This Week in Content Marketing: LinkedIn Moves for Content Dominance

LinkedIn-Content-Dominance-Podcast-CoverPNR: This Old Marketing with Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose can be found on both iTunes and Stitcher.

In this week’s episode, Robert and I discuss LinkedIn’s purchase of Lynda.com and what it means for LinkedIn and the content marketing industry. We also ponder the difference between content and advertising and ask if it really matters. We answer a listener question about measuring the impact of content programs. In addition, Robert and I explore the failure of social media as a community-building tool and discuss an alternative for brands that can be more effective but also harder to implement. Rants and raves include Walt Disney’s visionary mindset and how content marketing could save the world. We wrap up the show with a #ThisOldMarketing example of the week from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.

This week’s show

(Recorded live April 13, 2015; Length: 55:45)

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1. Content marketing in the news

  • LinkedIn acquires Lynda.com (3:54): LinkedIn has announced that it has acquired Lynda.com, an online learning company, for $1.5 billion. According to reports on TNW and Forbes, this acquisition enables LinkedIn to significantly expand its professional service offerings. Robert views it as a match made in heaven. I agree that it’s a “plug-and-play” opportunity for LinkedIn: The combination of Lynda.com’s large course library with LinkedIn’s mountain of professional development data will be a powerful one.
  • Content vs. advertising: Is there really a debate? (10:26): Lee Odden, in a column on his TopRank Blog, takes issue with a statement by Mitch Joel that all paid placements of articles are ads. Odden says there is no debate. Brands need to focus on the content experiences they can create through a combination of owned, earned, paid, and shared media that will attract, engage, and inspire buyers to take action. I see many brands that treat content and advertising as an either-or decision – but it’s not. Both are needed. Robert believes we need to focus on the purpose or goal of the content, not on what we call it.
  • Listener question: (16:32): Karen Marks from Pepperidge Farms, asks: “How do you account for non-working costs (your internal costs to create content) when you might not have any working costs (the cost to place it in the media) to go along with it? I have been thinking about ways to classify our owned channels as media but haven’t quite figured it out.” Robert recommends that you look at your own channel as if you have to buy space on it, and then estimate costs against the business. I point out that there are a number of metrics you can use to estimate the value of a customer and calculate your approximate acquisition costs, and use that ratio as a benchmark.
  • The rise of community media and why social networks don’t work (25:09): This article from TNW suggests that social media has failed as a community-building tool. Instead of acting as forums where ideas can get thoughtful discussion, they have evolved into noisy channels where ideas tend to get ignored and the majority of users are spectators. To fill the need for networking and idea sharing, many industries and markets have developed niche platforms tailored to the needs of their audiences. Robert and I agree that brands can build communities. But it requires a different mindset and culture than many companies are accustomed to.

2. Sponsor (34:36)

  • This Old Marketing is sponsored by Widen Enterprises, a digital technology company that specializes in digital asset management. Widen is offering Great Visual Storytelling Takes a Village, a new white paper authored by CMI’s Robert Rose. Today, rich media experiences are paving the future of content marketing. This timely report explains how the four C’s – Collaborate, Customize, Communicate, and Connect – can help your business to streamline the management of its digital assets so you can scale your content marketing initiatives. You can download this report at http://bit.ly/pnrwiden.

widen-visual-storytelling-white-paper3. Rants and raves (37:37)

  • Joe’s rave: During a recent vacation in Florida, I got a look at the gigantic construction site for Disney Springs, which is the company’s reimagining of the Downtown Disney theme park. The walls around the site were emblazoned with amazing quotes from Walt Disney, which got me thinking about the company’s remarkable culture. Disney has always made big bets, which have been backed up by amazing focus and execution, plus unwavering leadership support. In contrast, most of the companies I see today are playing it safe, maintaining the status quo. Now is the time to create amazing value for your customers, become indispensable to them, and leave your competitors in the dust.

4. This Old Marketing example of the week (49:10)

  • Wild Kingdom: Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom TV show debuted in 1963 and ran until 1971. It starred Marlin Perkins and Jim Fowler and featured amazing stories of animals and nature from around the world. As a prime-time syndicated program, Wild Kingdom enjoyed great popularity starting in 1971. Even in its earliest days, the show integrated promotions for its sponsor, voiced by Perkins. In 2013, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom premiered a series of webisodes that featured a new host, a new format, and new stories about the world’s wildest places and creatures. Kudos to the company for resurrecting this beloved TV show and reimagining it for a new online audience.

wild-kingdom

 For a full list of PNR archives, go to the main This Old Marketing page.

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The post This Week in Content Marketing: LinkedIn Moves for Content Dominance appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.


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Tips for Getting the Most out of Call-Only Ads in Google AdWords

Tips for Getting the Most out of Call-Only Ads in Google AdWords was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Mobile optimized sites have been all the rage since Google’s explicit February announcement that mobile-friendliness will be used as an organic ranking signal starting April 21st. However, Google has not forgotten about the original purpose of mobile devices — phone calls. In February, Google made it easier for advertisers to engage smartphone users with call-only ads.

Although call-only campaigns are fairly new to Google AdWords, there are certain steps you can take to get the most out of them. This article provides insight into the setup, optimization, and reporting of call-only ads, based on data and testing we have done for our clients.

Setup

Before creating your call-only ad campaigns we recommend starting a conversation with your business or client to establish what a valuable call length is. Perhaps it typically takes the sales team 10 minutes to close a lead or sale, for example. By default, the call-only ads consider a call length of 60 seconds to be a conversion. For accurate reporting and cost management, you’ll want to set the conversion, count and conversion window at the right length for your business. Adjust the default settings using AdWords’ newish conversion interface.

google adwords tools

Select the Phone calls conversion and select the Calls from ads using call extensions option. (In the future, I suspect this may read “Calls from ads.”)

adwords phone call conversions

From here you can set the call length for a conversion, count, conversion window and other settings.

Tip: We recommend adding time to the required call length based on average time on hold, transferring, and navigating through automated response systems.

Optimization

  • Scheduling: Unless you or your client consider a user being sent to an answering machine a valuable phone call, we recommend scheduling your call-only ads to run during hours the business operates, has sufficient staffing available to answer calls, or aligned with call-center hours.

Tip: Scheduling can play very well into an account structure that has been segmented geographically. This way, you can create multiple call-only campaigns with ad scheduling that correlate with their respective time zones.

  • Using call-only ads with mobile preferred ads: Call-only ads and mobile preferred ads won’t directly compete against each other, but they do occupy the same ad space. Google’s ad rank will determine which ad type will show. And if your mobile preferred ads have more historic data, it is likely they will outrank your call-only ads on most searches. So, it may be necessary to bid up on your call-only ads.

Tip: We recommend segmenting mobile preferred ads and call-only ads into different campaigns for more granular control of the different bid and keyword strategies of each.

  • Targeted keywords: If there is sufficient traffic, we recommend adding phone call centric modifiers to your call-only keywords i.e. “phone number,” “call,” or “customer support.” This will help improve call-only click through rates and can further mediate competition with your mobile preferred ads.

Reporting

Data on call-only ads and Google forwarding numbers (unique phone number extensions that Google can add to an ad to allow for enhanced reporting like call length and caller’s area code) is not visible by default. Look for this data in Custom columns and Dimensions.

  • Custom columns: You can add custom columns to view metrics like: phone calls, PTR, phone impressions, and more. Unfortunately, these metrics do not seem to be available at the keyword level, yet, but you can add call detail metrics at the campaign and ad group level.

adwords custom column reporting

  • Dimensions: If you have opted into Google forwarding phone numbers, looking in the Dimensions tab can be a great resource for call-only reporting. Once in the Dimensions tab, select Call details from the drop-down. Here you get metrics like: call length, caller’s area code, and if the phone call was received or missed.

adwords custom dimensions reporting

Tip: If you or your client are not sure what constitutes a valuable phone call, getting an idea of average call length from this report can help provide insight.

Hopefully, this article has provided some Google AdWords help on the newest ad type, call-only ads. Have you launched any call-only campaigns? Feel free to leave questions or your own tips in the comments.


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Jump-Start Your Video Optimization and Promotion

video-optimization-promotion-cover

You don’t need to be convinced to upload videos to YouTube. You already know the value of the most powerful video-hosting platform. The real challenge lies in getting your videos viewed and ranked.

This image reflects a high-level process flow of successful YouTube marketing:

image-1-video-marketing

 Image credit: Webris

Input and output components have been covered elsewhere – create videos that raise brand awareness and drive traffic to your website.

Marketers stumble in the center where each aspect works together to drive outputs. Views, shares, and links all drive the ranking algorithm. How can we rank our content without these crucial elements?

Jump-start the ranking signals by creating them manually. I’m not  talking about black-hat spam tactics – I’m talking about old-fashioned elbow grease.

Think of it like starting an antique stick-shift truck – before the engine turns over automatically, you have to push it manually to get the wheels moving.

Create the right content

First, you have to create videos that people want  to watch. That means understanding what types of content do well on YouTube where viewers generally look to learn, solve problems, and waste time. If you want consistent views, your videos should be focused on that type of content, such as:

  • How-to videos (How to Make Cake Pops)
  • Tutorials (Setting Up an Aquarium)
  • Humorous videos (Funny cats)
  • Reviews (iPhone 5 review)

If you’re thinking, “I run a hair salon, not a hair school, this doesn’t apply to me,” you couldn’t be more wrong.

Running a business requires in-depth knowledge of your craft, and you can share this with the world. Post a video guide about braiding hair or an honest review of a hair straightening product. You might not make direct sales, but a consistent stream of good content will drive views, subscribers, awareness, and traffic. Over time, this will affect your sales as well.

Optimize the video

Search engines review your YouTube videos similarly to the way they review websites. There are a number of on-page optimizations you can perform that will send relevancy signals to search engines.

Provide info – Similar to image optimization for on-page SEO, YouTube looks at the name of your video file to help determine its subject matter.

Before you upload your video, right click on the file and select “get info.” Add custom tags, title, and description based on the keywords of your video. Don’t go overboard and resort to keyword stuffing – just use honest and descriptive keywords that describe your video.

image-2-naming-video

Expand the title – YouTube pulls the video’s title from its file name. I recommend adding secondary keywords into your title.

For example, if you named your video file “How to Do a French Braid,” then title your video “How to Do a French Braid – Braiding Tutorial.” You capture additional keywords without using the same phrase.

Describe, transcribe – First and foremost, make sure you include a clear call to action with a link to your website, landing page, product, etc. Make it the first sentence in the description field. I like to write something that gives viewers an incentive to click:

“Want to get the report covered in the video? Click here to download (FREE): http://yoursite.com

While your videos should provide great content for users, you’re also running a business. Make sure you drive viewers to an owned platform and get them in your sales funnel.

There is no limit on the number of characters in the description. I strongly suggest you take advantage of that. Make sure the content you’re adding is original and not duplicate (Google Panda algorithm penalties apply here as well).

I like to add the video transcript in this section. You can hire someone or do it yourself.

Tags – Add a series of tags that help further describe your video. Add 8 to 10 tags using your target keywords.

Create playlists – Most marketers overlook this part. Adding your videos to specific playlists adds another signal (think of them like you do categories on your blog).

If your video is called “How to Do a French Braid – Braiding Tutorial,” create a playlist called “Hair Tutorials – Braiding Guides.” Just like elaborating on the video title, this allows you to capture synonym keywords without keyword stuffing.

image-3-custom-thumbnails

Custom thumbnail – Adding a custom thumbnail image will greatly increase click-through rates to your video as this is the image shown in search. Use colors like red, yellow, and green in your thumbnail to help it stand out from other listings in the SERPs.

image-4-youtube-screens

Think channel page – To follow you, users visit your channel page – would you rather follow a channel that looks like this (Channel A):

image-5-youtube-channel-1

or this (Channel B)?

image-6-youtube-channel-2

Your channel page also offers other opportunities for ranking and relevancy signals.

  • Add links to your social pages and your website.
  • Include a long description about your channel in the About section.
  • Subscribe to channels with similar content, creating a correlation between their content and yours.
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU: 10 Most Common SEO Pitfalls

Push the video

YouTube and Google look at hundreds of engagement factors when ranking videos, including:

  • Video views – the more, the better
  • Viewer retention – the longer, the better
  • Video comments – the more, the better
  • Subscribes after watching – if your video can directly influence users to subscribe, you’re golden
  • Shares – the more social shares, the better
  • Favorites added – the more, the better
  • Video “likes” – the more, the better

The theory is simple – if people are watching your video, engaging with it, and sharing it, it’s worth ranking. It’s your job to distribute your video to get more views.

Push to your network – Send emails and text messages to your friends, family, and customers alerting them to the video and asking them to leave feedback. Your network alone should be able to generate a couple hundred views, comments, and shares.

Push to owned social – Blast your video across every social media page you own. I use the following list of networks for my videos: Facebook (personal and business page), Google Plus (personal and business page), Twitter (personal and business page), Pinterest, Tumblr, Reddit, LinkedIn (personal and business page), DeviantArt, Blogger, Diigo, Delicious, LiveJournal, StumbleUpon, Scoop.It, and Plurk.

Not only do these postings create awesome, high-quality social signals, but some of these platforms create back-links as well.

Push to social groups – Social media groups are one of the best-kept secrets for content distribution. If you can find groups relevant to your business you can get hundreds of engaged views, comments, and social shares.

I belong to about 20 Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn groups related to digital marketing. They are highly active and always provide quality engagement metrics on my content.

image-7-analytics-screenshot

When you use groups, make sure you aren’t just spamming them with links. Take part in discussions, provide value, and get to know the other members.

Push to forums – Forums lost some popularity with the rise of social media groups but are still a viable source for engagement and links.

Finding relevant forums is easy. Just head to Google and type: Forum + “your niche” and look for ones that are active and updated often.

In addition to forums, look for threads on Reddit and Quora. Google search for: site: quora.com + “your niche”. You can often find highly engaged discussions on these networks and dropping a relevant YouTube link is an acceptable practice.

Acquire links

Going through the steps I’ve listed will most likely give your video the boost it needs to start being indexed for your keywords.

If you operate in a competitive niche, you will need to acquire links to push up your ranking. YouTube is good at picking up inbound-link spam – the key is getting links from high-quality and trusted websites. I use the following techniques:

Embed on owned properties – Get the embed code from your video and embed it in your websites. The best way to do this is to create a simple blog post and paste it there.

Embed/link from partner properties – If you have any clients, business relationships, or colleagues (hint: network in social media groups) you can ask them to link to your video from their content.

Link outreach – This is a tedious task, but when done properly can pay massive dividends. Identify other websites whose content aligns with your video. Send them a nice email telling them about your video and why you think it would add value for their audience.

Bring it home

When all is said and done, these are the steps you need to follow to get the ball rolling in the middle of our original diagram (get views, get shares, get links, and ranks in search).

image-8-jump-start-video-marketing-419x1024

As time goes on, this will get easier. The more you post, the more followers you’ll acquire, and the less you’ll have to rely on manual efforts to get your content viewed.

Well, what are you still doing here? You’ve got work to do!

Video is an integral component of most content marketing strategies. Learn more about content marketing best practices in three free e-courses. These are part of CMI’s comprehensive Online Training & Certification Program, which contains over 19 hours of must-know strategies, tactics, and best practices, delivered by leading experts. Sign up now.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

The post Jump-Start Your Video Optimization and Promotion appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.


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How a Lawyer at the French Embassy Ended Up a Social Media Entrepreneur

social-media-entrepreneur-podcast-cover

Find out how a business attorney from France became a successful serial entrepreneur who now is the CEO of a social media tool company. Host Todd Wheatland talks with Emeric Ernoult, CEO and founder of AgoraPulse, about his pivot and how persistence, patience, and timing were the key ingredients in his professional backstory.

Listen to Todd’s full interview with Emeric Ernoult here:
(Social Media Marketing World, March 2015, San Diego, California)

Download this week’s The Pivot episode.

If you enjoy The Pivot episode, we would love if you would rate it, or post a review, on iTunes

What may surprise you

  • By the time he was 6, Emeric had lived in New York, Nigeria, and Senegal before heading to France.
  • Once a business lawyer, he studied law in France and the United States.
  • In 1997, he moved to Washington, D.C., and was a lawyer for the French Embassy.
  • In 2000, Emeric launched his first company but it burst in the dot-com bubble.
  • Emeric started kite-surfing about five years ago.

Emeric’s pivot

Becoming a lawyer offered Emeric aspects of the entrepreneurial lifestyle he craved, but it also lacked the passion he sought in his work. In 2000, he left the law firm to start his first company – a digital community concept similar to the community aspects of Facebook. But the timing was not to be. As the dot-com bubble burst, so did the business and Emeric’s aspirations.

He returned to the law firm but never let go of the idea of owning a business. For the next three years, Emeric spent nights and weekends working on his dormant business and keeping his entrepreneurial dream alive. Eventually, his persistence and patience aligned with what was happening in social media and this dormant company became AgoraPulse.

Finding balance

Launching and running a business requires time, energy, and passion. Many successful business owners attest to the challenge of finding the optimal work-life balance. Emeric has learned firsthand how the entrepreneurial drive can put a strain on personal relationships and he works hard at achieving success in both areas of his life.

Emeric reminds all of us that having a fulfilling personal life while growing a business requires purpose and intention. You control what you focus on and how you spend your time. Remember what is important and quiet the noise of your business to be present with family and friends or to do personal activities that fulfill you.

Succeeding in business is the least difficult part compared to succeeding in your personal life when, at the same time, you are trying to succeed in business. You can’t just have that noise all the time … you have to learn to let go and to focus on your wife and focus on your kids and focus on your own personal pleasure when you are doing sport or any kind of activity you enjoy doing. And that’s the hardest part because you are fighting against yourself.

For a full list of The Pivot archives, go to the main The Pivot: Marketing Backstories page.

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Cover image courtesy of Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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What’s Next in Your Content Marketing Career Evolution?

content-marketing-career-evolution-coverI’ve been thinking about career paths lately – partly because people are asking about mine. Beyond that – I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned that could help other content marketers assess their own careers and figure out what the heck they’re doing with their lives. No rock star ever rose to fame after playing his first gig, and that’s not likely to happen to you after publishing your first blog post, either. So what’s the big picture?

The way I see it, content marketers go through four distinct career phases. There may be some overlap and some ups and downs, but here’s my take on understanding where you stand now and where content marketing could take you.

1. The Young Gun

Even major rock stars like Jim Morrison started off riffing with their friends. In many ways, this is the most exciting phase. As a new content marketer, you’re full of the positive ramifications that social and content have for the world (more value, fewer ads), and for your personal career (more meaning, less rah rah – or maybe just more money, let’s be honest).

At this phase, your job is to soak up knowledge. My advice: Think broadly. Morrison lived for rock ‘n’ roll, but he also read Kerouac and Keats. The more wide-open your sphere of inquiry, the more likely you’ll be able to see connections that others miss – and that’s key for great content.

Network like crazy: Be active in online groups, comment on blog posts, and attend events whenever you can. Ask questions, offer help where appropriate, and join conversations that interest you. LinkedIn research shows that people who comment on group discussions get four times the profile views.

As you network and do your research, identify mentors – people you can look up to and follow closely. Notice what works for them and what doesn’t, and start building the relationships that will support you through the rest of your career.

Young Gun checklist:

  • Read industry books:

    • What’s the Future of Business (WTF) by Brian Solis
    • Everybody Writes by Ann Handley
    • Epic Content Marketing  by Joe Pulizzi
    • Welcome to the Funnel  by yours truly
  • Identify industry thought leaders and follow them on LinkedIn.
  • Find a mentor. Here are some good suggestions for doing that.

jim-morrison-image

2. The Emerging Artist

It can be a little scary to put your own content into the world. Emerging artists want to share their passions through content. What do you feel compelled to investigate and share? Then, clarify your personal values. Where do you stand on ethical, political, or aesthetic grounds?

My own venture into online publishing started with a blog and Twitter feed about rock ‘n’ roll. Yes, I also took some digital marketing classes, but the real expertise came with getting in there and doing it – making a lot of mistakes and figuring out how to fix them.

As my colleague Sharon Stubo, Vice President of Communications at LinkedIn, says:

“It’s easier to speak with a clear, bold voice when you know what you stand for.”

She and I shared more advice about this e-book, The Sophisticated Guide to Thought Leadership. Stubo talks about how the “special sauce” makes a person’s style unique and interesting. How might your particular worldview open up solutions and possibilities for others?

As you define your passions, values, and expertise, start sketching out themes and ideas that you would like to pursue. From this, your personal editorial calendar can evolve. LinkedIn’s publishing platform is a great way to experiment with your personal themes and audiences, but remember – it’s OK to play it safe. Rather than publishing something that feels half-baked, hold it back and focus on sharing other content that catches your interest. You’ll know when it’s time to speak your piece.

Emerging Artist checklist:

  • Clarify your passions and values.
  • Read widely to improve your knowledge and writing style.
  • Identify your audience and determine how you can help them.
  • Create content and put it out into the world.
  • Take feedback and make better content.

3. The Collaborator

One day, after burning the midnight oil for a few years (or months), you land a position at a company led by people who believe in thought leadership and are ready to take an intelligent risk on the collision of two worlds – its brand and your personal brand. Your job is to team up with the best in the business to transform that brand conversation.

Rather than toiling to get on the thought leaders’ radar, you propose something that offers them value: work with a respected brand and a fresh voice to create and promote mutually beneficial content.

In this role, your ability to play on a team takes center stage. Content marketing, after all, is about respecting and tuning in to the customer’s time, focus, and inclinations. That attitude translates equally well to the way you treat your most immediate customers: clients, teammates, collaborators, and content stakeholders. Never forget to give credit to the team. Always be helpful and constructive with criticism. And listen carefully to the ideas coming from those Young Guns.

Given the choice between collaborating with a headline-making Ozzy Osbourne type or a cooperative Dick Wagner type (Alice Cooper’s guitar collaborator), smart marketing leaders choose a Wagner type – the person with a track record of making others look good. Yes, Jim Morrison was a heady exhibitionist, but his legend survives because he, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, and John Densmore struck a powerful chord with their audience.

Collaborator checklist:

  • Identify your target audiences.
  • Clarify your company’s core narrative: How can you help those audiences?
  • Work cross-functionally with sales to develop clear content objectives.
  • Identify influencers in each market and collaborate with them on content.
  • Publish and optimize content.
  • Listen to your team members and give them credit.

4. The Crackerjack

L.A. Woman remains the Doors’ true masterpiece and belongs in every rock collection. When you’ve reached the crackerjack point of your career, you too are working on the crown jewel of your content treasury. You’ve found your groove, you drive revenue wherever you go, and you probably spend your time writing books, keynoting events, and consulting with those who can afford you.

Remember that continued success depends on continued mastery. Marketing today is a hybrid endeavor. If you let yourself become one-dimensional, rather than constantly learning and gathering skills, you can look forward to a quick retirement.

Humility and the customer reign supreme. As author Brian Solis points out, “True thought leadership starts with empathy.” At the same time, you lead the industry rather than just responding to it. You got here because of your willingness to take risks on provocative ideas and to tell truth to power – so go for it. Do a Morrison, and set the tone for an entire generation of marketers to follow. Just don’t wind up dead in a bathtub before your time, friends. That’s all I ask.

Crackerjack checklist:

  • Continue to learn from Young Guns and peers.
  • Stay up on marketing technologies:
    • Content
    • SEO
    • Social platforms
    • Email
    • Coding
    • Analytics
    • What’s next?
  • Develop your brand value based on a constantly shifting marketing mash-up.

Do those career profiles ring true for you? Do you find yourself cycling between two or more? I’m interested in your thoughts.

A key to your development as a content marketer is ongoing learning in the ever-changing field. Register today for the Content Marketing Institute webinar, New Skills for a New Era of Marketing, 2 p.m. EDT, Tuesday, April 21.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

The post What’s Next in Your Content Marketing Career Evolution? appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.


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Why Is My Mobile-Friendly Label Missing in Google Search Results?

Why Is My Mobile-Friendly Label Missing in Google Search Results? was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

As the April 21stdeadline to make your site mobile-friendly approaches, many sites are checking to see if their pages get the “mobile-friendly” annotation in Google mobile search results. Those two words are Google’s promise to searchers that a result meets a certain standard of usability that mobile surfers are starting to expect.

What’s concerning is that sometimes the label doesn’t show up — even though Google’s own Mobile-Friendly Test declares “Awesome! This page is mobile-friendly.” In working with clients and through research, we’ve uncovered little-discussed reasons why a mobile-friendly annotation may not show up despite a page’s being fully optimized for mobile browsing.

First, here’s what you’d hope and expect would happen if you’re running a website today. Step one, you work to make your pages mobile-friendly by checking your mobile usability report in Google Webmaster Tools and remedying any issues flagged there. Then you run your URLs through Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to confirm: “Awesome! This page is mobile-friendly.” Finally, you query Google on your smartphone to see your page in the results with a happy little note that the result is mobile-friendly, like this:

mobile SERP for "happy"

A happy Google mobile results page with plenty of “mobile-friendly” annotations. :)

When Mobile-Friendly Annotation Is Missing

We’ve worked hard with multiple clients to make their sites mobile-friendly, only to find that ecommerce category and subcategory pages are frequently not showing the mobile-friendly annotation. Where you’d hope to see a mobile-friendly annotation, these listings have annotations only for the number of product pages or “results.” Yet these pages pass the Mobile-Friendly Test and have no mobile usability errors in Google Webmaster Tools.

For example, below is a screenshot of the Google mobile results for “camping tents.” The Coleman.com camping tents category page gets an annotation “Results 1 – 8 of 8” rather than a mobile-friendly annotation, as the REI.com result does below it:

Google mobile results for camping tents

In a Google mobile SERP for the query “camping tents,” some results get the mobile-friendly annotation while other results show the number of products on the page.

You might think the first page isn’t mobile-friendly, but it is:

coleman-mobile-friendly-test

The results of a Google Mobile-Friendly Test for the tents category page on Coleman.com. (Click to enlarge.)

This issue with the missing mobile-friendly annotation is happening on many category type pages with product listings. Interestingly, this doesn’t seem to be an issue with product review information, where both rating reviews and the mobile-friendly label are displayed.

Another example we can point to is the Target.com mobile site. A search for “target coffee makers” shows the store’s coffee makers page without the mobile-friendly annotation:

coffeemaker-mobile-results

A mobile SERP listing for Target’s mobile site shows the number of results on the page rather than the mobile-friendly annotation.

But this page does pass as mobile-friendly on the Mobile-Friendly Test. Again, the “Results 1 – #” annotation is shown where “mobile-friendly” might instead.

So What’s Happening?

Earlier this week we got word that Maile Ohye from the Google Developer Programs team points to on-page markup as the cause of the issue — including pagination for results, as seen on the example pages shared in this post.

From Grant’s comment on a StoneTemple.com post highlighting the missing annotations, it looks like pagination markup, video thumbnail markup and “jump to app” markup get priority over the mobile-friendly annotation. Under the current order of annotation priorities, SEOs and site owners scrambling to make their sites mobile-friendly may not be getting the full benefit of their efforts. Let’s hope that the talks behind Google’s closed doors do ultimately result in a reordering of the annotations displayed.

Have you seen any problems with the mobile-friendly label not appearing in Google SERPs? Would you rather Google prioritize the mobile-friendly annotation over other labels? Let us know in the comments below.


Source: bruce clay rss

The Time It Takes to Write a Buffer Blog Post (And How We Spend Every Minute)

In my experience, one of the best ways to write great content is to make time to write great content.

I’m grateful that the team at Buffer emphasizes the blog as a means of helping others, spreading the word about Buffer, and sharing our learnings and improvements. This allows me to spend the time writing.

And how do I spend that time?

I’d love to show you.

We publish four posts per week on the Buffer blog, each post at least 1,500 words (and typically over 2,000). I write three of these posts. And for the past two weeks, I tracked every minute I spent on a blog post from research through promotion. Here’s how it all breaks down.

How to write a blog post

How Much Time It Takes to Write a Buffer Blog Post

I write a Buffer blog post in an average of 2 hours, 58 minutes.

The longest post took 3 hours, 33 minutes.

The shortest post took 2 hours, 23 minutes.

The post I’m writing right now took 2 hours, 42 minutes (I added it all up once I finished).

In total, I tracked six different blog posts. Here’s a breakdown of the word count and the time involved in each of the six posts from the past two weeks.

how long to write a buffer blog post

The times were really interesting to see as they’ve improved quite a bit from when I started with Buffer. Much like Belle’s post on how she cut her writing time from 2 days to 4 hours, I’d say that my writing time has decreased significantly also.

Previously, I would spend 8 to 12 hours per post. It’s amazing to see how that time has shrunk as I’ve gained experience and confidence in writing for the Buffer blog.

How I Spend My Time Writing Blog Posts

From a bird’s-eye view, here’s a quick overview of how the three hours of time break down specifically, according to the different stages of my writing process. I’d love to get into even more detail on each of these stages below.



How to Write a Blog Post at Buffer


And a tip of the hat to the free time-tracking tool Toggl for helping me easily track and compile all these stats.

Research – 40 minutes per post

One of the hallmarks of the blog posts on the Buffer blog is the fact that they are research-backed, scientific, data-oriented articles with specific, actionable takeaways.

Because of this, it’s key to spend as much time as possible to come up with the research, science, and data to share.

My research process has sped up quite a bit as I’ve gained experience with social media and with the Buffer way of things. I’m able to pull from the past to write good chunks of articles now, with less switching back and forth between old articles and old threads.

To quickly find an article we’ve written about in the past, I do a site: search in Google.

site:blog.bufferapp.com keyword

To find resources to quote and dig into for social media stats or strategies, I do a lot of custom Google searches, both at google.com and at Google Scholar (tons of great research papers and scientific studies).

  • I’ll start with a series of keywords, entering each into a Google search.
  • I’ll refine the search terms, based on autofill suggestions and suggested searches at the bottom of the page
  • I’ll change the date settings to only show results from the past year

past year google search

In addition to these workflows, I also find that a lot of research can be done before you even start researching a blog post.

Seems a bit counterintuitive, right? Well, the way this has worked at Buffer is that we collect and store any interesting research in personal Evernote files or in our team Trello blog post board. I’ve used a method of highlighting and tagging articles in Pocket, or favoriting tweets that I might want to reference later for information.

However you choose to do it, this pre-research phase can be a great time saver when it comes to starting a fresh blog post.

Outline – 4 minutes per post

Some posts—not all posts—go through an outline stage where I’ll  take the research and organize it into a loose flow. It’s all very tentative and guess-heavy; I expect the final product to change a lot from the initial outline.

The outline is as simple as jotting down the sections that I’ll end up writing and the order in which I think they’ll appear, then moving the research, stats, and quotables into each section.

It helps to move things along for the writing stage (next).

Writing – 59 minutes per post

WordPress used to have this cool Easter egg when you switched to the distraction-free editor. The bottom of the editor would say, “Just Write.”

just write wordpress

And this is such good advice. At this stage of my writing process, just writing is the most valuable thing I can do. I close everything off, hop into the distraction-free WordPress editor, and let fly whatever comes to mind.

I always write the intro first, as it helps me focus on where the article is headed and makes it a bit easier psychologically to get stuck into writing the post since I’m not working from an entirely blank page.

As I write, I’ll keep in mind things like:

  • Varying sentence length
  • Varying paragraph size
  • Adding space for images (I use a placeholder text of “//pic”)
  • Reminders to come back and add stats or specifics (I leave an “xx” for missing info)

And beyond that, there’s not a whole lot else I’ll do. Just write. Even if it’s terrible. (Terrible is better than zilch.)

By the end of the writing stage, I’ll often have 2,000 or more words to work with.

Editing – 26 minutes per post

I give myself the freedom to throw a bunch of ideas, thoughts, and rambles into the post during the writing stage because I know the editing stage is coming. I’ll have a chance to clean things up.

And in a lot of ways, editing is quite a bit like Writing: Part II. There are times when I’ll cut out huge portions of what I’ve written before and start from scratch.

And one of the most helpful ways I’ve found to edit is to give the article some time to simmer, a couple hours or preferably a day. When I can come back to something with fresh eyes, I’m often able to see things from a better perspective.

During the actual editing process, I’ll do the following:

  • Tighten up the intro and make sure it includes a copywriting formula or hook
  • Double-check that the headings are descriptive and noticeable
  • Double-check that the headings are the proper sizes (in our case, H2 vs H3 vs bold)
  • Add links to past Buffer articles in the intro and throughout the story where appropriate
  • Add any missing info like stats or source attribution
  • Remove sections that don’t add value to the article; trim down super long sections
  • Add formatting like bold, italics, blockquote, indent, bullet lists, numbered lists
  • Proofread

Creating images – 30 minutes per post

Content with visuals gets 94 percent more views.

So we aim to be quite purposeful in finding and creating great visuals for each and every post.

I’ll typically find or create the following images for each new article:

  1. A title image made in Pablo, featuring the keyword of the post, a subhead, and an icon
  2. A main image to serve as the background for the article heading
  3. Screenshots
  4. Pinterest-sized graphic, vertical and 735 x 1102
  5. Miscellaneous graphics, as needed

For creating all this cool stuff, I’ve found a pretty solid go-to list of tools and websites. Here are the ones I visit most often:

Real quick, here’s a sample of what I do when creating the title image for blog posts. I’ve got this down to about two minutes of time.

  1. Enter the headline, set the headline to Open Sans font, Extra Large, Bold
  2. Click to add secondary text, set the text to Satisfy font, Large
  3. Find an image on UnSplash, abstract yet perhaps somewhat related to the post, e.g. a car dashboard for a post about metrics or an airplane for a post about growth
  4. Upload the image, set to Blur
  5. Find an icon at IconFinder, set the search to Flat Icons only
  6. Download the icon and upload to Pablo as the “Add a logo” option, resize as needed
  7. Center all elements
  8. Download to my computer

How to make an image with Pablo

SEO – 4 minutes per blog post

For SEO, a lot of it comes into place early on in our blogging process. In fact, it often happens before the process even begins.

The idea stage is sometimes the best time to consider the keyword you’ll be focusing on in the story. When you have a keyword in mind from the start, the SEO part of the writing process goes pretty quick.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve had the privilege of writing posts with clear keywords like “content promotion,” “collaboration tools,” and “social media checklist.”

Of course, there are times when the keyword isn’t quite as crystal clear. When I’m in doubt about which keyword to focus on, I’ll do a quick search in Google.

I go to trends.google.com and type in the keywords I’m considering. Here’s what Google Trends had to say about this post on how to spend your time writing a blog post.

keywords google trends

Also, another method is to open an incognito browser window, go to Google, and begin typing potential keywords and noticing the Autofill results that come up.

autofill results

For the Buffer blog, we use a WordPress plugin, Yoast SEO, to handle the specifics of implementing SEO strategy into each post.This makes it so that we have just a few small tasks to do on each post in order to set the SEO.

  • Choose a focus keyword
  • Write an SEO headline—used on Google, Facebook, etc.
  • Write a description
  • Edit the article URL

yoast seo

Occasionally, to make sure that the content is focused on that keyword or phrase, I’ll do a quick search inside the article (CTRL+F) to see how many times the keyword is mentioned or to rewrite any phrases that are perhaps similar.

Headlines – 6 minutes per post

Recently, I began an attempt at a sort of Upworthy headline challenge.

The writers at Upworthy write 25 headlines for every post and then choose the best ones from the list to share on social media and test as the winning headline.

I’ve been able to do 15 headlines per post so far, and it’s been a really awesome exercise.

Perhaps what’s helped me most with this is being able to reference a couple of articles on the Buffer blog that talk about headlines:

Having these close by is really useful for brainstorming the different options for headlines, and it’s helped me expand my creativity and openness to new headline ideas.

And not all of the headlines are winners! (In my experience so far, about 1/3 of them might be worth keeping.) For example, here is the list of headlines I brainstormed for the post that eventually was titled The Delightfully Short Guide to Social Media ROI.

Buffer headline challenge

Promotion – 7 minutes per post

There are so many cool tips and techniques for promoting your content. I’m keen to explore a lot of them further; at this stage, we do just a couple of things for Buffer blog posts.

What I’ll do is share each new post multiple times to social media, according to a sharing schedule we’ve iterated on here at Buffer: multiple times over the first few days to Twitter, once today and once later in the week to Facebook and Google+, once to LinkedIn.

social media posting schedule

And then each new post also goes out to our RSS email list (you can sign up here if you’re interested). And this process happens automatically. Each new post is grabbed by MailChimp and sent out at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time.

How my process has changed over time

One thing I’ve found about my writing process is that it routinely seems to change.

Things happen during the week that allow me to adjust the schedule and I’ll stumble upon a new system of writing—and keep that system until a new one falls into place.

I particularly enjoyed a system I used when starting out at Buffer: The 3-day Blogpost Process. It worked like this:

  • Day one: Research
  • Day two: Writing
  • Day three: Editing

And the idea is to stagger the schedule so that you’re doing one of each stage for three different blog posts each day.

3-day-blog-post-process

In this way, I was able to write up to five blog posts per week and felt great about the extra time to focus and reflect on the content that I was publishing.

(My schedule has shifted slightly to more of a one-day method of writing where I’ll get the majority done in one day and then do a final read-over on the day of publish.)

What does your blogging process look like?

It’d be awesome to hear how you blog, how you spend your time, and any tips you’ve picked up.

Feel free to share your experience in the comments or ask any follow-up about the way I do things at Buffer.

Image sources: Pablo, Startup Stock Photos, WordPress, Kapost

The post The Time It Takes to Write a Buffer Blog Post (And How We Spend Every Minute) appeared first on Social.


Source: buffer rapp rss

How to Write Content That Engages Mobile Readers

content-engages-mobile-readers-coverYou’ve got a responsive site with a kick-ass mobile design. You’re ready for Google’s “mobilegeddon,” right?

Wrong.

With all the excitement over Google’s upcoming mobile-friendly search-results update, marketers are neglecting one of the most critical features: copywriting.

Those focusing too much on mobile usability are giving short shrift to mobile copywriting. Content marketers must understand how and why mobile content matters, and how to create content that mobile readers will love.

Mobile copywriting. It’s a thing.

Smashing Magazine makes the provocative point that “you may be losing users if responsive web design is your only mobile strategy.” The Smashing contributor makes the point that under-the-hood coding is an integral part of the equation. I agree.

I would take his argument in a new direction. You also need to know how to write for mobile users.

How do you create mobile-optimized copy? Following are six critical lessons in the pursuit of better mobile content.

1. Forget everything you thought you knew about reading content online

It’s time to toss the old paradigms. Reading content from a mobile device is totally different from reading content on a desktop. Here are some of the things you’ll need to force out of your mind.

Golden triangle

The “golden triangle” is a viewing pattern in which web users primarily view the upper left corner of a website or search engine page results (SERPs). The principle is derived from eye-tracking studies, in which the majority of rapid eye movement covers a triangular region.

google-f-shaped-pattern-image 2

Image source

F-shaped pattern

Jakob Nielsen’s research on the golden triangle gave rise to the “F-shaped pattern” for viewing web content. This is another nugget of wisdom that, for mobile readers, is passé.

The F-shaped reading pattern taught that users looked at the top, left to right, down, left to right, and then down further. End. It made the shape of an “F” on eye-tracking studies.

f-shaped-pattern-image 3

This principle no longer applies in the era of mobile readers. There’s not enough screen real estate for horizontal sweeps and vertical movement.

Instead, viewers look primarily at the center of the screen as indicated in this eye-tracking study from Briggsby.

briggsby-screenshot-image 4

Image Source

As the image indicates, users give 68% of their time/attention to the center and top half, and a full 86% to the upper two-thirds. Anything below this point on the screen is less important.

Instead of clinging to a belief in the age-old wisdom of web readability, we need to redefine our perspective so we can create better content for the mobile revolution.

2. People view images more than they view text

Eye-tracking studies indicate that mobile users look at images more than they look at text. Here’s a study to prove it. (Note: KG stands for Knowledge Graph – the entity results, panels, and carousel summary provided by Google.)

Louvre-knowledge-graph-image 5

This image demonstrates that a user’s eye is drawn to images over text. Intent, query, content, relevance, and location are irrelevant to the principle that the human eye is drawn to images (source).

What’s the takeaway for copy? Use fewer images. They take up precious screen space. If the image doesn’t advance your point, don’t use it for mobile.

3. Get rid of unnecessary words, phrases, sentences, or points

The famous French polymath, Blaise Pascal, wrote, “I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter.”

His point? Concise writing takes time and hard work.

For mobile content, concise writing is essential. In this case, the necessity has more to do with the screen size than the user’s attention span. Your goal is to present the user with as much on-screen information as possible without requiring the user to swipe or tap. The more cogently you can express an idea, the better.

I do not recommend that you write shorter content. Long-form content is alive and well in an era of mobile content consumption.

Unfortunately, some mobile copywriters are advised to write less. This counsel is wrong. Longer content is still appropriate. Instead of shortening your content, tighten your writing.

Make your content as long or as short as it needs to be. Do not force yourself into some preconceived idea about what constitutes the right length of an article. Instead, wipe your article clean of anything that’s unnecessary.

4. Create short, strong headlines

Your headline doesn’t need to take up several screens of space. Short and sweet are better. Why? Lengthy headlines get lost below the fold.

mobile-headline-example-image 6

Short headlines are easily viewed in a quick scan.

mobile-headline-short-example-image 7

Much of the responsibility for this, of course, rests with the designer. Mobile designers should realize that they don’t need to create monstrous titles on mobile devices. At the same time, you can help them (and readers) by condensing your titles to the essentials.

5. Front load your most powerful content

With desktop viewing, you have plenty of above-the-fold real estate. In some website designs, you can have four or five paragraphs visible – no scrolling required. Things are a bit tighter with mobile. For this reason, start your articles with a few attention-grabbing lines.

In this CMI article, I started with a few sentences crafted to attract the reader’s attention. These sentences previewed the content and pointed to a takeaway. Most importantly, the first sentence raised expectations and grabbed attention.

8-content-marketing-innovations-mobile-screenshot

 

Whatever you do, don’t start out boring. What mobile readers see above the fold is what will compel them to read below the fold. Make it good.

6. Use short paragraphs

Readers tend to get lost in long paragraphs.

Cognitively, a viewer considers a paragraph to be a complete thought. If that thought is too long, then the reader will get impatient and move on.

Paragraphs also cause the eyes to move in a predictable and consistent rhythm through the article. A series of short, staccato paragraphs works somewhat like a cadence in a song – the reader keeps moving from paragraph to paragraph consistently and completely.

U.S. News explains, “Reading long paragraphs on your mobile device requires concentration – something people using a mobile device generally don’t have.” The solution? Write short paragraphs.

Long paragraphs work like speed bumps to derail the flow of the article. Nowhere is this truer than on mobile devices. An innocent five-sentence paragraph on desktop may not look all that intimidating, but it can easily turn into a wall of text on mobile.

Here’s a great example of a writer who uses short paragraphs to break up his content into readable chunks. It’s the perfect method for mobile.

bufferapp-short-paragraphs-example-image 8

Conclusion

What’s the secret to creating awesome mobile copy?

Don’t write less. Write better.

Mobile readers still read articles. In fact, they might read more content on their mobile devices. The time has come to realize that the mobile revolution doesn’t just affect viewports and require responsive tricks. It requires a reorientation to the art of writing.

How has the mobile revolution affected your writing style?

You know how necessary mobile is in your tactical efforts. Now learn more about which tactics your peers are turning to for more effective content marketing creation and delivery. Read Content Marketing Institute’s e-book, Building the Perfect Content Marketing Mix: Execution Tactics.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

The post How to Write Content That Engages Mobile Readers appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.


Source: content marketing institute

Next-Level Content: 35+ Research Tools and Strategies to Push Your Ideas Further

Sometimes when you get a good content idea, you can feel it. You just know that it’s fully formed, ready to be executed, and sure to be a hit.

Other times, the idea isn’t quite so clear. Maybe it’s only a partial idea, or you’re not quite sure what actually creating it would look like.

Anyone who’s dipped their toes in the content marketing pool knows that creating content can be incredibly taxing of our creativity. Worth it, but time consuming.

Luckily, there are plenty of strategies and tools for getting new ideas, fleshing out existing ideas and evolving good ideas into awesome ones.

In this post, we’ll walk through tons of different tools and strategies (35+!) to take your ideas further. Read on to learn how to find, validate, research and execute more killer ideas in less time.

next level content

From good to great: 5 ways to make the most of any idea

Let’s say you’ve already identified your target audience and created reader personas. You know which topics they’re most interested in and have created a giant list of content ideas based on this intel.

Now to determine which ideas are going to resonate with and engage your audience most. Here are five methods to try:

  • Use your metrics: Once you’ve built a bit of a following and published enough content to serve as a benchmark, you can turn to metrics to determine what your audience is responding to. Metrics such as time on page (SumoMe’s Content Analytics and Heat Map tools are great for this), click-throughs, bounce rate, and rate of return visits (i.e. how many times a reader visits your site after the post you’re measuring) can help helpful content KPIs.
  • Ask your editor or a friend. This post was originally going to be a list of tools. When I submitted my initial outline, Courtney suggested I add the advice you’re reading right now, about evolving ideas. Brainstorming and talking ideas through with people who have differing perspectives can evolve an idea into an awesome one.
  • Find points of idea intersection. Can two or three of your topic ideas be combined to create one monster piece? Or maybe there are points from each idea that can be turned into a normal-sized but more valuable piece of content.
  • Research what’s already been written. No need to reinvent the wheel. Do a quick Google search for all of your validated ideas. See what’s already been written on and what has been said. How can you add your own twist and perspective to the topic?
  • Leverage your research and remain open minded. Once you think you’ve nailed down an idea and started conducting the research necessary to write the piece, you may stumble across new information that has you second guessing the topic. Let your idea to twist and turn to grow and become something else. As long as it still accomplishes your goals, you’ll be better off letting the idea take on a life of its own.

You can then take these findings and apply them when qualifying and prioritizing your list of ideas. Now that you’ve got a plan for zeroing in on good ideas and taking them to the next level, let’s get to the research tools and strategies.

Keep a swipe file with bookmarking tools

Bookmarking tools are especially useful when you know your topic buckets or general categories. When you’re browsing the web, you can save interesting articles and resources and add them to your swipe file or collection of resources that will be helpful when it comes time to produce your content. Having an established library of resources to reference creates efficiencies in conducting research. Here are a few bookmarking tools I like:

  • Pocket (Chrome Extension): I love Pocket. It’s free to use and available on the web and mobile. Best part is, if you download your Pocketed stories via the app when you have service or wifi, they’re then available offline so you can read them on the train, for example. If you’d like to save these resources forever, you can pay $4.99/month for Premium.
  • Pinboard.in (Chrome Extension): At $11/year, Pinboard feels a bit more like a research tool than Pocket does. It’s handy because you can search your own pins, or pins from the public like you would a search engine. You can also see how many times each piece of research has been pinned.
  • Kifi (Chrome Extension): Kifi is a new community around resource sharing that’s free to join. You can create public or private libraries, and follow people. I really like how information is organized within the libraries with color coding and tagging.

Pro tip: Proper tagging is crucial to making the most of these tools so that all saved content is easily discoverable and organized according to your preferred workflow. Keep tags consistent among tools to save time and to keep yourself organized.

Get inspired by industry news and conversations

Once you have general topic buckets in mind (i.e. community strategy, remote work, or e-commerce, for example) and a tagging system in place, you can start to narrow down what your go-to resources are.

To get you started, here are some great places to find information, news and conversations on a variety of topics.

Forums and communities

  • GrowthHackers: Great discussions and articles around anything marketing.
  • Inbound.org: Covers anything inbound and content marketing, and has developed a very dedicated community with AMAs and native blog posts.
  • Quora: The ultimate Q&A forum. The engagement on Quora can be unreal.
  • Reddit: Once you’ve found your groove on Reddit, you’ve struck gold. To avoid being overwhelmed, definitely stick with relevant subreddits. Check out this list Kevan at Buffer put together. Potentially the most active communities on the Internet, here are Reddit’s engagement stats for one day:

reddit stats

Niche search engines

  • Topsy: Search popular stories around a given topic.
  • BuzzSumo: Identifies influential pieces measured by social shares on any given topic searched.

Curation platforms

  • Buffer Suggestions and Daily by Buffer: One of my favorite places to find high-quality content on a variety of topics including marketing, entrepreneurship, lifehacks, and more, including Buffer’s own picks. You can also directly add the stories to your social queue, which is pretty handy. :)
  • The Latest: Polls influencers for the top links shared on Twitter each day.
  • This.: A forum where all members only post one piece of content per day — so you know it’s going to be good!
  • Quibb: An invite-only community popular among startup folks.
  • Feedly: Today’s go-to RSS feed.
  • Flipboard: A favorite among iPad users, Flipboard creates a beautiful flip book with articles relevant to your interests.
  • Swayyy.co: See what articles are most popular among your networks on any given topic.
  • Sidebar.io: A hand-curated list of links from around the web.

Social networks and content platforms

  • Slideshare: Slideshare is perfect for data and stat-packed content in an easily digestible form. Some people and organizations use it to house slides from presentations, others use it solely for repurposing content into more digestible pieces. Some of my favorite slides come from Rand Fishkin of Moz and Kapost.
  • Twitter lists: Make a list of all the people or brands you follow on Twitter that share valuable information as it relates to your focus areas. Then, when it comes time to produce your piece, you can quickly scan the feed for anything that jumps out to you. Here’s my list of go-to content pros and people discussing community experience.
  • Medium: This has become one of my favorite places to find unique stories around all sorts of different topics, including everything from entrepreneurship to music discovery.

Newsletters

  • Crew: Great for research-heavy stories on freelance workflows, entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and more.
  • Remotive: From Buffer’s own Rodolphe Dutel, Remotive provides resources to remote workers and digital nomads across the globe.
  • SwissMiss: By far one of my favorite blogs and newsletters, Tina Roth Eisenberg shares unique products and designery things that will make anyone’s life better. Great for content inspiration!
  • Brain Pickings: Maria Popova’s blog and newsletter is the ultimate literary and art nerd’s bible, with pieces of psychology and science sewn throughout.
  • Austin Kleon: Best-selling author Austin Kleon’s weekly newsletter might have THE most interesting links around the web.
  • Paul Jarvis’ Sunday Dispatch: A mix of personal anecdotes and research. If nothing else, Paul’s Sunday Dispatch will inspire you to get moving on that piece of content!
  • CloudPeeps: Ok, so personal plug here. :) We’re now sending weekly emails with our latest content and resources that will be helpful to anyone interested in freelance and remote work, community building, habits, and more!

Those are just my personal favorites. Check out these 25 newsletters for shareable content from Kevan.

Pro tip: Set up a filter in your inbox to file newsletters in a folder associated with the topic bucket it’s relevant to. That way when it comes time to write your piece, you can quickly peruse the latest issues for information that might be helpful.

Collaborate with your team

Others on your team are likely a pretty great source for ideas, news and resources. Make it easy for your team to share with you as they stumble across valuable information.

At CloudPeeps, we have a #readinglist channel within Slack—our preferred team collaboration and messaging platform—that we use for sharing interesting articles and resources. You can then mark these messages with a star to be able to view them later.

reading list channel on Slack

You could also collaborate with your team by making a shared library within a platform like Kifi, discussed earlier.

Crowdsource from your circles

If you already have a topic in mind, it’s likely that it’s really on your mind. Next time you attend an event or chat with a friend, ask questions around that topic—even if the person you’re speaking with is not an expert! The differing perspective might help you to evolve your idea into one a specific audience wants or needs. (Make sure to carry your notebook!)

Another option is to ask the groups you’re active in on Facebook, LinkedIn, listservs, Slack Groups, etc. for insights. I have written entire pieces based on findings from a Slack Group of content marketers that I formed a while back, including this winter reading list.

Gather the data

Adding some stats, facts or other science-based research to your topic is a great way to flesh out an idea and to make your content more persuasive.

There are plenty of free research databases online that will allow you to discover the cold hard facts on any topic. These will also be helpful in vetting information gathered from your networks:

Another trick is to refine your Google search to only include results from .gov or .edu sites:

refine Google searches for research

Build a research habit

Like most other things in life, content research comes more naturally when it is a habit. Try carving out a certain amount of time each day or week for your research.

Better yet, implement if-then planning to build this habit. For example, you could make an if-then rule for yourself, such as: “If I hit a wall writing an article, I will spend five minutes researching a new topic.” Or “If I take a coffee break, I will read two articles.”

Personally, I carve out time (~20 min) in the morning, at lunch, and before signing off each day for browsing forums and catching up on saved articles. So for me, one of my if-then rules is “If I wrapped up my work for the day, I will research remote working habits for 15 minutes before I pack up.”

Have more tips or tools to add? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

The post Next-Level Content: 35+ Research Tools and Strategies to Push Your Ideas Further appeared first on Social.


Source: buffer rapp rss

Turn User-Generated Content Into Undeniable, Glorious Connections

user-generated-content-cover

Are you down with UGC?

It’s not just another content marketing buzzword. It’s naughty and unpredictable by nature. And it wants your brand to come out and play.

You don’t have to be naughty. But you do need to understand the nature of how it works and how it will evolve.

UGC is the acronym for user-generated content. But let’s be real: Can you say “user-generated content” aloud without squirming due to the tone that your all-knowing marketing mouth gives it?

So let’s swap the overly professional voice of “user-generated content” into what it actually means in today’s content environment: Undeniable, Glorious Connection. Say that  aloud. You feel better already, right?

So, now that we’re on good terms with our fun new acronym, let’s understand the evolution of UGC – and how to make it work for your content marketing strategy.

Glorious (dis)connection: The early days

UGC was born into the mainstream around 2005. It gained rapid popularity among Internet users because of the instant gratification factor: It allowed users to quickly broadcast their text, audio, video, and images on large content platforms like YouTube and Facebook.

But the early UGC attempts by brands and publishers too often looked like the ugly Seinfeld  baby – crying, ugly, and a little off. These companies would use UGC to start two-way interactions with customers, but the end result usually appeared as if they were trying way too hard (and executing it all wrong).

For example, some companies paid people to talk about their products or bought fake customer reviews (which still happens on user-review sites such as Yelp). They hoped the positive posts would create customer trust, but often experienced the opposite effect.

Liken a company that pays for UGC to that friend on Facebook who always  shares information about nutritional shakes. More than likely, she’s sharing this information because she’s being paid by the company or receives income through affiliate sales. Either way, you know she’s not just sharing the information out of the goodness of her heart.

In other words, experience has revealed that sincerity isn’t just ideal for successful UGC; it’s crucial.

Trust regained

A major shift has started bringing about a new, prettier UGC. Now, customers are slowly beginning to trust UGC again, mostly because of a rise in transparency.

Also, not only are potential contributors less likely to accept (or be offered) payment, they are more likely to share their authentic ideas. This is especially true of commerce sites such as Amazon, Netflix, and Groupon, where user reviews are requested after almost every purchase.

Ahh, trust regained on the Internet. Now we’re feeling good. And the studies prove it: According to Nielsen, online consumer reviews are the second most-trusted source of brand information and messaging.

In other words, your best UGC should be front and center in your content strategy. For brands that don’t traditionally collect user reviews, consider obtaining a few testimonials from notable or loyal clients.

Power to the (pretty) people

Content marketers should take notice of this brave, open world. For example, UGC (aka undeniable, glorious connection) that comes from social influencers can be a huge boon to content strategy.

Why? Because content marketing isn’t just  about content. It’s about connection. When influencers connect over conversations about your product or service, you’re more likely to make a sale at that moment or in the future when customers need your type of product.

Let’s take a look at how to execute UGC for your brand:

1. Answer the “how”

Before you start writing a UGC strategy, dive deep into your customers’ heads and figure out how  you want to connect with them.

Here are some questions to get started:

  • Where do your customers hang out? For example, users hang out on YouTube for different reasons than those who hang out on Twitter or Facebook.
  • Why will your customers be creating content? Product expertise? Self-expression? Social interaction? Or maybe they hope to win a prize?

Knowing the “why” behind what you’re doing will help you form a clear, effective strategy.

2. Focus on quality, quality, quality

After you determine how you want to approach UGC, quality is the next thing to evaluate.

Put on the shoes of your potential contributors. Let’s say you’re a professional photographer and a camera company is running a photography contest. The company wants its customers (you) to submit their best photographs. While you peruse the other submissions, you notice that the pictures are not  beautiful. At this point, you assume that the contest is for amateurs and choose not to submit your photography. In the worst case scenario, you become turned off to the company entirely because you think it sells products for amateur photographers.

According to the Journal of Electronic Commerce Research, high-quality content strongly influences the undeniable, glorious connection that companies should strive to achieve. It may seem superficial, but the power of pretty pictures (and high-quality everything) should never be underestimated.

And while you can’t eliminate all  low-quality photos in UGC campaigns, you can establish a few ground rules or tips to reduce the risk. For example, tell users to submit photos with only one main subject in them.

3. Create a holistic strategy

Integrating UGC into your social media maximizes brand loyalty. For example, eyewear company Warby Parker proactively listens to its customers on all social channels and runs multiple UGC campaigns in a year. It even encourages users to model their new specs and post to their social channels, creating fun and entertaining content.

warby-parker-facebook-example

You can also cultivate online conversations by using a hashtag on Instagram or Twitter. Just make sure that someone from your company is monitoring these hashtags and engaging with your customers. This will help you understand the motivations of your customers and  what they’re saying about your brand, both of which are incredibly important.

Most importantly, UGC is one of the best options for adding some fun. Remember: If your customers perceive your content as interesting, they’re more likely to connect with your company (online and offline) in the future.

Whether your company is seeking to connect more deeply or bring in more sales, it’s undeniable: User-generated content is glorious for connecting.

Following best practices for your user-generated content is a must. Learn about other content marketing best practices in two free e-courses. These are part of CMI’s comprehensive Online Training & Certification Program, which contains over 19 hours of must-know strategies, tactics, and best practices, delivered by leading experts. Sign up now.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

The post Turn User-Generated Content Into Undeniable, Glorious Connections appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.


Source: content marketing institute