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The new buzzword in online marketing is “content marketing.” It’s a curious phrase because many veteran SEOs and Internet marketers don’t really see a difference between the new content marketing and what they’ve been doing for years. The truth is, there is a subtle difference.

Search engine optimization is the process of writing content in such a way that you improve its ability to rank in the search engines. That’s a kind of content marketing, but the term “content marketing” is actually a broader, more encompassing term.

Content marketing actually involves other types of content.

If you post videos to YouTube and other video sharing sites, then you’re engaged in content marketing. If you share your images on Pinterest, you’re performing a content marketing task. If you’re doing any kind of link building or maintaining social media accounts, then you’re involved in content marketing.

Infographics are a type of content marketing too. Graphs and charts, if published on the Internet (or even in print, I suppose), are a type of content marketing.

If you write guest posts, build Squidoo Lenses and HubPages, and publish articles on Web properties you don’t own, even if you don’t get a link back to your website, that’s content marketing.

It’s called content marketing because it requires that you first create content (in any form) then push that content out on the Internet (and other places) so that you reach a desired audience. If you expect your audience to then find you in hopes that you can do business with them, then you’re doing content marketing.

Jill Konrath and Ardath Albee released an e-book based on a survey of LinkedIn users and their conclusion is that top LinkedIn sellers view the social network as essential to their marketing efforts. “Cracking the LinkedIn Sales Code” shares some insightful statistics about how these top sellers use LinkedIn to nurture prospects and build their businesses.

Konrath and Ardath share five key findings in their report:

  1. LinkedIn “contributes” to opportunity creation.
  2. The most frequent LinkedIn activity is prospect research.
  3. Top sellers use more of LinkedIn’s capabilities than other users.
  4. Top sellers also pay close attention to their professional “presence” on LinkedIn.
  5. The biggest obstacle to using LinkedIn effectively is knowledge of its capabilities.

It is clear after reading the report that top sellers on LinkedIn have a completely different mindset than average users. They frequently close more sales than the average user and find more qualified prospects too. In other words, they actually have a LinkedIn strategy.

Konrath and Albee are careful to note, however, that merely using LinkedIn the same way that top sellers do won’t guarantee sales success. Putting in the time doesn’t translate into sales (BTW, top sellers spend 6 hours or more a week on LinkedIn).

When you consider that in a typical 5 day work week a power user will spend 1-1/4 hours per day on LinkedIn and contribute to 30 or more LinkedIn groups, then it’s clear that top sellers are people who are active on LinkedIn. It makes me wonder if they are active on other social networks too.

What do you think? Are you using LinkedIn like a top seller/power user?

Earlier this week, Google reported that they are making a change to how they report AdWords quality scores. It’s important to note that this will not change how your quality scores are calculated and therefore won’t affect how your ads are displayed.

This is the kind of change you’d expect Google to make from time to time. It means they are committed to providing a quality advertising product.

Your Google AdWords quality score is represented as a 1-10 number tied to three key aspects of your AdWords campaign – expected CTR, ad relevance, and landing page experience. Let’s analyze these three factors briefly.

Expected Click-Through Rate

Note that your quality score is not tied to your actual click-through rate (CTR) but your expected CTR. This is determined by past click throughs on your specific exact match keyword relative to your ad’s position. You are graded according to “average,” “above average,” and “below average.”

You can affect this measurement through keyword selection. Make sure you use the best keywords for your ad campaign.

Ad Relevance

This measure is about how your specific keyword relates to the content in your ad. Again, it is measured by “average,” “above average,” and “below average.” If your keyword isn’t specific enough to your ad, then you could be hurting your quality score. Make sure you create tight ad groups.

Landing Page Experience

Your landing page must be relevant to the keyword people use to search for your product or service. It must also match the content in your ad. And it should provide a positive user experience once searchers find your landing page. Is it easy to navigate? Is it organized well and well designed?

All of these factors are important in determining your ad’s quality score. If your Google AdWords quality score dips too low, you could lose your ad placement and end up out-of-sight out-of-mind.

I like how Jon Morris tells this story. While he offers several “key takeaways,” for me there is one really BIG key takeaway.

In his words, he shares

Provide your influencer with exclusivity in viewing and sharing your personalized content. Allowing them to create the first surge of the sharing wave will help reinforce that they are an extremely valuable, important part in the process. But don’t rely on them for everything — have a two-pronged approach and invest in link building efforts to compliment the awesomizer’s reach.

Jon came to this revelation by experimenting with an infographic, which he created specifically for a Twitter power user to whom he gave exclusive rights to with no expectation of return. The risk paid off.

I like this strategy.

You don’t always have to be first to share your own content. In Jon’s case, he could have published his own infographic, but would it have gained the same amount of attention as the one he created for his Twitter pal? Not likely.

When he offered exclusivity to Travis on Twitter, he essentially allowed the power user to get the glory that comes with sharing something great with your audience. Travis, however, paid it back and passed that glory on to Jon and his team. When you pay it forward, good things happen to you.

Lesson to learn: You don’t always have to be first to share your own content.

We live in an age when more than 90% of the American adult population have mobile phones. More than half of them have smartphones, and smartphone usage is expected to climb 28% in the next year.

That’s why you should consider mobile marketing right now. It won’t be long before 90% of the American adult population have smartphones.

This is an unprecedented opportunity in the history of marketing. Almost everyone in the world is within fingertips reach in just a few seconds. Why aren’t you taking advantage of that?

With mobile marketing, there are some things that you should keep in mind as you attempt to engage with audiences.

  • First, keep your messages short.
  • Secondly, people overwhelmingly read messages with images more than messages without images.
  • Since more people are reading their e-mails on their mobile phones, you should make sure that your e-mail newsletter and other e-mail correspondence is mobile-friendly.
  • Local businesses can leverage search through local search and directory apps from services like Yelp and FourSquare.
  • Finally, don’t send out any messages that you haven’t tested first. Send them to yourself and your staff. If they don’t look right, fix them before sending them out to your list.

Mobile marketing is here to stay. Companies that are forward looking have started planning for the future.

Marketing on Facebook is an art, not a science. People will follow your business page, but they want it to be entertaining and engaging. They want something more than a little self-promotion. They want a page that acts like a community. They’re OK with your central control over the content as long as fans feel like they are a part of your community.

Here are 5 ways to spruce up your Facebook business page and keep your fans happy.

  1. Talk about other people. A lot. Don’t make your page all about you. Talk about your customers, your business partners, even your competition. Just don’t talk about yourself all the time.
  2. Post videos. People like images. They love moving images even better. You don’t have to post a video every day, but you can post one once a week. Less, if you want. But videos are powerful ways to communicate a message, and if you have the resources to produce high quality videos, they will work hard to promote your brand.
  3. Post about something else. I wouldn’t advise you to go off topic with every Facebook post, but you can do it once in awhile. People want to see your personality. They want to see the personality of the person running your Facebook page. So give them what they want. Post off-topic content every now and then, but keep it professional.
  4. Make unforgettable offers. Businesses offer discounts and run promotions. You can do that on your Facebook page. Of course, you can run general business promotions, but do something special for your Facebook fans. Offer a Facebook-only promotion.
  5. Tell stories. People love stories. Have your customers share their stories about using your product or service. Talk about events that have happened around your brand. Tell stories, and make them interesting.

When it comes to social media marketing, your Facebook page is one piece of the puzzle. Use it well and it will pay you back.

If you haven’t established a marketing budget, you should. To execute a marketing plan without a budget is to essentially ensure that your plan fails. A marketing budget does three things. Here are the three reasons you should have one.

  1. A marketing budget tells you what marketing tactics you are capable of executing. If your budget is $300 per month, that means you are limited in just what you can do. You likely won’t be buying any TV ads. If you do, you won’t do much else. It forces you to think long and hard about the marketing tactics you put into place.
  2. A marketing budget also establishes your end goal. When you know how much money you are willing to spend per month to reach your marketing goals, then when you hit that limit you know it’s over. You can’t do anything else until next month. This prevents you from overspending.
  3. A marketing budget gives you something to measure. Without a budget you have no clue what you are measuring. There’s no end goal so you don’t know if you’ve reached it. When you have a means of measuring goals, then you can know if you’ve been successful or not.

It isn’t enough to simply establish a marketing budget. You should have a marketing budget for your Internet marketing too. And you should have a budget for each part of your marketing, whether it be video marketing, PPC, or social media.

More and more, people are talking about content marketing. The discussion revolves around on-page content vs. link building, vs. social media engagement. What is the most important aspect of content marketing?

Everyone has an opinion, but first let’s talk about what that means in the broader scope.

Content marketing involves a push-pull mindset. It doesn’t involve content that exists solely on your website. It encompasses all content that you create. In order to get people to your website to buy something, you have push your content out and use it to pull your prospects in. This is the essence of content marketing.

Now that you know how it works, what is the most important part of content marketing? In my estimation, it’s that part of the process that drives the “pull” part of the process.

What do I mean by that? As a reminder, content marketing involves a push and a pull. Your “push” is getting your content out there in front of your prospect, wherever your prospect may be. Your “pull” is bringing that prospect back to your sales page to buy something. Without that pull, all you have is content. It isn’t effective content, but it’s content.

To be effective at content marketing, you have to elicit a response in your reader. Your content must spark an interest and spark an action. So when it comes to content marketing, put some extra thought into your calls to action. They drive your pull.

Yelp recently announced the acquisition of an online reservation management tool called SeatMe. This makes me wonder, will Yelp get into providing online reservations for local businesses? I could see how that would benefit Yelp customers and provide a more competitive landscape in local marketing.

If you run any type of local business or a business based on reservations (including hotels, B&Bs, certain entertainment-style venues, and travel packages), then Yelp getting into providing online reservations for company’s like yours would be a good service at the right price. Right?

As Greg Sterling points out, Yelp already has an affiliate relationship with OpenTable, which provides online reservations. Being able to do it themselves means they can cut their affiliate relationship and go directly to the customer.

As a small business owner, or a local business owner, if you could get an online reservation fulfillment service at an affordable price, would you go for that?

I don’t know what Yelp’s pricing model would look like, and I’m only speculating that the purpose of purchasing SeatMe would be to provide an online reservation management service, but it does make sense. The question is, is it something that small local businesses want, and is it something they could use?

Analyzing keyword profitability isn’t as cut-and-dry as we marketers would like to think it is. That said, there are ways to judge a keyword’s potential profitability, but it involves classifying your keywords into categories.

  • Category 1 – Your first keyword category is the low-level keywords that don’t get a lot of click-throughs. Whether we’re talking about PPC advertising or organic search marketing, the keywords in this category historically don’t get click-throughs, however, their conversion rate might be high. In other words, the keywords don’t get a lot of clicks, but when they do they convert them into sales.
  • Category 2 – The second category of keywords is the category that gets lots of clicks and only a few conversions. This is a very unprofitable category because you are spending money on those clicks and not getting much of a return on them.
  • Category 3 – This is your blockbuster category. These keywords get tons of click-throughs and have a high conversion rate.

So what do you do with these categories of keywords? The first thing you should do is stop using the Category 2 keywords. They are costing you money. The other two categories of keywords may or may not be making you money. That depends on the cost of acquisition per customer.

Categorizing your keywords this way will allow you to eliminate unprofitable keywords early and fast while tweaking your paid and organic search marketing campaigns to improve the profitability on the remaining keywords.

Going viral can be a lot of fun, and for a business it can be really profitable. But at what cost?

One fan wasn’t doing it for the business, but he went viral in a very un-recommended way. @MasoneDylan posted on Twitter that he’d run across the field at the Major League Baseball All-Star game if he got 1,000 retweets. He ended up getting 3,552.

Now, I have to ask this question: What would you do for 1,000 retweets?

Keep in mind that a retweet doesn’t necessarily mean more money in your pocket. Those social media users may never visit your website and may never buy your widget. But you’d get a lot of publicity, especially if you do something stupid like interrupt a professional sporting event.

Some people get desperate for attention. Business owners are not immune to it either. Be sure, before you do something risky, that you stand at least a good chance of seeing positive results from your crazy antics. It’s OK to do something wild from time to time as long as you don’t endanger people’s lives and you don’t end up ruining your reputation. These kinds of antics are a risk.

If you want to go viral, think a little on the crazy side, but stay away from the stupid side.

Last month, Facebook announced that they would support clickable hashtags. This came after the Google+ announcement of the same nature. Whilst Facebook users had been using hashtags for years, this announcement made it official.

The interesting thing about hashtags is that big brands are using them. Here are some numbers to mull over:

(Source)

  • 56 percent of the top 100 brands on Facebook used hashtags in a post.
  • 38 percent of the top 100 brands on Facebook posted at least two updates with hashtags.
  • 18 percent of the top 100 brands on Facebook posted more than five times using hashtags.
  • 6 percent of the top 100 brands on Facebook posted more than 10 times using hashtags

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If the big brands are using Facebook hashtags, does that mean you should be using them too? Not necessarily, but here’s a good reason why you should use hashtags: Hashtags make good branding elements.

Now that the top 3 social networks all support hashtags, you can use your hashtags across all the social networks and increase your brand exposure. Those hashtags are searchable in the search engines. If you don’t believe me, just Google a popular hashtag and see what happens.

If you use hashtags that give your brand a unique identifier, then that’s a huge boost to your business. And it’s something real simple.

Hashtags are great Internet marketing.

When the power went out in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome during the Super Bowl earlier this year, Oreo responded with a realtime marketing message. You can’t buy that kind of opportunity. It just comes.

Which makes me wonder, how does realtime marketing take place? It’s obviously possible, but how do you position yourself to take advantage of it?

First, you should realize that you can’t just do nothing and wait for the opportunity to present itself. If you aren’t actively engaged in the media opportunities you have on a daily basis, then no one is going to listen to you when that magic moment arrives. You’ll just be a voice in the dark.

Real power comes from consistent activity. If you have a daily presence in social media, you blog regularly, and you are engaged with your audience in an ongoing conversation, then you are already poised for the big opportunities that may or may not happen.

In a word, it starts with when you wake up in the morning. Every morning.

Realtime marketing is possible only to online marketers who are present and active all the time. That doesn’t mean you have to sit in front of your computer and tweet all day. What you should do, though, is make sure you engage with somebody every day in some medium. That’s about as realtime as you can get.

We’ve been saying it for over a year now. Google+ impacts search engine listings.

In fact, if you read the article, it says that search results for brand names increased by 10% for Google+ users during the period between January 2012 and May 2013.

The study conducted by Conductor.com dealt only with technology writers, but I’m willing to bet that it applies to any type of writer. I’d be willing to bet that it’s true of any type of content producer – whether you be a writer, a CEO, a middle manager, or a small business owner.

You can compare Google+ to LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter all you want, but the one benefit that Google+ offers that none of the others do is that regular usage increases the search mojo for your brand.

It’s important to note that this is relative to personal brand searches, not generic keyword searches. You should understand the difference.

The importance of Google+ as a personal branding element and a social search tool cannot be overstated. When you use Google+, you are affecting your online brand powerfully. Take advantage of the Google Authorship markup tools available to you and use Google+ for your personal branding efforts. The two go hand in hand.

If you send out e-mails on a regular basis, then you need to take some time out to clean up your e-mail list. And you should do it within the next four days.

Why the urgency?

Because Yahoo! is closing inactive e-mail accounts on July 15, 2013.

Constant Contact explains the situation pretty clearly. If one of your subscribers hasn’t logged into their Yahoo! e-mail account within the past 12 months, then their account will be closed. One of two things could happen that will affect your e-mail marketing.

  1. Your e-mails to closed Yahoo! accounts will start bouncing
  2. or, Someone else will secure some of those accounts and start receiving your e-mails, in which case you could be reported as a spammer.

That means you should take time out right now to clean up your e-mail list – before July 15, 2013. But you should also make a point to clean your list at least once a year.

Some e-mail marketers have policies stating they don’t deliver mail to Yahoo! accounts, for reasons similar to this. It’s too easy for someone to set up an account at one of the free web-based services and then forget about it. Then your e-mails are sent off to e-mail marketing limbo.

It’s up to you what you do about such matters, but if you take no action, then the matter will be decided for you.

While reading SEO Theory, I came across this startling paragraph:

As the provider of content you create the keywords people search for. I have said this in oh-so-many ways over the years. This is a particularly important lesson in search marketing for journalists who fear the keyword-laden spreadsheet. No self-respecting SEO should be demanding that journalists write about keywords. Journalists should be taught to understand what the difference is between a keyword and everything else, but the journalists make the keywords — not the readers.

This is in stark contrast to how many SEOs think of keywords and keyword-based content.

That first sentence is a humdinger.

As the provider of content you create the keywords people search for.

You create the keywords? You mean, the keywords aren’t already there? It’s not the SEO who is just tapping into them?

Many SEOs approach content marketing that way, but it’s not necessarily the right way. If you let your readers dictate what your keywords are, then you’ll always be pandering to your readers. If you create your own keywords based on your business philosophy and what’s important to your business, then you can teach searchers to look for your content by teaching them which keywords are important.

This is how leaders in search marketing are made. Think more deeply about what a keyword is and how you employ them. SEO is broader than you think.

Every two years, Moz (formerly SEOmoz) conducts a survey wherein they ask high profile SEO experts to weigh in on what they believe to be the most important ranking factors in the search engines. Recently, Moz conducted its 2013 ranking factors survey and some interesting results have come to light.

For starters, the biggest ranking factor, according to the SEOs surveyed, appears to be page authority. That’s no real big surprise, but Google+ and Facebook social signals having a high correlation might be.

Another interesting survey result is that anchor text is still considered a very important ranking factor despite Google’s efforts through the Penguin update to kill low quality anchor text links.

Moz was careful to point out that correlation does not necessarily lead to causation, so that should stop us in our tracks in believing that social signals can be determined to be a bona fide ranking factor based on this survey.

Finally, the Moz survey led to the following conclusions by survey analysts:

  1. Links are still believed to be the most important part of the algorithm (approximately 40%).
  2. Keyword usage on the page is still fundamental, and other than links is thought to be the most important type of factor.
  3. SEOs do not think social factors are important in the 2013 algorithm (only 7%), in contrast to the high correlations.

In other words, not much has really changed. It all still boils down to inbound anchor text links and on-page keyword-based content.

Going forward, however, the consensus seems to be that these ranking factors will not be as important. What will become more important to future SEO efforts, according to SEOs involved in the survey, are authorship, structured data, and social signals. So what is the practical application?

I’d say it this way: Continue building solid on-page content and building links while incorporating Google+ and other social media into your content promotion strategy along with structured data and schema.org standards.

A.J. Kohn talks about short clicks and long clicks. But what does he mean by “long click?”

In short, a long click is when someone searches for something through a search engine and clicks a link to visit the website. Instead of clicking back and making another search, they click through to another website. They may stay on the original site for a while, but ultimately they move on to another website because their search query has been answered.

As far as the search engine is concerned, the user stays on the first website forever. The search engine can’t detect a click through from a website – only from its own index.

Nevertheless, this is important user behavior because it indicates user satisfaction. You may not think that sending your visitors to another website is evidence of user satisfaction, but it is. You are giving them something they want – answers to their questions.

Your Number 1 goal is to provide searchers with answers to questions. That’s what SEO is all about. If you do that, then you’re doing your job.

That doesn’t mean you can’t sell them something or that you should drive your traffic to internal landing pages that result in conversions. The primary goal in SEO is to answer search query questions. If you do that, then you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing.

Google just keeps improving its products. One product that recently underwent a major improvement is Google Analytics. Your favorite search engine has added something called Content Experiments to your favorite free analytics software.

Essentially, Content Experiments allows you test up to five full versions of a single web page. That’s better – much better – than A/B testing.

With A/B testing, you are comparing two versions of the same page. You can use multivariate testing to test multiple variables of the same page. For example, you might want to see if a particular page title is better than an alternative, see whether the primary image works better on the left or the right, and see if two sidebars or one results in more conversions or more traffic. The multivariate tester rotates these variables on your page for your visitors at random until you determine which elements work best.

Content Experiments is better than that. With Content Experiments, you can create five different versions of the same page and test them all to see which one results in the most conversions. It’s A/B/C/D/E testing.

The sampling is done randomly according to the parameters you set. You define the percentage of your visitors you want to include in your testing. Google Analytics does the rest.

If you’re going to succeed at developing the best website possible, testing is an important phase. I recommend Content Experiments for page testing.

This is an interesting experiment. Twitter marketing at its finest.

Actually, it’s book marketing using Twitter as the medium and the main character in a work of fiction as the medium. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether or not this is effective book marketing and whether or not this is the future of book marketing. Let’s see what we can learn from it for business purposes.

Do characters work? On the whole, I’d say no. But I can see a scenario where they might.

Let’s say your business has a mascot. It’s a well known mascot. Your target audience knows who it is. For instance, the Dallas Cowboys has a mascot named Rowdy.

Suppose Rowdy had his own Twitter account.

Wait a minute. He does have his own Twitter account. And his own Facebook page too.

Rowdy has his own character’s voice, even on Twitter. Which is cool.

So if your business has a mascot, you could create a Twitter account for your mascot and use it as a platform to give your mascot a character’s voice. Instead of using it as a marketing tool where all you do is post links to your products (which would be boring), you could use it as an entertainment platform. Let your customers interact with your mascot through Twitter as if he was a real person. Give your audience entertainment value and you’ll see the rewards in a tangible way. That’s online marketing in the 21st century.