Content Marketing

Infographic: Choosing The Best KPIs to Boost Your Growth

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Editor's Note: Colin Cieloha works for Skilled, where a version of this article first appeared. Today he joins us to share a comprehensive strategy for choosing the best KPIs to grow your business, all in a simple infographic.

 

KPIs or Key Performance Indicators are an essential part of modern business planning and goal setting. These carefully chosen and specific metrics can be tracked to indicate the performance of a department, employee, marketing strategy, or any other object oriented venture.

This diverse utility makes KPIs a unique tool for achieving your business's vision and objectives. However, when it comes to implementing KPIs, managers often find it hard to isolate the most useful ones to track. That's no wonder: the average Internet Marketer has over 20,645 potential options.

In this infographic, we outline a comprehensive strategy for choosing KPIs that will optimize the success of your business. We cover common mistakes that lead to the adoption of poor KPIs, and aim to give you a feel for the metrics that are relevant to your goals. Before diving in, here's a summary -

Using KPIs

Good Practices

Before choosing KPIs, you should have clearly defined goals that follow the rules of SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-limited. Here's a cheat sheet for factors that correspond to common desired outcomes:

  • A website visitor count can help to predict and understand customer needs.
  • Income from leads helps to predict future sales based on projected traffic and conversion rates.
  • A visitors to leads ratio helps you to gauge the value of your current traffic.
  • Optimizing response time leads to faster engagement between your sales department and prospects
  • A leads to clients ratio helps to diagnose areas of your sales funnel that need improvement.
  • Customer lifetime value indicates the revenue that a customer is likely to generate during the span of their relationship with your company

Marketers should understand that the best factors for gauging success change depending on business type. For instance, a content website should focus on click through rates and time spent on page are important; these factors are less important for e-commerce sites, which should focus on cart abandonment and products per order.

After selecting the KPIs for your business, its important to monitor them on a regular basis. Analysis will help to determine

  • What changes your company should make to attain desired outcomes.
  • Which KPIs are more useful than others: the poorest should be weeded out.
  • How often your KPIs should be tracked (weekly, monthly, quarterly?)

Worst Practices

Common mistakes when choosing KPIs include:

  • Measuring factors that are irrelevant to your success
  • Tracking too many KPIs at one time
  • Choosing factors that are difficult or even impossible to measure

E-commerce stores frequently overrate certain KPIs, and overlook better ones. Examples of overrated KPIs include,

  • Number of visits
  • Pageviews
  • Emails sent
  • Twitter followers
  • Bounce rate

Underrated KPIs include:

  • Revenue conversion rate
  • Average order value
  • Cart abandonment rate
  • Task completion rate

Continue your crash course in choosing KPIs with the infographic below. Feel free to save for future reference, or pass it along to your colleagues!

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

 

Web Analytics Fundamentals for a Data-Driven World

Planning SEM Campaigns: Establish Goals & KPIs

 

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media market

 


How to Build an Engaged Social Media Community

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Editor's Note: Tess Pajaron works in business management for Open Colleges. Today, she joins us to explore how brands can build an active and engaged social media community.

 

While consumers have been using platforms like Facebook and Twitter for over a decade now - beginning with the raging success of MySpace in the early 2000s - brands have only begun to catch on in the last five years and realize the full potential of social media for marketing.

Social media not only makes people better, but offers plenty of amazing opportunities to businesses of every shape and size.

Instead of using social networks solely as marketing platforms to advertise products, companies can now use social media to build customer experience and create engagement. The ability to connect and communicate directly with a target audience allows brands to build a solid fan base and grow their community easily.

Here are 6 tips to help you create an engaged network of followers that will support your brand -

1. Make sure your business is easy to find

You can't grow your social media community or spread the word about your product unless customers can easily connect with your business.

Here are a couple of tricks you should use to make sure that your brand is accessible to customers and prospects:

  • Your social sharing icons should be prominent on your website
  • Feature the URL of your website and social media handles on business cards and other print media
  • Include a link to your brand website in social media channel descriptions
  • Personalize your email responses: don't solely rely on automated messages
  • Track all associated hashtags and mentions to know who is talking about you and your product. Engage with those who are!

2. Know your audience

Your social media community is not a homogeneous gathering of people who behave in the exact same way. Rather, it is comprised of individuals. Each one of them has unique reasoning and behaviors that predict how they will interact with your brand. Segment your audience, and target these smaller groups with the right messaging in order to reach them more effectively.

To create a strong social media community, good communication is vital. And in order to communicate well, you need to get to know your family. You will have a completely different relationship with different segments of your family. Your engagement with followers will differ on the basis of what you know, resulting in better responses.

3. Solve the problems of your followers

Use social media not just to directly promote your products, but to interact with your customers and learn what their key pain points are. If you want more results from your marketing, you need to do your best to solve problems for your customers.

Most likely, there are plenty of businesses out there that offer similar products to yours, so you need to stand out. That's something you can achieve by building trust in your community and helping your followers with issues unique to them.

Invite your community to join you in helping others deal with such issues. Promote user-generated content on your social media channels as well – that's how you build loyalty and offer real value.

4. Be generous

Motivate the members of your community to share their own content and spark exciting conversations on your social profiles. One way to do this is offering incentives, like coupons, or giveaways. Another way is by sharing user-generated content, and bringing valuable contributors into the spotlight.

Analyze your social media data to find out who your top contributors are. These will be the people responsible for engagement on your website. The more feedback signals you get – like shares or comments – the more likely the social platform is to show your posts to a higher percentage of your followers.

Create content for your top users. Be generous and add a personal touch to all your communications. That's how you build relationships and help fans feel connected in the community surrounding your brand.

Don't forget to keep the communication lines open and instantly respond to your followers if they reach out to you.  

5. Listen to your audience

To build a social media community, you need to produce content that your audience wants to consume. That's why your first step is finding out what they want, and there are many ways to go about doing this.

Create a quick video and ask your fans what they want to talk about. When your community provides you with answers, follow through by implementing new initiatives based on what they requested.  

Put your followers and their needs or desires at the center of your social media strategy. Actively listen to their social chatter to build further engagement.

Instead of asking your followers to share photos of the products that they purchased, ask them to share content that shows what your products have enabled them to do.

Make your social media channels focus on lifestyle, not just on products or services. You can be sure that purely promotional content will reduce engagement. Offer your fans behind-the-scene content that shows the inside of your company or how your product is developed. That's how you take your brand to the next level and develop a community of people who share a sense of purpose.

6. Be honest

People like to deal with businesses they trust. A smart way to build trust in your business is admitting to your mistakes when you make them. No company is 100% perfect. And some forget that it pays to be open and honest.

If you admit your faults and offer transparency in the face of criticism, you will win big among followers by showing your willingness to listen and your ability to adapt. On the other hand, if you try to mask a bad situation or avoid the problem, you will be on your way to destroying that trust. Show the human side of your business to win loyalty among your fans.

Conclusion

Social media is a great opportunity for brands, but building a community is about much more than just promotion. With a little bit of effort and creativity, you stand a great chance of engaging existing customers and raising your bottom line in terms of prospects and exposure.

Get started with any of the methods listed above, and watch your community grow!

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

 

How to Perform Segmentation Using Google Analytics

Content Marketing Implementation: Executing a Winning Content Program

Crisis Management with Social Media

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media market

 


Build a Social Media Presence From Scratch

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Editor's Note: Jo Robinson is a content writer for Media Shark. Today she joins us to explain the importance of a social media strategy for business, and how your company can build a presence from scratch.

 

As a business owner, your social media presence is non-negotiable.

On a personal level, you might find Facebook futile or Instagram infuriating. But professionally, if you want your business - and especially your online business - to succeed, an active presence on those platforms is crucial.

#That's a bit dramatic @writer', I see you tweet.

But it's not.

Your potential customers are active on social media and it's essential to keep yourself at the forefront of their minds; to increase sales, you meet your prospects where they are at.

Establishing a social media presence will also help you build relationships with your existing clients, strengthen their loyalty, increase your web traffic, and offer a point of difference to your competition.

Assuming, that is, you do it right.

Your attendance on social media is compulsory, but if you've been delaying the inevitable, do not be afraid: it's never too late. Now is the time for your brand to get socially active. Here are seven steps for building your social media presence from scratch, and gaining a meaningful following that will help you build your business.

1. Pick the platform(s) that work best for you and your brand

There are many social platforms to choose from these days: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, and Tumblr are just some of the mediums in a growing list of viable social networking sites.

The good news is, you don't need to be on all of them! In fact, spreading your resources too thin is counterproductive: there's nothing worse than Googling a business and finding an old, abandoned Twitter account sitting among half-baked hashtags and a default profile picture.

In the beginning, choose one or two platforms, and start there. Do some research, and pick the ones where your target audience is present. The quality of your content reflects on your company, so don't create profiles for the sake of it. Put your energy into growing and maintaining relevant platforms to avoid seeming like someone who isn't committed to their business.

2. Craft your profiles

You showed up, and made an account. Good job, but you're not done yet: your social media profiles should never be an after-thought. They're extremely powerful opportunities to strengthen your brand and communicate who you are, so it's essential that you give your profiles the #TLC they deserve.

Good Branding

Choose a profile and cover image that's consistent with your brand. Depending on the nature of your business, either a logo or a professional image of the business-owner works well. Low-quality images are a no-no, so make sure to use high-resolution images if you have them, or produce them if you don't.

Add your logo to all images throughout your social media and when you add any copy, consistently use the same font in line with your style guide.  

nutella social media

Nutella's brand imagery is front and center

Your biographies should be completed using your short and long business description, and all contact information should be filled out.

Make sure you add a ‘contact now' button to Facebook and Instagram so people can call you as an easy next step to their browsing.

Social media counts towards your SEO search ranking, so this is another golden opportunity to get keywords next to your business name on search engines. 

With informative and engaging profiles, social browsers who visit your page(s) will know that you mean business and you've got something worth their time, so never slack on this bit.

3. Share with your audience

On the Internet, it's easy to buy fake followers. Don't do this. Not only is it inauthentic, it's also completely unnecessary: if you produce engaging content that your market enjoys, your followers will grow organically and you'll also get engagement too.

Content is the currency of social media, so if you haven't begun a content strategy yet, now is the time to start. Here are some suggestions:

  • Attach a blog to your website, and write helpful articles related to your niche - you can hire writers to help you with this job, or invite guest posts from influencers
  • Commission white papers that reflect the state of your industry
  • On heavily visual networks like Pinterest, infographics are a proven strategy

Whatever you do, give to your audience, and they will have a good reason to stick around.

Nutella_Facebook_Posts.png

Nutella shares content featuring their own product to encourage interaction

Before your page grows, you need a small initial following. Start by:

  • Sharing your page with people you know, or people in your company
  • Share it with existing customers by email
  • If you're on Facebook, join relevant Facebook groups, and share page content there
  • On sites with tags (like Twitter and Instagram), adding useful tags will help you get discovered

Once you've made a start, your followers will grow organically and you'll know that people are there because they will be genuinely interested in you and your content.

4. Post consistently

We've all seen it. A nice, attractive page, a few posts bubbling with excitement about a new business, and then...

...nothing. nothing but a screen-based version of an awkward silence. Think tumbleweeds and crickets floating across your screen as people wonder where the rest of your content is. The last post was 40 weeks ago and your customers - protip: the people with money to give you - have no idea if you're even still in business.

Until you've built up a loyal following, you need to post regularly and consistently. This might be once a week, or it might be once or more per day. How often you post depends on the nature of your business and your market, but the key is consistency.

Unless you have a dedicated social media manager, uploading content on the fly will never work. You're a busy person and social media will always get pushed to the bottom of the pile. Spend some time scheduling content to make sure your reach is constant, and your followers know what they can expect from you.

5. Offer incentives for sharing your posts

All humans have a ‘what's in it for me' attitude, so once your immediate friends and family have liked and shared your page, it's helpful to devise incentive-based offers to create a traffic boon.

Offer goods to your audience and potential audience such as discount vouchers, a free product, or entry into a competition for sharing a post which will extend your reach.

Always check with your platform owner as restrictions can apply to competitions, and you need to make sure your posts always sit within their guidelines.

6. Respond to engagement

Your pages should be a welcoming environment where people can hang out, express their opinions, and feel included, so always acknowledge people who respond to your content.

Tag people in comments, and like/reply to reviews and posts on your page; yes, even the negative ones!

This is your opportunity to create strong relationships with your market and put yourself at the forefront of their minds. As your followers witness this engagement, they're more likely to pop over and follow you too, further building your audience.

7. Use analytics

Finally, most platforms now provide free analytics which you should take advantage ofPosting the wrong content at the wrong time for the wrong audience will bring you to a roadblock in terms of growth. Useful metrics to pay attention to include

  • Number of reactions/shares/comments on a post
  • Days of the week, and times of day that your users are most active
  • How many clicks a link received
  • Demographics of your audience: age, sex, location, interests

Using this information, you can build a better social media strategy while simultaneously boosting your marketing efforts. Pay attention to people, and they will pay attention to you.

Conclusion

Building a social media presence can be a slow process, but it has a snowball effect. Stay in it for the long haul! With consistency and effort, an active social media presence is well worth the benefits it will bring your business, so use the outline above to devise a strategy you can commit to.

Bio: Jo Robinson is a content writer at Media Shark, where she can be contacted. With an exciting background that includes police forensics and professional fundraising, Jo's a whiz with words and appeals to a wide range of audiences.

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Social Media Brand: Expressing Brand through Social Media

Creating and Curating Content People Love

Leveraging Analytics

 

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

 

 


The Future of Facebook for Digital Marketers

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the future of facebook

Editor's Note: Josh R Jackson is a contributing editor at BestMarketingDegrees.org. To celebrate the launch of our new Facebook Fundamentals CertificationJosh joins us today to discuss the future of Facebook, and how digital marketers can begin to prepare for it.

 

Over the years, Facebook has set a trajectory to grow its user base, find new ways to monetize, and expand its investment reach to new tech markets like artificial intelligence and virtual reality. For digital marketers, this direction has ushered in constant connectivity across a broad range of user tools; specifically, ad networks, business pages, and platforms that permit access to Facebook’s social media data.

Generally speaking, it’s impossible to predict the future of Facebook with much accuracy. The Social Network’s ranking algorithms change regularly, and we never know when a new platform might disrupt its momentum. But we do know that Facebook marketers who push quality content over salesy promotion are achieving unprecedented levels of connectivity, which allows for more loyal engagement from friends, fans, and followers.

Our predictions for the future of Facebook is based on its own stated 10-year plan, and because we don’t expect that trajectory to change much in the near future, we’ve come up with three routes that digital marketers might go to enhance connectivity with their Facebook audiences. All three routes were chosen to make the prospect of interacting with audiences more attainable as time goes by. Let's dive in:

Mobile Video

Video is a main staple of Facebook’s marketing menu. Although private video calling has been available since 2011, Facebook’s public video viewing feature became especially popular in 2014 after News Feed started showing users data about people who were viewing the same videos as them.

Since then, the trend has largely moved towards mobile video, as the company develops Facebook Live and Messenger Day so users can easily share video on-the-go. These new tools are designed to provide more outlets for uploading the Internet’s most popular form of content (video) while at the same time encouraging a greater level of intimacy between users, their friends, and their followers.

While mobile video tools have been put to good use by private users, many businesses have not yet taken advantage of them or unleashed their full potential to unlock a deeper sense of connection with their audiences. But the versatility of these tools make it wise for small businesses and entrepreneurs to think about how they might open up the throttle, and rocket to relevance by taking advantage of Facebook mobile video.

Rules of Engagement

Facebook Policy has structured the social web to be as friendly as possible, but that doesn’t always mean Facebook hosts the friendliest platform on Earth. It’s impossible to know when an online troll might comment in poor taste, leave a slanderous review, or inundate your Business Page inbox with junk intended to harm or hack. It’s also difficult to know when your business might be over-promoting. This is why it’s important for businesses and entrepreneurs to develop rules for Facebook engagement. Nominating social media moderators to post quality content and monitor for quality control in messages, reviews, and comments is a great first step in this direction. But those moderators need to be on the same page.

One of the easiest codes of conduct to put into place is the 80/20 rule, which stipulates that we should post content from other sources 80% of the time and content from our own company 20% of the time. That way, we simultaneously draw new customers and avoid pushing old ones away. When we follow them, rules of engagement on Facebook work to establish businesses as principled and credible thought leaders. At a time when the future can seem uncertain and online behavior can seem overly driven by emotion, working to establish credibility and trust works doubletime to foster a deeper sense of connection between businesses and their customers.

Newsjacking the News Feed

Although little more risky than coming up with a code of conduct, newsjacking has become a popular way for businesses to get attention on days when the news won’t let us get a word in edgewise. Newsjacking occurs when a business uses its social presence to ride (not hijack) a news story, by delivering a timely message that is relevant both to the business’s purpose and the story at hand.

Great examples of newsjacking have occurred during live events such as the Super Bowl, the Oscars, or the Olympics, when brands try to inject some comic relief into a topic of conversation. While this tactic often works best for topics in pop culture and entertainment, it’s more difficult when it comes to politics, a topic that enters Facebook conversations more readily than it used to. While this isn't to say that brands cannot successfully involve themselves in a political moment, this is much harder to pull off than the average newsjack, and it can be much safer to stay out of politics altogether.

That being said, with all the political news on Facebook News Feeds, there is ample room for businesses to come out and make a statement. This is especially true in a day and age when businesses are expected to have a social conscience and break their own news. But when it comes to News Feed, the key to successful newsjacking is aiming to address the root reason why customers care about your business at the same time as you address a relevant news story.

If a business can accomplish this in all the right way, the future of Facebook could hold controversial ads that get attention at the same time as they connect to a businesses’ usual customer bases. Such a future might also mean reaching unprecedented levels of new customer loyalty.

Want to master Facebook Marketing? Sign up for our new Facebook certification today!

 


Why Online Businesses Should Invest in Customer Support

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Editor's Note: Lucy Benton is a marketing specialist and business consultant who contributes to Awriter. Today she joins us to explain how online businesses are passing up major profits by skimping on customer support, and how to avoid that mistake.

 

Every online business has two major goals: sell products or services to customers, and support their continuous use. The first goal increases profits, while the second one works to retain existing clients and attract new ones. Exceptional customer support is a great way to accomplish the second goal because it helps you to meet the expectations of your market, and goes beyond that to building loyalty and improving your reputation.

Surveys have indicated that many online businesses fail to answer 50% of inquiries fielded to them by existing customers, so it’s clear that some companies neglect customer support, perhaps to avoid the costs of maintaining support representatives. But on average, it’s 7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one.

That’s a very big difference, and so are the losses which result from poor customer support.  According to NewVoiceMedia, businesses in the U.S lose out on $41 billion in revenue every year thanks to this systemic oversight.

In this post, we will analyze several reasons why an online business should invest in customer support, and key takeaways that will help you to build a better support team, and avoid an unnecessary dip in profits.

Reason #1: positive customer experience is more valuable than price

Online surveys continue to find that customers regard service and support as more important factors than price. For instance, a 2014 customer experience study by American Express suggested that more than 60 percent of customers were willing to spend more with an organization that provides better service than competitors.

According to the same study, only 5 percent of online shoppers reported that customer support ever exceeded their expectations. It stands to reason that online marketers are losing $41 billion per year as a result.

The statistics don’t lie: when online businesses show customers that they are valued and appreciated, the feelings go both ways. Eventually, people develop loyalty for a company based on good experiences.

The takeaway: customers are willing to pay more if they are valued by a company. Make an active effort to treat customers as people, address needs and concerns, and improve relationships with them.

Reason #2: exceptional customer support builds awareness of your brand

Mark Zuckerberg calls a trusted referral “The Holy Grail of advertising,” and there are good reasons for that. First, word of mouth is one of the most powerful influencers on purchasing decisions. It’s human nature to seek out testimony, and judge based on the experience of others.

Second, more than 80 percent of online customers trust the opinions of their family members and friends about the products and services of particular companies, according to the Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Report.

As such, it makes sense that content generated by your clients will always be more effective than advertising. The reason is simple: people trust experiences of previous customers, and as we have already established, good customer support makes happy customers!

The takeaway: People will remember your brand if they see positive feedback and comments about it, along with testimonies of good experiences with your customer service representatives.

Reason #3: excellent customer support appeals to new customers

Not so long ago, many businesses exclusively cared about closing a sale. As long as customers signed under the dotted line, it wasn’t very important how they were persuaded to do so. But things have changed a lot since then.

In the information age, and with hundreds of competitors to choose from, your target demographic has a lot of expectations for online businesses. It wants more than a service; it wants a personalized experience to justify choosing you over anyone else. In the competitive field of online academic writing tutorials, for instance, clients prefer services that emphasize and adapt to personal writing styles over generic by-the-book critiques.

Meeting these expectations by adapting to current and prospective clients goes a long way in improving the position of a company on the market, so excellent customer support is appealing to customers who want something more unique.

The takeaway: Internet customers seek out businesses who will adapt to the needs of individual clients, and to attract leads, your business should make every effort to accommodate unique needs.

Reason #4: effective customer support reduces issues

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to do online business without experiencing problems with customers. No matter how hard you try to make them happy, some problems are always going to arise. But this hard truth of business should not stop you from continuing to raise the bar. Here’s why:

While you can’t guarantee a lack of problems, you can ensure that they never become serious enough to damage the reputation of your company. If customers know that potential issues will be handled properly even before they make a purchase, they will feel more confident and comfortable. And, by mitigating the chance of a social media crisis, you take a solid precaution that bad publicity will not tank your business over a simple mistake.

The takeaway: good customer support is a way to reduce and prevent problems, making potential customers feel more confident. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and your business should be as focused on preventing hard feelings as much as it is on resolving them.

If these reasons have successfully demonstrated the importance of customer support for online businesses, here are some ways your customer support can be improved right now.

  • Go the extra mile. If you want customer support to become a tool for retaining existing customers and getting new ones, you could begin by exceeding their expectations. For example, once in a while, provide a free gift in addition to the effective solution to the customer’s problem. This will make them very happy.
  • Ensure immediate answers. When a customer is experiencing an issue, they are looking for immediate fixes. Because of this reason, they will try to contact support using various ways, such as website inquiry, email, or phone call. To ensure that they are getting what they need, keep your support running 24/7. The problems can occur at any time, so it’s better to be well-prepared.
  • Use the latest technology. There is a wide variety of tools available for companies that want to make their customer support excellent:

Sales Force – all-in-one customer service tool that provides multi-channel support, mobile support, case management, and productivity tools.

FreshDesk – a cloud-based platform that features powerful solutions, including self-service, reporting, and multi-channel support.

Vision Helpdesk – a software package that includes a number of effective customer support tools and allows to manage different channels, such as calls, social media, website forms, and email.

AnswerHub – a great option for creating customer self-service platforms and knowledge bases that allow them to answer their own questions when they need. It utilizes Q&A format, which enables a single place for finding answers.

Final Words

When examined closely, it becomes obvious that the cost of maintaining good customer support is justified and well worth it. Whether you already have a customer service effort that needs improvement, or whether you’ve never created one, there’s no time like the present to start. Dive into one of the tips listed above to start preparing your business for the future!

Lucy Benton is a marketing specialist, a business consultant who finds her passion in expressing own thoughts as a blogger, and currently works at Awriter. She is constantly looking for the ways to improve her skills and expertise. If you’re interested in working with Lucy, you can find her on FaceBook and Twitter.

 

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Developing a Social Media Customer Service Plan

Crisis Management with Social Media

Brand Advocacy Strategies Using Social Media

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

 


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