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  1. How Facebook Could Be Stifling Google’s Growth

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    For years, we’ve collectively recognized Google as the biggest name in the Internet. They’re responsible for refining—and some would say perfecting—the course of online search. Every year, they come out with new products and features that enhance and streamline online user experiences. Even their culture is impressive, rewarding their employees as well as their users with fun, seamless experiences.

    Over the course of the past 15 years, Google has exponentially grown, but that momentum is now starting to wane. There are several factors responsible for the decline, as with any change in business, but one of the biggest factors might be coming from an unlikely contender—an indirect, but massive competitor in the social media world.

    Google’s Slow Decline

    articleimage664Google’s Slow Decline

    Google is still the powerhouse to beat in the search world, but as an entire company, it’s starting to lose some momentum. They recently released a quarterly financial report, and despite still showing growth, there were significant points of concern for investors. They had expected to grow at a rate of 20 percent, but only grew at a rate of 17 percent.

    Certainly, Google’s explosive growth couldn’t last forever. There is a finite number of potential users of the search engine, and Google has become so ubiquitous that there are simply fewer potential new users to go after.

    While the financial report did not give any explicit reasoning behind the missed projects, it’s reasonable to assume that increased competition could have been a factor. After all, Bing and Yahoo! are starting to see increased popularity as online search options. But it’s Facebook, the social network powerhouse, that might be giving Google a run for its money.

    Users and Content

    articleimage664userandcontent

    Already, people are starting to turn to sources other than search engines to get their content. Most users scroll down their Facebook news feed in order to catch up on the stories of the day, and most users log into Facebook on a daily basis. With 1.5 billion active profiles, Facebook is a force to be reckoned with, and Google will likely continue to see declining figures as more users rely on alternative sources to consume content and get information.

    Facebook Advertising

    articleimage664facebookadvertising

    Facebook advertising may be the single biggest throttle to Google’s stream of revenue and growth potential. Since Google searches and most Google products are completely free to use, Google makes the majority of its substantial income through paid advertising, like the PPC ads you see at the top and side of your search bar. For years, businesses have paid top dollar to be featured in one of these slots and gain traction by attracting new clicks.

    Today, those ads are harder to get. Visibility has increased, but so has the demand of companies trying to earn those coveted spaces. As a result, the cost of paid advertising with Google has skyrocketed, forcing small businesses to go running to a competitor.

    While Bing has been trying its best to launch a cohesive and efficient paid ad engine, Facebook has won out as the most valuable alternatives for businesses. Through Facebook, businesses can spend as little as $5 a day for as long as they want, and narrow down the scope of their target audience based on age, sex, geographic location, and even personal interests—that’s far more specific functionality than Google offers with their keyword-based platform, and since many businesses are marketing through Facebook anyway, the integrated ad platform is capturing their revenue.

    Facebook Atlas and User Knowledge

    The trend of usage and practicality for Facebook advertising is only going to grow. For the past several months, Facebook has been teasing the announcement of Atlas, and the platform is now live. Atlas is described by Facebook as “people-based marketing,” a marketing and advertising solution for businesses who need something a little deeper and more effective than the Facebook ads of yesteryear.

    Atlas is built on an entirely new base of code, and offers more integrated campaign management features. The usual audience targeting and cost management features are present, but with a more detailed metric reporting feature and tie-ins to offsite sales so businesses can accurately project the ROI in their campaigns.

    But the greatest feature of Atlas, and the biggest threat to Google, is the inherent understanding of individual users that Facebook has accumulated over the years. Facebook has slowly and diligently been collecting incredibly detailed pieces of data on all its users, just waiting for the perfect opportunity to monetize it. Facebook knows much more about its users than Google does, and with Atlas, it is prepared to turn that advantage into cash.

    Furthermore, Atlas is looking to become an ad-serving platform that extends all across the web, not operating the confines of any one platform, making it a direct competitor to Google and challenging Google’s own product, DoubleClick. Atlas is also ignoring cookies entirely, entering the fray with a new form of user tracking based on the unique URL of Facebook users’ profiles.

    The bottom line here is that Facebook has a greater pool of knowledge than Google, and with Atlas, it might have greater functionality. It’s certainly a major player in the world of digital paid advertising now, and Google has a right to be concerned. In the coming years, don’t be surprised if Google PPC campaigns start to wane in price and significance as Atlas makes improvements and starts to leech more of Google’s revenue.

    Looking to the Future

    Google is still one of the biggest, most profitable companies in the world, and it isn’t going away anytime soon. Even if Facebook is radically successful with its latest product, and even if it continues to refine its strategies and grow, Google will still have the power and the authority to continue its pattern of growth. That growth might be limited, but it will still exist.

    Over the course of the next several years, you can expect that Facebook’s Atlas will be followed up by a series of related products and services, taking advantage of Facebook’s ever-growing database of user information to bring in more revenue and attract more potential customers. Right now, Facebook is barely causing a dent in Google’s overall strategy, but after five or ten years of aggressive pushing, they could force Google into a direct competitive situation. What would happen as a result of such a showdown remains to be seen, but it’s likely that the two entities will learn from each other and continually try to one-up each other in an effort to achieve dominance.

    What It Means for Marketers

    Since Google isn’t dying, you don’t need to worry about the future health of your SEO or PPC campaign. However, it might be worth your time to invest some money in a new Facebook Atlas campaign and see how well the platform works for your business. As the platform grows, you’ll likely tap into some impressive new functionality, and your ad campaign will likely benefit.

    The emergence of a new competitor to Google can only mean good things for the individual marketer. Increased competition means you’ll see better functionality rolled out at a faster pace, you’ll see prices drop in an effort to generate more revenue, and you’ll be in the middle, taking advantage of each platform to maximize your reach and impact.

  2. How AB Tests Can Fix Your Campaign Before It Goes Live

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    Marketing campaigns are not stagnant entities, or rather, they shouldn’t be. If they’re going to be effective, they need near-continual refinement and adjustment in response to new information and changing conditions. Most marketers go live with a campaign with that understanding, then gather information and review the strategy’s effectiveness after a few months of running. They learn from the data and make any necessary fixes to the campaign for better future results.

    Unfortunately, this approach is somewhat flawed. Applying fixes to a campaign after it goes live is better than not making any fixes at all, but theoretically it would be much better if the campaign were fixed before it went live. Fortunately for marketers, there’s an easy way to do this.

    What Is AB Testing?

    articleimage663abtesting

    AB testing is a form of campaign analysis where a central campaign is split into two analogous yet distinct segments: an “A” campaign and a “B” campaign. Both campaigns run under identical scenarios for a given period of time, and results are collected about each. Those results should indicate a clear winner between the two, and the differentiating factors between them should be the root cause for its superiority.

    Essentially, AB testing is a scientific experiment to apply to your marketing campaign to determine what, if anything, needs to be corrected in your strategy. If you apply AB testing over the course of several rounds, producing new variants with each round, you’ll create a survival-of-the-fittest type of scenario that will ultimately produce a campaign better than any of the variants you have created along the way. For example, you’ll start with an AB test, then introduce variant C if variant A proves to be better. Then you’ll hold an AC test. If A is still the winner, you’ll introduce variant D in an AD test, and so on.

    While most marketers only use AB testing in a live environment, it’s more advantageous to apply it to a testing environment first, on a much smaller scale. That way, you’ll save the time and money of going to a live market—and you’ll only put your best foot forward for your potential new customers.

    Implementing Your Test

    articleimage663Implementing Your Test

    Finding the perfect scenario for your preliminary AB test can be difficult, since no matter what you’ll have to invest some time and money, but if you perform it properly and apply the necessary changes before going live, you’ll wind up with a much more cost-efficient, better performing campaign.

    How to Differentiate Your A and B Tests

    The first step is to create a “B” variation of your already existing “A” campaign. For example, let’s say you’re working within the confines of a simple PPC Google AdWords campaign. You’ve set your target keywords, you’ve outlined your copy and headlines, and you’ve set up a landing page where your visitors will (hopefully) be persuaded to convert. You have two main options for differentiation here: ad copy and the design of your landing page.

    For most AB tests, you’ll want to start differentiating on the largest scale possible. Landing page design changes tend to have more impact than copy changes, and will influence your conversion rate more than your click-through rate, so in this scenario, a landing page differentiator is preferable—at least to start with.

    How you choose to differentiate within that segment of your campaign is up to you—there are plenty of options. You could change the background image, the placement of your form, the number and type of fields within your form, the colors of your page, the copy in your headlines, and the addition or removal of extra features like testimonials or external links. You can make one or more of these changes right away, but remember—it’s better to make bigger changes first.

    Finding the Right Environment

    Since running your campaign in a live or pseudo-live environment will cost you money, it’s important to find the right platform for your AB test.

    Let’s take the PPC example above. One of the best options is to run the test like you would a normal campaign, just with a much smaller budget. If you’re planning to run the campaign with a $1,500 monthly budget, try running it for one month with a $500 budget to determine where you stand.

    Alternatively, you can test your landing pages on a different platform, such as on your social media channels. Facebook has a paid advertising feature that can be run for as little as $5 a day, and can give you great insights for a simple AB test without costing a lot of money.

    You’ll also want to make sure to capture as much information as possible—use objective data like click-throughs and conversions, but also consider qualitative metrics like heat map results or user surveys to round out your analysis.

    Analyzing the Metrics

    articleimage663Analyzing the Metrics

    Once you’ve run the AB test for a week or longer, you’ll have enough information to make a judgment about your campaign. Obviously, in most cases, numbers will be your bottom line—the landing page that produces the greatest number of conversions is your best candidate—but you also need to pay attention to qualitative metrics to understand why the better page is better. This type of data can tell you whether something is critically wrong with your alternative landing page (so you never make the mistake again) or if there is a key feature of your main landing page that is so important it’s worth enhancing (such as a testimonials section that deserves a greater callout).

    Chances are, you’ll be enlightened (or at least surprised) by some of the metrics your initial test produces. Any positive changes you make as a result of the test will help your campaign significantly—and applying those changes before you start a full-fledged rollout can save you both time and money.

    Continuing Your Test

    Just because you’ve ironed out a handful of kinks before taking the campaign live doesn’t mean you’re completely out of the AB testing woods. You should treat your campaign as an ongoing experiment, ever evolving, because conditions always change and there is always room for improvement. After your preliminary round of AB testing, you’ll have a much better initial product, but it’s going to take continued AB testing in order to perfect your approach.

    Roll out your winning landing page with a secondary differentiator—one that’s been altered in a way different from your initial test. For example, if your first AB test focused on aesthetic design changes, try making some major copy changes. Gather information regularly, and continue to make adjustments in order to ratchet up your conversion rates.

    AB tests are an inbound marketer’s best friend. There’s simply no better way to objectively measure the effectiveness of your campaign, whether you do it before or during the official launch of your program. Starting off with an AB test before rolling the campaign out in a live environment will help you identify any pain points preventing you from better conversion rates, and save you money in the long run. Just remember that AB tests are something to play with throughout the entire duration of your campaign—the more you learn, the better your campaign will become.

  3. Determining Your Goals: Conversion or Engagement?

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    When running an online marketing campaign, the best-case scenario is generating lots of traffic, building immense brand loyalty, and then funneling all your traffic into successful conversions, resulting in greater revenue for your business. Unfortunately, campaigns don’t always work this way. There could be a flaw in your conversion strategy, leaving your massive traffic stream essentially useless, or there could be a holdup in your traffic generation strategy, filtering only a slow trickle through your otherwise successful high conversion rate.

    Customer engagement and conversions are both important elements to your online marketing strategy, but invariably, you will need to place a greater emphasis on one over the other. Deciding which to focus on can be difficult, especially when you’re working with a limited budget, but it’s important to set a primary goal; otherwise, you could spend your time and effort inefficiently.

    Conversions: Advantages and Disadvantages

    articleimage662Conversions

    Conversions can come in many forms, such as getting a user to make a purchase, sign up for an email list, or simply fill out a contact form. No matter how you choose to qualify a conversion, committing to improving your conversion rate can be extremely beneficial for your campaign:

    • Conversion rates are the floodgates for your traffic. Improving your conversion rate means, on average, you’ll get more revenue per site visitor.
    • Increasing a conversion rate generally functions as an immediate fix. You’ll start to see increased revenue immediately after implementing your changes.
    • On the other hand, conversion rate changes are linear. If you increase your conversion rate from 20 percent to 30 percent, it will not continue to grow unless you make another change.
    • Conversions take less time to improve, generally speaking, since their problems are easier to diagnose and they have fewer moving parts.

    Engagement: Advantages and Disadvantages

    articleimage662engagement

    Engagement is more of a long-term strategy, manifesting in your content marketing and social media marketing strategies. Through engagement, you’ll nurture a network of fans and followers to come to your site (or landing page) in greater numbers. There are some key advantages and disadvantages to favoring engagement over conversions:

    • Engagement is the source of your traffic. Increasing your engagement means you’ll see greater numbers of visitors, and thus greater revenue if your conversion rate is consistent.
    • Engagement efforts take a long time and a lot of effort to execute. Content marketing strategies can take months or even years before they start to see results.
    • On the other hand, engagement strategies increase your audience exponentially. It takes a long time to warm up your initial audience, but once you’ve hit that threshold, you’ll start to see compounding returns—50 visitors the first month, 100 the second, 200 the third, and so on.
    • Engagement issues are hard to diagnose, and it takes a massive effort to adjust your campaign to align with changes in your long-term vision.

     

    Once you’ve decided which is your primary goal, you can start taking the necessary steps to improve that area of your strategy.

    Improving Your Conversion Rate

    Before you start improving your conversion rate blindly, take a look at your current setup for any glaring problems:

    • Is your landing page fully functional, loading quickly, and looking the way it’s supposed to? If not, contact your web developer to correct any problems.
    • Is your call to action apparent and easy to find? If it isn’t prominent, you may need to adjust your design to make it so. An arrow or a brighter color can sometimes help.
    • Is there a value for users to convert? There needs to be a value associated with the action—for example, is your product worth the money? Are users getting value in exchange for submitting their information? If not, you’ll need to take efforts to readjust your campaign to make a stronger offer.

    Aside from those initial errors, you can make gradual adjustments to refine your strategy and improve a landing page that’s already good:

    • Revise your headline to be more concise, more prominent, and more compelling for readers.
    • Offer your incoming traffic something even better than what they’re currently getting for their conversion.
    • Add a video or a testimonial that will increase your authority and give users more information to make a decision.
    • Set up a separate landing page for a different segment of your traffic, with more appropriate language, and split your incoming traffic into the appropriate funnel.
    • Cut out anything that you don’t absolutely need. Remove jargon and fluff from your content, and eliminate any design features that are superfluous.
    • Improve trust by adding proof of the value of conversion, such as testimonials or a direct comparison with a competitor that favors you.

    If you want to drastically improve your conversion rates, the best thing to do is set up a separate, yet similar landing page. Make significant alterations to the design, the headline, the layout, the offer—everything you can think of. Then, use the same flow of traffic directed to each of the landing pages, and measure which landing page is most effective. This is called an A/B test, and if done in a few separate rounds, you should wind up with a landing page that incorporates all the best elements of all prior landing pages, and produces the greatest number of conversions as a result.

    Improving Your Engagement Strategy

    articleimage662improving

    Improving your engagement strategy isn’t going to be as cut-and-dry as improving your conversion rates, but there are a handful of strategies you can refine:

    • Step up the quality and frequency of your content. Perform a content audit to see what new topics you can introduce to your blog that will please more readers and elicit more attention. Then, double your publishing efforts—if you’re used to doing one post a week, step it up to two.
    • Post more frequently on social media. On Facebook, post at least two or three times a day. On Twitter, post five times a day or more, and space your posts throughout the day to get the most coverage.
    • Increase direct engagement on social media channels. On all your relevant platforms, make a concentrated effort to respond to every incoming comment or question. And go beyond replies—look for potential users who might be interested in your brand, and reach out to them directly with a follow or a comment.
    • Give your readers more opportunities to share content by providing infographics, videos, and other types of multimedia.
    • Take advantage of interactive opportunities, such as surveys, games, contests, guest posts, and open Q&A discussions with your followers.

    The key principle to remember with your engagement strategy is that it takes time to produce results. Increasing the amount of content you syndicate isn’t going to lead to a direct increase in traffic, but when combined with other properly aligned engagement strategies, you’ll start to see improvement month over month.

    Both engagement and conversions are necessary components of your online marketing campaign, and you’ll have to address and refine both over time. Keep this in mind when you outline your short-term goals.

    If you’re interested in a free audit of your current brand engagement and conversion strategies, contact us! We’ll take a walkthrough of your current efforts and point out key areas for improvement.

  4. 10 Questions to Ask Your Users About Your Content Marketing Strategy

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    Content marketing strategies aren’t something to just post and forget about—they are living entities that must be nurtured and improved over time. Audience tastes, competition conditions, and multiple other factors will evolve over the course of your regular posts, and eventually, you’ll need to either adjust your campaign or watch it succumb to irrelevance and disinterest.

    Fortunately, there are many ways to gauge the health of your campaign and scout for potential improvements to make. One of the best ways to do this is through user surveys, given to your regular readers to measure and analyze their views of your current content efforts. Through their answers, you’ll be able to determine what’s next for your content marketing strategy, and you’ll be able to better engage your audience as a result.

    Ask these questions of your users:

    1. How often do you read this blog?

    articleimage660How often do you read this blog

    This is a critical question that can reveal how engaging your blog is compared to how engaging you think it is. Of course, if you have Google Analytics installed, you should be able to easily tell how many repeat readers you have, but calling direct attention to this can elicit an honest, individual response. If you include a follow-up question as simple as “why?” you might also get a first glimpse into what is motivating the individual to read your blog frequently or infrequently. Be aware that your results may skew slightly to more active readers, since they’ll have more opportunities to see your survey to begin with.

    2. Why do you read this blog?

    articleimage660Why do you read this blog

    This question will help divide your audience into several segments, which you can use to qualify some of the other points of data throughout your survey. For example, one individual who reads your blog for casual entertainment might have different preferences than one who reads your blog for raw information. Understanding the difference can help you cater to one type of individual over the other (if you determine one to be more popular or more valuable). Alternatively, you can construct different segments of your blog and cater to each segment of your audience individually.

    3. How did you find this blog?

    articleimage660How did you find this blo

    This is a perfect question to figure out which outlets are making the greatest impact on your blog traffic. Once again, Google Analytics or similar tracking programs might be able to tell you broader, more objective statistics, but you can use each individual’s answer to this question to qualify the answers to the other questions. For example, users who found you through a guest blog on an industry news site might appreciate different subjects than users who found you through a Google search. You can then use this information to set up different landing pages, or segment your blog to different inbound streams.

    4. Where do you usually hear about our new posts?

    With this question, you’ll be able to determine the most effective syndication platform for your posts. Some possible answers might include visiting the blog regularly, seeing them published on social media, finding them through social bookmarks, or seeing someone talk about them. The answers you don’t get to this question will be more informative than the ones you do get. If you notice any of your syndication channels conspicuously absent from mention, it’s time to do a thorough audit of that platform’s effectiveness in the grand scheme of your content strategy.

    5. Have you ever made a purchase with us?

    This is a revealing question about the effectiveness of your content marketing strategy at producing conversions. There are ways to use objective data to tie your total number of conversions to your content marketing efforts, but nothing beats a direct question. First, you’ll get an idea of what type of reader frequently makes purchases—for example, is this the type of user who prefers informative posts? Is this the type of user who finds you on social media? As a result, you’ll be able to fine-tune your strategy to focus more on the users who are liable to make more frequent purchases.

    6. What is the best topic you’ve seen covered?

    Odds are, you have a handful of “landmark” content pieces that have made lasting impressions with your audience. This question is designed to help you figure out what those pieces are. Collect the information from all your users, and start analyzing the characteristics of your most commonly cited works. There will never be a perfect recipe for successful content, but if you understand what content features are the most impressive for your users, you can customize your strategy to include more of them.

    7. What topics have you avoided reading?

    This is the opposite of the previous question, and can help you understand why some of your topics fail to impress your users. You may already have a suspicion that a certain category or a certain style of post simply fails to generate attention, but this question can help you figure out why—especially if you include a follow-up question that requests more reasoning behind their answer. Weed out the topic types that seem to falter.

    8. How would you characterize our brand?

    There are two important things you’ll learn from this question. First, you’ll get a solid idea of your brand’s reputation on the web, and second, you’ll learn how good your blog is at carrying a relevant, appropriate brand voice. Don’t stress over a few outliers; you’re bound to get a handful of people who simply don’t understand the brand. But if you start to see a trend of people failing to understand your brand’s intentions and personality, you might want to revisit your brand voice.

    9. What would you like to see more of in the future?

    This is one of the most straightforward and informative questions you can ask. It’s simple, to the point, and it will help guide the future direction of your campaign. It’s an open-ended question, so you might get a few non-answers, but for the most part your audience will be more than willing to help you find great ideas for your future blog posts. Take note of them, especially if they sync up with the “landmark” pieces you uncovered earlier, and adjust your content plan accordingly.

    10. What other blogs do you read regularly?

    Figure out where else your target audience is going. If they’re going to other sites within your industry, consider reaching out to those external blogs for an ongoing guest post partnership. Otherwise, try to figure out what elements of the other sites are attracting them in the first place. You can theoretically analyze each individual’s profile, and uncover trends that illuminate what characteristics of your blog make it popular in a given space.

    Audience engagement is everything, so if you’re trying to give your users exactly what they want, why not ask them exactly what they want directly? Finding the answers to these ten questions can help you shape the course of your content marketing strategy, weed out any weaknesses, and increase brand loyalty for months to come. Conduct these strategic surveys often to stay ahead of the curve and anticipate your audience’s needs.

  5. 7 Elements of Identity to Consider for Your Brand

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    Your company’s brand is, in effect, your company’s identity. Collectively, the elements of your brand are what your customers will come to recognize as the essence of your company, and if you are successful and consistent in your branding strategy, they will reward you with praise and loyalty.

    However, shaping an effective, engaging brand cannot be done overnight. It takes thought, time, and effort to cultivate a brand that captures the interest of your followers, distinguishes your company from its competitors, and creates an interactive community around it. Of course, you’ll need a name, a logo, a font, and a set of colors, but your brand also captures your company’s personality—and that’s the legacy that people will grow to become familiar with.

    As you develop (or revise) your brand, you’ll need to consider and map out these seven elements:

    1. Vision and Values.

    articleimage659visionandvalues

    These represent what is most important to your company. Your vision is the culmination of your goals and your central mission, while your values are the characteristics of your brand that will allow those goals to be met most efficiently.

    For example, the vision of a nonprofit could be “ending hunger,” and the values could be a focus on education, community empowerment, and personal motivation. The vision can be expressed and reiterated subtly, while the values should become evident through your use of language and the presentation of your ideas. Let’s say this nonprofit decides to publish a newspaper. Obviously, they’ll want to make reference to the fact that their main goal is reducing hunger in the community, but each entry in the newsletter should be in line with the brand’s values of education, community empowerment, and personal motivation. A spotlight on an individual’s attempts to unite the community with an awareness program would fit in perfectly with the brand.

    2. Formality and Informality.

    You’ll have to decide where your brand voice falls on the spectrum of formality and informality. Formality usually requires strict adherence to grammatical rules, full and detailed sentences, and a straightforward, logical structure. Informality has no such structure, allowing more colloquial phrases, swear words, and unconventional structures to convey messages. Formality is often considered in higher regard, earning more respect from readers, but it can also be seen as rigid or impersonal. Conversely, informality is much more conversational and approachable, but can be seen as immature or inexperienced as a result.

    Consider your main demographics. As an example, if you run a chauffeur service, your clientele will be wealthier, better educated, and demanding of a formal experience—so incorporating a layer of formality into your brand will improve your reputation. Alternatively, if you’ve created a new phone messaging app that you hope teenagers will use, you can afford to be more informal with your communicating.

    3. Emotionality and Rationality.

    This is another important spectrum to consider for your brand, and it might change slightly depending on your purpose and medium. Emotion-based communications try to persuade readers and followers by making an appeal to emotions. For example, a dog food company could create messaging that dramatizes your relationship with your pet and focuses on that bond to sell dog food. Logic-based communications, on the other hand, use logical and rational appeals. Using the same example of a dog food company, the company could emphasize the objective nutritional superiority of their dog food versus a competitor’s.

    Every company will need to use both emotional and rational messaging to convey ideas, but some brands will gain value by using one more than the other.

    4. Humor and Sarcasm.

    articleimage659 humorandsarcasm

    Some branding experts use humor and informality interchangeably, since most jokes and humorous language can be classified as informal. However, the humor and sarcasm factors of your brand are separate, and can be incorporated regardless of how informal or formal your brand is.

    The level of humor your brand adopts should be directly related to how personable you want your brand to seem; if you want your brand to seem very approachable and down-to-earth, include more humor. If you want your brand to seem more distant and revered, less humor is appropriate. No matter which direction you choose to go, make sure you use humor appropriately in the messaging of your brand. All it takes is one tasteless joke to compromise your reputation on the web.

    5. Personality.

    articleimage659personality

    It might seem strange to have a separate category for “personality,” since much of your brand’s identity can be described as its personality to begin with. But we’re using “personality” to describe the personal characteristics of your brand beyond simple identifying factors. Think about what your brand would be like if it were a person. What does your brand look like? How does it interact with others?

    Imagine interacting with your brand in an engaging conversation. Is your brand younger or older than you are? Is your brand more masculine or feminine? Does your brand walk stiffly and quickly to a new destination, or does it take its time with a leisurely stroll? It probably seems silly to think of your brand in such terms, but it’s actually quite helpful in identifying the defining traits of your brand’s personality.

    6. Showing and Telling.

    Showing and telling are opposite forms of communicating, and while all brands will rely on both at some point, most brands will favor one over the other. For example, Apple tends to do very little in the way of telling users what its products are about and very much in the way of showing them. Instead of releasing a commercial bombarded with words and descriptions, Apple will simply demonstrate how the product works.

    Other brands rely on explicit, often written messages to fully describe their capacity, and that approach can work too. How much you show and tell matters to your audience, and you’ll need to find the right balance for your company.

    7. Conservative or Liberal.

    I’m not talking about how politically conservative or liberal your brand is. Politics should not be a considering factor for your brand at all. Here, conservative and liberal refer to how willing your brand is to try and experiment with new things. A conservative brand, like an investment firm, might stick to the fundamentals and try to minimize change whenever possible in order to guarantee a reliable, familiar experience for its customers. A more liberal brand, like a company based around a phone app, is more mobile and more willing to change rapidly. Startups are commonly more liberal companies, making radical changes to their mediums, messages, and formats without blinking an eye.

    If you aren’t sure where to start when making major decisions for the course of your brand, do some research. Research your competitors’ blogs and brands, and see what brand elements have allowed them to be successful. You can borrow some of these elements, but be sure to distinguish yourself in some unique way. You can also perform some market research through surveys and interviews, or A/B tests with sample messaging and content.

    However you choose to approach your decisions, once you’ve outline the shape of your brand, stick to your plan. Inconsistency is the death of branding, so keep your alterations gradual and to an absolute minimum.

  6. 5 Strategies to Find Compelling Stories for Your Brand

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    Brand storytelling is exactly what it sounds like: using narrative structures to support and build the reputation of your brand. As a facet of your broader content marketing strategy, it’s one of the most effective forms of communication. There’s something human and personally appealing about the nature of stories, and if you can use them properly as facilitators of your brand, you’ll be able compel and attract thousands of new brand evangelists to your cause.

    Finding the sources for those stories, however, can prove difficult, especially if brand storytelling is a new concept for your business. Fortunately, there are several brainstorming and ideation strategies that can help you come up with ample stories for your content marketing campaign.

    Forms of Brand Storytelling

    Brand storytelling is any type of story structure that either indirectly informs a reader about your brand, or endears them to your brand. It can take a great many forms, including:

    • Giving your followers an example of how your product works
    • Spinning a narrative about a recent case study or testimonial
    • Telling the story of how your brand came to be, or the stories of influencers within your company

    If you’re struggling to find ideas for your next brand storytelling project, try one of these strategies to come up with a new source for your next piece:

    1. Interview One of Your Corporate Leaders.

    articleimage658interview

    Personal stories are sometimes the most effective, and your corporate leaders are some of the most influential people under the umbrella of your brand. If you’re the founder or CEO yourself, you can simply use your own stories and experiences. Otherwise, you can arrange for an interview with someone else.

    The topic of the interview is up to you. If you’re aiming for a more personal approach, you can describe the personal and professional experiences that led the interviewee to hold a position at the company. This can do wonders to improve the authority and reputation of the brand, and help connect readers emotionally by presenting a personal story.

    You can also use a storytelling mechanism to describe the role of the individual within the company. Explain his/her responsibilities, and use the results of the interview to give a handful of entertaining or unique anecdotes relevant to the business. Any indication of passion for the business will help readers connect the individual’s personality to the greater brand.

    2. Cultivate Success Stories from Your Clients.

    articleimage658 Cultivate Success Stories from Your Clients

    Take a look at your client base, especially the ones who have been around for the longest amount of time. Odds are, you have at least two or three that you’ve sustained a healthy relationship for a period of years. For each of these, break down the scope of services and the length of the relationship to determine which one would make for the best story, then reach out to that client and ask for their collaboration in the form of an elaborate case study.

    While your case study will end up in a narrative, storytelling format, numbers will be the most influential portion of your case study. Numbers will guide your narrative; start with the year your relationship formed, and metrics about the scope of their business before you got involved. Support the scope of your services with accurate numbers such as how much of a product you produced or how many services you provided, then follow up with the final results of the campaign or partnership. Getting some quotes from the client in question will be particularly useful.

    3. Get Creative with One of Your Products or Services.

    articleimage658getcreative

    When you work in a specific industry, it can be hard to see your products and services with fresh eyes. Spend some time imagining different applications for your products and services, and the qualities that make them unique from those of your competitors.

    Find a way to present the advantages of these products in a story-based format. Imagine someone is using them or taking advantage of them for the first time. What is this person experiencing? What is this person’s mentality before, during, and after the acquisition of the product? Weave an engaging narrative that allows new readers to gain an understanding of your products through a story format. Some of the best brand stories are invented.

    If you’re struggling coming up with ideas, try asking some of your newest brand fans, including people who have recently followed you on social media. Ask them what they think about your core products and services, and how they see them applying in their own lives. It could give you that final push of inspiration you need to come up with a compelling, imagined story.

    4. Consider Character-Based Strategies.

    Some brands have made extensive use of recurring characters as a medium for their storytelling efforts. You could do the same. Your recurring character won’t exactly be a mascot, but it will come to represent your brand in some way.

    Use your character to illustrate uses of your product in different situations, or use your character to execute a hypothetical situation that demonstrates the power of your brand. You could even use your character as a substitute for a real-life customer (if the customer refuses to disclose his/her identity publicly). If you use the character frequently enough, you’ll generate a loyal following.

    5. Ask Your Followers for Testimonials or Real Stories.

    One of the most important strategies is also one of the easiest. Instead of relying on an invented character or an imagined storyline, why not ask your followers directly for inspiration? Make a public callout on social media and ask your audience for their own personal stories.

    If you’re willing to give up some level of control, you can let your audience take direction on the content creation portion of brand storytelling. Ask them to post testimonials on their own pages, or post video reviews of your products, along with a personal story of why your brand is meaningful to them. You’ll generate great attention for your brand as well as valuable external links that build your domain authority and increase your rank in Google.

    A Note on Syndication                      

    Just having a story isn’t enough. You have to broadcast that story in a way that makes sense for your brand and simultaneously enhances the advantages of the type of story you’ve chosen. For example, you wouldn’t want to reduce the power of a case study several years in the making to a series of 160-character tweets. You also wouldn’t want to stretch the simplicity of a simple allegory to the span of an entire whitepaper. Learn to pair your types of brand stories to proper mediums, and syndicate them accordingly. Different stories carry different levels of authority, and communicate to different segments of your core audience.

    Brand storytelling is a highly valuable strategy, but only when it’s implemented with care and consistency. Like with any element of your content marketing or branding strategy, you’ll need to work diligently to refine it and improve upon it. Over time, as your users get used to seeing more engaging, dynamic stories, you’ll earn a more loyal following. Your readership traffic will grow and you might even earn a higher conversion rate as a result of your efforts. More than any other format, stories engage people. Make the most of the medium for your brand.

  7. What Happened to My Rank? 5 Reasons Your Keyword Ranking Dropped

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    It’s happened to everyone at some point. You take a snapshot of your current keyword rankings and discover, to your horror and confusion, that you’ve dropped significantly for at least one query. It isn’t the end of the world, of course—in most cases these inexplicable drops are only a few ranks at a time—but it’s significant enough to bear an impact on your inbound organic search traffic, and it’s frustrating because you can’t immediately pinpoint the reason behind the drop.

    Fortunately, the world of search rankings have become much more logical. While the inner workings of Google’s search algorithm are still draped in secrecy, the day-to-day fluctuations of rank are usually the result of an explainable change.

    If you’ve noticed one or more of your keyword rankings have significantly dropped, it’s probably the result of one or more of these motivators:

    Google Released a New Update or Data Refresh

    articleimage645Google Released a New Update or Data Refresh

    The most likely culprit is actually the simplest explanation. Google has released a new algorithm update or a new data refresh that reevaluated the rankings of businesses for a particular query (or the way that the evaluation takes place). As a result of the update, you’re ranking lower.

    Google releases updates from time to time, though only a handful warrant widespread attention. For example, Panda 4.1 and Penguin 3.0 were massive algorithm updates in the past year that received great amounts of attention and instigated major shakeups in page rank, but these aren’t the only type of updates that Google unveils. Google regularly applies data refreshes to its index in order to keep its ranking predictable and in line with its current standards—so one of these data refreshes, while small in scale, could easily disrupt your previous rank.

    Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to reverse the effects of one of these updates. If it’s a data refresh, there’s practically nothing you can do. If it’s a larger update, and Google has made adjustments to some of its ranking factors, learn which factors were affected, and adjust your strategy accordingly to compensate for those changes.

    There Are Recent Content Issues with Your Site

    articleimage645There Are Recent Content Issues with Your Sit

    Even the best content marketers aren’t always perfect. Writing well-written, appropriate, in-depth, relevant topics on a weekly or daily basis is quite a challenge, and a couple of slips in that consistency are all it takes to cause a temporary slide in your online rankings.

    There are some usual culprits for this. First and foremost, if you post a piece of content that’s a duplicate of one you’ve already posted, or a copy from something that already exists on the web, you could have inadvertently triggered a slight content-based penalty. Scan your site for any pieces of duplicated content, and get rid of them or use redirects to mask one iteration in favor of the other.

    Irregular posting of content could also interfere with your page rank. If you usually post three times a week, and you stop for a month, Google’s algorithm could detect the change and dock you for the lapse of new content.

    If you’ve recently changed topic focus or hosted an abnormal guest blog, the sudden alteration in authority could slightly interfere with your rank as well. For example, if you usually write about hamburgers, and you suddenly start posting about steak, your keyword rank for hamburger could potentially see some downward momentum.

    There Have Been Major Changes to Your Backlink Profile

    Your backlink profile is a collection of links on the web that help Google analyze your authority on the web. If the constitution of that back link profile suddenly changes, your rankings could drop as a result. If you’ve slipped up and posted an irrelevant link, or a link on a low-quality source, or any kind of link that could be considered spam, you could see a drop shortly thereafter.

    Backlink profile changes aren’t always at the fault of the webmaster, however. It’s possible that one or more of your existing high-quality links were removed by an external webmaster. If your link profile is diverse enough, this shouldn’t be enough to move you, but if several of your links or a majority of your links disappear overnight, you could easily experience a significant ranking drop accordingly.

    Additionally, negative SEO attacks are rare, but possible. In a negative SEO attack, a competitor or other malicious entity would intentionally post bad, spammy links to your domain in an effort to lower your authority. If you are concerned about this, or if you just want to audit your current backlink profile, try using Moz’s free tool, Open Site Explorer, to check your external links.

    A New Competitor Is Emerging to Threaten You

    articleimage645A New Competitor Is Emerging to Threaten Yo

    Competitors can be sneaky, and even niche companies can face the emergence of a highly similar rival. Search engine rankings take time to build, so it’s unlikely that a new competitor could completely catch you off guard, but it isn’t unheard of. Take a look at the new company profiles of the businesses now outranking you. Have any of them made massive changes recently in order to improve their ranks? Have any of them been rising up slowly from the back pages? If so, it’s possible they have simply overtaken you because they’re spending more time and effort building their authority on the web.

    In order to fight back against this emergence, you’ll either need to step up your effort to match and exceed theirs, or shift your focus to specialize in a different niche and overtake them in a tangential strategy.

    There Has Been a Sudden Decrease in Your Indexed Pages

    Google produces its ranks based on the information it crawls on the web. If there isn’t enough information on your site for Google to crawl, the result will be a lower rank. Ordinarily, all of your internal pages should be crawled and indexed by Google’s bots, but there are cases when some of your pages suddenly stop being indexed, and your rank suffers as a result.

    Pages could be de-indexed as a result of a manual penalty, but it’s more likely that something easily fixable is causing their disappearance. Check your pages for any 404 errors, nofollow tags, or any other quality that could make them invisible to search engines. You can also log into Webmaster Tools and check your site for any crawl errors or de-indexed pages—this is a great way to analyze your current sitemap and fix any glaring errors preventing your pages from being seen.

    Now that you understand the reason (or reasons) behind that once-inexplicable ranking drop, you can take action to correct the anomaly and correct your processes so it doesn’t happen in the future. It’s impossible to guard against everything all the time, so don’t be too concerned if you see more ranking drops in the future. As long as you use them as opportunities to investigate your current processes and make a significant improvement, any ranking drops you face will only be temporary.

    If you’re having trouble pinpointing the exact cause for your ranking drop, contact us—we specialize in figuring out why your search engine rankings have declined and working with you to get them back where they belong.

  8. How to Measure Objective Results of Your Content Marketing Campaign

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    Content marketing rose quickly in popularity once it became a buzzword, but it also earned a negative reputation because of its assumed inability to be effectively measured. It is true that there are limitations that prevent your content marketing campaign from being a simply measured, one-to-one system. However, if you track and analyze the proper metrics and accurately estimate your total costs, you can identify exactly how much money your content marketing program is earning you.

    In this guide, I’ll walk you through the steps necessary to create an equation that will accurately estimate the cost to value ratio of your campaign.

    Why Content Is Difficult to Measure

    articleimage643Why Content Is Difficult to Measur

    Content marketing has a number of limitations because it is more of a qualitative strategy than a quantitative one. Some of these limitations include:

    • Online content posts are permanent, and therefore have a theoretically unlimited value.
    • The effects of content posts are cumulative, meaning the value of older posts increases slightly with every new post, making it difficult to accurately predict the value of any individual post. A campaign with a low ROI in the first few months of execution may turn into a campaign with a high ROI after a year or more.
    • While some posts may immediately generate conversions, content marketing has more impact in building a reputation over time. Since brand reputation is a difficult value to quantitatively measure, it’s hard to use as part of your calculations.
    • Content marketing has an indirect but strong effect on your search engine rankings, therefore making it responsible for bringing new traffic to your site even if those users are unfamiliar with your content strategy.

    Nevertheless, it’s possible to estimate your content marketing strategy’s short-term and long-term effectiveness by calculating your current ROI.

    Identify Your Sources and Your Goals

    articleimage643 Identify Your Sources and Your Goal

    Identifying the factors that will enter your equation is the first step of the process. Before you can measure the success of your campaign, you have to know your definition of success. What defines success to an e-commerce platform isn’t necessarily the same as what defines success to a B2B service company.

    Ask yourself the following question: what defines a successful visit to your website? For many companies, this will be a conversion. Conversions can be a user filling out an information form to be contacted later, or a user making a purchase on your storefront. It is a user action that either completes a sale or completes the online portion of the sales funnel. You may define success differently, such as achieving a social share from a visitor or inspiring the click of an affiliate link, but those can be qualified as “conversions” as well. We will consider a “conversion” to be a user completing any desired action on your site.

    Creating Your ROI Equation

    If you’re going to objectively calculate the value of your campaign, you need to start with a reliable formula or equation.

    There will be two sides to our equation. The left side will represent the total cost of your campaign. The right side will represent the total value. For our purposes, we’ll look at this within the parameters of one month, but the equation can be applied at any level—weekly, yearly, etc.

    If the left side is greater than the right side, your campaign is currently losing money. If your campaign has just started, this is normal; it usually takes several months to a year or more before the effects of your efforts start accumulating into measurable growth. If your campaign has been running for some time, you may want to audit your current strategy to pinpoint a disconnection or major flaw.

    If the right side is greater than the left side, your campaign is actively making you money. Even if you spend massive amounts of money on your campaign, if the right side of your equation is greater, you’re making more money than you’re spending.

    Let’s take a look at each side in detail.

    Left Side Data: Calculating Your Costs

    articleimage643 Left Data

    The left side should be relatively easy to calculate. If you outsource your content marketing, simply use the amount of money you pay monthly.

    If you use your internal staff for your content marketing program, calculate the total cost based on their salaries and what portion of their job includes content management. For example, if you have one full-time content marketer and one general marketer who spends half her time posting on social media and the other half doing administrative tasks, calculate your total based on one full salary and one half salary accordingly (again, monthly).

    Total these up for your monthly costs and put them at the left side of your equation.

    Right Side Data: Interpreting Data from Google Analytics

    Now comes the tricky part.

    There are two major factors you’ll want to look at here: direct content conversions and content-influenced conversions.

    Direct content conversions are conversions that come about as the sole result of a user’s interaction with a piece of content. For instance, if you have a dedicated landing page that offers a downloadable whitepaper in exchange for filling out a form, every form fill-out counts as a direct content conversion. You can measure this number of conversions by setting up goals in Google Analytics for each of your specific, trackable landing pages, and measuring the number of monthly conversions they achieve.

    Content-influenced conversions are conversions that came about as an indirect result of your content marketing program. These could be new visitors who found you on social media, avid readers who finally made a purchase, or users who found you through search. These are difficult to measure, because there’s no way to measure exactly how much influence your content had on a buying (or converting) decision.

    However, here is an easy way to estimate them. Head over to the Acquisition tab of Analytics and click “Overview.” This will show you a breakdown of your four main sources of traffic: Organic (search-based), Direct (URL input), Referral (external links), and Social (social media posts). Of those four, Organic and Social visits are the ones most directly attributable to your content marketing program. Direct visits could easily be influenced by your content, but for the sake of preserving a conservative estimate, we’ll leave those off for now.

    Total up the Organic and Social visits you’ve had in the past month, and divide that number by the total number of visits. Multiply that by 100 and you’ll have the percentage of visitors who came to your site as a result of your content marketing program. Now, take the total number of conversions (other than direct content conversions) and multiply it by your percentage. Add that number to your direct content conversions, and you’ll have an estimated number for the total amount of conversions your content marketing program is responsible for.

    Do note that suffering from inordinately low conversions may be a symptom of a problem with your conversion strategy (such as your form length, site design, or offer value), rather than a symptom of a content marketing flaw. This guide assumes your conversion rates are healthy.

    Assigning Your Conversion Value

    If your conversions represent final sales, then calculate the average sale on your site and you’ll end up with an “average conversion value” figure.

    Otherwise, use your sales data to calculate what percentage of your conversions actually result in a closed sale, as well as the average value of that sale. Multiply your total content conversions by your close ratio, and then multiply that figure by the average value of each sale. This will also serve as your “average conversion value” figure.

    The Final Step

    Once you know your average conversion value figure and the total number of conversions your content was responsible for, multiply those two values together. Your end result will be the total amount of money your content program brought in directly last month—and it doesn’t even count the brand value and familiarity your content facilitated! Compare this figure to the left side of your equation (costs). If it’s greater, you have an estimated—but objective—measure that your content marketing campaign is generating a profit.

  9. How to Budget for Paid Advertising in 2015

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    articleimage642How to Budget for Paid Advertising in 2015

    Paid advertising has taken a backseat to inbound marketing over the course of the past decade, as marketers realized the power and cost efficiency of content marketing and related strategies. However, paid advertising can still be a viable strategy, as long as it is implemented effectively. The scope and cost of paid advertising is set to evolve into 2015, and it can serve as a powerful complement to a more qualitative, brand-based content strategy.

    Still, it can be difficult to properly budget for advertising. There are several digital advertising channels available, all with different costs and benefits, and if your strategy isn’t properly aligned with your brand, you could compromise your ROI. In this guide, I’ll summarize the most significant paid advertising channels available in 2015, and how to set a course for your budget.

    Setting a Cap

    Before you start divvying up your paid advertising budget, you have to know exactly what you’re willing to spend for the year. You can look at this figure annually or monthly, but before you make an estimate, you’ll need to consider several factors.

    Starting from scratch or extending a plan

    Are you carrying over a budget from last year? If so, make a determination about the effectiveness of the campaign. Was it successful with the budget you allotted? Consider matching or increasing that budget. Was it unsuccessful? Take a good look at the factors that can be improved upon. If you can make improvements, start over with a similar budget. If not, consider reducing or eliminating the budget altogether. If you’ve already done all you can to make a paid advertising campaign work and the numbers aren’t justifying your spend, paid advertising may not be the best campaign for your company.

    Are you starting from scratch? Take a look at your current marketing spend, and look for areas where you can make small cuts in order to free up spending for a paid advertising channel. You don’t need a massive budget to start out; consider taking a few hundred dollars a month to experiment, and scale up the campaigns from there (assuming you find success).

    Calculating the value of a conversion

    Take a look at your current sales data. Assuming you have a reliable lead generation strategy in the works already, calculate the following metrics:

    • Close ratio. This is the number of closed sales divided by the number of total leads, and represents the percentage of incoming leads that become closed sales. If your conversion always results in a sale, such as with a product-specific landing page, this is always 100 percent.
    • Average sale. This is the average transaction value of a successful close—also keep in mind that your customers will likely make multiple purchases from you over the course of a lifetime. You can use “average sale” as a conservative measure, or estimate the estimated lifetime sales per customer for a more long-term estimate.
    • Average value of a conversion. Finally, multiply the close ratio by your average sale (or average lifetime value) figure. This will result in the average value of a conversion.

    Now that you know the average value of a conversion, you’ll have a much easier time determining the value of your paid advertising campaign. For example, if you have a total monthly budget of $5,000 and your average conversion value is $500, you’ll need more than 10 conversions in order to justify the value of the campaign.

    Run some user testing to verify that your landing page or ad designs are appealing enough to maximize your conversion ratio. Once you know your conversion appeal is solid, the remainder of your campaign adjustments will be choosing the right platforms for advertising and distributing your budget accordingly.

    raditional PPC Plans

    articleimage642 Traditional PPC plans

    Pay-per-click advertising campaigns are some of the most popular. Through these campaigns, you’ll get visibility on major search engines, and you’ll pay a fixed amount for each person who clicks on your ad. They’re excellent ways to tightly control your budget and get metrics on who is clicking your ads.

    Google Adwords

    The main advantage with Google PPC campaigns is visibility. Google is the search engine of choice for more than two-thirds of the online population, and as a result, its ads get the greatest amount of visibility. However, since you’re only paying for people who click your ads anyway, that advantage is limited.

    Google Adwords is also very easy to use and gain insights from. If you’re interested in doing in-depth keyword research and organizing complicated variations to your strategy like audience segmentation, Google is probably your platform of choice. The biggest downfall of Google is its popularity; there are millions of people using Google Adwords, and as a result, the cost of advertising has become incredibly competitive. You’ll have all the information you could ever want about your incoming traffic, but you’ll need to make the absolute most of it if you want to recoup your budget for this channel.

    Bing Advertising

    Bing advertising is similar to Google, and is an up-and-comer in the world of online advertising. Its platform is ridiculously simple to use, and the costs per click are very low compared to Google. The downside of Bing is its primary demographic; it’s a minority search engine, and most of the people using it are older populations or those unfamiliar with technology. This is mostly due to the fact that it’s the default search engine on Internet Explorer and Microsoft products.

    If your primary demographic falls into one of these categories, ratchet up your spending with Bing ads in 2015. Otherwise, try giving it a shot—you might find the lower ad costs will result in a higher ROI than Google.

    Facebook and Social Advertising

    articleimage642 facebookandsocialadvertising

    Facebook’s advertising platform has become very advanced, and it’s quite reliable as a means of generating traffic to an external landing page. The tools available to social advertisers on Facebook allow you to pinpoint your target audience with spectacular specificity, filtering out possible targets by age, sex, geographic location, and interests. You can also specify a budget per day of spending. If you haven’t tried it yet, I highly recommend trying it.

    On the other hand, other social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn are trying desperately to improve their advertising platforms to match Facebook’s capabilities. They’re worth experimenting with, but for the majority of businesses, Facebook will prove to be a superior social platform.

    Affiliate Links

    Affiliate links are an alternative paid advertising strategy worth considering. External users will post links to your products and services on their blogs and sites, and for each successful conversion, you’ll pay them a small percentage of the sale. Keep in mind that these links will not count toward your SEO efforts, and you’ll have a harder time tracking and filtering inbound traffic.

    The ultimate direction of your paid advertising campaign is up to you, but 2015 is ripe with potential options. Start out slow, with a budget of only a few hundred dollars, to experiment and see which platforms work best for you. I highly recommend at least trying Bing advertising because of its relatively low ad costs, and trying Facebook ads for their versatility and advanced campaign management tools.

    Beyond experimentation, Google Adwords is still the reigning king of paid advertising. You’ll have to do extensive research to find placement opportunities that will net you a positive ROI, but the analytics information and widely available demographics make it one of the most informative and reliable platforms available.

  10. 7 Reasons to Build a Landing Page for Your Content Marketing Strategy

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    Content marketing strategies demand multiple mediums and multiple outlets in order to be effective. Too many content marketers rely on a traditional, basic structure, writing blog post after blog post in the same format and syndicating them on social media. This strategy is effective, since it will gradually build your brand reputation, earn you more direct traffic, and improve your rankings in search engines, but for a full-fledged content marketing campaign, it should only serve as the foundation.

    Adding a landing page, a dedicated page under your domain to house incoming traffic, can be a viable strategy to improve your conversion rates and funnel your traffic. While it will take some extra work and maintenance to keep up, the return on investment (ROI) makes it all worth it.

    Consider these seven reasons why landing pages can improve your campaign:

    1. Improved conversion rates.

    articleimage641Improved conversion rate

    First and foremost, a landing page can improve your conversion rates. Rather than relying on customers eventually finding their way to your contact page (or anywhere else you seek to convert them), your users will be immediately confronted with the opportunity to convert.

    There are several ways you can approach this. For example, you could set up a landing page as a kind of barrier to your content, presenting a link to a downloadable whitepaper in exchange for some information about the user. In this case, retrieving the whitepaper becomes your target conversion, and you can use your blogs and social channels to increase traffic and the likelihood of eventually converting.

    If you’re more interested in selling one of your products, you can set up a specific landing page for one. Use social media or other content-based channels to attract traffic, then use the landing page as their immediate destination.

    2. More specific traffic.

    articleimage641 More specific traffi

    Landing pages can also be used to funnel your traffic into more specific areas. This is particularly useful for companies with a wide range of products or services. For example, if you sell bikes and roller blades, you can segment your traffic appropriately through separated landing pages. Rather than sending all of your traffic to your main site, or individual product pages, you can easily split your users into appropriate categories.

    Let’s say you blog about bikes and roller blades individually. People interested in buying roller blades will respond more to posts about roller blades, and the same is true for bikes. When you’re communicating with a large pool of followers, however, it’s difficult to distinguish which followers are interested in which. Rather than resorting to general messaging, drawing users into different landing pages will allow you to speak more specifically to each portion of your audience, and give you the chance to collect and store their information for future use.

    3. Immediate branding opportunities.

    Sometimes, it’s difficult to show off the best characteristics of your brand while working in the confines of a blog post or social media schedule. Content marketing is designed to show off your expertise passively, giving users a valuable experience while hoping they associate that experience with your brand. Calling out your brand specifically or openly bragging can actually turn people away from your content strategy.

    Using landing pages gives you more freedom to show off what makes your brand great. You’ll be able to create a design that obviously shows off your brand elements, and you’ll have the space to show off your brand’s greatness with testimonials or other statistics. By using your content to funnel users into a specific landing page, you’ll get the opportunity to get your brand squarely in your users’ faces without alienating them in the process.

    4. A focal point for your outbound strategy.

    articleimage641focal point for your outbound strate
    Content marketing programs sometimes suffer from a lack of direction. Instead of focusing in on a specific user goal, they’re designed to communicate generally with an audience, and gradually build a reputation. That might be useful for generating lots of traffic to your site, but if that traffic never converts or doesn’t know where to go, that traffic is essentially useless.

    Landing pages provide a quick fix for that problem. Instead of worrying about where your users are going after they read your material, or crossing your fingers and hoping for the best, you can use your landing page to ensure your traffic gets to a worthwhile destination.

    5. More measurable metrics.

    Some content marketers grow frustrated because of how difficult it is to measure the success of a campaign. Since one of the primary goals of content marketing is to increase brand familiarity and brand loyalty, two very subjective qualities, it can be hard to put a dollar amount on your content marketing results.

    Landing pages make the process much more objective. By using sales metrics, you can easily determine how much value each conversion brings you, and by using goal metrics (which you can set up in Google Analytics), you can easily determine the number of conversions your content is bringing in. With those two metrics, you should be able to accurately project an objective estimate of how much value your content marketing strategy is bringing.

    6. A/B testing capabilities.

    Landing pages are also great because they allow you to perform A/B tests. If you have two competing products and you aren’t sure which one to spend more time promoting, you can set up two individual landing pages under the same conditions and see which one generates the greatest number of conversions. Alternatively, if you’re toying around with your branding and advertising strategy, you can easily use an “A” version and a “B” version of your landing page to gain valuable insights on your design and copy. You can then take this information and use it in your broader marketing and advertising campaign.

    7. User behavior testing.

    Like A/B testing, user behavior testing to determine the most valuable parts of your landing pages. For example, by using heat maps, you can track exactly where your users are looking and interacting with your landing page. If they tend to congregate around the testimonials and you’re enjoying a high conversion rate, you better start using those testimonials on other applications. If your users focus on a bulleted list of product benefits and your conversion rate is low, you know you need to spend time refining how you market your product. Setting up a landing page with some kind of user behavior tracking is key to gaining insights about your audience.

    Unfortunately, just setting up a landing page isn’t enough. You also need to pay close attention to the design, placement, and written copy of your landing page to maximize your chances of conversion. Landing pages demand a different set of standards than traditional web pages, so prioritize the following qualities:

    • The call to action needs to be prominent and clear, standing out above all other information and graphics.
    • The headline must be prominent and catchy, concisely communicating the benefits of converting.
    • The design needs to be minimalistic, only displaying what’s absolutely necessary.
    • It’s important to include some sort of testimonial, review, or some indication that you’re an authority in the business.

    If you can design a landing page with these qualities and integrate it smoothly into your content marketing campaign, you’ll start seeing the benefits as soon as it goes live.

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