Tag Archives: CONTENT

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The rise of personal searches: How can content marketers take advantage?

As marketers in the ever-changing world of digital, success depends on knowing what consumers want and expect from us. After all, it’s the only way we can deliver.

So, it’s interesting to see that a recent data release from Google tells us that personalized search is becoming more and more prominent among internet users.

No longer are they turning to friends and family for personal advice and recommendations, but search engines too.

Of course, we already knew that… that’s why we work so hard at getting to know our audience and understanding their micro-moments and pain points, delivering the right content at the right time, in the right way.

But what Google is telling us is that rather than searching, “How often should you wash your hair?”, we are now searching “How often should I wash my hair?”. Changing those two little words is making the way that we use search engines far more personal than ever before.

And the data suggests that consumers now truly trust that their most specific needs can be answered by content on the web. In fact, in the last two years Google has reported that mobile searches using “…for me” has grown by a huge 60% over the last two years.

On top of this, they have also seen an 80% increase in mobile searches including “…should I?”. As a result, we really are treating search as one of our best, most trusted friends.

And that’s great news for content marketers.

For those of us working in motor, beauty, finance, fitness and pet care, it seems that this new insight is especially relevant – these are the industries in which users are most frequently turning to Google to solve their personal pain points.

How can we prepare and optimize our content for these types of search?

Tools

Creating calculators and tools is a brilliant way of targeting personal search terms and providing our users with the personalized response they are looking for. Let’s use a fitness example to demonstrate this:

This recent data circulation from Google suggests that users are starting to search for something like, “how much water should I drink each day?” in higher volumes than something like, “how much water should you drink per day?”.

Now, most of us know that the answer to this question will depend on a number of different factors including gender, body composition, activity level and so on.

What our audience is expecting from this search is a personalized answer that takes all of these things into consideration and tells them exactly how much water they should personally be drinking each day.

A water consumption calculator would do this well, and if the user wants the specificity of an individual result, they will be willing to fill in the necessary personal details to retrieve it. A blog post that simply states the average recommended fluid intake for a man or a woman as recommended by the NHS is no longer user focused enough.

Case studies and testimonials

Providing personalized content will not always be easy, and at times users may need encouragement to spend a little longer on a page to find the personalized answer they are looking for. In this instance, case studies and testimonials are a great way to push users further through their journey in the right direction.

For example, “How much money do I need to retire?” is a more complex question than our fitness example. There are so many variants that could alter the accurate and personalized response to this question, so it’s difficult to answer it quickly in a personalized way.

However, if we provide users with a testimonial or case study at the right stage in their journey – one that was created after a lot of persona research and uses someone or a situation that will resonate with them – they are likely to engage with the content.

Creating engagement via a case study will increase the likelihood that they’ll enquire with your brand for a more personalized answer, continuing their journey on their way to the personalized answer they are looking for.

Hygiene content

Informational content (something we refer to here at Zazzle as ‘hygiene content’) is absolutely essential in light of this evolution of search.

It’s critical that all the informational content and resources on your website are up to date, and as specific to the different types of users you’re expecting to visit your site as possible. Not only this, but ensuring that on-page content is optimised for longtail search (tying back to your personas) is a must.

Moreover, having a clear call to action that points the user in the direction of personalized answers to their questions is also important. It isn’t always possible to answer their query in an individualized way using written content, but pointing the user towards a ‘contact us here’ call to action could make all the difference in their user journey, and ultimately, whether they end up with you or your competitor.   

Thought leadership and expert content

Finally, with consumers turning to search like a trusted friend or family member more than ever before, you need to ensure that the content you’re putting out there is seen as being the most reliable. Therefore, it’s never been more important to be viewed as a thought leader within your field.

Expert content will naturally help to strengthen the consumer-brand relationship. It also means that when you are appearing in SERPs, your expert reputation will stand you in good stead when it comes to users choosing which ‘friend’ they want to seek advice from.

We can’t wait to see how the evolution of search changes the way that Google is rewarding and penalizing brands’ content. The above is just a start, but we are certain we will be kept on our toes as time goes on!

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Looking through the artificial intelligence mirror: insights and automation

We have entered a new era of search where SEO and content marketing have converged.

AI technologies are providing a whole new world of insights so marketers can make impactful – data-informed – decisions. The AI revolution is here and now, and early adopters in SEO and content marketing are already one step ahead of the competition.

Artificial intelligence

While Artificial Intelligence has slowly become a part of everyday lives, growing all around us. It was only when Google introduced RankBrain in 2015 when search marketers started to see the potential use cases for AI and machine learning. As Albert Gouyet wrote in his recent piece, ‘Artificial intelligence and machine learning: What are the opportunities for search marketers?‘:

  • Artificial intelligence is the science of making machines do things requiring human intelligence. It is human intelligence in machine format where computer programs develop data-based decisions and perform tasks normally performed by humans.
  • Machine learning takes artificial intelligence a step further in the sense that algorithms are programmed to learn and improve without the need for human data input and reprogramming.

Machine learning is all around us and has been part of people’s everyday lives for many years now. The most relevant examples for SEOs are based around voice-enabled technologies that are used in more than 20% of mobile queries.

When people are on their way to work, they use voice search to send messages and navigate via their in-car system. When people are at work, they use voice search on their laptops to manage diaries and schedules. At home, people may use Amazon Echo or Google Home and watch films on Netflix.

The two key AI and machine learning benefits I want to focus today on are centered around:

Insights that are accurate, actionable, and impact revenue

Automation of labour-intensive tasks and programmatic scale.

I: Data-driven insights

Marketing today is very labor-intensive, often requiring marketers to dig through too much data that may not even be giving them the bigger picture they need to make impactful business decisions. More than 80 percent of the world’s data is unstructured–for example, data from text, video, images, and user-generated social and blog content–and marketers need to break this down into structured formats that they can act on.

To do this effectively and in a manner that produces impactful business results, requires planning, process discipline, and advanced technology. By leveraging AI and machine learning systems that leverage both historical and real-time data, SEO and content marketers can map out in advance what types of content will perform best.

Marketers can use these insights in so many ways to blend the best of search marketing and content marketing practices in two key ways.

1. Targeting demand: Discovering new data patterns and industry and competitive trends

Targeting demand requires a deep understanding of your audience and AI-based insights help marketers decide which channels and types of content consumers are searching for. Data-driven insights into consumer demand set marketers up for success with a content marketing strategy built specifically for their target audience.

Intent data offers in-the-moment context on where customers want to go and what they want to know, do, or buy. Organic search data is the critical raw material that helps you discover consumer patterns, new market opportunities, and competitive threats.

2. Personalizing the customer experience: Producing content that resonates, engages and delights customers

This is one of the areas where AI and machine learning can have the biggest impact. Rich (deep) data-led insights can help incorporate content and present people with choices and promotions at the right time based on their past preferences. This is where deep learning can have a massive impact.

Deep learning is the next generation of machine learning where massive data sets are combined with pattern recognition capabilities to automatically make decisions, find patterns, and provide accurate insights that help drive SEO and content marketing strategies.

Deep learning is particularly important in search, where data sets are large and shifts are dynamic. Deep learning allows you to identify patterns and trends in real-time. SEO and content marketers can immediately turn these insights into a plan to win.

A: Machine Learning and Automation

Being armed with smart insights to uncover potential topics that are hyper-relevant to their target audience and automation allows SEO and content marketers to scale their programs and maximize working efficiency.

Speed will be a critical part of getting ahead of others within your market space, and automation will be the foundation of achieving this goal.

Automation allows marketers to:

  • Act on recommendations faster
  • Get content in front of their audience before the competition
  • Ensure that content is optimized from the moment it goes live.

For example, Kraft used a combination of machine learning and insights to optimize their content creation process. Kraft tracked more than 22,000 different audience characteristics then used these insights to inform their content creation process. The result was a 4x increase in ROI from content, when compared to targeted ads.

Automation is helping marketers do more with less and execute more quickly. Routine SEO and content tasks can be implemented with little effort, allowing SEO and content marketers to focus on high-impact activities and accomplish their personal and professional objectives at scale.

Conclusion

AI, machine learning and deep learning is going to transform how SEO and content marketers operate via the utilization of data-driven insights and give marketers the competitive edge to formulate impactful content marketing strategies.

Source: Marketing in the Machine Age

Marketers will use AI to respond to complexity and rapid change that is beyond the normal human capabilities, like the search algorithm changes and evolution of the layout of the SERPs.

AI will improve marketers’ agility–having the flexibility to adapt quickly to changes in the market and change content strategy in line with competitive market trends. This includes having the ability to scale content marketing efforts effectively through entire organizations.

In addition, AI will help marketer capture and satisfy customers by optimizing customer experience and content personalization, issues that present dozens to hundreds to thousands of combinations to satisfy  a range of customer personas at different points on the lifecycle.

Providing users with highly relevant, optimized, and engaging content tailored to the customers’ expectations, needs and goals will improve all marketing metrics.

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Three tips for a content marketing plan that makes your customers the central focus

In an era of constant digital distractions, how do we compete long enough to convert? The trick is to make your content as customer focused as possible.

Content marketing is a constant struggle for any brand. It is probably the most important element to their overall promotional strategy and the greatest tool at their disposal.

It can also be the most fickle, as it relies heavily on keeping and maintaining the interest of the ones consuming it.

You need to focus on your customer! This allows what you produce to immediately connect with your audience and provides something of value to them. Not only does this give you benefits in the moment by offering the information they want/need, it also gives you long-term benefits by establishing the authority of your brand.

Here are three tips and tools to help you create a customer-focused content marketing strategy.

1. Be clear on content objectives

Try to figure out just what the aims of your content will be. If there are no objectives to work from, the results will end up aimless and meandering, not really benefiting anyone, even if it manages to drive a bit of traffic. It is like throwing spaghetti at a wall… sure, some of it is going to stick, but most of it is going to end up on the floor.

So, what is it you want to achieve with each piece of content? How can you create a cohesive strategy that matches each of those objectives? How will you measure success towards those goals?

First things first: Do some keyword research and see what it is your customers want to know about. What are they struggling with? What is upsetting/confusing/angering/interesting them? How can you make their life easier through your content?

Just looking at your keyword lists won’t tell you much though. You need to work on organizing your keywords. This will help you lay out a clear content strategy.

I use spreadsheets to organize and label my keywords so that it becomes clear how to better serve the people behind using them to search.

Break keywords into groups by relevancy

This will allow you to better understand your niche and target one page to the whole group of keywords, versus each of them individually.

Keyword clustering is an effective tactic to use here. Serpstat does it pretty well by determining how many URLs overlap for different search queries and thus identifying closely related phrases. (Read more about the tactic in our dedicated guide to keyword clustering).

From there, determine intent behind each group

Keyword intent reflects the users’ aim behind searching. It helps you to better serve your audience needs and thus improve your conversion rate. I usually label my keyword groups with four types of user intent:

  • Commercial: No need trying to serve them content here: These people are ready to buy!
  • Transitional: These people are likely to still be in the research phase but they may be willing to buy after you give them some actionable content. Product reviews and gift ideas are perfect content assets for this group
  • Navigational: Those keywords that content the brand name. Firstly, we want to make sure our brand ranks #1 for these. Secondly, we want to use these keywords to better understand possible problems with the site or the product
  • Informational: These people are searching for information only. The perfect CTA for this content is an invite to subscribe.

Label seasonal content

Last but not least, you want to make sure you publish that content when you audience needs it most. If it looks like certain content is likely to solve a seasonal problem or catch seasonal interest peak – or more often than not, both – keep it scheduled for that season.

Three tips for a content marketing plan that makes your customers the central focus

2. Go straight to the source

You need to know what is important to the people who you are targeting. Knowing your audience is always going to be the leading step before you do anything else. Yet, an astonishing number of brands fail in this regard and create not what customers really want or need, but what they assume they want or need. The difference between those two things is not so much as gap as it is a cavern.

My personal preference for doing this is through customer feedback surveys. You have to be careful using these helpful little info gathering tools because if they are too long, hard to complete or just biased it is going to annoy the customer.

I use Wyzzer to put together 60 second surveys of up to 25 questions that are fast and easy to click. They even present it a little game, so the surveys are more engaging.

It’s a nice little way to achieve several goals at a time:

  • Let your customers tell you more about themselves (What do they like? What are their life choices? What are their hobbies?)
  • Entertain your readers and engage more of them by gamifying the surveying process
  • Diversify your content by adding something new.

Three tips for a content marketing plan that makes your customers the central focus

There are also several polling plugins that integrate into your WordPress blog easily. You can use these to quickly poll your customers on important matters, learn if they need a follow-up to a certain article or ask them which direction to take with your upcoming content series.

3. Map out the customer journey

Every customer goes through a journey from the moment they learn of your brand. It starts with the first lead, making them aware of your product. It ends not with the sale (as some believe), but with the experience afterward and how they feel about your brand. By the time they reach that stage they have completed the journey that you are responsible for guiding them through.

Having a clearly mapped journey with stages is one of the best things you can do. You can create content for every step, from the first landing on your website to the social reviews at the very end.

Research brand-focused keywords

I have already mentioned navigational queries and how they also should be used to better understand where your brand is lacking. Looking at how customers are searching for your brand may be eye opening?

Do they have problem finding how to log in? To they think your product is too expensive? Are they looking for alternative ways to get in touch with you?

Three tips for a content marketing plan that makes your customers the central focus

All of these signal of one common problem: Those people must have already visited your site but they are now searching Google instead of interacting with you directly.

Monitor social media reputation

You are likely to already be monitoring where your brand is being discussed on social media and then acting upon those mentions.

But this is usually viewed in the perspective of social media engagement and customer service. You need to add another objective to this task: Analyzing your site or product issues and solving them using all kinds of methods, including content.

I use Cyfe for monitoring social media mentions and scheduling social media updates. It’s very affordable and you can use multiple users to see selected dashboards, so you can delegate tasks quite efficiently with it:

Three tips for a content marketing plan that makes your customers the central focus

Record your sales/customer teams interactions with clients

If you aren’t yet using a customer relationships management platform, get one now. I use Salesmate and it’s eye-opening: You can see exactly which struggles each customer had while using your site and buying your product.

Encourage your team to record as much of the customer journey as they can. Sync your social media monitoring software with Salesmate to record more of the questions and interactions with each customer.

Three tips for a content marketing plan that makes your customers the central focus

Add experience surveys in your “Thank you for the order” emails

Consider integrating your customer research process with your sales process by implementing surveys as part of your order status emails. This will give you a good impression as to what can be done to make the process smoother and what content needs to created to cover other needs.

You customers are your concern, so show them!

The most important person for any brand is the customer. Unfortunately our content doesn’t always reflect that.

Making a content marketing plan more customer-centric is one of the best ways we can improve our results and help turn those leads into conversions.

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Get 2018 started with an updated multi-channel digital marketing strategy

Did you know that 15 years ago the average consumer used two touch-points when buying an item, while consumers today run through an average of almost six touch-points?

This means that reaching new customers has become significantly more complex. With new platforms and channels still emerging, consumers have more and more choices and are demanding greater attention from brands trying to reach them.

The concept of multi-channel digital marketing has gained popularity among digital marketers over the last few years as brands and agencies have realized that one-off campaigns targeting potential customers on only one channel at a time no longer cut it.

In this article, we will examine updated multi-channel digital marketing tools and effective strategies; but before we do, let’s clarify what multi-channel marketing actually means.

What is multi-channel digital marketing?

“Multi-channel marketing is the implementation of a single strategy across multiple channels or platforms, thus maximizing opportunities to interact with prospective customers,” according to digital marketing agency Emarsys.

While as marketers we try to best predict how and where our customers might interact with us, giving them a choice — a say in the matter — leads to higher conversions. This requires casting a wide net of orchestrated touch-points and repeating your brand message across various channels, but ultimately improves your chance to raise customer awareness and let the message sink in to actually have an effect.

Let’s take a look at a handful of channels that effectively support a multitude of touch points and provide your customers with choice in selecting their preferred channel.

Social media

The advantage of social media is that it can be utilized as both introductory (initial interest) as well as retargeting channel leading a new customer further down the sales funnel.

Eyeballs through content

Facebook is a fantastic method to fill the top of your funnel with visitors.  Whether you amplify content or gain people’s attention through Facebook live or other multimedia ads, it’s crucial to think about what your target customer might be interested in and then tailor content to their desires.

This doesn’t mean that you should advertise for your product right in the article or video, but rather cover topics that might interest potential customers and ultimately lead to your product page. At the top of the funnel, the goal is to create that first touchpoint which will enable you to start marketing to them through other channels, particularly email and remarketing.

Get 2018 started with an updated multi-channel digital marketing strategy

Generating leads

Another helpful Facebook tool comes in handy at this stage of the sales funnel, especially if you run an ecommerce business — it’s called Dynamic Product Ads. These ads “automatically promote products to people who have expressed interest on your website, in your app or elsewhere on the internet,” according to Facebook.

You can even upload your product catalog to Facebook and after setting up the campaign, the social network will handle the rest (such as matching people with the right product).

Email

While social media is very effective as both introductory and retargeting channel, emails are most effective when retargeting potential customers.

Chances are that by the time someone has provided their e-mail address, you have some idea of what they are interested in and looking for, thanks to your “eyeballs through content” campaign as discussed above. So crafting effective e-mails addressing their potential pain points should be a little easier now.

Crucial to making e-mail marketing successful is to make sure its content aligns with your overall campaign message. A recent case study confirmed that “Coordinating messaging across channels resulted in reaching customers who were 22% more likely to purchase than those only reached by email.”

AdWords

You can craft AdWords campaigns to function at the top, middle, and bottom of the funnel.  At the top, you can create broad match modified campaigns focusing on identifying exactly what keywords people search for in your space.

As part of your exploratory campaigns, you can also look for lateral keywords of interest that can help you understand exactly what your audience is looking for.

At the middle of the funnel, you have people who are interested in the products or services you are offering so you serve them the most targeted ads.  Traditional AdWords campaigns tend to belong to this stage of the funnel.  At the bottom of the funnel, you can use AdWords remarketing to continue creating additional touchpoints after consumers have visited your site.

Smart marketers use AdWords Ad Extensions to include interactive and clickable information right on top of the ad, such as coupons, phone numbers, and text message extensions. Making these marketing tools available right inside the ad can cut down significantly on the number of steps in your sales funnel.

By clicking on the coupon, for example, customers could be enticed to walk right into a physical location to pick up the product they are getting a discount on. Clicking on the phone number or text extension, on the other hand, could connect them directly to customer service, who in turn can answer any remaining questions and, thus, increase purchase intent.

SMS/Text messaging

Speaking of text messages: retargeting potential customers is not restricted to e-mails and Google AdWords. Text messaging (SMS) is another way — and an increasingly popular one — to lead consumers further down the sales funnel.

Let’s say your Facebook or Twitter ad asked potential new customers to “opt-in,” which they did using their social media accounts. Most social networks now require mobile phone numbers when users first sign up. This information will be available to you as well if you are setting up ads through these social networks.

You now have the opportunity to text your lead and interact with them on a channel that has so far not been saturated by marketers. It also provides a much more intimate environment, which could help build trust.

Get 2018 started with an updated multi-channel digital marketing strategy

You can easily set up text message campaigns with tools like Autopilot and TextMagic; and you should, too, because text message opens are as high as 99% among mobile users. Key is to let potential leads opt in voluntarily as opposed to being contacted via text out of the blue. Also, a good next step might be asking for permission to set up a phone call to continue the conversation.

Text messages can also be useful when sending out reminders for live events or webinars, which some of your new customers might have signed up for, but are about to miss because they forgot putting it in their calendars.

Putting it all together

As you can see, none of the marketing tools listed above are particularly effective in this day and age if you keep them isolated. Google AdWords can lead to customer service conversions; social media can lead to email and text message opt-ins; email in turn can be reinforced by text messages, which could lead back to customer service.

That’s why a consistent brand message as well as consistent quality of content, service, and customer experience across all channels is essential. Future customers should get a sense of familiarity at every turn of the sales funnel if you are to build a trustworthy relationship with them.

Coordinating this rather significant number of communication channels seems like a daunting and expensive task; but don’t worry, even with a low budget you can implement these multi-channel marketing strategies.

One final thought: all the marketing in the world is for naught if you do not measure and analyze key data. This includes customer profile characteristics (like demographics and psychographics) and customer behavior to narrow down your target audience.

In addition to this data, keeping track of conversion rates between the various platforms will help you measure success and create a continuously more effective multi-channel digital marketing strategy.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning: What are the opportunities for search marketers?

Did you know that by 2020 the digital universe will consist of 44 zettabytes of data (source: IDC), but that the human brain can only process the equivalent of 1 million gigabytes of memory?

The explosion of big data has meant that humans simply have too much data to understand and handle daily.

For search, content and digital marketers to make the most out the valuable insights that data can provide, it is essential to utilize artificial intelligence (AI) applications, machine learning algorithms and deep learning to move the needle of marketing performance in 2018.

In this article, I will explain the advancements and differences between artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and deep learning while sharing some tips on how SEO, content and digital marketers can make the most of the insights – especially from deep learning – that these technologies bring to the search marketing table.

I studied artificial intelligence in college and after graduating took a job in the field. It was an exciting time, but our programming capabilities, when looking back now, were rudimentary. More than intelligence, it was algorithms and rules that did their best to mimic how intelligence solves problems with best-guess recommendations.

Fast forward to today and things have evolved significantly.

The Big Bang: The big data explosion and the birth of AI

Since 1956, AI pioneers have been dreaming of a world where complex machines possess the same characteristics as human intelligence.

In 1996, the industry reached a major milestone when the IBM’s Deep Blue computer defeated a chess grandmaster by considering 200,000,000 chessboard patterns a second to make optimal moves.

Between 2000 and 2017, there were many developments that enabled great leaps forward. Most important were the geometric increases in the amount data collected, stored, and made retrievable. That mountain of data, which came to be known as big data, ushered in the advent of AI.

And it keeps growing exponentially: in 2016 IBM estimated that 90% of the world’s data had been generated over the last few years.

When thinking about AI, machine learning and deep learning, I find it helps to simplify and visualize how the 3 categories work and relate to each other –  this framework also works from a chronological, sub-set development and size perspective.

Artificial intelligence is the science of making machines do things requiring human intelligence. It is human intelligence in machine format where computer programs develop data-based decisions and perform tasks normally performed by  humans.

Machine learning takes artificial intelligence a step further in the sense that algorithms are programmed to learn and improve without the need for human data input and reprogramming.

Machine learning can be applied to many different problems and data sets. Google’s RankBrain algorithm is a great example of machine learning that evaluates the intent and context of each search query, rather than just delivering results based on programmed rules about keyword matching and other factors.

Deep learning is a more detailed algorithmic approach, taken from machine learning, that uses techniques based on logic and exposing data to neural networks (think human brain) so that the technology trains itself to perform tasks such as speech and image recognition.

Massive data sets are combined with pattern recognition capabilities to automatically make decisions, find patterns, emulate previous decisions, etc. Self-learning comes from here as the machine gets better from the more data that it is supplied.

Driverless cars, Netflix movie recommendations and IBMs Watson are all great examples of deep learning applications that break down tasks to make machine actions and assists possible.

Organic search, content and digital performance: Challenge and opportunity

Organic search (SEO) drives 51% of all website traffic and hence in this section it is only natural to explain the key benefits that deep-learning brings to SEO and digital marketers.

Organic search is a data-intensive business. Companies value and want their content to be visible on thousands or even millions of keywords in one to dozens of languages. Search best practices involve about 20 elements of on-page and off-page tactics. The SERPs themselves now come in more than 15 layout varieties.

Organic search is your market-wide voice of the customer, telling you what customers want at scale. However, marketers are faced with the challenge of making sense of so much data, having limited resources to mine insights and then actually act on the right and relevant insight for their business.

To succeed in highly demanding markets against your competitors’ many brands now requires the expertise of an experienced data analyst, and this is where machine learning and deep learning layers help recommend optimizations to content.

Connecting the dots with deep learning: Data and machine learning

The size of the organic data and the number of potential patterns that exist on that data make it a perfect candidate for deep learning applications. Unlike simple machine learning, deep-learning works better when it can analyse a massive amount of relevant data over long periods of time.

Deep learning and its ability to identify or prioritize material changes in interests and consumption behavior allows organic search marketers to gain a competitive advantage, be at the forefront of their industry, and produce the material that people need before their competitors, boosting their reputation.

In this way, marketers can begin to understand the strategies put forth by their competitors. They will see how well they perform compared to others in their industry and can then adjust their strategies to address the strengths or weaknesses that they find.

  • The insights derived from deep learning technologies blend the best of search marketing and content marketing practices to power the development, activation, and automated optimization of smart content, content that is self-aware and self-adjusting, improving content discovery and engagement across all digital marketing channels.
  • Intent data offers in-the-moment context on where customers want to go and what they want to know, do, or buy. Organic search data is the critical raw material that helps you discover consumer patterns, new market opportunities, and competitive threats.
  • Deep learning is particularly important in search, where data is copious and incredibly dynamic. Identifying patterns in data in real-time makes deep learning your best first defense in understanding customer, competitor, or market changes – so that you can immediately turn these insights into a plan to win.

To propel content and organic search success in 2018 marketers should let the machines does more of the leg work to provide the insights and recommendations that allow marketers to focus on the creation of smart content.

Below are a just a few examples of the benefits for the organic search marketer:

Site analysis

Pinpoint and fix critical site errors that drive the greatest benefits to a brand’s bottom line. Deep learning technology can be used to incorporate website data, detect anomalies tying site errors to estimated marketing impact so that marketers can prioritize fixes for maximum results.

Without a deep learning application to help you, you might be staring at a long list of potential fixes which typically get postponed to later.

Competitive strategy

Identifying patterns in real-time makes deep learning a brands’ best first defense in understanding customer, competitor, or market changes– so that marketers can immediately turn these insights into a plan to win.

Content discovery

Surface high-value topics that target different content strategies, such as stopping competitive threats or capitalizing on local demand.

Deep learning technology can be used to assess the ROI of new content items and prioritize their development by unveiling insights such as topic opportunity, consumer intent, characteristics of top competing content, and recommendations for improving content performance.

Content development

Score the quality and relevance of each piece of content produced. Deep learning technology can help save time with automated tasks of content production, such as header tags, cross-linking, copy optimization, image editing, highly optimized CTAs that drive performance, and embedded performance tracking of website traffic and conversion.

Content activation

Deep learning technology can help ensure that each piece of content is optimized for organic performance and customer experience—such as schema for structure, AMP for better mobile experiences, and Open Graph for Facebook. Technology can help marketers can amplify their content in social networks for greater visibility.

Automation

Automation helps marketers do more with less and execute more quickly. It allows marketers to manage routine tasks with little effort, so that they can focus on high-impact activities and accomplish organic business goals at scale.

Note: To make the most of the insights and recommendations from deep learning marketers need to take action and make the relevant changes to web page content to keep website visitors engaged and ultimately converting.

Additionally, because the search landscape changes so frequently, deep learning fuels the development of smart content and can be used to automatically adjust to changes in content formats and standards.

Deep learning in action

An example of deep learning in organic search is DataMind. BrightEdge (disclosure, my employer) Data Mind is like a virtual team of data scientists built into the platform, that combines massive volumes of data with immediate, actionable insights to inform marketing decisions.

In this case the deep learning engine analyzes huge, complex, and dynamic data sets (from multiple sources that include 1st and 3rd party data) to determine patterns and derive the insights marketers need. Deep learning is used to detect anomalies in a site’s performance and interpret the reasons, such as industry trends, while making recommendations about how to proceed.

Conclusion

Think of deep learning applications as your own personal data scientist – here to help and assist and not to replace. The adoption of AI, machine learning and now deep learning technologies allows faster decisions, more accurate and smarter insights.

Brands compete in the content battleground to ensure their content is optimized and found, engages audiences and ultimately drives conversions and digital revenue. When armed with these insights from deep learning, marketers get a new competitive weapon and a massive competitive edge.

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How to amplify your content marketing with influencer-driven writing contests

The purpose of a content marketing campaign is almost never a boost in sales: People who want to consume and share information rarely intend to buy. Content marketing is mostly about influencing the influencer, i.e. those people who can impact your customers’ buying decisions.

Hence the most effective content marketing strategy is the one that involves influencers, especially influencer-driven content.

According to the ANA survey from Linqia, 57 per cent of marketers report that influencer-driven content outperforms brand-created content:

  • Influencers are people who have already earned your consumers’ trust, hence influencer-created content is more trustable than brand-created content
  • Naturally, people prefer to engage with people rather than brands, hence influencer-created content triggers more audience engagement than brand-created content
  • With the above in mind, it’s obvious that influencer-driven content results in higher ROI – and also thanks to the fact that it spreads easier using the power of participating influencers.

But how to engage influencers into creating content for your company blog? One of the most effective ways is to set up a writing contest: Have them contribute content to your blog for a chance to win a prize or a set of prizes.

Benefits of holding a content marketing contest

There so many marketing opportunities behind this idea that it will make your head spin:

  • Free editorial content from notable names in your niche published on your blog will attract more clicks, grow your email list and diversify your rankings
  • Social media shares that content will bring will build your brand awareness
  • Partnering with other businesses in your industry for them to provide prizes for your winners will build important connections
  • Involving niche influencers and popular media outlets to judge and announce your winners will bring more connections and exposure.

Furthermore, think about the customers you will be able to engage when announcing the contest in your newsletter and on your social media channels.

There are so many reasons to try this tactic that you may be wondering why you haven’t done it before. Well, it’s tough and time-consuming, but the steps below, together with some handy tools, will make it possible.

1. Brainstorm and research topic areas

Obviously, hosting a content marketing contest starts with what any content marketing tactic should start: Brainstorming and keyword research. There are mainly two approaches you can take here:

  • Focus all entries around your brand: Invite your current customers to submit content that talks about your product. How are they using it? Which problem did it solve? This way you’ll enrich your blog with a variety of user-generated content that will bring many more users who will be encouraged to give it a try too. Of course, that will engage your userbase but it will limit your contest entries to your current customers.
  • Focus all entries around your general niche. This can be timed out to upcoming holidays (e.g. “Submit your Christmas recipes”, etc.) In order to keep the topics relevant to what your product does, you may want to come with a set list of topics which is where keyword research comes into play.

When I plan any content marketing campaign, I always start with keyword clustering, which is something I’ve explained how to do in a previous article for SEW. Playing with keyword groups always gives me a nice perspective and helps me brainstorm.

Here’s an example from Serpstat breaking down a very cluttered topic into nice categories to pick one to go with:

How to amplify your content marketing with influencer-driven writing contests

Read more on how keyword clustering works on Serpstat and how to group your keyword lists.

2. Reach out to participants

Now that you know the topics you want to focus your content marketing contest around, it’s time that you reach out to prominent writers and bloggers in your industry who you think will want to participate.

If you are focusing on your product-related content, it’s as simple as reaching out to your customers. For general how-to content contest, you’ll need to create a list of influencers who:

  1. Will want to participate
  2. Are probably to busy to participate, but will agree to help you spread the word and collect more entries.

I use Buzzsumo to find active content writers in my niche. They have handy filters that allow me to find bloggers who have hosted or participated in similar ventures, or don’t mind contributing to others.

How to amplify your content marketing with influencer-driven writing contests

3. Get organized!

You’ll be dealing with lots of new contacts: hopefully influencers participating and coming on board to spread the word, press contacts, media partners, sponsors, etc. Unless you get organized, you’ll be lost and miss a lot of opportunities.

You can use your current customer management platform to organize all the new contacts and leads you’ll be building throughout the contest. Otherwise, give Hubspot’s CRM a try: it’s free, and it will give you all the required features to record, organize and follow up with all the new contacts you’ll be building along the way.

How to amplify your content marketing with influencer-driven writing contests

I also use Cyfe to keep everything relating to a current campaign I am running within one dashboard. You can use the dashboard to keep an eye on brand mentions, create quick links to other tools you should be keeping an eye on a daily basis, import your Gmail messages, and so much more.

How to amplify your content marketing with influencer-driven writing contests

4. Keep your content quality standards high

  • You want your participants to disclaim any relationship or bias when they mention other sites
  • You want your participants to stay away from mentioning your direct competitors
  • You want your participants to only provide exclusive content and never publish it anywhere else
  • You want your participants to adhere to particular quality guidelines (a certain length, format, using images, etc.)
  • You want your participants to clearly understand the judging process (I recommend against using easy-to-game metrics like “The most shared article wins”. It’s much better to come up with something more complicated, for example, winners will be determined by a panel of unbiased judges based on certain criteria. However keep the process very transparent: Those judges should be publicly listed and their voting should be publicized too)
  • You may want your participants to support a certain payment method (in case you offer a cash prize)

All of that should be listed in a formal agreement all the participants should review and sign to avoid any misunderstandings later. Try using KeepSolid Sign app which is currently free to make sure every participant is well-informed.

How to amplify your content marketing with influencer-driven writing contests

5. Collect in and present your entries

There are plenty of ways to easily collect entries for your contest. You can use Google Forms or set up advanced Contact Us Forms that will force entries to comply with your guidelines (e.g. set the required minimum word count, include extra mandatory fields like links to the author’s social media profiles and previous articles). Here are great WordPress plugins for that.

There’s also a tool that is specifically designed to collect entries for content marketing contests, called Easy Promos. They have additional features that may make your job easier like integrated voting features, photo and video uploads, etc.

With the platform, you can pick a winner via public voting, a jury or by random choice with certificate of validity.

How to amplify your content marketing with influencer-driven writing contests

When it comes to collecting and displaying entries and participants, you can go as creative as your imagination takes you. For example, Gleam allows you to create and embed blog widgets with the contest leaderboard (which naturally attracts more entries).

You can also collect your contest entries and turn them into a beautiful Slideshow using Haikudeck and/or a nice flipbook using Flipsnack. You can embed both to your blog when announcing winners.

How to amplify your content marketing with influencer-driven writing contests

6. Scale up your content promotion

Obviously, you want that content from your contestants to do well on social media because it’s your site that will generate additional traffic and exposure from those shares. I use Drumup for all my social media campaigns, because it makes it so easy to organize content that needs promotion.

Use Drumup Content Library feature to keep all the entries in one category to easily go back and see all of them. Furthermore, set up each article to go live throughout your social media channels several times in the future to reach more of your followers:

How to amplify your content marketing with influencer-driven writing contests

You also want that content to spread beyond your immediate social media circles! To achieve this, you can submit every entry to a tool called ViralContentBee [Disclaimer: This is a project I co-founded].

ViralContentBee allows you to tag each contributor in the “RT” field to encourage your participants to engage with every tweet:

How to amplify your content marketing with influencer-driven writing contests

I hope these tools will encourage you to give hosting an influencer-driven writing contest a try. Good luck!

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How to align your content strategy with your sales funnel

Nine times out of ten, a person will journey down a sales funnel prior to becoming a customer.

Whereas in the past you could count on single-touchpoint, bottom-of-the-funnel marketing strategies, it’s now increasingly necessary to push consumers down the buying funnel by creating omni-channel strategies.

Mapping content to buying stages can help you maximize the benefit of your omni-channel strategies.

From awareness of your brand or business via social media, to influencer recommendations, all customers generally need incentives to purchase. This makes aligning your content strategy with your sales funnel essential.

The anatomy of a sales funnel

To really hone your content strategy, you first need to know the stages your customers will journey through prior to purchase. This is the first step into mapping your sales funnel to your upcoming marketing campaign.

The most simplistic sales funnel has three very important stages:

Awareness stage

This is the top of your funnel. The awareness stage is the point at which your target audience is looking for answers to questions, doing general research, and searching out opinions or insightful wisdom.

Consideration stage

The evaluation stage is the middle of your sales funnel. This often involves your audience doing very focused research on your products or services, as well as how they measure up with your competitors.

Purchase stage

This is the bottom of your sales funnel, where you convert potential customers into buyers. This often is when you give a little nudge by stating your position of authority in the industry. Discount codes and promotions also do wonders at this stage as well.

Each stage of your sales funnel is important. It is also very valuable to remember that not all your potential customers will enter at the top of your funnel. You will need to understand where they are in their buying decision, and what content is needed to take them to purchase.

Aligning your content strategy with your sales funnel

Having a plan in place when mapping out your sales funnel will significantly cut down on time and effort down the road. One of the biggest benefits of building a sales-minded content marketing strategy is that you can practically fill up your monthly calendar in a few sessions.

Defining your content needs for your sales funnel, developing foundational content, creating an editorial calendar, and repurposing are the four main staples. It all starts with partnering content with each stage of your funnel.

Step 1: Define content needs for each stage

Ideation is quite possibly one of the most important aspects of any content strategy. Having ideation neatly in place will ensure the content you are pairing with your sales funnel stages are impactful.

How do you do this? Well, first, begin mapping out your unique buyer personas. This data includes, audience interests, demographics (age, sex, location, etc.), and pain points.

This first step of mapping is vital, because by defining your buyer personas, you can personalize content for each buyer persona as they journey down the different stages of your sales funnel.

Top of sales funnel content strategy: Awareness

The awareness stage is just as the name implies. You are building awareness of your brand, business, products, or services through attention-getting content. This is when you begin building relationships.

Social media and blogs are excellent assets for building awareness. Posting awareness-geared content on your social media channels can get your buyer personas to like your post, page, comment and share your content with their friends and followers. They’re getting to know your brand, products or services so that, when they need what you have to offer, you’ll be top of mind.

Middle of sales funnel content strategy: Consideration

Now that you have permission, you can communicate with your target audience in a more meaningful way. With the buyer personas in mind, begin feeding your audience tailored blog content via emails, newsletters, and on social media.

This is a little more sales intensive. You will want your evaluation stage content strategy to highlight the benefits of your products or services to your audience. This is your value proposition.

You can even begin addressing a few pain points associated with your buyer personas to begin moving them down your sales funnel even faster. You want them to evaluate your products or services, and feel that they truly do need them.

Influencer marketing can be very helpful when it comes to the evaluation stage. Influencers have a very loyal following of pre-qualified buyers waiting for recommendations. Delivering your product review from an influencer can build instant confidence to buy.

Bottom of sales funnel content strategy: Purchase

Your purchase stage is the end of the sales funnel.  This crucial step is all about conversions. To give your target audience a little extra push toward checkout, feed them content that showcases your authority in the industry.

Developing white papers, ebooks, case studies, and powerful testimonials are perfect content assets for leading your audience to buy. The goal is to educate them, give them valuable insight, which in turn will make you a thought leader.

Discounts and special offers are also a powerful way to get them to add to cart or to complete the checkout. Combine a discount with a limited time offer to put the principle of scarcity to work, and watch your conversion ratio increase!

Step 2: Create your foundational content

Foundational content will be at the core of your content strategy. This content is lengthy, in-depth, and if done right, can make aligning it to your sales funnel simple later on.

This in-depth core content can be drawn upon to develop future infographics, blogs, Facebook and YouTube videos, social media posts, email marketing campaigns, and much more.

However, how do you know where to begin? How do you create this for your content strategy? Well, with your sales funnel buyer personas in hand, you can begin piecing together keyword buckets for each unique buyer persona and sales funnel stage pairing.

Keyword research

There are a number of keyword research platforms online to help move you along. However, Google Keyword Planner is a very good tool to start with. Using their Ad Groups you can get made to order content themes for each buyer persona.

Competitor keyword search

You can also develop robust keyword buckets by doing a competitor keyword search. Ahrefs is a good competitor analysis tool for this. You can also turn to Google Search to find keywords your competitors are ranking for as well.

Next, combine your Google Keyword Planner keywords with those you identified via Ahrefs (or your preferred analysis tool) and you will have plenty of themes and subthemes waiting for content to be developed around.

With your healthy lists of keywords, mind map them into themes and subthemes. This will give you the foundational content pieces you need to move your content strategy forward in a very concise way.

Decide on content types

Knowing what type of content to create can be a challenging one. For example, how will you package and present your content to each of your buyer personas, and at different sales funnel stages too?

Consider the following to keep your sales funnel content strategy impactful:

  • First off, is the content a blog, social post, infographic, video, etc.? This is pretty self-explanatory, but important. You want to maximize your foundational content by having a clear picture of how best to use it.
  • How can you package and present your content as unique? Thought leaders and industry experts are good for this. You can share fresh data, detailed how-tos, and best practices with your audience.
  • What upcoming product releases or new service launches are in the future? This type of content is perfect for highlighting your innovation, and how that innovation solves a problem your target audience needs fixed.
  • Do you have any upcoming events? This type of content could showcase your upcoming presentation at an industry conference, or even highlight your company’s philanthropy at the local level.

Establishing an in-depth content strategy that compliments your sales funnel is imperative. Deciding what types of content to create may seem trivial, however, it could prove beneficial when it comes time to start typing.

How to align your content strategy with your sales funnel

Step 3: Make an editorial calendar

All the tedious buyer persona analysis and keyword research will all begin to look like a clear content strategy as you begin to make your editorial calendar. Like the stages in a sales funnel, you don’t want to skip this one.

Having a detailed editorial calendar in place allows you to stay organized, stay focused, and create content with the most bang for the buck. One essential element to a successful editorial calendar is the ability to track all the moving parts.

Keep it flexible and accessible

Content type, themes, writer due dates, image development, and payments are all components of a working editorial calendar. It needs to be easy to manage and navigate.

Where do you start creating your editorial calendar? Well, Google Sheets is a seamless online tool to develop your editorial calendar, share it, and access it when you are on the go. If you need a little more flexibility and a few more features to work with than a spreadsheet can offer, a collaboration tool like Trello can also be adapted into a calendar with relative ease.

Fill in your schedule

This may seem like a huge task, but begin your editorial calendar by planning the whole year. Each month will have a different theme, which you already have developed from your foundational content research.

Each month’s theme can contain a number of subthemes as well. The key is to be as specific as possible. One way to really make the most of your editorial calendar is to have a foundational piece of content for each month.

With this in place, your buyer personas will have plenty of content for each stage of your sales funnel month after month. You can even use Google Calendar to bring it over the top.

Step 4: Repurpose that foundational content

Repurposing your foundational content will help stretch out each piece of content to support a variety of initiatives. The themes and subthemes you pull from your foundational content should provoke a lot of compelling sales funnel assets.

Let’s say you want to develop an ebook. Each theme you have identified can be a specific chapter of your ebook. Each chapter can be a monthly theme, while your ebook sub themes can be used for weekly blogs.

The data you use for each sub theme can also be placed in an eye-catching infographic. Infographics are great assets for any content strategy. You can repurpose that data for blogs, email marketing campaigns, blogger outreach, social posts, webinars and videos.

Breaking repurposing down

If one of your foundational pieces is an ebook, there are at least 30 assets within that core content you can repurpose. Then from each of those 30 assets, you can develop 10 social media posts.  That will give you 300 social media posts for your sales funnel for just one month.

Those 30 assets from your ebook can also be whipped up into 30 blogs. That is a blog per day for that one theme. Within those blogs you are sure to have a few data sets. You can then turn that data into infographics, and so on.

The main aim when repurposing content is to develop as many assets, themes, and subthemes from one piece of foundation content as possible. This will give you the variety needed to connect with each buyer persona at different stages in your sales funnel.

In closing

For the biggest impact on your bottom line, it is essential to map your sales funnel to your content strategy. Knowing the stages of your sales funnel and identifying buyer personas is a valuable first step that you simply can’t afford to skip.

Your content strategy also needs to revolve around those foundational pieces as well, ensuring you get the most from each asset. And packaging it all in a clear and concise editorial calendar will keep your marketing efforts focused on reach and conversions, rather than daily content ideation.

Smart shopping season checklists: Mobile and desktop, content and SEO

Constantly changing consumer behaviors and the demand for more personalized, meaningful experiences have retailers facing huge challenges this year.

Competition in the SERPs is stiff, but winning the click is still no guarantee that the consumer is invested in your shopping experience.

More than half of retailers (source: Soasta.com) have a bounce rate greater than 40%, and just one second in increased page load time can have a 50% impact on your mobile bounce rate. Today’s consumer has zero patience for a poor online experience and will pull the trigger instantly if your brand can’t deliver.

The holidays provide plenty of opportunities to create more personalized content and provide smart content and intelligent experiences both in-store and online. How can you best get in position this holiday season to not only be found, but to engage and delight consumers all the way through, from search to checkout?

Below, I share some tips to help marketers in the coming weeks to get their SEO and content in shape for the holidays (and beyond).

Smart holiday shopping

The holiday shopping season provides a great opportunity for marketers to get smarter about the way they develop and promote content. As SEO and content marketing disciplines converge, the need for smart content has become mission critical. Smart content is discoverable, optimized from the point of creation, and ready to be activated across channels and devices, making it both profitable and measurable.

New research (disclosure – carried out by my company, BrightEdge) shows that ecommerce behavior changes dramatically on major shopping days Black Friday and Cyber Monday. On these days, conversion spikes. Interestingly, online conversion rates increase across desktop, tablet and mobile increase from Thanksgiving to Black Friday and into Cyber Monday. Going into the holiday season, it is good to know that:

  • On Black Friday and Cyber Monday, conversion is double what it normally is
  • Cyber Monday conversion is higher than Black Friday conversion by 10%
  • Desktop takes 67% of overall conversions during the holiday season, with desktop traffic converting at a significantly higher rate than mobile visits.

When it comes down to making that final decision, consumers still like to see what they’re buying, and all of the information surrounding it, on a larger screen.

It is important to note though that our data suggests an earlier holiday shopping season, too, and that consumers were making their big purchase on Thanksgiving and then using discounts to buy things they would have purchased already but with big discounts. Hence the higher conversion rates for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Read the full report (ungated) for more findings from our research.

As you get ready for the holiday shopping season, make sure that you:

  • Create content that meets your customers’ needs at various points in their journey
  • Develop SMART content and engage audiences with plenty of content about upcoming deals and specials, holiday wish list must-haves and similar content published on your website or blog
  • Ensure that your mobile configuration is correct
  • Add images, icons, buttons and specific (seasonal offerings) calls-to-action as part of the experience
  • Set up your mobile analytics so it reports key metrics separately from desktop data
  • Maintain rank for your high value keywords by creating helpful, consultative evergreen content
  • Double-check your SEO strategy to make sure your content is optimized for organic discovery. Start with these 5 aspects of technical SEO you can’t neglect
  • Ensure that optimize desktop, mobile and tablet strategies and connect them along the buyers journey – from discover and engagement through to final purchase.

Maximize your organic presence throughout the holiday season

Schema markup helps you structure your on-page data in a way that it can be better understood by search engines. As we all know, Google’s #1 goal is to provide searchers the best answers to their needs. Schema helps you show Google all of the ways in which your site content is the best answer for relevant queries.

Schema can help you win extra visibility in the SERPs, too, with expanded results and extra features like Google’s Quick Answers box. It can help you add compelling content like ratings and other rich information that convince searchers to convert to site visitors. At the very least, check these off your list in your pre-holidays marketing prep:

  • Optimize key pages for Quick Answers and mark up accordingly
  • Mark up events you’re hosting in-store and online for inclusion in the Google Events SERP feature
  • Use structured data markup to define business attributes including your NAP (name, address, phone), business type, hours, latitude and longitude, and more
  • Make sure your product pages are marked up so reviews show in the SERPs. This is critical, as 61% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase decision, and 63% of shoppers are more likely to buy if there are product reviews (iPerceptions)
  • Put the most important ecommerce attributes to work for you. Add pricing and availability to your rich snippets, to help consumers make a decision quickly and avoid in-store or online store disappointment after the click
  • Check for common schema errors like typos or incorrect capitalization, and use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to make sure you’ve implemented your markup correctly.

Supplement your SEO strategy and deliver a relevant holiday shopping experience

Your PPC and SEO budgets shouldn’t be pitted against one another during holiday season, each fighting it out for their share of the pie. Organic search drives 51 percent of all visits to B2B and B2C websites, and it is important to use PPC to support your SEO efforts; to fill in the gaps in organic coverage and further your conversion opportunities for specific time sensitive promotions.

Ad extensions can give your ads greater functionality and more visibility, while targeting options like dayparting and device targeting reduce waste and get you in front of your ideal audiences when it matters most. And remember, when it comes to site visits, desktop dominates on Cyber Monday, mobile on Black Friday, and tablets on Thanksgiving Day.

These insights can help you tailor your ads and bids to the most receptive audiences on each major shopping day this season. How else can you improve your PPC game in time for the holidays?

  • Accelerate conversions and sales with targeted campaigns aligned with your content strategy or featured products
  • Focus your organic search efforts on aligning with consumer intent, and use PPC to tap into queries that indicate imminent purchase behavior
  • Take advantage of the second holiday shopping rush by advertising post-holiday sales over the holiday week, when many people are off work and traveling
  • Use social PPC (Facebook and Twitter Ads) to get your ads in front of super granular, targeted audiences in the moments that matter most
  • Make best use of each of the Bing Ads and Google AdWords features available to you, including targeting options and various ad formats that can help you stand out in the SERPs
  • Deliver an optimal experience after the click by following through on the promise of ads with a seamless shopping experience.

Optimize for experience to improve conversion

Your number one priority in conversion optimization this holiday season has to be mapping your content to the customer journey, then aligning this to the days that matter most for revenue. It’s not all about Black Friday vs. Cyber Monday; Thanksgiving Day might actually be your best day for revenue generation.

Run through this checklist in the holidays lead-up to turn more of your lookers into buyers:

  • Test and analyze your shopping cart and checkout experience via a mobile device
  • Use your category pages to guide users, who are often undecided about the exact product they’ll purchase, towards your product pages and ultimately, a decision
  • Address user uncertainty on-page by answering frequently asked questions where it actually matters: on category and product pages. Consumers won’t go digging for information on shipping, return policies, etc.
  • Provide social proof by way of embedded reviews on product pages. Consumers want to see what types of experiences others are having with your brand and products before they’ll commit to purchase
  • Examine conversion rates by page speed, and optimize for a more efficient shopping experience. Load only your best converting image on page load and use interaction triggers to add other items as needed.

The holiday shopping season provides great opportunities to create more personalized content and provide intelligent experiences both at the store and online.

To maximize performance, marketers need to focus on understanding and creating smart content and shopping experiences to attract, engage and convert customers at the right time and on the right device.

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5 steps to making your content smarter

The convergence of SEO and content has been a driving force in marketing for the past few years.

A recent survey conducted by my company, BrightEdge, found that 97% of marketers view these two areas as converged disciplines.

Given that 51 percent of the traffic arriving on your website is likely from organic search, I believe that the growing understanding of the integration between these two formerly separate silos is an essential transition.

Despite this rise in understanding, however, a prominent problem remains: many marketers still struggle to get their content consumed by their target audience. BrightEdge found that a full 71 percent of marketers report that less than half of their content has been used by their target audience.

This problem not only causes tremendous frustration for brands, it also results in countless wasted work hours as well as unnecessary spending. It is time for marketers to take a more intelligent, smart approach to content marketing.

Smart content is:

  1. Discoverable: Easily found
  2. Optimized: From point of creation
  3. Profitable: Measurable

To improve content performance, brands need to stop producing content for content’s sake and instead produce smart content: content that is better suited to what users want to read, and is prepared for the SERP so those targeted users can find and engage with the material.

Smart content improves the effectiveness and ROI of the material produced by making itself more discoverable and consumable.

The data marketers gather from search can provide invaluable information about what target audiences search for and what they want to read. Through looking at this data, marketers can identify trends as well as consistently popular topics that their target audience will want to engage with in posts and articles. Data provides key insights on consumer intent and the topics marketers need to produce content that serves this audience.

When content is optimized for SEO before it goes live on the web, it will be prepared for searchers and rank higher on the SERP from the moment of publication.

This improves its overall performance and therefore the worth provided for the brand. During the content creation process, data provides insights into the customer discovery process and what different types of content are most likely to be consumed.

Smart content in context

Smart content is about taking the financial investment that companies make in their content development and channeling it towards a more effective and data-driven strategy. It is different to the content that brands already produce, because it builds off of brands’ improved awareness of customer intent signals and how site visitors interact with the content that organizations produce.

Over the past few years, the technology and capabilities involved in marketing have increased tremendously. Even on the SERP itself, we can see an impressive improvement in the ability to understand the types of content that users likely want to see, from videos to Quick Answers to images.

The better brands can similarly interpret these intent signals, the easier it becomes to produce the content that will rank highly and drive the ROI that marketers want to see.

Smart content allows marketers to publish material that is ready for the search engines right from the moment it hits the web, and propelling more traffic, engagement, and profitability. Marketers who learn how to integrate this strategy into their content creation process will have an improved understanding of what the customer wants to read, integrating their efforts across all facets of marketing.

The content will also be optimized from the moment of its creation, and therefore, the content will perform. Brands will be able to engage their readers across devices and channels, driving revenue and building the organizations.

5 steps to making your content smarter

5 steps to smarter content

1. Understand who

Make sure you know exactly who you will target with your content. Smart content revolves around creating precisely the right content for the right audience at the right time.

To tap into the immense wealth found in the consumer and market data that will allow you to accomplish this goal, you must first know exactly whom you want to target so that you can identify and develop the topics and ideas that will interest them.

2. Know what

Know what they want to read. Once you have identified your target audience, you next need to accurately gauge what they want to read. Look at what the search data tells you about topics of interest and rising trends.

3. Bake in optimization

Develop SEO-enabled content from creation that is ready to deliver across all devices.

With SEO and content converged into a single portion of the digital marketing process, all content produced should be optimized right from production so that no content needs to be re-optimized later, empowering it to rank as highly as possible from the first time it is crawled. This will increase the effectiveness and impact of the material created.

4. Measure

Measure everything about your content, aligning KPIs with your business goals and see how customers interact with your material. Data and measurement remains a key capability for successful smart content creation. Know the goal you want to accomplish with your content, such as visitor rates, rankings, or conversions, and define KPIs that will allow you to measure impact.

5. Adapt and repeat

Focus on the content that drives performance, adjusting strategies to better align with your predetermined goals as the metrics are measured. Smart content means improving effectiveness and efficiency.

Content and topics that consistently do not drive value should be reduced in the content plan while the content that does perform well is rewarded with expansion. Use the metrics to better understand how your individual customers react to the content and use those insights to drive content strategies.

Following these five steps will help you produce the right amount of content that delivers the right results.

How indie publishers can monetize in the shadow of Facebook and Google

With multinational technological companies Google and Facebook conquering the field of online advertising revenue, many smaller companies and indie publishers are left wondering where they’ll end up in the digital world – if they’ll end up anywhere at all.

According to data recently released by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, digital advertising revenue in the U.S. increased by 20% in the past year. This puts the American digital ad revenue at a record of $72.5 billion.

Unfortunately for smaller companies, the vast majority of online advertising revenue is coming from tech giants Google and Facebook.

The duopoly of the digital advertising industry

Because the specific ad-only revenues of Facebook and Google aren’t disclosed, the exact calculations of revenue aren’t available. However, Jason Kint of Digital Content Next, a publishing industry trade group, reported in June 2016 that Google and Facebook accounted for a grand total of 89% of the digital ad growth.

Additional calculations made by Pivotal Research analyst Brian Wieser indicate that the percentage of digital ad growth consumed by Google and Facebook may very well be closer to 99%.

In either case, Google and Facebook together are proving to be a concern for the U.S. digital ad market. With Google and Facebook out of the picture of beneficial growth, Wieser said, “the average growth rate for every other company in the sector was close to 0.”

“The big point is that if Google and Facebook are the primary interfaces to buyers, over the long-run they own the relationships and the related data. Every partner they work with is subservient.”

The digital advertising industry controls much of what Internet users see online, which is what helped spur what’s been called the fake news crisis. Both Facebook and Google were allegedly used by a propaganda group called Internet Research Agency based in St. Petersburg to place various fake news articles around Facebook news feeds and above YouTube channel videos.

The power these two tech giants have is reflected in the fact that many marketing agencies are still reluctant to pull their advertising from Facebook and Google despite questions of brand safety, credibility, and ad placement.

“The entire advertising world is very anxious,” said Mike Paul, an independent expert, to NBC News. “But few will admit publicly that the negative news is affecting Facebook because it is the 800-pound gorilla globally for ad and media buyers.”

Regardless of the high rates of success in digital ad revenue, Facebook CFO David Wehner has warned that the company’s own ad revenue growth will slow in the second half of this year. This is because, Wehner says, Facebook will eventually run out of places to set digital advertisements in its online feed.

However, any significant decrease in online advertising revenue is unlikely.

Facebook has been investing recently in video content for both Facebook and Instagram. The company has also been working to increase revenue based on its messaging apps, which are currently the most popular messaging platforms internationally with WhatsApp hosting up to 1 billion users every day and Facebook Messenger hosting 1.2 billion users every month.

What’s more is that Facebook’s ad spots have been increasing in price despite the lack of ad placement options. “As Facebook’s ad inventory becomes more constrained,” said Jan Dawson, a principal analyst at Jackdaw Research, “the price of ad slots on Facebook is going up.”

How publishers can survive in the war for online advertising revenue

With Google and Facebook essentially swallowing the vast majority, if not all, of digital ad revenue growth, publishers have to look elsewhere to earn revenue. Fortunately, publishers have a great place to monetize: Organic traffic.

The secret is well known at this point. Many businesses have experienced substantial growth using organic promotion and search engine optimization. Those who wade into this strategy start by creating very high-quality content and onsite optimization. They soon learn that promotion needs major attention. One specific technical aspect of SEO, backlinking, requires extra special effort.  

Getting good backlinks is where many companies hit a brick wall in the SEO process. This is especially true after the Penguin updates of 2013, when many websites saw large drops in rankings as Google “cleaned house” and penalized sites with poor backlink profiles.

The fear of Google’s SEO updates may be valid, and caution is wise, but Google assured us in 2016 that link-devaluing will now be done in “real-time,” guaranteeing that Google won’t build and then destroy a business.

The solution to the “backlinking problem”

The key to growing organic traffic and surviving SEO updates is to promote your website in the most natural way possible. But what does that really mean? Google is notoriously vague on this and issues statements of “intent” in their Webmaster Guidelines. Specifically, your primary intent needs to be providing valuable and informative content to your audience, not manipulating the search engine results.

This means that the quality — and often the quantity — of backlinks are important signals to Google. Google relies on trust. Betraying that trust by taking shortcuts on quality  makes your website appear spammy and unhelpful.

To improve your SEO ranking by earning backlinks, consider Google’s official backlink guidelines. Opt out of tactics like using irrelevant keywords, writing scraped or unoriginal content, and using crafty redirects. Instead, consider making your web page user-friendly with high-quality content and don’t try to trick your users.

Build relationships with high-authority websites that will naturally reference each other when publishing. Position your brand as a go-to resource that people want to share with others. If you do outsource link building, be sure you know what they are doing and they meet your standards.

Conclusion

With Google and Facebook consuming nearly all digital ad revenue in 2016, the pressure being placed on indie publishers to find ways to survive in the digital marketing world is cumbersome. And the idea of using organic strategies to promote a business website in the shadow of Google’s success may seem daunting.

But if indie publishers promote their websites using high-quality strategies as well as by following Google’s guidelines, they will have little fear that Google will bring the hammer down.

Digital ad revenue may not be as high for indie publishers as it is for Google and Facebook, but the chance of survival in the digital world for these publishers isn’t completely lost as long as they heed Google’s guidelines.