Updating Content: Our Process and Results

The traditional blog format—regular, sequential publishing of diary-style entries—no longer makes sense for most businesses. To be honest, it never did. A B2B website that educates potential buyers isn’t a personal “weblog.” It doesn’t toss out unsubstantiated opinions. It doesn’t age the same way. The earliest articles may cover the most valuable topics, but our […]

The post Updating Content: Our Process and Results appeared first on CXL.

The traditional blog format—regular, sequential publishing of diary-style entries—no longer makes sense for most businesses. To be honest, it never did.

A B2B website that educates potential buyers isn’t a personal “weblog.” It doesn’t toss out unsubstantiated opinions. It doesn’t age the same way. The earliest articles may cover the most valuable topics, but our throwaway content culture lets older posts rot.

If the philosophical argument doesn’t motivate you, search engines will. The CXL blog started in 2011 and, currently, includes about 700 articles. In October 2018, older posts began to decline in rankings.

This post details our process to start the transition from a “traditional” blog into a modern resource center for marketers. It also happens to be the most efficient way to get more value from existing content, a timely benefit.

Why up-to-date content is the new standard

Jimmy Daly deserves credit for framing the issue:

Your readers are likely not part of a growing audience, but rather a continuous stream of people with a problem to solve. At the moment they need an answer, they search Google and find you.

Your editorial calendar is invisible to most readers. If I need to find an article on creating a custom dimension in Google Analytics, I don’t care if you published it five years ago. I need it to be up to date today. And I will judge your content, site, and brand by whether or not it is.

Satisfying users requires you to do more than the minimal amount to get Google to recognize an updated publish date (which, according to Ross Hudgens, is about 5–10%).

You could, of course, remove publish dates altogether (not gonna name names), but that doesn’t benefit users.

Ultimately, updating content is an iterative process to improve and improve and improve. Where do you start? From my time revising encyclopedias, I think in terms of “M” Mistakes and “m” mistakes.

  • “M” Mistakes are those that, in the reference publishing world, would get you a bad review, and bad reviews tank sales.
  • “m” mistakes are the tiny copy-editing mishaps that, as long as they’re few and far between, are tolerable.

In the content marketing context, there’s a parallel: “M” Mistakes are those for which someone might leave a painfully critical comment, or where you may get called out on social media; “m” mistakes are dated images or broken links. 

But those are just starting points. Committing to real updates is a shift in mindset, from taking accountability for what you publish today to taking accountability for everything that’s live on your site. 

Up-to-date content can be a differentiator

Anything, in the early days of the Internet, was good enough. Then, the goal was “long form” content. Brian Dean introduced the “Skyscraper Technique” in 2013 to out-long-form the long-formers. And that, ever since, has continued ad nauseum. 

For search engines, length is a useful if imperfect proxy for quality, which is why Googling something like “how to create a content strategy” returns a bunch of long, detailed guides:

example of serp that elevates long-form articles.

If the keywords you care about don’t yet return a list of multi-thousand-word articles, they soon will. Length is an increasingly unhelpful differentiator. (Search engines seem to be getting a bit smarter—elevating short, efficient articles—but long articles still dominate.)

For your content, you need to answer the question, “If everything on Page 1 is a well-researched, 4,000-word guide, how can I make my article stand out?”

Up-to-date content is one overlooked strategy. If I’ve come to expect that content on your site is up to date, that’s a powerful reason to click your link over another, even if you rank third or fifth.

There’s a further opportunity: creating and maintaining non-evergreen content.

When high-maintenance content is a good idea

We’re often told to make Twinkie content—stuff with a near-infinite shelf life. No expiration means no maintenance. But it also means that fewer people are publishing high-maintenance content (e.g., an article comparing prices and features of SaaS products).

Selected carefully, non-evergreen content is an opportunity to stand out. You invest time and energy to keep a handful of high-maintenance posts up to date—those for which you want to be the authority or those that bring in the most bottom-of-funnel visitors. 

It’s something to keep in mind when you start updating your old content.

How to find out if updating content is the highest value activity

Beginning in October 2018, organic traffic to the CXL blog began to decline:

organic traffic decline in google analytics.

At a glance, the reasons were difficult to suss out. The drop wasn’t dramatic, and when you have hundreds of posts targeting thousands of keywords, it’s rare to see movement in unison. I woke up each day to reports that showed small movements—positive and negative—for most keywords. 

I ran a full technical SEO audit (based on Annie Cushing’s wonderful template) to ensure there wasn’t an underlying issue. The strongest evidence that old posts were responsible for the drop came from a correlation between post age and a decline in organic traffic.

Stuff that was published prior to 2016 really took a hit:

chart showing the relative decline in organic traffic for older blog posts.

Some tools, like Animalz’s Revive, can help identify posts that recently lost organic traffic, but they can’t tell you when updating content is the content priority for your site.

There are also some limits to what traffic in general can tell you. Changes to SERP features can affect traffic even as positions stay constant.

For example, Google’s choice to move a People Also Ask (PAA) box above or below our link for a high-volume keyword regularly shifted traffic by double digits.

example of a people also ask box that's above the top-ranked links.
The PAA box sometimes moves above or below the top links, like those from PCMag and TrustRadius in this example. That choice can affect traffic—even as rankings stay constant. 

Like some medical diagnoses, the belief that old content was our biggest problem came mainly from ruling out other technical, on-page, and off-page issues.

The site was sound. The posts were well targeted. We had the links. But rankings and traffic were still trending in the wrong direction.

Knowing that, we needed a process to continually identify the posts that:

  1. Most needed an update (i.e. riddled with “M” Mistakes).
  2. Could bring the most high-quality traffic to the site. 

Our triage process for updating content

A good triage process is why you have to wait at the ER for hours to get a few stitches in your hand—but not if you’re having a heart attack. 

So which posts demand immediate attention? That’s an easy decision if you have 50 articles; it’s much harder if you have 5,000. We’re somewhere in the middle. With roughly 700 posts, there are too many for a manual review, but we don’t have to automate every last metric.

The beta version of our triage sheet, which we still use today, includes seven metrics spread across four categories:

  1. Age;
  2. Historical value;
  3. Organic potential;
  4. Outdated risk.

1. Age

This is the simplest one. How long has it been since the post was (1) published or (2) received a substantial-enough update to justify a new publishing date?

spreadsheet showing original and updated publish dates.

This metric is static unless a post is updated enough to change the publish date in WordPress. When that happens, we update the date in the “Listed publish date” column of the sheet, too.

2. Historical value

  • How many organic users did the post bring in during the last 90 days?
  • How do those 90-day values compare to the previous year?

Both of these metrics are pulled into Google Sheets using the Google Analytics Add-on:

google analytics add-on report configuration.

All four date values are all relative, with the report scheduled to run each morning:

google analytics add-on report configuration with relative dates.

3. Organic potential

  • How many impressions has the post generated in the past year, according to Google Search Console? We want a sense of how many users the post could bring to the site, regardless of how many it brings now.
  • How many referring domains does the post have? Anything that’s going to rank highly—and drive lots of traffic—will almost certainly require a decent number of links.
  • What’s the URL rating? This number, pulled from Ahrefs, is a hedge against the potentially misleading number of referring domains (i.e. one link from The New York Times beats 20 from scraper sites).
example of urls with similar ratings but a vastly different number of links.
Not all links are created equal. Two posts with similar URL ratings have a vastly different number of links.

I don’t expect these three metrics to change dramatically every month. You could pull this data quarterly, twice a year, or annually (as we do now). It just depends on how neurotic you are or how volatile those metrics might be for your site.

4. Outdated risk

This is a heuristic assessment of how quickly a post will seem out of date. In our context, an example of a high-risk post is our Google Analytics implementation guide. Every time a menu item or UI design element changes in Google Analytics, we have to update the post.

google analytics ui example.
Any changes that Google Analytics makes to these menu items requires another round of updates.

A low-risk post might be one on crafting a value proposition. Some examples and screenshots might start to look dated after a few years, but the core advice and process is the same.

The risk assessment, while potentially time consuming, should be a one-and-done effort. If you can make a call (on a scale from 1 to 4) in 5 seconds, that means you can tag 720 posts in an hour. Still, the process wouldn’t scale easily to tens of thousands of posts.

In those instances, you could use the blog category or tags as a rough guide (e.g., all “Analytics” posts get scored a “4”; “Copywriting” posts are scored a “2”). You’re not going to have a perfect system; get the best data you can and move on.

Turning metrics into a weighted score

For almost all metrics, I bucket raw numbers into quartiles. Quartiles give you a general sense of importance (e.g., “This post drives more traffic than 75% of posts,” or “Half of all posts have a higher URL rating than this one”), without obsessing over the extra 30 impressions per month that Google Search Console tells me a certain URL gets.

So, in the example below, all I really need to know is that the posts most in need of an update are at least 4.5 years (1,631 days) old, and those suffering the worst declines in organic traffic have lost at least 53% of organic users compared to the same 90-day period last year.

The quartile function (=QUARTILE) is native to Excel and Google Sheets, but be careful when a lower quartile is a worse outcome. So, for example, with the “Percentage decline” figures, Quartile 1 is scored as a “4.”

quartile calculations for metrics to prioritize updating posts.

Built into a dashboard, I get quartile ratings for every post.

quartile figures for metrics for content updates.

You could simply total the numbers across each row to generate a score. But all metrics aren’t created equal. We settled on a weighting system that emphasizes post age, traffic declines, and a high risk of outdatedness:

weights for metrics for content updates.

The sheet calculates a total score for each post by multiplying the scores (1–4) by the weights, summing the total for each row, and converting the result to a 100-point scale.

Scores update automatically as new data comes in from Google Analytics, or if there’s a manual update to the publish date. Every morning, we come in and re-sort the sheet to highlight the posts most in need of updates.

dashboard with scores for content updates.

Is it perfect? Of course not. But it’s a pretty efficient way to sift through hundreds or thousands of posts and target those that:

  1. Really need an update.
  2. Will deliver the most ROI.

Once you’ve tackled the “M” Mistakes in those posts, you can start thinking about more targeted updates, like formatting changes to win featured snippets.

You may even want to run the analysis below before starting on your core updates—many of these changes are simple to implement while you’re in the document making other updates. 

Bonus: How to spot the low-hanging fruit for featured snippets

Your site earns (or doesn’t earn) featured snippets for a variety of reasons. One of those potential reasons is the format of your content.

Say the featured snippet on a SERP grabs a definition for the keyword. But, in your post, that definition is buried halfway down and lacks any structural cues (e.g., a header that asks “What is XYZ?”). Google may fail to surface your snippet, which another site will get.

Historically, you could check if Google pulled a snippet for your site with an explicit site search plus the keyword that pulls the featured snippet (e.g., “site:cxl.com social proof”).

If Google returned a snippet, you knew that formatting was unlikely to be the problem. If it didn’t, you had something to work on.

An explicit site search no longer generates featured snippets, but an implicit one does (e.g., “social proof cxl”). So you can still check whether you earn a snippet—manually.

example of featured snippet with implicit site search.
Wikipedia owns this snippet, but we know that formatting isn’t the issue.

An implicit site search highlights a better way to scale that work. While all keyword tracking tools (to my knowledge) don’t work with search operators, they do, of course, work with brand names appended to the keyword phrase.

Here’s how to scale this process in a tool like Ahrefs.

1. Identify keywords for which you would like to own an existing featured snippet.

You could simply:

  1. Go into Site Explorer for your site.
  2. Navigate to the “Organic keywords” tab.
  3. Filter for “SERP features” to include “Featured snippet.”
  4. Filter “Positions” for 2–100 to exclude snippets you already own.
  5. Export the list.
featured snippets owned by other sites in ahrefs.

The exported list includes all keywords that return a featured snippet for a site other than your site. If this list includes thousands (or tens of thousands) of keywords, you can:

  • Sort by your site’s position;
  • Filter by page type (e.g., blog post);
  • Export only those keywords for which you rank among the top 10.
spreadsheet with opportunities to earn featured snippets for your site.

2. Append your brand name to those keywords and track them.

Append your brand name to the list of keywords using the =CONCATENATE function:

creating an implicit site search in a spreadsheet based on existing keywords.

Then, upload the list back into your keyword tracking tool. If the SERP contains a featured snippet for an implicit site search, then formatting is unlikely to be the issue. But if any keyword doesn’t return a featured snippet, formatting may be what’s keeping you from earning it.

tracking serp features for implicit site searches.
If you own the snippet for your implicit site search, formatting probably isn’t the issue.

3. Test formatting changes and monitor results.

For implicit site searches that don’t surface snippets, investigate formatting issues and test changes. As we’ve found, a simple rewriting of an H2 or bolding of a definition can be the bit of added info that Google needs.

These updates can take seconds to execute while driving hundreds or thousands more visitors to your site. It’s a low-cost way to earn traffic and accommodate mobile users, who want quick answers.

Does any of this actually work?

Hell yeah:

example 1 of more organic traffic from content updates.
example 2 of more organic traffic from content updates.
example 3 of more organic traffic from content updates.
example 4 of more organic traffic from content updates.

We’ve updated about 100 posts. Not every post has a dramatic rise, but most do. Still, it’s difficult (or, at least, time consuming) to measure the impact of post updates for two reasons.

1. For each post you update, you need to pull the before-and-after period.

Early in our process, we set up relative formulas with the Google Analytics Add-on that, with each passing day, included another day on each side of the update day.

So, for example, if five days had passed since the date of update, the report compared the five days before and after. The next day, it pulled six.

But if you’re updating hundreds of posts over hundreds of days, you’re going to waste a lot of time in the Report Configuration tab.

2. It doesn’t take long before you run into seasonality.

We often lacked near-term visibility into the impact of updates because of how weekends fell. Or, for example, updates made in early January showed exaggerated improvements since the comparison period stretched back into the holiday season.

You can get some validation by checking if Google shows the updated publish date. If it keeps the old one or doesn’t show any date, you didn’t do enough. You could also focus on rankings instead of traffic, as they’re less vulnerable to seasonal shifts.

For the first 19 post updates, I compared time spent and traffic earned for new post creation versus post updates. The results? I could update a post in about one-quarter of the time it took to create a new one and, in the near term, generate 85.2% more traffic than I could with a new post.

aggregate results from early post updates.
The collective impact on traffic from the first 19 post updates. On average, an updated post brought in an additional 1,506 users in the weeks following an update.

There are caveats. Obviously, new posts take a while to rank, so the traffic benefits from a new post take longer to materialize (though the ceiling may be higher). Also, we started by updating the highest value posts—the traffic bump is less for posts that don’t have as much organic potential.

These are reasons why it’s difficult to calculate a caveat-free ROI from this work, but the before-and-after screencaps from Google Analytics are persuasive anecdotal evidence. Plus, it’s what you should be doing anyway—for search traffic, your users, and your brand.

Conclusion

Updating posts gives you more value from stuff you’ve already created. It’s necessary, in part, because potential buyers are more likely to discover your brand from a post you wrote years ago than the one you published last week.

A solid triage process can help you max out the ROI for your efforts, even if it’s difficult to measure the impact precisely.

Once you’ve cleared out the “M” Mistakes, look for opportunities to provide more value—better images, supporting videos, etc.— or reformat content to earn traffic boosters like featured snippets.

The post Updating Content: Our Process and Results appeared first on CXL.

9 B2B Instagram Marketing Strategies (w/ Examples)

Some 73% of Millennial workers are involved in B2B purchase decisions, and 85% of that group uses social media to research products and services for their companies. Still, Facebook (91%), Linkedin (80%), and Twitter (67%) are the most popular social media platforms among B2B marketers. Despite it’s more than 1 billion monthly active users, Instagram […]

The post 9 B2B Instagram Marketing Strategies (w/ Examples) appeared first on CXL.

Some 73% of Millennial workers are involved in B2B purchase decisions, and 85% of that group uses social media to research products and services for their companies.

Still, Facebook (91%), Linkedin (80%), and Twitter (67%) are the most popular social media platforms among B2B marketers. Despite it’s more than 1 billion monthly active users, Instagram lags behind. 

That’s not a shock. It’s hard for B2B brands to look exciting on a photo-sharing app, and B2B buyers expect to hear from companies on other platforms, like LinkedIn.

However, consumers are used to engaging with brands on Instagram:

  • 90% of users follow a brand on Instagram; 200 million users visit at least one business profile daily; and one-third of the most-viewed Stories are from businesses.
  • 83% of people discover new products or services on the platform, and 79% search for more information after seeing a post on Instagram.

That potential continues to attract more B2B marketers, with 66% active on Instagram in 2019, up from 57% in 2018.

Will Instagram soon be a primary channel for most B2B companies? No. Are some of the companies having the most success already well-known elsewhere? Yep.

So should you bother? Maybe. Instagram can help solve specific marketing challenges, and it also benefits from not being inundated with B2B marketing messages (yet).

I’ll walk you through its potential benefits as well as nine use cases—all supported by real-world examples.

When does Instagram make sense for B2B?

B2B brands succeed most when using Instagram to:

  • Provide opportunities for casual interactions with customers;
  • Find non-traditional approaches to reach buyers;
  • Deliver bursts of product information to support a long buyer journey.

Provide opportunities for casual interactions with customers

Yes, B2B companies can build strong Instagram followings: Intel (1.3 million), Shopify (489k) and Mailchimp (117k), to name a few.

Yes, it definitely helps if:

  1. You’re a large, well-known brand.
  2. Your product makes sense for a visual platform (e.g., you’re a design agency).

Take Tailwind App, for example, whose Instagram following (44k) surpasses the total number of followers on all other social accounts. Instagram makes sense for them—their product helps schedule social media messages.

Kristen Dahlin of Tailwind explains how they’ve used Instagram:

We can connect with thousands of our members one-on-one and provide bite-sized resources to help them in their marketing journeys. We also use our Instagram platform to shout out our members in their journeys, with member profiles, snapshots of reviews, and even funny posts!

instagram feed with different types of content.
Tailwind’s Instagram feed is a mixture of educational and irreverent content—a balance that sparks a range of interactions with their buyers. 

Find non-traditional approaches to reach buyers

B2B buyers are real people, so it’s no wonder that 82% of them want the same experience as when they’re buying for themselves, according to the State of the Connected Consumer report:

B2B companies benefit from humanizing their brand and tailoring their content to individual needs.

instagram feed that highlights individual stories from entrepreneurs.
Gusto’s Instagram account includes profiles of small business owners who use their product.

The fact that Instagram represents a counter-intuitive approach is part of its value. As a photo-sharing app, Instagram forces often dry, text-heavy brands to employ visual storytelling or, even when sharing text content, to place a stronger emphasis on design.

Deliver bursts of product information to support a long buyer journey

It can take weeks—or months—for B2B buyers to get approval and make a purchase decision. That path is far from linear.

Instagram can help in two ways:

  1. Explain aspects of your product or service in small chunks of imagery or video. Think of it as a testing ground for visuals that, if popular, may also work well on your website.
  2. Gather market research and better understand customer expectations. Getting potential buyers outside a formal business interaction may elicit more authentic voice-of-customer responses.

Many, more specific strategies can help you reach those goals. Here are nine to consider. 

9 Instagram strategies for B2B marketers

1. Drive brand awareness with an eye-catching feed

Since 65% of people are visual learners (or, at least, prefer to learn that way), an eye-catching Instagram feed is a way to stand out. 

Let’s take Crello, for example. They’re a graphic design app—one whose product includes Instagram templates—so Instagram makes sense. They can show off their design expertise without being salesy.

well-designed, coherent instagram feed.

Of course, if you don’t have an in-house team of professional designers, creating visuals can seem daunting. However, keeping your feed cohesive is possible.

One of the simplest ways is to repurpose stock photos from sites like Depositphotos and others. Note that repurposing is key; otherwise, you’ll look like everyone else. If you (wrongly) think you can get away with stock photos or don’t know how to “make them your own,” see this post

Here’s how Iconsquare mixes stock images with brand content to create a unique, consistent Instagram aesthetic:

example of a consistent instagram feed.

And here’s another example of a cohesive Instagram feed from RingCentral:

example of instagram feed with consistent design elements.

The secret is simple yet powerful: Choose a color palette and design theme and stick with it. A consistent strategy will also help you templatize your posts, saving time. 

2. Tell your company story

Direct promotion on social media is always risky—people don’t scroll through Instagram because they want to be pitched. But Instagram’s visual nature encourages (even forces) B2B brands to get more creative. That’s a good thing.

What’s more, Instagram has many features (e.g., contact information, geotags, hashtags, etc.) that let your potential customers know who you are, your brand values, and product updates—even if the core content doesn’t include those elements.

Shopify’s feed doesn’t talk about their product; it focuses on inspiring small business owners. That emotional hook drives social sharing, which, in turn, delivers the desired brand awareness.

example of instagram feed focused on brand.

Feed content can also connect more directly to your company story. Grey Group is a global advertising and marketing agency that has offices in 96 countries.

In 2019, the company opened an office in Karachi, Pakistan, and Grey added its location-specific geotag to inform its followers about the updates. It worked.

3. Kick off an influencer campaign

B2B influencer marketing can accelerate a push for brand awareness. Instagram trails only Facebook as a source for influencers among B2B companies:

A shoutout from a Shark Tank star to a winner at an SEMrush awards show generated more than 3,200 video views on the company’s Instagram feed:

SEMrush has also quoted and tagged other well-known marketers in their Instagram feed to inspire followers get some distribution support:

Only 11% of B2B companies have influencer marketing programs. If you’re among the other 89%, you can start small with a referral marketing campaign to turn loyal customers into brand advocates (i.e. micro-influencers).

4. Put a human face on your business

B2B buyers want to know the people behind the companies with whom they do business. Cohn & Wolfe found that 63% of customers would buy from a brand they perceived as authentic and, therefore, trustworthy over its competitors. 

Like most massive (read: faceless) B2B companies, General Electric sees Instagram as a way to build some goodwill toward the brand, so the company uses its IGTV channel to introduce its employees and take followers behind the scenes.

igtv with a behind-the-scenes focus on employees.

If you believe that posting behind-the-scenes content works only if you have a massive following, Twilio combined a short, eye-catching video post and geotag to wonderful results. With 13.3k followers on Instagram, their video got 3,943 views. Not bad, huh? 

The popularity of Instagram Stories (500 million daily users) can help companies add a human touch without clogging the main feed. 

Sprout Social uses the power of short-lived content to take Instagrammers behind the scenes and showcase their team members. They also promote their brand hashtag to allow interested visitors to find out more about the team after tapping on it:

company instagram feed that uses stories to showcase employees.

Once you’ve reached 10k followers on Instagram, you can use clickable Instagram Stories links to redirect your engaged followers to a desired website (without leaving the app). 

5. Showcase your expertise

Potential customers want a reputable company that knows all about their problems—and how to solve them. Showcasing your expertise can be as simple as pulling quotes from other content you produce, like SaaStr does for their conference:

If the educational content isn’t so bite-sized, Instagram can also act as a promotional bridge to more in-depth content. Freshworks offers micro-lessons on marketing that promote their longer courses (which aren’t on Instagram).

In both of the examples above, you don’t have to create new content; simply repurpose what you have. That’s a common theme. For example, SocialPilot repurposed its social media statistics research into a series of Instagram posts:

showcasing research on an instagram feed.

With each set of shared statistics, the company enticed followers to read the full post on its blog. 

6. Explain how to use your product

For B2B companies, explaining how to use your product or service can simplify the B2B buying process. B2B videos on Instagram—like short product demos or reviews—can help educate buyers. 

In honor of its mobile app launch, Planable created a short, slick video:  

Napoleon Cat created a product demo video to teach followers about their product and to encourage them to sign up for a free trial:

Is it explicitly promotional? Sure. But they balance their feed with educational content, too:

7. Share customer testimonials and success stories

Customers crave social proof. According to a G2 study, 71% of B2B buyers look at product reviews during the consideration phase of purchases, and 61% like to see 11–50 reviews. 

The “FedEx in the Wild” campaign, while coming from a massive company, is still a great example of a creative way to generate user-generated content on Instagram. The campaign increased their follower growth rate by 404%.

HubSpot repurposes reviews from other sources onto its Instagram feed:

That encouraged other fans to share their thoughts about the company in the comment section, turning one positive review into many:

Keap pulls reviews from its page on G2, adds some visual appeal, and promotes them on Instagram:

8. Share exclusive offers

If you want to focus on follower engagement or lead generation, you can share exclusive offers and deals. Intercom offered a free month for those who signed up to “build a bot”:

Or you can run an Instagram contest and give away your brand freebie, something Intel did. The cost to followers? Adding a comment.

9. Run Instagram ads

If you want to generate B2B leads on Instagram fast, consider paid ads. If you’re just getting started, you might want to check out this post or this one.

Let’s take a look at Web.com. With over 3 million customers and 20 years of experience, they needed to diversify ad placements—something Instagram offered.

They ran a series of video ads on how they could help companies build websites, relying on automatic placements across Facebook News Feed, Facebook Stories, Instagram feed, Instagram Stories, Audience Network, Messenger and Marketplace.

Each ad had a “Learn More” call to action that redirected interested users to a product page.

case study of instagram paid ads for b2b.

Their Instagram feed and Instagram Stories ads had the best results, with a 24% lower cost per click and a 39% higher click-through rate.

Conclusion

Instagram isn’t the most obvious marketing tool for B2B companies—but that’s part of its potential. It’s fast growing and has an engaged user base that includes many of the B2B decision makers you want to reach.

Instagram isn’t about to take over Facebook or LinkedIn as a central part of B2B marketing strategies, but these nine ideas can help supplement your other efforts:

  1. Drive brand awareness with an eye-catching feed;
  2. Tell your company story;
  3. Kick off an influencer campaign;
  4. Put a human face on your business;
  5. Showcase your expertise;
  6. Explain how to use your product;
  7. Share customer testimonials and success stories;
  8. Share exclusive offers;
  9. Run Instagram ads.

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Twitter Conversions: 7 Steps to Generate More Clicks

Twitter is always a highly recommended social media channel to promote your brand online. But it’s not easy to build a following. It’s even harder to persuade followers to click through to your site—and convert. Indeed, historically, Twitter traffic has had one of the lowest conversion rates compared to other social media giants. Yet Twitter […]

The post Twitter Conversions: 7 Steps to Generate More Clicks appeared first on CXL.

Twitter is always a highly recommended social media channel to promote your brand online. But it’s not easy to build a following. It’s even harder to persuade followers to click through to your site—and convert.

Indeed, historically, Twitter traffic has had one of the lowest conversion rates compared to other social media giants. Yet Twitter can be a reliable source of both clicks and conversions.

If you’re looking for a quick win or hack, read something else (which—spoiler alert—won’t work). But if you want to learn a tried-and-true process that does work, here you go. 

If it’s hard to succeed on Twitter, why bother?

Based on third-party stats, Twitter has around 330 million monthly users globally. For its size alone, it’s a market worth exploring. I personally love Twitter for two reasons:

  1. It’s incredibly open. You can reach out or connect to just about anyone. You don’t have to be friends to talk to someone, and users can discover your tweets even if they’re outside your immediate network of followers—you’re not limited by your pool of connections.
  2. Unlike Facebook and Instagram, Twitter still gives you organic visibility. I resort to Twitter advertising only rarely—my organic reach is pretty solid. Any person or brand, big or small, can get results from Twitter almost immediately.

That said, not everything works.

What hasn’t worked for me on Twitter

Despite over a decade on Twitter and more than 66,000 followers, I’ve never really seen an impact from the following tactics, despite the fact that they’re extolled as “best practices” in most guides to Twitter marketing:

Using any kind of hashtags. Used strategically (e.g., tweeting to trending hashtags), hashtags may help with visibility for your tweets, but I’ve never won many link clinks, even on tweets with high engagement.

That may be because hashtags are clickable, so they steal clicks from links in your tweets. I still use hashtags for tweeting my articles but keep conversion-oriented tweets (i.e., those linking to a landing page) as clean as I can.

Using tools that recommend your “best time to tweet.” I’ve used a variety of tools that monitor your activity and help you schedule updates for your most successful time slots.

I’ve failed to see any noticeable impact in tweet performance or clicks, so I ended up canceling my subscription to those tools. Either those tools are poorly made, or there is no “best time to tweet.”

Uploading native images. Like hashtags, tweeted images may help with engagement (i.e. likes, comments, retweets), but I couldn’t find any correlation between using images inside tweets and more clicks or conversions.

(I actually have a theory that tweeted images hurt traffic and conversions—they’re another click-stealer.)

example of image on twitter that doesn't link to the URL.

Those failures aside, here’s the seven-step process that has helped me earn clicks and conversions on Twitter.

How to earn clicks and conversions on Twitter

Step 1: Spend some time building your Twitter profile

You don’t need thousands of Twitter followers to start generating traffic and conversions. “Building your Twitter profile” is actually pretty doable:

  • Set up your Twitter account so it looks real and somewhat memorable.
  • Start interacting and winning some followers so that your Twitter account looks active and established.

The bottom line: Your Twitter profile shouldn’t look “brand new” when you start experimenting with the tactics in the remaining steps. Otherwise, you may not get much from your efforts.

As a start, fill in as much information as you can in your profile. Basic as this may seem, you’re probably under-optimized on at least one element:

  1. Upload a profile picture.
  2. Upload a header image. (You can use Snappa to create an original, eye-catching header image to reflect your industry expertise.)
  3. Fill in your full name.
  4. Add a Twitter bio. (Here are a few tips on creating a memorable one.)
  5. Add your website link.
Twitter profile completion.

With a basic profile in place, it’s time to generate some meaningful interactions. Here’s what to do on a daily basis:

1. Participate in niche Twitter chats.

Chatting on Twitter is the most powerful way to build interactions and followers.

Twitter chat organizers are usually grateful for every participant, gladly follow them, and will put your contributions in the spotlight—bringing you likes, retweets, and comments. Here’s a list of major Twitter chats in digital marketing.

If you get particularly active and helpful, you may even start receiving invites to host Twitter chats.

2. Monitor tweeted questions and sentiment to provide help.

This is a great way to build followers and even find some initial leads. Twitter has an advanced search feature, but it also supports a couple of simple search operators that can help you find relevant discussions:

  • Question search. Simply add a space and a “?” after your query, and you’ll force Twitter to show tweeted questions only.
  • Smiley search. Twitter supports both “:)” and “:(” search, allowing you to find tweets containing either. Type “:(” next to your keyword (again, don’t forget to add the space) to filter tweets for those with negative comments. This works great if you use it to monitor a more established competitor. You’ll understand their weak points and even win those customers to your side by suggesting your better solution.

Both of these search results can be monitored through Tweetdeck. Simply log in once a day to check those columns and see if you can contribute to any of the tweets:

monitoring twitter based on emojis and question marks.
Monitoring these two Twitter search results allow you to participate regularly in relevant discussions, build followers, clicks, leads, etc. On a higher-level, it’s a good way to understand your niche and target customers.

Here’s an example of a tweet that came as a result of Twitter question monitoring (and brought an engaged click, too):

example of earning a click based on responding to a user question.
The search string was “’save gifs’ ? OR ‘download GIFs’ ?”.

Answering Twitter questions can bring you some traffic, even for a brand new account. When I started a new site and Twitter account, I got some clicks and opt-ins within the first two weeks simply by being helpful on Twitter:

example of twitter-based clicks for a new product.

Admittedly, it’s not a self-sustaining source of traffic. You need to be on Twitter at least once a day to answer questions and drive people to your site (when it makes sense). But it’s a nice way to build an engaged audience if you’re just starting out.

You can also set up email alerts for Twitter search, but I would hold off until you’re a bit more comfortable with the niche; otherwise, your alert parameters may be too loose. 

To keep tabs on specific companies and influencers, I recommend using Tweet Alerts, a Twitter-monitoring platform that lets you set up email notifications. For example, to monitor the content marketing industry, I have the following email alert:

  • Keyword: [content];
  • Profile keywords: [Moz, Google].

This means that I receive an email alert from people who (likely) work at Moz or Google (or are somehow related to the companies) and also mention “content” in their tweets:

example of relevant tweet alerts.

3. Check aggregator sites that feature tweets.

Plenty of tools (free and paid) can help you surface popular tweets. Twitter’s trending tab and search function is an obvious first choice. But there are other options.

If you work in marketing, niche sites can help you find what’s popular and grow your following. Viral Content Bee, my own platform, allows users to upload (non-promotional) URLs for others to share on a variety of social media platforms, including Twitter. 

Viral Content Bee interactions.
Viral Content Bee (VCB) users are encouraged to interact with VCB-generated shares as well as follow their promoters, so using the platform will also build some engaged following.

Sparktoro’s Trending list also regularly highlights industry content that’s earned popularity based on Twitter activity. The trending list may surface URLs, or it may surface individual tweets—opportunities to join an active conversation or catalog the types of Twitter content that earn industry attention.

Plenty of other tools are industry agnostic. Paid tools like Triberr can help you connect to Twitter influencers, curate content, and grow engagements. Sprout Social and Agorapulse allow you to track keyword trends on Twitter and will also surface the most popular tweets for a given time period.

sprout social keyword-based monitoring.

4. Create and manage a Twitter list of influencers who interact with you.

The above exercises will help you do more than build an engaged following. You’ll also better understand your audience and what engages them. This is a good time to start a new list of niche influencers or peers that eagerly respond on Twitter.

I have my own list of niche influencers whom I sometimes reach out to when looking for feedback (opinion or help). Monitoring that Twitter list through Tweetdeck lets me continue to interact with them through likes, retweets, and comments:

influencers monitored via tweetdeck.
Whenever you open Tweetdeck to tweet or check your notifications, get in the habit of checking your list of engaged influencers and interact with their recent tweets.

With those strategies as a foundation for profile growth, you can start to think about ways to do something more than gain revenue-free attention on Twitter.

Step 2: Set up a Twitter-friendly conversion channel

Who needs this step? Most any business whose products cost more than $100. But this process is useful for any business.

As a rule, almost any attempt to market to social media users has one big problem: You’re interrupting their experience.

Few people browse social media feeds with an intent to buy anything, so if you push your landing page, you interrupt what they’re doing. The result? Those who do click your link aren’t ready to buy anyway.

Speaking about Facebook, Susan Wenograd put it best when she explained why so few brands see good results from social media ads:

I’ve worked with coaches trying to sell a $3k mastermind and they sell 0, claiming FB doesn’t work.

It works great if you understand you’re dealing with cold traffic that you need to develop a relationship with. $3k mastermind course out of the gate? Not likely. But…leads for under $10 each who you then sell to later? Entirely doable.

Twitter traffic—and just about all social traffic—is “cold traffic.” People may not know you, and they may not be willing to learn more. Going straight for the sale may be ineffective (unless it’s really cheap or given away for free).

So, instead of marketing your primary product right away, come up with a conversion funnel that will warm up that traffic first. Offer something your customers can get immediately (and get immediate value from), without having to pay a lot of money or go through a long registration process.

In exchange, you get their email address and introduce them to your brand. The next time you reach out, they’re likely to remember you.

Depending on your business model and products you offer, this step could involve:

  • Creating a free lead generation magnet (a whitepaper, a cheatsheet);
  • Giving away a freebie (like a free chapter from a book you’re selling, a t-shirt, etc.);
  • Promoting a free trial of your software;
  • Creating a video course and inviting your social media users to take it.

Admittedly, the last option is my personal favorite, which is why I wrote a separate article describing the process here. I prefer this approach for two main reasons:

  1. With video courses, you can engage your customers in a meaningful way (e.g., describing problems and gently suggesting your products as a solution).
  2. Video courses are powerful personal brand builders, capable of positioning you as a thought leader.

Video courses are easy to put together. You can use sites like Udemy to host it, or, if you need more control over your audience and outreach methods, you can use Kajabi, which requires no technical skills and offers an array of marketing and engagement features, including a landing page builder, drip campaigns, email automation, etc.

Kajabi interface.
Kajabi lets you create advanced video courses and host them on your domain easily, helping you create on-site assets to promote on social media. It also helps you create landing pages to share and advertise.

Step 3: Optimize your landing page for Twitter.

CXL has a ton of resources on creating a high-converting and engaging landing page, so I’d start there.

When it comes to Twitter-friendly landing pages, there are two tips I’d recommend:

  1. Use Twitter cards. These populate rich tweets that can include images and text snippets from the linked URL. Clicking any part of that information takes the user to the linked page.
  2. Get right to the point. It should be clear what your tweet is about from the first glance. Take a 5-second test to ensure people don’t have to wonder what your page is about and what they should do there. Here’s a good list of minimal landing page templates I often use for inspiration.

Finally, install tracking software that allows you to retarget those visitors when they return to your site.

Again, let me re-emphasize that you’re not using Twitter to sell your primary product. Social media is about introducing your brand to people who don’t know you yet and enticing them to connect with you.

Of course, because you need to sell products at some point, this is where on-site retargeting comes into play. Tools like Finteza help you track returning visitors and serve custom offers or calls to action (CTAs) based on their initial path of discovery (e.g., Twitter).

Now that those Twitter users have been introduced to your brand, you can greet them and offer your primary product:

Finteza retargeting based on twitter.
Using Finteza, you can personalize the user experience based on how they got to your site.

For example, one of my Twitter lead-generation campaigns was based on giving away a free writing checklist. Using Finteza, I was able to set up a custom journey for my Twitter traffic so that they saw a relevant CTA throughout the site:

Finteza ads to download a checklist.

If any of them failed to opt in on their first visit, Finteza would serve them the same CTAs on their return visit. If they did opt in, they would see another CTA urging them to buy my premium content marketing course.

Depending on your landing page, you may also want to play with a traffic engagement tool called Alter. Among other features, the tool offers pretty effective exit-intent pop-ups to engage your visitor when they’re ready to leave. You can customize the settings to show the exit intent pop-up only on specific pages:

Alter settings for exit-intent pop-ups.

When it comes to Twitter traffic—which is usually looking for a quick fix—this could help get more value from their brief engagement.

Step 4: Schedule your Tweets far into the future.

When you have both your landing page and your conversion funnel set up, you can start promoting it on Twitter:

  • Add your URL to your Twitter profile or description (with an appropriate CTA);
  • Schedule 10–20 tweets far into the future, using different copy.

To diversify your copy, here are a few ideas to play with:

  • Tweet stats or numbers from your research or whitepaper. Try working it as “Did you know?…”
  • Use a “Download” CTA within your tweet, which often generates engaged traffic.
  • If you have social proof on your landing page, quote it and, if possible, tag your client or friend who provided the testimonial. (In general, Twitter tagging is incredibly effective for getting retweets from those tagged.)

If you have a team or freelancers helping you with your project, the best way to diversify your tweets is to include them in tweet writing and scheduling.

You can do that by using a social media collaboration platform like ContentCal. Simply connect your Twitter account to the platform and add your team members as contributors. They can draft Tweets for you to review, edit, and schedule:

using content cal to let others create tweets for review.

If you tweet a lot and have an established following, consider recurring tweets. Tools like MavSocial can help you schedule your tweets weeks ahead with one click.

I’d refrain from using recurring tweets if your Twitter profile is pretty quiet; otherwise, you’ll flood your Twitter feed with the same tweets.

Step 5: Involve niche influencers.

Twitter is an incredibly open platform, making it a perfect influencer outreach tool. I rarely have time for email outreach campaigns, but I often use Twitter to attract influencers’ attention.

Start by tagging an influencer from your list and request feedback or ask if they’re interested in a free copy (if it’s a downloadable) or access (if it’s a SaaS product). It’s easy to overuse this tactic but okay if you’re doing it no more than once a week—and always tagging different people.

Obviously, the better you know your contact, the better your chances of getting their feedback and help promoting your offer. Success at this stage is usually contingent on the past work you’ve put in to build a Twitter-based relationship. (Go back to Step 1 if you’re unsure what that entails.)

When tweeting at influencers, keep it short and sweet, but also point out why you’re reaching out to them specifically. Here’s a quick example of a tweet from a new follower (whom I hadn’t interacted with before). Their tweet drove me to the site and prompted me to register for an account.

I feel like their mentioning my article did the trick:

To find Twitter influencers—beyond those you may already interact with—use Buzzsumo. It’s the best Twitter search tool out there, allowing you to search within Twitter users’ bios, within article titles they’ve tweeted, or within tweets. It also shows how likely each influencer is to retweet or reply to your tweet!

For example, if I were to promote my writing checklist to Twitter influencers, this profile would be a perfect match!

finding relevant Buzzsumo influencers.

I can also see profiles that shared related content, making it easy for me to reach out to them with something like, “Hey! I found this article though your tweet, so you may also be interested in my checklist, too! Would love to know your feedback!”

Buzzsumo shared list.
You can also sort your list by “reply ratio” to increase your chances of hearing back.

Step 6: Recycle your most successful tweets.

Once you’ve established a routine for ongoing interactions and scheduled various tweets, it’s time to start watching your stats. Twitter provides some basic analytics for you to identify your best-performing tweets:

Twitter analytics engagement rate.

You can also export your activity to a spreadsheet to sort your updates and find tweets with the highest engagement rate:

Twitter analytics export to a spreadsheet.

From there, filter for tweets that link to your landing page and put them back in the spotlight using one or more methods below:

  • Pin the tweet at the top of your Twitter feed.
  • Comment on your own tweet, tagging an influencer and asking for an opinion, help, or feedback.
  • Retweet your own tweet with a comment.

Retweeting your own comment will bring your initial tweet back on top of your followers’ feeds. You can also tag anyone in that comment.

Step 7: Reinforce the impact with Twitter Ads.

Who needs this step? Everyone. As soon as you’ve identified your best-performing tweets, increase their reach with Twitter ads.

I don’t normally invest much in Twitter Ads for landing pages—maybe $30 to push them a bit further. But I have played with several Twitter targeting options and found these two strategies to be valuable.

  1. Select a “Website clicks or conversions” campaign to pay only for clicks to your site. (I don’t use the “Conversions” option because I use Finteza to target and re-target those clicks—it’s cheaper.)
website clicks or conversions campaign in twitter ads.
  1. I use Twitter’s “Lookalike” audience and target my engaged influencers and profiles similar to those.
Twitter ads
You can copy-paste your previously identified Twitter influencers who either engaged with you on Twitter or look exactly like someone who would be interested in your product (or both).

Here’s the difference lookalike-audience targeting can make compared to generic keyword targeting (for the same tweet):

Twitter lookalike

And again, I don’t invest in ads too often, but if I had to deal with newer, less-followed Twitter accounts, I’d run ads at least once a week.

Conclusion

Even if you’ve been on Twitter for a while—and managed to build an engaged following—you may not know yet how to transition that engagement from brand awareness to site clicks and conversions.

Going through this seven-step process will help you refine and improve your Twitter conversion optimization strategy:

  1. Spend some time building your profile.
  2. Set up a Twitter-friendly conversion channel.
  3. Optimize your landing page for Twitter.
  4. Schedule your Tweets far into the future.
  5. Involve niche influencers.
  6. Recycle your most successful tweets.
  7. Reinforce the impact with Twitter Ads.

The post Twitter Conversions: 7 Steps to Generate More Clicks appeared first on CXL.