Go Jump in the Ocean! Better yet, Take a Flying Leap!

Jumping in the ocean on New Year's DayIt’s my first post of 2014. I can’t believe we are a week into the year already. Let me wish you a belated happy New Year!

Now that we got that out the way, let me tell you to go take a flying leap!

Don’t take that the wrong way, I’m not telling you off; I’m offering inspiration.

Clean the slate

2013 wasn’t the best year for me (although it definitely had some good highlights). Just a few low moments included:

  • Breaking my nose
  • Ending my 10-year marriage
  • Having to dramatically cut my business to part-time and get a 9-to-5 job
  • Putting on a bunch of the weight I had previously took off (and kept off for several years)

I highlighted other not-so-great moments and some positive outlooks in my Not another thankful post, if you were curious.

Needless to say, I was ready to move on from 2013 and wanted to embrace 2014. I felt as though I was digging myself out of hole and needed to just give myself a new starting point.

I saw 2014 as that new starting point.

A little less talk and a lot more action

In my last post of 2013, I discussed setting goals instead of making resolutions. A couple of years ago, Heather outlined the same strategy, but got more in depth with how to apply this to your content marketing goals.

So once you set your goals, how do you flip the switch? Is having the goal enough to change your behaviors? Not always.

Sometimes you need to conquer your fears in order to make the next move.

Make it dramatic, if you have to

Some people can just make a decision then take action. Other people need to be guided through the process (read: dragged into change). And still other people just need something to spark the change.

I like that spark – even if it is symbolic.

SkydivingSeveral years ago, when my life needed a shakeup, I jumped out of an airplane. That year, I quit a job that I hated and started my freelance copywriting business. It was freeing and wonderful. Jumping out of the plane was the symbolic change I needed.

To kick off 2014, I jumped into the ocean (dove in head first) on New Year’s Day. It was my way to wash off all that I didn’t want from 2013, so I could start 2014 clean.

Things didn’t magically change with diving in that ocean, but I had the spark I needed. In less than a week from jumping in the ocean, I ran a 5k (I haven’t been running in months!) and I joined a gym (with a gym partner to keep me motivated).

Where’s your spark?

What’s it going to take to get you moving? What can you do that will get you motivated and excited to take that first crucial step? Whatever it is – whether it is symbolic or a concrete step (like renting an office space) – go for it.

Make 2014 your year to shine! Happy New Year!

Savvy Content Promotion Strategies & Techniques Used by the Pros

Recently, 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

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

Image thanks: ID 160597642 © lemasney / deviantart.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

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

Let’s Make Content Easy-to-Read Again

Yup, I’m back! I spent my digital detox rafting down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. For almost three weeks, I lifted heavy gear bags up steep, sandy hills, hung on through the cold, wet rapids, and found sand everywhere.

It. Was. So. Peaceful.

And then, I came home.

Hitting reality full-speed was hard. Sure, re-entry is always…challenging. But, I never noticed how much energy-sucking crap filled my day-to-day life until I had digitally detoxed for three weeks. 

For instance:

  • Spending 10+ minutes every day deleting newsletters I never read.
  • Saying, “Yes” to people asking, “Could you help with this one thing?” — even when I don’t have time.
  • Responding to text dings, email notifications, or other “hey, look at me” distractions in the moment. 

Ugh, right? I’m sure you can relate. You spend 10 minutes doing this, and another five doing that…

…and before you know it, you’ve lost an hour (or more) a day doing stuff that (to quote Bill Murray in the film Meatballs) “just doesn’t matter.”

But then, I got to thinking. Content marketing, as it stands today, forces people to wade through a lot of energy-sucking crap to get the gems they want. 

For instance:

  • We write extra copy so we can shove keyphrases in somewhere, and we hide the “meat” of the post towards the bottom. (I’m looking at you, recipe sites.)
  • We focus on long-form guides that are 2,000 words (or more) because “that’s what Google wants.”
  • We worry about content that’s short (say, 500 words) and wonder if it’s “too thin.” (As a reality check, 500 words used to be considered “too much” content back in the day.)
  • We’re forced to write buzzword-filled content because our boss is convinced that “our audience needs to see this on the site.”

I’m not saying this stuff is bad — there are studies showing how longer content tends to get higher rankings and more links. Following what works is a good thing.

And, sometimes we need to add buzzwords to our content — or write in a slightly more academic style. That’s fine.

But, OMG, please let us write content that’s easy to read. 

Plus, check out the latest voice search statistics…

According to a recent study by SEMrush, the average text length for a voice search answer was 41 words across all devices (for instance, Google Home or Alexa.)

Just 41 focused words written at a high-school comprehension level.

Of course, the answers are pulled from posts that are much longer than 41 words. In fact, 78 percent of voice search answers are culled from the top-three results — and those pages tend to have higher word counts.

Yet, Google can still find the right 2-3 easy-to-read sentences with the right answer.

Pretty cool, eh?

So, how do you dovetail what Google seems to reward (longer word counts) and still make it easy for folks to find the specific information they want?

This is where the page strategy comes in…

Here are some tips for Google AND your readers:

Tell me a story that engages my brain. Don’t drown me in jargon. 

Conversational, easy-to-read content is always king. Yes, I know you want your brand to sound “smart” and “like a market leader.” However, many top-positioned, highly-technical sites are easy-to-read, engaging and approachable. Here’s a great post from Content Marketing Institute that discusses why storytelling is so important.

Use subheadlines as “cues” to explain what the following paragraph is about and to help your reader find the information she needs. 

Yes, I know it’s tempting to write a sexy headline like, “Market Leading Excellence.” But, to your reader, this is just corporate-speak that says nothing. 

I love this quote from Hubspot:

“Subheadlines have the power to reel the reader in. While the headline may grab the user’s attention, you need to do more than that in order for the user to stay. You want to compel the reader to look, to click, to sample, to scroll, or to do whatever it is you want them to do.”

Yup. Exactly.

Use lists, bullet points and summary paragraphs to immediately help the reader find the information she needs. 

If your topic is about “how to boil an egg,” put that information front and center. You don’t need to write 500 words outlining the history of eggs and egg boiling. Please. Just…don’t.

Check your paragraph and sentence length. 

Long paragraphs and run-on sentences are annoying to read on a computer — and even more annoying to read on a mobile device. Instead, write short, snappy sentences. Do it. Please. They’re easier to read.

Experiment with presenting your content in different formats. 

For instance, you could create a 60-second explainer video that highlights your main points. Or, create an infographic for your visual, quick-scan folks. Think “easy.”

Not everyone will read your 10,000-word blog, no matter how much you put your heart and soul into it. But, they may check out your video or share your infographic.

Don’t just test your content — test your layouts, too. 

I’ve seen conversion rates increase 30 percent because the new layout better highlighted the important benefits. If you keep losing folks and you can’t figure out why, the layout (not the content) could be the culprit.

What’s the big takeaway? 

Know what your readers are looking for and make that information simple to find. Test your layouts and see if you can improve your time on page and conversion rates. Write in a way that makes your reader hang on your every word — not wonder what the heck you’re trying to say.

In short, think “simple, short and to the point.”

Your readers will thank you!

What do you think?

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SEO Content Marketing Roundup, Week Ending June 6th, 2012

Ah, it’s summertime, but the livin’ isn’t so easy…at least not if you’ve been whacked by the Penguin update. In this week’s latest and greatest Web-writing news, SEO & search pro’s wrestle with the Penguin update, while content marketers talk blogging and strategy, and social media marketers discuss everything under the summer sun. Pour yourself a glass of lemonade and enjoy this week’s picks!

Content Marketing

Pamela Vaughan shares “How to Write Stellar How-To Posts for Your Business Blog” at HubSpot.

Lee Odden posts “A Recipe for Better Blogging: Optimize & Socialize” at Top Rank.

Melissa Fach shares Heather Lloyd-Martin’s video post on how to create an editorial calendar to support your content marketing strategy at Search Engine Journal.

An exceptional how-to on “Developing Copywriting Content Strategies Like a Pro” is at Level 343.

Arnie Kuenn posts “Content Marketing and SEO: A Marriage Made in Mountain View” at Vertical Measures.

For those content marketers doing Pinterest, Franseca StaAna posts “Five Must-Have Pinterest Tools for Content Marketers” at MarketingProfs.

Marketing Sherpa’s Research Chart of the week asks “Does your organization keep track of the right KPIs?” via Meghan Lockwood.

Roger Dooley posts “Buy Buttons and Neuro-Nudges” at Neuromarketing.

Seth Godin revisits his earlier work, “The Dip,” at his blog.

Level 343 speaks to the undeniable reality of digital marketing with “This Just In: Digital Marketing. That Is All.”

SEO & Search

Matt McGee live-blogs from SMX Advanced (Seattle), reporting the keynote exchange between Danny Sullivan and Matt Cutts with “Matt Cutts On Penalties Vs. Algorithm Changes, A Disavow-This-Link Tool & More” at Search Engine Land.

Julie Joyce discusses how many webmasters, hurt by the Penguin, are now forced to rebuild their links from scratch (and how to do it) with “Link Building From Scratch” at Search Engine Watch.

Oh, the irony! Eric Ward discusses “The Unintended Consequences Of Link Removal” in reaction to Google’s Penguin update at Search Engine Land.

Eric Enge discusses “2 Quick Ways to Perform Bad Link Archaeology” in light of Google’s Penguin update, at Search Engine Watch.

Mike Huber posts “How To Get Back On Track After the Penguin Update” at Vertical Measures.

Rick DeJarnette posts “The Definitive Guide To Google Authorship Markup” at Search Engine Land.

Avinash Kaushik posts “Google Analytics Custom Reports: Paid Search Campaigns Analysis,” at Occam’s Razor.

Aaron Wall interviews Brett Tabke, “one of the most well know names in the SEO vertical” (think Webmaster World and the PubCon conference) about recent search changes and where online publishing is heading, at SEO Book.

Dr. Pete Meyers discusses personal responsibility in the SEO equation with “Don’t Like Snake Oil? Stop Buying It!” at SEOmoz.

Neil Patel posts “25 Awesome Free Google Tools for Marketers” at KISSmetrics.

Corey Eridon shares “6 SEO Tools to Analyze Your Site Like Google Does” at HubSpot.

Social Media Marketing

Lee Odden posts “35 Smart Social Media Business & Consumer Insights from Brian Solis” at Top Rank.

Ashley Zeckman reports from Blog World NY on Unmarketing Author’s Scott Straten’s presentation on “Common & Deadly Social Media Sins,” at Top Rank.

Lisa Galarneau shares “10 Social Media Secrets from the Social Scientist” at Jeff Bullas’s blog.

Andy Crestodina explains why “Nice Blogs Finish Last” at Convince & Convert.

Erin Nelson post “4 Examples of Stellar B2B Social Media Marketing Content” at Content Marketing Institute.

So how can businesses increase “word of mouth” recommendations? By Corey Eridon at HubSpot.

Jeff Bullas posts “What 3 Types of Facebook Marketing Apps Drive the Most Viral Sharing?” at his blog.

Gabe Donnini posts “Making Sense Of Key Pinterest Metrics And Analytics Tools” at Marketing Land.

Brian Solis speaks to the 5th pillar of marketing at his blog, with “The 5th P of Marketing is People: Engagement begins within” at his blog site.

photo thanks to Rochelle, just rochelle (Rochelle Hartman)

SEO Content Marketing Roundup, Week Ending May 9th, 2012

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes: This week’s latest and greatest web writing news is about adaptation, whether it’s to changes in content, SEO/search or social media marketing. Google’s string of 52+ updates keep SEO & search pro’s dancing, content marketers take a hard look at their websites, and social media marketers respond to all the new developments in their field with a plethora of how-to’s.

So let’s turn and face the strange ch-ch-changes, shall we? Enjoy this week’s picks!

Content Marketing

Jason Amunwa pens “Help Your Website Sell More: 11 Overlooked Page Elements That Drive Online Sales” at KISSmetrics.

Beth Fox discusses how to make your content pop with five bullet point basics at Content Marketing Institute.

Pamela Vaughan posts “20 Simple Ways to Boost Blog Subscribers” at HubSpot.

Are you insane? It may help: Neil Patel discusses “How to Become a Blogging Superstar” at SEOmoz.

Marketing Sherpa’s weekly Marketing Research Chart shows the results of its survey  of 1500+ marketers that answered: “What are the most valuable inbound lead sources?”

SEO & Search

Eric Ward debates the definition of “unnatural” links and lists 15 of the most obvious examples with (his self-described link-bait title) “Can There Really Be 85 Types Of Unnatural Links?” at Search Engine Land

Aaron Wall presents a reality check on negative SEO with “Ha! Bullets Can’t Hurt ME” at SEOBook.

Jenny Halasz continues her “Keyword Seed Method” series of how-to’s for beginners with “Time To Reap What You’ve Sown From Keyword Seeds” at Search Engine Land.

The source of the SEO industry’s “reputation problem” – “Google Perhaps” – is brilliantly explored by Aaron Wall at SEOBook.

Social Media Marketing

Cindy King’s weekly wrap of social media marketing news at Social Media Examiner features Google’s new set of social reports designed to “help you measure the impact of your social marketing initiatives and evaluate the effect social media has on your goals and commerce activities.”

Jason Falls posts “Why Forums May Be the Most Powerful Social Media Channel for Brands” at Entrepreneur.

Google v. Facebook, the mobile version: Greg Sterling cites comScore data in discussing the relative time spent on mobile channels with “Most Mobile Time Spent In Apps: Google Has Top Reach, Facebook Has Highest Engagement,” at Marketing Land.

Lee Odden discusses search and social optimization with “Is Your Optimization Meaningful or Mechanical?” at Top Rank.

Citing Bitly data, Danny Sullivan discusses optimum times for social sharing with “For Social Success, Post to Twitter & Facebook In Early Afternoons, Tumblr in Evenings” at Marketing Land.

Michael King (“iPullRank”) pens a detailed how-to on maintaining your social shares after a site migration, at Search Engine Watch

photo thanks to Thuany Gabriela

SEO Content Marketing Roundup, Week Ending May 30th, 2012

In the classic words of Steve Martin: let’s get small! In this week’s latest and greatest Web writing news, small business owners are given much attention by both content and SEO/search marketers, Google once again slips in an update over a holiday weekend, and the social media community discusses Facebook and the state of their industry. Get ready to get small with this week’s web gems…

Content Marketing

Neil Patel shares eight “marketing twists” to make your small business stand out at QuickSprout.

“5 of the Most Important Content & Social Media Tips For A Successful Business Blog” are shared by Lee Odden at Top Rank.

Contently posts an article by Kylie Jane Wakefield on the critical importance of images for your content, with “Your Content Is Sunk Without Good Photos.”

Seth Godin discusses the art of B2B sales with “A hierarchy of business to business needs.”

Heidi Cohen posts “Three Content Super Powers that Will Transform Your Social Media, Search, and Sales” at Content Marketing Institute.

SEO & Search

Jonathan Allen discusses “why small businesses are completely at a loss as to what constitutes ‘ethical’ SEO” with “SEO, Why You Are Doing it Wrong” at Search Engine Watch.

While the rest of us (in the U.S.) were giving it a break over the holiday weekend, Google pushed out what it claims to be their first Penguin algorithm update, reports Matt McGee at Search Engine Land.

Gabriella Sannino posts the delightful and most relevant “Penguin, Penguin, Who’s Got the Penguin? Let’s Throw a Link At It…” at Level 343.

Alan Bleiweiss posts “Another Black Hat Company Caught Selling Links” with a surprise (?) ending at Search Engine Journal.

Ian Lurie exemplifies how his company does SEO proposals (admittedly forgoing his usual sarcasm) at Portent.

The new “Lead SEO” at SEOmoz, Ruth Burr, describes “how [she] rolls” with her introductory post, “SEO Isn’t Magic – So Stop Doing SEO Tricks.”

Social Media Marketing

Pamela Vaughan posts “Facebook Study Shows Brand Related Posts Drive Highest Engagement” at HubSpot.

Matt McGee reports on Bit.ly’s overhaul and social networking ambitions at Marketing Land.

Brian Solis posts “From Co-creation to Collaboration: 5 pillars for business success.”

Jeff Bullas posts a video interview with Brian Solis on “The State of Social Media in 2012,” conducted by Maria Petrescu of Intervistato.com.

photo thanks to Me-Liss-A

SEO Content Strategies for Google’s Penguin Update

Welcome back! In today’s SEO copywriting video how-to, Heather addresses the latest topic that has the industry abuzz: Google’s Penguin update. Specifically, she discusses SEO content strategies for dealing with the Penguin.

While Google’s Penguin update is targeted towards outright webspam (and suspect linking profiles), like it’s cute animal predecessor the Panda, it still has many site owners frozen in their tracks.

Take a deep breath and join Heather as she explains why you’ve nothing to fear from the big bad Penguin, and how you can move forward with specific SEO content strategies…

Yes, Google is at it again!

Here we had just recovered from Google’s Panda – another black-and-white animal – and now we are faced with its Penguin update:

  • The Penguin update targeted “web spam”.
  • Impacted about 3-percent of Web queries – especially those with “unnatural” links.
  • Site owners are scared. Again.

About those “unnatural” links: in Google’s eyes, unnatural links might have been those that a company purchased, or those resulting from a link exchange where the company may have been getting a large number of incoming links that were not targeted to its market.

Regardless, the net result of the Penguin update is that site owners are scared, yet again. They are afraid that whatever they do is going to be “wrong,” that Google’s not going to like it, and that they’ll be popped by yet another animal in algorithmic update form in the future.

So here Heather gets into what the industry is saying about how to deal with the Penguin update, and how to move forward without fear.

Here’s what the industry is saying…

Pulling quotes from three different industry sources, Heather notes (and you can see) that the quotes are very similar in that they all discuss content:

“Blog more and blog regularly:  Writing content that is useful for end users will not just increase your reader base but force search engines to crawl, index, and rank your site. After all, engines need good content just as badly (to be relevant to their searchers) as you need their “free” traffic.”

– Bob Tripathi, founder and chief marketer at Instant E-Training, as reported in Search Engine Watch.

  • This first quote makes the direct correlation between “[w]riting content that is useful for end users” and your site rankings.

“The thing about great content is that it will generate links. But more importantly, great content will add more value to your site’s visitors. Just be sure to promote your new content. Encourage your visitors and customers to share your content and products.”

– Kerry Dean, Search Engine Land

  • “…add more value to your site’s visitors.” : That’s an important point. It’s not just adding content for the SEO benefit of it – that has never been the point of adding content – it’s about adding value to your readers. And yes, people will link to it because it’s an exceptionally good article or blog post.

“Always remember that content is (and will always be) king. That is the rule of thumb in white hat SEO. Do you think websites like SEOmoz and Search Engine Journal need to do any link building in order to rank high in search engines? Probably not, they simply focus on delivering high quality content that people constantly link to from their websites and from their social profiles.”

– Amine Rahal, YOUmoz/SEOmoz

So there is your Penguin, right there in these three quotes: now, you have an opportunity to evaluate your site, asking yourself, “All right, how good is my content?” and “Is this something that is good for readers?”

And this is a great opportunity for all sites – occasionally it’s wise for all of us to go back into our site, look at our content, and see what we can do to make our site even better for the visitors who are coming to us!

So what does this mean?

What we know is that: 

  • Well-written content is still a safe SEO (and social) bet.

The operative words here are “well written”: this isn’t content driven by a magical keyword density formula or content that’s been written just for search engine purposes or to attract links. This is content that we know is good for our readers.

So what you can do is:

  • Review your site, look for content opportunities, and remove any content mullets.

An example of content opportunities is the humble yet powerful FAQ page.  If you are receiving a lot of customer questions about a product or service that you offer, and you don’t have a FAQ page on your site that answers these questions, then that could be an amazing content opportunity! Develop that FAQ page, and maybe create some blog posts that discuss the FAQ answers in more detail.

As for content mullets – they’ve been addressed here before. You definitely want to remove, change or tweak any kind of out-dated content – you know, that old content that makes it look like your site hasn’t been touched in the last couple of years!

  • Ask how you can make your content even better.

Again, this is a great opportunity to go back and look through your site, paying attention to elements like your benefit statements: are they still valid?

How about your site’s tone and feel – how your copy “sounds” to the reader: is there anything that you could tweak to help increase your conversion rate? Or the amount of time folks are spending on your site?

And the final tip is to let your editorial calendar work for you:

  • Use your editorial calendar to track content changes/creation.

As with the content mullet, editorial calendars have been discussed here before.  And although it may sound like a complicated process, it’s really as simple as looking at what you want to accomplish and then setting it up on a calendar.

Simply write in what you want to have accomplished on your calendar, so you can keep track of your content and understand where those milestones and deadlines are. Then it’s a matter of creating the content and making it happen!

A few closing thoughts

So don’t fear the Penguin – use it as an opportunity to do all we’ve discussed above.

And while it’s understandable why site owners may be a little spooked by yet another Google update, remember that throughout all of the updates visited upon the SEO content industry, well-written content has proven itself to be a very, very safe bet.

Well-written content is good for Google, but more importantly it’s good for your site and for your readers…and don’t forget: well-written content will help your site make more money!

 

photo thanks to *christopher* (Christopher Michel)

 

Which Should It Be: Pinterest or Google+?

Pinterest or Google+?

Both of these social networks have broken up the Twitter/Facebook monopoly. In the last year, Google+ has gained 100 million active followers and Pinterest has expanded rapidly to become the 3rd most popular social network.

Not surprisingly, marketers have taken notice. Making Google+ and/or Pinterest part of your social media strategy is a smart move. Based on their early performances, these social networks will be an integral part of an effective social strategy from here on out.

Choosing one or the other isn’t necessary – but it’s a smart move if you want more targeted social media marketing. Each social network has distinct user groups, specific benefits and a few drawbacks.

Taking a Look at the Stats

Understanding the difference between Google+ and Pinterest is as simple as looking at the stats for each social network:

What to know about Google+:

  • As of April 2012, Google reports that Google+ now has 170 million active users. (Google)
  • As of January 2012, American users spent an average of 3.3 minutes on Google+. (eMarketer)
  • Websites using the +1 button generate 3.5x the Google+ visits than sites without the button. (HubSpot)
  • Two of the biggest user groups on Google+ are college students and software developers. (Remcolandia)
  • 63% of Google+ users are male. (Remcolandia)
  • Over 40% of marketers report that Google+ is “useful to critical” for their business. (HubSpot 2012 State of Inbound Marketing Report)
  • Google+ is expected to attract 400 million users by the end of 2012. (Remcolandia)

What to know about Pinterest:

  • As of February 2012, Pinterest had accumulated 10.4 million users. (AppData)
  • As of January 2012, American users spent an average of 97.8 minutes on Pinterest. (eMarketer)
  • As of January 2012, Pinterest accounted for 3.6% of referral traffic. (Shareaholic)
  • The top interests on Pinterest in the U.S. include crafts, gifts, hobbies/leisure, interior design, and fashion designers/collections. (Ragan.com)
  • 80% of Pinterest’s users are female. (comScore)
  • Pinterest referrals spend 70% more than visitors referred from non-social channels, including search, according to industry reports. (Wayfair)
  • With over 11 million unique monthly visitors (and counting), Pinterest became the fastest standalone website to eclipse the 10 million per month mark ever. (PR Daily)

The growth of both social networks has been impressive – but they clearly have different audiences and different benefits. In order to use one or the other effectively, you need to evaluate your goals.

Know What You Want from Social Media

Knowing your organization’s needs and capabilities for social media marketing will help you select between Pinterest and Google+.

Is your business targeted specifically toward a particular industry, job or gender?

Use the social network that your ideal clients are using. For example, if your target market is developers and other marketers, Google+ is a natural fit. For crafts based businesses, food related companies and products for a female audience; Pinterest would be a much better choice. Speak to the crowd by picking the right platform.

What Type of Traffic are You Seeking? 

Google+ has some unique search engine optimization benefits. Sharing your own links and resources can improve your quality score for your entire site. Having Google+ can enhance your chances for a higher search engine ranking.

Alternatively, Pinterest is a terrific referral traffic generator. If you have some interesting visual elements, product pictures or infographics that you want to spread across the social web, Pinterest is the way to go. Sharing visuals and images can bring more targeted visitors directly to your website.

Can You be Involved Enough to Make an Impact?

Before diving in, do you have the resources to manage another platform effectively? Although Google+ users spend less time on the site than Pinterest users do on their social media platform choice, both require investment and community involvement.

You can’t expect to start a profile, update it infrequently and reap any benefits. It’s better to be involved on a few platforms effectively than spread your resources too thin.

Pinterest vs. Google+ isn’t an issue that will go away anytime soon. With their meteoric rise in users and traffic potential, one or the other is worth your businesses’ time. It just depends on your target market, your traffic goals and your resources.

Do you use Google+ or Pinterest? Or both? Why?

About the Author – Courtney Ramirez

Courtney Ramirez is a proud graduate of the SuccessWorks’ SEO Copywriting Certification training program, and CEO of Six Degrees Content. She is passionate about helping small businesses compete with the big boys with skilled SEO copywriting and content marketing. You can connect with Courtney on Twitter @CourtneyRamirez.

photo thanks to TheBusyBrain