Blogging Strategy – Online Marketing Blog – TopRank® http://www.toprankblog.com Mon, 23 Apr 2018 15:12:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.5 B2B Podcasting: What, Why and How http://www.toprankblog.com/2018/03/b2b-podcasting-what-why-how/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2018/03/b2b-podcasting-what-why-how/#respond Wed, 14 Mar 2018 10:30:11 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=23970 The What, Why & How of B2B Podcasting

The What, Why & How of B2B Podcasting

Okay, B2B marketers, time for a pop quiz:

  1. Which content marketing tactic can hold an audience’s attention for a half hour or more at a time?
  2. Which tactic inspires an audience to subscribe to your content and make a regular appointment to consume it?
  3. Which tactic can help boost thought leadership, raise awareness and engage influencers in your industry?
  4. Which tactic is in the title of this blog post?

The answer, of course, is podcasting. These long-form audio programs first emerged in the early 2000s. Back then, they were a niche format for hobbyists and tech nerds (like me). But the rise of the smartphone brought podcasts to the masses. Now, there are hundreds of hours of programming available on every conceivable subject, in every genre from true crime to horror to musical.  But we haven’t hit content shock for podcasts it’s still a growing market.

If your brand is looking to boost thought leadership and reach a new audience, now is the perfect time to add a podcast to your content marketing mix. Here’s what you need to know to get started.

What Is a Podcast, Anyway?

There’s a wide variety of types of podcast out there, so it can seem tricky to find a definition that covers everything. Some are live interviews or panel discussions; some are fully scripted and produced audio plays; some are cryptic monologues about a bizarre southwestern town.  But they all share two attributes:

  1. There are multiple recordings for each title, and
  2. They’re organized in an RSS feed you can subscribe to.

Whatever genre the audio is, whatever platforms it’s available on, as long as you have multiple recordings brought together by an RSS feed, you have a podcast.

Why Should B2B Content Marketers Care about Podcasts?

The way that people consume podcasts make them an ideal channel for your high-quality content. People tend to listen while working out, driving, cooking dinner — in other words, podcasts fill sizable chunks of otherwise idle time. You wouldn’t expect someone to read your white paper or eBook during their morning commute, but they might settle in with your latest episode.

The demographics for podcast listeners are attractive for B2B marketers, too. Edison Research’s Podcast Consumer 2017 report found that:

  • 24% of people ages 18-54 listen to podcasts monthly
  • Podcast listeners are almost evenly split between men and women
  • Podcast listeners tend to be affluent, educated consumers
  • In the 25-54 demographic, monthly listening has grown year over year for the past four years

In other words, your target audience is likely spending a significant amount of time listening to podcasts already. And those who already listen to at least one podcast are likely to be on the lookout for more.

What Marketing Goals Can a B2B Podcast Serve?

Podcasts work best for the attract and engage phases of the customer journey. You can use your podcast to build brand awareness and establish thought leadership in your industry. Thoughtful, valuable content can help your brand stand out from the competition, and encourage listeners to build a relationship with the brand.

The most successful B2B podcasts tend to be in the Q&A or panel discussion style. Hosts can welcome new guests each week to share their insight. This type of format is perfect for influencer marketing: You can boost your internal subject matter experts, form relationships with influencers in the industry, even feature your potential prospects.

The Dell Luminaries* podcast is a great example of thought leadership B2B podcasting. Each episode features a guest with useful and often fascinating — thoughts to share with the audience. Some guests are internal experts at Dell, while others are influential entrepreneurs and executives from across the tech industry.

Dell Luminaries Podcast

Since podcasts have a low barrier of entry, they’re a good way to reach a niche audience, too. SAP’s recently-launched Customer Support Podcast * is a worthy example. Each episode features quotes from a wide array of influencers, internal and external.

SAP Customer Support Podcast

These podcasts succeed because they do what all great content does: deliver valuable information to a specific audience in an entertaining format.

How Do I Get Started?

It’s never been easier to launch a podcast. There are dozens of free and low-priced tools available to streamline every part of production, from recording to amplification. Here’s a quick rundown.

#1: Recording

To start recording, all you really need is a laptop and a decent-quality USB microphone. We get professional-sounding results with a Blue Yeti. For my personal podcast, I use an MXL 770. Either are more than adequate to get you started. Later you can invest in a whole sound studio’s worth of mixing boards, microphones, and accessories if you like, but start simple.

If you plan to interview guests on the show, likely you will be recording remotely over Skype, Google Hangout, or another VOIP. Don’t try to record your guest’s audio through your computer speakers or phone; have them create their own recording on their end, then edit the conversation together. We've been experimenting with Zencastr, which handles recording and VOIP coordination automatically, and have been pleased with the results.

For recording software, Audacity is still the best entry-level program. It’s free, has a host of useful features, and you don’t have to be a sound engineer to get great audio.

#2: Syndication

Once your audio is recorded and edited, you need a place to host the file, and an RSS feed to submit to podcast directories.  You can host the files locally and create your own RSS feed in raw html, but there are plenty of free-to-cheap platforms that can handle the grunt work. Most use an uploading interface similar to publishing on WordPress. So if you know how to upload a blog, you can create a podcast feed.

We have had good results with both Libsyn and Podbean. Both have free options and inexpensive paid plans with a few added features, and both provide stats that can help you track listenership.

Most importantly, they both will walk you through the process of listing your podcast on various directories: Google Play, iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, and more. That’s a crucial step in making sure your podcast is available on your audience’s preferred listening platform.

#3: Amplification

Once your podcast is published, there are a few easy ways to get the word out and start building your audience. First, activate your existing blog audience: Post a blog post for each episode with the audio embedded (Libsyn and Podbean both enable live-streaming embedded audio). Include an optimized title and meta description and a transcript or SEO-optimized introduction. And, of course, make sure to include a call to action to subscribe!

If your podcast includes influencers, create social media assets for them to share, including messaging and custom images. Share the podcast on your social channels as well, making sure to tag your influencers.

Cast Your Pods to the Wind

Podcasts are a rare type of content marketing: Interest in them is steadily growing, people go out of their way to seek out new content, and they’re relatively cheap and easy to produce. B2B marketers are constantly challenged to deliver the right content to people in the right format to earn their attention. If your target audience has a morning commute, a workout schedule, or other quiet time to fill, your podcast may be just what they’re waiting for.

Try these 10 marketing podcasts to make your own free time more productive.

*Dell and SAP are TopRank Marketing clients.

The post B2B Podcasting: What, Why and How appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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The What, Why & How of B2B Podcasting

The What, Why & How of B2B Podcasting Okay, B2B marketers, time for a pop quiz:
  1. Which content marketing tactic can hold an audience’s attention for a half hour or more at a time?
  2. Which tactic inspires an audience to subscribe to your content and make a regular appointment to consume it?
  3. Which tactic can help boost thought leadership, raise awareness and engage influencers in your industry?
  4. Which tactic is in the title of this blog post?
The answer, of course, is podcasting. These long-form audio programs first emerged in the early 2000s. Back then, they were a niche format for hobbyists and tech nerds (like me). But the rise of the smartphone brought podcasts to the masses. Now, there are hundreds of hours of programming available on every conceivable subject, in every genre from true crime to horror to musical.  But we haven’t hit content shock for podcasts it’s still a growing market. If your brand is looking to boost thought leadership and reach a new audience, now is the perfect time to add a podcast to your content marketing mix. Here’s what you need to know to get started.

What Is a Podcast, Anyway?

There’s a wide variety of types of podcast out there, so it can seem tricky to find a definition that covers everything. Some are live interviews or panel discussions; some are fully scripted and produced audio plays; some are cryptic monologues about a bizarre southwestern town.  But they all share two attributes:
  1. There are multiple recordings for each title, and
  2. They’re organized in an RSS feed you can subscribe to.
Whatever genre the audio is, whatever platforms it’s available on, as long as you have multiple recordings brought together by an RSS feed, you have a podcast.

Why Should B2B Content Marketers Care about Podcasts?

The way that people consume podcasts make them an ideal channel for your high-quality content. People tend to listen while working out, driving, cooking dinner — in other words, podcasts fill sizable chunks of otherwise idle time. You wouldn’t expect someone to read your white paper or eBook during their morning commute, but they might settle in with your latest episode. The demographics for podcast listeners are attractive for B2B marketers, too. Edison Research’s Podcast Consumer 2017 report found that:
  • 24% of people ages 18-54 listen to podcasts monthly
  • Podcast listeners are almost evenly split between men and women
  • Podcast listeners tend to be affluent, educated consumers
  • In the 25-54 demographic, monthly listening has grown year over year for the past four years
In other words, your target audience is likely spending a significant amount of time listening to podcasts already. And those who already listen to at least one podcast are likely to be on the lookout for more.

What Marketing Goals Can a B2B Podcast Serve?

Podcasts work best for the attract and engage phases of the customer journey. You can use your podcast to build brand awareness and establish thought leadership in your industry. Thoughtful, valuable content can help your brand stand out from the competition, and encourage listeners to build a relationship with the brand. The most successful B2B podcasts tend to be in the Q&A or panel discussion style. Hosts can welcome new guests each week to share their insight. This type of format is perfect for influencer marketing: You can boost your internal subject matter experts, form relationships with influencers in the industry, even feature your potential prospects. The Dell Luminaries* podcast is a great example of thought leadership B2B podcasting. Each episode features a guest with useful and often fascinating — thoughts to share with the audience. Some guests are internal experts at Dell, while others are influential entrepreneurs and executives from across the tech industry. Dell Luminaries Podcast Since podcasts have a low barrier of entry, they’re a good way to reach a niche audience, too. SAP’s recently-launched Customer Support Podcast * is a worthy example. Each episode features quotes from a wide array of influencers, internal and external. SAP Customer Support Podcast These podcasts succeed because they do what all great content does: deliver valuable information to a specific audience in an entertaining format.

How Do I Get Started?

It’s never been easier to launch a podcast. There are dozens of free and low-priced tools available to streamline every part of production, from recording to amplification. Here’s a quick rundown.

#1: Recording

To start recording, all you really need is a laptop and a decent-quality USB microphone. We get professional-sounding results with a Blue Yeti. For my personal podcast, I use an MXL 770. Either are more than adequate to get you started. Later you can invest in a whole sound studio’s worth of mixing boards, microphones, and accessories if you like, but start simple. If you plan to interview guests on the show, likely you will be recording remotely over Skype, Google Hangout, or another VOIP. Don’t try to record your guest’s audio through your computer speakers or phone; have them create their own recording on their end, then edit the conversation together. We've been experimenting with Zencastr, which handles recording and VOIP coordination automatically, and have been pleased with the results. For recording software, Audacity is still the best entry-level program. It’s free, has a host of useful features, and you don’t have to be a sound engineer to get great audio.

#2: Syndication

Once your audio is recorded and edited, you need a place to host the file, and an RSS feed to submit to podcast directories.  You can host the files locally and create your own RSS feed in raw html, but there are plenty of free-to-cheap platforms that can handle the grunt work. Most use an uploading interface similar to publishing on WordPress. So if you know how to upload a blog, you can create a podcast feed. We have had good results with both Libsyn and Podbean. Both have free options and inexpensive paid plans with a few added features, and both provide stats that can help you track listenership. Most importantly, they both will walk you through the process of listing your podcast on various directories: Google Play, iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, and more. That’s a crucial step in making sure your podcast is available on your audience’s preferred listening platform.

#3: Amplification

Once your podcast is published, there are a few easy ways to get the word out and start building your audience. First, activate your existing blog audience: Post a blog post for each episode with the audio embedded (Libsyn and Podbean both enable live-streaming embedded audio). Include an optimized title and meta description and a transcript or SEO-optimized introduction. And, of course, make sure to include a call to action to subscribe! If your podcast includes influencers, create social media assets for them to share, including messaging and custom images. Share the podcast on your social channels as well, making sure to tag your influencers.

Cast Your Pods to the Wind

Podcasts are a rare type of content marketing: Interest in them is steadily growing, people go out of their way to seek out new content, and they’re relatively cheap and easy to produce. B2B marketers are constantly challenged to deliver the right content to people in the right format to earn their attention. If your target audience has a morning commute, a workout schedule, or other quiet time to fill, your podcast may be just what they’re waiting for. Try these 10 marketing podcasts to make your own free time more productive. *Dell and SAP are TopRank Marketing clients.

The post B2B Podcasting: What, Why and How appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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Do You Really Need Another Blog Post? Why Content Marketing Needs More Flexibility http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/11/content-marketing-strategy-2/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/11/content-marketing-strategy-2/#comments Mon, 13 Nov 2017 11:30:50 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=23230 For at least a decade, the 500-word blog post has been the atomic unit of content marketing. Marketers like Joe Pulizzi and Marcus Sheridan built their entire careers on blogging. In Joe’s case, he started the blog without a business plan or a product, and developed both after building an audience through insightful, valuable blog [...]

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For at least a decade, the 500-word blog post has been the atomic unit of content marketing. Marketers like Joe Pulizzi and Marcus Sheridan built their entire careers on blogging. In Joe’s case, he started the blog without a business plan or a product, and developed both after building an audience through insightful, valuable blog posts. Even TopRank Marketing relied on blogging as a tactic for building thought leadership and establishing authority.

When new clients partner with our agency, they’re frequently looking to follow in Joe and Marcus’ footsteps. They’re likely to request 15-30 short blog posts a month as the foundation of their content efforts.  But we’re more likely to think in terms of content units—the amount of effort the content team will put in, rather than the specific output.

Should you focus your time and resources on a blog? Are there better ways to serve your audience? Here’s how our agency is changing the way we think about content.

Why Short-Form Blog Posts Are No Longer the Atomic Unit of Content Marketing Strategy

Short Blog Posts Are Losing Search Visibility
One of the chief purposes of a blog is to capture search engine rankings. You write useful content, people find it via search, they subscribe and keep coming back for more. But short blog posts aren’t great at capturing rankings anymore. There’s just too much short-form content out there for even the most optimized post to rise above it.

Quality Beats Quantity
Longer-form content tends to dominate search rankings. Comprehensive, in-depth best answer content will not only rank higher for the main search term, it’s more likely to include (and rank for) long-term keywords as well.

Just ask Neil Patel, of Kissmetrics fame. He posts 1500+-word blog posts on the regular. You’ll find his posts on any list of highest-ranked or most-shared content on any topic he addresses. 

Most of us don’t have the time and resources to post best answer content every day, but that’s okay—a steady drip of high-quality content is still preferable to a deluge of shallower takes.

Blog Posts Are Temporary by Design
The very structure of a blog means that old posts are less likely to be read than the latest post – and the latest one quickly joins the seldom-seen archives. This kind of content is good for satisfying subscribers, but not great for long-term search visibility. The end goal of repurposing content is to take old blog posts and turn them into evergreen assets – so it makes sense to actually design evergreen assets as part of your strategy. 

The Way People Consume Content Is Changing
Last year, mobile internet use outstripped desktop use for the first time ever. In other words, all new internet traffic is happening on mobile devices. That’s significant for content creators, because 84.9% of smartphone time is spent in apps, versus on the mobile web.  While desktop users might have spent more time reading blogs and visiting websites, mobile traffic is concentrated in apps like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. These apps require a different type of content to earn audience attention.

Blogs Are Still a Thing – But Not the Only Thing
That’s not to say that blogging is dead, of course. A blog can be a great place to interact with customers and prospects, build credibility, establish thought leadership, and round up subscribers. But focusing exclusively on creating a ton of blog content is no longer the best strategy.

More Flexible Content Alternatives

Instead of creating a set number of blog posts a month, focus on the outcomes you want to achieve. The deliverable should match your goals, not the other way around. You’ll end up with a more efficient use of your time and resources, and content assets that get the job done.

Long-Form Assets
For example, if your goal is to top the rankings for a specific keyword, roll three posts’ worth of effort into crafting a long-form resource. Then put that resource on your Features page, or give it its own slot on your navigation header – don’t bury it in the blog. The closer your page is to your site’s root directory, the more weight it carries for ranking purposes. That is, Google will give preference to “www.yourcompany.com/awesome-resource” than “www.yourcompany.com/blog/2017/October/awesome-resource.”

Video Content
Trading short-form blog posts for video content is another useful tactic. Video can be embedded in a blog post, but also find another life on Facebook and YouTube. Our client DivvyHQ recently published a video series with the videos hosted on YouTube. They can serve their blog audience, but also reach out to a new audience through the YouTube app. TopRank Marketing creates a weekly news video that we post to Facebook, and each video earns hundreds of views natively on the platform.

 Influencer Content
If your daily blog responsibilities have kept you from exploring influencer marketing, it’s high time to devote attention to it. Influencers can help boost your credibility, increase visibility, and create relationships that will serve your business in the long-term. A single influencer co-created asset can achieve far higher visibility than the most comprehensive blog post.

Blog On – But Blog Wisely

The humble blog post had a good run – it dominated content marketing strategy for the 00s and most of the 2010s. But the content landscape is changing, and we need to change with it. Don’t ditch your blog just yet, but do examine how you’re using the time and resources available to you.

Focus on your desired outcomes rather than a rigid set of deliverables. Give your content team the flexibility to explore new strategies, and you can evolve your content mix along with your audience’s demands.

 


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© Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®, 2017. | Do You Really Need Another Blog Post? Why Content Marketing Needs More Flexibility | http://www.toprankblog.com

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How to Make the Switch to Content-Driven SEO #MNBlogCon http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/10/content-driven-seo/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/10/content-driven-seo/#respond Mon, 16 Oct 2017 10:30:05 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=23111 TopRank Marketing’s Joshua Nite made his debut on the speaker circuit this past weekend at the 8th annual Minnesota Blogger Conference held at Concordia University in St. Paul. Charming the crowd with his unique brand of wit, creativity, mad content marketing expertise, and numerous “cats with hats” references, Josh delivered a The Good Place-themed presentation [...]

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TopRank Marketing’s Joshua Nite made his debut on the speaker circuit this past weekend at the 8th annual Minnesota Blogger Conference held at Concordia University in St. Paul.

Charming the crowd with his unique brand of wit, creativity, mad content marketing expertise, and numerous “cats with hats” references, Josh delivered a The Good Place-themed presentation titled: “The Good News About Creative Content: From SEO-Driven Content to Content-Driven SEO.”

As someone who spent 12 years as a creative comedy writer for a video game called The Kingdom of Loathing, Josh said he was terrified by the concept of SEO-driven content when he made his transition into content marketing.

“The worst content to write, and the worst content for people to read, was the stuff that [search engine] robots liked to read to most,” Josh said.

But thankfully, search engines are getting smarter, using AI and machine learning to increasingly improve how they deliver the best results. As a result, content creators need to flip the script on how they craft content if they want to resonate with readers and robots. From Josh’s point of view, that means transitioning from SEO-driven content to content-driven SEO.

How? Below is Josh’s five-step framework.

#1 – Topic research.

Get started by digging deep into your target audience. Why? Because in order to craft content that resonates, you have to understand what they care about. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who are they? (i.e. demographics, hobbies, interests, etc.)
  • What do they desperately need to know? (And what keywords and keywords groups are associated?)
  • Where do they hang out online? (i.e. social media)
  • Why should they care about your content? (What value can you add?)
  • How do they search for inspiration? (i.e. Google, Bing, Q&A forums, etc.)

From there, you need to identify your sweet spot. Your sweet spot is the intersection of: 1) Your brand’s expertise. 2) Your audience’s needs. 3) Your unique insights.

Finally, leverage free and paid tools such as Google auto-complete, Google Keyword Planner, Quora, Answer The Public, and BuzzSumo to understand specific keyword topics that resonate most with your audience.


To craft #content that resonates, you have to know what your audience cares about.
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#2 – Competitor research.

Simply put, in order to beat out your competition, you need to know what they’re up to. Kick off your competitive research by simply “going incognito,” Josh said.

An incognito search prevents your browser history or cache from impacting the results, giving you a more accurate picture of the search results surrounding your priority keyword topics.

After popping in your keywords, scan the results for content gaps—gaps in quality, relevant, or helpful content. As you do this, look for opportunities to expand your keywords into long-tail variations, so you can get more specific and really let your niche expertise shine.

#3 – Content creation.

Now the fun part comes. Using your topical and competitive research, outline your concepts and document your content mission (i.e. increase ranking for “X” keyword by 10 positions in one month). Then get to work on crafting your piece.

#4 – A smattering of HTML.

As you craft your content, you need to be thinking about how you’ll organize that content on-page, as well as send “click me” signals to searchers. This involves working in some of the technical on-page SEO elements. The top three that need consideration include:

  • Title tags: This is the title searchers will see in the SERPs. Keep it to 600 pixels long so it doesn’t get truncated. In addition, aim to have the primary keyword near the beginning, as long as it makes sense.
  • Header tags: Use H1 and H2 tags to organize your content to make it easy to scan for readers and robots.
  • Meta description: From Josh’s perspective, this is the most overlooked, yet crucial part of SEO infrastructure. “This is your one shot to hook users,” he said. Keep it to 160 characters or less, include your target keyword if it makes sense, and state the clear benefit.

#5 – Optimization.

You’ve spent a lot of time getting that piece of content out the door. But fight the urge to move on and never touch it again. As Josh so eloquently said, “The real work begins after you publish.”

So, keep an eye on your analytics. Is your content getting a good amount of impressions but not a ton of clicks? Consider refining the meta description a bit. Are you getting impressions and clicks, but the bounce rate is high? Your readers may feel like they’re not getting what they were promised or there’s no clear call to action to keep them on your site. So refine the meta description and craft a more compelling CTA.

Again, you poured a lot of effort into getting this content published—so don’t let that effort be wasted. Always be on the lookout for opportunities to tweak the content and the SEO elements to improve its resonance.


The real work begins after your publish. - @NiteWrites #contentmarketing
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Don’t Settle

Josh summed it all up perfectly in the final moments of his presentation:

“There’s never been a better opportunity to write great content that people actually want to read and that will get seen in search results,” Josh said. “So, go forth and be awesome. And please, please—don’t settle for writing crappy content.”


Please, please—don’t settle for writing crappy content. - @NiteWrites #contentmarketing
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What does your creative content creation process look like? Tell us in the comments section below.


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How Does Your Garden Grow? How to Create and Maintain Evergreen Content http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/04/create-maintain-evergreen-content/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/04/create-maintain-evergreen-content/#respond Mon, 24 Apr 2017 10:30:29 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=22179 Every good gardener knows there are two types of flowering plants: Annuals and perennials. Annuals bloom once and have to be replanted the next growing season. Perennials stick around; they continue to flower year after year. Most blog posts are annuals. You publish them, they generate views and shares for a while, and then they [...]

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Every good gardener knows there are two types of flowering plants: Annuals and perennials. Annuals bloom once and have to be replanted the next growing season. Perennials stick around; they continue to flower year after year.

Most blog posts are annuals. You publish them, they generate views and shares for a while, and then they basically go dormant. Readers might happen across them occasionally. But think of it this way: When was the last time you went through your favorite blog’s archives? Or clicked on a search result that was over a year old?

Rarely, though, you will find that a post has perennial appeal—what some marketers call “evergreen content.” Even though you published it in 2012, it still gets liked and shared. That’s a clear sign the content is still relevant to your audience.

Evergreen content continues to provide value without extra effort, and it can support spin-offs that fill in blanks in your editorial calendar. So it makes sense to invest some time in creating and caring for your perennials.

How to Create Evergreen Content

On one level, what content becomes evergreen is up to your audience. There will always be a blog post or two that get a surprising amount of sustained attention—posts that just happen to meet an ongoing need.

We’ll talk about how to make the most of these accidental perennials a little later. For now, though, know that it is possible to design content to have lasting value. Aim for content that is:

  • Fundamental and Timeless. Think “how to” content, frequently asked questions, guides to a subject that stays consistent over time. The opposite of newsjacking posts or posts about cutting-edge trends.
  • Take a comprehensive look at a single topic. Go deep, with links to content that explores topics of parallel interest. That kind of value is exactly what will continue to bring in readers over time.
  • Best Answer” Content. Make sure your topic is highly relevant to your audience—fundamental, timeless, substantial content that doesn’t answer someone’s burning question won’t become evergreen.
  • Highly Visible. Your blog may not be the best spot for content that’s evergreen by design. Let your accidental evergreens live there, but consider a more permanent home for your new perennials. For example, this comprehensive guide to advertising on LinkedIn has its own page on the root directory.

How to Identify Accidental Evergreens

A quick look through your site’s Google Analytics should show what content is still generating interest. Look at your traffic report to see what your top-performing posts have been in the past six months—older posts that are still in the top ten are definitely worth your attention.

It’s worth exploring what keywords your site is ranking for, too. You will likely find some unexpected rankings—blog posts that continue to bring in traffic for a specific long tail keyword. These posts hold some hidden value and are worth maintaining.

Care and Maintenance of Evergreen Content

Now that you have identified the perennials in your garden—and perhaps planted a few new ones—you can help them grow even more value:

  • Refresh Older Posts. If an outdated post is still pulling in traffic, it’s worth pulling in fresh statistics and a few new visuals to make it even more relevant. Don’t forget to change the date and note that it was edited, so readers will know it’s au courant.
  • Make a Hub. Your evergreen post can become the center of an SEO-friendly little content empire. Create new content to expand on part of the post, or address a relevant side topic. Then crosslink between the old and new.
  • Expand and Feature. Take a shorter piece that still gets traffic and expand it—turn your quick how-to into a more in-depth guide. Include visual interest, relevant statistics, and links to other resources (we call this a “power page”). Then take your new asset and give it pride of place, on its own page rather than in your blog.
  • Create a Gated Asset. Evergreen content’s popularity is your audience telling you what they want to know more about. Create an eBook or white paper that further explores the topic of your evergreen content. Then add a CTA to the original post that links to your new asset.
  • Start a Series. As soon as a movie hits big at the box office, suddenly it becomes “part one of a trilogy.” Take the same approach with a surprise evergreen hit. Make it the first in a series of posts on the topic, and link them together.
  • Find New Formats. You can repurpose evergreen content to attract an even wider audience. Make it the basis of a webinar. Turn the stats into an infographic. Discuss it on a podcast. All of these can build on the audience’s demonstrated interest in the topic.

How Green Is Your Thumb?

Evergreen content is a bonus for content marketers. Not only does it generate traffic without effort, it can serve as a starting point to drive even more value for your audience. It’s worth checking for perennials already growing in your content garden, and planting some for next season, too.

How do you repurpose evergreen content? Let me know in the comments.


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In a Content Marketing Slump? Spice up Your Program with These Tips http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/02/content-marketing-program-tips/ Wed, 08 Feb 2017 11:30:32 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=21876 How can you turn out haute cuisine content on a fast food production schedule? Your content team—especially if it’s a team of one—can be on the hook for creating a vast quantity of content. Between sales enablement, eBooks, white papers, and blog posts, it can be overwhelming. The temptation to churn out uncreative but passable [...]

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How can you turn out haute cuisine content on a fast food production schedule?

Your content team—especially if it’s a team of one—can be on the hook for creating a vast quantity of content. Between sales enablement, eBooks, white papers, and blog posts, it can be overwhelming.

The temptation to churn out uncreative but passable content is hard to resist, especially if you’re behind on the editorial calendar. This kind of rushed content can lead to each piece having a same-y feel—same format, same voice, same structure.

Not only is bland content hard for your readers to stomach, it’s not particularly inspiring to create, either. If you’re feeling like a short order cook instead of a celebrity chef, try these tips to spice things up.

#1: Freshen Up Your Research

A great content marketing initiative starts with thorough customer research. When you started your strategy, it was based on solid intel intended to help you create best answer content. Research shouldn’t be a one-and-done proposition, though. It’s important to keep evaluating, optimizing, and adjusting.

If your audience is unenthusiastic about your content, it’s time to refresh your research. First, see how your published content is performing. What’s resonating with your audience? How can you expand on the topics that are getting the most attention?

Then, revisit your sources for customer information—everything from Google analytics to customer surveys. See if there are questions that still don’t have answers. Or better yet, look for opportunities to answer questions they haven’t asked yet.

#2: Find a New Point of View

Ever feel like you’re repeating yourself in your content? Ever feel like you’re repeating yourself in your content? It’s understandable. You have the same team writing content to support the same solutions with the same talking points—at some point it’s going to feel repetitive.

So if you ever feel like you’re repeating yourself in your content, seek out new voices in your organization. Interview someone in sales, someone in customer service, someone in the C-suite. Sit down for a face-to-face if possible, and record audio for a podcast or create a video at the same time. You’ll end up with a fresh take on your content, a new authentic voice, and a spot filled in the editorial calendar with minimal effort.

#3: Balance Your Funnel

Part of a solid content strategy is developing content for the entire marketing funnel:

  • Attract content has broad appeal (while still being relevant to the target audience). It seeks to gain attention and define a problem.
  • Engage content is for people who are already aware they have a problem. It seeks to educate and entertain, while promoting the idea that the reader needs to take action to solve their problem.
  • Convert content is for those who are committed to solving their problem, and focuses on why your particular solution is the right choice.

Frequently, marketers feel pressured to write the bulk of their content for the Convert stage, as that content links most directly to revenue. But the majority of content consumed is in the Attract stage—so it makes sense to create great top-of-funnel content with clear next steps.

Conversely, if you find your content is getting a lot of social media love and pageviews, but it’s not translating to revenue, you may be missing the middle or bottom of the funnel. Balancing out your content load to cover the entire funnel will help guide customers to a purchase decision, while adding much-needed variety to your content offering.

#4: Change Up the Format

If your content is solid but is failing to inspire engagement, it may be the structure, not the content, that’s the problem. Try changing up the format: If the white page isn’t getting traction, distil the main points into an infographic. If the podcast is failing to connect, transcribe it into a blog post or add a visual element. If your blog posts are a snooze, add some fun images.

If you can serve up a variety of creative content forms, you can keep your audience engaged (and stave off your own boredom, too).

#5: Let Your Customers Do the Talking

Study after study shows that modern buyers want content that is authentic and transparent, like a handmade artisanal window. It’s definitely worth bringing your unique human voice into the content you create. But one of the best ways to create truly authentic content is to let your customers do the job for you.

The traditional case study is one way to go about it, as long as you give it a compelling narrative. Case studies can get too by-the-numbers if we’re not careful: “Customer had problem. Customer got our solution. Customer saw results.”

Focus on the people behind the story, instead: “Bob has a degree in Library Science. Now he’s ordering supplies for an oil rig. Lives are on the line if he gets the wrong brand of toilet paper.”

Letting customers tell their own stories works even better than case studies. You can use a custom hashtag on social media to collect submissions, then offer recognition and praise to anyone who submits a story. If your brand has a presence on visual sites like Instagram, you can quickly gather enough photos and stories to make a truly compelling blog post.

Variety Is the Spice of Life

With the sheer volume of content most marketers are called on to produce, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. If you feel like your content is turning bland, add spice: pepper in fresh research, ask your co-workers for sage advice, gingerly experiment with new formats, and curry favor with customers for user-generated content. With these five tips, you can have a tastier content mix in no thyme.

Need help creating and executing your culinary content strategy? Learn more about our content marketing services.


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Mastering the Art of Blogging: 6 Recipes to Help You Become A More Successful Content Creator http://www.toprankblog.com/2016/10/mastering-the-art-of-blogging/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2016/10/mastering-the-art-of-blogging/#comments Mon, 17 Oct 2016 10:30:01 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=21230 Last Saturday, Ashley Zeckman presented to a packed room of bloggers and shared a presentation titled: Mastering the Art of Blogging: 6 Recipes to Help You Become A More Successful Content Creator at the annual MN Blogger Conference. The MN Blogger Conference offers a great opportunity for bloggers and content marketers to gather and learn [...]

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mastering-the-art-of-blogging

Last Saturday, Ashley Zeckman presented to a packed room of bloggers and shared a presentation titled: Mastering the Art of Blogging: 6 Recipes to Help You Become A More Successful Content Creator at the annual MN Blogger Conference.

The MN Blogger Conference offers a great opportunity for bloggers and content marketers to gather and learn insights on content strategy, search engine optimization, and social media. In her presentation, Ashley shared that unfortunately only 37% of companies have a documented content strategy (according to Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs) which presents an opportunity for content marketers to gain an advantage over competitors. Ashley was able to outline six recipes or strategies to gain your advantage. The six content marketing recipes include:

  1. Discovery Donuts
  2. Content Mission Canapés
  3. Best Answer Biscuits
  4. Less is More Lasagna
  5. Content Cheeseburger
  6. Influencer Ice Cream Sundae

Recipe 1: Discovery Donuts

The discovery donuts recipe focuses on understanding your audience. Ashley stated, “Today’s consumers are overwhelmed with information and have become much more selective about which companies or brands they interact with.” To provide the best information for your audience, you need to build personas to target the right person within your audience. To build personas, ask your current customers directly with surveys, social polls, or calling them fairly continuously. Also, review your analytics to identify content types or key phrases from internal search that people are finding on your website. Analytics is a great tool that can help content marketers build a strategy that targets each personas. The last way to build a persona is to conduct keyword research to discover the “best answer” for their pain point.

Recipe 2: Content Mission Canapés

Ashley quoted Joe Pulizzi “To work, your [content] mission statement has to be all about the pain points of your readers.” To create a content mission statement that targets pain points you should include:

  • Who you are.
  • Who you’re trying to reach.
  • How you plan to reach them.
  • What you want to accomplish.

Recipe 3: Best Answer Biscuits

One successful content marketing strategy is to provide the “best answer” for your audience’s questions. Lee Odden was quoted, “Create signals of authority that position you as the best answer wherever your customers are searching.” The reason you want to be the best answer is because 50% of content gets 8 shares or less (BuzzSumo & Moz). The best answer will continue to be found via search and help your target audience. Key to a best answer strategy is creating resource rich content that ranks well in search engines. These pages should essential be the “best answer” for a particular topic.

Creating a consistent experience is also an important part of a “best answer” strategy since blogging today is actually a multi-channel approach. Everything from your blog posts to site content and social profiles need to create a consistent experience. Provide a consistent look and feel, along with messaging, to make your audience now that they are interacting with you.

Recipe 4: Less is More Lasagna

We are publishing so much content, that it is causing content overload. According to Ann Handley, “We don’t need more content, we need better content.” The overall idea is to provide more quality content over quantity.  Ashley states that why more content isn’t better.  She states, “When you try to pump out more content, the lowered quality can actually negatively impact the perception of your blog or brand.” Instead, focus on creating resource rich, high quality content.

To better reach prospective customers, identify key traits of your current ideal customers. Then develop profiles or personas to better target these identified audience members to focus on content impact. To create impact, make highly relevant content. Also, use contacts, tools and data to help determine relevance. Lastly, think about your distribution strategy.

Recipe 5: Content Cheeseburger

When it comes to content create evergreen content that can be slightly modified (or not) and be used again and again. Truth is, only a fraction of your audience saw it the first time, so why not share again. Also, use analytics to determine which posts resonate most with your audience. Always go back to your analytics to continue to identify what posts could be revised to meet changing audience needs. Another great content strategy would be to start a series to keep your readers coming back. Then you can point back to the previous posts in the series to breath new life into them.

Recipe 6: Influencer Ice Cream Sundae

Ashley shared that, “you can begin including influencer contributions into your blog content, without event having to perform outreach.” also utilize influencers to facilitate greater reach of your content, improve quality and some say influencer content can inspire more buyer engagement to leads and booked deals.

Ongoing influencer involvement can also lead to organic advocacy of your brand, products and services.If you curate or co-create, you can reach out to influencers and make it easy for them to share. Influencers are busy people so you want to remove as much friction as possible.


You can see Ashley’s full presentation below on SlideShare:


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What Social Media Marketers Need to Know About Facebook Live http://www.toprankblog.com/2016/09/social-media-marketing-facebook-live/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2016/09/social-media-marketing-facebook-live/#comments Tue, 27 Sep 2016 10:30:23 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=21134 In the age of Netflix and DVRs, it’s weirdly ironic to watch the growing popularity of live video for social media marketing. Sure, most of it is recorded so you can access it later, but it has far more in common with the nightly news than with modern on-demand, personalized content. It turns out, there’s [...]

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facebook-live-what-you-should-know

In the age of Netflix and DVRs, it’s weirdly ironic to watch the growing popularity of live video for social media marketing. Sure, most of it is recorded so you can access it later, but it has far more in common with the nightly news than with modern on-demand, personalized content.

It turns out, there’s something about watching an event unfold live that’s hard to replicate. To be there as it’s happening, in the moment with a group of friends and strangers, sharing a singular experience. It’s powerful. And it never really went out of style—it just took a while for technology to create a compelling modern version.

Facebook Live has realized the potential for live video combined with a social network. Not only are people watching in droves, they’re more engaged: People spend three times longer watching live video than they watch recorded versions after-the-fact.

As with any new channel, it’s always tempting to jump right in and start creating content. And, as always, it’s a better idea to do some evaluating and strategizing first.

Here’s the low-down on Facebook Live: What it is, what it’s for, and how brands are using it.

What Is Facebook Live?

A native live-streaming service embedded in Facebook. When you go Live, the stream will show in your follower’s feeds and on your profile page. Viewers can leave likes and comments in real time. After the event is over, viewers can watch a recorded version with the option of seeing the comment stream as if it were live.

Who’s Doing It?

Everyone from the President to celebrities to athletes.

How Do I Do It?

Right now, the easiest way to go Live is from a mobile device. On the Facebook app for iOS or Android, you’ll see a “Live” button right at the top of the feed. Click that for a quick set up and your feed will begin! There is a version of Live for desktops which is slowly being rolled out—if you don’t have it yet, the mobile version is the only game in town.

What Are the Best Practices?

Facebook’s best practices for Live are a good place to start:

  • Tell followers ahead of time before you broadcast
  • Write a compelling description
  • Make sure you have a strong internet connection
  • Respond to commenters on the air
  • Aim for longer sessions (10-90 minutes)
  • Develop a schedule so viewers know when to tune in

What Pitfalls Should I Look Out For?

Since it’s so easy to go Live, a lot of Live streams right now look the same. They’re talking heads, people holding up a phone and chatting informally with the viewer. If you’re a celebrity with a quick wit, go for it—otherwise, don’t go in without a plan.

It’s an unpredictable platform—you may have to contend with technical issues and an unmoderated comment stream at the same time. It’s a good idea to have at least one person off-camera who can handle the comment stream and work out any glitches.

Finally, don’t expect your entire audience to tune in all at once. Generally viewers drop in and out of live streams—some will arrive late and some will leave early. So a complex narrative that builds on prior knowledge is not the best choice.

Q: What Kind of Content Works Best?

There’s a vast array of content that works for Facebook Live. The most successful take advantage of the special connection the platform affords with an audience, addressing and interacting with them in real time. Here are a few good examples:

  • Behind the Scenes: Dunkin’ Donuts took their followers on a tour of “Dunkin’ Brands University,” a facility where Dunkin’ creates new products. At the end of the tour, audiences got a tutorial on how to make a Dunkin’ Donuts wedding cake. The tour scored just over 30,000 views.The informal, intimate nature of the platform is ideal for these sneak peeks behind the scenes. If your brand doesn’t have a factory to tour, consider a tour of the office space itself—promote transparency and your corporate culture by showing off work spaces and interviewing co-workers.
  • Tips and How-tos: Benefit Cosmetics hosts a weekly show called Tipsy Tricks. A host and guests drink wine, gossip, and offer makeup tips. They respond to viewer comments, and generally offer a mix of practical advice and entertaining banter.Facebook Live works well for how-tos and demos, provided there’s an angle to keep it interesting for the audience. As you prep a how-to, keep an eye out for dead spots in the process that your host will need to fill.
  • Performances: If your brand can swing it, musical or dance performances are a great way to pull in top-of-funnel audiences. Postmodern Jukebox is my favorite for performance video—they livestream parts of every concert they put on, often capturing behind-the-scenes content as well as the concert. But you don’t have to play at that level to stream a performance. Buzzfeed’s interactive dance-off was compelling to viewers because it was an amateur, interactive event.
  • Stunts: If one video captures the pared-down essence of storytelling on Facebook Live, it’s Buzzfeed’s watermelon explosion. At the time it aired, it was the platform’s biggest hit, with well over a million views.The concept couldn’t be simpler: Two Buzzfeed employees, decked out in safety gear, take turns putting rubber bands around a watermelon. The tension builds for 45 minutes until the watermelon finally explodes.On the surface, it seems kind of…dumb, right? But this video was successful because it hit all the right points:
    • Audiences could drop in any time
    • It was immediately obvious what was going on and what was at stake
    • It encouraged audience interaction
    • It built suspense
    • It worked toward a definite endpoint

Granted, the one thing it lacked was an element of utility. But it was undeniably compelling. Add some value for your viewer while checking off the same boxes this video did, and you’ll be unstoppable.

Livestreaming video is still in its infancy. Marketers are still experimenting with the form, with mixed results. One thing’s for sure: As with any channel, it’s all about relevancy, authenticity, and providing something of value to your audience. Put their needs first, and you can develop a strategy for success.

Does your brand plan to jump into livestreaming? Are you already enjoying success with the platform? Let me know in the comments.

 


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Avoid Content Ennui: 10 Creative Blog Types to Serve Your Audience http://www.toprankblog.com/2016/09/10-creative-blog-types/ Thu, 22 Sep 2016 10:30:06 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=21123 When it comes to blog content, a lot of us are serving breakfast when we should be serving dinner. Let me explain. Odds are you have a go-to breakfast that you eat nearly every day. A bowl of cereal with a banana, some oatmeal with maple syrup, a haunch of beef seasoned with the tears [...]

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creative-blog-types

When it comes to blog content, a lot of us are serving breakfast when we should be serving dinner.

Let me explain. Odds are you have a go-to breakfast that you eat nearly every day. A bowl of cereal with a banana, some oatmeal with maple syrup, a haunch of beef seasoned with the tears of your enemies—generally there’s not much variety from day to day. On the other hand…

batsaneye

For dinner, we generally require some variety. Maybe it’s that no one is fully awake for breakfast, so it doesn’t matter what you eat. Maybe it’s the realization that eggs and bacon are perfect foods.

Either way, people come to your website expecting dinner. If you keep hitting them with oatmeal and toast, they’re not likely to keep coming back. Serve up a delicious variety of entrees, though, and you can start to build a relationship.

Here are a few different types of blog posts to help keep your content fresh.

#1: List Posts

Studies have found that list posts (or “listicles” if you absolutely must), especially those with numbers in the title, tend to be shared more often than any other type of content.

That makes sense. List posts are already optimized for web reading. They’re skimmable; they have small sections broken up by headers; it’s easy to tell where you are in the piece and how much you have left to go.

In fact, it’s easy to share a list post without even reading it all. If the headline and the first entry are compelling, people will click the share button.

#2: How-To Posts

Posts that explain a process hit several boxes on the “great content” checklist. As long as they’re relevant to your audience, they’re designed to have immediate practical value. They also establish your brand as an authority. And they can be an evergreen resource customers can keep coming back to.

When writing a how-to post, think about your audience beyond just their interaction with your brand. What do they really need to know, versus what you want to tell them?

My favorite example of how-to posts done right comes from hardware store Lowe’s. They have hundreds of guides, like this one about installing a fence.

If your topic is inherently visual, how-to videos can be cheap and easy to produce. This video about making stress balls is compelling with almost zero production value.

#3: Tips Posts

Think of a tips post as something in-between a list and a how-to. Instead of explaining a single process start-to-finish, you’re providing little nuggets of tactical goodness with each entry. They’re highly skimmable like list posts and evergreen like how-tos.

As with a list post, you could go for 50 quick one-sentence entries or go in-depth on just a few. This article on increasing Facebook organic reach is a good example of the latter.

A list of quick, useful tips can take on a life of its own through re-sharing and repurposing. For example, you can pull a few tips from the list and turn them into social media images with Canva or Pixlr. Or turn the whole post into a SlideShare and reach a new audience.

The word “tips” tends to have long-tail keyword value, too. For example, “content marketing” is a more highly-competitive keyword than “content marketing tips,” and “content marketing tips” is a more specific topic that is easier to write best answer content for.

#4: Tools Posts

If your company deals with software or online activity of any kind, odds are you can whip up a relevant tools post that will delight your readers. Wrap up all the free or low-cost useful sites, plugins, and downloads that make your life easier and share them with your readers.

There’s an immense amount of sharing potential in tool posts. My recent content marketing tools post is one of my highest-shared posts already, and it’s only been out a month. Heck, RazorSocial’s Ian Cleary built a career on evaluating and recommending tools for social media.

Just make sure to keep it useful, keep it relevant, and disclose any relationship your company has with the tools you’re promoting. For example, if you get a free LinkedIn Premium account through work, and you recommend customers sign up for the service, you must disclose.

#5: Thought Leadership Posts

These posts help position your company as a knowledgeable authority in your industry—and most importantly, as having a point of view on the issues that affect your potential customers. Thought leadership posts come in three types:

  1. Industry: Demonstrating a point of view on the news and trends affecting your industry now nad in the future
  2. Product: Practical advice for getting the most utility out of your product offering
  3. Organizational: A look into your company culture, your company philosophy, what it’s like to work there

Thought leadership helps make your brand transparent, showcasing the people and ideas that make your company great.

#6: Round-ups

One easy way to fill your editorial calendar is with a weekly roundup (like our Online Marketing News series). You can build a list of go-to resources that regularly publish articles about your industry, and feature a few articles with brief summaries.

Or use a tool like Buzzsumo to round up the most shared or trending articles about your industry. Either way, you can provide the reader with a useful resource and boost your brand’s credibility.

Don’t forget to message the authors when you include them in a roundup for amplification potential, too.

#7: Curated Influencer Posts

Influencer involvement is great for enhancing a post’s credibility and building relationships. For your audience, influencer involvement adds variety in the point of view on your blog, multiplying the utility of your content.

A curated influencer post is one that collects influencer quotes from publicly available sources, rather than through direct outreach. For example, this “What Is Content Marketing?” post from (our client) LinkedIn Marketing Solutions collects 25 already-existent quotes from some of the biggest names in content marketing. It remains one of the blog’s most popular posts, and it only took a little research to put it together.

Curated posts are a good way to start a relationship with an influencer as well. Let them know you’re sharing their wisdom with the world, give them proper credit, and you’re set up to ask for a direct participation post.

#8: Influencer Participation Posts

Influencer marketing can create content that benefits everyone involved: Your brand and the influencer get access to new audiences and boosted credibility, and readers get cool co-created content to read.

A post with genuine influencer participation could be a simple Q&A with one influencer, or short responses to a prompt from several influencers.

#9: “Chocolate Cake” Post

As adults, we know that desserts are not a main course, and (as cookie monster tells us), are a “sometimes food.” You wouldn’t want to give your audience cavities with chocolate cake every day, but every once in a while a light, sweet diversion is just what they need.

Think April Fool’s Day posts, collections of funny memes, even a Buzzfeed-style GIF-driven post. It should always have a little bit of value beyond the humor, but the focus is on having fun. Jason Miller’s annual interviews with Dracula are a great example of the form.

#10: Interactive Content

It’s all well and good to have your audience passively reading your content, but even better when they can interact with it in a meaningful way.

If you have the resources, developing a calculator or other useful widget (like CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer) is sure to get your audience’s attention.

Even without an army of developers, though, you can create an engaging bit of interactive content. Make a quiz with a tool like QZZR, a survey with Survey Monkey, or an interactive, clickable word cloud with Wordle.

Serve up a Never-Ending Content Buffet

These ten examples are just a few of the hundreds of content types available. And you can make your own by mixing-and-matching—how about a list post featuring a round-up of how-to posts? Or a tools post created by asking influencers to name their favorite tools? With a little creativity, the possibilities are endless.

What’s your favorite creative type of blog post? Let me know in the comments.


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20 Must-Have Content Marketing Tools for Writing Better Blog Posts http://www.toprankblog.com/2016/08/20-content-marketing-tools-blog-posts/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2016/08/20-content-marketing-tools-blog-posts/#comments Wed, 17 Aug 2016 10:30:30 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=20879 Fans of high culture rejoice. We have finally realized our potential as a species. We have reached the pinnacle of creative expression. That’s right. MacGyver is getting a reboot. For those of you born in the 90’s, MacGyver was a TV show starring Richard Dean Anderson and his amazing mullet: Breathtaking, isn’t it? MacGyver was [...]

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20-content-marketing-tools

Fans of high culture rejoice. We have finally realized our potential as a species. We have reached the pinnacle of creative expression.

That’s right. MacGyver is getting a reboot.

For those of you born in the 90’s, MacGyver was a TV show starring Richard Dean Anderson and his amazing mullet:

MacGyver

Image via Telestar

Breathtaking, isn’t it? MacGyver was a secret agent who used the power of feathered hair (and an array of improvised gadgetry) to fight the forces of evil. Give the man a paperclip and some bubblegum, and he could make anything from a deadly weapon to a stylish evening gown.

Content marketers tend to be the MacGyver of the marketing world. We may not have the hairdo (or any hair at all, in my case), but we’re used to making miracles with an improvised toolkit.

To celebrate MacGyver’s triumphant return, let’s put away our tin-foil-and-dryer-lint contraptions and give our tools a much-needed upgrade.

Here are tools you can use in every stage of creating a blog post, from creating concepts to adding visual interest.

Concepting

Content marketing starts with audience and keyword research. After that, it’s time to take that research and turn it into actual concepts for individual posts. These five tools can help.

#1 – HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator

 hubspot topic generator

This little wizard is still the gold standard for simple idea generation. You can enter up to three topics, and it will put together sample headlines for you. The suggestions are based on HubSpot’s own incredibly successful blog. They may be a little on the generic side, but they’re a good starting point.

#2 – Portent’s Content Idea Generator

portent idea generator

Put in a keyword, get a single headline. It’s a simple little generator, but one thing sets it above some of the other tools I considered for this list: It’s a teaching tool. Each component of the headline gets its own little mini-rationale.

#3 – TweakYourBIZ Title Generator

 tweakyourbiz

Unlike the first two, this title generator spits out multiple lists of ideas, organized by type of post. You may notice a lack of variety, but with this many options available, you’re bound to find a few winners.

#4 – The Content Discovery Tool

content discovery tool

This tool is a unique little beast. It’s built entirely in Google Sheets, using XML commands, JSON scripts, and unicorn blood to pull information from dozens of sources. Type in a topic and the sheet populates with trending articles from around the web. You can dig in and customize it, but it works well even for non-tech folks like me.

#5 – Buzzsumo

 buzzsumo

Sometimes seeing the top performing posts on your topic is the best inspiration. For that, Buzzsumo is an extremely useful tool. Type in a topic and see the most-shared posts of all time, or the past year, six months, month or week. You can even see what posts are about to hit big on the Trending page. Buzzsumo has a decent amount of functionality for free. Pro accounts unlock a host of other features and start at $99/month.

Headline Optimization

The concept generators can give you a good idea of how to approach your topic. These tools can help you write a headline that gets people’s attention.

#6 – CoSchedule Headline Analyzer

 coschedule

This tool is a favorite around the TopRank Marketing office—my colleague in content Caitlin Burgess mentioned it in her post on writing compelling headlines. This list would be incomplete without it, though. It’s easy to use, informative, and educational.

#7 – Sharethrough Headline Analyzer

 sharethrough headline analyzer

Similar functionality to CoSchedule here, but it’s always worth corroborating results. This one focuses more on the emotional feel of the headline, too, so it can deliver insights that you don’t get from CoSchedule.

#8 – KingSumo Headlines

 kingsumo

After you analyze and optimize your headlines, this WordPress plugin can automatically A/B test them for you. Load it up with three different headlines when you post, and it will randomly serve them to visitors and monitor social shares. Over time, it can consistently deliver the best-performing headline. Nifty!

Drafting

Now comes the hard part, and the fun part: Actually drafting. There aren’t any tools yet that can do the writing for you. Which is good, because it means people like me keep pulling a paycheck. However, there are tools that can help you focus on getting the job done.

#9 – Freedom

Freedom

Freedom is a customizable distraction blocker. You can build custom blocklists for sites/notifications/apps you want to block, and on which devices you want to block them. Choose time limits, schedule your day, and get your productivity back. Free trial, plans start at $2.42/month.

#10 – FocusWriter

focuswriter 

This program is essentially a stripped-down word processor. It hides all its menus and widgets off the screen until mouseover, so there’s nothing between you and the words you’re typing on the screen. It also helps avoid the eye strain with soft gray text on a translucent background. $5 download.

#11 – StayFocusd

stayfocusd 

If you’re using Google Chrome, this is the productivity taskmaster you’ve been looking for. Set up a list of time-wasting sites and it will block them completely, after an amount of allowed time that you specify. So if you say 30 minutes, then spend 20 on Facebook and 10 on Twitter, you’re done for the day. It also features the “Nuclear Option,” which blocks every site on your blacklist for a set amount of time and can’t be undone without uninstalling. It’s merciless—which is exactly what a writer needs sometimes.

#12 – Zen-Cast

 zencast

Studies show a little ambient noise can help focus and productivity. This webpage is a simple, surprisingly customizable nature sound generator. Spend hours working by the seashore, in the rain, or under a waterfall, with insects and birdsong to boot. Although nerds (like me) might find this ambient sound more relaxing.

Cleanup

So your first draft is done. But unless this is your first rodeo, you know the first draft is the beginning, not the end. These tools can help you edit for the 4 Cs of quality content.

#13 – Word2CleanHTML

 word2

If you draft in Word and then upload to your CMS (like me), this little tool is a godsend. It strips out blank spaces, replaces proprietary tags with HTML standard tags, and converts special characters to universal ones.

#14 – The Hemingway App

 hemingway

This is another tool I have recommended before, but this list would be incomplete without it. The Hemingway App checks your writing for convoluted sentences, passive voice, and overuse of adverbs. It can even tell you what grade level you’re writing at. Just take the suggestions on sentence length with a grain of salt. Too many short sentences in a row makes writing feel choppy.

#15 – Readability Test Tool

 readability test

Similar to the Hemingway App, feed this test a URL or copy-and-paste your text in, and get a detailed analysis. This tool evaluates on a few more metrics than Hemingway does, and provides useful stats on average sentence length, percentage of complex words, and more.

Images

The right image can be a compelling visual headline for your piece. These tools can help you find and customize your images.

Finding Images:

#16 – Pixabay

pixabay 

This site is my go-to for royalty-free images. It features hundreds of thousands of photos and a robust search engine that can actually return useful results.

 #17 – Stocksnap

 stocksnap

Another collection of royalty-free images with a great interface for discovery. There’s a little overlap with Pixabay, but it has plenty of original content, too.

 #18 – rgbstock

 rgbstock

This site has a less intelligent tagging system than the other two, and the way it displays results isn’t the best. But it does have pictures the other two sites don’t have. It’s worth braving the interface to get fresh photos.

Editing Images:

 #19 – Pixlr

pixlr

This surprisingly feature-rich free web app has functionality to rival professional software. It’s good for everything from resizing images to in-depth layer-based composition.

#20 – Canva

 canva

Canva is the star player for creating social media images. It’s so simple, so intuitive, so easy to create cool-looking stuff. Make a free account and you get unlimited uploads, unlimited use of a big library of assets, and downloads in high-res and web optimized sizes. There are also huge libraries of elements you can buy for a dollar or two apiece.

Maximize Your MacGuyver Instinct

Content marketers are used to making the best of what’s around. But there’s no need to work with paperclips and chewing gum when there are dozens of free and low-cost tools to help with every stage of the process. From creating concepts to adding visual flair, these tools can help you make content as majestic as the mightiest mullet.

What are your favorite blog writing tools? Let me know in the comments.


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9 Dos & Don’ts for Writing Compelling, Clickable Headlines to Draw in Your Audience http://www.toprankblog.com/2016/08/dos-donts-compelling-headlines/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2016/08/dos-donts-compelling-headlines/#comments Tue, 09 Aug 2016 10:30:04 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=20842 Well, hello there. I’m so glad you’ve stopped by the TopRank Marketing blog today. I’m pretty sure I know why you’re here — you’ve been searching high and low for the most adorable cat video of the day. Well, here it is: Okay. Okay. Just kidding. But I really do know why you’re here. You’re [...]

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how-to-write-more-compelling-headlines

Well, hello there. I’m so glad you’ve stopped by the TopRank Marketing blog today. I’m pretty sure I know why you’re here — you’ve been searching high and low for the most adorable cat video of the day. Well, here it is:

Okay. Okay. Just kidding. But I really do know why you’re here. You’re looking for a little headline help. And regardless of how you found this blog post today, you believed something valuable, educational and actually on the topic of writing headlines (not cat videos) was waiting for you when you clicked—and that’s all thanks to the headline.

Headlines are arguably the most important aspect of any piece of content. It’s the first thing—and often the only thing—users will read. In fact, 8 out of 10 people read headlines, but just 2 out of 10 will actually continue reading the rest of the content, according to Copyblogger.

The bottom line? The better the headline, the better your chances for actually getting interested eyeballs on your content—with the caveat that you have a solid and engaging piece of content to back your headline up.

But what’s the secret to writing a click-compelling headline? In my opinion, there’s no one secret formula. Each brand should build their own formula for creating headlines resonate with their audience, but there are certainly some dos and don’ts that can help guide you. Below we dive into those dos and don’ts, complete with advice and examples.

Dos

#1 – Use numbers.

This is one of our absolute favorites here at TopRank Marketing. Numbers stand out in a sea of letters and they’re also easily understood by people. Here’s one of our recent examples:

Delicious Content 1

It’s a technique that many magazine publications have used for decades to sell issues. Think: “5 Simple Ways to Eat Your Way to Skinny.” It’s simple, easy to understand, and uses a number to intrigue and entice. (OK. While this example might not be all that realistic, you get my point.)

In addition, if you’re not creating a listicle post, use data or statistics for your numbers to grab attention.

#2 – Ask questions.

Asking questions is a way to connect with a problem your audience is having and signals to them that you’re there to provide the answer they need. This idea can guide your content strategy, too. Get started by answering some of the most commonly asked questions your audience has about your product or a topic related to your business.

#3 – Be original.

Your headline is your hook. Even if you’re writing about something that’s well covered, a unique headline can set you apart from your competition.

Here’s a fun example from CPQ software company Axonom (client). Not only is it original, but it also speaks directly to the target audience.

Axonom 1

Read the full Axonom article.

#4 – Use active language.

Your audience is likely looking for something that can make a difference in in their own lives or for their company. Active language helps create a sense of urgency and action — and tells them that they can do it. In my line of work, some of my favorite action verbs to use are: drive, boost, propel, motivate and power.

Here’s an example of one of my recent favorites. Not only does this post use active verbiage, but it also tells my audience the specific benefit this post can offer. This post has garnered more than 1,500 shares, as thousands of pageviews, and even a nice little discussion in the comments section.

Roadtrip 1

#5 – Be helpful.

You know your audience. You wouldn’t be in business right now if you didn’t offer something useful. Take what you know about your audience and your current customers to craft a headline that showcases how your content is valuable.

Hubspot is always a great place to draw inspiration from. For me, this headline tells me that these six steps can help me create a video that will resonate.

Hubspot !

Read the full HubSpot article.

Don’ts

#1 – Be boring.

This one is probably a no-brainer, but needs to be said anyway. Be creative, colorful, inspiring and even entertaining to give your audience something they can’t scroll past. Include a descriptive adjectives such as “powerful” or “engaging” that speaks to the value or benefit the reader can gain by reading your content.

#2 – Promise something that you can’t or won’t deliver.

The worst thing you can do is get people on the page and then fail to deliver what you promised upfront. As mentioned above, make sure to back your headline up with solid and engaging content that is educational or entertaining.

#3 – Get too wordy.

The more words you use, the more work it is for your audience to read. In addition, your headline could also become confusing. Get rid of any word that aren’t necessary. Use a headline analyzing tool to give yourself a nudge in the right direction. Sharethrough and Co-Schedule offer tools for free.

Co-Schedule

Now, with all that said, sometimes going a little longer is necessary and that’s totally fine. Just make sure it’s easy to read and conveys that necessary value to the reader.

#4 – Be afraid to start over.

Creating a great headline is a process, and it often doesn’t come to you on the first try. Take the time to write out a number of contenders and keep tweaking until you get it right. For example, here’s the evolution of the headline for this article:

  1. Here’s Your Cheat Sheet for Writing Killer Headlines That Draw Your Audience In
  2. Cheat Sheet: How to Write Killer Headlines That Draw Your Audience In
  3. How to Write Killer Headlines That’ll Get Your Audience to Click
  4. How to Write Compelling, Clickable Headlines That’ll Draw Your Audience In
  5. The Dos and Don’ts of Writing Compelling, Clickable Headlines That’ll Draw Your Audience In
  6. 9 Dos & Don’ts for Writing Compelling, Clickable Headlines That’ll Draw Your Audience In

What recent headline got you to click? What made it so compelling? Tell us in the comments section below.


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Boost Content Marketing Results & Learn How LinkedIn Grew Their Blog by 30X http://www.toprankblog.com/2016/08/content-marketing-linkedin-blog/ Wed, 03 Aug 2016 10:30:52 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=20822 Conversations between digital marketers are always abuzz with the latest, greatest and most innovative content marketing techniques. Everything from different content types, to the newest ways to promote content are never far from their lips. There is no doubt that content plays an incredibly important role as part of an integrated digital marketing program. And [...]

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Boost-content-marketing-results-linkedin-blog

Conversations between digital marketers are always abuzz with the latest, greatest and most innovative content marketing techniques. Everything from different content types, to the newest ways to promote content are never far from their lips.

There is no doubt that content plays an incredibly important role as part of an integrated digital marketing program. And one of the most tried and true content marketing tactics that has stood the test of time is blogging.

In fact, 45% of marketers still say that blogging is the most important piece of their content strategy and marketers that use blogging as part of their strategy, generate 67% more leads than those that don’t.

The blog that you’re reading right now has been a staple of our content marketing for over 10 years and has produced a library of information for our readers, as well as providing us tremendous insight into what people want more (or less) of.  In addition to running our own blog, we’ve been able to help many of our clients increase online visibility, better connect with their audience and generate leads through blogging and amplification efforts.

How LinkedIn Grew Their Blog 31X (with Help From TopRank Marketing)

We have been fortunate to work with some amazing brands like LinkedIn Marketing Solutions. Over the course of our relationship, our two teams have found a rhythm for creating insightful, interesting and optimized content in a way that has proven to be attractive to LinkedIn’s audience.

Part of our program is focused on the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions blog. We’re happy to report that our combined efforts have created some incredible growth for their blog in a short amount of time. In just 18 months their number of subscribers increased 31X, and in only 12 months they experienced an increase in visitors by nearly 50%.

Learn How to Grow Your Blog with Advice From LinkedIn

Sean Callahan, LinkedIn’s Senior Manager of Content Marketing and his team recently released an eBook that shares insights into lessons learned in the past 18 months that led to their blog’s growth. If you haven’t already, you should download How to Grow Your Blog by 30X or More: LinkedIn Shares the Tactics That Grew Its Blog at Hyperspeed.

To whet your appetite, here are some great takeaways from the eBook (that really only scratch the surface).

Always Focus on Audience Needs

First and foremost, the cadence, content and optimization of your blog must put the reader first. That means marketers must keep a close eye on their analytics, social shares and even survey the audience so that the blog aligns with need.

Our core blogging philosophy hinges on our readers; there’s simply nothing more important.”

By focusing on the topics that matter most to your readers, in formats that make it easy for them to consume and share the information you’ll find that you’ll attract more readers that fit your target demographic and create long-term affinity with readers that keep coming back for more.

Don’t Dismiss the Significance of SEO

Search Engine Optimization has evolved so far beyond actual search engine preferences and  instead favors the needs, habits and preferences of the search audience. Simply put, content MUST be optimized for the audience that you want to attract.

Specific to blogging, TopRank Marketing Vice President Jolina Pettice says:

“By leveraging the right data, LinkedIn and TopRank Marketing discover what the target audience is searching for online, and together create content to help them solve the specific problems illustrated by that search intent. We then monitor and adjust our content plan based on the overall performance of posts.”

The Importance of Amplifying Blog Content

So many brands have made the mistake of investing countless hours and dollars into creating great content, and then failing to promote it once it’s complete. Don’t fall into the trap of content creation without amplification!

We’re equal opportunity promoters, telling our audience about our most recent blog posts via email, via social, and in person.”

There are a multitude of ways to promote blog content, but how exactly you do that ties back to understanding who your audience is, where they spend time and how to best reach them.

Sage Advice for Increasing Your Blog’s Performance

Creating and maintaining a successful blog that helps meet marketing and business objectives takes work. It’s important to be thoughtful about who you’re creating content for, and how the content is optimized and amplified so that new readers can find and share it.

For more insights and tactical tips into how LinkedIn grew their blog substantially in only 18 months, download their new eBook: How to Grow Your Blog by 30X or More: LinkedIn Shares the Tactics That Grew Its Blog at Hyperspeed.

LinkedIn How to grow your blog


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Content Marketing: 5 Unexpected Places to Find Inspiration for Your Blog Content http://www.toprankblog.com/2016/02/content-marketing-inspiration/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2016/02/content-marketing-inspiration/#comments Tue, 16 Feb 2016 11:30:50 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=19966 Creative inspiration is like a butterfly: It’s beautiful from a distance, but full of weird insect parts up close. Sorry, let me try that again. Creative inspiration is like a butterfly: Sometimes it seems like no matter how far you stretch, it flutters above your head, beautiful but just out of reach. Sure, you could [...]

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content-marketing-inspiration

Creative inspiration is like a butterfly: It’s beautiful from a distance, but full of weird insect parts up close.

Sorry, let me try that again. Creative inspiration is like a butterfly: Sometimes it seems like no matter how far you stretch, it flutters above your head, beautiful but just out of reach. Sure, you could sit perfectly still and wait for it to land, but your editorial calendar beckons. Few marketers have the free time to truly find their creative space. At the same time, you know that content with that creative spark will be far more compelling.

The next time your creative butterfly just won’t sit still long enough for you to get a good look at it, grab your butterfly net of proactivity and go after it. Here are five ways to get inspired when you’re stuck.

#1 – Stock Photo Sites

When you’re looking for a metaphor that will make your blog post come alive, start with a compelling image and build from there. Fire up your favorite stock photo site—I like Pixabay and StockSnap—and take a look at the recently uploaded photos. Both sites present a grid of photos devoid of context, of widely varying subject matter. Even if you don’t find the header image for your post, odds are you will get the spark of an idea that will make your post more lively.

#2 – Twitter’s Front Page

Most of us hardly ever see Twitter’s home page. If you elect to stay logged into the site, Twitter just drops you straight into your feed, where hours of distraction await. If you log out, though, you’ll see a dynamic grid of trending tweets that you can customize by topic. See what’s capturing people’s imagination in real time, and you can use the inspiration to write a topical post. For example, this Taylor Swift-themed post on MarketingProfs captured an of-the-moment metaphor to give sound marketing advice.

#3 – Mashable

Like the front page of Twitter, Mashable’s home page is a direct line to the Internet’s subconscious. It’s like Reddit, only you won’t risk getting fired for clicking the wrong link. The three columns on the page show what’s most shared, what’s trending, and the most recent stories uploaded, giving you three vantage points for finding a creative angle. I spent just a few minutes on the site, and I’m already outlining my “5 Content Marketing Lessons from the Isle of Wight Triceratops” post.

#4 – Outside

The first three items in my list are designed to spark inspiration by data input. But sometimes, what you need is the opposite: less data, fewer screens, less fluorescent light. Sometimes you have to get up and go for a walk outside—even if, like me, you live in the frozen tundra of Minnesota. Leave your smartphone at your desk (unless your coworkers are exceptionally shifty) so you won’t be tempted to Facebook on your walk. Allow yourself to be a little bored, if need be; boredom is a rare and prized commodity in the age of distraction.

You don’t need to go on an epic vision quest, so save your PTO—a five minute stroll should be enough to clear your mind and get your creative juices flowing.

#5 – This Trippy App

All distractions aside, your butterfly of creativity really lives inside your own head. Sometimes all it takes to generate an idea is to put yourself in the right mindset for a few minutes and see what surfaces. My go-to tool for this kind of meditation is an app called Pulsate. Click the screen to create circles that expand and contract, playing gentle chimes when they touch. The simple, mesmerizing visuals and the random-but-pleasant sound can get you to your creative space post-haste.

Don’t Let Your Butterfly Flutter By

I can say from experience that when you feel uncreative, it’s tempting to dive into social media and vegetate. I mean, how can you do creative work when you’re not feeling creative? Surely that butterfly will land eventually…until then, I can take this quiz and see once and for all which Power Ranger I am.

The trouble with procrastination is that it leads to stress, and stress leads to feeling less creative, which leads back to procrastinating. It’s a vicious cycle, ugly as a close-up picture of a butterfly’s mouth (seriously). So instead of stagnating, use the tips in this article to catch your creativity and put it to work.

At TopRank Marketing, our team uses awesome content and killer strategy to get results for our clients. How can we help?

Header image via Shutterstock


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3 Examples of Brands Using Podcasts to Increase Sales, Offer Value & Build Audiences http://www.toprankblog.com/2016/01/podcasts-sales-value-audiences/ Thu, 28 Jan 2016 11:30:30 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=19890 [Note From Ashley: TopRank Marketing team members Debbie Friez and Joel Carlson recently attended a Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association (MIMA) event in Minneapolis and collaborated to bring you the insights below from the event.] Long gone are the leisurely evenings and weekends where people disconnected from the outside world and made time to relax. Today’s [...]

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MIMA Event Podcasting

[Note From Ashley: TopRank Marketing team members Debbie Friez and Joel Carlson recently attended a Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association (MIMA) event in Minneapolis and collaborated to bring you the insights below from the event.]

Long gone are the leisurely evenings and weekends where people disconnected from the outside world and made time to relax. Today’s consumers are ALWAYS connected and constantly consuming information from a variety of sources.

The question for marketers is: how can you capture the attention of your audience while they’re on the go and multi-tasking constantly? One of the solutions that has surfaced in recent years is incorporating podcasts into your digital marketing mix.

Below we’ll dive in to three case studies MIMA social broadcasting event that uncover how different brands are working podcasts into their marketing strategy.

First, Why a Podcast?

  • Mobility is key. You can listen on the go in your car or the train.
  • It’s personal. The information can be directed at the consumer.
  • Drives Engagement. Podcast subscribers can be the core of a community who move to other key assets and channels.

Insights for Busy Salespeople

Busy salespeople don’t have time to read a newsletter or possibly an email. This was the dilemma for the Medicare and Retirement division of United Health Group. They wanted to share tools and ideas with their sales agents during enrollment period.

Within the healthcare industry, communication is heavily regulated which means there are lots of things that they can’t do or say. Kendra Klemme, Associate Director of Communications, United Health Group, says everything has to be cleared through lawyers. So the question comes up, “How do we work within this system?” and still accomplish what we need to get done.

Once cleared by the lawyers, the communications team decided a podcast was the right route to take for communicating with sales, and production happened quite quickly. The focus of the podcast was on providing the sales team with information to help them improve their approach and results. The key was providing a method for getting the sellers excited to start fast out of the gate during enrollment period.

Early podcasts were produced to be anywhere between 10-15 minutes in length, making them easy to listen to for sales people in between their customer visits. From the initial podcasts that were done in 2015, UHG received positive feedback from sales leaders and agents, having reached 7K+ listens overall.

Moving forward for 2016, the plan is to produce two podcasts per month – one on highlights from the monthly eNewletter, lasting anywhere from 3-5 minutes and another longer one on areas of interest to their audience.

What UHG learned from producing podcasts:

  1. Continue to refine the topics
  2. Work to promote the podcasts in multiple ways
  3. Leverage the leadership
  4. Bring the sales agents into the mix and harness some of that information. Provide best practices.
  5. Look to create additional touchpoints.
  6. Move forward with a heavier focus on LinkedIn

Information for the Modern Farmer

If you grew up on a farm, you know that harvest season is CRAZY BUSY! Despite that fact, the Mosaic company wanted to talk to farmers during harvest about raising yields.

On today’s modern farms, you will find farmers checking social media and listening to all kinds of media while they bring in the crops. In order to capture that audience, they wanted to create a podcast around “A Prairie Home Companion” meets “Twin Peaks” meets “Serial”.

The result was “The Great Yield Mystery”, a 10 episode audio drama, which included a website, gamification, prizes and a trailer poster. And the result gave their existing audience something they could use.

The podcast had a longer tail than they expected and exceeded interaction goals by 379%.

A Taste of General Mills

Kevin Hunt, Social Media Manager, General Mills, and an experienced podcaster provided insights into “A Taste of General Mills”, a brand website for consumers. He shared that General Mills wanted to provide a deeper look into their brand through an interview style podcast hosted on the website and modeled after “This American Life”. (Clearly NPR is winning in the podcast idea segment!)

The first podcast produced featured the creator of Cheerios. Recorded during a commercial shoot, it provided a behind the scenes perspective. This was followed by podcasts covering their monster cereals, celebrating 50 years of the Pillsbury Dough Boy, focusing on a cookbook editor and interviewing people with cooking fails, and then celebrating the 150th anniversary of General Mills. In February of 2016, the podcast will be quite topical by focusing on Super Bowl appetizers.

Kevin emphasized the need to make a plan for setting-up interviews, recording, scripting, and promotion. Their posting strategy includes iTunes and SoundCloud for searchability. General Mills doesn’t make a separate show page for the podcasts, but instead includes it as a part of the blog.

Audience growth takes time, so promotion is key. General Mills creates special graphics for promoting on their social channels. They also email subscribers of the blog.

Does Podcasting Have a Place in Your Marketing Strategy?

Podcasting in both video and purely audio forms has become an increasingly popular digital marketing tactic. Before venturing out on a podcasting endeavor, consider the following:

  • Would a podcast from your brand create value for your busy audience?
  • How would it fit into your content mix?
  • What format and length would be the best fit for your audience?

We’d love to hear your thoughts.


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How to Write for People: 5 Ways to Create Connections & Personality in Your Content Marketing Efforts http://www.toprankblog.com/2016/01/how-to-write-for-people/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2016/01/how-to-write-for-people/#comments Tue, 26 Jan 2016 11:30:09 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=19879 Greetings, humans. It is I, a fellow human and certainly not a trench coat full of cats posing as human. I would like to tell you how to show personality in your writing so other cats—I mean, humans, like me—will enjoy reading it. All cats aside, it’s surprisingly easy for marketers to forget that we [...]

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write-content-for-humans

Greetings, humans. It is I, a fellow human and certainly not a trench coat full of cats posing as human. I would like to tell you how to show personality in your writing so other cats—I mean, humans, like me—will enjoy reading it.

All cats aside, it’s surprisingly easy for marketers to forget that we are writing for people. We write for a persona, a target audience, an industry. When was the last time an industry sat down and read a blog post over their corn flakes? By trying to write for everyone, we can end up writing for no one.

As bestselling author, marketer, and my spirit animal Ann Handley says, “Even when you are marketing to your entire audience or customer base, you are still simply speaking to a single human at any given time. Worry less about sounding professional, worry more about creating remarkable content that other humans can relate to.”

As content marketers we get paid to write. How cool is that? Moreover, we get paid specifically to write engaging content that has value. We’re not writing stereo instructions here. We’re building tiny cathedrals of knowledge inside people’s heads. Let’s inspire them. Let’s create extraordinary work.

That said, how far you push the following five tips depends on your audience and your brand. My advice is to go a little bit further than you think you can get away with. It’s always easier to tone it down than tone it up.

Here are five ways to make your content marketing sound more human:

#1 – Avoid Awkward Constructions

If you came of age in the 1990s or earlier, odds are you were scarred by your composition classes. From grade school through high school, we learned some of the most stilted writing known to man. But good news! In the words of another shrewd marketer (Alice Cooper), “School’s out forever.” Now you can get rid of the weird rules that make writing sound robotic. You have my permission to do the following:

  • End sentences with prepositions. It’s not a real rule. It never was a real rule. It’s an ill-advised attempt to impose Latin grammar on English. It leads to stilted sentences up with which I shall not put.
  • Use the singular ‘they.’ English doesn’t have a good gender-neutral singular pronoun. ‘They’ is a sufficient substitute, loads better than “Everyone will use his or her brains to come to his or her best conclusion.” If it’s good enough for the Washington Post, it’s good enough for all of us.
  • Start sentences with conjunctions. My high school teachers hated it when I used ‘and,’ ‘but,’ or ‘because’ to start sentences. But it’s frequently the best way to string two sentences together. And if you do it properly, you can avoid run-on sentences. Because without sentence breaks, your reader will check out.
  • Use sentence fragments. You’re in charge now, and it’s your job to guide the reader how you see fit. Don’t worry about making every sentence have a subject and a verb. I think one-word sentences can be so. Very. Compelling.

#2 – Ditch Clichés

As the saying goes, “Avoid clichés like the plague. They’re old hat.” The problem with clichés is they’re not your words. They are third-hand phrases that have been passed around so long they’re drained of meaning. A computer (or a trench coat full of cats) could assemble them into sentences.

At best, a reader sees clichés as empty words that are safe to skip: “From time immemorial,” “For all intents and purposes,” “Home is where the heart is.” If you find yourself using clichés in your writing, take the opportunity to say something new.

By the way, buzzwords are a special kind of cliché: They’re both new and worn out at the same time. Don’t tempt your reader to play buzzword bingo.

#3 – Change up the Structure

Sometimes you can write completely naturally, but end up sounding awkward. Even though everything is technically correct, something seems off. You can reread and reread, but you just can’t put your finger on it. You wonder why this paragraph is setting your teeth on edge, and the tension just keeps building.

The previous paragraph makes people tense because every sentence has the same structure. Clause, comma, clause: It gets maddening really quickly. Make sure your writing doesn’t fall into a sing-song rhythm. Break it up. (See, isn’t that better?)

#4 – Take a Point of View

The previous tips are text-level edits, but this one is more holistic. Too often we confuse professionalism with detachment.

Maybe we don’t want to sound pushy or aggressive. Maybe we’re trying to be “balanced.” Whatever the reason, we hide behind, “Some people say,” or “For many people,” or “It’s possible that you might…”

To really connect with your reader, be bold. You are writing to them for a reason. You know what you’re talking about. If you truly believe your advice is worth their time, embrace your writerly authority.

#5 – Learn the Rules (So You Can Break Them)

The overarching reason great writing has personality is it breaks the rules. Think J.D. Salinger, Kurt Vonnegut, Toni Morrison. You could never mistake one’s writing for the other, and it’s all because they break the rules in their own specific ways.

But before you start breaking the rules, you have to know them first. Read The Elements of Style and the Little, Brown Handbook. Understand the what and why of each rule, so you know exactly what you’re doing when you break them. Get a firm foundation in the fundamentals. Then you can go a little bit crazy on them. That’s how to develop a personal (or a brand) style.

Content Marketing: By Humans, for Humans

Unless you actually are a trench coat full of cats (in which case, congratulations on keeping up the deception, and you should know it’s impossible to catch the laser pointer dot), you can add personality to your content. Part of the process is unlearning bad habits from high school. Part is believing you have something important to say, and trusting that you know the best way to say it. And part is getting out of your own way, writing garbage, and refining it.

So go forth and create awesome stuff. I’ll be over here with my catnip mouse.

Need help creating compelling content for your brand? We’re here to help.

Header images via Shutterstock: 175292705154981799


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12 Content Marketing Lessons Learned in 12 Years of Blogging http://www.toprankblog.com/2015/12/12-content-marketing-lessons/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2015/12/12-content-marketing-lessons/#comments Mon, 28 Dec 2015 11:00:17 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=19745 Happy 12th Birthday to TopRank Marketing’s Online Marketing Blog! In Malcom Gladwell’s book, Outliers: The Story of Success, he mentions the “10,000-Hour Rule”, which describes the key to achieving world class expertise in any skill as a matter of practicing for a total of 10,000 hours or so. By many definitions, this humble marketing blog [...]

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Content Marketing Lessons LearnedHappy 12th Birthday to TopRank Marketing’s Online Marketing Blog!

In Malcom Gladwell’s book, Outliers: The Story of Success, he mentions the “10,000-Hour Rule”, which describes the key to achieving world class expertise in any skill as a matter of practicing for a total of 10,000 hours or so.

By many definitions, this humble marketing blog has involved many more than 10,000 hours of practice. While we’ve achieved many milestones from being the only blog ranked the #1 content marketing blog three times by CMI to helping our boutique digital marketing agency reach a worldwide audience, it continues to be a work in progress.

There are multiple dimensions for evaluating a blog’s impact. Here is some statistical trivia about TopRank’s Marketing Blog (thanks to BuzzSumo) representing some of this “practice makes expert” effort.

  • 3,943 posts and 1.9 million words (overall)
  • 1,026 average social shares per post in 2015
  • 1.5 million+ unique visitors in 2015
  • Lists and How to Posts attract the most average social shares in 2015
  • Monday and Thursday are the top days for social shares in 2015
  • Posts with 3-10k words attract the most shares in 2015

Our industry is in a constant state of flux and many companies continue to come in and out of the blogging world. We’ve found blogging to be effective in numerous ways, long before the popularity of social media, content marketing and influencer marketing.

From recruiting to reinforcing customer relationships to growing industry thought leadership to direct customer acquisition, blogging is one of the most demanding yet rewarding marketing investments a company can make. Some of that popularity is measured through social media and to get a sense for what kind of content resonates with our community, here are the top 10 most popular posts for 2015 (by social shares)

  1. 50 Influential Women in Digital Marketing – 6,283 shares
  2. Social Media Marketing Management Tools List – Updated! – 4,259 shares
  3. 5 Social Media Marketing Tips for Business – 2,928 shares
  4. Where Social Media and SEO Fit in Today’s Content Marketing Mix – 2,688 shares
  5. 6 Steps to Build a Massive Audience with Content Marketing – 2,674 shares
  6. Content Marketing Tools A to Z That You Can Use in 2015 and Beyond – 2,624 shares
  7. 4 Digital Marketing Investments All Companies Need to Make – 2,562 shares
  8. 25 Inspiring & Actionable Content Marketing Tips – 2,421 shares
  9. Report: True Impact of Social Media Marketing for Business – 2,301 shares
  10. 6 Bad Content Marketing Habits – 2,225 shares

The dynamic of being active in the industry and sharing insights as well as lessons learned is essential of a longstanding blog. Along those lines, here are a few insights you may find useful whether you’re just starting a new business blog or evaluating the direction of your current blog.

12 content marketing lessons I’ve learned from 12 years of blogging:

“Be the best answer.”

1.  Decide what you stand for and aspire to becoming the best resource for your community on that thing. To many companies try to be all things to all people with their blog, emphasizing a “more is better” approach. Specificity rises to the top in all things – especially in social media, search and the offline world.
2. Document your success in a specialty area and then duplicate that success in others. Expand your scope of knowledge and industry thought leadership following your own lessons learned in the process of  becoming “the best answer” for your community.
3. Optimize for answers in your blog content planning. Leverage search keyword data as well as social topic trends for voice of the customer insights you can use in content optimization. You can also monitor questions being asked and answered between customers and your sales and customer service teams. Being the best answer is a continuous effort of understanding the questions your audience is asking and optimizing your answers through content in an info-taining way.

“A blog is only as interesting as the interest shown in your community.”

4. Recognize your community by featuring influencers, internal team members, customers, members of the media, your community, or prospective customers in your blog content. Make lists, co-create, do interviews, liveblog and get quotes for blog posts to shine a light on talent. Becoming influential is great. Helping others become influential is how you gain true influence. Show an interest in your community, engage and recognize. Do that, and you will never run out of relevant topics to blog about.
5. Listen to your community through social media monitoring tools, sentiment analysis of blog comments, and contact forms, using social search tools like BuzzSumo and reviewing your own web and search analytics. Understand what your blog community is interested in and give it to them through blog content.
6. Inspire others by actively engaging on social networks, at industry events and in the right places where your community can participate. Social engagement can be overwhelming for many understaffed business blogging departments. Focus on just a few minutes a day consistently and use tools like social media monitoring or social search to uncover opportunities to poll your community, recognize their interactions with your brand and to answer questions – be useful.

“Great content isn’t great until people find, consume and act on it.”

7. Use search, social and target audience data to inspire content themes, topics and keyword optimization. Topical relevance is as important as keyword relevance for blog content discovery. Far too many companies focus entirely on content creation without considering blog content promotion. Make sure the blog content is what your community is actively looking for and talking about on the social web. Being relevant in this way will fuel inbound traffic and social sharing, which will attract even more blog traffic.
8. Empathize with your readers and create relevance through context and content that is meaningful. Learn the content preferences of your audience from topics to visuals to what devices they most often use to consume your blog. Go beyond thinking about your blog as a marketing tool and consider what would be the best experience for your readers.
9. Continuously review blog content promotion efforts and traffic sources to optimize performance. Conduct SEO, Content, Social Media and Conversion audits on your blog at least quarterly. With specific goals in mind for your blog, you should be able to tie blog performance back to goals. Performance is not just contribution to marketing, but the ability of your blog to satisfy the information needs of your community.

“If you want your content to be great, ask your community to participate.”

10. Identify the distinct audiences of your blog and create ways for those specific communities to contribute. Content co-creation can inspire promotion and improve blog quality. Most blogging efforts within companies are understaffed with high expectations. The most effective way to scale quality blog content and promotion is to involve the very community you’re trying to reach in the content creation.
11. Develop a mix of specialty post and recurring posts that allow you to attract new contributors and co-creators as well as a platform for return contributors. Content is a great relationship builder between any constituent audience and your brand whether they contributors are prospective clients, members of industry media or potential business partners.
12. Recognize contributors in a meaningful way. Share quantitative performance as well as qualitative feedback. People will work for a living, but die for recognition – as long as it means something.

Thank you to our community for being supportive of TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog over the past 12 years. Thank you to the candidates and companies that have taken that important step of following TopRank Marketing’s point of view on marketing through our blog and then engaging as an employee or customer.

I can’t tell you how many people have approached me over the years or who have sent letters and emails to say they’ve been reading our blog for years and that it has helped them in their marketing careers. It is very satisfying to know that something like a blog can both help you grow your business but also positively impact your industry.

A BIG THANKS to the TopRank Marketing agency team of blog contributors in 2015 including:

  • Ashley Zeckman, who has made a huge contribution in 2015 with over 75 posts including the most popular post of the year. This is the first time someone has published more posts than me  and it feels great!
  • Ben Brausen for consistently publishing helpful Friday news roundups. (54 posts)
  • Josh Nite who has raised the bar on TopRank Blog content and has inspired the rest of us to improve our writing and content quality. (13 posts)
  • Alexis Hall who has shared posts on client side marketing, marketing automation and has helped with livebloging. (11 posts)
  • Evan Prokop who has found the time to share his SEO expertise and help with liveblogging. (11 posts)
  • Debbie Friez who has done a great job with sharing her social media marketing smarts and liveblogging. (7 posts)
  • Michael Bak who has shared his online advertising expertise for search and social media. (5 posts)
  • Leila De La Fuente who has shared a mix of digital marketing expertise including online advertising, search marketing and ecommerce. (4 posts)
  • Joel Carlson who has contributed several highly useful social media marketing posts. (4 posts)
  • Caitlin Burgess who has jumped right into one of the toughest types of posts not long after coming on board at TopRank Marketing. (3 posts)
  • Nick Ehrenberg who has published some very popular social media marketing posts. (3 posts)
  • Jolina Pettice who is the busiest person I know at our agency (besides Susan Misukanis) and still found time to contribute (1 post)

What does 2016 have in store for TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog? A long overdue re-design, more contributions from the fast growing team at TopRank Marketing and even more useful insight to help our community become smarter and more creative marketers that can achieve real business results.

Thank you for reading, sharing, commenting and being a part of our community!


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© Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®, 2015. | 12 Content Marketing Lessons Learned in 12 Years of Blogging | http://www.toprankblog.com

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Need Help With Content Topics? 5 Places To Find Inspiration For Blog Posts http://www.toprankblog.com/2015/11/inspiration-blog-topics/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2015/11/inspiration-blog-topics/#comments Wed, 18 Nov 2015 11:30:17 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=19549 Blogging is a low to no-cost way for marketers to create owned content on a consistent basis. A consistent blogging schedule of high quality information creates a great way for your customers and prospects to gain a better understanding of how you can help them and the smarts that exist within your organization. In fact, [...]

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blog-topics-inspiration

Blogging is a low to no-cost way for marketers to create owned content on a consistent basis. A consistent blogging schedule of high quality information creates a great way for your customers and prospects to gain a better understanding of how you can help them and the smarts that exist within your organization.

In fact, B2B marketers that incorporate blogging as part of their content strategy generate 67% more leads than those that do not. So if you aren’t blogging, it’s time to start.

At TopRank Marketing, we publish a new post everyday Monday through Friday. Each month we create a blogging plan as part of our larger content marketing strategy that covers identified pain points of our customers, trending topics, information related to our service areas and more. With the amount of content that there is to create, sometimes it can be difficult to figure out exactly what to write about, or how to put a creative spin on metaphor on the blog posts.

If you’re looking for ways to find inspiration for blog post topics, you’ve come to the right place. Below are 5 ways that you can find great ideas for blog posts, no matter how much content you create.

#1 – Customer Insights

Your customers are and endless treasure trove of information for content creation. It doesn’t matter if they purchase from you one time, or you have an ongoing relationship. There is always a way to extract valuable insights.

If your client teams meets with customers regularly, provide them with a couple seeded questions to ask in their next update to extract information that you can use for blogging or other content creation. Also, if your team is on-point, they’ll find ways to extract great information from clients when they’re happy and when they’re having an issue.

Website contact forms can also provide a lot of insight into what customers come to you looking for and how you can help them. Review these frequently to gain additional knowledge.

But let’s say that you don’t have ongoing access to customers in the traditional sense. Surveys can provide a wealth of information about customer needs and can be completed on the customer’s schedule.

In a recent client engagement, TopRank Marketing was able to survey over 20,000 customers and received over a 50% response rate. With that information our team was able to develop user personas, and gain a better understanding of what type of blog content should be use to target ideal customers.

#2 – Schedule Time to Brainstorm

As long as there is more than one person within your marketing department, there is always an opportunity to brainstorm. You may find that all you need is a team member who understands the demand to create killer blog content and can spitball ideas with you.

Chances are, you’ll have some duds, but you’ll also probably uncover some great content ideas that you wouldn’t have otherwise considered.  

Internal collaboration doesn’t always have to be within your marketing department. Other team members have a ton of information that you can use for content. You may just need to get creative in the way that you extract information from them.

#3 – Dive Into Analytics

Your analytics provide more data than you will need. When digging into Google Analytics, review information pertaining to:

  • Audience
  • Behavior
  • Acquisition
  • Conversions

This information will not only dive deeper into who your visitors are, but how they are interacting with your site, what method they’re using to find your blog content and multi-channel conversions.

#4 – Play Off Another Popular Post

If you’ve found that a particular topic performs well with your audience, consider running a series about that topic that takes different approaches or explains differing levels of information.

If your topic for example was Content Marketing, you could publish 101, 102 and 103 level posts. You could also augment these posts with interviews, case studies and additional information while linking them all together.

#5 – Use Tools For Topic Discovery & Title Creation

If you’re really just hitting your head against the wall trying to come up with topics or even blog post titles, there are some tools that you can use to help.

BuzzSumo: Search the top topics by shares within a specified time frame. You can easily enter the keywords that you’d like to search for and see what types of titles and topics performed the best.

Portent: This title making tool generates creative titles based on the topic or keyword that you enter.  

HubSpot: If you’re looking for even more insight based on your selected topics, this generator asks you to enter three nouns to generate your (sometimes) perfect blog topic or title.

Go Forth & Start Blogging!

Everyone at one point or another will have a day where the blog ideas just aren’t flowing. Instead of getting frustrated, use one of the tried and true methods above for finding inspiration. Also, if you recognize that you need to add more blogging (or other content) to your digital marketing mix but just don’t have the resources, reach out to TopRank Marketing’s experts for help.

Image via Shutterstock


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How to Create Content that Abides, Dude: Content Marketing Lessons from the Big Lebowski at #MNBlogCon http://www.toprankblog.com/2015/11/content-marketing-lessons/ Tue, 17 Nov 2015 11:30:44 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=19547 Does pondering content marketing strategy make you feel a little out of your element? Are you missing the key components that really tie a strategy together? Do you sometimes feel like stepping away from the laptop, pouring a White Russian, and zoning out to Creedence Clearwater Revival? You’re not alone. Only 30% of B2B marketers [...]

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Ashley-Zeckman-Creative-Content-Marketing

Does pondering content marketing strategy make you feel a little out of your element? Are you missing the key components that really tie a strategy together? Do you sometimes feel like stepping away from the laptop, pouring a White Russian, and zoning out to Creedence Clearwater Revival?

You’re not alone. Only 30% of B2B marketers believe they are effective at content marketing, and more than half don’t know how to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns. And as buyers are inundated with more and more content, it can be difficult to get your message out there.

Fortunately, when it comes to content marketing success, there are rules. And at the 2015 Minnesota Blogger Conference, TopRank Marketing’s Directory of Agency Marketing Ashley Zeckman laid down the law, Big Lebowski-style. Here are the key takeaways:

Lesson 1: Properly Identify Your Blog Audience

The plot of the Big Lebowski hinges on a case of mistaken identity between an unemployed slacker “The Dude” and wealthy tycoon Mr. Lebowski. The two men have different interests, influencers, and problems they need solved; a message that appeals to one won’t interest the other.

It’s important to identify each potential audience for your content, then optimize content creation for them. Each piece of content should have a clear purpose: It should speak to a specific audience at a specific stage in the sales cycle.

Lesson 2: Help Your Readers Solve a Problem

To make sure your content is relevant and engaging, create a brief for each piece. The brief should detail who the content is for, what problem it is intended to solve, and a clear call to action for the reader. Finally, each piece should have a way of measuring success related to the call to action.

Remember to ask:

  1. Who is this for?
  2. What problem does it solve?
  3. What should the reader do next?
  4. How will we measure effectiveness?

Lesson 3: Incorporate Storytelling

Stories help you create an emotional connection with your reader; it’s the kind of connection that encourages social sharing. Zeckman’s presentation used the story of the Big Lebowski to connect with her audience, at the same time encouraging them to use storytelling to connect with their audiences.

It was a moment of Zen well worthy of the Dude himself. 

Lesson 4: Mesmerize Your Audience with Visuals

Content doesn’t just mean words. 90% of the information transmitted to the brain is visual; give your audience relevant, interesting images and you can increase engagement. Zeckman recommends using tools like Canva and Pixlr to quickly create custom images that command attention. 

Lesson 5: Amplify with Social Promotion

Even though this was the last lesson, Zeckman stressed that an amplification plan should be part of the initial content planning stage. “If you wait until after content is ready to publish to start thinking about promotion, it’s too late,” she said.

For promotion that really ties the room together, Zeckman suggests creating unique messaging for each platform, developing messages for influencers to share, encouraging employees to amplify the content, and adding visuals specifically for social sharing.

Give Us the Slides, Lebowski

Even for those poor misguided souls who aren’t fans of the Big Lebowski, Zeckman’s presentation was chock-full of useful advice. Take a few minutes to enjoy the entire presentation on SlideShare:

What elements of content strategy would you like to know more about? What strikes and gutters have you experienced in your content campaigns? Let me know in the comments.


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© Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®, 2015. | How to Create Content that Abides, Dude: Content Marketing Lessons from the Big Lebowski at #MNBlogCon | http://www.toprankblog.com

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Content Marketing: Make Your Content Shine with These 4 Editing Tips http://www.toprankblog.com/2015/11/4-content-editing-tips/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2015/11/4-content-editing-tips/#comments Thu, 05 Nov 2015 11:30:46 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=19486 A few years ago, best-selling author and wizard-ninja hybrid Seth Godin said, “content marketing is the only marketing left.” The industry took him at his word. Over the last decade, marketers have devoted ever more time and energy to creating content. This year, 76% of B2B marketers plan to produce more content next year than [...]

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4cs

A few years ago, best-selling author and wizard-ninja hybrid Seth Godin said, “content marketing is the only marketing left.” The industry took him at his word. Over the last decade, marketers have devoted ever more time and energy to creating content.

This year, 76% of B2B marketers plan to produce more content next year than this year. Only 2% plan to produce less.

As someone who creates content for a living, I find this trend encouraging. As a marketer who wants my content to be seen, the content explosion presents a challenge.

Seth expanded on his statement in an interview with Contently this year: “Real content marketing isn’t repurposed advertising; it is making something worth talking about.”

In other words, it’s not just about creating more content. Our content needs to inspire people to like, share, link to it, and come back for more. A solid content marketing strategy can ensure that your topic is relevant to your audience’s needs. But the quality of the writing is what makes it sharable.

So once you have created a rough first draft and eliminated clichés, it’s time to turn your diamond in the rough into a sparkling gem. Jewelers use four Cs evaluate the quality of a diamond. We’ll use four Cs to make sure your content is:

  • Clear
  • Concise
  • Coherent
  • Correct

Before you begin the process, if at all possible, put the draft away and let it breathe for a bit. You fought bravely to get it from your brain to the screen. Now a little distance can help you approach it with fresh eyes. Go ahead and take an hour, or an overnight. I’ll wait.

Ready? Let’s polish.

#1 – Make Content Clear

There are two types of clarity that will make your content easier to read. The first is structural: make sure the piece has a clear road map that pulls the reader from one paragraph to the next. Since you started writing from an outline, you should already have a solid structure. Just make sure your structure is easy for readers to follow, and that it matches the road map you lay out in the introduction.

The second type is clarity in the words you use. As someone who loves language, it’s tempting to include flowery prose meant to strike the reader to the quick with its beauty. It can also be tempting to leverage buzzwords so to growth hack the thought leadership ecosystem.

But what the audience wants is simple, direct speech that’s easy to read and process. That’s not to say you should dumb it down, of course. Just make sure your ideas are the star, not fancy words.

#2 – Make Content Concise 

You know what’s really very annoying? When someone uses a variety of multiple words when just a few would do the trick just as well.

How many extra words did you spot in the previous two sentences? You can communicate the same thought with “It’s annoying when writers are not concise.” Some content marketers think a “professional” tone means writing like they’re paid by the word. We can do better.

Here are a few words and phrases to eliminate:

  • Passive constructs: “The ball was thrown by the pitcher” vs. “The pitcher threw the ball.”
  • Intensifiers: “The building is really very ugly” vs. “The building is ugly.”
  • Weasel words: “some people say,” “most marketers know,” “a majority of people would agree…”
  • Cliché: “Are you ready to take the plunge and get started?” vs. “Let’s get started.”

#3 – Make Content Coherent

Your draft probably makes sense at a base level, unless you doze off mid-sentence and pear plastic rutabaga dog collar. Editing for coherency in this case is more about optimizing your work for the way your audience reads. Make your prose easier to read online with these steps:

  • Break up long sentences into shorter ones. Watch out for semi-colons, emdashes, and long lists of clauses separated with commas. A few long sentences per article keeps your prose from feeling choppy, but try to keep most sentences brief. And yes, I still struggle with this. Do as I say. Not as I do.
  • Break up long paragraphs. In school we learned to write five-sentence paragraphs. Online, keep it to two, or three at the most.
  • Use headers to let a reader skim before they dive in.

#4 – Make Content Correct

Now that your content is clear, concise, and coherent, you only need one final polish to make it sparkle. Make sure your grammar, usage, and style are correct.

Unfortunately, your brain will work against you on this last pass. Once it gets the gist of a sentence, it will gloss over any little mistakes. Which can lead to embarrassment once the piece is published and someone points and laughs at your “their/they’re/there” or “then/than” confusion.

You will have to trick your brain into working with you. Read the piece bottom to top, one sentence at a time. That way, you will be able to focus on the words independent of the content.

Then read the piece top to bottom, out loud (somewhere your co-workers won’t get violent). Even better, enlist a co-worker to read it to you. You will be surprised how many little corrections you’ll find when you’re hearing it instead of reading silently.

Shine on, You Crazy Diamond

Good content starts with solid content strategy to make sure your topic speaks to the audience. But to take your content from good to great, use the four Cs to polish each piece before you publish it. Keep your content clear, concise, coherent, and correct, and your audience will be compelled to share it.

What is your content pet peeve? What can an author do that makes you stop reading as soon as you see it?


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The Mortified Marketer: 8 Lessons To Help Evolve Your Content Marketing Strategy http://www.toprankblog.com/2015/08/the-mortified-marketer/ Tue, 04 Aug 2015 10:30:58 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=19000 Blogging, Day 1 Dear Diary, Today I wrote my first blog post. Everyone is going to love it! I am going to blog every day. Blogging, Day 10 Dear Diary, I can’t think of anything to write. I’ve published one post, and the only person that read it was my mom. The format above may [...]

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The Mortified Content Marketer

Blogging, Day 1
Dear Diary,
Today I wrote my first blog post. Everyone is going to love it! I am going to blog every day.

Blogging, Day 10
Dear Diary,
I can’t think of anything to write. I’ve published one post, and the only person that read it was my mom.

The format above may sound familiar if you’ve ever heard the Mortified podcast (if you haven’t tuned in, you’re really missing out). In this podcast, adults get on stage and read passages from their journals, plays or fan fiction, all penned when they were children or teenagers.

Their understanding of how the world works (and their place in it) has vastly evolved from the time they wrote these entries, to the time they read them on stage.

As content marketers, we’ve all likely gone through our own evolution. What we thought was a thought-provoking, awe inspiring blog post 10 years ago, looks much different now to our well-trained eye.

Unfortunately, we are all sometimes guilty of falling back into our old ways. But not to worry, here are 8 content marketing lessons to remember in order to keep yourself from being mortified.

#1 – Create Content That Resonates & Inspires Action

Take a moment to think about what drives your current content marketing strategy…

Is it brand message, new products and services or maybe your keyword strategy? It can be easy to fall into the trap of using content to push a business agenda or share information about new offerings. Don’t be ashamed, we’ve all done it.

A past report from MarketingProfs and Content Marketing Institute found that 70% of B2B content created is never used. And the most cited reason why B2B content goes unused is that the topic was irrelevant to the buyer audience.

What a content strategy SHOULD be focused on is the needs of customers. Instead of focusing on the benefits and features of your products, focus instead on customer needs and issues.

Believe it or not, sometimes the content you produce will not be directly related to your services, but focused entirely on helping potential and current customers solve a business problem.

Each piece of content should inspire some sort of action from the reader. This could be commenting on a blog post, downloading a white paper or eBook and maybe even reaching out to contact your company.

#2 – Simplify Your Approach

Complexity doesn’t always improve the quality of a content marketing object. It’s very easy to get swept up in creating complex marketing programs with too many variables. Especially if you’re like many marketers and working with a small team, and a tight budget. Personally I’ve found myself becoming overzealous in trying to create as many things as possible to satisfy clients (internal and external) then realized that it was impossible to do any of them well, because it was just too much.

Make things easier on yourself and better for your customers by focusing on creating content that is impactful and inspires action.

A great way to scale the value that your content provides is to repurpose content that has performed well. This will help you get additional value, over content that has already been created, but has been repurposed intelligently.

#3 – Choose Automation Over Manual Process

It can be a struggle to adopt an automated solution after spending years building a manual process. You may have spent months or even years finding a way to make a process hum (even if it does take 10 hours to execute).

Part of simplifying your process is understanding when to bring in tools to create efficiency. True, tools won’t always replicate or replace some elements of your manual process, but they will speed up delivery and free up your time to focus on more impactful content marketing efforts.

#4 – Don’t Forget to Amplify Your Content

Promotion of great content marketing can often be an afterthought. You’ve spent so much effort putting together your content masterpiece that by the time it’s done, you’re ready to move on to the next opportunity.

It doesn’t matter if you’re creating a blog post or an eBook, you need to have a plan for promoting the content asset. For each piece of content, always consider the following:

  • What websites/platforms will be used for promotion?
  • What message will resonate best with the audience on each website/platform?
  • Is there budget available to incorporate paid search and social advertising?

#5 – Spend Time Building Relationships

Everyone is busy, and taking the time to build relationships (both online and offline) can seem like a daunting task. At some point or another it’s likely that the majority of us have reached out to someone because we thought they could help promote our cause. And they didn’t respond. Why?

Each relationship takes time  and must be mutually beneficial. If you’re trying to connect with influencers, keep it simple (they’re busy) and create value for them. It’s likely that they get a great deal of requests like yours on a daily or weekly basis, so do what you can to differentiate your request.

Part of your content amplification strategy can include reaching out to people that you have relationships with and asking them to participate in sharing. Remember, if you are going to take this step, there must be value in it for the other person to share your content.

#6 – Follow a Content Creation Schedule

On TopRankBlog, we have set a precedent that a blog post will be published each day, Monday through Friday. Our readers have come to expect that they will be able to find at least one post every week day.

That’s not to say that you need to publish blog content every day of the week, but there does need to be a consistent schedule for readers to anticipate. Commit to a schedule and follow through.

Other content assets can follow a consistent schedule as well. Try to determine what content can be published daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly. Then, alert your audience so they know what to expect.

#7 – Always Be Learning

The daily grind will often have you dragging into the office in the morning, and falling into bed at night. Sometimes you may realize that it’s been days or weeks since you spent time researching other content or processes outside of your organization.

However, if you want to compete in today’s digital marketing landscape, you have to make the time for continuing your education.

A simple way to work learning into your routine is to create bookmarks for the websites or blogs that you know provide educational content. Then, commit to spending time either daily or weekly to consume new information.

Digital marketers also have a plethora of local, national and international conferences and events available. Create an event list for the year and prioritize which ones make the most sense for different team members to attend.

#8 – Use Data to Drive Your Content Strategy

Don’t rely on guesswork to determine what sort of content will resonate best with your target audience. If you don’t know how to interpret the data you have or are unsure where to start, consider reaching out to a company like TopRank Marketing to complete a content marketing audit.

Use free tools like Google Analytics to create custom dashboards that let you see which content is resonating on your website and social media platforms with your audience. If you watch the data closely and create content consistently, you may be able to identify what topics and content types work best for your audience.

Share Your Content Marketing Lesson

It doesn’t matter if you’re a content marketing noob or veteran, you know more today than when you started. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned related to content marketing and how has it impacted your approach?

Image via Shutterstock

 


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© Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®, 2015. | The Mortified Marketer: 8 Lessons To Help Evolve Your Content Marketing Strategy | http://www.toprankblog.com

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5 Common Writing Clichés to Avoid for Better Content Marketing http://www.toprankblog.com/2015/07/cliches-content-marketing/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2015/07/cliches-content-marketing/#comments Tue, 14 Jul 2015 10:30:35 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=18899 Every piece of content we produce as marketers makes an implicit promise to our audience. From beginning to end, each asset that is researched, created and published should be interesting, relevant, help solve a current pain point. The content will be informative, easy to read and provide value. We must honor that promise to hold [...]

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blogging clichesEvery piece of content we produce as marketers makes an implicit promise to our audience. From beginning to end, each asset that is researched, created and published should be interesting, relevant, help solve a current pain point. The content will be informative, easy to read and provide value.

We must honor that promise to hold the reader’s attention and provide them with useful information. As Copyblogger founder Brian Clark says, “A great headline mixed with a lame opening is like inviting someone into your house, only to slam the door in their face as they approach.” Once you slam the door in a reader’s face, they’re not going to accept future invitations.

Our goal should be to create content that holds the door open, invites the reader in, and serves them tea and cakes. They should be better off because of the time they entrusted to us. We must be ever vigilant against bland, empty, awkward or confusing writing. Avoiding the following clichés can help your content make good on its promise to be worth the reader’s time.

#1 – The 30,000 Foot Introduction

In high school, well-meaning teachers told us introductions should start wide and then narrow down to our topic. So we went all the way up to 30,000 feet to get the big, really big picture. We wrote, “Waste disposal has historically been a huge problem in the world, and it continues to this day.” Or, “Most scientists agree that electricity is important.” Sometimes, years later, it can be difficult to shake the urge to start with a bird’s-eye view.

Why It’s Less Effective: 30,000 Foot introductions are so broad that they fail to introduce the reader to your specific topic. They also tend to be full of information the reader already knows, which is less likely to inspire them to keep reading.

What to Do Instead: When you realize you’ve written 30,000 foot introductions, start by writing a second paragraph to actually introduce the article. Many times, you can just delete the original paragraph and go with the more detailed introduction.

If you’re having trouble introducing a topic without going up to 30,000 feet, create specificity and 3rd party credibility by adding a statistic or quote.

#2 – We All Know That…

The “we all know” or “as [members of a group], we all know” construction usually pops up when a writer is trying to empathize with the readers. While the intention may be good, execution can read a little clumsy.

Why It’s Less Effective: If we all know it, then the reader knows it, too. If the reader knows it, they may feel like we’re wasting their time. When you need to state the obvious in a post, it’s better to find an angle that adds something extra to what “we all know.”

What to Do Instead: As with the 30,000 Feet Introduction, use a quote or a statistic. Instead of, “we all know that content marketing is important,” go for, “as Michael Brenner says, ‘Content is the atomic particle of all marketing across paid, owned, and earned channels.’” Now you’ve made your point, given new information, and added credibility to your piece.

Or, you can just eliminate the “We All Know” and make your statement to sound more authoritative: “Content marketing is a vital piece of any marketing mix.”

#3 – In This Article, I Will…

Here’s another holdover from our five-paragraph-essay days. It’s a hard habit to break, because it seems like the easiest way to transition into the body of your content. It previews the structure of the article and moves you to your first subheading.

Why It’s Less Effective: A good introduction casts a spell on the reader, compelling them to keep reading. “In this article, I will…” is an awkward transition that breaks the spell. Even worse, it puts the focus on you, the author, instead of the reader.

What to Do Instead: Ask the reader to do what you want them to do: Read on. “Read on to learn X, Y, and Z.” Or make it inspirational: “You can do x, y, and z. Here’s how.” Or, “doing [these/the following] five things can help you accomplish X.” Show the reader what’s in it for them and they’ll be more likely to keep reading.

#4 – Rhetorical Questions

Who doesn’t love rhetorical questions? They seem like a great tool for getting your reader to ponder the topic you’re discussing. But should you avoid them? And how can you? (Sorry, last one, I promise).

Why They’re Less Effective: When I write a rhetorical question, I imagine my reader leaning forward, eyes wide in childlike wonderment, saying, “Golly gee, mister, how CAN I write better content?” I’m trying to create drama, but really I’m underestimating the reader’s intelligence.

People who take the time to read a blog post are smart (take you, for example. You’re reading this post, and I have no doubt you’re startlingly intelligent). Rhetorical questions invite your audience to come up with a different answer than the one you’re leading to, which can derail the point you’re trying to make.

What to Do Instead: The antidote for this one is easy: Turn your questions into statements. Instead of, “How can you avoid clichéd writing?” say “It’s important to avoid clichéd writing. You can ditch clichés by…” As a general rule, unless you’re inviting readers to actually respond to your question, make it a statement.

#5 – Alphabet Soup

My wife is a middle-school teacher. We have a game where we string together as many acronyms from our respective professions as we can. So I’ll say, “With a little CRO, you can tweak your CTA to increase the CTR of your PPC, getting a better ROI on your CPC.” And she’ll say, “The kid with the IEP clearly had ODD, but his FSP didn’t modify his CBA.” And we laugh. Oh, how we laugh. But the alphabet soup is less funny when you’re trying to glean information from an article.

Why It’s Less Effective: Acronyms aren’t universal. The same three or four letters can mean something radically different—or nothing at all—to a reader, depending on their background. Take the two alphabet-soup sentences above: some readers will get one and not the other, and many won’t understand either sentence.

What to Do Instead: First, keep your audience in mind. If they’re not marketers, avoid marketing jargon and acronyms entirely. Then make sure to spell out the first instance of an acronym, like “with a little conversion rate optimization (CRO)…”

It can’t hurt to spell out even the most obvious acronyms. Most readers know that ROI means return on investment, but you may have a French reader who thinks you’re shouting about a king (you see, in French “Le Roi” is the King, and…never mind). If you find you’re introducing three acronyms in a single sentence and spelling them all out is getting awkward, that’s a good indication you should break the sentence up.

Read Critically for Better Writing

Writing engaging content is a learned skill, like playing the violin or juggling live turtles. Or doing both at the same time, if you’re an overachiever. Avoiding these five clichés will help you write content your audience will enjoy reading. But these five are just the tip of the iceberg (which is also a cliché, if you’re counting). So continue honing your skills by writing, of course, but also by reading with a critical eye. When you go through your daily blog and news site crawl, look for overused phrases, convoluted sentences, and anything else that seems out-of-place.

What clichés do you struggle with in your writing? How do you keep your content fresh and relevant? Let me know in the comments.

Image: Shutterstock


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