Online Marketing News – Millennials Don’t Like Content, Bing Goes Twitter, Errors Kill Mobile

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13 Most Popular B2B Content Marketing Tactics

The 13 Most Popular B2B Content Marketing Tactics – Click the above infographic to get insight into what content marketing strategies are being deployed by B2B marketers, and see the gaps in what is being deployed versus what the impact of those strategies might be. Marketing Tech Blog

Email Marketers Need to Do More to Nurture Leads [Study] - A joint report from Bizo and Oracle Marketing Cloud shows email marketing isn’t enough when it comes to nurturing leads and suggests marketers should develop multi-channel strategies instead. ClickZ

45% of Millennials Aren’t Compelled by Content - Savvy marketers recognize the value of content and embrace its future impact. These marketers have devoted countless resources to better serve content to the ever-elusive millennial. Despite all of this, 45% of millennials simply aren’t interested in the content marketers currently serve, according to a recent study conducted by DigitasLBi, Razorfish, Tumblr, and Yahoo. Direct Marketing News

Facebook Launches Multi-Product Ads, Enhances Custom Audiences - Facebook this week announced a new feature for advertisers seeking better direct response through the social network, and made Custom Audiences even more powerful. All Facebook

Bing Ups Its Twitter Game: Rolls Out Hashtag & Twitter Handle Search Features - Starting this week, Bing users are going to see even more Twitter content in search results. Search Engine Land

Mobile Implementation Errors Cost Sites 68% of Organic Smartphone Traffic [Study] - BrightEdge has released a report that observes, “over one in four mobile sites are misconfigured, leading to a massive loss of potential traffic. Search Engine Watch

Study: Top 5 Search Engines See Search Traffic Drop By As Much As 31% Since December 2013 - A newly released report from Shareaholic claims the top five search engines — Google, Bing, Yahoo, and AOL — have all experienced a decline in search traffic since December of 2013. Search Engine Land

More Than 70% of Consumers Value Push Notifications [Infographic] - Marketers may be surprised to know that push notifications produce twice as many open rates and click-throughs than email. A recent survey of 1,200 adults by global marketing cloud service agency Responsys found that consumers find push notifications highly valuable.  SocialTimes

STUDY: What Facebook Users Want Out Of Brands In Terms Of Customer Service - What are the expectations of users of Facebook and other social networks when they communicate with brands via those channels? Customer-engagement-solutions provider Accent Marketing Services surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. Internet users to find out. AllFacebook

Survey: 62% Of Consumers Say Social Media Doesn’t At All Influence Their Purchasing Decisions - It shouldn’t come as a surprise to savvy social media marketers, but consumers really aren’t interested in what you are selling. Marketing Land

Twitter’s Latest Experiment: Retweet With Comment - By its own admission Twitter experiments with at least one new feature each and every day, and while most of these are simply that – experiments – some do move out of the beta process and become system-wide. Twitter’s latest venture is a tweak that many users have wanted for a long, long time: retweets with comments. AllTwitter

Google Kills It’s First Social Network, Orkut - Google is saying goodbye to Orkut. Wait, what’s Orkut? Orkut is a social network Google launched in 2004, the same year as Facebook (FB, Tech30). Needless to say, Orkut hasn’t exactly kept up. CNN Money

From our Online Marketing Community:

On 18 More Amazing Search & Digital Marketing Takeaways from #MNSummit, ScottBolen said, “Thanks for the recap, I wasn’t able to attend this time around as I was speaking out of the country. I think 2015 is going to bring some interesting twists to the SEO world.”

In response to Where Search Fits in the Digital Marketing Mix – 12 Lessons from Lee Odden Keynote at MnSummit, Daniel Honigman said, “I find #4 and #5 to be very important. Many marketers have a very cursory “understanding” of their audience, which usually revolves around demographics. The real interesting stuff, however, comes with a deep understanding of motivations, channels and the like.”

From Online Marketing News – Goodbye Google Authorship, 1 Minute On Facebook, Videos Dominate, VisualRank shared their thoughts. “Most users have responded favorably to Google’s Authorship program, claiming it allows them to develop stronger relationships with clients and other people/professionals with similar interests. And it doesn’t take any special metrics to realize that publishing a photo next to your listing draws more attention to it, which subsequently generates more clicks. So, why did Google decide to remove Google+ profile pictures from search listings?”

What were the top online and digital marketing news stories for you this week?

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

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Online Marketing News – Millennials Don’t Like Content, Bing Goes Twitter, Errors Kill Mobile |

July 4th 2014 Online Marketing

A SEO Guru, Social Media Expert & PR Pro Walk Into a Bar… A Smarter Content Marketing Mixology

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Content Marketing Mixology

So, a SEO guru, a social media expert and a public relations pro walk into a content marketing bar.

The search marketer says to the bartender, “I’d like 35 shots of of the same tequila, but each needs to be in a slightly different glass, in different amounts and chilled at slightly different temperatures.”

The social media marketer says, “I’ll buy a round for all my friends and get one for yourself too. Oh, and let’s take a selfie while we drink. #socialdrinking”

The public relations pro joins in the fun too and winks at the bartender saying, “I’ve heard you have some really good microbrews here. If I could try a few, I’lll text all my friends this is the place to be.”

The content marketing bartender asks the SEO, “Have you ever had an amazing time drinking tequila? What was your favorite thing about it?” The SEO, says, “Oh yeah, at my birthday party we had Patron Silver amazingly cold with lemon on the rim. It was delicious.”

That’s what the bartender served.

The bartender asked the same question to the social media marketer and the public relations pro and heard their stories as well. They were served accordingly.

The punchline: Content Marketing is more than 35 variations on a theme so you can appear in Google under different keyword phrases and it’s also more than promoting “fun” content on social networks or hoping to influence people to talk favorably about your brand.

What Content Marketers are succeeding at is creating content for specific audiences intended to affect a particular business outcome. Understanding customer interests, aspirations and goals is essential for delivering informative, entertaining content experiences that both educate and inspire your audience to take action. Of course Content Marketing can also introduce new (and relevant) ideas and ways of thinking that customers have never thought of before.

Now that we have all that out of the way. How can marketers evolve their content marketing? I had an opportunity to discuss this with J-P de Clerk of the Content Marketing Conference Europe event recently and saved my answers to his excellent interview questions.

How have brands evolved their approach to integrated SEO, social media and content marketing?

More companies are certainly aware of the importance of Integrated Marketing. In fact, 90% of marketers call content marketing “necessary and inevitable” for mid to large sized companies according to a report from Econsultancy.

However, changes with search engines like Google and social networks like Facebook have made paid amplification more of a requirement than 2 years ago. No brand can succeed on organic marketing alone on those channels. Also, the volume of content being published by brands and consumers alike has made content competition or “content shock” as Mark Schaefer calls it, an important reality to consider. Content targeting and content quality are increasingly essential to reach and engage new customers.

Today modern marketers are focused on leveraging customer insights along with brand objectives to create content across the customer journey from awareness to purchase to advocacy. Search is still important, but the driver for content planning is to achieve mutual customer and brand objectives. In other words, optimizing for customer experiences and business outcomes, not just keywords and traffic.

My perspective is that companies need to master the ability to create meaningful content that’s easy to find and share with a continuous effort towards optimizing the performance of that content. Doing this at scale is no easy task, but through creative repurposing, connecting with influencers and participation marketing, companies are creating impressive competitive advantages.

Optimizing for consumers, experiences and outcomes transcends Google, social or content. And yet 80% of companies claim they are customer-centric but only 8% of customers say that’s true (h/t Bryan Eisenberg). That’s a huge discrepancy. Why is that? How can content help close this gap?

It might be corporate hubris or it might be following industry “best practices” without really knowing the impact amongst customers. Whatever the reason, many businesses are definitely focused on improving their customer-centricity. Interestingly, the Digital Marketing and Ecommerce Trends for 2014 report, research from Adobe and Econsultancy shows the single most exciting opportunity in 2014 is improving customer experience.

I think with the increased availability of direct communications with brands provided by social networks, consumer expectations have risen. At the same time, there’s a lot of pressure to drive revenue on all fronts and many companies still don’t quite understand the distinct needs of their customers outside of what’s necessary to inspire transactions. The result? Digital Marketing programs that aspire to scale through content that is more “mechanical” than “meaningful”. These programs tend to focus on vanity metrics like views, audience size and reach vs. engagement and conversions.

Also, many brand content marketing programs focus on the sales cycle and not the full customer lifecycle. In essence, companies are creating content to support awareness, interest, consideration and purchase where it essentially stops after transactions. Yet, customers continue to have information needs after the purchase.

To close the gap, companies must understand the customer experience and the continuously optimize for it across the customer lifecycle from awareness to purchase to retention and advocacy. The amazing thing about content that extends across the customer lifecycle is that gaining a momentum of advocacy is far more effective for scaling content marketing performance while being customer centric at the same time.

Another component of being customer-centric is to involve customers in content creation. Participation marketing is a result of the active engagement amongst a community of customers that reveals important insights as well as opportunities to co-create content. A continuous effort at showing interest in what’s important to customers and then acting on those insights through content, collaboration and recognition are essential for customers to feel a brand appreciates them.

The need to focus on “being the best answer” for questions and the intent of target audiences seems to be as important as the need to stand for something as a brand. How can marketers achieve both?

How to be the best answer wherever customers are looking is a simple, essential component of what makes an integrated marketing approach successful.

The idea is to acknowledge that customers have multiple touchpoint opportunities to discover, consume and act on information as they research, find and purchase solutions. Being the best answer implies an understanding of customer questions and then creating a content plan to provide informative and often entertaining (infotaining) answers across channels.

The model we advocate at TopRank Online Marketing is for an integrated, multichannel content marketing approach that is structured to solve for customer information needs while communicating brand messaging objectives at the same time. The way to do both is to communicate brand messaging in the voice of the customer and in ways that empathize with customer goals. A brand that has a clear position as well as a clear connection in their messaging as to what that position means for customers will be more successful in achieving mutual goals.

What roles do custom publishing and native advertising play in a content marketing world?

As a form of owned media, custom publishing is certainly a wise investment for some companies. Bypassing established media channels to create your own audience with a publication owned by the brand can provide numerous benefits. For example, American Express Publishing has over 2 million consumers of it’s branded magazines and custom publishing is a $43 billion industry.

However, it takes an investment in time and resources for custom publishing to reap marketing and business growth rewards and not all companies are willing to wait.

Native advertising is exciting for companies with substantial marketing budgets that want to scale content distribution and reach through the appearance of editorial placement.

The flip side to native advertising is that the news publishing industry is at a crossroads to recapture revenue with many publications continuing to downsize.  Native advertising has been a much needed shot in the arm.

There is some debate as to whether native ads are understood to be ads by consumers and whether they degrade reader’s trust in the publication. It’s in the best interest of brand advertisers, publications and their readers to ensure high quality editorial standards are maintained with native ads as well as clear indication that they are sponsored content.

The importance of storytelling is now more important than ever with content marketing. What have you learned regarding storytelling while working with some of the leading brands?

One thing I’ve learned is that strategic storytelling and developing a brand narrative is not easy for most companies. Many marketers that profess to be active storytellers are simply applying creative packaging to their marketing content. They’re adding a level of “interestingness” to their content as a tactic to improve reach, engagement and hopefully, contribution to sales. Success of these tactics are measured independently and not in connection to overall brand content as a whole.

But not all companies approach content this way and many brands have evolved their approach to content and storytelling. Those that think more strategically about storytelling do a few things pretty consistently:

1. They establish their core values and unique selling proposition. They understand and communicate what the brand, product or services “stand for”.
2. They are in tune with what their customers care about. They know what information is needed and they know the emotional triggers as well.
3. Content objects each have a story, but are also accountable to an overall brand narrative. Each content object is related to what came before it and what will come after.
4. Stories are continuously evolving and spontaneous iterations are frequent based on community memes, popular culture and events.
5. There is a persistent effort to optimize the performance of brand content storytelling in it’s ability to attract, engage and ultimately convert readers to customers and fans.

Recently, you asked 21 digital marketing thought leaders about their trends and predictions for 2015. What are the key takeaways?

It’s interesting that as early as a 2015 digital marketing predictions post might be, nearly 8,000 social shares and tens of thousands of page views for that one post show it’s a topic of high interest.

One of the unexpected takeaways for me from that post is that people love to see selfies from people that don’t normally publish selfies :)

Actually, I think the big takeaway is the idea of upgrading the sophistication of brand publishing will continue by emphasizing customer experience and ongoing optimization of performance across channels. Creating “great content” is no longer a differentiator for brands. The price of admission in 2015 and beyond is that brands must be capable of creating authentic content that is highly relevant for specific audiences, incredibly useful and meaningful on a more human level. I like to call that “infotainment” where great marketing both informs and entertains. Forward thinking brands will treat digital marketing less as channels and more as an ecosystem.

You’ve talked about the future of content marketing at Content Marketing World in the past. Looking back, which of the predictions would you stress most now?

To stand out, brand content needs to be visual, entertaining, informative and customized for the channel and audience while maintaining overall themes that support what the brand stands for. Content that connects both intellectually and emotionally with buyers must also answer customer questions in an interesting way. These content investments must be easy to find on search engines, on industry publications and amongst social networks.

Top Photo: Shuterstock

Content Marketing World

If you really want a deep dive into improving your content marketing, then make sure you have Content Marketing World on your calendar for Sept 8-11, 2014. In fact, you can get more information and see the agenda (including a keynote from Kevin Spacey) PLUS save $100 using the code TopRank when you register at this link.

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A SEO Guru, Social Media Expert & PR Pro Walk Into a Bar… A Smarter Content Marketing Mixology |

July 4th 2014 Online Marketing

Creating a Culture for Making Business Social – 5 Tips from Dell’s Connie Bensen

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Creating a Culture for Making Business Social - Connie Bensen of Dell - #MNSummit

In an age of marketing and business that is increasingly social, many businesses and thought leaders stress the importance of creating a culture that embraces social media inside and out. A social media savvy business encourages collaboration across teams, surfaces expertise from subject matter experts and can scale brand and community engagement by drawing upon the collective wisdom of employees and customers.

Few have been as passionate and successful at going beyond social business theory into action as Connie Bensen, leader of Global Social Content Strategy and Governance at Dell (Dell is a TopRank client).

A Top 20 Social Media Influencer and coiner of the phrase ‘Social Bizologist (The person responsible for guiding the integration of social media into the business functions of an organization) Connie’s session at the 2014 MNSearch Summit was jam packed with tips for companies of any size to socialize their business to improve collaboration, social advocacy and marketing.

Below are 5 key takeaways from Connie’s presentation:

Social Bizologist Connie Bensen MNSummit

Empower your people through training and development

Since people are at the center of any social business, it is critical to provide the necessary training and resources to empower your employees to be successful in social media. While most people today are at least somewhat familiar with social media from a personal perspective, there is a difference between using social networks to keep up with your Aunt Sally’s new baby and using the social web to help your company achieve business objectives.

Connie’s team runs several training and certification programs intended to turn Dell employees into social media power users, which collectively make up their Social Media and Community University. A broad range of topics are covered including how to contribute to the various Dell social communities, effectively engage with influencers and incorporate social media into live events.

 Dell Social Media and Community University

Clarify roles and priorities

It’s important for any social business to clarify roles, objectives and key accountability metrics. This isn’t an easy endeavor for any company and is particularly challenging for one as large and complex as Dell.

Dell’s Social SME (Subject Matter Experts) program helps to ensure that Dell has a strong presence in social for each area of their business. The program is designed to help empower SMEs by providing social certifications, helpful tools, ongoing strategy, standardized target keyword lists and social media playbooks.

Dell Social Team Roles

Be results oriented

In order be successful as a social business, you first have to identify what success means to your organization. After all, you won’t have much hope of hitting a target you don’t know exists. It’s easy to see that Connie is very results oriented and holds her teams to the same standard.

Connie’s team helps to ensure that the Dell social media program is firing on all cylinders by educating social media team members on representative success metrics for the areas they are working on, generating benchmark reports, and putting appropriate goals in place that are based on the level of experience of each team member.

To aid ongoing development, social media team members are graded via detailed scorecards which compare their performance against their goals and maintains both internal and external leaderboards (because a little friendly competition never hurts).

Dell Social Business Analytics

Encourage collaboration

Social media doesn’t happen in a vacuum and neither should your social business teams. Collaboration between team members can motivate everyone to do their best. To encourage collaboration, Connie suggests:

  • Encouraging early adopters to share tips, techniques and best practices
  • Sharing wins internally and publicly via case studies published to SlideShare
  • Holding regular core team meetings

In addition to internal collaboration, Connie recommends making external collaboration an important element of your social media marketing, as your target audience and their influencers are often the best sources of insights into what’s working, what’s not, and where your biggest opportunities are. To make sure there is a venue for external collaboration, Dell facilitates regular discussions and think tanks with customers, influencers and even detractors.

Dell Social Media Collaboration

Put the customer at the center of your content

Companies that only talk about themselves through their social media and content marketing efforts are seeing disappointing results because of it. In fact, according to research from Content Marketing Institute, only 45% of businesses who engage in content marketing report it to be effective.

Don’t be another brand adding more self-promotional noise to the social sphere. By empowering your employees to effectively engage directly with your customers on the most real time channel there is (social networks), your company will be in the best position to understand their pain points, provide real value and drive social business objectives. Understanding issues from the customer’s point of view helps inform content marketing and social content planning so your brand can provide the kind of information that customers actually want. Ironically, by talking less on social media channels about the brand and products directly, the more demand there will be for the brand. That is the essence of social business done right.

Most companies are aware of the tactical uses for social media marketing by curating and publishing content on social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and even blogging. But bringing the value of social media inside an organization to tap into subject matter expertise and the community of knowledge that exists within a company is a resource untapped for many organizations. Think about social media and networks as tools beyond marketing to tap into content and advocacy from within your company.

Here is the full presentation:

Is your company using social media and networks internally to empower employees and your business to be more social? What tools are you using?

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Creating a Culture for Making Business Social – 5 Tips from Dell’s Connie Bensen |

Welcome to the Funnel, We Have Leads & Names – Jason Miller of LinkedIn at MnSummit

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GnR Jason Miller MnSummit

Photo credit: Jason Miller

If there is anyone that can leverage a rock and roll metaphor for content marketing, it’s Jason Miller @JasonMillerCA, Senior Manager, Content Marketing at LinkedIn (client).

And at the first ever Minnesota Search Marketing Association Summit, he did not disappoint.

Content marketing can often seem like a never ending sea of songs, and only the best tunes emerge as a hit. To separate the harmony from the noise, companies need to start with a content strategy that begins at the top of the funnel. With high-level and in-demand concepts, marketers can attract customers in droves, like fans to GnR show. Attracting attention and creating demand at the top of the funnel will keep your content tour rich with new fans. But how?

In his presentation at the MnSummit conference, Jason Miller provided attendees with the answers to how and more.

The current situation

Miller argued that the current content experience can be best compared to Times Square during rush hour — in other words, a complete mess. Content is regularly churned out without much connection to the buyer journey, and serves little function other than initial customer attraction.

This is the stasis stage of content marketing, where content is created merely because it’s required. No marketing initiative should linger in the stasis stage for too long, or else the company will quickly appear irrelevant with the audience.

Jason Miller

Relevance is key

The key to better top-of-funnel content isn’t quantity, but relevance. “We don’t need more content — we need more relevant content,” Miller said. “The data’s out there — we just need to create a personalized journey for the buyer.” LinkedIn needed to change its perception as an online job resume, so the Marketing Solutions team worked to create top-of-funnel content promoting their identities as content marketers.

Miller referenced some helpful words from MarketingProfs’ Ann Handley. Getting to relevance requires stepping into your customer’s shoes. Innovative top-of-funnel content should be useful, enjoyable and inspired — will your audience get anything from the content, will they be entertained or enlightened, and will they be inspired to take further action?

Starting with the blog

Miller argued that your organization’s blog serves at the main gateway for content production. The blog is the social media rug that ties the room together (to borrow a reference from The Big Lebowski), and unique blog content should reach every aspect of the top-of-funnel buyer journey.

Miller’s content metaphors shifted from rock bands to food types, where he highlighted the various blogging food groups that make up their weekly content strategy. Miller’s team assigns a different food group for each day — with varying levels of “filling” content:

  • Monday: Raisin Bran, Spinach — Content that is east to dish out, including How To posts. This content starts the conversation light and doesn’t overwhelm the early-week worker.
  • Tuesday: Meats – This content is slightly denser, focusing on thought leadership connections.
  • Wednesday: Roast — This is your “Big Rock” content, where most of the research and effort are directed. Miller cautioned attendees not to write these pieces like instructional manuals, but rather as strategic posts that direct users toward the next stage of the funnel.
  • Thursday: Tabasco — You can start a little fire heading into the weekend, challenging readers and pushing against regular assumptions.
  • Friday: Chocolate Cake — The fun stuff

The beauty of this metaphor is that these concepts don’t need to be wholly original — you can take one piece of content and create five different meals from it.

Jason Miller, LinkedIn

Make the most of your meaty content

If you’re sitting on a wealth of bottom-of-funnel content (white papers, I’m looking at you), Miller argues that there are multiple ways to re-purpose that content:

  • Initial white paper or eBook (Big Rock content)
  • Social amplification
  • Visual amplification (SlideShare, which Miller argues is “one of the most underutilized tools for B2B”)
  • The blog (add interactive elements where possible)
  • Webinars

The buyer journey rarely starts at the bottom of the funnel, so content created at the bottom shouldn’t stay there — bring it up to your attract-level audience as well.

How do you know it’s working?

Data drive the content creation process, though certain data provide better insights. Miller argued that marketers should avoid the “vanity metrics” and orient their tracking strategies to focus on:

  • Non-branded keyword referral traffic: This helps determine whether someone is reaching your page without typing in your company name to get there. Miller argued that non-branded is more insightful than branded, as it means your audience is actively searching for campaign-related terms instead of just your company’s name.
  • Social Engagement: How will you amplify your content, and get the audience to do the same? This strategy should be developed before any content is created or curated.
  • Higher quality leads: It’s definitely possible to gain high-quality leads with top-of-funnel content, provided you outline a direct path for users to follow toward a reasonable conversion point.

Miller concluded with the essential top-of-funnel perspective: People want to be entertained, and businesses want to harness the new audience for quality leads. It’s not as difficult as you might think — and this is the level where you can experiment to find the best content for your audience.

Here’s the full presentation deck from Jason Miller:

Welcome to the Funnel – Jason Miller MN Search Summit Preso from Jason Miller

For more information from the MNSearch Summit, check out this post and this post too from other members of the TopRank Online Marketing team. You can also download the entire digital marketing keynote presentation from Lee Odden here.

Top photo credit: @MnSearch

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Welcome to the Funnel, We Have Leads & Names – Jason Miller of LinkedIn at MnSummit |

July 1st 2014 Online Marketing

Where Search Fits in the Digital Marketing Mix – 12 Lessons from Lee Odden Keynote at MnSummit

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Be the Best Answer - Lee Odden Keynote

I am one of the last generations that will be able to remember what it’s like to not have technology in school.

We didn’t text. We passed notes. Our really crappy handwriting scrawled across lined paper that was folded so small we were convinced the teacher couldn’t see it as we threw or passed it back and forth. Rumors, quizzes, and small talk would whiz around the room until class was done. Then, the written conversation was over until tomorrow.

If we wanted to research something we did one of three things: asked someone else or begged our parents to tell us so we wouldn’t have to do option number three—look it up in the dictionary or the library.

Today’s generation will never know what that’s like. Texting means they will never experience the overwhelming terror that washes over you when the teacher threatens to read your note out loud to the entire classroom. They will never understand the frustration of trying to look up a word they don’t know how to spell. Faced with a choice between a library and Google, let’s face it, Google is way easier.

Libraries aren’t the only organizations feeling the impact from our increasing preferences for online information. A study by Accenture Interactive recently reported that digital marketing is predicted to account for 75% of CMOs budgets over the next five years. And yet 79% of them don’t believe their businesses will be ready.

Stop and think about that for a minute. An overwhelming majority of C-level executives don’t think their business will be ready for the vast majority of their marketing to be digital, meeting the information consumption habits of their consumers. How on earth do they expect to attract and engage them?

Lee Odden

At the inaugural Minnesota Search Summit in Minneapolis, our CEO Lee Odden gave the opening keynote to an audience of search marketers offering advice to that 79% on how to break free of SEO and SEM silos and approach digital marketing strategically. Here are 12 lessons from that presentation outlining the transformation TopRank Marketing has made from search to digital marketing agency and how to develop an approach that optimizes for customers vs. search engines.

1. Strive to Continually Learn

One of the first things Lee said about how he evolved his thinking from Search to Digital Marketing was, “I’m eternally curious, and I am an eternal student.” He advised the audience to set objectives and goals to learn something new every single day. And what better way to learn than to connect with people? Talk to those who are solving similar or different problems than you, attend lectures, read forums—whatever it takes to consume as much information as you can. The more you consume, the more you can leverage.

2. Focus on People, Not Bots

For some SEOs it can be easy to focus on search engine bots—it’s really easy to know what they want. Make sure your keyword use is good, pages load quickly, attract high quality links, and they’ll be relatively happy. But bots don’t pay your bills. They don’t purchase your product (yet). People do. Digital marketers have to shift perspective to be more customer centric—focusing more on optimizing for customer experiences than for search engine bots.

“Rather than just thinking about the most popular keywords somebody might be looking for at the end of the buying cycle and creating content for the 50 derivatives of that keyword, think about what the other paths might be,” Lee advised. “Consumer’s don’t all search and convert. They may research multiple sources before committing to a purchase.”

Create personalized content. Take the hub of your hub-and-spoke model, and make derivative versions of it for different channels to expand visibility of your company in the places where your customers are. Give people information in formats they prefer, and everywhere they go. Coordinating visibility in organic search, paid search, organic and paid social media, industry publications, via email and even offline, you then start to create a congruent experience that can help them towards a conversion.

3. Be The Best Answer to Customer Questions & Queries

So what kind of content should you create? Answers. Helpful, actionable answers.

Your customers, and potential customers, are asking questions. Sometimes they’re to your sales team, other times they’re in the form of a search query—but they are being asked. Create content to help them. Check the internal searches conducted on your website to see what your visitors want more of (or are struggling to find). Survey current customers to find out how they’re searching, what types of information they prefer, and where they’re looking. Analyze forms that are being filled out. Whatever it takes to understand what your audience is looking for.

Then, create content that answers those questions. Each time your company solves an information problem for a prospect or customer, you help lead them to the next step closer to purchase or even advocacy.

4. Put Yourself in Your Customer’s Shoes…Or at Least Understand Their Journey

The buying journey is different for customers based on what they care about and their preferences for finding, consuming and acting on information. Not everyone searches the same way, uses the same social networks, or values the same topics or formats of online media. Some will start with search, others will take to social to ask a trusted following. Identifying and understanding the different journeys your customers are taking is essential for successful digital marketing.

Once you know how your customers discover information on the web, the content formats they prefer and what will inspire them to take action, you can create a content road map to identify the questions people have at each stage of their journey. Then architect a content plan that addresses those questions/concerns. Essentially, you’re creating a plan that allows you to be there for them every step of the way – to be the best answer, wherever customers are looking.

5. Develop Dynamic Personas

Lee recommended that regardless of which tool or strategy marketers use to create personas, they focus on making them dynamic. “The web is dynamic and so are consumer behaviors, you don’t just create [personas] and say ‘ok that’s it we’re going to create content for that for the next year’. You have to keep coming back and seeing how things are changing because seasonality, pop culture and fundamental changes about a audience segment can happen.”

6. Think of Search and Social as Being Hand-in-Hand

“Social is a remarkable discovery channel, search is a powerful validation channel,” Lee told the keynote audience. Using an example of asking his social following where he should take his ten year old (at the time) son in New York, he showed how a social query turns into a search query when users want more information. “Someone can tell you to go to this restaurant on social, and most people won’t run right out and go there. They’ll want to know more information like price, location, hours and go to a search engine to find out.”

It’s essential to digital marketing efforts to not see search and social as silos, but as two channels that reinforce and augment the other. Viewing content discovery and consumption from the buyer’s point of view helps marketers create and promote the kind of content that will best inspire them to take action – interact, share or buy.

7. Then Think of Digital Marketing like a Subway Map

Even though search and social play huge roles in digital marketing, they’re definitely not the only players in the game. Gartner recently published an image that showed how digital marketing was like a subway map. Dozens of different activities—from crowdsourcing, analytics, and search retargeting to mobile messaging/commerce, email marketing, and advertising—weave together to create a complicated network that achieves an overall goal.

Don’t become so focused on one or two elements of digital marketing (like SEO and PPC) that you forget the rest. We need all of the elements to get us where we’re going, just like a subway needs all of those stations and streets.

8. Hone your Digital Marketing Skills 

Lee identified 5 key digital marketing skills and elements that are key for search marketers:

  • Segmentation—Research audience and customer data to construct segments. Drawing from demographic, psychographic and behavioral data sources, find common characteristics of customers to create profiles that describe who your customers are. Developing personas from that segmentation exercise will help content creators develop meaningful content based on what customer goals, pain points and preferences are. Potential customers will crave different information than existing customers.
  • Buy Cycle Stories—Storytelling is powerful and developing stories for your digital marketing content requires you to know who your customers are. Map the buying cycle in terms of the questions customers have, and figure out what kinds of messages/stories you can tell them at the different stages of the journey from awareness to purchase. Once you understand your customers and the questions they have, you can best optimize for keywords.
  • Content Planning, Creation, Curation—These are the mechanics around content marketing and account for the ability to plan meaningful content across channels based on the problems a product or service can solve for specific customers. From content organization to sourcing—whether that be from within your company, industry experts, or customers themselves.
  • Amplification— As Lee likes to say, “Great content isn’t great until people find and consume it”. The ability to promote content effectively, whether it’s social sharing, search and social ads, email, publicity or simply tapping into your own networks – is essential for successful digital marketing.
  • Measurement & Optimization— Identify Key Performance Indicators, measurement and analytics appropriate to the goals, audience and marketing tactics you’ll be using. It’s both the strategic value of setting goals and seeing if you’ve met them as well as the day to day of marketing performance optimization. Check to see if you really reached your audience. Did they bounce? Did they convert? Analyzing their actions can help you create a better, more targeted piece of content the next time around.

9. Know How Your Content Contributes to a Conversion

Look at everything leading up to the conversation as an assist. Interactions with content like ebooks, SlideShare, social network updates, blog posts, articles…they’re capable being an assist to a conversion. Not everything that you’re publishing will universally be a conversion or an assist—it will depend on the person that finds, consumes and acts on the content.

Calculate a percentage of contribution to the overall conversion. That way, you can identify the value of the content you’re creating, and determine the contribution to leads, sales and revenue.

For a great list of content marketing case studies that include revenue performance, check out this post.

10. Overcome Analysis Paralysis and Learn from the Data You’re Collecting

Some of Lee’s favorite ways to learn more about consumers other than talking to them directly include:

  • Gated content and open forms allow people to express what they’re interested in. that’s a great opportunity. The text field of an inquiry form overlaid over time will start to expose trends. Then you can get an idea of what people are concerned about
  • Logged queries from a website’s internal search engine
  • Panel data from third party providers like Quantcast or Rocket Fuel
  • Any platform that sells advertising will usually give demographic information. Look at the quantity and interactions from that data and overlay it with the demographic information to get a deeper level of insight

It’s a combination of those things, but ultimately talking to your customers is the most insightful and beneficial from a digital marketing standpoint.

11. Think like a Scientist: Create a Hypothesis and Experiment

One thing Lee heavily advocates for is experimentation. He recommended that marketers find ways to experiment using resources they have, such ash their own social networks and blogs. Play with length, messaging, tone, structure, offers…the list is endless. Analyze those real world reactions and bring the insight into your marketing recommendations.

12. Takeaways for Search Marketers to Become Better Digital Marketers: Optimize!

  • Optimize for buyers by focusing on being the best answer wherever customers are looking.
  • Optimize customer experiences through search marketing and connecting with buyers on an emotional level.
  • Optimize your expertise by developing strategic digital marketing skills now.

Search isn’t dead. SEO isn’t dead. And content marketing certainly isn’t dead. It’s the silos between them that need to fade away towards a more integrated approach to digital marketing. This was the key message from Lee’s presentation and what we aspire to in our work at TopRank Online Marketing.

Understanding what’s important about your customers–from who they are and what their titles are, to where they’re searching and what they’re searching for–can help you map out buyer journeys so you can create meaningful content that’s easy to find and share. Search, social, and content play huge roles in the optimization of buyer experiences, and can help build a solid foundation for the rest of your digital marketing efforts.

Believe it or not, these 12 lessons are just a slice of what Lee presented at the MnSearch Summit. Here is the full presentation on Slideshare: “Where Does Search Marketing Fit in the Digital Marketing Mix?”

How do you try to excel at digital marketing?

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Where Search Fits in the Digital Marketing Mix – 12 Lessons from Lee Odden Keynote at MnSummit |

June 30th 2014 Online Marketing

18 More Amazing Search & Digital Marketing Takeaways from #MNSummit

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Personally, public speaking scares the crap out of me. People staring at me for almost an hour, trying to not stutter or talk too fast, and striving to meet the expectations of a session description would turn me red and shaky for hours.

Apparently, none of the MN Search Summit speakers are subject to those nerves (or if they are, they hid it with the skill of a magician).

Since early this morning our team has been bustling around the University of St. Thomas listening to speakers from brands like TopRank Marketing clients LinkedIn and Dell as well as Moz, Distilled and several others. Each session was full of advice, tips, tools, and laughs—no shaking or red faces.

Our team ended the day feeling empowered to take our digital marketing to the next level; eager to get back to client work on Monday.

Below are some of the key takeaways from the afternoon speakers that we just couldn’t wait to share:

Rand Fishkin’s @randfish – Wizard of Moz
“Why Content Marketing Fails”

  • If you forget about the community behind your content, good luck getting shares, traffic, and viral status! People share what’s close to their hearts, ignites passion, and/or lands within their personal interests. Your content, done properly, can reveal the community behind it. And that is what will buoy it to the top. –Brooke Furry
  • “Good enough” content often performs well when a community is behind it. If you know your community and target them in your content, you will receive more likes, shares, etc. –Kate Heithoff
  • Setting the bar for good content should be settled at “good enough.” Focusing content on an audience will slowly build a community. That community will then determine on their own which of the “good enough” posts, which could be 1 in 1,000, are worth going viral. – Andy Thomson
  • Before you create content, ask the question “Who Will Share and Amplify This and Why?” Even great content marketing efforts fail if there is no community that is interested in and invested in sharing the content. –Alexis Hall

Jason Miller’s @JasonMillerCA – Senior Manager, Content Marketing at LinkedIn  (TopRank Client)
“Welcome to the Funnel”

  • “Take your content and treat it like leftover turkey. Slice and dice it and use it in as many ways possible.” Repurpose it! – Ryan Rutz
  • If you’re not promoting your “Good content,” you’re missing the boat!!! The visual is the new headline!!!!! – Michael Bak
  • You need to pay to promote your own “good content.” If you do not set aside money to do so in your marketing plan, your content will not do as well. Setting aside a budget to promote your content on social media channels can help it gain more visibility and reach a larger audience. – Kate Heithoff
  • Think of your content as “Leftover turkey” . . . it can stretch for days into almost anything! – Michael Bak
  • Encompassing the content lifecycle, Jason illustrated the process of creating a focused piece of content which, once it shows merit, can be sliced and diced like a turkey. Those pieces of turkey should be utilized over and over until no one wants the turkey anymore. – Andy Thomson

Adria Saracino’s @adriasaracino – Head of Content Strategy at Distilled
“How to Match Your Marketing Efforts with Customer Emotions”

  • People are not robots. Don’t discount the role of emotions in content consumption and purchases. Consider where your prospects sit on the “consumption matrix” – do they love or hate the process? Is it a low or high investment? Is there potential for analysis paralysis somewhere along the way? Be a sensitive marketer. Appeal to emotions, happy or sad, because content that summons emotion performs better. – Brooke Furry
  • People share because they want to feel involved, or they want to educate others, nourish the bonds they share with others, support a cause, or define oneself. How does your content help them do that? – Eliza Steely
  • Some of the questions you have to ask throughout your efforts aren’t customer focused—they’re you or brand focused: what do you stand for? What problem are you trying to solve? What defines success? Why do you go to work each day? – Eliza Steely
  • We feel before we think, so make content that triggers emotions – Kate Heithoff

Connie Bensen’s @cbensen – Global Social & Content Strategist at Dell (TopRank Client)
“Creating a Culture for Social Marketing”

  • A social business integrates social into the workday. To do this, a company must provide the team with the resources, training and certification to do so. Connie Bensen describes the Dell Playbook for employee social participation to include not just brand guidelines, but also organic keywords, content optimization guidelines and value proposition messaging. This resource gives employees an opportunity to integrate social into their workday in a way that is very beneficial to the business. – Alexis Hall
  • Companies should integrate social media into the workday and create brand advocates for yourself – Michael Bak
  • We need real-time marketing! With intelligent technology, solid strategy, and bold marketers, maybe we can improve the rate of successful content. – Andy Thomson
  • In order to embed social into the fabric of your company, encourage collaboration among your team. Connie Bensen describes creating a core weekly team to drive change at Dell. She also recommends using early adopters to share best practices. – Alexis Hall

Today was an incredible inaugural Minnesota Search Summit. The speakers were dynamic and insightful, the food was nice and summery (brats and burgers are wonderful even if the sun isn’t out) and the crowd was the expected Minnesota-nice.

A HUGE thank you to all of the volunteers, sponsors, and MN Search Board Members that put on the event. It was amazing, and you should be proud!

We definitely can’t wait to come back next year!

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18 More Amazing Search & Digital Marketing Takeaways from #MNSummit |

June 28th 2014 Online Marketing

15 Snippets of Digital Marketing Advice from #MNSummit

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#mnsummit @toprank


That’s how our morning started—honking cars as we inched our way through the rush hour traffic moving towards downtown Minneapolis. The gorgeous peach-colored sunrise coupled with the intoxicating smell of coffee helped us relax despite the stress of a morning commute.

Today’s drive was different than the rest. Instead of driving to our offices with views of Lake Minnetonka and the occasional deer, we headed into the bustle of the University of St. Thomas to attend the inaugural Minnesota Search Summit— an event focused on search, social media and digital marketing.

Fourteen of my TopRank coworkers and I are spending the day hearing advice from local experts, gleaning insights from industry thought leaders, and networking with some of Minneapolis’s savvy online marketers.

So far, we’re halfway through the day. Caffeine has kicked in, the tweets are flying, and the gift bags have been opened. And the TopRank Marketing team is impressed. Between CEO Lee Odden’s opening keynote and the two speaking tracks, we’ve already learned several new things about landing pages, search, analytics…the list is endless.

Well…not endless. Check out the list of advice and tips our team found helpful below—and stay tuned for the rest!

Lee Odden’s  @leeodden – CEO of TopRank Online Marketing
“Where Does Search Fit in the Digital Marketing Mix?”

  • Your customers can be a gold mine of information. Ask them questions, talk to your sales team–learn what questions are being asked and map those to the stages of your buying cycle. Then create and curate content to address those things in order to optimize user experience.  - Eliza Steely
  • A multichannel customer is worth 2x as much as a customer that shops in one channel. Be sure to create a consistent experience throughout your channels to ensure you’re optimizing all experiences possible. – Kate Heithoff
  • People ask their friends for advice on social channels because social is a discovery tool. Search is a validation tool where people cross-check their friends’ suggestions in order to validate the information. – Emily Bacheller
  • Be eternally curious. Be an eternal student. Set objectives and goals for yourself to learn every day and there’s no better way to learn that to connect with people who are solving similar problems or problems different than you – Eliza Steely
  • Bacon and kittens are not the best approach to digital marketing – Eliza Steely

Oli Gardner’s @oligardner – Co-Founder of Unbounce
“Advanced Landing Page Optimization”

  • In order to create “delightful” landing pages, don’t break the “scent trail.” If a person’s searching for something specific, keep the scent trail strong from search engine to your landing page – so they find what they originally searched for (smelled!) and don’t get frustrated and start the search over again. -Brooke Furry
  • “If you give me cause to pause, I might not convert.” – Brooke Furry
  • People like to be led, so tell them what to do. For instance, after someone signs up for your webinar, ask them to join your email list. Always go for the extra point. – Emily Bacheller
  • Our goal as marketers should be to delight and convert our customers. Oli Gardner describes the Attention Ratio as the ratio of interactive elements on a site (links) compared to campaign goals (you campaign goals should always be one). As the Attention Ratio decreases, conversion ratio will increase. Give people one thing to do – your campaign goal (i.e. watch a video, download white paper, etc.). For the ideal landing page experience remove extraneous elements, including social buttons, links to other relevant content and your top navigation. This will increase your conversion rate. The Attention Ratio is more important than button color, short forms or an above-the-fold CTA. – Alexis Hall
  • 8% of men are colorblind–so don’t rely on colors – Michael Bak

Justin Cutroni’s @justicutroni - Analytics Evangelist at Google
“Moving to User Centric Measurement”

  • You can’t create unique experiences without segmentation. Create segmentation in your analytics and use that as your remarketing list, customize everything for them. Incorporating behavioral data is essential to reach the right type of audience – Eliza Steely
  • Opportunities to engage with customers are growing exponentially, so analytics must grow too – what you measure must become more intentional and people-based. – Brooke Furry
  • We want to thing about the user and the value they bring our company for years to come. For years we’ve been focused on the singular moment of conversion rates. We need to start looking beyond that to help us decide where to allocate funds based on the lifetime value of a customer, not just their singular purchases. – Eliza Steely
  • The secret sauce is identifying your customers through IDs and inputting that into Anaylytics. You can then create a single user profile to identify their interactions through time. – Ryan Rutz
  • In one example Justin shared, Google remarketing campaigns that included a behavior signal were 1300% more effective than standard campaigns. The takeaway? Any time you can gain insights (such as affinity)  and use them to personalize the experience, do it. – Jesse Pickrain

It’s been a great summit so far! More digital marketing tidbits are coming. Check back later this evening for more  insights from the TopRank Marketing team. Follow along on Twitter with the event hashtag: #MNSummit

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15 Snippets of Digital Marketing Advice from #MNSummit |

June 28th 2014 Online Marketing

Online Marketing News – Goodbye Google Authorship, 1 Minute On Facebook, Videos Dominate

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Content Marketing According To Google

The Marketing Industry According to Google Autocomplete - As you can see in the image above, Google has it’s ideas about what content marketing means.  While we obviously have our own ideas on what online marketing, blogging, and other terms mean, here’s a look a what Google Autocomplete thinks of some common marketing words and phrases.  HubSpot

With 1 Billion+ Travel Pins, Pinterest Gives Place Search An Upgrade - Forget the idea that Pinterest is all about fashion photos, cute animals and inspirational messages. The company says it’s now hosting more than a billion Place Pins across four million Place Boards. Together, all this represents more than 300 unique countries and territories. Search Engine Land

Google Removes Authorship Photos and Google+ Circle Counts From Search Results - Yesterday, Google’s John Muller made an announcement that broke marketers’ hearts: Google Authorship’s about to get a makeover. And it’s not the type of makeover that makes you say “ooo” and “ahh” and “how wonderful” — it’s the kind that could impact your search traffic. HubSpot

What Happens In Just ONE Minute On Facebook [Infographic] - As thousands of new social media users log on every week, the numbers relating to the flow of information on Facebook become ever more staggering. This infographic from SumoCoupon illustrates just how much data is generated in a mere 60 seconds on Facebook. Social Media Today

Social and Native Ads Are More Effective Than Email, Study Says - Marketers say that social media ads and native promotions are better for brands than email, according to Millward Brown Digital’s study for MediaBrix. AdWeek

Study: 56% Of Viewers Skip Online Video Ads & 46% Say Any Ad Over 15-Seconds Is Too Long - After surveying viewer engagement with online video and video ads, data provider Adroit Digital found 56 percent of all its survey participants are likely to skip online video ads, while 46 percent said a video ad should be no more than 15 seconds in length. Marketing Land

Facebook To Revamp Right-Hand-Side Ads Next Week; Warns Advertisers Of Price Hikes - Facebook announced that it will begin rolling out its redesigned right-hand-side ads early next week. The revamp of those ad units was originally announced in April. AllFacebook

Videos Dominate Universal Search Results 65% of the Time [Study] - Since its inception in 2007, universal search results have have morphed to show a multitude of choices for searchers to choose from, like videos, images, maps, shopping results, and news. In its latest research, Searchmetrics studied the universal search results for millions of keywords over the course of one year (2013) to gauge what has recently changed, and how. Search Engine Watch

Study: Teens heavily use Facebook, Instagram more often than Snapchat - One of the most pressing questions about Facebook’s future revolves around teen usage. However, a new study by Forrester shows that maybe teens don’t hate Facebook after all. Forrester surveyed more than 4,500 U.S. online users between 12 and 17 about their habits on social networks and apps. Among apps they use “all the time,” both Facebook and Instagram finished ahead of Snapchat. Inside Facebook

Owned Editorial Content Claims Majority of Media Spend on Mobile [Study] - A recent report from Sharethrough shows that branded editorial content on owned sites has attracted the lion’s share, almost 70 percent, of editorial media spend. ClickZ

Study: As Facebook reach drops, engagement rises — but not as much for brands - As both paid and organic Facebook reach become harder to come by, many page owners have discovered that engagement has risen or at least remained steady. Inside Facebook

From our Online Marketing Community:

In response to the post Curation and Repurposing to Extend the Life of Your Content Marketing, Ben Bradley wrote, “Great post Lee! I think you alluded to this but I am not sure if it was fully called out, one of the biggest benefits of re-purposing content is to get it to fit different distribution channels. For example, what performs on LinkedIn might not work well on Twitter, SlideShare, etc. I also think understanding which content types will fit each buyer persona, at each buy cycle stage, and on which distribution channel those people will be, can help make sure your re-purposing efforts are as efficient as possible.”

On How SEO and Inbound Marketing Can Grow Your B2B Marketing PerformancePhil Smith shared, “Great post. In my opinion the prime reason businesses fail is because – as outlined in your post – they fail to understand how customers discover information on the web. Get this wrong and the whole inbound marketing process collapses.”

And in response to the post 12 B2B Content Marketing Examples and Case Studies for 2014, UnveiltheWeb said, “I think the humor and videos are huge! People like to engage with content that either helps them solve a problem or entertains them.”

What were the top online and digital marketing news stories for you this week?

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

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Online Marketing News – Goodbye Google Authorship, 1 Minute On Facebook, Videos Dominate |

June 27th 2014 Online Marketing

How SEO and Inbound Marketing Can Grow Your B2B Marketing Performance

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B2B SEO Inbound Marketing

Call it organic marketing, call it inbound marketing or even content marketing – the practice of creating useful information to generate demand and attract an audience of buyers vs. buying ads to push messages out to them is one of the highest impact, low cost approaches to digital marketing a business can take.

The practice of optimizing content for better search visibility goes hand in hand with the broader approach of inbound marketing. SEO best practices can be applied to content across the entire sales cycle to surface brand content during awareness, consideration and purchase behaviors as well as after the transaction to reinforce retention and advocacy goals.

While SEO has evolved along with the changes search engines continue to make, it’s still full of opportunities. In particular, is the practice of creating amazing content and media only to rely on paid amplification for exposure – ignoring the value that natural search brings to the visibility of content. That said…

The only thing worse than no SEO is “All SEO”

The hubris of only seeing online marketing opportunities through the eyes of search engine optimization creates situations where the mighty keyword takes precedence over customer engagement and conversions. Sure, ranking and referred organic traffic are the KPIs SEOs are most often held accountable to, but using SEO as the sole determinant for content inspiration and promotion is “limiting” to say the least.

Recently I had a chance to elaborate on this perspective with the folks at DGR in an interview about how B2B companies can better understand SEO and Inbound Marketing to boost the performance of their marketing. Here’s most of that exchange:

What are some of the best practices for SEO and Inbound Marketing? 

Like any marketing program, best practices inbound marketing and SEO start with objectives, an understanding of the target customer and a marketing plan with a tactical mix. Defining key performance indicators that track progress as well as metrics that will determine program success are also best practices.

Where a lot of marketers fail with inbound marketing efforts is to view content solely as a link building tactic for SEO. Or they see content as something that only matters for search rankings and not something that can pull customers through from awareness to consideration to purchase.

Inbound relies on content to attract, engage and convert new customers that are actively looking for solutions. Marketers that understand how customers discover information on the web can effectively plan content around topics buyers want information on. Keyword research around those topics will aid in the optimization of the content so it can be found through search.

Best practices SEO is a combination of technical readiness of a website, optimized content and links. Factors like page loading speed, authorship and structured data can improve different aspects of search marketing performance as well. Creating useful information that is optimized for the things buyers are looking for is another best practice. Actively promoting content will attract links from other websites and social networks, driving traffic and serving as signals that can be very powerful for search marketing visibility.

There are many other organic or inbound marketing best practices that range from publicity and media relations to leveraging social media and realtime content recommendation engines for content topics. And we can’t forget email marketing, marketing automation and conversion optimization.

What’s working well with SEO and Inbound Marketing?

Companies that get the blocking and tackling of technical SEO readiness and rich content (text, images, video and audio) plus active promotion to attract links have many more opportunities to refine their search marketing performance. Some of those opportunities include:

Integration of Content, SEO, Social Media and PR: Integrating SEO and inbound marketing efforts with media relations works well since established publications that cover a brand can send traffic and strong link signals that influence rankings.  Creating rich media content like videos, presentations, infographics and interactive tools that are useful and entertaining (and also optimized for keywords) can attract direct traffic, links and social shares that result in improved organic visibility.

Marketing Automation: When there is an active effort to create optimized and socialized content for the interests of specific customer segments, marketing automation software can be very effective for nurturing prospects through the buying cycle. Email communications directly with interested prospects that inform and inspire them to move from interest to transaction has worked very well for many companies, especially in the B2B space.

Brand Publishers: Businesses that take content seriously are becoming publishers in their own right and a robust mix of content design for specific customer segments can be a goldmine for an inbound marketing program. But it takes time to get that kind of momentum, so patience and an ongoing effort to optimize program performance is necessary. Insight from CRM analytics, conversion data, SEO keyword research, social media monitoring and real-time interactions with content can all inform the long and short term content planning for a very powerful inbound marketing program.

How can marketers improve the performance of their inbound campaigns? 

Any inbound program can be improved upon, depending on program goals and the ability to execute on a strategy. The first step is to view inbound as equivalent with overall marketing vs. a campaign with a start and stop. Inbound requires a long term commitment to content, promotion and analytics as well as an ongoing effort to optimize inbound marketing performance.

Understanding the questions customers need answered in order to buy is the most fundamental thing marketers can act on to improve the performance of their inbound campaigns. As my co-worker Alexis Hall has mentioned to me many times, “A shift from product focused content to customer needs focused content provides an amazing difference in marketing performance.” Answering customer questions is the most straightforward way to meet customer information needs.

A content plan that maps key questions along the buying cycle for each customer segment can be the roadmap for content that is optimized for search, socialized for networks and publicized for industry blogs and publications.  It’s often an inbound marketing improvement opportunity to revisit the data that informed each customer segment profile and persona, since customer communities can be quite dynamic. Adjusting for changes in customer preferences can result in improved content and inbound marketing performance.

By delivering content that’s actually useful to buyers (instead of how brands define useful) marketers can find substantial performance improvements.

What are some of the things B2B marketers need to consider as they plot their inbound and SEO strategies going forward?

For B2B marketers and longer sales cycles, content that fuels the buyer journey is important and distinctly different than B2C. Studies show that content preferences for B2B marketers can be different, requiring brands to conduct research, produce longer form content and both on and offline events. While B2B is often associated with boring white papers and case studies, the information in those content types is highly valuable for customer acquisition.

What B2B marketers need to consider is the packaging of their content to become both informative and entertaining, aka “infotainment”.  Competition for time and attention is fierce with the rise of content marketing, so brands need to tap into the creative and “human” side of B2B in order to stand out.

Also, many B2B buyers are committees, not sole individuals. That requires some understanding of the committee process and dynamic. You may have multiple personas to deal with and create content for, which is very different than implementing an inbound marketing program directed at a single persona.

What would you add as best practices for SEO and Inbound marketing?

Photo: Shutterstock

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How SEO and Inbound Marketing Can Grow Your B2B Marketing Performance |

Online Marketing News – Twitter Gets GIFs, Microsoft Makes Promises, No Budget For Mobile

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Twitter Brings Tweets To Life Through The New Support Of Animated GIFs - Twitter may start looking a lot more like Tumblr soon thanks to the new support of animated GIF files. Across the web, Android & iOS platforms users will be able to view their favorite GIF images in full motion. Marketing Land

Facebook to Use Web Browsing History For Ad Targeting - Through its ubiquitous “like” buttons on publisher sites across the web, Facebook has long been able to watch the web surfing behavior of its 1.28 billion monthly users. Soon it will begin to use that information for ad targeting on Facebook. AdAge

Facebook Posts See More Engagement After Hours, Weekends [Study] - TrackMaven studied more than 5,000 Facebook pages and about 1.6 million posts to uncover the best days and times to post status updates, as well as how to structure those updates for maximum visibility. ClickZInfluence Marketers

How to Get In With the “In Crowd”: Digital Influencer Marketing for Brands [Infographic] - What’s digital influencer marketing and how can your brand use it?  Marketo takes a look in this helpful infographic which includes top digital marketing influencers like TopRank’s CEO, Lee Odden. Marketo Blog

Study: Facebook Great At Delivering Reach — Through Advertising - Facebook can deliver great reach for brands and companies — it’s just becoming increasingly evident that you have to pay for it. A study by Neustar, a real-time analytics firm, shows that Facebook’s advertised reach efficiency exceeds that of exchange services, advertising portals and ad networks. However, reach on Facebook (noted in the report as social) has dipped considerably from Q4 2013 to Q1 2014. InsideFacebook

Microsoft Promises No Targeted Advertising With Updated Privacy Policy - In an effort to reassure consumers, the tech giant states it will not use email, chat, or voice data for targeted advertising. Microsoft has updated its user agreements to clarify how it stores and uses customer data, with a clear effort to position itself in a different light to rival Google. ClickZ

80% Of Marketers Believe Mobile Is Significant, Yet Allocate Just 3% Of Budget [Infographic] - If 8 in 10 search marketers believe that mobile is an important part of the marketing mix, why is it that it makes up just 3% of budget? Marketing Pilgrim

Only 1 in 10 Online Shoppers Say Mobile Is Preferred Method for Making Purchases - UPS and comScore have released their 3rd annual “Pulse of the Online Shopper Study,” based on a survey of 5,800 online shoppers in the US who make at least 2 online purchases in a typical 3-month period. The results suggest that despite the growth of mobile commerce (23% year-over-year in 2013, per comScore), only 1 in 10 respondents prefer to purchase products on mobile devices. Marketing Charts

STUDY: Facebook Ads In Paid Search Campaigns Mean More, Cheaper Conversions - Facebook and paid search are often viewed as competitors for advertising, but a study commissioned by the social network and conducted by Kenshoo, a Strategic Preferred Marketing Developer, analyzed two weeks’ worth of adding Facebook ads to paid search campaigns by Experian, finding better performance and lower costs per acquisition. Inside Facebook

LinkedIn’s New “Galene” Search Platform Offers Broader, More Relevant & Faster Results - Last week, Linkedin announced it had rolled out a newly upgraded search platform Galene, designed to offer broader searches and more relevant results that are now delivered twice as fast. Search Engine Land

New “Google My Business” Simplifies Local Marketing For SMBs - For quite some time since the introduction of Google+ Local, managing local listings and content across Google properties has confused many local SEOs and local business owners alike. Now Google has launched a new, integrated approach called Google My Business. Search Engine Land

Study: Top Performing Email Marketers Earning 9.5% CTR, 6 Times Higher Than Median CTR - A new Email Benchmark Study from Silverpop revealed top performing email marketers are earning a 9.5 percent click-through rate, six times higher than the median click-through rate of 1.5 percent. Marketing Land

The Most Effective Calls to Action for Facebook Posts - Simply asking people to share a post is often the most effective call to action (CTA) for Facebook posts by brands, according to a recent report from TrackMaven. MarketingProfs

From our Online Marketing Community:

On From Antwerp to Bucharest – Lessons Learned About Storytelling and Content Marketing, Kelly Hungerford said, “Nice post Lee! I really like your point about content needing to address business objectives as well as customer objectives. Content needs to be a win for both in order to be a success. And I love the example of content on tap. That’s something I’m going to keep in mind and try to put to practice. I’m not sure I could have pulled out three example in five minutes. You rocked it! For me it’s almost a rethinking of how we learn to “communicate” business, which seems to always be factual and not emotional. On storytelling: Danny’s had my full attention and I’ve told the story about the shuttle about a dozen times now. I can’t remember the height or width of the boosters for the shuttles, but I can remember they are the size of two horses asses and that makes for great conversation. I love the picture you included in this post. It tells a story too: physical events and meet-ups are a stellar opportunity to meet new friends, exchange stories and become a part of other people’s stories. Thank you.”

Mark Masters, said “Who says that travel doesn’t broaden the mind? It’s interesting that whilst topics that we share and promote are becoming topics that many others are bestowing onto others ie. how to become a ‘rock star/ninja in…’ the big differential is how we weave our own stories and experiences into our perception of the world. The moment when you realise that you don’t have to please everyone, but to have a point of view and stick to it, then becomes a lot easier to find your own path….from my perspective anyway. Enjoyed the read.”

And on Essential Q and A on the Value of Content Marketing, Gerrid Smith said, “Thank you for sharing this translation. I couldn’t agree more on the aspect of growing audiences from niche communities.”

What were the top online and digital marketing news stories for you this week?

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

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June 20th 2014 Online Marketing