It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that content marketing is definitely in vogue with marketers across the B2B and B2C spectrum. It has spawned a cottage industry of books, conferences and the inevitable “gurus”
But while I’m as big a fan of the latest Facebook meme as the next guy, I reckon it is the science of content marketing, not the art, where much of the untapped opportunity still lies.
Sure content still has to fulfil a purpose – educate, inform, entertain – but it is the black art of search, algorithms and devices that can make the difference between the greatest piece of content no-one ever saw and the piece that went (insert dreaded word) viral.
Some tips then on ensuring that all the hours spent creating the ideal piece of content aren’t all for naught.
Remember the basics: For many consumers Google is their default starting point on any online journey – as high as 63% of US consumers use it daily. Sure they may have clicked through from your brilliant banner or followed a link from their friends Facebook feed but chances are, they start by searching. Especially if it’s an unfamiliar category or one they’re researching in some detail. In recent research search ranking was ranked as the 3rd most important contributor to perceptions of a brand – and this was before they’d even interacted with the content! Being findable remains Job 1.
Know your algorithms: If you’re a content creator you need to understand how search engines read and interpret your content. While there really are rocket scientists at Google and Facebook perfecting this stuff, you can’t hope for your FB content to succeed if you don’t understand how Edgerank works. In simple terms, fresh/new content trumps old/tired content. Well “liked” content or content with numerous comments, remarks and interactions will outrank boring, dead and stale. Likewise if there is a strong affinity between the poster of the content and the supposed audience, then SCORE, your content gets ranked higher or shows up more frequently. Affinity? Simple. If your content gets shared or generates comments/uploads etc, that’s the stuff Zuckerberg and friends will promote…because, quite simply, that highlights your content has real value to your audience. Obvious stuff but it directly impacts how you craft your content and how you entice your audience to interact with it. The days of Facebook as a broadcast platform are over.
Trying to “game” the algorithms is futile: With an Interbrand valuation of over $55billion and a struggling social platform, you can expect Google is throwing tremendous weight behind getting their core search product offering right. In previous years dodgy backlinks might’ve fooled the spiders but the recent launches of Panda and Penguin is making that kinda nefarious behaviour unwise. Where blog networks and article sharing sites might’ve historically enhanced your organic search rankings, the new algorithms see through that and downgrade you accordingly. Like Edgerank, Panda and Penguin give credit where content is considered valuable by the audience. Stuffing every whitepaper with trending Keywords aint considered valuable. Content that has social value does. Content that gets a few +1′s definitely is.
Personally I’m all for content being “judged” on its ability to satisfy a consumer need. Whether its a comparison engine on Expedia or another video of cats playing the piano, content must genuinely help. Brands committed to providing that help through valuable content creation deserve every break they get.
How are you revising your content creation to ensure you’re getting the most from search?
I am far from an expert in search and its complexities. When I’ve got a question on the subject I turn to three sources that are. Mei, Nick and Magnus are definitely a cut above. If you’ve got a search question, I’d suggest seeking their opinion.
Web Site: http://www.hiltonbarbour.com
About the Author: An insatiable curiosity is my defining characteristic. Which is probably why I got into advertising over 14 years ago. I know it aint a real job in comparison to say, a fireman or a nuclear physicist but hey. Anyway, along the way I've developed an opinion on a coupla things. This blog allows me to air a few of those opinions and thoughts. I thank you for your visit and welcome your feedback.
Reproduced with permission from his blog
Recently, I watched this TED video by Eli Pariser where he warns people about the long term implications of Internet's 'Filter Bubbles' and how personalized search on the Internet might be narrowing our worldview.
Pariser presents a strong case of how we get trapped in a 'Filter Bubble' and don’t get exposed to information that could challenge or broaden our worldview, which will ultimately prove to be bad for us.
It definitely is a thought provoking argument and probably a peek into what the future holds - millions of 'personal webs' within the worldwide web.
As a marketer the most obvious question for me was, where does such a future leave the marketing folks who are trying hard to optimize their use of Internet (search, social media etc.) to reach their target audience.
For web companies like Google and Facebook, it makes a lot of business sense to tailor their services to the personal tastes of their users. It makes their offerings more efficient (at least in their view) as it helps them streamline and present information that is useful and relevant to their users, it also gives them an insight into user behavior around which they build their marketing and revenue generating business models.
But if 'personal web view' is the future of Internet, would paid marketing be the only way you can penetrate these personal webs? Where does that leave companies and individuals who depend on non-paid search and social marketing measures to promote their offerings? How different should be their marketing approach to ensure, they are visible to as many personal web views as possible?
Today we take pride that the Internet with its wealth of knowledge allows us to take informed decisions, but are these decisions really unbiased and not influenced by our past online behavior? I am not sure of that one.
The point is do we even realize, the presence of these filter bubbles? Did you realize when your Facebook account automatically changed your settings to such - that you saw updates only from people you frequently interacted with in the past few months? Did you realize when Facebook started using your profile, in an advert to promote a page you liked to influence your network?
It is easy to go with the flow and not question the implications for many of us, and why should it matter, after all personalization and customization is key to customer satisfaction. It gives you a feeling of being pampered, of being important. It gives us a sense of well being, of being right, even though it makes us conservative and narrow minded.
But despite the frills, do we really want algorithms based on assumptions to shape our views and decisions or to decide what is relevant to us?
In an age of information overload, filters are a must to ensure relevant information is presented, but then these filters should be based on the context and relevance of the query and not the personal likings and motivations of the individual seeking the information.
I think predictive technology is great as it empowers businesses to cater to the needs of their customers in a proactive manner than a reactive one, but only when it is used to understand the expressed intent of a user not when it is used to drive his intent. Vendors should do their best to influence their buyers decisions, but should not decide for them, just imagine the repercussions of such a scenario.
As a customer I would like to retain the choice for opting in for any services, I would still like to be the one making the informed choice.
I am not sure of what exactly can be the solution to this problem, but if this is the future of Internet, then as marketers we need to be prepared. We will probably have to divide our target audience into a wider range of personas (beyond age, demographics, income group etc.) and spend more time understanding their behavior and motivations, so that we can present content which bots think is relevant to them.
Future depends a lot on how aware Internet users are about these customizations and personalizations. Awareness, would be key in popping these filter bubbles, as more and more Internet users decide to take control of what they want to consume, rather than being happy with a diet prescribed by bots and algorithms.
For all the talks of internet being more measurable than traditional media, most brands still fall short in optimizing their social media efforts by not narrowing down on where exactly is their target audience amongst dozens of popular platforms. Initially, in Search Engine Marketing, we marketers were restricted to target users based on their location using I.P. address tracking and also via interests based on the search query typed. But this is obviously not a complete picture because our target audience gets influenced and makes purchase decisions based on a lot of other factors like sex, platform being used and recommendations from friends etc. And this is where social media comes in – Most platforms have such a deep knowledge of our personal data like interests, kind of friends, age, sex, current location etc. that it becomes much easier for them to categorise the user base and present targeted information to marketers.
But one thing which I have realized in my past 7-8 social media projects is this: Build it, and they will come. Just make sure your content and strategy is in sync with people whom you are targeting. Content and context are still kings, after all.
Why this happens is because of the most common filtering solution, social interests and good discoverability. X guy sees my content in my community, and shares it to all his x00 friends. Out of those x00, only Y% users will come to your branded community. But they will be highly relevant to you and will get you y% more users.
The conclusion: It’s pull. Not push.
It takes time for this viral effect to kick in (depends on platform design and content strategy) .. so it’s always good to give momentum to this virality by pushing out some social ads from your own side. Here’s how you can reach out to your target audience on various social media platforms:
Take a thorough look at the demographics of the audience and then decide which platform is best suited for you. Do a quick search for demographics for social media platforms which would give you a list of options. Collate your data from there and narrow down to 1-2 platforms you think your target audience might reside e.g. B2B audience and chatter would be on Linkedin and not on Facebook. Teens would be on Orkut, Myspace and Facebook etc.
Most of the stats you would find online are via international research and you can either extrapolate this data to India or you can also take help of Indian tools like Vizisense.com which is a personal favourite and is owned by Komli Media [below is a sample screenshot for Facebook].
Next step can be a bit tricky, because every platform has a different UI and requires different strategy to reach out to your audience. A brief summary of how to do this on Facebook and Twitter is below. But the basic strategy for any other platform is the same too. Be a part of the platform using a profile / community and start interacting with the audience. Remember the golden rule:
Content + Conversations = Community
This one is the easiest and the bestest. Facebook is the big bad wolf. It knows everything about you. What things you like. Your complete demographics to the extent of your family relations. And this CRM data can be used by marketers by using Facebook ads. You can advertise for an external link or a Group / Page inside Facebook. The payment models for these ads can be both CPC or CPM as usual in SEM practices.
Though not open for all, Twitter has recently opened up Promoted Trending Topics and Promoted Tweets in search queries. When a user searches for a query, on the top he can see relevant tweets from the advertiser which he can then again interact with. So, if you are trying to reach out to movie buffs, it would be a good idea to buy promoted tweets for the search query movies, mall etc.
Same goes for promoted Trending Topics. It has also very recently launched an @earlybirds account from where users can see discounts and deals being offered via different brands. Bad news is, all these new experiments are still in Beta and only via invitation.
This platform is more of a professional place where users can connect with others from the same industry. Though the UI design is not very 'social' the one thing that has made Linkedin more than just an online CV marketplace are the discussions happening in various groups.
Anyone can create a group based on interests and invite other users. And this should be the strategy that your every B2B effort should incorporate i.e.
- Build a strong presence of your brand representatives on Linkedin via personal profiles.
- Infiltrate relevant groups using these profiles. Keep an active eye on new groups related to your industry, this is the only way to find your audience.
- Engage users in conversations around your industry. Answer their queries. Solve their problems. And then you can start converting leads into sales.
- To have more control over the activities, you should also look at owning your own active and growing group. Your broad objective here should be to make sure that the market perceives you as the thought leader which gives out good content.
The Microsoft MVP (Most Valued Professional) Program is a very good and highly successful example of the above strategy.
The other option you have is to use the Twitter API and some tools like Tweeple etc. to find tweets and users based on their profile info, status updates, location, conversations etc. Below is a good list of tools to start from:
- Tweeple – Complete bio and update history of Indian Twitter users
- Listorious – List of users based on topics of interest
- Advanced Twitter search – Good old fashioned style of searching content via words and location of users
Apart from these you can also use tools for the complete social web like:
- Klout – To identify thought leaders / influencers in various topics on social media
- Radian6 / Alterian SM2 – Monitoring tools to identify people talking about you
- Beatblogging.org – To find out bloggers via topics of interest
Image Courtesy: vicbuster
For many, SEO is a three letter word referring to a daunting and painstaking process. The truth is it doesn’t have to be. I enjoyed a recent Duct Tape Marketing podcast called “Is SEO Copywriting Just Good Copywriting?” with Brian Clark, founder of copyblogger and Scribe, which offers interesting ideas about effective SEO copy. Here are 5 recommendations to tweak your SEO approach:
1. Don’t be a crowd pleaser. Just as YOU can’t be all things to all people – neither can your SEO content. The Internet is a boundless arena chock full of players vying for the attention of countless spectators. Make your voice heard over the bellowing crowds by choosing long tail keywords that cater to your target audience. Bear in mind, the broader the key term the more competitive and expensive it is. Who wants to pay more when you can gain quality with less?
2. Don’t forget about conversions! Site traffic is all well and good but what good are site visits if they render no actionable results? Wouldn’t you rather have 5 qualified conversions than 5,000 visits? Though site traffic is important, it’s not always the best method for evaluating your SEO strategy. It’s one thing to get people to your site, but the real value comes from keeping them there and encouraging engagement and action!
3. Don’t give bad directions. A click is a wonderful thing and if you’re lucky enough to get some, make sure it’s worth your “clickers” while. Direct visitors to a targeted, easy-to-understand landing page that immediately lets them know who you are, why they are there and what they are supposed to do. Remember – a click is like a first date; it may be your only chance to make a good first impression–don’t screw it up!
4. Don’t be so chatty. Follow the “less is more” adage by keeping your copy simple, catchy and focused. We are living in the age of information overload and busy schedules – these two factors work against each other so that people have little time and attention to plow through wordy and complicated jargon.
5. Don’t use keywords without a cause. Of course it’s important to infuse your content with keywords but make sure they fit the context of what you’re saying. Keywords help to improve your search engine results, but interesting copy is what entices people to click to learn more.
See, it’s not so bad.
Tell us what you think. What SEO tips have worked for you?
MarketPlane Consulting offers smart product marketing services for B2B technology companies specifically focused on the IT management sector.
Courtesy: www.marketplane.net/blog (Reproduced with permission)
Image Courtesy: Igor ™
This post is all about conversion. We’ll assume you’re already getting traffic to your website through any number of mechanisms including SEO (organic & paid), advertising, media links, WOM (word-of-mouth), partner websites, etc.
First question: are enough of your website visitors converting (doing what you intend them to do by taking some action)? If not, what can you do to quickly and easily increase your conversion rate? Well, unfortunately, like anything that has to do with the Web, there is no simple fix – increasing conversion rates can be a complicated matter. That said, let’s look at how you can determine where problems exist with your website or landing pages– and then plan your recovery strategy.
First off, your prospects are most likely going directly to your home page or to one (or more) landing pages and that’s where you’re hoping to convert them. Let’s start with the home page. Ideally, your website was designed to convert prospects, but at some point, it may have grown beyond its original intention. If your Google Analytics statistics show a high bounce rate from the home page and you have few hits on other pages – particularly pages where you want prospects to go – it sounds like you may have a usability problem.
What is a usability problem? Prospects are coming to your website and don’t know what to do, so they just leave. Now, what’s worthwhile to point out here – is that what they see is vastly different from what you see. If you’re like me, you look at your website at least several times a week, if not every day. You’re very familiar with it and it makes perfect sense to you. Therein lies the problem. What makes sense to you – doesn’t always make sense to a new visitor. The first step in solving your usability problem is stepping back and asking the opinion of an objective visitor (somebody like a friend, or a neighbor, or a past colleague – who could represent a typical visitor).
Once you’ve selected an objective visitor – preferably someone who has not seen your site before, you are ready to start. Ask them if they know what to do when they come to your website – and if you have time, sit down with them when they do it. What’s their first impression? Within 5 minutes of looking through your website, can they explain what you do? Are they moved by your call to action items (demo, download, white paper, etc.)? Is it easy to contact you? If the answer is no to any of these questions – then you may have some work to do. You may need to tune your website to reveal your call to action items and make your targeted pathways accessible.
9 times out of 10, if people have trouble responding to call to action items, it’s because they have too much to choose from on a website. They simply don’t know where to begin, so they give up. Everything seems of equal importance and nothing in particular stands out as more important.
What’s a good example of a Web site that works well? I like Group Swim’s Website – they are a vendor for collaboration and community software and they’ve come up with an excellent example of good usability. Style aside (which you may or may not like), Group Swim’s website is easy to navigate and easy to act on, which is the goal.
Now, let’s look at landing pages. Landing pages are generally used as part of a marketing campaign and, in most cases, require the prospect to provide some information about themselves in exchange for some information from you (the vendor). Landing pages can suffer from the same problem outlined above – too much content to choose from. But let’s say, for this example, that’s not the problem. For our example, the imaginary landing page will include 1-2 call to action items, some supporting text, and a simple registration form. So, why wouldn’t a prospect act? What would keep them from converting?
Chances are it’s the perceived value. They don’t perceive what you are providing as valuable enough for them to turn over their information. There will always be people who abandon your landing page, once any information is required from them. I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about prospects who are genuinely interested in the technology or value of products like yours – but who don’t perceive what you’re providing as worthy of their time.
You’ve got two options here; first, examine your call to action item. Is it good? Will they find it valuable? Be critical and be objective. If you don’t think its good, they probably won’t either. Secondly, make sure you’ve presented it well. Take a look at your copy. Is it engaging? Is it too much? Rule of thumb, less is more and presenting a problem solved by your solution works better than just describing product capabilities. Chances are, with these changes, you should see an uptake in your landing page conversions.
For Further Reading
The last tidbit of information is a reading list suggestion. If you can make time to read one simple and straightforward book on Web usability, please take a look at Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug. This book is written with the marketing ‘layman’ in mind – by that I mean a corporate marketer, product marketer, marcom person, even the VP of marketing – but not the Webmaster. It is a real eye opener, very accessible, and will be the best 3 hours you spend this week!
With 14 years experience in the high tech software industry, Alison O’Brien works with Market Plane, which drives marketing programs for IT companies and has expertise in a number of disciplines including product marketing, product management, and training program development.
Courtesy: www.marketplane.net/blog (Reproduced with permission)
Image Courtesy: annaOMline
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21. Jun. 2013, 08:00 - 17:00