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How to Create a Local Marketing Results Dashboard in Google Data Studio – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by DiTomaso

Showing clients that you’re making them money is one of the most important things you can communicate to them, but it’s tough to know how to present your results in a way they can easily understand. That’s where Google Data Studio comes in. In this week’s edition of Whiteboard Friday, our friend Dana DiTomaso shares how to create a client-friendly local marketing results dashboard in Google Data Studio from start to finish.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hi, Moz fans. My name is Dana DiTomaso. I’m President and partner of Kick Point. We’re a digital marketing agency way up in the frozen north of Edmonton, Alberta. We work with a lot of local businesses, both in Edmonton and around the world, and small local businesses usually have the same questions when it comes to reporting.

Are we making money?

What I’m going to share with you today is our local marketing dashboard that we share with clients. We build this in Google Data Studio because we love Google Data Studio. If you haven’t watched my Whiteboard Friday yet on how to do formulas in Google Data Studio, I recommend you hit Pause right now, go back and watch that, and then come back to this because I am going to talk about what happened there a little bit in this video.

The Google Data Studio dashboard

This is a Google Data Studio dashboard which I’ve tried to represent in the medium of whiteboard as best as I could. Picture it being a little bit better design than my left-handedness can represent on a whiteboard, but you get the idea. Every local business wants to know, “Are we making money?” This is the big thing that people care about, and really every business cares about making money. Even charities, for example: money is important obviously because that’s what keeps the lights on, but there’s also perhaps a mission that they have.

But they still want to know: Are people filling out our donation form? Are people contacting us? These are important things for every business, organization, not-for-profit, whatever to understand and know. What we’ve tried to do in this dashboard is really boil it down to the absolute basics, one thing you can look at, see a couple of data points, know whether things are good or things are bad.

Are people contacting you?

Let’s start with this up here. The first thing is: Are people contacting you? Now you can break this out into separate columns. You can do phone calls and emails for example. Some of our clients prefer that. Some clients just want one mashed up number. So we’ll take the number of calls that people are getting.

If you’re using a call tracking tool, such as CallRail, you can import this in here. Emails, for example, or forms, just add it all together and then you have one single number of the number of times people contacted you. Usually this is a way bigger number than people think it is, which is also kind of cool.

Are people taking the action you want them to take?

The next thing is: Are people doing the thing that you want them to do? This is really going to decide on what’s meaningful to the client.

For example, if you have a client, again thinking about a charity, how many people filled out your donation form, your online donation form? For a psychologist client of ours, how many people booked an appointment? For a client of ours who offers property management, how many people booked a viewing of a property? What is the thing you want them to do? If they have online e-commerce, for example, then maybe this is how many sales did you have.

Maybe this will be two different things — people walking into the store versus sales. We’ve also represented in this field if a person has a people counter in their store, then we would pull that people counter data into here. Usually we can get the people counter data in a Google sheet and then we can pull it into Data Studio. It’s not the prettiest thing in the world, but it certainly represents all their data in one place, which is really the whole point of why we do these dashboards.

Where did visitors com from, and where are your customers coming from?

People contacting you, people doing the thing you want them to do, those are the two major metrics. Then we do have a little bit deeper further down. On this side here we start with: Where did visitors come from, and where are your customers coming from? Because they’re really two different things, right? Not every visitor to the website is going to become a customer. We all know that. No one has a 100% conversion rate, and if you do, you should just retire.

Filling out the dashboard

We really need to differentiate between the two. In this case we’re looking at channel, and there probably is a better word for channel. We’re always trying to think about, “What would clients call this?” But I feel like clients are kind of aware of the word “channel” and that’s how they’re getting there. But then the next column, by default this would be called users or sessions. Both of those are kind of cruddy. You can rename fields in Data Studio, and we can call this the number of people, for example, because that’s what it is.

Then you would use the users as the metric, and you would just call it number of people instead of users, because personally I hate the word “users.” It really boils down the humanity of a person to a user metric. Users are terrible. Call them people or visitors at least. Then unfortunately, in Data Studio, when you do a comparison field, you cannot rename and call it comparison. It does this nice percentage delta, which I hate.

It’s just like a programmer clearly came up with this. But for now, we have to deal with it. Although by the time this video comes out, maybe it will be something better, and then I can go back and correct myself in the comments. But for now it’s percentage delta. Then goal percentage and then again delta. They can sort by any of these columns in Data Studio, and it’s real live data.

Put a time period on this, and people can pick whatever time period they want and then they can look at this data as much as they want, which is delightful. If you’re not delivering great results, it may be a little terrifying for you, but really you shouldn’t be hiding that anyway, right? Like if things aren’t going well, be honest about it. That’s another talk for another time. But start with this kind of chart. Then on the other side, are you showing up on Google Maps?

We use the Supermetrics Google My Business plug-in to grab this kind of information. We hook it into the customer’s Google Maps account. Then we’re looking at branded searches and unbranded searches and how many times they came up in the map pack. Usually we’ll have a little explanation here. This is how many times you came up in the map pack and search results as well as Google Maps searches, because it’s all mashed in together.

Then what happens when they find you? So number of direction requests, number of website visits, number of phone calls. Now the tricky thing is phone calls here may be captured in phone calls here. You may not want to add these two pieces of data or just keep this off on its own separately, depending upon how your setup is. You could be using a tracking number, for example, in your Google My Business listing and that therefore would be captured up here.

Really just try to be honest about where that data comes from instead of double counting. You don’t want to have that happen. The last thing is if a client has messages set up, then you can pull that message information as well.

Tell your clients what to do

Then at the very bottom of the report we have a couple of columns, and usually this is a longer chart and this is shorter, so we have room down here to do this. Obviously, my drawing skills are not as good as as aligning things in Data Studio, so forgive me.

But we tell them what to do. Usually when we work with local clients, they can’t necessarily afford a monthly retainer to do stuff for clients forever. Instead, we tell them, “Here’s what you have to do this month.Here’s what you have to do next month. Hey, did you remember you’re supposed to be blogging?” That sort of thing. Just put it in here, because clients are looking at results, but they often forget the things that may get them those results. This is a really nice reminder of if you’re not happy with these numbers, maybe you should do these things.

Tell your clients how to use the report

Then the next thing is how to use. This is a good reference because if they only open it say once every couple months, they probably have forgotten how to do the stuff in this report or even things like up at the top make sure to set the time period for example. This is a good reminder of how to do that as well.

Because the report is totally editable by you at any time, you can always go in and change stuff later, and because the client can view the report at any time, they have a dashboard that is extremely useful to them and they don’t need to bug you every single time they want to see a report. It saves you time and money. It saves them time and money. Everybody is happy. Everybody is saving money. I really recommend setting up a really simple dashboard like this for your clients, and I bet you they’ll be impressed.

Thanks so much.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Presenting Your Findings: How to Create Relevant and Engaging SEO Reports – Next Level

Posted by meghanpahinui

Welcome to the newest installment of our educational Next Level series! Our last episodes covered how to transform low-value content and how to track the right keywords for your local business. Today, Meghan is here to share all the juicy details to include in a truly persuasive SEO report for your clients and how you can create your own with Moz Pro. Read on and level up!


When it comes to creating useful SEO reports for clients and members of your team, it can be tough to balance the best, most relevant information to include with what they actually want to see. Essentially, you should show your clients that what you’re doing is working and getting results that positively impact their business. That being said, though, you’ll need to ask yourself what they consider progress:

  • Are they trying to generate more traffic to their site?
  • Increase overall sales?
  • Improve their rankings?
  • Are they hoping to start ranking for a specific set of keywords or break into a new market which will provide more revenue?

Regardless of their specific business goal, you’ll need to create reports which are concise, straightforward, and easy to digest to remind your clients why they’re investing in SEO and your services. If a report is too long, your client may lose interest. If a report is too short or doesn’t include the data they find most relevant, they may wonder what the heck they’re paying for!

I like to think about creating SEO reports as if I’m writing up an experiment: I have an objective or problem that I’m trying to solve, a hypothesis about what will get me to that goal and solve my problem, and a procedure to follow, all of which leads to observations that will help me benchmark my progress and set up a new goal.

In this installation of Next Level, we’ll talk about what information you should include in your SEO reports and show you what modules you can add to your Custom Report in Moz Pro to illustrate that data.

1. Determine your objective

What’s the current SEO goal and how does it align with your client’s business objectives?

The first step in any endeavor is determining what you’re setting out to achieve. You’ll want to make sure to outline your current SEO goals clearly for your client. For example, your goal may be to increase rankings for select keywords, to increase overall Search Visibility, or to generate more inbound links. Perhaps even more importantly, you’ll want to explain how these SEO goals will impact your client’s business overall.

Include tangible business objectives, such as “increase monthly revenue” or “drive more traffic to your online shop,” but don’t forget to explain why you’ve chosen these as your objectives. Simply telling a client that you’re planning to work on increasing their keyword rankings won’t help them to understand why that’s important. By outlining what you’re working towards and why, you’ll not only give direction to your report but also set your client’s expectations.

2. Form your hypothesis

Where should your efforts be focused to meet this goal?

How you plan to accomplish your client’s business goals through SEO is something that you’ll definitely want to think about when putting your SEO report together. What do you think needs to happen in order to make sure your client’s expectations and business goals are met? For example, if your client wants to increase the overall organic search traffic that comes to their site, you’ll want to focus on improving their keyword rankings.

“Okay, but how are you going to do that?” asks your client. Here’s where you can outline your plan of attack and what you think will have the most impact, like making sure that all pages have meta descriptions that are the right length, or that all pages have title tags.

Asking yourself these types of “how” questions in advance will set you up for success when you go to create your report. A clear idea of your procedure — your way forward — will make sure the most relevant information is included and doesn’t get lost among a bunch of data irrelevant to your current goal. Taking the time early on to outline your next steps will help you stay on track and create concise, easy-to-digest reports.

SEO can be confusing, which is probably why your client hired you! Make sure you explain what you’re planning to do, how you plan to do it, and why. This will keep your client from feeling out of the loop and asking themselves questions like “What am I looking at? Is this really helping me?”

A transparent, informative explanation can be as simple as this:

“I’m working on making sure all your pages have relevant meta descriptions so searchers are better able to determine if your site is what they’re looking for in SERPs. This will help improve your overall click-through rate, which should help increase traffic to your site.”

If you can weave your goals directly into the explanation of what you’re doing and how, all the better!

3. Outline your procedure

What have you already done to work towards meeting this goal?

Time to show off what you’ve completed so far! Here, you’ll include SEO goals you’ve already achieved, like fixed missing descriptions, resolved issues with 404 pages on the site, pages which have been optimized for target keywords, etc. People like to see evidence that their investments are paying off, so take care to remind your client what they’re paying you to do, and create a detailed report to show just how effective you’ve been already.

The Moz Pro Custom Report tool comes in handy for this type of reporting, as well as the “Observations” portion we’ll talk about in just a bit. You can use the handy visuals in Custom Reports modules to illustrate what you’ve been working on and outline what you plan to attack next.

4. Record your observations

The “Observations” portion of your report is your place to show real, tangible data to your client. You’ve outlined what you’re doing to help them achieve their current SEO goal, and now it’s time to show them the results of your labor.

Keyword performance

The idea here is pretty straightforward: show your client which of their keywords have improved in the rankings, and how their Search Visibility has changed since the last report. For transparency, you may also want to include some info about the keywords that didn’t do as well — now would be a good time to tell your client how you plan to tackle those low-performing keywords!

You may also want to display how your client is ranking compared to their main competitors and call out specific instances of improvement.

Here’s an example:

“Although the rank dropped for 5 of your target keywords, your overall Search Visibility is up by 7%, and you’re ranking higher than your competitors for all 5 of those keywords.”

It’s important to keep your client’s expectations grounded by reminding them that fluctuation in keyword rankings from week to week is pretty normal, and comparing rankings over a longer period of time is often more representative of true performance.

Page optimization

A great way to add in more detail about keyword rankings to your Custom Report is with Page Optimization modules. The Page Optimization tool allows you to pair a specific page on the site you’re tracking with a target keyword to see a report of how well-optimized that page is for that keyword. This is especially useful if your client has a specific set of keywords they need to be ranking for. The Page Optimization tool makes suggestions as to what you can do to improve your chances of ranking, and will show you what you’re already doing that’s helping your client rank where they are now! When you add Page Optimization modules to your report, they can illustrate not only improvements you’ve made to certain pages and how rankings have changed for those keyword/URL pairs, but they can also highlight pages you’re not already working on that may be good opportunities for optimization.

Inbound traffic

Showing your client that more people are heading to their site is a straightforward way to show off the progress you’ve made. If you can, be sure to point out where you think the increase in traffic is coming from, whether it’s from higher keyword rankings, new backlink generation, or other factors related to the work you’ve done.

Link generation

If one of your goals is to generate more backlinks for your client, you’ll want to show them what you’ve accomplished. Be honest about the types of links you’re looking to acquire. For example, if you’re interested in quality over quantity and are focusing your efforts on acquiring links from sites with high MozRank and MozTrust, make sure you let your client know that, and explain what effect it could have on their backlink profile. Will your strategy earn them more links overall, or higher quality links — and which is better for their business? Explain why your goal is the best plan of attack for achieving their overall business goals.

Site crawl

Adding in Site Crawl modules to your Custom Report can effectively illustrate what you’ve been working on with regards to your client’s site specifically. For example, if you’ve focused on redirecting 404 pages to live, active pages, you could show them a graph illustrating the decrease over time in pages returning this type of error. Perhaps you have been working on cleaning up redirect chains, reviewing meta noindex tags, or editing pages with thin content. All of these things can be outlined so you can demonstrate your progress in your Custom Report using Site Crawl modules. You can also use these modules to show your client how their site has improved — e.g., by showing them a steady number of pages crawled each week alongside declining rates of on-site issues like 404 pages and thin content — and highlight areas of their site you think may still need some work.

5. Draw your conclusions

What’s next?

Once you’ve laid out what you’re working on, why, and how it’s impacting your client’s business so far, you’ll want to outline what they can expect to see next. Let them know what your next course of action is and what you think is working (or not working) so they can be prepared for your next report. If you’re planning to work on optimizing pages for keywords that aren’t ranking currently, or if you’re planning to go after some link-building opportunities, make sure they’re aware!

Perform a final review

Finally, before sending your brand-new report out to your client, make sure to review it one last time to confirm that it’s telling the right story.

  • Does it properly illustrate what you’re working on and how that’s positively impacting their overall business goals?
  • Does it use language which is easy to understand and that your client will care about?

Not everyone is an SEO wiz, so it’s important to make sure the report you’re presenting is easily comprehended. For example, if you’ve illustrated that their overall search visibility has gone up, will they understand that jargon and what it means? If not, have you made sure to explain what it is and why it’s important? Try to view the report from your client’s point of view and see if you’re able to find the true value in the data you’re presenting. Taking this extra step can really help solidify your report and make sure it’s the best representation of your work.

Schedule your report to auto-send

Within the Custom Reports section of Moz Pro, you can set up your shiny new report to be emailed weekly or monthly to help keep your clients up-to-date on how things are going. You can also choose to email the report directly to anyone who might have a stake in seeing the results of your SEO efforts, such as colleagues or stakeholders.

The most important thing is to make sure your clients know what they are paying for! They want to see tangible results that are applicable to their business specifically. A well-crafted, intentional SEO report will both make your job easier and help your client rest easy knowing their investment is paying off.

If you’re ready to dive in and start creating your own shiny new Custom Report, be sure to sign up for a 30-day free trial of Moz Pro:

Start your free month now!

If you find you need more help getting started with your own report, be sure to check out our page all about Custom Reports on the Help Hub.

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3 Ways to Create ‘Next Level’ Content

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Version 11.9 is now available.

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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.

The post How to Create Content that Deeply Engages Your Audience appeared first on Copyblogger.


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