Categories
Content Marketing

Unique Blog Post Ideas to Keep Your Audience Engaged

Consistently coming up with engaging and unique blog post ideas can be a struggle, especially when it feels like you have covered everything. with millions of blogs across the internet covering nearly any topic you can imagine, it doesn’t seem like anything is unique anymore.

So, how can you write fresh, search engine optimized content that is interesting enough that your audience actually wants to read it?

If you are overwhelmed with the idea I was coming up with more ideas, don’t worry. There are a number of ways you can come up with unique Burger ideas without relying solely on your own creativity.

Writer’s block is universal so even the world’s most well-renowned writers and content creators have come up with their own shortcuts for developing topics on a whim. In this guide, I’ll share with you a variety of ways to come up with blog post ideas so you don’t have to stare at a computer screen for hours to come up empty-handed.

Round Up Posts

This can be done in multiple ways. You can write around up post of your favorite industry quotes, or reach out to experts or influencers in your industry to get them to answer the same question. This will provide multiple inside around a single topic that you can then used to create additional blog posts later.

Year in Review Posts

We are quickly approaching the end of 2019. This is fairly monumental as we reach the end of a decade. As the year comes to a close, consider the lessons you’ve learned. What kinds of Trends should your audience look out for in the next year? what can your readers take away from what you’ve learned over the past year?

If your business has been around since before 2009, you can also do a decade in review post and link back to some of your most popular posts over the past few years. Plus, year-in-review posts have the added benefit of being able to Target New Year’s related keywords to get an annual traffic boost.

Answer the Public

You’ve heard me sing praises for Answer the Public in many of my blog posts. It is a free visual keyword research tool that gives you an expensive list of questions related to any Focus topic. Each of these questions could be something your audience is looking for and therefore could serve as the basis for a number of interesting blog posts.

Quora

Quora is a question-and-answer forum where people can post their questions about nearly anything you can imagine. Community members provide answers. Responding to Quora question is commonly used to build backlinks but you can also use these questions for blog post ideas. If you see the same few industry-related questions coming up again and again, it may be time to cover the topic on your own blog.

Once you do, you can return to each of those questions and provide a short answer with the link to your blog post included. This not only helps the people asking the questions get the answers they need but can also help increase traffic to your site.

Facebook Groups

If you thought of it, chances are there’s a Facebook Group built around it. Many Facebook groups consist of hundreds of thousands of members so there is no shortage of people to connect with and learn from. Take time to join industry-related groups and you can learn about the questions that people have or ask them what they would like to know about your chosen topic. Using the feedback from the group members allows you to come up with blog posts you know people will want to read

Resource Posts

Compile resource post that features your favorite industry videos, e-books, tools and more. Your readers are most likely looking for the best resources to help them grow their businesses and improve their lives. These posts are also a great way to earn commission through including affiliate links. However, if you make use of affiliate links be sure to include the appropriate FTC required disclosure.

Industry Event Overviews

Were you part of a local event there would be of interest to your audience? Did you attend a conference?

Write a blog post that shares your experiences and the things you learned on your blog. Chances are there are many people in your audience who would have loved to attend the event but were unable. Through your blog post, they can still get value by reading about what you learned. Plus, if people are searching for information about the event, you may be able to take advantage of that traffic.

Pinterest

A visual social network once thought only to be valuable to those in the cooking or lifestyle niche, Pinterest can be much more than a bunch of projects you’ll never get around to doing.  Take a look at the trending ideas section to find trending topics, or start your search with a keyword to see what comes up.

Your results will include a mixture of images, videos, and blog posts. With it, you can learn about what other brands are posting and think of some blog post ideas on your own. Even if you take something from Pinterest for inspiration, you can find a way to add your own spin to it by including your personal perspective or adding other information the original blog post did not include.

Audience Surveys

Though this approach doesn’t work very well for new blogs that don’t have an established readership, audience surveys are a wonderful way to connect with your subscribers and loyal readers. You can create a quick survey with Google Forms to ask your audience what they are most interested in reading about. This way, you’ll come up with topics they are definitely interested in, but they are likely to be topics people search for, too.

Categories
Content Marketing

How to Create 50+ Pieces of Content Every Day

If you want your brand to stick around a while, you’ll need to have plenty of content ready to go every day. You’ll need content for your social media channels, content for your email subscribers, for your advertising campaigns, for your blog, for other publications so you can establish credibility, and so on.

If you’re on a budget, that often feels impossible since you can’t afford to hire a team of people to create the content for you. You’re only one person, and there are only 24 hours in a day. You can’t spend all your time creating content, so what are you supposed to do?

It all comes down to using hacks to multipurpose as much of your content as possible, and to keep things simple.

Posting the Same Piece of Content Across Different Platforms

You can and should do it. However, it’s important to adjust it accordingly for each platform. Referencing the platform you’re posting the content to helps keep it more relevant and contextual.

Tweets

Active on Twitter? Each tweet is a piece of content. It’ll take you about 20 seconds to create. If you don’t have a lot of followers, you’ll need to focus time and effort on engaging with others here to build your brand.

You’re not done with that tweet yet. You can take a screenshot of it and use it as an Instagram post. Use your phone’s photo editor to get rid of everything else but the tweet itself. It’ll take you about another minute to create the Instagram post from your tweet.

But – we have to keep everything contextual to the platform. Twitter uses short copy and more causal content. With Instagram, there’s longer copy and more context, in most cases.

Memes

A meme is a piece of content. Make it work for you by finding the memes that are trending right now, and add a layer of text or labels that make it contextual to your audience and authentic to your voice. This can easily be done with a tool like MemeGenerator or Canva. You can even use Microsoft Paint on Windows or the Preview App on Mac.

Slide Decks

You can create and upload slide decks as a series of images on Instagram or a PDF on LinkedIn. If you want to make something fast, all you need to do is screenshot between 4 and 8 of your best social media posts. In a lot of situations, you can get this done in under five minutes.

Using a Notes App

Find a Notes app on your phone. Type out your thoughts. If you’re in a hurry, use the voice to text options on your phone to speak your thoughts and then clean up the transcript. Take a screenshot. Post it to Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn.

At this point, you have 9 pieces of content, and you’ve spent less than an hour creating them. Let’s move on to your smartphone camera.

Smartphone Camera

This is the easiest tool for creating content, as long as you feel comfortable on camera. Record a 60-second video where you recap your day, share an insight or a feeling. Post it. That in itself adds another 5 pieces of content because you can post it on Facebook. Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube.

Live Streaming

Live stream videos or podcast interviews with a guest. You can go live on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram. That provides you with 5 more pieces of content.

Cartoons and Drawings

If you’re on the artistic side or have a bit of a budget, you can create drawings, cartoons, or comics. Pick one of your tweets that got more engagement than average. Create a cartoon with any software. Post it to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for 4 more pieces of content.

You can easily create comics without being artistic. Draw something out on a whiteboard with a speech bubble. Fill in a quote. Take a picture of it. Post it as a tweet. Change the quote and post another tweet. Take the pictures and post on your Instagram Stories, post a selfie video on Snapchat, and do a short Instagram live. You have  5 more pieces of content from a drawing you can accomplish in under 30 seconds.

Total content so far: 23 pieces

Video Slideshows

Combine your photos, screenshots, cartoons, quotes, and anything else you’ve created earlier into a video slideshow around a theme. You create the slideshow on Facebook with the Multimedia option. Post it there, then download it as a video to post on the other platforms later. You can use it on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, so there’s another 4 pieces of content.

Photos

It’s a good idea to put content out there about yourself (and your employees, if you’re more than a personal brand) including your hobbies and interests. It humanizes your brand and helps your potential customers create a connection to you. It goes a long way toward building relationships.

It separates you from other people in your space and gives you a chance to share what makes you unique because there is no one else that’s you – and that’s the strongest power you have.

Share photos of the places you visit, humorous moments or inside jokes with followers, older photos, and photos with partners, clients, and customers. For the photos with others, you’ll want to provide a lot of copy to provide context to the audience. Use these on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for 4 more pieces of content.

Video Micro-Content

Add titles and captions to your videos to make it easier for people to consume. You’ll also get wider reach. Record video from your phone’s camera, or create micro-content from long-form videos and live streams.

Take clips from keynotes and post them on Instagram. Use tools such as Biteable, Promo.com, or Kapwing to make the editing fast and easy. Use Rev.com or Zubtitle for captions.

With that, you have 4 more pieces of content because you can use it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Total so far: 35 pieces of content

Text Posts

These are standalone status updates on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook that have no videos or images attached. You can make them short quotes or even statements you feel strongly about. They can also be longer form, depending on the platform. You can share the same quote on different platforms, as long as you factor in contextual differences.

Using LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, we have 3 more pieces of content.

Quote Graphics

Use Canva to create graphics of your favorite quotes or those that relate to your brand. Create them in such a way that matches your brand – consider adding your website and/or logo to the image. Alternatively, you could layer it over a photo of yourself for branding purposes.

Canva is full of graphics you can use as the base, but you can also pull others from free stock photo sites such as Pexels, Pixabay, and Unsplash.

Each quote graphic is 4 pieces of content since you can use it on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Total so far: 42 pieces of content

Stories

Promote your Instagram posts in your stories by providing more copy and context. Repurpose one on one interactions that you have with your audience that could add value to others. Screenshot your Instagram interactions, tweets, and more.

Best of all, you can use them on Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat for three pieces of content.

Community Centric Posts

If you have a following already, connect them with one another with a community-centric post. This is an image or text post that invites people to participate in the comments by asking them a question that has them introduce themselves and interact with one another. This helps get engagement and add value.

You can use this on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn, for 3 more pieces of content.

Commentaries

Beyond creating your content, you can add your own quotes or points of view over trending content. Beyond viral videos and memes, you can use it to discuss news in your industry. You can use this content on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

Total content: 51 pieces of content

You don’t have to stop there! If you’ve got time, you can leverage podcasts to create transcripts and convert them to blog posts. You can film the podcast recording to provide video content. You can create polls on social media.

The content doesn’t have to be original every single time. The key is to make slight edits to your content to make it contextually relevant to each platform.

Categories
SEO

Image Link Building: Earning More Links with Visual Content

A strong headline will draw someone in. A hook will entice someone to keep reading. And a well-placed visual keeps you focused and will help you remember the content long after you forgotten the words you read.

The images will captivate your audience but using video visual content goes beyond this. You can also use it as a practical approach to building more backlinks to your site.

A Skyword study showed that content containing related images performs better across all content categories. Google is continually working to include more imagery and videos in their search changing the way the information is presented on a search results page.

Because of this, you need to change the way you present your website’s information to Google and to other search engines.

You know the visual content is a valid way to build links, but how do you make it work?

Types of Visual Content to Build Links

It’s important to understand the various kinds of visual content you can work with. Here I’ll cover 6 of the main types of content you can use for link building purposes.

Infographics

Infographics are a way to take a lot of data and make it easier to understand and more interesting to read. While there are plenty of people who believe infographics are overused, there are still plenty of people out there championing for them.

Using eye-catching infographics combined with useful information that readers can digest is a wonderful way to earn links, especially when you do the promotion work,  whether you are for or against infographics.

You don’t have to hire a professional designer to build your infographics either, since there are several tools you can use to build your own, including Piktochart, Venngage, and Canva. The image you see to the left is nothing more than a basic template from Canva, and there are hundreds to choose from to help you get started, with plenty of niches to choose from as well.

Logos

Your logo is visual content too. You already have it on several places on your website, and it may even be on other websites if you’ve written guest posts, contributed to any kind of community pages, or been featured as part of a podcast or other content.

It’s a good idea to keep track of the places where your logo shows up on the web so you can make sure the image links back to your site.

Product Photos or Brand Photoshoots

This one is for all the online shops and ecommerce sites out there – it’s easy to build links with your product images.

Just be sure you’re using high-quality original photos that have been optimized for SEO.

If you don’t have products to take photos of, then you can hire a professional photographer to do a brand photoshoot as it relates to what you do.

Employee or Company Photos

Have photos of your last company retreat? Feature employee photos on your team page? These are great for link building, too. Keep the images high-quality and make sure everyone’s names are spelled correctly.

Charts, Maps, and Graphs

Data visualization is a fantastic way to generate links. As long as the information is useful and easy for people to understand, you can put it to good use. You don’t even need to create an original map, graph, or chart!

Instead, you can run a report from a third-party site, take a screenshot of the results and share it as an image in your content. It’s important to share the source of the report but the image itself can be attributed to you.

For example, if I wanted to show data about the number of websites online that use the WordPress CMS to operate, I could visit BuiltWith to get the data, Screenshot and include it in my blog post. This is exactly what I’ve done here.

Memes and GIFs

Memes and gifs have taken the Internet by storm and they aren’t going anywhere. If for any reason you’re not using them in your content already, now is a great time to give it a try.

Use them well and use them Tastefully because people love to share good means which means plenty of inbound links for you. There are plenty of memes out there you can use, but if you want to keep things original, you can make your own memes for free using a variety of tools such as Meme Generator.

Above I mentioned the importance of image optimization and link to a post on the blog about it. Though it gives you an in-depth look at what you should do to make sure your images are optimized for the search engines, I thought it would be ideal to end this post with a few quick and dirty tips for those of you who are in a hurry and can’t take the time to read the full post.

  • Include ALT text for all the images. The ALT text appears in place of an image when it can’t be shown for whatever reason. Your ALT should be similar to the filename and provide a short relevant description of the image including keywords. Adding ALT text to your images can boost your site’s rankings by associating your images and therefore your site with the keywords and descriptions you’ve used. ALT text is also important for accessibility standards so that people using screen readers can understand the images on the page.
  • Optimize your file names. Use keywords in your image file names. This helps describe the content to the search engines. You should keep your file name short, relevant to the image and include both primary and secondary keywords.
  • Add descriptive captions. Wildcat options are often overlooked, data shows that captions get 16% more readership than text. An image caption differs from the filename are all text because it is the text that appears below the image that briefly explains the picture. The majority of relevant images are understood without captions but it’s best to never assume that yours will be, too. You can use captions to add additional context to your images, helping both readers and search engines process the information on your page.

The most of your image backlink building efforts, use reverse image searches such as Google Images and TinEye to help you locate images that have been shared on another site without linking back to your site or images that have been shared with the wrong link.  With these tools, if you find an image that doesn’t link back to you as the source or links incorrectly, contact the publication that’s using it and request that they link back to your site as the source.

Categories
Content Marketing

Structuring Your Content for Accessibility

Structuring your content for accessibility requires some formatting and technical adjustments to your text-based, audio, and video content. On your website or social media, accessible content means people with visual and other impairments are able to access your content and understand it.

Additionally, Google and other search engines love accessibly structured content and may prioritize it in the search results, which can help you get more views and engagement on your content.

Text Accessibility Tips

If you’re creating a blog post or website content, the text is usually the bread and butter of your message. Here are some fast and simple tips to ensure your text is accessible.

Write in Short Paragraphs

When writing for the web, consider using short paragraphs to make it easier for the reader. A good guideline: imagine you’re reading your text on your phone. If the paragraph runs longer than your mobile phone screen, it’s probably too long to be accessible. While you’re at it, make sure you break up your text with a compressed image every 250 words or so.

You can find a royalty-free image for use on sites like Pixabay and Pexels, or at many other locations.

Utilize Headings

To make your content more accessible to all readers and search engines, use headings. Top-level headings, or H1s, indicate the main topic (or title) of your content. Those go in <H1> tags. Sub-headings should be scannable to the reader and go under <H2> headings. Need to break it down beyond that? Consider <H3> headings.

If all this code sounds confusing, don’t worry. Most word processing programs and CMSes (content management systems, like WordPress or Drupal) have WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) header editing options. To use them, highlight the text and then select the correct heading option. Here’s how to do that in WordPress, GoogleDocs, and Microsoft Word.

In addition to creating accessible content for users with screen readers, most people prefer to scan articles in this fashion to find relevant information. Proper headings make the text more accessible for everyone.

Use Accessible Font Choices

Users with visual impairments, as well as screen readers and other helpful AI (artificial intelligence) can best read accessible fonts. While you might think default or sans serif fonts are boring, they’re the defaults for a reason: they’re accessible and generally easier to read.

Accessible fonts include Helvetica, Calibri, and Arial. These are especially helpful to users with low vision.

Static Image Accessibility Tips

Are you using pictures in the body of your text, or as the content itself? You might think images are completely inaccessible to those using screen readers, but that’s not so. Some folks who use screen readers have low vision, meaning they can magnify and consume visual content using special tools.

Additionally, search engines and users with accessibility needs often prefer images with alt-tags. Alt-tags are short descriptions that describe the content. Let’s say you have a photo of two dogs playing. Your alt-tag might read “two medium-sized poodle dogs playing.” This description gives the user a decent image in their mind. Even if they’ve only touched a poodle, they can imagine the texture when the dog is described.

If you’re posting memes or other text-heavy content on a website or social media, make sure to include the text in the image description. On Facebook, for example, post the meme, but along with the image, include what the text says.

Video Content Accessibility Tips

Do you regularly post video content? If so, make your videos more accessible to those with hearing impairments by including video captions on your video. Here are some things to think about:

  • 28 million adult Americans can’t hear your video—they have hearing impairments.
  • 85% of Facebook videos get played with no sound.
  • Want people to watch your video to the end? Chances of them completing it increases significantly with video captions.

It may also help to include more information about the video in its description, including a transcript, a few bullet points about the content, and the video length.

When you include a transcript, make sure to use the words “video transcript” to aid users in searching specifically for the transcript. Remember: this also signals to Google and other search engines that you’re including a transcript, and that can increase your search engine ranking and visibility.

Accessibility Goes Beyond Hearing and Visual Impairments

Creating accessible content also means considering those who have cognitive disabilities, physical disabilities, and learning disabilities. Plus, according to the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), businesses must comply with accessibility needs. That doesn’t only refer to brick-and-mortar establishments, but to websites, social media platforms, and other online real estate as well.

What can you do to make the most accessible content? Consider presenting data in logical, easy-to-digest formats. While complex infographics look nice, simple data might work best in a small table. Those with cognitive impairments may be able to more easily understand the information.

Consider Other Definitions of Accessibility

Beyond visual accessibility, think about the people who might want to access your content and otherwise could not. Do you offer a product or service that appeals to children as well as adults? If so, you’ll need content (or maybe even your own app) that is child-friendly and accessible to kids—that means considering kids’ reading levels, interests, and colors that engage them.

While a parent considering a toy might want to know more about the safety, price, and educational value of it, a child will want to know when it’s available and what type of features it might have. A discerning grandparent might simply want to know how or where to order it so it arrives before the holidays. Can they get it in one click with Amazon? Even better.

Other accessibility considerations include:

  • Broadband internet accessibility: Many internet users around the world rely partially or totally on mobile devices. Make sure your content is mobile-friendly (also essential for search engine ranking) and navigable on your phone.
  • Financial accessibility: Is your content behind a paywall? If so, it may not be financially accessible to everyone.

With the right structure and accessibility considerations, your content has the potential to not only rank better but to impress and serve all the users you’re hoping to reach.

Categories
Content Marketing

Content Marketing Hacks for a Better Customer Experience

When is the last time you had a wonderful experience as a customer? Chances are, it only took you a few minutes to come up with a story of a company that left you with a long-lasting impression. On the flip side, it probably wouldn’t take you long at all to think of your most recent poor customer experience and how it left you feeling angry and frustrated.

A few years ago, a friend of mine was stuck with one of the Samsung Note 7 devices on her T-Mobile account. She and her husband had recently separated. He took the phone and his line to another company and subsequently lost/gave away/sold the device. My friend was left paying a monthly fee on her bill for the device, and at first, T-Mobile was of little assistance.

Positive customer experience not only results in making your customers happy but also leads to additional revenue. The best marketing money can buy is a customer who will promote your business because they will refer their friends and family to you for free.

The way your company thinks about customer experience has a strong impact on how you look at your business as a whole. That’s one reason why focusing your efforts on developing a stellar customer experience is important. And if the customer experience you’ve developed isn’t great, you need to think about how to improve it and where to get started.

Here, I discuss what customer experience is and how you can adjust your content marketing strategy to improve your overall customer experience.

What is Customer Experience?

Customer experience refers to the impression you leave with your customers that affects how they think of your brand across the entire customer journey. Several touchpoints factor into the customer experience and these touchpoints happen on a cross-functional basis.

The two main touchpoints that create the customer experience are people and products.  When you make a purchase, are you satisfied with the performance of the product? When you reach out to customer service, are you happy with the attention of the support representative that helps you solve your problem? These are generalized examples of the factors that come into play when developing solid customer experience.

If you want to build and sustain business growth, positive customer experience is crucial. It helps build brand loyalty and creates brand ambassadors who promote your business for you. It helps with customer reviews that people used to determine if they want to conduct business with you. Recommendations from family and friends and online reviews have more power with consumers than any brand originated assets.

Don’t think you should focus on building a good customer experience? Research shows that by next year (2020) customer experience will be the key differentiator between businesses – not price. As such, you’ll be able to charge more for the products and services you offer as long as you go above and beyond to provide a quality experience.

Tips to Improve Customer Experience with Content Marketing

Never Underestimate the Power of Visuals

Promoting evergreen content is one thing. But it is crucial not to forgo the importance of visuals. Yes, the content needs to be well-written, but it also has to be shareable and rewarding. Today’s consumers have higher expectations than ever and they likely will not excuse poor quality graphics and design issues.

Everything from the thumbnail images on your video marketing to your infographics, website and social media posts should be attractive. Failure to produce engaging imagery will reduce the number of shares and clicks you receive.

When people hear information, they’re likely to only remember 10% of it three days later. However, if that information is paired with a relevant image, they retain 65% of the information three days later.

Add Video Marketing

Video marketing is where you should be. Whether you’re doing YouTube videos, going “live” on social media platforms, or sharing videos across multiple platforms, what matters is you create quality content with subtitles that your audience can view even when muted.

Use Split-Testing

Split testing, also known as A/B testing, is one of the most useful hacks to help you improve customer experience. Your marketing team can test each component of the campaign and analyze its performance in terms of visitors and leads.

For instance, if you have designed two different landing pages with the same offer, split testing allows you to find out which one works best in terms of user experience so you can use it in your future strategy. Split testing works on a website in a similar way, showing you how visitors respond to changes on your website. You can test everything from the layout, colors, calls-to-action, photos, to even the offers themselves. The key is to test each element individually so that you have a clear idea of which change influenced the analytics. In theory, after testing each element of your website or landing page, you could create the perfect option for your target audience by combining all of the elements that had the highest conversion rate.

Build Thorough Consumer Guides and Free Resources

Today’s consumers are looking for product specific information to help them make a purchase decision. Because of insecurities, people are often afraid to spend their hard-earned money, especially when it comes to purchasing premium products or services.

Creating consumer guides is one of the best ways to market your products and services. Include tips to buy, pros and cons of the product, factors to consider and more. The more detail you include, the better. Use keyword research and social listening to determine the most frequently asked questions in regards to the products and services you offer. Make sure your guide answers all of those questions to ensure you’re providing the most benefit.

In addition to buying guides, focus on creating e-books and e-courses where appropriate. This could help you get more out of a potential customer. If you want to sell them what you’re offering, give them a resource first. A free e-book or online course is something newcomers will always find valuable for getting industry information. It doesn’t take long to create but provides continuous benefits for your company.

By providing these resources, you are sure to strengthen your brand voice as an authority in your niche and the loyalty of a customer who needs your product or service. If you need ideas of where to get started, do some competitive research to see what others are doing. Then, find ways to make yours better.

How is your current content strategy supporting your customer experience? Share your thoughts in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!

Categories
Content Marketing

Content vs. Content Marketing

Believe it or not, there are still some people who think content and content marketing are the same thing. Going beyond the definition, the difference lies in the difference between content creation and the practice of content marketing. White papers, webinars, and e-books are not content marketing. Ads aren’t content marketing. Your social media posts aren’t content marketing. Marketing with content isn’t content marketing.

The Difference Between Content and Content Marketing

Content marketing relies on the publisher destination and the frequency of high quality content to attract and build an audience. On social platforms, you don’t own the audience. And publishing one ebook doesn’t provide the consistency people need and expect to build trust. Content marketing is meant to attract an audience to an experience or destination you own. You build it and optimize it in order to help you achieve your marketing goals. Content itself is everywhere. You have sales content, advertising content, marketing campaign content, event content, customer service content, user-generated content, and more. Content marketing on the other hand attracts an audience to a platform you own rather than buying an audience or interrupting them on someone else’s platform.

Making Content Marketing Work for You

Build Your Content Marketing Mission Statement

Your content marketing mission statement should support your brand mission and put your customers brought in center. Make sure to define who your target audience is and what topic or topics you support along with the value you provide to your audience.

Choose a URL

Decide whether your content marketing destination should be your company’s domain or on an unbranded website. For instance, BigCommerce, an e-commerce solution provider displays their content marketing solutions for small businesses looking to learn about digital marketing and customer experience on the same domain with a blog URL. On the other hand, we see that CMO.com is a domain that’s independent of its parent company, Adobe.

Determine How Branded the Site Will Be

Content marketing is different in terms of branding. If you place your content site on your domain, it needs to contain at least a few elements of your corporate brands. If you opt for an off-domain content site the creative direction you take needs to support whatever topic you are trying to become an authority .

Make Sure to Include All the Components of an Effective Content Marketing Destination

Your site must include all of the components that are typically found on any publisher website such as:

  • Categories that show the topics you cover
  • Articles that are frequently published with visible publication dates and authors
  • Strong focus on growing your audience by including calls to subscribe in your updates
  • Calls to action, a contact us page, or an offer for anyone who wants to read you directly
  • Visuals to support your topics and break up text
  • Highways of the top performing content so readers can easily find your best content
  • Social sharing options to allow your readers to easily promote your content

Develop a Plan to Support Visual Content

Getting everything done to this point can be challenging. Once it’s done however you will find that creating visual content is a challenge. The good news is you don’t have to ruin your budget to include visuals. You can use other people’s visual content by embedding it with your own. You can create SlideShare presentations with little to no budget. And you could tell stories with your visuals.

Build Site to Focus on Subscriptions

Subscribers are an important measure of engagement, conversion, and reach. They are representation of the audience of readers that invite you into their email box. As such, you should optimize your website and the content for them to build your list. As you build your list, build trust by consistently providing them with great content they can only get in their email box. This is a crucial step in educating your customers that is especially important for B2B companies or professional service providers.

Publish New Content Consistently

If you’re covering just one topic, publish new content at least once a week. If you’re covering two topics,  publish at least twice  weekly. If possible, publish every day on various categories of content that will attract the right audience. Research from Hubspot shows that increasing the frequency of quality content delivers a predictable and in some cases, exponential ROI.

Define the Metrics You’ll Measure

It may be tempting to select a large number of metrics to track. Thankfully, you don’t have to pick them all. By focusing just on your traffic (page views and visitors), your engagement (social shares, comments, and time on site) and conversions (number of subscribers and contact form submissions) you have everything you need to further inform your strategy. If you struggle to find the time and resources to get all of this done, there are plenty of marketing automation tools available to help you plan your editorial calendar, schedule the content to your website, and handle social promotion. If you’re not a great writer, you can always outsource the content creation. And if your budget allows, you can always hire an agency like mine, Sachs Marketing Group, to handle all your content creation and content marketing needs.

Categories
Content Marketing

Finding Your True Local Competition

Understanding exactly who the local competition is these days is harder than ever before. No longer can saying, “you’ve achieved #1 in Google for these keywords” be all you focus on. Why? Because Google alters search results for people based on their location and other factors, to create a more personalized browsing experience. Ranking tools aren’t always consistent, and what shows as competition under one search, may not be the same competition for another. That’s why it’s important to do a competitive SEO audit, as part of your overall competitive analysis to get a better look at who the real competition is.

For this example, let’s say the client is an Italian restaurant in Clemson, South Carolina and has five main keyword phrases they want to rank for.

  • Italian Restaurant
  • Italian Restaurant Clemson
  • Italian Restaurant Near Me
  • Best Italian Restaurant
  • Cheapest Italian Restaurant

Step One: Understand the Local Pack in Google

Start with the local map pack. Search the keywords the restaurant wants to rank for, and note who the three competitors are in the map pack for each. If you do not live in the same geographic area as the client, it’s ideal to walk the client through this process so they can conduct the searches from their local address. This is because Google uses the searcher’s proximity to the business as a weight in results. To emulate Google, we must pretend to be a local searcher.

Step Two: Create a Spreadsheet and Do Some Homework

In the spreadsheet, note the keyword phrases and the three competitors for each of them. Add a column for distance to the client. Note the addresses of each of the businesses in the map pack, because you’ll need them for the next step.

Step Three: Going the Distance

Next, search “directions” in Google, and you’ll be presented with a tool to get directions (and distances) from one address to another.

Enter the client’s business address, along with the address of their first competitor. Note the distance in the spreadsheet. Repeat the process for all the competitors in each of the five map packs.

Step Four: Measure

In a second column, note the greatest distance Google is going to fill out the results for each map pack. (I noted all the distances, because it was just as easy since multiple restaurants showed up in multiple map packs.)

Step Five: Identify Competitors by Strength

Rate the competitors by the number of times each one appears across all five local packs. The spreadsheet should look a little something like this:

Continuing with the example, we’ve learned:

Amici Clemson is the dominant competitor in the market, ranking in four out of five map packs. Olive Tree of Central and Tiger’s Pizza and Subs are also strong competitors because they rank in three of the five. Torado Pizza is noteworthy because it appears in two of the five. Jerry’s Pizza and Monterrey of Clemson are weak because they only appear in one. Closer inspection reveals Monterrey of Clemson isn’t an Italian restaurant at all – instead, it’s a Mexican restaurant with happy hour. That could still be considered competition, but it is indirect since they are not also an Italian restaurant.

The radius Google uses to find results varies depending on the phrase, and the more specific you get, the further out Google is willing to go. In most searches, there’s an option within a couple of miles, but in this instance, Google never goes beyond five miles.

With this information, you know who the client’s direct competitors are for their most desired searches, and how far Google is willing to go to make up a local map pack for each term. You’ve found the pattern of the most dominant competition across the top phrases your client wants to rank for, which tells you which competitors should be audited to uncover clues about the elements of their online presence that are making them strong.

Pros and Cons of This Approach

Pros

  • You’re not limited to the vision of a single local map pack with a single set of competitors. The trends and patterns of dominant market-wide competitors can help you come up with a better strategy.
  • You get to this set of competitors quickly, and know what you need to do to figure out what’s helping them, so you can ensure your client does it better.
  • You get a useful view of the client’s target market, understanding the differences between businesses that are found across multiple packs, vs those that are one-offs and could be easier to beat.
  • You may find extremely valuable intelligence for your client. For instance, if Google has to cast a net as wide as 15 miles to find an organic Italian restaurant, your client could start offering more organic items on their menu, writing about it more, and getting more reviews that mention it. This gives Google a new option to consider for the local pack that’s much closer to the searcher.
  • It’s quick and easy to do for a business with a single location.
  • Clients should be easy to convince of this because they’ve helped with the research. The spreadsheet is something they can understand immediately.

Cons

  • You’ll depend on the client for help for a bit, and some clients aren’t good at participating with you, so you’ll have to convince them the value of conducting the initial searches for you.
  • Manual work gets tedious.
  • Scaling this for use with a multi-location enterprise would be time-consuming.
  • Some of your clients are based in large cities and what to know what competitors are showing up for users across town and in different zip codes. Sometimes, it is possible to compete with competitors in other locations, but not always. This approach doesn’t cover this situation, so you’ll either be using tools that aren’t always consistent, or asking the client to go across town to search from that location, which could become a hassle.

This approach allows you to see who your competition is in the search results, so you’re not wasting time evaluating websites of other businesses that won’t provide good results.

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SEO

User Intent: Crafting Content Based on What Users Want and Need

To be successful with your SEO campaigns today, the most important thing to consider is user intent. Behind every search, there is an intention. People are looking for something in particular when they search, whether it’s the answers to their problems, information about available services, or sources for a product they want. If you want people to be able to discover your business online, your content must be optimized for user intent.

Google’s algorithm has come a long way in its ability to recognize user intent, and that’s how it serves the most relevant content to the user. As a result, understanding user intent as you create content will improve the relevance of your website, and thus go a great way toward improving your SEO.

Understanding the Types of User Intent

To create an SEO strategy based on user intent, you must first be able to tell the difference between the types of user intent. Search Google with the terms your audience will be looking for, and based on what you see, you’ll be able to determine the type of content users want to see at the various stages of intent.

Informational

In the informational stage, users are trying to gather more information about a topic or product, but are not ready to buy. This is where you’ll find how-to posts and tutorials particularly useful. There are generally no ads on these types of searches because there isn’t a particular product to buy.

Navigational

In the navigational stage, the user is looking for content to help consider their options, but still isn’t ready to buy. This is where you’ll find best of lists and the like, to help people make their decision. Options may contain links to buy, but the sites are not pushing making the sale too hard.

Transactional

At this stage, the user is ready to buy. They have their credit card in hand and are ready to purchase. They may search “where can I buy?” Most of the search results that will show up are from online stores that sell the product the user wants to buy. These sites are delivering product pages, because they know based on the nature of the query, the user already has the information they need.

Audit Your Existing Content

Now, you’ll take a look at whether or not your existing content matches the needs of your audience. You can do this with Google Analytics. Take a look at your top performing keywords. If you determine that your top performing keyword, “buy laptop”, a transactional keyword, leads to a blog post with tips on how to choose the best laptop for your needs, you’re not giving users what they want.

In this case, you should adjust your strategy so that people who search for “buy laptop” are taken to a product page instead of an informative blog post. This way, your users get what they are looking for, and you’ll get more conversions.

Look at your other blog posts. If users aren’t seeing them, start incorporating more informational keywords. And if your product pages aren’t showing up in the search results, add some transactional keywords to improve your ranking for that user intent.

Create Content with User Intent in Mind

Keywords are an important part of your SEO strategy, but they aren’t the only thing you need to consider. You must craft the content around the keywords, based on user intent. Because Google understands user intent, if your content doesn’t match the intent for your keyword, you won’t rank for it no matter how well other factors indicate that you should.

For instance, if you are targeting the long-tail keyword phases, “how to bake a cherry pie” but you stray from that subject in your blog post and it ends up being more about how to grow a cherry tree, you won’t show up in any results related to baking. Instead, your content will show up in searches related to gardening, which doesn’t match your target audience. You’ll get traffic both ways, of course, but without matching intent, that traffic won’t be targeted, which means conversions will suffer, and ultimately, so will your revenue.

Plan content for each type of user intent as this will help guide users through each stage of the buyer’s journey. That way, users will discover you in the informational stage, and they’ll find helpful content from you again once they move to the navigational phase. At this point, you’ll have built up some trust and credibility with the audience so you can nurture them all the way through buying your product or service.

Take a look at all the keywords you’re trying to rank for. Separate them into buckets based on intent. Create content that supports that intent, even if it means reworking, or completely scrapping your existing content. Each time you conduct keyword research to find more potential ranking opportunities, make sure you first understand the intent of the keyword.

Knowing (and making use of) user intent will make your SEO strategy that much more successful. By following this advice, you’ll be serving your audience with highly useful content at the right stage of the journey, and will keep them coming to your site. It’ll go a long way toward ensuring those people become your customers, and start referring more customers to you.

If you want help with crafting a user-intent based SEO strategy, you can reach out to the team here at Sachs Marketing Group.

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Content Marketing

What is Hyper-Personalization in Marketing?

Today’s consumers demand more from the companies they do business with. They don’t want blanket offers or experiences – they want things personalized to them. In fact, 79% of consumers say they’re only likely to use a brand promotion if the promotion is tailored to them based on previous interactions with the brand. And by 2020, 51% of consumers expect companies will anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions before making contact. The good news is, 57% of consumers are okay with giving a website personal information as long as it’s used responsibly and for their benefit.

Many brands do a decent job at delivering a personalized experience, but as marketing continues to evolve, hyper-personalization is where we’re heading. To ensure you’re able to keep up with the changes and get one step ahead of the competition, it’s time to work on your hyper-personalization strategy.

Personalization vs. Hyper-Personalization

Personalization adjusts brand communications based on the available information about the consumer, such as name, location, and purchase history. Hyper-personalization, considers that information along with real-time data and browsing behavior to adjust messages in the moment. It leverages artificial intelligence (AI) with the real-time data to deliver more relevant product and service information and content to each user.

Brands Getting Hyper-Personalization Right

Amazon

Amazon has long been personalizing the experience for its shoppers, but thanks to its various membership options and massive inventory, it has created a hyper-personal experience for its millions of users.

When a customer searches for a pair of headphones, a “Frequently bought together” section appears on the page to suggest other items to purchase.

Beyond this, the homepage is personalized for each customer based on their previous shopping habits, their shopping cart, and wish lists. Through anticipating their customers’ needs, Amazon makes it easier to find what they’re looking for, while also making it easy to find new products.

Amazon accomplishes this through the use of predictive analytics to gather data. Using both historical and real-time data allows them to get a deeper understanding of their customers, which allows them to improve customer satisfaction with these hyper-personalized marketing techniques.

Netflix

Netflix has been serving up suggestions based on the content you’ve watched in the past, but today, they take it even further. They personalize film covers to give prominence to the actors and actresses you’re familiar with.

Netflix uses massive amounts of data, getting granular and specific with their genre suggestion, to accomplish this for all its users. In a way, your watchlist is customized by them as much as it is customized by you. The streaming services knows when you stop watching a title halfway through, when you hit pause or play, and when you click the button to add something to your watchlist. By harvesting the information from user profiles and feeding it into its personalization engines, no two Netflix users has the same combination of rows on their homepage.

Age and gender are not factored into the recommendation system, because user behavior is a far more important metric. And Netflix doesn’t use the data just to change your suggested titles. The personalization can even adjust how the player looks in terms of design – and you’ll get different recommendations depending on when you login.

Starbucks

Starbucks has allowed customers to personalize their products – using non-dairy options, sugar-free syrups, and so on. But to take that even further, Starbucks now uses a real-time personalization engine to create individualized offers for their customers based on preferences and previous behavior. The data comes from their loyalty app, so they can understand the habits and needs of each customer. Using the information, Starbucks sends personalized emails with deals and updates that are relevant to them. People share their data with the app because it enriches their customer experience. Creating a loyalty program for your brand not only rewards your customers, but helps you to understand how they interact with your products or services so you can make use of the data for hyper-personalization.

Planning a Hyper-Personalization Strategy

When you’re ready to take your personalized marketing to a new level, you’ll need to ensure you have a plan.

Mine Data

Take a look at the data you have available and the kind of data you’re collecting. Consider what you’re doing with the data, because the more you’re doing to ensure its accuracy, the better your results will be. This means continually removing outdated, duplicate, and incomplete information. According to Eloqua, companies with consistent data hygiene processes generate 7x more inquiries and 4x the leads than those who don’t.

Craft a Personal Message

With hyper-personalization, you’re turning your company data into relevant messaging and offers that best address your customers’ needs. This approach is highly effective in email marketing, and can be transferred to other areas of your marketing, too.

Develop a Personalized Offer

Much like Starbucks has done with their hyper-personalization, you should aim to personalize your offer based on your customers’ past behavior. How effective the offer is will depend on the quality of the data you have. Beyond personalizing the offer itself, you should aim to make things as convenient and user-friendly as possible.

Use All Your Channels

When you combine all the consumer data you have available with multichannel marketing efforts, you’ll be able to create one-to-one relationships with each one of your prospects and customers. Websites, email, and smartphones all offer advanced customization and personalization options, and those options are also available for print marketing and direct mail initiatives.

Timing Matters

Contextual data, or the who, what, when, and where of customer behavior, helps you better understand how and why your audience interacts with messaging. Applying predictive analytics also helps determine the best times to deliver specific messages to drive the desired results.

Test, Test, Test

To build the most effective hyper-personalization strategy, you must continually test. It’s critical to identify the most compelling elements of your messaging, and you can only do this with multivariate and usability testing. These go beyond basic split testing to help you gauge the combined effect of multiple elements at once, so you can figure out which combinations perform the best.

Research from Ascend2 reveals only 9% of surveyed marketing professionals have completely developed their hyper-personalization strategy. Getting started now puts you ahead of the competition as an early adopter. Make your top priorities improving customer experience and applying your data insights to decision-making, and you’ll get the most benefit from your efforts. By improving your customer’s personalized experience, you’ll build goodwill and loyalty for your brand.

Categories
Content Marketing

Are E-Commerce Platforms Really Worth It?

E-commerce platforms are constantly evolving. What started as a method for listing products on HTML sites back in the ‘90s has now become a highly-technical industry full of some of the most advanced, automated tools in marketing.

It’s no secret that modern e-commerce platforms can make it a heck of a lot easier to market your products and services. You don’t need to be a web design expert (or even know much about marketing) to get in on the game anymore, if you use the right tools. But it isn’t advisable to jump in and take a shot with the first platform you find. Online retail takes a lot of work, and even if you’re using a great platform, you may find yourself faced with unique challenges and disadvantages.

To answer the question in the title of this article: yes, e-commerce platforms are really worth it. But there’s a catch – you need to choose the right platform to fit your goals. In today’s post, I’ll talk a bit about e-commerce as a whole, how these services work, and how you can make sure you find the right fit.

What Exactly is E-Commerce?

What the heck is e-commerce, anyway? Basically, it’s defined as the buying or selling of goods on the internet. That’s it; it’s really just that simple.

It doesn’t matter if you’re selling a physical product or service; your sale is qualified as e-commerce if there is an online financial transaction. Most e-commerce transactions are Business-to-Consumer (B2C). This is reflected by the fact that B2C makes up a significant chunk of the market. You’ll find some businesses that have storefronts and a web presence, and others which have opted for a digital presence alone.

There are other forms of e-commerce out there too. Mobile commerce (m-commerce) is one of the fastest-growing market segments. It’s becoming more and more popular among people who shop on the go. It’s especially useful for businesses making money selling movie, sports, or concert tickets. F-commerce involves only marketing that takes place on Facebook, while Business-to-Business (B2B) involves direct business-to-business transactions. There is also Customer-to-Customer (C2C) transactions; this is when the general public sells among itself, similar to what you see in yard sale groups or on the Facebook Marketplace. All have an important role to play in the e-commerce industry as a whole.

Advantages of E-Commerce

E-commerce comes with several distinct advantages. Online sales allow business owners to reach regional, national, and even global audiences they wouldn’t be able to reach from a local brick-and-mortar store. E-commerce retailers had a revenue total of over $322 billion in 2016; that number is expected to soar to a staggering $4 trillion by 2020. That type of opportunity for reach (and growth) is nothing to sneeze at.

E-commerce startup costs are traditionally a lot lower than they are with storefronts. This can be beneficial for business owners in many ways. For example, lowering the need for upfront capital (rent, security deposits, signage, internal design, point-of-sale systems, etc.) leaves more opportunity for initial growth.

But that doesn’t mean e-commerce is free, either. The biggest starting costs come from the cost of running a platform itself. This includes finding an e-commerce host or having a website built from scratch (even customization comes at a small price). However, it’s still typically far less expensive as a startup to go e-commerce than brick and mortar.

Then, there’s the issue of where to store your goods. You may or may not need a place to stockpile your inventory, but that depends on what you are selling and whether you have product in hand. If you’re drop-shipping, you may not even need to consider storage space.

Working from an e-commerce platform unlocks new possibilities of customer communication as well as flexibility in marketing techniques. Customers who walk into a store rarely give away their email addresses, especially if they browse without buying. With an online store, you can utilize retargeting and remarketing practices, keeping your product in the spotlight even after a potential customer navigates away.

Disadvantages of E-Commerce

Of course, e-commerce isn’t all sunshine and roses. You are at the mercy of your website and hosting provider, so if your website crashes, you won’t make any sales. Long downtimes can be crippling for online businesses.

E-commerce is also incredibly competitive. What does this mean for you, the retailer? Essentially, you need to have a strong niche and/or a very strong search engine optimization team at the ready. Without those strategies, your site won’t rank, and your products may never sell.

Additionally, there are some items people can’t or won’t buy online. Some people refuse to buy clothing they can’t try on, while others won’t buy makeup they can’t sample or see. You need to have a very clear idea of how your target consumer thinks and shops to be profitable in e-commerce.

Platforms to Consider

You made it this far; now, you’re sure you want to go the e-commerce route. The good news is you’ll find an endless number of options out there. The bad news? Few are actually worth their salt and some may even be outright scams.

The most important initial consideration is hosting. Some e-commerce platforms offer free hosting on their own servers; others allow you to integrate platforms and tools on your own domain.

Three platforms stand out as the most “popular” across all platforms:

  • Shopify — This is a great platform for both physical and digital products. Shopify will even take care of the drop-shipping if you are partnering with another big brand, making it easier to get started without a warehouse.
  • Volusion — The dashboard here is simple and the step-by-step wizard is also helpful. It walks you through the set-up process, making it ideal for newcomers.
  • BigCommerce — This is another popular and affordable option. BigCommerce’s number one claim to fame is its clean, easy-to-use dashboard. It’s intuitive and straightforward, making this another great choice for newbies. 

Each of the platforms here come with a range of product options, storage capacities, and payment processing gateways. Most also provide tools for marketing, analyzing abandoned carts, and even creating newsletter integrations, but that doesn’t necessarily make them the “right” choice. It’s important to dig deep and get to know their nuances before you settle on what you think works best. Don’t be afraid to ask companies for a demo; most are more than happy to indulge.

SEO for E-Commerce

As an e-commerce beginner, you need to incorporate both paid strategies and organic SEO efforts to get your new site off the ground. Your goal is to rank as close to the number one result as possible, for as many of your site’s main keywords as you can.

According to Search Engine Watch, a 2011 Optify study showed that sites ranking number one for their chosen keywords saw a click-through rate (CTR) of approximately 36.4 percent. Sites in the #2 position saw a dramatic drop to a CTR of only 12 percent, while those in the #3 spot dropped as low as 9 percent. In short, you need to get yourself to that top spot.

But how? Approach e-commerce SEO as you would any other website — with careful planning and execution.

Try these strategies:

  • Conduct careful keyword research on your products. Which keywords match them best, and how can you diversify with semantics?
  • Do some competitor research. Who are your competitors, and what are they ranking for in terms of keywords? Use backlinks tools to figure out who’s linking to them and why – then, target those sites yourself.
  • Detect and correct website development and speed errors ASAP. This tip is critical because Google penalizes slow, buggy sites.
  • Make sure each page is properly optimized with the right keywords, internal links, meta data, and URL structures. Use internal and external linking to draw attention from bots where it makes sense.
  • Make sure your website is responsive, or mobile-friendly. This is no longer optional; it’s a must. As with slowness, Google actively penalizes sites that aren’t optimized, too.

It takes time for new e-commerce sites to rank and make money – and that’s usually because organic, lasting SEO results take time, too. This is what makes it so important to budget well for paid campaigns while you work to grow your organic reach. If you don’t see results within a week (or even a month), don’t panic. Give it some time, then monitor and tweak until you get it right. You can always reach out to me for consultation if you need more help, too.