Tag Archive | "Deliver"

Machine Learning Should Be Used to Deliver Great Brand Experiences, Says PagerDuty CEO

PagerDuty began trading on the New York Stock Exchange for the first time this morning and is now trading at more than 60% above their IPO price of $ 24. That gives the company a market capitalization of more than $ 2.7 billion. PagerDuty offers a SAAS platform that monitors IT performance. The company had sales of $ 118 million for its last fiscal year, up close to 50% over the previous year.

The company uses machine learning to inform companies in real-time about technical issues. “Our belief is that machine learning and data should be used in the service of making people better, helping people do their jobs more effectively, and delivering those great brand experiences every time,” says PagerDuty CEO Jennifer Tejada. “PagerDuty is really about making sure that our users understand that this could be a good thing, being woken up in the middle of the night if it’s for the right problem. It’s a way that can help you deliver a much better experience for your customers.”

Jennifer Tejada, CEO of PagerDuty, discusses their IPO and how machine learning should be used to deliver great brand experiences in an interview on CNBC:

It’s Gotten Harder for Human’s to Manage the Entire IT Ecosystem

If you think about the world today, it’s an always-on world. We as consumers expect every experience to be perfect. Every time you wake up in the morning, you order your coffee online, you check Slack to communicate with your team, and maybe you take a Lyft into work. Sitting behind all of that is a lot of complexity, many digital and infrastructure based platforms, that don’t always work together the way you’d expect them to. As that complexity has proliferated over the years and because developers can deploy what they like and can use the tools that they want it’s gotten harder for human beings to really manage the entire ecosystem even as your demands increase.

You want it perfect, you want it right now and you want it the way you’d like it to be. PagerDuty is the platform that brings the right problem to the right person at the right time. We use machine learning, sitting on ten years of data, data on humans behavior and data on all these signals there that are happening through the system, and it really helps the developers that sit behind these great experiences to deliver the right experience all the time.

Machine Learning Should Be Used to Deliver Great Brand Experiences

Going public is the right time for us right now because there’s an opportunity for us to deliver the power of our platform to users all over the world. We are a small company and we weren’t as well-known as we could be and this is a great opportunity to extend our brand and help developers and employees across teams and IT security and customer support to deliver better experiences for their end customers all the time.

At PagerDuty we take customer trust and user trust very seriously. We publish our data policy and we will not use data in a way other than what we describe online. We care deeply about the relationship between our users in our platform. Our belief is that machine learning and data should be used in the service of making people better, helping people do their jobs more effectively, and delivering those great brand experiences every time. PagerDuty is really about making sure that our users understand that this could be a good thing, being woken up in the middle of the night if it’s for the right problem. It’s a way that can help you deliver a much better experience for your customers.

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Deliver a more relevant search experience

A practical guide to increase conversions, improve time-on-site- and deliver personalized experiences.



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


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How to Know Exactly What Content to Deliver to Convert More Prospects

“Whether you’re consciously telling a story or not, prospects are telling themselves a story about you.” – Brian Clark

Back in the 1940s, psychologists Fritz Heider and Marianne Simmel conducted an experiment. They showed study participants an animated film consisting of a rectangle with an opening, plus a circle and two triangles in motion.

The participants were then asked to simply describe what they saw in the film. Before you keep reading, take a look at it yourself. I’ll be here when you come back.

So, what did you see? Out of all the study participants, only one responded with “a rectangle with an opening, plus a circle and two triangles in motion.” The rest developed elaborate stories about the simple geometric shapes.

Many participants concluded the circle and the little triangle were in love, and that the evil grey triangle was trying to harm or abduct the circle. Others went further to conclude that the blue triangle fought back against the larger triangle, allowing his love to escape back inside, where they soon rendezvoused, embraced, and lived happily ever after.

That’s pretty wild when you think about it.

The Heider-Simmel experiment became the initial basis of attribution theory, which describes how people explain the behavior of others, themselves, and also, apparently, geometric shapes on the go.

More importantly, people explain things in terms of stories. Even in situations where no story is being intentionally told, we’re telling ourselves a tale as a way to explain our experience of reality.

And yes, we tell ourselves stories about brands, products, and services. Whether you’re consciously telling a story or not, prospects are telling themselves a story about you.

Are you telling a story? And more importantly, does that story resonate with the way your prospective customers and clients are seeing things?

This is the key to knowing what your prospect needs to hear, and when they need to hear it, as part of your overall content marketing strategy. And in a networked, information-rich world where the prospects have all the power, this is your only chance to control the narrative.

What kind of story to tell?

You need to tell a Star Wars story. And by that, I mean you need to take your prospects along a content marketing version of the mythic hero’s journey.

In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell identifies a “monomyth” — a fundamental structure common to myths that have survived for thousands of years. Campbell’s identification of these enduring myths from disparate times and regions has inspired modern storytellers to consciously craft their work following the monomyth framework, also known as the hero’s journey.

Most notable among those inspired by the hero’s journey is George Lucas, who acknowledged Campbell’s work as the source of the plot for Star Wars. As a content marketer, you can also consciously incorporate the monomyth into your launches, funnels, and general editorial calendar.

Hero's Journey

The image above shows the general elements of the hero’s journey, which can be broken down into much more detail than presented here. It’s important to note that not all monomythic stories contain every aspect, but the original Star Wars faithfully follows almost every element of the hero’s journey.

Let’s focus on the first two steps of the journey, in the “ordinary world” before the journey truly begins. Here’s how those elements occurred in the original Star Wars.

  • Luke is living in the ordinary world of his home planet, working on the family farm.
  • The “call to adventure” is R2-D2’s holographic message from Princess Leia, the classic princess in distress.
  • Luke initially refuses the call due to his family obligations, until his aunt and uncle are killed.
  • Luke meets his mentor and guide, Obi-Wan Kenobi, who convinces Luke to proceed with his heroic journey.
  • Obi-Wan gives Luke a gift that determines his destiny — his father’s lightsaber.

How does this apply to content marketing? Simple. As I mentioned last time:

Your prospect is Luke. You are Obi-Wan.

The mistake most often made in marketing is thinking of your business as the hero, resulting in egocentric messages that no one else cares about. The prospect is always the primary hero, because they are the one going on the journey — whether big or small — to solve a problem or satisfy a desire.

  • The prospect starts off in the ordinary world of their lives.
  • The call to adventure is an unsolved problem or unfulfilled desire.
  • There’s resistance to solving that problem or satisfying the desire.
  • A mentor (your brand) appears that helps them proceed with the journey.
  • You deliver a gift (your content) that ultimately leads to a purchase

By making the prospect the hero, your brand also becomes a hero in the prospect’s story.

And by accepting the role of mentor with your content, your business accomplishes its goals while helping the prospect do the same. Which is how business is supposed to work, right?

8 core steps in the buyer’s journey

I’ve been using the hero’s journey to teach marketing and sales since 2007. I’ve found that just the act of thinking of the prospect as the hero makes you a better content marketer.

When you think in terms of empowering people to solve their problem by playing the role of mentor, you’re naturally performing better than competitors who take an egocentric approach.

This is also the exact way we come up with content marketing strategies for our own launches, funnels, and general editorial calendar. After years of using this strategic process, I’ve found that every buyer’s journey contains key points where you must deliver the right information at the right time to succeed at an optimal level.

Remember, each journey is tied to a particular who that you have documented. Some people create content journeys for multiple personas, but my advice is that you pick one at first and focus. Even Apple stuck with one target persona for the entirety of the Get a Mac campaign.

You’ll notice I use the word “problem” below, rather than “problem or desire.” An unfulfilled desire is a problem in the mind of the prospect, so it works on its own.

1. Ordinary World: This is the world (and worldview) that your ideal prospect lives in. She may be aware of the problem that she has, but she hasn’t yet resolved to do something about it. You understand how this person thinks, sees, feels, and behaves due to the empathy mapping process.

2. Call to Adventure: The prospect decides to take action to solve the problem. It could be a New Year’s resolution, a longstanding goal, or a problem that rears its head for the first time.

3. Resistance to the Call: At this point, the prospect starts to waver in her commitment to solving the problem. Maybe it seems too hard, too expensive, too time consuming, or simply too impractical. As we’ll discuss in a bit, this is a key content inflection point.

4. The Mentor and the Gift: This is the point that you are initially accepted as a mentor that guides the buyer’s journey. The prospect accepts your offer of a gift, in the form of information, that promises to help her solve the problem.

5. Crossing the Threshold: This is the point of purchase where the prospect believes that your product or service will lead to the problem being solved, which will lead to transformation. The most important thing to understand is that, unlike flawed funnel metaphors, the journey does not end at purchase.

6. Traveling the Road: The customer begins using the product or service with the goal of achieving success in the context of the problem. Who cares if the customer stops the journey right after purchase, right? Wrong — too often this leads to a refund request; plus you miss out on the huge benefits that accompany a happy customer.

7. Seizing the Treasure: The customer experiences success with your product or service. What does this look like for them and you? How will you know when it happens?

8. The New Ordinary: The customer has experienced a positive transaction with you, and yet we’re just now getting to the really good stuff. This is a perfect time to prime them for repeat or upsell purchases or referrals. At this point, deliver content that aims at retention for recurring revenue products, and make savvy requests for direct referrals, testimonials, and word of mouth.

Of the eight, only Traveling the Road isn’t universal — if you’re an electrician, you show up and either fix the problem or don’t. But if you’re selling software-as-a-service, for example, content that gets users engaged with the platform is critical to reducing churn.

These core steps can provide you with a beginning framework for a detailed map of the buyer’s journey. The next step is to add the touchpoints that are unique to your product or service.

Your unique journey map

You may be thinking about how exactly you’re supposed to map this out. Fortunately, there’s already an established procedure for this, just as during the who phase.

An experience map is a visual representation of the path a consumer takes — from beginning to end — with your content, and then with your product or service.

By mapping the journey, you know where the additional crucial touchpoints are, and what content can empower the journey to continue.

Here’s an example from Adaptive Path for Rail Europe:

rail-europe-experience-map

This map demonstrates the journey a consumer would take while riding the trains in Europe. It follows her from the early stages of research and planning to the end of her trip.

You see what she is doing (searching Google, looking up timetables), what she is thinking during each action (do I have everything I need, and am I on the right train?), and what she is feeling (stressed: I’m about to leave the country and Rail Europe won’t answer the phone).

Do you see the correlation with the empathy mapping exercise you did back when developing a snapshot of your ideal customer? It’s no coincidence that we’re now applying what the prospect is “Thinking,” “Seeing,” “Doing,” and “Feeling” in their ordinary world to the journey they need to travel.

In a piece called the Anatomy of an Experience Map, Chris Risdon at Adaptive Path suggests your experience map should have these five components:

  1. The lens: This is how a particular person (or persona) views the journey. Keep in mind, this journey will not be the same for everyone. You will more than likely have more than one experience map.
  2. The journey model: This is the actual design of the map. If all goes well, it should render insight to answer questions like “What happens here? What’s important about this transition?”
  3. Qualitative insight: This is where the Thinking-Seeing-Doing-Feeling of an empathy map comes in handy.
  4. Quantitative information: This is data that brings attention to certain aspects of your map. It reveals information like “80 percent of people abandon the process at this touchpoint.”
  5. Takeaways: This is where the map earns its money. What are the conclusions? Opportunities? Threats to the system? Does it identify your strengths? Highlight your weaknesses?

You can find more detailed information on creating a customer experience map here. Like empathy mapping, it can be done solo, but works even better as a collaborative process, so that everyone on your team understands the journey from the perspective of the prospect and subsequent customer.

Mapping the 7 key influence principles

When you consider influential content, you may naturally think that it’s about how your present the information. While that’s true from an engagement standpoint, which principle of influence to apply and when to emphasize it is an exercise in what as well.

In other words, beyond the raw information of the what, you’ll also want to identify the order of emphasis for things like reciprocity, social proof, authority, liking, commitment and consistency, unity, and scarcity.

Every successful digital marketer I know purposefully applies those seven principles in their content and copy, because they all treat Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini as their bible. If you haven’t read it, you should — but in the meantime check out this six-page PDF that explains the original six principles, and here’s an article by Sonia Simone on the all-important 7th principle of unity.

At Rainmaker Digital, we think in terms of four different types of content when mapping the buyer’s journey. Keep in mind that great marketing content contains all of these elements; you’re simply selecting a category based on the primary aim of the individual piece at the appropriate time.

First up we have Attraction content, otherwise known as “top of funnel” information. This corresponds best with the Resistance to the Call point of the journey — it addresses the problem while also addressing common objections to moving forward. In addition to creating the feeling that “you’re reading their mind,” you’re also invoking early influence through reciprocity, social proof through share numbers, and establishing authority.

Next up, you have your cornerstone influence principle thanks to Authority content. The important thing is that you demonstrate authority, rather than claim it. Your Attraction content sets the stage, and your Authority content should be gated behind an email opt-in. At this stage, you’re establishing clear authority, continuing to leverage reciprocity and social proof, and adding liking, plus commitment and consistency thanks to the opt-in.

Affinity content solidly positions you as a “likable expert,” but it goes beyond that. This is where you let your core values shine. You reflect the prospect’s worldview back to them in a completely authentic way, prompting the powerful principle of unity. Never underestimate how often people choose to do business with people they like, and who also see the world like they do.

Finally, it all comes down to Action. Unlike Phil Connors, you don’t look for ultimate action at the beginning of the journey. But you do rely on smaller actions along the way, especially at the bridge between Attraction content and Authority content. That said, the key influence principle at this stage is scarcity, which you’ve earned the right to employ thanks to the other six principles. People fear missing out more than they desire gain, so make sure to use it ethically.

This is the outline of your story

It’s tempting at this point to try to imagine how you’re going to execute on your strategy, but you’re not quite there yet. Soon, I’ll share with you a “real world” example of how this looks in action.

For now, map the journey experience. In addition to your character, you’ve now got the plot points in the narrative you’re weaving.

All that’s left is to figure out how to tell the story. That’s up next week.

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5 Simple Touches that Deliver a Warm Welcome to New Email Subscribers

usher in prospects with a warm welcome

You know the old adage: you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

That maxim is certainly true in the email marketing world. Your email welcome message is the first message new subscribers receive when they register for a free account with your site or subscribe to your email list.

A well-crafted welcome message creates an initial connection with a new subscriber. It’s the first step toward establishing a solid long-term relationship with that person.

But all too often, content marketers treat their email welcome messages as afterthoughts — notes they write as quickly as possible so they can get to more important tasks.

That’s a huge wasted opportunity. Read on to discover five essential elements of effective welcome emails. At the end, I’ll also share three optional elements you can try.

1. Recognizable information in the sender name field and subject line

If possible, include a real person’s name in the sender name field of your email, instead of a company name. Your new subscribers will be more likely to open your welcome email if it’s sent by a recognizable individual.

Also, don’t get too clever with the subject line of your email. It should clearly state what the subscriber has signed up for or what you promised in your opt-in form.

Here are two examples of clear, recognizable welcome message subject lines:

  • From Anne Samoilov of AnneSamoilov.com: “[LWT Sample] Welcome, and your sample starts today!”
  • From Kim Garst of Boom! Social: Welcome to Boom! Social … Here Is Where to Start, [NAME]

2. Access to the content you promised to deliver

Take a sentence or two to thank your new subscriber for signing up and trusting you with his email address.

After you’ve offered genuine gratitude, deliver what you promised as an incentive. This might be a link to a cheat sheet, login access to your membership site, or the first lesson in your online course.

Test this process carefully so you don’t inadvertently put roadblocks in front of your new subscribers. Double-check that your hyperlinks work. If you ask your new subscriber to download something, make that process as smooth and painless as possible.

Breanne Dyck of MNIB Consulting makes this download step really easy for her new subscribers.

In the image below, notice the big (and mobile friendly) red button you can click to get Breanne’s incentive.

When new subscribers receive a welcome message from Breanne, they’re tagged as “confirmed” only when they click on the button and download the free gift they signed up to receive. At that point, those subscribers are considered active, and they are eligible to receive more of her content and offers.

When subscribers don’t click on the button to get the download, Breanne sends them a follow-up email a few days later to see if they received the welcome message and nudge them again to click on the link and access the incentive.

She doesn’t send them any additional content (or offers) until they get the original gift they signed up for.

If after a few reminders and invitations to engage, a new subscriber still hasn’t downloaded the gift or indicated that he wants to stay connected with her community, she’ll tag him as inactive. Eventually, he’ll be removed from her list.

3. A description of what to expect next

It’s important to share exactly what’s going to happen next to set expectations and get your subscribers to look forward to your next message.

For example, tell them they’ll receive the next tip in your series the following day or that you send out a new blog post via email every other Monday.

4. A bit of your personality

Remember, you want your welcome message to be memorable, so tell a story, talk about how your company is different from your competition, or address a big problem your audience deals with in a unique way.

Here’s how Danny Margulies of Freelance To Win shows his personality in his initial welcome message:

5. A personal sign-off

When you’ve said everything you need to say, conclude your email message in a tone that matches the rest of your message (warm and friendly, funny and irreverent, etc.).

Leave your reader on a positive note, and aim to include a signature with a real person’s name, not just a company name.

Want to be a welcome message overachiever? Here are three additional elements to consider including.

Option 1: An open loop

You can leave your new subscriber wanting more by adding an “open loop” to your email content.

An open loop (or tension loop) is “a rhetorical device to instill curiosity by creating anticipation for what will come next.”

Add an open loop to your welcome message by:

  • Hinting about a big breakthrough you’ll share in the next email in your series
  • Mentioning an additional free cheat sheet, report, or case study you’ll share soon — and how that free gift will help your subscribers
  • Giving a teaser about the next part of the story you’ve started telling

This is Danny Margulies’s open loop, which he adds in the postscript of his welcome message:

Option 2: A call to action

You can include a call to action in your welcome message, if there’s a logical (and easy) next step for your subscriber.

Ask your reader to connect with you on your favorite social media platform, attend a free event, or check out some of the best archived content from your site.

Danielle Walker of Against All Grain draws attention to her archived content in an attractive, visual way:

Option 3: An invitation to chat with you

When new subscribers have just signed up for your list, they’re probably excited to connect with you. You can leverage that excitement by asking your new subscribers to communicate with you.

Inquire about their opinions, offer a survey about the names or structures of your future programs — anything you want to know.

To get some useful (and free!) market research, you can ask: “What’s the biggest problem you’re having with [YOUR TOPIC]?”

If you’re going to add a question to your welcome email, though, decide in advance whether you’re going to respond personally to every message, and set expectations about the type of response (if any) readers will get. You might have subscribers write to you about deeply private thoughts, so be prepared.

Your launchpad for creating memorable, useful email welcome messages

Your email welcome message is an important element in your overall content marketing strategy, so it’s worth taking the time to craft one that is memorable, interesting, and useful.

Follow these steps for crafting your welcome message to turn new, uncertain subscribers into enthusiastic fans who can’t wait to open your next email note.

You’ll make them feel like they are now part of something really special.

Join Brian Clark on Unemployable for a free email marketing course

Brian Clark’s free email marketing course begins August 15, 2016. In the course, he’ll cover why email is still the key to conversion from prospect to client, as well as:

  • How to develop persuasive email sequences
  • The opt-in approach that accelerates your list building
  • How to smartly tag and segment prospects
  • The “6A Strategy” that unites email, automation, and content
  • And more!

This is a free audio course exclusively available via Brian’s podcast Unemployable. There will be no web version of the lessons, so you’ll need to use your favorite podcast player to tune in:

Choose your choice of podcast player above, and you’ll be automatically notified when the first lesson is available. No email opt-in required.

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3 Unexpected Ways Writers Deliver Value (So They Can Charge More)

writers-charge-more

In today’s world, the writer runs the show.

Not just any writer, of course. The pennies-a-word scribe may barely scrape by. But the quality professional writer — the writer who demonstrates high value and trust from the moment of first contact all the way through to delivery of the final word — that person writes his own ticket to success.

Quality professional writers command attention online, whether they do it for themselves or for the businesses they represent. Writers influence behavior, help form opinions, and drive people to take action.

Great writers are the modern-day stonemasons of any online presence. Our words form the very foundation of all online content, whether those words become a blog post, a podcast, or a video. Writers rule the online world!

And successful professional writers do things differently.

They don’t stop at writing with authority. That’s just where they start. They also deliver outstanding value even in the most unexpected moments in their interactions with clients.

In today’s post, we’ll cover how successful writers deliver value in all three stages of a project: before, during, and after.

Value Phase #1: Before the first project begins

Writers set the stage for a quality customer experience before they write a single word for a new project. How can you do this in your own work?

Before you begin

  1. Listen between the lines. Tune in to your client’s underlying frustrations. Take notes on his current situation. Listen closely when you hear your client talk about long-term goals and desired results.
  2. Be flexible. Take your client’s current needs into account and offer payment solutions like retainers when they make sense.
  3. Think strategy. Add value to your services by stepping back and seeing the big picture. Solve a strategy problem; don’t just fulfill a word count.

When presenting your proposal

  1. Be crystal clear when setting expectations. We’re not delivering pizza in 30 minutes or less — clients deserve to understand exactly how long a project will take, what the milestones will be (and when the writer will hit them), and what form the final product will take.
  2. Offer terms of service that explain how you work. Craft rock-solid proposals that protect your time and energy and spell out exactly what will happen if the project doesn’t proceed as expected. (This happens a lot!)

Some clients may view writing as a nebulous, indefinable service that can’t be pinned down.

But when you set expectations clearly and leave nothing up to chance, your client will feel more confident about signing a contract and starting to work with you.

Specifics make something that is abstract seem more concrete. Use them!

Value Phase #2: Working on and delivering the project

If a project is going to have a quick turnaround, it might be enough to set the deadline and get to work. But if a project is going to stretch beyond a week — especially if it’s a first project for a new client — it’s a good idea to establish some milestones and keep the client updated as you go along.

While you work

  1. Use your client’s preferred mode of communication to provide updates. How often and where would your client like his updates? Email? Slack? A quick phone call? Find out how he wants to hear from you and keep him abreast of your progress.
  2. Format for ease of use. During the information-gathering stage, nail down how the copy you write will be used so you can deliver it in a ready-to-use format the client can plug right in. Does the client prefer you deliver the copy formatted with HTML? Does he expect a copy deck? (Read this to learn what a copy deck is.)
  3. Deliver more. One major sign of quality is when you over-deliver on what you promise. Do extra competitive research. Deliver the project a day early. Make a few extra suggestions about how your client could use your work.

Again, the idea with these tips is to make an abstract service seem more like a tangible product by delivering extra communication and value every step of the way.

Value Phase #3: After the project wraps up

You’re done! You’ve delivered on your promise and (hopefully) gone above and beyond your client’s expectations.

But you’re not done delivering a quality experience.

To wrap up your project with a remarkable bow, put these ideas into practice:

  1. Have a post-sale follow-up system in place. If you’re delivering web copy, give it a look once it’s published online and send a quick note to your client to let him know it looks great. If you’re delivering print copy, ask for a sample and send feedback once you review it.
  2. Send a survey (or a few follow-up questions). New clients may have feedback on your process after your first project with them. Ask them for feedback soon after you finish the project and be sure to include some open-ended questions. Try, “What would have made my service easier to use?” or “Anything you’d like to add?”
  3. Offer related products or services based on the client’s goals. Once you’ve worked with a client, you may see other ways you can help him meet his needs. Don’t expect your client to be familiar with everything you offer: you do clients a favor when you let them know other ways in which you can help.

Build a profitable freelance writing business

Inside our Content Marketer Certification program, we’ve got a lot more for writers.

We designed this program to help writers make the most of their careers — to help them position themselves and their offerings, so that they can build profitable freelance writing businesses.

And we’re opening the program soon. Drop your email address below and you’ll be the first to hear about it.

Find out when our Certified Content Marketer training program reopens:

What are your value phases?

Service providers become successful when they find ways to deliver value during every stage of communication — even the unglamorous ones like estimating the price of a new project or following up after a project wraps.

Look at your client interactions and use the tips here to find new ways to add value.

What have I missed? If you’ve found a way to stand out (and you’re willing to share it), let me know in the comments section.

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Social Media: How employees can help you deliver value on Twitter

Branded social media accounts allow you to interact with a global audience in real time, but one mishap gone viral can be permanent damage. Read on to learn more from Lisa Monarski, Senior Manager of Employer Brand, Deloitte, to learn how employees can help you deliver value using Twitter.
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Why Bad Linkbait Needs to Die: How Linkable Assets Deliver 10x More Value

Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

I hate bad linkbait, and it floods my inbox. Bad linkbait wastes our time, money, and our audience’s attention.

On the other hand, I love creating linkable assets. I also love searching the web for linkable assets and sharing them with others. Before we go any further, let’s define what we mean by linkbait, bad linkbait and linkable assets.

Linkbait: Website feature, usually content, meant to attract links for the purposes of SEO.

Bad Linkbait: Content that attracts links without adding additional value. One of the hallmark characteristics of bad linkbait is that it often rehashes the work of others, without creating anything new.

Linkable Assets: Content or features characterized by a high degree of practical utility or emotional engagement. Linkable assets often attract links over time due the high value they offer.

The SEO problem with bad linkbait

Bad linkbait is not only less effective, but it often has very real SEO consequences down the line in terms of types of links earned and the relevance of the content. In extreme examples, we’ve seen instances of poorly executed linkbait leading to Penguin-style Google penalties.

While there is no single type of bad linkbait, the following characteristics are often defining hallmarks:

  1. Temporary spike in linking followed by a quick drop-off
  2. Meant to be scalable and easy
  3. Off-topic or marginally relevant content
  4. Visitors not likely to return
  5. Rehashed “Top 10″ Lists
  6. Infographics without the “info”
  7. Controversy for the sake of controversy
  8. Commercial anchor text controlled by creator

The reason bad linkbait sucks so much energy is that you get almost no return on investment for the effort you put into it.

An example seen all the time is an infographic that is only marginally related to the subject matter of the website, such as those that Rand discussed in last week’s Whiteboard Friday. Imagine a plumbing company that makes an infographic called “10 Most Horrific Water Deaths Ever.”

  • The SEO company convinced them that the keyword “water” is related to plumbing, and this will help them to rank if they can get the infographic distributed widely enough. Maybe it will, but not nearly as much as if they created something truly new that was actually related to their core business.
  • The links they earn spike when they are actively pouring money and effort into sharing, but stop almost immediately after that.
  • The plumbing website has no other content about “horrific water deaths,” so the topic is only marginally related.
  • The links all have the same anchor text due to the widget used to embed the infographic. Google’s Penguin algorithm picks this up and penalizes them for “water” related keywords.
  • After 2 weeks, traffic trickles to almost nothing. The SEO company moves onto the next infographic.

Is there an easy solution? Take the same amount of time and money spent to create 2-3 pieces of mediocre linkbait, and spend that energy creating a truly remarkable linkable asset.

How linkable assets deliver 10x the value

The great thing about linkable assets is that, when successful, they take on a life of their own and the SEO benefit can grow to 10 or even 100 times what was originally anticipated.

Good linkable assets earn repeat visits and traffic over time. Links aren’t pushed but earned in unexpected places with natural and topically relevant anchor text. Plus, when you publish valuable content actually related to your core subject matter, you help establish yourself as an authority on that topic, and more likely to appear in search results for topically relevant queries.

Because good linkable assets often earn a greater variety of links spread over time through value instead of aggressive link promotion, they are less likely to ever earn a Google penalty.

Examples of linkable assets include this worldwide guide to etiquette, this online salary calculator or even Moz’s Google Algorithm Change History.

Questions used to help identify linkable assets:

  1. Does it create something new?
  2. Does it make something easier?
  3. Is it likely to be used again and again?
  4. Does it reveal new insight or knowledge?
  5. Does it create something beautiful?
  6. Does it evoke a strong emotional response?
  7. Does it provide practical value?

Can linkable assets also be linkbait?

The most successful linkable assets possess the better qualities of fine linkbait. In fact, for SEO benefit, it’s essential that your linkable asset invoke a strong emotional response or be perceived as having high practical value.

This is the “sweet spot” in the middle that combines the best marketing value of linkbait with the added value of linkable assets.

Linkable assets: exemplary examples

Visual assets

Rand mentioned a good number in his recent Whiteboard Friday Why Visual Assets > Infographics, so I wanted to list a few more that offer high practical value and succeed in earning natural, highly-topical links.

Can an infographic act as a linkable asset? Yes, when it meets the requirements defined above.

This excellent Radiation Dose Chart infographic created by xkcd not only inspires awe but has been linked to thousands of times due to people wanting to share its practical utility.

Which Local Review Sites Should You Try to Get Review On? by LocalVisibilitySystem.org displays a ton of knowledge in a succinct and successful format.

Moz’s Web Developers SEO Cheat Sheet provides a visual asset we’re quite proud of.

For pure visual appeal, this Cheetah infographic by Jacob Neal is one of my all-time favorites. It stretches the boundaries of visual design and I found myself reading every word as a result.

Tools

ShareTally – Similar in function to SharedCount, ShareTally gives you a free and quick overview of important social metrics for any URL. This is one you bookmark.

Creative assets

Robby Leonardi’s Interactive Game Resume feels like playing a game and has led Robby to win multiple design awards.

Data sharing

Everyone has data if you look hard enough. Done at scale, the results can be truly outstanding.

The (not provided) Global Report aggregates data from over 5000 websites to display near real-time reporting of Google’s (not provided) keywords worldwide.

Studies

One of our favorite email providers, MailChimp, recently studied email subject line open rates. This graphic explores the effect of including a subject’s first and last name across various industries.

Moz’s own Search Engine Ranking Factors is consistently one of the most popular studies we publish.

Videos

Look no further than Wistia’s learning center for best practices on producing videos for your business. Check out this one they made on advanced video SEO with they guys from Distilled.

Endless possibilities for linkable assets

You can turn any unique knowledge into a linkable asset without shooting a video or adding fancy graphics. Think of folks like Seth Godin or Patrick McKenzie who regularly share their valuable thoughts with the world.

The key is to deliver the content in both a valuable and emotionally engaging way. If you are a talented writer, this is probably your best avenue. If not, then thinking outside the blog post box may be required.

What are your favorite examples of examplary linkable assets? Let us know in the comments below.

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Marketing Video: How to deliver relevant marketing based on different personality types

At B2B Summit 2012, keynote Sally Hogshead was insightful and inspiring. We asked her a few questions following her keynote to help the MarketingSherpa blog audience understand how to market to different personality types. Watch the video for her answers.
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25 Little Email Marketing Experiments That Deliver BIG Results

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We’re always on your case about all these inbound marketing best practices. We’ve published some pretty specific content about best practices for tons of stuff — landing page optimization, blog post structure, marketing analytics — but we’ve never really laid down the one definitive guide to crafting the perfect email.

Sup with that?

Well, we’ve never thrown out a definitively “perfect” email because it’s pretty much impossible to say one thing is better than another in email marketing. I mean, everyone’s audiences are so different! Not to mention the circumstances under which they opted in to your lists, and how you’ve segmented those lists since. There are just so many variables, it’d be ridiculous to assert that there’s just one perfect email out there that all marketers should replicate.

What there is, however, is email split testing to tell you what the perfect email is for your business. So while we can’t do the testing for you, we can certainly tell you the kinds of tests you could run that might give you some really impactful results. We run tests like these every time we send an email to figure out what works best for our audience — take a look at the ones you can run next time you’re gearing up for an email send!

Email Layout and Design Tests

1) Plan Text vs. HTML: You probably know it’s a best practice to always send a plain text version of your HTML emails in case there are rendering problems; but did you ever consider that a plain text email might just … perform better? We’ve tested email sends with certain segments of our list where this is actually the case — the recipients preferred seeing a plain text email, presumably because it felt less like they were being “marketed to.”

2) Image Selection: We encourage marketers to include images in their emails … but what kind? Take lead reconversion emails as an example. Do you see better conversions when you include, say, an ebook cover image? Or an image with stock photography? Or maybe even a meme? Test out different image types to see what strikes your readers’ fancy.

3) Image Placement: You can test more than just image choice. You can test the placement of those images! Should your template have a right aligned image, or left aligned? Or centered, perhaps? Heck — maybe no image at all!

4) Sender Headshot: Some email senders — particularly B2B marketers — also choose to include a headshot in their email signatures. Is this the best idea? It could make your email seem more personal, improving clickthrough rates. Or maybe it distracts recipients from your CTA. Only one way to find out ;-)

5) P.S. vs. No P.S.: If readers are drawn to your sender’s headshot, maybe they’ll be drawn to a P.S., too. It’s a common tactic — including a primary or secondary CTA as a P.S. at the end of an email. See if it works for you, or if it detracts from the clickthrough rate of your primary CTA when you include a secondary CTA.

6) Template Designs: We’ve encouraged you to either use HubSpot’s email templates (if we’re your ESP) or to even create your own email template designs if you’re so inclined. But we also encourage you to test the effectiveness of those templates, as some layouts and designs might perform better than others. Select a few variations to split test until you narrow down a basic template that performs best, then tweak minor design and layout elements from there.

Email Timing and Frequency Tests

7) Day of the Week: The day of the week when you send your emails matters. Do you know what day is best for your audience? For different segments of your list? Figure out which day delivers the best open and clickthrough rates for your email sends.

8) Time of Day: Similarly, the time of day matters. A lot. Test which day and time results in the most opens and clicks for your emails. When you combine both pieces of information, you’ll have a matrix of awesome times (and not so awesome times) to send your emails. That’s some handy dandy information right there.

Dynamic Content Email Tests

9) First Name vs. No Name in Subject Line: Through the magic of dynamic content, you can make your email marketing way more personal … even in the subject lines of your emails! Test whether including a recipient’s first name in the subject line has a positive effect on open rates, or whether they view the personalization token in a less favorable light.

10) First Name vs. No Name in Email: Similarly, you can test name personalization in the body content of your email. Again, some people might view it as a little old school, some might like it, and some might fall somewhere in between. See where your audience sits on that spectrum.

11) Company Name vs. No Company Name in Subject Line: You can have more fun in the subject line of your emails, particularly if you’re a B2B marketer. Perhaps recipients would like to see their organization’s name in the subject line of an email. You can know for sure by running a quick little test!

12) Social Media Information: If you’ve captured a lead’s social media information, you can use that to send social media specific emails to prospects — like a content just for Twitter followers, for example. This is really cool stuff! But just because it’s cool, doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for your email marketing contacts. Segment out a portion of your list to experiment with the results of including dynamic social media content in your email sends.

Email Call-to-Action Tests

13) Image CTA vs. Text CTA: Your email’s call-to-action is one of the most critical parts of your emails to test, because it’s what generates leads and reconversions! Start by testing whether you see better conversion rates from image CTAs, or text CTAs.

14) CTA Button Copy and Color: If you find that image CTAs are best, start testing the button copy and color. Hey, you’d test those elements for your site’s CTAs, right? Emails are no different!

15) Link Placement Within Text: If you find that text CTAs perform better than image CTAs (or you have the best conversion rates with both image and text CTAs), start to experiment with the placement of those hyperlinks within the email copy. You might find anchor text gets clicked on the most when it’s at the beginning of your email, near the end, or somewhere in between — it all depends on your recipients’ email reading/scanning habits.

16) Text CTA in Body Copy vs. P.S.: We talked a little bit about using a P.S. earlier in this post. If you find that using a P.S. works for you, you might want to test whether your text CTA gets the most conversions when it’s included in the body copy of your email, or in the P.S. And if you decide to use the P.S. real estate for a secondary CTA, test whether it aversely impacts conversions for your primary CTA.

17) Social Proof vs. No Social Proof: Social proof is the concept that consumer behavior can be impacted by the behavior of others — you might mirror other people’s behavior under the assumption that what other people are doing is “right.” So you might also find that if you include elements of social proof in your emails, your conversion rates improve. Here at HubSpot, for example, we’ve found that CTAs that include three tweets vouching for an offer tend to have the best CTRs. Those with only one tweet, however, perform even worse than CTAs with no elements of social proof.

18) Offer Type: The type of offer you’re sending might also have an impact on conversions, particularly across different list segments. You might find through testing that certain list segments — whether based on persona, lifecycle stage, or some other element — prefer, say, ebooks to webinars. Test different types of offers to see which performs best for each segment of your list.

Email Sender Tests

19) Company Name vs. Personal Name as Sender: The name that appears in the email “From” field can have a huge impact on whether your email even gets opened. Test whether it’s best to send from your company’s name, the name of an actual person at your business, or a combination of both. For example, at HubSpot we’ve found that emails sent from “Maggie Georgieva, HubSpot” perform better in terms of open and CTR than emails sent from just “HubSpot.”

20) Sales Contact as Sender: Many email marketers may choose themselves, a CEO, or some other authority figure as the name in the “From” field. But have you ever considered sending from the name of a contact’s salesperson? With dynamic content, you can do it to see whether it improves email performance. I mean, if a lead is already in the sales process, it makes sense that they’d hear from a sales contact instead of a marketer, right?

21) Personal vs. Alias Email Address: You might also consider whether the email address from which you send your email needs to change. Does your list cringe at the idea of receiving an email from an alias, like “sales@company.com?” Do they prefer seeing something like “linda@company.com?” Maybe. Maybe not. Only one way to find out.

Email Copy Tests

22) Familiar vs. Professional Tone: The copy of your email can take a lot of different tones. Nailing the right one takes a thorough understanding of your buyer personas, as well as some plain ol’ trial and error. Test different tones — familiar versus professional, for instance — to see which resonates most with your audience.

23) Including “Free” in the Content: We recently wrote a blog post about whether including the word “Free” in email content impacted deliverability and clickthrough rate. The results are a handy starting point for any email marketer, but you should conduct your own tests to see whether the words turn your list on or off.

24) Longer vs. Shorter Emails: You could also decide to wax poetic in your emails, or keep it short and sweet. Truthfully, there’s a place for both. But you can only know the right time if you test it out. See whether you need to include more detail in your email copy, or whether you should have sent readers to a web page long ago.

25) Subject Line Copy Variations: Writing amazing email subject lines is a tricky mix of art and science. Think about it — would you rather get an email with the subject line, “How to be an excellent business blogger,” or “How to stop sucking a business blogging?” Probably depends, right? That’s why email marketers have to test different elements of their email subject line copy to see what gets recipients’ attention!

What other creative email marketing tests can you think of to run?

Image credit: pasukaru76




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