Content Marketing – Online Marketing Blog – TopRank® http://www.toprankblog.com Fri, 19 Jan 2018 16:02:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.2 4 Top Trends in Customer Centricity to Drive Digital Marketing Success in 2018 http://www.toprankblog.com/2018/01/consumer-trends-2018/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2018/01/consumer-trends-2018/#respond Mon, 15 Jan 2018 11:30:27 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=23662 Ask any digital marketer if they’ve been able to set their strategy on autopilot over the past decade, and I bet you’ll get a laugh or two—as well as an emphatic “No.” If we’ve learned anything it’s that the digital landscape is simply too fast-changing to keep the business as usual mindset. But while the [...]

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Consumer Trends Marketers Need to Know

Ask any digital marketer if they’ve been able to set their strategy on autopilot over the past decade, and I bet you’ll get a laugh or two—as well as an emphatic “No.” If we’ve learned anything it’s that the digital landscape is simply too fast-changing to keep the business as usual mindset.

But while the global rise of the internet, the explosion of social media, and the development of mobile technologies and other digital tools and platforms are undoubtedly “to blame” for the constant state of change we operate in—it’s really the everyday use of these innovations that requires our flexibility and attention.

Simply put, thanks to these modern essentials, our behavior, expectations and attitudes as consumers have changed—and they’ll continue to. The mobility and network access enabled by mobile phones and tablets, coupled with the incredible amount of content now available (thanks content marketers), means consumers now have the majority stake in developing their own customer journey.

In fact, last year comScore reported that users spend an average of 69% of their media time on smartphones—and other research shows that the great majority of people use the internet and mobile technologies to research products before they buy.

But what’s the next stage of evolution in consumer behavior? And how can digital marketers adapt their strategies to fit with consumers want and expect?

Below we highlight some of the consumer trends that will have (and are already having) a big impact on digital and content marketing in 2018 and beyond.

#1 – Voice-activated personal assistance will continue to shape consumer behavior.

While voice-command technology began to emerge in the early part of the century, it’s taken on new life over the past couple years thanks to the emergence of mobile personal assistants, and the birth and increasing adoption of tools like Amazon Echo, Cortana and Google Home.

To put it simply, these voice-activated technologies just make life simpler. According to Think with Google’s research, the top reasons people turn to voice-activated speakers are:

  1. It allows them to more easily multitask.
  2. It enables them to do things faster than other devices.
  3. It empowers them to instantly get answers and information.
  4. It makes their daily routine easier.

What does this mean for brands and marketers? Google says their research also shows that people welcome brands to be part of their experience, and they’re open to receiving information that’s helpful and relevant to their lifestyle.

Think With Google Stats on Personal Assistants

Image Credit: Think with Google

As a result, brands and marketers have the opportunity to explore digital advertising opportunities in this arena. But, perhaps more immediately important, optimizing for voice search is critical.

According to Gartner predictions, 30% of all web browsing sessions will be done without a screen by 2020. Some voice search optimization tactics include focusing on featured snippets, using more conversational keywords and content structure, and adding structured data markup to help search engines better understand the context of the content you’re providing.

#2 – Consumers want to experience a brand, product or service before they buy—and video is the conduit.

I think it’s safe to say that video is no longer an emerging or rising marketing trend—it’s part of the now and the future. According to Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs’ 2018 content marketing benchmark reports, 72% of B2B marketers and 76% of B2C marketers use pre-produced video as part of their strategies.

It’s certainly not difficult to see why video has taken off. Humans are visual creatures by nature, and as the internet, social media and technology have evolved, consumers are spending an increasing amount of time in front of the screen—elevating video as a preferred engagement medium.

But a bit of change is in the air. Consumers don’t just want engagement these days. They’re also looking for an experience—especially when it comes to products they’re interested in.

According to other research by Think with Google, video is straight up changing how people shop. In fact, in the past year, 40% of YouTube users turned to the platform to learn more about a product before they purchased it. In addition, the watch time of “Shop with me” videos—where viewers actually follow video creators as they shop—has increased a whopping 1,000% over the past two years.

YouTube Research by Consumers Statistic

Image Credit: Think with Google

Essentially, consumers are going beyond third-party review sites and word-of-mouth referrals, and looking to video content to learn the good, the bad and the ugly about the products they’re pondering. This means it’s time for B2B and B2C brands alike to elevate the stories they tell using video. Here’s what Think with Google had to say:

“Since many users aren’t going to be able to physically touch a product before they buy it, brands need to come up with creative ways to help people ‘experience’ it online. Think of ways to bring your product to life online so it stands out—like using virtual reality or augmented reality—such as L’Oréal’s Makeup Genius app that lets users virtually try on makeup.

“There’s a whole community of creators testing and evaluating products, including yours. That means users will be validating any claims you make, so make sure your product can live up to them.”


Consumers are looking for an experience - especially when it comes to products they’re interested in. #digitalmarketing #videomarketing @CaitlinMBurgess
Click To Tweet


Read: Report: What Marketers Need to Know About the ‘State of Video Marketing’

#3 – Consumers are growing more curious—as well as more impatient.

To say the least, 2017 was an interesting year socially, environmentally, and—of course—politically. As the year unfolded, it’s no surprise that people turned to the internet and search engines to get a better understanding of what’s happening in their communities, countries, and around the world.

From Google’s perspective, the wide world of search in 2017 also unveiled new consumer behaviors. In yet another recent Think with Google piece, 2017 saw a “new super-empowered consumer” take shape.

“We found that people are more curious, more demanding, and more impatient than ever before,” the article said. “We saw evidence of this throughout 2017, and it will be critical for marketers to understand these new behaviors as they move into 2018.”

Essentially, people are getting more specific than ever in their searches—and they expect and demand useful, relevant information quickly. The takeaway for marketers here is that long-tail search term variations will expand—and perhaps even become a new normal. As a result, there’s no better time to double-down on creating—what TopRank Marketing likes to call—best-answer content.

What does best-answer content look like? In a nutshell, best-answer content is:

  1. Addressed to a specific audience
  2. Addressed to a specific query
  3. Substantial
  4. Comprehensive, addressing complimentary queries and crosslinking
  5. Not blatantly promotional

As our CEO, Lee Odden, so eloquently once said: “Stop creating content. And start making answers.”

This should’ve always been part of a marketers mission, but it will be even more critical in the years to come as search and consumer preferences evolve.

In addition, use the data and insights at your fingertips (and pursue new sources) to get a deeper understanding of audience needs, wants and attitudes, develop more holistic consumer personas, and create content and messaging that is highly-personalized. Personalization will be key for meeting consumer demand and expectations.


Stop creating content. And start making answers. - @leeodden #contentmarketing #BeTheBestAnswer
Click To Tweet


#4 – Distrust is at an all-time high—which calls for more transparency and authenticity in marketing.

We’ve know for a while that consumers are becoming increasingly weary of advertising and brand messaging. But over the past couple years, the general state of trust across the globe has “imploded.”

The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer Survey—an annual trust and credibility survey—showed the largest-ever drop in trust across the world’s four major institutions: business, government, media and NGOs.

2017 Edelman Trust Barometer

In the Executive Summary, the opening note is actually titled “The Implosion of Trust,” and it cites major social, economic and political upheaval—and rising “fake news” speculation—as the unsurprising culprits. But the good news is that Edelman’s findings also show that business is the “last retaining wall” of trust.

As a result, it’s more important than ever for brands and marketers to commit themselves to transparency and authenticity in all that they do. From embracing both positive and critical consumer feedback on public forums and social media, to losing the jargon and developing a more human voice—transparency and authenticity need to be baked into your strategy, rather than being afterthoughts.

One way to add both value, authenticity and credibility to your marketing efforts will be through the use of influencers. Influencer marketing has exploded over the past couple years, and it’s not going anywhere in 2018. Regardless of the type of content, there’s always an opportunity to include credible voices and opinions that will touch and resonate with your audience.

Read: Our Top 10 Influencer Marketing Posts of 2017 Plus Thoughts on 2018

The Only Constant is Change

As you move forward in 2018, now is not the time to set and forget your digital marketing strategy. On the contrary, you need to be at the ready to make meaningful change.

The fact of the matter is that consumers are playing an increasingly powerful role in their buying journey—and brands and marketers need to embrace this if they’re going to survive and thrive into the future.

Content is at the core of every digital marketing strategy. What other trends do marketers need to be on the lookout for? Read Content Conversations: Content Marketing Predictions for 2018 featuring insights from Ann Handley, Joe Pulizzi, Chris Brogan, Alexandra Rynne, Tim Washer, Dayna Rothman, and Chris Moody.


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How to Become a Better Data-Informed Content Marketer http://www.toprankblog.com/2018/01/data-informed-content-marketing-tips/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2018/01/data-informed-content-marketing-tips/#comments Wed, 10 Jan 2018 11:30:27 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=23651 Data-Informed Content Marketing Tips

Data-Informed Content Marketing Tips

As a 21st century marketer, you already know that data is an important player in the content marketing game. Data helps us understand who our audience is, what they care about, and how our content impacts their decisions. It helps us connect all the dots — and continue to find new dots as attitudes, needs, and preferences change.

But is your content marketing strategy taking advantage of all of the data you have at your disposal? Or is some data left on the cutting room floor?

As TopRank Marketing’s own Lee Odden recently wrote on the topic of data-informed content marketing:

“When it comes to content, creators are traditionally more art than science, and using data to guide editorial planning is still not an advanced skill for many companies.”

Not too long ago, Forrester reported that companies only use 12% of the data they have at their disposal. The remaining 88% of data is wasted and left unused. But imagine how much more effective your content marketing efforts would be if you upped that percentage even a few points — let alone to 100%.

With that said, we want to help you up your data gleaning skills and get the most out of your search, social, and behavioral data. Below are our top tips for becoming a better data-informed content marketer and really boost your content performance.

#1 - Create a segmented content pipeline.

Odds are, you already track your customers, the pages they visit, how long they stay, and the actions they take on your site. After all, it’s Content Marketing 101 to track your audience and their behavior, but this doesn’t paint a complete picture of your content and how it’s performing. To get a complete, 360-degree picture, you need to analyze the types of content you’re creating and draw some conclusions about performance.

Start breaking down your content by bucketing your pieces by length, stage of the funnel, topic, keyword, and other categories that could influence audiences. You can typically find this information in your content management system (CMS), content marketing platform (CMP), or your editorial calendar.

At TopRank Marketing, we’ve developed our own dashboard that integrates with various data sources such as Google Analytics and Google Search Console, as well as pulls in our own categories and details to help us segment and analyze how our own content, as well as the content within our client programs, is performing. Here’s a little peek at how we segment:

Content Segmentation Example

Once your content has been segmented, it’s not only easier to see what types of content perform best, but also when they reach their peak performance and with whom. If a pattern starts to emerge, you can then fill up your content pipeline with items that can replicate that same success.

[bctt tweet="Use the #data at your fingertips to create a segmented content pipeline. - @aleuman4 #contentmarketing" username="toprank"]

#2 - Monitor social activity and engagement.

Of the world’s 3.7 billion internet users, 2.7 billion of them are active social media users, according to We Are Social. That’s roughly 35% of the world’s population logging onto social media to discover trending content and share messages with their networks.

With that in mind, using social media to distribute your content is a no-brainer. Plus, social networks make it easy for your to track your content’s social engagement through likes, retweets, shares, mentions, replies, etc. But your own social media profiles and posts aren’t the only thing you should be monitoring if you want to create a more data-informed content strategy.

Because social is such an important marketing channel, your competition and industry thought leaders will be on social as well. Monitoring their profiles and content, as well as your own, using tools like BuzzSumo or Follwerwonk can help you discover what types of content is really resonating and identify gaps in your own content plan.

BuzzSumo Example Data-Informed Content Marketing

It’s also a good idea to take a look at your top followers and customers on social to see what types of content they like and share with their own followers. With this data in hand, you can create content that is more suited to their interests, increasing your social engagement.

Read: 12 Industry-Specific Opportunities for Boosting Social Media Engagement

#3 - Refine and create new audience segments.

How are your current audience segments built? More often than not, they’re bucketed based off of demographic data. But your audiences are more than their age, location, or gender. They’re real people with real interests that you can use to your marketing advantage. You just have to find them first.

Deliver more relevant content to your customers by further drilling down your audience segments beyond what Google Analytics’ Audience Overview provides. For example, after performing a deep dive into your Google Analytics, social, email, and transactional data, you can perform new segmentation based on where each person is in the funnel, the types of content they’ve engaged in, what they’ve purchased, shared, etc.

Your audiences should never be set in stone, either. People change over time and your audience segments should, too. With new audience segments formed with specific criteria, you have more opportunities to create content tailored just for them, improving your engagement rate.

[bctt tweet="Your audiences are more than their age, location, or gender. - @aleuman4 #contentmarketing #data" username="toprank"]

#4 - Use behavioral data to find what’s valuable.

When creating a nurture campaign or onboarding experience, it’s tempting to throw everything in your arsenal at your audience. This way they have everything they need to know to make a decision, right? The problem with this approach is that “everything” probably isn’t relevant to them.

To really get a sense for what matters to each of your audience segments, take a look at your customers’ past behaviors and actions. In analyzing your past campaigns, is there a common touchpoint where customers dropped out or converted? If so, it’s your job to determine what contributed to or influenced this behavior. Was it the content, timing, or cadence? This practice will help you identify what your audience finds valuable and allow you to create campaigns that only present relevant and helpful information.

Read: 6 Best Practices for Nurturing B2B Marketing Qualified Leads

#5 - Repurpose and redeploy what didn’t work.

Failure is really just a masked opportunity. Part of being a data-informed marketer is taking information from what worked and what didn’t. If something failed to engage an audience or drive conversions, that is an opportunity to rework and improve — not throw something away and start fresh. Repurposing your content is not only sustainable, but it also has the chance to improve your reach, engagement, completed calls to action, and more.

Instead of scraping content that might have flopped or didn’t get the social engagement you were aiming for, dig deeper into the data to find what part of your content didn’t work. If no one clicked on your content to begin with, fixing the problem could be as simple as updating your promotional messages (e.g. emails, social messages, etc.) or meta description and title tags. Alternatively, if readers are exiting your content early, you may need to add more meat to your content to pique their interest and keep them reading longer.

The bottom line is that there is no such thing as bad results — even a “bad” result can tell you an awful lot about what’s happening with your content.

[bctt tweet="Failure is really just a masked opportunity. -  @aleuman4 #contentmarketing #data" username="toprank"]

Eliminate Your Content Outliers

By using the advice above, you can begin to create an effective content marketing strategy that works and weed out the practices that don’t. Get a jump start on removing those bad habits by removing these five outdated content marketing tactics from your playbook.

The post How to Become a Better Data-Informed Content Marketer appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

]]>
Data-Informed Content Marketing Tips

Data-Informed Content Marketing Tips As a 21st century marketer, you already know that data is an important player in the content marketing game. Data helps us understand who our audience is, what they care about, and how our content impacts their decisions. It helps us connect all the dots — and continue to find new dots as attitudes, needs, and preferences change. But is your content marketing strategy taking advantage of all of the data you have at your disposal? Or is some data left on the cutting room floor? As TopRank Marketing’s own Lee Odden recently wrote on the topic of data-informed content marketing:
“When it comes to content, creators are traditionally more art than science, and using data to guide editorial planning is still not an advanced skill for many companies.”
Not too long ago, Forrester reported that companies only use 12% of the data they have at their disposal. The remaining 88% of data is wasted and left unused. But imagine how much more effective your content marketing efforts would be if you upped that percentage even a few points — let alone to 100%. With that said, we want to help you up your data gleaning skills and get the most out of your search, social, and behavioral data. Below are our top tips for becoming a better data-informed content marketer and really boost your content performance.

#1 - Create a segmented content pipeline.

Odds are, you already track your customers, the pages they visit, how long they stay, and the actions they take on your site. After all, it’s Content Marketing 101 to track your audience and their behavior, but this doesn’t paint a complete picture of your content and how it’s performing. To get a complete, 360-degree picture, you need to analyze the types of content you’re creating and draw some conclusions about performance. Start breaking down your content by bucketing your pieces by length, stage of the funnel, topic, keyword, and other categories that could influence audiences. You can typically find this information in your content management system (CMS), content marketing platform (CMP), or your editorial calendar. At TopRank Marketing, we’ve developed our own dashboard that integrates with various data sources such as Google Analytics and Google Search Console, as well as pulls in our own categories and details to help us segment and analyze how our own content, as well as the content within our client programs, is performing. Here’s a little peek at how we segment: Content Segmentation Example Once your content has been segmented, it’s not only easier to see what types of content perform best, but also when they reach their peak performance and with whom. If a pattern starts to emerge, you can then fill up your content pipeline with items that can replicate that same success. [bctt tweet="Use the #data at your fingertips to create a segmented content pipeline. - @aleuman4 #contentmarketing" username="toprank"]

#2 - Monitor social activity and engagement.

Of the world’s 3.7 billion internet users, 2.7 billion of them are active social media users, according to We Are Social. That’s roughly 35% of the world’s population logging onto social media to discover trending content and share messages with their networks. With that in mind, using social media to distribute your content is a no-brainer. Plus, social networks make it easy for your to track your content’s social engagement through likes, retweets, shares, mentions, replies, etc. But your own social media profiles and posts aren’t the only thing you should be monitoring if you want to create a more data-informed content strategy. Because social is such an important marketing channel, your competition and industry thought leaders will be on social as well. Monitoring their profiles and content, as well as your own, using tools like BuzzSumo or Follwerwonk can help you discover what types of content is really resonating and identify gaps in your own content plan. BuzzSumo Example Data-Informed Content Marketing It’s also a good idea to take a look at your top followers and customers on social to see what types of content they like and share with their own followers. With this data in hand, you can create content that is more suited to their interests, increasing your social engagement. Read: 12 Industry-Specific Opportunities for Boosting Social Media Engagement

#3 - Refine and create new audience segments.

How are your current audience segments built? More often than not, they’re bucketed based off of demographic data. But your audiences are more than their age, location, or gender. They’re real people with real interests that you can use to your marketing advantage. You just have to find them first. Deliver more relevant content to your customers by further drilling down your audience segments beyond what Google Analytics’ Audience Overview provides. For example, after performing a deep dive into your Google Analytics, social, email, and transactional data, you can perform new segmentation based on where each person is in the funnel, the types of content they’ve engaged in, what they’ve purchased, shared, etc. Your audiences should never be set in stone, either. People change over time and your audience segments should, too. With new audience segments formed with specific criteria, you have more opportunities to create content tailored just for them, improving your engagement rate. [bctt tweet="Your audiences are more than their age, location, or gender. - @aleuman4 #contentmarketing #data" username="toprank"]

#4 - Use behavioral data to find what’s valuable.

When creating a nurture campaign or onboarding experience, it’s tempting to throw everything in your arsenal at your audience. This way they have everything they need to know to make a decision, right? The problem with this approach is that “everything” probably isn’t relevant to them. To really get a sense for what matters to each of your audience segments, take a look at your customers’ past behaviors and actions. In analyzing your past campaigns, is there a common touchpoint where customers dropped out or converted? If so, it’s your job to determine what contributed to or influenced this behavior. Was it the content, timing, or cadence? This practice will help you identify what your audience finds valuable and allow you to create campaigns that only present relevant and helpful information. Read: 6 Best Practices for Nurturing B2B Marketing Qualified Leads

#5 - Repurpose and redeploy what didn’t work.

Failure is really just a masked opportunity. Part of being a data-informed marketer is taking information from what worked and what didn’t. If something failed to engage an audience or drive conversions, that is an opportunity to rework and improve — not throw something away and start fresh. Repurposing your content is not only sustainable, but it also has the chance to improve your reach, engagement, completed calls to action, and more. Instead of scraping content that might have flopped or didn’t get the social engagement you were aiming for, dig deeper into the data to find what part of your content didn’t work. If no one clicked on your content to begin with, fixing the problem could be as simple as updating your promotional messages (e.g. emails, social messages, etc.) or meta description and title tags. Alternatively, if readers are exiting your content early, you may need to add more meat to your content to pique their interest and keep them reading longer. The bottom line is that there is no such thing as bad results — even a “bad” result can tell you an awful lot about what’s happening with your content. [bctt tweet="Failure is really just a masked opportunity. -  @aleuman4 #contentmarketing #data" username="toprank"]

Eliminate Your Content Outliers

By using the advice above, you can begin to create an effective content marketing strategy that works and weed out the practices that don’t. Get a jump start on removing those bad habits by removing these five outdated content marketing tactics from your playbook.

The post How to Become a Better Data-Informed Content Marketer appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

]]>
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Content Marketing Evolution: 5 Major Content Marketing Trends for 2018 http://www.toprankblog.com/2018/01/content-marketing-trends-2018/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2018/01/content-marketing-trends-2018/#comments Mon, 08 Jan 2018 11:30:14 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=23630 Do you remember upgrading from an old square TV to a high-definition model? It was an amazing leap forward in the viewing experience. Then came 3D televisions…and no one really cared. Then even bigger screens, then curved displays, OLED, smart TVs, 3D and 4k. None of these advances have really fired up the imagination of [...]

The post Content Marketing Evolution: 5 Major Content Marketing Trends for 2018 appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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Content Marketing Trends 2018

Do you remember upgrading from an old square TV to a high-definition model? It was an amazing leap forward in the viewing experience.

Then came 3D televisions…and no one really cared. Then even bigger screens, then curved displays, OLED, smart TVs, 3D and 4k. None of these advances have really fired up the imagination of the TV-buying public. These incremental improvements just aren’t compelling enough to inspire me to upgrade.

The same thing happened with smartphones. The iPhone’s touchscreen-only design was revolutionary, and now every modern phone is a sleek rectangle. Since then, it’s been incremental change and vanity features. I can unlock this phone with my face instead of my fingerprint? And I can turn into an animated dancing unicorn? Yawn.

Content marketing had its watershed moment a decade ago, marking a monumental shift in the way marketing works. Hard selling and SEO trickery gave way to relationship-building and bringing real value to customers. Since then, we’ve been refining the formula. We’ve added new gimmicks and made small adjustments. But marketers are long overdue for a new paradigm shift.

When you’re watching content marketing trends for this year, look deeper than the marketing equivalent of 4k and curved displays. Look for the quiet revolution that is starting to take hold—look for the fundamental changes in the way we approach content.

Here are my picks for the next major movements in content marketing.

#1 – Long-Form Content

As I’ve said before, content is moving beyond the 500-word blog post. Consumers and B2B buyers simply want more depth and value than short content can provide. Even if your 500-word post does attract significant traffic, it has an inherently short life span.

Orbitmedia’s yearly blogging survey shows that the most successful bloggers are spending more time creating longer posts. The average length of a typical blog post has risen from 808 in 2014 to 1,142 in 2017.

These longer posts are attracting more audience attention. The percentage of bloggers reporting “strong results” goes up steadily with the average word count of their posts:

Average Length of Long-Form Content

While short blog posts still can serve a marketing purpose — attracting subscribers, promoting thought leadership — the most successful will re-evaluate short-form content as the basic unit of content marketing. Ungated long-form content is vital to meeting audience expectations.

#2 – Consistency & Quality over Quantity

As marketers shift from short-form to long-form content, it’s going to get harder to maintain a daily (or multiple times daily) publishing cadence. Daily publishing has been the table stakes for blog content for years, but there’s untapped value in slowing the cadence. You know the drill: The amount of content keeps increasing, while people’s time to invest in content stays the same. If you’re challenged to keep up your daily cadence, odds are your audience is, too.

Our clients at LinkedIn Sales and Marketing Solutions EMEA dropped to 2-3 long-form posts a week last year, and have seen their readership continue to rise. The shift inspired our blogging team to try the same experiment on the TopRank Marketing Blog in 2018. More value, less content, delivered consistently — it’s a paradigm shift from “post daily, however much you can, even if it’s 300 words.”

#3 – Influencer Marketing Ecosystems

At the least sophisticated level, influencer marketing is essentially celebrity endorsement. You pay the influencer, they promote your brand, and the relationship ends as soon as the check clears. 2017 may be remembered as the year the influencer bubble burst, as the payouts grew astronomically and high-profile influencers proved problematic.

We published Influence 2.0 in January of last year to help marketers reach the next stage of influencer marketing maturity. Sustainable influencer marketing is relationship-based, co-creation based, and provides mutual value for influencers, marketers, and audiences.

The ultimate goal is to move beyond one-off collaboration with individual influencers. It’s about creating and nurturing a community of influencers, all of whom are aware of each other’s work with the brand. This influencer ecosystem takes relationship-building to the next level, and can result in a steady stream of great content.

Check out our top influencer marketing posts of 2017, as well as more insights from Lee Odden on what’s coming in 2018.

#4 – A New Focus on ROI & Attribution

As the functions of sales and marketing increasingly overlap, marketers need to get serious about proving ROI. We’re in the revenue business just as much as our partners on the sales side, and everything we do should have measurement built in. Yes, even top-of-funnel content meant to generate awareness. Do you know the value of a visitor to your website, a subscriber to your blog, or a filled-out landing page form?

If you don’t have clear answers to the above questions, you’re not alone. According to CMI and MarketingProfs’ annual content marketing benchmarks, only 35% of marketers can accurately measure ROI. Even in the top performers, only 55% are measuring ROI consistently.

In 2018, content marketers who can properly attribute ROI and prove the value of their efforts will be more successful. So it’s time to nail down the value of your content marketing, measure it, optimize it, and give dollars-and-cents reports to the C-suite.

#5 – Strange New Formats

I used to hate the phrase “consuming content.” Okay, so I sort of still do. But my loathing for that phrase may be short-sighted. It seems simpler to say, “reading content,” but that’s still thinking in terms of print, blog posts, eBooks and infographics. Our definition of what constitutes content has already moved beyond these forms, and is going to change radically in the coming years.

Video content production soared in 2017, as marketers figured out how to cheaply produce video and we began dipping a toe into livestreaming as well. In 2018, we can expect to see more video and more strategic use of live video. Audio content is on the rise, too: Podcasts are still surging in popularity and showing no signs of slowdown. And interactive content is getting easier, too — it’s simpler to make increasingly cooler end products.

But the definition of content is about to get even wider. Chatbots will need compelling writing to bring them to life. Amazon Echo and Google Home are new platforms for completely novel types of content, such as the American Heart Association’s CPR instructions and Neil Patel’s Marketing School. Augmented reality is coming to the masses, offering new ways to tell stories and engage an audience.

The Next Evolution

Content marketing is long overdue for a radical redesign, and all signs indicate the next evolution is already in progress. What content is, what forms it can take, how we amplify and measure it — these fundamental aspects of the discipline are all up for debate. It’s up to all of us to stay flexible, stay up-to-date, and most importantly, keep listening for what our audience says they need.

What do other marketers have to say about content marketing in 2018? Read Content Conversations: Content Marketing Predictions for 2018 featuring insights from Ann Handley, Joe Pulizzi, Chris Brogan, Alexandra Rynne, Tim Washer, Dayna Rothman, and Chris Moody.


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Our Top 10 Content Marketing Posts of 2017 http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/12/top-content-marketing-2017/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/12/top-content-marketing-2017/#respond Tue, 26 Dec 2017 12:32:33 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=23529 Content makes the Marketing world go ‘round, especially with our work here at TopRank Marketing. While content has been a steady drumbeat in the marketing mix over the past 7-8 years, marketers are still hungry for best practices, examples and the latest trends. Lucky for our readers, we have excellent content marketers contributing to our [...]

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top content marketing posts
Content makes the Marketing world go ‘round, especially with our work here at TopRank Marketing. While content has been a steady drumbeat in the marketing mix over the past 7-8 years, marketers are still hungry for best practices, examples and the latest trends.

Lucky for our readers, we have excellent content marketers contributing to our blog including Ashley Zeckman, Josh Nite, Caitlin Burgess and one of our new content team members this year who has made quite a splash: Anne Leuman.

As a body of work, this collection of our top 10 content marketing posts represents an incredibly useful resource, full of practical examples and relevant topics for CMOs to copywriters. As you put finishing touches on your 2018 content marketing planning, I hope these posts prove useful.

I’m going to take the most popular content marketing post with 5,500+ social shares (50 Influential Women in Content Marketing 2017) out of the list below because it’s not an article per se. You may still find it useful though, as it recognizes 50 talented professionals in the content marketing world ranging from Ann Handley to Amanda Todorovich to Amisha Gandhi and many more.

Now, on to the top 10! These are ordered by a combination of search visibility and social engagement:

Data Informed Content Marketing
What CMOs Need to Know About Data Informed Content Marketing – Lee Odden
39% of marketers are increasing spending on content marketing but only 41% are clear on what an effective content marketing program looks like. The missing link is data and this post highlights 3 sources of data marketers can use to better inform their content and 3 areas of focus for creating better content experiences. Expertise is also shared from experts including Tami Cannizzaro from CA Technologies and Josh Mueller from Dun & Bradstreet.


How 7 Startups Skyrocketed to Success with Content Marketing – Anne Leuman
Anne hit it out of the park with her first post ranking in the top 10 content marketing posts of the year! As marketers, we learn from examples and in this post, Anne outlines 7 blog and content marketing success stories ranging from Blue Apron to Glossier.


[Infographic] The In-Flight Guide to Content Marketing
– Ashley Zeckman
It wouldn’t be a great list of content marketing posts if it didn’t include an example of how we co-created content with content marketing experts to promote the Content Marketing World conference to other content marketers! With a “fly the friendly skies” metaphor, this infographic and advice from top experts highlights how marketers can plan their content marketing programs more effectively. Experts featured include: Tim Washer, Michael Brenner, Zerlina Jackson, Adele Revella, Ardath Albee and many more.


11 Content Marketing Tips to Build Your B2B Business
– Josh Nite
Josh brings his special writing magic to the topic of content marketing more consistently than any writer I know. In this post Josh builds upon another post on content marketing strategy (also included in this list) to highlight 11 practical steps B2B marketers can take to make content more valuable to customers and in turn, driving business goal achievement.


Content Conversations: Top Content Marketing Lessons Learned in 2017
– Ashley Zeckman
During the MarketingProfs B2B Forum, Ashley and our team shot video interviews with an impressive cast of content marketing influencers including conference organizer Ann Handley and famous content marketing pros like Joe Pulizzi and Chris Brogan. The post also includes highly quotable tips from brand marketers at GE Digital, LinkedIn, and Cisco as well.


How 6 B2B Brands Climbed to New Heights with Content Marketing
– Anne Leuman
At TopRank Marketing, we are very much focused on B2B marketing and in this post, Anne shines a light on 6 examples of B2B brands ranging from IBM to Slack plus takeaways for each to help marketers learn from the success of others in our industry.


The 5 W’s (and an H) That Guide Your Content Marketing Strategy
– Josh Nite
This post should be a pre-requisite for anyone making decisions about how their company will invest in, plan, create and promote content to affect business goals. Josh outlines the essentials of who, what, why, when, where and how of content marketing that is sure to guide you in the right direction.


Feeling Stuck? 5 Tips to Restart your Content-Creating Brain
– Josh Nite
Every writer and content marketer that is responsible for creating high quality content on a consistent basis runs into this situation: being stuck. With great empathy for his fellow content creators, Josh outlines 5 practical tips that content marketers can use to put your brain back on the track to creative content success.


Cracking the Code: 3 Steps to Building Influence with Content Marketing
– Ashley Zeckman
At TopRank Marketing, we walk the talk with our own marketing, especially when it comes to content collaboration with industry experts. Evidence of that fact is that many of the posts in this top 10 list include contributions from influencers. In this post, Ashley shares some of the secret sauce of how companies of any size or type can approach their content marketing collaboration efforts more effectively.


5 Outdated Content Marketing Tactics (And What to Do Instead)
– Josh Nite
Up to his neck in content creation on a daily basis, Josh has deep experience to draw from when it comes to sharing advice with other content marketers. In this post Josh highlights what he feels are tired tactics and their fresh replacements.

There you go – 10 of our top content marketing posts for 2017. A HUGE THANK YOU to Ashley Zeckman, Josh Nite, Anne Lueman, Caitlin Burgess, Nick Nelson, Tiffani Allen, Alexis Hall and Elizabeth Williams for contributing posts on content marketing topics!

We published well over 100 posts specifically about content marketing this year and we’re working to improve the effectiveness of those efforts. To that end, we’re making a number of editorial changes to our blog in 2018 and one of them is a refinement of our topical focus to make sure we are delivering what our community is most interested in.

What content marketing and content focused topics would you like us to focus on for 2018? Data? AI? Technology? Video and Interactive? Basics or advanced tactics? Case studies? We’re all ears and welcome your feedback.

Of course, with the success of our content marketing efforts for brands like LinkedIn, SAP, Dell and many more B2B industry giants, we are continuing to grow our content marketing dream team. If you’re an experienced B2B content marketing manager that wants to start 2018 with a great team of smart content marketers, you’ll want to check this out.


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The Content Marketing Juggling Act: How to Consistently Create Quality, Engaging Content http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/12/content-marketing-juggling/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/12/content-marketing-juggling/#respond Wed, 20 Dec 2017 11:30:04 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=23479 The secret to juggling is to always have one of your chainsaws in the air. Simple, right? You have one more chainsaw than you have hands, so don’t try and hold all three at the same time. Simply, always be throwing and catching at least one. Ready to rev up your chainsaws and try it? [...]

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The secret to juggling is to always have one of your chainsaws in the air. Simple, right? You have one more chainsaw than you have hands, so don’t try and hold all three at the same time. Simply, always be throwing and catching at least one.

Ready to rev up your chainsaws and try it? Raise your hand… if you have one left.

As anyone in the industry knows, content marketing is a lot like juggling chainsaws. It’s easy, we’re told: You just have to consistently produce high-quality, engaging content. But if it were that easy, everyone would already be good at it. Statistics show we’re not there yet: 54% of B2B marketers say producing engaging content is their top challenge, and 50% say producing content consistently is.

Fortunately, just as you can learn to juggle chainsaws with practice and instruction (please don’t try this at home), you can learn to deliver quality, engaging content with a regular cadence. As you master the process, it will get easier. Eventually it will seem effortless to your audience. It might even feel (mostly) effortless to your content team.

Here’s how the team at TopRank Marketing keeps our chainsaws in the air.

#1: Consistency

A steady content cadence is invaluable for building your audience and serving your existing readership. The goal is to make your blog (or content hub) a habit – a reliable resource for fresh content. Setting that expectation with your readers, and then meeting it consistently, takes planning.

Start by creating your content marketing strategy. This document will help determine what your goals are, who your audience is, what type of content they need, and what types you will create.

Let your audience’s needs drive your goals. For example, a goal that states, “we will create fresh, high-quality content on X topics” is better than “We will post to the blog every day this year.” The latter is about deliverables; the former is about purpose, and is more likely to help you find the right cadence to meet needs.

With a strategy in place, you can develop your editorial calendar. This is where you will find the cadence that will allow you to deliver content consistently. Whether it’s once a week, every weekday, or twice a month, quality and consistency are far more important than quantity.

Plan your topics and content types at least a month in advance, but leave room in your calendar for timely posts, or random bursts of inspiration. Fill in any remaining gaps with plans for repurposing.

With a strategy in place to guide content creation, and a plan for what you’ll create, you can nail the consistency part of the juggling act.

#2: Quality

At first glance, “quality” seems like a subjective term. Your listicle on cat juggling might be pure gold for one reader, and pure lead for another. And it’s true that quality is dependent on the audience – so make sure your content is valuable to the people you want to reach.

First, make sure your content serves an existing search need. If people aren’t looking for help on your topic, you won’t have an audience. Use tools like Semrush, Keyword Planner, Google Search and Buzzsumo to explore. You’re not just looking for keywords to use: Look to see what type of content is already meeting people’s needs. That can help you get an idea of what high-quality content looks like for your audience.

Of course, quality means more than “designed to rank in organic search.” Your content should hit the center of this Venn diagram:

It’s vital to create at the intersection of your brand’s expertise, your unique insights, and your audience’s needs. Without unique insight, your content is indistinguishable from the rest. Without serving the audience’s needs, you’re irrelevant. And without expertise, your content will lack value.

Your content serves a business goal, naturally – that’s why it’s content marketing and not just “publishing.” But value is the engine that will get your content to that goal. Quality content is good for your readers and your business.

#3: Engaging

So now you have a plan for consistent publishing and you’ve done the research to create high-quality content. The final chainsaw to juggle is making the content engaging. The information in your content can be great, but if it’s a chore to read, people won’t get to the value.

There’s only one way to make content engaging: Write like a person. That means writing from the heart, with warmth and clarity and wit. That kind of writing invites people into a conversation, rather than trapping them in a lecture.

“But Josh,” you say, “I’m not writing about gooshy touch-feely stuff. I’m writing about cloud-based SaaS solutions. How do I write that from the heart?”

Excellent question, rhetorical person I made up. Regardless of what you’re writing about, think of who you’re writing for. You’re not writing to sell a SaaS solution. You’re writing to solve a problem for someone who desperately needs your expertise – and if you’re not doing that, go back to the planning stage. When you need help, you don’t want a lecture. You want someone who will empathize, even entertain, and gently guide you to a solution.  

As a writer at an agency, I will admit not every client’s product offerings thrill me to the core. Until we have a roster that’s exclusively jetpack, hot tub, and nacho companies, I may not emotionally engage with each business. But I can always engage with people.

That’s our job as content creators – to think of the person behind the problem we’re solving, reach out from the screen, and make a connection.

You May Start Your Chainsaws

Content marketing is a juggling act, and it takes time and practice to keep all the chainsaws in the air. Start with planning and strategy to enable consistency, put in the research to ensure quality, and practice empathy to make your content engaging. It’s not simple, but it’s possible to learn. Once you get in the rhythm you’ll delight your audience without risking life or limb.

Need help juggling your chainsaws? We’re here for you.


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Content Conversations: Content Marketing Predictions for 2018 http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/12/content-conversations-content-predictions-2018/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/12/content-conversations-content-predictions-2018/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 11:30:18 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=23426 Last year around this time, we reached out to a series of content experts (many of which are included in this post), to ask them for their top content prediction for 2017. By and large, the explosion of video content was a top prediction and rang true this year. We also received predictions related to [...]

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Last year around this time, we reached out to a series of content experts (many of which are included in this post), to ask them for their top content prediction for 2017. By and large, the explosion of video content was a top prediction and rang true this year.

We also received predictions related to the mistrust of news sources (#FakeNews anyone?), the need for restructure within marketing departments as content marketing roles become more defined and the necessity for a defined content marketing strategy.

And while each of these predictions were spot on (or very close to what we’ve experienced this year), some of them were very aspirational. This year, content marketers have been through alot. They’ve had to do even more with less, focus even more on marketing performance and try to navigate a very saturated marketplace.

In the past few weeks we’ve discussed the biggest content lessons in 2017 and how to hit the ground running with content in 2018. This week we get a glimpse at some raw, grounded and actionable content marketing predictions for 2018.

Digital Platforms Will Evolve

The platforms and tools that we use on a daily basis are in the midst of a revolution. Advancements in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are having a significant impact on the industry, one that we can’t ignore.

As content marketers begin to rely more heavily on this technology, they’ll find that they will have even more insights and data which should make for better, more impactful content.

Ann Handley

Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs

“We’re going to see new art forms emerge for content in 2018.” @annhandley tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • What additional data do we need to create more impactful content?
  • What tools and plugins already exist that can help to better inform the content we create?
  • How will technologies like AI and Machine Learning shape our approach in 2018 and beyond?

Marketing Will Become a Profit Center

Traditionally, marketing has been viewed as a cost center within organizations large and small. Marketing is the thing that costs money, that doesn’t create new business and is often the first department to experience budget or resource cuts.

Jump to 2018, and it’s time to change that narrative. Good marketers have been lead and revenue obsessed for years, and use data to show their worth. Now it’s time for everyone else to catch up.

If content marketers can narrow their focus and spend time nurturing their audience and developing marketing strategies that move them through the purchasing funnel, they’ll begin to see the direct correlation between marketing and sales made.

Joe Pulizzi

Author & Keynote Speaker

“What if we can build a loyal audience, and generate direct revenue from that audience and have marketing be self-sustaining.” @joepulizzi tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • How does my company value our marketing department?
  • Are we a cost or profit center?
  • What steps can we take immediately to gather, analyze and act on data to become more efficient?

2018 Will Leave a Content Crater

Everyone and their dog (literally), consider themselves to be content marketers. The landscape is saturated with crappy content that is leaving many audiences unsatisfied and turned off, even when it comes to the good stuff.

We are in an era where people know that they need to be creating content, but they aren’t always equipped to create the right content. In the coming year, we’ll see even more people creating even more content without purpose.

Chris Brogan

CEO, Owner Media Group

“We’re on the tail-end of people knowing they need to create content. Content 2018 is Applebee’s announcing $1 margaritas every day of the week.” @chrisbrogan tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • Does the content that we create have purpose?
  • What can we do to ensure we’re creating the right content for the right audience(s)?

Marketers Will Focus More on A/B Testing

Creating and promoting content a certain way because it’s “the way you’ve always done it”, won’t help you become a better or more successful marketer.

The best marketers, take the time to test different variations, analyze the data and optimize based on the results. When you do start an A/B testing initiative it’s essential that you keep the variables to a minimum. That way you can determine which variable had the impact and optimize your approach moving forward.

Alexandra Rynne

Content Marketing Manager – Marketing Solutions, LinkedIn

“In 2018, we’ll see a lot more companies A/B testing.” @amrynnie tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • What content or content promotion assets can we begin A/B testing immediately?
  • What types of content do we want to A/B test moving forward?
  • What tools do we have in place or need in order to effectively A/B test?

B2B Brands Will Inject Humor into Marketing

Most B2B marketers think that content is serious business. However, that notion runs counter to the buzzwords we’ve been throwing around for years about humanizing brands, showcasing authenticity and ultimately creating content for people.

Smart B2B brands will take the time in 2018 to begin testing adding humor into their marketing in a way that creates a more meaningful connection with their audience.

Tim Washer

Writer & Producer, Cisco

“2018 will be the year that we’ll see more B2B brands using humor in their content. Using humor is a wonderful way to share our flaws as people.” @timwasher tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • Would my audience be open to consuming content from our brand that is more humorous?
  • How can we add humor to our content in a way that makes sense?

Content Measurement Will Reign Supreme

In 2018 marketers will need to be even more data driven than ever before. Reporting on KPIs will no longer be accepted as marketers have access to information that can help them measure true content impact and performance against business objectives.

Additionally, marketers will need to use this data to map the full buyer journey to determine the correct place for each piece of content.

Dayna Rothman

VP of Marketing & Sales Development, BrightFunnel

“Marketers will need to go above and beyond KPIs and determine what content is moving the needle for pipeline and revenue.” @dayroth tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • Do I have access to the data I need?
  • What impact is my content having currently?
  • How can we create more impactful content that maps to business objectives?

Marketers Still Won’t Have a Documented Strategy

Documenting a formal content strategy still seems to be a struggle for many marketers. And while there is a slight increase each year in the number of marketers who do have a content strategy, it’s not enough.

Without a plan, it’s impossible to meet or exceed expectations. Simply formalizing your plan can provide a framework for how you’ll approach content, what your goals are and how you can make decisions based on the data you collect.

Chris Moody

Content Marketing Leader, GE Digital

“We have to get to a point where every marketer is data driven and showing ROI.” @cnmoody tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • If you don’t have a plan, what is hindering you from creating one?
  • What are your biggest content marketing goals for 2018?
  • How can you work backwards to determine how you will reach them?

BONUS: In 20 Years, Content Marketing Will Be ______

As an added bonus, we asked our experts to predict beyond the coming year and share their vision for content marketing in 20 years. Here were their responses:

What is Your Content Marketing Prediction for 2018?

Content marketing changes so quickly that these predictions can’t possibly cover all of the changes that we will experience in the coming year. So that begs the question: what is your top content marketing prediction for 2018?

Disclosure: BrightFunnel & LinkedIn are TopRank Marketing clients.


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3 Unusual Content Marketing Approaches That Actually Work http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/12/3-unusual-content-marketing/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/12/3-unusual-content-marketing/#respond Mon, 11 Dec 2017 11:30:20 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=23400 My favorite brand on social media is Denny’s. The diner chain eschews pretty much every marketing convention, and that’s exactly why its efforts stand out so much. The company’s online personality has been compared to that of a “chill teenager.” Its Twitter feed is filled with juvenile humor, rarely promoting the restaurant’s actual food in [...]

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My favorite brand on social media is Denny’s. The diner chain eschews pretty much every marketing convention, and that’s exactly why its efforts stand out so much.

The company’s online personality has been compared to that of a “chill teenager.” Its Twitter feed is filled with juvenile humor, rarely promoting the restaurant’s actual food in any serious way. I doubt many people find the image of a pancake in a shoe appetizing. The Denny’s Instagram page looks like some sort of bizarre avant garde art project.

None of this goes by the book. But Denny’s scores tremendous engagement on almost every social media channel, and has developed a cult following of sorts on the web thanks to its quirky content. This has proven to be a significant differentiator for their business.

Right now, standing out with your content marketing efforts is more challenging than ever before. If you’re trying to adhere to the established “best practices,” I have bad news: so is everybody else.

This requires outside-the-box thinking. Those who go against the grain and pursue methods that counter the mainstream are frequently being rewarded, and in some cases maybe even setting new trends for the marketing world.

To illustrate, here’s a look at three unusual content marketing tactics and companies that have applied them successfully.

Get Ultra Niche

Sure, you could water down your content in order to make it appealing to the broadest possible audience. Plenty of businesses do just that.

Or, you could narrow your core following, and orient your messaging toward them directly. Speak their language, even if it might potentially alienate some folks who fall outside of that scope.

California-based apparel retailer Nasty Gal embodies this philosophy. Marketing to strong and independent young women in the mold of its founder Sophia Amoruso (of Girlboss fame), the brand’s voice is unapologetically sassy and in-your-face — sometimes even a little profane.

This was by design from the very beginning, as Amoruso told Wall Street Journal back in 2013:

“Nasty Gal really emerged from a conversation. I’ve probably spent more time than any other brand reading every last comment. To listen to people the way you’re able to online is very powerful. I think other companies are just starting to figure that out.”

Four years later, many are still figuring it out. Or too risk-averse to boldly embrace a targeted content style that borders on esoteric. Meanwhile, Nasty Gal continues to build affinity and loyalty with its very specific, adoring audience.

Stir the Pot

Last month on this blog, Josh Nite wrote about brands taking a stand based on values. That can be a scary thing. The standard playbook calls for companies to stay neutral on social issues, so as to avoid ruffling feathers and potentially turning away customers who lean strongly in another direction. As divisive and volatile as things can be these days, this mindset is magnified.

But as Josh noted, adopting an emphatic public stance can differentiate your business, define your audience, and inspire your employees. It can strengthen your company’s relationship with customers (and draw in new ones) who share your values, and generate positive third-party coverage. In many cases these benefits will outweigh the negatives.

Recently, outdoor clothing company Patagonia made waves by blacking out its website and replacing the usual ecommerce interface with this message, in the wake of President Trump’s decision to roll back public land protections in Utah:

For several days, in the thick of the holiday season, it was a bit tricky to go and even order a jacket from Patagonia online. (You could still access their store by clicking an X up in the corner, but it wasn’t all that obvious.) That’s not a traditionally advisable business move, and probably costs the retailer some money in the short term. But ultimately, it has the potential to build brand loyalty.

Focus on One Social Media Channel Exclusively

It’s easy enough to maintain a presence on every major social media channel, especially with tools that enable you to post on all of them from one central app. Sometimes it’s as simple as copy-and-pasting the same message across different platforms, broadening your reach without a whole lot of addition effort.

The problem with this approach, however, is that it can dilute your brand and prevent you from achieving true greatness on any channel. Instead of trying to create social content that will work for every social network, why not focus on mastering just one? Determine where your customers mostly like to hang and then put all of your social media marketing effort into making that account as good as it can be.

One company that exemplifies this is White Space Studio, a creative agency in Hawaii that exhibits its design savvy through a stellar Instagram page. Sure, the company also has Facebook and Pinterest accounts, but doesn’t do much with them. And White Space doesn’t even bother with Twitter.

Does this limit their potential exposure? Perhaps. But by concentrating their attention on Instagram, they’ve built an exceptional showcase for their brand while achieving bigtime engagement.

At TopRank Marketing, we love to get weird. Get in touch with us about your content marketing and we’ll help you develop some tactics that buck the norm.


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5 Outdated Content Marketing Tactics (And What to Do Instead) http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/12/outdated-content-marketing/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/12/outdated-content-marketing/#comments Thu, 07 Dec 2017 11:30:28 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=23390 Can I interest anyone in an iPhone? No, not the iPhone 8 or X. I’m talking about this bad boy: No takers? But it has a 320X480 pixel screen, 128 Mb of RAM, and a single 2-megapixel camera! Back in 2007, this was the hottest phone on the market. People lined up in front of [...]

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Can I interest anyone in an iPhone? No, not the iPhone 8 or X. I’m talking about this bad boy:

No takers? But it has a 320X480 pixel screen, 128 Mb of RAM, and a single 2-megapixel camera! Back in 2007, this was the hottest phone on the market. People lined up in front of stores just to get their hands on one.

You get the point: State of the art quickly becomes laughably outdated. What used to thrill a consumer’s soul is now something we wouldn’t give a toddler to play with.

That kind of obsolescence isn’t limited to the tech industry, of course. The cycle from next-big-thing to the dustbin is even faster in online content. Yet many content marketers are using tactics that, while they once worked, are now as outdated as that original iPhone. What’s worse, some of us are still in the flip-phone stage.

If you’re using any of the following content marketing tactics, it’s time for an upgrade. Here’s what doesn’t work, why it doesn’t, and what you should try instead.

Ditch These Outdated Content Marketing Tactics

1. Broad and Shallow Content

Content used to be about sheer bulk rather than quality. Search engines prioritized sites that had a lot of keyword-rich (more on that later) content. Whether that content was actually useful didn’t matter. So writers churned out blog posts like they were getting paid by the word – and sometimes, we actually were.

But search engines have gotten smarter, and our content needs to get smarter, too. Pride of place in the SERP goes to content that actually serves a purpose for an audience. Shallow content gets few clicks, low time on page, and high bounce rates. All of these factors push your content down to the hinterlands of Google’s Page 2 (or lower).

What to Do Instead: Content can no longer be a commodity, churned out in a word factory. We need handcrafted artisan content. It takes longer to create, but you don’t have to make as much of it, either. Focus your resources on a few pillar pieces that deliver real value. Content that inspires readers to spend time on the page, explore further, and share with others will beat commodity content every day of the week. 

 

2. Single Keyword Stuffing

In the days of bulk content, a sure-fire way to get search engines’ attention was stuffing in keywords wherever they would fit. Keywords were stuffed in every header, every paragraph, multiple times in a sentence, and then in invisible text at the bottom of the page for good measure. It didn’t add anything useful to the content—in fact, it actively made the content worse – but it helped get eyeballs to your site.

Now, though, you’re likely to get the opposite effect from keyword stuffing. Google actively recognizes spammy keyword usage and moves that content down in the SERP.

What to Do Instead: Don’t focus on a single keyword. Start with a topic for which there is proven search demand. Then create a keyword group of similar terms, related topics, and long-tail derivatives. Use your keyword group to inform your content outline. Then, as you write your comprehensive, best-answer content, you will naturally include the relevant terms without stuffing them in. That way, you’re optimizing for humans and search engines alike.

3. Clickbait Headlines

Never has a tactic been so maligned and so effective as clickbait headlines were a few years ago. “7 of the Coolest Kazoos in the UK – Number 5 Will Shock You!” “They Said He Couldn’t Play His Kazoo at School – You Won’t Believe What Happened Next!” Sites like Upworthy and Buzzfeed drove millions of views with these headlines, and marketers were quick to pick up on the trend.

The problem is, if everything is “shocking,” “mind-blowing,” or “brain-melting,” nothing is. Readers caught wise to the hyperbole and stopped clicking through. Upworthy is still around, but has a fraction of the audience. Buzzfeed is still going strong, but only because they ditched the breathless headlines and focused on great content.

What to Do Instead: Offer a clear benefit to the reader in your title. Don’t promise a life-changing, unbelievable experience – promise to meet a specific need, and make sure you fulfill that promise.

4. Focusing on Bottom of Funnel Content

One of content marketers’ biggest challenges is proving how their content contributes to a purchase decision. So it makes sense that, historically, we’ve concentrated efforts on content designed to close a deal. That is, content that’s more, “Why Our Kazoos Are the Best,” rather than “Why Kazoos Are a Vital Part of an Orchestra,” or even, “Our 10 Favorite Kazoo Players.”

It’s true that bottom of funnel content is easier to tie to revenue. But without top of funnel content, you won’t have an established audience for the bottom of funnel stuff. You can talk about how great your product is out the kazoo, but who’s going to read it?

What to Do Instead: Most of your audience is going to be in the early stages of the decision-making process. To strike the right content marketing balance, use the funnel image as your guide – create the majority of your content for top of funnel, a little less for mid-funnel, and less still for the very bottom. Then make sure each piece of content has a next step that leads the reader further down the funnel. Or kazoo.

 

5.  “Viral” Content

There’s a potent high to having a piece of content go viral. Millions of impressions, thousands of shares, maybe even local news coverage, all organic and all free – it’s definitely intoxicating. When viral videos cracked the mainstream consciousness, marketers went chasing that high. And some of us are still trying to catch it.

As I’ve said before, viral is not a content marketing strategy. It’s a pleasant but unpredictable side effect of good content, and it’s ultimately irrelevant to your goals. How many of those millions of viewers are interested in your product? And how many just want to laugh at a dog playing a kazoo?

What to Do Instead: Don’t aim your content at the broadest possible audience and hope it goes viral. Focus on your most relevant audience and make a strategic plan to reach them. We use an integrated marketing approach that includes:

  • Best-answer, comprehensive content with SEO built in
  • Influencer co-creation for amplification
  • Social media amplification
  • Paid, highly targeted advertising

Get with the Now

The original iPhone was a technological marvel in 2007. Now, you’ll find it in a museum of technology, or on eBay as a “classic collector’s item.” But you won’t find it in anyone’s hip pocket.

Make sure your marketing stays up-to-date: Ditch outdated tactics like shallow, product-focused content and upgrade to valuable, customer-focused content, strategically planned and amplified.

Need help getting to the next generation of content marketing? We’re here for you.


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Content Marketing Lessons from 4 Holiday Advertising Fails http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/11/content-marketing-lessons-2/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/11/content-marketing-lessons-2/#respond Thu, 30 Nov 2017 11:30:55 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=23335 Making a great holiday ad should be simple. Start with a heartwarming message about love, peace, and goodwill. Add twinkling lights and evergreen trees and families getting warm by a fire. Then add your brand’s logo discreetly toward the bottom right. There you have it – a holiday ad that won’t offend, creep out, or [...]

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Making a great holiday ad should be simple. Start with a heartwarming message about love, peace, and goodwill. Add twinkling lights and evergreen trees and families getting warm by a fire. Then add your brand’s logo discreetly toward the bottom right. There you have it – a holiday ad that won’t offend, creep out, or annoy anyone.

It’s an easy formula, but one that a surprising number of brands mess up every year. Fortunately for us, they mess up in entertaining and educational ways. It’s almost easier to learn from a cautionary tale than a role model, so reveling in bad marketing can make you a better marketer.

These four holiday ads are certified disastrous, each in their own special way. And each has a lesson – or two – that marketers can use all year round. So prepare yourself for blasphemous meat products and yodeling cats: It’s time for some festive marketing fails.

1. Sour Sentiment from KFC

Last year, KFC created this music video, which is inexplicably three minutes long:

If you have better things to do with three minutes, the song is about how awful the holidays are, how people are annoying, how children are the absolute worst…but we can all come together because KFC is delicious.

KFC’s a notoriously “edgy” brand on social media, so it makes sense they would launch a sourball right at the heart of the holiday season. But this video leaves a worse aftertaste than their potato wedges do.

I believe comedy is great for marketing. But there are so many layers of irony and misanthropy here that it’s hard for the joke to breathe – by the time the gospel choir comes in, it’s impossible not to roll your eyes. And even if it made you chuckle all the way through, did it make you hungry for KFC?

My Content Marketing Takeaway: Humor is great for marketing. Irony less so. Snarkiness infinitely less so. Stick with humor that invites your audience into your tribe and makes them feel good.

2. Sainsbury’s Turns a War Story into a Commercial

On the complete opposite side of the irony spectrum, we have the absolute deadly earnestness of Sainsbury’s Christmas ad from 2016. After you watch the video, you’re invited to watch two different behind-the-scenes videos – they’re that proud:

The ad tells the true story of American and German troops in 1914 that called a cease-fire on Christmas Day. They sang songs together, celebrated the holiday, and then returned to trying to kill each other the next day (the video stops short of that last bit).

There’s nothing wrong with telling this story, and even nothing wrong with a brand telling it. But it’s still cringe-inducing to have that ad tagline and Sainsbury’s logo pop up at the end. It makes me feel manipulated by a brand, rather than entertained by a story.

My Content Marketing Takeaway: If your brand is approaching sensitive subject matter, keep the branding subtle. Let the content take center stage, and don’t turn a beautiful moment into a commercial.

3. Gregg Bakery’s Sausage Savior

British bakery chain Greggs stirred up controversy this year with their advent calendar announcement. The ad featured a nativity scene with a sausage roll in place of the baby Jesus. Not surprisingly, some Christians objected to the imagery. And some people thought it was hilarious. And the bakery apologized while not really apologizing.

Greggs picked up some free publicity from the stunt, of course. But none of that publicity had to do with their delicious pastries. And they’re getting eyerolls from folks who are tired of edgy brands courting controversy during the holidays. It’s a tired move.

My Content Marketing Takeaway: I’m all for drawing in your tribe, even to the extent of repelling those who aren’t your target audience, by leading with your brand’s values. Stirring up pointless controversy doesn’t tell anyone about your brand, and doesn’t make a meaningful distinction to your target audience.

4. Whatever This Is that Walmart Did

My words are my livelihood. My words are my only weapon against the world. But for this… I have no words. Just watch.

So. Yodeling cat in a Santa hat for 51 seconds: Walmart! Right?

The thing is, this ad made some kind of sense back in 2011, when it came out. It fits in with an animation trend from the late ‘00s. Today, it’s just ugly and off-putting. And, of course, even back in the day it didn’t have anything to do with Wal-Mart.

My Content Marketing Lesson: Make your marketing timeless rather than trendy, useful rather than “viral,” sensible instead of utter screaming nonsense.

Happy Holidays and Beyond

When holiday advertising works, it’s a fine example of what content marketing can be: Uplifting, entertaining, empathetic, even valuable. When too much snark, aggressive branding, pointless controversy, or cat-yodeling gets in the way – well – at least it can serve as a warning to the rest of us.

Are you already looking past the holidays to the New Year? Explore four important marketing channels for 2018.


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© Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®, 2017. | Content Marketing Lessons from 4 Holiday Advertising Fails | http://www.toprankblog.com

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Content Conversations: How to Hit the Ground Running with Content Marketing in 2018 http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/11/content-conversations-hit-ground-running-2018/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/11/content-conversations-hit-ground-running-2018/#respond Wed, 29 Nov 2017 11:30:36 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=23328 We are in the final stretch of 2017 which means 2018 will be here before we know it. And unfortunately, Q2 will be here in the blink of an eye. All too often we spend weeks or even months creating a content strategy, and quickly find that by the middle of March, we’ve already abandon [...]

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We are in the final stretch of 2017 which means 2018 will be here before we know it. And unfortunately, Q2 will be here in the blink of an eye.

All too often we spend weeks or even months creating a content strategy, and quickly find that by the middle of March, we’ve already abandon our best laid plans. Instead, we should be spending our efforts developing a plan that is tied to a core group of objectives that we can reference as soon as it feels like things may be getting off track.

It’s no surprise that one of the key themes for content marketing in the coming year is working harder to tie marketing activities to objectives and measuring TRUE content impact.

To help you figure out how to start 2018 off with a bang, we bring you part 2 of Content Conversations. Last week we tapped into our content experts for insights into top content lessons learned in 2017. This week we take a dive into essential steps to help you hit the ground running with content in 2018.

Always Think of Your Audience First

Sounds easy enough right? You’d think so. But unfortunately, many brands are still creating very brand and product centric content.

Instead, focus on creating content that answers the top questions that your audience is asking. If you don’t know what those questions are, speak with your customers and use tools like Answer the Public to determine demand.

Ann Handley
Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs

“If your content isn’t of value to your audience, then it’s not effective.” @annhandley tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • What are the top three pain points that our product/solution/service solves for our customers?
  • Which of my current content appears to be resonanting best with our target audience?
  • What does an ideal customer look like?

Simplify & Focus on Content Impact

Regardless of resources and budget, content marketers want to do it all. Often, we become spread too thin because we’re trying to focus on too many channels and too many tactics.

Let data be your guide for determining where to focus in 2018. Use this information to decide which channels and tactics are performing and fully invest your time and effort in the coming year into these data-driven and focused approaches for maximum impact.

Joe Pulizzi
Author & Keynote Speaker

“Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.” @joepulizzi tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • Would our content benefit from an audit?
  • Which tactics do we know perform best for our brand?

Tie Content Marketing to Revenue

Let’s face it, there are a lot of marketers secure in their positions that are not at all responsible for the performance of their marketing. Because content objectives can sometimes appear “fuzzy”, many marketers are not moving the needle in the right direction.

It doesn’t matter if your content budget is large or small, it’s important to tie all tactics and activities to a desired outcome. Now that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for testing and creativity which is essential for standing out against the competition.

Chris Brogan
CEO, Owner Media Group

“The biggest companies in the world want more passionate people, not spreadsheet watchers.” @chrisbrogan tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • Have we identified the true performance and value of our content marketing activities?
  • Are we all holding each other accountable to marketing performance?

Create Content Benchmarks

How will you ever know where you’re going unless you understand where you’ve been? Instead of setting arbitrary performance content goals, review performance of previous campaigns or tactics to create a benchmark.

Also, once content has gone live, be sure to review what worked (and what didn’t) so that you can optimize the performance going forward. Content is not a “set it and forget it” tactic so it’s important to edit to improve marketing performance.

Alexandra Rynne
Content Marketing Manager – Marketing Solutions, LinkedIn

“Look back at how your content has performed and optimize your approach.” @amrynnie tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • What similar content have you published that can be used as a benchmark for future content?
  • What are reasonable goals for improving content performance?

Be Creative & Experiment

It’s time for content marketers to begin pushing boundaries. Instead of focusing on getting the content published, take a look at what has been created and what is planned to determine if it is a piece of art, or something anyone could make.

Depending on the size of your organization, you may not have a dedicated creative or design staff. Spend time finding outside freelancers or agencies that can help turn your content from good to mind blowing.

Tim Washer
Writer & Producer, Cisco

“Content goals that are clear are publishing deadline and budget, but many can’t tell if they’ve created something meaningful.” @timwasher tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • What is one test or bet that you can make early in the year on a creative piece of content?
  • What budget can you set aside for experimenting with super creative content?

Determine Your Measurement Strategy

Content success looks different for every brand. Defining your goals for content in different funnels of the buying cycle are critical to content success.

Every piece of content that you create and publish should be directly tied to goals and should be relentlessly measured against those goals.

Dayna Rothman
VP of Marketing & Sales Development, BrightFunnel

“Have goals in place for every piece of content you create.” @dayroth tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • What are the most important KPIs for our brand that content should be measured against?
  • What tools do we have/need in order to effectively measure content?

Understand the Waterfall

As you know, digital marketing is a multi-touch process. The vast majority of time, prospects don’t convert into customers just from reading a single blog post.

Plan for the different stages of the customer journey to make sure that you have compelling (or even personalized) content for each stage of their vetting process.

Chris Moody
Content Marketing Leader, GE Digital

“Everything you do as a marketer, can be anchored into something that is actual ROI.” @cnmoody tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • Do we know what the typical customer journey looks like for our brand?
  • Do we have anchor content at each stage to keep moving them through the funnel?

How Do You Plan to Hit the Ground Running in 2018?

The verdict is in and 2018 appears to be the year that marketers MUST focus on content measurement outside of basic KPIs. The marketplace is becoming increasingly competitive so it’s essential to define your content measurement strategy by the end of the year in order to remain relevant.

What advice do you have for other content marketers to hit the ground running in 2018?

Disclosure: BrightFunnel & LinkedIn are TopRank Marketing clients.


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© Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®, 2017. | Content Conversations: How to Hit the Ground Running with Content Marketing in 2018 | http://www.toprankblog.com

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Content Conversations: Top Content Marketing Lessons Learned in 2017 http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/11/content-marketing-lessons-2017/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/11/content-marketing-lessons-2017/#comments Tue, 21 Nov 2017 11:30:38 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=23251 One of the best ways to improve your skills as a content marketer is to learn from the successes and failures of other marketers. And as we near the end of 2017, many marketers are reflecting on what has (and hasn’t) worked in the past year and looking to what this means for content goals [...]

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One of the best ways to improve your skills as a content marketer is to learn from the successes and failures of other marketers. And as we near the end of 2017, many marketers are reflecting on what has (and hasn’t) worked in the past year and looking to what this means for content goals and plans for the coming year.

It doesn’t matter if you are a team of one or a team of one hundred, outside insights can be incredibly valuable for improving your approach to content marketing.

Since we know you’re likely busy working, wrapping up 2017 and planning for 2018, we’re here to help. Recently we had the chance to sit down (or stand up?) for some great content conversations with some of today’s top marketers.

Below you’ll find their top content lessons learned in 2017 as well as how you can apply these insights to your own content marketing approach.

Don’t Be Afraid to Take Risks

In a profession with so many moving parts and fast-paced changes, it can be easy to become risk averse. The problem is, if you don’t take risks to create great, more impactful content, your competition will, and your audience will follow.

Content risks don’t have to mean completely changing your approach. It can be slight tweaks and tests along the way to improve performance and innovate.


Ann Handley
Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs

“More marketers are getting comfortable taking risks because sometimes our very best work comes out of us taking a risk.” @annhandley tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • What are some small risks that you can begin taking today to improve your approach to content marketing?
  • How can you work testing new content approaches into your routine?
  • What can you learn from other marketers that are having success with innovation?

Make Owned Content a Cornerstone

It’s no secret that social networks and content on 3rd party websites are a great way to attract your audience. Ultimately though, these approaches should be used as a means to draw people to owned content on your website.

Social algorithms change constantly and you’ll find that if you put the majority of your efforts into building relationships on those platforms, you can lose that audience faster than you gained it.


Joe Pulizzi
Author & Keynote Speaker

“Use social media platforms to get your audience to your own content so you create a direct connection.” @joepulizzi tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • Which platforms are currently the biggest drivers of audience members to your owned content?
  • How can social networks and other credible websites become part of your strategy for driving visitors to your website?

Focus on Quality Content

As more and more brands become publishers, that means that a huge influx of content has been hitting the search results and inboxes of your target customers. Unfortunately, a lot of what is out there is not at the level of quality that it needs to be to provide value.

That means, customers are becoming overwhelmed by crappy content and are in dire need of quality content created for them by marketers who understand their top needs.


Chris Brogan
CEO, Owner Media Group

“There should be a big, wide-open playing field for marketers that are passionate and make real business happen.” @chrisbrogan tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • What would it take to create high-quality content on a consistent basis?
  • Should content quantity be reduced in order to focus on impact?
  • Can your team truly identify the difference between low and high-quality content?

Pay Attention to Distribution

All too often, content distribution and amplification are either ignored, or treated as an afterthought when creating content. At the end of the day, we are marketers that are responsible for the performance of the content that we creates which means giving distribution the time and attention it deserves.


Alexandra Rynne
Content Marketing Manager – Marketing Solutions, LinkedIn

“Give your content room to breathe and focus on what works and what doesn’t so you can approach it better next time.” @amrynnie tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • Are you creating content for content’s sake or is your content tied to business objectives?
  • How can you give content distribution and amplification the same attention as creation?
  • Are you documenting which forms of content distribution are effective? And which ones aren’t?

Eliminate Marketing Buzzwords

It doesn’t matter if you create content for a B2C or B2B audience, the key is connecting with people. When marketers focus on creating product, solutions or services based content, they’re ignoring the true needs of their audience.

Buying audiences don’t care about marketing buzzwords, they want to know what problems you can help them solve. This requires creating a true connection and providing honest and helpful content based on what their top needs are.


Tim Washer
Writer & Producer, Cisco

“Instead of trying to change what people say, we need to change how people think.” @timwasher tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • Is our content focused on the message we want to send or the true needs of our customers?
  • How much do we actually know about what our target audience wants and needs?  

Invest in Dedicated Content Marketing Staff

You wouldn’t hire a plumber to do your drywall or a professor to act as an electrician. The same can be said for your marketing team. While there are some marketers that can fulfill multiple roles, now more than ever it’s critical to work with a dedicated content marketing staff.

That can mean hiring full-time resources in-house and/or partnering with an agency that has expertise in your industry.


Dayna Rothman
VP of Marketing & Sales Development, BrightFunnel

“One of the most important things your team needs is a dedicated resource to run content.” @dayroth tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • Who in my organization is truly responsible for content?
  • Are we setting content teams up for success?
  • Do we need outside help to scale our content marketing program?

Document Your Content Strategy

While we are seeing a 1-2% increase each year in marketers who have a documented content strategy, we are still nowhere near to 50%. Your content strategy should be your guide for all content you create and serve as an anchor point if your team ever starts to get off track.

Without a documented strategy, it is MUCH more difficult to meet business objectives and make a case for content’s place within your organization.


Chris Moody
Content Marketing Leader, GE Digital

“Your content strategy is the single most important document you’ll create. It’ll make you more productive and it’ll be used internally on a regular basis.” @cnmoody tweet this

What Content Lesson Did You Learn in 2017?

If we are going to move forward and improve content in 2018, it’s essential to reflect on what we’ve learned in 2017. Some lessons are easy and others are plagued with difficulty. As you reflect on the past year, think about your biggest content lesson learned. Feel free to share in the comments below!

Disclosure: BrightFunnel is a TopRank Marketing client.


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© Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®, 2017. | Content Conversations: Top Content Marketing Lessons Learned in 2017 | http://www.toprankblog.com

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How to Use Big Wins to Drive Continuous Content Marketing Performance http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/11/content-marketing-performance/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/11/content-marketing-performance/#respond Wed, 15 Nov 2017 11:30:41 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=23237 Like all brands or marketers, you’ve likely experienced a few content marketing campaign mishaps in your day. Despite your best efforts, sometimes a campaign just doesn’t quite reach its objective or it outright flops. And when this happens your disappointment typically spurs you into action as you work furiously to pin down exactly where you [...]

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Like all brands or marketers, you’ve likely experienced a few content marketing campaign mishaps in your day. Despite your best efforts, sometimes a campaign just doesn’t quite reach its objective or it outright flops. And when this happens your disappointment typically spurs you into action as you work furiously to pin down exactly where you went wrong.

On the flip side; however, you’ve also experienced some big wins in your day. Some of those wildly successful content campaigns that crushed objectives and had the entire organization riding high. But in these situations, how often can you say that you dug into what made things go oh so right? Or regrouped and committed to keeping the momentum going?

From our perspective, those big wins can often teach you the most, not only providing helpful insights to keep things rolling, but also help you identify actionable next steps to make your next campaign just as—if not more—successful.

But how? Here are some tips to help you learn from your best content marketing work and continue to drive its performance.

Driving Continuous Success

Regardless of how successful a campaign is out of the gate, your work shouldn’t stop once you’ve released everything into the wild. But for those campaigns that are really flying high, they present the biggest opportunity to drive bigger and better results. So, you should continue to optimize and amplify these campaigns using a mix of content marketing tactics. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Test a new paid channel. If a campaign is already exceeding objectives and expectations, consider pushing the limits a bit by experimenting with paid tactics. For example, if you’ve had great success with LinkedIn, consider building a similar audience on Twitter. Or add more budget and expand your audience on the channels that are already working.
  • Repurpose campaign content. Repurposing content will not only add some freshness, but also help drive more traffic and signals to your main landing page or content asset. For example, consider creating an infographic or a motion graphic. Or put together a webinar that infuses existing and new related content or thought leaders.
  • Audit other existing content for cross-linking opportunities. Your campaign is successful for a reason, so why not add a little extra boost by helping direct more eyeballs and authority to your campaign content through cross-linking? So, take a look at other existing, relevant content and add an inline ad, CTA or link to it.
  • Try to secure third-party coverage or links. Pitch a guest blog or try to secure a third-party editorial to grow off-site links to your campaign content.

High-flying #marketing campaigns present the biggest opportunity to drive bigger, better results.
Click To Tweet


Uncovering the Why Behind the Win

While we all know that failure can unleash some of the greatest learning opportunities, the same holds true for success. So, when it comes to learning from your biggest marketing campaign wins, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Did I reach or exceed my objective? For example, if your objective was to drive brand awareness, which metrics can you point to that bolster achievement? Did you actually achieve other KPIs such as MQLs or SQLs?
  • How did I reach my objective? Some things to consider are: your content mix, top-sharing influencers, where the traffic came from (i.e. organic, social, etc.), the internal resources you leveraged, timing or seasonality, and so on.
  • What hurdles did I encounter? Even your most successful campaigns likely hit a snag or two along the way to launch. So, think about any hurdles you encountered and how you overcame them, and document opportunities to streamline your processes going forward.
  • How can I do even better next time? Use what you uncover from the “how” to document must-dos for the next campaign. For example, if a particular influencer was instrumental in driving shares, consider a full-length interview with them if relevant for your next campaign. As another example, if Twitter was your top-referring social channel, consider budgeting for some sponsored posts for the next campaign to get more traction.

Failure provides great learning opportunities, but the same holds true for success. @Alexis5484 #marketing
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The Success Factor

Simply put, by continually refining and evaluating your top-performing marketing initiatives, you’re not only capitalizing on the great work you’ve already done, but also laying the foundation for the next big success.

Speaking of learning from big wins, check out our Case Studies to learn how we’re helping our clients reach and exceed their objectives.


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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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Report: What Marketers Need to Know About the ‘State of Video Marketing’ http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/11/state-video-content-marketing/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/11/state-video-content-marketing/#respond Thu, 09 Nov 2017 11:30:55 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=23220 These days, there’s little doubt among marketers that video content is an incredibly powerful content marketing tool. After all, humans are visual creatures by nature, so it stands to reason that video often satisfies our content appetite. In fact, according to a Think With Google study, 50% of internet users said they’ve looked for videos [...]

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These days, there’s little doubt among marketers that video content is an incredibly powerful content marketing tool. After all, humans are visual creatures by nature, so it stands to reason that video often satisfies our content appetite. In fact, according to a Think With Google study, 50% of internet users said they’ve looked for videos related to a product or service before visiting a store.

But as more brands and marketers jump on the video content marketing bandwagon, it’s more important than ever to examine your strategy to ensure you’re getting the most out of your efforts. And a great starting point is to get the lay of the current video marketing land and emerging trends.  

Thankfully, Demand Metric and Vidyard recently published the 2017 Video Content Marketing Benchmark Study, featuring data and insights collected from marketers at B2B or mixed B2B/B2C companies—all of which reported revenue growth in the previous fiscal year, as well as using video to some degree.

Below I highlight some of the findings that I found most interesting, as well as what that means for you as you begin or refine your video marketing efforts.

1. Video marketing usage is not only on the rise, but the amount of video being created is growing rapidly.

According to the study, for the fourth consecutive year, over 90% of study participants reported that video is becoming more important to their efforts. But what’s more, the average number of videos being produced annually jumped from around 29 in 2016 to 38 in 2017.

Video Marketing Production

Of course, smaller companies are producing less video than big companies, but the gap is narrowing. For example, 2016 numbers showed that more than one-third of small companies were producing less than five videos every year. But in 2017 that number shrunk to just one-fifth.

What does this mean for marketers? While video seemed like the answer to overcoming content overload and capturing audience attention, the competition for creating high-quality, engaging and compelling video is growing. So, it’s more critical than ever to make sure you’re not just “doing” video, but that it’s a strategic and thoughtful piece of your overall content marketing mix.


It’s more critical than ever to make sure you’re not just “doing” #video. @CaitlinMBurgess
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2. The types of video marketers are investing in are expanding.

Product, demos and explainer videos lead the pack in terms of the most common types of videos being created, which isn’t a surprise. This type of content highlights a company’s product or service offerings, and expertise in a visual way. However, more forms of video such as how-tos, live streams, social media and those focused on company culture are becoming more widely used.

What does this mean for marketers? To me, this signals that video can and does enhance the customer journey at every stage of the funnel. Just as you craft written content to satisfy your audience’s quest for knowledge at different stages, video can be used in the same way. Furthermore, it can be used to achieve a variety of different marketing objectives such as recruiting new talent, humanizing your brand or sparking real-time engagement.


Video can & does enhance the customer journey at every stage. #videomarketing
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3. Video can inform, engage and convert.

Video, both produced and native, has long-been dubbed as a great way to inform and engage your audience. Studies have shown that we spend a huge chunk of our online time watching video, often multiple times a day. (My personal favorite are all those Tasty videos of recipes I’ll probably never make.)

But if you’ve been skeptical on the conversion power of video, don’t be. According to the report, roughly 70% of participants said video converts better than other forms of content.

Video Marketing ROI

What does this mean for marketers? Building off my point in the previous section, if you really want to commit to video and drive the ultimate objective of getting conversions, you should aim to create relevant, quality video content for every level of buyer’s journey.


70% of marketers say #video converts better than other content forms. @DemandMetric @vidyard
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4. Advanced measurement is key to unlocking the best ROI.

As with any marketing initiative, measurement is critical to understanding how you’re performing and uncovering opportunities for improvement. However, most marketers are just tracking and analyzing the basics such as views or shares—making it difficult to map video to ROI.

According to the report, just 13% of respondents said they’re using advanced metrics such as views by embed location, viewer drop-off rates, heat maps and attribution to sales pipeline. However, of that 13%, 71% say that these metrics help report much better on video ROI.

“A true and accurate measurement of the ROI of video (or any type of content) requires the adoption and use of advanced metrics,” the report states. “When advanced metrics are not in use, ROI determination is an estimate at best. When advanced metrics are in use, marketers have the information they need about video content performance to achieve even better results.”

What does this mean for marketers? Marketers are often looked at as the spenders within an organization. And while video can no longer be considered a “rising” trend, it can still be hard to get buy-in and more budget if you can’t prove its value. According to the report: “The best way to capture and exploit advanced metrics is to integrate video viewing data into Marketing Automation and/or CRM systems.”


Advanced #videomarketing metrics are key to achieving better results. @DemandMetric @vidyard
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Looking for Video Content Marketing Best Practices & Tips?

Check out these helpful resources on the TopRank Marketing blog:

In addition, if you want more on the state of video marketing, read the full report here.


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Be the Best Answer: 5 Steps to Grow Influence for Your Brand http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/10/be-the-best-answer-grow-brand-influence/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/10/be-the-best-answer-grow-brand-influence/#respond Mon, 30 Oct 2017 10:00:12 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=22981 “Be the Best Answer” is an expression my team and I have used many times in client strategy planning, training, presentations, webinars, blogging, and in my book Optimize about the intersection of search with owned, earned, paid and shared media. Being present in a relevant, credible and useful way on all the channels where buyers are looking is [...]

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Be the Best Answer Grow Influence
“Be the Best Answer” is an expression my team and I have used many times in client strategy planning, training, presentations, webinars, blogging, and in my book Optimize about the intersection of search with owned, earned, paid and shared media.

Being present in a relevant, credible and useful way on all the channels where buyers are looking is a powerful (but often difficult to execute) way to provide the kinds of customer experiences that greatly differentiate one brand from another.


Influence plays an important role in a “Best Answer” marketing strategy.
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Influence plays an important role in a “Best Answer” marketing strategy as buyers pay less attention to ads and brand content, and more time listening to peers and industry subject matter experts.

While many companies are experiencing increased competition and waning interest in their marketing, brands that infuse influencers into their marketing initiatives do not suffer this decline of attention.

For example, Adidas maintains command of customer attention by boosting credibility with advocates via dark social. Our client SAP grows their influence and reach in specific areas of interest by co-creating content with industry experts in a variety of formats including video, blog posts, ebooks and interactive experiences.

Both of these brands build their own influence with audiences they’re trying to reach and engage by partnering on content with influencers that already have customer attention.


Brands can build influence by co-creating content within influencers that customers already trust.
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So how can your company take advantage of growing brand influence by working with industry influencers?  Here are 5 guidelines for building brand influence you can follow:

1. Audit your brand’s influence, advocates and influencers

Establishing a benchmark for your brand’s current level of influence is essential. But you must first ask, what are you trying to be influential about? Whatever idea pops into your mind needs to be reconciled with what customers actually care about.

Assess your brand’s share of voice for the topics you want to be influential about on social channels, in search and anywhere else customers discover, consume and engage with solutions content. These are the places where you’ll be co-creating content with experts to be the best answer and build your brand’s influence, as well as grow leads and sales.

Identify the gap between the quantity, quality and sentiment of conversations happening around your brand and the topic currently and where you want to be. Closing that gap will be a key driver for your brand influence program.

Determine who is already advocating for your brand in relation to the topics you have in mind. Whether those fans are customers, partners or users, they can be activated to be advocates. They can also help define an advocate persona for recruiting more advocates.

Who are the best influencers for your topics? For your industry? For your brand? Identifying potential influencers to collaborate with takes time, technology and expertise. Leaving it to anyone with an opinion about who is an influencer could create some major mis-steps. Influential experts are not the same thing as influencers, for example.

It can seem overwhelming, but there’s good news: there are specialty influencer marketing tools and platforms you can use for auditing your share of voice, identifying advocates and finding influencers – just like there are experts (like TopRank Marketing) who can be your guide.

2. Identify internal influencer candidates

Growing brand influence from the inside is often forgotten with campaign driven influencer marketing. Besides industry influencers, customers and community members, one of the most significant and powerful sources of growing brand influence can come from within. Everyone has some degree of influence from the CEO to front line employees interacting with customers on a daily basis. Especially front line employees.


Someone with expertise is not automatically an influencer. Influence is the ability to affect action.
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Influence is the ability to affect action. Many internal subject matter experts can have credibility and respect but not have any idea or interest in “behaving like an influencer”. Developing SMEs into influencers takes time, but it can be well worth it.

Some companies already have internal influencers to work with. Being an influencer means creating and sharing content amongst an interested network that engages and takes action. Brands that can effectively connect to relevant internal influencers can create a symbiotic relationship and value exchange of exposure.

Internal subject matter experts and established influencers are valuable. Both need to be approached differently. Together, they can amplify brand influence in meaningful ways at scale.

3. Map topics of influence to content marketing and communications plans

Content is what closes the influence gap using the right topics, resources and industry/internal influencers. Once the influence topics are identified, they can be incorporated into content marketing plans.

A best answer strategy maps a connection between influence topics and content for PR and media relations as well as marketing tactics like content, social, SEO, advertising and influencers. Information hungry customers interact with numerous touch-points, ignoring overly salesy content and advertising, so including credible voices in marketing and PR communications increases reach and engagement.

By mapping the internal and external voices to collaborate with in marketing and PR content, you can facilitate the credibility of your brand as the best answer for the topics of focus.

4. Build executive influence with content and influencers

Executives are not automatically influential – at least not in a useful way. It is often assumed that company executives are influential by the nature of their position. To some degree that is true, but those senior business executives that create content and engage with industry influencers become far more influential. That influence can be leveraged for more significant media coverage, more credible engagement with customers and employees.

Operationalizing influence best practices amongst brand executives can be very rewarding for all. Recently I’ve observed companies make organized efforts towards building their executives’ profiles through content, social and events as well as by interacting with industry influencers. The boost in credibility and top of mind consideration as a result is impressive.

5. Build influence of internet subject matter experts through brand channels

Investing in influence can be more powerful than renting it through association. Besides identifying external influencers and advocates for content collaboration and building executive influence, there is an opportunity for brands to grow influence in a way that is almost counterintuitive.

Brands associating with known industry influencers gain influence themselves. It is also very powerful for the brand to help up and coming influencers grow. When brands can help their niche subject matter experts transition from simply possessing influence to learning how to behave as an influencer, the resulting content, reach and engagement can outperform the effect of external celebrity influencers, or “brandividiuals”.

Our client LinkedIn Marketing Solutions does a great job of showcasing their employees in marketing materials as well as co-creating content with their internal subject matter experts. By doing so, LinkedIn provides more credible content and builds the credibility of their team members at the same time. More credibility can translate to more reach, engagement and sales.

By incorporating these 5 steps your brand can begin to benefit from being a source of content that customers actually want to consume and from the people they trust and want to hear from. In the process, your brand will earn credibility and trust points that can extend influence to the brand, but only if the brand learns from why customers favor creators and adapts those practices itself. At the same time building internal influencers while helping external micro-influencers build their influence will result in even more influence for the brand.

Are you ready to get started?

Be sure to check out the influencer marketing services we provide at TopRank Marketing. Hey, that’s what makes this blog possible and if we can help your brand become more influential, everybody wins!

Of course we’re also hiring talented influencer marketing professionals with community management, content marketing and social media experience. So, be sure to check out our careers page as well.

Upcoming Influencer Marketing Speaking Events:

Nov 7: Dreamforce, San Francisco
The Confluence Equation: How Content & Influencers Drive B2B Marketing Success

Nov 9: Pubcon, Las Vegas
Participation Marketing: The New World of Content Co-Creation, Influencers and Integration for PR

Nov 15: SMXL, Milan
Content Marketing & Influence Integration


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Content Marketing Tactics for Search Marketers – International Edition #SMXLmilan http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/10/content-marketing-search-smxlmilan/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/10/content-marketing-search-smxlmilan/#respond Thu, 26 Oct 2017 10:00:05 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=23157 Content is both king and kingdom in a digital world full of stories. Brands and consumers alike are experiencing and publishing content on a daily basis. Between information overload, increased complexity of search engines and changes in consumer search behaviors, many marketers are less than confident about how to optimize their content marketing. How can [...]

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SMXL Milan Content Strategies

Content is both king and kingdom in a digital world full of stories. Brands and consumers alike are experiencing and publishing content on a daily basis. Between information overload, increased complexity of search engines and changes in consumer search behaviors, many marketers are less than confident about how to optimize their content marketing.

How can marketers best use content marketing to improve search marketing? How does search inspired content affect content, PR and marketing programs across channels?

At SMXL in Milan, Italy this November 15th, that’s exactly what a panel of experts will be answering. I will be moderating Content Related Strategies for Search with Ken McGaffin, Lexi Mills and Jey Pandian where we’ll be discussing strategies to help identify new opportunities to develop content based on business intelligence, competitive research and historical performance.

As a teaser for the panel, I’ve asked each speaker to share a preview of their talk with practical insights and tips.

Ken McGaffin

Ken McGaffin @mcgaffin
Online PR and Link Building Strategist at Audiential 

4 Rich Sources of People Stories
“If you’re reading this at 3 am, chances are that James Proud wants to put you in a deep slumber.”

That’s a great opening to an article on insomnia in the NYTimes.com. It paints a vivid picture, intrigues the reader and draws them in.

That’s the power of story – it elevates your content and makes it unique.

Content Marketing is a competitive business and your pitches have to be top notch to succeed. Stories make yours stand out – to the delight of your target publishers and their readers. Here’s some things we’ve discovered at Audiential:

  1. There’s no such thing as a ‘boring’ industry – every business involves people and people are inherently interesting.
  2. Don’t expect your clients to give you stories – they rarely know what makes a great story. You’ve got to seek stories out – and polish them into inspiring content.
  3. You only need 4 sources to systematically mine for stories:
    · customers
    · staff
    · founders
    · influencers

4. You must encourage people to open up and that means you have to listen. There’s an old saying, “We have two ears and one mouth, and we should listen and talk in the same proportion”.

Lexi Mills

Lexi Mills @leximills
Managing Director at Marquis Communications

Design for Trends and Play the Long Game with Research Content
Many media are using new technology to tell them what subjects they should be covering. In some cases over 50% of the content they produce has to align with the trends these tools show. Making sure you are designing your content inline with an anticipated trend or pitching it in a way that allows them to cover a current one will significantly improve your media relationships, coverage and inbound link profile.

Don’t plan to win on round one. Media are so busy these days that the likelihood of winning on the first point of contact is significantly lower than ever before. I have a strict rule with my team that they are not allowed to send an email or make a phone call without pre-planning what their follow up will be.

This can be anything from new images, interview slots becoming available to book or highlighting an emerging trend or event that the content fits in with. Not only does this ensure that they follow up in good time but it also feeds into the structure of campaigns.

Instead of releasing all research in one go we might decide to release it in phases or at a time when we know there will be a relevant event this allows for a more constructive follow-up. It also helps eliminate anyone tormenting a journalist with their pet hate…..an email that says “I just wanted to check you received my press release”.

Jey Pandian

Jey Pandian @jeypandian
Chief Digital Officer & Founding Partner at ONWARD Agency

Storytelling in the Age of the Omnichannel
Since the internet first started, the way people communicate has continuously evolved. Within each Search vertical, there are different types of content that need to be built out in order to meet customer demand. Jey will present a content framework that goes beyond search content to help lay the foundation for an omnichannel content play.

1. Analyze – Identify out where your audiences spend their time online on Social Media Platforms and Search Engines on a 24-hour timeline to figure out “moments of receptivity” and to ensure that content will be built and surfaced at the right time and place, in the right context.

2. Design – Study UX design patterns against each Search Engine design feature; whether infinite scroll, voice, mobile, and/or swiping patterns e.g. scrolling up and down or sideways to figure out how to design your asset for optimal consumer consumption.

3. Create – Understand your algorithmic limitations as it pertains to content consumption across each Search Engine; whether image, video, voice search and/or virtual reality to help figure out how to design your asset for optimal search visibility and in turn, consumer consumption.

audience SMXL Milan
This will be the second time I’ve presented at SMXL Milan. Last year I gave a keynote presentation on influencer content collaboration. There were several speaker dinners and I think we counted 15 different countries represented at one of them. This really is an international search marketing event.

Whether you’re simply trying to increase organic search visibility for the great content you’ve been publishing or if you want to create an advantage in a competitive market, leveraging search data can produce insights that are impactful for everything from storytelling, to media relations to omni-channel marketing. This panel with Ken, Lexi and Jey on Content Related Strategies for Search Marketing is ambitious and will cover many of these topics with plenty of time for audience Q and A.

I will be giving a solo presentation about content marketing at SMXL Milan on November 15th:

Lee Odden SMXL 2016

Photo of Lee Odden via Laura Caldarella @LaSagitta


How to Be the Best Answer for Customers with Content Marketing Integration
– 
Without content, there wouldn’t be any search engines and yet most marketers treat content as if it were simply a tactic for SEO. Content is the fuel that powers all forms of media on all digital channels where customers engage. The most successful marketers approach digital marketing with a customer and content-centric approach that integrates with SEO, social media and industry influencers in a way that helps the brand become “the best answer” wherever customers are looking.  This presentation provides an overview of how to plan, produce, promote and optimize influential content as a marketing approach that works with or without search engines. But definitely better with search engines. 🙂
SMXL Milan features a truly impressive roster of speakers including Bill Hunt, Rand Fishkin, Michael King, Aleyda Solis, Gianluca Fiorelli, Hana Abaza, Bryan Eisenberg, Kristjan Mar Hauksson, Larry Kim, Nichola Stott, Jon Myers, Phil Nottingham, Cyrus Shepard and many more international search and digital marketing professionals. If you’re a reader of our blog based in Europe, I hope you can make it to Milan in November!

Be sure to check out the conference website for more information.


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How 7 Brands Connect With Audiences Through Long-Form Video Content http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/10/long-form-video-content/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/10/long-form-video-content/#respond Wed, 25 Oct 2017 10:30:45 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=23148 Content comes in many forms, including social media messages, blog posts, video, and more. But video is largely ignored with only 30% of B2B marketers believing video will be critical to their content marketing success. Considering video accounts for 74% of all internet traffic your brand cannot ignore video marketing. With audience’s having an average [...]

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Content comes in many forms, including social media messages, blog posts, video, and more. But video is largely ignored with only 30% of B2B marketers believing video will be critical to their content marketing success.

Considering video accounts for 74% of all internet traffic your brand cannot ignore video marketing. With audience’s having an average attention span of only eight seconds it’s one of the best ways to hold attention and increase audience engagement. This is especially true for long-form video—videos that are roughly 10 minutes in length or longer. In fact, audiences engage in more long-form videos accounting for 63% off all time spent watching videos across devices. Long-form video is a proven and effective way of capturing and engaging audiences, but where do you begin?

To help inspire your own long-form video content ideas and drive audience engagement, we gathered seven leading examples from leading B2C and B2B brands.

#1 – Patagonia

Core to Patagonia’s mission is to use their business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. One of the ways they do this is by encouraging their own customers to hang on to their clothing for as long as they can and to pass them on to loved ones. It’s a message you wouldn’t expect to hear from a clothing brand, but Patagonia is passionate about the environment and created a special program that enables customers to purchase recycled and reused Patagonia gear. To generate awareness for the program and discourage throwing away clothes, they created the short film, “Worn Wear.”

In “Worn Wear,” Patagonia shares the story of several Patagonia customers and the stories of their clothes. Ranging from 11 to 30+ years old, each vignette features a well-loved, well-worn Patagonia item and the experiences the clothes have held. Patagonia’s message is clear throughout the film, saying, “The most responsible thing you can do is buy used clothes.” It’s an inspirational thought that resonated with their audience, collecting over 800,000 YouTube views to date and climbing. But most impressive of all is how the video has changed their audience’s perception of clothes with comments like, “I truly believe this film has influenced the way I look at clothing specifically, material goods, and what is actually necessity. Thank you!”

The Final Take: Use your company’s mission or purpose to drive long-form video content and connect with audiences on a personal level.

#2 – Chevrolet

As a car company, Chevrolet helps you get from point A to point B. On a deeper level, cars help you get to where you want to go and help you achieve the goals you’ve set your sights on. That’s the message Chevy wants to instill on their customers, but with strong competition and a recovering American car industry it was going to take more than a mission statement.

To illustrate the importance of reaching your dreams, overcoming challenges, and rising to new heights, Chevrolet created a documentary highlighting baseball superstar Mo’ne Davis. Mo’ne was the first female pitcher to have a shutout game in the Little League World Series, an accomplishment that would make her the first female baseball pitcher to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Chevrolet’s documentary interviews Mo’ne, her family, and friends to share what makes her unique both as a daughter of America and as a person in general. The end result is an emotional film that leaves the audience inspired to accomplish the impossible.

The Final Take: Evoke emotion within your audience by showcasing inspirational people and life stories.

#3 – GE

General Electric (GE) has a wide range of products and services, making it a challenge to market them effectively. And given the name, many people may assume that GE is simply a power company. In reality, GE has segments in aviation, healthcare, lighting, transportation, and more. So how can they educate the masses that they’re more than a power plant?  

To educate their audience on how GE powers everything from cities to jet engines, GE created a video series “Into the Wild.” The series follows former Mythbuster Adam Savage as he endeavors to understand the mechanics behind GE’s many products and services. Through expert interviews, animations, and easy to understand explanations, Adam (and the audience) learn just how GE helps power the world.

The Final Take: Long-form video is a great opportunity to educate your audience with visual learning tools like in-person interviews, demonstrations, diagrams, and more.

#4 – Cisco

Cisco, one of the world’s largest networking giants, is well aware that cyber security is one of the most important things they can offer in today’s hyperconnected world. Without a strong and secure network, businesses, markets, and people’s personal information is at risk. Recognizing this, Cisco created Ransomware Defense to keep hackers at bay.

To generate awareness for their new security product, but also for ransomware itself, Cisco made a video that highlights exactly how a hacker completes ransomware. The video itself is very informative, but what makes it so effective is the suspense they created. By creating a mini-movie that follows a hacker performing a successful ransomware attack, the audience is left feeling vulnerable and in need of protection or further information. Given this feeling, it’s no wonder that it is one of Cisco’s most watched YouTube videos to date.

The Final Take: Grab your audience’s attention through a suspenseful storyline that leaves the audience needing more.

#5 – REI

REI stores are rooted in community given their status as the nation’s largest consumer cooperative. Starting as a group of 23 mountain climbers, the brand quickly grew to become a community of active people who love the outdoors—it’s part of what makes REI a unique brand. To highlight their unique communities and the camaraderie that can be found in the outdoors, REI turned to video content.

The most powerful piece of video from REI is their documentary titled “Paul’s Boots.” After hearing about the death of Paul, a man whose greatest dream was to hike the Appalachian Trail, REI and their partner The Dirtbag Diaries reached out to 400 hikers and asked them to carry Paul’s boots the entire length of the AT. This documentary follows Paul’s pair of boots through the eyes of each hiker that offered to carry them, showing how one community came together to help Paul achieve his dream.

The Final Take: The most incredible stories can come from right under your nose. Take inspiration from your customers—do something special for them and share their story with the world.

#6 – IBM

IBM is all about innovation. And one thing they realize is that it is the people who work at IBM that power innovation. To help them recruit leading minds and progressive thinkers, IBM decided to highlight the teams that are behind groundbreaking innovations. Not only would the video showcase their incredible work, but it would also showcase the makeup of the team.

Through exploring the team that created their most recent breakthrough in polymer bonds, IBM showed how a strong team bond with a diverse background can power innovation. And by focusing on the people and allowing them to share their backgrounds, it humanized IBM while establishing their credibility.

The Final Take: Humanize your company and show your expertise by highlighting the personalities that make your brand exciting to work for.

#7 – BMW

Believe it or not, BMW has been making films since 2001. A pioneer of long-form video content, BMW has been using online video to engage audiences in their brand and foster brand loyalty since before the creation of YouTube. The original films follow actor Clive Owen as a driver for hire who encounters several unique challenges while on the job, showing off the capabilities of the car along the way.

Most recently, BMW Films released “The Escape,” a new short that revisits their original Clive Owen film series. Not only does the film showcase the performance of their new 5 series sedan, but it also embodies their tagline “The Ultimate Driving Machine” with Clive Owen using speed, torque, agility, and wit to escape his pursuers.

The Final Take: While the production value of these films are obviously high, the real reason they captivate audiences is the action-packed story that breaks the norm. Don’t be afraid to get creative with an exciting narrative that showcases your brand, values, or products as well.

Form Meaningful Connections With Your Audience

Long-form video is an enormous opportunity for content marketers to connect with audiences on a new level. Find out how to get started in video content marketing with our own video tips or check out our interview with comedic genius and Cisco Creative Director of Marketing, Tim Washer.


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B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks: How We All Can Do Better http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/10/b2b-content-marketing-benchmarks/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/10/b2b-content-marketing-benchmarks/#respond Tue, 24 Oct 2017 10:30:01 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=23127 B2B content marketing is having a moment—a moment that’s rapidly becoming a movement. We’re finally breaking free of the idea that “professional” means “boring.” Transparency and authenticity are becoming more than just buzzwords. Unique, emotionally compelling content used to be the outlier; soon it will be the norm. It’s thrilling to see B2B content marketers [...]

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B2B content marketing is having a moment—a moment that’s rapidly becoming a movement. We’re finally breaking free of the idea that “professional” means “boring.” Transparency and authenticity are becoming more than just buzzwords. Unique, emotionally compelling content used to be the outlier; soon it will be the norm.

It’s thrilling to see B2B content marketers find a new groove. As a creative, comedic weirdo myself, it’s a great time to be in the business. However, these industry-wide changes do come with significant challenges. As B2B marketing evolves, we need to continually adapt our procedures, KPIs, even our philosophy of marketing.

The whip-smart marketers at Kapost just published their 2017 B2B Content Strategy & Operations Benchmark. They surveyed hundreds of B2B marketers in diverse industries, from small businesses to enterprise organizations. Here are the challenges their research identified, and how B2B marketers can adapt to thrive.

Challenge: Lack of Communication/Alignment

You can’t score a touchdown if you don’t know where the end zone is. Unfortunately, it looks like a great deal of B2B content marketers are lost in the field. Kapost found that 22% of content creators didn’t know if their organization set lead generation goals, and 32% weren’t sure if they were meeting revenue goals. Perhaps most troublingly, 60% said they didn’t have visibility into how their content aligns to organizational priorities.

Solution: Clear Goals & KPIs

Content creators need to fully embrace their role as content marketers. It’s not enough to get a work order, fill in the appropriate number of pretty words, then release it into the ether. That’s commodity work, and it results in commodity content.

Everyone responsible for creating content should have a working knowledge of the entire process, from strategy through amplification to measurement and optimization. Every piece of content should have the following:

  • Proof that it serves an existing search demand
  • Specific target audience
  • Rationale for why this content will appeal to that audience
  • Amplification plan
  • Specific next-step goal (CTA) that maps to organizational goals

Content creators and management need to share responsibility for communication. Ideally, the whole team should be working on content strategy (including goal-setting) together.

Challenge: Organizational Silos

When teams and departments are isolated from each other, efficiency takes a hit. Marketers estimated that around 25% of their content is duplicative work, a troubling statistic in its own right. But it gets worse: Only 44% said they have complete visibility into other departments’ campaigns and content. The real amount of duplicated effort could be far higher.

These organizational silos are not only inefficient, they encourage over-specialization and information hoarding.

Solution: Centralized Content, Multi-Disciplinary Teams

If your organization has multiple marketing teams in different departments, it’s vital to centralize content strategy to a platform that everyone can access. Breaking down silos and working together will eliminate that redundant content and help departments find new synergies together.

TopRank Marketing recently restructured our teams. We used to have a content team, an SEO team, a design team, etc.—organized according to specialty. In the restructure, we formed “pods” across disciplines. Each pod has content, SEO, and design experts, and we all work together. Reaching across silos has helped our teams cross-train, learn from each other, and produce more strategic content.

Challenge: Calculating ROI

Measuring the impact of our marketing efforts continues to be a top concern for marketers. In Kapost’s survey, 54% of marketers listed proving ROI as one of the greatest barriers to success. Yet nearly half of respondents said they use vanity metrics like web traffic to track ROI, and a full 25% said they use no ROI-tracking metrics at all (Somewhere, Joe Pulizzi is weeping).

Solution: Get Serious about Revenue

Just as content creators need to learn the entire content marketing process, marketers need to learn the entire revenue process. We can’t skate by on nebulous metrics anymore. We’re living in the age of data, and we have to take control of that data to prove ROI.

It’s not enough, for example, to measure web traffic. Where is the traffic coming from? Are they in your target audience? Does an increase in traffic lead to an increase in conversions? What’s the monetary value of each conversion?

All of this data is available to us. We just have to use it. We can determine what percentage of traffic downloads an eBook. We can see how many who download a gated asset do a demo, and how many who demo ultimately make a purchase. Working backward, we can put a dollar amount on each micro-conversion.

All of this means dipping a toe – or diving headfirst – into what we previously thought of as the sales department’s responsibility. But it’s necessary for marketers to understand and own a piece of the entire revenue process, if we’re going to help meet revenue goals.

Challenge Accepted

B2B content marketing has done a lot of growing up in the past few years. But it’s clear that we can be more sophisticated in our efforts. For content creators, that means a greater understanding of strategy and goals, more communication with leadership and between teams, and a renewed focus on metrics that prove ROI. If we can overcome these challenges, we can exceed the benchmarks for 2018.

Ready to get smarter, more creative, and more focused on results? We’re here to help.


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© Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®, 2017. | B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks: How We All Can Do Better | http://www.toprankblog.com

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How We’re Building a Content Marketing Dream Team http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/10/content-marketing-dream-team/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/10/content-marketing-dream-team/#comments Thu, 19 Oct 2017 10:30:35 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=23028 As the digital landscape continues to grow and shift, digital marketing — particularly content marketing — has a majority stake in most brands’ marketing strategies these days. After all, nearly half of the world’s population now uses the internet, and we want our content to meet people where they are and when they’re searching. As a [...]

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A few members of the TopRank Marketing content marketing dream team.

As the digital landscape continues to grow and shift, digital marketing — particularly content marketing — has a majority stake in most brands’ marketing strategies these days. After all, nearly half of the world’s population now uses the internet, and we want our content to meet people where they are and when they’re searching.

As a result, brands and agencies alike are on the lookout for savvy, driven content gurus with proven writing, planning and strategy skills to add to their marketing teams — including TopRank Marketing.

Our agency was born when digital was the new kid on the block — and before modern content marketing came roaring onto the scene. We’ve rolled with the changing tides and now we’re on the cutting edge of next-gen content marketing — namely influencer marketing and co-creation. And if there’s one thing we’ve learned in nearly two decades of work, it’s that the collective talent of our team members is what drives our clients’ success and our company’s success.

So, we’ve doubled down on our commitment to bring top-notch marketers across disciplines into the TopRank Marketing family; we’re building a dream team. How? We’ve identified three core building blocks — building blocks we think every organization should consider during their search for talent.

As it relates to finding outstanding, strategic content creators, below I share what makes up those critical building blocks.

The Foundation

Like any profession, there are hard skills and a certain level of expertise that are must-have requirements for marketing writers. From our perspective, these foundational skills not only signal that a prospective employee can handle the “tactical” responsibilities of the job, but also thrive in the role and feel personal satisfaction. Some of those important hard skills include:

#1 – Seasoned marketing writing chops that go beyond the grammar basics.

The ability to create clean, easy-to-read and grammatically correct content is a basic requirement for any content creator. But we’re also looking for writers who can build a compelling narrative and draw on their creative juices to deliver something unique. We want storytellers.

#2 – Research skills rivaling that of an investigative journalist.

All marketers need to be subject matter experts (SMEs) in order to create content that resonates with their audience. But in an agency setting, writers often work across multiple programs and industries — challenging them to be adept experts in several areas. As a result, their research skills — and the ability to understand and interpret what they uncover — need to be on-point.

#3 – Aptitude for drawing out data insights and using them to bolster a narrative.

We live in the age of data, and that data can be used to paint a picture and add credibility to the content we create. So, coupled with the research skills requirement, writers need to be able to discover, internalize and draw meaningful data insights, and use them to strengthen the story they’re telling.

#4 – History of leveraging multiple content marketing tactics to drive an integrated strategy.

TopRank Marketing’s approach to digital marketing is rooted in the belief that integration is key to creating best-answer content that drives results. As a result, we’re looking for marketing writers who have experience leveraging multiple types of content — from social media to influencer content — that work together to achieve success.

The Structure

It’s no secret that one’s ability to thrive as a marketer goes beyond hard skills. Soft skills and personality traits are the building materials that bring it all together, defining the individual and the professional. For us, some of those important qualities include:

#1 – Exudes their own brand of creativity.

From our perspective, cookie cutter doesn’t cut it. The best organizations are made up of individuals who can approach content and strategy through a unique creative lens — which not only spawns out-of-the-box ideas, but also brings out the creative perspectives of other team members and helps all of us innovate.

#2 – Empathetic mind that can internalize problems and communicate solutions.

In order to create content that resonates and inspires, writers have to have a deep understanding of who their audience is, what motivates them and what pain points they face; they need empathy.

#3 – Thrives as part of a tight-knit team.

TopRank Marketing not only believes in integrated content marketing strategies, but also in integrated teams. Simply put, crafting great content is a collective effort, involving team members across disciplines. It’s cheesy, but teamwork really does make the dream work. As a result, we’ve found that the most effective writers embrace collaboration and use it as fuel to do great work.

#4 – Driven to grow as an individual and part of a collective team.

As it’s been said, we believe that client and company success is rooted in our talented team members. But the formula for success is ever changing, so we want team member who are hungry for growth in all areas.

The Spire

The final touch on any magnificent structure is the spire that sits atop. The spire is what stands out across the city skyline. For us, that defining characteristic is simple: An undeniable passion for what you do and who you do it with.

Our company culture is built on the passion our employees have for their work and their respective co-workers. After all, think about how much time you spend at the office. Without some love for the tasks and people who occupy that time, personal satisfaction and excellence can’t be found.

Interested in Joining the TopRank Marketing Dream Team?

That’s good news. We’re hiring! Check out our Careers page to see a full list of open positions ranging from content to design to digital advertising.

For you content masters out there, if you want a closer look at daily life at TopRank Marketing, read my “A Day in the Life of a Content Marketing Manager” post.


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How to Choose Dynamic Images for Your Blog Posts http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/10/choose-dynamic-images-blog-posts/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/10/choose-dynamic-images-blog-posts/#comments Tue, 17 Oct 2017 10:30:29 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=23058 I’m a content writer, not a graphic designer. My job is to make the words dance, to convey useful information in an entertaining way. As such, for a long time visuals were just an afterthought for me. Yeah, a blog needs a header image. So after I’m done writing I’ll slap something on there, check [...]

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I’m a content writer, not a graphic designer. My job is to make the words dance, to convey useful information in an entertaining way.

As such, for a long time visuals were just an afterthought for me. Yeah, a blog needs a header image. So after I’m done writing I’ll slap something on there, check that box, and send it off to the client.

As content continues to proliferate, though, that laissez-faire approach isn’t enough. Your potential audience has far more content available to them than they’ll ever be able to read. That means they’re actively looking for reasons not to read your content. A weak—or worse, missing—visual is a perfect excuse to move to the next thing.

The right visual does more than take up space. It captures attention, creates a little mystery, invites the reader to dig into your carefully-crafted text. Good visuals are doubly important for amplification, too: Your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn shares will all include an image. The visual alone can stop the endless, half-engaged scrolling people do on social media, buying you crucial seconds to compel a click or a tap.

I challenge any and all content creators to up their image game. Let’s stop with the schlocky stock photos and give people something that’s worth their attention.

Here’s how I find scroll-stopping visuals for my blog posts.

Ditch the Schlock Stock

It’s trendy to bash Shutterstock for schlocky stock photos, but that’s like blaming Netflix for your binge-a-thon of Fuller House. There’s plenty of great content available. It’s up to you to find and choose it over the cliché stuff.

Whether you’re using Shutterstock or any other paid photo site, start by avoiding these cliché photo types:

  • Minority Report Computer Displays. Seems like every B2B blog is required to use one of these nonsensical things at least twice a week.
  • Stark White Offices. It’s futuristic! It’s so clean! It… looks like no place anyone has ever worked!
  • People with Arms Crossed. Do you pose for pictures like this? Does anyone? Then why are there thousands of these on stock photo sites?
  • Cupped Hands with Floating Icons. Sing it with me: “He’s got the [abstract concept of my blog post] in his hands…”
  • Anything in front of a Chalkboard. STAHP.

I could go on, but you get the idea. These are the hoary clichés that give stock photos a bad name. They’re not unique; they’re not authentic; they’re not visually stunning.

To avoid the stock photo blues, I tend to start my search on royalty-free sites like Pixabay, Pexels, and even Creative Commons-licensed photos on Flickr. But even if the boss demands you use an approved paid site, there’s good stuff to be found.  Here are a few ways to kick your visuals up a notch.

Make It Weird

For my blog post on mobile advertising strategy, there were plenty of obvious ways to go. Someone looking at a phone in a coffee shop, at an airport, at a concert… people look at their phones everywhere, so there are no shortage of safe options.

So of course I went with this one:

Visual Content Marketing Dog with Sunglasses and Cell Phone

Why is the dog wearing sunglasses? What type of phone has a pawprint for the unlock button? Why didn’t he use the front-facing camera for his selfie? Any one of those questions is enough to give the reader paws. Er, pause.

Make It Beautiful

Instagram is a social media network that’s almost entirely visual. It was designed for image sharing, boy howdy, do its members share. There have been over 40 billion photos posted on Instagram since it launched 7 years ago.

So it makes sense to take a few design cues from Instagram when you choose your photos. Find something beautiful, striking, and with an evocative filter. Like this image I used for my comedy in content post:

Visual Content Marketing Clown in Forest with Instagram-Style Filter 

Find a Metaphor

Get a little creative with your content, and you can get more creative with your visuals. Introduce a metaphor in your opening paragraph that will unite your content and give you more options for a header image.

For a recent content marketing tips post, I could have stuck with a generic “businessperson” or “office” header image. Instead, I added a personal note about Lego in the beginning, and found a dynamite visual that helped introduce the metaphor:

Visual Content Marketing - Colorful Assortment of Lego Bricks

Take Your Own Photos

The best way to ensure your header is original, authentic, and eye-catching is to take the photo yourself. Last year, Jason Miller held a photoshoot with his LinkedIn Marketing Solutions crew. They captured a ton of wonderful moments that the team used as header images for months:

LinkedIn Marketing Solutions Team around Laptop

I love that even though this image is a parody of a stock photo, it’s undeniably original. You can see the cool art in the office. The people are actually the folks who create content for LinkedIn. The laptop is a well-loved machine with a LinkedIn sticker on it, not a pristine stainless-steel model. Unlike a stock photo, this picture actually tells you about the people behind the brand.

Even a cell-phone quality image can get the job done. When our team covers marketing events, we always take a candid photo of the presenter as the header image. My colleague Caitlin took it a step further for her Ann Handley roundup, with this adorable selfie:

Visual Content Marketing Selfie with Ann Handley

It’s genuine, it’s unexpected, and it’s a photo the reader is guaranteed to be seeing for the first time.

As with Written Content, It’s about Personality

It used to be that all B2B marketing content had to be “professional,” interpreted as “impersonal, flat, and unemotive.” Old-school stock photos are a perfect match for that kind of content. Here’s a guy in a suit standing with his arms folded. Here’s our white paper written like a software end-user license agreement.

Now we know better. Readers want content that has warmth and personality. They want to feel that another human being is communicating with them.

Visuals need to evolve in the same way. If you’re writing great content and still using stiff, stock images, you’re doing your content a disservice. Make sure your visuals are every bit as distinctive and authentic as your writing is, and you can earn your reader’s attention.

Do you love to create great content? Do you excel at eye-stopping imagery? TopRank Marketing needs you on our team.

Disclosure: LinkedIn Marketing Solutions is a TopRank Marketing client.


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