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Remember To Write Like A Human

26 Jun

I am a big fan of the HBO show, “Silicon Valley.” I love how the show pokes fun at all the annoying tech tropes, including startups and their buzzword-laden elevator pitches. Today I was cruising articles on LinkedIn, and I stumbled upon a company in my news feed. I started to read the company description to find out what it was, when a wall of buzzwords hit me in the face.

The company description was so buzzwordy that it almost felt fake, as if someone had strung together a few sentences from one of those hilarious online business-speak generators. Below is the description with all the words blacked out except for the buzzwords.(Apologies if this is your company).

write like a humanI still don’t really know what this business does and this experience reminded me of how important it is to write simply and clearly. Here’s a blog post on that I really enjoyed. This post gives a few great before and after examples of how to write like a human and achieve greater success with your copywriting, marketing, and even interpersonal communication.

4 Content Marketing Tools to Enhance Your Strategy

10 Mar

content marketing toolsWhether you are just getting started with content marketing, or you are a content guru, the never-ending process of generating and sharing online can be quite overwhelming.

First you have to create high quality blog posts and articles, then you have to find amazing third party content to curate across several social media networks. The entire strategy won’t work unless you get your content in front of the right audience at the right time and find influential social media users to share it. Oh and don’t forget to test, measure and tweak as you go!

To help you save time and streamline your strategy, I’ve rounded up four helpful content marketing tools and applications. Use the recommendations below to enhance your content discovery, promotion, and engagement.

1. Topsy

Topsy can help you conduct competitor research to inform your strategy. Get started by searching for keywords in your industry. Then analyze trends across the most shared content around these keywords. Look at blog topics, headline structure, blog length, blog layout, tone, and more. If there’s a buzz-worthy blog circulating in your industry, you may even want to compose a timely response post and link back to the original. Topsy can help you to identify what’s being talked about and best practices for content marketing success in your niche.

2. Triberr

Triberr links to a Twitter account and helps you build connections with influencers. The platform is made up of groups or “Tribes” who blog about a certain topic. You can start by following a tribe and engaging with that tribe’s content. If you are an active participant in a Tribe, then the chief may choose to promote you to a full member. Full members can submit their own content to be shared by the group. Becoming a full member on Triberr grants you access to a valuable network of influencers who will promote your future content. If you don’t see a tribe that fits your needs, try starting your own.

3. Buffer

If you are logging into each of your social media accounts separately, or jotting down links for content you want to share, then you are wasting valuable time and energy. Streamline your content marketing efforts by scheduling updates across Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google Plus with Buffer. Buffer browser plugins allow you to schedule updates on the fly as you discover new content online.  The platform also features robust analytics so you can test different headlines and the best time of day or day of week for sharing on each network. You can measure engagement through clicks, retweets, favorites, mentions and total reach. Buffer also has a slick mobile app and integrates with popular tools such as Followerwonk, Feedly, and WordPress.

4. Outbrain

Outbrain offers two ways for marketers to enhance their content strategies. The first is an “engagement” feature, which recommends personalized links for your website visitors based on their interests and behavior. By showing visitors relevant links to your other content, you can increase time on site and push visitors to higher converting pages. Outbrain also offers an amplification service, which allows marketers to submit original articles and blogs and set a CPC budget (the minimum daily spend is $10). Outbrain then uses the budget to place your posts on high quality news sites like the Wall Street Journal or Outbrain-sponsored content appears as recommended reading links and the site offers full tracking and reporting.

What are some of your favorite content marketing tools? Please leave your suggestions and tips in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Pete O’Shea

How Social Signals Impact Search Behavior

22 Feb
Screen shot 2014-02-22 at 9.55.07 AM

Image From the Study shows eye-tracking data where one subject skipped the first two non-annotated results, focused on the socially-annotated results, and then clicked on them.

I came across a recent Google study about how social annotations impact users’ interactions with a SERP.

The full text of the study, “Perception and Understanding of Social Annotations in Web Search” is available online.

Here’s an excerpt from the study’s conclusion. To me, this language indicates that, based on searchers’ behavior, social signals will become even more important in the future:

“As the web becomes increasingly social, more and more information signals come from social sources. Users expect and demand to be able to search for socially-sourced information. Appropriately making use of social annotations to explain these social search results, therefore, becomes a necessity. While much work has gone into using social signals for search, much less is known about how users can and will make use of social annotations to make decisions during search sessions….

As web users become more social, they bring their social context to search and they expect and demand search engines to make use of this social context. Our research is a step toward this direction by investigating how social annotations affect user search behavior.”

The Takeaway?

This study shows that users are gravitating toward search results with social data and authorship snippets. To stay ahead of the curve, keep building influence across social networks and get your Google+ profile, pages, and authorship set up. Search will only become more social in years to come.


Cloudy With A Chance of White Papers

30 Sep

cloud softwareI remember when Salesforce launched at the turn of the century. Okay, it was the early 2000s, but saying “turn of the century” makes it sound a lot cooler.

A publishing business I was working for at the time adopted Salesforce as its new CRM. We had a really young MBA for a CEO and he was always willing to try new things.

Salesforce was one of the earliest SaaS success stories. I recall that switching to Salesforce from our old, custom-built database required a steep learning curve for many of the sales personnel. This was back in the day before clean, user-friendly, WYSIWYG-packed applications were the norm. Workers were not yet hard-wired to navigate a cloud interface.

Switching to a new CRM also likely involved a lengthy contract obligation and manually migrating information from our outdated system. At the time, I’ll bet our CEO read quite a few Salesforce white papers and technical backgrounders to determine if the CRM would be a good fit.

Now My Head Is In the Clouds

Fast forward to 2013.  How many new cloud-based services do you sign up for each month? How many free SaaS demos do you try? As an online marketer involved in SEO, paid advertising, and social media, I’d estimate that I create about five new accounts monthly. Last week alone, I signed up for Trello, Triberr, and a silly wedding planning app that shall remain nameless (I am getting hitched in a few months!)

The SaaS model is now ubiquitous. Anyone can demo a complex software solution in minutes for free and with very little risk.  User-friendly dashboards and universal design best practices make it quick and easy to learn how to use new software. In addition, many APIs play nicely with one another. This makes it easy for a Salesforce user to integrate other favorite tools like MailChimp or Google Apps.

So, let me get to the point and ask a few marketing questions:

Are traditional white papers still relevant marketing tools for selling SaaS products? Have free trials and monthly plans significantly lowered the risk of trying new cloud applications?  How have these changes impacted the B2B sales cycle?

White Papers vs. Ebooks and Numbered Lists

Gordon Graham, a.k.a. “That White Paper Guy,” recently authored “White Papers for Dummies,” a thorough guide to writing long form B2B content. In this book, Graham describes traditional white papers, such as technical backgrounders for CTOs or CIOs and Problem/Solution papers for executives. Along with these two white paper styles, Graham also recommends an ebook, or numbered list paper. This is a more informal document that reads like a magazine article or an extended blog post.

There are still many B2B situations where a white paper makes sense. However, I think that many SaaS providers today, especially smaller startups, may benefit from a numbered list or ebook more than a more traditional white paper.

Today you can demo a SaaS product, try it out for a month, and then cancel or sign up. In the digital marketing space, I see a ton of software startups with small teams and budgets selling services to other small and medium-sized organizations. In this space, the numbered list has several benefits:

      • User Friendly. Numbered lists are scannable and easy to read and contain actionable advice that will make the reader’s life easier. This will appeal to small business owners, who are pressed for time and always looking for ways to streamline and improve operations.
      • Engaging and Highly Sharable. The soft-sell approach of an ebook or numbered list advances the customers who are already in your sales pipeline. An ebook also works to attract new leads by addressing important industry questions or universal concerns. This is a big plus for startups who are trying to get their name out there and spread brand awareness.
      • A Softer Sell.  Unlike a white paper, an ebook is not an obvious sales tool.  This makes ebooks and numbered lists sharable and easy to promote on social media.  When you download a white paper, you know you’ll be getting a call from a sales person. A numbered list or ebook does not have that same “salesy” reputation (yet . . .).

What do you think about using ebooks and numbered list content in lieu of more formal white papers? Please share any thoughts or reactions in the comments below!

Photo credit: jojo nicdao

Link Roundup: 2 Google+ Changes Affecting Local Search

12 Jul

Google is making a steady push to integrate Google+, its social networking platform, with all of its offerings including search, maps, email and more.  In doing so, Google appears to have two main goals:

  1. If you are signed into a Google account, then you will be counted as an active Google+ user.
  2. 2. If you are a business, it will be necessary to have a Google+ page to compete online.

Two recent changes will especially  impact business owners. One is the switch from Google Places to Google+ Local and the second is the addition of an image carousel to local search results. Below is a summary of each change and a roundup of expert posts for more detail.

Change #1 – Google Places is Becoming Google+ Local

With so many branded offerings – “Google+,” “Google Places,” “Google Reviews,” and “Google Local,” it’s no surprise that business owners may be confused about using Google+ for marketing.  Soon all of these products will be combined under the Google+ Local umbrella with a fancy new dashboard and capabilities. Here’s some background information about switch from Google Places to Google+ Local.

  • Google+ Local Replaces Google Places: What Local Businesses Should Know: The folks at Hubspot give an overview of the change from Places to Local. This is a good place to start.
  • Google Local Plus “101″ Primer: This post points out why many business owners are feeling confused about how to transition from Places to Local.
  • What Happened to Google Places:  An answer to this question straight from the Google Help Center (which is also totally redesigned!)
  • Helping People Discover and Share Local Businesses with Google+: This post on the Google and Your Business Blog walks through some of the improvements that Google+ Local will offer and shares links to a few beta business profiles already running the new Local features.


Google+ Local for Business

This images shows a restaurant with the new Google+ Local layout and features.

Change # 2 – Google Adds Carousel to Local Search Results

A part of Google’s larger Knowledge Graph initiative, the carousel feature was introduced for tablets about a year ago and now Google is rolling it out to desktop users. When you do a local search such as “Coffee Shops Philadelphia,” an eye-catching image carousel dominates the top of the SERP and a map pops up on the right. The data and images in the carousel and map are pulled from … you guessed it, Google+.  This design and functionality will drastically change the landscape of local SEO. Read more about Google’s search carousel and its impact on local SEO:

  • About Google Knowledge Graph: The carousel is part of Google’s Knowledge Graph, a new  technology that Google is touting as the future of search. Learn more about Knowledge Gra
  • Search Engine Land Posts: Check out these two Search Engine Land posts. The first one announces the official launch of the carousel and the second shows the alarming results of a heat map study where the carousel results received 48% of  all clicks. 
  • Stay Tuned: Since this change is so new and limited to only a small percentage of searches there aren’t many definitive blog posts addressing the impact. Stay tuned to blogs like Moz, Search Engine Land, and Search Engine Journal for more updates on how the carousel is impacting results and user behavior.

google carousel for search

What are your thoughts about Google’s recent changes? Please share your insights in the comments below.

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