Tag Archive | "Create"

3 Ways to Create ‘Next Level’ Content

This week, we offered concrete ways to make your content more memorable, more compelling, and more attractive to your audience. The three blog posts and podcast episodes I highlight below each give easy-to-implement advice that can transform your work. On Monday, Loryn Thompson kicked us off with a post about respecting your audience’s intelligence and
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How to Create (and Sell) Products People Actually Want to Buy

This week offers a mix of inspiration, clarity, purpose … and some good, old-fashioned results-oriented copywriting. On Monday, I shared some of the practical, repeatable steps you can use to create an online course that people actually want to buy. (That’s a fun thing to do, by the way, and I totally recommend it.) Brian
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Bing Ads Editor now supports Enhanced CPC, exports to create expanded text ads

Version 11.9 is now available.

The post Bing Ads Editor now supports Enhanced CPC, exports to create expanded text ads appeared first on Search Engine Land.



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


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How to Create Content That Keeps Earning Links (Even After You Stop Promoting It)

Posted by kerryjones

Do your link building results look something like this?

  1. Start doing outreach
  2. Get links
  3. Stop doing outreach
  4. No more links

Everyone talks about the long-term benefits of using content marketing as part of a link building strategy. But without the right type of content, your experience may be that you stop earning links as soon as you stop doing outreach.

In this sense, you have to keep putting gas in the car for it to keep running (marketing “gas” = time, effort, and resources). But what if there was a way to fill up the car once, and that would give it enough momentum to run for months or even years?

An example of this is a salary negotiations survey we published last year on Harvard Business Review. The study was picked up by TechCrunch months after we had finished actively promoting it. We didn’t reach out to TechCrunch. Rather, this writer presumably stumbled upon our content while doing research for his article.

techcrunch-link.png

So what’s the key to long-term links? Content that acts as a source.

The goal is to create something that people will find and link to when they’re in need of sources to cite in content they are creating. Writers constantly seek out sources that will back up their claims, strengthen an argument, or provide further context for readers. If your content can serve as a citation, you can be in a good position to earn a lot of passive links.

Read on for information about which content types are most likely to satisfy people in need of sources and tips on how to execute these content types yourself.

Original research and new data

Content featuring new research can be extremely powerful for building authoritative links via a PR outreach strategy.

A lot of the content we create for our clients falls under this category, but not every single link that our client campaigns earn are directly a result of us doing outreach.

In many cases, a large number of links to our client research campaigns earn come from what we call syndication. This is what typically plays out when we get a client’s campaign featured on a popular, authoritative site (which is Site A in the following scenario):

  • Send content pitch to Site A.
  • Site A publishes article linking to content.
  • Site B sees content featured on Site A. Site B publishes article linking to content.
  • Site C sees content featured on Site A. Site C publishes article linking to content.
  • And so on…

So, what does this have to do with long-term link earning? Once the content is strategically seeded on relevant sites using outreach and syndication, it is well-positioned to be found by other publishers.

Site A’s content functions as the perfect citation for these additional publishers because it’s the original source of the newsworthy information, establishing it as the authority and thus making it more likely to be linked to. (This is what happened in the TechCrunch example I shared above.)

Examples

In a recent Experts on the Wire podcast, guest Andy Crestodina talked about the “missing stat.” According to Andy, most industries have “commonly asserted, but rarely supported” statements. These “stats” are begging for someone to conduct research that will confirm or debunk them. (Side note: this particular podcast episode inspired this post – definitely worth a listen!)

To find examples of content that uncovers a missing stat in the wild, we can look right here on the Moz blog…

Confirming industry assumptions

When we did our native advertising versus content marketing study, we went into it with a hypothesis that many fellow marketers would agree with: Content marketing campaigns perform better than native advertising campaigns.

This was a missing stat; there hadn’t been any studies done proving or debunking this assumption. Furthermore, there wasn’t any publicly available data about the average number of links acquired for content marketing campaigns. This was a concrete data point a lot of marketers (including us!) wanted to know since it would serve as a performance benchmark.

Screen Shot 2017-02-27 at 1.16.47 PM.png

As part of the study, we surveyed 30 content marketing agencies about how many links the average content marketing campaign earned, in addition to other questions related to pricing, client KPIs, and more.

After the research was published here on Moz, we did some promotion to get our data featured on Harvard Business Review, Inc, and Marketing Land. This data is still being linked to and shared today without us actively promoting it, such as this mention on SEMRush’s blog and this mention on the Scoop It blog (pictured below).

scoop-it-citation.png

To date, it’s been featured on more than 80 root domains and earned dozens of co-citations. It’s worth noting that this has been about far more than acquiring high-quality links; this research has been extremely effective for driving new business to our agency, which it continues to do to this day.

Debunking industry assumptions

But research doesn’t always confirm presumptions. For example, Buzzsumo and Moz’s research collaboration examined a million online articles. A key finding of their research: There was no overall correlation between sharing and linking. This debunked a commonly held assumption among marketers that content that gets a lot of shares will earn a lot of links, and vice versa. To date, this post has received an impressive 403 links from 190 root domains (RDs) according to Open Site Explorer.

How to use this strategy

To find original research ideas, look at how many backlinks the top results have gotten for terms like:

  • [Industry topic] report
  • [Industry topic] study
  • [Industry topic] research

Then, using the MozBar, evaluate what you see in the top SERPs:

  • Have the top results gotten a sizable number of backlinks? (This tells you if this type of research has potential to attract links.)
  • Is the top-ranking content outdated? Can you provide new information? (Try Rand’s tips on leveraging keywords + year.)
  • Is there a subtopic you could explore?

Additionally, seeing what has already succeeded will allow you to determine two very important things: what can be updated and what can be improved upon. This is a great place to launch a brainstorm session for new data acquisition ideas.

Industry trend and benchmark reports

Sure, this content type overlaps with “New Research and Studies,” but it merits its own section because of its specificity and high potential.

If your vertical experiences significant change from one year, quarter, or month to the next, there may be an opportunity to create recurring reports that analyze the state of your industry. This is a great opportunity to engage all different kinds of brands within your industry while also showcasing your authority in the subject.

How?

People often like to take trends and add their own commentary as to why trends are occurring or how to make the most of a new, popular strategy. That means they’ll often link to your report to provide the context.

And there’s an added promotional benefit: Once you begin regularly publishing and promoting this type of content, your industry will anticipate future releases.

Examples

HubSpot’s State of Inbound report, which features survey data from thousands of HubSpot customers, has been published annually for the last eight years. To date, the URL that hosts the report has links from 495 RDs.

Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs have teamed up for the last seven years to release two annual content marketing benchmark reports. The most recent report on B2B content marketing has earned links from 130 RDs. To gather the data, CMI and MarketingProfs emailed a survey to a sample of marketers from their own email marketing lists as well as a few lists from partner companies.

In addition to static reports, you can take this a step further and create something dynamic that is continually updated, like Indeed’s Job Trends Search (171 RDs) which pulls from their internal job listing data.

How to use this strategy

Where can you find fresh industry data? Here are a few suggestions:

Survey your customers/clients

You have a whole pool of people who have been involved in your industry, so why not ask them some questions to learn more about their thoughts, needs, fears, and experiences?

Talking directly to customers and clients is a great way to cut through speculation and discover exactly what problems they’re facing and the solutions they’re seeking.

Survey your industry

There are most likely companies in your industry that aren’t direct competitors but have a wealth of insight to provide to the overall niche.

For example, we at Fractl surveyed 1,300 publishers because we wanted to learn more about what they were looking for in content pitches. This knowledge is valuable to any content marketers involved in content promotions (including ourselves!).

Ask yourself: What aspect of your industry might need some more clarification, and who can you reach out to for more information?

Use your internal company data

This is often the easiest and most effective option. You probably have a ton of interesting data based on your interactions with customers and clients that would benefit fellow professionals in your industry.

Think about these internal data sets you have and consider how you can break it down to reveal trends in your niche while also providing actionable insights to readers.

Curated resources

Research can be one of the most time-consuming aspects of creating content. If someone has pulled together a substantial amount of information on the topic in one place, it can save anyone else writing about it a lot of time.

If you’re willing to put in the work of digging up data and examples, curated resource content may be your key to evergreen link building. Let’s look at a few common applications of this style of content.

Examples

Collections of statistics and facts

Don’t have the means to conduct your own research? Combining insightful data points from credible sources into one massive resource is also effective for long-term link attraction, especially if you keep updating your list with fresh data.

HubSpot’s marketing statistics list has attracted links from 963 root domains. For someone looking for data points to cite, a list like this can be a gold mine. This comprehensive data collection features their original data plus data from external sources. It’s regularly updated with new data, and there’s even a call-to-action at the end of the list to submit new stats.

Your list doesn’t need to be as broad as the HubSpot example, which covers a wide range of marketing topics. A curated list around a more granular topic can work, too, such as this page filled with mobile email statistics (550 RDs).

Concrete examples

Good writers help readers visualize what they’re writing about. To do this, you need to show concrete evidence of abstract ideas. As my 7th grade English teacher used to tell us: show, don’t tell.

By grouping a bunch of relevant examples in a single resource, you can save someone a lot of time when they’re in need of examples to illustrate the points they make in their writing. I can write thousands of words about the idea of 10x content, but without showing examples of what it looks like in action, you’re probably going to have a hard time understanding it. Similarly, the bulk of time it took me to create this post was spent finding concrete examples of the types of content I refer to.

The resource below showcases 50 examples of responsive design. Simple in its execution, the content features screenshots of each responsive website and a descriptive paragraph or two. It’s earned links from 184 RDs.

Authority Nutrition’s list of 20 high-protein foods has links from 53 RDs. If I’m writing a nutrition article where I mention high-protein foods, linking to this page will save me from researching and listing out a handful of protein-rich foods.

How to use this strategy

The first step is to determine what kind of information would be valuable to have all in one place for other professionals in your industry to access.

Often times, it’s the same information that would be valuable for you.

Here are some ways to brainstorm:

  • Explore your recent blog posts or other on-site content. What needed a lot of explaining? What topics did you wish you had more examples to link to? Take careful note of your own content needs while tackling your own work.
  • Examine comments on other industry articles and resources. What are people asking for? This is a gold mine for the needs of potential customers. You can take a similar approach on Reddit and Quora.
  • What works for other industries that you can apply to your own? Search for terms like the following to see what has been successful for other niches that you can apply to yours:
    • [Industry topic] examples
    • types of [industry topic]
    • list of [Industry topic]
    • [Industry topic] statistics OR stats
    • [Industry topic] facts

No matter which way you choose to proceed, the time investment can help you garner many links down the line.

Beginner content

Every niche has a learning curve, with various words, concepts, and ideas being foreign to a beginner.

Content that teaches noobs the ins and outs of your vertical has long-term linking potential. This type of content is popular for citations because it saves the writer from explaining things in their own words. Instead, they can link to the expert’s explanation.

And the best part is you can tap your internal experts to provide great insights that can serve as the foundation for this type of content.

Examples

101 Content

Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO is a master class in how comprehensive beginner-level content becomes a link magnet. Not only does the guide have backlinks from more than 1,700 RDs, it also edges out the home page as the most-trafficked page on the site, according to SEMrush.

“What is…?”

Beginner content need not be as massive and thorough as the Moz guide to be linkable. It can be as simple as defining an industry term or concept.

Moz’s meta description page, which has backlinks from 244 RDs, is a solid example of an authoritative yet simple answer to a “what is?” query.

Another example is the first result in Google for the query “what is the Paleo diet,” which has 731 links from 228 RDs. It’s not a 10,000-word academic paper about the paleo diet. Rather, it’s a concise answer to the question. This page has served as an excellent source for anyone writing about the Paleo diet within the last several years.

screenshot-robbwolf.com 2017-02-21 14-17-01.png

If a lot of adequate top-level, definition-style content already exists about topics related to your vertical, consider creating content around emerging terms and concepts that aren’t yet widely understood, but may soon be more mainstream.

The perfect example of this? Creating a definitive explanation about content marketing before the entire world knew what content marketing meant. Case in point: Content Marketing Institute’s “What is Content Marketing?” page has amassed an impressive from 12,462 links from 1,100 root domains.

How to use this strategy

Buzzsumo recently released a new tool called Bloomberry which scours forums including Reddit and Quora for questions being asked about a keyword. You can search by time period (ex. questions asked within the last 6 months, all-time results, etc.) and filter by source (ex. only see questions asked in Reddit).

Use Bloomberry to see what beginner questions are being asked about your keyword/topic. Keyword ideas include:

  • [Industry topic] definition
  • How does [industry topic] work
  • [Industry topic] guide
  • What is [industry topic]

After doing the search, ask yourself:

  • What questions keep coming up?
  • How are these common questions being answered?

Bloomberry is also useful for spotting research opportunities. Within the first few results for “SaaS” I found three potential research ideas.

bloomberry.png

Pro tip: Return to these threads and provide an answer plus link to your content once it’s published.

Yes, you still need to promote your content

Don’t mistake this post as a call to stop actively doing outreach and promotion to earn links. Content promotion should serve as the push that gives your content the momentum to continue earning links. After you put in the hard work of getting your content featured on reputable sites with sizable audiences, you have strong potential to organically attract more links. And the more links your content has, the easier it will be for writers and publishers in need of sources to find it.

What types of content do you think are best for earning citation links? I’d love to hear what’s worked for you – please share your experiences in the comments below.

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How to Create Content that Deeply Engages Your Audience

"What you say is crucial. But how you say it can make all the difference." – Brian Clark

Art Silverman had a vendetta against popcorn.

Silverman wanted to educate the public about the fact that a typical bag of movie popcorn has 37 grams of saturated fat, while the USDA recommends you have no more than 20 grams in an entire day.

That’s important information. But instead of simply citing that surprising statistic, Silverman made the message a little more striking:

“A medium-sized ‘butter’ popcorn contains more artery-clogging fat than a bacon-and-eggs breakfast, a Big Mac and fries for lunch, and a steak dinner with all the trimmings — combined!”

Yes, what you say is crucial. But how you say it can make all the difference.

How you say it is determined by your “who”

“Marketing succeeds when enough people with similar worldviews come together in a way that allows marketers to reach them cost-effectively.”

– Seth Godin

When you create a well-rounded representation of your ideal customer, what you’re really tuning in to is the way your people view the world.

And when you understand the worldview your prospects share — the things they believe — you can frame your story in a way that resonates so strongly with them that you enjoy an “unfair” advantage over your competition.

Consider these competing worldviews, framed differently by simple word choices:

  • Crossfitter vs. Gym Rat
  • Progressive vs. Snowflake
  • Businessman vs. The Man

These are extreme examples, and you can certainly cater to audience beliefs and worldviews without resorting to name-calling. For example, the simple word “green” can provoke visceral reactions at the far sides of the environmental worldview spectrum, while also prompting less-intense emotions in the vast middle.

Framing your story against a polar opposite, by definition, will make some love you and others ignore or even despise you. That’s not only okay, it’s necessary.

You’ll likely never convert those at the other end of the spectrum, but your core base will share your content and help you penetrate the vast group in the middle — and that’s where growth comes from.

Based on who you’re talking to, you have to choose the way to tell the story so that you get the conclusion you desire.

It’s the delivery of the framed message that keeps your heroic prospect on the journey so that their (and therefore your) goals are achieved.

The “how” is essentially the difference between success and failure (or good and great) when it comes to content marketing. You must tell a compelling story with the right central element for the people you’re trying to reach.

It’s all about the premise

When you think about how a story is told, you’ll hear people talk in terms of hooks and angles. Another way of thinking about it is the premise of the case you’re making.

As a term in formal logic, the premise is a proposition supporting a certain conclusion. Applied to content and storytelling, I use the word premise to mean the emotional concept that not only attracts attention but also maintains engagement throughout every element of your content.

In other words:

The premise is the embodiment of a concept that weaves itself from headline to conclusion, tying everything together into a compelling, cohesive, and persuasive narrative with one simple and inevitable conclusion — your desired action.

And yes, you’re telling smaller stories along the buyer’s journey that forms an overall empowering narrative. You’ll have a “big idea” that’s told one step at a time along the path.

The premise connects you to the emotional center of your prospect’s brain, stimulates desire, maintains credibility, and eventually results in the action you want.

This happens when you understand how to frame your message and overall offer to mesh so tightly with your prospect’s worldview that the “this is right for me” trigger is pulled subconsciously.

Of course, each piece of content reflects your core values and overall positioning in the marketplace. Here’s a famous example from the world of advertising.

Nike has one of the most powerful positioning statements on the planet, expressed in three little words — just do it. Beyond selling shoes, this is a way of viewing the world boiled down to its essence, which is why it’s so powerful.

Now, think back to Nike’s commercial featuring John Lennon’s song Instant Karma:

What’s the premise?

First, notice how you don’t see a logo or company name until the very end. In fact, the camera barely shows the shoes of the athletes. It’s all about the lyrics married to the visuals.

The first lyrical tie-in hits with “Join the human race.” Then things really kick in with “Who on Earth do you think you are, a superstar? Well right you are!”

And then the unifying chorus paired with images of athletic adversity punctuated with triumph, as John Lennon repeats, “We all shine on ….”

This individual promotion supports Nike’s overall brand positioning of just do it in a powerful, unique way. Did it resonate with everyone? Not at all … and I’m guessing that very same commercial today would be absolutely despised by a certain segment of the U.S. population.

But the Instant Karma clip did highly engage the people it was aimed at. Repeat this to yourself over and over:

The content you create is for a particular “who,” and no one else.

Let’s now look at a process for finding your how, both with your overall positioning and at each step in the prospect’s journey.

4 steps to creating your winning story concept

Great ideas are unique. There’s no formula for innovative ideas, and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is selling the slickest of snake oil.

That said, great premises always have certain elements in common. It took me many years to understand that, beyond all the tactics, it’s the premise of the message that matters first and foremost.

The work you’ve done so far on who and what was the heavy lifting of the how. But to refine your content marketing strategy even further, here are four essential elements of a winning story concept.

1. Be unpredictable

The first thing you absolutely must have is attention. Without initial attention, nothing else you’ve done matters.

And nothing kills attention faster than if your prospective reader, listener, or viewer thinks they already know where you’re going. Beyond curiosity, a great premise delivers an unpredictable and unexpected element that makes it irresistible.

It all comes back to knowing who you’re talking to at an intimate level and what they are used to seeing in the market.

What messages are they getting from your competition? This is what you must use as the benchmark to create your own unique and unexpected angle that forms the foundation of your premise.

In this day and age, you might have to dig deeper for a new and unexpected message that startles or downright fascinates people. A creative imagination combined with solid research skills help you see the nugget of gold no one else sees.

Part of why people tune things out is a lack of novelty, which makes even a previously desirable subject matter mundane.

Taking an approach that differs from the crowd can help you stand out, and that’s why unpredictability is crucial for a strong premise.

Just remember that things change. What was once unpredictable can become not only predictable, but trite. This is why being able to come up with a fresh premise is a valuable skill for anyone who creates content or markets anything.

2. Be simple

One of the fundamental rules of effective content marketing is to be clear and simple. Because a premise by definition is an unprecedented and grand idea, sometimes boiling it down to its essence is difficult, or worse, neglected.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying to water down your big idea to the point of stupidity.

That defeats the purpose.

What I’m saying is you’ve got to make it so simple and clear that it travels directly into the mind of your prospect, so he begins to tell himself the story. Your copy must guide him and inspire him, not beat him over the head.

So, you’ve got a grand premise that’s unpredictable and destined to shake up your market. Reduce it to a paragraph.

Now, take it down to two sentences.

Get it even shorter.

Just do it.

At this point, you may find yourself with a great tagline. At a minimum, you’ve now got the substance for the bold promise contained in your primary headline.

3. Be real

You’ve heard that in this day of social media, you’ve got to keep it real. Speak with a human voice. Be authentic.

Be you.

You also hopefully know that social media hasn’t changed the fact that it’s about them, not you. In fact, it’s more about them than ever.

How do you make that work? What makes a premise real to the right people?

First of all, your premise must be highly relevant to your intended audience, while also being directly in line with your core values. Without relevance, you can’t inspire meaning. And it’s meaningful messages that inspire action.

Meaning is a function of what people believe before you find them. As we discussed earlier, what your ideal customers believe reflects how they view the world, and your content has to frame that view appropriately to be effective.

As a function of belief, meaning is derived from the context in which your desired audience perceives your message. That context is the heroic journey of the prospect, with your brand serving as a guide.

There’s another aspect of being “real” with your content. Your messages must communicate meaningful benefits that are also tangible. This is the second important aspect of an authentic premise, and it’s critical to help your prospects understand and connect with your message.

In this sense, tangible means real or actual, rather than imaginary or visionary. This is the aspect of your premise that is express, meaning the part where you tell the story in a way that concretely injects certain information into the prospect’s mind in a specific way.

Remember the Total cereal ad from the late 1980s?

“How many bowls of YOUR cereal equal one bowl of Total?”

You then saw stacks of cereal bowls filled with various competing brands, with one case reaching 12 bowls high.

Powerful, right?

Instead of saying something pedestrian like, “Total has 12 times the nutrition of the leading brand,” they showed you a tangible expression of the benefit. But it doesn’t need to be done with visuals to work.

Words alone are plenty powerful to paint a picture in the mind. Look at the opening of this article and the way Art Silverman explained the saturated fat content in a bag of popcorn. He took a dry statistic and brought it to life.

You’ll note that both examples contain the element of unpredictability and simplicity. But it’s the relevant and tangible expression of the premise that creates instant understanding.

Make your messages as real to people as possible, and you’ll create the kind of instant understanding that all truly great premises contain. But there’s one more critical element to a premise that works.

4. Be credible

If you’re writing to persuade, you have to hit the gut before you get anywhere near the brain. The part that decides “I want that” is emotional and often subconscious. If your premise doesn’t work emotionally, logic will never get a chance to weigh in.

If you flip that emotional switch, the sale (or other action) is yours to lose. And I mean that literally. Because our logical minds do eventually step in (usually in a way that makes us think we’re actually driven by logic in the first place). If your premise is not credible (as in it’s too good to be true), you fail.

That doesn’t mean hyperbole never works, as long as the prospect wants to believe you badly enough. That’s how some desperate people in certain markets are taken advantage of.

But belief is critical in any market and with any promotion, so credibility is the final key to a winning premise — people must believe you just as your premise must match their beliefs.

Remember, the more innovative your idea or exceptional your offer, the more you’re going to have to prove it. This brings us right back to an unexpected, simple, and tangible expression of the benefit in a way that’s credible.

Every box of Total cereal contains the cold, hard data about the nutritional content. Art Silverman’s popcorn claims were backed up by solid scientific facts about saturated fat.

The kind of proof any particular premise requires will vary, but the more credibility that can be baked into the premise itself, the better.

Now … put it out there

“I’m looking California, and feeling Minnesota …”

That metaphor is from the 1991 Soundgarden song Outshined, written by frontman Chris Cornell. He shared an interesting anecdote about writing those very personal words in a magazine interview:

“I came up with that line — ‘I’m looking California / And feeling Minnesota,’ from the song ‘Outshined’ — and as soon as I wrote it down, I thought it was the dumbest thing. But after the record came out and we went on tour, everybody would be screaming along with that particular line when it came up in the song. That was a shock.”

Instead of the “dumbest thing,” those are the most famous six words Cornell has ever written. In addition to being a fan favorite, the line inspired both a movie title and an ESPN catch phrase whenever Minnesota Timberwolves player Kevin Garnett was in the news.

Why did it work? Because with those six words, Soundgarden’s audience understood instantly what Cornell was trying to convey. He spoke to them.

And yet, what if Cornell had cut the line because “it was the dumbest thing?” I suppose that would have been unfortunate, because he would have missed out on a level of engagement with his audience that the rest of us would kill for.

The content marketing strategy we’ve been working through is putting you in the position to get things right the first time. You smartly spent a ton of time on your who, and then you outlined the critical points of your story by mapping the buyer’s journey and the customer experience.

The who and the what inform the how.

You might even be surprised at how easily the fresh ideas are coming to you now.

But ultimately, we as content marketers don’t know for sure what will resonate. Only the audience can determine that, so you’ve got to put it out there.

When the audience magic happens, you’ll know it.

For the rest of February, we’re going to be sharing our favorite tips and tactics for the how. You’ll be telling better stories, creating better analogies, and connecting with your audience at a deeper level than ever before.

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5 Tips to Get Off the Content Marketing Struggle Bus & Create Content Your Audience Will Love

Posted by ronell-smith

(Original image source)

The young man at the back of the ballroom in the Santa Monica, Calif., Loews hotel has a question he’s been burning to ask, having held it for more than an hour as I delivered a presentation on why content marketing is invaluable for search.

When the time comes for Q&A, he nearly leaps out of his chair before announcing that he’s asking a question for pretty much the entire room.

“How do I know what content I should create?” he asks. “I work at a small company. We have a team of content people, but we’re typically told what to write without having any idea if it’s what people want to read from us.”

When asked what the results of their two blog posts per week was, his answer told a tale I hear I often: “No one reads it. We don’t know if that’s because of the message or because [it's the] wrong audience for the content we’re sharing.”

In fishing and hunting circles circles, there’s a saying that rings true today, tomorrow, and everyday: “If you want to land trophy animals, you have to hunt in places where trophy animals reside.”

Content marketing is not much different.

If you want to ensure that the right audience consumes the content you design, create and share, you have to “hunt” where they are. But to do so successfully, you must first know what they desire in the way of bait (content).

For those of us who’ve been involved in content marketing for a while now, this all sounds like fairly simplistic, 101-level stuff. But consider this: While we as marketers and technologists have access to sundry tools and platforms that help us discern all sorts of information, most small and mid-size business owners — and the folks who work at small and mid-size businesses — often lack the resources for most of the tools that could help flatten the learning curve for “What content should I create?”

If you spend any time fishing around online, you know very well that the problem isn’t going away soon.

Image courtesy of Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs

For small and mid-size business looking to tackle this challenge, I detail a few tips below that I frequently share during presentations and that seem to work well for clients and prospects alike.

#1—Find your audience

First, let’s get something straight: When it comes to creating content worth sharing and hopefully linking to, the goal is, now and forevermore, to deliver something the audience will love. Even if the topic is boring, your job is to deliver best-in-class content that’s uniquely valuable.

Instead of guessing what content you should create for your audience (or would-be audience), take the time to find out where they hang out, both online and offline. Maybe it’s Facebook groups, Twitter, forums, discussion groups, or Google Plus (Yes! Google Plus!).

Whether your brand provides HVAC services, computer repair, or custom email templates, there’s a community of folks sharing information about it. And these folks, especially the ones in vibrant communities, can help you create amazing content.

As an example, the owner of a small automobile repair business might spend some time reading the most popular blogs in the category, while paying close attention to the information being shared, the top names sharing it, and common complaints, issues, or needs that commonly arise. The key here is to see who the major commenters, sharers, and influencers are, which can easily be gleaned after careful review of the blog comments over time.

From there, she could “follow” those influencers to popular forums and discussion boards, in addition to Facebook groups, Google Communities, and wherever else they congregate and converse.

The keys with regard to this audience research is to find out the following:

  • Where they are
  • What they share
  • What unmet needs they might have

#2—Talk to them

Once you know where and who they are, start interacting with your audience. Maybe it’s simply sharing their content on social media while including their “@” alias or answering a question in a group or forum. But over time, they’ll come to know and recognize you and are likely to return the favor.

A word of warning is in order: Take off your sales-y hat. This is the time for sincere interaction and engagement, not hawking your wares.

Once you have a rapport with some of the members and/or influencers, don’t be shy about asking if you can email them a quick question or two. If they open that door, keep it open with a short, simple note.

With emails of this sort, keep three things in mind:

  • Be brief
  • Be bold
  • Be gone

Respect their time — and the fact that you don’t have enough currency for much of an ask — by keeping the message short and to the point, while leaving the door open to future communication.

#3—Discern the job to be done

We’ve all heard the saying: “People don’t know what they want until they’ve seen it.”

Whether or not you like the bromide, it certainly rings true in the business world.

Too often a product or service that’s supposedly the perfect remedy for some such ailment falls flat, even after focus groups, usability testing, surveys, and customer interviews.

The key is to focus less on what they say and more on what they’re attempting to accomplish.

This is where the Jobs To Be Done theory comes in very handy.

Based primarily on the research of Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, Jobs To Be Done (JTBD) is a framework for helping businesses view customers motivations. In a nutshell, it helps us understand what job (why) a customers hires (reads, buys, uses, etc.) our product or service.

Christensen writes…

“Customers rarely make buying decisions around what the ‘average’ customer in their category may do — but they often buy things because they find themselves with a problem they would like to solve. With an understanding of the ‘job’ for which customers find themselves ‘hiring’ a product or service, companies can more accurately develop and market products well-tailored to what customers are already trying to do.”

Christensen’s latest book provides a thorough picture of the “Jobs To Be Done” theory

One of the best illustrations of the JTBD theory at work is the old saw we hear often in marketing circles: Customers don’t buy a quarter-inch drill bit; they buy a quarter-inch hole.

This is important because we must clearly understand what customers are hoping to accomplish before we create content.

For the auto repair company preparing to create a guide for an expensive repair, it would be helpful to learn what workarounds currently exist, who are the people experiencing the problem (i.e., DIYers, Average Joes, technicians, etc.), how much the repair typically costs, and, most important, what the fix allows them to do.

For example, by talking to some of the folks in discussion groups, the business owner might learn that the problem is most common for off-roaders who don’t feel comfortable making the expensive repair themselves. Therefore, many of them simply curtail the frequent use of their vehicles off-road.

Armed with this information, she would see that the JTBD is not merely the repair itself, but the ability to get away from work and into the woods on the weekend with their vehicles.

An ideal piece of content would then include the following elements:

  • Prevention tips for averting the damage that would cause the repair
  • A how-to video tutorial of the repair
  • Locations specializing in the repair (hopefully her business is on the list with the most and best reviews)

A piece of content covering the elements above, that contains amazing graphics of folks kicking up dirt off-road with their vehicles, along with interviews of some of those folks as well, should be a winner.

#4—Promote, promote, promote

Now that you’ve created a winning piece of content, it’s time to reach back out the influencer(s) for their help in promoting the content.

First, though, ask if what you’ve created hits the threshold of incredibly useful and worth sharing. If you get a yes for both, you’re in.

The next step is to find out who the additional influencers are who can help you promote and amplify the content.

One simple but effective way to accomplish this is to use BuzzSumo to discern prominent shares of your amplifiers’ content. (You’ll need to sign up for a free subscription, at least, but the tool is one of the best on the market.)

After you click “View Sharers,” you’ll be taken to a page that list the folks who’ve re-shared the amplifier’s content. You’re specifically looking for folks who’ve not only shared their content but who (a) commonly share similar content, (b) have a sizable audience that would likely be interested in your content, and (c) might be amenable to sharing your content.

As you continue to cast your net far and wide, a few things to consider include:

  • Don’t abuse email. Maintain the relationships by offering to help them in return as/more often than you ask for help yourself.
  • Share content multiple times via social media. Change the title each time content is shared, and look to determine which platforms work best for a given message, content type, etc.
  • Use engagement, interaction, and relationship to inform you of future content pieces. Don’t be afraid to ask, “What are some additional ideas you’d be excited to share and link to?”

#5—Review, revise, repeat

The toughest part of content marketing is often understanding that neither success nor failure are final. Even the best content and content promotion efforts can be improved in some way.

What’s more, even if your content enjoys otherworldly success, it says nothing about the success or failure of future efforts.

Before you make the commitment to create content, there are two very important elements to adhere to:

1.) Only create content that’s in line with your brand’s goals. There’s lots of good ideas for creating solid content, but many of those ideas won’t help your brand. Stick to creating content that in your brand’s wheelhouse.

2.) This line of questioning should help you stay on track: “What content can I create that’s (a) in line with my core business goals; (b) I’m uniquely qualified to offer; and (c) prospects and customers are hungry for?”

My philosophy of the three Rs:

  • Review: Answer the questions “What went right?”, “What can we do better?”, and “What did we miss that should be covered in the future?”
  • Review: You’ll need to determine the metrics that matter for your brand before creating content, but whatever they are ensure they’re easy to track, attainable, and, most important of all, have real meaning and value.
  • Repeat: Successful content marketing efforts occur primarily through repetition. You do something once, learn from it, then improve with the next effort. Remember, the No. 1 reason we have less and less competition each year is many aren’t willing to pay the price of doing the little things over and over.

This post is, by no means, an exhaustive plan of what it takes to create effortful content. However, for the vast majority of brands struggling with where to start, it’s exactly what the doctor ordered.

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How Your Brand Can Create an Enviable Customer Experience for Mobile Web Searchers

Posted by ronell-smith

57ad48ab1f61d5.60768283.jpg

Not very edible corned beef hash

Here I am, seated in a Manhattan, New York restaurant, staring at corned beef hash that looks and tastes like what I imagine dog food to look and taste like.

I’m pissed for two reasons:

  • It cost nearly $ 25 and was entirely inedible
  • I should have known better given the visuals depicted after doing a Google image search to find the dish, which was offered at a nearby restaurant

In retrospect, I should have checked A and B on my phone before ordering the $ 25 plate of Alpo. And though I didn’t do that, other would-be customers will, which means the business owner or SEO had better follow the steps below if they wish to stay in business.

The bad news is I no longer relish the thought of eating at high-end NY restaurants; the good news is this experience totally reshaped the way I view mobile, opening my eyes to simple but very effective tactics businesses of all types can immediately put to use for their brands.

My mobile education

We’ve all heard how mobile is transforming the web experience, reshaping the landscape for marketers, brands and consumers.

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As marketers, we now have to account for how our content will be accessed and consumed on mobile devices, whether that’s a phone, tablet or phablet. As brands, we realize our efforts will be judged not only on how well or high we show up in the SERPs, but also on much we can delight the on-the-go prospect who needs information that’s (a) fast, (b) accurate and (c) available from any device.

As prospects and consumers, we’ve come to know and value customer experience in large part because brands that use mobile to deliver what we need when we need it and in a way that’s easily consumed, have earned our attention — and maybe even our dollars.

But that’s where the similarities seemingly end. Marketers and brands seem to get so wrapped up in the technology (responsive design, anyone?) they forget that, at the end of the day, prospects want what they want right now — in the easiest-to-access way possible.

I’ve come to believe that, while marketers appreciate the overall value of mobile, they have yet to realize how, for customers, it’s all about what it allows them to accomplish.

At the customer/end-user level it’s not about mobile-friendly or responsive design; it’s about creating an enviable customer experience, one web searchers will reward you for with traffic, brand mentions and conversions.

I was alerted to the prominence of mobile phone use by noticing how many people sit staring at their phones while out at dinner, even as family members and friends are seated all around them. “How rude,” I thought. Then I realized it wasn’t only the people at restaurants; it’s people everywhere: walking down the street, driving (sadly and dangerously), sitting in movie theaters, at work, even texting while they talk on the phone.

One of my favorite comments with regard to mobile’s dominance comes with the Wizard of Moz himself, when he shared this tweet and accompanying image last year:

But my “aha!” moment happened last year, in Manhattan, during the corned beef hash episode.

After working until brunch, I…

  1. Opened iPhone to Google
  2. Typed “Best corned beef hash near me”
  3. Scanned list of restaurant by distance and reviews
  4. Selected the closest restaurant having > 4-star review ratings
  5. Ended up disappointed

That’s when it hit me that I’d made errors of omission at every step, in large part by leaving one very important element out of the process, but also by not thinking like a smart web user.

Normally my process is as follows, when I wish to enjoy a specific meal while traveling:

  1. Open iPhone to Google Search box
  2. Type “Best _________ near me”
  3. Scan list of restaurants by distance and reviews
  4. Select restaurant having > 4-star review rating but has excellent reviews (> 4.5) of the dish I want and has great images of the dish online
  5. Delight ensues

That’s when three things occurred to me like a brickbat to the noggin’:

  • This is a process I use quite often and is one that has proved quite foolproof
  • It’s undoubtedly a process many other would-be customer are using to identify desirable products and services
  • Marketers can reverse-engineer the process to bring the customers they’re hoping for to their doors or websites.

(Eds. note: This post was created with small business owners (single or multiple location), or those doing Local SEO for SMBs, in mind, as I hope to inform them of how many individuals think about and use mobile, and how the marketers can get in front of them with relevant content. Also, I’d like to thank Cindy Krum of Mobile Moxie for encouraging me to write this post, and Local SEO savant Phil Rozek of Local Visibility System for making sure I colored within the lines.)

Five ways to create an enviable customer experience on mobile

#1 — Optimize your images

Image optimization is the quintessential low-hanging fruit of online marketing: easy to accomplish but typically overlooked.

For our purposes, we aren’t so much making them “mobile-friendly” as we are making them search-friendly, increasing the likelihood that Google’s crawlers can better decipher what they contain and deliver them for the optimal search query.

First and foremost, do not use a stock image if your goal is for searchers to find, read and enjoy your content. Just don’t. Also, given how much of a factor website speed is, minify your images to ensure they don’t hamper page speed load times.

But the three main areas I want us to focus on are file name, alt text and title text, and captions. My standard for each is summed up very well in a blog post from Ian Lurie, who proposes an ingenious idea:

The Blank Sheet of Paper Test: If you wrote this text on a piece of paper and showed it to a stranger, would they understand the meaning? Is this text fully descriptive?

With this thinking in mind, image optimization becomes far simpler:

  • File name: We’re all adults here — don’t be thickheaded and choose something like “DSC9671 . png” when “cornedbeefhash . jpg” clearly works better.
  • Alt text and title text: Given that, in Google’s eyes, these two are the priorities, you must make certain they’re as descriptive as possible. Clearly list what the image is and/or contains without weighing it down with unneeded text. Using the corned beef hash from above as a example, “corned beef hash with minced meat” would be great, but “corned beef hash with minced meat and diced potatoes” would work better, alerting me that the dish isn’t what I’m looking for. (I prefer shredded beef and shredded potatoes.)
  • Caption: Yes, I know these aren’t necessary for every post, but why leave your visitors hanging, especially if an optimal customer experience is the goal? Were I to caption the corned beef, it’d be something along the lines of “Corned beef hash with minced meat and diced potatoes is one of the most popular dishes at XX.” It says just enough without trying to say everything, which is the goal, says Lurie.

“’Fully descriptive’ means ‘describes the thing to which it’s attached,’ not ‘describe the entire universe,’” he adds.

Also, invite customers to take and share pictures online (e.g., websites, Instagram, Yelp, Google) and include as much rich detail as possible.

What’s more, it might behoove you to have a Google Business View photo shoot, says Rozek. “Those show up most prominently (in the Knowledge Panel) for brand-name mobile searches in Google.”

#2 — Make reviews a priority

Many prospects and customers use reviews as a make-or-break tactic when making purchases. Brands, realizing this, have taken note, making it their charge to get positive reviews.

But not all reviews are created equal.

Instead of making certain your brand gets positive reviews on the entirety of its products and services, redouble your efforts at getting positive reviews on your bread-and-butter services.

In many instances, what people have to say about your individual services and/or products matters more than your brand’s overall review ratings.

I learned this from talking to several uber-picky foodie friends who shared that the main thing they look for is a brand having an overall rating (e.g., on Yelp, Google, Angie’s List, Amazon, etc.) higher than 3.5, but who have customer comments glorifying the specific product they’re hoping to enjoy.

“These days, everyone is gaming the system, doing what they can to get their customers to leave favorable reviews,” said one friend, who lives in Dallas. “But discerning [prospects] are only looking at the overall rating as a beginning point. From there, they’re digging into the comments, looking to see what people have to say about the very specific thing they want. [Smart brands] would focus more on getting people to leave comments about the particular service they used, how happy they work with the result and how it compares to other [such services they've used]. We may be on our phones, but we’re still willing to dig into those comments.”

To take advantage of this behavior,

  • In addition to asking for a favorable review, ask customers to comment on the specific services they used, providing as much detail as possible
  • Redouble your efforts at over-delivering on quality service when it comes to your core offerings
  • Ask a few of your regulars, who have left comments on review sites, what they think meets the minimum expectation for provoking folks to leave a review (e.g., optimizing for the desired behavior)
  • Encourage reviewers to upload photos with their reviews (or even just photos, if they don’t want to review you). They’re great “local content,” they’re useful as social-proof elements, and your customers may take better pictures than you do, in which case you can showcase them on your site.

Relevant content:

#3 — Shorten your content

I serve as a horrible spokesperson for content brevity, but it matters a great deal to mobile searchers. What works fine on desktop is a clutter-fest on mobile, even for sites using responsive design.

As a general rule, simplicity wins.

For example, Whataburger’s mobile experience is uncluttered, appealing to the eye and makes it clear what they want me to do: learn about their specials or make a purchase:

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On the other hand, McDonald’s isn’t so sure what I’m looking for, apparently:

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Are they trying to sell me potatoes, convince me of how committed they are to freshness or looking to learn as much as they can about me? Or all of the above?

Web searchers have specific needs and are typically short on time and patience, so you have to get in front of them with the right message to have a chance.

When it comes to the content you deliver, think tight (shorter), punchy (attention-grabbing) and valuable (on- message for the query).

# 4 — Optimize for local content

Like all of you, I’ve been using “near me” searches for years, especially when I travel. But over the last year, these searches have gotten more thorough and more accurate, in large part as a result of Google’s Mobile Update and because the search giant is making customer intent a priority.

In 2015, Google reported that “near me” searches increased by 34-fold since 2011.

And though most of these “near me” searches are for durable goods/appliances and their associated retailers, services, including “surgeons near me,” “plumbers near me,” “jobs near me,” etc., and other things that are typically in a high consideration set are growing considerably, according to Google via its website, thinkwithgoogle.com.

A recent case study of 82 websites (41, control group; 41, test group) shows just how dramatic the impact of optimizing a site for local intent can be. By tweaking the hours and directions page titles, descriptions and H1s to utilize the phrases “franchise dealer near me” and “nearest franchise dealer” the brand saw mobile impressions for “near me” more than double to 8,833 impressions and 46 clicks. (The control group’s “near me” impression share only rose 11%.)

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Image courtesy of CDK Global

Additional steps for optimizing your site for “near me” searches

  • Prominently display your business name, address and phone number (aka, NAP) on your site
  • Use schema markup in your NAP
  • In addition to proper setup and optimization of your Google My Business listing, provide each location with its own listing and, just as important, ensure that the business name, address and phone number of each location matches what’s listed on the site
  • Consider embedding a Google Map prominently on your website. “It’s good for user experience,” says Rozek. “But it may also influence rankings.”

#5 — Use Google App Deep Linking

We’ve all heard the statistics: The vast majority — in some circles the figure is 95% — of apps downloaded to mobile devices are never used. Don’t be deceived, however, into believing apps are irrelevant.

Nearly half of all time spent on the web is in apps.

This means that the mobile searchers looking for products or services in your area are likely using an app or, at the very least, prompted to enter/use an app.

For example, when I type “thai restaurant near me,” the first organic result is TripAdvisor.

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Upon entering the site, the first (and preferred) action the brand would like for me to make is to download the TripAdvisor app:

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Many times, a “near me” search will take us to content within an app, and we won’t even realize it until we see the “continue in XX app or visit the mobile site” banner.

And if a searcher doesn’t have the app installed, “Google can show an app install button. So, enabling your app for Google indexing could actually increase the installed base of the app,” writes Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting.

For brands, App Deep Linking (ADL), which he defines as “the ability for Google to index content from within an app and then display it as mobile search results,” has huge implications if utilized properly.

“Think about it,” he writes. “If your app is not one of the fortunate few that get most of the attention, but your app content ranks high in searches, then you could end up with a lot more users in your app than you might have had otherwise.”

(To access details on how to set up Google App Deep Linking, read Enge’s Search Engine Land article: SMX Advanced recap: Advanced Google App Deep Linking)

If your brand has an app, this is information you shouldn’t sleep on.

Typically, when I conduct a “near me” search, I click on/look through the images until I find one that fits what I’m looking for. Nine times out of ten (depending upon what I’m looking for), I’m either taken to content within an app or taken to a mobile site and prompted to download the app.

Seems to me that ADL would be a no-brainer.

Optimizing for mobile is simply putting web searchers first

For all the gnashing of teeth Google’s many actions/inactions provoke, the search giant deserves credit for making the needs of web searchers a priority.

Too often, we, as marketers, think first and foremost in this fashion:

  1. What do we have to sell?
  2. Who needs it?
  3. What’s the cheapest, easiest way to deliver the product or service?

I think Google is saying to us that the reverse needs to occur:

  1. Make it as fast and as easy for people to find what they want
  2. Better understand who it is that’s likely to be looking for it by better understanding our customers and their intent
  3. The sales process must begin by thinking “what specific needs do web searchers have that my brand is uniquely qualified to fulfill?”

In this way, we’re placing the needs of web searchers ahead of the needs of the brand, which will be the winning combination for successful companies in the days ahead.

Brands will either follow suit or fall by the wayside.

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How to Create Courses to Monetize Your Brand, with David Siteman Garland

yp-david-siteman-garland

In this episode of Youpreneur FM, Chris Ducker sits down with mediapreneur David Siteman Garland to talk about online course creation.

With the rise of content marketing in the last few years, the amount of information you can find online has been growing exponentially. You no longer have to pay for most information — it’s available for free, and it’s only a few clicks away.

So, does this mean that selling info-products is dead? Not at all. The key is finding very specific problems that your audience has and offering specific solutions. The concept of selling access instead of just information is an important element too.

Today, I talk with David Siteman Garland about building awesome online courses — and becoming very profitable at it. Get ready to take notes, because this episode is jam-packed with specific, actionable advice.

David delivered some great insights into how he made his online course such a huge success. In fact, this episode is a perfect illustration of what he is talking about: provide amazingly valuable information and people will want more!

In this 57-minute episode, David and I discuss:

  • The earning potential of having your own online course to offer
  • How to create a survey to understand your audience’s needs
  • Testing your content before developing a course
  • The biggest myths of course creation and marketing
  • Why you shouldn’t be using YouTube to host your course content
  • How to market your course, the non-sleazy way

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The post How to Create Courses to Monetize Your Brand, with David Siteman Garland appeared first on Copyblogger.


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​How to Create Images That Attract & Convince Your Target Niche

Posted by nikkielizabethdemere

FJPY1Rw.png

Any old picture might be worth a thousand words. But your target niche doesn’t need or want a thousand words. Your ideal audience needs the right words, paired with the right images, to tell a story that uniquely appeals to their deepest desires.

Studies show that people understand images faster than words, remember them longer, and if there’s a discrepancy between what we see and what we hear, our brains will choose to believe what they see. Our brains prioritize visual information over any other kind, which makes images the fast-track to connection all marketers are looking for.

So don’t just slap some text on a stock photo and call it good. You can do better. Much better. And I’ll show you how.

Understand the symbolic underpinnings

This homepage from Seer Interactive does a lot right. The copy below this central image is golden: “We’re Seer. We pride ourselves on outcaring the competition.” Outcaring? That’s genius!

But, I would argue, pairing this image with these words, “It’s not just marketing, it’s personal,” is less than genius. There’s nothing personal about this picture. Sure, there are people in it, but chatting with a group of coworkers doesn’t say “personal” to me. It says corporate.

NNqDoNV.pngWhat if they paired those words with this free image by Greg Rakozy from Unsplash?

SOgjVjt.pngThere’s something about this image that isn’t just personal; it’s intimate. Two people connecting in the dark, surrounded by snowflakes that almost look like white noise. Could this be a metaphor for reaching out through the noise of the Internet to make a personal connection? To get someone to fall in love (with your brand) even?

Many philosophers, anthropologists, sociologists, and psychologists have pointed out that humans are uniquely symbolic creatures.
– Clay Routledge Ph.D., The Power of Symbolism, Psychology Today

A truly powerful image speaks to us on a symbolic level, feeding us information by intuition and association. Humans are associative creatures. We naturally derive deep, multifaceted meanings from visual cues, an idea brought into prominence by both Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.

The magic behind an effective symbol is its ability to deliver messages to both our conscious minds and subconscious awareness. When choosing the right image for marketing copy — whether an ad or the “hero” section of your website — consider not just what you want to tell people, but what you want them to feel.

A symbol must possess at one and the same time a double or a multiple significance … Thus all symbols possess both a ‘face’ and a ‘hidden’ value, and it is one of the great achievements of psychology to have shown how the ‘hidden’ value is generally, from the point of view of function, the more important. …Behind this face value lies a mass of undifferentiated feelings and impulses, which do not rise into consciousness, which we could not adequately put into words even if we wanted to… and which, though they go unattended to, powerfully influence our behavior.
– F.C. Bartlett, ‘The social functions of symbols,’ Astralasian Journal of Psychology and Philosophy

And, of course, as you’re looking through images, consider this:

What type of images and experiences will resonate with your target audience’s deepest desires?

This, of course, requires you to have built out a robust buyer persona that includes not just their demographic information with a catchy name but also their extracurricular passions: the driving forces that get them out of bed and into the office each day.

As with conversion copywriting, the key to success is identifying motivations and using them to create a visual representation of your niche’s most desired outcomes.

Set the stage for an experience, not just a product

In keeping with the theme of images that deliver the desired outcome, the most effective online ads do this in a way that invites the viewer to experience that outcome. Instead of featuring simply a product, for example, these ads set the stage for the experience that buying the product just might enable you to have.

ModCloth is a master of this. Doesn’t this image make you want to take a nap in a nice, cozy cabin? You can get that experience (or something like it) if you buy their $ 200 hammock.

5036Odd.pngUnless you live in the deep woods of the Appalachian mountains, your home will never look like this. But some of us wish ours did, and we’re clearly the target audience. This picture speaks to our deepest need to get away from everyone and everything for some much-needed rest and recuperation.

When choosing images, it’s just as important to consider symbolism as it is to consider the target viewers. What experience will resonate with them most? What images will sell their desired experiences?

ModCloth’s recent “road trip” slider doesn’t say anything about the clothes they’re trying to sell, for example. But it does speak to a sense of adventure and the power of female friendships, both of which are defining characteristics of their target niche of millennial women with a delightfully quirky fashion sense.

cWEVdqk.pngYou don’t have to be a clothing company to capitalize on this idea or even a B2C company. Check out how these B2B companies use images to make their words not just read, but felt.

LU9kd3l.pngDon’t you feel like you’re Superman out for a midnight joyride? All the world at your fingertips? Yeah, that’s the point. What they’re selling, essentially, is omniscience via data. All the benefits of DC Comics-like superpowers, minus the kryptonite.

19LrmR9.pngYou might not catch it at first glance, but look at how cozy these people are. They’re wearing knit sweaters (not suits) while cradling warm cappuccinos in their hands — clearly, this sales meeting is going well. No pressure tactics here. Quite the opposite.

C8OQkJi.pngFor this example from Blitz Marketing, you’ll have to visit their website, because this isn’t a static image — it’s a video montage designed to get you PUMPED! Energy practically radiates off the screen (which, we are left to infer, is the feeling you’d get all the time if you worked with this creative marketing agency).

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Piston, another ad agency, takes a more subtle approach, which I love. Instead of having your standard stock photo of “man in a suit,” they did a custom photo shoot and added quirky elements, like a pink candy ring. I find this image particularly powerful because it effectively sets up an expectation (man in a suit), then adds a completely unexpected element (candy ring), which is conveniently located behind the word CREATIVE. This illustrates just how creative this agency is while remaining utterly professional.

Numbers are compelling. Numbers with visual aids? Unstoppable.

Let’s say your buyer persona isn’t driven by emotion. Show this persona a grid of city lights from 2,000 feet up, and he or she won’t feel like Superman. They’ll be wondering what this has to do with the ROI they can expect.

Someone get this persona some numbers already.

When conversion depends heavily on gaining credibility, pictures can be very compelling. In fact, one study out of the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand showed that simply having an image makes the text alongside that image more believable, even if the image had nothing at all to do with the text.

When people evaluate claims, they often rely on what comedian Stephen Colbert calls ‘truthiness,’ or subjective feelings of truth.
Nonprobative photographs (or words) inflate truthiness, by E.J. Newman, M. Garry, D.M. Bernstein, J. Kantner, D.S. Lindsay

Essentially, any image is better than nothing. But the right image? It’s worth even more. In a similar study by the Psychology departments at both Colorado State University and the University of California, researchers experimented with brain images.

Brain images are believed to have a particularly persuasive influence on the public perception of research on cognition. Three experiments are reported showing that presenting brain images with articles summarizing cognitive neuroscience research resulted in higher ratings of scientific reasoning for arguments made in those articles, as compared to articles accompanied by bar graphs, a topographical map of brain activation, or no image.
Seeing is believing: The effect of brain images on judgments of scientific reasoning by David P. McCabe and Alan D. Castel

However, what if we traded in this either/or philosophy (either picture or no picture, either picture or bar graph) for a philosophy that uses the best of all resources?

Having the right image, supported by the right words, and given credibility by real numbers (as statistics or in graphs/charts) is the most effective possible combination.

Statistics have also proven to be compelling. In Blinded with science: Trivial graphs and formulas increase ad persuasiveness and belief in product efficacy, the study out of Cornell University reveals that just the appearance of being scientific increases an ad’s persuasiveness. What does that “appearance” require?

Graphs. Simple, unadorned graphs.

And, those graphs were even more effective at persuading people who had “a greater belief in science” (e.g., your logical buyer persona).

Put the right words together with the right image, then overlay with a supportive set of numbers, and you can convince even the most logical persona that you have the solutions they seek.

Caveat: When the name of the game is building credibility, don’t undermine yourself with shoddy data and lazy analysis. One of your smart customers will, without fail, call you out on it.

Graphs and charts don’t have to be fancy or complicated to be convincing. Check out these two graphs from the Kissmetrics article Most of Your A/B Test Results are Illusory and That’s Okay by Will Kurt.

CpsQKZK.pngF0eQFmR.pngDo you even need to read the rest of the article to get the point? (Though you will want to read the article to find out exactly what that scientist is doing so right.) This is highly effective data storytelling that shows you, at a glance, the central point the author is trying to make.

CubeYou, a social data mining company that turns raw numbers into actionable insights, does great data storytelling by combining stats and images. Not only do these visuals deliver demographic information, they put a face on the target at the same time, effectively appealing to both logical and more intuitive personas in one fell swoop.

VwJsu9Q.pngAnd for even more powerful images, look at the data visualizations Big Mountain Data put together of the #WhyIStayed domestic violence hashtag. Talk about telling an impactful story.

IFaDNBQ.pngThen there are infographics that include data visualization, images, and analysis. I love this one from CyberPRMusic.com.

qelQyNp.pngIt’s all about telling their story

Uninspired visuals are everywhere. Seriously, they’re easy to find. In researching this article, I could find 20 bad images for every one good one I’ve included here.

Herein lies an opportunity to stand out.

Maybe the intersection of words, images, and numbers isn’t well understood in online marketing. Maybe having free stock photos at our fingertips has made us lazy in their use. Maybe there aren’t enough English majors touting the benefits of effective symbolism.

Whatever the reason, you now have the chance to go beyond telling your target niche about your product or service’s features and benefits. You have the ability to set your brand apart by showing them just how great life can be. Free tools such as Visage make it possible.

iHrJ3ka.png

But first, you have to care enough to make compelling images a priority.

What are your thoughts on using stunning visuals as needle-movers for your brand?

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The Content Marketing Continuum: How to Create Content to Meet Customers’ Needs

how to plan content that meets readers every step of the way

Content marketing can feel like a never-ending ordeal.

At the same time, we know content marketing is good for business.

Which is why we find the courage to approach that unnerving blank page week after week, always wondering what we can possibly write to convince our reader to become a customer.

Sometimes it feels like writing a sales page every day!

If you’re daunted by content marketing, today’s article should relieve some of your stress. You see, every piece of content doesn’t have to seal the deal and make the sale.

There’s a continuum to content marketing and no single article needs to span the entire spectrum.

Individual pieces of content don’t have to help your customer travel the entire journey from knowing nothing about your business to liking and trusting your business, to buying from your business, to eventually recommending your business (whew!).

Instead, break down the journey into smaller milestones and create content that meets them every step of the way.

Think about how individual pieces of content will take individual readers on one leg of their customer journeys.

Read on to discover how to take pressure off yourself (and your content) and think about your readers’ state of awareness before you write.

Pinpoint where they are by what they know

We’ve used the concept I’m about to share to think about and plan our content on Copyblogger this past year. And I’m exploring it in depth in my upcoming book on content marketing (read the first draft here).

Rather than expecting a single piece of content to do all the work for you, I want to encourage you to think about your content marketing as a body of work that your readers will search, discover, and consume on an as-needed basis.

Their needs will vary depending on how much they already know about your topic when they read a piece of content.

Let’s look at the main stopping points in your customer’s journey and go over the type of content that will meet her needs at each one.

Here are the three stopping points in the customer journey we’ll talk about below:

Discover the content marketing continuum so you can create content that meets your customer's needs every step of the way.

Get to know the content marketing continuum so you can create content that meets your customers’ needs every step of the way.

Beginner content: What is ___?

Your content will talk about a topic or set of topics. It will inform, entertain, and educate your readers. It will build trust and establish your authority.

Many visitors to your site will come in search of understanding and won’t be familiar with your topic at all. Your beginner content will explain it and define it for them.

The basic question beginner content answers is:

What is ___?

Smart content marketers ensure that their beginner content defines the topic in a way that positions their own website as an authoritative resource. Remember, at this stage you get to set the context, so use this content to benefit both your reader and your own business.

Use your beginner content to define your topic in a way that will serve your business goals.

Is this all too esoteric to understand? Let’s look at some concrete examples of beginner content.

If you write about organic gardening, for instance, your beginner content might sound like this:

  • Why Organic Gardening Is Better for Your Health
  • What Makes a Garden Organic?
  • Why Is Organic Gardening More Expensive than Traditional Gardening?

Beginner content explains, defines, and sets context for your topic.

Here are examples from our own Copyblogger archives:

Intermediate content: How do I do ___?

Intermediate readers already understand your topic. There may be fewer of them than there are beginners, but they’re enthusiastic, and that makes them excellent prospects.

The basic question intermediate content answers is:

How do I do ___?

They want to know how to use what they’re learning about your topic.

Use your intermediate content to help readers apply what you’re sharing to improve their lives.

Let’s see what intermediate content looks like in practice on our organic gardening website:

  • 3 Simple Changes to Help You Go Organic in Your Garden This Year
  • Organic Gardening Practices: Plan Your Kitchen Garden Today
  • Organic Weed Control: Easy (and Cheap) Fixes to a Growing Problem

Intermediate content takes the topic you write about and helps readers apply it to their own lives.

Here are examples of intermediate content from the Copyblogger archives:

Advanced content: How do I get better at ___?

Advanced readers understand the topic you write about and they’ve applied that understanding to their own lives. They’re still enthusiastic — so enthusiastic that they’re craving mastery.

They want to get really good at what you teach. This makes them the best prospects of all!

The basic question advanced content answers is:

How do I get better at ___?

Advanced readers are ready to push forward and become experts.

And again, this content may be for a smaller group of people, so you’ll have fewer advanced posts. But these articles have an important job.

Use your advanced content to help readers achieve mastery.

What does advanced content look like in the wild?

Here are examples of advanced content for our organic gardening site:

  • How to Increase Yields in Your Organic Vegetable Garden
  • Maximize Efficiency (and Minimize Weeds) in Your Small-Space Kitchen Garden
  • How to Plan and Plant an Award-Winning Organic Flower Garden

Advanced content shares insider tips and techniques used by experts. It helps advanced readers achieve mastery and gives beginner and intermediate readers something to aspire to.

Here are examples of advanced content from our Copyblogger archives:

Think about the content continuum as you plan your editorial calendar

When you’re planning your content, think about a mix of information that will serve beginner, intermediate, and advanced readers.

When you think about your topic, ask yourself: “When beginners land on my site, how can I define my topic so they have a solid grasp of it — from my point of view?”

Use your beginner content to establish authority in your field of knowledge and set it in a context that benefits your business.

When you think about your intermediate readers, ask yourself: “What can I teach them to do that will help them apply what they’re learning and see results?”

Intermediate content helps them make a palpable change. And that how-to information keeps their enthusiasm high.

When you think about your advanced readers, ask yourself: “What can I teach them that will help them achieve mastery?”

Advanced content — although its audience won’t be as large as beginner content — shows readers you are knowledgeable and trustworthy. Even beginners can read it and think, “I will need this someday and now I know where I’ll find it.”

Advanced content establishes your business as a long-term resource that will grow with your reader every step of her journey.

This might be the cure for content marketing writer’s block

The first step to creating any piece of content is identifying what you’ll write about. Some of us are struck by writer’s block at this point, unsure of what to serve up to our audience of readers.

Just stepping back from your topic of choice and seeing it from the point of view of a beginner, intermediate, or advanced reader should give you more content ideas than you can handle.

You will serve your readers well, and your writer’s block days might be over. :-)

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Authority is our content marketing training and networking community designed to help you build the skills you need to profit online.

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The post The Content Marketing Continuum: How to Create Content to Meet Customers’ Needs appeared first on Copyblogger.


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