LinkedIn Publishing: Leverage the Power of the Pulse

Pulse LogoYou’ve likely read about publishing on LinkedIn Pulse and perhaps wondered why would you want to write a piece of content to share with your connections.

Maybe you think you’re “just a writer” or business owner, or you simply “don’t do social media.”

But truth be told, LinkedIn Pulse is one of the best sources of authoritative content on the web available and offers a free publishing and distribution platform to assist you with your digital marketing.

As a highly visible media channel, it also offers a way to showcase your professional expertise beyond your LinkedIn profile or company page.

Publishing solid content on Pulse can help you with branding, conversions or even landing your next client.

I Already Have a Blog: Why Should I Publish on Pulse?

Think of Pulse as a platform for you to extend the reach of your blog content. By syndicating your blog content on Pulse, you can increase its visibility far beyond what you could realistically attain with your own on-site blog.

Your on-site blog is a valuable content asset, focusing on a niche topic of your choice that satisfies your readers. And while some of your audience may be fiercely loyal readers, they may not follow you on every social platform.

By broadening or adding a twist to your blog post and syndicating it on Pulse, you can expose both your blog and your brand to a different and larger audience. This translates into a great opportunity to grow your readership!

Get Discovered via Search: Both On & Off LinkedIn

Those of us who are passionate about creating content may not be so passionate about promoting it (myself included). That is where LinkedIn’s Pulse can help. You will spend most of your time composing your content rather than promoting it.

Simply by taking the time to share your content on the Pulse platform, you’ve instantly shared it with your connections. What’s more, you can – and should — tag your posts with keywords. That way anyone with a LinkedIn account doing a search for topics they are interested in may well surface your content.

In addition to users discovering your content with the platform’s search feature, Pulse will suggest content to them based on their industry, influencers and LinkedIn activity.

If all these perks are not enough to get you excited about publishing on Pulse, then I have one more tasty tidbit for you…search engines! Yes, you read that correctly. Like any other content on the web, the content you publish on Pulse will be crawled and indexed by Google, Bing, Yahoo! and many other search engines.

The takeaway here is to keep on creating quality, optimized content and the (search) results will fall into place!

Pulse Analytics: Every Number Tells a Story

Who doesn’t like a good story? This is why analytics data are important. When you post your content on LinkedIn’s Pulse platform you have access to instant stats. These stats date back to a year from when you first published your post, and help you make informed decisions moving forward.

For instance, you may find one of your posts did not perform very well. You can choose to do additional research on the subject to deepen or otherwise tweak the post, or simply let it go and scratch the topic from your editorial calendar altogether.

Besides offering the standard social media stats of likes, shares and number of views, LinkedIn goes a step further and breaks down the data so you can see your viewers by location, industry, job title and traffic sources in terms of percentages. This is some powerful information!

After a few good quality posts you will begin to get an idea of what type of audience is reading your material. Below is a snapshot of data from one of my posts about whether you should consider getting an MBA, a topic that can appeal to almost anyone regardless of their industry.

What I found is the e-Commerce Specialist job title and travel industry were amongst my biggest percentages. Knowing this, I can plan my next post to be related to hospitality and digital marketing.

reader_demographics

The takeaway here is although I specialize in the area of (digital) hospitality, I chose to write about an “off” subject. This is perfectly okay to do!

As a bonus, your article may inspire some readers outside of your industry vertical to connect with you (I picked up three connections from my MBA post). Have fun with the numbers and set goals for them. Broaden your reach and enjoy watching the story unfold!

FAQ: What Should I Write About? For How Long? And When?

Settling on a topic can be one of the toughest things about writing. From my perspective, you should write about things that you are care deeply about. You may need to experiment with a variety of topics before determining which ones work best for you.

The goal for my writing is to be seen as an expert within my field. Ask yourself what your goals are prior to choosing a topic. Defining your goals will assist in finding your topical focus and in tailoring your content to your target audience. At the end of the day, you need to give your intended readers what they are searching for.

As for length, longer is better! LinkedIn readers favor long-form content with an average of 1,900 – 2,000 words according to a 2014 study of the 3,000 most successful LinkedIn posts by Paul Shapiro and Noah Kagan.wordcountShapiro and Kagan’s findings are supported by Buzzsumo’s 2015 research, which found long-form content overall consistently outperformed shorter posts in terms of links and shares.

In terms of views, Shapiro and Kagan’s study found Thursday to be the best day for posting. In terms of shares, Buzzsumo’s analysis found Tuesday to be the best day for LinkedIn publishing. It would be a good suggestion to run your own tests and see which publishing days perform best.

How to Publish on Pulse: Easy as 1-2-3

Now we’ve covered the many reasons why you should post content on LinkedIn’s Pulse, here are the few simple steps it takes:

  1. Navigate to LinkedIn.com and sign into your account
  2. Click on “Publish a Post” just below the quick stats section near the top
  3. Begin using the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor to write your post, including adding media, formatting and category tagging.

I would strongly recommend writing your initial post in Word to avoid loss of content if something were to crash. Again, all of your formatting will be done on LinkedIn. Save often! Remember, you can always make changes after you publish.

LinkedIn Pulse is one of the best social channels through which we can connect with one another, discover new content and allow others to discover ours. Some users are looking for career opportunities, some are seeking to generate business leads, and some are trying to build their brand. Whatever your reason, don’t delay any longer: start sharing your content with the world!

Connect with Brandon on LinkedIn and Google+

Photo thanks: Wikimedia Commons © Alexander Hampson / Wikimedia.org

3 Things Google Can Teach You About Copywriting

Is Google more persuasive than Billy Mays? Perhaps…

This month, we’ve focused on how to write conversion-sparking content. Why? Because knowing how to write online is one thing. Knowing how to write copy that makes money, well, that’s a big deal — and a skill worth developing.

I’d like to close this month with lessons from an old friend — Google. We are so hungry for their brand that we surf their site every day, use their brand name as a verb and hang on their every word. If you want an example of a smart “sales” campaign, look at Google. They have us eating out of the palm of their virtual hands.  Enjoy!

What does Google have in common with the late Billy Mays?

Both are known for being extremely persuasive.

Google is a master at manipulating our emotions and changing our behavior. Think about it: How many of you use Google products because it’s easier, cheaper and – in the case of the now-defunct Google Glass – provides some awesome geek cred?

Yup. I thought so. And part of that reason is how Google markets their services.

Here are some copywriting lessons you can learn from Google – and how you can use them in your own business.

Everyone loves Google. Just ask them.

One of the reasons review sites are so popular is because we rely on them to help make our decisions. Should we go to a new restaurant? Better check Yelp first. Traveling? Check out Trip Advisor before booking that hotel room. We read reviews written by “people like us” to make our decisions.

If you check out the Google Analytics home page, you’ll see that the first image is a testimonial. As you click into inner pages, you see well-known company logos as “success stories.”  If a company wondered if Google Analytics would work for them, they can read the testimonials and feel more at ease. Other people like Google. So they will too.

Here’s how to use social proof in your own marketing.

I’ve talked quite a bit about the power of testimonials. However, it’s amazing how many sites ignore this easy conversion tip. If you don’t have testimonials on your site, it’s time to add them. If you work with different vertical markets, make sure you have vertical-specific testimonials. It’s really that easy.

FUD Google

FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) is a big motivator. We want to minimize our pain and maximize our pleasure. So, when we hear about something that may be particularly unpleasant, we do what we can to make our world safe. Think of the millions of dollars people spent trying to calm their Year-2000 fears. Or how people will stop eating certain foods because they read one news article that said that they may be bad for you.

Google is all over the FUD approach. Once upon a time, algorithmic updates were sudden, violent acts. We may have had inklings that something was coming down, but Google didn’t warn us.

Today, Google representatives will drop hints about a “possible” update – and people immediately freak out.  Some folks are so afraid of making a wrong algorithmic move that many site owners turn to AdWords in order to guarantee consistent traffic. After all, your main site’s rankings may bounce up and down and possibly plummet – and that’s much too unpredictable.  With PPC, your ads will keep running no matter what (within reason.) Is it any wonder many site owners ignore their main site and rely 100% on PPC? That’s FUD in action.

Billy Mays used to use FUD during his pitches. If you check out this old commercial for Oxyclean, you’ll see how bleach supposedly ruined a pair of jeans – yet, Oxyclean cleaned the jeans without mishap. The message? Other cleansers may hurt your clothes, but Oxyclean is the safe alternative.

How to use FUD on your own site

FUD can be tricky. It’s important to bring up the benefits of making the right decision (read: the decision you want them to make.) Yet, if you push it too far, people may kick back and ignore your pitch.

Check out the approach Gerber Knives uses.  They don’t come out and say, “If you purchase a cheaper knife, it may fail.” But they heavily imply it in the copy:

The message is pretty clear: If you need a knife for a “survival situation,” use a Gerber one. Or else.

Did you want Google Glass? There were only a few available …

You want me. I know you do.

You want me. I know you do.

The principle of scarcity teaches us that something becomes more attractive to us if we think we can’t have it. If something is only available for a limited time, or to a limited population, we want it more.

Now, think about Google Glass. The glasses were clunky, weird looking and are like the geeky eyeglass equivalent of a Segway. But people wanted their Glass. Badly. When you limit sales of a $2,000 product to “invite only,” it’s amazing how many people will immediately catapult the product purchase to a “need.” After all, there’s only a few invites out there. Don’t you want to be part of the chosen few?

How you can apply this in your business:

Are there ways you can make your product less available – for instance, reminding people that there are just “a few products at that price,” or making it a limited-time offer? If you provide services, you can tell clients that you’re only accepting X new clients every month. It’s amazing how products will compete for your time when they think that you may not have time to take them on.

The next time you read a Google announcement, think about how they positioned their content and see what you can learn. The Big G can be a wonderful teacher…

Photo credit: “Google Glass Explorer Exchange 36274” by Ted Eytan

“HI, BILLY MAYS HERE!” by Don

Expert Copywriting Strategies for Crazy Conversions

Expert Content ResourcesLast week, we shared several evergreen resources for creating conversions-driving content that featured copywriting formulas and how-tos for crafting compelling headlines and email subject lines.

Today, we follow up with expert strategies, tips and tools for writing persuasive web copy, including home and landing pages, as well as engaging, shareable blogs and articles. We also share some great resources for content promotion.

Writing Powerful & Persuasive Website Copy

How to Create Landing Pages That Convert

By Kiera Abbamonte via Kissmetrics

Describing how a manufacturing company increased their conversion rate by a whopping 1250 percent, Kiera Abbamonte credits their landing page redesign.

Specifically, she writes, the company switched out a crowded, confusing web page for a landing page that adhered to “four basic tenets”: doing one thing really well by giving visitors only one option; using visual elements to guide viewers’ eyes to the call-to-action; being reasonable in the information you ask visitors to provide; and finally, focusing on the benefits customers will receive.

Abbamonte lists what should and should not be included on a landing page, as well as a number of best practices. She then offers examples of what successful landing pages look like, such as a simple one featuring a compelling headline. Definitely a keeper!

A Practical Marketers Guide to Writing for Conversion

By Joanna Wiebe via Unbounce

If you want to write great copy, swipe it from your visitors, customers and prospects…” writes Joanna Wiebe. The more your website’s home and landing page messages reflect what your customers are thinking, feeling and experiencing when they come to your site, she continues, the more they’ll trust you, believe you’ve created the solution to their problems and buy from you.

Wiebe replicates the five questions she asks when conducting a customer survey, and details how she uses responses to write high-converting landing page copy for her clients. Readers are encouraged to download her free template and follow the four-step process she outlines. It’s an ingenious system that has clearly worked well for Wiebe, right at your fingertips.

8 Ways Your Home Page Is Like A Multiple Choice Test

By Brian Massey via Marketing Land

Your site’s home page should follow the form but not the function of a multiple-choice test, writes Brian Massey (a.k.a., The Conversion Scientist™). Rather than challenge your visitors to select the right choice, your home page should “get the visitor into the site and on the right path – not distract or confuse”. Its job is to answer the question: “why did your visit our website today?”

The “right” answers you provide (with links to your sites internal pages) are the one that makes sense, Massey continues, while all other answers (notably, social media links) are distractors. Other multiple-choice test principles that you can apply to optimize your home page include writing the “correct” answer first and providing three to five answer choices for your site visitors. You’ll want to read this gem and keep it handy for reference.

11 Copywriting Tips: How to Turn Marketing Drivel into Serious Sales Copy

By Henneke Duistermaat via Enchanting Marketing

Marketing drivel has its tells, mostly in sounding insincere and sleazy, writes Henneke Duistermaat. She challenges copywriters to eliminate the fluff from their sales content by implementing 11 tips that include using specific numbers, slicing out superlatives and eliminating unnecessary adjectives. Before you hit publish, edit your copy at least once more with Duistermaat’s tips fresh in your mind.

Creating & Promoting Content for a Conversions-Driving Strategy

Generating blog posts or long-form articles is an integral part of most any content marketing strategy, both for B2B and B2C companies. So how do you create content that is “engaging” and “shareable”? And how do you go about promoting it?

Here are eight strategies, tools and other resources for everything from content ideation to promotion:

Content Ideation & Creation: Inspiration & Instruction

Staring at a blank screen while staring down a deadline? Don’t stress out… Here are tools and for coming up with ideas, as well as for the nitty-gritty of creating great content.

8 Blog Topic Generators for Blog Post Idea Inspiration

By Megan Marrs via WordStream

In this candid review of content idea generators, Megan Marrs assesses those by familiar sources such as HubSpot and Portent as well as those with names like Link Bait Generator and Content Strategy Helper. She provides examples and tips for when and how you might use each, but concludes they are more the same than different. Try them out to see which best suit your needs!

6 Tools to Help Turn Trends Into Valuable Content

By Ann Smarty via Content Marketing Institute

If you’re looking for timely, newsworthy content ideas, Ann Smarty suggests sources that include Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Trends.

To best leverage each platform, she recommends tools such as IFTTT (If-This-Then-That) recipes for email notifications on relevant Reddit updates, DrumUp for crawling the more traditional social media sites, and WordPress RSS aggregator to combine your favorite content sources into one feed. Smarty provides helpful details about how to best use each tool; you’ll definitely want to investigate them firsthand.

The Single Best Way to Create Hit Content in Record Time

By Demian Farnworth via Copyblogger

Demian Farnworth points out that the most readily available source of excellent content is the high-performing evergreen posts you’ve already created.

He writes that republishing – meaning, updating and polishing an old article for publishing on a new date — is a strategy that reaps several benefits. The five he lists include attracting more links and social shares by exposing old content to a new, larger audience, and punching “Google’s freshness button”.

Farnworth illustrates how to republish in WordPress with screenshots, and shares a checklist of what you should do to breathe new life into your old content. A handy guide to keep around!

How To Go Viral: Lessons From The Most Shared Content of 2015

By Steve Rayson via Buzzsumo

Reporting on Buzzsumo’s analysis of over 1 billion pieces of content published in 2015, Steve Rayson writes that like last year, viral posts remain “insightful outliers” and there is “no magic formula”.

However, their analysis (of mostly B2C posts) did reveal four “different elements” frequently found in viral content that may help in creating more engaging and shareable posts. The elements fall under emotional, topical, formatting and content categories. For example, topical elements included health and fitness, emotional elements “surprising” and “shocking”, content elements images and video, etc.

Rayson suggests using combinations of these elements in both content and headlines, and underscores the importance of a composing (and testing) a compelling headline. He further notes that their research indicates that it’s not just the content per se, but that amplification is key for significant sharing. (For Rayson’s report on the best performing B2B content of 2015, see this related article.)

60 Steps for Your Content Writing Checklist

By Leslie Vos via Convince & Convert

Admittedly, 60 steps to anything seems a bit much until you realize that the author, Leslie Vos, organizes the checklist into three categories. She begins with topic ideation and ends with “content support”, such as responding to reader comments.

In the center “prelaunch” stage, she discusses the heart of the matter for creating your content. Starting with headlines, Vos covers media files (such as images) and copyright, on-page optimization and links, mobile-friendliness, as well as overall content structure.

Her checklist is sprinkled with links to authoritative sources for more information, and definitely worthy of bookmarking for reference.

Content Promotion: Tools & Strategies

As you’ve likely heard more times than you care to remember, it is no longer enough to simply create stellar content. Now, for it to reach your target readers, you have to promote it. The common stat quoted in content marketing discussions is the 80/20 rule: for any given blog post or article, you should spend 20 percent of your time creating it, and the remaining 80 percent promoting it.

Here are tools and strategies to help with content promotion:

Blog Promotionology, The Art & Science of Blog Promotion

By Mike Allton via The Social Media Hat

Get ready to get educated: Mike Allton’s mega how-to is a thorough schooling in all you need to know about promoting your blog, beginning with “prerequisites” such as social sharing icons, RSS feeds, Rich Pins and Twitter Cards – as well as a discussion of actual blog content.

Allton offers a detailed description of his blog promotion process, complete with the social sharing tools he employs and how he uses them. He discusses alternative social platforms like Blab and Periscope, and promotion techniques such as teasing out an upcoming post on social media and (delicately) notifying Twitter followers about a new post with direct messaging.

Allton also covers paid promotion options and influencer marketing, as well as repurposing and syndicating blog posts. His tutorial is full of links and helpful tips – a rich resource for your how-to library.

Infographic: The Optimal Length for Every Social Media Update and More

By Kevan Lee via Buffer Social

This infographic post by Kevan Lee is accompanied by data-backed text discussing the ideal length of social media updates and the reasoning behind the numbers.

The “more” from the post’s title encompasses most all of the online content you can think of, with optimal word counts for blog posts, headlines, email subject lines, hastags, domain names, SEO title tags and paragraphs (width-wise).

The ambitious post also delves into the ideal length of podcasts, YouTube videos, SlideShare and speaking presentations, and concludes with the ideal image size for Pinterest posts. Yet another great resource to bookmark!

Want More Effective Content Promotion? Choose From These 15 Tools

By Neil Patel via Quick Sprout

Noting that promoting content often consumes more time than creating it, Neil Patel shares 15 tools to help writers “achieve efficiency” in their efforts, as well as better, more consistent results.

The tools he details fall under email, social media, and SEO (linking). They are designed to boost conversions and/or give you analytical insights into relevant data while sparing you from repetitive, mind-numbing tasks.

The six email tools he discusses will help with either improving open rates, saving you time, or increasing conversions (meaning, from views to reads and responses). Patel also shares five social media tools to minimize that time suck, including a nifty image sharer plugin by SumoMe.

Finally, he discusses tools for acquiring more links to your content, four of which are from Citation Labs. Patel describes how to use the tools for checking broken links, link prospecting, and scaling link building via accessing a link database.

All of the content promotion tools he reviews have their own merits, and he notes which ones carry a price tag. You’ll definitely want to explore them and see which ones might work best for your needs.

Your Turn

And that’s a wrap of our review of copywriting resources. As with Part 1, there were a plethora of sources to sift through so if we missed one…or 5…that you’d like to share, please do so in the comments. Thank you!

Photo thanks: ID 4815205632 © Drew Coffman / Flickr.com

Create Killer Content: Copy These Powerful Formulas

sales writingDo a search on “sales writing” or “copywriting” and you’ll see that the body of content around it is ginormous. And that’s no surprise. After all, copywriting is the substance of all the print and digital marketing materials out there, from headlines to calls to action (and all that stuff in between).

The art and science of writing persuasive copy as we know it has been around for some time, and the principles and best practices of David Ogilvy’s day still apply today. In part 1 in our 2-part series on conversions writing, we review some evergreen resources that feature time-saving copywriting formulas, as well as helpful how-tos on creating compelling headlines and email subject lines.

Copywriting Formulas: Acronym Soup 

Creating solid sales copy takes precious time and energy. To help you use both most efficiently, here are several resources for your virtual library.

The Ultimate Guide to No-Pain Copywriting (or, Every Copywriting Formula Ever)

By Joanna Wiebe via Copy Hackers

“Because only rookies write from scratch…” So begins Joanna Wiebe’s introduction to Copy Hackers’ ambitious taxonomy of copywriting formulas (as well as several templates, methods and checklists).

Beginning with the widely known AIDA (Attention-Interest-Desire-Action) model and its myriad variations to more obscure ones such as HELLYEAH (Holler-Empathize-Lambast-Legwork-Yes-Educate-Action-Handle) for long form sales letters, this guide is rich with links and examples. Definitely a keeper!

The Ultimate Guide to Copywriting

By Hassan Ud-deen via Kissmetrics

In this “ultimate guide,” author Hassan Ud-deen discusses the multiple elements that make for superlative copy. He offers a detailed description of how to apply the AIDA formula (including a great YouTube clip of Alec Baldwin’s tutorial from Glengarry Glen Ross), and delves into the psychology behind intriguing headlines, compelling openings and persuasive sales copy. Ud-deen even touches on the use of closed vs. open bullet points. A handy resource you’ll consult for most any copywriting project.

Why Most Copywriting Formulas Stink (and How to Really Write for the Web)

By Henneke Duistermaat via Enchanting Marketing

Authored by the self-described “irreverent copywriter and marketer” Henneke Duistermaat, this post takes aim at the AIDA copywriting formula. Her main objection to AIDA is the redundancy (and potential overkill) of the “attention” part. Unlike the days of print advertising when AIDA was conceived (circa 1900), you’ve already got the attention of readers — they’ve clicked on your site (several others echo this observation, including Wiebe).

Duistermaat favors the FAB (Features-Advantages-Benefits) formula (listed in Copy Hackers’ guide as “A single, solitary formula for body copy”), with the emphasis being on the benefits your product or service offer your prospect (which propels the desire called for by the AIDA model).

She also addresses the PAS (Problem-Agitate-Solution, or -Solve) formula premised on the avoidance of pain, whereby you describe a problem, stir up the emotions associated with it, then offer your solution. Regarding PAS, she quotes copywriting legend Dan Kennedy:

“When you understand that people are more likely to act to avoid pain than to get gain, you’ll understand how powerful this first formula is. (…) It may be the most reliable sales formula ever invented.”

Master This Copywriting Formula to Dominate Any Social Media Platform

By Demian Farnworth via Copyblogger

The applications for the PAS (Problem-Agitate-Solve) copywriting formula (above) are “endless”, writes Demian Farnworth, citing and linking out to examples of its use in product descriptions, landing pages and sales letters.

Farnworth then delves into how to apply the PAS formula to any text-based social media platform (rather humorously), including Twitter. He further notes that “PAS gives your writing consistency, precision, and persuasion” and is a tool you can keep handy to be an efficient writer because you “don’t have to recreate the wheel every time.”

Compelling Headlines: Key to Conversions

You’re most likely familiar with David Ogilvy’s famous quote about headlines: “On the average, five times as many people read the headlines as the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents out of your dollar.”

Here are some resources to help you spend that 80 cents wisely.

A Simple Formula for Writing Kick-Ass Blog Titles

By Corey Eridon via HubSpot

Corey Eridon succinctly underscores the importance of creating truly compelling titles in prefacing his post: “Titles are what sell the content.” He continues, “They represent it in search engines, in email, and on social media.”

Guided by best practices, notably keeping the reader experience paramount by delivering on the promise of the title, Eridon’s headline-writing formula starts with the key step of distinguishing an overarching topic from a specific, working title that “guides the creation of a blog post.”

Other requisites of a stellar title include making it sexy while keeping it accurate, as deceptive clickbait titles are liable to backfire by alienating readers (they may well lose trust in you or the brand you’re representing). Additional steps entail optimizing the title for search while keeping it short, and then brainstorming with someone else to hone it to perfection. A smart, from-the-trenches formula!

#Copywriting ALERT! 902 Headline Banging Words, SRSLY

By Marty Weintraub via aimClear

aimClear CEO Marty Weintraub and his team share a list of 902 words to use when creating blog, article and ad headlines. According to Weintraub, these words are “likely to distinguish professional from amateur copy when well used.”

The list is divided into “an array of permutations” that include emotions, expletive punch words and a set of synonyms that serve as a kind of “headline-stemming lateral thesaurus.” Then to assist with ad headline and SEO title brevity, the list is color-coded according to the word’s character count. This resource is something best understood firsthand, so definitely check it out!

How To Create Headlines That Grab Attention And Convert

By Michael Brenner via Marketing Insider Group

A study conducted by HubSpot and Outbrain of more than 3.3 million blog headlines looked into those attributes that increased or inhibited content reach as measured by click-through rates (CTRs), engagement and conversions. In a nutshell, their analysis reveals that readers have become wary of clickbait, demonstrating a strong preference for transparent titles.

Michael Brenner summarizes the study’s findings, writing that headlines with the words “who” and “photo(s),” as well as those with clarifications in brackets (such as [Webinar]), generated higher CTRs, while the latter two also drove higher engagement. Bracketed descriptions were further found to generate more conversions.

The analysis found that overused sexy words such as “secret” and “magic”, those that directly address the reader (“you”) and those that convey urgency (such as “now”) all hurt CTRs by as much as 59 percent. You can download the full study (“Data Driven Strategies for Writing Effective Titles & Headlines”) at HubSpot.

Hate this Headline? You’ll Probably Share the Story.

By Barry Feldman via Kissmetrics

While an 8-word headline of a 1300-word post represents less than 1% of the content, I’m 99% sure it will be the line that dictates the destiny of your post,” writes Barry Feldman in his own post about how to get your content shared on social media…so much so that it delivers a “sudden and pronounced spike in traffic”. The key: giving your post an emotional headline to invoke reader response by using words that pack a powerful punch.

Such “power words” can be positive (connoting pleasurable feelings), or negative (i.e., painful feelings) and there are scads of them. Feldman shares links to CoSchedule’s “cheat sheet” of over 180 power words, and to PsychPage’s equally impressively list of feeling words, both pleasant and unpleasant. He also shares a tool that scores the emotional mojo of your headlines, so you can test alternative variations. Go forth and make that headline emote!

Email Subject Lines: Stand Out in the Inbox Crowd

Email marketing is one of the most effective content marketing strategies available. You can think of email subject lines as headlines for your reader’s inbox, with their open rates the equivalent of headline click-through rates. Here are resources to assist you in persuading your readers to open your email.

The 112 Best Email Marketing Subject Lines (so far) in 2016

By Joey Barker via Unfunnel

It’s not yet mid-January, yet Unfunnel has already sent out 1.25 million emails. Their analysis of the email open rates rendered a list of their best 112 email subject lines, organized as benefit-driven, logic- and threat-based types. In turn, each type is broken down into categories.

For instance, benefit-driven email subject lines may drive open rates by appealing to the reader’s self-interest, or pique her interest with news or by telling the beginning of a story. (Their benefit-driven email subject lines accounted for nearly half of Unfunnel’s most successful ones).

Logic-based email subject lines may arouse the reader’s curiosity, invoke social proof, or appeal to her humanity with a more one-on-one, intimate tone.

Finally, threat-based email subject lines play on the reader’s fear of loss, whether by implying scarcity or urgency.

The 9 Best Email Subject Line Styles to Increase Your Open Rates

By Megan Marrs via WordStream

You needn’t look farther than your own inbox to know that subscribers are inundated with emails vying for their attention. Here Megan Marrs discusses nine types of email subject lines to boost open rates: simple and no-nonsense; funny; controversial/shocking; single-word; numbers and lists; personalized; questions and other punctuation; “missing out” and other scarcity tactics; and finally, mysterious.

She then lists several general best practices for writing email subject lines, including writing ten different lines for every email and then choosing the best, keeping the character count to under 50, playing with alliteration and using CAPITALS sparingly.

How Consumers Really Feel About Your Subject Lines

By Elyse Dupre via Direct Marketing News

To gauge the impact that emotional words and phrases in email subject lines have on reader engagement, Persado (an “automated persuasive language generator” software company) analyzed 436 of those from retail and e-commerce companies.

The specific subject lines studied were from last year’s Black Friday emails, and “engagement” was measured by open rates.

Elyse Dupre reports that Persado studied five performance-driving emotions: urgency, achievement, exclusivity, anxiety and excitement. Of them, exclusivity (such as, “Your exclusive $15 coupon is here!”) performed the best with a 28-percent average lift in open rates, and achievement (for instance, “…you’ve earned it”) a distant second with 18-percent.

An excited tone actually resulted in an 11-percent fall in open rates, compared to an 11-percent increase above the baseline in 2014. Paraphrasing Presado’s director of marketing, Julia Spano, Dupre writes that while it may seem counterintuitive, “excitement is rarely a top performing emotional category”.

[Note: You may be interested in this related story by Dupre on the impressive success Angie’s List has experienced in leveraging emotionally engaging email subject lines generated by Persado.]

Your Turn

Have you come across any evergreen sales writing resources you’d like to share? Please include them in the comments below!

Stay tuned for Part 2 next Thursday! We’ll share resources for creating conversions-driving blogs and web page copy, as well as tools and tips for promoting content. 

Photo thanks: ID 59022955 © Wujekjery / Dreamstime.com

 

 

 

10 B2B SEO Copywriting Tips for 2016

Is 2016 the year you take your B2B content writing campaign to the next level?Need some SEO writing tips for your B2B company?

If your answer is, “I don’t have time to take it to the next level. I’m barely holding on as it is,” consider these statistics:

94 percent of B2B companies research online for purchase decisions, according to the Acquity Group. Plus, according to the Corporate Executive Board,

  • 57 percent of the buying journal is digital.
  • 82 percent of companies reviewed at least five pages of site content from the winning vendor.

Upping your B2B SEO copywriting game can provide your business with an incredible ROI. Unfortunately, many companies are still trying to get their SEO content act in gear. These companies may have worked with multiple SEO consultants, all with their own process, best practice tips (many of which are outdated) and tactics. Or, the company tried to DIY without a set plan.

The result is typically a mishmash of old, keyphrase-stuffed pages, writers who are barely keeping up and a patchwork strategy.

This isn’t good.

If this sounds like your company, here are 10 B2B SEO copywriting tips for 2016 that will take your site to the next level.

Create (or revise) your buyer persona

Creating a solid buyer persona should be your first SEO copywriting step. Unfortunately, it’s a step many companies decide to “get to later” — or they may have no idea how to create one. In fact, a study by Tony Zambito found that 60% of respondents, “had no to very little understanding of buyer persona best practices.”

If you haven’t created your buyer persona, do it now. If it’s been awhile (say, over a year) since you checked our your buyer persona document, revise it. Don’t forget to share your new or revised buyer persona with everyone involved in the content generation process (which, yes, may mean sharing with other teams or different departments.) The more everyone is on the same page, the more consistent the brand voice will be.

Understand the core content issues

So, why aren’t you positioning for your main keyphrases? Is it because your content sounds like every other vendor? Is it because your team hasn’t mastered keyphrase research (more on that below.) Or does your company have unrealistic expectations (no, you’re not going to get a #1 position for the keyword SaaS no matter how hard you try.)

Yes, this is a back-to-basics step — but one that’s extremely important. I challenge your B2B company to run an SEO content audit before writing another word. Stop what you’re doing RIGHT NOW and run one. If you don’t have time, find a consultant to help. The insights you’ll learn will help you develop a smart, data-driven SEO content process.

It makes sense to review your keyphrase research document and confirm the phrases are still on track. Many companies are still optimizing for old keyphrases that don’t perform, sound clunky in the copy or are otherwise subpar. A keyphrase research refresh can help you find new opportunities and cut out any dead keyphrase weight.

Train your content team

Many in-house writers have little-to-no knowledge of SEO copywriting best practices. For instance, I worked with a B2B publisher who employed super-smart print copywriters — but they didn’t “get” SEO copywriting. Although their content was semantically rich, their Google positions left a lot to be desired. My job was to show the writers the SEO light and bridge the gap between print and online copywriting.

Unfortunately, your writing team isn’t going to magically understand SEO writing without some sort of intervention. Your best course of action is gathering all your writers in the same room, training them on best practices and following up with additional mentoring. I’ve seen remarkable “a-ha” moments when writers received a little keyphrase research training — and those “a-ha” moments transformed their web traffic.

Here’s Eric Enge’s great take on training your in-house team.

Review your analytics

You can learn amazing things from analytics. For instance, I once worked with a company that was extremely proud of a resource-rich page they created. When I checked out the analytics, I found that people were only spending 30 seconds on the page — not enough time to read the page, and far below the company’s usual page metrics of over two minutes.

Why create content in a vacuum when the data is right there? Having just a little analytics knowledge can go a long way. After all, there’s no reason to spend hours creating content your target reader doesn’t want to read.

Be fascinating

People don’t want to read your press releases (your site has a press release section for that.) Nor do they want to read a soft-sell article extolling the virtues of your products. Instead of using your blog as a promotional tool, use it as a way to connect with your prospect. Answer common questions. Provide useful information. Be fascinating.

One company’s most popular blog post was written by their in-house programmer. He scribbled some code on a couple of napkins, took photos of the napkins and wrote a blog post that described the code in-depth. Analytics-wise, this post blew the others away. Why? Because the author (and the company) wasn’t afraid of fascinating content. They knew such a nerdy piece of art would resonate with their audience. And they were right.

Understand how to “write to sell.”

First, let it be said that technical writers should never write sales copy. Ever. You’re not saving money by having your lead programmer write the content. You’re costing yourself conversions (and search positions), instead. Just say no.

Smart sales writing doesn’t sound like a car salesman wearing a plaid suit and a Donald Trump toupee. Instead, it warms your reader up to your product or service and gives them the exact information they want to read. Yes, that involves using some traditional sales-writing tactics. But by doing so, you’re answering your reader’s questions and moving them ever closer to a conversion.

To be clear: having internal subject matter experts (SMEs) write content is a good thing. Having them write sales pages is not. Save the sales writing for someone who specializes in it.

Speaking of SMEs….

Get your SME to contribute…somehow

Your company’s internal subject matter experts are a fantastic source of information. Remember the earlier story about the programmer’s scribbles being the company’s top-trafficked blog post? Your SMEs have a lot to say — and readers typically enjoy their perspective.

But here’s the thing…

Many SME’s aren’t good writers and/or, they don’t like to write. That means your requests like, “please write a blog post about something…anything…” will be ignored. It’s not that your SME doesn’t want to help. It’s because she’s busy — and if she doesn’t enjoy writing, she probably isn’t going to prioritize your post.

One smart solution is to have someone interview the SME, record it and then transcribe the transcript (of course, this could also turn into a podcast, too.) That way, the SME won’t get trapped into a writer’s block dark hole, and you have the great content you want.

As a pro tip: consider editing (sometimes, heavily editing) the transcripts before taking them live. That way, you can smooth out any speaking bumps and make the interview even better.

Be aware of reader overload

Information is good. Including every benefit, technical specification, sales sheet, video, newsletter signup, comparison chart and photo on one page is not.

I type that like it’s a no-brainer, but we ALL know companies that break that rule. Every page makes your eyes bleed. You don’t know where to look or what to do.

If this is what your sales pages sound like, know that analysis paralysis is real. Giving people too many options will cause your readers to overwhelm and do…nothing.

A simple way of conquering overload is to ask yourself if the information needs to be on the page — or could you include it on a supporting page, instead? For instance, the technical specifications could be a downloadable PDF. That way, the information is still on the site. You’re just not making your readers’ eye bleed anymore.

This is a good thing.

Related to this tip is…

Be clear on the desired conversion step

If you want people to sign up for your newsletter, do not put your “newsletter” link at the bottom of your web page (and in 10 point font.) Similarly, do not crowd the page with seven other conversion opportunities like, “download the PDF,” “watch the video,” or vague ad copy asking if a company “wants gains of 212% or more!”

Ask yourself what you want your reader to do. Is it make a purchase? Is it to sign up for a newsletter? Request more information? Make the call-to-action easy to find — and easy to take action.

Create a sustainable editorial calendar

The “experts” will tell you to publish multiple times a week and promote every post. While this is a good solution for a larger company, it’s the content kiss of death for a smaller one. If the content workload isn’t sustainable, your team members won’t hit the deadline — no matter what the editorial calendar says.

As an example, one of my clients is the CEO of a small consulting firm. Like many experts, he travels, he works with clients and he’s the chief SME — so all of the good information is in his head. In a perfect world, we’d create a myriad of content assets every month. Is that workable for his schedule? No (and yes, we’ve tried to make it work.)

Having said that, creating a sustainable editorial calendar has made all the difference. Blog posts are getting written, podcasts are being recorded, and a couple of larger content assets are in play. More importantly, prospects call my client and say, “I keep seeing your information online, and I finally got around to calling you.”

May 2016 be the year that prospects pop out of the woodwork and call you because they “keep seeing your information online.” It’s a very good feeling.

Photo thanks: ID 32073442 © Stuart Miles | Dreamstime.com

 

 

 

2015’s 11 Hottest SEO Copywriting Posts

Hot SEO copywriting posts...just for you!

Hot SEO copywriting posts…just for you!

Wow. 2015 is almost over.

We’ve survived Mobilegeddon, debated the merits of RankBrain and learned to love long-form content.

It’s been a wild year. As always.

As in previous years, I’ve combed through my analytics and sleuthed out 2015’s most popular posts. (Curious about previous years? Here’s what was popular in 2014 and 2013.) This year, you’ve loved the how-to posts and even enjoyed some of my rants. Thank you for that. :)

One interesting factoid: four top posts were “updated” content (that is, content I had written previously, tweaked and updated with a new publication date.) Apparently content recycling is alive, well and extremely effective. Good to know.

This marks my last post of 2015. Thank you for being a loyal reader, signing up for my newsletter and spreading the SEO copywriting word. I appreciate it more than you know.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be business planning, developing the editorial calendar and spending a little more time with friends and family. I’ll be back at it in January — and I look forward to seeing you then.

Happy holidays to you and yours! Here’s to a happy, healthy and prosperous 2016!

-Heather

#11: How to Generate 3,640 Blog Post Ideas in 12 Months

Do you have a bad case of “blog topic burnout?”This post is a life-saver if your job is to continually crank out new content ideas. Plus, the implementation doesn’t take much time. Bonus!

#10: [Updated] How To Write A Title That Gets Clicks

Yes, this post begins with a rant against poorly-written Titles. But there’s still a lot of actionable information and things to consider. If your Titles are boring (or you’re not quite sure how to write them,) you’ll want to read this post.

#9: 4 Ways Copywriters Can Increase Their Income — Fast!

A common question I hear from freelance copywriters is, “How can I make more money, more easily?” Good news — you can! Assuming you’re willing to up your game and offer different services. If you want to transition from being “just a writer” to having a seat at the marketing table, check out this post.

#8: Beyond Keywords: Understanding Semantic Analysis

Are you new to the concept of semantic analysis? Although it sounds geeky, it’s important for SEO copywriters to understand (yes, even you!) :) This great post by David Harry provides a lot of easy-to-follow information. Enjoy!

#7: Should You Change Your Copy: These 3 Tools Will Help You Decide

Are you unhappy with your current content (I know a lot of you are!). Sometimes, you know it’s not quite right, but you can’t put your finger on how. If you’re stuck, these three easy-to-use tools can provide some much-needed insights.

#6: [Updated] 35+ Books And Blogs All Web Writers Should Read

Are you a fledgling copywriter who needs help learning the SEO content basics? Or, have you been in business for awhile and need some trusted resources? These fantastic books and blogs will keep you happily reading for a long time.

5: The C-Word And Why Content Isn’t King

Another rant-filled post to crack the top 11! Learn why I disagree with the oft-repeated mantra “content is king,” — and why I think another c-word is more important to consider.

7 Tough-Love Tips To Boost Your Copywriting Income

You know you’re all that and a bag of chips. So why are you so frustrated with your SEO copywriting career? It’s time to take control and make some smart changes. Your business (and your sanity) will thank you.

How To Do a Content Audit (And Why It’s Worth It!)

Yes, “running a content audit” sounds boring. But it’s pretty easy to do — and you’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn. In the post, I break down the process, step-by-step and show you how to do it.

[Updated] 42 Questions to Ask Your New Copywriting Client

You’ve scored a new client — congratulations! Now, it’s time to learn everything you can about their past campaigns, their branding and the information they need to see. Check out this list of questions you can use for your client calls.

And 2015’s #1 post ::drum roll, please::

[Updated] 27-Point Checklist: How to Write for Google

My theory about why this post is #1? The headline is sexy — we all want to know the “writing for Google” secret. The reality is, most of the tips are common-sense tidbits about writing better content. Does that mean that “writing for Google” is as simple as “write great content for your readers?” Yes.

Mind..blown.

Did you enjoy this post? I save my very best writing secrets for my weekly newsletter. I’d love it if you signed up!

 

Photo thanks: ID 35047616 © Travelbook | Dreamstime.com

 

Creating Buyer Personas: 3 Simple Steps

Two distinct customer personas

Create distinct buyer personas for targeted marketing content.

Buyer personas are important to every business with an online presence, that’s a fact.

We also know that personas are always evolving and should be updated on a continual basis. Keeping up with your consumers’ interests and needs will prove to be a smart content marketing strategy in the long run.

Think of personas as templates from which you can craft all of your marketing content.

So how do you go about creating a buyer persona for your target customer?

Below are three resources to help you get started.

1. Ask the Sales Department

Enlisting the help of your company’s sales representatives is probably the easiest way to get to know your clients. Sales representatives are often on the front lines when it comes to obtaining new clients, so they routinely field a lot of recurring questions.

Ask the sales representatives for a list of questions they receive most frequently. From there you can take the top five most common questions asked and use them to start a persona.

The sales team can also give you insights about the type of people that call in most frequently: job role, level of education, interests, pain points, etc.

That information is going to be important when building your personas since you need to define precisely who it is you’re targeting.

Pro Tip: This also presents a great opportunity to create content based on the email and phone replies to customers from sales representatives.

2. Use Buzzsumo and Social Media

Buzzsumo is a great (free) tool you can use that will show how many times a particular piece of content in your niche or industry vertical has been shared.

From there, you can take a look at the social media accounts of the people sharing the content.

This will give you direct insight into your target audience and will help you assign a gender, education level and job role to your personas.

Head over to Buzzsumo, then using the “Most Shared” content research option, type in the search term that you’re looking to use to optimize a particular piece of content. Depending on the query, you may be supplied with a lot of results.

The best thing to do next is to sort by Twitter shares. This will allow you to see which piece of content has been shared the most. Then click on “View Sharers”:

view-sharers

 

 

 

You can now see the Twitter handles of the individuals or companies that have shared this particular article:

buzzsumo-twitter

From there you’ll be able to view the profiles of each person, or company, who has shared this content

Pro Tip: Limit the amount of profiles you use as you can spend hours or days on this part. To get started, begin with 3 to 5 profiles.

3. Speak With Customer Service

As with the sales department, the customer service department holds scads of data about your clients beginning with the moment they became customers. Here you can learn about customer likes and dislikes and apply that knowledge to your personas.

The best approach would be to ask each customer service representative the five most frequently asked questions he or she receives and start from there.

This will help you to not only build your personas but to create strategic content for them as well.

After all the information has been collected, take 3 simple steps…

Now that you have a stockpile of info on your existing and target audience, here are the steps you can take to create your personas:

1. Assign a gender and name to each persona.

Doing this will help you in the content creation process as you can write as though you’re speaking to an individual.

2. Give that persona a job title, responsibilities and pain points.

This step is crucial, as you need to know at what stage of the buyer’s journey potential customers are.

Pain points will inform you as to what their specific needs are. Addressing your audience’s pain points is a great way to capture their initial interest and guide them along the buyer’s journey.

3. Add a location.

Geo-targeting your audience is very important, as doing so allows you to generate content that can speak to local events and use the vernacular specific to that region.

To recap, researching buyer personas is a great way for you to get to know your audience. Once built, customer personas can help you create content that can be used to attract a new audience. Finally, keep in mind that once a persona is created, it should be updated to remain relevant.

Connect with Joe on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+

 

Is Your Content Really Failing?

FailDoes your content receive eight shares or less?

If so, your content is “failing,” according to a recent industry study.

I discussed BuzzSumo’s study during last week’s SEO Copywriting Certification training call. The author of the study, Steve Rayson, analyzed over one million posts and noticed a surprising trend. Popular, branded sites such as HubSpot saw a sharp decline in social shares. In fact, 50% of the content saw fewer than eight social shares.

The reason? “Content shock” — the demand for content has gone flat while the amount of content has exploded. The result? Less engagement.

(As a side note, some believe content shock is a myth. Whatever you believe, I think we can all agree that we’re bombarded by new content every. single. day.)

Many writers and marketers (maybe even you) panicked when they read the study. “EIGHT SHARES” they screamed. “Our company is lucky if a post gets retweeted a couple times.”

Sure, some of your content may enjoy a sharing explosion. But I’m guessing some of your content may not. Maybe even the majority of your content.

Does that mean that your content is “failing?”

Maybe. But let’s look a little deeper.

Social sharing is one measurement of content effectiveness. Things that are important (some would say more important,) are:

— Is the content driving conversions or otherwise making you money?

— Are people reading your content? Or are they immediately bouncing off the page?

— Did you match the content to where the customer is in the sales cycle? For instance, do you have high-quality content that helps prospects when they’re in the “research” phase?

— Do you hear, “Hey, I really like your content” from people in your target audience? For instance, I have a client who receives very few social shares (he’s in an industry that doesn’t share content much,) but he receives many “I faithfully read your content every week,” messages.  That’s more important to him than a retweet any day.

— Does the content position? You may have written a fantastic guide that gets some social love initially, but then fades into the background. If it’s still positioning in Google — and prospects are finding you through the content — do you care that you’re not receiving more social shares?

(As a side note, I find it funny that BuzzSumo’s initial Facebook post about the study has only received one share. Would that mean their content was “failing?”)

The reality is: Not all of your content is going to go viral. If you want 100% viral, all the time, specialize in cute cat videos. 

However, being the Steve Rayson fangirl I am, I think he still makes some excellent points. Although I may disagree with the “failing” moniker, I would agree with his other tips:

– Content research is crucial. Research time is a non-negotiable in today’s brave new Google world.  If you’re an end client, know that your writer may need to spend several hours researching your blog post topic. She isn’t padding her time. And yes, this is necessary (and billable.) You can give your writer a great head start by providing her trusted sources, white papers and anything else that will help her write the page.

– Post promotion is almost as important (some would say more so) as post creation (I talked about this in last week’s SEO Copywriting Buzz newsletter) Targeting influencers in a nice, non-pushy way is still important. Just know that influencers are being hit by 100 other bloggers asking them to promote their content, so approach them with care.

– It’s smart to leverage trends and be nimble. If you’re writing about a hot topic that happened two weeks ago, you’ve probably already lost the viral battle.

I would add my own tip to this, which is…

– You still need to optimize posts. “Write naturally” is a myth. If your posts aren’t positioning, there is a big disconnect you need to fix.

So, is the issue truly “content shock?” Or are people naturally tuning out content that’s poorly-written, poorly-researched and poorly-timed?

What’s the takeaway?

Whatever you believe around the “content shock” idea, consider this study a wake-up call. No, your content may not be “failing” if it receives eight shares or less. But that doesn’t mean that it’s working, either. If your content isn’t making you money somehow, it’s time for an overhaul.

Did you enjoy this post? I save my best posts for my newsletter, which I send every Tuesday. Want to sign up? Great! Here’s how to do it!

 

 

 

Andrew Shotland on Local SEO: Best Practices, Tips & Trends

Local searchSteeped in Local SEO and search for some 13 years, Andrew Shotland is a leading expert in this highly competitive space. He is the proprietor of Local SEO Guide, an SEO and SEM consultancy (and blog) he founded nine years ago. Andrew has also authored Search Engine Land’s monthly local search column since 2009.

Before launching his own business, Andrew headed up business and product development for Insider Pages, a local search startup. As its Chief SEO Officer, he developed an SEO program that attracted over 3 million unique visitors/month to the site.

Here, Andrew answers questions about Local SEO best practices and search trends, as well as the challenges faced by brands competing on a local level. Enjoy!

Could you briefly summarize the essential ways that Local SEO differs from the SEO for big national brands? 

Google, Bing & Yahoo typically show separate local business listings for queries they deem to have significant local intent. The methodologies to compete for rankings in these “local packs” are somewhat different than those you would apply to non-local SEO.

Local SEO also includes appearing well in local-specific search services such as Apple Maps, Facebook Local, Yelp, the Yellow Pages sites and various vertical search engines. It’s a huge, complex space to play in.

If you were to list Local SEO best practices, what would be the top 3? Why?

The Top 3 Local SEO Best Practices in no particular order:

  1. Compete for relevant queries where you have a physical location. It’s hard to show up in the local results without a physical location in the searched city.
  2. Make sure your Google My Business (GMB) and top local search site business profiles (e.g. Yelp, YP.com, etc.) are claimed, up to date and consistent with your N.A.P. (Name, Address & Phone Number) that appears in text on your website.
  3. Don’t ignore the non-Local pack results. These can generate significant traffic. So do all of the typical SEO things to your site to help it rank well: Ensure Googlebot accessibility, use smart keyword/content targeting and get links from other sites.

Last week, Mike Blumenthal (and other local SEO experts) reported that Google had dropped businesses’ G+ pages from its “Places” search results, instead returning URLs from its “Maps” API. Do you think this is just part of Google’s mobile agenda, or is it, as Blumenthal suggested, another indication of the impending “divorce” of local search from G+? What would you say are the implications?

I don’t think this is that big a deal. Google is trying to untangle all of its services from Google+. Google+ for businesses was pretty confusing so perhaps this might end up making Google My Business easier to deal with. I don’t think this changes how we approach Google Local at all. Perhaps this will screw up some services that relied on the API for data, but that’s about it.

In your monthly Search Engine Land (SEL) column, you frequently cite how a well-optimized Google My Business (GMB) page can boost local businesses’ rankings. What specific things would you recommend a Webmaster (or site owner) do to fully leverage their GMB page?

There are a few things you can do to leverage your GMB page:

  • Make sure all of the info is up to date
  • Make sure your business categorization is correct
  • Make sure it links to the most relevant URL on your site (this one is huge)

(Editor’s note: You can view Andrew’s Local SEO Guide GMB page here)

What are some challenges brands face with Local SEO?

Multi-location brands have some of the biggest problems with Local SEO, but some of the biggest opportunities, too. On the problems side, dealing with the data issues involving tens, hundreds and even thousands of locations can be a huge task.

In particular, managing their Google My Business issues requires a lot of well-honed processes to do it at scale. Unfortunately you can’t just use a cookie-cutter approach because the problems you encounter change every day.

On the plus side, when you have scale, you can use that to your advantage once you get the basics right, in terms of content, links, etc. We typically see multi-location brands able to rank for their target queries en masse much easier than single locations, all things being equal.

Given all the Google updates to its Local SEO algo over the past two years that you recently summarized in your September SEL column, what do you see trending for Local SEO and search?

We think two big opportunities at the moment are Facebook Local and iOS Search/Apple Maps. Both of these local search systems are generating huge traffic right now but it seems like most of the Local SEO world is ignoring them. That’s great for our clients :)

Any parting words about Local SEO and/or Google’s local algo updates? 

It’s a great business because it’s always changing and it’s one of the biggest markets there is. It’s very satisfying to be able to help both large and small businesses navigate their ways through this ridiculous stuff. Sometimes I have to laugh that this is what I do for a living. It’s certainly fun.

Connect with Andrew on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+

Want to read insider tips and actionable strategies I only publish in my newsletter? Sign up today! It’s free!

Interview with Ian Lurie: “Weird, Useful, & Significant” World Building

planet earthAs an online writer and/or digital marketer, at some point you are sure to come across Portent’s CEO of 20 years, Ian Lurie (if you haven’t already). His wicked sense of humor is matched only by his expertise in all things content and internet marketing.

Here, Ian addresses questions about content visibility beyond the blog, world-building (he loathes the term “content marketing”), and creating “entry points into our world: weird, useful, and significant.”

Hope you enjoy Ian’s interview as much as we did!

In your recent ConfluenceCon presentation you covered a lot of digital marketing ground. One of your main points was about making great content visible beyond the on-site blog.

Specifically, you mentioned using the Open Graph (OG) Protocol and Twitter Cards for social visibility. Could you translate what those are in non-techie speak?

Twitter cards and OGP markup improve the way your content is represented out in the world. In terms of world building, they make the entry points more attractive, and make it more likely that customers will take the first step towards interacting with you.

In practical terms, Open Graph Protocol is something Facebook uses when you embed a link in your newsfeed. Sometimes, when you embed a link, the result includes an image, a site name, etc. The site owner can provide that information to the Facebook crawler using Open Graph Protocol. The more information they provide, the more Facebook can enhance the listing.

In nerdier terms, Open Graph Protocol is a markup standard. It’s code you can embed in a web page that provides additional information, just like meta tags. With it, you can define the page’s topic, title, author, a thumbnail image you’d like displayed when the page is cited and a bunch of other information.

There are also specific OGP attributes you can define for music, videos, products and such.

Twitter cards are similar to OGP. They let you specify images, videos and such that can attach to a tweet of a specific web page. You can link to direct download/install of mobile apps, embed videos, audio, images and thumbnails and set properties like titles, descriptions and the linked site.

You also addressed off-site content marketing, citing SlideShare and free Kindle e-books. What are some general tips for content creators to best leverage these platforms?

It’s all about audience. Use the platform that gives you entry into the biggest, most relevant potential audience. That’s the whole reason for doing it. I know – duh. But when you’re leveraging third party sites, you want to be very, very deliberate about it:

  1. Make a really good case to yourself for using this or that site
  2. Understand the upside if your content is super-successful
  3. Understand what super-successful means on each site

Here are a few examples:

Most people visit the SlideShare for business information. If you want to get visual content in front of millions of business professionals, it’s the place to be. If you don’t have visual content, look elsewhere.

On SlideShare, it’s all about being selected “SlideShare of the Day”. That gets you home page placement, mentions on Twitter by @slideshare and all sorts of other publicity.

LinkedIn owns SlideShare. So success on SlideShare may transfer over to LinkedIn because users can easily share your presentations with their connections.

If that happens, you’ll get lots of visibility. But SlideShare also lets you place lead generation forms in those presentations. I’ve seen that generate leads in the past. Finally, you can let readers download your presentation. That puts your content in a person’s hands, which is great – it’s a permanent invitation to spend more time with you.

SlideShare delivers a very strong, clear invitation to enter your world.

You might write for Medium because you have long-form text content. Medium has a huge audience who come to the site expecting to see great writing in longer format. Medium recommends content to users – play your cards right and you can build real visibility.

There’s no direct business benefit, but Medium is niche-independent. I can make a case for using Medium if I have a unique topic, a non-business topic or a long-form piece in mind and no need for direct lead generation. Medium is the place to make a low-key, sincere invitation to the audience to enter your world and look around on their own.

Finally, look at Kindle e-books. Millions of people monitor Amazon for new free e-books. If you can crack any of the top lists, those people will notice. They can download your e-book and read through it. I’ll use Kindle if I have something text-based in long form and want to create a really lasting impression. Kindle is the rulebook – the detailed map for your audience to enter your world, start learning and really dive deep.

An intriguing part of your presentation is how each marketing campaign is a “little community”, and that we create many “entry points into our world: weird, useful, and significant.” How does a content writer find their “weird” and connect those dots?

You might find “weird” purely instinctively: For instance, I’m a cyclist. I know most cyclists are technology nerds. So I might write something about smartwatches, or the best cell phone cameras (for cyclists who want to take snapshots of that long climb they just did).

You can also find “weird” using tools that dig up random affinities: Ideas, likes and wants linked only by the fact that some people like both. That’s all about collaborative filtering tools.

For example, I love using Amazon’s “people who bought also bought” tool. Did you know people who buy cookbooks are really into de-cluttering (ironic)? Sounds obvious now, but I wouldn’t have thought of it. Or that people who buy diet books also read survival stories and books about direct selling?

And, of course, I hit Facebook a lot. You can use their ads tool to test interest categories and see what Facebook suggests. Before I knew Van Diesel played Dungeons and Dragons, I did a search on D&D and his name popped up. That’s pretty random (by the way, my lifetime ambition is to run a game for him). Also, did you know tennis fans like boxing? I wouldn’t have made that connection.

Collaborative filters aren’t always right. Sometimes they’re hilariously wrong. But they’re a great tool for mining the weird.

In regard to content marketing (“whatever that is”, as you said): what content opportunities are you most excited about right now? Why?

Hmmm. As a writer, I tend to always be excited about content J. No matter what the delivery device, it’s about our ability to effectively communicate. I love it.

But you’re going to ask me again, I bet. So… I’m very excited about this ongoing democratization: Sites like Medium and Netflix delivering their own series and increasingly sophisticated social platforms mean we can engage in some really interesting world building.

Real-time information delivery like Google Now is really exciting, too. I can see some real potential for ‘ambient’ content that provides a great user experience. Imagine being able to stand in a location and ask your phone, “What happened here in 1850?” As a history nerd, I find that pretty exciting because we can curate our environments. That may sound creepy, and chances are marketers will completely trash the concept, but a guy can dream.

So how would you define “content marketing”? Do you have a more accurate definition of what we actually do?

I hate the phrase “content marketing” because it’s become a cliché that refers to cranking out dozens of crappy blog posts. I’ve avoided it because the meaning’s been twisted and over-simplified.

What do we actually do? OK, get ready for some seriously trippy metaphysics:

People are surrounded by content. We’re steeped in it, with clumps and clusters of related content forming worlds around, say, our favorite football team, or the car we want to buy, or childcare advice.

Usually, those worlds are pretty random. We see an article here, a social media post there, a blog post in another place, and then we link them together in our minds.

Content marketing – or whatever you call it – deliberately creates worlds around products or ideas. It creates new content and links it to old, or vice versa, or one or the other. Then it creates points of entry – advertising – to bring people into those worlds. It’s intentional, and it’s immensely powerful.

That’s content marketing. Or, as I call it, world building. I don’t expect that term to ever catch on. It’s too geeky. But I like it. So there.

Connect with Ian on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+

Want even more SEO content writing goodness? I save the best stuff for my newsletter — sign up here!