How to Do a Content Audit [Updated for 2017]

 

Imagine if you had to use your old high school photo for your business headshot.

Remember that perm you spent hours teasing? Your super-big hair would be showcased on your LinkedIn profile.

That cool mullet you sported, paired with your Metallica t-shirt? Yup. That’s what readers would see when they clicked over to your “about” page.

Although we’d never throw an old picture of us online, we routinely keep old, subpar content on our sites.

You know, those posts we wrote when we just started blogging.

Or those “experimental” posts that didn’t quite qualify as thin content…yet, we knew they weren’t the greatest when we wrote them.

If you’ve been publishing for awhile, a content audit will help you find those old, outdated content assets and make them shiny and new again. Yes, it’s detailed. Yes, it will take a lot of work.

Let’s get started!

What’s a content audit?

The content audit process involves combing through all your old website posts and evaluating the content from a few different perspectives:

  • Brand voice — does the voice “fit” your company’s current voice?
  • Customer needs — does the content help your customers, or is it outdated or unclear?
  • SEO  — does the content position, or does it require re-optimization?
  • Conversion — does the content help the sales/lead generation process?

According to Rebecca Lieb, “A content audit is the cornerstone of content strategy.” Although it is time- consuming (more on that later), the net result is extremely positive.

Before we get into the content auditing how-to, let’s first discuss…

Why do a content audit on your website, anyway?

It’s easy to forget about all the old content we’ve written (just as it’s easy to “forget” about sporting a mullet!). I have this problem myself. Once a page is in cyberspace, I move on to the next one.

The problem is, those old pages are still active. They’re still in the search results. They’re still on your site. New readers may click through to an old post – and not be overly thrilled with what they see.

That’s not good.

Reviewing your old content provides you tremendous SEO and conversion opportunities:

  • You never have to worry about a client landing on an old page and thinking, “This information hasn’t been accurate in over five years. There’s no way I’d work with this person!”
  • It’s a great opportunity to clean up old links that go nowhere (or, even worse, go places you don’t want people to go anymore!).
  • Revising old posts can sometimes take less time than writing brand new ones. That’s a huge benefit for those weeks when you’re already time-strapped and writing a new blog post seems too overwhelming.
  • Reformatting your posts (adding headlines and subheadlines and creating shorter paragraphs)  make your posts easier to read. This simple change can sometimes decrease your bounce rates and even increase your conversions.
  • Rewriting your Titles (and maybe doing a little keyphrase editing) can increase the page’s SEO power and drive new traffic. Bonus!
  • You can update older, evergreen posts that are still good — but, they need to be brought up to date.
  • You can find posts with old calls-to-actions (or no CTAs) and update them.
  • You can find “holes” in your existing content, and build new content to fill the holes.

In short, auditing your content is an extremely smart move. Tweaking just a few pages a day could have a huge impact on your positions and conversions.

Moz has a great list of reasons on why to perform to perform a content audit. You can check it out here.

How long does a content audit take?

You’re looking at a minimum of five hours for a very small site, to 50 hours (or more) for an extremely large, e-commerce site. Most sites will take somewhere in the 20-30 hour range.

Yes, it’s a lot of time. And yes, it’s worth it. Think of it as a marathon…not a sprint.

My recommendation is to set aside at least 30 minutes a day (more if you can) and keep yourself on a timeline. Because content audits take so long, it’s easy to start strong and put it aside as soon as things get busy (I’ve been there!).

You can also pay someone to conduct a content audit for you. Hiring an SEO content strategist is a great option if you don’t have a lot of time, but I’d recommend keeping it in-house if you can. You can learn a lot about your site (and the opportunities) when you go through it, page-by-page.

Ready to get started? Here’s how to do it!

How to do a content audit for your website

1.  Start with a great content audit tool. I use SEMrush (Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider is another good tool) to spider sites and get a feel for the major issues. SEMrush will showcase the number of pages with major errors (such as no Titles,) as well as other issues like missing alt text, thin content or broken links.

Yes, you can manually check for these issues (we’ll talk about that in a bit) However, some issues (like finding all the broken links) are easier to find with a little computerized help.

Here’s a screenshot of an SEMrush report. This site’s main issues are around links and alt text:

SEMrush

Screenshot from an SEMrush content audit

2.  Create an Excel document (assuming you don’t have one already.) 

Having an Excel document at your fingertips makes it easier for you to indicate the quality of the content, flag what needs fixing, and include other page-specific notes.

If you used a site audit tool, you can export the data to an Excel document (although your spreadsheet may be filled with other data that’s not relevant to your content audit.)

To make things easier, you’ll want to customize the spreadsheet headings based on what’s important to you.

Here’s an example:

 

Many people “grade” their content to help them prioritize their pages. Content with minor (or no) tweaks would receive an A or B grade. If the content is truly bad, a D or F grade is appropriate.

3.  Take a hard look at every page. Yes, I said “every page.” 

There’s no easy way to do this. If you have an Excel document pre-populated with the Titles and URLs, you’ll need to click every URL link and view the page. If you use WordPress, you can view “all posts” and  choose where to start.

Things to check are:

  • Are there typos or other grammatical errors?
  • Are the keyphrases appropriate for the page? Is the page keyphrase-free?
  • Does the content need updating? Maybe your opinion has changed, or the industry has moved in another direction.
  • Is there a way you could make your post more readable? For instance, splitting longer paragraphs into shorter ones. Or, can you add headlines and subheadlines?
  • Is the call to action still relevant – or are you promoting a sale you ran over four years ago?
  • Does the content need a major overhaul? Maybe it’s a good topic, but your writing skills weren’t quite up to snuff back then.
  • Are the links still good, or are they returning a 404 page not found error? Did you make some newbie SEO copywriting errors, like hyperlinking all your keyphrases?
  • Are there low-hanging fruit opportunities, such as writing better Titles or adding meta descriptions?

How to start making changes to your site

Now that you have your to-do list, it’s time to start making changes.  Your content audit should end with a list of recommended next steps, along with a list of high-priority pages. If you are working with a consultant, she should provide action items for the company, recommending how to make the necessary changes.

Many companies integrate their content marketing makeovers into their existing strategy. For instance, a smaller company could benefit from this content marketing strategy:

  • Publish new content: four times a month
  • Re-optimize six pieces of old content
  • Recycle/update one piece of content a month.

You may want to start with the “worst of the worst.” You may want to work in chronological order. Or focus on one thing (like changing Titles) and then backtrack to other issues.

The key is to have a plan and work it.

Have you conducted a content audit on your site? What did you learn? Did a tool or platform make the content audit easier? Lave a comment and let me know!

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How to Write Traffic-Boosting Cornerstone Content (It’s Easier Than You Think!)

Are you looking for a new way to wow your readers — and Google, too?

Smart cat

This smart cat writes cornerstone content. How about you?

Consider writing cornerstone content. It’s an in-depth, authoritative piece of content that answers an important question in your industry better than anyone else does.

The advantage, according to Mike Allton of The Social Media Hat?

“These kinds of extensive posts get exponentially more shares than shorter posts, and that helps drive traffic which increases the already high ranking factor, bringing even more organic search traffic. Those visitors are just as compelled to share the post, thus continuing to feed the process.”

Let’s talk about how to make it happen.

What Makes Content “Cornerstone” and Why It Works

Cornerstone (or “pillar”) posts are usually about 5,000 words. They’re long enough to go into real depth on the topic but short enough to maintain focus.

Still, writing 5,000 words is no small project. — it’s like writing a short e-book or a long white paper. Plus, this isn’t the kind of piece you can just whip up off the top of your head in an hour or two. It takes a lot of research and planning — both for the construction of the post itself and for its promotion.

There are obvious SEO benefits that come with writing pillar posts. They’re a magnet for incoming links, and in terms of conversions, they can do a lot of the heavy lifting at the top of your sales funnel.

Google’s most recent Search Quality Raters’ Guidelines came out in late 2015 (with an update in March of 2016), so the emphasis on useful, authoritative, original content has never been more apparent.

Pillar posts are especially powerful in B2B content marketing because of the way the sales cycle is changing across a wide spectrum of industry verticals. A 2015 study by Forrester found that as many as 74% of B2B buyers do more than half their research online before making a major purchasing decision while a 2014 Accenture study found 83% of them specifically research supplier websites.

B2B vendors can’t afford to ignore these statistics. The majority of buyers aren’t calling vendor sales teams in the initial research stages — they’re going to vendor websites instead. This means that the top of the funnel — your content —  is your salesperson.

And it can’t just sell. Before it can get to talking benefits, your content has to do what the most effective salespeople do during the consultative sales process: build trust.

(Want more proof? In a recent interview, Mike Allton discussed the key role that authoritative, long-form content plays.)

Why Writing Cornerstone Content Isn’t as Hard as You Think

The sheer length of pillar posts is a big reason a lot of people don’t write them. The “10-times-better” benchmark can also be intimidating, even to those who know their stuff. If you do it yourself, it takes time. If you hire a professional, it won’t be cheap — and it shouldn’t be.

But there are a few things that make content creation easier.

For one thing, you don’t have to churn out a pillar post every week. Writing one a quarter can be enough, especially since writing less frequently means you can devote the time to getting it right — leading to a more effective piece in the long run.

In addition, pillar posts are a repurposing goldmine. Once you have one written, you can repurpose it for any number of content types, including:

  • Infographics;
  • Shorter blog posts on related subjects;
  • Webinars;
  • Slide decks;
  • E-books;
  • White papers;
  • Newsletter articles;
  • Interviews with prominent thought leaders.

Not to mention all the related social media and other promotional opportunities these bring with them.

Leverage it right, and a single pillar post can drive your content strategy for many months after the original piece was published. It might be a lot of work, but in the long run, it makes your future content strategy more efficient.

How to Choose the Right Topic

Of course, it’s essential to pick the right topic. It needs to be something your audience cares about. Something that keeps them up at night, that’s crucial to their job, and that’s not self-evident or easy to get right. It also should be a topic that isn’t already done to death.

Sometimes, the question or problem you need to answer is obvious. Other times,  it takes a little digging. And even if you think you know what you want to write about, it is essential to do the research.

Here are some places to get ideas for topics:

Keyphrase research. Check out Google Analytics, SEMRush, or another keyword research tool to see what terms people are searching for around the topics you’re considering. Pay particular attention to questions people ask in the search engines. Run an analysis on a typical question related to your industry, and see what other keyphrases and question phrases come up and which have the most volume – and the least competition.

Social media and forum discussions. Take a look at LinkedIn discussion groups, hashtags on Twitter, and hot topics in industry forums to see what questions seem to preoccupy people. Check out BuzzSumo to find out what content is already killing it in your industry and what topics seem to do well. BuzzSumo is also a great resource for finding influencers to target.

Other industry bloggers. It’s essential to be aware of what other people are publishing on a topic. First, you need to know what’s already heavily covered — no matter how long it is, your post isn’t likely to gain much traction if it’s already been done to death. Second, it’s crucial to look for the gaps in coverage — the questions that aren’t answered anywhere else. These are big opportunities.

Regulatory or industry changes. Are you in a heavily-regulated industry? Or one where the landscape is always changing with new technologies, platforms, and best practices, such as SEO and social media marketing? If that’s the case, you could gain a lot of traction if you’re the first to write about how your audience can solve new challenges around a recent regulatory or industry change.

Your customers. Even if you’ve spent hours researching online, it can be eye-opening to have a quick chat with an actual member of the audience you’re trying to reach. Your best source is often current customers: people who have a clear, proven need for whatever you’re ultimately promoting. Get them to tell you what topics they want to read about most, what problems keep them up at night, and what challenges you can help them solve.

You don’t necessarily have to do this over the phone, of course. You can also send out a quick survey using a service like SurveyMonkey to gauge interest in different topics, send out an email questionnaire, or ask the question on your own social media channels.

Your sales and customer service teams. With the exception of customers themselves, nobody will know more about the challenges your audience faces than the sales and customer service personnel who address them every day. If you work with a company that’s big enough to have these teams, it’s worth it to include them in the conversation when picking a topic.

How to structure cornerstone content

Plan cornerstone content

Ready to plan your cornerstone content? Let’s go!

Cornerstone content is too long and complex to write off the top of your head. It has to be properly structured, and that takes some thought and planning. You need a format that’s broad and meaty enough to merit this type of post, but short enough to provide focus. How-to and definition-type posts tend to do particularly well as formats for this type of content.

No matter which format you choose, however, you’ll have to create an outline before you write. Your outline can be simple or in-depth, but you’ll need to make sure your piece flows logically from one point to another, your thoughts are organized, and you break things up in a readable way.

Derek Halpern has a good suggestion for that: check out your existing blog categories and make a list of the four or five most important ones relevant to your topic. Use those as subhead groupings and expand on the content you’ve already written in this area. This technique not only helps you focus your thoughts and structure, but it gives you an easy template for linking your pillar posts to other posts on your blog — and that is great for SEO.

Since cornerstone content is evergreen (and, by definition, timeless,) set it up as a page on your site — not a post.

The Rules for Cornerstone Content SEO

Rule #1: Do your keyphrase research. It’s pretty trendy these days to think keyphrase research is dead. The thinking goes like this: because Google has gotten so much better at judging searchers’ intent, you don’t actually have to use keyphrases in your copy. You can just write phenomenal content around that subject, and the rankings will magically fall into place.

There’s a grain of truth to this. But mostly, it’s wrong.

Yes, it’s true that keyword stuffing is a very outdated technique. It’s even outdated to use all your keyphrases verbatim, especially when that results in stilted writing. Best practices are always to write naturally and put readability first.

However, as this recent post by Moz’s Rand Fishkin emphasizes, ignoring keyphrase research entirely amounts to shooting yourself in the foot. What you call something internally in your business and industry may not register at all with your audience. You have to know how your audience talks about these concepts in the real world, and you need to use this language in your content.

Beyond SEO, using the right keyphrases (and being findable in Google) positions you as someone who belongs in your readers’ world. If you don’t speak your readers’ language and use their terms, you’ll look out of touch — even if the information you offer is spot on. This is especially true for a B2B audience, which often uses very industry-specific, technical language and terms.

Rule #2: Leverage the questions people ask. When you did your research to pick a topic, you (hopefully) used a keyword research tool to find out what questions people are asking, the language they’re using, and the keyphrase competition. Give your on-page SEO a boost by using those question keyphrases as subheads. Using questions as subheads is also a very effective way to organize a longer post.

Rule #3: Link to other blog posts on your website. Do you have other, related posts? Link to them from your cornerstone content piece. That way, your one post becomes a stand-alone resource on your site.

Don’t Forget to Include Influencers 

Since the days of master copywriter David Ogilvy, it’s been said that the success of any content — even Talking to an influencerthe best, shiniest and most helpful content — is 20% writing and 80% promotion. Best practices for blog post promotion is a pillar post of its own. But since it’s so crucial to your post’s success, I’ve included the tactic I’ve found most helpful: when choosing a topic, give a lot of thought to its potential for influencer tie-in.

If you don’t already know who the influencers are in your industry — prominent journalists, bloggers, social media personalities, and thought leaders — find those people. Who among them has an audience most similar to yours? Who has an interest in the topics you discuss? Whose activities, services, or projects provide an interesting collaboration opportunity?

Especially if your audience isn’t already big or you’re a start-up in a market with some established competitors, getting an influencer to help promote your work can do a huge amount to build your audience and your credibility.

Sure, you can write a post and then send a quick email to a few influencers, asking them to tweet about what you’ve written. But that’s likely to fail, and miserably. You’ll get a lot more traction if you bake your influencer strategy in from the outset. That takes two steps: first, figure out an influencer tie-in strategy for the post at the topic selection and planning stage. And second, build a connection with that influencer well before you publish.

Sometimes, the most effective way to involve an influencer is to involve them directly. Ask them to do an interview or comment directly on the topic. If they’re directly cited or featured, they’ll (hopefully) share the article with their audience once it’s published — dramatically amplifying your promotional reach, and putting you on the map for a large number of new prospects.

Another way is to link to their work, discuss it in a meaningful way at some point in the article, or directly quote something they’ve written. Don’t forget to let the influencer know you cited her. Hopefully, she’ll amplify your message and share it with her audience.

As Stone Temple Consulting’s Eric Enge shared in his interview and SEO Copywriting Certification podcast on influencer marketing, you’ll be far more effective at this if you build up a relationship with an influencer ahead of time.

No, this doesn’t mean stroking or pestering them. It means connecting with them in a meaningful way, be it through social media, blog comments or otherwise engaging with them. It might mean sending a private message that asks for nothing, but instead gives them kudos for an accomplishment or provides some information of value. The idea is to start a conversation, not ask for a favor.

Closing Cornerstone Content Thoughts

The idea of writing cornerstone content pieces can often be intimidating, even for people who blog regularly. The good news is that you don’t have to publish them on a frequent basis. Pillar posts do take careful planning that goes beyond the writing—but they bring enormous benefits that extend long after the date of publication. With the right planning and an influencer marketing, SEO, and repurposing strategy that covers all your bases, you should be able to get a lot of mileage from every one of your pillar posts.

Don’t miss out on exclusive newsletter-only tips and strategies. Sign up for the SEO Copywriting Buzz newsletter today!

Jen Williamson is a copywriter specializing in fun, fearless copy and content for software and B2B sales. She holds certifications from the SEO Content Institute, Meclabs, and Hubspot’s Inbound Sales program. When she’s not working (ha!), she can be found immersed in a good book, teaching herself to knit, or training for her next marathon. In real life, she lives in Brooklyn. Online, you can visit her at her copywriting website, or find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Photo thanks: © Barbara Helgason | Dreamstime.com

© Ivelinr | Dreamstime.com – Time to Plan

 

 

23 Amazing 5-Minute SEO Copywriting Tips to Boost Site Traffic

Five minute timer

How many SEO copywriting tasks can you do in five minutes?

Are you looking for fast, five-minute SEO copywriting fixes?

Here’s a list of 23 amazing SEO writing tips that can boost site traffic, increase conversions and help you gain great Google positions. Best of all, trying a tip will take five minutes or less. Enjoy!

Change a Title

Is a page positioning well, but people ignore it on the search engine results page? It may be time for a Title makeover. Try keeping the same keyphrase focus, but tweak your Title so it reads more like a headline. Compelling Titles see great click-through rates, so experiment with what works.

Change a meta description

So many people ignore the meta description because it’s not important for positioning. Don’t be one of them! A great meta description paired with a killer Title is like a one-two marketing punch on the SERP. Why not tweak a boring description to something that screams “click me” from the search engine results page?

Check one page’s analytics

Some people immediately overwhelm when they log into Google Analytics. If you’re one of them (or if checking analytics keeps falling to the bottom of your to-do list,) try this SEO copywriting tip. Check the analytics for just one page (preferably one that’s important to your conversion flow.) Is the bounce rate too high? Should you change the Title? Make notes of what you’d change.

Brainstorm blog post ideas

The more post ideas you have in your back pocket, the better — especially for those days when you don’t know what to write. Take five minutes and brainstorm as many blog post ideas as you can. You may come up with 17 really bad ideas and three good ones. That’s OK.

Optimize an old post

Many companies started blogging long before they worried about optimizing their posts for SEO. If that’s the case for your site (or your client’s site,) spend five minutes optimizing an old post. It’s amazing how just a few optimization tweaks can make a huge difference in positioning.

Check out BuzzSumo for article ideas

I. Love. BuzzSumo. It’s a great way to discover new article ideas and see what’s getting shared. Plus, it’s a great way to see who linked to and shared a particular post. If you love geeky content data presented in a non-geeky way, you’ll love BuzzSumo.

Email an influencer

Most people contact influencers only when they want something. Instead, try writing a non-pushy note like, “Hey, I really liked your latest post/book/podcast. Thanks for taking the time to create it.” This tip won’t drive immediate site traffic, but it could be the start of a great friendship — and perhaps a site mention down the line. If nothing else, sending a nice note will make your favorite influencer’s day.

Experiment with blog post headlines

Have you ever written multiple headlines and choosing one was a challenge? Try KingSumo’s Headlines WordPress plugin. It lets you test multiple version of a headline. Once the data rolls in, the headline with the best response becomes the permanent post headline. Data-driven decisions are always way better than guessing.

Experiment with social post headlines

Are you cross-posting the same copy to Facebook and Twitter? That may not be the best move. BuzzSumo recently released a study outlining the most popular headline trigrams (three-word phrases) for Facebook and Twitter. Hint: What pulls on Facebook doesn’t work as well on Twitter. Check out the study — the data may surprise you!

Pick a post for repurposing

Did you pen a popular post? Don’t let it hide in your “archives” section. Instead, consider ways you can repurpose your post as a SlideShare PPT, tweets and more. Plus, you can increase your site visits if you link back to your original post.

Post to (or join) a new LinkedIn group

LinkedIn is fantastic (and often underutilized) for B2B marketers. If you’ve lurked in a LinkedIn group for awhile, post a question, a blog post or comment on another’s post. If LinkedIn has been off your marketing radar for awhile, log in and find a group related to your field. Sure, LinkedIn is often a long-play content marketing strategy. Yet, many people (including me) report receiving leads — and sales — attributed to LinkedIn alone.

Do some competitive sleuthing

You never want to copy your competitor’s keyphrase or content strategy. At the same time, competitive information is always nice — and may give you some ideas about how to move forward. A quick competitive analysis in SEMRush will provide lots of data you can deep-dive into later.

Follow a new thought leader

It’s easy to build an “influencer bubble” and forget to expose yourself to new experts. New, smart people are entering the industry all the time — and there may be some “old guard” folks you haven’t heard about. Pick one new person to follow on your social network of choice. You may pick up a bunch of great (and new) information!

Make a list of outstanding content tasks

What’s the biggest SEO content challenge? There’s so much to do and track. Instead of letting those to-do’s float around your head, spend five minutes and make (or update) your list. As an added benefit, you may not wake up at 3 a.m. freaking out about your content tasks any longer.

Add structured data markup to a web page

Don’t be afraid of structured data! Google makes marking up a page easy with it’s Structured Data Markup Helper. All you need to do is follow Google’s (easy) instructions — and Google will automatically generate the schema.org markup for the page.

Check for duplicate content

Many sites that have been “locally SEO’ed” have duplicate location-specific content pages. If this sounds like your site (or your client’s site,) count the number of duplicate pages and put rewriting them as a “to do” on your outstanding content task list. You’ll want to rewrite those pages as soon as possible.

Tweak an image alt tag

Is image SEO important to your site? Choose a page and see how you can make your good image alt tags even better. Remember a great image alt describes an image in a non-spammy way — so check for keyphrase stuffing and make any necessary corrections. (Thanks, Brandon John Smithwick)

Writing local content? Try this tip.

Do you write a lot of local content? Try a search using the ”(Activity) (Close to/ nearby) (Place)” formula.  For example, there are only four results for [Clubs near Mission Beach]? This tip can help you discover a lot of cool places which can, in turn, help fuel the creative process on future projects.(Thanks,  Jeremiah Malone )

Spot-check a site’s NAP

Do you help clients with local SEO? Make sure the site’s name, address and phone number (NAP) is consistent throughout the site and matches the Google business listing exactly. Any discrepancies can mess with a site’s local listing, so it pays to give a site a quick check.

Spot check Search Console

When’s the last time you logged into Google’s Search Console? Search Console is a treasure-trove of SEO content marketing data. You can check out click-through rates, positions, see your most linked content and more! You can glean a lot of information in just five minutes.

Read a trade publication post

Keeping up with industry news — whether it be SEO, your professional vertical or your client’s industry — is incredibly important. It’s also overwhelming. If you struggle with finding the time to keep up, try to read at least one article a day. Work up to as much time as you can comfortably carve out of your schedule. Chances are, you’ll learn at least one actionable traffic-driving tip you can use on your site (or a client’s site.)

Comment on the post

Granted, there is no SEO benefit here, but this tip could drive traffic. First, bloggers love (sane, well thought out, intelligent) comments. But more importantly, commenting can help you build a relationship with the blogger and other readers. Maybe not right away (because that would be weird.) But over time, people will get to know your perspective — and possibly contact you for more information.

Find question-oriented search terms

People type (and speak) questions into Google all the time. A great way to figure out what people are asking is by using the research tool KeywordTool.io. Yes, you’ll see more data if you sign up for the paid subscription. But, you’ll still see a lot of tasty information if you try their “questions” tab for free.

What other 5-minute SEO copywriting tips would you add to the list? Post your comment below!

Want a handy checklist outlining all 23 tips? Fantastic — I’ve created a handy PDF guide just for you! You’ll get instant access if you sign up for my newsletter (plus, I share tips in my newsletter I don’t share anywhere else!)










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Photo thanks: Davooda | Dreamstime.com

 

 

Integrating Repurposed Content into Your 2016 Strategy

spring-849173_960_720With the flurry of the New Year behind us and the first quarter approaching its end, now is an opportune time to revisit our content plan for the year.

We would all love to consistently publish content that readers adore, but that’s simply not realistic or attainable for most of us. But what if there were a way to produce content we know readers would love? And how could we find that out?

Easy. See what has worked to date and then recycle or repurpose it.

The quickest and surest way to find our most popular content is by looking at our analytics.

Finding Your Best Performing Content

Google Analytics is a powerful tool that is not always used to its full potential. If you’re just looking at Audience > Overview, then you’re missing a lot of the most revealing details.

In the left-hand navigation, look for Behavior. From there, click on Site Content, then Landing Pages. This will show you a list of all landing pages for the site, sorted by most to least visits.

Google Analytics Data

You can further refine these results by clicking on +Add Segment and selecting Organic Sessions. As you remove the “All Sessions” segment, you will be left with only organic traffic data.

Choose the date range of January 1, 2015 – December 31, 2015. Google Analytics will now show you a list of the top organic landing pages on your site.

What to do with this information

Once we have the list of top URLs, we can further sort them by blog posts (those that contain /blog/ in the URL).

In the search box above the conversion data section of the Google Analytics chart (located to the top right), type “blog” (minus the quotes) into the search box and click the search icon:

Google Analytics Blog Search

This will provide us will all of our blog content. From this data, we can see which posts have had the most organic activity and then recycle that content in another blog post or repurpose it for different content formats.

Repurposing Your Content

Regardless of your niche, there is a lot of competition. The goal is, or should be, to stand out and be helpful. Repurposing your existing content in different formats will help to achieve that.

Now that you know which pieces of your content perform well, it’s time to see how we can reinvent them.

Reformat Content

Review each blog post. Are there any similarities among them? Formatting is important because it determines how a user will digest the information.

Suppose that the content provided is the best available and answers all questions completely. When reading it however, it’s single spaced and has no images. Chances are this page will not gain much visibility.

To ensure each post is scannable and visually appealing, make sure it has the following:

  • Images that correspond with the content
  • Bullet points for easy to read steps
  • Header tags to guide the eye and organize content into focused chunks
  • Internal and external links to create increased value and convenience for the user

If one of your high-performing posts from 2015 is missing one or more of these elements, consider revising and reposting it using this formatting checklist.

Leverage SlideShare

Aside from your blog, there are many other ways to reach your potential audience. For example, SlideShare is a great way to repurpose your content in a quick and easily digestable format. The LinkedIn-owned website allows people to upload or create slides on any topic. The presentation can then be shared on social media sites or embedded in blog posts, like this:

How to repurpose your content in 2016 by Joseph Rega

Add Infographics

By now we have all seen an infographic on one topic or another. Infographics are a great way to visually represent the data you wish to present. They are very popular and shared frequently.

Sample Infographic

Add the infographic to the post you’re pulling the content from and be sure to include social icons. This will make it easier for users to directly share your content.

Create Videos

Video continues to increase in popularity and will be an essential part of content marketing strategy in 2016. With video, you can have someone from your company, or your client’s company, discuss the topics covered in the blog post you’re repurposing. For example:

After the video has been recorded (and edited) it can be uploaded to YouTube with a link back to the post via the video description. The video can also be embedded in the blog post as a way to enrich the content.

Produce Podcasts

Podcasts are a great way to gain more exposure for your brand. A podcast will allow you to explore your topic deeper by allowing you (and your guest) the freedom to talk through different scenarios.

Like videos, podcasts can also be embedded in the blog post you’re discussing. Adding new media to the page may reduce the bounce rate since you’re providing users with more reasons to stick around.

Podcasts can also be used to link back to your website via the description on the platform, similar to YouTube.

Summing Up

It is important to pay close attention to your best performing content as this is what uses are looking for. Give them what they want and they will keep coming back.

Some ways to repurpose your best content are:

  • Formatting
  • Creating a SlideShare presentation
  • Creating an infographic
  • Making a video on the topic
  • Recording a podcast on the subject

You can choose any or all of these methods to breathe new life into your old, high-performing content.

If you have been successful with any other methods of repurposing your content, we would love to hear about them! Please share them in the comments.

Connect with Joe on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+

Image thanks: Pixabay.com

Hat Tip to Blog Promotion: Interview with The Social Media Hat’s Mike Allton

bullhorn_by_lemasneyIf you’re not already familiar with Mike Allton, there’s no better time to get to know him.

Mike is the CMO for SiteSell and lead “Content Marketing Practitioner” at The Social Media Hat, which only last week was voted one of the top ten social media blogs to follow in 2016 by Social Media Examiner.

For our part, we featured his article on blog promotion in the second of our series about conversions-driving content. In fact, so impressed we were with Mike’s guide – and The Social Media Hat blog – that we asked him if he’d agree to share his expertise with us.

Here, Mike offers his insights into strategies and platforms for promoting your blog, as well as for building your business with blog content.

Enjoy!

Before we delve into questions about blog promotion, would you briefly share with us why you refer to yourself as a “Content Marketing Practitioner”?

Sure! While many businesses will use content marketing as an approach to reach and educate their audience, I don’t just use content marketing. I teach it. Experiment with it. Study new tools and techniques. Therefore, I’ve come to refer to myself as a practitioner, someone who is constantly learning and evolving in the study and use of content marketing, and sharing the results with my audience.

That evolution in my thinking has been mirrored in my writing, as I’ve worked to provide more and more detailed articles that reflect my own experiments and findings.

Your relatively recent article on blog promotion describes your most thorough social media sharing process. What would you recommend as an absolute minimum, core promotion strategy?

That’s a great question. At a minimum, every business needs to have at least one social profile and an invitation for site visitors to subscribe to their email list, so that new content can be promoted to at least one social platform and email list. And of course on the content itself, visitors should be able to easily share it to whichever platforms and networks they’re active on, regardless of which network the business selects.

So you begin to drive traffic to your site through a social channel and email marketing, and you allow your readers and prospects to share to other networks, increasing your content’s reach.

Of all the social media platforms you leverage for blog promotion, you clearly favor Google+.  Could you share with us why you prefer it to the other main social networks?

First, let me say that my preference is a personal one. While there are reasons why I enjoy Google+ so much, that’s not to say that other businesses can’t find equal or greater success on different platforms. That truly depends on the business and target audience.

For myself, I found Google+ to be a refreshing place to connect with and engage with my peers. That’s not just lip service. It’s been truly amazing to grow relationships with fantastic people who have helped me and my business tremendously.

Based purely on referral traffic, Twitter is currently my top social platform, yet Google+ remains my favorite, and where I spend the most quality time. That further illustrates to me how important it is for businesses to have a presence on multiple networks, and to develop an understanding how each platform fits into their overall marketing and business plan.

Besides Google+, you’re also a strong proponent of Twitter. How effective is Twitter for blog promotion, relative to the other main social media platforms? 

Twitter is one of the best platforms for blog promotion overall, at least in my own niche and experience. There are far more tools available to help with sharing and resharing, connecting with your targeted audience, and analyzing the success of your efforts.

That said, it’s all about your audience. If you’re targeting a demographic largely comprised of work-at-home moms, you’ll likely find that Pinterest is your best choice, followed by Facebook. Every blogger and business must do their own research and analysis to determine where their audience is active and approachable, and then develop ways to become organically part of their conversations.

There’s been a lot of discussion around Twitter expanding its character count. What do you think about it? Do you subscribe to the argument that it may “ruin” the platform?

Nope. I generally have a more open view when it comes to platform changes and development. Facebook’s newsfeed changes. Google+ going back into beta. Twitter expanding character counts… other than the occasional brief annoyance at losing a feature I found personally valuable (i.e. Google+ Ripples), I recognize the fact that platforms need to change and develop for a variety of user and business reasons. Those reasons sometimes won’t be immediately understood or universally accepted.

But with rare exception, I find it extremely unlikely that any modification to an existing platform could ruin it. A platform used by hundreds of millions of people around the world every month doesn’t fall out of favor overnight. It takes time and generally a series of poor decisions.

What are your thoughts about syndicating content on LinkedIn to increase its reach? 

Personally, I think it’s a great idea, but tend to avoid actual syndication too often. I prefer to push visitors to my original content on my own website, and instead like to use those platforms for original content.

However, as with everything else in digital marketing, opinions can and should easily change with exceptional testing and analysis. This topic, specifically, is one I plan to test this year. However, measurement of success is going to be elusive. As Mark Schaefer has pointed out, it’s next to impossible to measure how much visibility your content gets when it’s published on external properties.

You mention that you use Pinterest (even though your content, as a rule, is primarily text-based). Does it drive significant traffic to your blog?

Pinterest is great for bloggers. And the more niche and specific you can get with your content, the better platforms like Pinterest may prove to be for you.

And while I don’t create a lot of image content, I do make sure that I have at least one branded, feature image for each and every blog post. And for those articles that are more important to me (for any number of reasons), I’ll take the time to create an image specifically for Pinterest (900 x 1100). I’ve added a custom, hidden field to my new blog post form so that I can upload a Pinterest image that the share buttons will see so that anyone can pin it.

What would you say is the more effective blog promotion strategy overall: email or social media?

Email.

Social media is outstanding for creating and developing relationships, and it’s a necessary step toward moving interested people into your email marketing.

But let’s do some basic math here:

Let’s say you’re a small business who has been working on their marketing for 6 months. You’ve created a nice lead generation resource to collect email addresses, which you’ve shared to social media and other distribution channels routinely. With all of the other content you’ve created and your marketing efforts, you’ve built up 1,000 Facebook Page fans and 1,000 email list subscribers.

The average open rate for email marketing is about 18%, with an average click rate of 1.8%, which means that out of 1,000 email subscribers, 180 will likely open the email and 18 will click through to your latest blog post.

Share the same blog post to your Facebook Page and your post will see the typical “Organic Reach” on Facebook which is about 2%. Click rates vary from 0.22% to 2% depending on the page and audience. But no matter how you slice it, it’s likely that a mere 20 of your fans will see that post, and probably half of them will click through.

Facebook is brilliant for reaching a targeted audience in a number of ways, not the least of which is paid advertising, which is the most cost effective in the world. But for promoting a blog post, email is clearly more effective.

What are the top strategies you’d recommend for building a business using blog content?

You’ll read dozens and dozens of different ideas on how to use and promote blog posts to build and promote a business. But there are two things in particular that you can do that are far more effective than anything else.

First, you have to create long-form content. That means really long blog posts… at least 1,500 words, and preferably more than 2,500. Sound like a lot? It is, but don’t let that scare you. You don’t have to write that much every week. In fact, most successful businesses will create one of these posts, what I call a “Pillar Post”,  per quarter on average.

The pillar post isn’t just long, of course, that’s just a byproduct. It’s long because it extensively and exhaustively covers a topic of particular relevance to the business, and of interest to the target audience. It has to be something that thoroughly answers a question, yet is positioned so that it’s likely readers will want more information or assistance even after they’ve read it all.

These kinds of extensive posts get exponentially more shares than shorter posts, and that helps drive traffic which increases the already high ranking factor, bringing even more organic search traffic. Those visitors are just as compelled to share the post, thus continuing to feed the process.

The post should, of course, have a strong call to action for readers to proceed to the next logical step (call you, read about your services, another article, whatever).

But here’s where the second top strategy kicks in.

With a post like this, let’s assume it’s 5,000 words about how to do something integral to your niche. That’s a long post, and would make for a great PDF download. You can put the entire article on your site, and then let interested readers grab a PDF copy for reference. Better yet, come up with a supplemental resource, like a checklist, that boils the topic down into a one-pager and make that available.

To get the digital download, they just complete an email subscribe form on your article and you set it up to auto respond with a link to download. They’re then part of your email marketing (which is an entire topic for discussion another day… how to leverage email automation to create a series of emails, regular newsletters, and more, to lead prospects down a sales funnel).

There are many other tactics and strategies for building and using blog content, and a lot can stem out of these two. So start there!

Connect with Mike on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+

Image thanks: ID 160597642 © lemasney / deviantart.com

 

 

Savvy Content Promotion Strategies & Techniques Used by the Pros

Content Promotion ResourcesLast month, we shared a series of posts on how to create conversions-driving content. We started with proven copywriting formulas and how-tos on writing clickable headlines and email subject lines and ended with what Google can teach us about copywriting.

In the second article, we shared expert strategies for creating powerful landing pages and engaging content, and touched on content promotion. But since content promotion is now so critical for content marketing success, we thought we’d expand on the subject.

So here are the most authoritative and relevant articles, in-depth guides and specific how-tos on content promotion we could find…this time around!

Content Promotion Tips & Best Practices

The All-in-One Content Marketing Playbook for Startups

By Melani Dizon via Copy Hackers

In this intensive content marketing playbook of “seven repeatable, proven steps”, Melani Dizon begins with content creation and ends with content repurposing. Each of the individual steps is detailed, incorporating specific examples and linking out to expert sources.

Step five, “Promote More Than Seems Reasonable”, involves its own three-step process, conveniently laid out for you in a downloadable spreadsheet at the end of the guide.

Dizon recommends first reading through the entire playbook to get a feel for “the big picture” and then return to each step as needed. You’ll want to keep this gem for reference!

How to Promote Your Content Across Owned, Earned, and Paid Media

By Matthew Gratt via Convince & Convert

BuzzStream’s Matthew Gratt emphasizes that before even creating content, you need to determine how you’ll promote it across owned, earned and paid channels. He writes that all three channels should be integrated and fused into your overarching content marketing strategy if it is to be effective.

Gratt delves into precisely what owned, earned and paid media are, and shares specific techniques and platforms for leveraging each.

He notes that of the three, earned media is the most important (and the most difficult to acquire), as it lends credibility to your content and extends its reach through third-party amplification. This provides a smart framework to consult when formulating your content marketing strategy.

Content Promotion: The Difference Between Brands with Fans & Anonymous Content

By Larry Kim via WordStream

Like Matthew Gratt (above), Larry Kim writes that planning for content promotion should come before you even start creating it. He describes WordStream’s content marketing process, which starts with where they’d like media coverage then creating content tailored to its preferences using the appropriate angle.

Kim then outlines the content promotion and distribution strategies they employ, including pitching influencers, creating visual assets, leveraging social media, remarketing, repurposing and syndication. If you’re trying to build your brand, you’ll want to pay attention to this mini case study of how WordStream built theirs.

8 Nonobvious Tips to Promote Content

By Arnie Kuenn via Content Marketing Institute

Noting that most digital marketers are familiar with promotion strategies such as sharing content on social media networks, Arnie Kuenn discusses eight less obvious content promotion and distribution tools and platforms.

First up is live-streaming video content to users’ Twitter feeds with Meerkat or Periscope, allowing for real-time content distribution and engagement. He recommends Flipboard for creating industry- or location-specific digital magazines, writing the platform provides a superior user experience for desktop, mobile and tablet users.

Alternative tools include BuzzStream for discovering influencers and their contact information and BuzzSumo for its vast database and unparalleled analytical insights. Finally, Kuenn suggests distributing content to communities and blog aggregators like Triberr, Blog Engage and Alltop.

17 Advanced Methods for Promoting Your New Piece of Content

By Aaron Agius via Kissmetrics

Aaron Agius writes that while the advanced promotion methods he describes here are routinely employed by the most successful big brands, they’re available and doable for all content creators.

From asking relevant influencers for a “killer quote” for your article to sharing content with communities to paying for promotion services such as (the relatively inexpensive) Outbrain, these strategies are proven to be effective for those who know how to use them properly. To that end, Agius shares tips, recommended tools and links to resources so you can promote your new content like the big boys.

Need to Crush Content Promotion? Love Your Dealers

By Ian Lurie via Portent

Ian Lurie recommends leveraging the networks of content distributors (“dealers”) for your promotion needs, writing “the best dealers are sites that grow through curation of material related to them”. Specifically, he lists content sharing networks, new and growing toolsets, and industry-specific, user-generated content sites and publications.

Lurie considers content sharing networks such as SlideShare and Medium the premium dealers, as they need your fantastic content as much as you need their distribution. They have a respectable “audience oomph” factor and are “very deliberate about promoting the best stuff.”

Throughout, Lurie provides specific dealer features and benefits, as well as tips for using them effectively. This one’s definitely a keeper!

The Complete Guide to Building Your Blog Audience

By Neil Patel & Aaron Agius via Quick Sprout

This exhaustive guide on blog marketing by Neil Patel and Aaron Agius is divided into 10 chapters, covering all that goes into building blog traffic. It’s specifically designed for readers who are already well versed in how to create content but want to build their brand status and ultimately, generate sales.

Beginning with the basics of building a community and an email list in the first chapter, Patel and Agius go on to more advanced strategies such as SEO, paid search and social ads, content syndication and influencer outreach. If you’re looking to catapult your brand and blog to the next level, then you should find this a valuable resource.

Social Media Platforms, Strategies & Tools for Content Promotion

5 Gospels to Follow on Social Media That are Strategic, Systematic, and Smart

By Jodi Harris via Content Marketing Institute

This article is a useful starting point for thinking about content promotion through social media sharing, providing a savvy lens through which to view and assess your social media strategy. Here, Jodi Harris presents Content Marketing Institute’s Jonathan Crossfield’s acerbic take on using social media via five “gospels”.

When promoting content on social media, he advises caution and details seven guidelines to follow that range from tailoring your message to the medium to adding quality images and the right hashtags. A great resource when mapping out your social media strategy!

Social Media Campaign Planning Guide – The Rocket Formula

By Ian Cleary via RazorSocial

In sharing RazorSocial’s “rocket formula”, Ian Cleary identifies planning as the critical factor in making or breaking a social media campaign. He details nine steps, each with their own component steps, in this extensive guide.

Cleary begins with pre-campaign planning such as selecting the appropriate social platforms, then walks you through the entire process, ending with documenting the results.

He suggests tools to help you with each step and thoroughly explains how to use them. A most helpful guide for content marketers, no matter the size of their budget.

Slideshare Traffic Case Study: From 0 to 243,000 Views in 30 Days

By Ana Hoffman via Traffic Generation Café

Ana Hoffman shares some truly impressive numbers documenting her astonishing success with Slideshare, not the least of which is that the LinkedIn-owned platform is her second largest source of referral traffic.

She details just how she did it, beginning with a five-step process for creating a Slideshare deck. Hoffman then shares seven highly specific tips to fully leverage your presentation, such as optimizing for search and including a call to action.

Finally, she discusses four ways to drive traffic from Slideshare, from being featured in one of its homepage sections to getting it embedded on other sites. An excellent resource you’ll want to bookmark!

13 Instagram Marketing Tips From the Experts

By Cindy King via Social Media Examiner

In her post for Social Media Examiner, the late Cindy King shared Instagram marketing tips and recommended tools from 13 social media experts. Their responses range from the relatively technical (shooting square photos) and analytical (using a custom link shortener to track traffic) to the practical (editorial calendar) and promotional.

Among the promotional tips are partnering with Instagram influencers to expand brand awareness and follower reach, leveraging sponsored ads and taking advantage of trending topics.

Other promotional tips involve strategically using your bio link, whereby you can direct users to a landing page or your most recent content. All of the tips shared are worth investigating!

Your Turn

Hope you find these resources helpful in reaching your content promotion goals! If you know of an actionable guide or article — and yes, that includes your own! — please share it with us in the comments below. Thanks!

Photo thanks: ID 945449 by Unsplash / Pixabay.com

 

 

 

LinkedIn Pulse: The Content Publishing Platform You Can’t Afford to Ignore

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

Expert Tips for Creating & Promoting Stellar Content

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 about the amount of information requested of visitors; 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. 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 site’s internal pages) are the ones 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 (i.e., internal links) for your site visitors. You’ll want to keep this gem 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 tips and tools 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 the previous 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 only the content per se, but its amplification that are key to 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

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

 

 

 

3 Simple Steps to Creating Buyer Personas

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.

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