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Category Archive: Content Marketing

  1. How to Build a Content Marketing Campaign on a Shoestring Budget

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    Dealing with a tight budget is one of the biggest challenges to an entrepreneur, particularly a small business owner with limited resources, limited capital, and an unsteady flow of revenue to boot. To an unacquainted small business owner, faced with countless financial challenges, the prospect of a “content marketing campaign” may seem frivolous. Why spend so much essential money on hiring a writer or specialist when there are more important needs to take care of?

    It’s true that content marketing isn’t your top priority—securing the stability of the business must always come first. But investing in a content marketing program is a way of investing in yourself, and if you don’t make that commitment, you may suffer the consequences in the form of lost business and reduced brand visibility.

    Fortunately, in addition to being nearly essential for any modern business, content marketing is financially flexible. If you have money to spend, you can go all-out with a spectacular campaign, but even when you’re working with a shoestring budget, it’s possible to gain the benefits of a campaign.

    Minimum Viable Product and the Course of Expansion

    articleimage786Minimum Viable Product and the Course of Expansion

    With a content marketing campaign, you won’t be spending much money on tangible items. You might need to purchase an image, and you might want to pay for some extra advertising, but for the most part all you’ll be paying for is the work that needs done—namely, writing and pushing your content. Because the typical and most conventionally successful options for this are hiring an agency or bringing on someone full-time, many entrepreneurs immediately write off the opportunity as being too expensive.

    However, content marketing is flexible—it can be as big or small as you want, with only the mediums and channels you choose. Obviously, the more you do for your campaign, the better it will do, but if you’re just getting started with a minimum budget, all you really need is a minimum viable product—the least amount of work that will give you preliminary results. For most small businesses, this minimum viable product won’t cost much money, but it will be enough to turn a reasonable ROI.

    As you become more experienced and familiar with content marketing, and as you have access to more revenue, you’ll be able to gradually scale up your efforts, adding in new mediums or new resources to help you handle the work.

    The Fundamentals

    articleimage786thefundamentals

    When you get started with a content program, all you’ll need is a skeletal foundation—enough content to get indexed in search engines and enough consistency to start attracting an initial audience. If you’re working with a limited budget, there are a few options that can help you get through this stage, including hiring freelancers, taking on the extra work yourself, or divvying up tasks between your existing team members.

    Direction

    Your first goal is to set a direction for your content campaign. Without a direction, your content marketing campaign will be a voice without ears. At this stage, you’re going to want to establish an environment for your campaign. That means deciding on a niche topic for your blog (which should be as specific as possible), the audience for your material, and your primary goals. Some business owners will want to weight their strategy in favor of achieving search engine visibility through SEO while others will want to build a greater following on social media. You’ll also need to decide on the qualities of your brand voice, which will carry you throughout your campaign. This shouldn’t cost any money: only a few hours of work.

    Blog

    Next, you’ll need some kind of blogging platform. Hopefully, your website already has one. If not, or if you’re in the process of building or launching a website, WordPress is a free, easy-to-use CMS platform that supports simple blogging and has plenty of options for designers and developers to build something unique. No matter what type of platform you choose, make sure you can update your blogs easily and regularly, with embedded images and videos as well as meta titles and descriptions. Getting a website set up with a blog might cost you some money, but it’s an absolute essential for any business.

    Regular Posts

    Once that groundwork is set, the bulk of your budget should go into writing your regular posts. You won’t need to go all-out in the beginning; just make sure that your posts are long enough, well-written, interesting, and consistent enough to be recognizable as a unique piece of your own. One 400-word blog post a week is an okay start—you’ll want to step up both the length and the frequency eventually, but one 400-word post will only cost you a couple hours of work at the most (or a relatively minimal expense from a freelancer).

    Syndication

    Syndication is also relatively easy and inexpensive. If you’re just starting out with a minimal budget, your best option is social media; Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles are free to create and maintain, and they’ll give you amplified potential visibility for your blogs. Publish links to all your new articles as they roll out, and if you have the time or budget for it, make daily updates to engage your budding audience.

    The Extras

    articleimage786 theextras

    Once you’ve conquered the basics, you can take a look at your budget and determine whether there are areas ready for expansion.

    Increased Frequency

    Your first goal, once you have access to more resources or more income, is to step up the frequency of your posts. Instead of merely posting once a week, go to twice a week, and increase the length and detail of your posts. If you continue to see results, step your frequency up even further, and be sure to add more social posts to your regular schedule.

    Greater Syndication Reach

    Once you’ve increased the frequency of your posts, your next step should be to increase the reach of your syndication. You can do this in several ways; first, you can use paid press releases to maximize visibility in new channels and attract more links. Second, you can use paid advertising, such as PPC ads with Google or Facebook, to attract initial eyes to your content. Finally, you can reach out to new people on your social profiles in order to build a greater following. Each option requires a different level of spend and commitment, so choose the blend that works best for you.

    Diversified Mediums

    Finally, once you’ve built up a decent posting frequency and a respectable reach, you can start adding more diversity to your posting habits. Include a wider variety of topics, or feature guest posts from other bloggers. You should also include other mediums, including images and video, in the context of your blogs. Publishing interactive pieces of media, like infographics or entertaining videos, can help your reach dramatically by circulating virally and attracting external links.

    Content marketing programs don’t need to blow your audience completely out of the water—at least not right away. You don’t need to hire an agency immediately, nor do you need to spend countless hours doing research before you can make a move. Anything you do for your content program is better than nothing, and the sooner you start, the better, so if you’ve been holding off the start of a content marketing program because of financial concerns, it’s time to finally get started. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to measure your progress, analyze your ROI, reassess your strategy and build on your previous structures.

  2. How to Write Content that Will Have The Lowest Possible Bounce Rate

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    Bounce rates can hurt. Your end goal is getting your site visitors to a specific destination, usually a conversion on a contact page or a quote request form, and if they’re bouncing from your site after only viewing the initial entry page, you’ve officially lost all hope of converting them.

    The biggest problem with bounce rates is the lack of concrete justifications for their existence. Since you cannot possibly conduct exit interviews for everyone who leaves your site, determining the cause for your bounce rate is largely a subjective process.

    Fortunately, there are a handful of techniques you can use to greatly reduce your bounce rate, increasing the amount of site traffic that flows to other pages and ultimately, to your intended destination. Under the right circumstances, this can have a direct and positive effect on your bottom line revenue.

    Many changes to your site that can decrease bounce rates have to do with the design and structure of your site, including its layout and navigation, but there are simpler strategies that can be applied to your content to get you similar results.

    Link to Other Pages

    articleimage782Link to Other Pages

    One of the most valuable tools in your arsenal will be internal linking. When you write the content for a new blog post or new page on your website, look for opportunities to add hyperlinks to other pages when relevant. For example, if you’re writing an article on a specific type of hat, you could link to the product page for that specific hat, or a general category page that introduces hats which contains more information about the line. These links, when used appropriately, will attract people to venture deeper into your site to keep learning new information, giving you more opportunities to convert.

    As an added bonus, the increased interlinking throughout your site will be beneficial for your search rankings—Google favors sites with heavily linked interior pages.

    Use Strong Headlines

    Stronger headlines can also decrease your bounce rate, and that goes for sub-headers in the body of your copy as well. First, “stronger” doesn’t necessarily mean more likely to attract a click—more importantly, it means more accurate and more compelling. Users who click on a link should be excited for what comes next, and that excitement needs to be fulfilled with your on-page content. If you do not meet their expectations, they will probably leave.Further headings down the page should keep your users interested in reading more, drawing them down the article bit by bit.

    Incorporate Multiple Mediums

    Plain content doesn’t engage a user nearly as much as interactive content. Studies show that just including a picture alongside an article can increase traffic and interest in an article, and if people are more interested in what they’re reading, they’re less likely to leave. Embed a video, incorporate pictures or infographics into the body of your content, and do whatever you can to use a diverse range of mediums throughout your site. It gives more options to your audience, some of whom might prefer plain written content while others might prefer watching a short video. The more options you have for your users, the more of them will stay.

    Keep Things Concise

    articleimage782keepthingsconsice

    Concise content is a no-brainer for increasing bounce rates. Since your goal here is to keep users on your site for as long as possible, it might be tempting to write longer articles as a result. However, length is not nearly as important as conciseness. A concise 300-word article can contain just as much valuable information as a fluff-driven 1200-word article. The more concise your content is, the more value your user will see per page on your site, and that’s going to draw them in deeper.

    Create More Relevant Landing Pages

    articleimage782Create More Relevant Landing Pages

    One option you can use to decrease your overall bounce rate involves the creation of new pages in the form of specific landing pages that cater to your core demographics and sources of traffic. For example, you could create a landing page that speaks directly to people who found you on Facebook, or those who specifically found you via a paid link on another site. You want to make a perfect first impression or else your initial traffic will simply leave, so take the time to understand the segments of your audience and cater to them personally.

    Use Accurate Meta Descriptions

    Meta descriptions are the short snippets that appear under their corresponding link in major search engines. As such, they’re usually responsible for determining whether a user clicks on the link, and why they chose to click it. If your meta description is appealing enough to attract clicks, but it isn’t relevant enough to your content, users will leave your site the moment they discover this. If it’s accurate, but not compelling, they won’t even click in the first place. Your goal should be to create meta descriptions that set accurate expectations about your content, but are still dynamic enough to entice new visitors.

    Format With Ample White Space

    White space is easy on the eyes—it’s a principle of design, but it can also be harnessed with the shape and style of your content. If you keep all your paragraphs long and bunched up together, you’ll run the risk of tiring your audience’s eyes, or worse, leaving them with a bad impression of your site. Instead, break up your articles into sections with clear, distinct subheadings, and use bulleted lists whenever possible to cut through the bulkiness of your content.

    Eliminate Distractions

    It’s also a good idea to eliminate any distractions that you can. While integrated forms of media are beneficial to an inbound audience, obnoxious ads can sometimes deter them. Keep your ads subtle and off to the side whenever possible.

    Throughout your content, you will probably encounter opportunities to link to external sources, which can be good for building your credibility as a source. Make sure those links open up in a new window; otherwise, anybody who clicks on them will constitute a departure from your site.

    Use Powerful Calls to Action

    As I’ve mentioned, the best way to prevent someone from leaving your site is to attract them deeper into your site. In order to do that, you’re going to need strong calls to action. Instead of merely posting a link and hoping for the best, wrap your link in a compelling phrase that emphasizes the value of the page to come. Motivate your users with action-based language, and make the venture to your other pages seem worth the extra effort.

    Measuring Your Bounce Rate

    As you put these strategies to good use on your website, you’ll want to regularly measure your bounce rates to determine their effectiveness. Keep some of your old blogs on the radar, syndicating them alongside your newly written blogs, and compare the bounce rates of people entering your site from each initial article. Take note of specific wording choices and formats that tend to keep people venturing deeper into your site, and conduct regular audits of your campaign to detect and correct possible fault points in the relevance of your content.

    Only through an ongoing process of analysis and revision will you perfect your bounce rate-decreasing strategy.

  3. How to Use Trending Topics in Your Search Campaign

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    articleimage781How to Use Trending Topics in Your Search Campaign

    Most companies incorporate strategies to improve their visibility online, most notably through social channels and search engine optimization (SEO). Through conventional, self-sufficient strategies, it’s possible to garner attention for yourself by building something out of nothing—reaching out to new contacts, writing about original topics, and making a brand that’s wholly your own.

    However, there’s a complementary route that can improve your visibility, and in most cases, it’s easier and more effective. Certain topics and ideas achieve great visibility on their own, such as breaking news stories and viral content, due to word-of-mouth spreading and a natural affinity for keeping people interested. If you can leverage the power of these trending topics in the context of your own campaign, you can take advantage of their substantial visibility and earn more attention than you could possibly get with a topic you invented independently. The key is to find these topics and harness them effectively.

    How to Find Trending Topics

    articleimage781 How to Find Trending Topics

    There are two major components to a strategy involving trending topics; finding appropriate topics and putting them to good use.Finding trending topics might seem tough—after all, defining which topics are trending and which ones are not involves walking a very fine line. Still, if you monitor an adequate number of sources and keep your eyes peeled for pertinent news and content pieces, you’ll have no trouble finding ample trending topics for your campaign.

    Social Listening

    Social listening is one of the best ways to scout for trending topics, since you’ll be plugged into thousands of conversations simultaneously and you’ll be able to easily determine the amount of social impact a given topic has. Many software platforms, such as Sprout Social, offer social listening as a feature. You can set one or a series of different keywords to receive alerts on, such as industry-related terms, subjects, or brand mentions, and watch for automated pings whenever those topics are mentioned in the context of a selected audience. If you see frequent mentions, or mentions that frequently get liked, favorited, or shared, you know you’ve found a winner.

    You could also perform occasional manual searches on Twitter and other public social media platforms, looking for mentions of specific topics, though the process is not as time-efficient. A better strategy is to review trending hashtags, and examine each of them to determine who seems to be using them and why. Doing so can plug you into the day’s most important developments and focal points, giving you a platform for execution.

    The biggest problem with this strategy is the time it takes to execute. While reviewing the trending topics section is relatively easy, finding industry-related developments requires a manual hunt-and-peck approach, which might ultimately be fruitless even after significant effort.

    Aggregated News Feeds

    There are hundreds of news aggregators available, each with their own advantages and disadvantages, so take the time to find the one that’s best for your needs. You can select one with pre-loaded aggregations, such as readers with sub-topics related to specific industries, or simply customize your own from scratch.

    No matter how you start your aggregated news feed approach, do some initial research to build the most appropriate selection of news sites. Include major news outlets, which will bring you news worthy of national attention, local news outlets (when possible), which will plug you into your local community, and industry sites, which will give you the rundown on developments in your industry. As you continue your strategy, you’ll have to do some regular housekeeping, weeding out any sites that don’t provide you with adequate trending topics to harvest.

    In many cases, just glancing at your news feed will be enough to spark the inspiration for a new idea to harness. In other cases, you’ll have to do some deeper digging to find the right fit. Either way, a few minutes a day can really add up to a great value for your overall strategy.

    Competitors and Industry Sites

    Of course, rather than relying on the snippets of an aggregated reader feed, you can go to the sources themselves. Keep a running list of the most important news sites relevant to your industry, as well as your closest competitors in the market. Visit them on an occasional basis (daily if your industry is fast-paced, weekly if it’s slower), and get a feel for what they’re writing about. Even if you don’t uncover a great trending topic, you can at least draw inspiration for your general content strategy.

    Implementing Trending Topics in Your SEO Campaign

    articleimage781mplementing Trending Topics in Your SEO Campaign

    Now that you’ve uncovered a gem—a topic that’s currently in high demand within your industry or amongst your key demographics—and all you have to do is take advantage of it to increase your brand’s visibility. Fortunately, you have several options to do this, and many of them are quite simple.

    Newsjacking Content

    Your first and easiest option is to “newsjack” the content. The term newsjacking was coined specifically for news articles which were used as a content platform, but can be applied to almost any type of trending content. The process of newsjacking involves taking a piece of pre-existing content, presenting elements of that piece (reworded and cited properly so you aren’t plagiarizing) and framing those elements in a context that’s unique to you.

    For example, if there’s a news story about a recent technological development that’s going to impact your industry, you can summarize the facts of the article and then write a short opinion about why it’s going to be a positive or negative thing for the industry. Essentially, you’ll be taking the trending topic and finding a way to present it as your own. Then, all you’ll have to do is syndicate it on social channels, and you’ll get a strong portion of new readers interested in the rising trend.

    Timing Your Posts

    Depending on the nature of the trend, you can forgo the option of writing up an entire piece. Instead, you can simply make a short social media post or two acknowledging the trend and putting your company’s name in the ring. A great example of this is using a trending hashtag—so long as it’s relevant—in a post you tweet to the masses.

    You could also write a custom message to appeal to participants in a given trend, which is particularly effective if timed correctly. For example, during the massive power outage of the 2013 Super Bowl, Oreo tweeted a picture of an Oreo on a dark background with the message “You can still dunk in the dark.” They took advantage of a trending situation and turned it in favor of the brand—and they did it while the event was still unfolding.

    Capitalizing on Discussions

    Last but not least, you can simply participate in discussions surrounding a given topic. If you found your topic on a particular blog, post a comment or respond to other commenters as your brand. If you found your topic on a social media channel, you can look for followers engaging in a related discussion and simply jump into it with your own opinion. You’ll not only increase the visibility of your brand, you’ll also build your perceived authority in the space.

    Capitalizing on trending topics sounds a lot more complicated than it is. Once you’ve adopted the process into your strategy and you’ve practiced it enough times, it will become second nature to you, and you’ll be able to harness the full power of the most popular, timely topics available.  Your potential visibility is practically limitless under these conditions.

  4. 10 Tips for Finding Topics People Want to Read

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    There’s no single secret that can lead you to a great content marketing strategy. Your writing needs to be consistent, valuable, and in line with your brand standards and the rest of your inbound marketing strategy (such as your SEO or social media campaigns). But the most important factor for your content marketing program’s success can be reduced to one characteristic: whether or not people want to read your material.

    If people want to read your content, you’ll get more repeat visitors, you’ll get more word of mouth promotion, you’ll get more initial hits from your syndication channels, and you’ll even get a higher volume of searchers. Some factors that influence the desirability of your content, such as the catchiness of your title and the structure of your body, can be honed through practice, but some factors—like finding the lucrative topics that attract the most readers—can be elusive.

    Fortunately, there are some strategies you can adopt that make your topic-finding missions easier and more consistent:

    1. Analyze Which Topics Generate the Most Traffic.

    articleimage779 Analyze Which Topics Generate the Most Traffic

    Hopefully, you’ve already been writing content for some time. If that’s the case, you should have ample data that you can analyze to determine which of your topics tend to be the most successful. One way to do this is to log into Google Analytics and take a look at the internal pages of your site that have generated the most traffic. Take a sampling of your top contenders, and use them as jumping-off points for future topics. You could even do a direct follow-up to some of them.

    2. See Which Topics Generate the Most Conversations.

    articleimage779See Which Topics Generate the Most Conversations

    Alternatively, you can look at more qualitative data to determine which of your blogs have been the most successful in the past. Take a look at the type and number of comments your blogs have generated—are there any that stand out with threads of dozens of comments? Any that have generated tons of social shares and likes? Use these as your jumping-off points as well; even if they haven’t generated as much traffic, they’ve generated sufficient interest.

    3. Consult With Your Sales Team.

    articleimage779 Consult With Your Sales Team

    Generally speaking, the sales team of an organization is the most plugged in to the profiles and needs of your target demographics. If your most valuable and most common types of customers are facing a common problem, your sales team knows about it. Hold a sit-down with a few of your sales reps and ask about what types of problems your customers typically face. Then, generate a list of topics that address those problems directly with advice or instructions.

    4. Put Together a News Feed.

    There are many ways to aggregate your own news feed of information—for example, you could cultivate a list of article sources using a blog reader, or compile a list of your most valuable news sources on social media using something like “Lists” on Twitter. Consult this news feed on a daily basis, and take a look at what’s trending in your industry. You should be able to pick out a handful of topics that are capturing significant attention, and spin variants of those topics on your own blog.

    5. Read Your Competitors’ Blogs.

    It may seem like cheating, but it’s not. Your competitors are trying just as hard as you are to appeal to your audience, and they may have discovered a handful of topics you’ve never even considered before. Take a look through your top competitors’ blogs, and scout for articles that have gotten a significant amount of attention in the form of comments, likes, and shares. Don’t lift these topics directly, but feel free to draw inspiration from them and use them as brainstorming fodder.

    6. Research Search Trends.

    While keyword-specific optimization strategies are quickly becoming obsolete for SEO, you can still use research on search trends to fuel your content strategy. Head over to Google Trends, where you’ll be able to get a glimpse or a detailed view on the topics and searches posed by the masses, over the course of a day on up to a year or more. Viewing these trends may introduce you to a popularly searched-for topic that’s relevant to your business but as-of-yet unexplored on your blog. Check back regularly to get a pulse on rising trends and interests.

    7. Check Out Industry- or Demographic-Relevant Forums.

    Forums are a perfect place to scout for potential topics because they typically feature individuals with concrete problems. Threads are typically started by a significant question or dilemma with an invitation for community suggestions, which gives you a key opportunity to not only find potential problems faced by your key demographics, but also which problems seem to be the most common. Keep a running tab of the most productive forums you find, and revisit them on a regular basis to get more ideas.

    8. Browse Through Social Groups.

    Groups on social media can be powerful places. Since all the group members have signed up because they’re interested in the central topic, they tend to be both active and passionate about discussing that core topic. Check out Facebook groups you can get involved in, or LinkedIn Groups related to your industry. Look for individuals who have started popular topics, and use the topics or comment threads as fuel or inspiration for your own posts. It’s even more valuable if you get your own brand involved in the site, responding to others’ comments and igniting further discussions.

    9. Search Through Question and Answer Sites.

    There are a number of “alternative” search engines out there, some of which are excellent for finding quick answers to questions. Quora and Topsy are two great examples of this. You can perform searches for broad topics related to your industry here, and a list of subtopics, mentions, titles, and questions will appear (depending on what specific site you use). From here, you’ll be able to get a bird’s-eye view of the kinds of questions people frequently have—and the types of answers they usually get. This should point you in a solid direction for writing a desirable and needed piece of content.

    10. Ask Your Audience Directly.

    It may seem like an obvious strategy, but it’s often neglected by content marketers. Sometimes the best way to figure out what your audience wants to read is to ask them point-blank. There are a number of ways to do this, based on your personal preferences. You could conduct a survey on your social channels, casually ask individual followers when they approach you online, or dedicate an entire post or thread on your website to generating ideas for future blog posts. Most of your readers will be honest, and happily share any topics they’d like to see in the future.

    Acquiring the topics that people want to read is half the battle. Once you’ve got a sizable list, or at least enough topics to get to the next section of your editorial calendar, you can begin crafting the titles and copy that will compel your audience to keep reading your impressive material. The more attention you can capture and keep, the more conversions and revenue you’ll be able to earn.

  5. The 5 Worst Content Habits to Avoid

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    Like with anything in life, content writing is vulnerable to the development and persistence of some very bad habits. Bad habits in the writing, publishing, and syndication of your content can interfere with your overall quality, the long-term viability of your campaign, and of course the size and loyalty of your readership.

    Fortunately, your content strategy is an ever-evolving entity, and no matter how long these habits have been forged, it’s possible to break them if you are aware of them and have committed yourself to the process.

    If you catch yourself involved in any of these five terrible content habits, it’s time to reevaluate your strategy and try to move past them:

    1. Limiting Your Content to Newsjacking and Content Borrowing.

    articleimage747Limiting Your Content to Newsjacking and Content Bo

    Let’s get one thing straight here: newsjacking can be a valuable part of your content strategy, as long as it’s only part of it. Newsjacking, the process of scouting the news for articles relevant to your business and repurposing the article to be valuable to your readers, is useful because it takes a smaller degree of effort than most articles (since the bulk of the content already exists in some form) and because of its timeliness and relevance. However, once you’ve newsjacked a series of articles, you might become accustomed to the workflow and proceed to newsjack the majority of your new posts.

    The same habit can occur when you browse your competitors’ blogs for inspiration. Rather than reading up on new material, thinking about it, and brainstorming your own new topics, you might get used to cherry picking new topics directly from outside sources.

    While these habits might allow you to skate by Google’s algorithms and impress your users for a limited time, if this represents the entirety of your content strategy, you’ll be setting yourself up for destruction. You’ll never be able to become an authority in your respective field if you don’t have a sizeable contribution of unique content—material, facts, and opinions that users can’t get anywhere else. Feel free to leave newsjacking as a component of your strategy, but don’t neglect the importance of originality.

    2. Writing Inconsistently.

    articleimage747Writing Inconsistently

    The importance of consistency in a content marketing program cannot be understated. While each of your articles needs to be a unique piece, they also need to fall in line with a consistent voice, a consistent feel, and a consistent schedule.

    Small business owners especially have a hard time maintaining a consistent publication schedule. Since content marketing may not be a primary concern and resources are scarce (some entrepreneurs take it upon themselves to do all the writing for their business), the publication of articles becomes random, based on their whims and business circumstances.This kind of inconsistency makes it impossible to build a loyal audience—unpredictable publications means nobody knows when to check back for more updates.

    Focusing on inconsistent topics can also be a problem, especially if you meander outside your business’s realm of expertise. It’s important to have a diversity of topics available for your disposal, but you’ll also want to become known as an expert in a specific niche—if you can’t, your business might fall into a pit of irrelevance with overly general or non-specifically written material. Having a consistent brand voice can be the glue to hold your separate topics together—make sure you have an outline and a plan for it, especially if you’re using multiple writers.

    3. Writing More Than You Read.

    articleimage747Writing More Than You Read

    This is a critical mistake of writers everywhere, not just content marketers. The only way to get better at writing is to read. Otherwise, you’ll fall into a close-minded, repetitive way of thinking and writing, and you’ll never learn to surpass your own skills. Reading opens the door to new opinions, new ideas, and new styles of writing that can influence you and help you grow in the right directions. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck in stagnation.

    It’s easy to lose the habit of reading, especially as you become more versed in your field of expertise and more confident in your abilities to churn out blogs. But even the most conservative industries change often, and staying up-to-date with the latest content can keep you ahead of the curve. Make sure you subscribe to several major publications, including the blogs of your competitors, industry news sites, and national news sites. Read several articles a day if you can, and try to learn something new in every article—even if it’s just a fact or a new means of presenting information in your body copy.

    4. Using the Same Format, Every Time.

    Content marketing has evolved beyond the need to replicate the same written article format with every post. While written content is still valuable because of the sheer volume of scannable text that is presented to major search engines, users crave a more integrated experience.

    For example, instead of posting a traditional written article, you could write a step-by-step guide with images accompanying each step of the process. Or, you could break the article down into bullet-point reminders, and post an accompanying video to demonstrate the process. Experiment with different formats for your article content as well; instead of relying on a step-by-step guide format, a list-based format, or a header-and-subheader based format, you could vary it up by including new formats for each new entry.

    When you start writing blogs regularly, following the same format becomes an easier way to manage the process. However, it will ultimately work against your campaign. Diversify your formatting in order to appeal to the widest possible audience and preserve the interest of your current following.

    5. Failing to Listen to Your Audience.

    Your content marketing strategy cannot remain stagnant; it needs to grow to meet the needs and desires of your customers. After writing for long enough, it’s easy to develop a habit of focusing on your own means of production, rather than on your readers’ perspectives. However, this can be damaging to your bottom line. The most successful content marketing programs on the web are the ones that actively take their readers’ opinions into consideration.

    Read your users’ comments often, and respond whenever you can to build the conversation. Feel free to ask your users directly what they like and don’t like about your blog, and what they’d like to read about in the future. You can even go a step further and conduct formal surveys to learn more about your audience and cater to them. When you write with your readers in mind, you’ll be far more successful in the long run.

    Habits take a long time to form, so it’s only natural that they’ll take a long time to break. These habits can result in a serious burden for your content marketing campaign, so it’s essential that you get rid of them eventually, but try not to get discouraged if you find it difficult at first.

    Instead of trying to break all of them at once, focus on one habit at a time, and make a series of gradual changes to improve upon that area of your campaign. When you break the process down into a series of manageable, actionable steps, you’ll have a much easier time triumphing over these bad habits and restoring your content marketing strategy to its former glory.

  6. Will Content Marketing Become Obsolete for SEO?

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    Over the course of the past several years, driven by Google’s Panda update and a rising trend of webmaster acceptance, the terms “content marketing” and “SEO” have become almost synonymous. The common thinking today is that you can’t have a decent SEO strategy without a content marketing program, and having a content marketing program essentially fills a role as your fundamental SEO strategy. The interrelationship between these two core strategies has linked them together, some would argue permanently. But is it possible that content marketing will someday become an obsolete strategy?

    The Case For Obsolescence

    It’s entirely possible that content marketing will eventually decay in importance over time. However, that change is unlikely to occur immediately. There are several interrelated factors that could eventually contribute to the downfall of content marketing’s relevance for SEO, but none of them are a threat for the near future. If content marketing is going to disappear from the world of search relevance, it’s going to be a long, slow process.

    Content Marketing Saturation

    articleimage744 Content Marketing Saturation

    One of the most obvious factors for the possible degradation of content marketing’s value is its saturation in the marketplace. Because so many webmasters and business owners realize the value and importance of content marketing, it has become a widespread phenomenon. Practically every online business engages in some form of content marketing, and the sheer volume of articles being written and syndicated has an effect on the landscape.

    First, users are likely to grow tired of being inundated with content, the same way they’ve grown tired of being inundated with advertising. Eventually, they’ll tune traditional forms of content out as white noise, and will move on to some new means of finding value. Second, Google could easily see the flaws of valuing content, and eventually reevaluate their process of determining rank. Either way, content marketing could fall out of favor as the best way to earn rank.

    App-Based Functionality

    articleimage744App-Based Functionality

    Already, users are starting to rely on individual applications rather than a browser-based web experience. The rise of mobile technology, including smartphones, tablets, and now wearable technology, has prompted users to meet their needs using specific apps. This has two ramifications for content marketing.

    First, if users aren’t reading content from the web, and instead are relying on app-based content, searchers will no longer need content to be calculated as an important ranking factor. Second, and as an indirect result of the first, Google and other search engines would soon start to favor app functionality over onsite content, alienating any webmasters archaic enough to update their sites with text rather than their mobile applications.

    The rise in wearable technologies, such as the Apple Watch or Google Glass, could accelerate this favoritism for app experiences over browser experiences.

    Offsite Importance

    articleimage744Offsite Importance

    Onsite and offsite optimization are both fundamentally important to any SEO strategy, and since onsite optimization is generally considered more important, content marketing remains the traditional foundation of any campaign. However, offsite ranking factors are becoming more complex, more diverse, and after the Pigeon update of 2014, more important.

    Under the Pigeon update, local directories have skyrocketed in importance for search engine ranking. For local businesses, the quantity and quality of reviews on local listing sites like Yelp now have a huge significance on their Google rank—for example, a site with several high-quality reviews could outrank a site with only a handful of low-quality reviews, even if the poorly reviewed site has ample content to back it up.

    This could mark the beginning of a trend that places a much higher emphasis on outside authority—such as user reviews and content generated from external sources—than internal authority. If that trend continues, self-published content could become far less significant.

    New Forms of Content

    New forms of content are also encroaching on the traditional content marketing strategy. While “content marketing” does refer to any type of content production and syndication for the value of your users, most traditional content marketing campaigns do rely on written articles to substantiate the bulk of their progress. In most cases, this is because Google’s algorithms rely on scouring the web for written words and contextual clues that lead it to a semantic understanding of the nature of the article.

    However, as Google’s algorithms and robots become more advanced, it may become possible for them to scan and interpret the significance of several other types of content, including new mediums and new formats. If this is the case, traditional content marketing—in the form of written articles—would eventually die out entirely.

    The Case For Permanence

    Despite all the possibilities for content marketing to eventually die out or dwindle in significance, there’s a good chance that the strategy could continue to be relevant for a long, long time. One of the biggest reasons for the strategy’s enduring popularity is the fact that in addition to being valuable for building ranks, it has the peripheral benefit of being valuable to the publisher’s users. It’s not designed as a temporary strategy, and it still has a lot of life left in it.

    A Constant Need

    It’s worth arguing that there will always be a need for content, at least in some form. People will rely on searches to find answers to their questions for years to come, and content needs to be there to answer those questions. Even though the market is currently saturated, the newest, best content will always rise to the top—so if you can offer that greatest, newest, content, you’ll get the rewards of additional traffic. Even as new mediums and formats enter the fray, there will always be a portion of the population who favors the traditional means of acquiring information—reading.

    Reputation

    Content marketing exists to build companies’ reputations just as much as it exists to build ranks. Through a successful content marketing program, you can build your reputation and authority amongst your user base, regardless of any circumstantial ranking benefits you happen to gain in the process. Even if content marketing ends up dying out for SEO, it’s still going to be relevant for authority building, and thus remains as a solid long-term strategy for user acquisition and retention.

    Evolving Context

    Another argument for content marketing’s permanence is the idea that content marketing will never actually die—it will only evolve to fit new contexts. For example, if mobile apps rise in popularity over traditional web pages, then more content needs allocated to those app-based experiences. If written content becomes less important than video content, then businesses will need to produce more video content. Content marketing is adaptable, and that makes it, in some ways, immortal.

    Moving into 2015, it’s not certain whether content marketing—or even SEO as we know it—will last forever. Forever is an exceptionally long time, and changes in technology and trends occur at an exponential rate. It’s impossible to accurately predict what’s coming in the next three years, let alone the next decade. But content marketing is going to continue being relevant—some would argue necessary—for at least the next few years. Pay close attention to Google’s next round of algorithm updates, user adoption of wearable technology, and make a conscious effort to adapt your strategies to what your users would genuinely prefer the most.

  7. Webinar: How to Create Content Your Audience and Search Engines Will Love

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    In August 2014, Lexis Nexis and AMA teamed up with AudienceBloom CEO Jayson DeMers to present this Webinar for over 1,000 registrants across the marketing field. Watch the recorded Webinar right here, right now!

    Speaker Names: Anthony (Interviewer) and Jayson (Respondent)

    [ Transcription starts 0:00:01 ]

    Anthony: Good afternoon or good morning everyone. Thank you so much for joining us today. My name is Anthony Solace and on behalf of the American Marketing Association, I’d like to welcome you to today’s webcast sponsored by LexisNexis, entitled “How To Create Content Your Audience and the Search Engine Will Love.” We here at the AMA provide you with this webcast as one of the many special programs offered to the marketing community and we invite you to participate in this ongoing series of free web seminars to help you drive the greatest return on your marketing investments.

    This informative webcast features some of the most expert minds in Marketing and you can see the fullest of the upcoming webcast if you go to ama.org/webcast. And just a few housekeeping items to cover today before we get started we are recording the full presentation and it will be made available to use very soon after so you can go back and revisit all these great information that you’re going to receive. Uhm, if you are able to join us on Twitter today we would love to have your participation at hashtag create better content. So feel free to send out some great tweets as you learn from our speaker today.

    Otherwise you can go and revisit the conversation and engaged in it after the webcast. And if you have any questions as the presentation is going on, please use the chat feature that you can see to the left of your screen. Any technical questions you might have, you can enter it there as well and we’ll respond to those as soon as possible. And content related questions, we do encourage you to enter those as the presentation is going on and we’ll be addressing those at the end of the formal presentation.

    So now this is my great pleasure to introduce our speaker for today. We’re being joined by Jayson DeMers who’s the founder and CEO of AudienceBloom. And Jayson is the author of the e-book, The Definitive Guide To Marketing Your Business Online and a writer for Forbes, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur and many more resources. And Jayson will be sharing a lot of really great information with you today so with that I’m gonna turn it over to him to start today’s presentation.

    Jayson: Great. Well thanks a lot Anthony. Hey everybody! It’s a pleasure to be presenting to you today, how to create content that makes your audience and search engines love you. Let’s go ahead and get started. Our agenda today is gonna be, starting by discussing a few truths that not everyone realizes about content and content marketing. Then we’re gonna talk about how to figure out what your audience wants and needs and how to publish content that fits those needs. And finally we’re gonna end with a Q & A session.
    So let’s begin by discussing some little known truths about content marketing. We all hear about how content is king but not content is created equal. Low quality content actually has a negative effect on branding. Most people think of content as being text, written words. But content actually comes in many forms. For example, a live speaker at a seminar is content. This webinar is content. Podcasts, videos, images and graphics are all content too.

    Number three is that not everyone creates their own content so sometimes you can outsource your content creation to your audience or to your contractors. We’ll discuss that a little bit more.

    And the fourth is that content marketing is a huge buzz lately, we all know that and that’s why we’re all here but content marketing has been around for as long as marketing has been around so it’s not a news.

    So let’s start by discussing quality. So what is quality? First of all, quality is essential because if content is low quality, it won’t do you any good. In fact, it will likely have a negative effect on brand, traffic and conversion rates if you have low quality content. And this is actually the number one most common mistake that I see business owners make is they think that they’re doing a content strategy, but in reality they’re really doing more like a negative content strategy because their content sucks.

    So if your content is not high quality, you shouldn’t be publishing it. So how do you know if your content is high quality? Well, does the piece support your brand values? Is the format appropriate? Does the format offer a doorway into your blog? Is the content targeted to the right audience? And does it provide value? And that last point is really the key point. Does the content value?

    So, I actually wrote a much more in-depth article about this which was published at Forbes two days ago. You can see the link in your chat bar right now, so save that and visit it later but that covers uh really all of the points that I think are super important for high quality content. So refer to that when making a content to make sure that your content is really high quality. Okay, so the second truth about content marketing is that content marketing comes in many forms, not just text. So let’s cover a few best practices and a few ideas for content creation in multiple forms.

    First of all, like I said, investing quality over quantity. Second, you’re gonna want to define your ideal persona and what that means is, who is your target audience? What are they like? Are they male? Are they female? What’s the age demographic? What’s their income? Think about these things when you’re producing content. Start with that before you publish content. You need to understand your ideal persona. Look at product trends in your niche or industry.

    When you publish content, use high quality images. Images are actually very important for search engines which as you know are very super important in getting organic search traffic. Keep a list of the industry statistics and research. And if you can find that publicly available, great. But if you can create primary data or research from your own audience, that’s even better. Think about responding to a controversial article or video in your industry. Giving your own unique perspective, analysis or expertise or opinion. Ask your readers to submit a story. Reader or audience generated content is fantastic and many brands use their reader-generated content. Talk to key figures in your industry. Everybody loves to see quotes from industry leaders or figure heads. See if you can reach out to influencers of your industry and get their take on something and publish your unique perspective from those influencers.

    Think about creating an infographic of what’s hot in your industry right now. And a little bit later we’ll get to how to figure what’s hot in your industry. Ask a question to people across your field and get many people in your field to respond to that one question and publish that, publish that compilation as an article.

    Write a post inspired by a comment that was left on your blog. If the comment is controversial, that’s even better. Always keep a notepad to jot down content ideas when it comes to you. This is the big, very simple but valuable kind of tactic. Personally, I just like to use my iPhone; when I get an idea I write it down my idea in my iPhone. If you work on a desk and have a pen and paper, you know that’s fine too but when you have ideas, don’t let them slip away.

    What I find is that the best ideas come to me when I’m not even trying to think about content ideas. And then those are the ones that really hit. Think about compiling a top 10 resource list for your niche. I’ve seen many companies that did this with huge success. Basically creating curated content and publishing it on your website is a fantastic way to take content that’s already been written but add more value into it.

    Learn about user focused content strategies which I discussed a little bit earlier. Find relevant sub-topics that your visitors will want to read about and i’ll discuss here in just a few minutes how to find those relevant sub-topics. And then finally, relate a popular movie to your specific industry. You can do this with music too, basically any existing popular content that you think you could relate to your industry. You’ll get a lot more popularity with that content.

    So, you have an idea of what kind of content to create but how do you actually create it? Let’s take a look at some of my favorite tools that you can use for content ideas and creation. So, ubersuggest, which is usually findable at ubersuggest.org is a keyword tool that will take one keyword and give you a bunch more ideas. And it’s based on Google’s auto-complete functionality. So when you type something into a search bar in google, and you, you know how it kind of recommends how you’ll finish your query.

    What this tool does is it takes as many of those kinds of auto-complete as it can and it compiles them into one list for you so it’s fantastic for ticking one idea and getting a bunch more. Google offers a few great tools for content creation.

    The keyword planner, google trends and google webmaster tools are all excellent sources of content ideas. So, keyword planner, I don’t have the URL handy for you, but if you go to Google and just type keyword planner, it will be the top result. The Google Keyword Planner is their official keyword tool and it’s generally used by adwords or pay per click professionals but you can get it for using ideas for getting content creation ideas too. So, what you do is you’re gonna type in a keyword and you’re gonna get 800 more that are related to it and these are based on real searches that people are typing in Google.

    Google trends is another great tool which I highly recommend you check out. It’s gonna give you years of search finding history with any given keyword along with related keywords. So it’s good for checking the popularity trends, trending topics, make sure that you are finding a trending topic that will be popular with your audience.

    So, in the screen shot example here, you can see that I searched for dog food. So Google gave me data on that since about 2005 and to now. So you can see that people are typing dog food slightly more in Google than they were in 2005. I don’t know the reasons for that. Maybe that people are buying more dogs. Maybe people are using the internet more to buy dog food. But either way, you can see that it’s climbing in popularity. If you look at the lower screen shot, you can see that Google Trends also suggests some related keywords that people are searching for and kind of how popular those searches are. So you can see that best dog food is a very popular keyword right now.

    Blue dog food, which I’m not sure what that would be, maybe that’s a brand or something. And a lot of people are looking at dog food reviews. So, you can get a lot of ideas here on content. For instance if you’re a company that sells dog food, publishing an article that kind of files all of the best dog food reviews and selecting the best dog food could be something that your customers will find interesting. Granted it would be hard to be unbiased on that. Nonetheless, it would probably get a lot of search traffic.

    You can see that people are searching for puppy food, so you know, an article that specifically related to what puppy food is best could be a popular topic. People are interested in natural dog food, you can kind of go in to what that is. And maybe an article that covers the dog food recall or recall that has happened. So anyway, these are some examples of ideas that you can get from google trends. Fantastic tool.

    So the final google tool that I wanted to talk about was google webmaster tools. In fact, anybody with a website should have this set up. It’s the much more than just keywords or content ideas. But for content creation purposes, its search queries page gives you all the ideas of search queries for which you’re currently showing up in Google Search Results, how often they’re showing up, how often your ranking for that search query and what the click through rate is. So, how often what do people actually click on your results. So you can use it to get ideas of what google thinks you’re already pretty relevant for and improve those ranking pages. You can also use it to find ideas for what your audience is searching for on Google and create content prefectly solved for the problem or need.

    So in this screen shot, you can see a real example from my own website, audiencebloom.com. You can see that the keywords that people are searching for which the website actually appeared in a search result. You can see the number of impressions as the number of times that audiencebloom.com appeared in a search result so that query gives you a number of people that actually clicked it. You can see the CTR which is the percentage of people that searched and clicked it. And you can see its current position that its currently ranking on google.

    So, obviously the website is ranking for its own brand name, but for other queries, it tends to be somewhere in the top 10. So it’s very interesting data, very useful data, and it can help you come up with content ideas. If I was looking at this set right now, I can use these keywords and already find some great ideas for content to publish. The third keyword says iframe seo and the fourth says seo iframe. Clearly, people are searching how iframes affect seo. So that would make a great article, how do iframes affect SEO. That right there would be my title and that would be a very popular one. As a matter of fact, the next several list of keywords have to do with the same topic so clearly, something that my audience is very interested in. So, you can see that people are searching for things like toxic backlinks, SEO hosting, how to check indexed pages in google, Some of the things that people are typing in Google would actually make great titles in themselves. So, use this tool to find content ideas and get more data about your website.

    So, these were the three google tools I wanted to point out, but let’s move on to some non-Google tools. Portent has a great title generation tool that helps you generate title ideas for articles and blog posts. So you can play along with that and you can get some title ideas for your next blog post. I don’t have the URL handy but if you just go to Google and type portent title generator or idea generator, I’m sure it will pop up number one.

    So, of course, primary and original data analysis always makes for a quality valuable content. So try conducting a poll or other primary research that can give you the original data that you can publish along with analysis. Some examples of research that you can do include compiling a comprehensive list of indstry’s statistics and research. You can publish a top 10 research list for your niche. You can try to predict trends in your niche or industry.

    And by the way, that is an extremely popular kind of what you can do for content. Last year, I published a series of articles on Forbes that recalled the top 7 trends that will happen or that will dominate 2014 and I published it at the end of 2013. So for instance, one of the articles was titled top 7 social media trends that will dominate 2014. Another article that went viral and it actually has over 600,000 views now. So if you can imagine that kind of traffic coming into your site and you know the kind of leads and revenue that it will generate, you can see the value of that type of content. The predictions are always very very popular.

    Finally you can analyze the news of correlations and trends and then give your expert analysis or your take on it. So in the end, you wanna ask yourself one important question with your content: do you find value in what you’re publishing? If you don’t think there’s value in your content, don’t publish it. Like I mentioned at the beginning of the presentation, the most common mistakes I see that business owners make is publishing low quality content because they think it’s gonna help their search engine rankings and they really ignore how that content looks to a person, to a human. They just think about the search engines. So not only are they wrong about that content helping their search engine rankings but even if they were right, nobody would convert once they got to the website anyway if the content is low quality.

    So it really comes down whether you think your content is valuable as the business owner or as the marketer, as the content marketer or whatever your role might be in the content marketing space, you need to really ask yourself that question. Do you think this content is valuable in quality? So, let’s say that you have created and published high quality content. What do you do next? Well, one of the things you should do is re-purpose it. So, you can easily re-purpose text based content by visualizing the information it conveys using an infographic. And there are a bunch of free infographic template sites that allows you to easily create infographics based on popular existing templates.

    If you haven’t seen an infographic before, essentially it’s just an image that is attractively designed that conveys visual information. Usually, infographics are based on data and statistics so it’s easier to create them once you have, kind of metrics, or, or a quantitative data. However, I have seen infographics created based solely on text or qualitative data. And so it can be done and it can work very well. That’s something to keep in mind.

    Another example of re-purposing is actually in an e-book that I’ll be publishing shortly at my company website, audiencebloom.com which is titled The Definitive Guide To Social Media Marketing. It’s compiled of my best previously published articles on social media marketing which I previously published across publishers like entrepreneur.com, forbes, huffington post, and the like. I simply compiled them all into an e-book which puts them all in one place and provides great value for my audience and my readers. So I’ll be publishing that within the next week or so. But I wanted to point that out because it’s really a great example of re-purposing content. It’s already published articles that are available but they’re all scattered across the web so if you put them all into one place, you create new value, you create new content, and you can use that to leverage traffic, leads and sales.

    So, remember, I’ll point this out again because this is the number one mistake I see business owners make so I can’t say it enough but in the end, the true test of quality is you. If you don’t think your content is awesome, don’t publish it.

    So, that was my presentation. If there’s anything you can think of that I missed, that you found super helpful in your value of content strategy, I’d love to know it. Please submit a question and what we can do is go ahead and move on to the Q and A and we’ll get started with questions. I really appreciate it, you guys.

    Anthony: Excellent stuff. Thanks so much Jayson I appreciate it and yup, we’re definitely moving in to Q & A now.

  8. How to Hire and Manage Freelancers for Your Content Marketing Campaign

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    keyboard

    If you’ve decided to move into content marketing, one of the facts that you quickly learn is that it requires hard work – a lot of it. Doing the background research, developing your content calendar, writing or producing the content, optimizing it for publication, getting it published, disseminating it, engaging with your readers, and measuring your results is no small feat.

    Many businesses use freelancers to accelerate some or all parts of these processes. I’ve worked with freelancers throughout my career for various projects, and I’ve learned a few things along the way. Here are my top tips for ensuring you hire the right people for the job, building your relationships with your freelance team, and getting the most value out of these relationships

    Crafting the Job Advertisement

    For purposes of this article, I’ll use the example of hiring and working with a freelance writer. Everything outlined in the attached is applicable to any freelancer you’ll work with. The first place to get started is with defining the role and articulating those needs in your job description. If you need more ideas on the kinds of writing required for a content marketing strategy, I recommend reading “How To Build Your First Content Marketing Strategy.”

    There’s a wide variety of writers on the market. Skills range from beginner to advanced, as do price ranges and professionalism. The best way to vet your pool of candidates is to start by being very thoughtful in terms of how you structure your job ad.

    Start by sketching out a list of the deliverables that this person will handle: blog posts, guest posts, and articles, for example. How long do they need to be, and how frequently do you need them written? Different candidates will be drawn to one five hundred word post per week versus and two fifteen hundred word posts per day, for example. The more clear you are about your needs, the more candidates will self-select during the application process based on quality, pace, and topics required.

    Next, think about the kind of voice or function you want these pieces to have for your business. Are you looking for a journalistic voice that can help you educate readers about your space, or someone that can make the hard sell and move people toward a purchase right away? There’s no right answer, but it’s important that you consider the voice you’d like to use for your business. Versatile writers can often communicate in multiple voices, but specific candidates are also likely to have strengths.

    Finally, consider the work style that you’re most comfortable with. Do you need someone that’s very independent, who is comfortable developing and pitching topics? Are you looking for someone to deliver finished products that you can just publish? Or are you looking for a collaborative writer that can breathe life into your ideas, that is willing to conform to a strict style guide, and can run with your article titles or outlines? Once you’ve gotten clear on these points, you’re ready to draft the job description.

    Here are a few tips to take into account when writing the job description:

    1. Be very clear about your required experience: Can anyone smart and willing to research write these pieces, or does it require a certain level of area expertise or writing finesse?
    2. Use clear criteria to define the way that you’ll measure that experience: For example, if you’re hiring someone to write guest posts that you hope to publish on high-end tech blogs, one reasonable measure would be to ask for published examples from blogs such as Mashable, VentureBeat, or other well-known publications with strict quality guidelines for guest authors. If your goal is to write white papers and other content geared toward ethanol engineers, ask to see writing samples that demonstrate their expertise in that field.
    3. Always ask for examples: Whenever possible, ask to see at least five samples of someone’s work. If you’re hiring a less experienced person, it’s possible they won’t have a strong portfolio yet. However, seeing five samples of solid work on different topics or from different clients or publications can confirm that this is a person that can deliver a quality product that doesn’t require excessive editing.
    4. Request some background information: When you’re hiring a writer or creative, it’s unlikely that you need a detailed resume (but you should request one if it makes you feel more comfortable). What you do want to understand is their general background, the basis of their expertise or interest in your field, and what kind of writing career that they’ve had to date.

    Once you’ve written the job description, test it with three trusted colleagues, advisors, or friends. Ask them to give you feedback on clarity. Can they describe the role? Is the profile of person you’re trying to hire clear? The combined feedback of a few people should ensure that what you’re putting out there is attracting the right kind of candidate.

    Managing the Publishing Process

    Once the job description is written, it’s ready to be posted. There are a number of places on which you can post freelance work. Here’s a quick look at different options and their pros and cons.

    Bidding sites, like Elance or Guru: Sites like Elance allow you to post jobs in a variety of niches and get bids from vendors around the globe. The advantages are simple:

    • access to a pool of professionals;
    • a single interface to hire and manage projects and payment;
    • access to past performance data of each freelancer to help make your decisions.

    The downsides typically relate to quality: these sites are often a stepping stone for professionals that are building their careers. The most accomplished individuals usually look elsewhere for work.

    Your own networks: Don’t overlook the power of reaching out to your own networks. If you’re hiring, post a link to the job description on your social media networks or email it to trusted colleagues. Many times, someone you know has a person that they use for this specific service or a contact that’s seeking new clients. Pay extra attention to candidates that come your way via referrals.

    Specialty sites: Depending on which niche you’re hiring for, there are likely to be specific sites where you can connect with freelancers. For example, if you’re hiring writers you’d likely consider sites like JournalismJobs, ProBlogger, and Freelancewritinggigs. Hiring coders? Sites like Dice.com and Sologigs are the right places to start. Find a few of the top sites in the niche where you’re looking for talent and evaluate the quality of ads there. It may cost you a bit more in the beginning but you’re more likely to get responses from a highly qualified customer base.

    How to Vet Freelance Writers

    Once you’ve developed your pool of likely suspects, do a paid test article. There are three ways to approach this: none will always going to be the right approach, but each will give you slightly different insight to your candidates.

    Pitching: Ask your candidates to get to know your business a bit, and then have them pitch topics that would be good fits for your company, audience, and marketing goals. This approach gives you an instant understanding of how well they really get your company’s unique positioning, your audience, and what you’re hoping to accomplish with your content. It’ll also allow you to take a deeper look at the content they produce and their overall writing ability.

    Assigning the same article to different writers: To do more of an apples to apples comparison, take a specific topic (e.g. “The Top Things Entrepreneurs Should Know about Google Analytics”) and assign that to each of the finalists from your applicant pool. Seeing how the writers each tackle their assigned subjects will give you an excellent perspective on whose work resonates the most with your voice and style.

    Assign specific but different content pieces to your writers: There’s a good chance that you’ve got a looming pile of content ideas that need to be written. This audition could be a practical way to identify your new writer and make a dent in what you’re hoping to accomplish with your content marketing strategy.

    Ongoing Communication and Management

    Once you’ve found the right candidate, it’s time to put your communication and management plan in place. Every entrepreneur-writer relationship is different. Your ongoing communication and management should reflect a work style that keeps you informed and on track and syncs with what your writer needs to accomplish the most for your business. Here are a few recommendations that work for me or that my colleagues have mentioned as best practices that help them collaborate with freelance writers:

    Use a content calendar: Use a weekly content calendar that shows your specific campaign milestones and the writer’s deliverables. For a guest posting campaign, for example, you might list each specific venue and due date in a Google Calendar or Basecamp format. Having this guideline will keep your writers writing and allow you to gain steady traction over time.

    Monday pitch letters: Whether your writers are pitching topics or whether you’re assigning specific titles based on keyword research, consider using a Monday check-in letter as the basis of that week’s communication. Whoever is in charge of outlining titles should do so, along with publication targets and deadlines if appropriate. If you’re just beginning to work with a writer, consider asking for a title and a two to three sentence blurb that fleshes out each idea. You can then offer feedback and adjustments that meet your goals.

    Quarterly big trends and goals updates: Content marketing is only effective if it serves your business. In today’s environment, the reality is that a company’s needs and goals often shift frequently. Keeping your writers focused on your top yearly, quarterly, and even monthly goals will help them craft more effective content for your campaigns. For example, in a specific month, your goal might be to get articles published on as many new publishers as possible, or it might be to educate a specific demographic about your company. Whatever the objective, the more you communicate, the better the results you’ll achieve.

    Share periodic feedback: For many entrepreneurs, the idea of doing detailed line edits and sharing that feedback is daunting. Your role isn’t to be your writer’s managing editor (although it can be if that’s your approach). However, sharing periodic feedback is absolutely critical. Are certain topics or types of content getting real traction? Let the writer know. Are you seeing more success when you feature your links in a specific way? Send a quick note to share these insights. Did you really have to cut into a piece to make it fit your voice? In that instance, sharing detailed edits and asking the writer to review the changes can save you time down the road.

    Show appreciation: Last but not least, if you find a writer that gets your business and makes your content marketing job easier, take the time to let them know. Whether they get your voice better than other writers you’ve worked with or make it easier to hit your deadlines, sharing occasional praise will make you a valued client. Writers, especially freelance ones, work in a highly transactional context. Client request, write, rinse, and repeat. Taking the time to recognize their contribution will help ensure that they want to do their best to help you reach your goals.

    For more tips on hiring, see my article 10 Lessons That I Learned from Launching a Startup.

    Conclusion

    Identifying the gaps in your own ability or in your existing company’s talent base can help you create a roadmap for hiring freelance talent. Freelancers – whether we’re talking writers, coders, designers, or process consultants – can help you reach your business goals effectively and with less stress. Do you have tips for hiring and managing freelancers? Let me know in the comments below.

  9. 27 Creative Ways to Promote Your Infographic

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    Infographics can be very effective ways to spread your message. They are eye-catching and often much more compelling than plain text. Here are 27 powerful methods for promoting your infographics.

    1. Submit it to Infographic Directories

    Just as there are article directories and video sharing sites, there are also infographic directories. Some of the leading ones are Cool Infographics, Infographic Directory, Daily Infographic and Visual.ly.

    articleimage162Make a Video From It

    2. Make a Video From It

    You can get more mileage from your infographics by turning them into videos. A simple way to do this is to separate the different parts of the infographic and make them into PowerPoint slides. For added appeal, you can add music to it. You can also make this type of video using services such as Animoto.

    articleimage162Send it to Your Subscribers

    3. Send it to Your Subscribers

    If you have an email list, you should let them know whenever you publish a new infographic. The easiest way to do this is usually to give them a link to your blog. Sending attachments or inserting the infographic in the email itself are also possible, but these tactics can lower your delivery and open rates.

    4. Form Partnerships With Your Best Sources

    When you include links in your infographics, you are helping to drive traffic to these sites. You can therefore contact these bloggers or webmasters and ask them to help promote your infographic in return. They are, after all, helping themselves as well as you by doing this.

    articleimage162Tweet About It

    5. Tweet About It

    While you can’t include the full infographic in a tweet, you can include teasers. Tweet certain key points and include a link to the full infographic on your site.

    6. Send Out Press Releases

    If you have an infographic that is filled with valuable content, you can promote it using press releases. A press release must be written as a news story rather than an advertisement, but you can still include a link to the site where your infographic is published.

    7. Share it on Pinterest

    In addition to other social media sites, be sure to use Pinterest, which is an ideal platform for infographics. Since this fast growing site is image-oriented, infographics are very popular there. Be sure to create boards that attract the kind of traffic you’re seeking. You can create as many boards as you want on Pinterest.

    8. Optimize Your Infographics

    Whenever you create a new infographic, be sure to optimize it the same way you would an article, blog post or video. This means using a variety of keywords, both primary and long tail. It’s always a good idea to do keyword research to come up with words and terms people are searching for that you might not have thought of.

    9. Let People Embed Your Infographic

    If you want your infographic to get shared and go viral, you should make it easy for people to embed it on their own sites. It’s not difficult to learn how to create an embed code for your infographic, and this can help you get it out to a wider audience.

    10. Include Portions of the Infographic on Facebook

    Complete infographics often don’t look their best on Facebook, which is why it’s often better to publish teasers instead. This can also be a good way to get Facebook friends and fans to visit your website. As you’re creating your infographic, keep in mind which segments might be especially appealing to readers on Facebook.

    11. Repurpose the Text

    The text portion of an infographic can be repurposed into blog posts, articles or documents on sites like Scribd or Docstoc. When you do this, don’t forget to include a link to the complete infographic.

    12. Translate Infographics Into Other Languages

    This is an innovative way to get traffic from completely new sources. Images are by nature universal, so you just have to translate the text. Be sure to get good translations, though, as otherwise your messages could be distorted or misunderstood. This can be a good way to get traffic from other parts of the world.

    13. Publish it on Content Curation Sites

    There are lots of content curation websites where you can publish infographics. These can be a valuable source of traffic. Some of these include Bundlr, ScoopIt and Internet Billboards.

    14. Have a Main Site For Your Infographics

    If infographics are a major part of your marketing strategy, you should have one central place to publish them. This can be your WordPress blog, business website, Blogspot blog or anything that works for you. This way, no matter what promotional tactics you use, you can point traffic back to this central site. If your infographics are too spread out, it’s harder to promote them.

    15. Encourage People to Share it

    When you post your infographic on your blog, make sure you have share buttons for Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Don’t be afraid to ask people to share it if they like it.

    16. Use Paid Ads or Facebook Sponsored Stories

    If you are willing to invest a little money into promoting your infographic, you can use Google or Facebook ads for this purpose. Another useful tool is Facebook Sponsored Stories. To get the most out of these advertising platforms, it’s necessary to test and carefully track your results. Find out which headlines and ads bring you the most traffic.

    17. Connect With Influencers

    Influencers are the people in your niche or industry who have a large following and are considered experts. These are people who can help you connect with a wider audience. Reach out with them via Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and on their blogs. Study what type of content that they typically publish and pitch them about using your infographic.

    18. Choose a Catchy Headline

    As with other types of content, people will usually notice a headline before anything else. That’s why it’s important to choose a title for your infographic that people will be attracted to. This will depend on your target audience, of course. While you should be thinking in terms of keywords and SEO for headlines, you also have to make your headline compelling so that people will be drawn to the infographic.

    19. Pitch it to Blogs

    Many people are familiar with guest blogging, where you seek targeted blogs to publish your articles. A similar tactic can be taken with infographics. Make a list of active blogs in your industry and pitch them on using your infographic.

    20. Get Involved on Forums

    Forums can be good places to connect with a targeted audience and get people interested in your content. The best approach is to not be too blatant about self-promotion and to rely on your signature for promoting. You can use your signature to drive traffic to the site or post where your infographic is located.

    21. Pay Attention to Design Principles

    Not all infographics are equally popular. One key reason for this is that some of them are poorly designed. This can mean that there’s too much text, the wrong color scheme or a confusing layout. The best infographics are usually concise, not overly long without too much data. It should flow in a natural way, so the eye moves from Point A to Point B without getting distracted.

    22. Use Google Alerts to Find Additional Places to Promote

    Google Alerts can let you know when new content is published that is related to your infographic. You can then contact the publisher and let him or her know you have an infographic that might enhance their content.

    23. Promote Offline

    There are ways to promote your infographic offline. You can post links on business cards, bulletin boards or in classifieds of local publications. For this purpose, it’s best to have a simple and short domain name that can easily be remembered.

    24. Publish Images on Flickr and Instagram

    Just as you can publish the text portion of your infographics as articles, you can publish the images to sites such as Flickr and Instagram. In this case, you should include the link to the complete infographic with each image.

    25. Promote it on Answer Sites

    If your infographic solves a problem or answers a question, you can promote it on sites like Yahoo! Answers and other answer sites. Search for active questions and you can use the link to your infographic in your answer.

    26. Tie in Your Infographic With Seasonal Events and Holidays

    You can make your infographics more relevant by connecting them with events or holidays that people are thinking about. This may take some creativity, but you may be able to alter an existing infographic and tie it in with a certain holiday, sporting event, news story or pop culture reference.

    27. Link to it in E-books

    You can link to infographics from e-books. These can be free e-books that you use to build your mailing list or perhaps an e-book you publish on Kindle. Most e-book platforms, including Kindle, support live links.

  10. How to Find Royalty Free Legal Images to Use in Your Content

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    You don’t have to be a professional photographer or a graphic artist to include rich, high quality images on your website or blog. There are hundreds of sources on the Internet for the kind of graphic images that add value and interest to your content, and they’re readily available, royalty free.

    articleimage160Royalty Free Images

    TYPES OF IMAGES

    Before you look for images for your site, it helps to know what you’re looking for. Many websites that offer royalty free images provide a variety of image types, others specialize in photos, animations or vectors. While you may be familiar with these types of images, the legal and use implications may be unfamiliar to you.

    Most websites carry stock images. These are photos and graphics that are widely available for use by anyone who needs them. They can be generic or very specific; using narrow search definitions will help you zoom in on exactly what you’re looking for and avoid using images that are already familiar to users.

    Stock images fall into to two main categories: royalty free and managed use.

    articleimage160TYPES OF IMAGES

    Royalty Free Images

    Royalty free doesn’t mean these images are available free of charge. The term means that these visuals are freely available for use on the Internet by anyone who pays the initial licensing fee. Once the nominal fee is paid, you’re allowed unlimited use of the images for any duration and any number of projects or applications. Royalty free images are subject to the Terms of Use from the website you purchase the rights from, so read the fine print carefully to learn about any restrictions that apply.

    Managed Use Images

    This type of image is also known as a rights-managed image. Usually these images are very specialized and there is one artist, photographer or group of artists that creates or supplies them. The purchaser gains the rights to use such images for a limited time. Additional restrictions may also be placed on the manner of use, location and number of applications. Again, read the fine print, TOS and FAQs of the website before you commit to anything.

    COPYRIGHT RULES

    Copyright laws cover any creative work, from the moment of its creation. All music, visual art, written works and their creators are protected under the laws by copyright laws in the 160 participating nations and by the U.S. Copyright Act. This applies to any video, photo or image you find on the Internet from any source. Violation of copyright, also known as infringement, doesn’t need to be intentional to be a crime.

    Avoiding Infringement

    There are two ways you can be considered in violation of a copyright: you can either violate the rights of the creator of an image or the legal holder of the rights to an image.

    Specifically, you’re in violation of a legal copyright if you:

    • Use part or all of an image or other work without permission
    • Use an image beyond the scope of what’s specified in the Terms of Use
    • Use an image beyond what’s stipulated in your licensing agreement
    • Adapt an image in another medium without the permission of the creator or legal copyright holder
    • Ask another artist or photographer to recreate an identical image

    You don’t have to be directly involved in the infringement to be considered guilty. You can also be considered in violation if you have knowledge of the violation, encourage someone else to violate a copyright on your behalf, or if you knowingly or unknowingly use an image from another source that didn’t have a legal right to publish or use the image in question.

    That’s why it important to know the source of your images and deal with a reputable website when acquiring photos or other graphics for use on your web page or blog. A reputable source will include legal protection, either free or for a small fee. This protection might also be called indemnification or a legal guarantee in the licensing agreement.

    When searching for images, find out from the supplier if they:

    • Have permission to license the image
    • Have on file model or property releases for their images
    • Offer additional legal protection in the case of disputed images
    • Have a protocol in place to identify risky images, such as trademarked items, before offering them for use

    HOW TO GET ROYALTY FREE IMAGES, LEGALLY

    There are several sources for high quality images that you can use. The two most common are stock photos and creative commons-licensed content.

    Stock Photos

    There are hundreds of websites where you can find stock photos. The only drawback for this option is that some of the images that are available for free aren’t print quality. Many of these are also in wide distribution. However, most are fine for basic website use. Just perform a general search for free clip art or stock photos to find a list of websites that archive and distribute stock photos. Some of the websites that supply stock photos require a small membership fee, then allow a certain number of images to be used royalty free for the duration of the membership. Each websites is different, so browse around for the best.

    Once you’ve found a source for images, use very specific terms in the site’s search box or browse the categories to weed out images that have already saturated the web. The sites that carry them typically already have them licensed for general use. Otherwise, the creator of the image simply needs to be notified about how and where the image will be placed. On rare occasions they’re available only for non-commercial use.

    articleimage160Creative Commons Content

    Creative Commons Content

    Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that provides a way around paying outright for copyrights and licensing. It’s the least expensive and most common source for high quality photos and graphics. You can either use websites such as Flickr, which contain a high volume of CC-licensed images, or you can filter a search to specify “CC-licensed only” images.

    There are different use requirements for Creative Commons content, but usually they’re limited to providing credit or a link back for the source. Clicking on the image itself will lead to information about any limitations or conditions for use.

    Other Options

    Another source of royalty free images is to find those that are considered to be in the public domain. Public domain means that the photos or images have passed the end date of the original term of the copyright, and the rights haven’t been reissued.

    Most of these type of websites are government or education sites, like NASA’s website. You’ll know them by the suffix .gov or .edu; unless otherwise stated on the photo, the images on these sites are for public use. There will be a copyright notice on or below the photo, but always click on the image to check if permission is required for its use.

    Getty Images now allows use of up to 35 million of their images, as long as they are for non-commercial purposes on a blog or personal website. This site consists mainly of news images that are high quality and are not normally available from other sources without payment.

    A strong image creates a visual impact that generates interest and draws readers in. However, the image you choose should be relevant to your content and add value, rather than detract from your message or intent. Powerful visuals and strong content go hand in hand to help create a user experience that sets your website or blog ahead of the rest of the pack.

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