What’s the right approach to online marketing for your business?

Don’t fall into the trap of the latest marketing hack. Here’s a look at a few reliable marketing approaches that get consistent results.

The post What’s the right approach to online marketing for your business? appeared first on Marketing Land.

When it comes to online marketing, there’s a lot of advice out there. I can’t criticize, I’m responsible for a good deal of it myself.

But, everywhere you look, it seems like there’s another person sharing their latest marketing innovation, best practice or hack. It’s almost impossible to keep them all straight, let alone decide which ones are relevant to your business.

So what do you do? How do you sort through all of the clutter and pick a marketing approach that will work for you and your company?

To be honest, the secret to effectively marketing your business isn’t the latest best practice or marketing hack. Those might be tools in your marketing tool chest, but they won’t do you much good if your fundamental approach to marketing isn’t solid. In fact, if they distract you from focusing on the most important things for your business, they can actually do more harm than good.

With all that in mind, let’s take a look at why you should take most marketing advice with a grain of salt and a few reliable marketing approaches you can use to get consistent results.

The problem with most marketing advice

When it comes to marketing advice, there’s one thing you have to keep in mind: almost all marketing advice comes from marketers. And marketers are constantly trying to sell something.

Even when they’re not directly trying to sell you on a product or service (or their breakthrough, ultra-secret methodology that will make you an overnight millionaire), marketers can’t help but market. It’s instinctive for them. If they want you to believe in their breakthrough or hack, they’ll do their level best to make it seem awesome.

There’s nothing wrong with that…as long as you remember one thing: your results may vary.

No two businesses are the same. Even direct competitors can struggle to effectively replicate each others’ marketing secret sauce. There’s nothing wrong with that, but this point often tends to get lost once marketers start talking about how great their latest idea is.

So, the next time you’re reading about the latest and greatest in the marketing world (including this article), remember, just because something worked for someone else, that doesn’t mean it will work for you. There’s a lot other people can teach you, but ultimately, what’s right for your business will be specific to your business.

How will you approach marketing?

In light of all that, you might be wondering, How do I know what marketing strategies will work for my business?

That’s a great question.

While there are countless different tricks, tactics and hacks you can use to promote your business online, most of them fall into three basic categories. In my experience, as long as your marketing is effective in at least one of these areas, you’ll be successful. So, it pays to understand each of these marketing approaches and which one(s) you want to use for your business.

Ideally, you want to be strong in each of the following areas, but that can often be overwhelming, so start by trying to identify which sort of strategy best fits your company’s personality, needs, and brand.

1. Create something compelling

Although we all love fun, engaging and compelling content, let’s be honest, most marketing is boring. For every truly brilliant ad or article, there are a million utterly forgettable ones.

But here’s the thing. People want to see something fun, funny, entertaining, novel or just plain compelling. They don’t actually hate marketing – they just hate boring marketing. So, if your company can be clever, thought-provoking, soulful or hilarious, people will naturally be interested in your marketing. 

Engaging content stands out from the crowd. It gives people something interesting to look at, think about and share with others – even if that content isn’t all that unique or different to begin with. 

Take the following image from “The Art of Manliness,” for example.

Is there anything novel or new about the idea of giving a good firm handshake (among men and women)? Not really. In fact, this idea has been around for decades, if not hundreds of years.

But…put this content into a fun infographic like this and suddenly, it’s new, fresh and engaging.

If you’re smart about it, you don’t have to say anything new to be an effective marketer. You just have to say things in a new and engaging way. If online influencers and YouTubers can win thousands-to-millions of people over with this simple strategy, it should come as no surprise that creating engaging marketing content is a surefire way to win over your target market.

Don’t believe me? How about a concrete marketing example?

This pooping unicorn put Squatty Potty on the map. By approaching the subject of pooping in an engaging way, this ad made the Squatty Potty a cultural phenomenon.

Obviously, you shouldn’t expect Squatty Potty success from your own marketing, but the point remains that engaging marketing works. There are countless examples of business that made their mark by creating content that their customers love.

The downside to this approach, of course, is that putting together compelling content takes a lot of creativity and work – which is a big part of why most marketing content isn’t all that compelling. If you or your business isn’t creative or willing to put in the time and energy to create engaging content, this approach might not be for you.

But, if you love the idea of creating compelling, stand-out content, this sort of approach can do wonders for your business. Marketing like this makes people remember your business and want to follow you for more great content. It isn’t easy, but it can certainly produce great results.

2. Strike first

Sometimes the easiest way to win against your competitors is to beat your competition…to the competition. It’s not hard to get clicks when your business is the only option people see.

And, when it comes to online marketing, there’s always something new to try.

Social media platforms, ad formats, campaign strategies, those hacks and breakthroughs we mentioned earlier—they all fall into this category. Anytime a new option comes around, if you can be the first one to figure out how to make it work, you win. How much you’ll win may vary, but you’ll almost always have a market advantage until your competition catches on.

The problem is, though, striking first is probably the most popular approach in this article. As marketers, we love shiny new toys, so most businesses eagerly look for the next big thing that will allow them to achieve maximum success with minimum effort.

As a result, the long-term effectiveness of this strategy tends to wane with time. The more people who start using the platform, tactic or ad format, the more competition you have and the less exciting your results become.

Take Facebook Ads, for example. 

Not too long ago, you could get clicks for pennies and there weren’t a ton of businesses running ads. These days, however, Facebook is crammed with ads and the cost per click is pushing up against two dollars.

For advertisers who figured Facebook out early, it was a real cash cow. But, nowadays, you have to have a solid strategy just to make any money with Facebook Ads.

The other challenge with trying to be first is that it can sometimes be hard to predict which options are worth investing in and which ones will be a waste of time and effort. For example, remember Vine?

During its hey-day, Vine was a hub of content creation. Accounts that created memorable video snippets became incredibly popular, almost overnight.

And then, Vine died. All of the people who had invested countless hours into creating a following on Vine lost most of their network when the platform closed up shop.

For a while, it seemed like Vine could be the next big thing, but for reasons outside of its users’ control, it didn’t survive and all of their efforts went up in smoke.

So, while being an early adopter is exciting and can yield massive results, it isn’t without its share of risks. But, if you love figuring out new things and are willing to constantly jump on the latest bandwagon, striking first can be a very viable way to market your business.

3. Keep going…and going…and going

Our final marketing approach is far less exciting than being an early adopter. However, the grade-school truism of “slow and steady wins the race” is just as true in marketing as it is in any other area of life.

While it can be easy to look for quick results, there’s a lot to be said for consistency. 

Will posting daily on social media yield tons of followers overnight? No, but over the course of months-to-years, it will probably lead to a sizeable following. Will refining your paid search strategy on a regular basis cut your cost per click by next month? No, but give it long enough and you’ll have a CPC that makes your competitors green with envy.

The point is, most business success doesn’t happen overnight – even if it looks like it does. Behind every story of overnight success are countless days and nights of work. But nobody mentions all of the blood, sweat, and consistent effort that lead to a sudden stroke of brilliance. All we see is the end result – and then wonder why we can’t achieve the same thing without all of the effort.

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in my career, it’s that consistently doing the right things usually yields results over time. It’s not always fun to be patient, but eventually, it pays off.

Of course, if your business is struggling to keep its head above water or patience and consistent effort make you miserable, this approach can be hard to employ. But honestly, even if your focus is on one of the other approaches we’ve discussed in this article, you’ll always be well-served by being consistent in your marketing.

Conclusion

With all the chatter out there about online marketing strategies, hacks and breakthroughs, it can be easy to get confused about what applies to your business…and what doesn’t. But honestly, most marketing advice fits into one of the three categories we’ve discussed in this article: 

  1. It helps make your marketing more compelling
  2. It’s a new idea that most businesses aren’t trying
  3. It’s something that needs to be done consistently to yield good results

Understanding which of these approaches you want to focus on in your business can help you figure out which strategies to try and which ones to ignore. If creative, compelling content simply isn’t your strong point, don’t try to implement a big, bold, attention-grabbing strategy. Instead, focus on tactics that play to your strengths.

Your business is unique. You don’t have to replicate what someone else does to be successful. You just have to figure out what makes your business special and the best way to communicate that to your audience.

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How to advertise to an audience with an 8-second attention span

Here are six strategies that will help guide your digital marketing toward the right balance of brevity and information in the new attention economy.

The post How to advertise to an audience with an 8-second attention span appeared first on Marketing Land.

In the time it took you to read the title of this article, parse what it might be about and decide that you wanted to click on it, many more viewers checked out and went on to the next one. It’s nothing personal – that’s just how most 21st-century digital consumers process information. The attention span of the average ad viewer is growing ever shorter, and ads that require sustained engagement are less likely to click with many audiences.

So how can you capture this shrinking resource with your digital marketing tactics? To pique a viewer’s interest (or at least nurture a seed of it in their brain), you’ll need to incorporate some best practices for keeping it short, punchy and useful. These six strategies will help guide your digital marketing toward the right balance of brevity and information.

1. Clarity is king

When in doubt, use simple and concise prose. Your guiding principle should be to create something that’s useful or interesting to the viewer and doesn’t make them work too hard for it. Tell them in a sentence or less why they should care about your ad.

One way to create clarity is to give the viewer a simple and concrete concept to latch on to. Some examples of good “anchor points” include:

  • A problem with a competitors’ product that your product solves.
  • A new model or feature that’s just been added.
  • A strong, single-sentence customer testimonial.
  • A short phrase that uses active, exciting language.
  • A pleasant or exciting image that creates an aspirational desire.

It takes practice to develop your digital advertising strategies in a way that’s assertive about demanding the customer’s attention, so it’s key to use A/B tests and focus groups to continually refine your approach. And when in doubt, consider the limitations and advantages of the medium in which you’re working.

2. Know the best practices of the platform you’re using

Each digital advertising platform has its own set of rules—not just the formal ones, but the implied ones. Know the terrain of the digital landscape and make sure that you can articulate your message in different ways depending on the platform.

With Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media platform advertising, you’ll need to be especially aware of this. Something that works as a tweet often doesn’t make a good LinkedIn post, and vice versa. If your social media posts aren’t getting enough engagement, consider that they might need to be tailored to the platform better and review some best practices and stay on top of recent updates when writing for different social media.

These best practices include making sure your formatting is correct, avoiding duplicate content and sharing high-quality, legally owned images that users will enjoy seeing on their feed. Familiarizing yourself with each platform’s unique standards, such as their character limits and post formatting is also important. Typically, less text is best and will allow for a greater visual appeal, especially on Twitter, which has one of the smallest character limits. Overall, always consider the end-user, what they will enjoy seeing, and how you can best help them.

3. Don’t push video content where it’s not appropriate

By now, everyone knows the secret of the “pivot to video” that swept the digital ad industry a few years ago: That the numbers on engagement with video content had been inflated, severely in some cases. That doesn’t mean that video isn’t a great medium for reaching digital audiences – but it serves as a reminder that video needs to have its place in context.

Autoplaying videos on a website home page are one example of a video strategy to avoid. For one thing, it often causes pages to load slowly, and you can see why a slow-loading website would be a problem for a consumer with a radically shortened attention span. And for another, it increases a viewer’s cognitive load in a way that can be unpleasant if it’s unexpected. For many people, watching a video is a bigger cognitive commitment than reading a few short paragraphs of an article, so try to consider whether video actually improves your message.

Lastly, keep video content short and sweet unless you’re purposefully doing a more in-depth video for customers further down the sales funnel. And great long-form content has its place as well – but you should consider how best to use it. In fact, that’s exactly what our next tip is about. 

4. Get more out of your content by splitting it up

The 21st-century attention span works best if you feed it in small bites. If you’ve got a cool informational video or article that’s long and involved, consider splitting it into parts. This accomplishes several things:

  1. It gives you more search engine real estate and can allow you to segment your audience more effectively based on the individual interests you’re addressing in each section.
  2. It makes the content more readable or viewer-friendly.
  3. It maximizes the utility of your content by turning a single post into a week’s or a month’s worth. 

This idea also applies at the micro level. Try to keep paragraphs relatively short and break up text with lists (like we just did.) Make it snappy, make it relevant and – if appropriate for your brand voice – make it fun.

5. Personalize ad content

There’s one relatively easy way to make your content way more useful and interesting to your audience: Personalize it. In an age when consumers see thousands of ads per day, personalization is an effective way to make your content stand out.

Almost all of today’s ad platforms offer some kind of personalization and targeting tools. Whether it’s social media PPC, search engine PPC, email marketing or any other platform, there’s probably a way to personalize your ad displays. PPC ads are particularly attractive because platforms like Facebook and Google offer robust targeting tools built into the ad buy system and solid metrics to track your ads’ performance.

It’s also worth noting that personalization can cross the line into creeping out the consumer, so be wary of personalization that targets potentially sensitive information. Keep a sense of empathy for the consumer in mind and ask yourself, “Would I be okay with someone sending me a targeted ad or email about this?”

6. Use visual aids and interactive elements to leave a more lasting impression

Content that creates visual interest for the viewer will always have the advantage. Infographics and charts are a great way to accomplish this, as they can convey a lot of information in a useful, bite-sized format. The flowchart, for example, is a classic because it gives a lot of useful information and adds a level of interactivity and personalization.

It’s also an exciting time to take advantage of the many new ways for customers to interact with a website or app. That same flowchart, for example, could be turned into an interactive personalization quiz that helps customers find the product they need from a range of choices. Meanwhile, many eyewear manufacturers now offer “digital try-on” features that superimpose a pair of frames on a user’s picture. While these features require more dedication and attention from the viewer, they can be effective because they create interactive engagement, not just passive viewing. 

Some marketers might wish for the days of five-paragraph ad copy, and some might love the challenge of the new attention economy, but what’s clear to everyone is that the lightning-strike attention span is the new normal. Successful 21st-century marketers will address that need by finding ways to communicate more information in smaller bites, and by doing it in a way that respects the constant demands our world places on a consumer’s time and attention. 

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Finding content marketing opportunities that influence search performance

Start with your existing pages to identify opportunities, which typically involve some form of repurposing, reformatting and updating.

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Content marketing is a broad term that can be interpreted in multiple ways within the greater marketing spectrum. For some, content marketing is a blog post, for others, it could be large, interactive pieces. For John Deere, content marketing took the form of a print magazine all the way back in the 1800s!

Regardless of the format or type of content being marketed, presenting useful or entertaining information to your audience – in a way that speaks to them – has always been an important part of good marketing. Things are no different within search, where content marketing equates to promoting your webpages (content) to relevant audiences online (marketing via social media and other websites).

Today I want to walk through the process I use to help clients identify and capitalize on the content marketing opportunities available to them. Let’s dive in!

Start with existing content

The best place to start when searching for content marketing opportunities is with your existing pages – these are the opportunities that will take the least upfront investment as the content already exists.

You can easily identify your top pages – in terms of organic traffic – in Google Analytics. While it’s important to understand how your site is earning traffic, we’re looking for new opportunities – your best pages are already performing, and to achieve growth you need to capture new opportunities.

Find new opportunities with existing pages

To find fresh content marketing opportunities, start with Google Search Console. In GSC, you can analyze which keywords or queries are associated with your website and see how many clicks and impressions they’re earning in Google search. You can also analyze clicks and impressions for your individual pages. 

Compare queries and pages to ensure you have pages that are good matches for your top queries. Are these the pages you would expect to be earning clicks and impressions? Do you have a better page that isn’t showing in Google Search Console? Ask yourself these questions as there may be an opportunity to optimize and promote an existing page that could rank better and earn more clicks than the page Google currently associates with a given query.

If you have the budget, there are also some great tools available that can help you identify your top pages and those that are barely missing the mark. Tools such as Ahrefs, Moz, and SEMrush all offer various ways to analyze your content.

These tools will help you find your most successful content, but more importantly, you can find pages ranking on the first page. Often, some light optimization (tweaking titles, header tags, etc.) and updating can be the difference between page two rankings and appearing on the first page. 

It’s much easier to update existing pages than create new content, so you should always start by analyzing current rankings to see if you have any of these opportunities available.

Updating, repurposing, and promoting existing content

Once you’ve identified new content marketing opportunities for your existing pages, it’s time to execute.

Most, if not all, of your content marketing opportunities for existing pages will require some level of updating or reformatting or both. In some instances, you might find a page that was simply underpromoted and needs more links to perform better, but for the most part, you will need to do some on-page optimization as well.

Updating content

Updating your pages means more than changing the publish date.

To improve search performance for an existing page, you need to make substantial updates in terms of depth and recency of the information on the page. For example, I recently found that a guide I had written that was ranking for a few keywords. To help push it onto the first page of the search results, I updated the post. 

These updates included:

  • Restructuring the content for improved scannability and a clear hierarchy of information.
  • Deeper research into the topic to provide more actionable information.
  • Rewriting outdated sections to offer more accurate information.
  • Adding relevant links to authoritative external sources.
  • Fixing and updating broken external links.
  • Adding internal links to related pages.
  • Adding fresh, high-quality images.

Making these updates was a significant time investment, but still took less time and effort than generating a new content idea and writing a post from scratch. And best of all, the updates helped push the post at the top of the results I was targeting!

Repurposing and reformatting content

Along with updating your pages, repurposing or reformatting content can also improve rankings.

Converting content to a new format or adding new formats to an existing page can often help that content perform better in search. For example, if you notice there are multiple video results for the term your page is targeting, chances are your page could benefit from adding video content. Some other reformatting options include:

  • Adding a concise definition or bulleted list at the top of the page for informational queries to optimize for rich snippets.
  • Creating complementary interactive elements such as a tool, quiz, game, etc.
  • Converting long-form text into an easily digestible infographic.
  • Developing high-quality, original photography and imagery.
  • Transcribing video or audio content into a blog post.

Repurposing content not only breathes new life into a page, but it can also improve that page’s performance in organic search if it creates a better user experience and better answers searcher intent.

If you have pages that rank well but not on the first page, consider analyzing the current top results to see if you can identify trends in formatting – if your page is missing these elements, adding them could help your page rank better.

Finding opportunities for content creation

While optimizing existing pages is the path of least resistance, to sustain long-term success in organic search you will also need to create new content.

Content inspiration can come from a variety of sources, but if you want to build content that performs in search you should focus on niche analysis and competitive research.

Niche analysis

Niche analysis for content marketing involves researching how your audience is searching online and which topics they interest them.

You need to understand how your audience searches for topics related to your business and the language they use. Subtle differences in word usage can equate to large differences in search volume and you want to optimize your content for the terms your audience is using.

For example, look at the difference between the search phrases [coffee mug holder] and [coffee mug rack] (using Moz’s Keyword Explorer):

This small distinction between “holder” and “rack” equals a difference of ~2,000 in terms of monthly search volume. If you had asked me which had more volume, honestly, I would have guessed “rack” – therefore, it’s critical to understand the language your audience is using to find information relevant to your brand.

Paying attention to formatting is important during niche analysis too. If you notice that your audience prefers a certain format – and that is demonstrated in the top search results – make sure you build your content in that format as well.

Competitive research

Competitive research is one of the best ways to identify gaps in your content marketing. If there is a topic that is driving organic traffic to multiple competitor sites, and you don’t have a page that addresses that topic, you have a gap in your content marketing.

SEMrush is one of the best tools for competitive research as it will give you a report on which keywords and pages are earning the most traffic (in terms of a percentage) on competitor websites. If you export these reports for a handful of competitors, you can compare trends and find opportunities to create new content that will bring a relevant audience – since you share the same audience as these competitors – to your site.

The key point here is to look for trends across multiple competitors because that confirms the topic is something that resonates with your audience.

Another important point is to review the quality of your competitors’ pages. Can you realistically create something that is equal or better? If the answer is no, move on to another opportunity because that is the bar you will have to meet if you ever want to rank for the associated terms.

Conclusion

Content marketing opportunities are easy to find if you know where to look.

Start with your existing pages and identify where you have opportunities to make small changes that can have a big SEO impact. These opportunities typically involve some form of repurposing, reformatting and updating.

After exhausting the available opportunities with your existing pages, glean content inspiration from analyzing your audience and niche, as well as researching top competitor pages.

Following this simple process will fuel your content marketing for years, ensuring you’re building content that will perform well in search and help your site earn organic traffic.

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Be a clown, advertiser

Create advertising that is likable, differentiates with personality, and provides consumers a respite from their stressful lives.

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I contemplated the theme for this mid-summer article while I was prepping my beach reading list, looking for easy, engaging and entertaining material to replenish my brain while my body rests waterside. This is important work for me as research has proven that we need to take mental-breaks to avoid the pitfalls of over-thinking. Thinking too much, it seems, makes us dumber and less productive.

Over-thinking advertising can also make brands dumber and their communications less effective. 

We know from behavioral science that people appreciate stimuli that are easily processed by the brain, yet we too often ask consumers to decode complex messages. Top-of-mind awareness (which drives salience) is arguably the most important role of advertising, yet we too often distract audiences by packing in too much information; breaking-through the ad-clutter to even get noticed is harder than ever, yet we too often fail to offer consumers anything worth paying attention to.

In the spirit of summer reading for advertisers, I offer an antidote to over-thinking-advertising in what I hope is an easy, engaging and entertaining manner – sung to the tune of Cole Porter’s 1948 classic, Be a Clown.

I’ll remember forever,
When I was but three,
Mama, who was clever,
Remarking to me;
If, son, when you’re grown up,
You want ev’rything nice,
I’ve got your future sewn up
If you take this advice:

Be a clown, be a clown,
All the world loves a clown.
Brands well-liked, ads that thrill,
Drive consumers to make the deal.
So get their attention,
With dazzling content that’s fun.
If you sell like the others, who’s to say where they’re led.
If your pitch is System 2, all your adverts they’ll shred.
You’ll be sure to convert if you create bonds instead.
Be a clown, be a clown, be a clown.

Be a clown, be a clown,
All the world loves a clown.
Be completely unique,
And to your shop they’ll all flock.
Other brands all like,
At your success they will balk.
A parity product can’t hope to prevail.
A brand like the others can be sure to fail.
They’ll all come to you if yourself you unveil.
Be a clown, be a clown, be a clown.

Be a clown, be a clown,
All the world loves a clown.
Life is stressful enough,
Without being sold lots of stuff.
Complications arise,
When they’re oft told what they should buy.
An ad that asks them to think makes them feel like a rube.
A message that’s full of facts makes them turn off the tube.
But an advert that’s fun leaves them feeling renewed.
Be a clown, be a clown, be a clown.

Be a clown, be a clown,
All the world loves a clown.
Postmodern consumers,
They all want witty ads.
Irony, comedy,
They’re not just passing fads.
Why pretend like they don’t know that you’re selling to them?
Why would you dismiss self-aware ads as a silly trend?
When crowds love an ad that makes them laugh at the end.
Be a clown, be a clown, be a clown.

Be a clown, be a clown,
All the world loves a clown.
The content they consume,
Has so dramatically improved.
While the ads they must watch,
Are all in their mind a big splotch.
If you don’t up your ad game, your messages they’ll block.
If your stories can’t improve, at your brand they will balk.
But jack you won’t lack when to your fun ads they flock.
(Quack, quack, quack, quack)
Be a clown, be a clown, be a clown.

Marketers and agencies, take some advice from me and Cole Porter this summer: Create advertising that is likable, differentiates with personality, and provides consumers a respite from their stressful lives. It should be as good as modern TV they so readily watch and, most importantly, treat your post-modern consumers to the wit, irony and creativity they deserve.

(Special thanks to Aristomenes Spanos for his lyrical genius)

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