More than anything else, headlines determine whether or not readers will click through and read your content. This is true whether your content is a blog post, a static web page, a social media page, paid advertising, or something else. It doesn’t matter what format your content takes, the headline is one of the most important elements on the page.
A good headline does several things well.
- For starters, it grabs readers’ attention. It’s got to be enticing enough to compete against other headlines, moving images, and shiny objects.
- A good headline also promises a benefit. Tell your readers why they should click the link and read your content.
- It contains an emotional trigger tied to the benefit. The best headlines make the reader click because they have a vested interest.
- Another thing a headline should do is create an incentive to share. You want your reader to read your content, but you also want them to share it. Your headline will play an important part in that.
- It should also be straightforward and honest. It should tell the reader precisely what your content is about without being misleading.
Hopefully, you see the importance of writing good headlines. If you don’t, you may not get many readers. It’s one of the most important elements on any web page.
One area of business marketing that is growing more popular, as well it should, is the use of case studies.
Case studies are powerful marketing tools because they allow you to use the success of your customers for marketing your business. People love to listen to the testimonies of others. In fact, personal testimonies are powerful because they add credibility to your reputation as well as your products and services.
Even in today’s social media and search engine business environment, word of mouth is still the best advertising. A case study is an organized word of mouth campaign. And it’s very effective.
First, identify a handful of your customers who have used your product or service to solve a problem. Make sure they are a customer who had a specific problem to solve before using your product or service and used your product or service to solve that problem. Then have someone interview that customer to uncover the facts of their particular case. You can then write that customer’s story to highlight the benefits of using your product or service. It’s a valuable marketing tool.
Case studies can be used as free downloads or you can sell them as educational tools. Either way, you provide awesome benefits to your potential clients, who might be interested your brand.
If you are writing content in a highly technical niche area, then you might be wondering whether you should use lots of jargon or write with clarity in mind. Matt Cutts suggests you should aim for clarity when possible.
I completely agree. The exception would be if your audience consists entirely of technical people or professionals within your industry. In that case, use jargon.
If your audience is mixed – that is, consisting of both technical professionals and lay people – then you should aim for clarity, but it’s okay to add a little jargon for the technical people. You have to write in the language of your audience. If you are selling products and services to lay people, it is extremely important to speak their language.
This is a fundamental principle of writing in any discipline. You must keep your audience in mind.
So, what if you have multiple audiences? In that case, I’d write each blog post to a specific audience. If your audience is 80% lay people and 20% technical, then write 80% of your blog posts to the lay audience using clear language to help them understand your concepts. The other 20% of your blog posts can be technical in nature, and you can use jargon to speak to that audience. I would still aim for clarity to keep your lay audience engaged with a little jargon thrown in for the technical people.
Bottom line, aim clarity in your content message when you can.
Integrated marketing is a simple concept that is a challenge to implement, but it is one of the most important aspects of marketing a business of any size. Your first step is to develop your company’s mission statement and unique selling proposition (USP). From that, you develop your marketing plan.
It’s important, when establishing your overall marketing plan, to think about how each piece relates to the others.
For instance, you might have a great video marketing strategy, but how does that strategy work with your social media and e-mail marketing strategies? By making each piece work together toward a common goal, you can truly integrate your marketing so that you get more mileage out of every event.
There is no limit to how many different types of marketing you can incorporate into your integrated plan. If you can do it and you want to, you can integrate it. But you have to have someone available to manage the roll out.
There’s no sense running a paid advertising campaign, for instance, if you don’t have a qualified person available to manage your PPC accounts.
So assess your company for strengths, skills, and personnel assets, and take a look at your marketing budget. Is it feasible to do what you want to do? If not, where are the holes? Is there a way to fill them using outside resources? Take a full assessment before you begin your marketing plan and figure out how to integrate each piece before you develop it.
Google Labs inside Webmaster Tools is an experimental section that allows Google to test new products before unleashing them on the public. Did you know you can check your Google Authorshipstats inside Google Webmaster Tools?
Sign in to your Google Webmaster Tools account. On the left side of the page you’ll see a link labeled Labs. Click that and you’ll see a dropdown with Author Stats. Click that.
Inside the Author Stats section of Google Labs you can get a glimpse of the pages you have authored around the web, both those on your website and those that are off-site. You can see a limited number of stats on those pages, as well.
To begin with, the overview consists of the number of pages you have authored, the number cumulative page impressions your pages have received in the last 30 days, and the number of clicks. When you scroll down you’ll get an overview of each page.
The stats you can check for each page you have authored include:
- Number of page impressions
- Number of clicks
- Click-through rate
- Average search engine position
This is all useful information, especially if you do a lot of guest blogging, which you should.
I hope this experiment continues and that Google rolls it out as a real product. I’d like to be able to track my authorship stats around the Web. Wouldn’t you?
Is it just me or have you noticed that blog posts seem to be getting longer and longer? And they almost always feature a half a dozen images or so, plus a couple of videos, and maybe a cartoon or two. Undoubtedly, this is to keep your interest so you don’t go roaming on someone else’s blog. It’s a constant competition for attention.
One idea suggests that longer blog posts are better for SEO. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. But if your only reason for writing long posts is to improve your SEO, then you should stop now. It likely won’t happen.
Even if it does, how many readers are going to stick around day after day while you bore them with 10,000-word blog tomes? Not many. I can assure you.
The most important thing in blogging is that you capture and keep your readers’ attention. With ever shortening attention spans, that’s getting to be a greater challenge. But you already know your audience. Meeting them where their attention is seems like a good idea. After all, if you don’t grab their attention, someone else will.
Blogging is a personal communication tool that you can use professionally. It doesn’t require any special tricks. It requires a voice, a POV. If you connect with your readers, your chances of them telling their friends and bringing you more traffic is better than you ever ranking No. 1 for a great keyword. That’s the most important thing you should know about blogging.
If you are trying to figure out whether you’ll get more mileage from a blog or a newsletter, then I congratulate you for thinking of it. You’re well ahead of most small businesses who are still trying to figure out how to get started with online marketing.
To be sure, there are advantages to both platforms.
A blog allows you to get feedback through comments. You can interact with your audience, which increases your engagement. You can also have a more robust social media experience when you promote your blog posts. And your blog has the added benefit of being searchable through the search engines.
An e-mail newsletter offers you the opportunity to develop a warm list. This is very important for direct sales.
Blogs are typically poor media for making direct sales pitches. They’re great for engagement and reach. You can, however, use your blog to increase your newsletter subscriber numbers. Then you can use your weekly or monthly newsletter to drive traffic to important landing pages and increase your online sales.
So it’s not a matter of which is better – your blog or your newsletter. It’s really a matter of how effectively you can use each tool.
For better marketing, engage with readers through your blog and invite them to subscribe to your e-mail newsletter. Then close the sale there.
One of the most important principles of doing business online is the push-pull principle. You “push” your content out and “pull” your prospects in. But in order for this principle to work, your content has to be findable. You have to make it easy to find by the type of people you want to find you. The best way to make that happen is to start with a simple inventory.
How are people finding you now?
There are various ways to be found online. Here are a few easy ones to pick:
- Your website
- Your blog
- Other blogs in your niche
- Social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.)
- Paid advertising
- Organic search
- Podcast directories
- Business directories
There are others, but the point is, you need to take inventory. If you don’t know how people are finding you, then you need to take some time and figure that out before you go on.
After finding out how you are currently being found, do an inventory of your content assets. What resources do you have available to push your content out to the places you are more likely to find prospects to pull in?
Having a good idea about what assets are at your disposal is critical to being able to use them effectively. Once you know what is available, you can put together a content strategy to reach the type of people you want to reach. Create awesome content that pulls people in to your sales funnel – then sell them what you have to offer.
Since 2011, content marketers have learned a few things about publishing content online. First and foremost is this: Produce quality content, not rehashed ideas that have been done over and over again.
Content marketers stuck in the past are still talking about link building techniques. Many of those link building techniques still work, but not always. Some of them work well most of the time. Still, online marketing is not all about link building, and the sad truth is that most SEOs are talking about it as if it is.
So if isn’t about link building, what is it about? In a word, it’s about authority. Do you have the authority to back up your claims? Can you prove your authority?
There are different ways to prove authority. One way is to present social proof. That is, you are active on several social media platforms and constantly churning out great content. Another way to prove authority is through search engine rankings and search engine recognition. If Google considers you an authority, then who is going to argue?
After last year, many online marketers are at a loss as to how to win favor with Google. It seems like many of the things that used to work are now only producing meager results.
Here’s a hint: Focus on your readers. Make them happy. If your content is written for your readers, you stand a much better chance at making the search engines happy and leveraging social proof.
Things may be getting ugly real soon at Yelp and other sites that allow anonymous reviews of businesses. In Virginia, a judge ruled that deliberately false statements are not protected speech. The problem is, the business owner suing in this case hasn’t proven that these anonymous reviews contain deliberately false statements.
Online reviews certainly change the way certain laws can be used in court. Previously, if you didn’t like a certain business, all you had to do is tell a friend. What you said to your friend in the privacy of your conversation couldn’t be disputed, but online reviews can.
Even if they’re anonymous.
Yelp and other sites have been hiding behind the First Amendment since their inception. That party might soon come to an end, however, if more businesses sue in states where the laws allow them to question the legitimacy of reviews.
These matters are complicated by the fact that a competitor can pay someone to post fake reviews of your business. Not many people, that I know of, would consider that protected speech. If you’re a business owner, I doubt that you’d want such fake reviews influencing people’s decision to do business with you. And that’s the problem. Right now, they can.
So will anonymous reviews soon be a thing of the past? Andy Beal has an interesting suggestion. Maybe it’s time for Yelp to introduce a verified customer attribute, but that makes me wonder just how they’d be able to do that.
What’s your take on anonymous reviews and social review sites like Yelp?
A listicle is a short form of blog content where you make a list of items and write a paragraph or two on each items so that the list looks more like an article. They’re very popular for online content and the reason they work are several-fold.
Here are the top 5 reasons to write listicles for your blog content:
Listicles are easy to read
Your blog readers can scan them and decide for themselves which parts of the article they want to stop and read.
They make great SEO
You can include your keywords in the list items, which serve as subheads for the article. This is an SEO-boosting tactic that still works as well as it did ten years ago.
A listicle is a tightly-focused area of knowledge
The best listicles serve up a short list of items on one particular topic, so the information is relevant to a particular niche audience.
Listicles are easy to write
Just write your list then go back and write the commentary for each list item.
Better than a bullet list
Instead of littering your blog with endless bullet lists, you can switch things around and write longer articles with subheads. Your listicles serve as lists without the bullets.
The next time you are tempted to write a blog post will bullet lists, write a listicle instead. They’re also easily share-able on social media.
Every landing page is either a winner or a loser. If it’s a winner, it will convert prospects to customers. Here are five essential elements to include on your landing page if you want it to convert.
- USP – An acronym for Unique Selling Proposition. What sets you apart from the competition? Why should people buy from you? Establish early on. With a USP, you are not likely to convert sales.
- Name Capture Form – Whether you are closing the sale or collecting contact information for use later, you need to get your customer to give it up. Put a form on your landing page if you want it convert.
- Strong Call to Action – A call to action asks for the sale. Provide a strong call to action and visitors will buy, opt-in, and convert like crazy.
- Benefit-Focused Content – You have to sell the benefits of your product or service. You have a few seconds, and no more, to get your prospect’s attention. Use an eye-catching image and content that heavily focuses on benefits rather than features.
- Social Share Buttons – Encourage your visitors to share your landing page with their friends.
If you want your landing pages to be successful, include these 5 essential elements on every one. From the headline to the call to action, you’ve got to keep your prospects interested if you’re going to convert them.
A long time ago – before Hummingbird, before Penguin, and even before Panda – bloggers would go out to other blogs and make comments hoping to gather a few back links that would drive their websites higher up the search engine rankings. It worked until Google caught onto the game and stopped counting blog comments for linking purposes. So does that mean blog comments no longer hold value?
Website owners and Internet marketers are learning that not everything has to have SEO value in order to have value for their businesses. It’s a good lesson to learn.
There are many things, in fact, that have business or marketing value that don’t necessarily have SEO value. Serious online marketers need to take note of these, which include:
- E-mail marketing
- Mobile marketing
- Blog and forum commenting
- PPC advertising
- Offline networking
Just to name a few.
Going forward, the primary goal for online marketers needs to be marketing and branding. That’s not to say you shouldn’t consider SEO factors. You should. But the way SEO is going to be conducted in the future is quite a bit different than how it was done in the past.
Do you have a plan for your future online business? Does it include SEO? Does it include things other than SEO? It should.
Cynthia Boris starts off this article with a great question. It seems that 55% of the respondents to a survey said they would trade their laptop for a tablet. Among men, that number is 60%. Among women, it’s 50%. But I wonder what it will be 10 years from now, or 5?
Read down a little further and you’ll learn that 56% said they were more likely to respond to an ad on a tablet than on a PC. Are you ready to advertise now?
If you haven’t figured out yet that mobile advertising is going to be the big shift in the next 5-10 years, then perhaps this article will convince you. Tablet usage is on the rise, and I wouldn’t be surprised if tablets are the big seller this Christmas. I wonder how many people are going to get their first one?
For the final kicker, check out what Ms. Boris says at the end:
The important takeaway here is that a tablet isn’t just a mini-laptop. A flat banner ad isn’t going to cut it on a tablet. You need to think in terms of interactivity, of sound and movement. Whatever you can do (and afford) that gets a customer closer to experiencing your product, the better chance you’ll have of clinching the sale.
And to that I say, “Absolutely!”
If you’ll make your ads interactive, perhaps even including video, then you stand a much better chance of closing the sale. Now is the time to start thinking about marketing to tablet owners.
If you thought that Google would publish Authorship rich snippets forever, then you are probably disappointed by this bit of news. I hope you don’t think Google promised you a nice big Authorship hug for the rest of your life.
The truth is, Authorship rich snippets were as easily gamed as links and other SEO fauna. Maybe that’s why they’re reducing the use of them.
I think Hummingbird changed a lot for webmasters. Instead of focusing on improving your author profile or increasing your search engine rankings through link building, maybe it’s time for webmasters to focus on publishing quality content that actually helps end users. It’s time to get back to marketing basics.
Yesterday’s post on building domain authority is the key to survival in the current search landscape. But it’s not the only thing that is important.
Online marketing is becoming more complex. The companies that succeed will be the companies that think about the needs of their customers and target audience and then focus on meeting those needs. If you’re still focused on feeding the bots, then you’ll likely end up at the bottom of the search results at some point. Google is getting more sophisticated in ferreting out low quality content.
This should be good news for anyone interested in high quality content.
It’s becoming vogue for content marketers, or SEOs, to talk about Domain Authority in the same way they used to talk about article marketing and link building. But what is Domain Authority, and is it important?
Rohit Palit offers the best definition of Domain Authority that I’ve ever seen:
… it basically means how much your site is likely to rank higher in search engines compared to competitor sites.
In other words, your Domain Authority is relative to other sites in your niche.
Post-Hummingbird, the most important metric for ensuring you rank higher in the search engines has shifted. It isn’t more content or more links. It’s higher quality content and perhaps some of the five pillars of content marketing shared by Palit’s infographic on Domain Authority. These include:
- On-site SEO factors
- Content promotion efforts
- Social media
- Relationships with influencers
This is a combination who-you-know and what-you-know approach. Pure SEO – on-site SEO – is still important, and links are too to some extent, but equally important are branding, social media, your overall content marketing strategy, and your ability to influence the influencers. Google wants to force webmasters to build relationships not links.
By “relationships” I mean three things: Relationships with influencers, relationships with your customers (or target audience), and relationships between entities.
SEO is in a constant state of change. If you want to increase your chances at ranking in the search engines for your key terms, don’t focus on keyword-based content. Focus on creating great content, promoting it through valuable channels, and building relationships with key people who will interact with your brand in a meaningful way. In other words, carry on with your marketing plan as usual.
One of the most important aspects of running a business – any business – is data. Actionable data. You need information on which to base sound decisions that lead to increased profit. That’s what Web analytics is about.
If you’re a local business, you have to realize that every piece of content you publish online is available to anyone on the Internet.
While you could block Internet traffic from other countries and regions, you don’t want to. What if someone who lives locally to you takes a vacation in Europe and tries to visit your website to plan their re-connection with you upon their return? A better plan is to use analytics to track your local traffic and measure your results where it counts.
Google Analytics allows you to create custom reports just for that purpose. Why not create a custom report in your analytics package that gives you the important metrics that are important to your business.
Another aspect of local business is mobile marketing. This is especially true for certain sectors, like restaurants and tourist destinations. Are you measuring your mobile traffic and other mobile metrics? Do you know how many conversions you get from mobile devices versus desktop and laptop machines? If not, you should.
Finally, you should be tracking offline conversions. In the pre-Internet days, that was easy. Today, when many businesses are focused on tracking website conversions, it’s easy to lose offline conversions in the shuffle. But chances are, your business is still converting walk-in traffic and other offline traffic. You should be keeping with it.
Analytics is about more than counting traffic and bounce rates. Learn how you can keep tabs of the important information relevant to your business.
Google has a way of forcing webmasters to act a certain way or to move in a certain direction. If they don’t like a certain practice, they just tweak their famous algorithm to discourage the practice. It usually works.
The search engine has been really active in the last couple of years. There was Panda, then Penguin, and finally, Hummingbird.
What happened was webmasters figured out that the old link building practices were killing them. So they decided to try something different. Now, guest blogging is the link building practice of the day. There are some good reasons why guest blogging has caught on besides Google’s algorithms. One of those is because it just makes good business sense.
If you write a lot in a particular niche, why wouldn’t you go to a blog owner in the same niche and request to write a blog post for them? You’ll have direct access to their traffic, which you could then funnel to your own blog.
This is the real value of guest blogging – not the links. Inbound links are just pudding to top it off. Any time you do something for the link building value, you should ask yourself if there is another reason to do it. If not, then it’s probably a waste of time and money. Guest blogging has other reasons, which means it’s something you should be doing.
Google Trends is a fun way to find new opportunities for keywords and subjects to blog or write about. If you’re not using it in your research, you might want to give it a go. According to Google, they’re beginning to improve the tool with a beta.
In other words, they’re incorporating some changes to deal with ambiguity in searches and search comparisons.
For instance, to use their own example, if you want to compare search trends for Rice University and Harvard University, then you need to narrow your search to beyond “rice.” Otherwise, you might get skewed results as Google will include trends for the tiny white food that some people say isn’t real food. That’s not what you want.
There are countless other examples where this kind of ambiguity can play out. Searching for celebrities or place names could pose a problem as previously Google Trends wouldn’t include misspellings. Now, it does.
Also, alternative search terms may be included in your findings when you use the search tool. That would be a useful feature too – if you could exclude the alternate search terms at will.
I think we should all spend about half an hour playing around with Google Trends this afternoon. Then, you can get back to work and produce more of your fantastic content based on your findings.
An interesting study that pits tablets against smartphones concludes that tablets are being consumed more for books and reference material as well as travel and local-related content than smartphones. Smartphones rule everything else.
I find this to be quite interesting. Books and reference I understand. But local and travel? Tablets, not smartphones?
The study counts click-throughs from mobile ads. Interestingly, smartphones and tablets run neck and neck with smartphones having a slight lead in the music and entertainment category. I’m guessing, like Cynthia Boris, that tablets dominate video and smartphones capture most of the music downloads.
The one category I’d like to see split in two is the travel and local category. Is it possible that travelers search for information on their tablets BEFORE they leave for their destinations while smartphone users are more likely to search for local information on their smartphones? That’s just a hypothesis, but unless there is a study specific to that questions we can’t know.
What we can know is that smartphones show marketing potential for a lot of categories, including productivity apps, games, shopping, news, weather, and dating.
I don’t know what you’ll do with this information, but I’d suggest studying your smartphone and tablet markets to see if you can ascertain any nuances of usage among your audience. If so, then adjust your mobile marketing appropriately. That includes mobile advertising, social media, and mobile search.