’ll explain how it’s done.

Key takeaways:

  • Inform employees about the need for a social media presence and what it will do for your company.
  • Ask them to like or follow company pages across social media networks.
  • You or your company leader should take charge, and set the example by staying personally active in sharing brand content.
  • Have good content to share: interesting, informative, and not blatantly promotional. Everyone should feel good about it.
  • Start slow, and build over time. Less is more when employees do not feel coerced.
  • Incentivize social media sharing by issuing prizes to the most active employees.

Here’s the graphic. Enjoy!

Latest Visme Graphic

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Social Media Strategy for Business

Creating and Curating Content People Love

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

 


How Storyteller Marketing Can Build Your Brand

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Editor’s note: Josh R Jackson is contributing editor at BestMarketingDegrees.org, where an earlier version of this piece first appeared.

 

People would rather be told a story than be told what to do.

That’s why instead of shelling out for traditional advertisements that simply tell us what to buy, organizations from almost every industry have also been using storyteller marketing to frame their purpose, scope, and reach. This is showing rather than telling, and it just so happens that more industries than usual are using this method today, from automotive, to education, to online media, to manufacturing, to construction.

Why? Because good marketing is storytelling. In drafting a message, marketers intrinsically testify to a brand’s value for its audience. Simply put: every time a brand markets something to us, they are telling and selling us a story that is meant to persuade us that their brand is worth our time, money, and attention.

Brands also engage in storyteller marketing because the practice is one of the best, most surefire ways to build brand identity, and secure the trust of discriminating prospects.

So how can your brand harness the power of storyteller marketing? The answer is simple: understand and imitate the greatest minds in storyteller marketing history, and take a page out of their books.

Book 1: The Bill Gates Story

On January 3rd, 1996—over a year after the Internet was privatized—Bill Gates published a column on Microsoft’s website, decreeing “Content is King.” In what would only take a few short scrolls, Gates declared (in “Hear ye, Hear ye” fashion) that the Internet would soon become a boon to publishers everywhere, predicting that on the information superhighway, the value of “information and entertainment” would reign supreme, and that “Those who succeed [at monetizing its value] will propel the Internet forward as a marketplace of ideas, experiences, and products—a marketplace of content.”

What happened over the next 20 years bore out his prophecy. While the private Internet initially served as a two-dimensional billboard for advertisements that were based predominantly in brick-and-mortar businesses, it soon became a multi-dimensional space for the exchange of goods, services, and ideas: an online marketplace based on the concept of creating a global village where any transaction could take place.

The takeaway? Like Gates, pay attention to cultural trends that your brand can not only participate in, but drive. Write strong opinions that are based on the direction your brand is pushing the market, and work to ensure that your brand is consistently pushing the market in that direction—not just through marketing, but through investment and action.

The reason Bill Gates seemed to predict the future in 1996 is not because he was a prophet, but because he worked to tell and sell a story that many people at the time either believed or were already working to make a reality. Gates saw that the market was headed for the industry of communication and technology, and explained that direction in terms that anyone could understand. Then he worked tirelessly to ensure that story became a reality: Microsoft was an early adopter of the World Wide Web, and used the platform to build a website rich with content to promote both their products and their brand.

Book 2: The Content Marketing Story

A few years after Bill Gates’ declaration of the content monarchy, banner advertising gave way to paid content, while new and complex software became a hot commodity. Online businesses were starting to need people who could explain the purpose of their product, software, or service to those who weren’t tech-savvy. They started needing people to tell their stories, and they started needing a new medium with which to do it.

What they got initially was news coverage, like a CBS story from 2005 on a little startup called Facebook. Along with Google, Facebook quickly became one of the largest Internet companies in the world, and a medium that online brands would find indispensable for spreading their story.

Online businesses began to hire full-time, in-house brand managers to explain the value of their company. Creative role titles like Chief Storyteller, Explainer in Chief, and Content Manager were coined to refer to someone who tells a company story. It would be the job of these professional explainers to condense and simplify a company’s message into a few short sentences that were so easy to understand, even a five year old could get it.

The takeaway? Use every medium you can to tell your brand story. If budget permits, hire talent to accomplish this. That talent doesn’t have to be a seasoned storyteller with degrees in journalism, new media, and marketing—they just need to be a clear communicator.

The reason brands need this level of media engagement and talent is not only to earn a seat at the table. It is because, as communications guru Carmine Gallo has written, “no rhetorical tool is more effective than the story,” which means that working to spread a brand story with maximal talent carries a guaranteed return on investment.

Book 3: The Revolutionary Story

Five years after Facebook, four years after Twitter, and the same year as Instagram entered the scene, an industry had grown up that fed demand for creating and telling a brand’s story. By 2013, even small startups were grooming themselves to join the ranks of new media publishing companies that were participating in what has been called the “content marketing revolution”: the marketing movement in which storytellers have come to play the most important role, telling an informative story with every word, image, and video on this side of the screen.

As Alexander Jutkowitz tells it, this movement “signals more than a mere fad.” Indeed, it is a turn of the page to “a new chapter in the history of business communications,” the new chapter of “corporate enlightenment.”

The takeaway? Telling brand stories has become an art form. Do it in a way that places your brand firmly within the context of broader social, political, and ethical movements. Do it in a way that is artistically relevant.

The reason this type of marketing works is not because “all the cool kids are doing it.” If it were, all brands would be the same, and arguably none of them would be cool.

Storyteller marketing works because we’ve entered a new era of marketing history, and it’s become necessary for every brand to illustrate that it is different. A brand must prove itself to be more socially, politically, and ethically aware of its surroundings than its competitors are, or might have been in a previous day and age.

So What’s the Big Story?

The art of telling a brand story has become not only popular, but essential to surviving as a business in the twenty-first century.

The rest, as they say, is history.

How will you tell your brand’s story? Consider taking stock of your brand’s purpose, scope, and reach, and take a class on what makes for an effective storytelling strategy.

Learn more with these related OMI classes: 

Storytelling in the Digital Age

Best Digital Branding Practices for Small Businesses

Creating and Curating Content People Love

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

 


Top 10 Ways to Boost Your Paid Traffic Conversion Rates

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So you’ve got your Google AdWords or other PPC advertising up and running, but now what? Unfortunately, the work is far from over if you want to achieve optimum results.

In fact, the hard slog begins as soon as your campaign goes live. By this we mean optimization. More specifically, conversion rate optimization (CRO). And when it comes to perfecting your paid traffic, there’s always room for improvement.

What is CRO and why is it so important?

So you might be getting the traffic, but what good is that if you’re not generating any decent leads yet? CRO is about changing things up on your site and applying different tactics to enhance the user experience, and ultimately turn visitors into customers. It’s an effective way to improve your conversion rate without having to increase your overall adspend.

Over to our proven top 10 CRO tips.

1. Match your message

It’s absolutely imperative your ads align with what’s marketed on your website. Be genuine and don’t make overzealous claims about your product or service that could mislead your visitors.

Make sure the landing page you’re sending them to has the content they’re looking for. High bounce rates can account for visitors clicking through from your ad, only to be presented with a landing page that doesn’t deliver the goods.

2. Optimizing your Landing Page?

bounce-rate

The readability and relevance of your landing page is another big factor that can determine whether your visitors stay or jump ship.

What kind of user experience are you creating for your visitors once they click through to your landing page? On a very basic level, landing page optimization can be boiled down to 2 key factors - matching intent and testing different ad sets.

Check out this class to learn more about optimizing your landing page to improve conversion.

3. Tweak your headline

As in other forms of advertising, your headline is the attention grabber. So take the time to refine your hook. Adding numbers to a headline is always a useful trigger, but make sure they are relevant.

4. Review your call to action (CTA)

Just as important as your headline is your CTA. Ensure you are clear and direct about the desired outcome. What is it that you want your visitors to do? The copy and design of your CTA can make a big difference to your conversions. If you have a text link CTA, consider using a button to make it stand out more. Creating a sense of urgency in your copy will also go a long way.

5. Add videos and images

The buzzword for 2016 was video and this still holds true. Including a video on your landing page is more likely to spur interest and engagement from your visitors than text. Among the different types of videos, Introductory, review and explainer videos tend to provide good results.

Don’t overlook image selection either. Choosing the right image can evoke the kind of emotions that will turn visitors into customers. On the flip side, the wrong image might send them off in the opposite direction. Never underestimate the power of an image!

6. The proof is in the social pudding

We all love a recommendation - it’s why word of mouth is so effective, followed closely by social proof. Including proof of your brand likes, shares, customer reviews, testimonials and product ratings will influence purchase decisions, and also build trust.

7. Speed up your site

It’s the little things that count. Site speed can make a huge difference, so you should at least check to ensure your website is running at its best. No one wants to visit a site that takes ages to load - who has time for that? You can lose dozens of prospective customers thanks to a few milliseconds of lag.

8. Show your scarcity

For e-commerce sites in particular, scarcity is a powerful tactic. Including the limited number of stock available for certain products will create a sense of urgency for a visitor, and instigate an immediate purchase response. Why would they want to miss out if there’s only “2 left in stock” or if you’re running a limited time deal?

9. Include contact information

Prominently including a phone number, email address or other means of contact on your homepage adds more credibility to your site. Just knowing they can talk to a real person if they need to makes visitors feel more comfortable and raises trust of your products/services.

10. Test it out & analyse

You won’t know what works best unless you test. Running A/B split tests on important variables like your landing page copy, sign up forms, color palette, images and CTA will help towards improving your conversions.

Heat maps are also a great way to understand what attracts your visitors’ attention, by clearly showing where their eyes are drawn on a page. Based on the data you receive from a heat map, you can add or remove details from your page accordingly.

We don’t suggest you start implementing all of these tactics at once; you may find that one small change will go a long way. This is where it’s handy to have a dedicated Google AdWords expert to advise you on best CRO strategy can be helpful. Whatever you do we hope these tips will help pave the way to higher conversion rates for your campaigns!

A version of this article first appeared on Paidtraffic

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Here are some relevant classes: Turn Website Visitors into Customers via Conversation OptimizationCreating and Curating Content People Love, Social PR

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space. Ready to start learning? Sign up here!

 


10 Ways to Amplify Content Promotion Strategies

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Generating content is the first step in engaging your audience, but your job isnt quite done once the content is out there. In order to get the most out of your content, you need to understand how to market what you have. Employing content promotion strategies can help boost your reach. Here are 10 ways you can expose your content to more prospects.

1. Ask For Contributions from Top Influencers

By publishing content, you automatically leverage the attention of your existing audience, but tapping into a bigger influencers larger base can open up your content to a wider crowd. How do you do this? Simply cite and link to top influencers when applicable. When you mention these influencers, you have a good chance of getting them to share the content, thereby exposing it to their audience.

Related Class: Finding Influencers to Amplify Social Reach

2. Give Those Influencers Meaningful Incentives

If you hope for an influencer to share your content, you must be prepared to give something in return. Give influencers an incentive, whether its a promotion or a product review, or any other form of mutual exchange. In turn, they are much more likely to help build your audience by sharing content on their platform.

3. Engage Niche Communities

It would be great to achieve mass appeal across a wide range of audiences, but that’s not how you should focus your attention. Instead, focus on the smaller segments that your content appeals to most. You might have content that specifically appeals to online marketers or the tech community; if thats the case, seek out places where these people tend to gravitate, and stay active in those communities.

4. Using the Skyscraper Technique

One way to create content with a built-in audience is to use the skyscraper technique. The idea behind this method is to find the best content thats already published by your competitors and build on it. Any content can be improved on with better design and more in-depth material. This isn’t the same as plagiarism, or spinning: borrowing ideas and making them better isn’t stealing. It’s how all writers, artists, thinkers and innovators thrive.

5. Create Hero Content

Rather than focusing on quantity of content, work on bigger and better content. Concentrate on producing resources that can be marketed and promoted, and spend the effort getting it out to the community.

Related Class: Creating and Curating Content People Love

6. Use Native Advertising

content_promotion_strategies_2

Native advertising is paid content that fits into the standard structure of a site. Native advertising usually performs better than something like a banner ad, as long as it doesnt come off as pushy, or clash with the tone of your site.

7. Use Broken Links to Your Advantage

When you write powerful content, find other sites that have linked to similar articles, and identify those with broken links. You can use extensions to identify sites with broken links or broken redirects. Then, contact the staff to suggest your article as a replacement for the broken link or redirect. It may sound counter-intuitive, but it works. If they agree, that backlink will help your SEO for that particular page, thus improving the visibility in Google’s organic results for that article.

8. Buy Niche Property

If you are already a large Internet business, buying niche property is a viable option for you. While obviously an expensive prospect, acquiring an existing site that focuses on your market is a great way to quickly expand your platform and get your content out to the right audience.

9. Give Incentives to Sharers

Contests and access to exclusive content are both great ways to increase your audience’s engagement. If you provide them something in exchange for sharing your content, you can gain considerable growth directly from that incentive.

10. Use Snip.ly

Snip.ly is a tool for creating banners on the bottom of your content that links to other articles and resources on your site. This is a great way to keep site visitors around longer, which helps garner clicks and improve usability metrics.

Content promotion strategies can significantly boost your audience reach, which means more clicks, leads and sales. While I’ve touched on a number of these methods, don’t get overwhelmed: dedicating yourself to just one or a few can have a big impact.

Nick Rojas is a self-taught, serial entrepreneur who’s enjoyed success working with and consulting for startups. Using his journalism training, Nick writes for publications such as Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, and Yahoo. He concentrates on teaching small and medium-sized enterprises how best to manage their social media marketing and define their branding objectives.

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Here are some relevant classes: Finding Influencers to Amplify Social ReachContent Marketing Strategy for Social MediaCreating and Curating Content People Love

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space. Ready to start learning? Sign up here here!