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.

The post 8 ways to use content to skyrocket user engagement appeared first on Marketing Land.

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.

Conclusion

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 Google.com, 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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Be careful what content you cut from your site

Contributor Janet Driscoll Miller helps you determine how to make your website lean and mean without eliminating big traffic drivers.

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I recently worked with a client to relaunch their website, and as part of the process, the client chose to cull much of its content in an effort to have a leaner site.

Having a lot of content on your site can make content management seem overwhelming, so it’s understandable an organization may want to cut down on the quantity of content to make the effort more manageable overall.

However, be careful what you cut! All too often in organizations, the various stakeholders for the website work in disparate groups or even various agencies, which can have a negative effect on planning and communication. Sometimes search engine optimization is seen as an afterthought, while it should be an integrated strategy throughout the website redesign and life cycle.

In the case of this client, against my recommendations, they accidentally cut out whole pages of content that ranked well for highly trafficked keyword phrases. This led to significant traffic losses — nearly 40 percent of organic traffic year over year — because the client chose to cut pages from the site that were highly trafficked pages from organic search.

Avoid cutting important content

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and that saying holds true for search engine optimization (SEO) as well. It’s much better to follow the best option at the beginning rather than trying to clean up what could amount to big mistakes later.

Before you cut any content from your website, first see how that content performs at driving traffic overall to your website. In Google Analytics, you can use the Channels report, choose Organic Search and look at Landing Page to see which specific pages get the most traffic from organic search. That’s likely to be content you’re going to want to keep, even if you need to redirect it to a new uniform resource locator (URL). If the content is outdated, consider updating it with new details.

Even if you do end up cutting content, remember to 301 redirect that page to an appropriate page so that site visitors (and the search engines) can readily locate the closest alternative.

 

[Read the full article on Search Engine Land.]

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SMX Advanced 2018 Session Recap: Storytelling with Social Ads that Sell

Contributor Joe Martinez recaps a session of rock-star paid social media marketers sharing how you can use social media to engage, entertain and motivate readers through the sales funnel.

The post SMX Advanced 2018 Session Recap: Storytelling with Social Ads that Sell appeared first on Marketing Land.

SMX Advanced attendees were treated to a rock-star lineup of paid social media marketers. Our presenters spoke to the crowd about how we should be using social media to engage users, move them down the funnel and give them the message they want to hear to increase brand interest.

Here’s a recap from the three speakers on the Storytelling With Social Ads That Sell session panel.

Jeff Ferguson

Jeff Ferguson was first up.

To set up the presentation, he went over a great analogy of creating cocktails. The difference between a Manhattan cocktail and a martini is one ingredient. The difference between a martini and a Gibson is one ingredient.

The message here is that sometimes all you have to do is change one little thing to get something new and amazing. The same idea can be applied to marketing. Maybe one little difference in your ad copy or one little way we tell a story can make a big impact on your campaigns.

Typically, we write content, and it sits there. Maybe we’ll promote it on social media, but many people don’t see these stories we spend a lot of time on. Let’s take our client’s information and use it appropriately for each stage of the content marketing funnel. Jeff then went on to show examples of how he utilizes this approach.

High funnel. For one client who focuses on meal kits for people with serious health concerns, Jeff and his team asked themselves:

  • What kind of post is a great introduction?
  • What posts can help get users into our funnel?

They found out the meal kit company had a lot of fantastic blog posts which were just sitting on the website with no major traffic. These posts, when finally promoted, led to a lot of user engagement, which was a win. They got the users to notice the brand and introduce them to the funnel.

Mid-funnel. Typically, this is where we see remarketing start to come in. We’re showing ads to users who are already familiar with our brand, even though it may be out of the corner of their eye. Focus the content on:

  • Testimonials.
  • Product comparisons.
  • Demonstrations
  • Before-and-after examples.

Consider using audiences of second touch, proven performers, content downloaders and engaged views from the high-funnel approach to keep moving those users along.

Low funnel. This is where we want to be more aggressive in asking for the sale. By the time users are at the bottom of the funnel, we start to really push the offer-driven message. By this point, they’ve seen your brand message at least two or three times, so it’s OK to start asking for the sale.

Going beyond the conversion. It’s typical in marketing to focus on the same thing, so we lose touch with everything. Not only do we want to get the sale, but we want to get those users to come back. We all should care about customer success. Jeff and his team like to look at the entire customer journey and see where they can come in and help out.

The problem with email after the journey is that email open rates are pretty bad, pretty horrible. We’re talking about a 21.8 percent average open rate. If other marketing channels had that type of success rate, we’d all be fired, right?

Customer match is a better option than email to take the user farther down the road. Take the user story farther down the road to keep feeding those users new stories until we hit your end goal.

Deciding what to communicate. Keeping in mind the same meal kit client mentioned earlier, audience exposure had a much better result over email. Jeff’s team found out that people who picked their own meals stayed on longer with the program. So they took the updated list of those specific users every week and showed new ads to this customer match audience.

Email rate was 56 percent. Audience exposure for search/social campaigns was 80 percent. The efforts increased meal selections by 50 percent and reduced churn by 20 percent.

Remember, none of these changes are big. Storytelling is about helping a prospect through the entire marketing funnel.

Presentation deck: Social Media Storytelling by Jeff Ferguson

Michelle Morgan

Next up was Michelle Morgan from Clix Marketing, who talked about bringing people back into the funnel.

When looking at a basic funnel, we typically see four steps:

As B2B marketers, our goal should be to turn the stereotypical “funnel” into a shape that makes it easier for users to slide down. How do we do this? Michelle breaks it down.

Make users come back happy. One of the worst things we can do to try and move users along the funnel is crappy remarketing.

For example, let’s say you were trying to get users to download a white paper in your initial campaign. What if they don’t convert off the white paper? Don’t remarket to users who didn’t visit the confirmation page for the past 90 days. Break the audiences down into lower cookie durations. Change your CTA as the time decay flows. Have a firm CTA in the initial 30 days, but soften it after 90 days. Test this same strategy with your offers, too. Try different content (e-book vs. white paper) to see if that makes a difference.

Moving down the funnel. If you’re not doing lead scoring, you’re missing out. Michelle had some great examples of creating a point system with a set threshold to move users down your strategy. Come up with a system where the user maintains a certain “worth” during an agreed upon time duration to know which audience the user actually belongs to, and how they should be marketed.

Push users to new content they may not have seen before. Also, move users away from content they have already seen to avoid annoying people with the same message over and over. For users with too low a score, depending on your scoring system, create new lists and re-engage through other marketing channels.

Closing the deal. Win back stalled opportunities with specialized messaging. Sometimes people are deep in the funnel but get stuck for some reasons we can’t easily understand. LinkedIn Sponsored InMail is great. Users only see one ad in their InMail once every 45 days, so you don’t have to worry about bugging users.

Using the LinkedIn ad, offer something they can’t get anywhere else.

Act like a sales rep and work within your customer relationship management (CRM) system. Don’t stop at contacts, look at business targeting. People leave companies all the time, so target the business on LinkedIn, which will be far more accurate than any company targeting on Facebook.

The story is for users. Keep the users’ end goal in mind instead of your own. It’s okay to pick an emotion so your ads don’t seem stuffy. Graphics are great for content, while real-world images are better suited for non-content.

Carousel ads let the person pick the story or let your customers tell the actual story with testimonials.

Presentation deck: Back to the Funnel: Winning Back B2B Users in Social

Susan Wenograd

Last but not least was Susan Wenograd.

“The Princess Bride” fans rejoiced when Susan mentioned she was going to show why Inigo Montoya is the perfect storyteller, and how he can help your business. Many brands think all storytelling is going to be great. They assume every story they tell is going to surprise and delight their audience. We see many brands tell stories that only talk about themselves and assume users are going to want to buy just based on a brand story.

Ask the user to find out (without asking). Think about what Inigo would do if you asked him a question, and he’d start rambling on about a bunch of facts just like a feature-based ad. Susan had a client who was running a lot of feature-based ads showcasing what the product does, the technology behind it and so on. Very stat-based, right?

Average click-through rate (CTR) for these ads was 1.2 percent. When looking at the assets the client had, Susan noticed users always seemed to be skeptical initially. Once the users found out about how great the product was, they had no problem admitting they were wrong. Susan asked, “Why weren’t we running this in the ad copy?” She ditched all the benefits-and-features ad copy and used a customer-made video echoing her discoveries.

The story-based ad copy quantifies belonging to a community. CTR doubled and helped inform how to improve more than just ads. The new approach also informed how to improve landing page design.

Use what’s memorable and don’t fight it. Do you remember the name of the six-fingered man in “The Princess Bride?” Of course you don’t, you just remember that he’s the six-fingered man. (His name is Count Rogen, in case you really wanted to know).

Brands feel they know what story to tell, but people will be the ones to dictate what story you should be telling.

Consumers control the story, not the brand. Find out what people are searching for and use that in your marketing. Consider creating new landing pages that actually speak to what your users are calling your products or services. Then use those landing page visits as the proper page to create Facebook audiences and then lookalike audiences for a better higher-funnel strategy.

Sometimes, you just can’t run. In a different strategy, Susan had a client who was the face of a new company, while also being well-known from his previous company. Even though the client wanted to separate himself from the old company, he was the six-fingered man. He was the story. They started making “helpful tip” webisodes featuring Susan’s client to leverage his notoriety. Instead of running video views, they tried post engagements after seeing people were naturally engaging due to the story content.

CPMs went from over $5.00 to under $3.90. They focused on the story versus what the company does and saw results improve.

Our brains are crushed with information daily. Ask Inigo Montoya who he is, and he’ll tell you over and over and over:

Hello. I am Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

It may be repetitive, but fans of the movies know the quote by heart because they’ve heard it so many times. In marketing, it’s okay for storytelling to repeat the same information more than once. Why? Check this out.

We have to repeat the story, and more importantly, repeat it in multiple places. This type of thinking is going to be extremely important when no one is searching for your brand or products. Susan said it best: “The only way to expand search is to expand the people who will search for your brand.” When you tell your brand story long enough, your language will become your customers’.

Presentation deck: The Inigo Montoya Guide to Storytelling in Paid Social

The post SMX Advanced 2018 Session Recap: Storytelling with Social Ads that Sell appeared first on Marketing Land.

3 tips for overcoming content production obstacles

The biggest roadblocks in the way of content marketing success are process-related, says contributor Rachel Lindteigen. In this column, she explains how to break through.

The post 3 tips for overcoming content production obstacles appeared first on Marketing Land.

We all know content marketing is important to our businesses. We know we need to blog. We’ve heard video is “the next big thing.” We know we need to be emailing our lists, sharing on social media, commenting and responding on social and nurturing those relationships.

And it all sounds great, but, the reality is that it’s hard to keep up with content production, distribution and everything else on your to-do list.

Most companies decide they want to focus on content marketing because they see the opportunity to grow their SEO footprint, drive more traffic to their websites and eventually generate more business. A solid content marketing program can deliver great rewards

We’re all aware of that. So, why aren’t we doing it? The number one challenge I see most companies face is related to content production.

Why do companies struggle with content production?

Sometimes they start strong but don’t have a long-term plan. Maybe they commit to creating a blog and even partner with an agency or consultant to develop the blog design or set the content strategy.

They launch, and it looks great, but they quickly fall behind. Think of how many blogs you’ve seen with only a handful of blog posts or huge spans between posts.

This is a very common problem, and the cause is often one of a few issues:

They haven’t assigned roles for the blog
When no single person is responsible for the blog and everyone is trying to add the work into their already full schedule, things can quickly go amiss.

This leads to blog content (or social or email or whatever content channel isn’t owned by someone) falling to the bottom of the priority list because it’s not technically someone’s personal responsibility.

Bottlenecks within the content production process
I have seen clients struggle with this over the years, and it’s one of the most challenging issues, because it seems like it should be easy to fix, but it’s not. Bottlenecks can happen at any step in the process.

I’ve had clients who hired us to create their content strategy and give them topic ideas and keywords with the intention of writing the posts themselves to ensure they were in their brand voice.

But they quickly fall behind because it takes longer to write copy than to generate ideas and do keyword research. We’d deliver 10 topics each month and, because they didn’t have someone assigned to write the copy on their end, they’d maybe get one or two posts back from the team as a whole.

I had another client who struggled with the approval process. We did all the content strategy, writing and optimization for them. Their team needed to approve all blog posts before they were pushed live, but they had multiple rounds of internal review, and that held them up.

They had internal reviews from marketing, brand and legal, and by the time a post got through all three rounds of review and was approved, it was easily months after it had originally been written.

The challenge was that the review was extra work for someone at each step. We batched content to help the process run more smoothly, but in the end, it always came to a standstill during review. At one point, the client was over a year behind on content approval and publication.

How do you avoid these and other common content production-related issues?

1. Be very strategic about your content production process

If you want to avoid the common challenges outlined above or if you’re dealing with something similar, the best solution I’ve found is to assign tasks and create a timeline so everyone on the team knows what to expect, when to expect it, and most importantly, who’s responsible for each step.

I realize it sounds really easy but this step is missed in many organizations. Because content marketing is a relatively new addition to most marketing teams, the tasks associated with content production are often shared among multiple team members. And it’s those without much experience often dramatically underestimate the amount of time and effort these tasks will require.

List all of the elements you’ll need
Make sure you’ve thought about all of the pieces of content you’re creating. If you’re following a hub and spoke model where your blog is your content hub and you’re sharing or supplementing content on other channels like YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, Medium or email, be sure to account for every piece of content you need.

Create a master list of what you need for each blog post and walk through that list as you create your process. Meet with people from each team to ensure every element is represented on the master project timeline.

Document your process and get buy-in
As a team, identify your content production process from beginning to end. Assign a time estimate to each task. Assign a responsible party for each step. Identify contingencies for each step of the process. Most importantly, make sure everyone on the team is in agreement about the steps, assignments, time estimates and contingencies. Without agreement and buy-in, you’ll continue to struggle.

Choose a single way to track your program. Agree to use either a project management program or something as simple as a Google spreadsheet that’s shared amongst the team members. Make sure the team is trained on whatever format you choose and establish rules for version control.

If your company requires legal review before publication, be sure you meet with the legal team to have a reviewer identified and a timeline established and agreed upon. If you’re partnering with an agency or consultant for any step of the process, make sure they’re in agreement with your timeline. Everyone has to agree about the process and timeline for this to work smoothly.

2. Batch your content

As a team, determine how many pieces of content can be researched, written, optimized, reviewed, implemented and shared at a time. I recommend batching at least one month’s worth of posts at a time.

If your team can work farther ahead than that, great. But a month at a time is a good cadence for most teams. If your strategist comes up with 50 great ideas and you only need 10, don’t throw away those 40 — use them for future batches.

I currently have enough blog topic ideas on a spreadsheet to get me through 2018 and into 2019. I may not use them all, but they’re there and ready for content development when it’s time for the next batch.

If you’re sharing on social, creating videos for YouTube, adding to Pinterest, scheduling Facebook Lives or sending an email, you need to include all of the related content in your batching process. This includes text and graphics for the email, video scripts, social media posts and every other element you’ll require.

Create everything you need for the batch, and have it ready ahead of time.

3. Create both content production and content publication calendars for the team

Keep your production schedule separate from your publication schedule. If you’ve completed step 1 above, then you already have the production schedule. All you need to do is create the monthly content distribution calendar using the information from step 1. Make sure every content distribution channel is on the calendar.

By identifying everything you need to produce, determining who’s responsible for each step of the process and planning ahead, you can batch your content and free up a lot of time for other projects.

With these systems in place, you can avoid the dreaded “what should I write about this week?” or “hey sorry, I haven’t been able to get to that blog post yet, too swamped” situations.

It’s easier to stay on top of content production when you batch content. It saves time and builds efficiencies. Having someone assigned to the task and an agreed upon time frame for completion helps keep people on track and deadlines met.

I’ve been doing this for many years now and have encountered lots of delays, bottlenecks and production challenges.

These are the top three things I’ve found that help clients big and small solve their content production challenges. Give them a try if you’re facing one of these common issues, and let me know if it helps your team, too.

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