Marketers struggle to keep up with content creation demand for their personalization efforts

Businesses may need to invest more resources in content creation efforts.

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As advertising and other brand communications get increasingly personalized, the demand for multiple iterations of content is growing at a rate that marketers are struggling to keep up with. And personalization without, well, personalized content just doesn’t work.

This week, Adobe released State of Creative and Marketing Collaborations which looks at this issue with a survey of more than 1,000 North American marketers, creatives, advertising and IT professionals.

The report says that creative teams working on personalized campaigns are producing an average of 28 pieces of content a week and can take up to 12 days to get a single piece to market. But even with all that output, most marketers and advertisers feel like they could be doing better.

Why you should care

Content has always been king. But in this age of hyper-personalization, the demand has gone into overdrive — providing more of a need that many companies can afford — both financially and operationally.

To catch up with the demand, businesses may need to invest more resources into their content creation efforts: 33 percent of those surveyed said their biggest barrier to personalization is the time investment and 20 percent said cost. This is reinforced by data from the survey that says that half of companies that simply had more money to spend with revenues of more than $50 million reported higher satisfaction with their content strategy and creation and felt they were very well coordinated, as opposed to the average across all businesses at 34 percent.

There is good news. Advertisers and marketers have added considerable staff in content creation (a 63 percent increase for advertisers, 60 percent for marketers) and the vast majority still prize content quality over quantity.

And there’s good news operationally with a majority of marketers, advertisers, creatives and IT pros communicating with each other at least once a week, and 71 percent wanting to get creatives involved in the pre-planning process earlier.

More about the numbers

  • Companies need to step up. Only 26 percent of brand creatives, 21 percent marketers, and 24 percent advertising professionals believe their companies do enough to personalize digital advertising.
  • Scale continues to be an issue. Fifty-nine percent of marketers, 52 percent advertisers, 41 percent agency creatives and 53 percent brand creatives find it difficult to personalize content at scale.
  • More “digitally advanced” businesses (59 percent) say they are outperforming the competition, their content creation and delivery is very well coordinated, and their personalization is extensive than other companies (35 percent).

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We’re hiring: Help digital marketers advance their thought leadership

Third Door Media is currently looking for a Community Editor to lead contributed content efforts for its industry-leading editorial brands Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and MarTech Today.

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Third Door Media is currently looking for a Community Editor to lead contributed content efforts for its industry-leading editorial brands Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and MarTech Today.

The Community Editor is first a convener, adept at cultivating a strong community of contributors who have demonstrated high-level expertise in digital marketing and wish to help their fellow marketers by extending that knowledge to their peers. The Community Editor is a skilled editor and content specialist who helps contributors develop their content to have maximum reach, impact and educational value to the more than 1.6 million audience members who trust Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and MarTech Today for the best and most-actionable intelligence.

This is a remote position.

Core job responsibilities:

  • Identify and recruit contributors for Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and MarTech Today.
  • Work with contributors to develop their content and leverage best practices for digital publishing, offer feedback and guidance.
  • Editorial review of all contributed content. This includes editing, proofreading and fact-checking.
  • Manage publishing calendar for contributed content
  • Foster discussions among members of the contributor community, convening them through vehicles like email and Slack.
  • Create editorial boards from our contributor community, hosting discussions with members of TDMs editorial team and our contributors.
  • Work closely with our events programming team by either recommending contributors who could be speakers or vice versa.
  • Track performance of contributor content across all digital channels
  • Lead special projects and packages tied to contributor content.
  • Assign contributor pieces to align with TDMs editorial calendar.

Essential Requirements:

  • Strong editorial judgement and content development expertise.
  • Ability to manage many external relationships.
  • Strong editing and writing skills.
  • Highly organized. Position requires the candidate to coordinate a very large roster of contributors.
  • 3-5 years experience in creating digital content in a newsroom, digital media company or content marketing department.
  • Technical comfort with digital content tools, planners and content management systems.

If you are interested, please send resume and cover letter to Henry Powderly, Vice President, Content at

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How to turn negative online reviews into marketing wins

It’s tempting to fall into a funk when your business receives a negative review. Here’s how to turn things around and benefit from critical customer feedback.

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Reading a negative review about your company can feel like a punch to the gut. But once you get over the initial impact, there are lessons to be learned and a silver lining or two. Let’s look at all the ways you can turn a negative review into a positive thing for your business.

First, let’s look at why bad ratings and reviews aren’t as problematic as you may think. A 2017 study of more than 1.3 million local reviews by RevenueJump found that the number of reviews influences business performance on Google local search results, with the highest-ranked listings boasting an average of 38 reviews and the lowest-ranked listings having an average of only 14.3 reviews. So, negative reviews are good things to have in that they add to the total quantity, and having more reviews is correlated with higher rankings.

Additionally, negative reviews offer you the opportunity to respond to the reviewer’s concerns and turn around their impression of your business (which will hopefully be followed by a revision of the review). Even if you can’t change their minds, 77 percent of consumers discount reviews that are more than three months old, whether they are positive or negative, a 2017 study by BrightLocal found.

The same study indicates that negative reviews aren’t the turnoff you might think they would be. Just 40 percent of respondents said they’d stay away from a business after reading negative reviews, down from 68 percent in 2016. Having the full range of reviewers’ sentiments about a business, from the good to the bad, helps customers make more informed decisions.

Negative reviews can:

  • Alert you to problems you weren’t aware of, so you can fix them.
  • Give you an opportunity to improve brand sentiment by how you respond.
  • Provide a search engine optimization (SEO) bump, since they add legitimacy to your business.

Next time you get a negative review, use these tactics to transform it into a marketing win.

Show customers you care

Customer service is everything to consumers today. NewVoiceMedia’s 2018 “Serial Switchers” report found poor customer service costs businesses more than $75 billion a year, which is an increase of $13 billion since 2016. When a customer complains about your business in an online review, you can choose to ignore them or you can use your response to provide amazing customer service. Customers who have their issue solved in their first interaction with a  business are twice as likely to purchase from that business again, BrightLocal reports.

Acknowledge and show gratitude for every review you get. Reviewers are helping your SEO, and they’re providing powerful feedback that you didn’t have to spend money on a survey to gather. Courteously tell the reviewer you have investigated the problem and explain the steps you’re taking to correct it. You may want to offer an invitation for a free service to make up for the mistake or provide a coupon for the reviewer’s next purchase.

A humble and contrite response to an angry reviewer may be enough to make them change or update their review, or at least give your business another chance.

Use complaints for content marketing

Stuck trying to think up new content ideas? Look at customer complaints. The things your customers are talking negatively about in reviews can inspire new content.

Let’s say your company runs a freelancer marketplace. Companies post their freelance design jobs on your site and designers apply to win the work. In the last three months, you’ve received a few negative reviews from freelancers saying they apply for jobs but never win them. They call your site a waste of time.

Upon investigation, you learn that the freelancers who are complaining haven’t optimized their profiles with you. They’re likely not winning the work because they aren’t showcasing themselves in the best light.

The fix: create content that shows users how to optimize their profiles. Provide step-by-step instructions and screen shots that demonstrate how they can best position themselves to get awarded assignments.

Offer help

Similarly to using negative reviews for content ideas, mine reviews for ways to amplify the level of customer service you provide. Use customer complaints to create a frequently asked questions section on your website, eliminating the confusion your negative reviewers have been experiencing.

You can also use negative reviews in staff training. Alert your team to the reasons people express discontent about your business, and train your employees so that they go above and beyond in those areas.

Use review feedback for social media content and digital customer service, too. Share content that can help mitigate bad reviews, whether it’s offering a helpful tip or sharing a web page that includes all the details of a product or service.

Run paid ads for a specific product or service

If a specific product or service you offer has been particularly hit hard in reviews, use online advertising to expose more people to it, but wow them with the service they receive so that more positive reviews come through for it. As more people try the product or service you’ve promoted, you can get newer, more positive reviews that outshine any negative ones.

You can use Facebook Ads or Google Ads to direct leads to a landing page offering a coupon for the service. Or, if you’re in the B2C space, try a deals site like Groupon. With any campaign you run, make sure your staff is prepared to offer exceptional service.

Welcome all types of reviews — even negative ones

Reviews are essential tools businesses can use to improve their products and services. Get more customer reviews by including links to review sites your business is listed on, like Yelp and Google My Business, throughout your website and social media presences. If you’re using email marketing for new customers, include a call to action to leave a review (be careful on Yelp, though — it’s a violation of their terms of service to request a review). When a customer leaves a review, you can build a positive relationship, even if the initial review is negative.

You can also get more positive reviews by featuring the ones you have in marketing materials like social media pages or email campaigns. Customers who are featured feel special, and your new customers might make their reviews more positive, too, in hopes that they will be featured.

Next time you do get a negative review, take a deep breath and relax. It’s simply a chance for your business to get a new marketing win.

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iHeartMedia to acquire Stuff Media as podcasting continues its rise

Publishers continue to invest in podcasts despite marketers’ concern about the lack of 3rd-party measurement standards.

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iHeart Media says it plans to acquire publisher Stuff Media, signaling that, despite some advertiser fears, publishers still see podcasts as a good investment. Stuff Media is a for-profit publisher whose inventory includes the HowStuffWorks podcasting business, and iHeartMedia says that the move will double its usage metrics and make it the top podcast publisher globally and the second overall.

Why you should care

Despite podcasting’s meteoric growth, marketers have expressed some worry about advertising on podcasts, citing lack of measurement and standards as the industry scales. But this type of investment could signal that publishers have no such fears. According to a release announcing the acquisition, IHeartMedia’s iHeartRadio (iHR) division already features more than 20,000 podcasts. Podcasting is going to keep growing and proving itself as valuable advertising platform — with or without third-party measurement verification.

More on the news

  •  iHeart Media said its podcast listening growth was up 73 percent in 2018 compared to 2017.
  • And an Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) survey earlier this year found that podcast revenues topped $314 million in 2017, an 86 percent increase from 2016.
  • We also may be closer to a standard. The IAB did release measurement guidelines in late 2017, offering guidance to advertisers on how to measure, but no entity such as the Media Ratings Council (MRC) provides third-party standards at this time.

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Target acquired: How to define and use your ideal target market

Don’t assume you know who makes up your target audience because you could be wrong. Here’s a look at how to identify a target market and create niched marketing campaigns that sell.

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Ironically enough, when it comes to promoting themselves, many businesses jump straight into marketing and forget to really think about the most important part of marketing: their target market.

This problem isn’t just limited to new entrepreneurs or start-ups, either. I’ve talked to plenty of well-established companies who can only describe their target market in broad generalities.

This is a real problem because knowing exactly who you’re targeting with your marketing is the key to successfully reaching, connecting with and convincing them to buy what you’re selling. So, while it’s tempting to jump right into building your marketing campaigns and putting together creative, it always pays to stop and think about your target market first.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at how to identify your target market and use what you know about that market to create target marketing campaigns that sell.

Who am I targeting?

Whether you’re a new business or a decades-old company putting together a new ad campaign, you should always be asking yourself “who am I targeting?” Even if you sell products with broad appeal, this question is still important. Specifics sell and the more specifics you know about the market you are targeting, the more effective your marketing will be.

For example, if you sell lotion, you might think that your target market is too big to define. I mean, almost everyone gets dry hands at some point, right?

While that might be true, there are a lot of different reasons why people buy lotion. Some people live in a dry climate. Some have a skin condition like rosacea. Some people want a lotion that smells good, while others want a scent-less lotion because scented lotions irritate their skin.

Would it make sense to use the same marketing for all of these different groups?

Even if your scent-less lotion happens to be great for people who live in a dry climate or have rosacea, it’s hard to effectively market to all of these markets simultaneously. After all, if someone searches for “rosacea lotion” on Google, they aren’t looking for lotion because they live in a dry climate. They want a lotion that will treat their specific skin condition.

Even within a more targeted market segment like “rosacea sufferers”, there is often room to refine your target market further. For example, you’d want to use very different marketing tactics to market your lotion to moms with young children suffering from rosacea than you would if you were trying to sell to middle-aged men with the condition.

Can you see why understanding your target market is so important? The more clearly and precisely you can answer the question “who am I targeting?”, the more focused and effective your marketing will be. Obviously, you have to balance market size with market specificity, but understanding who you are targeting and what motivates them is the key to create compelling marketing campaigns.

With all that in mind, here are a few easy questions you can ask yourself to help you define your target market(s):

How do my current customers use my product or service?

As I mentioned above, even people who use your product or service for the same thing may use it for different reasons or in different ways. For example, if you offer invoicing software, you may have some customers who use it for every client and transaction, while others only use it for certain clients or situations.

Odds are, invoicing software addicts are probably your most valuable customers and you will want to both target them more aggressively and with different messaging than you would more casual users. Your software will be an integral part of their business, so certain selling points about your software will appeal more to them than they would to your standard users.

Segmenting your current customer base by how they use your product or service can give you a lot of insight into your target market(s). Odds are, if your current customers love your business for a particular reason, potential customers who are motivated by the same things will be likely to respond to marketing that focuses on that same issue.

What am I trying to sell?

This might seem like an obvious part of any marketing campaign, but when it comes to defining your target market, knowing what you are trying to sell is important, especially if you’re changing what you are selling. Many businesses try to use old marketing tactics to sell a new product and then wonder why their results are bad.

Whether you’re trying to market something new or simply get more sales for a particular product or service, it’s important to think about who your new target market is. Different products and services appeal to different audiences, so even small tweaks to what you’re selling can have big effects on how well your marketing works.

For example, if you sell cookies and decide to add organic, egg-free cookies as a new product, you need to market them differently than your standard cookie line.

Let’s be honest, most people who buy organic, egg-free cookies aren’t buying them because they are the best tasting cookies. They care about the ingredients more than the flavor, so your marketing should focus on how healthy and environmentally friendly your cookies are.

At the same time, if most of your customer base loves the flavor of your standard cookies, they aren’t likely to start buying your organic cookies because they are environmentally friendly. They want the delicious cookies they know and love, so you should focus on marketing the flavor of your core cookie offering to your less ingredient-conscious target market.

Ultimately, what you are trying to sell has a huge impact on how you sell it and who you sell it to. As a result, “what am I trying to sell?” should be one of the first things you ask yourself during the marketing process.

What is the competition doing?

While I’m a big advocate for standing out from the competition, you can also learn a lot from the competition—both about what to do and what not to do.

For example, take a look at the ad below:

You can clearly see that this business is targeting high-intensity people who probably lead high-intensity, busy lifestyles. To appeal to this market, their ad copy is high energy and focused on the flexibility of their offering.

If you happen to be a competitor of theirs, there’s a lot you can learn from this. On the one hand, if you want to target the same market, you can look for keywords or phrases they are using to try and catch the attention of their target audience.

Alternatively, if you want to differentiate yourself and try to target an alternative market, you could try focusing on price, a different exercise option or offering lower-key classes that might appeal to less intense potential customers.

Whether it’s a gym down the street or an international conglomeration, your competition can teach you a lot about who your target market is (or should be) and how to approach them in your marketing.

Is my target market niche … or non-existent?

One final thing to keep in mind as you identify your target market is the size of that market. As we discussed earlier, the narrower your target market is, the easier it is to create specific, highly targeted messaging for them. However, if you can only target 10 people with that messaging, it may not be a market worth targeting.

Given the massive reach of online advertising platforms like Facebook and Google, this isn’t a common problem, but it is something to keep in mind as you define your target market(s). If you find yourself struggling to effectively target the market you’ve selected, you may need to take a step back and expand your audience a bit.

As a general rule of thumb, I like to assume that 3 percent of the people you can target with a given marketing channel are ready to buy today and 3 percent can probably be convinced to buy. If that 3 to 6 percent of your identified target market isn’t enough potential business to be worth your time and money, your market is probably too niche to be useful.


While it can be easy to assume you know who your target market is and what they want, taking the time to really think about what you’re selling, who you’re selling it to and how to best sell it can significantly improve your marketing results. It might not be the most glamorous or exciting part of marketing, but it’s a key part of every good marketing campaign.

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HubSpot adds on-board video capability with Vidyard integration

Now, marketing, sales and service can add videos, create video messaging or add interactive layers within the HubSpot dashboard.

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Inbound marketing and sales platform HubSpot introduced a native video function to its platform last week, through an integration with business video platform Vidyard.

The new capability, which highlights the growing importance of video in business, operates inside the HubSpot dashboard for marketing, sales or service, Vidyard co-founder and CEO Michael Litt said. Previously, HubSpot users needed to embed a video created with external tools.

Marketers can now upload an externally produced video and then publish it to a branded landing page hosted on the HubSpot platform. Sales or service people can utilize a webcam to record a video for a customer, or they can screen-record an online process, both of which employ the onboard Vidyard application.

[Read the full article on MarTech Today.]

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How to find good writers and other content marketing struggles

You get what you pay for when it comes to copywriters says contributor Jessica Fowler. Here’s a look at how to hire good copywriters to help drive traffic and sales to your site.

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While the “content is king” mantra sits firm 0n its throne, it leaves one burning question: “How do I find writers fit for such royalty?”

From low-cost content factories to high-ticket copywriters you feel you can’t afford, you may find yourself wondering if there’s a middle road.

How do you know which solution is best for you?  Some say the best solution is to build an in-house team of writers, but this isn’t always the most affordable (or practical) option.

For those that need to outsource content writing, finding the right fit can be a bit of a whirlwind and confusing.

Today’s column will help answer all those questions, and more!  I’m going to share ideas that will help you find, qualify and hire quality search engine optimization (SEO)-savvy content writers you can depend on.

Struggle #1: What qualifies as a “good” SEO content writer?

Qualifying a good writer can feel a lot like qualifying a new love interest. They look good on paper and make a good first impression, but how do you really know they are the one?

The hard truth is that, just like with a love interest, you’ll have to spend time getting to know your writer before you really get an answer in full. But that doesn’t mean you have to go in blind. Here are some non-negotiables that will increase your odds of finding a good fit without wasting time:

  1. It should be clear to you from the start that your writer understands the basics: grammar, spelling, and structure. You can learn this through conversation. Converse with your writer by texting and/or email to get a feel for their grasp of the written word.
  2. A good SEO content writer also understands that a search engine wants you to write for the audience, not the algorithm. Ask for samples to assess this and watch out for keyword heavy posts that have poor flow and readability. Read their work and ask yourself, “If I am my target audience, do I find this information valuable and consumable?” If you don’t, usually the algorithm won’t either.
  3. Run the samples you receive through a readability scoring app like Sometimes an article will look great on the surface, but you’ll find that it carries a low readability score. This means the way its written lacks clarity and is difficult to consume.
  4. If you want to doubly ensure that you’re going to get a great return on your investment, look for content writers that do SEO copywriting — not just practice SEO. Why? People that only specialize in SEO might be able to bring you traffic, but will they know how to influence that traffic? Not necessarily. Copywriters understand the psychology of why your audience will purchase, join your list, or take any action you want them to take on your website. This is where the real magic happens, so look out for these copywriting unicorns.
  5. Lastly, copywriter or not – your writer should understand your audience’s relationship with your niche. If you want to sell diet pills to middle age women who want to lose weight, your writer shouldn’t just understand the audience or only understand the diet pills. They should understand where the two collide. What are your audience’s pain points, limiting beliefs, and buying triggers around your product or service? Usually, this is the biggest mistake when hiring, but the answer is simple: require relevant samples when vetting your wordsmith and see what they know.

Struggle #2: Where can I find good SEO writers?

Speaking objectively, you can find good writers anywhere. But there’s definitely a difference between shopping around on Fiverr versus other higher quality avenues that offer you better screening opportunities.

One of the best ways to vet an SEO content writer is to find them on social media where they post long-form content. This way you can see for yourself how they write, how they work, and how they interact with their clients and prospects.

Join SEO and copywriting groups on platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn and just hang out for a bit. You’ll notice writers posting in quality groups to attract leads. Instead of just seeing samples that can be tweaked, you’ll get to see how they write and interact with leads and clients on a day to day basis.

This level of consistency and insight into a writer’s personality, ethics, and values will help you feel more comfortable and less blind going into a working agreement together.

You can also post in these groups asking for recommendations. You’ll find community members are happy to showcase the writers who’ve brought them the most value.

Struggle #4: Do I need an “SOP” for my writers?

A million times yes!

You are probably going to pick an experienced writer who is also catering to multiple clients at the same time he/she works with you. Each client they work with has different primary preferences and concerns, from the style of writing, how the work should be submitted, and so on.  Standard operating procedures (SOPs) help minimize the guesswork for your writer and potential headaches for you.

The truth is most business owners aren’t struggling to find quality writers, they’re struggling to keep them! Without clear direction, writers have to guess how you want things done and that generally causes confusion and room for error.  With more direction and outlines like an SOP, everyone stays happy.

Writing SOPs may seem like a time-intensive step, but the good news is, once it’s done it saves you hundreds of hours on the backend. And if you want to take it off your plate, consult an operations specialist who can help with this. It’ll increase your return on investment (ROI), help eliminates stress and keeps good writers happy and in your employ.

Struggle #5: How much should I pay for copywriting?

A wise human somewhere once said — you get what you pay for.  If your audience is based in the US, will a non-English speaking content writer fully understand not only the language but the culture of your audience?  Probably not.  Do you have editors available to help or are you setting yourself up to spend just as much time editing a piece as you would have spent writing it yourself? The allure of inexpensive writers is high but unless you have the time and patience to train them it’s probably not a smart investment.

Even a native speaking writer charging minimum wage is probably inexperienced and may not have access to research resources. At the end of the day ,you’re paying for a result. How much is it worth to you to make sure you are getting the best content in a reasonable amount of time?

Ultimately, the best copywriter understands your audience’s language and culture, is skilled in SEO and conversion rate optimization, is resourceful and capable. You have other things to worry about, and having a writer that can produce high-quality content is key not just for successful writing, but successful business operations and scaling.

Struggle #6: Is “SEO content” worth the investment?

Search-engine-optimized content is like anything else — you get out of it what you put into it. If you hire top quality writers, you’re going to get top quality content which in turn will help drive traffic and better rankings for your site.

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8 ways to use content to skyrocket user engagement

Contributor Kristopher Jones speculates that user engagement impacts search engine rankings and shares 8 tips you can use to make your content more engaging for users.

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Much like commercials on TV, users are bombarded with content at every turn as they surf.  It’s overwhelming and as such, marketers are struggling to find ways to capture their attention and stand out.

As marketers, not only do we need to conduct extensive research so we can make great content, we also need our content and web pages to be promoted, discovered and engaged with.

To help with all facets of content development, user engagement, or “user signals,” should be actively tracked in Google Analytics as part of your content marketing campaign. This is important since it’s long been speculated that user experience is a ranking factor. Understanding who engages with your content will help with future content campaigns and business decisions.

When users engage with your content and you actively track their actions, you can benefit by:

  • An increase in leads and conversions.
  • Increasing the chances of a return visit.
  • Indirectly influencing search engine rankings for relevant keyword terms.
  • Cultivating brand loyalty.
  • Establishing your presence and visibility on the web.
  • Increased conversations and “chatter” about your brand.

Providing engaging content is especially important from a branding aspect. You need to be different to stand out. With so many choices available, one of the best ways for your business to shine is through creating and promoting unique and insightful content.

Let’s take a look at how user engagement impacts your search engine rankings and eight steps you can take to make your content more engaging.

User engagement metrics

The most common set of user engagement metrics that correlate to content relevance and quality is:

  • Click-through rate.
  • Pages per session.
  • Average website visit duration.
  • Customer acquisitions.
  • Conversion rate (subscribing, click-to-call and so on).
  • Bounce rate.
  • The number of sessions per user.
  • Social signals.

There are also more obvious signals, such as a user leaving a comment in the comments section or rating your content.

Hide negative comments on Facebook.

Google Analytics, Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools provide in-depth analytics of page-level metrics that can be used to audit and evaluate the relevance and quality of content from a user perspective.

For example, the chart below from Google Analytics provides important user data on page views (monthly traffic), the average time a user spends on each page, bounce rate and many other important signals that are segmented page by page.

Page-level metrics, or how a user interacts with a page, will provide insight into how well your content is meeting user intent.

Rankings impact

While Google remains reluctant to share anything regarding its ranking signals, it has publicly said that “searching users are often the best judges of relevance.” Even if user and social signals are not direct signals, they do seem to heavily influence search results. From a theoretical perspective, Google wants to deliver users the best experience possible. By tracking click data, Google can make broad determinations about which content is best serving customers for specific keyword queries.

With that said, the influence of some behavioral data is harder to determine than others. For example, click-through rates (CTRs) can be influenced by a multitude of factors, including:

  • Brand bias.
  • Keyword position.
  • The inclusion of answer boxes, advertisements and local results in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

It stands to reason that pages ranking higher in the SERPs are more likely to get clicks. While we are not entirely sure how Google factors CTR into its search results as an isolated signal, it definitely provides a small, implicit influence. That amount of influence can only be determined by Google’s active learning system and how well it’s able to process relevance, intent and more.

Remember, search engines also include a multitude of factors including keyword intent, the day of the week, links, repeat visits and much more when determining where a page ranks. But it seems fairly obvious to me that if a page in position eight is receiving more clicks than position one and enjoys longer session durations, then Google would probably move it to a higher-ranking position eventually.

It makes sense to think that pages with higher CTR and greater engagement would signal to Google that searchers find certain results more relevant and useful to their browsing experience than other URLs.  Why not use that data to help determine where a webpage should rank?

I’d argue that user signals will perhaps be its number one ranking signal in the future, once the capabilities to track behavioral data more efficiently are available.

Increasing user engagement should be a major priority for content marketers and SEOs alike. Here are eight steps to help make this happen.

1. Research and audit

The first step to increasing user engagement is the most important, in my opinion, and that is to understand your users. Evaluate your current SEO methods by setting up Google Search Console and Analytics to examine the behavioral data of users when they land on specific pages.

Here you can uncover strategies to increase user engagement, such as:

  • Updating metadata to increase click-through rates.
  • Scaling out content length and depth to increase visit duration.
  • Adding related links to the side of content to entice clicks and increase pages per session.

When filtering by URL, you can get side-by-side key performance indicators (KPIs) on the performance of each piece of content and discover opportunities for easy wins. Here, you’ll need to optimize existing pages by their importance in your information hierarchy, the amount of traffic they currently pull in and their overall importance to your sales funnel. Then you can expand to ancillary pages.

Leverage competitive analysis to discover what pages are driving the most traffic, and keep an eye on your competitors. Conduct keyword gap analysis to discover opportunities where you feel you can outrank competitors, and gather ideas for content that can separate you from the competition.

The key here is to uncover specific pain points that competitors or other results are under-serving or where content can be improved upon.

2. Pique interest

If you’ve been successful in moving your web page rankings forward, the next step is to focus on harvesting clicks. This is where optimizing your metadata will become crucial. Use Google Search Console to look at the CTR of your pages and which pages are driving the most clicks from organic results.

The idea here is to optimize your title tag and meta description for more clickability. Put yourself in the searcher’s shoes for a second. When you conduct a search, do you notice the phrase you searched on has been bolded in the meta description of a web page listing?

The bold search phrase lets you know the search result is a page you’re looking for.

As a refresher, here are some best practice tips for title tag and meta description optimization:

  • Insert target keywords into the title tag and meta description.
  • Meet user intent (offer benefits for commercial, useful information for research).
  • Speak directly to users.
  • Provide enough information to pique interest.
  • Be short and concise.

Unfortunately, Google recently cut its meta description character count, although most non-branded searches now include dynamic meta descriptions pulled directly from content. Even so, by optimizing this title and metadata, you can lead users down the initial stages of your funnel and at the very least, pique interest.

Once you get that click, you need to nurture user interest with a striking page title. Again, page titles should contain the focus keyword, satisfy user intent and meet character count requirements.

Headlines offer an opportunity for creativity. The use of numbers, “how-to” phrases and strong adjectives in a headline will have a stronger call to action than a simple explanatory headline.

For example, “The Ultimate Guide to Content Marketing” sounds more powerful than “Learning Content Marketing.” The use of these terms will also dictate the structure of your article (listicle or long form), how it’s written (tips, tutorial, advertorial) and its focus (keyword focus term). Even one tiny tweak like adding the word “top” to a page title or an ampersand can significantly increase clicks.

3. Optimize for speed and responsiveness

Not even the most eloquent headline and page copy can save your bounce rate if your site is slow and unresponsive. The statistics back it up: 53 percent of users will abandon a site that takes more than three seconds to load.

Considering the arrival of Google’s Mobile First index, your website will struggle if it’s not responsive or optimized for speed.

4. Design for ease of use

Give your content a helping hand by giving users an easy pathway to find it. Create a natural information architecture that focuses on top-level service pages with broad keyword concepts and slowly expands outward (or downward) with informational posts about sub-topics related to your business that include long-tail variants.

Streamline your user experience (UX) by offering simple navigation that leads users down a desired pathway to conversions and meets their initial intent. The more pathways you provide to relevant content, the more likely you can offer users value, familiarize them with your site and increase their engagement.

5. Focus on aesthetics

Perhaps the most overlooked element in online media is the presentation of page copy. Page copy should be optimized for SEO value, as well as scannability.

Content overload isn’t just the amount of content present over the web, it’s the number of words and white space on your own page copy. From UX designers to newspaper editors, each one will stress the importance of visuals in content, as well as white space, to make content appear more appealing and easier to consume.

When designing a web page layout, consider these tips to increase user engagement:

  • Optimize page focal points according to the rule of thirds.
  • Make use of images every two or three paragraphs so your eyes don’t bleed.
  • Use visually striking images or graphs that add context (ditch the stock photos).
  • Ensure images are compressed and optimized for size, speed, and also SEO value (optimize the alt attribute).
  • Ensure content is optimized and responsive for different devices.

6. Find your medium

No matter what methodology you use to craft content, the key is creating something better than the competition.

Delivery influences your content’s impact. Some content deserves to be visual, while some deserves to be written. For example, interior design blogs are more likely to feature images of their work, rather than use long paragraphs of text to describe furnishings or the services they provide. Use alternative mediums such as infographics, video and data charts to present content in a new and unique format. They can even be used to repurpose or accent existing content to encourage greater engagement.

Data chart example

7. Be the authority

This step is pretty self-explanatory, but it must be reiterated: Present value to your visitors. Focus on quality over quantity, offering unique perspectives and going more in-depth than the competition. Content length has long been suspected to be a ranking factor, although it certainly influences visit durations and your ability to rank for rich snippets.

Above all, the key is to present your own unique voice. From a branding perspective, developing thought leadership encourages repeat visits and also positions your company as an authority over all others in your respective industry. It’s also instrumental in cultivating brand loyalty.

8. Engage users

Finally, to increase user engagement, you also need to engage users. One of the best ways to do this is through personalized content, whether it’s served over an ad platform or in an email. Consult your analytics, and conduct A/B testing to optimize content for greater interaction and engagement.

Here are some other ideas and opportunities to engage customers:

Collecting email and contact information to retarget users with paid promotions and newsletters is a great way to keep your brand top of mind and extend your customer lifetime value to cultivate greater brand loyalty.


User engagement is crucial from a user experience perspective and will greatly impact your conversion rates.

I also suspect user signals play a crucial part in Google’s ranking algorithms, especially for hypercompetitive first- and second-page search terms. Follow these steps to make your content more appealing and engaging, and watch your user signals and traffic flows skyrocket.

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Content manager checklist: 10 things to do before you hit publish

Contributor Megan Krause lists 10 content and SEO-related points a content manager should check before publishing a piece of content

The post Content manager checklist: 10 things to do before you hit publish appeared first on Marketing Land.

Back in the days when print journalism ruled, major publishers had huge teams of fact-checkers and editors poring over every article before it went to press.

With the move to online publishing, those responsibilities have increasingly fallen on the shoulders of the content manager — a hybrid editor/strategist/project manager role with a bit of search engine optimization (SEO) thrown in.

I’m a content manager. It’s my responsibility to make sure every piece of content I create for my clients is stellar — for their goals, their leads and their customers.

But one man’s “stellar” is another man’s drivel. When we marketing types talk about “high-quality content,” we mean content that:

  • Engages, informs, entertains.
  • Is optimized for search.
  • Delivers what it promises.
  • Uses reputable, authoritative sources.
  • Has a great headline.
  • Is free from error, jargon and clichés.
  • Is easily scannable.
  • Inspires action.

Google rewards high-quality content, which is one of the greatest benefits of following these best practices.

Here are 10 ways (plus one bonus tip) to perfect your content before you press that “publish” button.

1. Optimize for keyword search

The goal of your content should always be to provide something of value to your readers so trust in your brand increases. This means when they’re ready to purchase, your brand will be top of mind.

To get content seen, it must be optimized for keywords people are searching for. Wolfgang Digital’s 2016 study of 87 million website sessions of e-commerce brands found 43 percent of traffic comes from organic Google search:

Use keyword research to discover popular terms and long-tail phrases that can inspire content. Make sure those terms are placed relevantly in header tags and throughout the content but don’t keyword-stuff. As long as the terms are used naturally and relevantly, you’ll be fine.

2. Break up content

While the debate on human attention span rages on, there’s no doubt the amount of content we have access to is larger than ever. According to the “2018 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends-North America” reports by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 91 percent of B2B marketers and 86 percent of B2C marketers use content marketing.

That’s a ton of content, in addition to the more than 1 billion hours of YouTube videos watched daily, plus social media posts on Facebook, Instagram and other channels.

With so much content to choose from, breaking up content to make it more visually appealing helps capture and keep user attention, since online readers are apt to scan content. Use subheads, numbered or bulleted lists and short paragraphs to make your content scannable. These techniques fall in line with Google’s own Developer Documentation Style Guide.

3. Make sure the headline is searchable and clickable

Unlike intentionally vague titles of great novels that offer mystery and intrigue to readers, writing headlines for the web is an art requiring the perfect blend of searchability and click-worthiness.

You want to craft headlines that include a keyword or two you want to rank for, but it also needs to be compelling enough to grab clicks.

Since the general consensus is that headlines longer than 65 or 70 characters will get cut off by search engines, make sure your keyword appears early in the headline. Such limited space means you should favor straightforwardness over getting cutesy — though there’s still room to be creative in what you write.

4. Add a CTA

Adding a strong call to action (CTA) to every web page and blog post is essential.

What is a CTA?

  • It tells the consumer the best next step to take.
  • It guides the user in the right direction.
  • It is helpful and relevant to the user’s pain points.

Make sure the call to action you use on your blog post corresponds with the content and where the user is on the buyer journey. You wouldn’t want to add a “Buy Now” button to a top-of-funnel informational piece, but a free consultation offer or a white paper download might make sense.

5. Add internal and external links

Linking within content is essential to elevate the user experience. There are external links and internal links. When using either type, the link should be relevant and helpful so that they enhance your search engine optimization process and provide value to the consumer.

  • External links. These links point to other websites besides the domain the content is on. External links are beneficial because they build credibility when you’re linking to a (credible, authoritative) source. They can also be instrumental in creating partnerships with other publishers when they notice your content is linking to them. They can help to make your content more authoritative.
  • Internal links. These are links to content within the domain the content is on. Using internal links helps Google understand your website structure. They provide a better experience for the user, who can discover more information related to the content topic. They also can help nurture leads, since you’re providing additional relevant and helpful content.

Make sure your links open to new tabs. This way, your content is still open for the user, and they won’t have to go back and forth within a single window to consume content. You can also help to increase time on page and decrease bounce rate from your site, which can affect search rankings.

6. Evaluate anchor text

Anchor text is the clickable text part of the link you see on either an external or internal link. When the text is highlighted within the copy, the user gets a better idea of the content they’ll see when they click. Some types of anchor text include:

  • Exact match. This is a hyperlinked phrase which plainly states what the website is about.
  • Partial match. One or two keywords hyperlinked describe what the website is about.
  • Branded. This hyperlink is the name of the company.
  • Generic or nonbranded. Generally known as “click here” type anchors.

Anchor text that relates to the content the link is pointing to is best for search engine signals. Be mindful of using outbound anchor text that contains a keyword you want to rank for that depletes your link equity.

For example, if you run a pet store, don’t link out to another pet store site using the words “best pet store” in the anchor. A generic keyword would be more appropriate to use as anchor text in this case.

7. Link to credible sources

There is a lot of content out there, more than most people have time to read.  Developing entertaining and educational content increases the chances of it being clicked, read and shared.

If you need to link to sources to support your content, link to reputable, well-known sources within an industry and the primary source of the information.

When you’re citing another source, include the name of the source, as well as a link. Links break, and pages go offline, so citing the name of the primary source helps keep your article credible.

8. Add images and give credit

Adding images to content is another great way to break it up and make it more visually appealing to users. Images are also important for search engine optimization. Google image search is the second-most used search platform after, accounting for more than one-quarter of US searches. By optimizing the images you feature in content with descriptive headlines, descriptions and tags, you can increase your chances of being seen in more image searches.

In February 2018, Google removed the “View Image” button in image search results, which means users have to click over to the website the image is on to see it in full context. This is great news for publishers, as Search Engine Land reports there was an average of a 37 percent increase in clicks from image searches throughout 58 websites since the change.

9. Make content shareable

Social sharing buttons are a form of a CTA for users who are on social media. Seeing the recognizable icons for Facebook, Twitter and social networks sends a signal to users to share. As your content gets shared on social media, you reap benefits, including:

Depending on your content management platform, you may easily have the ability to turn on a social sharing button feature. For platforms like WordPress, there is an array of free social sharing plugins you can add to your layout, which makes social buttons automatically appear on each piece of content.

Other options for sharing on social include:

  • Create your own CTA graphics for social sharing.
  • Write out a call to action within a post to join a discussion about it on your Facebook page.
  • Insert “click to tweet” links in a post which enable users to share tidbits from it in just a few clicks

When you can continue the conversation about a piece of content on a social network, engagement for the piece organically increases.

10. Create a great meta description

A compelling meta description is important for every piece of content. With Google’s emphasis on quality and relevance for search results, follow meta description best practices like:

  • Use keywords, but don’t repeat them or overuse them.
  • Use long-tail phrases that give more context to the content.
  • Write enticing descriptions that encourage users to click.
  • Avoid using the same meta description for multiple web pages

It used to be a best practice to cap meta descriptions at 160 characters; then, in late 2017, Google bumped that up to 320 characters, and now it looks like we’re back down to the 160 range again. Make sure whatever you’re writing is relevant, helpful and valuable, just like the content itself.

Bonus tip: Proofread your copy

Well-written, error-free content says a lot about your brand and shows you care about quality.

Plus it makes content managers like me a little crazy when we see such obvious mistakes in content. Don’t drive us batty. Proofread your content!

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SMX Advanced 2018 Session Recap: Maximizing the Impact of Online Video Ads

Thinking about adding video advertising to your marketing mix? Contributor Joe Martinez shares the video marketing tips he picked up from the Online Video Ads session at SMX Advanced.

The post SMX Advanced 2018 Session Recap: Maximizing the Impact of Online Video Ads appeared first on Marketing Land.

Because I am a huge fan of video advertising, I have a hard time understanding why video marketing is so underutilized by many companies.

I attended the Maximizing the Impact of Online Video Ads session at SMX Advanced and came away with a lot of information that will change that. Hopefully, after reading this, you’ll be inspired to start using video to promote your brand.

Bryant Garvin, Purple

Bryant attributes his company’s rapid success to its successful video campaigns. Purple (his company) has over 1 billion video views. How do they do it? With emotion and education. Video is an emotional format, and consumers buy on emotion.

According to a study at Stanford (source in the slides below), stories are remembered 22 times more than facts alone, and purchases are always emotional decisions. Humans are hard-wired to pay attention to stories, so stories are the catalyst to connect with potential customers emotionally.

As consumers, we decide to transact before we emotionally decide on it. You really have two seconds to capture someone’s attention instead of the 5.7-second average view time Facebook mentions. That being said, video marketers need to test the intro first.

Bryant’s company tested three intros to the same video. All they did was make minor changes to each one. What were the results? They saw a 2,824.7 percent brand keyword search lift after testing out a different, branded video. No matter how well you think your videos are doing, keep in mind that even the best videos can be improved.

Still not convinced YouTube is amazing? Let me toss out some more stats Bryant called out:

  • Over 1.5 billion Users on YouTube.
  • One billion hours are watched daily.
  • 68 percent of people use YouTube to help make purchase decisions.
  • 80 percent of 18-49-year-olds watch YouTube in a given month.
  • Only 9 percent of United States small businesses are using YouTube.
  • You only pay after 30 seconds are viewed or the video is completed.

You want to be where your competitors are not, and YouTube offers targeting options which will help you drive purchase intent. Google’s audience solutions, such as Life Events and Custom Intent Audiences, are great for reaching the right people.

When combined with a powerful video that provided the emotional connection, Purple’s message had the one-two punch that lowered their cost-per-visit and greatly increased the uplift in brand searches.

Videos don’t have to have a sales tone and vibe. Keep in mind that emotions sell and prompt purchases.

Cory Henke,  Variable Media Agency

Cory started by saying, in 2018, that the power of video is attention. In the age of high-speed internet and mobile devices, we’ve all become multitaskers and storytellers. Users have so many choices as to how and where to consume online. The problem with video is that it cannot be scaled, and it’s hard to keep a user’s attention.

With Facebook, we don’t know why the user came to the site. Was it to watch a video or read Grandma’s post? It’s hard to predict what a user is going to do on Facebook.

Now think about YouTube. Most people go to YouTube just to watch a video. They don’t read or write comments anywhere near as much as they view videos. This focused action is why advertisers need to build videos for the platform.

YouTube TrueView has become the most valuable impression on the web. Why? Cory emphasized exactly what Bryant mentioned in his presentation. Advertisers don’t pay a cent for any video views from zero to 30 seconds long. Cory then asked the audience to name one other channel where you can get consistent, free advertising. The silence in the crowd proved his point.

With TrueView, users have the option to skip your ad after 5 seconds. We must create content to meet our strategic goals, which are keeping the user’s attention, by doing the following:

  • Grab attention with a hook immediately in the first few seconds.
  • Engage the users and make sure to illustrate a problem those users can relate to.
  • Establish your brand and qualify users to prove why your company/product/service is the right choice.
  • Then re-hook your audience to drive action.

More engagements equal lower cost-per-view (CPV) if you get those users past 30 seconds.

People consume video differently on YouTube versus television. TV is a passive viewing environment, while YouTube is an active viewing environment. With this mindset, we’ve seen the forced 30-, 60- and 90-second ads get de-prioritized. Skippable video and 6-second bumpers are now the preferred choice for users because they have more control over which videos they prefer to watch.

With video, there are primarily two types of users: lean-back and lean-forward.

  • Lean-back users are YouTube, TV and Netflix. All three embrace the longer video format. They’re more likely to watch an entire video ad and less likely to last-click convert. We should be reaching these users with emotional and storytelling video content.
  • Lean-forward users are Facebook, Instagram and  Snapchat. These three have shorter watch times, but they are more expensive. We should be using quick reminders and savvy call-to-action videos to be mid- to lower-funnel-oriented.

We’ve gone from the age of one 30-minute show to 30 one-minute shows. The shift in user behavior leads to a shift in our content. Take advantage of all the creative and targeting options you have to keep your users’ attention.

Allen Martinez, Noble Digital

Allen asked the audience a question:

Which one of these three things account for 80% of a campaign’s success? The right message, the right time, or the right place?

The answer is the right message. According to Andrew Robertson of BBDO Worldwide, the right creative accounts for 80 percent of the customer’s return path. Get the story right first, and then focus on timing and placements.

Think about what Facebook is doing now in regard to ad testing. Advertisers now have the option to variable test the ad creative. Facebook purposely puts “creative” as the first option for us to test because they understand it’s the most important.

If you are still asking why you should use video, the answer is because it’s the one medium that contains multiple other mediums. We have storylines, branding, performances, emotion, music, mood, production design, art, visual effects and so much more. The problem is that in most companies, the strategy is commonly separated from creativity.

Brian Chesky of Airbnb said:

The designing of an experience uses a different part your brain than the scaling of that experience.

First, you build the experience with your creative team. And then you scale with your strategy team.

Allen then presented a case study from the meal kit company Plated and showed how Plated revamped their original video after reviewing data and surveys and listening to their audience. The creative goal was to make the feel of the video less ad-like and more personal, like users were watching themselves in the video.  Changing their video helped Plated become more successful.

Don’t wait for intent, create it. Search is like an online Black Friday every day. Most search results are going to have search and shopping ads ready to sell. People are more curious and open than we think. What you tell a user early on in the funnel will always be more important than how you are trying to sell them at the bottom of the funnel. Use creative video to help win the deal early.

Want to learn more? Join us in October our SMX East “Obsessed With SEO & SEM” conference in New York City, where top industry experts will share their tips, tactics and strategies around SEO and SEM topics.

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