All posts in Content Marketing

BlogIn the search and content marketing worlds, you have to stay flexible – otherwise you’re apt to get whiplash from all the changes! Nothing is permanent, and as we’ve seen with the decreased emphasis on specific keywords and the shifting status of links, today’s tried and true techniques may be tomorrow’s black hat. Guest blogging is the latest tactic to come under question. So, what’s the answer? Yes, no? Maybe.

 

 

Why Not?

Because Matt Cutts said so! In a recent blog post:

Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.

And our favorite line, “Stick a fork in it, guest blogging is done.” Cutts takes issue with unscrupulous use of guest blogging and shams set up to “automate” guest blogs or buy and sell links.

Done as in “Done”?

Guest blogging as a content strategy is not horrible practice – but with a big caveat. It has to be genuine, good, solid content. Say you are a management consultant and you help clients improve their leadership abilities. You work with a senior manager at a real, reputable company and she wants to write a post on how to improve communication skills. Or, perhaps she has done such a tremendous job improving her own skills in this area that you ask her to share her thoughts or tips with your readers.

Here’s why this guest post is different and why it’s not “done”:

  • No one’s getting paid, no one’s outsourcing guest posts, no one’s buying links. It is, as they say, on the up and up.
  • It’s content that your audience could learn from and use in their lives. The point of good content!
  • You know this person, and you can vouch for the authenticity of the post as well as its veracity.
  • It’s one post. You have (or should have!) lots of other great content on your site.
  •  You don’t spin this article or post it on more than one site.
  • You use other reputable SEO and content management techniques to bring traffic to your site. You don’t depend on guest blogging to generate all your link activity.

This type of guest post can help add value to your site. It’s genuine content, and that’s what Google – and more importantly, your audience – wants to see. If it’s not real, don’t do it. It’s a good SEO rule to live by.

Film Reel Series

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, according to Forrester Research, a single minute of video is worth 1.8 million words. That’s a lot of power packed into a minute of content. Seventy-eight percent of web users will watch a video this week, and 55 percent will watch every day. What is striking about this is that 46 percent will take some sort of action after viewing. We respond to video; our brains assimilate information more quickly and emotionally. Creating and hosting great videos isn’t the incredibly expensive production it once was, but that doesn’t mean you should shoot jerky, home videos on your iPhone and post them! Here are the best of the best tools to help you produce high-quality videos – and much more.

Camtasia.

How-tos and tutorials are tremendously popular, especially if you’re in a technically-oriented field. Camtasia is a tool that allows you to capture what you’re doing on your screen and then edit video to customize it for your audience. You can add audio tracks, HD video, photos, graphics, and much more to enhance your end-product. They’ve also added a new option, allowing you to superimpose yourself into the video for a more personal one-on-one feel. Check out their tutorial or take advantage of a free trial. This is a wonderful tool for teaching and training.

Pixorial.

Even if you’ve never created a video, Pixorial makes it easy with its intuitive layout and navigation. You simply upload footage and you can add transitions, soundtracks, text, and other elements. The Pixorial platform allows you to view, share, and edit videos without modifying the original. No “Whoops!” moments! Edit, upload, share on social networks, and store videos on the cloud. There is tremendous versatility within Pixorial’s family of products.

Wistia.

Wistia is a hosting tool with packages to meet a variety of business needs and budgets. The platform allows you to add social sharing buttons and CTAs, collect viewers’ emails for marketing, control access, manage who sees what, and monitor their interactions. Analytics help you see how people watch your videos: do they start and bounce out? Do they skip certain parts, or go back through them? What have they watched previously? HTML and Flash are both automatically encoded, buffering is minimized, and it works across devices. Wistia’s functionality is inclusive: this is a powerful way to ensure your videos reach your audience and that you have data to make them even more effective.

Others to check out:

  • Weavly (drag-and-drop operation, search/trim/combine tracks, add video and audio).
  • GoAnimate (fun animations, easy user interface, basic hosting, and basic analytics).
  • PowToon (drag-and-drop for cartoons, ideal for instructional videos).

 

Count On Us

Who are the key visitors to your website? Who are you trying to attract, the crucial – and buying – audience that you want to engage with winning content? Most businesses have a general idea: i.e. we sell football shoes, so we ‘re targeting young athletes or older enthusiasts who star in weekend leagues. But they don’t go much beyond that. Creating user personas gives us an in-depth look at potential audiences, their needs, and potential strategies for converting them into customers.

A Quick Look at User Personas

A persona is a fictional representation of your very nonfictional audience. For instance, we might have Sue, the weekend football star. Your research tells you that this is a demographic you want to hit. Sue is a professional with limited free time. She has children, who also participate in sports, and she wants to be more active and healthy. She is value-conscious, but she also wants great quality. This persona:

  • Describes this type of visitor to your shoe site: mother, busy, professional.
  • Targets her motivation: health, wellness, activity.
  • Hits on her need: budget, value, quality.
  • Implies potential objections: cost of top shoes, time. For instance, time is an issue – so are returns easy and convenient? Is shipping fast?

With this information (and much more – you can flesh these personas out so they actually have an accompanying photo and dossier!), you can develop content and design your website in such a way that her needs are met. What’s more, because you have different demographics within your customer base, you can create a variety of realistic personas.

Creating User Persona

It all starts with research. Who are your users? Why are they visiting your site? What expectations and needs do they bring with them? Can you categorize users? With social media and the ease of UGC, you can collect this data from your customers directly with online surveys, through comments and reviews, emails, and feedback forms. Questions you want to answer:

  • Where do they live? What types of jobs do they have, and at what level? Primary gender? Level of education? Average income? Marital and family status?
  • What types of beliefs and values do they hold?
  • What are their interests, passions, and hobbies?  What are their motivations?
  • What are their most pressing worries or concerns? What are their goals?
  • What’s important to them in life? What is meaningful to them?
  • What behaviors do they want to encourage or change in themselves?
  • How do they view themselves?
  • What value can you give them?

Using this information, develop 4-5 personas, and put as much detail into them as possible. Make them real people. You are trying to sell your product or service to a live audience, not a figment of your imagination! Address their needs and concerns, while offering solutions.

By understanding your customer base, you can build content that meets their needs (not every piece will be directed at Sue, for instance, but you’ll cater to each persona in different ways), and you can begin to optimise content to make it easy and convenient for them to take the next steps.

Do you use user personas to help you make content and design decisions?

 

+Newspaper Series+ 1If 100 people find their way to your blog or website, most will read your headlines. Only a small percentage – 20 percent or less – will actually read your article. It’s the power of headlines that pull people in, that tell them that there is information, or entertainment, in here that is relevant and interesting.  All that power – in just a few words. Far from an afterthought, your headline should be as carefully crafted as the rest of your content.

Here are some tips for excellent, attention-grabbing headlines:

  1. Include a number. 7 Ways to Beat Stress; Top 5 Tips for Synchronized Swimming Success; 3 Easy Steps to Mastering Chess. Whatever your industry and niche, there are always tips, tricks, and lists to share. Numbers indicate to readers that they will be getting some helpful advice.
  2. Ask a question. Increasingly, searchers enter questions instead of keywords. For example, instead of “mount plasma screen,” they might query: “How do I mount plasma screen on wall?” In addition, asking a question in your headline implies that you have the answer. It invites readers to click through or keep reading so they can find it.
  3. Use tried and true structures. Top 5 Mistakes SEOs Make, for instance, combines a number, as well as a point of pain for your audience. Both will help draw people in – if only so they can check whether they’re making the mistake!
  4. Use a thumbnail image to accompany your headline. Research from the Guardian indicates that headlines with an image saw an increased CTR of 27 percent. It’s worth a shot!
  5. Don’t use your brand. Testing shows that when you use your brand in your headline, you see a drastic decrease in engagement and CTRs. Here’s an example: Brand X Announces Their Secret to SEO Success. Well, good for them! Far more effective is: 5 Secrets of SEO Success, or Five Steps to SEO Success. This puts the focus on the value your readers will derive from your content.
  6. Use strong adjectives. While you don’t want to overdo it, adding a descriptive, powerful adjective can help create interest and prompt the reader to continue on.
  7. Get inspired. Take a look at content that has gone viral. It has done so because, in large part, because of the great headlines. Go on Reddit, StumbleUpon, and other sites and see what’s trending.

A great headline grabs the attention and the imagination. It’s just as – or more – important than you content itself!

Download Onscreen ButtonSEO, and search engine visibility, is just the first step. Conversion rate optimisation is focused on keeping visitors on your site and ensuring they complete the desired call to action, whether that is purchasing a product, signing up for a newsletter, or answering questions on a survey. Are your CTAs effective?

Calls to action tend to be relegated to afterthoughts on most websites. A small scale study of businesses presented by Small Business Trends found that 70 percent do not optimise CTAs on their home pages. More – 72 percent – do not have CTAs on their interior pages, and still more – 82 percent – do not mention their social media profiles. Most do not include vital information, such as phone numbers or email addresses; and if they do, they are not featured prominently.

A compelling call to action is essential but how do you go beyond “Contact us”?

  • Learn from the mistakes of these small businesses. Place CTAs in prominent locations and in interior pages. Make them noticeable: contrasting colors for your banners and buttons work. There is some conjecture that different colors – such as yellow and orange– are more eye-catching and apt to convert. You can get into A/B testing to determine that, but in the meantime, make sure they are highly visible.
  • Pair your CTA with your content. “Buy now” is often your ultimate goal, but does that make sense on an information or educational page? A more effective call to action would center around learning more, contacting you for further information, or downloading an ebook or whitepaper.
  • “Learn more” can be ambiguous. Make sure that your CTA tells the visitor exactly what action you would encourage them to take (which will be to their benefit, of course!). Make that value proposition clear. JetSetter does this: they may have a tidbit about an Italian vacation with a CTA button that reads, “Plan a trip like this.” The visitor knows what will happen when he clicks through, making it more likely that he will do so.
  • Inject some urgency. You need to do this now! Is the message, but how to word it? Spotify does a great job with this one: “Music is for every moment.” Then, under,  “Get Spotify for free.” It is inspirational – we have moments! We want music for them! Our very own soundtracks! – and it’s free. That never hurts.
  • Be very clear in your wording. “Buy now” is not earth shattering, but if visitors are on a product page, it only makes sense. When the tried and true works, use it.

Businesses tack on CTAs after carefully working through content strategies. This is a mistake. Spend time crafting your CTAs wording, design, and placement – and then track your analytics to see the difference it makes.

Film Reel Series

YouTube is a juggernaut of video and brand power; over 6 billion hours of video are viewed each month; 100 hours are uploaded every minute, and YouTube reaches more people than any cable network. It has global reach, immense power, and unlimited content. And in the billions of hours of video, where are you? How can you ensure that the right audience can find you? You don’t need to go viral in order to be successful with YouTube. Here are a few useful tips that can help you become more visible?

You know you should write descriptive titles and descriptions. Here are some other “musts.”

  • Improv is fun and spontaneous! But it can also be difficult to pull off in a video for your brand. In most cases, having a script is the best way to go because you can be sure to get your message articulated fully and effectively. And, another benefit, you can add the script to the description. Google will index this, and you’ll improve your visibility.
  • Don’t use a generic video file name. Use a targeted keyword in your file name. YouTube – and, hence, Google, notices. Be sure that the keyword directly relates to the content of the video.
  • Add closed captioning. You will be able to reach viewers who are hard of hearing or deaf, and you will be providing Google and YouTube with indexable, crawlable content. If you follow your script, you can simply upload that as your transcript. If not, you can use Google Voice to create your captions.
  • Use what you have. Your website, blogs, and social media presence should be interconnected, so cross-promote your videos. Simply posting a video on YouTube is unlikely to bring you the success you want, but tweeting, Facebooking, and blogging about it, posting it on your website, and creating a link from YouTube to your site are effective techniques for seeding your video content.
  • Create a YouTube channel. Again, this will interconnect with your other platforms, and it will provide viewers with easy access to other interesting content. Your channel also gives you the chance to write descriptive titles and descriptions for greater visibility.
  • Try Annotations. This feature allows you to create an interactive video experience.  You can add background information or link to relevant content. This could be a big opportunity because a lot of videos either do not use these or don’t use them well. Get creative.

YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine. When you optimise your videos, you have a much better chance at standing out from the crowd.

Paper Chain In The DarkProducing quality, relevant content is an ongoing task for website owners, bloggers, and businesses. In addition to producing our own written, video, and image content, we can employ additional methods to ensure we give our audiences the material they want and need. Curating is one way to do this, as is using the words, images, and thoughts of our audiences themselves. Leveraging user generated content (UGC) can be an effective technique to enhance our websites.

The UK’s Guardian has recently launched a digital platform which enables users to upload video, photos, and text content to its journalists via apps or the website. They call this “GuardianWitness,” and they’ve leveraged it to allow up-to-the-minute, man-on-the-street coverage of major news events. This is just one example of brands leveraging UGC. Retail-based and service-based brands can also benefit: Brisk Ice Tea, for instance, crowdsourced a special edition label to fans of the beverage, using Instagram for help. The potential is enormous; how can you encourage and use UGC effectively?

  • Let users know you want their words, pictures, etc. Solicit user feedback, reviews, and ratings. Make it easy for your customers to leave feedback and share their experience via social media. Sharing buttons, review buttons, and/or a “Most Recent Reviews” sections on your website can be invaluable.
  • Give them something back. UGC is a favor from your audience to you – now give them something in return.  A gift card, free product, free sample, free shipping, and other perks are fairly inexpensive for you, and your users’ content may help draw in additional visitors (and customers!). This makes it a smart investment.  If a free sample doesn’t work for your business or site, why not feature a user each week or month? Post the content prominently on your site.
  • Create hashtags and ask your audience to tweet or post to Instragram. Lulumon did this with #sweatlife, and yoga-enthusiasts posted 40,000 pics of themselves in various yoga poses – and in Lulumon clothing. People like to feel a part of the community, and at the same time, they’re creating great content for you.
  • Ask loyal customers to be your testers. Give them a free product in exchange for a thorough review of said product. Amazon does this with its wildly popular Vine program, and the mega-retailer’s UGC is an indispensable part of its online brand.
  • Get current on the laws and restrictions surrounding UGC. If, for instance, a user modifies a copyrighted video or image, it can violate copyright laws and you might be complicit in displaying that content. Also, you’ll want to make sure your contests conform to the rules of the social platforms they appear on and winners should sign an agreement that their content can be used by your brand.

UGC can be an integral, vibrant part of your content creation strategy. Have you used UGC? If so, how?

 

Ye Old Typewriter 2

Writing great content can be a challenge. Writing great content day after day after day is most certainly a feat. Content tools are not designed to write content for us; we want to leave that for the humans. What they do, however, is help us map out what we need to cover, when, and how. They can help give us a spark of inspiration when the muse has cut out early or when a meeting has left us dull. What are the best ones to use?

Ubersuggest. Sometimes all you need is an idea, especially on a slow news day. Ubersuggest allows you to enter in a word or phrase and troll through Google Suggestions for trending and related topics. You can find ideas, resources, and other content-starters on topics that are of interest to your audience.

Scrapebox. Ok, we know. This one does not have a sterling reputation. It is often connected with those spammy comments you see on blogs, and it can be used for that purpose, to be sure. It can also be used completely legitimately, white hat-approved, as a content tool. Much like Ubersuggest, it scrapes content and can help you find related topics on which to create content. Some even say it is more powerful. Just don’t use the spam-comment feature. If you’re concerned, there are a number of great articles from reputable sources on using it this way. Again, do not use the spam or link features.

Audacity. This is a free recording/editing tool that will help you create audio content. It is important to have a mix of content (text, images, video, audio) to appeal to your audience’s diverse learning styles. Record your thoughts on a topic, or interview an industry authority. Get “man on the street” feedback or do an audio Q&A. There is a lot of possibility here.

Evernote. With this program, you can keep track of notes, recordings, images, webpages, etc., and access it via the cloud from any device. This is great when the inspiration strikes on the train and you only have your phone. It can be a repository for content ideas, and best of all, it is collaborative. Share it with colleagues so they can add to it or use it themselves.

Feedly. This is a Google Reader successor. The magazine-style reader allows you to access, organize, and read content from across the web easily and efficiently.

Slideshare. Surprised? Don’t be. Slideshare can be a powerful tool for building your authority and visibility. Slide decks are informative, sharable, and great for appealing to a variety of users.

As always, you can use resources like Quora, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other news aggregators to find topics on which to create. The key is to keep it organized with a program like Evernote and then create a content calendar so you can keep on top of your game and deliver fresh, relevant, strategic content.

Hand Over KeyboardContent curation has become a hot technique to use in content production because it provides (or should!) value to our readers and helps us put out fresh content. But like any content marketing, SEO, SMO, CRO, acronym-of-your-choice technique, there are big caveats to its use. Content curation can be a helpful tool, or it can impact your rank. How do you know if it is going to help or hurt you?

Eric Enge of Search Engine Watch writes in a recent post, “Content curation could be a very risky practice for you.” Why? It depends on your site’s authority. As Enge explains, if you happen to be the New York Times, you will be fine. You have a recognizable, authoritative brand. The editorial practices make it difficult to get content published in the NYT – it has to offer real value. As well, it has a profile of high-quality links and both publisher and individual author authority. Curated content will not hurt the NYT because it has these factors in spades.

You don’t have to an internationally-known brand to use curation – it helps though! If you have a good link profile, authorship (use your authorship tag!), and a solid, reputable site, curation is, indeed, a useful too. And let’s not forget the real value: giving something of relevance to your audience. If a curated list will help them, publish one. But again, there is a caveat.

Google doesn’t have to index your site. It may regard your curated lists as search results, and they don’t want your results to compete with theirs. What you can do to avoid the problem but still curate is to put noindex tags on curated content. So, make sure you have some sort of brand, site, authorship authority, do a link audit, use noindex. Are there any other content curation best practices to help you use this technique effectively?

  • Use curation judiciously. Offer a mix of content to your audience: create, curate, and use user-generated content. This can be a winning formula.
  • Publish across platforms. You have Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and other sites available to you. Find out which are most appropriate to you, and get active.
  • Point your readers to reputable, high-quality sources, and give credit where credit is due.

When you make content curation part of your content plan, you can see great results. Don’t use it simply because you don’t know what to write about on a given day! Provide value to your readers.

Google rolled out a hashtags feature in June as a way to help Google+ users’ content is tagged and categorised. The hashtag is already a common site on Twitter and, more recently, Facebook, and Google is not only leveraging their ubiquity and usefulness, they’re adding their own twist. What are the benefits of Google+ hashtags, and how you can use them effectively?

As mentioned, hashtags are a useful way to organise your content. In addition:

  • They can help your results become more visible in Google+.
  • It is easy to assign appropriate hashtags to content.
  • You can explore related hashtags and posts.
  • You can expand your reach in your niche and attract new leads.
  • They can include targeted keywords.

Using hashtags properly is essential. Some tips:

  • Use a clear, concise phrase.  #contentmarketing or #contentstrategies. They phrase must be completely relevant so people find the information they need.
  • Use the expandable list of hashtag suggestions to find the right fit for your post and to ensure content is properly categorised.
  • The first 3 hashtags are critical because they appear at the top and affect which searches bring visitors to your posts.  They will also appear at the top of your posts. Choose these carefully.
  • Create and use your own hashtag as well so visitors will associate you with your content and with excellence and credibility! #johnsmith or #seoguy
  • Optimise your content for the “Best of” Stream with catchy titles, images, and relevant hashtags.
  • Check out the competition in the “Best of” Stream to see if, perhaps, you’re choosing the right hashtags or if you need to up your game and make your content stand out more for busy visitors.
  • Check for trending topics that are relevant to your business or brand and wade into a conversation.
  • Google will add hashtags it thinks are relevant. You can keep these or go to your Google+ account to opt out.

Hashtags are everywhere. You can use them strategically to highlight your content and extend your reach. Behind the hashtag, though, there has to be solid, relevant content. Without this, nothing else matters. #contentcreation

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