Better Bullet Points for Enhanced Content Marketing

By | content marketing, Uncategorized | No Comments

I’ve been preaching for years about the importance of using visual keys to making your blogs,
articles and other messaging more accessible.

You only have a few seconds to seduce your audiencetop-of-mind-marketing_bulletpoints

You need to give then a reason to keep reading. When people look at a paragraph that’s taking
up six inches of their computer screens, there’s little chance of their reading this. But if you break it into smaller, more manageable information bites, make good use of clever, attention-getting subheads that provide a window into what they’re going to learn, it becomes accessible. By using bullet points whenever possible, you’re making your content even more approachable.

Strategic bullet points keep people reading

Something to keep in mind: People scan content to decide if they want to keep reading, but it’s also a way to justify not reading. There are a few different kinds of bullet points; used properly, they can significantly enhance your content.

1. External fascinations. Usually found in sales copy for information products and membership sites, functioning like headlines that prompt a purchase or other action. Also known as blind bullets, they hint at the content of a product or service and create curiosity without revealing the actual substance. These are generally slick, promotional bullet points about a product

2. Internal fascinations. Pretty much identical to external, except they’re designed to persuade people to continue reading the content they’re currently reading. These are the teasers. For example: By reading this article you’ll learn:

  • 3 counterintuitive activities that will improve your business
  • How to turn your process into a product you can sell

3. Bullet chunking. Extracting bullets out of compound sentences helps you drive home a point while also increasing the usability of your content. Attention spans are short; make it easy for your readers. Maintain parallel construction for your bullet points. An example:

  • Fascinating bullet points are great for:
  • Drawing people back into the copy they skimmed
  • Prompting the download of a free offer
  • Causing the click of a link

4. Authority bullets. Use these to recite data, providing support for your argument. Authority bullets bolster the credibility of your content and your level of authority as a subject matter expert. Try to turn dry, factual information into interesting reading, if possible. An example:

  • Don’t believe me when I say reading is an uncommon activity? Check these facts:
  • 58% of the U.S. adult population never reads another book after high school
  • 42% of college graduates never read another book
  • 80% of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year

5. Cliffhanger bullets. Tease and foreshadow what’s coming up next or in the near future. Entice your readers to read next week’s blog by using a few cliffhanger bullets to let them know what they can expect.

Are you ready to outsource your content marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re content marketing experts. 

Want to Get Discovered? 6 SEO Rules for 2016

By | SEO, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Like everything else these days, SEO has shifted. You put a lot of thought and effort into developing clever, insightful blogs, landing pages and social media posts. Here are 6 SEO Rules for 2016 to get the most out of your content investment.

topofmindmarketing-com-seo

1.Keywords: forget exact matches: think good intentions

You no longer need an exact keyword to offer a relevant search result. Now search engines are seeing how people are interacting with your website. It’s about the post-click activity. Not only do you have to get the clicks, but you have to satisfy user intent.

2. Keywords: they ain’t what they used to be

In the old days, we were told to load our landing page with our keywords. That was so yesterday. Then we were told to frontload them in the first paragraph and in our headlines. Now we learn that including keywords in headlines is becoming less important. Google has gotten smarter about interpreting our meaning. I love that technology is getting so smart. It used to be that if you wanted to rank for best restaurants, you had to say best restaurants three or four times. It’s still helpful to mention best restaurants, but the semantic meaning is becoming much more important. Now you can just talk about great dining experiences, good food and wine and the search engines will pick up on it.

Search engines are getting more intuitive; they’re anticipating

As the search engines get smarter, they start to anticipate, thinking about other words that you expect to be in that article, what will signal that this is an authoritative article on the topic. A good example: If you were writing an article about the Apple watch, you might have the words Apple, iPhone, watch, apps and time. If those are in the body copy, it sends signals to the search engines that this is a pretty good article.

Think really, really brief

Most search queries are between three and five words long, so you should write headlines accordingly. If people search for the word marketing, or any one- or two-word query, they don’t get the results they want. As content creators, if you’re thinking about optimization, you always need to be thinking about brevity and character limits. It’s a huge challenge.

3. Focus on the user experience

Google is making something like 500 algorithm changes a year. Every change is focused on making sure that when people search on Google, if they get the right result on the first few pages, they’ve got a great experience. The more original content that you can produce—whether it’s an image or a video, or long-form content, anything you can put together that’s going to justify someone’s wanting to read it or share it—the better.

Beware Top 5 articles

Those articles with a Top Five or whatever list format often are clickable, but use them sparingly. People like things that they can quickly digest, but it doesn’t necessarily have much weight with search. You have to make sure that whatever comes after the number makes sense and is useful. Don’t deceive your user. If you’re promising them the Top 5, deliver.

4. Size matters

This is a tough sell, but I’ve been preaching this one for years. These days, when everyone seems to be communicating in 140 character bites, it’s difficult to make a case for longer articles, between 1,200 to 1,500 words, but they perform better in search. It’s significantly different than it was two or three years ago, when 300 words was considered a pretty long page—and that was considered long! Longer articles are getting more traffic, and they’re ranking higher in SEO, especially for competitive terms. The changes that Google is making, and the reason they’re making these changes, is to make sure they’re sending traffic to pages that delight people.

Do make those long pages more accessible

Break them up with subheads, bullet points and images to make it easy for readers to quickly scan and digest them. Spend some time making your subheads interesting to seduce your readers, drawing them in to read more. Make them want to read on

5. Optimize for mobile

If you’re a desktop user, it’s time to emerge from Sleepy Hollow. The majority of people are now reading their content on their smartphones, so make your content searchable.

6. Use unique images

While images aren’t as big of a referral source in Google as they used to be, having unique images on your site is valuable. The same image can show up in hundreds of places around the web, but having unique content around those images is what makes it stand out. If you can create a custom image or use unique photography, it will pay off in the long run.”

The most important SEO tip for 2016 is to focus on your audience. Today it’s about delivering what people actually want to see that will give you an SEO ranking boost.

Are you thinking about outsourcing part or all of your content marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re content marketing experts. 

Hashtags: Grouping Content to Increase Brand Awareness

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We all hear about the power of hashtags, and we’re seeing them all over social media. It turns any word or group of words that directly follow it into a searchable link. The best way to think about hashtags is that they’re a grouping mechanism. Let’s say I post a blog, identify a keyword phrase, content marketing, and include a hashtag, #content marketing. Anyone who keys #contentmarketing into a search field is now more likely to pull up my blog. If you understand the purpose of hashtags and learn how to use them, they become a powerful tool that will help you reach and engage your target audience and increase brand awareness.

top-of-mind-marketing_hashtag

Using hashtags in your social media posts makes them visible to basically anyone who shares your interest. No longer are your posts limited to just your followers; your content now becomes accessible to all other users who are interested in similar topics. Choosing good hashtags can significantly broaden the reach of your social media posts.

Creating an Effective Hashtag

Hashtags can appear anywhere in your posts: front, middle or end. Positioning isn’t as important as their relevance and judicious application. Users are turned off by a post that’s cluttered with excessive or lengthy hashtags, e.g. #thisLongHashtagIsSoPointless. Brevity is critical on social media so a short, declarative post with a few well-chosen hashtags should be your goal.

Limiting the number of hashtags

In general, keep your hashtags to two-three on Twitter; Instagram’s ideal number of hashtags is five. Use hashtags on Google+, Tumblr and Pinterest. An article about hashtags on Facebook showed that engagement fell off significantly as the number of hashtags grew.

A few other things to keep in mind:

  • A hashtag must be written as a single word, without any spaces
  • You can include numbers in a hashtag, but punctuation and special characters ($ and %) won’t work
  • Search for a hashtag using the search bar at the top of any browser window–it’s a searchable link
  • Add context. A message, link, message or call to action
  • Stay relevant. Don’t use a trending hashtag to draw users—even though it has nothing to do with your post. It happens.
  • If you’re just getting started, use hashtags that directly relate to your brand, product or service until you’re comfortable with their use. Start noticing how others are using hashtags creatively and effectively.

Are you thinking about outsourcing part or all of your content marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re content marketing experts. 

12 Ways To Dramatically Improve Email Open Rates

By | Marketing Tips, Uncategorized | No Comments

top-of-mind-marketing_subject-linesEmail marketing never gets any easier

The competition is fierce, and your subject line needs to be clever and attention-getting, yet sincere and compelling. Mobile has made it even harder as we struggle to constrain subject lines to 50 characters. I recently drafted up a few potential subject lines for a client and asked for her feedback. Her response? “Does it matter?” Are you kidding? A subject line is everything! 33% of email recipients decide whether or not to open an email based on subject line alone, and frankly, I’m surprised that the number isn’t higher.

Here are some subject line tips:

  1. Short and sweet. A whopping 40% of emails are being opened on mobile first, so 50 characters is now the rule. Editing is a skill. Write your blog and subject line, then come back later and you may have new clarity. Take out those words which are nonessential and see if you’ve altered the meaning.
  2. Use a familiar sender name—people are afraid of viruses and they have little interest in spam. If they see an email from info@something.com, they’re less inclined to open it than if it is coming from a real person or someone they recognize.
  3. Personalize. This is a list thing. Include the first name of your contacts so you can address them in your emails. Who doesn’t want to get a personal email rather than Dear Friend?
  4. List segmentation. This may/not be relevant for your audience, but if it is, spend the time to do this. Your clients will thank you for tailoring information just for them.
  5. Be truthful. Do not make a cheesy promise in your subject line to encourage open rates, then not deliver on that promise. When there’s a total disconnect between the subject line and the subject, you have deceived your audience.
  6. If you’re offering something special in your email, use your subject line tell your audience.
  7. There are a gazillion schools of thought on this one. It used to be 10am on Tues or Wed, but now that everyone’s online 24/7, the rules have changed. Some recommend sending when people are likely to have time to read it—Sunday afternoon or evening, for instance, when many of us settle in to do some work to get ready for the week ahead. If you’re sending out an email about a new bar’s happy hour, the best time to send it is might be 4:30 or 5:00.
  8. Concise language. You only have 50 characters. Put them to work. Use action verbs; try to create an image for your audience.
  9. Make them feel special. Who doesn’t want this one? “A special offer just for you”, etc.
  10. Create a sense of urgency. Subject lines that create a sense of urgency and exclusivity can give a 22% higher open rate. Using deadlines like “today only” or “24-hour giveaway”.
  11. Use a question. Make it compelling—it can be thoughtful and make people think.
  12. NEVER use all caps. Enough on that one. It’s difficult to read and is perceived as shouting.

One more thing . . . 

Rather than just deleting all those blasts you get from others, start paying attention to them, including the subject lines. I end up reading a fair number of marketing emails because I’m always interested in potential blog topics. You may be surprised what you will learn.

Are you thinking about outsourcing part or all of your content marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re content marketing experts. 

Time to Dump Your HTML Email in Favor of Plain Text?

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When it comes to email marketing, you’ve probably tried a number of applications, from Constant Contact to MailChimp. You kill yourself coming up with snappy, attention-getting subject lines. You add clever graphics, agonize over content, how to making it relevant and accessible. You’re constantly tweaking subject lines, calls-to-action, images, headers, layout, link positioning, copy, length, tone, content. The list is endless. Yet your open and click-through rates remain stagnant. What are you doing wrong?

Probably nothing. There’s one hard truth: nothing boosts opens and clicks as well as an old school, plain-text email. What? Yes. Forget fancy layouts and graphics. Forget the HTML emails you’ve been slaving over for years. Remember that mobile has altered the landscape dramatically. Everything these days calls for simpler and more accessible.

top-of-mind-marketing_plain-text

People say they prefer HTML emails

In a 2014 survey, HubSpot asked more 1,000 professionals whether they preferred HTML-based or text-based emails, and whether they preferred emails that consisted of mostly text or mostly images. Nearly two thirds of the respondents said they preferred HTML and image-based emails.

HubSpot experimented with varying degrees of HTML-richness — plain HTML templates, snazzy and sleek HTML templates, beautiful headers, different sized and positioned images, various call-to-action buttons, and GIFs — to see which would have the best result. The result? They Actually Prefer Plain-Text.

In every single A/B test, the more simply designed email won

The emails with fewer HTML elements won with statistical significance. Go figure. This doesn’t make sense, does it? Every other marketing channel is moving towards incorporating visuals and seemingly getting positive results. Think the overwhelmingly greater response to your Facebook posts that include an image, the trend toward videos, surge of social media sites that are image-centric, including Instagram, Snapchat, etc. People NEED to be entertained these days. Why, then, were emails performing worse when HubSpot attempted to make them more visual appealing?

The results confirmed original assumption: HTML emails decreased open rates

One thing that HubSpot noticed was that HTML and plain-text emails were both receiving the same deliverability rate. So if they were getting delivered at the same rate, how were HTML emails underperforming? To understand the full scope of what happened, HubSpot A/B tested their email sends. They tested various segments of their database in multiple regions to get a better picture of HTML vs. plain-text emails.

What was interesting, however, was that not only were HTML emails receiving lower open rates than their plain-text counterparts, the more HTML-rich an email was, the lower its open rate. Simpler HTML emails had better open rates than HTML-rich emails and plain-text emails performed best of all.

HubSpot’s conclusion: It’s all about deliverability

Just because something says it’s been delivered doesn’t mean it’s actually in a noticeable place of someone’s inbox. Email services are increasingly filtering emails (especially commercial ones) to provide a better experience for the user. We all know about Gmail’s promotions folder–it automatically filters what it deems “commercial” emails out of the main inbox unless the user changes the settings—and no one in his/her right mind does that.

The simple explanation is that image tags and HTML-rich templates seem to be getting flagged by email providers as commercial email, which means they get filtered out of a recipient’s main inbox–and people can’t open them. They’re delivered all right, but they’re not getting opened.

We’ve come full circle . . .

We’ve all spent years and considerable effort making our HTML emails more graphically enhanced, clever and enticing. We’ve come full circle. The message is still important, but it may be time to get back to the basics, focusing on making them simpler and more accessible.

Are you ready to outsource your content marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and content marketing experts

Trump Uses Lifestyle Marketing for $3B in Free Media

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Donald Trump. The man we love to hate. A bigot and a liar, a racist who is also sexist and a top of mind marketing_trumpfraud. A man who has bilked thousands of innocent people. It goes on. I read one article that described the Trump effect as getting people stirred up to hate the government for their own failures. And when I look around at those very few people I know who support Trump, I have to agree. They are invariably white, poorly educated people with limited world views. What they don’t realize is that Donald isn’t prepared to fix anything. He can’t make America great again because he has the attention span of a gnat. He doesn’t listen or read. He’s pitifully ill-informed and hasn’t a platform upon which to stand.

Yet, you have to marvel that this horrible man has received what is estimated as $3B in free media spend, all the while making it perfectly clear that “I love watching these poor, pathetic people (pundits) on television working so hard and so seriously to try and figure me out. They can’t!”

Trump is breaking the rules

Trump has skillfully broken all the rules of politics and the way it’s being covered in the media. Trump is using a strategy based on lifestyle marketing. Lifestyle marketing uses emotion to create a sense of community and identity for a product or service. This type of marketing often resonates with a given target audience over a long period of time, rather than merely focusing on the specifics of a product.

Good examples of lifestyle marketing are Apple and iPhone ad campaigns

These must-have products are never marketed in a straightforward manner that explains their features. Rather, the benefit is how they connect with consumers’ sense of self and identity. They become status symbols; they’re tools that help users express their sense of self. Social media and other online technologies are essential outlets for a successful lifestyle marketing campaign because they transform consumers into active advocates for the brand.

Donald Trump is applying all of these concepts. He is leveraging for his target audience a chance for them to personally identify with him. His Make American Great Again slogan, T-shirts, posters and campaign signs all create a sense of community that is prefaced on white identity politics, and he uses reactionary conservatism to unite his public. Trump is extremely active on social media platforms such as Twitter.

Trump’s appeal isn’t based on his policies or expertise

His supporters’ enthusiasm for him is centered on how he stands up to political correctness, speaks for people like them, tells it like it is, is a television celebrity, rich and successful, is strong and will keep them safe—even though we all know it’s a bunch of hooey. Trump has always been rich—what does he know of struggle or the challenges of those who populate the lower income levels?

Trump’s supporters are finally members of an exclusive club

When it comes to Trump’s supporters, that everyone else hates Trump makes them all the more confident he’s their man. As one guy yelled when the TV showed a controversy over something Trump said: “You get them Donald! They been getting us forever.” Finally, these people are members of an exclusive club.

They people want respect because they haven’t just lost economically, but also socially. When they turn on the TV, they see their way of life being mocked and made fun of as nothing but uneducated white trash. With Trump, they are finding someone who gives them respect. He talks their language, addresses their concerns.

Trump’s ascendance to power in the Republican Party is an example of what happens when lifestyle marketing is applied to American politics. Trump is acting intentionally, with premeditation and according to a plan. There is nothing accidental about Trump’s lifestyle-marketing campaign of racism, bigotry, nativism and misogyny. Sadly, it seems to be working for him, if billions of dollars in free advertising is the barometer. Whether or not it helps him win the election is another story.

Are you ready to outsource your content marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and content marketing experts

How to Become a Premium Brand: Provide Value & Charge for It

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Brand is something we used to talk about all the time, before websites, apps, SEO, algorithms top of mind marketing_brandand social media dominated the landscape. While brand may no longer be included on the list of hot topics, it has never gone away or diminished in importance. A company’s brand is fundamental to every other marketing effort. Without a strong brand, these other marketing efforts are simply gimmicks. Your brand represents your expertise, your work and your integrity, the way you interact with your clients and your ability to deliver measurable results for your clients.

Building a premium brand

But here’s something else to consider: those of us who have been in business for a while have built a reputation that keeps clients coming back through referrals and repeat clients. Now wee want more than just a brand, we want to be a premium brand.

And why not, for crying out loud?

Many of us have paid our dues. We survived the worst economy known to man; not only are we still standing, but we’re flourishing. We’re well educated, generally with advanced degrees. We have years of real-life industry experience. We’ve transcended the old way of doing business and embraced the new. We understand the power of technology and leverage it. We’re seasoned and savvy. We’re professionals who not only produce deliverables but become trusted advisers to our clients. That’s our brand, and we should be charging for it.

Consumers equate value and quality with a high price tag

If you charge a lower price, they question the value of what you’re providing. One of my clients is a legal document preparer service—they do things like uncontested divorce and probate, living trusts, deed transfers, etc. When they began charging more for one of their services, their business shot up. People clearly identified legal knowledge with a higher price tag.

 Another great example

One of my clients owns two companies, and we’re developing a marketing plan for both. High on the list are new websites. I’ve gotten quotes from three web developer/designers who do excellent work, are responsive and able to turn projects around. I’ve worked with these companies and all three are terrific project partners. While their bids varied, they are approachable and all work in WordPress–it’s become the industry standard and has many advantages. My client wanted to solicit one more bid from his old developer, who is also a friend. Her bid was $10K more than that of my highest bid. My client’s reaction: “She must be doing something really great to be charging that much more.”

The reality? I read through her proposal, and she’s not doing anything differently or better. In fact, I think she’s doing some things that are unnecessary and are not a good use of my client’s marketing dollar, and this is always my goal. I pointed this out to my client, but he’s a very loyal guy, and ultimately the decision is his, despite my reservations.

The takeaway: price is a measure of quality and validation

Raising your prices is always a little scary, but let’s go back to that seasoned and savvy proposition. Being paid what you’re worth transcends the dollar value; it validates you as a professional. Remind yourself that you’re providing a wide range of services and knowledge, which translates to a lot of value—and people expect to pay for value. No one is going to respect you more because you charged him/her less.

Thinking about outsourcing your content marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and content marketing experts.

Share Your Expertise to Build Your Business

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For freelancers and contractors, a common challenge is not just getting a series of one-off jobs top of mind marketing_sharing knowledgebut building a real business that will generate a consistent revenue stream. Those of us who survived the recession know the agony of trying to find clients and stay busy during an economic downturn. Thankfully, these days, everyone is busy, but we all know that that another downturn is inevitable. If you’re not thinking about how to ameliorate the effects of the next sluggish economy, you should be.

Share your knowledge–for free

One way to increase your visibility and get more clients is to share your knowledge—for free. Take a tip from big brands that offer tons of free content that ranges from online courses, blogposts, webinars, videos or podcasts with no strings attached.

It always comes down to relationships

It’s always about relationships. In today’s world of information overload and short attention spans, it’s difficult to stand out when marketing your services. Think about it:

  • Do you actually stop and click the gazillion online ads that you see on Facebook and Google? Rarely.
  • Would you ever click on an ad for a product you’ve never heard of? Probably not.
  • But, if you saw a blog post or video that spoke to an issue you’re facing right now, would you click on it? There’s a good chance that you would.

 Creating content that addresses the pain

In marketing, we always talk about “the pain”—the problems and challenges that our clients are facing. Many people make the mistake of meeting with a potential new client and blabbing on at great length about the strengths of their products and services. The reality is that they’re not reaching their client at all. What they should be doing is listening to that potential client to understand the pain they can be addressing with their products and services.

When it comes to content marketing, you need to be creating content that speaks to the needs of your target audience and adds value. If you’re a personal trainer looking to attract new clients, dig deeper into your target demographic to identify how you can help them. Identify their fears, insecurities, motivations, personalities and pleasures. Based on these insights, how can you bring free value to their lives through content? Maybe you would write a blog post: Stop Dieting: 5 Ways to Drop 4 Dress Sizes”. Launch a podcast featuring a case study of a successful weight-loss story. Case studies are great ways to inspire others, providing real-life examples with which people can relate.

Choose a title that gets people’s attention

Another example? If you’re a life coach, think about a series of webinars focusing on creating a more harmonious life. Focus on things like career, balance, family and friends. It’s important that each webinar has an attention-getting title. One of my clients once asked me if the title was important. My answer? “It’s everything!” No one’s going to respond to your webinar invitation or open a blog or newsletter if the title doesn’t pique their imagination or promise to help them solve their problems. Don’t be afraid of being a little bit edgy or provocative. Keep it within 50 characters for the growing number of mobile users. Remember the pain—in this case, perhaps a life that’s totally out of balance—working too much with too little time for family and friends. This webinar might be titled “Reclaiming a Balanced Life with Time for Yourself”

Need help with your content marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and content marketing experts.

Mobilegeddon: It’s been a Year . . .

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 If you don’t remember when Google rolled out the algorithm change that we couldn’t ignore, it was April of 2015. This change, Google promised, was the one had big implications for websites that were not mobile-enabled—if you weren’t accommodating your mobile users, Google would punish you by restricting traffic to your desktop site.

top of mindmarketing.com_mobilegeddon

Google created a mobile-friendly test website

Drop your url into a field and click “Analyze”. Google will quickly tell you whether you pass or fail. If you’ve failed, Google tells you what’s wrong with your website. But whether your site passes the test or not, there’s a good chance it’s not really accessible for mobile users—at least 60% growing. If you’re a desktop user, you’re the minority and you’re not paying attention. Go anywhere—an event, to lunch; stand in line at Starbucks or Peets in the morning. People are accessing everything on their phones. And think about those in jobs that don’t allow folks to sit down at a computer—these people rely on their phones for information delivery—anyone in sales, healthcare, transportation, etc. It’s endless.

Oddly, there wasn’t a scramble to create new websites

For those of us in the web or internet marketing business, we talked about Mobilegeddon to our clients, we blogged about it and tried to make people understand the implications. But let’s be realistic. Creating a new website is a huge initiative for any company. It requires a budget, committing resources and hiring a web design developer and content developer and buying images. All of this takes time, and most folks already have their day jobs and they’re drowning. It’s important, but it’s a website, and it’s just one communication channel.

Mobilegeddon: less apocalyptic than expected

Now, with almost a year’s worth of data, the impact of Mobilegeddon has been less apocalyptic than expected. Most online analysts now believe Mobilegeddon lacked the finality its name suggested. In the days after the mobile-friendly update, content marketing company BrightEdge  tracked more than 20,000 URLs and suggested that the number of non-mobile friendly pages on the first three pages of the SERPs was down 21%. Other reports suggested the concentration of non-mobile friendly URLs in the mobile search results dropped by as much as 50%. Yet research is showing that non-mobile friendly sites weren’t suffering as much as everyone predicted.

If the effect on traffic hasn’t been significant, was the mobile-friendly update really worth it? From a user-experience perspective, the general consensus is yes. Serving more mobile-friendly websites more often in mobile search results is a no-brainer. The sales of smartphones is increasing, and if you’ve stood in a crowd of millennials recently, you know the answer to this one.

Take a pragmatic approach and simplify

Regardless of Mobilegeddon, a website has a shelf life and it’s not unlikely that yours is due for an update, and you’re going to want to be thinking about responsive design—that which will translate seamlessly across all media—desktop, tablet and smartphones. All of the platforms have themes, or templates, that feature responsive design, including WordPress, Wix and SquareSpace.

Think about mobile users as you start planning your new website

Mobile has had a tremendous influence on the way that websites are now being designed. The format is simplified—gone are columns, complexity and multiple moving parts. There’s less drilldown because scrolling is more efficient when using mobile devices. Navigation is simplified, along with color palettes, design and images. Make sure that the “hamburger” navigation element is prominent at the top of the page and that contact information is accessible on all screens. Make adjustments if phone numbers and email addresses are in tiny fonts and difficult to read. Try to avoid reverse type—it’s often difficult to read as well. Remember that not everyone is a millennial with 20/20 vision. Make it easy for people to get information.

Are you planning a new website for 2016? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re content marketing experts.

10 Easy Ways to Become a Better Writer

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These days, everyone’s a marketer. You’re writing blogs, posting to social media, writing web content and producing your newsletter. It’s great if you’re a good writer. If not, you’re setting yourself up in a potentially unflattering light. But with a little effort, anyone can become a better writer.

top of mind marketing_writer

A few global tips:

  • Keep it simple. Stick with clear, concise sentences and vocabulary.
  • The first sentence of every paragraph should set the stage; with successive sentences supporting it.
  • Frontload information—don’t flatter yourself to think that everyone’s going to read everything through to the end. Make that first paragraph count.

Here are a few grammatical pitfalls

Chances are you’re making these common mistakes. Correct these and you’re on your way to becoming a much better writer.

  1. Who versus that. That refers to things; who is used for people. This is easy. If you’re referencing a person, rather than using that, substitute who. Jane, the person who cuts her hair, not that cuts my hair.
  2. Less versus fewer. These are words you use for comparing something. User fewer when it’s a commodity that you can count. If you can’t count or quantify it, use less.
  3. Sorry. This isn’t a word. Drop this from your vocabulary.
  4. Where is it at? For grammarians, this is fingernails on a blackboard. Don’t end sentences with a preposition, and at is a preposition. It also goes back to our simplicity rule. Where is it is all you need to say.
  5. At this point in time. This one drives me crazy. Eliminating nonessential words makes you a better writer or speaker. At this point in time is redundant. At this point is sufficient.
  6. Single spacing after end punctuation. Using two spaces makes you look like a dinosaur. This is what you learned in your typing class a gazillion years ago. Language and customs evolve and you need to change with them.
  7. I, me and myself. Something I’m seeing a lot of these days is people saying He gave it to myself. Yuck. Where did this come from? He gave it to me. But it gets tricky and even people who really should know better screw up when there’s another person involved—when they insert another person or pronoun, all hell breaks loose. He gave the ball to Jim and me. Not Jim and I. The way to test this is to mentally remove the other person. You wouldn’t say He gave the ball to I, would you? Of course not—and that’s your little test.
  8. e. versus e.g. i.e. means basically. e.g. means for example.
  9. Its vs it’s. This is an easy one and I can’t figure out why people screw this one up so badly because they’re really not even closely related. It’s is a contraction that means it is. Its shows possession. Its owner, its alignment, etc. This is one of the worse. It’s so lame.
  10. Here’s one that trips up a lot of people who think they’re so smart. Words like neither, either and none are singular, which means they get singular verbs. What makes them tricky is that there’s often a prepositional phrase thrown in there to complicate things. Neither of them is safe. Mentally take out the prepositional phrase, of them, and you end up with Neither is.

Becoming a better writer: become a better reader

Someone asked me one time how to be a better writer. My answer was to be a better reader. Start noticing good writing and sentence structure. Pay attention to those whose writing you admire, the way it gets your attention and keeps it—because that’s what it’s all about. It doesn’t have to be anything stuffy—what are your favorite bloggers or sports columnists writing about? I’m a huge sports fan and I never miss Scott Ostler’s or Ann Killian’s columns. They’re savvy, smart and write with humor and heart. Best of all, they have opinions. Don’t be afraid to share your own. Those who agree with you will love you even more.

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