Monthly Archives: January 2018

Build & Refine Your SEO Strategy: How To Optimize Your Online Store

Selling online without an SEO plan is like an unlit shop on a remote road. Buyers can’t easily find the store, so the merchant can never make a sale.

SEO is the key to driving more customers to your online store. Some say that SEO is dead as search engines have changed their algorithms to have more complex standards for relevant results. But SEO isn’t dead — it’s just changing. Sellers facing the increased SEO competition have to perform strong keyword research, add keywords throughout their store, and adapt to shifting search engine rules to keep their store highly visible.

To help merchants build and refine their SEO strategy, we’ve created this guide to explain how to:

  • Brainstorm keyword ideas
  • Use tools to improve your keyword list
  • Incorporate keywords into your online store
  • Measure your keywords’ success

These steps are the base of your SEO strategy. Revisit each tactic over time so you can adapt your SEO plan to meet inevitable search engine changes and continuously direct buyers to your online store.

How Does SEO Work?

Before diving into tactics, the basics of SEO should be understood to grasp and appreciate the strategies we’ll cover later.

SEO generates site traffic by letting search engines know what your online store is all about — your products or service, your business’ mission, your key customers. Search engines interpret the keywords you’ve included throughout your store to determine your site’s content and whether your store is a relevant search result. For example, a search engine might list an online coffee mug shop high on a results page for the search “ceramic coffee mug” because the site contains those keywords in many of its product pages.

In the early days of SEO, site owners were able to draw site traffic easily by simply incorporating keywords and links with large search volumes. Not as many people were strategically incorporating keywords into their site, so those who were engaging in SEO could easily get their site on the search results page of frequently-searched keywords.

Today, SEO is not as easy since search engines now penalize the old practice of keyword stuffing. Over the past few years, search engine technology has improved to detect when keywords are being placed throughout a site in a non-helpful, out-of-context fashion for the sake of earning more traffic. The engines know that this keyword stuffing isn’t useful to users, so now they focus on more relevant, useful applications of keywords as a basis for results page rankings.

Even with complex search engine algorithms, SEO can still be used to drive traffic to your store with the right groundwork. We’ll lay that foundation in the following four steps to help you create a solid SEO strategy for your online store.

Step 1: Brainstorm Keyword Ideas

To start, write out a list of every keyword that you think your buyers might search to find your site. Don’t focus too much on perfecting your list at this stage — you’ll be refining it later when we move on to keyword research tools.

Brainstorm your keywords by thinking about what attracts people to your business. Your list of words and phrases should describe your product or service and highlight what makes your business unique and useful. Returning to the example of the online coffee mug shop, this store’s keyword brainstorm list might include:

  • coffee mug
  • ceramic coffee mug
  • dishwasher-safe coffee mug
  • travel coffee mug
  • stainless steel coffee mug

If you’re feeling stuck, ask yourself these questions and shorten your answers into keywords:

  • What makes my product or service unique?
  • What problem(s) does my product or service solve?
  • What are the physical properties of my product (color, material, etc.)?
  • Who would use my product or service? How would they use it? When?

Once you’ve got a full list, here are a few strategies for strengthening your keywords to make your store even easier to find.

  • Test your keywords on search engines. Type the keywords from your brainstorming list into Google, see what the search engine suggests as you’re typing, and consider revising your keywords to match these suggestions. Google suggests the most popular phrases, so it’s a great tool for refining your keywords to reach more people. Be wary, however, of using general phrases that seem like they are widely searched. Many site owners will be trying to rank for these high search volume keywords, so you’ll have a smaller chance of ranking high on the results page with the heavy competition. 
  • Opt for long-tail keywords. Try using more longer three to four-word phrases that are very specific to your product or service. These longer keywords receive less traffic since their scope is more narrow. However, they tend to have a higher conversion rate because they’re geared towards customers who know exactly what they want to buy.

Source

To make keywords longer, try adding adjectives. For example, a merchant who’s selling water bottles could use the keyword “dishwasher-safe glass water bottles”.

After brainstorming and refining your keyword list, you’ll have a clear idea of your key buyers’ common searches that are related to your product or service.

Step 2: Use Tools to Improve Your Keyword List

A journalist doesn’t publish an article after only brainstorming. They need to fact-check their ideas before incorporating them into their work.

Likewise, your keyword brainstorm list is useless until you’ve checked whether your ideas are actually frequently searched phrases. Luckily, there are plenty of tools out there that show the search volume and difficulty, or competitiveness, of keywords. Ideally, you want to find keywords that have high search volumes and low difficulty to easily drive traffic to your online store. These tools also offer additional keyword data, such as the number of search results, that can inform your keyword choices as well.

To get started, here are a few major keyword tools to consider:

  • Google Keyword planner: Set up a Google AdWords account, if you don’t already have one, to use Google’s free Keyword Planner tool. Keyword Planner shows the average search volume of keywords by time frame, as well as a helpful “competition” measurement to show how difficult it is to rank with the keyword. However, one downside of the tool is that it often uses large ranges for its average search volume figures instead of exact figures.
  • SEMRush: This keyword tool offers multiple plans with monthly fees ranging from $99.95 to $399.95. Besides noting average monthly search volume, the tool also shows the total number of results with that keyword.

SEMRush is especially effective for assessing competitors by seeing which keywords are driving traffic to their sites with its Keyword Gap feature.

  • Ahrefs: This keyword tool’s plans range from $99.00 to $999.00 per month. Though Ahrefs is mainly used for researching backlinks, its Keyword Explorer tool is especially useful for checking keyword ideas and generating new ones. You can check the average monthly search volume, keyword difficulty, number of results, and more for your keyword, and receive phrase suggestions based on what you searched. Its Keyword Explorer dashboard offers plenty of keyword suggestions.

  • Moz: This keyword tool’s plans range from $99.00 to $599.00 per month. Moz offers slightly less insights than some of the other tools, but its dashboard is much easier to read and navigate. Along with including monthly search volume, keyword difficulty, and keyword suggestions, the dashboard also shows the links of the keyword’s SERPs (search engine result pages) — a feature that most keyword tools’ dashboards don’t have.


All of these tools have their merits and are widely used, so it’s just a matter of picking one that meets your budget and your keyword research needs. Explore the different plans offered with each tool and consider which features are most important to you in your keyword research. With a chosen tool, you can improve your keyword list by checking the search volume, difficulty, and other stats for your phrases, as well as adding new keywords from your tool’s suggested phrases.

Step 3: Incorporate Keywords Into Your Online Store

Your keyword list is finalized — now what? It’s time to add in these phrases to different parts of your online store. With these keywords incorporated, search engines associate your store with the phrases you’ve added and list your store in search results when buyers search these keywords. With frequent and relevant usage of your selected keywords, your site will rank higher on their search result pages.

Here are the main areas of your online store where you should add keywords:

  • Title tag: This HTML element indicates the title of a site page. They display as the clickable headline on search engine result pages (SERPs), so it’s critical to add your keywords in the title tag.

With these phrases included, search engines will associate your store with the keyword, and users will see your store as relevant in their search results since engines typically bold the keyword in the title.

  • Site URL: The web address of your online store’s pages are minor ranking factors in search engine results. Both your domain name and the rest of the URL are considered for keywords.

Your domain name is probably just your business name (and probably not optimized for keywords), so ranking high on your site’s homepage URL might be tough. Other store page URLs, however, are a great opportunity for adding in keywords since they don’t need to be included in a succinct or engaging way.

  • H1 tag: This HTML element indicates the main header of a page. In describing the page’s content, the main header of a page on your store should include keywords, as search engines consider H1 for ranking.


Though it’s possible to include more than one H1 on a page, it’s recommended that you only use one to avoid using too many keywords and diluting their ranking power.

  • Link text: In your online store, link text can either be navigation bar text or in-content text that’s linked.

In general, it’s more difficult to rank with navigation bar text links than with in-content text links since navigation bars typically have minimal text and aren’t optimal for adding keywords. In-content text, however, is usually longer and more appropriate for adding keywords to rank higher on search results.

  • Body content: The main written text on the page — including product titles, descriptions, blog posts, and more — is a great opportunity to add keywords since this text is more wordy than other elements.

In just this product page, the keyword “double boiler” is included 3 times.

If you’re using high search volume, competitive keywords, you’ll have a better chance of ranking high if you find multiple natural opportunities to include the phrases in your body content. Be wary, however, of keyword stuffing as search engines now penalize for heavy out-of-context keyword usage.

  • Image tag: This HTML element is used to add an image to the page. The tag’s title and alt text don’t show up on the page unless the image fails to load. However, search engines still consider the text for ranking your store, so the image tag is a great opportunity to add keywords.

  • Meta description tags: This HTML element is the content that appears in search results to describe the content of the page. Though meta tags aren’t tied to search engine rankings, they’re very important for getting users to click on your store. Search engines often bold the searched keywords in the meta description, so adding keywords in the tag is a great way to show users why your store is a relevant search result.

Adding keywords in each of these areas can be easily done by your web designer who can edit your store’s HTML code. If you’ve set up your store with an ecommerce platform, check your platform’s rules for editing your store to add keywords. Here are a few resources for adding SEO keywords with different ecommerce platforms:

  • Shopify’s guide on adding keywords to your store
  • BigCommerce SEO Success Essentials guide
  • WooCommerce’s guide on improving SEO with product tags

Including keywords throughout your online store makes it easier for you to reach your customers. When you add keywords in a useful, natural way to your site, search engines label your store as a relevant result for your buyers from their keyword searches. With this visibility, your store is easy for your customers to find so they can start their shopping.

Step 4: Measure Your Keywords’ Success

After all of this work, you’ll want to know whether your SEO efforts are paying off. You can check to see whether your keyword inclusion is leading to more traffic with the following steps.

  1. Set up Google Search Console with your online store, if you don’t already have one. You can set up Search Console here.
  2. Link Search Console to your Google Analytics account. Here are the instructions from Google for linking both.
  3. Review your keyword performance in Google Analytics under Reporting › Acquisition › Search Console › Queries.

This section shows the queries that led to users viewing your store’s URLs in Google’s search results as well as the following metrics for each URL:

  • Impressions: The number of times your URL appeared in Google search results viewed by a user, not including paid AdWords impressions.
  • Clicks: The number of times users clicked on your URL from their search results, not including clicks on paid AdWords results.
  • Average position: The average ranking of your URL for the search query.
  • CTR: The click-through rate of your URL, which is calculated as:


The metrics appear in a table for each query, as seen in the example below.

Source

These metrics provide insights on which parts of your SEO strategy might need improvement. If the impressions and average position for a query are low, that keyword may be too competitive, or you need to incorporate the keyword more frequently and effectively into your site page. If the clicks for a query are low, you may need to edit your title tag and meta description to be more engaging so users feel motivated to visit your online store. Thinking about why one metric might be low will inform how you refine your SEO strategy to rank your store higher on search results.

Revisit Your SEO Strategy to Rank Higher

SEO isn’t a one-shot game — it has to be an ongoing practice of your business in order to increase your store’s visibility. The rules of the SEO game have changed in the past few years: it’s more difficult to rank with keywords now since there are more site owners utilizing SEO, and search engines today favor relevant keyword inclusions and penalize out-of-context keyword stuffing.

The rules are going to continually change as search engines constantly update their technology. Staying updated on these changes and continually revisiting the core parts of your SEO strategy, as outlined in this guide, will enable you to keep your store ranking high on search results, even as SEO competition intensifies.

The post Your Ecommerce SEO Strategy: How to Optimize Your Store appeared first on Sellbrite.

5 Reasons Why Your Buyer Persona’s Aren’t Good Enough

How often do you spend weeks or even months putting blood, sweat, and tears into a new marketing campaign, only to have it fall flat?

You swear you did everything right, but when it comes time for the results to pour in, they never show.  It’s a marketer’s worst nightmare.

The likely culprit? Bad buyer personas.

Think about it, your buyer personas are the building blocks of your marketing campaigns. If they’re not good enough, every part of your marketing strategy will suffer.

That’s why we’re teaching you five easy ways to improve your buyer personas. Keep reading!

What is a buyer persona?

In the most basic sense of the phrase, a buyer persona is a profile of your ideal customer.  These profiles are made up of existing customer data, anecdotal observations, industry research and much, much more.

Large companies often have multiple buyer personas that span multiple industries, demographics, and product offerings. Whereas smaller companies often have fewer, less targeted buyer personas.

To create a buyer persona, you must analyze your current customer base and identify any common traits and characteristics.

Do your customers work at companies of a certain size?
Do they hold similar job titles?
Do they all work within the same industry?
Do they use the same software?

Alone, these traits may not be significant—but when combined inside a buyer persona, they give you a comprehensive view of your typical customer.

What does a buyer persona look like?

A very basic buyer persona looks like this: A 30 to 45-year old male, who works in software sales, at a company of 300+ employees. A more complex buyer persona extends beyond surface level details and includes other factors like common complaints, shared opinions, buying preferences, and more.

Here’s a basic example from Brightspark Consulting:

Unfortunately, the more complex your buyer persona, the longer it takes to construct. The best buyer personas are highly targeted and require a significant amount of analysis, research, and time.

Before we dive in, let us explain why buyer personas are so important.

Why are buyer personas critical to modern marketing?

Buyer personas are a modern marketer’s best friend. When you use buyer personas to inform each and every part of your marketing strategy, you tailor your decisions to the preferences of your ideal customers. Therefore, a set of detailed buyer personas can have a massive effect on your marketing results. Consider these statistics (source):

  • Companies who exceed lead and revenue goals are four times as likely to use buyer personas for demand generation than those who missed lead and revenue goals.
  • 56% of companies have generated higher quality leads using buyer personas.
  • 36% of companies have created shorted sales cycles using buyer personas.
  • 24% of companies generated more leads using buyer personas.
  • 93% of companies who exceed lead and revenue goals segment their database by buyer persona.

Five reasons your buyer personas aren’t good enough

It’s evident that buyer personas are critical to marketing performance.

But shockingly, 60-70% of B2B marketers admit that they don’t truly understand their buyers (source).

This means that, although many marketers create buyer personas, they probably aren’t very effective.  Today we solve that problem.

If you’re not reaching the right audience, or your marketing results have plateaued, perhaps we can tell you why. Keep reading for the five most common reasons your buyer personas aren’t as effective as they could be.

Reason #1: They don’t include technographic information

Marketers have been using demographic information to target potential customers since the dawn of time. Technographics, on the other hand, are relatively new.

For those who aren’t familiar, technographics are the tools and technologies a company uses to operate. This includes everything from social media management tools to the platform a company uses to manage their website. But, technographic data isn’t just a tool or set of tools. It also includes vital information about how your prospects use and purchase technology.

Although demographic and firmographic data is essential, your buyer personas aren’t complete without technographic data. Consider this—with insight into the tools your prospects use, you can target your competitor’s customer base or identify important trends happening within your industry.

Here’s an example from VentureBeat: A financial tech firm noticed that Eloqua marketing automation was a predictive signal for its top prospects. The company is in a completely separate vertical, so it wouldn’t make sense to personalize messages about this platform.

However, it did help them deduce a few things. They recognized that companies running Eloqua tend to have a certain level of technical sophistication, and are usually big enough to be able to afford premium enterprise systems.

Reason #2: They’re built off of biases

As hard as we try not to, all marketers have their own biases. It’s easy to forget that not everyone thinks about your products or your brand the way you do. Unfortunately, these biases can influence your buyer personas and make them unreliable.

 If you’re not sure whether your own biases have influenced your buyer personas, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do my personas mirror the customer journey we most commonly see?
  • Do I have evidence to support each and every assertion within my buyer personas?
  • If a customer read this profile of themselves, would they agree with it?
  • If my sales team read this profile of our best buyer, would they agree with it?
  • Do I ever overstate or overestimate the need for the product I’m trying to sell?
  • Do I ever overstate or overestimate the product’s ability to solve my customer’s problem?

Ask yourself these questions and truly try to think like your customer. If all else fails, hire an analyst, survey your customers, and ask other departments within your company to check your work.

Reason #3: You set it and forget it

If you’ve been in marketing for any length of time, it’s likely that you’ve already created your buyer personas. Maybe they’re effective—maybe they’re not. But chances are, if it’s been longer than six months, you need to revisit them.

Data changes, trends fade, and buying habits evolve as technology advances. It’s important that your buyer personas take these changes into account.  After initial buyer persona creation, put a recurring meeting on your calendar to review them.

Keep track of any important changes within the industry, your company, your product, technological advances, and buying motivators. When it comes time to review, make sure your personas reflect these changes. After all, your customers aren’t static and neither are your buyer personas. Don’t treat them as such.

Reason #4: You don’t have enough

If you’re a small company with one product, a single buyer persona may be enough to fuel your marketing campaigns. But chances are, it won’t be enough.

If you feel like your buyer personas are ineffective, it could be that they’re not granular enough.

In today’s marketing landscape, your customers expect all marketing communications to be tailored to their specific wants and needs. Consider these statistics:

  • Over 78% of consumers will only engage offers if they have been personalized to their previous engagements with the brand (source).
  • 81% of consumers want brands to get to know them and understand when to approach them and when not to (source).
  • 87% of consumers surveyed say that personally relevant branded content positively influences how they feel about a brand (source).
  • 63% of respondents are highly annoyed by the way brands to continue to rely on the old-fashioned strategy of blasting generic ad messages repeatedly (source).
  • 63% of consumers said they’d think more positively of a brand if it gave them content that was more valuable, interesting or relevant (source).

 Take a look at each of your personas and the campaigns you’ve used to target them. Is the content you’re serving truly relevant to each person within that audience? Consider removing any outliers and creating a separate buyer persona for them.

Reason #5: They lack motivation and emotive context

If you only use quantitative metrics to compose your buyer personas, they likely won’t perform well.

This is because your customers and prospects are people—not numbers. Some people buy products on a whim. Others take a year to consult with an entire buying committee before spending money. Something that triggers a purchase for one customer may have no effect on another customer.

To create effective buyer personas, you must consult your sales and customer service teams to gather anecdotal evidence.

Determine what motivates each of your buyers to make a purchase. Is it frustration? Is it the satisfaction of getting a good deal? Or did you just catch them at the right time?

This information is crucial. Without it, you don’t truly understand your customers.

Key Takeaways

Buyer personas are essential to marketing—but only if they’re created correctly and aren’t neglected. It’s important that, as a marketer, you recognize the power of buyer personas and dedicate the time and effort needed to create them.

The post 5 Reasons Why Your Buyer Persona’s Aren’t Good Enough appeared first on the B2B Lead Blog.

How CMOs Can Find (And Keep) Talented Marketers

Most CMOs know exactly what they are looking for when hiring marketers. Creative problem solving. Original vision. Leadership, perseverance, some grit. A mind brimming with brilliance. And, of course, skills and experience in the area you are hiring for.

Great. What you want is clear. But, as every marketing manager and CMO knows, actually finding those talented marketers isn’t easy. Those who have that coveted combination of passion, a growth mindset and skill are usually already hard at work for another organization and highly valued.

Or are they?

The assumption that the right talent isn’t out there is limiting – and unrealistic. Talented marketers are hardly needles in a haystack. If you want them on your team, you have to know where to find them.

Let the search begin.

Your Current Team

Step one to finding talented marketers is to make an honest assessment as to the potential of your current team. You may have more talent at your disposal than you realize. You only need to invest more in training and developing your staff.

When addressing the lack of talent problem a few years ago, Peter Cappelli, the director of The Wharton School’s Center for Human Resources noted, “… many companies simply don’t believe their own workers have the necessary skills to take on new roles. But… many workers could step into those jobs with a bit of training.”

What can CMOs start doing to help upskill their current marketers?

  • Create a mentor program – establish what training and upskilling goals are important and then match mentors with mentees to reach those goals. A simple two or three hours a week, bi-monthly or once a month of mentoring/training – within your organization – is a cost-effective, fruitful way of helping your current marketers grow and thrive professionally.

image source

  • Invest in training programs for your employees to help them get the skills you need on your team. This will cost much less than recruiting and onboarding new employees.
  • Send individuals to marketing conferences for in-depth sessions on specific areas of marketing and to keep your team up-to-date on best practices and trends. And to motivate. See how inspired your marketers are after returning from one of the top conferences.
  • Set up ‘growth’ meetings with staff. Talk to your employees about what areas they want to improve and what their goals are to improve their marketing skills. Then work together to find a solution, whether it’s a training session, an online course or putting them on a particular project. This type of interaction will also help to keep your team more engaged.

More importantly, it gives you a clearer idea of each individual’s innate talents. The better you understand these, the more equipped you are to put those talents to good use and to cultivate the ultimate marketing dream team.

Off the Beaten Path

Talent expert, mentor and business coach Leslie Bradshaw knows what to look for on the time-honored search for top talent. One thing she recommends is to look outside of the box. The right schools, the right work history, memberships at the right clubs and associations can sometimes translate into the most mediocre of marketers.

While the unwavering, dependable, independent thinker – the person who eats challenge for breakfast – can be found somewhere else.

Don’t overlook potential hires who may have gone to a state school, have never worked for a large organization or who maybe even have a dynamic, but not purely marketing, background (like…computer science). If they have a fine work ethic and vision, they may just have the recipe for supreme marketing talent that most CMOs only dream of.

Bradshaw says, “…zip codes and name brands (limit) the ability of employers to hire truly talented employees. When you venture beyond densely populated cities, blue-chip brands, and top 10 schools, you can discover pockets of highly capable – and diverse – talent ready to loyally contribute.”

Your Network

Even as a CMO, networking is still a critical part of the long-term professional success game. You may not be looking for a new job at this point, but your network can be a fantastic source of potential talent.

  • Connect with marketers you admire. These people may either end up on your team someday, or when you have a position open, they may be able to connect you with the ideal hire. After all, who better to serve as a resource for brilliant marketers, than a brilliant marketer?
  • Use online resources like LinkedIn. Professional social networks can be used to learn about potential hires and for making connections that may be useful in the future.
  • Scout at marketing events. Even if you aren’t actively hiring, you should always be open to connecting with driven individuals. If you have an attractive organizational culture, they may contact you in the future for a job.

Which brings us to our final step in finding marketing talent.

Attract Them

The best way to find highly skilled, motivated marketers is to provide an organizational culture they can’t resist.

What are marketers looking for in an employer?

Meaningful work. It’s not just millennials who want purpose in their work. Everybody does, always has and always will. It’s a human thing.

Make sure your organization has a clear, transparent and authentic vision and mission. Consider the ways your organization gives back to society – this doesn’t have to be the conventional ways, like community service. But rather: how does your organization’s marketing impact society?

The answer to this question can make or break your ability to attract and retain talent. As an example, Jonathan Becher, former CMO and Chief Digital Officer of SAP, used the concepts of engaging with people instead of customers and using marketing as a growth enabler to engage (and inspire) 1200 marketers in 50 countries.

Opportunity for growth. This goes beyond offering opportunities for training and promotion. Marketers want to be able to grow professionally. They want to work with other people who are driven and talented to learn from them. Most want feedback and support so they have the chance to improve and can feel confident that they work for an organization that is behind their growth 100 percent – just like they are behind the growth of the organization. It’s reciprocal. Just like the need for…

Respect. A positive organizational culture provides avenues to reward and respect hard work, vision and dedication. But it also provides leadership that is worthy of their respect. What’s more motivating than working for someone you admire? Don’t underestimate the importance of continually demonstrating the ethic, resilience and ingenuity that put you into the role of CMO in the first place, to inspire – and retain – your talented marketers.

The Top 25 Content Marketing Influencers For 2018

In 2018, content marketing will continue to influence marketing and business in a bigger, and more impactful way. 2017 saw us become remarkably more sophisticated in the types of content being offered and the level of depth and strategy being used.

As we move into 2018, factors such as more widespread adoption of marketing automation, the massive shift to video marketing, and the precipice of AI and real personalization in content marketing being behind us, the pace of change certainly isn’t going to slow down.

Which means the challenge for all of us is to keep up.

The push behind making content better – more engaging, richer content that resonates with the content consumer like it was made for them – is being driven by dozens of content marketing influencers who are sharing their insights, experience and knowledge of how to do content well – really well.

If you want to make your content marketing better in 2018, tap into the minds who have been cultivating this area of marketing for years.

(Want to learn my secret for becoming more influential? Contact me today.)

Onalytica recently shared their list of the leading content marketing influencers (with me exclusively) for 2018.

Their data reveals what’s being discussed more than any other area of content and it also identifies the most influential voices, based on how much engagement they are driving, how much they are talking, number of followers, and how much they are referenced.

Yours truly is happy to be named on this list, and I have to say I’m excited to keep the conversations going with all of these great minds. Can’t wait to see what we’re doing by the end of this 12-month ride around the sun!

Insights into 2018 from Leading Content Influencers

When asked about what is expected for the year ahead, here’s what some of the influencers had to say:

Ted Rubin – Social Media Strategist, CMO of Brand Innovators and Co-Founder of Prevailing Path

“Social media platforms are essentially huge AI systems designed to keep users tuned in by showing them things they want to see and using data to increase conversions each time a user engages. But AI isn’t really that smart yet. AI is big data pattern recognition…It’s not actually ‘thinking’.” 

Joe Pulizzi – Founder of the Content Marketing Institute

“While so many brands get a story idea and decide to publish everywhere, the strategy that works the best is true focus. Communicate your message through (for the most part) one content type (audio, video, textual, imagery), one main platform (website, YouTube, iTunes), and deliver consistently over a long period of time. This is how great brands and loyal audiences are built. We actually don’t have to publish everywhere.” 

Lilach Bullock – Content Marketing Specialist

“I also think that we will be seeing more employee advocacy programs in 2018. Businesses are finding it more and more difficult to stand out and audiences are (quite understandably) not that trusting of brands. That’s why businesses need to leverage the reach of their employees and make them an integral part of their content marketing strategy.”

Sam Hurley – Content Marketer and Founder of Optim-Eyez

“It’s (video) an incredibly relevant form of content that aligns perfectly with the explosion of mobile usage; video isn’t going anywhere – it sparks deeper engagement, and audiences crave it.” 

My content marketing prediction for 2018:

2018 is the year marketing leaders realize that our greatest source of content and power of distribution is in our employees. The most authentic and engaging content will come from the experts inside our own company, sharing what they know and what they love. HR is the new Marketing.

Video and personalization are still the hottest trends in content marketing right now. And AI is the hottest buzzword. All of which require special skills, technology and most of all a focus on storytelling.

The Top 25 Influencers in the World of Content Marketing

Here is the latest list of top Content Marketing influencers for 2018 from Onalytica:

Name
Handle
Influencer Score
Jeff Bullas
@jeffbullas
100.00
Joe Pulizzi
@JoePulizzi
96.83
Neil Patel
@neilpatel
83.79
Ann Handley
@MarketingProfs
70.36
Michael Brenner
@BrennerMichael
70.12
Mark Schaefer
@markwschaefer
59.03
Steve Cartwright
@FX_Digital
54.30
Jay Baer
@jaybaer
53.89
Marcus Miller
@marcusbowlerhat
50.95
Lilach Bullock
@lilachbullock
50.91
Lee Odden
@leeodden
50.00
Neal Schaffer
@NealSchaffer
47.45
Larry Kim
@larrykim
46.73
Pam Moore
@PamMktgNut
43.55
Robert Rose
@Robert_Rose
41.12
Martin Butters
@MartinAButters
39.84
Andy Crestodina
@crestodina
38.19
Sujan Patel
@sujanpatel
35.50
John Hall
@johnhall
34.76
Aaron Agius #SEO
@IAmAaronAgius
34.65
Mark Traphagen
@marktraphagen
33.03
Christoph Trappe
@CTrappe
31.59
Shane Barker
@shane_barker
31.36
Jose Javier Garde
@jose_garde
30.92
Rand Fishkin
@randfish
30.38
 

According to Onalytica’s 2017 report, the most talked about content marketing topics in 2017 were social media, and analytics and data. These two combined made up the lion’s share of the conversation, followed by sales, video and B2B.

In addition to just the top 2018 Content Marketing Influencers, here are the top 25 social media marketing and analytics influencers from the 2017 report

Top 50 Influencers for Social Media

Rank                     Name                                  Twitter Handle                  Influencer Score

1                            Lee Odden                          @leeodden                      100.00

2                            Neal Schaffer                    @NealSchaffer                  74.80

3                            Mark Fidelman                  @markfidelman                 58.33

4                            Brian Solis                          @briansolis                       51.94

5                            Mark Schaefer                   @markwschaefer             47.62

6                            Jeff Bullas                           @jeffbullas                       42.51

7                            Sean Gardner                     @2morrowknight             38.17

8                            Pam Moore                        @PamMktgNut                  36.50

9                            Ann Handley                      @MarketingProfs              35.67

10                          Brian Fanzo                        @iSocialFanz                     35.38

11                          Michael Brenner               @BrennerMichael                33.32

12                          Guy Kawasaki                    @GuyKawasaki                  32.08

13                          Jay Baer                              @jaybaer                          31.79

14                          Bryan Kramer                    @bryankramer                   30.19

15                          Rachel Miller                     @rachelloumiller                30.10

16                          Travis Wright                     @teedubya                         29.49

17                          Ted Rubin                           @TedRubin                        27.71

18                          AJ Agrawal                         @ajagrawal24                   24.61

19                          Tamara McCleary             @TamaraMcCleary              24.01

20                          Gary Vaynerchuk              @garyvee                          23.53

21                          Sujan Patel                         @sujanpatel                       23.31

22                          Cynthia Johnson              @CynthiaLIVE                    22.21

23                          Amisha                              @AmishaGandhi                21.89

24                          Tim Hughes                        @Timothy_Hughes          21.76

25                          Lilach Bullock                    @lilachbullock                   21.58

You can download the 2017 report here to see the complete list.

ARE YOU INTERESTED IN ACTIVATING YOUR OWN THOUGHT LEADERS INSIDE YOUR BUSINESS TODAY? CONTACT ME HERE AND LET’S TALK ABOUT HOW WE CAN HELP.

I use a combination of personal branding, consistent social audience building, and support in creating authentic and ongoing thought leadership content. I’ve done it for myself. I’ve done it for the companies I’ve worked for. I’ve helped activate hundreds, even thousands of thought leaders. I’ve done it for numerous clients. And I can do it for you. 

5 Ways to Protect Your Business Against Brandjacking

Imagine that cyber pirates have seized your business’s online identity.

They now have control over your public communication channels, including your website and social media platforms.

This deliberate takeover is brandjacking. It’s the act of assuming the online identity of a brand with the intention of ruining the company’s reputation.

Brandjacking negatively affects your credibility. Even though actions occur under false pretenses, your business may lose loyal customers and suffer financial damage.

But here’s the good news, you can take preventative measures to stop brandjacking. Below are five ways to protect your business.

1. Monitor Your Social Media Channels

Social media is how most brands directly communicate with their customers. That’s why it’s vital that you secure accounts on all social networks.

However, just registering your accounts isn’t enough. Even if you choose to stay inactive, it’s crucial to perform social listening.

According to PR Week, global food giant Heinz fell victim to a Twitter user who started tweeting in the brand’s name. The messages ranged from sell pitches to buy Heinz products to personal political opinions.

 

By monitoring social media mentions, you can get notified of any suspicious activity as soon as it occurs. The sooner you find out, the faster you can take action to rectify the situation.

Experts recommend investing in a social listening tool. Then your team will have access to all the conversations about your brand on every platform.

Key Takeaways

  • Create accounts on all social media platforms.
  • Use social listening tools to monitor your accounts.

2. Invest in Security

Companies exist in a new era where hacking poses a threat for brands as well as their customers. It’s time to make security a business priority.

Never keep the same password for all your accounts. In fact, such a practice can pose a major danger to your security. Because if hackers crack one of your passwords, the rest of the accounts also will get compromised. Chat with your team about using a password manager.

Brandjacking also can affect your website. Therefore, domain security should sit at the top of your to-do list. Enable two-factor password authentication on the primary account associated with your website domain.

Give access to your website content management to trusted sources only. Also, retain the access of the domain management panel, even if you have engaged a third party to register the domain name on your behalf.

If your business website requires customers to provide personal information, like credit card details, it’s a good practice to invest in an SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate that will protect all their sensitive data.

Key Takeaways

  • Create unique passwords.
  • Install a password manager.
  • Get an SSL certificate.

3. Purchase Brand-Related Domains

Purchasing domain names is another technique to protect your business against brandjacking. This will prevent others from fraudulently disguising themselves as you.

Invest in website names that sound like or are similarly spelled like your business. For example, www.googel.com redirects to www.google.com.

You’ll also want to register your domain name on relevant domain extensions. Did you know that www.apple.store redirects to www.apple.com? Or that www.amazon.tech redirects to www.amazon.com?

Suman Das, brand manager at .STORE and .TECH., offers his insight:

“It is advisable that you look up the domain extensions that are directly relevant to your business and register your business domain name on those. Also check the keywords in your domain name. If your website is www.brandnameonline.com, register www.brandname.online as a way of brand protection.”

Consider registering the following new domain extensions: .TECH (technology, startups), .STORE (eCommerce), .FUN (media, entertainment), .PRESS (news), .and SPACE (outer space).

Key Takeaways

  • Register similar brand domains.
  • Register domains on relevant extensions.

4. File Trademarks

Trademarks help avoid consumer confusion and protect your brand from unfair competition. By filing a trademark, you can legally stop scammers from using your brand identity.

The benefits of trademarking include notice to the public of your ownership, the right to sue in court, and entitlement to specific damages. In case of a violation, a trademark will help you prove that the other party is intentionally infringing on your brand.

Filing for a trademark is a complex process. If you’re seeking a trademark in the United States, you can visit the USPTO website to learn how to get started.

Key Takeaways

  • Register a trademark for your business.
  • Consult with an attorney to help you with the process.

5. Create a Crisis Management Plan

You’ll want to create a crisis management plan since you’ll never be 100% protected against cyber attacks. In the event of brandjacking, a timely response is crucial and you want your team prepared to handle any mishaps.

Start by training your support staff to interact with customers quickly during these situations. You’ll also want to designate a team lead in each department and delegate specific duties; then, the entire company can work towards minimizing the impact of the crisis.

Communication is key to maintaining a positive public image and retaining current customers. So it’s helpful to publish a blog post explaining the issue in detail.

You may decide to create a short video that features your company’s CEO. For customers, you’ll want to send an email outlining if and how the attack impacts their shopping experience.

Image Source

Key Takeaways

  • Develop a plan with your entire team.
  • Communicate with your customers in a timely manner.

Mitigate the Risk

Brandjacking can hamper your company’s credibility. It only takes a few minutes for offenders to destroy your brand image.

Don’t let brandjacking happen to you. Take the necessary steps and save your team the headache.

Which Content Syndication Networks Are Right for You?

If you’re not already syndicating your content in one way or another, you really should be. The online world is a big and cluttered place, so it isn’t reasonable to think that you can limit the distribution of your content solely to your own blog. It’s always a good idea to get your blog posts in front of a different audience, who would otherwise not even know it exists.

Also called republishing, content syndication involves permitting other websites to republish your content in part or in full to help you reach more audiences outside of your circle of followers. By syndicating your content, you’re gaining a whole new set of audience to whom you can market your brand.

However, that doesn’t mean that you should go on a syndication spree and let random sites do the work of promoting all your blog posts (or any other content type for that matter) for you.

For one, not all sites allow content syndication. Neither should you send all your great content pieces to syndication services since you’d also want to have exclusive control over some of your more valuable content.

First, you need to check if the site you’re looking at accepts republished content. Ideally, you should cater your content to the target publisher’s audience. Otherwise, its readers won’t find your content relevant.

Authoritative syndication networks can also up your content syndication game, as they can place your content on influential websites with high traffic. In turn, this could establish your status as an equally authoritative figure on the subject matter and drive targeted visitors to your website.

Strategies to Syndicate Content

You can publish your content such as blog posts, articles, videos, images, and podcasts, among others on other sites through any of these methods:

  • Partnerships – You and your partner websites, which are preferably top-ranking, leading industry sites, agree to republish your syndicated content or feature your original content (also known as guest post) once off or on a regular basis.
  • Free Services – You submit your content for free to web content syndication services such as SlideShare, WikiHow, HubPages, and other syndication websites to help you gain exposure and direct more traffic to your site.
  • Paid Services – As the name implies, you pay a certain fee to have your content published on various networks. A list of recommended or similar articles typically appears in a prominent section of the website, and clicking on those widgets will direct readers to your content.
  • Ad-Supported – In this method, you could get rewarded for writing great content by receiving a percentage of the syndication service’s advertising revenue.
  • Licenses – Known as licensed blog syndication, this method allows you to earn money in the form of royalties whenever “high-quality” users discover and access your content.

Content Syndication Networks to Check Out

Content syndication networks are basically services that help you distribute your content across innumerable news and blog sites on their network. Here are some of your options if you’re looking to syndicate your content and how they may be good (or not-so-good) for your business goals:

  1. Outbrain

Outbrain Screenshot

Outbrain is a popular content discovery and marketing platform that helps your readers find out about your content by recommending it to top media outfits like CNN, Time, and ESPN.

On its website, Outbrain states it’s reaching an audience of more than 550 million online users and serving them about 200 billion content recommendations per month. That’s how far your content could go on the Outbrain network. Outbrain also has features that let you track reader engagement so that you know which part or version of your content resonates well with your audience.

The downside with Outbrain, however, is that it doesn’t allow publishers to qualify for its revenue sharing program unless the site it’s publishing advertised content or has more than 10 million article page views. So if you’re a small- to medium-sized enterprise that aims to generate earnings from your blog posts, Outbrain might not be the best syndication network for you.

  1. SlideShare

SlideShare Screenshot

SlideShare is a LinkedIn affiliate network and free platform that allows anybody to upload their content in a slideshow format, which visitors can then view at their own convenience. Often, these visitors come from targeted search, so you can be more confident that your content is engaging the right kind of audience.

However, since it’s a free-for-all platform, there are really no guidelines that publishers have to follow. This could mean that even content with inferior quality can get published and distributed, which isn’t helpful for businesses that are aiming for brand authority.

  1. SimpleReach

Simple Reach Screenshot

SimpleReach is a content analytics and insights platform that helps marketers understand and improve the impact of their articles and video on brand lift, engagement, and conversions.

It complements content syndication networks you work with by helping you understand which channels (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Outbrain, Taboola, etc) are generating the most ROI and where to increase or decrease your paid distribution spend.

  1. ARC

ARC Screenshot

ARC is part of PR Newswire’s press release service, which spreads your content across a wide network of blog, news, and social media sites all at once for publication.

While ARC is not specifically useful for your SEO campaigns, it can help you generate traffic for your site and awareness or interest in your brand.

  1. Taboola

Taboola Screenshot

The Taboola network mostly serves high-end publishers including The NY Times, NBC, and CBS. Its content engine helps you determine which sites will give you the best engagement for your posts.

As of late, Taboola seems to be experiencing great success in marketing video content, so it’s best to consider the service if you see your brand doing more video content marketing in the near future.

  1. Medium

Medium Screenshot

If you want to syndicate your own content, Medium can be one of your best options. It’s an online community that allows you to start your blog (if you haven’t any) right on the Medium site so that you get to share your content with interested people or organizations in its audience.

Many startups and brands who run their own blog also prefer to republish their content on Medium, as they find the site’s platform easy to use and link to their social profiles.

Conclusion

To sum up, content syndication helps you bring your content across the web so that you can reach a wider audience and gain significantly more exposure for your brand’s online content.

With the variety of content syndication networks to choose from, you should choose the platform that best supports your business’ core objectives, whether it’s to drive awareness, engagement, or brand authority.

If you don’t have the time and/or resources to implement content syndication yourself, there’s always the option of leaving it to the experts. PureB2B’s wide range of content syndication technology options allows you to reach in-market technology buyers and align your sales leads to your organization’s needs.

The post Which Content Syndication Networks Are Right for You? appeared first on PureB2B.

3 Steps on the Path to Cross Functional Agile Marketing Teams

I often run a bottleneck workshop with Agile marketing teams where each group is given the goal of folding as many origami hats and boats as possible.

At the beginning of the exercise each person has a single set of tasks they can perform. For example, one person does one kind of fold and then passes it off to the next person, who can only do the second fold, and so on.

A single team member can decorate the final products, and only one team member can review the “products” for quality.

When the time comes to select process improvements, nearly everybody wants to know how they can up-skill their team members.

It’s immediately clear that such rigid specialization doesn’t serve the needs of the teams.

This kind of situation, where the flow of work is painfully slow as it passes from one specialist to another, is why cross functionality is a core value of Agile (and is particularly important on Agile marketing teams).

Benefits of Cross Functional Agile Marketing Teams

When team members have the ability to work on different parts of the team’s projects, we gain so much:

  • Predictability: Our delivery dates aren’t dependent on when our sole copywriter will have time to write things. Several people can provide copy, so we can more confidently predict workflow.
  • Sustainable pace: We don’t have a few people working like crazy to keep up, while others sit around waiting for new work to come in. Work is spread out more equitably, keeping everyone working at a reasonable clip that they can sustain indefinitely.
  • Early and continuous delivery of valuable campaigns: When most team members can work on most projects, they’re more likely to release things often.
  • Simplicity: One of my favorite agile principles is that it’s essential to maximize the amount of work NOT done. Cross functional teams can communicate about what’s really important, what can be reused, and what just doesn’t work, so they eliminate pointless projects.

So cross functionality is great, but it’s not always the reality for marketing teams, especially early on during an agile adoption.

Let’s take a look at three different phases of cross functionality, how to handle workflow issues during each one, and how to steadily increase this valuable characteristic in your Agile marketing teams.

Level 1: Cross Functional Marketing Department

Having a cross functional department simply means that somewhere in marketing you’ve got people who can do everything that you need to release marketing work. In other words, you don’t rely on agencies, freelancers, or any other resources outside the department.

This early version of cross functionality may already exist in your marketing team or department, or it may require some adjustment as you bring work in house.

(See the Chemmart case study for an example of how Agile helped this company save millions by creating an in-house agency.)

While a cross functional department is good, it usually still includes functional silos, meaning teams within the department are exclusively responsible for specific kinds of work. This means projects or campaigns need to pass from one group to another to another before they can be released.

And these handoffs, in turn, mean that the whole department will be constrained by a single bottleneck.

Handoffs between silos mean a whole #marketing dept. depends on a single bottleneck. #AgileMarketing helps unblock the flow. Click to Tweet

Level One Bottlenecks

The bottlenecks in a cross functional marketing department tend to be with a group that touches nearly every project or campaign, such as design or copywriting.

To be clear, bottlenecks are not a bad thing.

According to the Theory of Constraints every single system has one.

What Agile marketing teams need to do is figure out where their bottleneck is and then address it carefully.

How to deal with a bottleneck in a cross functional department:

Step 1: Be sure you know where the bottleneck REALLY is.
This is key to any bottleneck-related work, because taking action elsewhere in the system can make things worse for bottleneck resources. Bottlenecks are busy all the time, work piles up in front of them, and people downstream from them (those who receive work from them) are idle some of the time.

Step 2: Choose options that affect only the bottleneck.
These include ensuring they’re always working on the highest value work, limiting their task switching, taking away non-value adding work, and eliminating wasted effort.

Basically, make sure they have everything they need and don’t bother them with extra stuff.

When dealing with a department-wide bottleneck you don’t want to mess with too much of the system, so simple solutions focused only on the bottleneck are your best bet. In the Theory of Constraints this is known as exploiting the bottleneck.

Important note: Making the bottleneck work longer is not the answer. Throwing more people or budget at this part of the process is not the answer either, at least not until you’ve taken other steps to make the bottleneck(s) work better.

Getting to the Next Level

Once your bottlenecks are functioning more efficiently, the department will be able to more accurately predict delivery of work (assuming interruptions can be managed effectively).

You’ll be able to make data-driven assessments about approximate delivery time, instead of crossing your fingers that the bottleneck will get your project done before your deadline.

As you increase in agility and cross functionality, it will become increasingly important for the entire department to understand strategic goals and objectives so groups aren’t working at cross purposes.

Leadership, whether functional Agile team leads or traditional marketing directors, needs to clearly and frequently communicate priorities.

You should also begin experimenting with Agile pilot teams, which are made up of members from multiple silos or groups. During these early days you’re essentially building smaller, cross functional teams one by one.

Ideally they are stable and permanent, because you want to keep incrementally building more of these groups so you can eventually become a department made up entirely of cross functional Agile marketing teams.

Level 2: Cross Functional Agile Marketing Teams

At his level we have multiple teams that can complete projects independently. Each group has the skills needed to get valuable work done, not just the department as a whole.

Team-based cross functionality allows teams to focus on audience segments, phases of customer journey, or internal business units, so they can become true subject matter experts in that area. They deliver targeted, consistent experiences for customers.

Once again, this requires clear and constant communication between teams and strong leadership to ensure teams are pulling in same strategic, long-term direction. A great example of how this works is the Spotify model.

via Henrik Kniberg

Here you can see there are cross functional squads led by a Product Owner (in Agile marketing we often call these Marketing Owners). Chapters extend across Squads and encompass people with similar responsibilities. So all digital marketing specialists might be in a Chapter, which is led and evaluated by a Chapter Lead.

All those people are part of the same Tribe, which includes multiple Squads who are all working towards similar objectives. Each Tribe has a leader (and sometimes an Agile coach) who ensures its members are in line with organizational objectives and larger marketing strategies.

In this kind of system bottlenecks tend to be with a single individual in a team or Chapter, such as a copywriter, designer, or marketing automation expert.

We also sometimes see people on these kinds of teams become bored or underused if work isn’t well-planned and they run out of things to do.

Some teams try to address this issue by having low-frequency resources sit on several teams, but this may create more problems than it solves if teams don’t coordinate their planning.

If everyone is planning video-heavy projects next month and there’s only one video marketer who sits on three teams, things are going to get messy.

Level Two Bottlenecks

Bottlenecks in these kinds of systems are sometimes easier to tackle because they impact fewer people.

In a cross functional department each and every team might be dependent on one bottleneck, but when we get to cross functional teams or Chapters, each bottleneck probably only impacts a single team.

How to deal with bottlenecks on cross functional teams:

Step 1: Once again, be sure you know where the bottleneck REALLY is. If, for instance, you think it’s copywriting that’s holding you up but it was really legal review slowing them down, your tactics for fixing the copywriting bottleneck might actually bog down the system.

Step 2: Exploit the bottleneck first. Take steps similar to what you’d do with a cross functional department, namely ensuring the bottleneck doesn’t work on low-value tasks and has everything they need to work effectively. Only once you’ve exhausted these kinds of actions should you move to Step 3.

Step 3: Subordinate the team to the bottleneck. In smaller teams it may be more feasible to let another resource take over some of the bottleneck’s work, have the team work at the bottleneck’s pace, and/or have non-bottleneck resources spend downtime supporting the bottleneck. In Theory of Constraints lingo, you’re subordinating everything else to the constraint.

I also recommend using something like the Guild model among cross functional teams to ensure bottlenecks (and all team members, for that matter) are always improving their skills, finding ways to optimize their workflow, etc.

Getting to the Next Level

Once you have cross functional teams, your next move will be to expand the skills of the people on those teams so they can assist in a wider variety of work.

No need to wait for a single editor to review every line of copy before it’s published if three different people are trained in editorial guidelines and review protocols.

The steps to get here sound simple: cross train team members and encourage pairing (having two marketers work on a single task/project together). But finding time and space to make them happen can be challenging, to say the least.

Cross training and pair #marketing help teams become more versatile & get more done in less time, says @andreafryrear via @agilesherpas. #agilemarketing Click to Tweet

Level 3: Cross Functional Teams Made Up of Cross Skilled Marketers

Agile marketing departments who achieve this level don’t get here by accident. They have a clearly defined roadmap for breaking down silos and up-skilling team members.

They know which people want to learn which skills, and which skills would be useful for them to have. For instance, maybe a PPC specialist would benefit from learning landing page design. They can get better insight to paid campaign performance, take work off the designers, and pitch in with work that requires landing pages but isn’t directly PPC-related.

Training that same specialist in event planning, on the other hand, is less likely to result in such useful collaboration.

Of course, no team will ever be completely and totally cross functional. What we’re after are t-shaped marketers, or generalizing specialists.

I like the way David Green describes generalizing specialists over on DZone:

“with generalizing specialists, you get the best of both worlds: the experience of specialists in their area with the flexibility and breadth of ideas that come from the whole team being able to work on whatever is required. When the entire team can swarm on any area, you have a very flexible team”

If we think about these folks as t-shaped, they look something like this:

t-shaped web marketer

Original image via Moz

Why We Want Cross Functionality

Our ultimate goal is to have a team that’s able to complete a project start to finish, with many people able to jump in and help drive tasks and/or projects towards completion.

You know you’re on the right track when your velocity and/or throughput really starts improving, team members aren’t swinging wildly between busy and bored, and both individual teams and the department as a whole are running at a sustainable pace.

This situation allows Agile marketing teams to get more done, do their best, most creative work, and predictably deliver campaigns.

Cross functionality, whether in a department, team, or individual, may be difficult to achieve, but the results are well worth it.

The post 3 Steps on the Path to Cross Functional Agile Marketing Teams appeared first on AgileSherpas.

Google’s Biggest Search Algorithm Updates To Know For 2018 [Infographic]

It’s been happening since the past few years and 2017 was no exception. We are talking about the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Google algorithm updates. And make no mistake, these are the kind of updates that hit your site when you least expect them to do so. Only, when you aren’t paying enough attention.

To begin with, the updates this year had a lot to do with the user-experience.

It proved to be a major factor from the very beginning of the year when the search engine started heavily penalizing intrusive ads. These ads used to hamper user-experience on websites without offering any essential information. Moreover, these ads were disguised as content and users couldn’t tell them apart from the actual content on their screens. Naturally, Google saw this as poor user-experience and took an action.

Next, on Google’s radar were spam links and black hat SEO practices. These got hit below the belt when unnamed updates started arriving sneakily. It also needs to be noted that websites with broken menus, excessive pagination and/or lacking mobile optimization, also suffered heavy losses.

It’s clear from both these pointers that Google was giving users a precedence over anything else.

In 2017, we also saw Google stressing more on quality content than ever. Referred to as Fred on Twitter by Gary Illyes, this update was confirmed by the search-engine giant. The main aim was to target low-quality content and punish those who flouted the webmaster guidelines.

Thereafter, sites that lured users with the sole intent and purpose of revenue generation without providing any substantial information on their pages, were adversely affected.

Ergo, Google made all the efforts to curb sites where monetization efforts upset user-engagement in any manner.

We also saw some volatile changes in the movement of eCommerce websites along with an update, which overrode a previous update. This caught many industry professionals off-guard.

Local SEO also had to withstand the worst as an outcome of some of the updates. Thus, we can say that these major changes in Google’s algorithm have changed the ballgame yet again for industry professionals.

To sum up, the search engine is changing speedily and to keep up with its rapid pace, you need to be a step ahead and come up with solutions like:

  • Integrating ads naturally without obstructing the flow of content on the websites. This will provide scope for monetization of the site without taking away from topnotch user-experience.
  • Covering a topic in-depth as long form content, wherever applicable. This is because there were bloggers, who reported a surge in the blogs that surpassed 2000 word count. These blogs fared better than their short form counterparts.
  • Finding out different ways to optimize your website for mobile devices of the future.
  • Put more efforts into local SEO to overcome any complexities that are a result of Google updates.
  • Last, but most important point is to keep an eye on any new happening on the search engine, including the slightest fluctuations in the rankings or changes in the search results for your website(s).

That being said, get started with this infographic which chronologically lists the important and relevant changes to Google’s algorithm in 2017.

The infographic: Google’s Biggest Search Algorithm Updates of 2017 originally appeared on E2MSolutions.com

Marketing and Sales Content – Differences That Matter

What IS the difference between marketing and sales content?

This is a good question to ask across your organization. The answers will reveal people’s thinking and understanding about “content” in general. Notice how clear, specific, consistent and actionable the responses are. Or not.

Why does this matter? Effective sales content is a strategic imperative when selling in a digital age of hyper-connected, hard to engage, low attention span buyers.

Sales performance suffers due to poor or missing sales content. This is the common state across most B2B sales organizations.

According to SiriusDecisions, 65% of content created by marketing for sales is never used.

That’s not surprising to me. This has been the case for well over a decade. What’s shocking is not only that it isn’t resolved, it’s not improving! I believe the B2B sales content predicament is actually much worse than these statistics indicate.

This statistic and underlying research doesn’t address the adverse impact of required but missing sales content that was never created! Sales productivity and effectiveness opportunity cost significantly trumps the cost of content. 

Symptomatic of a Broader Content Problem?

This article will explain marketing and sales content differences and why this matters to B2B marketing and sales organizations.

It is axiomatic that you must diagnose problems correctly to understand and apply the best remedies.

If organizations have limited understanding of or visibility into the state of sales content, what other content-dependent functions and initiatives are under-served?

If you don’t know what makes sales content good and effective (before you create and use it), what other content categories are you unclear about?

The 65% statistic is a symptom. I’ve heard this delivered in webinars, events and through articles. When I ask people what they think is the core cause, the answers are general, not specific or actionable. “Content is unusable, not relevant, or users are unaware or can’t find it.”

The statistic and conclusions misdirect from the real cause of the sales content problem: few organizations really know how to create effective sales-ready content. They haven’t developed methods and practices that continuously improve the quality and effectiveness of sales content.

The belief that sales content is similar to and an extension of content marketing is misguided. This problem will persist until this thinking and the practices it produces, changes.

Causes of Misunderstanding Marketing and Sales Content Differences

Content strategy is still at a low level of maturity in most B2B organizations. When formally conducted, content strategy tends to occur within siloed functions, often at a tactic level. Examples include: content strategy for the website, for demand generation, social media, etc. Only 37% of companies in Content Marketing Institute research claim to have a documented content strategy.

Marketing teams that believe they have high content strategy maturity should validate this belief with an outside audit. This will confirm just how comprehensive and effective the strategy is, identify gaps, and ideally determine what the next level of maturity looks like.

When I interview marketers on the subject of sales content, I get two primary responses:

1 “We create content that should be useful to sales. Sales people either aren’t aware of it, or they can’t find/access it.” Indeed, this assessment is behind the exponential growth of sales enablement systems.

2 “We create the content sales asks for. We’ve never sold, especially in our environment. No one has trained us specifically on the characteristics of sales content.” 

For most B2B marketing organizations sales content is simply not considered a responsibility or priority. Their focus is content marketing. They have big challenges addressing those requirements. So they take priority.

I checked the Content Marketing Institute 2018 Trends report for supporting evidence on my sales content points. I found none. Nothing — as in no mention of sales or sales content — AT ALL. In fact, the word “sales” is used only twice in the report — as an alternative for “revenues”. B2B marketers don’t get much guidance on sales content from industry leaders.

Sales Organizations Don’t Provide Clear Content Requirements

B2B sales leaders are not immune from culpability for this problem. Most sales leaders have never sold in this digital and social era. As one senior sales leader in a very large technology company asked me, “What IS content, it’s collateral, right?”

Many sales leaders haven’t fully embraced the implications of selling in a digital world for their sales methodology and practices. Indeed, many are still trying to make the shift from a primarily product-centric sales approach, to a solution or value selling model.

As a result, sales leaders are no better at defining sales content requirements than their marketing counter-parts. During more than 15 years contracted to create sales content for B2B enterprise sales groups, it was our job to define sales content specifications. So it’s natural that sales groups assume it’s marketing’s job to figure that out.

As my opening question suggested, sales doesn’t understand sales content well enough to provide clear content creation specifications. Marketing doesn’t understand sales enough to know they need these details, or at least a detailed understanding of the use case, objectives and contextual relevance factors.

“Overall, there is a significant correlation between the effectiveness of customer-facing content and the level of relationships that can be achieved with customers.

The more effective customer-facing content is, the more likely providers can develop a high-level relationship with their customers.

Content matters. Content in context matters even more. “Customer-core” makes the real difference.

Content must become a sales force’s strategic imperative and a number one priority on every sales leader’s agenda. Highly effective customer-facing content that covers the entire customer’s journey is a must-have ingredient to remain successful in an ever-changing, buyer-driven world.”

Tamara Schenk, CSO Insights, Sales Enablement Research Director Relationship Building With Customers: Content Counts

Symptoms Of A Deeper Sales Content Problem

Additional symptoms that indicate you might have a bigger sales content problem that stems from misunderstanding marketing and sales content differences include:

  • Sales content strategy work isn’t a formal process
  • Sales content gaps aren’t known, considered and road mapped
  • Sales channel content isn’t considered, designed or developed differently than internal content
  • There are no specific, documented sales content quality definitions
  • Content briefs for sales content aren’t written or applied to specific assets before they are create
  • Sales content briefs don’t address sales-specific needs in sufficient detail, or aren’t reviewed with sales
  • Sales content quality measurement capability and feedback mechanisms are weak or unspecified

A good test is to ask: “How targeted and tailored is our content for optimal contextual relevance and personalization?”

We define contextual relevance in terms of:

  • Audience (general type, industry, persona),
  • Situation
  • Purposes (communicators and audiences)
  • Audience information requirements and questions
  • Content forms, formats and channels (among other factors).

It’s difficult to create content for these combinations of relevance factors. But this is what’s required for effective sales content. Sales is a highly personalized, mostly one-on-one game. Vendors of sales enablement systems frequently complain their customers don’t create content in ways that optimize the functionality of their systems.

Marketing and Sales Content Differences That Matter

As I prepared briefings and this blog on this topic, its nuanced complexity became even clearer.

Despite more than 15 years thinking about and developing sales content frameworks to guide the creation of quality sales content by my firm for our clients, key points and this table required several weeks to evolve. When it comes to content creation, details matter.

This short video provides a narrated explanation of this table. If video doesn’t display inline click to view in a separate tab.


(This video, related slides and other assets are a microsite linked below.)

Most often, sales doesn’t need a complete document, presentation, article or webinar. They need a snippet from these assets. They need a quote, research fact, graphic, one or two slides to help a conversation, a small segment from a webinar with an important explanation or message by an expert or customer.

I call this micro-content. [See Micro-content — the most important content type you don’t manage]

Sales needs a repository of source content elements they can use to create or tailor a presentation, proposal, blog, letter or even a custom web landing page. I call thisContent Source. [See Content Source the secret sauce to quality content]

Sales people need ALL content required for a particular use casegrouped or relatedso they quickly find everything they need to do that job.

Examples include emails or social posts to deliver a finished document or article asset. Video, not as a YouTube link, but inserted into a landing page with an explanatory abstract and links to related content. Knowledge and Communication Support aids to help them prepare to use the asset, and guide them in using it. Examples here include technology, industry, company or role background information.Questions to ask, questions to anticipate hearing, and answers to questions are other examples.

Often this “content” is in the form of text, links, or graphic files. How do you manage and deploy these asset types? How difficult is it for users to find, select anduse these assets?

Checklist of Marketing and Sales Content Differences

Sales content is best considered in three primary categories:

  • Knowledge; Conversation and Communication Support; Situation-ready Content
    • Knowledge requirements include those for both sellers and their audiences (most marketing thinking and planning focuses almost exclusively on audience needs — important but not sufficient)
    • Sellers require continuous knowledge, learning and performance support embedded in daily activities and systems
    • Conversation and Communication Support — examples include inventories of emails, questions to ask, answers to customer questions and many others listed here
    • Conversations are content. As such, key conversations are best designedand tested in a manner similar to testing content. Then they can be applied universally by the sales organization
    • This approach helps discover the deeper insights required, as well as identifies required visual and other communication support assets
    • Communication support assets that are designed for customer’s internal conversations to enroll colleagues and stakeholders and build consensus. This is a critical and not typically provided asset group
    • Situation-ready content — all supplemental educational and proof assets.
  • The context for sales content requires that it be tailored to each specific customer and situation
  • It speaks to individuals more than market segments or even general personas
  • Contextual relevance means content meets a specific purpose, and ispersonalized more than generic
  • Sales content must support specific information requirements in the buying/selling process
  • It is prescriptive more than descriptive
  • Sales content is question based, leverages unique and relevantbusiness insights, and supported by stories and examples
  • It provides answers to specific buyer questions, supported with proof

What’s Required to Realize Effective Sales Content?

Organizations must change their approach to sales content. Specific sales content requirements must be defined as a requisition process.

Detailed content specifications for each asset or asset group must be provided to content development teams, be they internal or third party. This is similar to specifications for new product features. This makes sense, afterall, content IS a product.

Preceding this action, use case requirements must be defined and assessed. [See How to Define Sales Use Case Requirements]

Sales content must be tailored by sales people at the point just before use and delivery.

This is especially important for your sales channel. They want to configure training, marketing content and campaigns, as well as selling content as a combined story.

This means content must be designed, created and packaged for distribution in a way that allows editing and final configuration and assembly to be completed downstream, by sales users. (Horrors!)

Actually, this has been occurring for decades. It’s called PowerPoint. It’s one of several reasons PowerPoint has been the lingua franca of marketing and sales organizations. Think of PowerPoint as a communication model to be extended, more than a technology to be critiqued.

This of course means upstream production approaches and techniques must change. We discovered that an approach using micro-content, modular design, andconfigured assets makes this work.

At the detail level — and content creation is all about getting specific details right — there are many more elements to address that make this work better, faster, cheaper, at scale, without the compromises required by the traditional, outdated content process currently in use. [See What is a Leveraged Content Supply Chain]

Why B2B Marketers Should Care

If B2B marketers want to keep up their ability to provide value to the organization, they must move beyond traditional marketing tactics and early stage lead generation content marketing initiatives. Supporting engagements across the whole buyer journey is one way. Support for the communication and content requirements of other customer-engaging functional groups in addition to marketing is another.

Better content performance — for sales and marketing content — means better marketing and sales performance — and business results.

Perhaps the most immediate reason is Account Based Marketing (ABM). Success with ABM initiatives requires tailored, personalized, contextually relevant content. Including but going beyond industry and persona factors, it must address individual company and people requirements.

For the imminent future, we must all have a higher appreciation for the reality we’re living in an age that requires accelerated learning to keep up with exponential change. One example of this is a present but not generally recognized content requirement to operate in a Content-as-a-Service (CaaS) manner.

CaaS is required to serve audiences who expect to self-configure and assemble relevant and useful finished assets from an inventory of Content Source. Your sales, sales channel, partner and customer organizations need this today. Very soon, it’s the rest of the world.

The technical elements for this already exist, no big deal actually. What’s missing are the operational processes needed to produce, manage and deploy content that supports this objective. What is coming in short order is automated assembly of ALL content types, well beyond that of today’s early stage dynamic web page displays.

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