top of mind marketing beef up your content marketing program with blogs, videos and ebooks

6 Ways to Jumpstart Your Content Marketing Program

By | content marketing | No Comments

If one of your New Year goals is to begin or beef up your content marketing program, here are some tips.

Content marketing propels awareness, builds trust and drives sales

Content is the backbone of the web and includes landing pages, blogs, whitepapers, eBooks and social media posts. Content is what generates organic SEO for your website. Questions surface about whether or not blogs are still important–remember that search-engine ranking starts with keywords—blogs remain the best way to populate your site with quality content.

Images/Photos

Websites have become increasingly visual, and those with images perform better than those without. But think about mixing up visual content.

  • Infographics are very effective and easy to create. I’ve been using a free app called Piktochart that’s ridiculously easy to use and I’m finding new ways to use it.
  • Use a quote or testimonial as a pullquote—it becomes a graphic and it’s a great way to draw attention to an important statement while also providing visual appeal.
  • Slide presentations. Upload slide presentations as pdf files. Provide an overview and a key image to entice your readers.
  • Animated GIFs have become part of the landscape.

Videos

Videos have become very popular—especially among younger users. They also boost your SEO value. There are many DIY tools for creating your own videos, but the quality can be marginal. Think about what you want your ideal clients to be viewing. Videos can be:

  • How to/instructional
  • Interviews
  • Quick tips
  • Webinar recordings

YouTube and Facebook are the most popular channels for publishing video content. YouTube tends to do better with longer-form video.

eBooks

Electronic books—eBooks–have become incredibly popular. They provide significant value by offering long-form topical discussion. Ebooks are typically PDF files and include a mix of text and images.

White papers

White papers are longer-form content used to convey data-driven insights or case studies. Like eBooks, white papers are also great lead magnets.

Identify keywords

Using keywords correctly will help your content rank higher. Doing keyword research is an important part of every content marketing program. Use free tools such as Google Keyword Planner or Ubersuggest.

  • Use keywords in the title of your content.
  • Mention keywords at least once in the first paragraph of your post.
  • Use your keyword in at least one H2 heading.
  • Maintain a keyword ratio of 2% of total word count.

Note that search engines are becoming smart and intuitive. They know the difference between natural keyword usage and keyword stuffing.

Longer blog posts typically perform best

When writing blog posts, longer is usually better–2,000 words is good minimum target for your articles. You’re thinking Nobody is ever going to read this! Buzzsumo analyzed 100 million articles, and found that people are more likely to share longer articles. I believe you need at least 300+ words to rank well. Frontload your article, with the most important information in the first couple of paragraphs.

Need help developing your content marketing program? We’re writers and internet marketing specialists. Contact Top of Mind Marketing about your project.

Top of Mind Marketing Good Marketing is storytelling and it includes Santa Claus at Christmas

The Holidays: Connecting with Good Storytelling

By | Internet Marketing | No Comments

It’s the holidays, with brands working overtime to leverage the most wonderful time of the year. I’m on the hunt for the best holiday ads of 2018. I look for messages that are simple and compelling, that leave us deeply touched with the spirit of giving and the importance of spending the holidays with people we love. In the meantime, a couple of my all-time favorites.

Apple, as always, rocks the best ads, and we can learn a lot from their campaigns

Apple ads are sleek, smart and creative, often using stark black and white images to tell their stories. The overarching message, of course, is that these beautiful products are elite. If we buy them and spend the next few years sucking up to Apple’s Genius Bar, we’ll become part of this elite community. Last year’s ad, featuring two dancers in a winter snowfall, was simply breathtaking. This ad is called Sway; its tagline: Move someone this holiday. The dancers are actually husband and wife dancers who met in a New York dance audition!

A Polish ad may be the best Christmas ad ever

This ad belongs in my pantheon. It begins with a nice older man as he orders a book online and receives the delivery of “English for Beginners”. He practices his English aloud as he goes about his daily routine—on the bus, during breakfast, in the bathtub. He stares at a rubber duck and carefully enunciates, “I love you. You are perfect”.

He labels his dog, his knife and fork and his toothpaste with post-it notes. He continues an imaginary dialog as he eats his dinner. Watching TV can be a great learning tool, and he picks up phrases from American action films. “Go ahead, make my day.”

The arrival of a suitcase explains his language lessons

One day a suitcase arrives, and we begin to understand why he’s learning a new language. We watch as he carefully packs, and we follow him to the airport, across the sea and into the warm embrace of his son at the front door of his London home. When his little granddaughter emerges from her bedroom, he kneels down and gently says, “I am your grandpa.”

This wonderful ad is by Allegro, the most popular online marketplace in Poland. According to their spokespeople, “For years, we’ve strived to make Allegro the largest e-commerce platform in the CEE (Central and Eastern European) region, and to our customers, bring joy, touch the heart and cause a smile.”

I’ve watched this ad more times than I’ll admit, and I’m not alone. It went totally viral and has been viewed more than 15 million times. Allegro clearly touched a lot of hearts with this wonderful ad.

Looking back, it seems that we’ve endured a year of endless crisis; lies and chicanery; fires, floods and shootouts. Too many people have lost more than they can bear. Yet the new year brings a promise of optimism and hope. I wish everyone a wonderful holiday and new year.

Are you rethinking your marketing program for the new year? 

Give Top of Mind Marketing a call—let’s strategize about how to make the most of your marketing dollar. We’re writers and internet marketing specialists.

topofmindmarketing web design trends for 2019

Thinking about a New Website? Design Trends 2019

By | websites | No Comments

I’m working with a client whose website is 15 years old. Unlike us, websites don’t improve with age. The biggest problem, of course, is that a 15-year old site isn’t mobile friendly in our mobile-mad world.

My client is well aware of this, of course. But a new website is always a major initiative, and there are often bigger priorities. The fact remains that a website is where people go to learn more about you, and it’s hard to overestimate the power of a website as the cornerstone of your marketing strategy.

If a new website or a site refresh is part of your 2019 marketing plan, here are some design trends:

1. Speed

Users now expect a site to load in two seconds or fewer; they will abandon a site if it takes three seconds or more.

2. Flat design

Look for clean, minimalist flat design. Flat design helps a site fulfill speed requirements that search engines love. It helps hold high SEO value and gets rid of clutter. Think bright colors, clean and crisp edges, lots of open space, simple imagery and sans-serif fonts.

3. Mobile first search

In 2015, the number of mobile searches overtook those from desktop computers. The result? Mobile has had a huge influence on website design. Meeting the demands of mobile users will likely continue for the foreseeable future.

4. Broken-grid layout

Grids have been used for decades on webpages, newspapers and ads for content alignment and consistency. You may not see grid lines, but someone used a grid to develop the layout. Now asymmetry and broken grids are gaining popularity. Look for unusual placements, layering with different colors and textures, repeating irregular patterns, use of white space and creative typography.

5. Shapes

People associate thoughts and emotions with shapes. Rectangles represent stability, circles are unity and triangles are dynamic. Creative use of particular shapes or combinations of shapes can be used to influence user emotions or feelings. Shapes help draw attention to those parts of a page that you want your visitors to notice.

6. Single-page design

These websites are one page rather than multiple landing pages arranged in a navigational hierarchy. The downside: In terms of SEO, it’s harder to rank for particular keywords and other advanced SEO techniques. The benefits: Pageless design scores big when it comes to load time. They also look great on every browsing device, are scalable, easily managed and have high conversion rates. They’re great for pop-up businesses and those with limited budgets.

7. Micro-animations

Micro-animations direct us through tasks as we interact with digital products. Examples? We fill out a form and we’ll be presented with a little animated checkmark to reward us for successfully completing it. We see and use these every day on both desktop and mobile. In many situations, they’re replacing those annoying captcha screens.

Is a new website in your 2019 marketing plan?

Questions about about platforms, content and making the most of your marketing budget! Give me a call!

top of mind marketing procter & gamble brands

What We Can Learn About Brand From P&G

By | Advertising | No Comments

There was a time when we talked endlessly about brand

But that brand conversation took place a lifetime ago–before SEO, social, Google and its endless algorithms hijacked the conversation. While the importance of brand has never diminished, it no longer dominates the dialog. But these are tough times for big brands as they try to figure out how to reach today’s consumer.

Let’s take a look at Procter & Gamble, (think Tide, Crest, Charmin and a whopping $7B in annual ad revenue) who owns the market on ad spend.

P&G is trying to focus that lavish ad spend on smarter, more accountable marketing

According to Kimberly Doebereiner, director of brand building integrated communication for P&G, “The consumer hates advertising right now. The experience is not good. Our industry, both the media and big companies like mine, are helping create that bad experience. We’ve got to figure out a better consumer experience.”

Annoying or irrelevant TV commercials are bad enough, but interrupting those using smartphones or tablets has prompted a surge in ad blockers. Doebereiner and others like her don’t really know what the future of advertising looks like.

Both an intern and expert in a changing marketplace

“I’m in the position of being an expert and an intern because of a rapidly changing consumer marketplace,” said Doebereiner. Over the last 21 years she has worked in almost every P&G category, helping build equity and strengthen communications. She is learning every single day about new habits and trends and how to reach consumers.

Consumers are part of massive changes in how they look at content, how they watch TV, how they buy their products. Yet big brands are left with comments about how bad advertising is.

Let’s not forget the economics of advertising and providing value

Some of us remember when TV was free. Advertising subsidizes content in virtually all media. But the model has changed—no one has free TV anymore. We’re all subscribing to cable channels at varying levels and streaming services, including phone and data fees.

“So what’s the value of advertising for you?” she said. “There should be a value. If advertising is giving the gift of information, we should be better serving you.” Repetition fatigue is a big concern for digital commercials. Spoiled consumers want “frictionless” shopping—we want to be able to order something on Amazon tonight and count on its being delivered tomorrow or the next day. That’s frictionless. That’s great service.

Will we be marketing to bots in the future?

Marketing companies such as P&G also must figure out how to market to bots—not just consumers. “How much of marketing will become bot-to-bot marketing?” she asked. “Knowing the algorithm, knowing what the algorithm is offering or promising. There will be things you don’t deem important enough to spend your time on that you’d just be happy letting that bot take care of for you. That’s a whole new arena.”

Thinking about your brand in a constantly changing digital marketplace? Let’s talk–we’re writers and marketing experts. 

top of mind marketing increasing readability by keeping it simple-short sentences, words and paragraphs

How to Increase Your Readability? Dummy It Down

By | Blogging | No Comments

Is content still important? Are you kidding?

Think about this. Google ranks your online presence according to keywords. The operative word is, well, “word”. Without a steady infusion of quality content, there’s nothing to help you show up in search engines, to increase your Google authority.

So how to increase your readability? Keep it simple

Explain things as clearly as possible. Shockingly, the average American reads at an eighth-grade level. It’s time to start dummying down our delivery. Long sentences, long words, buzzwords, acronyms and industry jargon are going to confuse some readers, so they quickly move on.

Here are some guidelines for increasing your readability

1. Create a customer focus that:

  • Is genuinely useful to the reader. Provide information that helps readers do their jobs.
  • Has a practical application. This isn’t just about you. Think about how your readers can benefit. People should be able to relate to this.
  • Answers aquestion or solves a problem.
  • Informs, entertains or educates.

2. Revise to determine readability level

  • For maximum comprehension, think of your target audience reading at an eighth-grade level.
  • If you haven’t created a persona, this is a good time to do it. Identify your target audience by developing comprehensive demographic information—not necessarily your existing audience, but those clients with whom you’d liketo be working.

3. Shorten sentences

Break ‘em up. It’s easy for readers to get lost in a sea of phrases, clauses and complex punctuation. Digital devices have created new usage standards.

4. Reduce the number of long words

Unless you’re in a highly technical industry or have a very sophisticated audience, avoid/limit multisyllabic words. Edit your content and find words that are more accessible.

5. Scrub your copy of buzzwords, geekspeak, jargon and acronyms

While these words may be old hat to you, they can be totally foreign to an industry outsider. If you must use challenging terms, carefully explain them.

6. Avoid overusing adverbs

We all overwork adverbs, leaving a swath of muddled sentences. Not sure what an adverb is? They’re words like reallyand very. They answer questions of how, what, when, where and why. (My mom was an English teacher.) These words frequently don’t add value.

7. Create a balance between formal and conversational

Create your own style, but a conversational approach makes the experience more personal, even for B2B audiences. Don’t be afraid to interject your own personality and opinions—those who love and agree with you will love you more. Those who don’t? Well . . .

8. Get feedback and proofread

As writers, we become too close to our work. If you have the luxury of another person who will check for mistakes and areas of improvement, you’re lucky. Alternately, I’ve found it helpful to write an article one day, then come back to it at a later time—it gives me a new perspective. This requires planning ahead, but it helps me streamline my writing and correct mistakes.

Need help creating more compelling content? Let me help you develop stories for your content marketing program. We’re writers and marketing specialists.

top of mind marketing alt tags help with SEO; we see a shoe; google sees a description of a shoe

Increasing SEO Value with Image Alt Tags

By | SEO | No Comments

Today’s impatient audiences demand pictures—we want high-quality, high-resolution photos, infographics, charts and screenshots–to help tell a story. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then, that Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) deliver as many results from images as from text. If you’re upgrading your website’s SEO value but ignoring the images on your site, you could be missing out on an important source of organic traffic.

It’s time to start adding alt tags to your images

Also called “alt text” and “alt descriptions,” alt tags are the written copy that appear in place of an image on a webpage if the image fails to load. This text helps screen-reading tools describe images to visually impaired readers and allows search engines to better crawl and rank your website. Optimizing image alt tags creates a better user experience for your visitors.

Be accurate, be descriptive

A good rule of thumb: Think about what someone would see if he/she pulled up a page and couldn’t see the actual image for whatever reason—just the alt tag descriptor. Let’s say we’re looking at a photo of Steph Curry shooting a 3-pointer in an overtime win against the Boston Celtics. A good alt tag: Oakland Warriors’ Steph Curry scores a 3-pointer in overtime to beat the Celtics. Think of this as a little formula.

Here are some best practices for writing effective alt tags

  • Be specific. Use both the image subject and the article context as guides.
  • Keep alt tags within 125 characters. We’re all used to character limits these days, so keep it brief and relevant. Screen-reading tools stop reading alt tags at 125 characters, cutting off long-winded alt descriptions.
  • Forget about starting alt tags with “Picture of” or “Image of “.Don’t use up your character limit on these unnecessary descriptors. Screen-reading tools will already have identified the object as an image from the source code.
  • Use your keywords sparingly.Include your article’s target keyword or keyword phrase if it’s easily included in your alt tags. Consider semantic keywords, or just the most important terms. Google is smart and understands semantics. If we go back to our Steph Curry model, we would likely use “curry 3-pointer” in our alt tag because the article is going to be about how this shot was critical to the Warriors’ win.
  • Don’t cram your keyword into every single image’s alt tag.If your blog contains a series of images within the blog, include your keyword in at least one of those images.

How to add alt tags to your images

It varies by platform, but in WordPress, open Media, click on an imageand it will bring up a window where you can create/edit each alt tag. I find it handy to open two screens—one for the Media file and one for the article associated with each image because it provides the context that will influence the alt tag.

Could you use some help identifying alt tags for your website? Give me a call!

Use case studies because good marketing tells a story

Case Studies: Because Good Marketing Tells a Story

By | Marketing Tips | No Comments

I’ve been working with group of engineers on a website project that includes rewriting their content. I’m trying to make technical language accessible; they’re stuck on engineerspeak. Happily, we’ve been able to compromise!

We’re developing case studies that clearly demonstrate how they’ve helped their clients automate processes that save money, eliminate waste and grow their businesses. A company that’s been around for more than 20 years with an impressive client list of big brands, including Tesla, they’re competing in today’s red-hot robotics market.

Building trust through real-world examples

A case study showcases how you work with your clients. It’s a chance to demonstrate your problem-solving skills, breadth of experience and efforts to go the extra mile to make sure your clients are happy. Convey credibility by highlighting a real company with real metrics. If the information is confidential, describe the company without using its name.

These days, good marketing tells a story

One thing that hasn’t changed is that when it comes to marketing and sales, it’s still all about relationships, and we need to reach our audience on a visceral level. Speak to the pain—the real-time challenges. Showing how your services helped another company is a powerful way to connect with a potential new one.

Case studies follow a formula

A case study follows the traditional story format. You should be able to do this in a few hundred words. Include a client testimonial for additional validation. Include the following:

  • Company introduction
  • The problem/challenge
  • How they found you
  • What you’ve done to solve the problem
  • Successful conclusion

Look for ways to get more exposure for your case study

Of course you want to post this to your website, hopefully to the Case Studies section, but look for other ways to position case studies to help tell a story.

  • Add client recommendations to your Testimonial page.
  • Search your website for appropriate places where adding a call-to-action (CTA) to view your case studies is relevant.
  • If your homepage has marketing modules or banners, swap these out on a regular basis with a headline and link to your case study page.

Sales collateral and event handouts

Include case studies in any print or online sales and event collateral. Tailor these by industry to help customize your content. Keep them short and accessible. Use a testimonial as a pullquote/graphic for visual appeal. If you’re participating in an event or trade show, prepare a few case studies as handouts.

Add a case study to your email signature line!

Okay. How long has it been since you took a look at the stuff that lives below your signature on your email? Think about using this space to feature a case study. Something like “Read about how we helped our engineering clients increase their 2018 revenue” and include a link.

Considering a video?

Videos enhance SEO and millennials love them. They’re particularly effective when used as testimonials.

Having trouble developing your own case studies? Let me help you develop stories for your marketing program.

A dated website may benefit from a makeover or reconstruction rather than starting over with a whole new site

Dated Website? Consider a Facelift

By | websites | No Comments

As websites have moved toward responsive design, many of my clients are confronting the harsh realities of creating new websites. In many cases, these sites have content that is no longer representative of their businesses. Their images are irrelevant, often small thumbnails, the navigation clumsy. But starting from scratch and building a new website is always a major initiative; it can be expensive and time-consuming.

Happily, there may be a relatively simple solution

If your site was built in WordPress, in many cases we can simply apply a new design template to the existing site that can achieve a complete transformation. I just finished a project that included this kind of facelift, giving a website a new lease on life and dramatically extending its shelf life.

The client is a husband-and-wife team of smart, savvy business brokers with 50+ years of collective industry experience and a high customer-service ethic. They had a canned website—the vendor provides content and infrastructure, but gives them a lot of latitude for customization. The content feed is very good, but my clients have never taken advantage of it (the last post was in 2013) or done much customization.

Their old site was becoming a liability

My clients are not marketing people, and they launched their site without really giving much thought to SEO, their marketing presence or how the site would look to a prospective client. They were relieved to get the site launched and be able to put their business broker hats back on.

But now they recognized that their site was becoming a liability; they were missing opportunities to generate new leads, and they asked me to help them update it. This was a simple project, and happily, some easy changes have made a dramatic difference. It showcases my clients as industry experts, has good navigation and increased SEO value.

We made changes that help showcase their industry expertise

  • Identified lively new images that are representative of their potential clients and updated the homepage slider, adding visual appeal and energy to their site.
  • Rewrote their bios to showcase their wide range of experience, using their keywords throughout.
  • Developed case studies that showcase my clients’ high level of customer service and expertise negotiating leases, dealing with government agencies, performing market analyses and business valuations.
  • Updated testimonial page so endorsements are fully fleshed out and attractively displayed on the page.
  • Turned name of company into a logo/tagline with use of a more stylish font, creating a more distinctive marketing presence.
  • Fleshed out Yoast plugin on backend to increase SEO value.
  • Added calls to action on all of their personal pages, making it easy for a user to contact them for more information.

None of these efforts by itself was complex, difficult or time-consuming, but collectively, they helped update a website that was uncompetitive. If your site is not generating leads, rather than a whole new site, this kind of makeover might be a solution for you. Contact us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re SEO and content marketing experts.

 

top-of-mind-marketing-pillar-pages

Goodbye Keywords; Hello Pillar Pages

By | content marketing | No Comments

Search has changed, which means it’s time to rethink the way we create content.

Google has gotten a lot smarter about making associations

Google’s algorithm is constantly evolving to provide the best possible answers to searchers’ queries. If you search for “running shoes,” Google will now also serve up results for related words, such as “sneakers.” Google is now interpreting conversational queries as entire thoughts rather than individual keywords. An estimated 64% of searches are four words or more.

Organize websites according to main topics

As a result of Google’s evolution and our subsequent behavior, websites need to be organized according to main topics. In the current model, we create individual blog posts that rank according to specific keywords. The result is disorganized, difficult for users to find the exact information they need. It also results in our own URLs competing against one another in search-engine rankings because we produce multiple blog posts on similar topics.

A better solution: Creating pillar pages with links to more specific topic clusters

The first step in creating a pillar page is to stop thinking about your site in terms of just keywords. Start thinking about the topics you want to rank for first. Choose a topic that’s broad enough that it can generate more related blog posts that will serve as cluster content, but not so broad that you can’t cover the entire topic on a single pillar page.

  • Let’s say you write a pillar page about content marketing. It’s a very broad topic, so your cluster topics might be about blogging or social media.
  • Fundamental to the pillar-page concept is a comprehensive linking strategy among the pillar page and its cluster topics.
  • A pillar page should answer questions about a particular topic but leave room for more detail in subsequent, related cluster topics.

Pillar pages and SEO: More inbound links = higher placement in search

Pillar pages help position your content so users can easily browse your website and consume your blog posts, videos and infographics. There’s a lot of clutter online, and it can confuse Google’s algorithms. Google loves a clean website experience with a thoughtful linking strategy that tells it exactly what each piece of content is about. Inbound marketing and sales expert HubSpot experienced an increase in their rankings when they used more internal links.

Use personas to help identify the interests and challenges of your audience

If you haven’t created personas, this is a great time to do it. Your personas will help identify the top interests and challenges of your audience, providing topics for pillar-page content.

I’m doing some reorganization of my own website to more closely follow the pillar-page concept, and I’m finding it helpful to create an organizational chart that maps out broad topics that are my pillar pages and the cluster topics that support them.

Your pillar page will gain Google authority through the quality inbound links from your subtopic content.

Need help rethinking your website content? Give me a call—let’s strategize about how we can make your content work for you.

top of mind marketing emoji in business communications

Emoji Take On Business Communications

By | Marketing Tips | No Comments

I’ve begun noticing that even the holdouts have started including emoji in personal texts and emails. And why not? They’re fun, they’re whimsical, they brighten up our messaging. Emoji can help convey emotion and personality; they help tell a story and build relationships. Think of emoji as virtual body language that helps us understand intent.

Emoji have transcended personal communications; they’ve entered the business arena

Business push notifications—newsletters, email blasts–that include emoji in their subject lines are opened a whopping 254% more often than those without the digital smiley faces and icons, according to a Leanplum study provided to Mobile Marketer. The response to notifications that include emoji is three times higher than it was last year. I’m not the only one who is ramping up to emoji!

  • Email messages with emoji in the subject lines are opened 66% more often than those without. The average number of emoji used per message has doubled in the past year.
  • While emoji were once derided as unprofessional for business communications, brands are steadily incorporating them into marketing messages to attract consumers’ attention and convey more meaning and emotion than what words alone can provide.
  • Leanplum’s study of open rates for push notifications and emails demonstrates that emoji help capture mobile users’ attention amid the flurry of text-based communications. A women’s clothing retailer saw an 81% lift in open rates and a 363% surge in revenue from outgoing messages that contained the icons.
  • Emoji have shown massive influence on internet communication. Last year, according to Facebook, more than 60 million emoji were sent every day on its core social network, while five billion were sent via its Messenger chat platform. As people and brands grow more comfortable using emojis in everyday communications, these numbers will increase.
  • July 17 is World Emoji Day. The organizers present awards such as Best New Emoji, Most Anticipated Emoji, Excellence in Emoji Use and which emoji best represents 2018 as Emoji of the Year.
  • The first emoji was created in 1999 in Japan. Since then, the collection has grown to more than 3,000 unique icons.
  • Yes, there is an emoji newsletter to which you can subscribe. Look for an estimated 157 new emojiscoming to major platforms throughout 2018.

Here’s something I’m betting you didn’t know

In an effort to be politically correct, you can change the skin color of emojis. Really.

  • Tap the “People” emoji section by tapping the smiley face option at the bottom of the emoji
  • Hold down the emoji face you want to change and slide your finger to select the skin tone you want.
  • The selected emoji will stay that skin tone until you change

A few words of caution about emoji usage

Emojis are appropriate for some business emails in the same way that jokes are okay in some job interviews. Know your audience. Avoid emojis if it’s a new acquaintance or if you’re uncertain how someone will respond. Keep in mind that not everyone loves a smiley face.

Need help with your business communications? Contact Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and internet marketing specialists.