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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!

 


8 Tools for Managing Your Online Presence

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In order to be a digital marketing success, you must understand how to build your online presence. Why does that matter?

Without a good presence, it’s difficult to prepare your prospects for a sales pitch. After putting hours of hard work into building an online business, you want to make a great impression, and convert your leads into customers. But there's no need to go it alone: this list of tools will help increase your online presence, and boost success in your marketing efforts. Let’s get started!

1. Cyfe

Cyfe is an all-in-one dashboard for social media, analytics, marketing, sales, support, infrastructure, and a whole lot more. You can use this app to monitor all of your business data in one convenient location. Features include the ability to monitor individual departments and multiple websites, pre-built widgets, custom data sources, real-time reporting, historical data, data exports and interface customization. Users can set up dashboards from scratch using pre-built and custom widgets. To gain a better sense of how it works, check out this example of a Cyfe-powered web analytics dashboard. This tool will help you not to waste time and energy tracking data, so you can worry about the more important aspects of your business.

2. Brand24

If you want to know what people are saying about your brand, this tool is just what you need. Brand24 will immediately notify you of any online mentions so you can reach out to sales prospects, brand champions and disgruntled customers right away. Learn what people are really saying about your brand and use this information to improve on anything that isn’t working well, so you can improve your bottom line. Brand24 is also a great way to find publicity opportunities, and learn what your competitors are up to.

3. Wisestamp

Wisestamp generates professional email signatures that can help to grow your business. More than 650,000 professionals are using Wisestamp, and there are hundreds of signature templates to choose from. Whatever your field of work, there are enough templates, apps, and designs to find what you need to stand out and represent your business well. This tool can increase your reach across social networks, boost generated leads through the “Schedule A Meeting” app, and draw in more email replies simply by adding a photo: and this is all for free. The PRO version has even more functionality to generate clicks and website visitors

4. ClickMeeting

Webinars are a great way to generate interest for your business, and this tool enables you to create them quickly and easily. Using ClickMeeting, you can customize your webinars, analyze and follow up with attendees, and track the success of every event. These webinars can dramatically increase traffic to your site and boost sales. In conjunction with ClickMeeting, you can use your social media accounts as channels to keep traffic coming to your website, generate leads, and get your business more sales. While you have to pay for indefinite access, there’s also a considerable free trial period without any contracts. You have nothing to lose, and a whole lot to gain, so get started today and get those webinars out there to the world!

5. Brandwatch

Brandwatch is another tool that will give you insight into what your customers are saying about your brand, and what they want from your business. This information is invaluable for building a direct marketing strategy that will speak to your audience and raise conversions. Brandwatch gives you instant access to customer conversations as they occur, so you are always up-to-date on the latest trends. You will also be able to identify threats as they arise, learn how to deal with them, and react smartly to anything that might impact your business. While the service is not cheap (starting at $500), it easily pays for itself depending on the size of your business, and if you aren’t sure, a free demo can help to assess whether it's right for you.

6. Kissmetrics

This tool allows you to segment your audience so you can target visitors by how they got to your site. Using Kissmetrics, you can set triggers to engage with customers based on their actions, and choose the behavior that visitors should display before you bother showing them your campaign. This process helps to identify and target viable prospects while weeding out those who just aren’t interested. Kissmetrics is easy to use, and provides five design templates to jumpstart your optimization. You can visit the site to request a demo and see for yourself how automated segmentation can help your business.

7. OptinMonster

If you want to convert website visitors into email subscribers, you need to start using this tool: OptinMonster allows you to create and A/B test awesome lead capture forms without having to bother with a developer, and the lead generation software will bring big results quickly. Features include the OptinMonster Builder, multiple form types, exit Intent technology, A/B split testing, page level targeting, and built-in analytics just to name a few. This tool works with all major email marketing services, as well as CMS and eCommerce platforms. Everything you need to grow an email list can be found right here, and it will only take you a few minutes to build high converting forms instead of several hours.

8. Mention

Use Mention to monitor your online presence from any location. You will enjoy real-time monitoring of brand mentions from social media and around the web. Track all of the important outlets including social media, blogs, forums, and more, so you can really focus on your brand and learn about your competitors. This tool will help you to attract new customers, build awareness, and improve your overall online reputation while allowing you to engage your audience and react to mentions right away. This tool will help you to handle a crisis when it arises, create reports, study your competition, and a whole lot more. Mention has iPhone and Android apps, and prices start at $29 a month.

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Here are some relevant classes: Social Media Marketing Best Practices for SMBsEmail Newsletter Foundations: A Roadmap for SuccessCrisis Management with Social Media

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!

 


Infographic: Portrait of A Mobile Consumer

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There has never been a better time to optimize your business for mobile consumers. When cell phones were first invented, few people could have anticipated the processing power of the devices we hold in our hands today. With just a few swipes of the finger, we can communicate with our friends in endless ways, capture high-quality photos, shop for products and services, and easily manage every aspect of our personal and professional lives.

The power of this connectivity is changing the world of commerce. Now, product research and buying can be performed wherever consumers are, whether they’re walking in the park, sitting on a train, or taking a lunch break.

This means payment providers and retail giants are changing the way they operate. Brands use social media to reach out to us in a personalized way, and when we do head to brick-and-mortar stores, more and more digital transaction points are available, making it easier and quicker for us to pay at the till.

With the amount of data available online, consumers will be more informed before they choose to buy. And, with e-commerce sales estimated to reach $626 billion by 2018, it’s certainly something all the big players will be investing in.

The portrait of the mobile consumer has certainly changed a lot and is set to evolve further. Online marketers should definitely capitalize by optimizing their platforms for mobile shoppers, and making content easily available to mobile devices.

Check out this great infographic for more information.

voucher_cloud_mobile
This infographic was first published by Maureen Sanford at Vouchercloud

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Here are some relevant classes: Building Your Mobile Strategy, Integrating Mobile into Social Media MarketingMobile PR & Content Marketing

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!

 

 


 


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!

 


The Difference Between Inbound and Outbound Marketing

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Although the strict line that professional marketers have drawn between inbound and outbound marketing is disappearing over time, the difference between these strategies can almost be described as the difference between paid content marketing and display banner advertising. That description may be in the right ballpark, but it only lands us on first base.

There are a myriad of differences between inbound and outbound marketing (of which different conversion strategies are only a small part), differences which even celebrated thought leaders sometimes equate with the “old” and “new” dichotomy. This way of thinking rarely moves the ball forward for the rest of the marketing world.

When examined more closely, the relationship between inbound and outbound marketing is a bit more complicated, and that’s why we’ve dedicated this post to explaining the relationship between them in terms that marketers of all stripes are likely familiar with: Conversion Strategies, Target Audiences, and Offers. We recognize the ‘versus’ terminology that we employ to describe this relationship may seem to imply an opposition between them; it’s not meant to do that. It is more intended to set up a spectrum along which any marketer’s inbound or outbound tactics may fall, whether they are deployed for content strategy, an email marketing campaign, or the design of an advertisement—or perhaps most effectively, all three.

1. Conversion Strategy: Attraction versus Promotion

The motivational force behind attraction is a pull. The motivational force behind promotion is a push.

When marketers adopt inbound conversion strategies, such as content publication, they want to gently pull users and consumers in their direction, converting with an attractive offer. When they opt for outbound marketing strategies such as banner advertisements, they want to gently push users and consumers along a predefined path, converting with a promotional offer.

A standard inbound conversion strategy will more often reach for indirect methods of persuasion (like branded infographics or product placement) than a standard outbound conversion strategy, which will more often cut to the chase and make a direct offer. These outbound strategies might include “buy-one-get-one-free” promotions, discounts, and other types of financial incentives. The best marketers are often able to blend these two conversion strategies, perhaps opting first to gently push an outbound promotion to raise awareness of a free offer, and then placing additional, attractive information along the path toward accepting the original offer. This information can be designed to gently pull the user or consumer toward accepting an additional offer, and create enough loyalty to make them a paying customer. In fact, many successful software as a service (SaaS) companies, including LinkedInAncestry, and the popular buzzword search tool BuzzSumo, use this exact conversion funnel strategy to grow their customer bases.

2. Target Audience: Business-to-Business versus Business-to-Consumer

The art of targeted business messaging lies in the science of research. The art of targeted consumer messaging lies in the science of even more research.

Finding the right audience is one of the hardest parts of marketing. Die-hard proponents of inbound marketing strategies would probably tell us that’s why we should allow our ideal audience to find us, while die-hard advocates of outbound marketing strategy would probably tell us that’s why we construct ideal audience personas: to target those we suppose would be most interested in what we have to offer. The assumption underlying both suggestions is that business audiences will naturally gravitate toward subtle, inbound messaging since they are constantly looking to improve their business, whereas consumer audiences require a more robust, outbound message, since they are a more passive bunch.

But strategists who are dogmatic about either approach tend to miss the mark by overlooking the art and science of research—that is, listening rather than pushing new ads and pulling new leads. Some of the best marketing strategies are born from long stints of research and development, which culminate in the creation of the most relevant message reaching its most relevant audience. It’s often easier to research a business than it is to research a consumer. After all, there are fewer businesses on the planet than consumers, and consumers tend to change their preferences more frequently than businesses do. But taking the time to listen to an audience and shape our message around their proven needs and desires offers a much more lucrative payoff than leaving a trail of breadcrumbs or shouting into the void. As market research has shown, marketers for both business-to-business and business-to-consumer companies can make good use of Facebook analytics to discover and monitor new target markets.

Related Class: Facebook Advertising and Targeting

3. Offers: Education of User versus Sale to Consumer

An offer of educational information is perceived to be more valuable by users of services. A promotional sales offer is perceived to be more valuable by consumers of goods.

Value is more often determined in the eye of the consumer than in the eye of the supplier, at least in a free market. When it comes to goods and services online, the case is no different. But there is a difference in our marketing expectations for service providers and suppliers of goods. The expectation for marketers of services, particularly SaaS, is that they should adopt an inbound marketing strategy by publishing content like blogs and videos, whereas we expect marketers of goods to adopt an outbound marketing strategy by pushing online promotions such as discounts and free shipping.

The problem with these expectations is that they often force young SaaS companies and commercial online vendors to make uninteresting offers to users and consumers who want to see more than another marketing agency infographic or commercial website sign-up coupon. Some of the best and biggest companies have risen to the top because they balance educational information with promotional sales. The increasingly popular massive open online course (MOOC) providers like UdacityCoursera, and edX are excellent examples of what can happen when we hybridize user education with promotional sales, as their business is premised on offering a quality education for 1 percent, and sometimes 0% the cost of taking an equivalent college or university course. Imagine what could happen if more companies started flipping the script, and commercial websites like Amazon began offering courses in web sales, while marketing agencies began offering bundle deals on memberships with their company that included access to all their best content. Content entrepreneurs and educators at Online Marketing Institute are already doing this with the provision of corporate training courses and certifications, the former of which specifically prepare business teams to expand their inbound and outbound online marketing expertise, while the latter helps individuals gain expertise in online marketing on the whole

Such hybridity is the lifeblood of the marketing era we find ourselves in now, an era that demands innovation every day.

A version of this article first appeared on BestMarketingDegrees.org

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Here are some relevant classes: Top of the Funnel Tactics for Inbound Marketing, Facebook Advertising and TargetingContent 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. Ready to start learning? Sign up here here.

 


How to Get More Traffic to Your Blog in the New Year

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For most of us, the new year is motivation to sort out our digital mess, clear the inbox and fix old bugs. I like starting a new year with the feeling of old stuff being sorted. This way I feel better prepared for new projects and challenges in the New Year.

As business owners and marketers, one of the things we tend to put off is sorting out our blogs. We’ve become accustomed to handling small inconveniences and bugs. Many of us can  barely find time to publish new content let alone find the time to research the  countless new plugins available or update old articles.

Well, I hate to break it on you, but getting all that technical staff in order is probably more important than publishing new content. Lack of security opens you up to the risk  of losing all your precious content. . Slow pages and broken links means lost readers and conversions. You need to start thinking about your blog performance now, so you can  start the new year with a better converting, more successful blog. So what to do to first?

Fear not, this checklist will take you through the complicated lists of plugins and tools, so  you can get right down to execution.

Step 1: Fix or remove broken links

One of the most widespread issues with a website of any age is broken links. Broken links present both SEO and usability issues. The more broken links your site has, the less trustworthy it looks both to a user and a web crawler. You may have no control over pages that go down over time (resulting in broken external links) but you are fully responsible for the links that you have on your pages, even older ones.

It's impossible to keep track of broken links and images, even if you have a smaller site. You need a reliable tool to handle this for you.

Netpeak Spider is an ideal solution for larger-scale websites. It's a desktop program, so you won't have compatibility issues with your browser. It’s also fast, and very flexible - you don't have to be an SEO expert to use it. Just run the tool regularly and fix new errors as they are found. Look for errors in red, those are the most important to eliminate.

netspeak

If you have a small blog, make sure to install the awesome Broken Link Checker WordPress plugin. It may slow your site down if you have too many pages, but it works great for blogs with under ~500 articles.

To avoid slow-downs and downtimes, you should disable automatic crawling to make sure it will run a new report on demand.

The plugin saves a ton of time by letting you remove broken links right from its dashboard.

linkchecker

Step 2: Keep an eye on your site security

Did you know that around 37,000 websites are hacked every day? It's no joke! Even with some security measures taken, you still run the risk of getting hacked. Huge sites, with multi-million dollar budgets like Yahoo! and LinkedIn are regularly hacked, and WordPress is not the most secure environment out there.

A proactive measure is submitting your website to  Google's Search Console. They have one of the largest databases of compromised websites, and they almost instantly know once a new site has been hacked. They will send you an email once they notice anything weird with your website so you can take measures on the spot.

Now that we have monitoring in order, make sure you have taken these steps:

  • Always update your WordPress version as soon as possible, and update your plugins as well.
  • Always install well-trusted plugins. Search Google before installing anything and only install from the wordpress.org website.
  • Never keep "admin" as a user. Come up with a different username for the blog administrator and use a powerful password (later versions of WordPress will generate a good one, so just go with it).
  • Use Login LockDown to limit login attempts.
  • Never login to your blog using public WiFi, never give anyone admin access unless you know and trust them, never give anyone permissions to upload anything to your blog (use standard contributor permissions for your site contributors).

Step 3: Make sure you address downtime timely

How often is your site down? According to these stats, even the most popular hosting providers have terrible uptime numbers. Your site may be down without you even realizing. Being offline is one of the worst thing that can happen to a digital entity. It means your website visitors have nowhere to click, no way to get in touch with you, and no way to engage.

Try Monitority to be notified whenever your  site is down. The tool is absolutely free and the moment your site goes down, your email is pinged so you can look into the problem right away. If you have a few sites to manage, give Pingdom a try. It has some cool analytics and monitoring reports you'll find useful. Pingdom also talks to the monitoring dashboard with Cyfe.

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Step 4. Find better keywords for your old content

Your content can be outstanding, and people may still not be able to find it. That means wasted effort. It's a new year coming, time to make the most of your old content so you’re ready to create new articles.

Try Serpstat to discover good keywords and optimize older articles. Just take a core term from your article, run it in Serpstat and set the competition filter between 0% and 3% to discover relevant phrases that may take you on top of Google's search results page.

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Step 5. Try and push those search positions higher

There are tons of search queries that your site is already ranking for. You may be unaware of those because they rank below the fold and hence they are not sending too much traffic. However, these are often keywords that have huge potential.

Try Google's Search Console "Search Analytics" feature to show you which search queries are driving traffic to your blog. Make sure to check a box called "Position" (for some reason, it's unchecked by default). This way you'll see your page average position for each search query.

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If the average position of a keyword is 5 or lower but it's driving traffic, this means two things:

  • It will send tons of visits if it's #1 or even #3.
  • It is not that hard to push it higher, without additional effort.

What to do with these keywords:

  • Discover which exact pages are ranking for the term.
  • Use this WordPress plugin to send more internal links to that page.

Usually, this quick exercise results in 2-3 higher positions and therefore better traffic.

Are you ready to take action? Hopefully this checklist will get you started. Happy New Year!

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? 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.

 


11 Ways to Acquire More Leads Using Your LinkedIn Profile

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LinkedIn can be a great source for generating potential B2B leads if you know the right tactics. In this article, we’ll go over the top 11 strategies to acquire more leads from LinkedIn:

1- Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile to Connect with Potential Prospects

The very first step is optimizing your LinkedIn profile. In order to do this, you must expand your network by connecting with other industry users. The trick is to form connections with people who you’re unfamiliar with, with the goal of establishing a long term relationship whenever possible. However, this requires subtlety; otherwise, you might be seen as a spammer.

When LinkedIn users receive an invitation, there are two ways they can see it: their notifications bar, and the message inbox. The notifications bar showcases a small preview including your name, title, and the beginning of your message. If these are people who don’t know you, chances are they require more information before they accept your invite. To learn more about you, they’ll click on the invitation to view the full message.

The full message contains your name, picture, your title and tagline, and your message. A profile picture is very important, and without it, you won’t be taken seriously. Your job title will help users decide whether you’re worth connecting with or not.

The main thing that people check for when poring through your profile is legitimacy. The best thing you can do to help increase this is to simply make sure you’ve completely filled out the details of your profile page, including links to your website and published works if applicable. You may also try adding a line that lets people know you’re willing to connect with new users.

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2- Tag Prospects and Influencers in Your Conversation

LinkedIn tags are a great way to enhance your efficiency and provide your sales cycle with a more streamlined process. These tags enable you to group your contacts any way you want, and though LinkedIn offers some generic options to start, the real fun begins when you create custom tags.

Filtering and organizing your connections becomes very simple with LinkedIn tags. Tags make it easier to understand various segments of your connections, based on details that are not available on their profiles. A maximum number of 200 tag categories may be used at a time.

You can tag based on location, clients, prospects, industry, media contacts, event tags, and strategic partners. It’s even possible to use LinkedIn tags in your sales process to identify their position in the sales cycle; you no longer have to worry about forgetting leads and tracking prospects.

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Just click on the Tag button and select appropriate tags from the drop down, or create new ones

3- Frequently Add Connections to Your Network

It’s a good idea to invest a bit of time each working day to build your connections. Using the “People You May Know” list, you are able to broaden your social network easily. At the same time, you’ll become known as a person who reliably expands their network, which is important. Keep in mind that every person you speak to regarding work or business in the course of a business day is a prospective LinkedIn connection waiting to be added to your network.

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4- Join Groups and Share Updates

LinkedIn enables you to interact with people who are present in the same groups as you. You can use this as a targeted method to add value to other users, expand your present networking with connections and prospects, or exchange helpful business insights. All it will cost you is five minutes of your time each day to post an update to your network. You can use this daily update time to post videos, blogs, or articles that will be of interest to your customers and prospects. You might even use the “Pulse” feature present on your dashboard. Every time an update gets posted, your profile is displayed on the feeds of all your connections. However, take care never to sell when posting updates. Use them only to share your business expertise and add value to your network.

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Go to Interests, click on Groups, and step into the world of LinkedIn groups.

5- Buy LinkedIn Ads

LinkedIn ads allow you to get in front of suitable prospects. Ads improve your visibility, thereby increasing your “know, like and trust” factor in the community. LinkedIn ads possess great targeting options, and micro campaigns allow you to limit advertising costs, gain more visibility, and track your progress easily. Learn as much as possible about paid ads to maintain a high score and run the most effective campaign possible.

Ads can be bought in two ways: CPM, also known as cost-per-mille (‘mille’ meaning 1,000 impressions), and cost-per-click (CPC). For sponsored content, it’s probably best to go the CPC route. CPC ads generate fewer clicks in the short term, but LinkedIn will continue to show them until money is earned. This is helpful when you want visibility and recognition.

In the case of text ads, CPM is the way to go. These are great for lead generation.

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Go to the Business Services menu and select the Advertise option to create an ad and explore your options.

6- Use Ad Rotation Strategically to Prevent Banner Blindness

When using LinkedIn ads, it’s best to create a bank of different ads for rotation, rather than putting all your eggs in one basket. This not only helps to prevent banner blindness, it also allows you to determine which ads perform the best. Choosing the winning ad can lead to a massive spike in conversions and clicks generated.

Applying for ad rotation is easy. You can rotate your ads evenly, or enable the LinkedIn algorithms to pick the best one. You should allow your ads to run for at least a couple of weeks before evaluating their performance, to make sure you have a large enough sample size. When you’ve found the best-performing ads, you can easily swap out the losers and begin testing new ones.

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7- Regularly Post Your Articles on Pulse

Pulse is an amazing tool for LinkedIn users to discover meaningful, reliable content that they can share with their target market. Users who remain active on the platform will stay at the top of their network. This sort of passive awareness comes in handy when reaching out for an introduction. It is good practice to promote guest contributions on your LinkedIn profile and engage with potential customers by seeking feedback on your content. Posting articles frequently on Pulse gives you a chance to educate leads, which in turn adds to your value and leads to stronger relationships.

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8- Adopt the Auto-Suggestions Provided by LinkedIn to Constantly Improve Profile Visibility

You will receive frequent notifications from LinkedIn to add new users to your network. Your ultimate goal should be to establish a connection with them and ensure that when they view your profile, they will see helpful and relevant information about your business. Growing your network on a regular basis will boost your profile visibility. Auto-suggestions are extremely helpful in connecting you with the right users in your industry. When it makes sense, it’s a good idea to ask for recommendations, and provide them to members of your network. This will strengthen the connections you already have, and increase the overall reputation of your profile.

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9- Add Valuable Content to Your Sponsored Updates

Sponsored updates are a more subtle form of advertising that allow for more precise customer targeting. To use them effectively, you must first generate lots of quality content, then create different sponsored updates within a fixed time frame to promote that content to your target audience.

While this may seem like a lot of work, you can reap rich rewards as a result. The point of this method as opposed to CPM or CPC is to deliver value upfront in order to attract customers. When using sponsored updates, make sure to track your campaign’s success after it’s begun to evaluate the most valuable incentives and implement any changes to your sponsored updates in the future.

Take the time to learn how effective content is created to give your advertising strategy a tremendous boost.

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10- Make Use of Advanced Search

Advanced search filters are a great way to search LinkedIn users based on their relationships, company size, seniority level, and function.

The first criteria you should use in the Advanced search is location, title, and industry. The trick to B2B sales is  targeting the same level of employer or employee in every company, and this is where the title filter comes in handy. If location is a factor to doing business, use the location filter ensures that all the contacts you find have the potential to do business with you, similarly, you can use the industry filter helps you scope out targets within your target industry.

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Click on the Advanced option to the right of the search box on your LinkedIn homepage to access advanced search.

11- Run an Email Marketing Campaign on LinkedIn

LinkedIn has its own personal messaging system called InMail to help you connect with new users. It’s easy to apply for your own marketing campaigns. All you need to do is ask your round table and webinar guests to cover an event on their networks. This method works best if you send focused messages to recipients using the filtering tools offered by InMail. It is easy to filter recipients on the basis of industry, company size and role, and thereby locate ideal targets for boosting your campaign.

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Final Thoughts

Nothing beats LinkedIn when it comes to highly relevant social media marketing. As an entrepreneur, creating an effective LinkedIn engagement strategy is a surefire way to acquire more leads and connect with the people who matter. With the profile management tips and tricks we’ve shared above, you’re now ready to leverage your profile to attract more leads than ever.

About the Author

Joydeep Bhattacharya is a digital marketing evangelist and author of the SEO blog, SEOsandwitch.com. He is a Google Adwords and Analytics certified professional helping brands increase their presence online. He can be reached via Twitter or Facebook.

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Here are some relevant classes: Creating a LinkedIn Engagement StrategyCreating and Curating Content People Love, Email Marketing Tactics

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.

 


5 Ways Online Team Training is More Effective Than In-Person Training

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Online team training is vital to your team’s effectiveness. The digital era has ushered in a compelling focus on online team training, offering more value on the whole than  traditional training methods. Benjamin Franklin said it best when it comes to investing in your team:“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

In a 2015 survey with more than 200 participants, one-third of employees said that their companies’ training strategies were not productive. Another third of those participants said that company training is not interesting or engaging.

But marketing strategies continue to change, and employees that stay up-to-date on those changes will certainly be more effective. To stay up-to-date requires training. The equation is actually quite simple: effective and engaging training methods equate to a more effective team.

Your team may be lacking the training necessary to make moves in your unique industry. According to HR Professionals Magazine, “The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that employers with fewer than 100 employees provided only 0.8 hour – that’s only 12 minutes of manager training per six month period.”

Online team training is all-encompassing. In addition to gaining skills, your employees can brush up on product knowledge and access important resources via online training as well. This puts your workforce ahead of the competition, ultimately enhancing your company’s bottom line.

From startups to industry leaders, online team training is essential. Last year, L’Oreal, the leading cosmetic company in the world, took online team learning to the next level: they utilized the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) model to train 160 of their employees.

Your workforce has become mobile, and your team training program needs to follow. Let’s take a closer look at how online team training is more effective than traditional hands-on methods.

  1. Online Team Training is Cost-Effective and Employee Compatible

Online team training is more cost-effective than traditional training. When you keep your employees engaged, they are more likely to stick around. Your team is an investment, and your team training strategy should reflect and protect that investment.

A 2014 survey by Gallup found that, “The bulk of employees worldwide -- 63% -- are ‘not engaged,’ meaning they lack motivation and are less likely to invest discretionary effort in organizational goals or outcomes.”

A mandatory training course that takes your employees away from projects they need to get done will only decrease morale. And when morale is low, employees tend to move on. The value of training your team effectively will subsequently help your retention efforts, according to USA Today Money.

People’s attention spans are also decreasing, according to Learning Solutions Magazine. The publication notes that, “Current researchers argue that the average attention span of American adults has dropped and it is limited to 20, 10, or even five minutes.”

Finally, online team training is easier to swallow for many employees. Many effective online training modules run for a maximum of 15 minutes. This helps employees stay focused; two hour long in-person training sessions just won’t cut it anymore.

  1. Online Team Training Bridges Gap with Mobile Apps and Gamification

Online team training has introduced exciting new ways for employees to learn, such as gamification. The PowerPoint training days may very well be dead - your team wants their training to be fun and engaging, similar to their online lives. Online team training essentially bridges that gap, by using what employees already love and are familiar with.

Treating online training like traditional methods will therefore yield the same ineffective results, according to Training magazine.  Virginia state performance support coordinator and instructional designer Sherri Dosher,  says, “If an organization simply puts PowerPoint bullets online, the end result will still be death by PowerPoint. It’ll just be DOA at the computer versus the classroom.”

In an effort to combine what employees already know and love with online team training, companies are using mobile apps and gamification as tech resources. Integrating gamification is making online team training more engaging than ever.

Jiffy Lube learning and development manager Ken Barber,  says, “More graphics, more videos, more voiceover, more knowledge checks, and fewer word slides will make the course engaging and fun for the students.”

Combining mobile apps with online team training will also increase effectiveness for your employees and business. A 2015 study by Global Workplace Analytics found that 25 percent of U.S. employees work remotely in some form. With so many of your employees connected and on-the-go,  keeping them plugged-in to online training via apps will only increase effectiveness.

  1. Many Company Topics are Simply Geared for Online Team Training

Online team training offers simplicity when it comes to many business topics that  are simply geared towards an online platform. Compliance-based courses such as software technical skill building on Office, Java, etc., and HR required training like sexual harassment courses can be easily tailored for online access.

Online team training can also be implemented for new hires. A series of courses can help new employees get up to speed faster, allowing assimilation into the team dynamic more effectively, according to employment solutions platform TrainingToday.

“Repetitive content, especially for new employees in a high turnover environment, is ideal for e-learning,” says Ken Barber. “While these could be taught in an ILT class, the information is easily communicated in an interactive e-learning course.”

Verizon is another company that effectively  uses online team training to its advantage. Via VerizonTech IT, the communications company offers knowledge-based courses online to deliver information consistently. And they do it across multiple channels, focusing on the end-user’s pace.

  1. Online Team Training at the Micro-Level Keeps it Simple

One major pitfall of hands-on training is the risk of over-training. A Sales Performance International report warns about the ineffectiveness over-training has. The study finds that multiple day training sessions could cause  50 percent of information to be forgotten within five weeks.

Massive amounts of information via marathon in-person training sessions are simply no longer effective. Overtraining leads to more employee stress, poor cost-benefit ratio, and a loss of interest, according to Houston Chronicle. Online team training, however, has picked up where traditional methods  have failed.

TED Talks are an excellent example of effective micro-level online team training. Through TED, you can access industry leaders and learn a variety of topics in short 15 to 20 minute increments. This allows information to be processed in a more meaningful way, keeping you and your team engaged.

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  1. Online Team Training Offers Freedom and Flexibility

Research suggests that 47 percent of employees want freedom and flexibility in their company training. Online team training serves those in need of just that. With the mobile workforce on the rise, companies are taking a hard look at how they implement training programs.

A 2014 survey by the Association for Talent Development found that 16 percent of the 340 companies surveyed use “at your own pace” online training. Not allowing employees to learn at their own pace can be counterintuitive. Employees who do not learn at their own pace often rush through training and simply brain dump what they’ve learned in a short period of time.

Interestingly, a 2015 Harvard Business School study found that those who reflected on learning tasks performed at higher rates with higher material retention. Online team training that emphasizes freedom and flexibility will certainly be more effective. Employees will not be as inclined to rush through training if they know they can do it in parts.

Online team training clearly offers more value to your employees than traditional in-person training. From marketing to the art of negotiation, your team can gain invaluable business assets such as planning, strategizing, tactics, techniques, and software development, among other skills needed in an effective workforce. Implementing a cost-effective and flexible online team training program is powerful strategy to increase employee output and expand your bottom line.

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 topics discussed in this article? 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.