Archive | November 2016

We Answer the Top 5 Questions People Have About Content Marketing

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Caitlin Burgess

As marketers, it’s our job to know our audience. To understand their pain points. To empathize. To provide them with the answers or solutions they’re looking for.

So how do we do all these things? One way is through content marketing.

Over the past few years, content marketing has been increasingly embraced by marketers. In fact, this year 88% of B2B marketers and 76% of B2C marketers said they used content marketing, according to the 2016 Benchmark, Budgets & Trends—North America reports from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs.

But there are still a lot people out there who are searching for some of the content marketing basics.

Our team recently dug into content marketing related keywords and keyword categories, as well as related SERPs and our own data, to identify what people really want to know about content marketing. As a result, we identified five common questions users have about content marketing—and we’ve answered them all below.

Let’s dive in.

#1 – What is Content Marketing?

Simply put, content marketing is a strategic marketing technique that aligns business and consumer information needs with relevant content.

At TopRank Marketing, we believe in an integrated approach to content marketing, using multiple content marketing tactics to help our clients be the best answer for their customers, wherever and whenever they’re searching.

Wherever your customers are looking, be present, useful and “info-taining.” @leeodden Click To TweetFrom blogging and social media to infographics and eBooks, content marketing is most effective when you employ a variety of tactics to consistently inform, persuade and build rapport with your customers—without trying to sell them something outright.

For a deeper dive into this topic, check out our post What is Content Marketing? Definition, Examples & Resources for Learning More.

Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the Content Marketing Institute’s (CMI) own resource on what content marketing is. Find that resource here.

#2 – What is a Content Marketing Strategy? (And Why Do I Need One?)

A content marketing strategy provides the answers to the why, who and how a content marketing program will help you achieve your business objectives. It’s your infrastructure. Your game plan. Your roadmap.

Without a strategy in place, you’re throwing content out there and hoping it sticks. With a strategy in place, you’re able to plan, produce, promote and measure the effectiveness of your content, and use that information to propel your efforts forward.

Get more on this topic by checking out our post What is a Content Marketing Strategy (And Why Do I Need One?).

“Build an audience first and define products and services second.” @joepulizzi Click To Tweet

#3 – How Do I Create a Content Marketing Strategy?

Your content marketing strategy is your foundation and it should be uniquely tailored to your brand and audience. Here are some best practices to get you started on creating your content marketing strategy:

  • Identify who your target audience is and their paint points. This will allow you to come up with valuable and relevant content concepts, and address the needs of your audience.
  • Define your objectives. (e.g. more brand awareness, increasing site traffic, increasing conversions, newsletter signups, etc.)
  • Identify the content marketing tactics you plan to use in your strategy. (e.g. blogging, PPC, webinars, social media, etc.)
  • Identify the social channels your plan to use to engage with your audience. Ask yourself: What channels does your audience use the most? What content do they respond to the best?
  • Define how you will measure results. (What metrics and tools will you use to see if what you’re doing is working?)

Content builds relationships. Relationships are built on trust. Trust drives revenue. @DrewDavisHere Click To TweetResources

#4 – Why Content Marketing?

In today’s digital world, buyers are self-directed. Research indicates that 71% of B2B buyers get their information online. Content marketing is a way to satisfy your customers’ quest for answers and arm them with the information they need to make decisions. Content marketing also creates signals across the web that build credibility, authority and rapport with your audience, along with many SEO benefits.

In addition, research shows that content marketing is typically more cost-effective than other forms of advertising or marketing, can drive higher conversion rates and increases audience engagement.

If your content marketing is encouraging engagement, that’s a sign of relevance. @JasonMillerCA Click To TweetResources

#5 – How Do I Do Content Marketing?

Content marketing is not just one tactical technique—it involves using a myriad of techniques within your strategy to drive toward your goals. We call this an integrated content marketing approach. Below are just some of the content marketing tactics that you can use:

  • Blogging
  • Co-creating content with industry influencers and thought leaders
  • eBooks
  • Social media
  • Podcasts
  • Newsletters
  • Email marketing
  • Content curation

Writing is thinking. And for us as marketers, good writing is good marketing. @marketingprofs Click To TweetFor more information on all of these tactics, as well as more than 20 others, check out our post: Content Marketing – Tactics and Best Practices. Here we offer pros, cons, best practices, industry expert insights, examples and resources for 30 content marketing tactics.

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Google’s shift to mobile-first: mobile moments that matter

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10 Types of Visual Content That Go Viral

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In fact, we all create and share content regularly for both personal or business reasons. This simply means that there is a vast amount of professional and amateur content out there for everyone’s consumption. It’s crowded.

The result is that it can be quite difficult to catch the attention of an audience when you need to. If you want to catch your audience’s attention with content, one of the best ways to do so is by making it visual.

Visual content has proven to be among the most efficient and effective ways to communicate a message. It is in fact, your best chance to go viral if you want to gain the attention of an audience at scale.

So if visual content is the best way for you to stand out, how do you best leverage its power? What types of visual content work?

Before I answer that question, let’s take a step back…

What do you stand to gain from creating great visual content?

The article ‘5 Ways Content Marketing Can Benefit You’ outlines what you stand to gain from using better content marketing.

The highlights are as follows:

  1. Generate more leads
  2. Shorten your sales cycles
  3. Become recognized as a leader in your industry
  4. Better search engines rankings
  5. Give you an advantage over your competitors

When using content marketing, visual content is mainly used to create visual cues that complement the information or message you are trying to present. The idea is to make the information;

  • Easier to understand and digest
  • Easier to share, and
  • Easier to reference

With this in mind, there are several different types of visual media content that you can use in different circumstances to effectively convey your message.

It is important to also mention that depending on your objective and the scenario in which you are delivering the content, different types of visual content will be more suitable for your specific case in point.

Below are the main types of visual content, which if used appropriately can easily help you go viral.

The different types of visual content that can go viral

1. Infographics

The epitome of visual content is the infographic, and it should therefore be a great place to begin our list.

The infographic crystalizes a lot of information into one easily viewable visual that is less intimidating and easier to understand for any viewer or reader.

In fact, in the social media realm, infographics are liked and shared 3 times more than other any other type of content. Additionally, 60% of content marketers are predicted to use infographics in 2016 as compared to last year.

Probably one of the main reasons for this is that using infographics in content marketing is known to increase profits by as much as 12%.

These are all valid reasons for why infographics are essential, but here are an additional 10 Reasons for Why Infographics are important.

Infographics are best used when you have a lot of statistical data that you want your audience to visualize, or if you want to breakdown lot of ‘hard-to-understand’ content into a more understandable and easily viewable format.

2. Eye-catching Images and photos

Photos and images are important for several reasons. For brands, they allow audiences to put a face on a brand and therefore make your brand more relatable. Additionally, using photos to show ‘behind the scenes’ of a brand can help audiences better understand and become more curious about a brand.

Photos can also be very helpful in showing off your products and services. In this case, the use of photos is especially useful if you want to show your products in action. This is probably one of the biggest contributing factors as to why 90% of the general public say that images influence their buy-in and purchasing decisions.

When using photos and imagery, be sure to reflect your brands unique selling point. Additionally, be sure to capture the brands values through color imagery, composition and so on. If you use relevant images, it has been found that you will be able to drive 94% more views than if you don’t have any images in your content. Plus, 65% of the information in images is more likely to be retained after 3 days.

3. Videos

Mixing up your visual content is quite important. In as much as images and photos are quite often the main drivers for visual content, video should also be used whenever possible to give a voice and sound to your content.

This YouTube video has some useful information on “How Video Content Marketing Can Grow Your Business”:

Here are some important statistics to keep in mind when considering the use of video:

  • 64% of shoppers are more motivated to purchase a product after watching a video about it
  • If you use the word ‘Video’ in an email, the likelihood that the email will be opened will increase by 19%. Additionally, the click through rate of the email increases by 65% and the rate of unsubscribing to your email list will reduce by 26%
  • In a survey of ‘Video Marketing Statistics & Trends’ it was predicted that 74% of all internet traffic will be video by 2017

There are several reasons why video should take a leading role in your content marketing plan.

Some of the reasons include:

  • Improved SEO
  • Customer retention
  • Higher engagement
  • Stronger emotional connections

Learning about Video SEO is also essential in tackling Video Content more effectively.

4. Call-to-actions (CTAs)

A call-to-action is a way to influence your audience to do something or take some action after attracting them to your content. You can ask your audience to ’click here’, ‘buy now’, ‘follow us’, ‘share’, ‘add to cart’, ‘subscribe here for a free gift’ etc.

You can use imagery, color and hierarchy to grab your audience’s attention and cause them to take action. CTAs are best used to call attention to exclusive content, events, offers and sales. There is a lot of untapped potential in the use of CTAs since it is known that 70% of businesses fail to use them.

On the other hand, those that use CTAs can benefit quite significantly from their use.

5. Inspiring quote cards

A visual representation of a quote can be quite an inspiring way to create emotion and therefore motivate an audience to take action, or feel a certain way about a brand or product.

By using a brands palette, typography and other visual cues to tailor the quote to your message, you can create quite an impact with a quote.

inspiring-quote-cards-for-visual-content-that-goes-viral

Above is a great quote that is an advert by Target on Pinterest.

Another important aspect about quotes is that they are quite easily shareable through several different platforms, and especially through social media.

An advantage of using inspiring quote cards is that they are quite easy to create and yet can quite easily go viral if done in the right way.

6. Data visualizations and graphical data

Data visualizations include charts, maps, diagrams, graphs and so on. If you take the time and effort to make sure that your graphs are not only easy to understand, but that they also pass relevant and tangible information, then they can quite easily go viral.

Data visualizations are best used to represent facts, figures and extrapolations, when audiences may need to see trends or patterns about certain data. When using data visualizations, it is best to use data that reflects your brands imagery.

An important statistic to have in mind about data visualizations is that 40% of people understand and therefore respond better to visual data as opposed to plain text.

data-visualizations-and-graphical-data-for-visual-content-that-goes-viral

The image above is a data visualization of Macrometeorites by Roxana Torre which shows the number of recorded meteorites over time.

7. Screenshots

Screenshots highlight something that you want to draw attention to that might otherwise not be noticed. They could also clarify something to your audience so that it is easier for your audience to follow along. If you want to increase understanding, annotating screenshots can add yet another layer of clarity.

The use of screenshots can be used for everything from instructional content to showing live captures of information that you want to share. Such as reviews and testimonials of products or services by customers.

If you for example use screenshots to show off your positive reviews and results from other customers, you will quite easily attract more attention and build confidence in your brand, product or service.

In research done by Dimensional Research investigating the impact of customer service on customer lifetime value, 90% of respondents were influenced by positive reviews when making a buying decision.

8. Tutorials and question-answer visuals

Tutorials can include anything from ‘life hacks’, to recipes, to visual step-by-step instructions. They can also be in the form of videos, images, text or a combination of these.

In a book written by Levie, W. J. & Lentz, R. titled ‘Effects of text illustrations: A review of research, Educational Communication and Technology’, they state that, people following directions with text and illustrations do 323% better than people following directions without illustrations.

Question and answer type visuals on a similar note are known to help bridge the gap between businesses needs and consumer wants. Asking your audience questions that stand out from text in a very visual way, is not only attention grabbing, but also sparks a conversation and encourages engagement.

9. Quizzes and visual puzzles

Like questions, another great way to encourage your audience’s engagement is through quizzes and visual puzzles. Through quizzes and visual puzzles, you can easily construct a smart and prudent tone for your brand.

Quizzes and puzzles also help to spark creativity for more consumption or better consumption of your products. They can be used to bring more clarity to abstract knowledge about a product by making the information more practical and useable. This will in turn encourage adoption and use of a product that is otherwise difficult to relate to.

10. Memes and comics

A great way to end this list of visual media content that can easily go viral is by talking about memes and comics. Everyone loves a laugh, and in the internet world, there are few things that have more cause for laughs than the memes we love.

memes-and-comics-for-visual-content-that-goes-viral

As far back as in 1999, due to the use of memes like the dancing baby, site visits jumped from as little as 4 visits a day to 15,000 per day. This is a very respectable figure even by today’s standards.

The importance and power of visual content

As mentioned earlier, using the appropriate type of visual content is the key to sending it viral. That being said, some of the strong points for why visual content is both important and powerful in almost every use-case are as follows:

 

12 Great Examples That Prove the Power of Repurposing Content

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Written by Aaron Agius

Recycling Content.jpg

Stagnant organic traffic is the last thing you want to see when reviewing metrics, but it’s an issue that every marketer deals with at some point.

Those dips and plateaus in traffic can come from industry changes, how your audience digests content, the amount (and quality) of new content you’re producing, or how relevant your older content is. Read More…

What Social Media Marketers Get Wrong About SEO: The 4 Biggest Mistakes

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Search engine optimization, or SEO, is probably one of the most misunderstood marketing practices today. From keywords to algorithms, understanding SEO can be a time-consuming and seemingly complex undertaking for most marketers. What keywords work best? How many links should I use? You might have a lot of questions, but the bottom line is this: SEO is about getting your content seen by (the right) people.

To keep your SEO strategy on track, we consulted Hootsuite’s resident SEO expert, Zak Ramdani, on the biggest SEO mistakes marketers make—and how to avoid them.

The 4 biggest SEO mistakes marketers make

1. Misunderstanding the relationship between SEO and social

Although Google suggests social signals do not impact rankings, one can draw correlations between top-performing social content and top performing content on the web with the common denominator being quality content. Content shared on social that receives lots of shares, likes, and comments will likely get similar engagement metrics that lend themselves to Google’s authority signals, and in turn positively impact your rankings.

That said, our SEO expert Ramdani recommends social media managers ensure they aren’t creating social media plans with the exclusive intent of improving rankings. Instead, it should be understood that SEO and social media work together as part of an overall marketing plan to boost engagement and improve reach.

A solid social media presence, combined with valuable content and community building, work together to contribute to increasing brand awareness, website traffic, and improved social customer service.

2. Not sharing content strategically

As the connection between social media and SEO content is key for marketing success, social media managers need to be strategic about the type of content they share.

Instead of sharing only new content, analyze the performance of your past work and recognize what is bringing the most traffic to your site. What kind of content is driving the most traffic? What is getting shared the most? What are the most popular topics and themes your audience engages with? These are all questions social media managers need to consider when deciding what content they will focus on sharing through their online channels.

As Ramdani says, “Pick the consistently winning horse instead of a beat up car that’s never won.” Create a bank of your best-performing evergreen content that you can rotate in your social media content calendar, and share these assets alongside your newer content.

3. Expecting overnight success

SEO is an incredibly effective way of improving traffic to your site, but it’s not a quick fix. Marketers will often expect to deploy strategies and get immediate results. And when they don’t get these results, they abandon the plan.

SEO takes time to pay off, so impatience is one of the biggest roadblocks for marketing managers.

One of the main reasons SEO is a long-term strategy rather than a short-term quick fix, is because of the huge volume of content online. As this Domo infographic shows, the amount of data being shared online every minute is staggering.

16_domo_data-never-sleeps-4
Image via: https://www.domo.com/blog/data-never-sleeps-4-0/

You aren’t alone in your industry, and you aren’t the only one pushing out content. Because of this competition, you need to always follow SEO best practices, produce and share quality content, and analyze your results.

Influencers and high-traffic sites put in the work to build authority, and search engines recognize this. Positioning your brand as one to trust (both by search engines and customers) doesn’t happen overnight. Marketers need to post quality content on a consistent basis and ensure it’s gaining valuable backlinks to help establish credibility.

Once social media managers and marketers recognize the time and effort involved in seeing their SEO efforts pay off, they can concentrate on driving their strategy forward.

4. Not keeping up with SEO advancements

SEO has greatly evolved over the last 10 years, but not all marketers have been able to keep up.

“Many marketers in 2016 don’t get it. They haven’t kept up, or worse, they’re reluctant to running SEO campaigns because they’re attached to tactics of the past,” Ramdani explains.

An example of this is the practice of keyword stuffing. A very popular practice at the beginning of SEO’s evolution, keyword stuffing is when content on a web page is “stuffed” or loaded with keywords. Not only does it look ridiculous and lower the credibility of your content, it can get you hit with a manual or algorithmic suspension, which is hard to work back from.

Marketers need to be aware of updates to search engine algorithms such as Panda (which cracks down on keyword stuffing), Penguin (which penalizes low-quality links), and Hummingbird (which enables a deeper understanding of search intent).

With search results more personalized than ever, marketers need to make the connections between their content and the target audience. Google modifies their rankings to choose the most relevant content based on an individual’s search history, which means that authority, keyword matching, freshness, and engagement become even more important.

This fast-changing technology means marketers and social media managers need to stay on top of developments and adjust their content creation and promotion strategy accordingly.

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The Right SEM Strategy for Schools

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Written by Kaitlyn VosWinkel

searchbarhand.jpg

Getting your school found online is an ongoing battle that requires different strategies for different goals. Search engine marketing (SEM) is comprised of both search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns. You can use both these strategies to direct traffic to your school’s website, blog, or other digital assets you have, e.g. a landing page/microsite promoting a new school program.

While both strategies can drive traffic, they have different virtues. To maximize your spend and get the best return, you want to use the right strategy for the right reasons.

Where SEO and PPC Differ

SEO is about building a strong content foundation that earns you more attention as time goes on. It’s a long-term investment that has a lower cost with slower rate of return. Yet there comes a tipping point at which your SEO-optimized digital assets provide exponential returns. Its value doesn’t reside in only a few specific high performing pages — the collective value starts boosting newer content as well. The more authority your site builds over time, that authority applies to other content you post on your site. Your SEO-optimized pages create a perpetual flow of traffic.

Infusing all your digital assets with SEO best practices should be part of your standard practice for every piece of digital content your school publishes.

You can download our full ebook on SEO for schools here >>

In contrast, a PPC campaign is fixed-time campaign that will have high upfront costs, but can get you quick, valuable returns. Your PPC campaign will be designed around a keyword strategy, just like your SEO. Unlike SEO, the PPC campaign only brings in returns for the time you’re paying for the ad space. There’s no long term benefit or exponential growth. That doesn’t mean PPC doesn’t have its role to play in getting your school found. It just means you want to pick your spots.

How and When to Use SEO

Really, the answer to “when” is “always.” As mentioned earlier, SEO is the foundation that will push your website and blog higher and higher in the search engine results page (SERP). Virtually all searchers click on a first page link in their search results rather than a PPC ad.

Of course, getting ranked for “culinary school” isn’t going to be easy (it’s a very competitive term). And the truth is, you don’t want to. That’s far too broad a keyword. Your SEO strategy will return the most relevant visitors to you if work with long tail keywords (LTKs) that are queries containing the language your ideal students use to search for what they want. So if you’re a school with a culinary management program that offers an online learning component, you might find “online culinary management degree program” more effective.

The more relevant your long tail keywords are to your personas, the more interested and qualified an audience you’ll attract.

After researching and identifying the most relevant collection of long tail keywords, you need to execute your SEO strategy through on-page and off-page optimization.

On-page SEO

This where you have the most control. On-page SEO uses all the smart ways to embed a page’s keyword throughout the page. This doesn’t mean repeating the keyword over and over in your text. Those days are long gone. Instead, you’ll use the keyword a few times in your text. You’ll write naturally as Google also looks for the phrases it expects to see if your program page is truly about an “online culinary management program.” So Google might also expect to see other culinary related phrases such “back of the house” or “restaurant operations.”

You also have a variety of tags (i.e. title tags, meta tags, heading tags, and descriptions), where you can use your selected keywords. Some of these tags (e.g. your URL, title tag, and meta description) appear in the search results, so are critical to getting the click. Other tags, (e.g. alt-text tags — used to optimize images), don’t always get seen by visitors. But the search engine bots deciding where to rank your page see and use them. Your title tag is probably the most important tag in terms of SEO, but don’t overlook any of them.

Google has recently changed a number of its properties for on-page tags, such as giving you more room in titles and descriptions. When these changes happen, it’s a good time to give your pages an SEO refresh.

Other on-page tactics to remember are: give the page a quick loading time and incorporate your social sharing buttons so visitors can spread your awesome content.

Off-page SEO

Off-page SEO is when high authority sites link back to your awesome content. You have no control over this, because it requires external sites to like your content and link to it. However, you can encourage this process by sending a lot of social sharing signals in your content.

You want social sharing icons on all your pages, posts, and emails. And you can do more. You can craft copy to encourage people to share by reminding them to do so. You can also create pre-fabbed Tweets and Shares in your content for them to use.

Let’s say you have a blog post of interviews with well-known restaurateurs sharing what personal and technical skills they look for when hiring a restaurant manager. Using the “birds of a feather” principle, you might add some copy to above your social sharing icons that says, “Know someone who’s wondering if they have what it takes? Help them find out. Share this article.” Or “Tweet this:  Graduate as a #Chef from this #Top-Ranked #CulinaryProgram @[YourSchoolTwitterHandle] [url].”

The more your blogs posts and web pages get out there, the more likely people will start to link back to them.

How and When to Use PPC

While SEO is strategic and on-going, PPC is more tactical. PPC ads are those ads you see at the top of your search results. Since a PPC campaign only runs as long as you’re willing to pay for it, you want to reserve for when you have something very specific you want to promote.

Sticking with our culinary management program example, if this is a new program and you want to drive awareness as well as attract immediate potential students, a PPC program could be a good choice here.

Another good use case for PPC is to support a specific enrollment priority. Perhaps your school wants to attract students with high musical ability to improve your band and orchestra. Your team has invested a lot of resources creating a report on how music education improves overall learning, which can help students in their future college admissions. You set up a detailed workflow, filled with smart lists and triggered email series to nurture the leads who download this report. Building a PPC campaign around promoting this report could be a valid expense to make this a wide funnel entrance point into your database.

A third place for a PPC campaign may be in growing your funnel numbers for the upcoming year when they’re a bit low. If you need a boost in prospects to get the right number of school applicants, a PPC campaign may help. Keep in mind that in this case, you’re not looking for people in the attraction stage (top-of-the-funnel). They will more likely already be in their consideration stage (middle-of-the-funnel). So select your promoted keywords and content appropriately.

Use this PPC ad calculator to find out if using a PPC campaign makes economic sense for a specific campaign.

In short: think of SEO as your “always-on” SEM, while PPC is your “special occasion” SEM. You need both, but in the right proportion and places.

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