Is Your Content Marketing Effective?

“I need lots of high-quality content.”

That’s what many businesses think.

And it’s true to an extent. But it may not be as true as many would like to believe.

Content Marketing Institute is THE thought leader on everything content. Each year, they do extensive research and publish a report:

Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America

This year, their goal was to figure out what effective content marketing looks like. Yes, even though everyone’s been hyping “content” for years, many businesses are just now figuring out how to do it.

  1. Define Your Goals – What Success Looks Like

CMI’s first point is that companies say being clear on what success is report a higher rate of being effective at content marketing (55%). That compares to 30% of all companies saying they’re effective at content marketing last year versus 38% this year. That’s an increase of 25 percentage points for companies who define success.

Success can be as simple as checking your overall search rankings. You could also look at traffic increases.
Businesses that get more sophisticated with content marketing check things like brand perception, leads generated, and additional sales closed. They’re all difficult metrics to track.

  1. Have a Documented Content Marketing Strategy

This is CMI’s second point for businesses effective at content marketing. They have an overarching mission statement, hold regular meetings, and use a calendar.

At the small business level, this doesn’t need to be elaborate or sophisticated. A “mission statement” only needs to be 1-3 sentences long. And a “regular meeting” might be the monthly one with your agency or writer. And they might take care of the calendar for you.

It’s kind of like when you write something down, you’re more likely to do it. And that’s all you need to be more effective than many businesses at content marketing.

  1. Engaging Ideas Are All Around You

This one isn’t in the CMI report, but it’s a huge problem for businesses of all sizes. You can create just any topic, and that’ll be enough to help you hold your search rankings.

But you can get even more from your content by finding engaging ideas for your customers. Most businesses have a hard time with this.
It’s easy though. Ask the employees at your office who interact with customers most what their top problems and concerns are. Those are blog post ideas. Go to Forbes and Entrepreneur to see some of the big headlines. Visit Buzzsumo.com, enter your keyword, and write on similar ideas to the leading results.

That’s more than enough for most businesses to start.

…And here’s to a vast improvement in your content marketing campaign’s success!

Should You Use Facebook or YouTube for Your Video Marketing Plan?

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With Facebook gobbling up video marketing share, you have a tough choice. Should you use Facebook or YouTube? Find out from i5ww.

Facebook now gets more video views than YouTube. In August of last year, Facebook had 1 billion more views than YouTube.

Does that mean you need to scrap YouTube in favor of Facebook?

Maybe…and maybe not.

Take a look at the ins’n’outs of the two video giants:

YouTube’s Far from Dead

If anyone tells you not to use YouTube because it’s dying, don’t listen to them. YouTube still has more than 1 billion active users.

Plus, according to VentureBeat, their monthly hours viewed are up 50% year-over-year. That points to the strengths of YouTube, if anything.

Facebook’s a Strong Contender – Here’s Why

A Mixpo report shows marketers and agencies are more willing to use Facebook than ever. They’re doing this for two reasons:

  1. Facebook offers precision audience targeting options YouTube doesn’t have
  2. Marketers view engagement as the most important metric, and Facebook delivers better engagement rates than YouTube

But YouTube’s Not Going Away!

That’s because it drives so many views because of its SEO power. It’s going to keep that SEO power because Google owns it.

So the long-term value of YouTube may be far greater than that of Facebook. YouTube brings in about $4 billion for Google, but it doesn’t make a profit. So, it’ll be interesting to see how Google positions YouTube in the future.

So Which Should You Use?

It depends on what you want to do. With Facebook, you tend to get higher engagement rates for shorter periods of time. At YouTube, you get more long-term views.

So if you need to drive more customers in now, Facebook’s a better bet. If your business is doing okay at this minute, go with a mix of Facebook and YouTube.

Some other considerations:

  • YouTube shares 55% of any advertising revenues your video makes with you. It’s tough to make a substantial amount of money with YouTube videos. But it’s a nice bonus.
  • Facebook’s already a leading source for small business marketing. It’s a known working quantity.
  • Facebook’s algorithm, of course, favors Facebook videos over YouTube ones.
  • Facebook videos autoplay once they appear on user’s screens, but YouTube videos do not.
  • However, YouTube’s still one of the largest search engines on the web. So there’s still plenty of opportunity to get in front of your B2B audience.
  • With YouTube, you can optimize your video for popular searches.

The Verdict: No Clear Answer Right Now

There is no straight answer to which of these sites you should use. With competition from Facebook heating up, who knows how Google will respond with YouTube in the future?

For now, you don’t waste your marketing budget with either of these video leaders.

 

Why is An Editorial Calendar So Important?

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Do you need an “editorial calendar,” even if you are a small business that writes just 2-4 blog posts each month?

You do need one – everyone does. But yours doesn’t necessarily need to be sophisticated.

What Does an Editorial Calendar Do?

It’s simply a plan of your content for the next few months.

It shows things like:

  • Content titles
  • Types of content – blog post, white paper, newsletter etc…
  • Who’s responsible for writing it
  • Targeted keywords
  • Where you promote that content

You do need to make this in the form of a spreadsheet at least, and share that document with everyone responsible for content. You can use Google Drive, or another cloud-based file sharing platform if you prefer. If it’s just you writing content, you’ll still benefit from an editorial calendar.

Benefits of an Editorial Calendar

For smaller businesses, the main benefit is knowing what you wrote about. You don’t want to write about the same topic 3 months later (a year is okay). You can also check what you said on the topic so you can take a fresh angle in the future.

Another benefit is organization – you know right where to go to find everything related to your content (big time saver). And if you have another person or two working on content, it centralizes communication too.

In addition, all your content works together in a single “voice.” Imagine if you have 2-3 people working together, and your social media accounts talking in a formal, factual voice. Then you have your blog posts talking in a casual manner about topics completely unrelated to what’s going on in your social profiles. You’d confuse your customers, and they’d lose interest!

You can also analyze what you’ve done in the past and how it’s worked. Maybe similar ideas will work again in the future. But then again, it might be time to try something new – like a different holiday promotion.

It also creates accountability. It’s so easy to get confused on who’s supposed to do what, but there’s no room for excuses with an editorial calendar.

A Few Pointers:

  1. Always create content you believe your audience will love (you get better at this over time)
  2. Tie at least 2-3 goals to your content (more leads, better engagement, more qualified leads, additional sales, 200 new newsletter subscribers, higher search rankings etc…)
  3. Your plan is fluid, changing as you learn more of what works and what doesn’t

That’s what you need to get out of your content calendar – and every organization must have one.

What Makes Content Valuable for Your Readers?

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“Content is king.” It is, but what’s that mean? Why do some websites get 1000s of readers and others almost none? Learn how to write valuable content.

You’ve probably heard any one of these suggestions about your content:

  • “Write great content”
  • “Make sure your content is the best available”
  • “Build great content, and they will come”

What do any of those phrases mean?

Well, the truth is it all depends on who reads your content. You have to know what your audience values to sell them what they want.

Let’s Walk Through a Few Examples

So let’s talk about a couple different audiences and specific things you could do to give them more value than your competitors:

  1. A Sophisticated B2B Audience

When you write to this group, load your content with facts from reputable resources. Or use your own tests as examples. If you do the latter, make sure you describe the processes you used in explicit detail.

You can also use personal experiences. Short sentences that get straight to the point work best.

  1. A Crowd of Young Techies, 25 – 35

Here, Rand Fishkin of Moz is the perfect role model to work from because he IS this demographic.

He knows how to engage this audience. For example, one time he dressed up as Fred Flintstone. He uses a lot of geeky references to Star Wars and other sci-fi stuff this generation loves.

And he’s incredibly knowledgeable about search marketing too. The great thing is that his humor makes a somewhat boring and technical subject – SEO – more interesting to digest.

How could you take your product or service and make it more interesting to your demographic?

  1. Bob & Sue Homeowner, Ages 45-60

With this demographic, think of your typical middle-class family. With these people, you want to make things fast and easy.

Actually, that works with every demographic. But, particularly so with this one because that’s how they want to do everything in their lives – at work, home, or out in the community.

You’ll also want to frame everything in a positive light. Business owners love to hear the brutal truth, but this demographic doesn’t want that.

  1. Engineers & Accountants etc…

Let’s be honest here, and no criticism of these groups intended: justifiably or not, most people think of engineers or accountants as “boring.”

Fast and easy doesn’t sell quite as well. But if you’re specific, and highly technical, that’s what they want to hear.

Does that mean you should write everything in a “boring, technical” way?

Not necessarily, said America’s leading copywriter Bob Bly. In one of his newsletters, he reminds aspiring copywriters that though technical audiences are more intellectual, they’re still human beings too. So if you can present them information in a casual, interesting way, that’s better.

In the end, you know what works with your clients and customers in person. Part of content marketing success is as simple as taking those same techniques and applying them with the written word.

A Brief Guide to the History of Content Marketing

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Did you know content marketing has actually been around thousands of years?

No joke!

The first content marketing actually comes in the form of cave paintings. We don’t always know what they mean, but the first human beings wrote “content” that conveyed their message.

More recently, older forms of content include magazine articles, physical paper newsletters (think investing newsletters), and newspapers. If you look back at these old forms of content, they even have many of the same topics you see today:

  • How to Get Your House Ready for Spring
  • 5 Tips for Buying New Blinds
  • 7 Home Buying Mistakes Young Couples Make

Why Did content Marketing Get So Big?

Simply put – because Google said so. Amazingly, Google holds 67.6% of the entire search market share in its grasp. That number’s low compared to what we’ve seen, but all numbers agree Google dominates.

In the early days of search, like 2000 – 2005, Google didn’t care about content one bit. In fact, ranking in the search was amazingly easy. The average, even newbie, search marketer or agency of today could have become wealthy back then. All you had to do was spam the keywords all over the web pages, and you got to the top.

But Google’s leadership was smart. They knew what would keep people using their search engine would be their ability to return the best search results.

Google Releases 2 Algorithm Updates that Change Search Forever

On February 23, 2011, Google released the Panda update, which would forever change the search landscape. It affected 12% of all search results. The most recent update, Panda 4.1, was released on September 23, 2014.

Then, about a year later, along came Penguin on April 24, 2012. This didn’t hit content as directly as Panda. But it did force websites to stop spamming keywords. Now, Penguin Everflux means this algorithm change updates continuously.

Those 2 updates give preference to websites with quality content. These days, Google doesn’t just prefer pages with good content. It wants massive websites with great content – sites with 50, 75, and 100 pages or more.

“Websites” are slowly ceasing to exist. Now, Google basically wants an “online magazine.”

How’s a small business supposed to keep up with all that?

Google, unfortunately, isn’t all that concerned with helping out small businesses. They make the rules, they know it, and you have to deal with it.

So, you must have one of these:

  • A big budget
  • A seasoned search marketing agency that markets your content efficiently

6 Sizzling Tips for Calls to Action that Boost Your Sales

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First of all, what is a call-to-action (CTA)?

You’ve seen thousands of them online and offline. It’s where you ask your potential customers to actually call, e-mail, or purchase from you.

Now, you can write super boring ones that don’t get much in the way of conversions. And then you can write amazing CTAs that sell off the charts.

Let’s take a look at one that doesn’t work so well. In this case, it’s to get people to subscribe to your newsletter:

  • “Subscribe to Our Newsletter Via E-Mail”

Why it doesn’t work: It’s simple and straightforward, but there’s no answer to your customer’s question, “What’s in it for me?”

You talk about subscribing, your newsletter, and e-mail. Customers can get those things anywhere. There’s nothing unique about it.

Yes, you will still get some subscriptions, but you get many more of them when you use benefits in your call-to-action.

Example of a benefits-oriented CTA:

  • “Get FREE Monthly Tips to Become More Energy-Efficient”

If you sell HVAC services and equipment, that’s a great CTA to use. You already know your market wants this information. You could also test these and see how your market responds:

  • Be the First to Learn about Our Special Offers
  • Sign Up & Get a FREE HVAC Inspection ($100 Value)

You never really know which one works best for your market. And sometimes, they become blind to your CTA after you use the same one for a while. So you have to switch things up to keep them working.

Other CTA Tips

So you see how CTAs work. Now here’s a few more tips to make them work well for your market:

  1. Show the value of your FREE offer: People will be more likely to act if they understand the value they get from your free offer. Put a number on it. Don’t lie or exaggerate – use a realistic number just like I did in the example above.
  2. Put a limit on the offer: It’s not enough to say for “a limited time only.” Make that timeframe specific. “The next 25 customers that sign up get…” or “Just 7 days left until our FREE offer expires…”
  3. Use emotional language: Use words like “breakthrough,” “proven,” “astounding,” and “amazing” to emphasize that your offer is unique.

Make sure they’re appropriate – avoid lying at all costs. Your customers will be disappointed if what you have to sell truly isn’t astounding, amazing, or a breakthrough.

  1. Increase urgency: Use words like “now,” “today,” and “immediately” to increase the urgency to act.
  2. Make it as easy as possible: If you have people enter their contact information into your form, make it as few fields as possible. Yes, even just 1 less form field increases conversion rates by 15%, 20%, or even 25% or more, depending on your website.
  3. Use sensory words: Did you notice the word “sizzling” at the top of this page? That’s a sensory word that gives you a vivid picture in your mind. These aren’t just your ordinary run-of-the-mill tips – they’re “sizzling!” It’s a great word to use if you own a restaurant.

There’s much more to CTAs than that. But if you implement these tips as appropriate for your business and market, you’ll get much more conversions through your website (because most businesses pay no attention to this at all!).